On Geoff Ryman

Mon 3 Jun 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Here’s another post I meant to put up at some earlier point. Like, you know, when this fabby book was coming out. But, hey, it’s a fab book so this can go up any time:

Written for Readercon in 2011:

Publishing Geoff Ryman’s books—and reprinting his backlist—has been a fantastic experience, in most senses of the word. But first I should mention: Geoff Ryman is a busy guy which makes his email signature line actually worth reading: there’s always a new project or collaboration or a project he thinks is worth pushing. 

And pushing is what he’s good at. In his writing, he’s pushed across every boundary he’s ever come across from his very first stories right up to the present day, and, with luck, he’ll continue to do so for many more years. There are many of his stories where the reaction I’ve had has been, “No, please don’t go there! Don’t . . . oops.” Which is generally followed by “Wow.” There were readers who could not stand the thought of “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter,” but once a writer has an idea like that how could he resist writing the story? Forty-nine percent of the readership of “Omnisexual” probably winced along with me when something burst. And let’s not talk about “Birth Days.” Or, rather, let’s. It’s so uncomfortable, but so optimistic; so light to begin with, so huge by the end.

The way he pushes out beyond the comfort zone with his omnivorous gaze for the uncomfortable and telling detail makes for fascinating reading. Two of his recent stories, “The Film-makers of Mars” (first published on Tor.com) and “K is for Kosovo (or, Massimo’s Career)” (first published in Paradise Tales) capture something of the breadth of his writing. The former is a slow burn instant science fiction classic that by the impossible and inevitable end has the audience in the bleacher seats standing up and cheering for more. The latter is an intense, hard-hitting realistic story of a series of post-war interviews with a Kosovar family that could have been background for a piece right out of the New York Times. The story is not at all fantasy or science fiction, but it is pure Ryman: an uncomfortable story aired out with respect for all concerned, a very human weariness at the things we do to one another, and just a touch of humor.

We’re lucky to have someone who isn’t afraid to write such stories who also happens to be a great storyteller and I’m looking forward to reading many more of Geoff’s stories and novels with their unique mix of nitty-gritty human moments and mind-blowing ideas.

On Carol Emshwiller (from 2007, and belatedly celebrating her 92nd birthday!)

Wed 24 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Darn! I meant to post this to in celebrate Carol’s 92nd birthday earlier on April 12th. Ach! Well hell, here’s for celebrating Carol any time or any where.

Written for the 2007 World Fantasy Convention:

Working with Carol Emshwiller is one of the most unexpected and wonderful benefits of the foolishness that is our dance through the world of independent publishing.

Carol is everything that I could hope author to be: brilliant, hard working, gracious, polite, deeply knowledgeable and informed within and without her field, determined, willing to compromise, absolutely single-minded, intelligent, a teacher, and always open to learning. She is an inspiration—not only for her writing, in which she takes on the most trenchant problems of the day in politics, gender (and genre) relationships, and the ambiguities of everyday life—but also in her uncompromising dedication to others. For many years she has taught and taken part in workshops where she has shown her generosity and ability to see other writers’ visions of their stories. All the while, her own enthusiasm and commitment to writing burn ever brighter. Her latest novel, The Secret City, is a beautiful play on many of her favorite themes: innocence, how to live—alone or with others, and the simple and complex difficulties of communication.

These are salad days for fans of Carol’s work. In the last five years she has published three novels, The Mount (2002), Mister Boots (2005), and The Secret City (2007), as well as two collections, Report to the Men’s Club and Other Stories (2002) and I Live with You (2005). And in that time she has been awarded the Philip K. Dick Award for The Mount, two Nebula Awards for short stories, “Creature” and “I Live with You” (both F&SF, 2002 and 2006), and a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award.

In other words: if you like science fiction and fantasy and you haven’t read her, perhaps now is the time?

Carol hasn’t been resting on her laurels. Her most recent publication (that I know of, she’s hard to keep track of) is “At Sixes and Sevens” in the October/November Asimov’s. She says she is too impatient to send stories out to magazine with long reading times, so I feel we are very lucky to have one of her stories, “Sanctuary,” for LCRW.

This covers only Carol’s recent years. I first remember reading her work when I read a Women’s Press edition of Carmen Dog in the UK and by the time I met her in the 1990s in New York, she was already in her seventies. (And she is still more energetic than most people I know.)

Other writers and friends will need to fill in her earlier years. I am very happy to have spent some time with Carol (although as yet I have not gone hill climbing with her!) and I hope that everyone who attends this convention will be able to spend at least a couple of minutes with her.