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

      “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.”


      “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.”


      “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.”


      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 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 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.

February Tour of the Abattoir at Tales to Terrify

/ February 10th, 2013 / No Comments »

This post is a little late, but then that tricksy Larry Santoro ran my column a little early! Regardless, there’s a new “Tour of the Abattoir” up at Tales to Terrify, in which Shalon Hurlbert and I talk about Let the Right One In in all its incarnations.

Next up, Mama, and some things I’ve been reading.

What I’ve been working on

/ February 10th, 2013 / No Comments »


Speculative poetry editors make Best of 2012 recommendations

/ January 31st, 2013 / No Comments »

Writer and editor Rose Lemberg today posted a round-up of a weeklong project she organized in which editors of speculative poetry publications listed their top five favorite poems published in 2012 by venues other than their own.

Individual recommendations come from Amal El-Mohtar (Goblin Fruit,) Romie Stott (Strange Horizons,) Mitchell Hart (Through the Gate,) Samantha Henderson (Inkscrawl,) Rose Lemberg (Stone Telling,) Adrienne J. Odasso (Strange Horizons,) Alexa Seidel (Niteblade) and Erzebet YellowBoy (Cabinet des Fées.) Reviewer Bogi Takács of also made a list of recommendations.

I hope you’ll all follow the links and make new discoveries.

(Full disclosure, because a few have asked: I was invited to participate but couldn’t carve out enough time from my other projects to do the reading I felt would be necessary to make informed recommendations. I’m grateful that a couple of my poems received nods, and three poems from Mythic Delirium also received mentions. To see which ones, you’ll have to go read.)

Picking the Clockwork Phoenix 4 stories: The Process (part 2)

/ January 22nd, 2013 / 2 Comments »

I’m back with part two of my explanation of the Clockwork Phoenix 4 submission process, this time breaking down the most crucial piece of the process: what happens while the submission window is open. (Part One can be found here.)

There’s all sorts of misconceptions out there about how short story slush reading works. I’m pretty sure the way I handle it is close to how most pro and semi-pro outfits do things, so hopefully elucidating will be helpful all around.

Here’s metaphor #4. A story submission essentially works like an audition for a part in a play. I think some writers lose sight of this aspect, because sending in an e-mail and waiting for a response feels much more impersonal than waiting to be called in front of the director to start your monologue or demonstrate your dance skills.

And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening. Your story is your performance. And in the case of Clockwork Phoenix, I’m the director.

Read the rest of this entry »

Picking the Clockwork Phoenix 4 stories: The Process (part 1)

/ January 21st, 2013 / 2 Comments »

I’ve split this long, long post about the inner workings of the Clockwork Phoenix 4 submission process in twain in an attempt to make it more digestible. Part Two will appear tomorrow. (Click link to read.)

When announcing the Dark Faith: Invocations table of contents, Jerry Gordon put up a post explaining the process involved in selecting the stories. Based on his example, I thought it might of interest, and perhaps even educational, if I offered the same information for Clockwork Phoenix 4.

So how do you get from more than 1,400 submissions down to a final lineup of 18 stories?

I’ll share the brutal truth. But first, a preamble or two.

Read the rest of this entry »

New reviews of my e-book short stories

/ January 21st, 2013 / No Comments »

My thanks to William D. “Dusty” Wallace (known here in Roanoke as the man behind the Dusty on Movies blog) who checked out my three short stories available on Amazon as e-books and wrote a review for each one. Generously, all are five-star.

I share snippets from each:

She_Who_Runs She Who Runs

For a short story this feels big. The main events are influenced by ages of cosmic unrest that came before and the story progresses eons into the future. In context it’s awe-inspiring and never seems like it’s cutting corners to maintain its status as a short story.

Steamexp Sleepless, Burning Life

This story portrays a tangible creation myth that’s inhabited by headless men, mechanical objects and lesbian goddesses. Personally, I’m ready to attend mass at that cathedral … Beautifully written, erotic, imaginative and with a host of alternate endings built in.

cover Stolen Souls

This is really about a detective who can’t cope with the murder of his beloved and ends up flying off the rails in a selfish attempt to right the wrong. By the end of the story the author is working in a realm of pure imagination but it never gets confusing. This is a winner that you’ll read to the end in one sitting.

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