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Readercon 21 - True Tales of Great Editing

Gordon van Gelder launched the session by asking the panelists to relate an anecdote about great editing, and Patrick O’Leary started off with a note about David Hartwell. O’Leary said, “Hartwell grasped the contents of a story I sent him and shook them down to their basic elements, then he tossed them back at me and demanded a rewrite, along the lines of: Does the main character of this story have to be a monster, a pederast, AND a fire-breathing dragon? Why not just pick two of those and go with that?” Brian Francis Slattery pointed out, that even though editors suggestions can often save a bad story, if they get too involved in the writing process, they can edit the story into incoherence. He cited an example of his own editing in which he so completely rewrote the story that it was both unrecognizable as the author’s style and had, at the same time, become incomprehensible. Barry Malzberg said that if he had to choose an example, he would cite Horace Gold, “for pulling the Demolished Man out Alfred Bester, which was a great exploit!” Van Gelder asked, “What about Daniel Keyes and Flowers for Algernon? Isn’t there a story about Gold asking Keyes to change the ending, and Keyes’ neighbor said to him, if you do that, I’ll go back to my house, get a baseball bat and use it break both your knees!”

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Readercon 21, another feast for the mind

Great fun at this year’s Readercon 2010, which left me with plenty of food for thought! My stash was nicely replenished with a few dozens books, including some works by Jack Vance, Mack Reynolds and Tim Powers, whose backlist I’ve been catching up on recently. Speaking of Vance, our friends at StarShipSofa have conducted a fine hour-long interview with him, worthy of a listen. In the dealer’s room, I have to say that Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld and Wyrm Publishing) had a terrific rack of cheap books, for which I thank him immensely! Neil had a signed copy of the rare Fain the Sorcerer by Steve Aylett, who wrote the really strange biography of SF’s mysterious Lint, among other excursions into the bizarre. Although Neil’s price was really reasonable, it would have cost more than the entire stack of books I purchased at the con… so maybe when I get rich! Dark Hollow books, along with all their fine supernatural horror selection, had a box of 50 cent paperbacks where I scored copies of Moorcock’s Hollow Lands and Fury by Henry Kuttner. Thanks kind people! Also of interest was my conversation with Darrel Schweitzer about my good friend Harry O. Morris. Darrell said that it was Harry O., in his famous Lovecraftian zine Nyctalops, who discovered both the writer Thomas Ligotti and the artist J.K. Potter. Although Harry often mentioned various works by Ligotti and Potter in our conversations, he never once bragged about having “discovered” them, in any sense. So it was really a pleasant surprise to hear those words of recognition from a supernatural horror writer and scholar of Schweitzer’s stature. Disclosure: I suppose Harry O. “discovered” me too, since my teenage participation in various exquisite corpse poems (with Harry O.) and collages (with Leslie Hall) were published in Nyctalops here and there. Caveat: probably “discovery” doesn’t count unless I do something more significant, like publish a novel or painting elsewhere, though, alas…

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Science Fiction Art Editors

Here’s a new resource to augment the Science Fiction Artists Database: the first version of a mind map about Art Editors who worked for Science Fiction Magazines and Book Publishers. The clickable

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Telepathic Bird Brains and Ornithopters

From the editorial “Communication Between Minds” by Fred Pohl [Worlds of Tomorrow, Nov 1965] “Reading Vitus Droscher‘s fascinating The Mysterious Senses of Animals (Dutton), when it occurred to us that an experiment Droscher had described could be construed as a proof of telepathy. The experiments in question were performed by von Holst and Jechorek at the Max Planck Institute. The subjects were two chickens, connected by a wire and an amplifier that carried a current from the brain of one chicken to the brain of the other, via stereotaxically implanted electrodes. When the first chicken was exposed to the sight of a dog, the second chicken — completely out of sight and hearing, in another room — fluttered up the wall, squawking in alarm. Not telepathy?”

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Kelly Freas Covers for Lancer Books

Found an interesting copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Slaves of Sleep at Second Story Books recently. Kelly Freas painted a knock-out cover for this Lancer Books edition, and I was wondering what other gems

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Carlos Ochagavia - Self Portrait (1981)

Just received a copy of _The New Visions, A Collection of Modern Science Fiction Art_ published in 1981. I was was surprised and delighted to find one of the 23 artists featured to be Carlos Ochagavia, and to see not only his self-portrait sketch (below), but also his amazing SF Book Club edition cover painting for Niven and Barnes book, Dream Park. In Ochagavia’s painting (below the fold), what a fantastic and amusingly surreal dragon the anonymous hero is fighting!

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Controversy Erupts at Science Fiction World in China

Trouble at China’s largest (okay, the world’s largest) circulation SF magazine, where the editors have united to publish an “Open Letter of protest” against the editor in chief. Here’s the original:   Open Letter (in Chinese). I’ve translated the Youth Daily news article below: ** “Science Fiction World“ turns into a “pseudo-science farce” as editor’s collective seeks to “overthrow the president”** by: Li Fan  (Youth Daily) 2010-3-23 translated by Lex Berman China’s largest science fiction magazine Science Fiction World, has recently become wracked by infighting. On March 21, the magazine’s entire editorial staff published an open letter on the Internet accusing the publication’s editor-in-chief, Li Chang, of various offenses and seeking his removal from office.  Yesterday, it was learned from relevant channels that the unit in charge of  Science Fiction World (the Sichuan Province Science and Technology Association) has dispatched a team to investigate the sitation. The open letter claims to be written under the “duress of the last banner that can be raised before Science Fiction World ceases to exist.”  Among the accusations leveled at Li Chang were that after taking office he dropped relations with various authors and instead forced the magazine editors to write the stories themselves; he then demanded that the foreign language editors take on the task of translations into Chinese; and went so far as to make the art editors create the illustrations instead of hiring artists.  Also, for example, he interfered with the advertising to the point of replacing the magazine’s cover with an advertisement for a school.

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Robot fetishism and the antibody syndrome

Because I never watch television or read magazines,  I am quite slow to notice emerging trends in pop culture.  That is why a had such a shock this weekend when we were driving on a highway ramp towards the airport and a gigantic billboard loomed over me, asking in texting language: “R U Bot or Not?”

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Charles Moore - The Right Stuff

Born in Alabama, the photographer Charles Moore closely followed the civil rights movement with his camera and an open mind. It’s been said that the photos taken by this former Marine helped shape

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Profiles of Science Fiction Brains

Reading a fascinating conversation between Fred Pohl and Alfred Bester, that took place in Newcastle upon Tyne, 26 June 1978, (published in Rob Jackson’s Inca 5), and was amused by their comments on