- J. M. McDermott, Straggletaggle
- Rich Horton, ed., Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2015 edition
- Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, No. 33
- Ginn Hale, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf
- Locus July 2015 (#654)
Nicole Kornher-Stace, Archivist Wasp
- New York Review of Science Fiction
- Galaxy’s Edge Magazine
- Uncanny Magazine
- Clarkesworld Magazine
- Lackington’s Subscription
- Uncanny Magazine
- Galaxy’s Edge Magazine
- New York Review of Science Fiction
- Clarkesworld Magazine
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies
- Lightspeed Magazine
- When we reach a total of 50 new/renewing subscribers we’ll unlock an ebook of Issue One for *every* new/renewing subscriber. Plus, we’ll randomly draw 2 winners for Uncanny swag packs: postcards, a sticker, and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!
- At 100 new/renewing subscribers, every new subscriber will receive an ebook of Issue One and Two. Plus, we’ll draw for a set of signed cover-art posters and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!
- At 150 new/renewing subscribers, all new/renewing subscribers will receive ebooks of Issue One, Two, and Three (all caught up!), and we’ll draw 2 winners for signed books: The Republic of Thieves MMPB by Scott Lynch and Karen Memory hardcover by Elizabeth Bear, plus a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch for each winner!
- At 200 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a mega-swag pack that includes postcards, a sticker, a patch, signed cover art, and both signed books!
- At 300 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0″ Android tablet, a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch, and a sticker!
Congratulations to Caitlin Sweet whose novel The Door in the Mountain is one of the winners of this year’s Copper Cylinder Award! Here’s more from the official press release:
The Copper Cylinder Award is an annual members’ choice award for Canadian literature of the fantastic, selected by members of the Sunburst Award Society for books published during the previous year. It derives its name from what is considered the first Canadian scientific romance, A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, by James De Mille (1833-1880).
All winners of the Copper Cylinder will receive a unique, handcrafted copper cylinder trophy.
The winner of the 2015 Copper Cylinder Young Adult Award is The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet (ChiZine Publications, 2014).
From the publisher:
Lost in time, shrouded in dark myths of blood and magic, The Door in the Mountain leads to the world of ancient Crete: a place where a beautiful, bitter young princess named Ariadne schemes to imprison her godmarked half-brother deep in the heart of a mountain maze, where a boy named Icarus tries, and fails, to fly—and where a slave girl changes the paths of all their lives forever.
Caitlin Sweet works for the Ontario government and the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She is the author of A Telling of Stars (Penguin, 2003) and its prequel, The Silences of Home (Penguin, 2005.) Her third novel, The Pattern Scars (ChiZine, 2011) was short-listed for the 2012 Sunburst Award, and won the 2012 CBC Bookie for Speculative Fiction.
For additional information about the Copper Cylinder Awards, Sunburst Award Society membership, and the voting process, please visit the website at http://coppercylinderaward.ca
For additional information about the Sunburst Awards, the nominees and jurors, eligibility, and the selection process, please visit the website at http://sunburstaward.org.
To celebrate the seventh anniversary of BCS and our new ebook anthology The Best of BCS, Year Six, we’re having another ebook sale! Buy a BCS ebook subscription or the new Best of BCS Year Six, and you’ll get a coupon code inside the book for 30% off all BCS anthologies and back issues.
That includes all our previous anthologies, Best of BCS Year One, Year Two, Year Three, Year Four, and Year Five, our steampunk anthology Ceaseless Steam, and our new Weird Western anthology Ceaseless West.
It includes back issues of BCS: all 182 issues of BCS going back to #1 in 2008, including ones not available at any other retailer or on our website. It includes the 25-issue bundles of back issues, such as the brand new bundle with BCS #151-#175. It also includes all BCS subscriptions; you can use the coupon to renew your subscription no matter when it’s set to expire.
The Best of BCS, Year Six has twenty-two stories for only $3.99, including by Yoon Ha Lee, Helen Marshall, Richard Parks, Gemma Files, Seth Dickinson, Cat Rambo, and more. It features “No Sweeter Art” by Tony Pi, a finalist for the 2015 Aurora Awards and 2015 Parsec Awards, and “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard, a finalist for the 2014 Nebula Awards.
BCS ebook subscriptions are only $15.99 for a whole year/26 issues (that’s less than 30 cents a story!). Subscribers can get issues delivered directly to their Kindle or smart phone (any device with an email address), and they get the issues early, a week before the website.
The ebook subscriptions and anthologies are also a great way to support BCS–all proceeds go to pay our artists and authors.
Andrea Pawley interviews Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet guest editor Michael J. DeLuca:
Q: The theme of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet Issue 33 is humanity’s relationship with the earth. When you became the issue’s guest editor, did you anticipate you’d get story submissions from the likes of Sofia Samatar and Carmen Maria Machado?
DeLuca: As a matter of fact, I asked them specifically! Along with a handful of others, though those are the only two I solicited whose work appears in the issue. Which is a bit of a cheat, I admit. One of the reasons I love LCRW is how it has been a showcase for new writers. But I felt an imperative to hedge my bets a little, given that it’s a theme issue, and I am not a known brilliant editor like Gavin and Kelly.
Q: LCRW 33 is filled with female perspectives and a strong undercurrent of feminism. What connections do you see between the two and the future in the age of the anthropocene?
DeLuca: Insofar as there is feminism in the issue — and there absolutely is, and I’m very happy that’s the case — I take no credit for it. I’m as feminist as I think any financially solvent white cis American male can reasonably be expected to be, which is to say not as much as I’d like to be or should be. Women’s voices have been and are institutionally tuned out and devalued as much by the literary establishment as everywhere else. But I really didn’t have to make much conscious effort in that direction for the issue to come out the way it did. I solicited work from some amazing women, and I tried to make clear in the submission call that I was interested in points of view other than my own. But for whatever reason, an overwhelming proportion of the submissions came from women. And I don’t really have an explanation for it. Do women have a stronger relationship with the earth than men? Creative women in particular? I could speculate fancifully about Gaea and the sacred feminine, but I fear I’d be wading in too deep.
I’m not a feminist scholar; I’m married to one, but I only manage to osmose so much. What I think I can say is that the future of the anthropocene has to involve a reevaluating and breaking down of traditional narratives of all stripes. And that absolutely must depend upon empowering women to reshape those narratives. The massive, deleterious effect humanity’s trajectory is having on the earth is the direct result of established, patriarchal modes of thought: the capitalist notion of progress, just to name one. And the people best situated to recognize and question those modes of thought are not the people currently situated to benefit from them, but rather the people they hurt: women, minorities, the disenfranchised, the poor.
Q: If you could make the majority of the world do one thing to benefit the future of the planet, what would it be?
I’m a little wary of wish-fulfillment: anything I say is going to be something that could never really happen in a million years. But okay, in the name of speculative fiction, I’ll speculate.
What if everybody, everywhere, tomorrow, stopped using fossil fuels? There’d be enormous fallout. Economic collapse. Just in terms of food distribution — everything’s globalized, my fruit comes from Chile, my walnuts from California. We’d be forced into an incredibly rapid, drastic period of readjustment. Communities would change overnight. A lot of people would starve. A lot of people would have to relearn how to grow their own food. But in the long run — and I don’t think it would be that long, really, a generation let’s say — I think we’d bounce back, and the world would be so much better for it. We’d have learned a lesson. And meanwhile, the whole rest of the world would have bounced back too: forests, watersheds, animal populations, even the ocean.
But can I actually wish for that, knowing the hardship it would cause? Only in fiction.
Q: What do you see as the future of Solarpunk?
I’m curious about that. It’s a very new idea, new enough I hesitate to even call it a movement. Applied broadly, I think it’s a great idea and I really hope it catches on. In other words, if it’s not really so heavily solar-focused, but is used more as a blanket term for all kinds of speculation, technological and otherwise, about where we could go, all taken in a spirit of optimism and play, that could really be amazing. If you think about it as an answer to cyberpunk rather than or not quite so much as steampunk: cyberpunk actually spawned a lot of real advances; it changed the world more rapidly than maybe any other movement in fiction ever has. But it was, for the most part, cynical. And with good reason. Those advances are all pretty amazing: cryptography, mobile technology, virtual currency, social networking. But they’ve led us to some dark places. If solarpunk starts and grows from a place of progressivism and hope — who knows.
Q: What/who are some of your environmental influences?
How about this? In chronological order by how I encountered them:
1. My family. Camping, hiking, hunting, biking, berry picking, swimming, canoeing, fishing, gardening. Predictable, but it’s how we all learn, or don’t learn, to value the natural world.
2. Thornton W. Burgess, a children’s writer of animal stories from Cape Cod. His animals are anthropomorphized to a great degree, but they also keep to their natural routines and in so doing taught me a lot.
3. Ms. Howland, my middle school English teacher. She introduced me to the greenhouse effect, global warming, extinction, pollution, habitat loss, suburban sprawl, all these concepts of modern conservationism. She also taught me how to edit a story.
4. Henry David Thoreau. “Thoreau” was one of my nicknames in high school. He’s blindly optimistic about some things, very narrow in his views about others — he’s a privileged, classically educated white guy from 19th-century New England, after all. But his prose never fails to blow me away, and his observations of the natural world and human nature and the relationship between them are incredibly perceptive and eye-opening even today.
5. . . . Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, John Muir, Carlos Castaneda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ray Bradbury, John Crowley, Robert Frost, Kurt Vonnegut, Jon Krakauer, Stephen Harrod Buhner, Paul Stamets, Benjamin Parzybok, Paolo Bacigalupi, Rachel Carson, Mircea Eliade, Werner Herzog, Willa Cather, Elizabeth Dodd, Karen Russell, Karen Joy Fowler. . . .
Note the absurd overbalance of white men. This is my fault, and not because men have or deserve any kind of monopoly on ecological writing or thought. And it’s something I’m trying to correct.
Q: You’re a writer, too. How did that influence what stories you selected for this issue?
Being a writer probably makes me harder to please. Purely idea-based SF doesn’t do it for me anymore, I’ve seen too much of it. Plot-driven fiction has gotten old for me. Likewise, writing that relies on prose fireworks to get away with lack of depth. Because it’s LCRW, there was a certain amount of stylistic consideration that went into my choices — it’s very easy for me at this point, having read many submissions for Gavin and Kelly over many years and also having been a big fan of the final product, to identify an LCRW story. But really, the biggest deciding factor wasn’t about whether it was weird enough or LCRW enough, but just whether it was a good story, whether I got caught up in it, cared about the people in it and felt like it all meant something at the end. To a certain degree, someone who knows how to write and understands the tools of storytelling will be affected in a different way by a story than someone who isn’t in it for the craft. But I think, I hope, a lot of it is universal: the tools for appreciating a good story are written in our bones, right next to the instructions for how to eat and sleep and die and procreate.
Michael J. DeLuca is a fernlike, woody perennial native to the Eastern US, found on hilltops and in woodland clearings from Massachusetts to Michigan. Leaves astringent; strongly tannic; used in teas, to flavor ales and as an aromatic smudge. Flowers late summer in cylindrical catkins. Recent fiction in Ideomancer, Phobos, Betwixt. Tweets @michaeljdeluca.
Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is An Occasional Outburst, an arrow shot into the future, a harbinger. Edited since 1996 by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link. LCRW contributors include many writers whose names you may know and many more whose name you may not — and that there finding and reading unfamiliar voices is one of the joys of existence. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is available DRM-free in single issues or in a wide range of subscription options, which may or may not include chocolate.
and we use a four-column layout. But I agree with this writer’s puzzlement: why do all the websites have a huge picture on the top and then text?
Ok: I know one answer: if there’s a huge image at the top and you have to use the space bar to page down to get to the writing, they you’re engaged with the website and once you’re pushing keys and interacting with the site, won’t you stay, click around, and maybe buy a t-shirt, app, or electric car or something? Hmmm,
Agent Keith Curry only ever had to use his mage pistol once, and that was against some goblin butchers. Curry never says if they were legitimate butchers or the bloodthirsty kind. Just assume they were murderous and magical because Curry works for the NATO Irregular Affairs Division (the Irregulars). Once a carnivore, Curry turned to vegetarianism after seeing the after-effects of too many homicides.
Being a chef is Curry’s special skill. He uses it on the job to root out murder. “Portland’s art, music, and food scenes made it the perfect place to hide a blood orgy.” If that thought makes you laugh before you cringe, then your humor’s in just the right place for Nicole Kimberling’s Cherries Worth Getting. It’s not cannibalism if it’s not your own species, but it’s still murder.
“Rumpled old magicians, witches in business suits, and faerie lawyers” fill the Irregulars, but humans like Curry do most of the work. Perpetrators infesting Portland span the fantastical realm, too. With the right glasses, even a human like Curry can spot hidden magical signs and “vulgar Gaelic epithets left by leprechaun gangs.”
Curry doesn’t need magic glasses to see Gunther Heartman, an old flame and a new Irregulars partner. They’re investigating why human protein keeps turning up in different goblin venues around Portland. Against a backdrop of grilled cheese sandwiches, Curry and Heartman follow a well fleshed-out trail of vampires, pixies and sadistic restaurant owners.
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mystery Series.
“All of Our Past Places” by Kat Howard, published in Unlikely Story #9: The Journal of Unlikely Cartography, June 2014.
“Careful Magic” by Karen Healey published in Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press, August 2014.
“Cookie Cutter Superhero” by Tansy Rayner Roberts, published in Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press, August 2014.
“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon, published in Apex Magazine, Issue 56, January 2014.
“The Lesser Evil” by Day Al-Mohamed, in Sword & Laser, edited by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt, April 29, 2014.
“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, December 2014.
“N is for Nanomachine” by C.S. MacCath in A is for Apocalypse, edited by Rhonda Parrish, Niteblade, August 2014.
“Qasida” by Rosaleen Love in Secret Lives of Books, edited by Alisa Krasnostein , Twelfth Planet Press, June 2014.
“Vanilla” by Dirk Flinthart in Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press, August 2014.
J. M. McDermott’s new steampunk opus Straggletaggle hit number one this month while the first of the annual year’s best volumes came close at #2. I’m very happy to see the latest issue of LCRW in the top 5. It’s the first guest-edited issue — you can read an interview with one of the contributors, Giselle Leeb, on editor Michael J. DeLuca’s Mossy Skull. Perennial fave Ginn Hale takes the #4 spot and there’s a tie for #5: the July issue of Locus includes the Locus Awards and poll results, which always make for interesting reading and Archivist Wasp has all the buzz in the world!
In the subscription list, it’s fascinating to see the ups and downsand it is always great to see a lively upstart such as Lackington’s pop up. Yay!
Capitalism is an odd beast. In the short run, capitalism rewards the hardy, the stubborn, and those clever entrepreneurs who find their way through the harsh rapids of today’s economy. In the long run, the little guys are shoved aside while the most successful, such as Amazon, Apple, Walmart, and countless mega-corps go on to rule the world.
This isn’t an indictment of capitalism. I live in ‘Merica, after all. Capitalism is the American way, and for that, I am happy. But it does place the small business owner in a tough position. Do you fight the powerful, many-headed hydra, or do you hitch a ride on its back waiting for one of the heads to reach around and swallow you whole?
In my new book, For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, I outline my troubles with the publishing distribution system. Because the returns system is archaic and unnecessary (and certainly not environmentally friendly for a greenie like myself), I elected to turn away from the IPGs and DBDs of the world and opted for the print-on-demand business (POD) model. The POD model is viable due to the force of nature known as Amazon.com.
If you’re not familiar with the POD model, let me give you a brief description. POD allows a publisher to keep very little inventory while maintaining the ability to reach customers via 3rd party vendors such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Chapters. Because digital publishing has become an integral part of small press revenues, I lump it into the overall POD model as a subset. Basically, the model has two arms: trade paperback and digital.
And guess who has the easiest POD service to use for trade paperbacks? Createspace (owned by Amazon). And guess who has one of the easiest and the highest royalty rates for eBooks? The Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing (KDP) program.
Both are wonderful services, and I praise Amazon for making them user friendly. Both have enabled the tidal wave of self-publishing to occur which has benefited of many, many authors. But…
What if the hydra wants more? We’ve seen the power Amazon has exerted over the Big 5 publishers by removing various publishers’ books from their online store when they want a better contract. What happens should the hydra want to pay less royalty to the small publishers and authors who used KDP and/or Createspace? If KDP drops the royalty rate from 70% to 35%, then what can we do?
I see a lot of Amazon evangelicals stating with certainty that this will never happen. I sincerely hope they’re right, and perhaps they are, but having the health of your business reliant on the whims of one megacorp strikes me as a dangerous game, toeing a dangerous imaginary line that flickers back and forth.
Two weeks ago, I did some quick analysis on Apex sales figures by all vendors so far in 2015. For all digital sales, the percentages broke down like this:
Direct Sales 5%
Weightless Books 4%
Even though Apex provides product links to the Amazon, Nook, Weightless, iTunes, and Kobo editions on every product page, a huge majority (a whopping 79%!) still buy our books and Apex Magazine from the hydra.
It’s been pointed out to me by my well-meaning accountant that if Apex focused strictly on Amazon, we would probably increase our revenues. Perhaps that is true, but the thought horrifies me. It would place Apex firmly on the wrong side of “don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution” equation.
I always tell our customers to buy from whichever vendor they like the best. If pressed, I will suggest buying from an independent vendor, like Weightless Books, or directly from Apex. I realize that Amazon pays the bills, but in a capitalist economy, competition provides a better shopping experience for both businesses and consumers.
As Apex has done, many small press publishers have embraced the multiple independent vendors (though quite a few small publishers are Amazon exclusive). The Big 5 think only in volume and that leaves a lot of quality indie vendors in the cold. Making all titles available over multiple indie market places would be a good start, but not the only answer. Readers need to seek out sites like Weightless Books and, instead of giving their money to a megacorp, consider supporting the hardworking indie folks.
Other than continuing to carry the banner for indie stores like Weightless Books and Drivethru Fiction and choosing to turn to B&N and Kobo for megacorp purchases, I’m not sure what else Apex can do. It is possible that small press and self-publishers have reached the point of no return. We’ve engineered this hydra. At this point, with 79% of our eBook sales going to Amazon, is our only option is to continue to feed it?
From my end, that may just be Apex’s only option, but it isn’t the only option open to the readers. Money, in our society, speaks louder than words. Therefore, might I suggest buying an Apex book or For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher from Weightless today! That will be a great first step toward helping create a fair market…
ABOUT THE BOOK:
For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Born the son of an unemployed coal miner in a tiny Kentucky Appalachian villa named Big Creek (population 400), Jason fought his way out of the hills to the big city of Lexington. He attended Transylvania University (a real school with its own vampire legend) and received a degree in computer science. Since 2005, he has owned and operated Apex Publications. He is the editor of five anthologies, author of Irredeemable, a three-time Hugo Award loser, an occasional writer, who can usually be found wandering the halls of hotel conventions.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review):
“In his first collection, Harper gives us a gallery of 20-somethings, many with older lovers or husbands, trying to reconcile inchoate ambitions with prosaic realities: a ne’er-do-well crashes at his brother’s house and descends into a feud with his scheming fiancee; a callow student undergoes an extreme body-piercing ritual as a seemingly supportive entree into a domestic household; a pastry chef reluctantly goes house hunting with his older lover but is drawn to the disheveled artist next door; an uncouth renter disrupts a couple’s staid lives; a grad student ponders the hidden exploitation lurking in his estranged father’s conservative church; a group of friends spends a weekend reliving their high school fantasy-gaming rituals as their leader slips into a breakdown; an older man’s offer of help to a young strip-club dancer turns rather dark; a young novelist becomes obsessed with the corpse of a woman that washes ashore in the fishing village where he is summering. Harper’s protagonists are sensitive, talented (but not too talented) youths with dreams of creative lives that they find difficult to square with their circumstances and relationships. Far from the glitter of New York and San Francisco, they are dependent on stable, boring partners, whom they often resent, and are immured in the sterile strip malls and bland apartment complexes of a downscale suburbia that has few beguiling, treacherous oases of bohemian grunge. Harper draws this landscape with a superb eye for detail and feel for atmosphere, writing with a limpid, pitch-perfect prose, suffused with a mordant humor and flashes of wistful lyricism. He perfectly captures the fecklessness of a certain age and mindset while investing it with real psychological depth and emotional resonance—and even with an air of mystery and possibility that belies the seeming banality of his characters’ lives. A fine debut collection from a gifted chronicler of contemporary queer discontents.”
And just before the end of the first half of the year (stop me if you’ve heard this one, but has time sped up again?) we sent out the latest issue of LCRW. And! We have a new one coming very soon — so soon it will seem almost more like a weekly than an occasional. But the one after that, it’s much further out. Don’t want too much of a good thing! What’s the new one got? A heartbreaker from Jade Sylvan, a surprise from Henry Lein; subscribe here.
Also today: new titles from Aqueduct Press and that’ll be it until tomorrow when we unleash a whole horde of new magazines. See you then!
Hey, we just added a new subscription: LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. It is indeed the world’s “only biannual literary journal focusing on Southeast Asian speculative fiction.” Previous issues have presented speculative writing from and about Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, and contributors have won major literary awards in Singapore, USA, the UK, Japan, and the Philippines.
Curious? Read a couple of interviews!
There’s nothing like a subscription drive to power a magazine to the top of the bestseller list. Uncanny Magazine‘s May 2015 drive pushed it past everything else on the site to sit comfortably in the number one position. Uncanny has quickly become a magazine to check out. The current May/June issue shows off their range and strength:
Featuring new fiction by Catherynne M. Valente, A. C. Wise, John Chu, Elizabeth Bear, and Lisa Bolekaja, classic fiction by Delia Sherman, essays by Mike Glyer, Christopher J Garcia, Steven H Silver, Julia Rios, and Kameron Hurley, poetry by Alyssa Wong, Ali Trotta, and Isabel Yap, interviews with Delia Sherman and John Chu by Deborah Stanish, a cover by Tran Nguyen, and an editorial by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.
Fantastic stories lurk in The Dark Magazine. You won’t find gore, but you will find a treasure chest of creepiness and strange perspectives.
“Welcome to Argentia” by Sandra McDonald tells of a real place with a real history. The vengeful spirit of Argentia feels real, too. The land haunts and is haunted. It takes the lives it wants, whether shipwreck victims clinging to rocks or pilots in crashed transports. Individuals see glimpses of the land’s haunting before and after the U.S. Navy abandons its World War II base. A young man “looked out his window to see dark horses pulling wooden coffins down the road. There are no horses on the station, and certainly no need for coffins.” Mundane events are made terrible in “Welcome to Argentia.” This story reminds the reader how little control she has if she’s part of a larger narrative. The difference between life and death is less than she likes to think.
To the question of whether “Rumpelstiltskin” should be its own genre, “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” keens yesssss. You remember the Rumplestiltskin story: years of modern retelling have mellowed the tale to something simply about a strange man spinning straw into gold and the price one woman pays for the favor. The story’s not so bad. Just a vehicle for a moral, right? Not the way Brooke Wonders tells it. Like so many other stories in The Dark Magazine, “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” takes fairy tales back to their creepy roots. The girl in this story has a spinning wheel for a head. Nasty things happen to her after she meets the little man. This story disturbs, fascinates, and chills, which are all the right things to do in a horror story.
In “An Ocean of Eyes,” Sigrid (not her real name) tries to convince a brash stranger to leave town. He’s drawn to Ulthar because of a legend he doesn’t believe, and he’s a fool. A town with stories about cats devouring people alive should be avoided. Also, Lovecraft made this place. Cats and their toxoplasmosis victims are wily. Like whatever’s pulling victims into Newfoundland waters, hiding in a favor or lurking in a cat’s meow, the stories in The Dark Magazine sneak up on you. This is a great e-zine.
The Dark Magazine is available DRM-free from Weightless Books in single issues or as a 12-month subscription. “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” by Brooke Wonders and “Welcome to Argentia” by Sandra McDonald are in Issue 7. Cassandra Khaw’s “An Ocean of Eyes” can be found in Issue 8.
Congratulations to everyone at Lethe Press and especially to Chaz Benchley (Bitter Waters) and Jeff Mann (Salvation) who both picked up a Lambda Awards this week at the big awards celebration in New York City:
GREGORY FEELEY writes fiction and about fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and he has published essays in The Atlantic Monthly, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. His short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award and has appeared five times in year’s best anthologies. His most recent novel is Kentauros (2010).
On the tenth anniversary of its original publication, Arabian Wine is once again available from Temporary Culture in cooperation with Weightless Books. Arabian Wine is a short novel about the arrival of coffee and steam power in a Venice that has not quite entered the modern scientific era. John Crowley called it a “fine, funny trans-historical adventure, so well-furnished and well-wrought it seems more true than the more boring truth.” Temporary Culture publisher Henry Wessells asked Gregory Feeley a few questions about the book.
Several of your fictions unfold at the edges of modernity, when scientific developments start to shape the world we know. What are the origins of Arabian Wine?
Like many of my stories — The Oxygen Barons , “A Different Drumstick” , “Fancy Bread” , and my current novel in progress — Arabian Wine began with its title. A good title can demand that a story be written for it. I encountered the phrase in a pictorial history of coffee (a genuine coffee table book, left out in an upscale coffee shop for customers to browse) and immediately knew it was the title of a story I had to write. And obviously the story had to take place in the era when coffee was just beginning to appear in Europe. By the time I put the volume down I also knew that there would be a mishap involving some clanky mechanism releasing a jet of steam and the protagonists accidentally inventing espresso. I went home and began researching, and the novel developed from there.
I’m not sure why I am attracted to historical eras in which an important scientific theory or model of the cosmos begins to deform under the pressure of history, but after I published “The Weighing of Ayre”  and began writing “Animae Celestes”  (which is part of a still-incomplete longer work, Headwinds of the Heart), I noticed as much. Eventually I realized that this is why I like the work of James Blish, whose stories consistently involve belief systems, social organizations, or physical structures coming under pressure and imploding. And such stories necessarily combine both the abstract and the material, which is another attraction.
Why Venice in 1609?
Venice was a liminal zone — neither land nor sea, not particularly Christian though certainly not Muslim, and as Levantine as it was European — and it was the one realm in Christendom where commerce trumped faith. The Venetians would trade with anyone — Turks, Arabs, Byzantines — and their relentless push to make money (they were not interested in expanding their borders or the glory of God or the Church) helped drive the development of modern capitalism. As a system that combines both the abstract and material — and one that has immediate relevance to our own lives — global capitalism is hard to beat.
Traditionally, the introduction of coffee to the west is ascribed to the retreat of the Turks after the siege of Vienna. This is a myth, of course. History is much more porous, as are the boundaries between the Islamic and Christian worlds. How extensive were the commercial relations between Venice and the Ottomans in the decades after the battle of Lepanto (1579)?
It is surprising how little the wars between Christendom and the Ottomans impeded Venice’s trade with the Islamic world. The nations of Europe, to say nothing of the Pope, deeply mistrusted Venice for this, but they also bought what Venice had to sell.
The eastern Mediterranean circa 1609
Leonhart Rauwolf and Prosper Alpini visited the Islamic world in the late 1570s and early 1580s and soon published accounts of the flora. Alpini was a physician and his writings on the plants of Egypt emphasize medicinal properties. How quickly did knowledge of coffee spread in scientific circles?
As near as I could work out, coffee became known in Europe after Alpini and other travelers began to publish accounts of what they had seen during their time in the land of “the Turk” — the travel books they published became a popular genre. It’s hard to know how quickly word of “chaube” or “caofa” (as they called it) spread in “scientific circles,” since these circles did not yet have a journal in which to publish their discoveries. (The first, the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, I wrote about in “The Weighing of Ayre.”) My guess is that coffee was sold as a costly medicine before it became inexpensive enough for people to drink recreationally, but it was enough for my story to know that by 1609 this had not yet happened.
And how about accounts of drinking coffee?
I don’t recall a description of coffee that included a first-hand account of the experience of drinking it. Quite possibly Alpini and the rest never actually tasted it — or if they did, they recoiled at its bitterness, as one does the first time. Rauwolf called it “a very good drink,” but he seemed have been reporting its salutary qualities (he declared it “very good in illness, especially of the stomach”).
David Liss’ The Coffee Trader, which came out while my novel was searching for a publisher, also contains a “You’ve got to taste this” moment, a description of the exhilaration of feeling caffeine’s first effects. I have to assume that Liss, like me, was using his imagination here; I don’t know of any actual early account.
There are brief passages where I see you allude to earlier counterfactual science fiction, such as De Camp’s introduction of bookkeeping to the late Roman empire in Lest Darkness Fall, but Arabian Wine has a different thrust and flavor. Was the Serene Republic a proto-police state?
Blish once said that he was writing a novel set during in Venice during the Borgia pontificate, which I discovered when I was reading his letters in the Bodleian Library many years ago. He wrote that “if I am going to write about the crucial ideas in the history of science, I ought not to rule out the malign ones; in this case, what I’ll be talking about is the invention of the security system for technical information, which our charming Venetian friends were inaugurating during the same period that they invented the ghetto.” I did a good deal of research while writing Arabian Wine, and I decided that Blish was right.
My novel was finished in the summer of 2001, before the convulsions of 9-11 (to say nothing of the subsequent developments that Edward Snowden helped disclose), but the relevance of Venice’s policies, with its covert surveillance, anonymous denunciation, and apparatus of secret arrests, trials, and executions, to our own government’s was clear even then.
Do you wish to mention other work, long or short, that is complete or forthcoming?
For the past ten years I have been working on a long novel, set a century earlier, that also ranges over the European and Islamic worlds. It deals with end of the period when Renaissance magic — “white magic,” specifically the Neoplatonism of Marsilio Ficino and Avicenna — was taken seriously by theologians and scholars. Another story — my most ambitious yet — about an epistemology crumbling under the pressures of science and history.
Greg, how do you take your coffee?
With milk. I wish I knew when people started doing that, but the historical record seems to be silent.
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