Archive for July, 2007

Depp lights up ‘Dark Shadows’

July 30th, 2007

How ’bout that — Depp gonna bite hisself some Barnabas of Dark Shadows.

 I probably got to Dark Shadows waaaay too late to find the charms, that I have been reliably assured are found there, but I failed to find any single one, the few times I’ve poked a toe there.

 But surely I am a minority re that, soze herez the newz, if you’all hadn’t heard.

 (I miss me my fish, my splendid, locally fresh caught, wild — not farmed fatty flabby fish fed on bio-engineered corn etc. — grilled to perfection, served with all that one would like with such fish, including the company of brilliant conversationlists in at least 6 languages, including 2 Créoles — and now, instead, I’m moving office in dirty, smucky air ….)

 Love, C.

A Peephole into the Wonderful World of Publishing

July 28th, 2007

The Business section of today’s New York Times has a fascinating piece on the economics of selling Harry Potter. Not publishing, mind, but selling. Think Barnes and Noble and Borders and Amazon made a killing? Not so much: between deep discounts, giveaways, parties, free shipping, etc., most of the major sellers are out of pocket on the season’s Biggest Book. Why would they do that? Goodwill, in part (that’s yours, the buyer’s). Competitive edge (note that Wal*mart is selling the book $.30 cheaper than Costco… I personally would pay an extra dollar to avoid Wal*mart, but that’s just me) and staying in the game. Getting people in the door, where they may buy more books–building a pattern, essentially, of book buying. Amazon, in particular, gets your email address and data, and gets to market less discounted books in the future.

Nothing in this industry is simple; half of the industry is working on a model from a hundred years ago; the other half appears to be pelting down the long hallway toward the future (electronic rights! POD! podcasts!). It’s just kind of illuminating.

Why fantasy writers get crabby

July 27th, 2007

What follows is a letter I wrote to a book reviewer in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle. The review is available online; I have tried to post the URL here several times with no luck. If you want to read it — it’s quite good otherwise — go to, at the top you’ll see SF CHRONICLE in Gothic type. Click on that. Click on Datebook on its masthead. The Harry review should be at the top of the list of contents.

Dear M(s, Mr?) Mcmahon,

I am NOT writing to complain about your posting spoilers, first off.

I was very surprised by your remark that the Potter books have “some of the trappings” of fantasy genre fiction but “transcend genre.” I can only conclude that you don’t know much about modern fantasy fiction, or about British “school stories,” such as the “Boys’ Own Paper” genre. The Potter books are a very clever, very well-done arrangment of motifs, themes, character types, and situations from both genres — to say nothing of their over-arching plot, which is typical, not original.

I’m not saying this to disparage them. They’re well done. But why you’d call them “literature” while sneering at the genre fiction that gave them birth is beyond me. As a writer of fantasy fiction, it bothers me when reviewers make that sort of dismissive statement, especially when they are reviewing a piece that most definitely fits into genre.


Katharine Kerr

Comicon 2008, Wild Cards etc.

July 25th, 2007

I’m off for Comicon 2008. After BayCon (smaller than usual) and Westercon (larger than last year, maybe, but if so, not by much), I expect this to be absolutely huge.

It’s also advance fanfare for the triumphant return of the Wild Cards series. The new volume, Inside Straight, will be out from Tor in 2008.Inside Straight cover Moreover, Tor will have a booth at Comicon, and those there can register for a special convention drawing. Tor will have half a dozen glossy 11 x 17 inch posters of the gorgeous Michael Komarck cover, autographed by George R.R. Martin and five other contributors (Melinda Snodgrass, John Jos. Miller, Daniel Abraham, Ian Tregillis, and Carrie Vaughn), and will be handing out the posters to the winners. Flyers and other information about the new triad will also be available at the Tor booth.

Carrie Vaughn will also be attending the con, and both of us will be answering questions about our characters (mine’s Rosa Loteria) and the stories (I’m not in Inside Straight, but the next volume, Busted Flush, is in the works, and beyond that, I can’t say much, since George has sworn us to secrecy about many crucial details, especially about Busted Flush because that will have details of the ending of Inside Straight, following as it does).

More exact news here:

There’s also a special new Wild Cards forum started at the Captain Comics message board, which will have assorted Wild Cards news and updates:

Anyway, with Comicon, I’ll try to do updates from the Con, but can promise nothing except to do a large wrap-up when I get back next week. So use this topic for discussion of what’s going on for those who are there and those who are curious about it all.

Revenge of the Writers!

July 20th, 2007

What is the stupidest thing anyone ever said about your writing?

Let’s get a little of our own back. Review the reviewers! or the person in your writing group who obviously cannot think to save his or her soul! You don’t have to name names if you don’t want to.

Let’s share our dudgeon, high or low.

My example: the fellow over on who thought the magical system in Deverry was “obviously” derived from the Star Wars movies. No professional review has ever sunk as low as that, though some have generously if ignorantly credited me with making it all up. :-)

Le Guin tells it like it is

July 17th, 2007

By all means check this out:

“On Serious Literature”

Much laughter,

The End of Science Fiction

July 13th, 2007

I’ve seen various theories put forward as to when the first science fiction stories were written. Depending on your definition of science fiction — and that exact definition can be quite contentious, especially on this blog — the first proper science fiction tale might be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) or William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (c. 1610) or maybe Lucian of Samosata’s A True Story (c. the 2nd century AD). Personally, I’d argue that you need to have the scientific method before you have science fiction, which disqualifies Lucian of Samosata and Shakespeare (depending on your definition of the scientific method).

But the question I’m interested in at the moment is when will science fiction end? I’m not asking this from a commercial standpoint so much as from an epistemological standpoint. Will there always be new science fiction? Or will the genre just wither up at some point and go away?

Here’s something I’ve noticed about futuristic science fiction stories: the characters in them never tell futuristic science fiction stories. Think about it. Can you think of a single example of a character in a futuristic science fiction story reading (or watching) a story that’s science fiction from their point of view?

Of course, you could argue that few characters in stories are actually shown telling stories at all, which is true. We tried that kind of metafiction in the ’60s, and that gave us John Barth and Robert Coover and writers of that ilk. Still, I can think of plenty of examples of SF characters reading nonfiction or history or contemporary literature (by which I mean contemporary from the characters’ point of view).

Vernor Vinge's 'A Deepness in the Sky'It seems to me that most of the counterexamples I can think of involve some primitive civilization telling stories about something that’s already proven to be true in the scope of the story. The spider creatures of Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky speculate about space travel and life on other planets, while we the humans watch them from orbit. The people in Edwin Abbott’s Flatland discuss the possibility of a three-dimensional world. And of course, there’s the old trope of the cut-off space colony that reverts back to its primitive roots while its SFnal history becomes the stuff of legends.

Then you’ve got the case of futuristic characters reaching for some even-more-futuristic contraption that simply extrapolates their current technology to the next level. We’ve got the Mega Giga Ultra Hyperdrive that allows us to travel at six times the speed of light! Wouldn’t it be great if we could invent the Super Mega Giga Ultra Hyperdrive that would let us travel sixty times the speed of light? (Impossible! say the doubting scientists. And then, of course, at some point in the story somebody goes and invents the damn thing.)

But where are the examples of people in a futuristic story themselves looking off into a fictional and theoretical future of wonder? I can’t really think of any. Maybe I’m not framing the question right, or disqualifying things out of hand.

Continue Reading »

Fish For Dinner

July 5th, 2007

Leave for airport at 5 in the a.m.

Should have the fish by dinner time.

Love, C.

Indiana Jones, #4

July 1st, 2007

The latest (last?) installment of the Indiana Jones treasure hunts of golden ages past is currently being filmed in New Haven, Connecticut, with an emphasis on the Yale campus, and particularly its main library, Sterling.    This time the era is 1957 — the make of the one of the greatest cars ever made, the the 1957 Chevrolet.  Yale has stood in for Marshall College, if I recall correctly, in the previous films. 

John Crowly, elsewhere, posted a photo of himself walking past a circa 1957  New Haven Woolworths.

 You can find the tale, plus photos, here.

 [ Lavish preparations were under way to build a ramp outside Sterling and an 80-foot-long tunnel inside. The tunnel will protect books and other materials in the building from fumes once the motorcycle enters. It needs 80 feet just to brake.

All week, spectators were able to play spot the fake because of the steps the filmmakers had taken to ensure that real landmarks were not damaged. For instance, the wrought iron entryway known as the Vanderbilt Gate was quietly replaced with one made from balsa wood and plastic foam swimming noodles.

Doug McDermott, a plumber for Yale who was eyeing the bevy of vintage cars parked on College Street on Thursday, seemed unworried. “They can’t do any more damage than the students do,” he said. Besides, he said, if they do, “it keeps us busy.” ]

Love, C.