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Photos from Feb 19th with Felix Gilman & Kiini Ibura Salaam

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Felix Gilman & Kiini Ibura Salaam

Felix Gilman & Kiini Ibura Salaam

Felix Gilman opened the night with a description of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a Victorian occult society who used various esoteric practices to mind travel to other planets. And thus a door into strange worlds was opened as he read from his soon-to-be-released novel Revolutions about a group of very odd mathematicians and madness. And travel became the theme of the night as Kiini Ibura Salaam read “Battle Royale” from her Tiptree award-winning collection Ancient, Ancient, where time travel becomes a form of punishment.

To time travel back to Wednesday, you may visit Ellen’s photos of the night here.

Source Article from http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/2014/02/23/photos-from-feb-19th-with-felix-gilman-kiini-ibura-salaam/

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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Electric Velocipede and Sybil’s Garage

Electric Velocipede 27

Electric Velocipede 27

On Friday, February 28th I’ll be participating in the Electric Velocipede issue 27 release party / memorial service at the Bluestockings Bookstore in Manhattan at 7pm (directions and info here). As you may have heard, Electric Velocipede ends its much lauded run with this final issue. Also reading / performing there will be Richard Bowes, K. Tempest Bradford, Nancy Hightower, Robert J. Howe, Barbara Krasnoff, Sam J. Miller, Mercurio D. Riveria, William Shunn, and Jonathan Wood.

Sam J. Miller, the evening’s host, has asked me to write up a reminiscence about Electric Velocipede. This was originally set to go up on SF Signal, but it was too long to run there, and Sam did not want to cut what I wrote, since he liked it quite a bit. He suggested I post it to my blog, which I thought was a good idea. So here it is. Hope to see you all on Friday.

The year was 2003 and I was sitting in the conference room of a midtown Manhattan graphic design firm waiting for members to show up to this writers group I’d recently joined.  I was a wet-behind-the-ear late start to fiction writing, finishing my first Saturnian return and this talented little writers group was just about the best thing to happen to me since, well, forever. I had no idea it was about to get even better.

Before everyone arrived to that meeting, fellow member Kris Dikeman opened up her bag and dumped a half dozen paper objects on the table.

“Want to borrow some ‘zines?” she said.

“Zines?” I replied.

“Short for magazine.”

Right. Duh.

I hadn’t heard the term since my teens, when I’d scanned the back pages of Thrasher and practiced my ollie kickflips. Spread before us on the conference room table were an assortment of paper treasures.  They all had curious names like Say, or Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, or Electric Velocipede.

Printed on cream or white stock, many folded and stapled by hand, rich with art and words, I instantly fell in love. Was it because they were handmade? Because the ‘zines lowered the barrier between “us” and “them”, between writer and publisher? Because the notion of creating something from scratch excited me? Because I thought I might one day make my own? The answer was simply: Yes

This new generation of SF ‘zines arrived at an opportune moment, not just in my life, but in SF publishing. The so-called Big Three, Analog, Asimov’s, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, were losing readers.  A lot of up-start writers I knew felt their stories weren’t quite right for the Big Three. And self-publishing had arrived in full force. The barriers to entry had been lowered, so anyone could design a print book from start to finish on their home computer. That and the ubiquitous infrastructure for ebooks we have today didn’t exist then. These new SF ‘zines perfectly filled that niche. There was a period of about a decade when ‘zines were a sandbox of sorts, where up-and-comers honed their skills and sold their first stories.

The influx of creative energy was palpable.  So around this time, in early 2003, I began a ‘zine of my own. I used Electric Velocipede and others as my model. You may have heard of my little ‘zine, Sybil’s Garage. Seven years and seven issues later, the ‘zine received great acclaim, many of the stories and poems in its pages received honorable mentions in Year’s Best anthologies, and I’ve been nominated for a World Fantasy Award for my work there.  

I had a lot of help from friends. I still probably owe some of them my right arm. But even with their help it was still an enormous amount of work. With a full-time job and my own writing, I produced seven issues in seven years before I decided to end the ‘zine. But Mr. Klima, with a full-time job and kids, has managed to produce twenty seven issues of Electric Velocipede. The ‘zine has won a Hugo award, has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award multiple times, and has had many of the best names of SF appear in his pages. No small feat, I assure you. I know first-hand how hard running a ‘zine can be.

John told me once he laid out every issue by hand. I’m not being metaphorical here. He actually wrote the story titles on slips of paper cut to the relative story length, and rearranged them until he had the perfect order for the table of contents. It was this type of dedication that was apparent in every page.

Every issue, in other words, was a work of art.

And now EV’s run is over.  And I’m sad. Sad because an era is ending with the death of Electric Velocipede.  It’s hard to imagine history conspiring again to restore print SF ‘zines to their former glory. Ebooks are taking off now. Print magazines are slowly being replaced. Paper is passé. But I’m probably a fool. Right now there may be a young writer waiting for her friends to arrive to a writers’ critique session. And she’s thumbing through back issues of Electric Velocipede and Lady Churchill’s and Say and Sybil’s Garage, and her head is brimming with new ideas. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. To paraphrase John who paraphrased another:

Electric Velocipede is dead. Long live Electric Velocipede.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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Locus Magazine Rec & Electric Velocipede Memorial

I’m excited and happy to say that my story “The Sounds of Old Earth” made the 2013 Locus Recommended Reading List. I’m super psyched to be listed alongside such great names! Also making the list are fellow uber-talented Altered Fluidians Alaya Dawn Johnson and Sam J. Miller.  Glad to see their great work getting noticed!

Speaking of Sam, he will be hosting an Electric Velocipede Release Party / Memorial Service. Some of you may know that with issue 27, Electric Velocipede is ending its 13-year much venerated run. To mourn celebrate this achievement, Sam will be hosting a reading at the Bluestockings Bookstore in Manhattan on Friday the 28th at 7pm. I’ll be reading an excerpt of my story “The Spaces Between Things”, and other readers who will attend include Richard Bowes, K. Tempest Bradford, Nancy Hightower, Robert J. Howe, Barbara Krasnoff, Mercurio D. Riveria, William Shunn, and Jonathan Wood. More details of the event can be found here.

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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Felix Gilman & Kiini Ibura Salaam, February 19th

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FANTASTIC FICTION at KGB reading series, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present:

The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman Felix Gilman has published four novels, and short fiction in a variety of places including Weird Tales and Tor.com. His recent duology The Half-Made World and The Rise of Ransom City has been described as “a sepia-toned panorama of eccentric and moving Western characters” by Salon. His next book, The Revolutions, is a story of Victorian occultism and spiritual space travel; it comes out in April from Tor.
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Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam Kiini Ibura Salaam is a writer, painter, and traveler from New Orleans, now living in New York. She has been widely published in such anthologies as the Dark Matter, Mojo: Conjure Stories, and Colonize This!, as well as in Essence, Utne Reader, and Ms. magazines. Her short story collection Ancient, Ancient won the 2012 James Tiptree, Jr. award, and contains sensual tales of the fantastic, the dark, and the magical. Her micro-essays on writing can be found at www.kiiniibura.com.

Wednesday, February 19th, 7pm at

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/

Subscribe to our mailing list:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kgbfantasticfiction/

Readings are always free.

Please forward to friends at your own discretion.

Source Article from http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/2014/01/24/felix-gilman-kiini-ibura-salaam-february-19th/

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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Photos from Jan 15 with Joe Hill & Ennis Drake

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Ennis Drake & Joe Hill

Ennis Drake & Joe Hill

The room was full, the crowd tense with anticipation for the night’s readers. You wouldn’t know it, but when Ennis Drake read “The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker” from Tales of Jack the Ripper, it was his very first time reading to an audience. Joe Hill followed, reading from The Fireman (a work in progress) and a section from NOS4A2. Both men killed, pun intentional. If nights such as these are indicative of what’s to come, we’ve a great year ahead of us.

Ellen’s photos from the evening can be found here.

Source Article from http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/2014/01/24/photos-from-jan-15-with-joe-hill-ennis-drake/

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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“The Great Game” Review at Tor.com

Over at Tor.com, my story “The Great Game at the End of the World,” published in After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, gets a nice review:

Matthew Kressel’s “The Great Game at the End of the World” is bizarre, almost surreal. Framed around a nightmarish baseball game, a young man and his sister experience the before and after of an apocalypse which transforms the world and turns ordinary people into unthinking drones. It’s about acceptance and redemption…or maybe just about that last home run.

They also saw nice things about the anthology as a whole:

It’s an all-star cast of YA and science fiction authors, many of whom bring their A-game to the table. As with any collection, you take a gamble based on theme and contributors. But Datlow and Windling rarely stray far from excellence, and overall, this was a satisfying anthology. Worth checking out if you’re into YA, post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.

You can read the full review here.

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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Questions on the Anthropic Principle

A lucky roll of the die?

A lucky roll of the die?

Last night, after an excellent NYRSF reading by authors Sam J. Miller and Jennifer Brissett, we went out to the usual bar afterwards (Milady’s) and I got into a discussion with the inestimable Paul Berger and the indomitable Mercurio D. Rivera about the anthropic principle and its relation to the relative abundance or non-abundance of life in the Cosmos. 

Our discussion ended on a question that none of us seemed qualified to answer, so I though I would post my thoughts here and some of the counter arguments they brought up in the hope that someone (you?) out there on the interwebs might have an answer or explanation for us.

According to string theory, there are something like 10500 universes out there. One of the big questions of cosmology is, Why are the constants of the universe so tailored to life? If certain constants, say the strength of gravity, or the strong nuclear force, were to change by a tiny fraction, life could not possibly exist. String theory posits that those universes of alternate-strength forces exist too. We just happen to live in a region of the cosmic landscape (to use a term coined I believe by Leonard Susskind) that is more fertile. We are told to think of the cosmos as an enormous field. In some areas, the soil is fertile and things grow. In some areas, the soil is barren and there is nothing but chaos.

Conceptually, this might explain the so-called “anthropic principle“, that is, why those constants seem so well-tuned to life: because there is no fine-tuning. There is merely such an enormous landscape of possibilities and we just happen to live in the realm that has the properties to give rise to intelligent human beings.

I think is argument is akin to the Million Monkeys Theorem. I’ve heard multiple versions of this, but the basic idea is that if a money randomly types out keys on a typewriter, given enough time (and usually the time spans are enormous), he will type out the complete works of William Shakespeare. Though extremely rare, probability theory states this will happen with near certainty given enough time. Increase the number of monkeys and the time decreases. I think if you had 10500 monkeys the time would be pretty short overall.

This argument makes sense to me, until I thought about the relative abundance of life in this region of space. What if we discover that life exists nowhere else in the universe, with the exception of the Earth, that all else is barren? This would imply that, even in our region of the cosmic landscape, life is incredibly rare.  That with 100 billion (visible) galaxies, each with 100 billion stars, the million monkeys were only able to type out Shakespeare (i.e. intelligent life) only once. While this would be a sad discovery for the human race, it fits in neatly with the anthropic principle. We just happen to live on a planet that has the right conditions for our evolution into intelligent organisms. But because this is so rare, it only happened once in all eternity.

Now consider an alternative: that we discover ancient microbial life on Mars. And we find life in the salt-water oceans of Europa. And we find life elsewhere in the solar system. What if we also discover that these lifeforms have a different morphology than those from Earth, suggesting that they followed a different evolutionary path. In other words, life arose on those worlds independently from life on Earth. This would suggest that the universe itself, or at least this region of the cosmic landscape, is hard-wired for life. Or to put it another way, we happen to exist in a highly fertile region of the infinite.

Now, consider the million monkeys again. Typing out Shakespeare once is a highly unlikely event. But typing it out multiple times is absurdly unlikely by many orders of magnitude. Multiply this for every planet or moon where life is found, and you either come to the conclusion that we just happen to live in a very, very, very lucky region of space, or perhaps something else is going on here. Perhaps there is some ontological explanation for the abundance of life in this region of space.

I might accept that in a landscape as vast as string theory posits, there will be some regions of space where life arises because the conditions are appropriate. But what are the chances that we live in such a region and that life is also abundant in that region? The probabilities seem staggering to me.

Here are the counter arguments as I remember them:

o) You put too much importance on life. Who is to say that matter is not important? Or black holes? (My response was that human intelligence, i.e. sentience, is something qualitatively different from anything else.)

o) The distinction between life and non-life is arbitrary. Is a virus alive? A crystal?

o) Most of the universe is dead. Only a very small fraction of it is living matter, even if all the planets had life.

o) Perhaps the math is wrong, or I am misunderstanding the anthropic principle.

So, does anyone out there on the interwebs care to explain this to me, perhaps where my thinking might be off? Because to me, if we find life is abundant in the universe, I believe the anthropic principle breaks down pretty quickly.

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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Joe Hill and Ennis Drake, January 15

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FANTASTIC FICTION at KGB reading series, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present:

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill Joe Hill is the author of three New York Times best-selling novels: Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and NOS4A2 – and a prize-winning collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts. He’s also a writer of not-so-funny funny books; he won an Eisner Award for his work on the recently completed dark fantasy epic Locke & Key, and has a new ongoing comic titled Wraith, which plays with ideas and characters from NOS4A2. He lives in New Hampshire.
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Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage by Ennis Drake Ennis Drake’s short fiction has been published in the anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper and is forthcoming in The Book of Cthulhu III, Giallo Fantastique, and Little Visible Delight. Two of his novelettes were published in a chapbook by Omnium Gatherum last February. His novella, “Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage,” was a finalist for The Shirley Jackson Award.

Wednesday, January 15th, 7pm at

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/

Subscribe to our mailing list:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kgbfantasticfiction/

Readings are always free.

Please forward to friends at your own discretion.

Source Article from http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/2014/01/02/joe-hill-and-ennis-drake-january-15/

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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Photos from Dec 18 with Thomas F. Monteleone and Daniel José Older

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Daniel José Older & Thomas F. Monteleone

Daniel José Older & Thomas F. Monteleone

A magical evening to end the new year with Daniel José Older & Thomas F. Monteleone, synchronistically reading stories about New York City and the phantasms of the night that lurk in darkened subway tunnels or are summoned from the Outer Deep through something as prosaic as a Broadway show. Both readers didn’t just read, but performed their stories, so that in a way they too summoned something up from the winter’s dark.

Ellen’s photos of the evening can be found here.

Source Article from http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/2014/01/02/photos-from-dec-18-with-thomas-f-monteleone-and-daniel-jose-older/

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.

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On SF Creating the Future

Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot

Jason Sanford has a short but excellent post on Medium.com about the notion that science fiction does not predict the future, but in fact creates the future. In the article he cites Cory Doctorow’s Locus essay, “A Vocabulary for Speaking About the Future.” I was particularly struck by the assertion that when science fiction writers believe they are predicting the future they may in fact be inspiring. Who/what are they inspiring? Young readers who may grow up to be scientists, engineers, filmmakers, novelists, visionaries. People, in other words, who shape the future.

I sometimes read the blog The Last Psychiatrist. While the author, Alone, can sometimes come off as acerbic, if you wade through her rhetorical arguments, you will find genius buried within. While she tends to focus on the pervasive problem of narcissism in our society (and by “ours” she typically means America, or any culture that mimics or shares our value system), one of her arguments is that advertising in our culture is aspirational and not inspirational.

Note that I mention “inspiration” again. I’ll come back to that.

But first, I want to explore the difference between aspiration and inspiration. Aspiration, of course, is the “ardent wish or desire for something, chiefly that which is elevated or spiritual.” (source: Wiktionary) Whereas inspiration is “the act of an elevating or stimulating influence upon the intellect, emotions or creativity.” In other words, aspiration is the desire for something you don’t have. Inspiration pushes you to act with what you already have.

My point is that, based on my read of The Last Psychiatrist, and my take on Cory Doctorow’s and Jason Sanford’s essays, that most of Western culture (and by that I mean pop/materialist/consumerist culture) is stuck in an aspirational loop. We are desiring things we do not have, only to desire yet more things when we acquire these material items. We are left perpetually unsatisfied because a core need is not being met. I think this need is a sense of purpose. For many, religion has failed to provide that connection to a greater force. And while some gape in awe at the grandeur of the universe without need for a divine being, most cannot muster the will to appreciate that which is so unfathomable (that is, the immensity and complexity of the cosmos). For most it is easier to retire back into a sort of mindless trance, where we indulge in television and video games and ever more reclusive forms of self-numbing, because all seems utterly meaningless outside of our comfortable zone.

Well, I say, fuck that. If we cannot find meaning out there, then let’s make our own meaning right here. Let’s use the tools at our disposal, in other words, let’s inspire people toward greater things. And we can use science fiction as a backdrop to explore those grand ideas.  This is probably echoing a lot of what Jetse de Vries tried to do with his Shine: Optimistic SF anthology. And I say, let’s dream bigger. Why can’t we write stories, novels, films, video games that show the following:

o) a world without poverty, pollution,  hunger, disease that is not a frightful dystopia

o) the human race expanding into the solar system and beyond, not to conquer, but to explore and learn. Spaceships, in other words, without weapons and explosions. Yes, I’m thinking Star Trek, sans battles, but why is this view of the future considered quaint by many? It’s because we’ve been conditioned to be cynics, to believe that dystopia is the only possible future. We’ve been taught to be pessimistic. Note that I don’t mean there is a conspiracy, per se, but that our collective unconscious fears have been affecting us for a long time. It’s time we create our future worlds more consciously, the way we want them to appear, not how we fear they might.

o) a common dream for humanity, echoing what Carl Sagan says is his famous Cosmos tv series, a long-term goal for all, and with very real immediate milestones to be met. In other words, short-term inspiration towards long-term aspiration.

I believe science fiction has the tools to do all of this at its disposal now. SF can inspire us to greater things. And in fact I would argue that it is the only medium/genre/voice which has such power to shape and mold the future. Let’s not let our unconscious fears and behaviors rule us as if we are automatons, dreaming up default grotesque dystopias of corporate control and diminished individual power, of worlds smog-choked and polluted and dying, of wars and more death. Let’s consciously choose to create a different, better future, and let’s use science fiction as the tool to inspire it.*

* One last note. I do not suggest here that all stories of dystopia are bad. In fact, dystopias can often teach us how things can go wrong, and how we might avoid such a dark fate. But I think the balance of pessimistic vs. optimistic stories are skewed heavily toward the former, and a drastic shift is in order.

Originally published at Matthew Kressel. You can comment here or there.