New interview & talks at PragoFFest

Martin Šust prepared an interview with me for XB-1. I talk about my upcoming SF trilogy Blíženci (Gemini), the transhumanist anthology Terra nullius and other projects. It’s in Czech, though, and I really don’t recommend Google Translate (yeah, it does seem that human translators will remain unchallenged a bit longer). He surprised me by putting that particular picture there; the award was borrowed for a few seconds at last year’s Worldcon, but hey, maybe I’ll hold my own one day. One can always hope, especially if lots of work are behind that hope.

And if you’re going to PragoFFest next week, you can come to my talks about Kuiper Belt (Friday 1 p.m.) and “paranoid optimists” (on cognitive biases; Saturday 6 p.m.), both in the science&tech section.


Interview & public reading at APPlaus radio

I hope my English-speaking readers forgive me that this brief post is aimed primarily at Czech audience: I’m having an interview and book reading on September 16 at 8 p.m. at radio APPlaus. It’s possible to come sit in the radio’s café, listen live or visit the archive later. It’s going to be in Czech, however, and a later transcription being translated into English is unlikely at the moment. Since I’m a bit sick with cold right now, I wonder myself how it’s going to turn out… Hopefully with not much sneezing in the middle of sentences. But I’m an optimist: In the worst case, it will be really hilarious!

As to other appearances, I’m having a short lecture and a debate with other speakers on cognitive biases at University Pardubice’s seminar for new students on September 24 at 5 p.m. at the campus. The topic is slightly tied to one of my previous lecture topics, “Human: An (Ir)rational Animal”, which can be viewed on YouTube (in Czech, no subs).

And now for something completely different: Europa SF republished two of my articles from here, an interview with Martin Šust and my article on current SF magazines. Thank you, Europa SF.

“If we could edit our lives we would not make them better…”

In an interview for XB-1 magazine, Adam-Troy Castro, a remarkable SF author known especially for his Andrea Cort detective SF stories, revealed what he’d been working at recently, what might happen should he ever try time travel, whether we can be looking forward to new stories from his popular Aisource Infection universe and more. Enjoy this snippet from the interview!

You’re a quite prolific author. How do you cope with time constraints that come along with it without time travel (assuming you don’t have a time machine hidden in your basement)?
Actually, I’m a prolific time-waster, when I’m not feeling it. You have absolutely no idea. But if you produce some directed work every day, the work accrues. I try for a thousand words every weekday and frequently beat that, sometimes by multiplying it. When a story is hot, I leave the thousand words far behind. I suspect that the rest of time is battery recharging.

Assuming you actually had a time machine hidden in your basement, would you visit your past selves like the protagonist of your story “My Wife Hates Time Travel” or would you rather try to avoid this?
Oh, boy, if I had a time machine, the advice I would give my younger self! But I’d never stop. I also perceive that sometimes the good things that happen in life occur only because the bad things steer you toward them. I suspect that if we could edit our lives we would not make them better, but homogenize them, removing the flavor.

In the Czech Republic, you’re well-known especially for your Andrea Cort novels. Are you planning to write more about her and from the AIsource Infection universe?
Yes, though I haven’t for a while, and none of the stories currently in the publication pipeline fit in that universe. At various points of completion on my hard drive are a new Andrea Cort novella and another starring the Porrinyards at a point in their lives before they met her. One of the problems I have with writing a new Andrea Cort story at this point is that it necessarily has to take place in her past, as the chronologically latest story, “Hiding Place”, brings her to a point where something has to change for her, one way or another, and I cannot address the issue except at novel length, and I cannot write the novel unless I know somebody’s willing to foot the bill for it. Stories set in her past, before EMISSARIES FROM THE DEAD, are fine, as happened with “With Unclean Hands,” but then the Porrinyards get left out, and I consider them an important part of the recipe for Andrea stories, as she can be pretty intolerable without their leavening influence. So, yeah, she needs novels. As for other stories in the AIsource Infection universe – they will be coming, though again, there are none in the publication pipeline right now.

Andrea’s experiences present a world where corporate slavery is a daily reality for most people, bullet-proof job contracts for decades ahead are common and human rights are a luxury on countless planets. Are you afraid that we might actually be going there?
Absolutely terrified of it. Already, the simple economic truth of life in most human societies is that if you’re not screamingly wealthy or otherwise somebody in power, you are a disposable spare part — and the simple truth of most empowered people is that the power is devoted to acquiring more.

You’ve written about zombies or vampires several times. How do you perceive recent changes of these phenomena and their popularity?
It amuses me that people argue at such length about changes in the “rules,” as if the rules weren’t always arbitrary. Generally, I roll my eyes at anything that paints vampires (and now zombies!) as sweet and attentive lovers; that’s necrophilia and therefore gross. There have been some recent innovations in both tropes, in print, that I find thrilling.

I’ve noticed that none of your bios online mentioned your work before you started your professional writing career, just that you studied Communication Arts at Cornell. I must admit it piqued my curiosity. What was your profession before you became a full-time writer?
I worked a customer service line for many, many years, and both it and a much shorter spell of one year in retail were so horrific that I keep talking about fictionalizing them, someday. Maybe. If I can stand to look.

Can you tell us what are you currently working at?
I am working on various novel proposals. The one I have the biggest hopes for, right now, is called LAWLESS, and is currently making the rounds; though I have something else in the pipeline, not yet ready for submission, that might or might not see the light of day. I offer only one teaser about that one, unreliable in that it might not reflect the intended product in the way you think it does: TRANSYLVANIA.

The full interview (in Czech) can be found at XB-1’s website. The print version was published in March issue of the magazine.
Next up some time later is Ken Liu!

XB-1 March 2014

New issue of XB-1 and more

The April issue of Czech SF magazine XB-1 was published today, including a new flash story of mine and my interview with Ken Liu (from which I’ll post a snippet here some time later). In other news, the Czech urban SF anthology Zpěv kovových velryb (The Song of Metal Whales) by editor Vlado Ríša is out and had a book launch on Saturday during StarCon convention in Prague. The convention was great though I only had time to arrive just before my afternoon lecture on exoplanets and the following discussion with authors plus the anthology launch.

There’s a new work in English too, nonfiction in this case; I’ve got an article about subsurface oceans in the new issue of Clarkesworld (for resources on the topic, see previous blogpost). It’s been a good week; let’s hope for others like this one to follow.

XB-1 April 2014


Erasing boundaries and distances

I’m bringing you another snippet from interviews I do for XB-1, this time with a notable Czech SF editor Martin Šust.

Martin Šust is well-known as the editor of foreign lit section of XB-1 magazine, XB-1 website, several Czech publishing houses, particularly Laser-books, and formerly the Czech edition of F&SF. He has edited mainly new weird anthologies Trochu divné kusy (Rather Weird Pieces) 1 – 3 and an anthology of new space opera Plameny hvězd (The Stellar Flames). He’s also the author of Slovník angloamerických autorů fantastiky (The List of Anglo-American SF authors) and specializes in introducing exciting foreign SF on the Czech market. His newest contribution is a retrofuturistic anthology Plnou parou (Full Spead Ahead). In this snippet I had chosen from the interview, he talked about his views about Anglo-American as well as Czech fiction and the future of speculative fiction.

How did your work on anthologies change since you had assembled the first Rather Weird Pieces anthology? After all, not many online magazines were on the market then, while today a lot of stories are freely available and most have at least a snippet on the internet…

Online publishing made the work somewhat easier, of course, but not very much. For example, only three from the twelve stories in Full Steam Ahead were published in online magazines and one solely on Amazon, most of them came from various anthologies – so I still needed to contact the authors and ask them if they could send me their text. On the other hand, more and more stories are getting published nowadays thanks to the online market, so orientation on the market and the final decisions became rather harder. Luckily, I have a lot of contacts and experience thanks to working for XB-1, formerly Ikarie, which comes as a great advantage.

Do you have any exemplar or inspiration among foreign editors?

I used to look up especially to Gardner Dozois, today I most of all respect Jonathan Strahan for his diligence and brilliant yearlong activity not just on his The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year but a number of other original projects too. His taste in fiction seems to me quite similar to mine, though it’s not easy to tell since editors also try to meet the taste of their readers and offer them diversity where every reader can find his beloved piece. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish every month in XB-1 as well as in my anthologies. We all still have lots to learn and it’s best to learn from the best.

Anglo-American speculative fiction went through a number of changes since the beginning of this century: more online publication options, new popular subgenres, authors from all over the world writing in English… What changes do you consider most important or interesting and where do you see SF in this decade going?

Everything is connected to the growth of electronic publishing and erasing boundaries and distances. English is so widespread nowadays that almost everyone regardless of their nationality can learn it since childhood. And thanks to new opportunities and expanding the market, there is more space for non-Anglo-American writers including Czech authors. Personally, I consider this trend very positive and expect it to continue and intensify in the future. These days, Anglo-American authors still have a major role but it might not take long for writers from the whole world to fill the gap. I believe that non-Anglo-American online magazines will play a more important role in the future and the market would expand and diversify even more. It’s a fascinating unstoppable process favorable especially for the readers – they’ll just need to learn to voluntarily pay for what they like, or it would inevitably lead to more commercialization and depreciation of the written word.

What’s your opinion about current Czech SF – and would you try to predict where it might be going?

Czech SF seemed a little boring to be for a long time, shut out in its own self-praise and attempts to copy successful trends. Until recently, I’ve rather avoided it, though a lot of projects interested me. Nowadays I’m finding a way back to it since lots of new plans occur and everything’s starting to move ahead again. I welcome attempts to get into foreign markets, even if just by one story, and I hope there will be more. I also welcome ambitious projects attempting to achieve worldly goals. I don’t like the frequent Czech self-centeredness and trying to astonish outwardly, while if you look closer, you find an inflated bubble of nothing. It may sound too harsh from me but most of all I’m excited to see signs of change and the will to change around me. A crisis was bound to happen, the so-called “Golden Age” is past us and everyone needs to work harder now. I hope that XB-1 finds its place in this process and won’t just stand by.

You can find more of the interview (in Czech) on XB-1 website:

Don’t be surprised if you find some of the questions above not present in the linked Czech article; that one is a snippet too, the full interview is available in the January issue of XB-1 (see the cover below).

XB-1 01/2014 cover

Interviewing for XB-1

Last autumn, I interviewed Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld) and Martin Šust (XB-1) about their respective editorial work. The interviews were published on the website of XB-1 and in print in February and January issues of the magazine, respectively. Since then, Martin asked me to do more interviews, especially tied to the stories published in XB-1. March issue will among other stories feature a translation of Adam-Troy Castro’s great short story “My Wife Hates Time Travel”, along with an interview with him. One of the following issues is going to contain Ken Liu’s beautiful “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” and last week, I was preparing for an interview with him. He has received the questions by now and I’m really looking forward to his answers.

All the people I’ve interviewed so far are just brilliant and their answers were very interesting. The magazine is only available in Czech, however; that’s why I’ve asked Martin whether I could post snippets from the interviews here in English. He said yes – and here’s the first one!

How a supposedly crazy idea gave us one of the best SF magazines

Meet Neil Clarke, founder and editor of Clarkesworld Magazine. He has been nominated for the Best Editor Short Form category Hugo Award as the first editor being nominated for his work on a digital medium solely. He also runs Wyrm Publishing, which is focused on works in the realm of science fiction and fantasy and published books by Tobias S. Buckell, Catherynne M. Valente, Charles Stross and other well-known authors of SF.

With the October 2013 issue, Clarkesworld Magazine successfully reached its 7th anniversary. Did you try to imagine how the magazine would look today when you launched it in 2006?

It’s nothing like we thought it would be. In 2006, no one had any idea how to make an online publication work. Longevity wasn’t something these publications were known for and many authors were dead set against publishing their work online. For all practical purposes, e-books, our biggest source of income, didn’t exist. There have been major changes in the landscape over the last seven years and that’s required us to regularly revise our vision for Clarkesworld.

Clarkesworld was one of the first major online speculative fiction magazines, even more notable for its freely accessible content as well as pro pay-rate for authors and regular monthly issues – certainly a very ambitious project. It might be one of the notoriously unanswerable questions, but I dare to ask anyway: How did you come up with an idea for the magazine and decide to actually realize it?

At the time, I owned an online bookstore and had been experimenting with online fiction to help promote the small press magazines we were selling. Sean Wallace was publishing Fantasy Magazine at the time and had been one of the publishers participating in my little project. Sean and I were both at Readercon in 2006 and one night, we were just chatting about the experiment, the recent demise of Sci Fiction, and why no one was having any luck with this medium. Over the course of that discussion, we came up with a new business model and I decided to give it a try. By the end of the weekend, the magazine was fully staffed. A few months later, we published our first issue. Looking back, we were just as crazy as everyone said we must be.

The magazine went from being a newly established online periodical to one of the most important genre magazines very quickly; it won two of the Million Writers Award categories for the year 2006 and then continued with countless nominations for major SF awards and winning the three most famous ones, Nebula, Hugo and Locus, multiple times. What was in your opinion the most notable success so far, if such can be picked?

Our Hugo Award wins, particularly the most recent one, have been very personally rewarding, but when it comes to notability, it’s all about the stories. When one of them is nominated for or wins a major award, it’s a big deal for us. Singling out just one would be like picking your favorite child: an impossible task.

In summer, you launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for you first Clarkesworld-unrelated anthology, cyborg-themed Upgraded. It was preceded by very dramatic events…

Yes. I had a near-fatal heart attack while on vacation in July 2012. The doctors’ nickname for this type of heart attack is a “Widowmaker”. Every time I visit my doctor he reminds me just how lucky I am to be alive. The damage was much more extensive than originally believed, so they had to implant a defibrillator in my chest. Technically, that made me a cyborg and it’s what inspired the anthology. It may be the first cyborg anthology edited by a cyborg.

The magazine is not your full-time job yet, though hopefully the time when it becomes professional-paying market for the staff as well as the authors is nearing. How do you cope with having to have a day job beside your editorial work?

It isn’t without some stress. I have to work the Clarkesworld time in around the day job and family time. A lot of work gets done in short bursts, an hour before work, at lunch, after dinner while the kids do homework, late nights, etc. If I didn’t love the job, it would probably drive me insane. It also helps that I don’t watch a lot of TV.

The full interview is available in Czech here:

Since the interview, Clarkesworld also launched their Patreon and became a prozine according to Hugo ballot rules.

Hope you liked it. Soon I’ll also post a snippet from the interview with Martin Šust. And after the other interviews are published, you’ll be able to read snippets from them too.