Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SHINE Anthology

ANNOUNCEMENT:

Here's the Solaris Books Press Release:

********************************************

SOLARIS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE



SOLARIS SIGN UP JETSE DE VRIES FOR NEW SF ANTHOLOGY

Solaris is delighted to announce a major new anthology from ex-Interzone co-editor Jetse De Vries.

Shine is a collection of near-future, optimistic SF stories where some of the genres brightest stars and some of its most exciting new talents portray the possible roads to a better tomorrow. Definitely not a plethora of Pollyannas (but neither a barrage of dystopias), Shine will show that positive change is far from being a foregone conclusion, but needs to be hardfought, innovative, robust and imaginative. Most importantly, it aims to demonstrate that while times are tough and outcomes are uncertain, we can still bend the future in benevolent ways if we embrace change and steer its momentum in the right direction.

Christian Dunn said of the deal: “Jetse has been quite vocal in his opinions about moving SF in a more positive direction, and it’s a journey Solaris are delighted to be accompanying him on.”

Jetse de Vries was co-editor of Interzone for four-and-a-half years, and his non-fiction has appeared in The New York Review of Science Fiction, the BSFA´s Focus and others. His fiction has appeared in a few dozen publications on both sides of the Atlantic, most recently in Postscripts, Clarkesworld Magazine, Hub, Escape Pod, and Flurb. Shine is his first post-Interzone project. Jetse lives in the city of Hieronymus Bosch, has a blog at eclipticplane.blogspot.com and can be contacted at Jetse.deVries@gmail.com.

About Solaris

BL Publishing, a division of Games Workshop Group PLC has been publishing SF and Fantasy under its Black Library imprint for over ten years. Solaris was founded in February 2007 with the aim of publishing original genre fiction for the US and UK mass markets. In its first year Solaris gained praise from many critics, especially for its back to basics approach. Solaris continues to attract high profile authors to its stable. For more information visit www.solarisbooks.com

For more information please contact Mark Newton on mark.newton@games-workshop.co.uk or on ++44 (0)115 - 916 8384

****************************************

I've made a SHINE anthology website, doubling up as an open platform for optimistic SF here: Shine Anthology Blog.

Guidelines here (will be slightly updated after I return from World Fantasy on November 4).


Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Little Exposition...

...In the Bateria Candelaria (an old fortress, now an art centre) in Cádiz.

I ran into it on my way to Parque Genoves, on my way for my daily piece of writing in the park. I quite liked it: it seemed to be themed around shoes or footwear. Does the name of the Spanish prime minister (Zapatero 0 shoemaker) have anything to do with it?

Anyway, a few pictures:


















Flying shoes.























Shoes hanging down on loooooooong stockings.


















A painting I really liked.


















Walking on clouds.

A Few Thoughts

Openness to change --> change to openness






































Food for thought --> thoughts for food





















































































Suspension of disbelief --> disbelief your suspenders













Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do´s and Don´t´s in Cádiz

I´m itching to post a few pictures of this beautiful town (actually I´m itching to post something else as well, but it´ll come), but can´t as my company laptop´s internet access is too slow, and my USB stick is rejected by the PCs in the internet cafés.

So:
  • Do take a laptop with wireless access next time;
  • Do learn better Spanish;

As it was, way back when I was attending college, there was a (free) Spanish course. I missed more than half of it becuase I´d rather go to the beach (it was during summer). I greatly regret that now, as Spanish is one of the world languages. And while I get along fine in Cádiz, speaking better Spanish would have made things even better.

Foodwise,

Do:

  • Eat local food in cafetarias, tapas bars and other eateries. Unlike most restaurants, these are open before 21.00 hrs, and provide great value for money;
  • Do order separate salads with your meal (this might be usual in the US, it isn´t in Europe), as the vegetables you get with the main course quite often are not fresh, but pickled;

Don´t:

  • Eat Mexican food: I did it a few nights ago, and it was bad. Then I remembered from previous visits (to other places in Spain) that the Spanish version of Mexican food (keep in mind that restaurants with non-native food have mostly adapted that non-native food to the taste of the natives -- a survival tactic -- and that they´re only rarely ´original cuisine´) is just not to my taste. Just not enough fresh
  • Eat Italian food: ditto. Way too greasy, and not enough attention to making each individual ingredient top notch (like the Italians do);
  • Go to Spain as a vegetarian: I remember reading that Spain was the most carnivorous country in Europe, well above Germany and Austria;

Make no mistake, the Spanish food is fine (if you´re not a vegetarian, obviously).

Also (added after this happening a second time):

Do:

  • Have a beer (or a coffee) at an almost deserted Spanish café at 18.00 hrs. I did it last a few days ago on the Plaza Fragela (the one around the Gran Teatro Falla) and today in a bar at the Via de la Palma: in both cases it seemed I was the only (or one of a two) customers around that time. That suited me fine: it was still warm and sunny, both places are picturesque, and in all--relative--quietness I could start up my laptop and work on my fiction. In both cases, though, it becoame quite crowded in about half an hour: at the grand theatre plaza I suspect it was a theatre group (all of a sudden, the owner was setting up *all* his terrace tables, food was being served in large quantities, so I suppose this was reserved in advance), at the street of palms it just became busy with, I suspect, the usual customers. Either that, or I am a crowd magnet...,-)
Quite enjoying myself.

Anyway, back home next week, with one day to post pictures before heading of to Calgary (World Fantasy). From sunny Spain to wintry Canada...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Cádiz

I've arrived in Cádiz last Monday evening. I took some nice pictures but no internet café here (I've tried three, so far) wants to recognise my memory stick. Which is a nuisance.

Trying to enjoy myself here, while also trying to get several things done. So as soon as I find a decent PC, there will be pictures. Or they will be inserted when I get back to Holland (whichever comes first).Now the first objects iI photographed were not historical buildings (of which there is an abundance here, Cádiz being one of Europe´s oldest cities), but trees. And a lot of déjà vu moments.

Here's an impressive tree near the Punta Candelaria (which is an old fortification).

Here's a nice one in a playground between Parque Genoves and Hotel Atlantico (I stayed in that hotel some ten years ago when servicing the controls of the propulsion equipment of two ferries that sail between Cádiz and the Canary Islands).

And another tree -- a double one, actually -- before the entry of one of the University of Cádiz many facilities.


And several moments of recognition: the port and the ferries are still very much the same. The Irish pub at Plaza San Francisco where i drank too much whisky (it was dirt cheap) is still there, although prices have gone up. Some restaurants and tapas places have closed down, but many new ones have opened up. Right now there is the festival IberoAmericano in Cádiz, meaning a lot of theatre shows and performances throughout town. And I promised my sister -- who has worked on a project about it, and I´ll add a link as soon as I find out which it was -- to visit a Flamenco club.

I´m working on several things here, and my company´s laptop refuses to let me access the internet (it´s firewalled to the brim), so I can only get online in internet cafés. Therefore, updates may be patchy as the beautiful weather and cold beer are big distractions.

So little time, and so much to see and do.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Batch of Near-Future Stories

In a previous post I declared this October to be the month of hope. Typically, I've seen a batch of near-future stories on the internet this early in October that made some interesting points:

A few general remarks first: while it is increasingly difficult to write about the near future (as both Charlie Stross and I agree), the point is that when you do it, your predictions and extrapolations should err on the audacious side rather than being too cautious. Things move faster than you think and being wildly wrong -- while telling a good story -- mostly works better than a compelling narrative that was close but didn't quite go far enough. Simply because the former is often more thought-provoking than the latter.

All three of the above-mentioned stories are a case in point: Rakunas mixes (America's) obsession with sex with slacker culture and high school politics to both humourous and mind-bending effect; Klosterman fires off futuristic nuggets that vary from old hat (old entertainers/artists/trends making a comeback, well-worn conspiracy theories) to irrelevant (hole in the ozone layer) to interesting (first AI used for virtual sex), witty (near-death experiences inciting more instances of the actual event) and imaginative (expectation entertainment and news blows); and Stoddard boldly predicts a phase-change in politics, where all the internet tools already available now (and expanding fast) are used as not only as the lure, the promise of a hyper-direct democracy (albeit for those online mostly), but are implenented as the ultimate election campaign: find out what each and every voter truly wants, and then promise it to them (or promise something that is very close to that). Change can be both exhilirating and scary.

("1337 in 2012" easily has the boldest prediction of the three: it not only follows current trends -- an important part of Obama's lead so far is his use of the internet: not only for funding, but in organising communities, advertising, and much more -- but tries to extrapolate them to their extreme endpoint. While this has the risk of taking things too far, it does make for a highly thought-provoking story, and this is one of the things SF should be very good at. Thinking about it before I fell asleep last night I wondered if it might not even have gone far enough: in the end it teases with the possibility that future elections might be won by the best hacker, but I am even thinking that it might even evolve not only in a tight competition between hackers and internet entrepreneurs/savants, but also in a competition between *systems*, where the 6 kazillion dollar question is whether the system that is best for *winning the election* comes out on top, or the sytem that is best for *running the country*. Gut feeling might say the former, but I'm not so sure.)

An interesting parallel between the Klosterman and the Stoddard story is that both have an internet 2.0 (or 3.0, or higher up) entrepreneur winning the US election at some point. Make no mistake that while Klosterman's piece appeared in the most prestigious market, Stoddard's made the bolder prediction: it takes until 2020 in "A Brief History of the 21st Century" before 'blogucrat' Digger True wins the election (participating in two previous ones), while Susan Acker in "1337 in 2012" already 'steals' the election in 2012.

There is a lesson there somewhere:

  1. Esquire running an SF story is not only another indication that SF is part of the mainstream, but also that there is a huge potential audience for it out there;
  2. Mainstream writers (or artists/directors/bloggopundits or whatever) turning their hands on SF is a good thing, even if they don't get it (completely) right;
  3. Because both competition from outside the ghetto, and exposure of the SF meme to an audience as wide as possible is not only beneficial, but essential for the genre's long-time health;
  4. This should force SF writers to be both more relevant and more daring in their (fictional) ventures.

Does this mean that the more escapist-oriented parts of SF should go? No, of course not, as there is room for almost everything under the SF umbrella. However, in order to be more interesting to a younger and more varied audience I think SF needs more fiction that is urgent, near-future, and relevant, and needs to rely less on its old tropes and its well-worn bag of tricks.

Would more optimism help? I think it will, but it's not the be-all and end-all. Again, SF encompasses a broad palette of expressions, and it is my opinion that the red paint of pessimism has been overused in respect to the blue paint of positive progress (a double entendre and a mixed metaphor for the price of one...;-).

There are several problems with writing urgent, relevant near-future SF: by making bold predictions one can be easily proved wrong (for example, Klosterman predicts that McCain wins the US election by a very slim margin. Either way you predict the current election, you have a 50/50 chance of being wrong. However, I suspect both Klosterman and most Esquire readers aren't really worried about the piece's futuristic accuracy, but read it more for entertainment, even if it's idea-rich entertainment. A new type of infotainment: futuristic infotainment?), and by writing very close to tomorrow one can become obsolete very fast (hence Jason's decision to publish his story now, while it's very actual, rather than wait for the next election, and be dead wrong).

As with almost all risky, but forward-looking businesses: it's immensely difficult, the potential for failure is huge, but so are the potential rewards.


Anybody into boldly going...?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Life on Mars Preview

For those few SF aficionados not in the know, a primer:

video

For the fans, a preview:

video

The difference between the primer and the preview? Minimal, I'd say.

More emotionally effective is the "Sent to the 70s" preview, I think:

video

Will it be as good as the original, English version? io9 is cautiously optimistic.

Anyway, don't both the original and the ABC version own a lot to The Singing Detective?