Inhuman Swill : Science Fiction : Page 27

Coming of age

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Asimov's Science Fiction, June 1983
The first science fiction magazine I ever saw, read, subscribed to, submitted to, and was rejected by was Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Back in 1983, when I was almost 16 years old, my father brought a copy home for me after it became clear to him that writing SF was just simply going to be something that I did, and there would be no use complaining about it. He found the magazine at a 7-Eleven and showed me the address for fiction submissions. It was a generous gesture on his part, especially since a few years earlier he had forbidden me to read the evil stuff.

That first issue had a Fred Pohl story on the cover, I recall, "The High Test." I read the magazine greedily, then called the phone number inside to subscribe. The woman on the other side of the line wanted me to give a credit card number. It took some doing, but I convinced her to enter my subscription without one, and to bill me later. I'm not sure why I didn't just mail in a subscription card. I think I was just too excited to get my subscription started.

Before long, I had my first rejection in hand—a photocopied sheet of possible reasons my story was not of use to Asimov's, with editor Shawna McCarthy's second-generation signature at the bottom. Crushed but undeterred, I sent in another story. Same outcome.

Every time the new issue arrived, I would read it cover to cover. Those pages are where I first read Lucius Shepard, Bruce Sterling, James Patrick Kelly, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Kessel, Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, Michael Bishop, Norman Spinrad, Dan Simmons, and a host of other exemplary short fiction writers I'm forgetting now. I still have many of those issues, the ones with the stories that affected me most. "Speech Sounds" by Octavia Butler is one of the first that comes to mind. More even than the novels I had long read, those stories were my first real education in the art and craft of writing science fiction.

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Apropos of a great post by [info]asphalteden, I figured I would post a brief overview of my relationship with science fiction. This was originally written as a response to his post, but I figured maybe it could stand on its own. Heck, we might even kick off a meme here!

I adore Gene Wolfe (well, his writing—I don't know him personally). I have read The Book of the New Sun three times, The Book of the Long Sun twice, and The Book of the Short Sun ... well, not yet. Despite the fact that most everything he writes goes a few inches above my head, I feel paradoxically smarter when I'm reading one of his novels, rather than dumber. I think this is because I make enough of the connections, even though I don't make them all.

The Dying Earth (the original short novel) is one of the earliest SF novels I ever read. Knocked me out. I haven't read a Jack Vance novel since, though again I intend to read all those Dying Earth novels ... someday. The first real SF story I remember reading was Asimov's "Reason," in abridged form in the Scholastic Weekly Reader. That was the hook that got me. I now own a copy of the April 1941 Astounding in which "Reason" first appeared. I am afraid to take it out of the plastic bag.

I almost always say "SF" or "science fiction." It's hard for me to say "sci-fi," but I'm learning. I think "speculative fiction" is shuck-n-jive talk.

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Remembrance of looks past

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If you saw me on that evening subway ride and judged me for my reading material, a battered, torn copy of Snow Crash, how would your opinion have changed if you'd known I was toting four volumes of Proust in my shoulder bag?

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ShunnCast #9

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The ninth episode of ShunnCast is now available to subscribers. Or, to readers of this blog, directly from this URL:

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=9

The download is 12.9 Mb.

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Robots and empire

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A RealAudio stream of this morning's "World Update" is available from the BBC World Service Radio website. The segment on "Heddatron" starts at 18:27 and lasts about 4:15. You can fast-forward to it if you have the right version of Real Player.

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My review of C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is now live online at Science Fiction Weekly:

http://www.scifi.com/sfw/screen/sfw12291.html

I mentioned one commercial product from the movie in my original review that turned out to be too offensive to print. Curious what it was called? You'll have to see the film to find out.

Also, big thanks to [info]bobhowe, who saw C.S.A. with me and Laura, for the sentiment I shamelessly stole for the closing line of my review.

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Bilmo 'n the Beeb

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It seems I will be interviewed this weekend by BBC World Service Radio for a feature story on the play "Heddatron," to air Monday or Tuesday. Loyal readers will recall that I wrote a not entirely complimentary review of said play a few days back for Science Fiction Weekly at SciFi.com. It seems this is what attracted the Beeb's attention.

Along those lines, does anyone out there know offhand of 20th century plays besides R.U.R. that feature robots? Time to do a little cramming.

I will, of course, keep you abreast of all the details. Stiff upper lip and all that. What, ho!

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I spent a nastily pleasant evening out at Tribeca Cinemas last night, attending a screening of indie horror flick Headspace. My Science Fiction Weekly review is here:

http://www.scifi.com/sfw/screen/sfw12247.html

Everyone I met last night before the show was very interesting to talk to: the film's New York publicist, the film's 26-year-old (!) director, the film's star's girlfriend working behind the publicity table, the friend and hanger-on to all the crewmembers. Nice bunch of people. I'm glad I enjoyed their movie.

(The film's star himself, Christopher Denham, was not there due to his role in Adam Rapp's Red Light Winter at the Barrow Street Theater. I've seen ads for this play all over in subway stations, but it was the friend and hanger-on [who might have been hitting on me but probably wasn't because I only ever figure out in retrospect that I've been hit on and this time I thought I was being hit on as it was happening] who pointed out that there are naked women subtly worked into the backgrounds of the Red Light Winter posters. I examined one this morning on the way to work. Sure enough.)

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I'm not sure how Tangent gets its hands on Asimov's so early (the electronic version, maybe?), but they already have a review of the April/May double issue up. Besides mine, also very well-reviewed are stories by Paul Melko and Greg van Eekhout, fellow Blue Heaven 2006 attendees. Bilmo humbly exhorts you to check it out.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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