M. David Blake, whom I know simply as Marc, has the deepest memory for fandom and sf of just about anyone I can think of. He keeps up with novels, with short fiction, and even the fanzines. And! He’s currently in his second year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as I was lucky enough (very lucky!) to publish “Absinthe Fish” in Bull Spec #5 back in 2011, easily the most critically well-received short story from Bull Spec’s run so far. He’s also taken up editing, including Stupefying Stories 2.1 last November. But! His most recent, and fairly Herculean if not downright Sisyphean, project was putting together a massive anthology of Campbell-eligible authors, The 2013 Campbellian Pre-Reading Anthology, “Containing 80 complete short stories by 43 different authors, as well as additional information about another 58 potential candidates, the 2013 Campbellian Pre-Reading Anthology is your guide to the newest science fiction and fantasy writers who are helping to define the future of the genre.” It has introductions from Marc, and from (among others) Spider Robinson and Lev Grossman, primarily talking about what the Campbell means to them. Here, Marc writes not so much about the award itself, but about the process of hunting down and wrangling these stories and authors together into one place.
By M. David Blake:
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is one that seems both especially meaningful to me, and especially problematic.
New writers are only eligible for a two year period after their first “pro” sale — defined by the award administrators as being at least three cents per word, for a total of at least $50 — and the clock automatically starts ticking at that point… but a very large percentage of them never realize they are eligible, and so they don’t bother to tell anyone. And every time I run into a new writer, or discover that an acquaintance has nudged that little tick-tock timer enough to start it running, I get excited and tell them about the award.
Sometimes their responses surprise me. “Oh, I’ve not had that many things in print yet.” “Oh, I’m not well-known enough for anyone to nominate me.” “Oh, I’ll wait until next year when I have <awesome project> out, and then I’ll say I’m eligible.”
Each of those approaches is a passive form of self-rejection. If you tell me that, you’re essentially saying, “I’m not good enough (yet).” And from a certain perspective, self-rejection is sort of understandable: as writers, we all battle with a little inner voice that undermines our confidence, and the rejection letters that almost invariably accompany our career choice don’t do anything to stifle it.
The problem is, your timer really does start running down, whether you’ve announced your eligibility or not.
Over the past two years I’ve gotten to know a lot of eligible writers. Some of them stand a really good chance of being nominated this year. Some of them didn’t know about the award, or their eligibility, until I explained why it mattered. Some of them really were still “unknowns,” because their stories appeared in venues small enough that they didn’t attract much attention. Some of them knew they were eligible but assumed they didn’t stand a chance of getting on the ballot, so they hadn’t even tried to publicize their work.
A week and a half before Christmas I asked a group of them, “Assuming I can talk Bruce into letting me put it together, how many of you would be interested in contributing to a reprint-only, free — and no pay in this case, since it would be all reprints and basically a way to ensure distribution for as many eligible writers as possible — Campbellian “Spotlight” super-deluxe issue of Stupefying Stories presents…?”
With very few exceptions, they wanted to participate. The few who didn’t either couldn’t obtain their reprint rights in time for inclusion, or else had very good reasons for electing to not share their limited works that freely. We spread the word, and soon new writers who had completely evaded my radar began to contact me for details.
A handful even offered exclusive previews of upcoming, not-yet-released works, and I wound up having to set a rule that hadn’t even been considered when conceiving the project: No writer would be allowed use any story that had not yet been published, or anything that fell outside of the two year window around which their eligibility was calculated. (I hated having to make that rule, because it meant I had to turn away some incredible stories. Fortunately, each participant who offered a preview was also able to supply an alternate selection.)
Knowing so many eligible writers led to a few small challenges. How should an anthology of this nature be structured, to avoid any appearance of stacking the deck? I wanted each participant to be presented in the best possible light, and without any perception of bias. Alphabetical order was one simple solution, as was making sure each participant’s website had been listed. I also didn’t allow myself to comment on any of the individual writers, despite the fact that there were wonderful things I could share about a few of them, and several whose careers I enthusiastically follow.
Simply putting each of the participants on equal footing wasn’t enough, though. For a project like this one to have any value, it couldn’t simply focus on the writers who had chosen to participate, while pretending they were the only viable candidates for the award. A fair amount of additional time went into tracking down other eligible writers, locating the details of their qualifying sales, and getting links to their websites for any who had an online presence. I wanted this anthology to be as all-inclusive as possible, and tried to make it so.
Ultimately, that was the hardest part… because despite my best efforts, I was still learning about newly-eligible writers for several weeks after the anthology was released.
This year we managed to assemble eighty complete stories and two novel excerpts, from 43 of the eligible candidates for the 2013 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. We managed to track down a supplemental list of another 58 writers who either elected not to participate, or who we didn’t learn about in time to approach for the anthology. There are even more names listed at Writertopia.com, because none of us knew they’d qualified until after the 2013 Campbellian Pre-Reading Anthology was out the door, and I would encourage anyone who is able to nominate writers on this year’s Hugo/Campbell ballot to investigate all of them. Readers and writers need each other, and the window of Campbellian eligibility is an excellent time for the two to connect.
As for next year, I’ll get an earlier start on tracking down names.
Hopefully some of you were among the excellent crowds at the Cory Doctorow and Brandon Sanderson events this past week. Speaking of crowds, there’s sure to be quite a few people taking in both the Nevermore Horror Film Festival this weekend in Durham, and the sf convention MystiCon in Roanoke, VA. Here’s what coming up in the next two weeks:
[And here's a handout flyer for wide distribution!]
22-24 (Friday-Sunday) — Durham’s Carolina Theatre hosts the Nevermore Film Festival. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/440070299375523/
22-24 (Friday-Sunday) — MystiCon in Roanoke, Virginia, with Orson Scott Card, Larry Elmore, Rich Sigfit, and more. More info: http://mysticon-va.com/
23 (Saturday) 3 pm and 7 pm — Hillsborouth author John Claude Bemis is a participant on the Murphey School Radio Show at the Shared Visions Retreat Center at the Historic Murphey School in Durham, NC. “Spend a couple of hours laughing and singing along as we raise the roof of the historic Murphey School auditorium, a 1936 WPA project that has been lovingly restored by the Shared Visions Foundation as a nonprofit retreat and community center. This event will be recorded live! PLEASE ARRIVE 1/2 HOUR BEFORE SHOWTIME!!! For the 3:00pm show, doors will open at 2:15pm with the pre-show warm-up beginning at 2:30pm. Due to live recording, anyone arriving after 3:00pm will be admitted during intermission. For the 7:00pm show, doors will open at 6:15pm with the pre-show warm-up beginning at 6:30pm. Due to live recording, anyone arriving after 7:00pm will be admitted during intermission.” This is a ticketed event with a sliding for-charity scale: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/302008
26 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Ariel Djanikian reads from her post-apocalyptic fiction novel The Office of Mercy. Author Djanikian now calls Chapel Hill home, so let’s get out to welcome this new local author!
2 (Saturday) 2 pm — David Drake will be at Circle City Books in Pittsboro to sign the new paperback edition of The Road of Danger and read from the forthcoming The Heretic – the bookstore was recently written up in the LA Times for its fantastic mural of a bookshelf (which features one of Drake’s books, “With the Lightnings”: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-now-thats-a-wall-of-books-20130123,0,3947937.sto
9 (Saturday) 3 to 4 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts: “Two NC authors share their visions of the strange with us on Saturday, March 9, at 3 p.m. Nathan Kotecki brings us The Suburban Strange. Celia discovers girls at Suburban High are having near fatal accidents on the eve of their 16th birthdays. Can 15-year-old Celia solve the mystery before her own next birthday? For ages 14+. PT McHugh presents Keeper of the Black Stones: Stone Ends, the first book in a new series. It’s a thrilling combination of fantasy and historical fiction with a likable, funny hero in Jason Evans. For ages 12+.” More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/301390523317829/
The Exploding Spaceship Reviews The Queen is Dead by Kate Locke and Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott CardPosted: 22 February, 2013
Review of The Queen is Dead
This is the second volume of Locke’s Immortal Empire series. The Spaceship reviewed the first volume, God Save the Queen, in our 2012 fantasy reads here: http://bullspec.com/2012/12/25/what-to-do-with-that-gift-card-part-1-fantasy-reads-for-2012/ .
Xandra Vardan continues her adventures in a quest to find the people who are experimenting on halvies (half-blood vampires or werewolves). She begins to accept that she is the queen of the goblins and this is in turn places obligations on her from the plague of goblins. Her werewolf boyfriend and his pack (which includes Xandra’a sister Ophelia), also have demands and obligations on her. She runs about in fantastic steampunk fashions sneaking into buildings, being kidnapped and chased, rescuing humans, halvies and goblins and of course having some romantic times with her werewolf. Some of the mystery is resolved in this volume but of course the person with the most knowledge is killed before Xandra can get any information out of her.
This volume ends with Xandra’s world on the brink of war between the goblins, humans, werewolves, vampires and halvies. The next volume, Long Live the Queen, is due out this October, which is a Good Thing because Your Humble Reviewer read this one in less than 24 hours.
Locke’s London is a very interesting mix of Victorian and modern with most of the action taking place within walking distance of the River Thames between Victoria Station and Covent Garden. Your Humble Reviewer having walked that area frequently, it is sometimes easy to visualize where Xandra is going and at other times the differences make it a bit strange to figure out the geography. There is a map in the front of the book however, which is useful to track where the characters are running about. The areas south of the river are completing missing their modern development and so are very different.
Her chapter titles are literary allusions to sources like Shakespeare and Nietzche and are sometimes humorous if viewed again after reading the chapter. Xandra shows a more mature view of her siblings, father, mother, and stepmother in this book than in the last, realizing why they might have done some things she considers wrong, but at least she is able to see the motivation behind their actions. She is still a hothead and quick to want to fight, but she has been eating things more appropriate for a goblin and so has more self-control than she did in the first volume. Her siblings are growing and changing as well, so the characters all seem like real siblings with changing relationships as life experiences shape them. Hopefully there will be many more volumes of this strange vampiric Britain.
Review of Shadows In Flight
The newest volume in the Ender’s Game universe has come to paperback (Tor February 2013). Card has returned to the story of Bean, last seen in Shadow of the Giant when he disappeared during the war and was thought dead by everyone on Earth except his wife and her parents. He took the three children (all of whom share a genetic defect with him) and left in an FTL ship in the hopes that a cure for that defect (heightened intelligence accompanied by gigantism and a greatly shortened lifespan) could be found on Earth and sent to them via ansible.
This volume starts on the ship Herodotus several years later when the children are 6 years old. The three children have all learned to do adult jobs by this point and each has their own specialty. Carlotta is an engineer, Ender a biological scientist and Cincinnatus is a soldier. Even genius 6 year olds fight among themselves and have sibling rivalry, but this suddenly becomes less important when the ship is going to pass near another ship so close there is no way they will not be detected.
What they find on the ship changes their views of the universe, and it will change that of everyone on Earth as well. The exciting plot and the tone of this volume are more like the original Ender’s Game than some of the volumes in between. The main characters are similar to their parents, Bean and Petra, so the thought processes and adult level thinking in children are like that of the original book. Almost two-thirds of the book is space adventure dealing with the ship and its consequences so this is a change from the war and political intrigue of recent volumes.
Orson Scott Card will be the writer guest of honor at Mysticon in Roanoke, VA February 22-24, 2013.
Calvin Powers, as he’s done for some previous events, has posted a video from Cory Doctorow’s talk on privacy and technology and other topics at Flyleaf Books yesterday. While I certainly have more to say about the excellent, interesting, and frankly inspiring event, the video is definitely worth sharing around. Check it out!