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.

Darkest humor in the new issue of XB-1

The February issue of XB-1 is coming soon a it features the second part of Equoid (Charles Stross), Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma (Alex Shvartsman) and What Doctor Gottlieb Saw (Ian Tregilis) in the foreign stories section. And with so much horror, humor ranging from the darkest tones to the lighter ones and a lot of lovecraftian world, it would be impossible not to build on it in the nonfiction section. Therefore my article “The Darkest Humor from Deep Spacetime” on Lovecraftian pastiches, with emphasis on the ones containing an element rarely if ever found in Lovecraft: humor.

There are hundreds or thousands of pastiches, many of them more or less humorous, some even parodies. But there are two great fiction series I’ve encountered that managed to convey deep horror and despair and season it with moments of wonderful, mostly very dark humor without making the horror seem any less serious, each series in its own brilliant way. One of them are Laundry Files by Stross. Equoid is a part of that series, among more shorter works, but be sure to try the novels as well. The other one is the Johannes Cabal series by Jonathan L. Howard. It’s composed of short stories as well as novels too and again I can recommend reading everything of it.

In light of unseen terrors and gloom, on the very verge of madness, there still can be something to laugh at. And where you’ve got laugher, you’ve got an even tiny spark of hope. Maybe that’s why the combination of true horror and humor works so well.

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New short stories (sort of) and XB-1’s anniversary

In addition to yesterday’s big news, I have some other ones today. Czech translations of my stories The Brass City and Catching A Ride, both of which have been published in English, appear in the upcoming issue of XB-1, along with my translation of Jason Sanford’s brand new column.

It’s also a special 50th issue since the transition of Ikarie into XB-1 (therefore the retro cover) and the readers can look forward especially to the foreign fiction section, which contains all the Hugo-winning short works from last year: Equoid (divided into two issues), The Lady Astronaut of Mars, and The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere.

Another big anniversary is coming up in April – there’s going to be the 250th issue of the whole magazine’s history (Ikarie and XB-1 together)!

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An oasis of European short speculative fiction?

Editor Martin Šust has recently mentioned an interesting fact: As far as we know, the Czech Republic is the only European country with two professional monthly genre print magazines (XB-1 and Pevnost) and they’ve been together on the market for more than thirteen years now. Moreover, XB-1 and Polish SF magazine Nowa Fantastyka are the only European non-English magazines that publish foreign authors and can pay them professional fees (as well as translators and Czech and Polish authors, respectively). Russian Esli, which used to publish world authors too, was canceled in 2012. (However, there are luckily more European magazines full of interesting SF, especially online – just most of them are nonpaying.) Vlado Ríša, chief editor of XB-1, may be the longest-working European genre magazine editor: he’s been the chief editor of the magazine for more than eleven years. Jaroslav Olša, Jr., the Czech ambassador in South Korea and longtime SF fan and translator, later added that Japanese SF Magajin and Chinese Kche-sue wen-i are probably the only monthly SF magazines being published longer than Ikarie/XB-1 (Ikarie is the former title of the magazine, which couldn’t be used anymore when it changed its publishing house, but the publishing didn’t cease).

I must admit I have been quite oblivious of the SF magazines situation in the rest of Europe and pretty much anywhere else across the world except for the Angloamerican market, since the only languages in which I have a reading proficiency are Czech (plus Slovakian, which is very similar) and English; after I had finished grammar school, my German became too rusty for me to even read a newspaper. Martin’s information therefore surprised me a lot and made me even prouder to be a small part of the wider XB-1 team. It also made me appreciate the overall SF situation in the Czech Republic much more. I hope it stays this way or improves over time; both magazines suffered the risk of cancellation in the last couple of years, and though both recovered quickly, it showed us how fragile the short fiction market is.

SF has a long tradition in the Czech Republic. Pretty much everyone will mention Karel Čapek (in whose R.U.R. the word robot first appeared) but it goes into the 19th century as well (to some elements of the works by Svatopluk Čech, Jakub Arbes, Karel Pleskač and others). Historical Czech SF anthologies put together by Ivan Adamovič can give one a good idea about the kinds of speculative fiction written here since the end of 19th century. What about today? I’m under the impression that if some Czech authors wrote in English, their works would find a wide audience. Vilma Kadlečková’s ambitious SF saga Mycelium, Jiří W. Procházka’s early cyberpunk stories, Karolina Francová’s dark psychological SF novels… these are just a few examples of many. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately solely for Czech readers), they only write in Czech. I get it; an author can fine-tune the language best when using their native tongue. Writing in Czech and the ability to use everything the language offers may be a part of what makes them exceptional. But still… Sometimes I wonder how an anthology of Czech stories translated into English would do. Croatian authors did this when Eurocon was hosted in Zagreb in 2012. Their anthology Kontakt was a part of the materials at the con and it became widely available this spring when published by Wizard’s Tower Press thanks to Cheryl Morgan.

Since good translations into English are insanely expensive and such a project would be extremely risky, this idea might just fit into some utopian future – and SF, utopian especially, rarely predicts the future… but hey, it happens sometimes.

 

Authors and readers across the world: How’s the SF (in the broad sense of speculative fiction, not only science fiction) magazines situation in your country? How many writers from there publish in English? Do you think there’s been a good development recently? Have I missed something important above? Add what comes to your mind.

Review of Upgraded at Fantasy Scroll

I’ve reviewed Neil Clarke’s cyborg anthology UPGRADED for Fantasy Scroll Magazine; the review can be found here in the new issue of the magazine.

Czech readers can look forward to a Czech translation of the review at XB-1’s website (update: it’s here). And who knows, with some luck, the magazine might feature some of the stories from UPGRADED in the future if our editor picks some of them. There are certainly some stories which deserve to get to as many readers in as many languages as possible.

“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