Meme: Global Blogosphere Amnesty Week (for Apologies)

Matt Staggs has a very good post about communicating openly and honestly on the internet. Jeff VanderMeer then declares Global Blogosphere Amnesty Week (for Apologies). I think it’s a good meme — we all probably have something we should apologise for. There are no doubt other things, but right now this is what I apologise for:

  • I apologise for the times when I’ve not considered a question carefully and given it a full, careful and considered answer. Tiredness is no excuse;
  • I apologise for the times when I’ve been offensive or dismissive when responding to questions about what I do or what I’ve done; and
  • I sincerely apologise for ever using the term ‘gender blindness’. It was insensitive (lack of awareness is no defence), inappropriate, and failed to convey what was intended. I am now very much aware of what it means and would not ever use it again.

Eclipse Two

I’ve been thinking about Eclipse Two in light of recent posts about the table of contents, and about why I edit anthologies. I edit them because I love science fiction and fantasy, I love short stories, I love being involved; I love that feeling you get when you read a great story for the first time or help make an almost great story great by some comment or suggestion. Being there at the birth of new short fiction is incredibly rewarding.

Given my respect for the field and for its readers and writers, I understand the disappointment with the gender balance of the contents for Eclipse Two. Over the past several days I’ve been reflecting on the work I did on the book, and on the process I used arriving at the final table of contents. I’ve done this for one simple reason: as happy as I am with each individual story, as proud as I am of the book in every other respect, I want to answer my own questions about gender balance in the book, both for myself and for readers and critics within the community.

The truth is that under the pressure of needing to deliver and of my other work, I overlooked gender balance as an issue in the closing couple months of preparing Eclipse Two for publication. There is no doubt in my mind that I should have paid more attention to this, and it is something I sincerely regret.

As important as identifying my blind spot at the end of the process is, I have to ask myself how I got to the end with such a great gender disparity. My publisher and I had agreed at the outset that the Eclipse series would be unthemed, but also that it would change in focus and balance from book to book. During the initial invitation period for the book, Night Shade asked me to make Eclipse Two ‘more SF’ – not new space opera, not hard or Military SF – just that it should focus more on the SF side of the SF/fantasy divide. It became, in effect, a different book. Because of this change in focus, several writers were added to the invite list — writers whose work I thought fell on the SF side of said divide.

These additions changed the gender balance of the invite list, and the change in focus ended up emphasizing these writers. Where I failed, though, was later in the process. Writers dropped out as always happens (and this is no reflection on them), and I wasn’t paying attention to gender balance. More women happened to drop out than men, and when I went to solicit stories close to the deadline I went to writers I felt I could impose on, that I had a relationship with, and they were all male. I should have been more aware, and made sure I maintained the kind of balance I’d started out with. I didn’t, and I regret that.

Why did I change the focus of the book? Night Shade is my publisher, and their suggestion seemed reasonable and didn’t overly change the concept of the book. As I say above, I stand behind each of the individual story selections and am very happy with them. I’ve had a good balance of women and men in my other anthologies, and am more determined than ever that this will continue in the future. In the meantime, I hope readers will judge Eclipse Two on the quality of its stories. I hope the contributors of the anthology will accept my apologies for packaging and presenting their work in a way that might impact their ability to reach their readers.

Know also that I genuinely understand why there has been anger and frustration about the TOC for E2. I wish had done a better job of maintaining gender neutrality in E2, and I will continue to try and do so, in this series, and in my other work going forward.

EBook Reader

I’m seriously looking for a good, effective ebook reader.  I find myself increasingly being sent more and more PDFS and Word files to read for both year’s bests and to keep up with the field in my responsibilities as Locus’s Reviews Editor.  I read most of the major magazines, many of the anthologies, and a lot of the small press zines onscreen.  While I may prefer it were otherwise, this just isn’t going to change, and is almost certainly going to increase.  The solution seems to be to get a good ebook reader.  This is what I want in an ebook reader:

  • no bigger than a trade paperback
  • not much heavier that a trade paperback
  • good battery life (enough to get from Perth to San Francisco – say 20 hrs)
  • able to handle PDFs, rtfs and Word files well, including text rescaling etc
  • good story (several gig at least)
  • clean, clear screen (not black on grey)
  • affordable (less then $500)

In a perfect world you’d also be able to add notes to files, but that’s not essential.  You can’t get the Kindle here in Australia, and I’m guessing its wireless connectivity would be useless here (even over a local wireless network).  Does anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?

Best American Fantasy 2 Table of Contents

Matt Cheney has posted the table of contents for Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s Best American Fantasy: 2008 over on his blog, and it looks very cool indeed.  I am incredibly delighted that two of the nineteen stories are from Eclipse One: Peter Beagle’s “The Last and Only, or Mr Moscowitz Becomes French” and Jeffrey Ford’s “The Drowned Life”.  I love both stories a lot, and think Peter’s story is one of the best things he’s ever written.  I’ve read a healthy chunk of the book while reading for my own year’s best, and for me it meets the gold standard – in a world where people send me free books, would I buy it?  And I would.  Matt also reports that the very talented Kevin Brockmeier, who wrote a novel that Kelly sent me which creeped me out so much I couldn’t finish it, is editing the 2009 volume.  I’ll be fascinated to see what he comes up with next year.

Edit: Amended to correct second sentence, adding ‘is editing the 2009 volume’.

Scholes’ Lamentation and Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale.

A large and public thank you to Patrick Nielsen Hayden over at Tor. When you live in another country and don’t actually review books (I assign them for review but don’t review them myself), it’s hard to justify asking someone to send you free review copies. Nonetheless, about a month or so ago I asked Patrick if I could see copies of Lamentation by Ken Scholes and Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi. The fact that I’m thanking Patrick will give you an idea of how much I enjoyed both books.

Scholes’ novel is the opening volume in a new fantasy quintet to be published over the next three years or so, starting in January of 2009. From what I can tell, each of the books in the series are interrelated but aren’t direct sequels. Lamentation is literally a lament; the lament for the city of Windwir, a seat of ancient learning that is suddenly and terribly destroyed. Characters emerge – a boy leaving the city who witnessed the carnage, an old man who is closely linked to the city, a ruler of a nearby kingdom looking to rise to the challenge of the situation, and a mysterious figure and his daughter who seem to have been involved in events for a very long time indeed. The tone of the book is precise and just about exactly right: I was engaged from the opening page, stayed up late looking to finish it, and then begged Scholes to let me see the next book as soon as possible. If I had to give you short hand for what the book is like I’d describe it as intelligent epic fantasy done right and written with all of the flab removed. It’s nothing like George Martin’s first Song of Ice and Fire novel, except that like that book, it has the chance of standing as an important book in the evolution of the epic fantasy form, is a delight, and is a book that readers are very likely to take to heart. It’s one of the best first fantasies I’ve read in some time.

And then, after a break, I picked up John Scalzi’s latest, Zoe’s Tale. I honestly think I don’t need to summarise this one too much because Scalzi is fairly widely read. In essence though, the book takes the events of ‘Old Man’s War’ novel The Last Colony and recasts them through the eyes of Zoe Boutin-Perrty, the adopted daughter of Roaknoke colony leader John Perry. I think the charm of Scalzi’s work isn’t the ideas in his stories; it’s that his stories really deliver emotionally and that he has a tone of voice that is immediately warm, attractive and welcoming. You want to read his book, hear his story, and he seems to want to tell it to you. Writing a character like a teenage girl is always challenging for a middle-aged (or near middle-aged) man. I can’t tell you if Scalzi comes anywhere close to pulling it off, but it worked for me. I found her plausible and engaging and never had one of those moments where a character just seems wrong. I’ve not loved all of Scalzi’s novels equally (which is true for any writer’s body of work – we have favorites), but I liked this one the best. I wouldn’t start here – it’s worth getting the background from the other novels – but I’d try to get here as quickly as possible. I finished it last night round midnight and I confess I shed a tear. Well worth it.

Hmm. Makes me wonder if I should email Patrick again. These two were definite winners. I’ll definitely be buying final copies of these to add to the permanent collection.  Thanks too to Jay Lake, who recommended Ken’s book.  Of course, I’m now hooked for like three years, so it’s a limited thanks :)