What This Election Year Needs is a Good Anthology

Altered-States-promo-art-640_thumb.jpgAnd hoo-boy, have we got one for you: Altered States of the Union, edited by Glenn Hauman for Crazy 8 Press.  (Full disclosure: Jim Macdonald and I have a story in it.)

Altered States is a collection of original alternate-history stories in which the states of the USA are  . . . not as we know them.  It’s being crowdfunded through Indiegogo, and you can reach its web page here.

Rewards being offered for supporters range from a copy of the e-book version of the anthology (at the $5 level, or $3 for the first 20 early-bird pledges) to tuckerization* in one of the stories (at the $200 level; six chances are being offered.)  The official publication date is scheduled for the Shore Leave science fiction convention being held July 15-17, 2016, in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

So here’s your chance to be a patron of the arts and enable the publication of some good new stories.  (Lorenzo di Medici would totally have kicked in a florin or two.  You know he would have.)

*For those unfamiliar with the lingo of the sf tribe, “tuckerization” is the naming of a character in a story after a friend or fellow-fan.  The name derives from the early science fiction writer Wilson Tucker, who made a practice of giving his minor characters names in this fashion.  These days, opportunities to be tuckerized are often offered by writers for fundraising or charitable purposes.

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One of the Good Things About Teaching

— and about editing, for that matter is the the opportunity to point with pride at a student’s (or client’s) success.

On this occasion, I can bask in the reflected glow from Viable Paradise alumna Fran Wilde’s winning of the Andre Norton Award for YA science fiction at the Nebula Awards just past for her novel Updraft, which also won the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s Compton Crook Award for best first novel.

And as if that weren’t enough illumination, there’s a further glow coming by way of Debra Jess, another VP alumna and a Dr. Doyle’s Editorial client, for her novel Bloodsurfer, which is a finalist in two categories (best first novel and best paranormal) of the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America Booksellers’ Best Award. The winners will be announced at this summer’s RWA convention.

Needless to say, I’m tickled pink for them both.

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Sir Walter Scott’s Aunt Meets the Suck Fairy

Once upon a time there was a Scottish lawyer (and poet and novelist and, eventually, a baronet) who had an elderly aunt.  She was an avid reader, and had been for all her life, and as happens with avid readers, one day she took it in mind to revisit a remembered favorite author of her youth.  Because she was having trouble finding copies of the lady’s work, she wrote to her nephew requesting that he procure for her some of the writings of Aphra Behn.

Her nephew was somewhat take aback by the request, since Behn’s literary star had undergone considerable eclipse since the days of the Restoration, and her personal reputation along with it.  (She wrote for money.  She wrote about sex.  She had no visible husband, and possibly never did have one.  She had Catholic sympathies.  She worked as a spy for Charles II, who never did pay her for it – which is where the writing for money comes in.  Which was all to the good – except for the “not getting paid” part, of course – during the rock-and-roll years of the Stuart Restoration, but didn’t play quite as well under the House of Hanover.)

But young Walter Scott (for it was he) was a good nephew, and sent his aunt the books she had been looking for.  Not long after, she sent them back to him with a note requesting that he get rid of them:

 But is it not, she said, a very odd thing that I, an old woman of eighty and upwards, sitting alone, feel myself ashamed to read a book which, sixty years ago, I have heard read aloud for the amusement of large circles, consisting of the first and most creditable society in London!

What she hadn’t known was that in the intervening years, the works of her old favorite author had been visited by the Suck Fairy, that malevolent sprite who sneaks into the pages of fondly remembered texts and sprinkles them with (these days) racism and sexism and other problematic isms (or, for Sir Walter Scott’s elderly aunt, rude language and sexual content.)

The good news about the Suck Fairy, though, is that she doesn’t necessarily stick around forever.  It’s too late now for Sir Walter’s aunt to recover her fondness for the works of Aphra Behn, but present-day literary scholarship has recovered somewhat of Behn’s reputation, and no less a writer than Virginia Woolf said of her, in A Room of One’s Own:

All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn… for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds… Behn proved that money could be made by writing at the sacrifice, perhaps, of certain agreeable qualities; and so by degrees writing became not merely a sign of folly and a distracted mind but was of practical importance.

As for what writers of our own time will have their works visited by the Suck Fairy in twenty years, or fifty, or a hundred, and what writers whose works are now regarded as irrecoverably visited by suck will be rehabilitated by readers and scholars of a future age—

All I can say is, like so much about this business, it’s a crap shoot.

 

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My Co-Author is Having Fun Again

The current political circus (although if it’s a circus, it’s rapidly turning into an old-style Roman one) has inspired him to take up the partisan cudgels on behalf of . . . the Whigs.  No, not the Modern Whig party, and not the historical British Whig party, either. He’s cheering for the old-style American Whig party of the mid-nineteenth century, some of whose positions became more popular in retrospect than they were at the time, such as favoring Emancipation and opposing Indian Removal.

To that end, he has unearthed from the depths of the internet The National Clay Minstrel, and Frelinghuysen Melodist, for the Presidential Canvass of 1844. Being a collection of all the new popular Whig songs, and is amusing himself with providing annotations.

(Did you know that the symbolic animal for the Whigs was . . . the raccoon?  I didn’t, until just now.)

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O Canada

There’s a raging wildfire burning in the province of Alberta.  Over 10,000 hectares (that’s over 24,710 acres, for those of us who can’t think in metric without whipping out our calculators) have burnt so far; over 1,600 homes and buildings in the town of Fort McMurray have been destroyed; and more than 88,000 people (the whole town and its environs, more or less) have been evacuated.*  The Alberta government has declared a provincial state of emergency.

 

Pictures, video, and breaking news can be found on the CBCnews liveblog, here – including the 6:36 Eastern time word that the Alberta government has pledged to match donations to Red Cross Canada dollar-for-dollar.  The Red Cross Canada donation page is here.

*Obligatory writing reference: There are times when the passive voice is both appropriate and effective. This, I think, is one of them.

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Today’s Random Thought

When a writer for a major urban news and entertainment magazine can couch an entire political column in terms of an extended gaming metaphor, it’s time for the hardcore old-timers (and even harder-core johnny-come-latelies) to give up thinking that they’re still a misunderstood minority.

Face it, folks, gaming is mainstream.

And I say this as somebody who was playing D&D back when there were no pre-fab dungeon adventures available, never mind computers, and it was all done with dice, pencils, graph paper, and the insides of our heads.

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Where We’ll be Tomorrow

Jim Macdonald and I will be on a road trip down to Peterborough, NH, where we’ll be part of the group book-signing for the Conspiracy! anthology at the Toadstool Bookshop.

Our audiobook for the drive down and back is The Count of Monte Cristo.  Nineteenth-century doorstop novels make great road books, especially if you stick to the blood-and-thunder end of the spectrum.  We’ve already gone through Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone and The Woman in White, both of which I can heartily recommend – among other things, Collins has a lot fewer female characters whom I want to slap silly than, say, Dickens does.  I don’t think we’ll be trying anything by Hardy, or by Henry James, though; the blind malice of the universe and the delicate delineation of interior states aren’t exactly the best antidotes for highway hypnosis.

(Or maybe for some people they are.  Everybody’s reaction to a work of literature is different, and is their own.)

Next up, after we’re done with Edmond Dantès and the gang, will be a handful of Welcome to Night Vale podcasts.  After that . . . who knows?  Maybe The Three Musketeers.

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