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The cd of the moment…
…on my Walkman is Amy Winehouse’s debut, Frank, which is really good. She sounds like a jazz singer, but doesn’t sing jazz at all. It’s smart, sassy and sometimes funny. To be honest, one or two of the lyrics made me a feel a little older than I’d prefer, but, hey, that’s what happens. If you ever wondered what Sarah Vaughan might sound like if she’d been born in 1984, Frank might give you an idea. You can hear samples at her website.

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Got home today to find the first advance copy of both the Australian and the US editions of The Locus Awards, which was quite cool. They have different covers (both by the supremely talented Michael Whelan)and different internal designs, and look wonderful in their own way. I couldn’t be prouder of this book, and finally getting to see the finished product makes all of the work worthwhile. This is the good part! Many thanks to Stephanie Smith and her supremely talented co-workers at HarperSydney and to Diana Gill and her fantastic team at HarperNewYork. Now, go buy it!

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The first review for the Locus anthology…
I’m fairly sure it’s ok to do this. I just got a copy of the first review of The Locus Awards, a starred review from the American Library Association’s trade journal, Booklist. It’s not bad at all.

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Booklist, July 2004
**** The Locus Awards: 30 Years of the Best in SF and Fantasy
No surprise, this is an excellent collection, including many of the best sf stories of the last 30 years, culled from the winners of awards for short fiction bestowed by readers of Locus, the trade monthly of the sf and fantasy field. The selections are presented by decade, and the 1990s stories, from Terry Bisson’s hilarious, accurately titled “Bears Discover Fire” to Bruce Sterling’s futuristic trust network in “Maneki Neko”, hold their own with ’70s classics like “The Death of Doctor Island”, Gene Wolfe’s look at the future of psychotherapy, and ’80s evergreens including Ursula Le Guin’s “The Day before the Revolution”, about the founder of the revolutionary movement in her novel The Dispossessed (1974); John Varley’s “The Persistence of Vision”, on sight and its pitfalls; and Connie Willis’ “Even the Queen”, which proves that feminism can have a sense of humor. If the newest, post-2000 stories are too new to be classics, they verify the promise of growth in the field; see Ted Chiang’s “Hell Is the Absence of God”, for instance, and Neil Gaiman’s creepy-sweet, almost ghost story, “October in the Chair”.

YA/M: Some sex and violence, but these are some of the best stories in the field..

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And next…

For all that the list on the side of the blog says that I’m knee-deep in New Crobuzon, the truth is that I’m really starting to knuckle down and get short fiction reading done. I’ve got five months to get two ‘year’s bests’ finished, and will probably have the first really serious discussions about contents in late August when I’m in Oakland (we’ve already got an evolving short list in place), so I need to get through all of the stuff that’s been tumbling through the post office box and arriving in email.

That means about five issues of Asimov’s and F&SF before I get to the various anthologies and collections and such that are in the office. With that in mind, I just read James Stoddard’s “The Battle of York” from the July F&SF, which I liked but didn’t find quite as wonderful as Matthew Cheney did. I did, however, love Bradley Denton’s novella “Sergeant Chip”, from the September F&SF . I promise to say something intelligent about it shortly, but consider this an official head’s up: check it out.

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Behind the rain, on the other side of the sky

Well, it took me a week, but I reached the end of an epic journey
last night, completing Susanna Clarke’s enchanting first novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. And, for all that there were moments when I felt all too aware of the book’s length, when I reached the end I wanted more: to know whether Strange and Norrell ever resolve their situation, to hear of the Raven King in his prime, to see what was happening behind the rain, on the other side of the sky, where magician’s go when their stories end.

Is it a good book? Yes. Is is a great book? Only time will tell, but it’s certainly going to be the event book of the year. What’s it like? Hmm. Well, it’s a little bit Mansfield Park and perhaps a little bit Willoughby Chase. It’s filled with magic, both theoretical and practical, and with fairies (which was nearly a deal breaker for me, but I got past my prejudices), but it’s mostly the story of two odd men who are rivals, become friends, then rivals again, and then something else again. I remember when I first read Clarke’s World Fantasy nominated short story “Mr Simonelli, or The Fairy Widower”, and thinking she could probably write a terrific novel. She did.

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