Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015

rh-ybsff2015Friday’s mail brought my contributor’s copies of Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015. I’m in there with “The Manor of Lost Time,” which originally appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The book also has stories by Robert Reed and Kelly Link and Jo Walton and Elizabeth Bear and Yoon Ha Lee and Ken Liu and Cory Doctorow and…well, you get the idea. Lots of people. It also includes a summary of the year and a recommended reading list, in all 575 pages packed. You could do worse.

I heard back from Paula Guran at Prime Books that the revisions to The War God’s Son are good and therefore complete, and it’s off for a final copyedit and typeset, so we’re on schedule for the October release. I’ve also been admonished to get started on the next one which, assuming I can get myself together, will be out in 2016. The revisions to Power’s Shadow have run into the same delay that’s put pretty much everything on hold, but I’m hoping it won’t be too much longer.

The downed tree has been removed and we’re still getting our house ready to sell. Besides boxing up our lives we’ve been painting for the past week. Also sniffing a lot of paint fumes, though not by choice. It’s all part of the process.

In Which We Make Mistakes

WRITING 02A couple of days ago I got an email from Rich Horton, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, pointing out that I’d made a slight error in a previous post when I said it was the first time I’d made it into one of his year’s best compilations. Quite true. I did have stories in his 2005 and 2007 books, but in my defense I’ll say that I wasn’t completely wrong, either. This is the first time I’ve been included in one of his combined sf & fantasy editions, since for many years the fantasy and sf volumes were separate. The two previous times I’d been reprinted by Rich were in his exclusively fantasy volumes. Yet I did misspeak (mistype?) and Rich was right to bring that to my attention.

Just as it was right for the reader yesterday to point out I’d included a physical impossibility in one of my scenes from Power’s Shadow. That’s also the reason I was hesitant about this experiment in the first place. See, this is the first time I’ve let anyone other than First Reader see one of my rough drafts, and there are good and solid reasons for that. What the reader has a right to expect when they pick up one of my books is that I’m not going to waste their time with sloppy work. Yet here’s the thing—this is a first draft. Almost by definition it’s going to be a little ragged around the edges. First drafts are the perfect place for mistakes, and don’t they know it. They show up and settle in with deep sighs of contentment. First drafts are made for them. Or as I’ve pointed out in the writer’s groups I’ve belonged to and elsewhere when a colleague was complaining that they get bogged down in this or that piece of minutiae when trying to get a project done, here is your mantra:

“It is not the job of a first draft to be perfect. It is the job of a first draft to get DONE.” Continue reading

Rich Horton’s Year’s Best SF&F 2015

MorningRainbowHere’s the final Table of Contents as posted by the publisher. As soon as I have an open link to the final cover, I’ll post that too:

“Sadness” by Timons Esaias (Analog 7-8/14)
“Schools of Clay” by Derek Künsken (Asimov’s 2/14)
“Someday” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s 4-5/14)
“The Instructive Tale of the Archaeologist and his Wife” by Alexander Jablokov (Asimov’s 7/14)
“Heaven Thunders the Truth” by K. J. Parker (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10/2/14)
“The Manor of Lost Time” by Richard Parks (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/26/14)
“Every Hill Ends With Sky” by Robert Reed (Carbide Tipped Pens)
“Wine” by Yoon Ha Lee (Clarkesworld 1/14)
“Pernicious Romance” by Robert Reed (Clarkesworld 11/14)
“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
“The Long Haul” by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
“Aberration” by Genevieve Valentine (Fearsome Magics)
“Ghost Story” by John Grant (Interzone 3-4/14)
“Skull and Hyssop” by Kathleen Jennings (LCRW 12/14)
“The Endless Sink” by Damien Ober (LCRW 9/14)
“Drones Don’t Kill People” by Annalee Newitz (Lightspeed 12/14)
“How to Get Back to the Forest” by Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed 3/14)
“Selfie” by Sandra MacDonald (Lightspeed 5/14)
“Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology” by Theodora Goss (Lightspeed 7/14)
“I Can See Right Through You” by Kelly Link (McSweeney’s, #48)
“The Wild and Hungry Times” by Patricia Russo (Not One of Us)
“Invisible Planets” by Hannu Rajaniemi (Reach for Infinity)
“Trademark Bugs: A Legal History” by Adam Roberts (Reach for Infinity)
“A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell (Rogues)
“Fift and Shria” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (Solaris Rising 3)
“Witch, Beast, Saint: An Erotic Fairy Tale” by C. S. E. Cooney (Strange Horizons 7/21/14)
“Grand Jeté(the Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer/14)
“The Scrivener” by Eleanor Arnason (Subterranean Winter/14)
“The Hand is Quicker” by Elizabeth Bear (The Book of Silverberg)
“Break! Break! Break!” by Charlie Jane Anders (The End is Nigh)
“Sleeper” by Jo Walton (Tor.com 8/14)
“Petard: A Tale of Just Deserts” by Cory Doctorow (Twelve Tomorrows)
“Collateral” by Peter Watts (Upgraded)

Thing One and Thing Two

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Time for another update, since things have happened. Things don’t always happen, you know. It’s that whole “Feast or Famine” situation I’ve mentioned before. Most days the only update would be, “Wrote XXXX number of words today. Can’t think straight. It all looks like garbage right now.” I mean, can you imagine 360 blog posts exactly like that, with maybe five about something else? No one would read that. Heck, *I* wouldn’t read that.

Ahem. Getting off course a little bit. The things: First of all Rich Horton has picked up “The Manor of Lost Time” from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #150 for his Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015. This will be the first time I’ve had work in one of Rich’s YBs, so I’m pleased.

The other thing goes a little beyond a reprint fee and an ego boost: Both books in the Yamada Monogatari series, Demon Hunter and To Break the Demon Gate are “Out of Stock.” Now, this does not mean that there are none left. Amazon and B&N still have a few of Demon Hunter and a few more of To Break the Demon Gate, but the book’s distributor does not have any more. Which means that the distributor cannot fulfill new orders and there is a backlog of orders waiting, especially with the second book. As a result, TBTDG is going back to press for an extra 1500 copies, which brings the total run up to 4500. Bear in mind, Prime Books is a relatively small publisher, so this is a big deal. It’s even possible that DH will get a reprint as well, though that has not been determined.

Now it’s likely that the next in the series, The War God’s Son, will get a larger initial run. I’m happy, the publisher is happy (astonished, but happy), though with larger runs comes larger expectations. We’ll see how it goes, but for now at least it’s a Good Thing.

Getting It — And no, Not That “It”

I got a good review not too long ago that made me very happy. Those who recall any previous rants on this subject may be right to wonder why I’m in such a good mood after a thing so inconsequential in the Great Scheme of Things as a favorable review. “We don’t need no steenkin’ validation” and like that, and aren’t I being just a tad hypocritical?

First, my answer is the same as Emerson’s, namely: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” so get over it. Second, I’m not actually talking validation here, or at least not of the stroke kind. Human nature naturally prefers praise but whether the review was a praise or a pan really is beside the point. The reason I’m feeling all chuffed and preening is that the reviewer understood what I was doing.

That is a lot rarer than it should be. Fess up time: haven’t you ever finished a review, good or bad, and wondered just what bloody story they were reading, cause it sure as hell wasn’t the one you wrote? Happens to me all the time. Of the current crop of reviewers, Rich Horton and Lois Tilton are seldom guilty of this, but they’re the exceptions, not the rule.

I’m not going to repeat the “rose petals into the Grand Canyon” analogy. Too tired and obvious. Still, you other writers out there know it’s true. Few things will grind your soul more than realizing that the people who, at least in theory, are your intended readership simply cannot parse your work. “Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge” is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the best stories I’ve ever done, and yet the early reader reaction wasn’t much better than a sort of vague puzzlement, and a great deal of: “but I figured out the ending!” Which I never did figure out the polite response to, though the appropriate response was “Then you were paying attention and have decent reading comprehension skills. Congrats.”

Yeah, yeah. He got a good review and he’s a happy guy. So what and why should we care? Why? Because reader reaction — and a reviewer is above all a reader — is one more bit of information that helps us judge whether we accomplished what we set out to do in any given story. While praise is always nice enough, if a reviewer pans OR praises a story of yours in terms that prove he or she didn’t have the vaguest clue what it was about, exactly how inclined are you to pay attention? You may allow yourself a few minutes of annoyed or bemused bafflement at why they could not see what was plainly there, but probably not much more than that. Now, what about a review that is clearly a pan but nevertheless explains the story’s shortcomings in terms that make sense to you? Was your narrative a little unfocused? Did you really indulge in a fun little digression that undercut your theme? Are they right? You can say they’re being too picky if you want, but deep down you know that, in fact, they are right. Chances are you knew the flaws were there and just didn’t want to see them, or knew something wasn’t quite right but couldn’t quite pin it down. When those flaws are exposed to you by someone who understands what the story is about, by someone who reads carefully, knows what the story was attempting and points out where it fails, the chances are much greater that you’re going to learn something you need to know. Such pans are worth reading and such praise is worth enjoying.

The rest is just so much noise.