And finally, after looking at various award winners over the past year and articles about authors’ debuts and the novels published in 1979, it has come time to close out this series of articles with a look at some of the non-award winning short fiction published in 1979.
By 1979, Philip José Farmer had published the first three novels in his Riverworld series as well as a novelette set in the same world, entitled “Riverworld.” When he reprinted the novelette in 1979 in his collection Riverworld and Other Stories, Farmer expanded the story from 12,000 to 33,750 words, effectively publishing a new story in the popular series about humanity’s afterlife on an infinite river.
John M. Ford has made the news recently as the rights to reprint his all too few works, plus an unfinished novel, have been disentangled. In 1979 he published six stories in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (his first sale was in 1976). These stories included “Mandalay,” which kicked off his Alternities, Inc. series of stories, as well as “The Adventure of the Solitary Engineer” and “The Sapphire as Big as the Marsport Hilton.”
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro introduced her vampire, the Count Saint-Germain, in 1978 in the novel Hotel Transylvania. In 1979, she published her first short story about him, “Seat Partner,” detailing his experiences on an airplane, a far cry from the historical settings of the novels he usually inhabits.
With all the grim news coming out of Iraq, it’s easy to think the country has no future. That’s wrong, of course, because being one of the oldest countries in the world, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
But what will that future look like? To answer that question, UK publisher Comma Press has released Iraq +100, an anthology of Iraqi writers imagining the future of their nation. As the blurb says:
Iraq + 100 poses a question to ten Iraqi writers: what might your country look like in the year 2103 – a century after the disastrous American- and British-led invasion, and 87 years down the line from its current, nightmarish battle for survival? How might the effects of that one intervention reach across a century of repercussions, and shape the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens, or influence its economy, culture, or politics? Might Iraq have finally escaped the cycle of invasion and violence triggered by 2003 and, if so, what would a new, free Iraq look like?
Covering a range of approaches – from science fiction, to allegory, to magic realism – these stories use the blank canvas of the future to explore the nation’s hopes and fears in equal measure. Along the way a new aesthetic for the ‘Iraqi fantastical’ begins to emerge: thus we meet time-travelling angels, technophobic dictators, talking statues, macabre museum-worlds, even hovering tiger-droids, and all the time buoyed by a dark, inventive humour that, in itself, offers hope.
That was unfortunate, but it was not a complete loss. Some of the backers hadn’t backed Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, my successful Kickstarter, so I had increased my network. I also learned some lessons which helped me prepare for my ongoing Kickstarter for Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egytian Wuxia. Since I’m a generous guy, let me share my lessons learned with you.
1) Expect failure and you can expect failure.
I went into Farewell, Something Lovely with a strong suspicion that I would fail. I’m not saying that I created my own failure… actually, I am saying that, but not that I gave up on the Kickstarter.
I kept pushing until the end. I wonder, though, if that expectation of failure curtailed my efforts in some way. Perhaps I could have done more if I believed the Kickstarter would succeed.
It’s similar to an explanation of backer psychology I heard: backers will only pledge to a Kickstarter they expect to fund. Just as a backer will create a failure by expecting a Kickstarter to fail, I have a feeling that if you go in with your parachute on, maybe you’ll bail out of the plane before absolutely necessary. Maybe if I had put more effort into the Kickstarter, I could have saved it.
I sometimes give writing workshops in the Ottawa area and mentor local writers. One piece of advice that I feel comes off as a broken record is that there is *so much* good short fiction out there, for readers to taste and for writers to learn from.
Not everyone is into short fiction. My formative reading experiences were novels and comic books, two media that lend themselves to very long arcs with exploratory digressions. Only after largely failing at two novels (consuming ten years of writing time), did I finally take the old science fiction advice: work my writing career up to novels through short fiction.
Although I didn’t appreciate it then, short stories really are their own medium, with conventions and beat structures that take a lot of time to internalize. I forced myself to read a lot of short fiction, from Year’s Best collections to Hemingway and other Nobel winners. I didn’t enjoy the form for about two years, until I stumbled upon an editorial taste that worked for me, and that happened to be Escapepod, and then Podcastle.
Consistently listening to several stories a week gave me such a broad view of the kinds of writing out there and what I liked and how the different forms connected to each other and what rules each played in, or broke, as the case may be. So, I’m a late convert to short fiction and I feel the missionary need at times to show people just how much range and quality is out there. I picked three stories I wanted to recommend to the world.
Pro Se Press is one of several New Pulp specialty small presses that have sprung up over the past few years to give voice to new writers. While Pro Se publishes pulp novels like their peers, they have largely set themselves apart in the field by also publishing a monthly print magazine, Pro Se Presents. Issue 15 was just published and presents five diverse examples of New Pulp from five very talented writers. The periodical is also published as an e-book each month and is affordably priced in keeping with traditional pulp titles of decades past – something most small presses are unable to otherwise do thanks to the economics of print on demand or small print runs.
Sean Ali’s striking cover art and moody interior illustrations do an excellent job of capturing the unique feel of each tale. The magazine’s stellar editorial staff [Tommy Hancock, Lee Houston, Jr., Frank Schildiner, Barry Reese, and Don Thomas] has done an excellent job of capturing the mix of genres that were found under the pulp banner in the heyday of the 1920s and 1930s. From a modern standpoint, there is a bias to favor the superhero prototypes (such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, etc.) or the more famous offshoots of the pulps, the hardboiled detective and the sword & sorcery barbarian hero. This tends to shortchange the many boxing stories, westerns, romances, and humorous tales that were also staples of the pulp world. Happily, Pro Se Presents restores this balance.
Issue 15 gets underway with David White’s “Doc Panic.” While the title may recall Doc Savage, White has crafted more than the simple knock-off it might suggest in this clever blend of pulp archetypes and Japanese martial arts. Phineas Montgomery is the man behind the mask. An heir to a fortune, Montgomery grew up scarred as a witness to his Satanist parents’ murderous rituals involving the human sacrifice of abducted children and derelicts. A Japanese servant stole young Montgomery away from his parents’ house of madness and smuggled him to Japan, where the boy was trained in the arts of Ninjitsu and Akido. Along the way, the young man also picked up an addiction to certain illegal powders that help him manage his pain. White has achieved an interesting balance between the masked vigilantes of the Golden Age and the Men’s Adventures paperback originals of the 1970s with their mix of martial arts and gritty urban crime. There is little doubt that this is only the first of many appearances for the character. White has stumbled upon a winning formula here that makes Doc Panic a character worthy of commanding the cover slot for his debut.