Seven Cities of Gold and other news

Not all new, but all new enough. Seven Cities of Gold

  • will be reprinted in Gardner Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Edition, due out in July.
  • will also be “reprinted” in Allan Kaster’s The Year’s Top Short SF Novels, due out again most likely in July, in e-book and audio editions from AudioText. The audio version will be read by Nicola Barber.
  • got a very nice write-up from Hannah Strom-Martin over at Strange Horizons, in which she says, among other things: “That Moles manages to present this alternate world so convincingly in a mere seventy pages is bound to result in accusations of genius.” As yet I’m not aware of any such accusations, but I’ll start preparing a defense just in case.

I’ll also be reading from Seven Cities at FogCon here in San Francisco, at 3:00 p.m. Saturday March 11th in the Washington Room at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway Hotel on Van Ness. Might throw in a bit of “A Soldier of the City” as well.

I’m also scheduled for two panels:

How to Build Your Own City (Without an Urban Planning Degree): Part II,
the Present

Families farming in the urban center of Detroit. Poorly funded
infrastructure causing the collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis. What’s
happening today in our modern cities? How can we handle these issues in

Saturday, 10:30-11:45 A.M.

David Moles, Courtney Eckhardt, Rachel Swirsky, Daniel Starr

Let’s Build a City

Right before your very eyes (and with your vigorous suggestions from the
audience!) our panelists will create a city out of nothing but the room’s
imagination. Will it sit in the crater of an active volcano? Will it have
different districts for people to live in based on their culinary
preferences? Come and find out…

Saturday 8:00-9:15 P.M.

David Moles, Nabil Hijazi, Steven Schwartz, Ann Wilkes

I signed up for a poster session, too, but I don’t know if those are happening or, if they are, what I’m going to do with mine. Possibly something involving Lego.

Hopefully I will be able to attend all of these; the day job promises to be heating up that weekend, so we’ll have to see.

Constructed in accordance with the best possible theories of political virtue

We interrupt our regular schedule of not blogging to plug Felix Gilman’s The Half-Made World. I’ve started Thunderer two or three times without getting caught up in it, but Mr. Gilman’s hit his stride now. Half-Made World reads like an Iain Banks novel set in China Miéville’s version of Stephen King’s gunslinger world, only better — better paced than Banks and in more control of voice and language, more coherent and less baroque than Miéville, more imaginative than King. And surprisingly self-contained for something that so plainly sets up its own sequel.

The flap copy will tell you what it’s about. If it sounds the sort of thing you might like, by all means pick it up.

About 370 on the Brinell scale

This has been unofficial news for a while now, but now it’s official: “A Soldier of the City,” by yours truly, will be in Engineering Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan and available early next year wherever quality mass-market paperbacks are sold.

Engineering Infinity bills itself as an anthology of hard science fiction. I don’t know that “Soldier” would meet the strictest possible definition, but after all the time I spent this winter doing math on the backs of envelopes, if it’s not the hardest story in the book I’m confident it won’t be the softest.

For those keeping score at home, “Soldier” is set in the same universe as my 2004 Asimov’s story, “The Third Party,” albeit quite some distance away in space and time. It will also be my first published story to use Australian spelling.

What the SF magazines need to do, Underpants Gnomes dept.

What does it say about me as an SF writer and reader, that whenever I come across a post that starts like this:

There is an large untapped audience for more popular SF magazines. … Whatever it is SF gives people … people want it and they want it in their millions. This is an untapped audience which exists as part of the mainstream in our society and wants more material … SF magazines could be selling more issues, to more people. SF short stories are an ideal way to give people contained bursts of the most intense and original SF. …

what goes through my head is:

is that true? I don’t think that’s true. assert, assert, assert, why is there never proof? do you believe this, and if so, why? and why not tell us? or do you just wish it was true? do you think that if you wish really really hard it will become true? do you think that’s an appropriate model of causality for someone interested in science fiction? discuss, with examples from the reading…?

To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with Mr. Ellwood’s prescriptions. I mean, what the hell, it’s not like anything else has worked, and there’s at least some recognition that there were changes in the magazine industry between, say, 1955 and 1995. But his premise is about 200% wishful thinking, and worse than that, it’s the same wishful thinking that’s been stalely circulating through the print science fiction world since Star Wars — which is to say, since before half the best writers of short science fiction working today were born. I would like for once to see some evidence.

(Via Jeff Vandermeer, who makes a more valuable contribution than mine.)

Tell Us How You Really Feel, Dr. Suvin (#3)

From Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, p. 29:

The lowest form of analogic modeling is that in which an extrapolation backwards is in fact a crude analogy to the past of the Earth, from geological through biological to ethnological and historical. The worlds more or less openly modeled on the Carboniferous Age, on tribal prehistory, on barbaric and feudal empires — in fact modeled on handbooks of geology and anthropology, on Spengler’s Decline of the West and Dumas père’s Three Musketeers — are unfortunately abundant in the foothills of SF. Some of this may be useful adolescent leisure reading, which one should not begrudge; however, the uneasy coexistence of such worlds with a superscience, which is supposed to provide an SF alibi, largely or wholly destroys the story’s cognitive credibility. The E.R. Burroughs-to-Asimov space opera, cropping up in almost all U.S. writers right down to Samuel Delany, belongs to the uneasy territory between inferior SF and non-SF…

Tell us how you really feel, Dr. Suvin (#2)

From Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, pp. 24-25:

A further step down into pseudo-sophistication — correlative, no doubt, to a marked decadence of cultural taste in bourgeois society and its literary markets — is the parasitism of Gothic, horror, and weird fantasy upon SF. … One can understand some readers’ panic flight from a science which produces nuclear bombs, napalm, and nerve gases, from a reason which justifies class societies in mutual balances of terror, condemning two-thirds of the world to hunger and disease, and the remaining third — “hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère” — to the boredom of a nine-to-five drudgery relieved by flashes of TV commercials. Maybe such readers ought to have an escapist enclave of sword-and-sworcery or Cthulhu cosmologies — I cannot say. But surely SF, built upon the premise that nature is neither a childishly wicked stepmother (“As flies to wanton boys are we to gods / They kill us for their sport”) nor inscrutably alien to man — surely SF cannot allow its contract with the reader to be contaminated by the Great Pumpkin antics of fantasy. Even more perniciously than is the case with the bland fairy tale structure, the black ectoplasms of fantasy stifle SF completely. Its time shrinks to the point-consciousness of horror, gloom, and doom, its daydreams turn into an inchoate nightmare, and under the guise of cognition the ancient obscurantist enemy infiltrates its citadel. Fossilized fragments of reasoning are used to inculcate irrationality, and the social energy of readers is expended on Witches’ Sabbaths instead of focusing it on the causes of our alienating, murderous, and stultifying existences: the power structures holding back the hominization of the sapiens, the true demonology of war and market breeding pride and prejudice.

Tell us how you really feel, Dr. Suvin

From Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, pp. 23-24:

Usually the symbiosis of popular science and juvenile adventure finds it impossible to mimic SF without regressing into their homologue of the fairy tale, with its victorious hero, foiled villain, damsel in distress, and quaint helpers or marvelous helping objects. Such sub-Vernean or Gernsbackian SF does not change the fairy tale structure but only the motivation of its devices: it pretends to explain away the supernatural by reassigning it to natural science and noble scientists (who are energetic and sentimental if young and in love with, absent-minded if old and fathers of, the eternal feminine). However, the science is treated as a metaphysical and not physical, supernatural and not natural activity, as gobbledygook instead of rational procedure. From Ralph, Buck Rogers, and the post-Stapledonian supermen to Asimov’s psychohistory (which has at least the advantage of identifying the proper field of modern destiny, social relations), such metaphysical gobbledygook vitiates some of the best-known SF works. … In the perfectly just world of taste and poetic creativity, this procedure reaps the reward of hypocrisy: fairy tale readers rightly prefer the classics, sophisticated SF readers disbelieve the fairy tale. Inversely, in the very imperfectly redistributive world of social taste and commercial SF, such a procedure breeds generations of readers with juvenile taste, unable to develop the standards by which to judge SF (not to mention empirical human relations).

In praise of weak female characters

I am going to quote Mlawski’s “Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women” at length. Because once in a while there comes a topic so solid that even I, even in these latter days of the Law, cannot relegate it to the ephemerality of Twitter.

  • “It was very clear that [the 2007 Transformers movie] was made for a very specific audience: young white nerdy men who wish they could bone models after watching them sexily fight robots so sweat cascades down their luscious tanned bodies.”
  • “This Super Strong Female Character is almost like a Mary Sue, except instead of being perfect in every way because she’s a stand-in for the author, she’s perfect in every way so the male audience will want to bang her and so the female audience won’t be able to say, ‘Tsk tsk, what a weak female character!’ It’s a win-win situation.”
  • “Good characters, male or female, have goals, and they have flaws. Any character without flaws will be a cardboard cutout. Perhaps a sexy cardboard cutout, but two-dimensional nonetheless. And no, ‘Always goes for douchebags instead of the Nice Guy’ is not a real flaw. Men think women have that flaw, but most women avoid ‘Nice Guys’ because they just aren’t that nice. So that doesn’t count.”
  • “And, by the way, it’s OK if these women are hot. The characters I just mentioned above… are all quite attractive. But they also DO get beat up and they DO look like they could kick your ass. Except for Zhang Yiyi, who’s like thirty pounds. But she at least looks graceful enough that she could fly and kick your ass with a sword, and she looks angry and batshit crazy enough that she’d do it twice.”

And now that I am done quoting it, you are going to read the whole thing.


That’s “Finisterra” in the inaugural issue of F&SF’s edicya Polska , and “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” in the May issue of the Russian журнал фантастики, ESLI. Love the artist’s interpretation of the bavian warlord from “Down and Out” — ESLI always has the best illustrations.