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Celebrating the Roots of the Genre:
Pennsylvania’s Place in SF History

August 15th, 2017

Next month, I’ll be helping celebrate the roots of modern science fiction by heading east to Milford, Pennsylvania, where some of the genre’s biggest names helped establish sf as we know it today. It’s an exciting history that will be commemorated on September 15-17 at The Milford Readers and Writers Festival.

I’ll be attending as this year’s science-fiction guest of honor. Needless to say, I’m jazzed.

In the days ahead, I’ll be posting more information about the event. For now, here’s the official press release:

Milford, PA – The Milford Readers and Writers Festival is thrilled to announce that Science Fiction will be back in Milford, providing three separate Science Fiction/Fantasy Events. Milford, though people may not remember, was a bastion of science fiction/fantasy from the 1950’s to the 1970’s and the original home of the famous Milford Writers Conference for writers of science fiction. The Conference was founded by such notables as Damon Knight, Kate Williams, Virginia Kidd and Judith Merrill and held at the Anchorage, Damon Knight’s home in Milford.

Among the many famous writers who attended these Conferences are Harlan Ellison, James Sallis, Thomas M. Desch, Ann McCaffery and Algis Budrys. It is only fitting that today the Milford Readers and Writers Festival includes events that celebrate this great history.

The main offering will be held at the Milford Theater on Sunday, September 17 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and will include a slide show, a panel discussion and a Q & A session. The panel moderator will be Gordon Van Gelder, the editor and publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The panelists will include Lawrence C. Connolly, as guest of honor, the science fiction writers Paul Witcover and Robert Levy and John Grant, encyclopedist and past guest of honor.

Two additional free events will take place on Saturday, September 16. The Twilight Zone Marathon will be held at the Milford Library from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The marathon will consist of a continuous showing of the original episodes of The Twilight Zone. The second event, Beer Tasting and Readings, will be at the Dimmick Inn from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The science fiction writers featured on Sunday’s Science Fiction Panel will be reading from their novels and you can enjoy a beer while listening to the readings. There will also be drawings for SF/F books provided by the Kidd Agency and for tours of Arrowhead, Virginia Kidd’s home in Milford.

In addition to the Science Fiction Panel the Festival also includes the following, all part of the Festival Pass on sale now:

· Love Letters, a two-person award winning Broadway play performed by actors Len Cariou, and Heather Cariou, at the Historic Milford Theatre;

· Lee Child, whose Jack Reacher series has sold more than 100 million copies world wide, in conversation with Stephen Rubin, publisher and President of Henry Holt and Co.;

· Robin Morgan, award winning author, activist and feminist in conversation with journalist Farai Chideya, whose most recent book is The Episodic Career: How to Thrive at Work in the Age of Disruption;

· Patricia Bosworth, one of the country’s preeminent biographers (Montgomery Clift, Diane Arbus, Marlon Brandon, Jane Fonda) and author of a recent memoir, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan in conversation with the director of the Woodstock Bookfest, Martha Frankel, author of a memoir (Hats & Eyeglasses) and other books;

· A Plenary Panel with all the above writers in conversation with each other and the audience; and

· A Private Author’s Reception and a chance to meet and talk with all the authors from the main stage panels at the Hotel Fauchere.

Individual tickets for the Science Fiction Panel only on Sunday, September 17, are on sale now for $25 per person.

A limited number of Festival Passes valid for entry to all Festival events as well as a private Authors Reception open only to Pass holders are now available for sale at the special early bird discounted price of $125 per person.

Tickets can be purchased at the EVENTBRITE LINK and more information about the festival can be found here. (Prices for the Pass and the Science Fiction panel will increase on August 15).

In addition to the ticketed events, the festival also offers a host of free programming and events around Milford and open to the public, including “Women Writing About Their Lives,” “Restaurants that Changed America,” storytelling and children’s and young adults events at the Pike County Public Library, “Artists Writing about Art”, “Recovery from Trauma”, poetry, travel writing, conservation at Grey Towers, an open-mic event: “RAW After Dark” at Bar Louis, a “pop-up” bookstore, conversations and book-signings with local writers and more. The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

The Milford Readers & Writers Festival is a project of Pike Artworks, Inc., (501-c-3 status pending) organized by a group of community volunteers from the Upper Delaware River Valley region.

So that’s the official release. I’ll have more to share in the days ahead, but for now, I hope you’ll consider saving the date for what looks to be a terrific celebration of reading, writing, and the history of science fiction. More details coming soon. For now … scop on!

Images

Damon Knight, Anthony Boucher, and Judith Merril at the Milford Science Fiction Conference in 1956. From Aloud Magazine, October 1992.

Harlan Ellison circa 1970 from popmatters.com.

Gordon Van Gelder from orbooks.com

The Twilight Zone circa 1959

“The Wizard and the Dragon” by John Longendorfer, from milfordreadersandwriters.com

 

When you look into this book . . .

November 23rd, 2012

 . . . it looks into you.

For their new anthology, the good people at Post-Mortem Press have assembled an impressive lineup of writers who’ve made careers probing the depths of human existence, with editor Eric Beebe challenging each to examine the intersection between science fiction and horror.

In the publisher’s words:

The search for knowledge and understanding, what some folks like to call science, tends to create the biggest sense of unknown. We stare into the abyss, hoping to learn, to understand. But the abyss is a cold and uncaring muse.

We risk all when we enter the abyss, usually with little hope of significant payback. In an everyday sense, the abyss is the absolute bottom of an unending unknown.

Here’s a preview of who you’ll find when you enter this book:

Harlan Ellison. His groundbreaking work on television’s The Outer Limits first introduced me to the wonders of sf-noir, and his legendary anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again Dangerous Visions got me thinking seriously about writing fiction. He’s the winner of multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Edgar awards, and is generally regarded as one of the most influential writers in speculative fiction.

Michael A. Arnzen. He’s won four Bram Stoker Awards in multiple categories, starting with his first novel Grave Markings, which launched the Dell Abyss line back in 1994.

His pioneering work in the digital domain (you can read more about that in the essay “Change Thy Shape”) makes him the perfect writer to explore the horrific effects of technology on our post-modern lives.  

Gary A. Braunbeck. He’s one of the most honored horror writers of his generation, having won the Bram Stoker Awards an astounding six times since 2003. He is also the winner of the International Horror Guild and Black Quill Awards, and the author of some magnificently dark, brooding stories of the human condition.

Tim Waggoner. His story “The Men Upstairs” was a contender for last year’s Shirley Jackson Award, but he’s perhaps best known for his urban fantasy novels Nekropolis,  Dead Streets, and Dark War  – all of which have recently been rereleased in a comprehensive omnibus titled Nekropolis Archives.

In a recent review, Publishers Weekly praised Nekropolis novels for presenting “a complex, intricately crafted setting reminiscent of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe.”

Jack Ketchum.  He’s the man Stephen King believes may be “the scariest guy in America.”  The author of over 20 novels and novellas, most recently The Woman and I’m not Sam, he was named one of the genre’s Grand Masters by HWA in 2011.

Also included in this anthology are new stories by Paul Anderson, Rose Blackthorn, C. Bryan Brown, Kenneth W. Cain, Brad Carter, Robert Essig, S.C. Hayden, KT Jayne , Jamie Lackey, Thomas Malafarina, Jessica McHugh, Matt Moore, Andrew Nienaber, Nelson W. Pyles, Jeyn Roberts, and Joseph Williams – some of the most exciting writers working the field today.

According to the cover blurb, the stories come highly recommended by New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry. What more do we need?

Fear the Abyss goes on sale everywhere on November 27, but it’s currently available from Post Mortem Press for a special Black Friday price of $15.00.

Oh yes . . . and I’ve got a story in there too.

My contributor copy hasn’t arrived yet, so if you see the book, please let me know what you think. Also, if you’ve been following my recent posts here at The 21st Century Scop, be sure to check out the new comments at “Twilight Zone Magazine Remembered: Then & Now @ WFC 2012” and “From World Fantasy to Riley’s Pour House. ” And as always, feel free to join the conversation by posting a comment of your own or sending a note vie Facebook or email.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the abyss.

Everything you want to know about writing … and then some.

January 15th, 2012

 

 Any questions?

Lots of presenters conclude with that phrase. I’m different. I like to start with it.

The strategy may not be as harebrained as it sounds. I’ll explain.

I’ve just returned from my biannual residency in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, where I always open my presentations by passing out index cards and asking the MFA candidates to record questions that come to mind during the lecture. Naturally, they can raise their hands as we go, but the question cards ensure that important inquiries don’t get passed over in the race toward the bell.

During the final hour of each three-hour presentation, I collect the cards, shuffle them, and spend fifteen minutes discussing them with the students.  It’s a collaborative process. I don’t profess to have all the answers.

At last week’s residency, my presentation on “The Art of Revision” generated some terrific inquiries ranging from the nuts and bolts of manuscript style to deeply theoretical thoughts on the writing process. And as is always the case, a few questions were left unasked and unanswered.

So what do you say we revisit those questions here? I’ve got all the cards, reshuffled and face down. We’ll try one card for starters, do a few more later in the week. Sound good?

So here’s the first one:

How do you show a scene break in your manuscript? Do you use an asterisk, hashtag, or simply a blank line?

This one generated some good discussion, with some of the students preferring a set of asterisks while others suggested that a single hashtag was best.

Indeed, the SFWA website still recommends the hashtag. Vonda N. McIntyre’s wonderfully detailed document on the subject is available there for free download. Go check it out if you haven’t seen it. It’s been the genre standard for many years.

Personally, I prefer the hashtag, but I was intrigued to hear from Christopher Shearer that at least one professional editor recommends avoiding them in favor of simply leaving the space blank.

I recall an amusing story that Harlan Ellison told about his manuscript for “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” about how he cut some graphics from a computer magazine and pasted them onto his manuscript to indicate line breaks.  

I sometimes do stuff like that too: a serpentine line for my novel Vipers and a staring eye for my collection Visions. My editor didn’t complain, and the manuscripts were accepted. Nevertheless, if I were a young writer casting my first manuscripts to the wind, I’d opt for the hashtag.

What do you think? Please submit your questions, comments, suggestions. As I’ve said before, the best part of this blog is often in the talkback.

I’m out of space and out of time. We’ll do more questions later. For now, I yield to the power of the hashtag.

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