•July 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

As ever, I’ll be at Readercon – my favorite speculative fiction conference – in Boston this year. Next weekend, in fact! (It’s come round quickly.) Thanks to plaintive pleas to the program committee, my schedule won’t be quite as crazy as it was last year. I’ll be doing the following program items:

Thursday 12 July

8:00 PM   RI   No Longer Lonely in the Cloud: Digital Collaboration for Readers. Kathryn Cramer, Jim Freund, Erin Kissane (leader), John Edward Lawson, Graham Sleight. MORE Magazine has created a multi-city book club via group video call. Writers who used to hang out in cafes are now using Google+ hangouts as virtual coworking space. In2Books matches up kids with distant adult pen pals specifically for the purpose of discussing books. Kindles and Readmill let you share your marginalia with your friends. How are new concepts of socializing and togetherness affecting the ways we read, write, and talk about literature?

Friday 13 July

12:00 PM   F   Muzzling the Horse’s Mouth. Michael Dirda, David G. Hartwell, Veronica Schanoes (leader), Graham Sleight, Ruth Sternglantz.Conventions, zines, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook provide many venues for writers to shape the dialogue around their works. When it’s hard to avoid information about what a writer intended, how does that affect the critical reading experience? As readers and as critics, can we feel confident that we would have seen on our own what the writer has revealed to us? How do we differentiate and prioritize between our own insights and those shared by the author? Does the writer’s emphasis on some aspects of a work make it harder to see other aspects? And what happens when the critic’s desire to convey information about a work—such as an author’s stated intentions—comes into conflict with the critic’s desire to demonstrate a viable personal reading of the text?

5:00 PM   RI   Story Terminable and Interminable. Graham Sleight. How much do we want our stories to be about change, and how much do we want them to give us the same kind of experience each time? How much of an ending do we want our stories to have? Graham Sleight attempts to answer these questions in, um, under 50 minutes. He also intends to mention Star Trek, brands, churches, Gene Wolfe, Tony Kushner, James Tiptree Jr., the principles of stage magic, and the author he stole the title of the talk from.

Saturday 14 July

12:00 PM   ME   How We Edited the Third Edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. John Clute, Graham Sleight. John Clute and Graham Sleight discuss the development of the SFE’s latest incarnation.

Sunday 15 July

2:00 PM   F   When All You Have Is a Hammer, Get a Sonic Screwdriver. Debra Doyle, Lila Garrott, Glenn Grant, Graham Sleight (leader), Jo Walton. In an SF Signal podcast episode discussing Readercon 22, Jeff Patterson suggested that our traditional critical vocabulary may be ill-suited or inadequate for discussing space opera or hard SF. Is this true of hard SF in specific, or is there a broader problem of adapting mainstream critical vocabulary, largely evolved to discuss realistic fiction, to the particular problems of SF or fantasy? What are the specific aspects of the fantastic that seem to require special critical tools? Are certain critical terms borrowed from the fan or writer’s workshop communities, like “worldbuilding,” useful ways of extending our critical vocabularies?

The full program is here.

Awards and such

•April 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Well, Eastercon has been and gone. Many splendid things happened there – I especially enjoyed moderating the Not the Clarke panel on Saturday. But I suppose I should particularly record two things.

On the Saturday evening, nominations for the Hugo Awards were announced. It was very flattering to hear that the SF Encyclopedia had been included in the nominations list for Best Related Work. David Langford and I were there on behalf of the editorial cadre, John Clute and Peter Nicholls being absent. Doubtless, David and I look suitably baffled in the many photos that were taken. I’m very much looking forward to being at Chicon 7, the Worldcon this summer at which the awards will be presented.

On the Sunday evening, the British Science Fiction Association presented its own awards. The SFE won in the category of Best Non-Fiction, and David and I attempted grateful speeches in response. I hope we managed to thank the many people who’ve contributed to the encyclopedia so far, but apologies to any we missed. The award itself was very splendid – see David’s picture above. For each category, a clutch of old sf paperbacks had been bolted together, with a plastic ray-gun mounted on top. (For comparison, see Paul Cornell’s short fiction award here.) Given my  infinite capacity for clumsiness, I’m very glad that the award is safely in David’s custody…

Olympus 2012

•April 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment


Next weekend, I’ll be at Olympus, the annual UK Eastercon – being held once more at Heathrow. I’ll be on various programme items, as follows:

Saturday, noon: The SF Gateway (with Shana Worthen, Darren Nash, Malcolm Edwards). Room 38.

Saturday, 4pm: The fantastic landscape (with Nina Allen, Jaine Fenn, and Paul McAuley). Royal A + C.

Saturday, 5.30pm: Not the Clarke Awards (with Kev McVeigh, Ruth O’Reilly, Andy Sawyer, Nicholas Whyte) Room 38.

Sunday, 10am: Discuss the Hugo nominees (with Liz Batty, Wendy Bradley, Mark Plummer, and Mike Scott). Room 41.

Sunday, 11am: 20-odd years of CGI (with Dev Agarwal, Raven Dane, Lapswood, and Tony Lee). Royal A + C.

Sunday, 7pm: Fantasy in our time (with Edward James, Andy Sawyer, and James Treadwell). Royal A + C.

I hope to see old and new friends there – do come up and say hi.


•February 12, 2012 • 1 Comment

A number of things have happened since I last posted. Let me see..

1. The SF Encyclopedia has continued to accrete updates – several hundred thousand words since we launched. Here, for instance, is the entry on John Christopher updated to reflect his recent death. (And if you’d like to see how you can support us, click here.)

2. Both the SFE and The Unsilent Library (the book of essays on Doctor Who that I edited with Simon Bradshaw and Tony Keen) have been nominated for the BSFA non-fiction award. This is very flattering of course – especially in the former case, since the SFE is not yet complete.

3. Publication of The Doctor’s Monsters has been brought forward, probably to June/July this year. You can preorder it here. In the meantime, sets of proofs are winging their way to me…

4. The new SF Masterworks edition of Budrys’s Rogue Moon has come out, with intro by me. Adam Roberts has done a fascinating introduction to the new Masterworks edition of Dangerous Visions, which also has a terrific cover by Vincent Chong.

5. I will be at Olympus, the UK Eastercon in April this year – at which, among other things, the BSFA Awards will be presented.

6. And, sadly, I won’t be at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts this year, though I very much hope to be back there in 2013.

I think that’s enough for the moment…

Catching up

•December 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I realise that I’ve not posted here for, er, five months. My reason: well, mainly that work on The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has been pretty all-consuming as we came up to the launch of the beta site in October. I’ll post about that project, and about other news, in due course. (I delivered the final MS of The Doctor’s Monsters on Halloween; it’s tentatively scheduled for publication next autumn.) But for now, I’ll just note that I’ve updated the list of forthcoming titles in the Sf Masterworks series through to December 2012. Pictured here are the jacket designs for Rogue Moon and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which will both have new introductions by me. Of the forthcoming books in the series, I’m especially looking forward to writing the introduction to Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary, a truly great book that has been out of print in the UK for far too long.


•July 28, 2011 • 2 Comments

I’m very happy to say that I’ll be chairing an event at the British Library on 2nd September. It’s associated with their current “Out of this world” exhibition, and focuses on the work of the great British fantasy author Robert Holdstock, who died in 2009. The official description says:

In his extraordinary books Mythago Wood, Lavondyss and many others, the late Robert Holdstock explored a mythic landscape of this land; using the tools of science fiction and fantasy at timeless depths and earning him acclaim as an heir to Tolkien or Ursula Le Guin. His work will be the starting point for an evening of exploration, discussion and readings with authors Stephen BaxterLisa Tuttle, scholar Donald E. Morse (editor of The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock) and other special guests. Chaired by Graham Sleight

What the official description doesn’t say is that I hope we’ll be joined by other guests who’ll add even further to the evening. So if you’re at all interested in Rob’s work, I’d urge you to book now.


ETA: I told you we’d have other guests to add. I’m very pleased that the great Brian Aldiss will be joining us on the panel, and I hope he won’t be the only one…

A solfy drink, a saffel fragrance

•July 20, 2011 • 1 Comment

Since Gavin Grant has (in the nicest possible way) outed me, I thought I should mention a semi-open secret. For the last two or three years, I’ve had this sitting on my living-room table:

Perhaps I should explain. In, I think, 2006 or 2007, Farah Mendlesohn very kindly asked me to write a chapter on Joanna Russ’s short fiction for a book she was editing; this became On Joanna Russ (Wesleyan, 2009). At the time, Wesleyan were reprinting a number of Russ’s novels. Via Farah, a request came through. Wesleyan were interested in publishing a Collected Stories of Joanna Russ, but the bibliography seemed a bit complicated. Would I be interested in working with Joanna to sort it out? I would, I said, and began corresponding with Joanna. Over the course of several years and a lot of airmail post, we worked out the contents list, the texts to be used, and the scholarly apparatus. In addition to the published collections, the book would contain about another collection’s worth of unpublished material. (About a quarter of this Joanna referred to as “Ghastlies”, meaning early work she wasn’t that keen on; but most of it was astonishing, like the late hilarious story “Invasion”. Most is not from the sf field but rather from small literary/feminist magazines.) I sent the completed MS off to Wesleyan in late 2008 and waited.

After a long pause, Wesleyan said that they were passing on the book. I understood why – it was a big project (c. 900 pages), Wesleyan are a small company, and they, like everyone else, are under financial constraints. In the last exchange of letters I had with Joanna, she said I was welcome to try to find alternate publishers for the book. Since her death in April, things have been on hold while the legal wheels have turned and executors have been appointed; of course, it’ll ultimately be the decision of the estate and Joanna’s agent how the book is published. Watch this space.

I’m biased, of course, but I think it’s a book of superb stories; doing the work on it so far has been a huge honour, and I really hope it can move off my living-room table soon. The title of this post, by the way, is from a poem by Dorothy Gilbert that appeared in Robert Silverberg’s New Dimensions 5; Joanna wanted it to be the epigraph at the front of her Collected Stories. I hope it still will be.