The third review of CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 4

/ March 28th, 2013 / No Comments »

Pandora continues her publicist duties.

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The newest preview/review of Clockwork Phoenix 4 popped up this week, this time from Tangent Online. (No one seems to want to wait till June — thank goodness the buzz is so good so far.)

Here’s the crux of it:

This 4th volume of Clockwork Phoenix contains an excellent diversity of speculative fiction ranging from cold and hopeless to harsh but victorious and warm and fulfilling. It was a pleasure to read.

Reviewer Louis West has kind words for almost all the stories — I’m not sure if there’s a system here, but I count three stories as “highly recommended,” four stories as “definitely recommended,” four stories as “recommended,” one “simple but profound,” one “thought-provoking” and one “poignant and compelling.” We’ll take it, yes we will.

Since reviewers aren’t waiting to share their opinions, I’ve made the book available for pre-order in e-book and trade paperback form for anyone who isn’t already getting a copy through Kickstarter. (The Kickstarter folks will get their copies first, of course.)

Follow these links to get a gander at the first and second reviews. Or you can take my word for it that so far, this book is on a roll.

My short story in SOLARIS RISING 2 now out

/ March 28th, 2013 / 2 Comments »

Pandora is assisting me with book promotion today.

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Ian Whates’ anthology Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction came out Tuesday. I’m really excited about being in this book, with the likes of Vandana Singh, Norman Spinrad, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Eugie Foster, Allen Steele and many, many more.

And I’m amused by what Ian had to say about my story “Still Life with Skull” in his introduction.

I initially crossed paths with Mike Allen when submitting for his first Clockwork Phoenix anthology. He declined my effort with an encouraging “I really like this, but…” rejection message. Tempting though it was to respond in kind, his madcap and frenetic “Still Life with Skull” proved too good a piece to turn down. Damn!

Hee! It is true. (For the record, I did indeed say nice things about Ian’s story. My actual message said “I think what you’ve written is quite publishable but it’s not what I’m after.” Ian, however, has done quite well for himself without my help! And I’m grateful he still found my story irresistible.)

Like my story “Twa Sisters” from last year, “Still Life with Skull” is inspired by the art of Alessandro Bavari, first shown to me by Patty Templeton — specifically his “Sodom and Gomorrah” series.

The main character of “Twa Sisters” is a supporting character in “Still Life with Skull,” though s/he goes by a different name; likewise, the secondary antagonist in the first story is, under a different name, the main antagonist in the second. I have an idea for a third story, that would be called “The Hierophant’s Daughter” — someday, hopefully, I’ll actually have time to write it!

The first Mythic Delirium of 2013

/ March 21st, 2013 / No Comments »

A perfect image for today, supposedly the first day of spring.

 

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As a bonus, here’s some gratuitous staff shots of my assistants.

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Pandora aka Dora

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Persephone aka Sephie

Loki aka Loki

Loki aka Loki

The second review of CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 4

/ March 19th, 2013 / 1 Comment »

The official Clockwork Phoenix 4 publication date is still three months off — though I’ve made the anthology available for pre-order through my Mythic Delirium account, see below — and the second review just came in, from writer, poet and book blogger Bonnie Joe Stufflebeam.

At her Short Story Review blog, she has this to say:

This volume contains eighteen original stories which can only be classified as speculative; most of them blur or even reject genre lines altogether. The common thread which runs through these stories is a sense of unsettling strangeness. There were several moments when reading that I felt physically altered, only to realize that it was the story and not my body which was causing the queasy feeling in my gut.

That is not to say that these stories are not enjoyable; they are, in a discombobulating, shiver-inducing kind of way. And there were several of the tales which left me thinking on them long after I had finished reading.

I raise my glass in a toast and drink to that!

She highlights the short stories by Richard Parks, Yukimi Ogawa, A.C. Wise, Alisa Alering, Corrine Duyvis, Kenneth Schneyer, Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Barbara Krasnoff. (Congrats to those writers!)

It’s fascinating to me to compare Bonnie’s take to Lois Tilton’s. (Click here to see the antho’s first review.) Both reviewers agreed on a handful of points, varied wildly on most everything else, but had nice things to say about the book overall.

I’m going to take this as a good sign.

And, in case this tempts you to reserve a copy:


Prices include shipping & handling


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SOLARIS RISING 2: table of contents, moi included

/ March 18th, 2013 / 1 Comment »

Next week marks the release of Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction. It’s already available for pre-order all over the place. Here it is at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.

Solaris_Rising_2I’m very excited to be in this book and flattered editor Ian Whates chose to include me.

My contribution, “Still Life With Skull,” is a sort of companion piece/sort of sequel to my story “Twa Sisters,” which appeared last year in Not One of Us. “Twa Sisters” wasn’t seen by many people, but it got a nice nod from Locus.

The characters Mercurio and Delilah from the first story reappear in “Still Life With Skull,” though true to the fluid nature of this future, they have different names. The few and proud who’ve actually read “Twa Sisters” ought to be able to pick them out pretty quickly.

The official table of contents was announced last month over at SF Signal. I’m both thrilled and humbled to be in such good company.

Here’s the ToC, lifted from the SF Signal post:

 

  1. “Tom” by Paul Cornell
  2. “More” by Nancy Kress
  3. “Shall Inherit” by James Lovegrove
  4. “Feast and Famine” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  5. “Whatever Skin You Wear” by Eugie Foster
  6. “Pearl in the Shell” by Neil Williamson
  7. “The Time Gun” by Nick Harkaway
  8. “When Thomas Jefferson Dined Alone” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  9. “Bonds” by Robert Reed
  10. “Ticking” by Allen Steele
  11. “Before Hope” by Kim Lakin-Smith
  12. “The Spires of Greme” by Kay Kenyon
  13. “Manmade” by Mercurio D. Rivera
  14. “The Circle of Least Confusion” by Martin Sketchley
  15. “Far Distant Suns” by Norman Spinrad
  16. “The Lighthouse” by Liz Williams
  17. “The First Dance” by Martin McGrath
  18. “Still Life with Skull” by Mike Allen
  19. “With Fate Conspire” by Vandana Singh

Book info as per Amazon US:

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Solaris (March 26, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1781080887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781080887

A new Mythic Delirium is coming (to a mailbox near you)

/ March 17th, 2013 / No Comments »

Last week I announced that Mythic Delirium is going to undergo a big change. More about that in just a bit.

This week I get to announce that the newest issue of Mythic Delirium is almost here (and we’re on time for once.) Here are the issues-to-be, collated and ready to be saddle-stapled.

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Here’s a straight-on look at Tim Mullins’ tongue-in-cheek tentacular cover for this Winter Thaw issue.

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And here’s the very serious table of contents.


  • Editorial: Myths and Delusions
  • The Theatre Golems by Dominik Parisien
  • Mice by Beth Cato
  • The Nostalgia of Roads by Alexandra Seidel
  • Wheels by Adele Gardner
  • The Motor Prayer by Donald Raymond
  • The Princess Becomes a Prophet by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  • Gleaming by Mari Ness
  • The Beast by Rachel Manija Brown
  • skin by Lynn Hardaker
  • Circe in Manhattan by Wendy Howe
  • Persephone Set Free by Sofia Samatar
  • Rare Annie by Caitlyn Paxson
  • How to Bring Your Dead Lover Back by KL Pereira
  • Día de los Muertos by F.J. Bergmann
  • The Green Green Rain by Neile Graham
  • Doomcall by Alistair Rennie
  • The Ceremony of Innocence by Sonya Taaffe
  • Maud Gonne, After by Alicia Cole
  • The Serpent Explains the Nature of Tricksters to His Wife by Ruthanna Emrys
  • The Last Siren by Andrew Gilstrap
  • Revising Horror (The Wrong Mouth) by David Sandner

 

If you don’t want to miss it — and you don’t — you oughtta subscribe. Now, as I’m mentioned before, the print edition of Mythic Delirium has an end date; the final print issue will be Issue 30, due out in Spring 2014. If you get a 2-issue subscription (1-year) that doesn’t really matter. If you get a 4-issue subscription, though, you’re going past that end date. In that case I’ll be offering the same thing I’ve offering subscribers now: an available back issue of their choice, or a partial subscription to the forthcoming electronic edition.

So there’s nothing at all to lose if you subscribe. Just in case you were wondering.

And finally: There’s a new Featured Poem up on the site: Dan Campbell’s “Triptych: an Offering of Fruit”, from Issue 26, with a spectacular illustration from Paula Friedlander.

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It’s been over a year since I’ve posted a new Featured Poem. I apologize for that. I had originally hoped that the new version of the website would be up and running by now, but I ain’t managed it. It has to be up by July, when the new e-version of Mythic Delirium launches. Until then, I hope you enjoy what will certainly be the last of the Featured Poems in the old format.

Clockwork Phoenixes, Kickstarters and poems, oh my!

/ March 17th, 2013 / No Comments »

Because I never have enough to do (heh, heh) I have proposed a discussion, a workshop and three group readings for the upcoming ReaderCon convention in July. As of last week, all have been approved.

I share their descriptions below.

 
Clockwork Phoenix 4

    • GROUP READING: CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 4
      “All of the critically-acclaimed CLOCKWORK PHOENIX anthologies have officially debuted at ReaderCon since the series began in 2008. That bond deepened when editor and publisher Mike Allen launched the Kickstarter campaign for CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 4 at ReaderCon 23. The campaign was a smashing success, the latest lineup of boundary-pushing, unclassifiable stories has been bought and paid for. At this official reading, the new anthology’s authors will share samples from their stories with all of you who helped make this book reality.”

 

    • CROWDFUNDING: THE GLORY AND THE PERIL
      “In this troubled market, small publishers, authors and editors are all turning to crowdfunding to get the backing for their cherished projects. Novelists, anthology editors and magazine publishers are asking for funds on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other sites and coming away triumphant. So if you want to try it for yourself, how do you make it work? What do you avoid? What unexpected problems lurk? Author, editor and publisher Mike Allen, veteran of a $10,000 campaign to fund the anthology Clockwork Phoenix 4, will lead a discussion of what works, what doesn’t, and even what successful campaigners wish they’d done differently.”

 

    • OPEN MIC POETRY READING
      “ReaderCon has become one of the rare hubs for poetry in the esoteric field of speculative literature. Come here the full range of what speculative poetry has to offer: humorous, gritty, beautiful, moving. Fans of the Rhysling Readings of previous years shouldn’t miss this.”

 

    • GROUP READING: MYTHIC POETRY
      Over the past decade, speculative poetry has increasingly turned toward the mythic in subject matter, with venues such as Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Stone Telling, Cabinet des Fées, Jabberwocky, and the now-defunct Journal of the Mythic Arts showcasing a new generation of poets who’ve redefined what this type of writing can do. Come to the reading and hear new and classic works from speculative poetry’s trend-setters.

 

    • SPECULATIVE POETRY WORKSHOP
      “Speculative poetry can be defined a number of ways, but one way is this: a speculative poem uses the trappings of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or more unclassifiable bends in reality to convey its images, narratives and themes. The speculative poetry can unfold with the same subtlety and power that speculative fiction does, with considerably fewer words. Come prepared to write.”

 

Signups for individual readings haven’t happened yet. Because I have the possibility of a first novel and/or a first collection to promote there, I’m going to sign up for one once those are offered. Now the question is, how to get people to come? Much as people seem to enjoy listening to me read, I have the damndest time with that, so hmmm. Offer cookies and chocolate? Dangle the threat of eternal enmity over no-shows? Cookies and chocolate are probably less exhausting in the long-term…

A new Mythic Delirium is coming…

/ March 11th, 2013 / 3 Comments »

…and the old Mythic Delirium is going away.

In a nutshell, the print edition of Mythic Delirium, which only publishes poetry, is going to be wrapped up and put to bed.  And a new version of Mythic Delirium will launch in July that will exist in web and e-book form, that will publish fiction as well as some poetry.

In terms of immediate consequences, what that means is the current Mythic Delirium submission window, which lasts through May 1 (click here to read the guidelines) will be the last open submission call for poems for the print edition of Mythic Delirium. The poems accepted will go into Mythic Delirium 29, which I plan to have out by October of this year. The final print issue, Mythic Delirium 30, due out in Spring 2014, will be a retrospective issue spanning 15 years of poetic highlights.

NOTE: I am not currently reading unsolicited fiction submissions. I’ll do that during the next submission window, Aug. 1-Oct. 1.

There’s a tiny, tiny handful of subscribers to the print edition whose subscriptions go past Issue 30. Those subscribers will be offered the option of completing their subscription by picking from the available back issues, receiving an issue or a subscription of the new electronic version, or receiving a refund of the portion of their subscription that hasn’t been filled. Those subscribers will get notices to that effect.

MD_zero_coverThe new version of Mythic Delirium, which I’ve been personally referring to as “Mythic Delirium Zero,” will launch in July (to coincide with the release of Clockwork Phoenix 4). It will follow the models established by Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, et. al., though in a more modest form. It will be published as quarterly e-books that contain three stories and six poems, and also published online at the soon-to-be-renovated mythicdelirium.com website at a rate of one story and two poems per month.

Fiction-wise, the first two issues are already filled, with stories by Marie Brennan, Georgina Bruce, Ken Liu, Alexandra Seidel, David Sklar and Patty Templeton. Poem-wise, the first issue is full and the second is filling, with work by Liz Bourke, C.S.E. Cooney, Amal El-Mohtar, Karthika Nair, Virginia M. Mohlere,  S. Brackett Robertson, Sonya Taaffe, and more to come. At left you can see the mockup cover for Issue 0.1, with a stunning cover by Danielle Tunstall.

(If you’re familiar at all with my MYTHIC antholgies (Vol. 1, Vol. 2), the new Mythic Delirium will very much follow the pattern those books set.)

I’m very grateful for the opportunities the Clockwork Phoenix kickstarter gave me to transform and transition my longtime labor of love. And I look forward to sharing the results with you, in both new format and old, as the year proceeds.

A 2009 essay on speculative poetry, reclaimed from the Wayback Machine

/ March 2nd, 2013 / 2 Comments »

The Speculative Poetry Scene

Guest Blog by Mike Allen (on the now-defunct Nebula Awards site) posted on October 05 2009

I was lucky enough to attend two award ceremonies this year related to speculative writing. First, the Nebula Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, where I got to see Harry Harrison receive his Grand Master Award, hear Janis Ian perform a filk version of one of her greatest hits, and lose the award in my category to a wonderful writer whom I’ve long admired.

Second, the Rhysling Award Poetry Reading in Boston, where I got to see young writer-to-watch Amal El-Mohtar learn she had won the award in the “short poem” category for her whimsical and musical poem about Damascus, “Song for an Ancient City.” It’s this second awards ceremony that I want to talk about at length here.

Science fiction poetry, fantastic poetry, speculative poetry, whatever you wish to call it, forms the core of a lively, thriving scene that coexists with genre fiction in many venues.

Let me show you some stills from the poetry scene.

I am the MC of the Rhysling Reading at ReaderCon, where the Science Fiction Poetry Association has announced the Rhysling winners for the past five years. This year, I talked Michael Bishop into reading his poem “For the Lady of a Physicist,” which won the “long poem” Rhysling Award in 1979. Michael delivered a charming preamble in which he explained that though his poem begins with a quote from Stephen Hawking, it’s modeled after Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” (the source of that oft-quoted phrase “world enough, and time”). A delighted murmur went through the 80-strong crowd. They knew the poem. The delighted reactions continued as they listened to the clever rhymes contained in his humorous poetic mash-up.

Not long after came Amal and Catherynne M. Valente, who kept the crowd rapt as they stood back to back and read alternating lines of their Rhysling nominated collaborative poem “Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero, or the City is Never Finished.” A number of new talents and veterans took their turns, with Julia Rios, Caitlyn Paxson, Lila Garrott and others giving standout renditions of beautiful and complex poems, and Darrell Schweitzer amusing with a piece from Asimov’s Science Fiction that was short and off the wall. I’ve given away the ending: Rhysling Award Chairman Drew Morse passed on reading a poem of his own to announce the winners and spring the news on Amal that the members of the SFPA had voted her poem in the short category the winner by a landslide.

The long category went to “Search,” a nostalgic and funny look at the hunt for alien life by multiple Hugo and Nebula winner (and previous Rhysling winner) Geoffrey Landis. And I was pleased as punch that Michael approached me after the reading to tell me how delighted he was by the poetry he’d heard during that hour.

I couldn’t help but feel I’d been party to one of science fiction poetry’s proudest moments. Though that’s hardly been the only one of late. Roll back a year to August ‘08 when Drew, SFPA President Deborah P Kolodji and Treasurer Samantha Henderson went to Ray Bradbury’s birthday bash at Mystery and Imagination Bookstore in Glendale, CA, to present him with the Grand Master Award for achievement in speculative poetry. The meeting is recorded on video. Clearly delighted, Bradbury gives an impromptu speech about how he envied the talented poets he knew in his youth and the consternation he felt when Aldous Huxley informed him he was indeed a poet. Debbie tells Bradbury, “We think you’re a poet, too.” Grinning, Bradbury poses with the trophy, then exclaims, “To hell with the Academy Award!”

The past few years have seen a number of these memorable moments. The first Rhysling Award Reading at ReaderCon, where Joe Haldeman received a standing ovation for his reading of his rhyming double sestina, “Old Twentieth: a century full of years.” The 2008 Eaton Conference at University of California Riverside, in which the entirety of the SFPA’s archive of print publications going back to 1978 was made part of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature. Debbie’s talk on speculative haiku for the Haiku North America conference in the National Archives of Canada. Heck, even the room party held at ReaderCon by Amal and her co-editor Jessica Wick to launch the newest issue of their poetry zine Goblin Fruit was packed, with just about every personage of note at the con that night stopping in to chat.

The fact is, right now, speculative poetry is alive and well and interesting as hell. Though you might not realize it if you relied solely on the critical writings about sf, these explorations of science fiction, fantasy, horror and stranger themes in verse can be found in most of the same places short fiction is found, whether in print or online. Even occasionally in an anthology or two. Sometimes even a “best of the year” anthology.

It’s a form of writing kept alive by writers and editors who are just as interested in using poetry forms to examine the themes of speculative literature as they are in using prose. Its perpetuation is certainly a labor of love—not too different in its way from the dedication in absence of financial reward that goes into producing a number of the prominent semi-pro publications or even (by SFWA standards) professional short fiction venues. Like those venues, the field of sf poetry has been a proving ground for upcoming talents (the list of Rhysling Award winners yields such names through the years as Susan Palwick, Jeff VanderMeer, Theodora Goss, Tim Pratt, Catherynne M. Valente) and also a place where established veterans like Bishop or Landis or Joe Haldeman or Jane Yolen might turn up to make art that’s a little off the beaten track.

Most of the time, though not always, the poems also function as little narratives or mini-fictions (or in the case of the sf or fantasy haiku, mini-mini-fictions. In fact the folks who write such things have for years been producing the equivalent of the Twitterfic one now finds at Internet hotspots like Thaumatrope.)

There are currents and countercurrents to be found inside this scene. As a not-exactly neutral observer, I might break things down like this. Asimov’s, the monolithic source of the best and highest profile sf poetry through the ‘80s and ‘90s, has been eclipsed as the prime pillar of speculative poetry with the rise of the Web zines, which could shed the limits on length and theme that come with squeezing works into leftover space on the printed page. Strange Horizons, with its collection of co-editors with deep roots in the field, is the inheritor of sf poetry’s mainstream, the poems there following an overall sensibility directly descended from the poetic experimentations in the ‘70s of the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Thomas M. Disch and Brian Aldiss. A newer movement centers around the aforementioned upstart Goblin Fruit, with its focus on fantasy, myth and folktale inspired by Terri Windling and Midori Snyder’s late lamented Journal of the Mythic Arts. (Mind you, it would not be difficult to find individual exceptions to my sweeping generalizations at any of these markets, or, for that matter, poets who publish with frequency in all three places.)

If you’ve made it this far with me, you might be wondering when I’m going to tell you about what science fiction poetry is, or how you write it. Frankly, what it is, you’ve probably deduced by now, and if you want to know how to write it, your best bet is to go to some of these places I’ve mentioned already and start reading (or even to other places, like the decades-old zines Dreams & Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry and Star*Line, my own zine Mythic Delirium, Astropoetica, Abyss & Apex, Ideomancer, Sybil’s Garage, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Electric Velocipede … this list could get ludicrously long if I’m not careful.)

Many essays I’ve read about speculative poetry start with an attempt to explain just what this strange and wonderful chocolate-in-the-peanut-butter style of writing is, with sheepish asides about how little money is involved in writing it. To my mind, that approach wrestles with the obvious and misses out on the fun.

So I wanted to take a different tack, and just let you know that here in the universe of speculative poetry, we’re having a heck of a party, and we’d love for you to join us.

The first review of CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 4

/ February 28th, 2013 / 3 Comments »

Over the past two weeks, I’ve begun sending out advance reviewer copies of Clockwork Phoenix 4. As it shakes out, Lois Tilton of Locus Online ends up having the first word on my Kickstarted anthology, turning around a review more or less immediately (click here to go read.)

She notes that this is her first-ever crack at one of the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies and says, in part:

a rare original anthology … takes best of show this time. … The tone ranges from dark to heartwarming and simple. The overall quality is high … Several of the pieces are quite challenging. Readers will do well to pick up a copy.

Kenneth Schneyer’s “Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer” not only receives a “Recommended” rating, but also her “Good Story Award,” the only one she declared in February. She calls it “A piece that rewards re-reading.”

She also gives a “Recommended” to Nicole Kornher-Stace’s “On the Leitmotif of the Trickster Constellation in Northern Hemispheric Star Charts, Post-Apocalypse.” (Yay, long titles!) She calls it “A fascinating puzzle of a fiction.”

She also offers particular lauds to stories by Ian McHugh, Richard Parks, Gemma Files, Tanith Lee, Corinne Duyvis, Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Patricia Russo, and, notably, has very little that’s critical to say about the stories she didn’t actively praise.

Because it’s not clear from the review, I feel the need to clarify: Lois read an uncorrected proof, provided to her just two weeks ago. (That is one spectacular turnaround time.)

However, the anthology will not be publicly available for sale until July. (The others, of course, can all be had now.) Ideally, Kickstarter backers will receive their e-book and/or trade paperback copies in May/June, assuming I can keep the schedule on course. Regardless, by then it will have been proofread.

Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that I still have a few trade paperback ARCs left if there’s a reviewer out there who’s interested.

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