Gonna Buy Five Copies for my Mother

May 20th, 2011

My short satire piece “The Very Strange Weird of Endart Sscowth” is forthcoming this summer in Space and Time #114.  You Clark Ashton Smith fans (and Battlestar Galactica fans!) may recognize some of it.

The cover has been released, posted on Space and Time‘s Facebook page. Hey, look whose name is there on the cover? :)

Underneath my fellow Odyssey grad Larry Hodges, who earned the top billing.  It’s actually the second time that Larry and I have shared a TOC in Space and Time.  He had a piece opposite my story “Ebb” in S&T #107.

So check out S&T #114 this summer, and grab a copy of #107 if you don’t have it already.  Larry’s eager humor and my strange worlds both lie within.

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Epic Grit Gives Epic Character

February 16th, 2011

The epic fantasy realm of the blogosphere is lately agog over a screed from Leo Grin, a Robert E. Howard scholar and Tolkien devotee who recently derided the modern wave of darker or gritty epic fantasy as “bankrupt nihilism.” Several epic fantasy authors have countered, rightly rejecting this shallow criticism of their approach, but none have noted what I see as the key value of this grittier or more visceral feel.

The boom in more visceral epic fantasy coincided with the late-90s success of George R.R. Martin, its first major practitioner, and its subsequent proliferation can seem mercenary.  In cases where bereft of any purpose or handled with callow ineptitude, it can be gratuitous if not exploitative.

But in the hands of an award-winning master like Martin, it can illumine universal insights.  When one of his characters has his hand brutally lopped off, thereby losing the expertise and persona that formed his entire self, the change forced onto him and the inner journey he takes to try to overcome it result in one of the most profound explorations of the human condition ever achieved in fantasy literature.  That grit isn’t nihilist.  It’s a poignant literary example of how even a despicable person can have humanity at their core, and even the ripping away of all that a person values most can inspire them onto a path toward redemption.

This visceral realism, including the sexual and scatalogical, is the most powerful vehicle for placing the reader into a fantasy world and into the shoes of the characters inhabiting it–in short, for making epic fantasy evoke the human condition.

Yet Grin posits that “Realism isn’t a primary concern in great literature.” That’s where he’s most wrong.  Realism isn’t important in escapist entertainment, such as Howard (yes, Howard was and is just that, although uniquely original and very very good).  But if discussing true literature in any period since the mid-20th century, the foundation is Faulkner’s comment in his 1950 Nobel acceptance speech:  “the human heart in conflict with itself… only that is worth writing about.”

Which is the human condition–what it means to be who we are.  Without that, epic fantasy–indeed, any fiction–becomes just more escapist entertainment.

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At Boskone This Weekend

February 15th, 2011

This weekend I will be at Boskone, the Boston-area F/SF convention. I’ve been for the last several years and have enjoyed it (and returning to two of my favorite brewpubs and small breweries).  I will be on several panels, including one Saturday at noon on Sword & Sorcery Today–a very cool topic similar to the panel I moderated at Word Fantasy.

I will also be hosting a reading for my magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, on Sunday at noon (note the change from the earlier schedule).  Several authors from the magazine will read their stories that will be appearing in BCS this spring.

Drop by and give them a listen. And if you see me in the halls, feel free to say hello!

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Weird Tales Upgrades

January 25th, 2011

Weird Tales, the very long-running SF/F/H magazine where my first published fantasy story appeared, has made some major upgrades.

As detailed in this announcement, WT will now be paying 5 cents a word, up from 3 cents.  They’ve also adopted the very slick electronic submissions system that Clarkesworld Magazine pioneered and that Fantasy Magazine and Asimov’s use.  Ann VanderMeer, who as Fiction Editor bought my story “Excision” several years ago, is taking over as Editor-in-Chief.

I’m sure these changes will only improve this run of the magazine under Ann, which has already won the 2009 Hugo for Best SemiProZine.  I’ve been a fan and subscriber ever since “Excision” appeared in WT #347, her first issue, the one with the cool cover art of a severed head in a jar.  :)   I had the pleasure of dining with Ann and Jeff at Capclave, and they are tireless champions for short fiction.  I look forward to this new era for Weird Tales!

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