Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Theodora Goss

Sunday, November 15th, 2015 | Posted by Tina Jens

Theodora Goss-smallThis week’s Pro-Tip comes from Theodora Goss, a popular and multi-award nominated writer of fairy tales and poetry who teaches writing at Boston University and the Stonecoast MFA program. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Her short story “Singing of Mount Abora” won the World Fantasy Award.

Do You Write for More Than One Medium or in More Than One Genre? Why?

Let’s see, what have I written? A novel, which is coming out from Saga Press in 2017, with a sequel in 2018. Novellas, short stories, poems, essays. Some of my poems have been set to music, although they weren’t intended as song lyrics. I’ve written a poem to accompany a work of art in an exhibit. I’ve even written academic articles. There are certainly things I haven’t tried, but I’d like to . . .

Why do I write in different genres? Part of the reason is that for me, writing is half craft and half art. Writing in different genres lets me work on my craft: writing a poem, for example, will force me to pay attention to rhythms and the sounds of language, while writing a novel is an exercise in plotting, in constructing a more thoroughly realized world than I can create in a short story. Every genre requires something different from me, and writing in them all allows me to remain flexible, to practice my craft in a variety of ways.

The other part of the reason is that I love doing different things, just like a dancer who is trained in ballet but does modern and jazz, for the fun of it, to see what they will require from her, to rise to new challenges. I love new challenges! I haven’t yet written a script or a screenplay, but who knows… maybe someday!

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Vintage Treasures: The Joyous Invasions by Theodore Sturgeon

Sunday, November 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Joyous Invasions-smallI’ve been gradually surveying the many collections of Theodore Sturgeon, one of the finest — some would say the finest — short story writers the field has ever seen. They’re easy to obtain, and very inexpensive, although the vast majority have been out of print for over three decades.

Well, most of them are easy to obtain. There are a few exceptions, and one of them is The Joyous Invasions, a collection of three novellas that appeared only in the UK. I’ve been trying to find a copy since I first discovered it existed earlier this year, and I finally succeeded last week. Here’s the description.

Alien Incursions

A tiny parasitic being whose task is to prepare humanity for an extra-terrestrial takeover. Its method: to make all dreams come true…

The ultimate sick TV show of the future — where the attractions are children struck down by a mysterious disease from outer space…

An alien field-expedition to Earth, which bases itself in a cheap boarding house — with weird and very unexpected results…

Here, together in one volume, are three stunning novellas by one of the giants of modern Science Fiction

The Joyous Invasion contains two of Sturgeon’s most famous stories, and one I’d never heard of.

“To Marry Medusa” (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1958)
“The Comedian’s Children” (Venture Science Fiction Magazine, May 1958)
“The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1955)

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The Old Ones Unleashed: Apotheosis – Stories of Human Survival After The Rise of The Elder Gods

Monday, November 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

It isn’t all bad, some of the Newcomers mix a fine screwdriver

Apotheosis2Post Halloween funk got you down? Looking for something to cut the coming wave of forced holiday cheer? I have come from Kadath in the wastes to bring you news to make your sick heart feel so glad. Jason Andrew’s anthology Apotheosis: Stories of Survival After the Rise of the Elder Gods has been released to the world. A fearsome tome, seeping into your consciousness in both hardcopy and electronic formats.

It would be a lie of omission if I didn’t come clean and point out that my own story, “Dilution Solution,” is in the anthology. It would also be crass for me to rave about the quality of my own work — which I will simply describe as a tribe of self-gratifying warboys defending the lingering shreds of humanity, their fragile minds protected by crappy 90s virtual reality technology.

And far more grisly tales await in this collection — 17 tales to make you lose sleep, hoping that the stars are not right.

For some outside opinions, check out reviews from Black Gate contributor Fletcher Vrendenburgh and adventure aficionado Keith West at Adventures Fantastic.

Vintage Treasures: A Touch of Strange by Theodore Sturgeon

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

A Touch of Strange 1959-small A Touch of Strange 1965-small A Touch of Strange 1970-small

I’ve really been enjoying this gradual survey I’ve been doing of Theodore Sturgeon’s paperbacks. It hasn’t been a particularly deliberate undertaking… the truth is that, as I come across his books, I’ve been talking about them. This week I stumbled on a copy of the 1965 Berkley edition of A Touch of Strange (above middle), and here we are.

Part of the reason I enjoy them is that I find it fascinating that a writer could have made a decent living in this business selling almost exclusively short stories. Sturgeon did write five novels (six, if you want to count his 1961 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea novelization), but he’s far more well known for more than two dozen short fiction collections. And it was upon them that he largely built his considerable reputation.

Another reason is that I genuinely find it delightful to catalog the different editions, and note all the variations. A Touch of Strange was reprinted five times, by three different publishers, between 1958 and 1978, before it vanished from bookstores forever. Each of those editions is unique, not just in cover art and design, but also in how it was packaged and presented — and, in some cases, in content as well.

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Philip Sandifer’s Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons: An Analysis of Theodore Beale and his Supporters

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Rabid Puppies logo-smallAuthor Philip Sandifer (The Last War in Albion, TARDIS Eruditorum) has a fascinating take on the ongoing 2015 Hugo controversy, pointing out that debating with the Sad Puppies is a waste of time — not because they don’t have a point, but because they are largely irrelevant. Theo Beale’s Rabid Puppies slate largely dictated the outcome, and it’s Beale ‘s agenda that will shape the outcome in future years.

Relatively unreported — and indeed misreported in most coverage of this, is the fact that the Sad Puppies largely failed… In the only category in which both Beale and Torgersen proposed full slates, Best Short Story, Beale’s nominees made it.

Sandifer’s thesis is that the Sad Puppies, and the groundswell of fans who’ve gathered to support it, are the popular face of a much more tightly controlled effort by Theo Beale.

As we’ve seen, it’s not really Torgersen who is most important here; it’s Theodore Beale…. The Rabid Puppies were the slate that actually dominated the Hugos nominations, but the Sad Puppies give every appearance of having been actively constructed to allow them to… Regardless of Torgersen’s intentions, the practical result is that he’s providing the politely moderate front for a movement that is in practice dominated by Theodore Beale…

Torgersen makes much of empowering fans, saying that the slate “is a recommendation. Not an absolute,” and stressing that “YOU get to have a say in who is acknowledged.” Beale, on the other hand, discourages his readers from exercising any personal preference, saying of his recommendations that “I encourage those who value my opinion on matters related to science fiction and fantasy to nominate them precisely as they are.”

Read the complete article here.

Vintage Treasures: Sturgeon is Alive and Well… by Theodore Sturgeon

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Sturgeon is Alive and Well-small Sturgeon is Alive and Well Pocket-small

Sturgeon is Alive and Well… was Theodore Sturgeon’s fourteenth short story collection. It was first published in 1971, and came following a five-year gap after Starshine (1966). As I mentioned in my write-up on that book, Starshine went through nearly a dozen printings in as many years. But Sturgeon is Alive and Well… had only three: a hardcover in 1971, a paperback reprint the same year from Berkley Medallion (above left, cover by the great Paul Lehr), and a Pocket reprint in 1978 (above right, artist unknown.)

It’s now been out of print for 37 years, and there is no digital edition.

The title is… unusual. It probably made more sense in 1971, when Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris was an unexpected smash hit off-Broadway. Sturgeon touches on what a five-year gap between collections meant for a writer who made a living on short stories in his introduction.

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Vintage Treasures: Not Without Sorcery by Theodore Sturgeon

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Not Without Sorcery 1961-small Not Without Sorcery-small

Theodore Sturgeon’s first short story collection was Without Sorcery, a handsome hardcover published in 1948 with an introduction by Ray Bradbury. As you can imagine, it’s a tough book to find these days, even for collectors.

The paperback edition, released 13 long years later, dropped five stories and the introduction, and was re-titled Not Without Sorcery. It became Sturgeon’s tenth collection and was released in two editions, from Ballantine (in 1961, with a rather drab cover by an unknown artist) and Del Rey (in 1975, with a far more interesting cover from artist Darrell K. Sweet.) 1975 was the last time the book saw a mass market edition; it remained out of print for 35 years, until Kessinger Publishing did a facsimile reprint edition in 2010.

Sturgeon was a Campbell writer through and through, and all eight stories in Not Without Sorcery appeared in the two pulp magazines John W. Campbell edited: Astounding Science Fiction, and its sister magazine Unknown Worlds. The stories were published over a two-year period, 1939-1941. I’ve assembled some of the original covers below, because I can never resist an excuse to showcase pulp magazines.

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Vintage Treasures: Starshine by Theodore Sturgeon

Thursday, February 5th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Theodore Sturgeon Starshine Pyramid-small Theodore Sturgeon Starshine Pyramid 2-small Theodore Sturgeon Starshine Pyramid 3-small

For this installment of Vintage Treasures, we’re going to set the Wayback Machine for that far distant era of American publishing, when it wasn’t at all unusual for a midlist science fiction writer to publish a paperback collection clocking in at a slender 174 pages… and have it go through nearly a dozen printings in as many years. Ah, for the days when the American public had a greater appetite for short stories!

Starshine was Sturgeon’s thirteenth collection (thirteen short story collections! It boggles the mind). It included three novelettes and three short stories, spanning just over two decades of his career: 1940 to 1961. I’ve captured the covers of all the paperback editions in this article — if you’re an old-timer like me, maybe one of them will jog your memory.

The first edition of Starshine was the December 1966 Pyramid paperback (above left, cover by Jack Gaughan.) It was back in print less than two years later, in March 1969, with a new cover by Gaughan again (above middle). Why it needed a new cover, I dunno – I much prefer the original one.

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Vintage Treasures: Sturgeon in Orbit by Theodore Sturgeon

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sturgeon in Orbit-smallA few weeks ago, I wrote about my surprise in finding a Theodore Sturgeon collection I hadn’t known existed: To Here and the Easel, a handsome Panther Books paperback from 1975 that never had a US edition.

That book re-ignited my interest in Theodore Sturgeon, whom I consider one of the finest short story writers to dabble in SF and fantasy in the 20th Century. And it reminded me that I have by no means exhausted the Sturgeon titles I already have in my collection.

So this week I pulled another one off my shelf — the 1978 paperback edition of Sturgeon in Orbit, which I’ve never read before. It collects a fine sample of Sturgeon’s work from the early 1950s, the era of flying saucers, national paranoia, and a newborn fear of nuclear Armageddon. It features mysterious alien invaders, noble scientists facing terrifying choices, and stranger things.

The unusual cover, by Stanislaw Fernandes, was a departure for Sturgeon, whose books usually featured abstract space scenes. This one features… well, I’m not sure really. A runway model wearing three capes and a swami headdress, who looks like she’s about to level up. I get it.

Whatever the case, it’s a nice, slender volume that promises to be something I haven’t enjoyed in a while — a very quick read. So far, it’s been a lot of fun and I look forward to finishing it this weekend.

Here’s the description from the back of the book.

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Fantasia Focus: The Zero Theorem, by Terry Gilliam

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Zero TheoremBefore continuing my Fantasia diary with a look at the movies I saw last Sunday, I want to focus in on one specific film that struck me as an utterly brilliant piece of science-fiction satire. I think it divided the audience; I’ve heard and seen reactions from people who were left cold by it as well as from people who loved it as much as I did. Perhaps that’s not surprising. The movie is The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam from a script by Pat Rushin, and it is as idiosyncratic and persistently individual as you’d expect from Gilliam.

Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is an eccentric solitary in a hyperconnected future. He works for a corporation, Mancom, plugging numbers together — which he does by manipulating blocks on a screen with a joystick, effectively playing video games. A chance encounter with Management (Matt Damon) allows him to work from home, a deserted church, trying to put together the zero theorem, a mathematical proof of the pointlessness of life — which Management believes can be leveraged to make money. Qohen’s pleased, since what he wants more than anything else in life is a phone call he believes will come out of the blue and grant him enlightenment, and now he can sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. But his solitude’s plagued by outsiders, including the seductive Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), and Management’s son Bob (Lucas Hedges), an even sharper computer whiz than Qohen.

The Zero Theorem is visually startling, steampunk gone day-glo. It’s a perceptive, idiosyncratic take on the Wired World Of Today, here depicted as Brave New World gone berserk. In fact, Gilliam considers this movie part of his ‘Orwellian trilogy,’ along with Brazil and Twelve Monkeys, but it certainly feels more like Huxley. It depicts a world commercialised and infantilised, where ads for the Church of Batman the Redeemer float above the street. It’s a sharp criticism of easy escapism, but seems to question as well where contrasting meaning is to be found, whether religious transcendence is valid or whether belief is just another form of escape. The movie’s more interested in questions than answers, even questioning itself and its own metaphors on occasion. Days later, I’m still thinking about it, arguing with it, astounded by it.

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