In this third episode of male science fiction writers in alphabetical order I’m looking at Michael G Coney. Never heard of him? That’s not my problem. He embodies the idea that you don’t need to be a science person in order to write good science fiction, Coney started his working life as an accountant.
He’s only written a handful of novels but many short stories have come from his fingers and so many of them have been published in anthologies. His first novel, Mirror Image, reminds me somewhat of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick. In Mirror Image you have amorphs who are so good at passing as humans they think they really are human.
In looking for a ‘C’ author I pulled these three anthologies from my shelf yesterday and discovered Coney has a short story in all of them. If the list on Wikipedia is correct he’s written almost 70 short stories and had most of them published.
A writer to challenge people’s ideas, it’s good his skill was recognised before he died in 2005. He’s received a British Science Fiction Association Award for Brontomek, a Best Novelette Nebula Award and five Prix Aurora Award Nominations. Previous winners for the Nebula are Isaac Asimov so he would have received stiff competition.
Someone must think he’s important enough as today three of his novels are being published in a new publication. You can buy it here while Angus & Robertson have a number of his novels in epub form, here is Syzygy and Fang, the Gnome.
Not forgetting the linky so you can play along wherever you are.
Ruth Park and D’Arcy Niland are both Australian national treasures. You’ve probably read more by Park than Niland as she lived longer but both were equally good. Somehow they could take the quintessential Australian and put them into words. Niland’s The Shiralee is incredibly reminiscent of the Australian outback life, he spent much time observing these people while he was sheep shearing. Park was born in NZ but we won’t hold that against her and instead have adopted her as our own as she also writes very much about Australians. You’ve probably read Playing Beattie Bow or The Muddle Headed Wombat or even A Harp in the South which won her an award becoming her first published novel and shooting her to fame.
The Drums Go Bang is five years in the life of both Ruth Park and D’Arcy Niland. During this time they got married, spent time working in the outback; sheep shearing, cooking and just generally observing people. They also decided they would try to make a living out of writing so you get their trials and errors, their ups and downs and find out how many words they wrote per week. They had one typewriter between them so would alternate typing things up and writing on paper, I’m in awe of the amount of writing they did with just one typewriter.
Just to give you some idea of their writing before you click on the links below and buy their books to read (thereby giving me small amounts of commission) here is an extract from their book. Niland had a Webster’s dictionary he had great reverence for and carried it hither and yon, this extract gives you some idea of how he felt about it. Through this book Niland is referred to as ‘Evans’ while Park is ‘Tiger’ and his brother is ‘Gus’, we see a lot of his brother as they all live together for quite some time.
But Webster was really an ailing old man. Evans rescued him from a fate worse than the Old Tomes’ Home when he was invalided out of the Daily Telegraph reading-room. A parvenu Webster, all shiny and new, was procured, and Evans, then a copyholder, besought the head reader to let him take away the aged Webster and make the old gentleman’s last days more comfortable. At home, with glue, thread, and transparent paper he performed a surgical operation on the decrepit tatterdemalion, straightening his lordosis, healing the multiple lacerations, un-dogging his ears, and outfitting him with a new jacket. It was a week’s work carried out with infinite patience. Even so, the old boy was still not feeling the best, wobbly on his pins and a bit queer about the sacro-iliac. He had to take it easy, gentle handling was the thing. Any rough stuff and he was liable to have a breakdown. Evens trusted this lexicographic member of the walking wounded with no one.
I quite like how much care has been taken with Webster and how he’s been looked after as if he’s human. Note the style of writing, this is the way it is throughout the book with both authors being referred to in the third person so unless you read all their works carefully and do a thorough examination you won’t know who has written what.
Now, to the links. This book must be hard to find, it has my Dad’s name in the front so I suspect he had it as new and I’m struggling to find a new copy. Instead, here is The Shiralee and The Harp in the South, I’ve tried to choose cheap editions for you.
This is the second in a series of articles showing authors by alphabet. There’s many, many different ways I could showcase different authors and I’ve chosen to talk about male science fiction authors, seeing as I started with Isaac Asimov I figured I might as well. If someone doesn’t beat me to it I might follow up with female science fiction authors but that’s a long way into the future. I have some friends joining me on this journey so there will be a linky at the end for you to see all their blogs as well. They’ve chosen interesting alphabets…
James Blish was born in 1921 and died at a young age in 1975. He wrote at the same time as Asimov and had met him. Blish was also a scientist before he was a writer so his science will mostly hold up to scrutiny, in the photo you’ll see A Case of Conscience and in the Forward he talks about jettisoning Special Relativity in 2050, I probably won’t see if he’s right or not but younger people might.
He was a prolific early writer of Star Trek, writing from the scripts often before they were shot which might explain some inconsistencies as sometimes scripts change from writing to shooting. Blish is the author of Spock Must Die!
If you have another look at the photo you’ll see two books I took from my bookshelf. They must have been there a long time as I don’t recall reading them. They both have a book exchange stamp in them with sale prices of $1.45 and return price of 70c so that probably takes them back to the late 70s or early 80s. Don’t know why that’s important. What I do know is the James Blish is an important author and I’ll just have to find time to reread him.
The second book, A Torrent of Faces, is an anthology. One of the stories in it is The Shipwrecked Hotel, originally published in an abridged version in 1965. This story is about a semi-submerged hotel which suffers a massive computer failure due to some silverfish…yep, computer problems caused by a bug, nothing’s changed. I hope you can read the next image, it’s about a very early computer in 1945 that was having problems, they eventually found a moth caught inside leading to the word of ‘bug’ for having a software problem.
Here’s the linky.
I’ve been sitting on these thoughts for some months hoping I could stop disagreeing but it turns out I can’t. This article tells us we should segregate Indie published books from traditionally published books. The article is click bait, I totally understand that and I clicked just like so many others. The comments are interesting and people spend a bit of time arguing with the author of the article who is just rude in return. The bit I really found myself disagreeing with is this quote:
A few days ago, I wrote a piece about self-publishers not being considered real authors. You are only considered a real author if you can make your living solely from the book sales. If you can’t, you are merely a writer, which is still fine. The reason I wrote that post is the industry needs to define the good writers from the bad. The primary way we can do this is by sales figures; if authors make their living from publishing, they are often considered good writers. Once we can define a good writer from a bad, we can start to segregate them.
I know of so many ‘authors’ being published by traditional publishers who should never have been published who are making more than a full-time wage from their scribblings and then there are the indie authors who are publishing themselves with the help of Amazon or indie publishers who are fabulous writers but are making very little.
It all comes down to publicity and how good you are at promoting yourself. If you’re an indie author and lousy at promoting yourself you won’t get anywhere but if you’re good at promotion then you’ll go far. I’ve seen terrible indie writers (you’ll notice I’m using the word writer and author interchangeably as I disagree with Michael Kozlowski, the author of the article) sell reasonably well as they know how to use social media and show their confidence whereas other indie authors who are absolutely brilliant but have little idea of how to promote themselves sell very little.
It all comes down to needing to have more skills than just writing. If you don’t have a publisher to do most of the publicity for you then you have to do it yourself. If you’re not good at getting on the rooftops and shouting to the world then being the best author and having the best message won’t help you sell.
Skills you need (this is just the ones I have in the top of my head)
- Social Media
- Chutzpah and the ability to approach book shops, schools, libraries and whoever you can think of to get your name out there
- Public speaking
- Ability to speak to everyone in a group and singly
- Patient family and friends
If I were being nice I’d use the above list as headers and expand on most points but I’m still rather annoyed at Kozlowski for making the assumption of sales=author.
If you’ve been paying attention you will have read my gushing review of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol 8 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I’m not certain gushing quite covers my feelings on this book. I was delighted when the editor agreed to answer a few questions for me. After reading his thoughts you should buy the book.
How did you get into editing anthologies?
I started editing back in the early 1990s. I had been co-editing and co-publishing a small press magazine, Eidolon, with some friends which involved keeping up with everything that was happening in Australian SF at the time. When a major publisher decided to start up a new SF imprint, Voyager, my friend and co-editor Jeremy Byrne and I pitched the idea of editing an Australian “best of the year” series for them, and they went for it. We did it for a of couple years, before moving on to other things. My real big break, though, came when I was having dinner one evening with Karen and Bob Silverberg. They were editing two best of the year series for Byron Preiss’s iBooks, but Bob was looking to focus his energies elsewhere. Somewhere over dinner they asked if I’d like to do co-edit the books, and everything snowballed from there.
Do you need to be an accomplished author in order to edit anthologies or will any type of writing experience (or inexperience) do?
While some of our greatest editors have been writers, many haven’t. Certainly there are different kinds of editing and different kinds of editors, and while I can see that writing experience can help, I don’t think it’s essential. A number of our major editors aren’t writers, like Ellen Datlow and Ann VanderMeer. The most important thing, to me, is being an analytical and informed reader. You need to be able to read a story and look at how it might be improved or enhanced in a way that supports what the author is trying to do with the story.
Where do you source the short stories from? Do people send them to you unasked or are they already published elsewhere?
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year series reprints science fiction and fantasy stories that were published anywhere in the world in the preceding year in the English language. I source the stories from websites, magazines, anthologies, short story collections, gift cards – just about anywhere that they might appear. A lot of time goes into searching for stories, as you can imagine, and I put out a call each year inviting anyone to send me stories they’ve published, written or read that they think I should consider for the book.
How many would you read in a year?
I don’t keep track of the exact number, but I would look at several thousand stories every year, slowly winnowing them down to the final group that end up in the book.
When do you find the time to read that many?
I try to be organized about it. I read every day, and try to fit it in around everything else I have to do. I also have found that over time I can pick up pretty early when a story is or isn’t going to work for me. Sometimes it only takes a page or two, so while I start to read several thousand stories, I don’t necessarily finish all of them. That helps with managing the time involved.
Do you ever have the problem of being so stuck in a short story that you can’t read another one immediately? If so, how do you manage to move onto the next one?
I find I sometimes need to take a little break at the end of a story, just so I can approach the next one fresh, but mostly I don’t have a problem. The real issue is that every few months I just yearn to read something longer, so I stop to read a novel or watch some TV, just to freshen my mental palate, but I’m usually ready to get back to the next story pretty quickly.
Do you have a favourite author? If so, please spill the beans.
I always say no to this because I have different authors I go to for different reasons. For a chunk of my childhood Robert Heinlein was my favourite writer, mostly because I loved his characters and the sense of adventure in his stories. I find his books more problematic looking back at them from the perspective of adulthood, but at the time they were the thing. In my late 20s and early 30s Howard Waldrop and Lucius Shepard were my favourites, and I devoured everything they wrote. You haven’t lived till you’ve read Howard Who? or The Jaguar Hunter. I’m less sure of the answer these days, though. I read so much more widely, and there’s so much to choose from.
Do you have a favourite story? If so, why?
The greatest reading experience I can remember is when I first read Lucius Shepard’s novella “R n R”, which appeared in an issue of Asimov’s in the mid-80s. Shepard was on a streak at the time, producing a string of brilliant stories that were setting the field on fire, and this hallucinogenic, immersive masterpiece just hypnotized me. I can remember reading the opening of the story and being left almost shaking at the end of it. I’ve not re-read the story in 20 years, and I still remember it like I read it yesterday.
Are you ever tempted to edit a short story before you anthologise it? Is this appropriate or should you just leave it as it was previously published complete with typos?
Every story I included in the Best of the Year is copyedited to make sure there aren’t any typographical or other errors. Sometimes that simply involves correcting a typo or two, or making sure something’s consistent, but occasionally it involves some minor editing. Sometimes there are changes between the original published work and the version I reprint, but usually those come from authors who want to take the opportunity to fix something that’s been bothering them or that they’ve noticed since the original publication of the story.
When is your next book being published? Either an anthology or your own work.
Next up is Fearsome Magics, an original fantasy anthology I’ve edited for Solaris. It’s a sequel of sorts to my World Fantasy Award nominated anthology Fearsome Journeys, and includes some great stories. I’m also working on volume nine of the Best of the Year series and a new “Infinity” anthology.
Can you do the Safety Dance while reading short stories or is that something you reserve for long fiction?
I can dance the safety dance while reading a short story or a novel, and if I can’t, I leave them behind, because if I couldn’t dance when reading a story or novel it’d be no friend of mine.
I’ve finally bitten the bullet and have joined AWW 2014. This is the Australian Women Writers Challenge and is aimed at getting people to read female writers in Australia. While I don’t have any particular focus here my aim is to read four books by Australian Women Writers by the end of the year. I’ll be starting as soon as I can with Elianne by Judy Nunn.
I’ve pinched the following from the Australian Women Writers Challenge so you can see what they’re about.
The 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. The challenge encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female,
Australian and non-Australian, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year. You don’t have to be a writer to sign up. You can choose to read and review, or read only. (Suggestions for what makes a good review can be found here.)
The challenge will run from Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2014. You can sign up at any time.
Please join me and sign up, I’ve only chosen a modest number as it’s so late in the year and my To Be Read Pile is almost as big as me so I don’t wish to add too much to that but if you have more time you can pick a much bigger challenge. In case you’re wondering what makes a good review they have some thoughts here. You don’t need a blog to join us, if you have a Good Reads account that’s good enough as you can put the reviews on Good Reads.
At the National Book Bloggers Forum we were regaled by the publishers of Penguin Random House about their favourite books they’re publishing this year. When I say ‘regaled’ I mean haranged as we were a captive (and willing) audience, they were very excited, not just to be publishing these books but to be sharing them with us. The excitement was lovely to see as it showed us the publishers were in the job for the love of books rather than just for the money. Part of the enjoyment of the day was how everyone in the room shared the same passion, not just the bloggers but the Penguin Random House People.
Here’s a list of the books presented to us:
A Fatal Tide by Steve Sailah (I’ve already read this one but as the publishing date is 1st August 2014 you won’t see a review of it just yet)
Eden by Candice Fox
The Writing Life by David Malouf
My Story by Julia Gillard
He Who Must Be Obeid by Kate McClymont & Linton Besser
Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Verant
Who Knows Tomorrow by Lisa Lovatt-Smith
Air Wars by Doug Nancarrow
Hooked by Samantha X
Australia’s Hardest Prison by James Phelps
Intruder by Christine Bongers
Are You Seeing Me? By Darren Groth
Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead
Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
Courting Trouble by Kathy Lette
Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs
Personal by Lee Child
Time and Time Again by Ben Elton
Sapiens by Yuval Harari
So Anyway by John Cleese
Messiah Complex by Russell Brand
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami
Perfidia by James Ellroy
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
As you can see, there’s something for everyone. Some of your favourite authors are in there and I’m sorry, but I don’t have the publishing dates. They didn’t just give us the titles but also read out a bit about the books, unfortunately I’m too slow to get all the details for you so you’ll just have to wait.
The publishers were:
- Zoe Walton