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SF/F/Horror Short Fiction Reviewers

I was pleased to see that Tor.com has picked up Amal El-Mohtar’s new short fiction review series “Rich and Strange.” The world needs more quality short fiction reviewers like Amal bringing attention to the good stuff.

Of course, Apex Magazine has been running Charlotte Ashley’s short review series Clavis Aurea for 6+ months by this point. I hope you’ve been checking it out.

Below is a list of the websites/bloggers that I know are reviewing short fiction (zines, in particular).

Short Fiction Reviewers:

Clavis Aurea: Apex Magazine – Charlotte Ashley

Rich and Strange: Tor.com – Amal El-Mohtar

Locus Online – Lois Tilton

Tangent Online

Io9.com - K. Tempest Bradford

Short Fiction Spotlight: Tor.com – Brit Mandelo and Niall Alexander

Fantastic Stories of the Imagination: Gillian Daniels

Short Fiction Snapshot: Strange Horizons

I feel like I’m missing a couple. Anybody know?

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Kathleen Hale stalks a very bad reviewer

Trolls! Trolls! Trolls!

Trolls! Trolls! Trolls!

Perhaps I’m being too easy on Kathleen Hale in the lede. If you haven’t already, then read Ms. Hale’s piece “Am I Being Catfished: An author confronts her number one online critic.” I’ll go read some Apex Magazine slush until you finish.

Back? Yes?

So, wow, that’s some crazy stuff amiright? Kathleen Hale did more than ‘confront’ her online critic. This is a scary, flat-out terrifying instance of stalking, harassment, and physical & mental confrontation by an author toward someone critical of her work. Good grief.

I did a quick tour of Hale’s personal website and blog. She has a cute introductory video about her and the new novel. Her blog is fairly clever and harmless. She seems like a nice enough person. She seems like someone you can give the benefit of a doubt to.

And some might say that Blythe (the book reviewer Hale stalked) earned the trouble that befell her. She is a misbehaving book reviewer (at least it seems that way in her treatment of Hale’s novel).  The review supposedly references activities that do not occur in Hale’s novel, and it appears that the negative review was written because Hale handled certain subjects in a way that did not please the reviewer.

And everybody gets that writing is a deeply personal, intimate experience for many authors.

But…

…stalking and harassment of anybody isn’t cool. EVER NEVER EVER.

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Warren Ellis isn’t paying attention.

Apex Magazine Issue 66

Apex Magazine Issue 66

I’m a fan of Warren Ellis: his comics, his novels, his blogging. The guy is a genre entertainment machine. But he frustrates me with his misunderstanding of the state of SF/F/Horror short fiction zines.

Here he is ruminating about the failed rebirth of NEW WORLDS:

“NEW WORLDS was never a nostalgic enterprise. But, perhaps, publishing a speculative fiction magazine is. I had drinks with an editor in publishing last night who remains apoplectic that sf magazines stubbornly refuse to meet the future, change tack, publicise or advertise. We laughed about still not knowing how many copies INTERZONE sells per issue, and how few people seem to know it’s still going.”

There is a booming industry of SF zines that have done just that. They as a whole have met the future, have changed tack, have publicized, and have advertised. Obviously, I feel that Apex Magazine has done a fine job navigating the digital wave and the onset of Kindle madness. We’re not the only ones. Lightspeed Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com, and Daily Science Fiction are others, to name a few. All these zines have been around for years and consistently publish high quality, award-winning SF/F short fiction. And for every failed experiment like New Worlds, there are new pro zines like Uncanny Magazine and Buzzy Mag.

I presume that Warren Ellis is lamenting that none of the zines have the brand recognition, importance, and reach that the magazines of yore held. If so, I agree, that is lamentable. But this has been true for decades and is not a recent phenomenon. And I would argue that thanks to the eBook age, short fiction holds more relevancy now than it has in many years. The number of high quality eZines (and the continued existence of Asimov’s/Analog/F&SF/Interzone) I think bears out my assertion.

Apex Magazine had 17,895 visitors during the month of September. Our top short story has been read almost 24,000 times (and gets approximately 1000 new reads a month…and the story is always available, and will accumulate reads). Site traffic has increased 50% from last year. Yes, these numbers are a far cry from the grand old days, but they’re nothing to scoff at. And I would guess that Clarkesworld and Tor.com (and likely others) has traffic double (at least) what Apex has.

These numbers weren’t accomplished by sitting on our collective butts doing nothing (here I’m speaking for all the publishers/editors of the zines mentioned earlier). We’ve met the future. We are the future.

Jason Sanford says this about contemporary zines…

But the successful magazines of our genre — wow, they are of an entirely different level of creation. Successful genre magazines don’t merely publish stories. Instead, they cultivate authors and readers. They build movements and styles. They stand astride the genre and chart our genre into new and unpredictable directions.

So, to Mr. Ellis, I proffer this link in the humblest of fashion: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/collections/apex-magazine-all/products/apex-magazine-subscription

Plug into the future that you’re missing, Mr. Ellis! If Apex doesn’t suit your tastes, there are lots of other options to try!

Further Reading:

Warren Ellis’s original post about New World’s demise.

Tempest Bledsoe briefly discussing Warren Ellis’s post.

Jason Sanford adds some cogent thoughts.

The Thing: Childs and MacReady

If you’ve not seen John Carpenter’s fantastic sci-horror film THE THING, then beware. SPOILERS BELOW!

I commonly cite The Thing as one of my favorite films and one of the most formative films I saw as a youth. Thanks to John Carpenter (and Ridley Scott), I became enamored with quality dark SF and sci-horror. I’ve seen the movie at least five times. Writing this blog post makes me want to see it again.

We were discussing famous denouements of horror films last night in my writing horror short fiction workshop, and I brought up The Thing. The movie ends with MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) resting in the snow, the camp burning around them. They agree that there is no point in killing each other. Cue dramatic music. Movie ends and you’ve just watched one of the best endings in film.

Because this is a great example of an ambiguous ending, I bring up the question “Which guy was the thing–Childs or MacReady?”

The internet has debated this question at length and passionately for years with no solid conclusion. It is generally agreed that MacReady was not a thing monster. But Childs…

One of the students pointed out an interview where John Carpenter says that it is obvious that Childs is the thing monster because in the final scene Childs’ breath can’t be seen but MacReady’s can. I rushed out to YouTube to watch this scene…and well..you can obviously see Childs’ breath many times.

It seems the question remains: is Childs a thing?

What do you think? I have an opinion on the matter, but I want to hear from others first. :)

20 Years of Pulp Fiction — And the question remains

Honey Bunney is *not* being cool.

Honey Bunney is *not* being cool.

One of the great joys of my college years was getting to watch Pulp Fiction on the big screen. Being an early adopter, I got to reference and quote PF before it became tiresome to do so. The one time in my life where I got to be hip and ahead of the curve.

Of course, seeing Pulp Fiction in large scale enhances the film quite a bit. Imagine the following scenes projected on a 50 feet wide screen: Marvin’s head shot, bringing out the Gimp, Vincent and Mia dancing, Jules taking a huge bite out of that tasty burger, adrenaline shot to the heart, the bright glow of the briefcase when it is opened, and so on.

And about that glow…there’s an important question that has floated around the movie since its release. What exactly was in that briefcase? Some speculate it was diamonds and/or other jewels. It’s been theorized that the briefcase contained Marcellus’s soul. Personally, I think it was one of those on-the-go make up kits you see the Dance Moms take around with them on competitions.

Wasting time 0n the IMDB message boards, I came across the most important unanswered question in regards to Pulp Fiction. The question, posed by user Minstrelo goes as such: What if there had been two wallets with “Bad Motherfucker” stitched on them, in the bag? (sic)

Indeed, what if?

<SPOILERS BELOW>

If you recall, the situation was tense. Honey Bunny/Yolanda had a gun and an itchy trigger finger. Jules had tenuous control of the situation, instructing Pumpkin/Ringo to command his wife to be “bitch be cool” (blame Tarantino for the misogynistic statement, not me). Honey Bunny makes like the Fonz and becomes cool. Granted, it helps that Jules has a .9mm underneath his table pointing at her beloved Pumpkin.

Then Jules tells Ringo to reach into the bag and take out his wallet.  The bag is stuffed with a lot of wallets, so Ringo asks which one is Jules. Jules retorts “It’s the one says ‘Bad Motherfucker’ on it.” It is obvious to Jules. It is obvious to us. But not Ringo. Ringo’s face even reads like he is disbelieving.

So he digs in the bag, and there it is, Bad Motherfucker, Jules’ wallet.

Because Jules is in a transitional period, he gives Ringo and Yolanda $1500 so that he doesn’t have to kill him. They make off. Vincent and Jules depart. Movie over.

But what if Ringo pulls out a Bad Motherfucker, opens it, and out falls a few singles, perhaps a fiver, pictures of a milquetoast suburban family, a driver’s license for somebody named Mort Smith? Ringo’s going to get pissed, like he’s been played. Honey Bunny drops the Fonz act, loses her cool. Jules is forced into a decision. Dominoes fall.

Bloodshed. Chaos. Death.

Mind blowing, right?

Pumpkin Spiced Libertine — A History

Dear PSL, We hate you. Love, The Internet

Dear PSL, We hate you. Love, The Internet

I’m angry.

I’m angry because pumpkin spice has been co-opted by those seeking a quick buck.

I’ll not stand on a box of Starbucks pumpkin spice mixture and preach to you about the sanctity of our precious orange substance. But at one time, pumpkin spice was something special, something seasonal, something sensational.

Every year, my friends and I would await for the leaves to turn yellow, red, and yes, orange because we knew it meant the start of pumpkin spice season. Starbucks would bring out their PSL signs and stick them on their doors. That first sip of glorious PSL awaited me every fall. It was something people could savor. Together.

The country bonded over shared expectations during the turn of fall. We, as a nation, knew the pumpkin spice was on its way.

Then the food industry got a whiff of the spice. The greedy CEOs did not smell pumpkin spice. They smelled money. Okay, perhaps the greenbacks were orangebacks to them, but whatever the case, their capitalist taint spread like wildfire. Soon everybody, even the shitty 7-11 down the street had pumpkin spice latte. The rare and treasured now became commonplace.

The infection didn’t stop there. Food of every sort and stripe became pumpkin spiced. Pastries of all types found themselves tinted orange, coated orange. Ugh, so much pumpkin!

Inevitably, a backlash happened. PSL gained fame, and people of the internet found out that other people of the internet enjoyed PSLs. This, in turn, caused the internet to hate PSL. With smug richness, they would point and say “See, it is out of control! Other people like it, therefore I hate pumpkin spice latte!” Fans of PSL were derided worldwide for their loyalty. Shunned. Mocked.

Even John Oliver hates PSL.

These days, my stomach–thanks to all the madness–gurgles in anger and outrage when I think about putting some PSL in it. The world has ruined PSL for me.

I’ve moved on. I have a new obsession. Hummus. Oh yes, I will eat ALL the hummus.

I will become the hummus libertine!

Review– Half a King: Book 1 of the Shattered Seas trilogy

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

The publication of a new Joe Abercrombie novel is a cause for celebration and cheers. Abercrombie is one of the finest fantasy authors in the business, and I would not be surprised that he reached George R.R. Martin levels of fame some years down the road.

The latest reason for celebration and cheers is Half a King; the first book of a planned YA trilogy. The thought of letting our youth read a Joe Abercrombie novel makes me cringe. He’s known for his epic, gory, exciting battle scenes. He’s known for his sharp and witty dialog (most of it for mature eyes only). When I heard Half a King was intended as a YA book, I worried that it would be a watered down, less interesting version of Abercrombie. I worried that the ‘edge’ with which Abercrombie writes with, that helps distinguish him above other grimdark authors, would disappear.

Were my fears unfounded? Mostly.

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National Day on Writing

Every October 20th, the National Council of Teachers of English holds a National Day on Writing. It is a celebration of writing in all media: film, novels, short fiction, graphic, and so on. As a publisher, editor, and writer, I heartily endorse this day! One goal of the NDoW is to get communities involved in writing.

Five years ago, Lexington participated by holding a “Longest Short Story” event. They asked legendary Kentucky author Ed Mcclanahan to provide the first line of the city’s shared short story.

This year, they asked me!

The line I came up with: A little girl, tears streaking down her face, pointed into the dark maw of the ‘Centrepoint pit’.

At 12 different locations throughout the city, anybody can sit down and add a sentence or paragraph to the story. The first time they did this, they ended up with almost 100 yards of story! I really want to beat that mark this year.

(For reference, Centrepoint pit is a block sized pit in downtown Lexington…I would estimate 20-30 feet deep. It used to be beautiful green space. For nearly a decade there have been plans to develop a large hotel on the site…but as you can see in the webcam linked below nothing but a muddy pit has been built thus far.)

http://www.thewebbcompanies.com/centrepointecam

If you would like to participate, here is the flyer with all the information. Linked here is the PDF edition.

National Day of Writing

National Day of Writing

 

5 Things I’ve Learned From Shark Tank

Not having a business degree has, at times, been a hindrance when it comes to running Apex Publications, LLC. I’m a busy guy, so I don’t have the time to head back to school and pick up all those boring accounting and business management courses. Instead, I decided I would watch Shark Tank to bring me up to speed on important business concepts.

If you’ve never heard of or seen Shark Tank, it goes like this: 5 rich ‘shark’ investors listen to pitches from wannabe entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur delivers their pitch and requests X amount of dollars for X% equity in their business, then the sharks ask their questions, there is a lot of ridicule by the sharks directed toward the entrepreneur for his/her answers, and if a shark is interested, they will make an offer to invest.

My wife asked me once how I would react to certain questions if I were given a chance to present in front of the sharks. My response is that there is no way I would present to the sharks on television. In a private boardroom, sure, but not on television. My accent would get so bad that Kevin O’Leary would have to make a snarky remark that relates money to social status. I would sweat like a pack mule. It would be a gory sight.

Anyway, I watch the show to learn, not to dream.

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Gracepoint and the Doctor

Rose!!!

Rose!!!

I <3 David Tennant. He is my favorite Doctor (even though I consider his span of episodes to be the weakest of nu-Who).

For the longest time, I’ve wondered why he’s not been a bigger breakout star. In my opinion, he’s a great actor with a lot of onscreen charisma. He can be sweet and quite. Flip him over, and (despite his skinny frame) he can become angry and imposing. Sure he does a heck of a lot of TV work in the UK. And, sure, he had that brief glorious moment as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Sure, he did voice work in the superb How to Train Your Dragon. But all that does not add up to ‘breakout star’ material.

When I heard he was starring in an American production of Broadchurch, I thought Yes, finally! A chance for the world to see this wonderful man perform! He’ll be like Clooney in ER. Folks will see the shining star that he is and he will become a big screen idol!

Alas, the American production of Broadchurch–named Gracepoint–probably will not be the springboard into the upper echelon of actors for David Tennant.

Gracepoint is a one-shot 10 episode mystery-thriller starring Tennant in the role of an ostracized big city detective searching for the murderer of one of the town’s children. The show co-stars some talented thespians, namely Anna Gunn and Nick Nolte. Sadly, the poorly written show does all three actors a grave injustice. In particular, Tennant’s Detective Carver. In the premiere episode, all Tennant is given to do is act smug, growl at people, yell a couple of times, and stare at things. Stare at a lot of things.

To complicate matters, Tennant struggles with his American accent. Perhaps he should take some pointers from Hugh Laurie.

To further complicate matters, no matter how much scraggle he grows on his face, no matter how weirdly he combs his hair, that’s David Tennant, and he’s My Doctor. If the show was better, this wouldn’t be an issue, as I’d become invested in the dramatic narrative and be less conscious of who is acting what.

I’ll stick it out until the bitter end, though. Because Tennant. And sometimes shows like these become much better after the premiere ‘setup’ episode.

Let’s hope tonight’s episode shows much needed improvement.

Gracepoint Trailer: