In the last five weeks, I have been to Albacon, Capclave, The Los Angeles Public Library annual conference, and the World Fantasy Convention; my son Peter had his eighth, and my daughter Elizabeth her third, birthday in October; our hot water heater had to be replaced; and we had some expensive automobile repairs. I misplaced my digital camera, but Moshe Feder loaned me his, so I have pictures of the more pleasant of these events. I thank him for his generosity.
This issue is being put together on the fly this summer, between vacations and conventions. This editorial is written weeks after the layout, during which time I have accumulated a lot of things to talk about in this and other editorials.
The SF Museum in Seattle did open, and I was there to see it; I took pictures for this issue and the next. I was particularly impressed with the care that was taken to link the toys, games, films, and shows to written works, sources, and printed images. It is an intelligent museum, worth several visits, and worth supporting. You ought to become a member.
Of the many other possible topics, here's one very close to the core interest of NYRSF. There has been a general fuss (and some prurient interest) during July 2004 in the press and the literate magazines about Hatchet Jobs, a collection of Dale Peck's killer reviews. To my mind, the most useful response has been from John Leonard (who once said Frank Herbert didn't write well but is worth reading anyway):
[I now] suggest some hard-won guidelines for responsible reviewing. For instance: First, as in Hippocrates, do no harm. Second, never stoop to score a point or bite an ankle. Third, always understand that in this symbiosis, you are the parasite. Fourth, look with an open heart and mind at every different kind of book with every change of emotional weather because we are reading for our lives and that could be love gone out the window or a horseman on the roof. Fifth, use theory only as a periscope or a trampoline, never a panopticon, a crib sheet, or a license to kill. Sixth, let a hundred Harolds Bloom. (The New York Times, 18 July 2004.)
I find myself charmed by the spirit of this list. I have always been suspicious of (if not downright out of sympathy with) reviewers who perform to entertain the reader rather than to illuminate the text for the reader. The hardest and most useful thing a reviewer can do is to explain why the successes of a book are worthwhile and interesting, while gently noting its failures without dwelling on them. Let a hundred Leonards bloom.
Kathryn and the kids and I drove to Madison, Wisconsin for Wiscon, stopping on the way to stay over with Jim and Kathy Morrow in Pennsylvania. Wiscon was a tiny bit claustrophobic this year because it rained a lot, making it difficult to enjoy the downtown Madison location that is the setting for this gem of a convention. We spent time with Susan Palwick, old friend and founding member of NYRSF, now living, writing (new novel coming in 2005), and teaching in Reno, Nevada. The Hartwell family got calligraphed by Jae Leslie Adams and on whim, I decided to ask for a latin word. Thinking that paterfamilias was too long, I chose crux, and so functioned as a billboard for Albert Cowdrey¹s forthcoming novel (which I like. It reminds me of Tiptree and Cordwainer Smith).
Emily Pohl-Weary and her cohorts on tour ("Girls Who Bite Back cuts through the layers of the new Œfemale power,¹ questioning its corporate origins and investigating issues of race and sexual orientation. And it goes a crucial step further by asking: If you don't like what¹s out there, what do you want to see?") hosted a discover your inner superhero costume party and Peter discovered his.
On Monday after the convention closed, we drove to Illinois and stayed a might at Fred Pohl and Betty Ann Hull¹s house, and on Tuesday I drove Kathryn and the kids to O¹Hare to fly back to Westchester so Peter wouldn¹t miss too much school. Then I attended the SFRA Conference in Skokie, IL, which I will discuss in the next editorial.
I must fly to Seattle now for the opening of the lavish new SF Museum and Hall of Fame which will be linked like a Siamese twin to the Experience Music Project building at Seattle Center. I have always been a skeptic about the various sf museums proposed over the past couple of decades, but this one had $18 million dollars spent on it up front by Paul Allen (for which I, for one, am grateful), and will be at very least a snazzy place to visit in the next year. I gather they are going to charge admission, sell memberships, and host special events to raise money, like all other museums. It is also my understanding that they open with no endowment, so that they will start raising money from the outset. I wonder what the souvenir shop will sell? I will get to shop on the first day, June 18, and find out, though.
Many of you have responded to our solicitations for reviews and essays and this is one of the rare moments in NYRSF history when we have an inventory of essays and reviews ready for the next issue and the one after. We have been in this position for a couple of months now, and as we remarked in the last editorial, it sometimes allows us to build issues with more structural and thematic unity than is normally the case. This issue is our more usual diverse assortment of reviews and essays. But we can see some interesting possibilities for the next couple of issues.
That¹s a good thing, because we are all heavily committed for the coming summer, and need to get ahead. First off, our stalwart managing editor, Kevin J. Maroney, has found full-time employment for the first time since 2001, which will surely make his life richer and much fuller.
I recently traveled to Chicago on the invitation of Poetry, to speak on a program at the Newberry Library with Albert Goldbarth on sf and poetry. (Some of you may not know that NYRSF was founded in 1988 by the staff of The Little Magazine, which for 22 years published contemporary poetry and fiction, and whose editors over the years included among others Barbara Damrosch, Thomas M. Beeler, Marilyn Hacker, Thomas M. Disch, Carol Emshwiller, John Silbersack, Lyndall Gordon, Isobel Barzun, Joe Milicia, and Mark Kramer. There¹s much mention of magazine meetings in Samuel R. Delany¹s 1984. Back issues of The Little Magazine are still available, packed away in my basement.)
That Wednesday evening in Chicago was very pleasant (see picture), and Albert and I plan to recap some of it at the ICFA in Florida next March, where Albert will be a special guest.
For the first time in many years, I did not attend any sf convention on Easter weekend, nor will I on July 4th, though I plan to return to old habits next year. But Kathryn and the kids and I did go to the Fantastic Genres conference at SUNY New Paltz on May 13 and had a delightful weekend. It was a small conference, but combined some of the pleasures of ICFA with some of the pleasures of Readercon (which we will all miss this year).
By the time you read this, we will have seen some of you at Wiscon in Madison at the end of May and others at SFRA in Skokie in early June. Right after that, I must fly to Seattle (taking a one-weekend break to do the next two issues of NYRSF) for the opening of the lavish new SF Museum and Hall of Fame which will be linked like a Siamese twin to the Experience Music Project building at Seattle Center. I have always been a skeptic about the various sf museums proposed over the past couple of decades, but this one had $18 million dollars spent on it up front by Paul Allen (for which I, for one, am grateful), and will be at very least a snazzy place to visit in the next year. I gather they are going to charge admission, sell memberships, and host special events to raise money, like all other museums. It is also my understanding that they open with no endowment, so that they will start raising money from the outset. I wonder what the souvenir shop will sell? I will get to shop on the first day, June 18, and find out, though.
Somewhere in there Kathryn and I are going to finish an anthology, too.
It is New Year¹s weekend as I write, and therefore only technically a couple of weeks into winter. It has been a mild weekend, but a cold and stormy season since early December. And the next time I write an editorial it will be nearly spring. I anticipate missing much of the worst winter weather because of weeks spent in Australia, and then Seattle, and I am glad. The seas may be rising and the summers may be a degree or two hotter, but the real effect of global warming on me so far has been storms: snowstorms, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Turbulent weather is noticeably on the increase in my neighborhood. On the one hand, I rather like exciting weather, but it is destructive and costly and time-consuming. I have a feeling we are all going to like this aspect of the twenty-first century less and less as the years go by. It is probably time to visit Venice. It may not be there when you are older.
As the year begins, I wonder about the future of science fiction. There has been a lot of talk about the missing "middle future" in contemporary sf in the last year. There¹s a lot of sf set in the very near future, and a lot set in the relatively or very distant future, but extremely little of the classic hundred-years-hence fiction (okay, sometimes it was fifty years, or five hundred, but you recognize the mode, from Looking Backward to 1984 to The Dispossessed to The Handmaid¹s Tale to Islands in the Net). And it is that segment of sf that most characteristically deals with politics, political satire, political speculation, utopian thinking, and dystopian warnings. It is curious that in a time when political valence is so overt in so much sf, political speculation is so comparatively scarce.
Some people say that it is the deadening effect on near-future sf of Vernor Vinge¹s speculation about The Singularity that, if accurate, renders the future unknowable past fifty years hence and removes the grounds for speculation beyond the end of history and the beginning of the posthuman future. I think it is the deadening effect of the politicization of science and technology in the real world. For many of the emerging technologies of the present, there are political positions already attached, pro and con. This is a new thing in recent years in the US, if not in Europe, where technological pessimism is historically stronger.
My own feeling is that we need a lot more carefully crafted, humane, and even literary positive speculation about possible good scientific and technological outcomes in sf, in the face of the dire politics of the right and the left at present. And indeed in opposition to the realistically nasty things that seem to be facing the human race in the next hundred years and more. Or perhaps we just need more and more visionary writers, more sf. And certainly more technological optimists.
Yes, well, there was a blizzard here in Pleasantville on December 4th and 5th, 2003, the earliest big winter storm since the beginning of record keeping in 1846, and the second biggest December storm on record for New York City and environs. Today the accumulated snowfall listed in the NY Times for Thornwood, NY, the nearest Hamlet to our house, was 20 inches. Because of the drifting in my yard and driveway, it was hard to determine if we had that much, or more, but it sure looked like a lot to shovel when I went out to start at 8:30 am.
And so no one was able to attend this work weekend on Friday or Saturday, leaving it to Kathryn and me to work here, and Kevin and his family to read and proof at their home in Yonkers until today, Sunday, when Kevin was finally, by a bit after 2pm, able to arrive here and marry his pile of edited mss with ours so we could start issue production. An hour after that, Kathryn ( 99 pounds, strong like ox)and I had finally shoveled enough snow so his car, and our two, would all fit in the driveway. Then I rested a while, read some more, and we started layout, cutting corners wherever we could. Lack of volunteer staff present means some work cannot get done. We are going to have to catch up on editing forthcoming pieces, for instance, and quickly.
Saturday was also the day Kathryn and I had been planning to go to Sears and buy a snow blower. Every work weekend is unique. We have had blizzards before, but this one started early enough on Friday to prevent arrivals, so the masthead this time is a record for sparseness. Never before have we done this with so few on the spot. We had done the grocery shopping and so we ate well (see Kathryn¹s blog for information on the Ostrich and Buffalo receipes), and the furnace had been repaired Thursday afternoon, so on the whole, this was a warm, pleasant blizzard experience.
Our next work weekend, just after New Years Day, will be a particular challenge, because we need to do two issues then to avoid missing an issue while Kathryn and I are in Australia. It is my sincere hope that the challenge of doing two issues then will be enough to give that weekend its unique character. But just in case, we are staying home after Christmas through New Years.
I have a new digital camera, a Canon A80, that I am still learning to use, and have been taking pictures for the last three weeks, of the family, the World Fantasy Convention, and Windycon. See picture above, and elsewhere in this issue. A sampling in color can be seen at Kathryn¹s blog . And most of the pictures in the magazine will now be purely digital until they actually hit the printed page‹we switched to digital delivery of the magazine some months ago. Thus far I am very satisfied with the picture quality and am keeping my fingers crossed in the hope of superior print reproduction.
I have been grateful for the distraction of the new camera while going through another month of recuperation and three-times-a-week physical therapy, and various other difficulties and upsets. The camera did not arrive until a week after the end of Albacon, and because of complicated family travel plans, Kathryn drove separately to Albacon with the kids, and forgot our regular camera. So although we had a glorious sunny fall weekend in the heart of Adirondack foliage, and took a tour of Lake George Village with Hal Clement before taking him to a sunset dinner lakeside Sunday night, we took no pictures. He said he was finished with the third chapter of his next novel, Credit Rating I think he was going to call it, in the same sf setting as his novella "Exchange Rate," and would finish or report on progress to me at Boskone in February. His new novel, Noise, was recently published and had a cover illustration that particularly pleased him. We will miss him. Everyone in the sf world has to deal with the aesthetic he established for hard sf, even if they reject it utterly. He defined one of the poles of the genre. I hope NESFA decides to do a final collection of his later work, which was significant.
I take little pleasure in telling you all that life has otherwise has not been terribly smooth, either. At the World Fantasy Con, which was otherwise marvelous, I was called by hotel security to remove my car from the hotel parking garage immediately on Friday, because of a gas leak. After much time had been consumed, I arrived home late Monday night with a new $700 gas tank. I had just bought four new tires the week before, and the car drove well, so I was unprepared when three days after WFC, on the morning of the day we were to fly to Windycon, one tire went flat and had to be replaced at full cost (never mind). Windycon was a fine convention marred only by what we older con fans sometimes call the old Boskone problem or the Disclave problem‹party-driven fans and non-fans misbehaving. Search Kathryn¹s weblog for more information. If they don¹t take care of it, it will only be a matter of time. . . . And here in the heart of peaceful semi-rural suburbia last Thursday, two hapless gunmen knocked on one of our neighbors¹ doors and robbed them. They escaped with a small amount of cash, but the neighborhood was full of police with rifles and shotguns for hours. All this, and our government launched Operation Ninnyhammer in Iraq, too. As I say, I was really glad for the distractions of the new camera.
This issue will be followed quickly by the next, and the one after, and then perhaps there will be a longer-than-usual gap of five or six weeks between issues, because Kathryn and I are going to Brisbane for the latter part of January while I teach for a week at Clarion South, and thence to Melbourne, Sidney, and New Zealand. We¹ll be back just in time for Boskone. We¹ll miss Confusion this year because of the trip, but will be fan guests there in 2005.
We are back from Worldcon and have immediately turned to putting together this NYRSF issue. Torcon came in second in modern history (after New Orleans) in Worldcon disorganization, and as in New Orleans, we had a good time anyway. The staffers were invariably polite and always tried hard to be helpful and fix problems, and were kept mighty busy fixing them by all appearances. Kathryn is planning to write a piece on child care at sf conventions in general, sparked by our generally unsuccessful experiences at recent conventions. And we were in the luxury hotel attached to the convention center, but the bar and restaurant were closed for construction, sigh. The weather was in general great, though; the drive from Westchester county was beautiful; and we came in third as Best Semiprozine in the Hugos, a good showing. And I only lost to Gardner Dozois by eleven votes in the Best Editor category.
A particularly fine aspect of the trip was that we got to do many of the things we had planned, and missed, for our cancelled trip in June. We stayed for a couple of days with Rob Sawyer and Carolyn Clink before the convention, went to dinner at the home of Terry Green and Merle Casci, and at the home of Karl and Janice Schroeder, and visited with Peter Watts. I also spent part of a day at the Merril Library academic conference on sf organized by Alan Weiss, where Margaret Atwood gave a speech and was on a panel‹not quite the ALA and the SFRA, but still satisfying. And I wish to note that Margaret Atwood was an active, gracious, and provocative participant, with many good things to say about sf, which she reads and has written (though she uses that term to describe neither The Handmaid¹s Tale nor Oryx and Crake‹in her lexicon, those are in the dystopian and scientific romance traditions respectively).
Peter Hartwell entered first grade the day after we returned, and baby Elizabeth starts morning daycare Monday. With these changes, we begin a new stage of life again. I am sure that when things settle down, we will look back on this week after our return as a pleasant interlude between crises, when merely frantic multitasking was required of us. Kathryn got a fever and went on antibiotics (of course, this required her to endure the local anti-SARS protocol on Friday).
I apologize to subscribers and others who emailed or sent letters between May and August. A lot of them got misplaced just before and after my angioplasty. In early August, I began to find lost work, unanswered letters and orders, uncashed checks, and other embarrassments, and have dealt with them as speedily as possible. I am a bit scared when I realize that I was as inefficient a month before the operation as a month after. Boy, am I living clean now!
Other NYRSF staffers are going through transitions now too: job-hunting, beginning teaching, entering graduate school. So, many of our volunteers are a bit unreliable just now in regard to showing up for NYRSF meetings. And I suspect that more than a few of our reviewers are in the same boat‹otherwise they would be sending in their reviews.
Meanwhile, we are just buried and overwhelmed by catchup tasks, and are looking to hire some part time help right away for filing, cleanup, and organization. We are putting up signs in the local library hoping to attract a local student to work. But if you are willing, or know anyone willing, to volunteer for some work for a day or two, or more, here in Pleasantville in October or November, contact us.
And we¹ll see some of you at Albacon and at World Fantasy Con in October.
I write in early February 2003, and already the sf year is full of event, gossip, anxiety, and bereavement. The most public bereavement is for the astronauts lost in the Columbia space shuttle disaster. As with other events terrible or wonderful in the still-young exploration of space, it yielded images of a new type and scale: in this case the grisly and horrifying depictions on the weather radar maps of the United States, showing a swath of debris (which we all know included human remains) scattered in a band like the path of a storm across four or more southern states. Such events inspire grief on a new scale. . . .
"Over the past quarter century, Hartwell has built a well-deserved reputation in SF, fantasy and horror as an editor extraordinaire. In addition to discovering many of the leading luminaries in the genre, he has produced a pool of anthologies that attept to stand as definitive volumes. The Science Fiction Century is another such successful landmark collection."—Publishers Weekly
"A superb survey for the uninitiated and a definitive sampler for confirmed fans."—Booklist
"This ranks as one of the definitive anthologies of the genre—and it makes the perfect introduction to the field of science fiction. . . . The Science Fiction Century shows great breadth and range. . . . Editor Hartwell succeeds by including a wide range of authors, styles, and themes."—The Des Moines Register
"This is a book filled with familiar treasures and a great way to introduce a skeptic to the field."—Science Fiction Chronicle
Visions of Wonder
"This volume demonstrates the fact that science fiction is alive and well in the ’90s. . . . The editors are to be congratulated for producing work that will be useful both within the classroom and without. But even more remarkable is how much fun it is to read. They have gathered a collection of contemporary stories that is challenging, engaging, provocative, but above all rewarding. . . . The result is a delight for fans of the genre as well as a treasure trove for teachers. . . . Visions of Wonder is a fine addition of any science fiction collection."—VOYA
"A historic anthology of great value."—The Edmonton Journal
"The editors know their stuff. . . . Is this an anthology which you would recomend to a person who has never read any science fiction? The answer is a resounding yes from all corners. If you yourself have wondered what you might have missed over the past twenty years, then you may want to at least take a look at the table of contents. If you have a friend or a relative who keeps asking you why you read that ‘SF’ stuff, then toss this at them. Hartwell and Wolf set out to create an anthology that would represent the field and they ended up producing something that not only does that, but is fun to read to boot."—Age of Wonder
"Canadian sf is clearly a force to be reckoned with. . . . Cross the border—though it’s only the next country over, Canadian sf offers some unique pleasures you won’t find at home."—The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
"Northern Stars is a great opportunity to experience that distinctive other North American point of view."—The Washington Post Book World
"Replete with some of the best SF to be published anywhere in the last ten years. . . . As a primer on where Canadian scinece fiction and fantasy, Northern Stars is unbeatable."—SF Site
"Pleasingly eclectic and worth a try for story fans."—Kirkus Reviews
"Demonstrate[s] the vitality and eclectic thrust of Canada’s brightest and best authors of speculative fiction. A good addition to most sf or short story collections."—Library Journal
"[Hartwell and Grant] show that Canadian science fiction is alive and well and living north of the border."—SF Site
"[A] fine collection . . . an impressive range of stories."—Vector
"An excellent introduction to some of the rising stars in contemporary Canadian science fiction."—The National Post (Canada)
"A cross-section of the best contemporary stories ranging from hard SF to visionary fantasy, and from the horrifying to the totally hilarious. . . . captivating and haunting."—VOYA
"Not the first volume of Australian SF but by far the most significant. . . . A substantial and impressive showcase. If you considered Australia too remote and sparsely populated to be science fictionally important—well, think again."—Kirkus Reviews
"The wordcraft and imagination at play in this collection of 20 SF stories by Australian writers is quite extraordinary. The book is full of gorgeously imagined scenes on a transgalactic scale and challenging extrapolations of cutting-edge science. Hidden in the grandeur are meditations on the meaning of reality, motherhood, the social worth of religions, and gender dominance. . . . There is enough of the quotidian, charming and homey to ground all this exotica, and there are a few neat japes. . . . Broderick’s introduction is itself a fine and illuminating piece of writing, and his and Hartwell’s profiles are unusally personal. It may arise from Down Under, but this anthology is a world-class treasure."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Tired of seeing the same names in anthology after anthology? Here’s a chance for a break, a big collection of twenty SF stories by writers from Australia. . . . One of your best anthology bets of the year."—Science Fiction Chronicle
"There is a wealth of neat, stylish SF between these covers."—San Diego Union-Tribune
"Centaurus demonstrates that the best Australian SF is as good as the best written anywhere. . . . While Broderick and Hartwell point out that Centaurus isn’t the first anthology to attempt to collect Australia’s best science fiction, its publication is without question a significant event. It succeeds brilliantly both as a wonderful collection of great stories and as a document of the development in SF ina country whose writers are becoming increasingly important in the SF field. A+"—Science Fiction Weekly
"Broderick and Hartwell have assembled a book that will be published to coincide with the third World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Australia, and one that is intended to give non-Australian readers an overview of Australian SF. As such, it succeeds, and succeeds admirably. Highly recommended."—Locus
"A group of fine stories by authors who deserve to be better known on this side of the world."—Locus
"In population terms, Australia is a small country; in literary terms, it consistently punches above its weight. This anthology is proof enough of that."—Interzone