Inhuman Swill : Science Fiction : Page 9
            

Just a quick note from O'Hare, where I'm on my way to Utah to visit my dad, who is gravely ill.

If you're a member of Denvention 3 or were a member of Nippon 2007 and you haven't sent in your Hugo nominations yet, don't forget! The deadline is coming up fast—Saturday, March 1.

For the record, my two original stories from 2007 were:

Novelette
"Not of This Fold" (PDF) (audio)

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Care and feeding of your backups

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Last April I wrote the first draft of a story called "Care and Feeding of Your Piano." It's a short, humorous piece written entirely as excerpts from the interactive instruction manual for a bioengineered piano*.

Armed with some suggestions from my writing group, I sat in my Baltimore-area hotel room a month and a half later and spent two hours applying some heavy revisions to the sucker, which including reordering many chunks of text to achieve more comic juxtapositions. I sync'd the laptop with the USB memory stick I always carried as backup—at least, I presume I did, because that had long been my habit—then rushed over to Balticon for my scheduled reading. I read that story and one called "Timesink" (which was then and is still forthcoming in Electric Velocipede) directly from my computer screen. The reading seemed to go over pretty well, at least according to Jamie Rubin, who was there.

In June, as I prepared to attend the Blue Heaven workshop, I got frustrated with all the cruft slowing down my laptop, so I wiped it and reinstalled Windows XP. At the end of that month, we moved to Chicago. As we unpacked, I became more and more uneasy the longer my black Manhattan Portage shoulder bag, which I was looking for, failed to turn up. I always carried my USB memory stick in a little Velcro'd pocket on the front of it. The shoulder bag has never turned up, one of the very few casualties of our move.

It wasn't until we'd been here a month or more that I went to the desktop machine to take another look at my revised version of "Care and Feeding." I was going to give it a quick polish-and-trim and get it out there—first stop, New Yorker "Shouts & Murmurs" submission. (Why not, right?)

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Discover Magazine, February 2008
Hey, I have a reporting credit in the February issue of Discover magazine!

Discover does a humorous monthly column at the back of the magazine called "20 Things You Didn't Know About..." February's column was "20 Things You Didn't Know About Science Fiction," and its posting online seems to have stirred up a small pot of controversy over at io9, Gawker's SF blog. Seems as if a lot of people were not amused, and in turn Discover was not amused that they were not amused. (Thanks to John Joseph Adams for being one of the voices of reason in the io9 comments, and defending my honor.)

For the record, my reporting duties consisted of supplying the Discover writers with about a dozen pieces of SF trivia, of which they borrowed maybe four, putting their own inimitable spin on the material. I'm happy to say I gave them the one about Gene Wolfe and Pringles. But to balance that out, I also gave them the one about some fans not liking the term "sci-fi." (An example of one of my nuggets that didn't make the cut was that Heinlein Crater in the Hellas Southeast Quadrangle of Mars is named after Robert A. Heinlein. So there you go.)

I would have posted about this sooner, except that I didn't become aware that the column was online, or about the attendant flamewars, until early last Saturday morning as we were preparing to leave for a weekend in Iowa. And to be perfectly clear, having my name in Discover is totally awesome.

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My novelette "Not of This Fold" made the preliminary Nebula ballot for 2007. John Klima, publisher of the chapbook where it originally appeared, is making a free PDF of the story available on the Electric Velocipede website:

Not of This Fold (PDF)
This link is for anyone, not just for the SFWA members who might soon be voting on the preliminary ballot. I hope that you Worldcon members will read it before making your Hugo nominations.
There's also an audio version of "Not of This Fold," slightly abridged, available as Episode 10 in my ScientiFicShunn podcast:
Not of This Fold (MP3)
The audio is taken from a 2006 broadcast of "Hour of the Wolf."
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Old shoe week

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John eat BRAINS!
Going home to New York City is as comfortable as slipping on an old shoe. I flew there Tuesday afternoon with just a backpack and the parka on my back, and I was immediately at ease and confident in a way I don't yet feel in Chicago. The only bad part was that I was alone, since Laura was on a concurrent business trip to Rochester.

But I wasn't solitary for long. I took a cab from Laguardia to my borrowed apartment in Astoria, Queens, dumped off most of the contents of my pack, and headed into the city. After a quick stop at my old office, I met John Klima, in from Iowa way, at the Tor offices in the Flatiron Building. I acquired an advance copy of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, I chatted with Patrick Nielsen Hayden for a minute or two, and John and I hauled his bags back to Astoria on the subway.

We had a full evening ahead, but before I tell you about it I have to back up several months and remind you of the segment of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" that Laura and I caught back in July:

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Stories for SFWA members

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SFWA members, if you're looking for something to read over this coming holiday week, drop me a line at shunn [at] livejournal [dot] com and I'll send you PDFs of my novelette "Not of This Fold" and my short story "Objective Impermeability in a Closed System," both original stories from my recent chapbook, An Alternate History of the 21st Century.

By the same token, if you have 2007 stories you want to share, send 'em on over.

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Locus of power

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It was as straightforward as I had hoped to find the November Locus in Manhattan. I simply walked up to the usual place on the newsstand at the Union Square Barnes & Noble and picked up a copy. I'm trying not to be frustrated that I don't yet have the ability to pull off similar feats in the city of Chicago. But it will come.

Anyway, I was finally able to read the Nick Gevers review of my chapbook, which leads off his short fiction column. It says, in part:

William Shunn is one of those SF writers who, because they specialize in short fiction, are not given quite the recognition they deserve—no novels, no mass-market publication, so only the plaudits of the cognoscenti of the short form. Yet Shunn is a fine writer; ingenious, stylish, closely in touch with current global trends and expert in producing thought-provoking near-future SF, and at last he has a collection to show off that keen ability, even if it is only of chapbook length. [It] contains six stories, including two impressive original novelettes.

"Objective Impermeability in a Closed System" is an intense evocation of the ethical and emotional dilemmas of a scientist of whom idealism is expected but for whom compromise is easier.... A temporal paradox exists; AIs and a time machine become involved; but rather than the conventional circular narrative this implies, Shunn opts for an unusual, psychologically resonant conclusion, and a subtle questioning of the essentials of cause and effect. The implications run quite deep.

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Racing to the dark

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I am not long back from my trek to Andersonville to see Alaya Dawn Johnson read from her new novel Racing the Dark at the Women and Children First bookstore. The trip was an hour and a half each way on the sad excuse for public transit we have here in Chicago (which is otherwise a terrific, loveable town), but it was worth it to hear a great reading in a great bookstore, and to support a friend and colleague.

But don't take my word for it. Let Time Out Chicago fill you in on why you should check out this novel. (Let me tell you, it was rather strange to arrive home from my epic journey and find Alaya in the issue of Time Out I had brought inside from the mailbox as I was leaving for her reading.)

I keep meaning to post a World Fantasy report, by the way, but I want to note here that I'm glad I wasn't so drunk at the Johncon 3 party that I forgot Alaya telling me about her Chicago reading.

(Speaking of drunkenness, as I write this I am sipping from a bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. I can't say I'm truly enjoying it, but since I was unable to finish the last bottle of it I opened, I am bound and determined to conquer this one. It is like drinking a syrup distilled from the walls and ceiling of an old cigar bar. Though the web site says BCBS is 11% alcohol by volume, the label on the bottle says 13%. I am choosing to believe the bottle.)

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Scott Westerfeld gets a great review for his new YA novel Extras this weekend in the New York Times Book Review (currently #2 on the NYT children's chapter books bestseller list):

With its combination of high-stakes melodrama, cinematic action and thought-provoking insight into some really thorny questions of human nature, the new novel, like its predecessors, is a superb piece of popular art, reminiscent less of other young adult books than of another pop masterpiece, the revived "Battlestar Galactica"....  [full review]
Way to go, Scott! Congratulations on the richly earned and deserved success.
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Recommended

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I still haven't seen a copy of the November Locus, but I have learned that Nick Gevers put both new stories from my chapbook on his recommended reading list for the month.

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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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