World Fantasy tries again with programming

Early this morning a new World Fantasy Convention 2016 program was posted on their Facebook page. The new program is credited to both Darrell Schweitzer and Ellen Datlow. Only a month ago Schweitzer and WFC were roundly criticized for the original program, with Sarah Pinsker, Jim Hines and many many others pointing out flaws including a panel on “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories," more mentions of H.P. Lovecraft "in the program than all women or works by women COMBINED," almost no mentions of any fantasy stories from the last two decades, no international fantasy, no mention of any authors of color, and many other issues.

The original World Fantasy program didn't focus on world fantasy as much as a regressive dream of what world fantasy has never been.

So is the new program better? In general it appears to be, although I'm still picking through the details. Among the changes:

  • The panel “Spicy Oriental Zeppelin Stories” has been replaced with "A Golden Age of Contemporary Asian Fantasy," which will explore "the growing body of work by writers from Asia and the diaspora, who interrogate, reinterpret, and develop the literary traditions of their countries and cultures of origin (among other literary traditions and cultures, including the 'West') in a globalized context."
  • Instead of 10 panels about Lovecraft, there are now only 2, one of which is titled "On Beyond Lovecraft" and covers HPL's complicated legacy by bringing in Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom and Caitlin Kiernan’s “Black Helicopters.”
  • More panels on recent fantasy authors, including a memorial to Terry Pratchett, who died last year.
  • Many more works by women covered in the panels.
  • A panel on "LGBT Characters in Modern Fantasy," focusing on recent developments in the genre.
  • A panel on fantasy and horror in translation.
  • A panel on ladies with swords, focusing on the lore, legend, and image of the female swashbuckler.

Err, that last panel I'm taking a wait and see attitude with because what it covers will depend on who is on the panel (meaning I hope the panel is more than a love fest discussing chainmail bikinis). And to a large extent all of these programming changes will depend on who WFC picks to be on the panels and who moderates.

I wish WFC had started totally from scratch with this year's program, which they obviously didn't do. But overall these changes are positive. It appears some of these changes were taken from Guerilla WFC, which put forward a truly innovative WFC program, which is a good sign. I'm also sure Ellen Datlow had a positive effect on the changes, as did everyone in the genre who justifiably ripped apart the previous program.

Update: The new program is now on the official WFC 2016 website. Go there to see the schedule.
 

March of the living dead lit mag submissions

Interesting thread over on the Facebook page of author Martin Ott. To quote:

Getting organized to do a few submissions and noticed I still had a large number of submissions from last fall sitting in lit mag online submission queues: Tin House (not a surprise), Missouri Review, LIT Magazine, Idaho Review, Southern Review, Harvard Review (they tend to be slow), among others. Most of the work is fiction (some isn't). Are other writers experiencing the same trend?

Answer to that last question: Yes. Big yes. A hell yes yes.

And it's worse than that Facebook thread makes out. When I contacted Martin Ott to ask if I could quote his post, he told me that one of his recent submissions to Granta took 579 days for a response. Dang!

As an author, let me say this is BS. Short fiction, poetry and essay submissions shouldn't take this long. In our instant connection world no submission should disappear down a literary magazine's slush pile hole for more than three months unless an editor specifically contacted you to say they need more time to consider your work.

I say this because — sarcastic yet eye-opening truth time — when a lit mag takes a year with a submission it's not like your story or poem or essay spends all that time being read and re-read and critically dissected on its literary merits by a group of editors sipping hot toddies from crystal glasses in a candle-lit room.

No, your submission sits within an in-box pile of unseen electrons on a server or, less frequently, in a box in the corner of a cheaply made cubical, until some student intern or underpaid editorial assistant reads the first few paragraphs of the story and rejects it.

One year's wait in the slush pile comes down to a few seconds of face time with an editor.

I know this because I edited a literary magazine, storySouth, for many years. While I no longer edit the magazine I remember dealing with my own slush pile. And before you ask, yes, I sometimes took longer than three months with submissions. We all make mistakes. But I tried to not make that my pattern. And there's even less need for long waits today, what with all the cheap and easily available submission management systems out there.

I wish I could issue a call to arms over this issue. Urge authors to fight back by both shaming literary magazines which take too long with their submissions and not submitting to these places. But part of the problem is that fewer and fewer of the biggest literary magazines are accepting unsolicited submissions. And many of those that do now charge a submission fee, which is a separate irritation for writers.

All I can do is raise awareness of the issue. And point out to lit mags that magazines in the science fiction and fantasy genres rarely charge submissions fees and usually return submission in under three months. A few, like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed, even have reputations for dealing with most submissions in only a few days.

Maybe lit mags could learn a few things from their genre brethren.
 

(Note: Yes, I take this very personally. I once received a rejection letter from a lit mag six years after submitting. Need I say more?)

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The secret to life is don't be an ass

I tweeted this yesterday because so many people are holding Dave Truesdale up as a martyr for free speech and censorship. As if everyone should hijack convention panels they're supposed to moderate and which hundreds of people had chosen to attend.

Other people are taking a slightly different approach, saying that they've seen much worse behavior than Truesdale's at conventions, behavior which didn't result in anyone being kicked out.

I disagree with both of these views.

There was no censorship of Truesdale. He's free to say what he wants on whatever subject he wants, as he is now doing at Tangent Online. He also could have asked Worldcon for a specific panel on the topic he addressed, or raised the topic in the short fiction panel without hijacking an entire discussion he was supposed to moderate. Truesdale did neither of these last two options. Instead of moderating the panel — ie, facilitating the discussion around a specific subject — he took over the panel and forced the other panelists and the audience to engage with his own beliefs.

As for saying that there's been worse behavior at conventions, that's a very wrong way to excuse bad behavior. No wrong behavior at conventions or other places should ever be tolerated merely because worse has been done in the past.

For those defending Truesdale's actions, I ask the following: How would you feel if the panelists and moderators at this year's World Fantasy Convention took over all the panels? If you showed up for a panel about your favorite author and instead learned the panelists were going to discuss a totally different subject?

Think this is a silly example? Well, there are already many complaints about the WFC panel line-up. There's even an alternate #guerrillaWFC list of panels online.

Would the people supporting Truesdale's actions be okay if all the panels at WFC were hijacked? Or if every panel at every convention was subject to extremely going off topic or being changed at the whim of the moderator and panelists?

I'm not advocating the hijacking of the WFC panels (and according to Sarah Pinsker, WFC may be addressing the legitimate concerns raised about their panel choices). But understand that if people support Truesdale's actions in this case, they're opening up many other cases they may not support.

The simple truth is that if Truesdale had raised his issues in the panel in a civil manner without hijacking the panel, people would have discussed them. But he didn't do this. He came prepared to derail the entire panel and force people to deal with him. He was an ass and behaved like an ass and people reacted accordingly.

Funny thing about life. If you're not an ass people will discuss things with you even when they disagree with what you're saying.

Worldcon in a series of scattered thoughts

  • Jason Sizemore is right — the best moment of MidAmericon II was Rachel Swirsky reading her Nebula Award winning short story "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love." The story is powerful to read. But to hear those beautiful and moving words in Rachel's voice ... Wow. What more can I say?
     
  • At the reading I read "Death Flowers of Never-Forgotten Love," which was inspired by Rachel's story. And the fiction read by Adam-Troy Castro and Kate Kate Elliott was also super awesome and disturbing.
     
  • I have nothing more to say on the Dave Truesdale short fiction fiasco. However, if you want a detailed eye-witness summary of what happened, Dave Creek has written the best account I've read. You'll have to log into Facebook to read it.
     
  • Read Alyssa Wong's thread on what happened to her at Worldcon. This is unacceptable and should never happen to anyone. Take a stand for the good and work to prevent pain like this from reoccurring.
     
  • Lots of great summaries of Worldcon and the Hugo Awards out there. My favorites include ones from Monica Valentinelli, Abigail Nussbaum, and Rich Horton.
     
  • Maurice Broaddus. By this time next year you're going to be like damn man, Maurice Broaddus is everywhere. And he deserves to be because he's one of the best people I know in the genre. You go Maurice!
     
  • I met too many great people to name them all, so I'm not even going to try (but they know who they are). That's what makes Worldcon and the entire SF/F community so great — the people. Never forget that without the people in our genre our genre would be nothing. Always remember to treat people well and with respect even if you disagree with them. But the flip side to that is to also not tolerate wrong behavior merely because someone is well-known in the genre or a friend of yours. Call out the wrongness but keep to the happiness.
     
  • Final thought. This was my first Worldcon and I want to thank everyone who made me feel welcome and came to my panels and took the time to say hello. Again, it's the people who matter.

Year's best SF/F, January to June 2016 edition

I love science fiction and fantasy stories. I love nominating works for the Hugo and Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. But what I don't love is reading tons of works at the end of each year in a desperate bid to fill out my award nominations. After all, cram reading is rarely fun reading.

So this year I promised to get ahead of the curve. Below are my favorite stories and novels from the first half of 2016. I strongly recommend people seek out and read all these stories.

While I feel the list is fairly complete, it's still possible I'll read some works published between January and June 2016 and add them. For example, I'm behind on my reading from Asimov's and Interzone, and may be adding a few stories from those magazines. I'm also fairly certain I'll add a novella or two because I'm just now reading Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales Shakespeare's Fantasy World, which features novellas by five of my favorite fantasy authors (Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Jonathan Barnes, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield).

As an FYI, I'm tracking my picks for the year's best SF/F through the SFWA Recommended Reading list. You can access all of my recommended works, including works from the second half of 2016 which I'll add in the coming months, at that link.

January - June 2016 Novels

  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor)
  • City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway Books)
  • Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow)
  • The Fireman by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
  • The Race by Nina Allan (Titan Books. Note: This novel was originally published in the U.K. in 2014 but was released in the U.S. this year in a revised edition, making it eligible for this year's awards.)
  • The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar (Small Beer Press)

January to June 2016 Novellas

  • Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor.com)
  • The Coward's Option by Adam-Troy Castro (Analog)
  • The Liar by John P. Murphy (F&SF)
  • Under the Stone by Karoline Georges (Anvil Press. Note: See my review of this excellent novella.)

Janurary to June 2016 Novelettes

  • Empty Planets by Rahul Kanakia (Interzone)
  • Fifty Shades of Grays by Steven Barnes (Lightspeed)
  • Motherboard (A Tale from Somewhere) by Jeffrey Thomas (Interzone)
  • Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
  • The Shores of Being by Dave Creek (Analog)
  • The Stone War by Ted Kosmatka (F&SF)
  • We Will Wake among the Gods, among the Stars by Caroline Yoachim & Tina Connolly (Analog)
  • You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine)

January to June 2016 Short Stories

  • Between Dragons and Their Wrath by An Owomoyela & Rachel Swirsky (Clarkesworld)
  • Laws of Night and Silk by Seth Dickinson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic by José Pablo Iriarte (Strange Horizons)
  • Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard (Tor.com)
  • Michael Doesn’t Hate His Mother by Marie Vibbert (Lightspeed)
  • No Matter Which Way We Turned by Brian Evenson (People Holding ...)
  • Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper by Douglas F. Warrick (Tor.com)
  • Sweet Marrow by Vajra Chandrasekera (Strange Horizons)
  • The Red Thread by Sofia Samatar (Lightspeed)
  • The Right Sort of Monsters by Kelly Sandoval (Strange Horizons)
  • The Secret Mirror of Moriyama House by Yukimi Ogawa (F&SF)
  • The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d by N. J. Schrock (F&SF)
  • The Unmistakable Smell of Wood Violets by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Marian Womack (The Big Book of Science Fiction. Note: This story was first published in English this year, making it eligible for 2016 awards.)
  • Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)
  • Three Points Masculine by An Owomoyela (Lightspeed Magazine)
  • Two Small Birds by Han Song, translated by John Chu (The Big Book of Science Fiction. Note: This story was first published in English this year, making it eligible for 2016 awards.)
  • Unreeled by Mercurio D. Rivera (Asimov's Science Fiction)
  • Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0 by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed)
  • White Dust by Nathan Hillstrom (Asimov's)