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You get excited about that?

This afternoon I received my Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) from the US Internal Revenue Service, which almost got me excited. I first found out I needed one of these things when I was negotiating to do Best Short Novels: 2004 with the SF Book Club, and it’s taken till now to get one! I can now finish up that project, complete payments etc, and am set for future projects on a much smoother basis. I did wonder what took so long, though, and then I looked closely at the envelope. It appears that the IRS sent the envelope to Austria, which is helpful.

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If you want to see a little information about the year’s best novellas book, Best Short Novels: 2004, the Science Fiction Book Club has put up a page about it here. The only thing I wouldn’t pay too much attention to is the pub date. The book is, to the best of my knowledge, due in July.

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I don’t often comment much about the venerable magazine for which I work, and I certainly don’t respond to criticism etc, but I was struck by something I read over on Rick Kleffel’s The Agony Column. Referring to the latest issue of Locus, where Terry Pratchett and Liz Williams are interviewed, Kleffel writes:

…it’s a misnomer to say that these are interviews, really. They’re not conversations with a critic or reader. They’re actually just long essays by the authors themselves on Stuff They Want To Write About…

While this isn’t a criticism per se, it’s also not really accurate at all. I’ve conducted three or four interviews for Locus (Charles Stross, Robert Silverberg, Sean Williams), sat in a bunch, and have seen the raw transcripts of many others.

Ignoring my own efforts, Locus’s interviews are deftly handled conversations between a Locus interviewer (almost always Charles Brown, but in recent years often Jenni Hall) and the interviewee, and they very clearly do include back and forth between the two parties. They are genuine interviews.

The key here is that Locus has decided to keep the focus on the author, to highlight their views, their perceptions, and to try to understand what they are trying to achieve, rather that trying to highlight anything the interviewer themselves may think. For that reason, the interviewer’s comments are removed, and the interview is edited into a seamless whole. It’s something that I think works remarkably well, and has proven very successful over the years.

Why respond here to this particular comment? Well, Kleffel clearly is positive about Locus and means well, but it seemed to me at least that his comments didn’t justice to what Locus was achieving.

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Stories

So, I’ve been reading some anthologies of late, in a bid to get a move on with the ‘year’s best’ reading. Worked my way through Al Sarrantonio’s Flights, which is a very mixed bag. It’s a 200,000 word anthology with some great stories by Liz Hand, Tim Powers, Gene Wolfe, and others. There’s also an interesting Narnia story by Neil Gaiman. And, if your tastes run to the train-wreck kind of thing, it includes a Larry Niven story which is just about the worst thing I’ve seen to appear under a professional by-line in years. Should you go read it? Yes. There’s 100,000 words of good to great stuff (if it was just that 100,000 words Flights would be the fantasy antho of the year), and some very ordinary material. Surprise of the book, for me, was Janny Wurts, who has a very good story that was marred a little for me by a New Agey ending. Looking back on it, Flights isn’t as strong or consistent as The Faery Reel (which I expect will be the fantasy anthology of the year), but it is worthwhile.

The other anthology I’m checking out is Deborah Noyes’ Gothic!, which has ten original gothic tales by the likes of Joan Aiken, Garth Nix and Neil Gaiman. The Gaiman story, “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire”, is terrific and worth the price of admission by itself. More soon…

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ooops

Justine rightly points out that I got the title of Scott’s very fine novel Touching Darkness wrong. Eternal darkness, it turns out, is where such errors belong, and a correction has been made. In the meantime, get thyself to a bookshop and buy (or order if you’re in Australia) a copy of Midnighters: The Secret Hour. The author is Westerfeld, Scott Westerfeld. This has been a community service announcement.

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