Blogs at Amazon

« September 2010 | Main | November 2010 »

October 2010

2010 World Fantasy Award Winners

China mieville 
(2010 World Fantasy Award winner The City & The City: one book to rule them all and in the brightness bind them...except for enclaves of The Wind-Up Girl support.)

The 2010 World Fantasy Awards, for achievement in 2009, have been announced at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio. The judges were Greg Ketter, Kelly Link, James Minz, Jürgen Snoeren, and Gary K. Wolfe.

There's nothing particularly unexpected in the winners' list--Mieville's novel has been gobbling up awards like a benevolent Pac-man, and Margo Lanagan and Karen Joy Fowler are among the best short fiction writers of their generations. The presence of not two but three lifetime achievement award winners seems to represent some tension between the administrators of the award and the judges, since administrators in the past have suggested possibles in that category. (One imagines Straub, Lumley, and Pratchett looking at the list and feeling like three guys staring at each other from within a very small phone booth and saying simultaneously, "I'm not done yet!")

The tie in the story collection category is somewhat inexplicable to me personally, as I found the Petrushevskaya not particularly fantastical and also not particularly good. Meanwhile, Straub's anthology was canon-defining, Jonathan Strahan is one of the field's hardest-working editors, and Strange Horizons is long overdue for recognition as a website that creates an importance space for speculative fiction and nonfiction.

The entire ballot of finalists can be found here.

Life Achievement
Brian Lumley
Terry Pratchett
Peter Straub

The City & The City by China Miéville (Macmillan UK / Del Rey)

"Sea-Hearts," Margo Lanagan, X 6, coeur de lion publishing

Short Story
"The Pelican Bar," Karen Joy Fowler, Eclipse Three, Night Shade Books

American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny: From Poe to the Pulps/From the 1940s to Now , ed. by Peter Straub, Library of America

Collection (tie)
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales , Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Penguin

The Very Best of Gene Wolfe/The Best of Gene Wolfe , Gene Wolfe, PS Publishing/Tor Books

Charles Vess

Special Award—Professional
Jonathan Strahan for editing anthologies

Special Award—Non-professional
Susan Marie Groppi for Strange Horizons

It Is Right to Draw Their Fake Beards: Dave Eggers at the World Series

Add this to the Is There Anything Dave Eggers Can't Do? file. Not too long ago, I opened the most gigantic (at least in breadth) publisher package I'd seen in quite some time to find It Is Right to Draw Their Fur, a portfolio of "animal renderings" (drawings, that is) from McSweeney's, as drawn by their founder Dave Eggers. And despite whatever "vanity project!" initial resistance I might have had, as soon as I untied the ribbons to open the portfolio, I was won over by the drawings themselves. There was something appealingly humble about the way these animals presented themselves to the author's pencil, which wasn't entirely undermined (and was at times even enhanced) by the ironic or heartfelt or just cryptic sayings that were drawn around them. We have a few samples on our page for the book, including this one:


And this week, with Eggers's home city of S.F. hosting the opening game of the World Series (and possibly headed for their first title since they moved West over 50 years ago) the San Francisco Bay Citizen invited the celebrity scribe to bring his notebook to the game. The results, to my mind, are at least as charming as his animal portraits:



Report from Washington D.C.: Capclave, Library of Congress, Small Press & Last Drink Awards

2010-10-24 17.50.48 
(Portrait of the author as a tired horizontal biped, after Capclave; all photos by Ann VanderMeer)

As always, I'm either late or early to a place, and the past week in Washington D.C. was no exception, since the city was gearing up for the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert event as we left. But interesting SF/Fantasy stuff had just ended at the area's Capclave convention, at which my wife Ann VanderMeer and I were guests of honor, along with author Connie Willis. Other notable attendees included Michael Swanwick, Lawrence Watt Evans, Laura Anne Gilman, Genevieve Valentine, Eric Choi, James Morrow, and Michael Dirda. It was one of those small, intimate conventions where every single person is passionate about book and highly tuned-in to everything going on in genre. Several of the organizers are involved in the federal government, many of them in the sciences and others, like Colleen Cahill, working for the Library of Congress.

2010-10-22 13.38.33 
(A cathedral devoted to books: the Library of Congress)

Indeed, our convention experience started at the Library of Congress, as Cahill was kind enough to give a tour to several of us. The building itself is fascinating, the history and the contents even more so, and things like these clothes made out of maps just incredibly cool. 

Twelfth Planet Press publisher/editor Alisa Krasnostein, who had come all the way from Australia, has a very nice account of our shared adventure.

Continue reading "Report from Washington D.C.: Capclave, Library of Congress, Small Press & Last Drink Awards" »

Omni Daily News

Top-Earning (Dead) Celebs: In one of the more morbid countdowns of wealth, Forbes has released its new list of the top-earning dead celebrities, with four authors in the mix: J.R.R. Tolkein, Charles Schulz, Stieg Larsson (making his debut on the list at #6), and Dr. Seuss.

Atwood's Superheroes: Margaret Atwood, who became an avid tweeter during the launch of The Year of the Flood, recently designed superhero costumes for two of her Twitter followers.

Conan vs. Jay: Vanity Fair has released an excerpt from Bill Carter's upcoming book, The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy.

Moving and Shaking: To mark the 45th anniversary of The Sound of Music, the cast reunited for the first time since the film's release on The Oprah Winfrey Show--and Christopher Plummer's memoir, In Spite of Myself, his the top of our Movers & Shakers list this morning.


Graphic Novel Friday: The Walking Dead

This Halloween, when there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk into your living room--courtesy of AMC. That’s right, the same cable channel that introduced the impossibly debonair advertising execs of Mad Men now unleashes The Walking Dead, a televised horror series written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on the comics by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard.

In 2003, the first issue of The Walking Dead released deep in the throes of the most recent zombie revival, and its subject matter set it apart from the usual books in the market. Readers eagerly championed the Image Comics series, creating a vocal fervor that helped keep the title afloat amidst the capes and cowls and turned it into a New York Times bestseller.

After a particularly bloody shootout, small town police officer Rick Grimes awakens in a hospital, and soon finds he's alone in a world gone dead. His law enforcement training serves him well as he gathers weapons, supplies, and fellow survivors--all the while looking over his shoulder for creeping death. Kirkman chooses to focus on the survivors and their cornered-animal mentality, rather than worrying about the hows and why of the outbreak or fashioning a cure out of, say, canned Spam and batteries. It’s a smart method of storytelling, allowing for the series to extend into (so far) thirteen volumes. The characters come and shockingly go, aside from a few regulars who undergo drastic personality changes the further they travel into dread reality.

There are surprise betrayals and deaths (and then resurrections). Every bathroom stop or food supply run is fraught with tension and stark panels, a grim reminder of what threatens these characters at every moment. There is very little relief for the reader, especially in artist Charlie Adlard’s portrayal of desolate landscapes--desolate, save for the hordes of undead, of course. Cliff Rathburn is credited with “gray tones” in the series, and readers may initially feel that the muted color scheme lacks a gore-iffic punch. But after a few chapters, these tones drive home the monotony inherent to day-to-day living on the run. It’s a tonal choice rooted in hopelessness--the reprieve is in the series’ take-no-prisoners twists and wrenching developments. Even when the less savory characters meet their demise, it isn’t any easier for the reader. Kirkman makes it natural to invest in these survivors because their choices are the same ones anyone would make--they are the only choices left.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: The Walking Dead" »

No Cliffhanger: Lee Child on the Long Life of Jack Reacher

There are a few folks around our offices on a bit of a Reacher tear. I just overheard Dave saying to our local Lee Child evangelist, Daphne, "I did it. I read all the Reachers." I'm not sure if he was happy or sad to have caught up, but I know he tore through all 14 in just a few months. My introduction to the solitary ex-MP came on a solo 10-hour car trip this summer. I had put all dozen or so audio CDs of 61 Hours on my phone to play as I drove, and on the way back I pretty much had it timed to get to the end of the story as I pulled up at my doorstep. So when I got somewhere around Concrete, Wa., (yes, former home of Tobias Wolff) I was a little unhinged to find I had neglected to upload disc 9, and had to drive those last few hours home with Jack stuck somewhere in a wintry South Dakota town.

Daphne liked 61 Hours a whole lot (and you can listen to her interview with Child about the book and about the character of Jack Reacher below), but she liked this fall's sequel of sorts, Worth Dying For, even better, and made it one of our Best of October picks. Is it a sequel? Well, all the Reacher books lead from one into the other, although Jack himself tries to hold on to as little baggage as he can as he moves from adventure to adventure. The story of 61 Hours certainly ends with Reacher in peril, which isn't resolved until his story picks up again in Worth Dying For, but as Child himself argues below, did you really think Reacher was going down?

Lee Child on Ending a Story but Not a Character

Almost everyone has referred to the ending of my last book 61 Hours as a cliffhanger, and it’s true that Reacher’s ultimate fate wasn’t fully articulated ... but I never thought of it as a cliffhanger as such. In my mind the ending was the product of two different desires ... firstly, to trust the reader more; and secondly, not to feel trapped into writing the same formula every time.

When I worked in television, we gradually learned that our product was being consumed in a certain new way: unlike way back in the past, people no longer sat with rapt attention and concentrated solely on the screen. Instead, they kept half an eye on the show, while simultaneously cooking dinner and talking to their mothers on the phone. So, when an important plot point was coming up, we unconsciously developed a technique: tell them you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them you’ve told them.

I think I carried that unconscious technique into my books a little, and over the years I began to feel it was unnecessary. Book readers are probably smarter on average than TV watchers, but more importantly, even though reading can be fragmented in terms of time--ten minutes here, twenty minutes there--people are either reading or not reading, and when they’re reading, they’re paying attention. So what I try to do now is supply all the necessary information--all the clues, all the background--and let the reader work out the conclusion. In other words, I ask "Two plus two?"  And instead of either me or Reacher promptly answering, "Four," I let the reader figure it out.

Which was the situation at the end of 61 Hours. All the information was there--both detailed, and in a more general sense. The physical layout was carefully described, and the arson investigators' theories were mapped out. And ... come on ... a jet fuel explosion? You think that's gonna take the big guy down? Really??

No cliffhanger.

Plus, every previous book has a "Reacher walks off into the sunset/gets on the bus" scene at the end, and that time I just felt like leaving it out. I write entirely by instinct, and my instinct told me to leave it out. I don't want to do the same thing every time.

But, for those still in doubt, the new book Worth Dying For does explain how he got out--but only in passing. Reacher's not the kind of guy who dwells on past events. He moves right along into the future ... and in this case the future is a whole new separate adventure, in Nebraska, with Reacher coming up against some very bad people. But he's human, and he's hurting a little after the events in South Dakota ... will that slow him down, or provoke an extra 10%? Read on and find out.

And as promised, here is Daphne's talk with Lee Child, recorded at BookExpo in May:




Omni Daily News

"What could be worse than our culture right now? The eighties has nothing on us": New York talks to one of my all-time favorite talkers, Jonathan Lethem (tied with Martin Scorsese for the top spot) about They Live, his entry about the 1988 John Carpenter/Rowdy Roddy Piper vehicle in the new Deep Focus series ("Look at what it does to people, look at how it emboldens and provokes. It's just not a classy or comfortable or ennobling experience to watch it. It's disturbing and ridiculous and outrageous and uncomfortable, but I think it's the kind of great movie that doesn't really need defense, it just needs to be given the air") and moving to SoCal to take his new job (and David Foster Wallace's old job) as writing professor at Pomona ("I've spent my life as much running away from New York City as I have spent it embracing it.").

I'm sorry, I just didn't love this rejection: At the Millions, novelist Bill Morris (who's received a few, some of them helpful) laments the unsurprising decline of the rejection letter in the electronic age: "Three decades ago I received typewritten rejection letters that were thoughtful, insightful, sometimes even beneficial. The electronic burps I’m getting today are, for the most part, shallow, cursory and absolutely useless to me as a writer."

Best in biz: Raghuram Rajan, the former chief economist at the IMF who warned of the financial crisis well before it happened, won this year's Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award for Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World's Economy. (No mention of what Goldman Sachs would say about his suggestions to reform Wall Street bonus pay.)

10 x $50K: This year's 10 winners of the $50,000 Whiting Writers Awards (for "writers of exceptional talent and promise in early career") were announced yesterday:

Moving and shaking: Announcements that Mad Man Roger Sterling's collection of wit and wisdom, Sterling's Gold, as featured in Mad Men's fourth season, will become a real book have sent it up this morning's Movers & Shakers list.


Omni Daily News

Keef's a sidekick again: An online flash mob yesterday sent the independently published anthology Machine of Death to the top of our bestseller list (it's still there this morning), making it Mick to Keith Richards's #2 Life for a little while at least. For more background on how the anthology came together (and on the editors' excitement at hitting #1), visit their blog. Is it a good book, or this year's three-wolf shirt? Only readers will decide.

"I felt very Sherlock Homes about it all at the time": Speaking of Keith, the Daily Beast summarizes the "juicy bits" from all 547 pages of Life. Have fun skimming, but really, you should take their advice and read Life for yourself. It's all juicy bits, and, thanks in part no doubt to his collaborator James Fox, Keith is the fabulous storyteller--cheeky and surprisingly observant--that you kinda hoped he would be. As Mick once sung (actually, has sung over and over again on their zillion-dollar tours), "It's a gas, gas, gas." (And yes, Johnny Depp does indeed narrate the audiobook edition.)

"A form to be loathed, a half-form like maggots": In the NYT, Dwight Garner spent some time wandering through what's already one of my favorite places in the online world (as it was once my favorite place in the library): the Paris Review's new complete archive of their justifiably legendary interviews. Choice quote, from Mary Karr: "You've got to understand the degree to which I'm feral."

Moving and shaking: The power of puree is back, as, yes, an Oprah appearance sends Jessica Seinfeld's Doubly Delicious!, the follow-up to her surprise sneaky-mom bestseller Deceptively Delicious, into our overall top 10 and near the top of this morning's Movers & Shakers.

Wes Anderson Wrote Bad Undergraduate Stories Too, Thank Goodness

Somehow it seems fitting that Wes Anderson would have literary juvenalia to unearth, just as his characters might. Via PWxyz, we heard that Analecta, the literary journal of the University of Texas, Anderson's alma mater, has unearthed "The Ballad of Reading Milton," a story by Anderson from their 1989 issue ("The year I was born!" says the current editor, a statement that depressed and terrified this member of the Class of '89) and published it on their blog.

For reasons I'm still working through, I was very pleased to see that the story, which revolves around a series of experimental spills of Dr. Pepper, is not very good. But you can glimpse pupal Wes in there, already meticulous and referential, with a main character named Max and a passing mention of Bjorn Borg. And this, easily the best line in the story:

A medium-close shot from the waist up would have created for an audience the illusion that he had forced open the door through the efforts of his mind alone.

My question though, for those Analecta editors: anything in your archives from Anderson's fellow UT English major, Owen Wilson? --Tom

Omni Daily News

Like a Rolling Stone: Tonight I will be spending the night with Keith Richards.  Well, in print anyway, as Life, Keith Richards' highly anticipated memoir goes on sale today.  If the cover alone doesn't make you want this book, then Michiko Kakutani's review certainly will...

Happy Birthday, Doonesbury:  Garry Trudeau's first Doonesbury comic strip was printed on October 26, 1970, and continues today--not bad for someone who says he'd "...given no consideration to a career in cartoons."  The usually publicity-shy cartoonist spoke with The Guardian about the past four decades, how his process of creating the Doonesbury strip has changed, and his new collection, 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective.

Model reading:  Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of fashion shows? Models reading, apparently.  The Daily Beast polled models about what they read while they are getting all glammed up, and came up with a fun gallery pairing the model and their books.

Moving & Shaking: An appearance on Good Morning America bumped Kelly Valen's book, The Twisted Sisterhood, into the top of the Movers and Shakers list this morning.