Tuesday, March 31, 2009

PS Publishing stands down from the BFS Awards

Pete Crowther and PS Publishing have decided to withdraw from the Small Press category of the British Fantasy Awards. This follows a string of award wins -- all deserved. However, I applaud this decision, which echoes Stephen Jones and David Sutton's similar decision with Fantasy Tales way back when. Besides, there is no other press in the UK that stands even close to PS. Pete and crew are, in addition, offering a financial prize to the winners of this award. Here is their press release:

For the past eight years PS Publishing has won the BFS Best Small Press award every year bar one (2005, when Elastic Press saw their hard work commended). Now, as the company reaches its tenth anniversary, Pete Crowther, PS founder and editor-in-chief has come to a decision: the company will no longer be eligible in the category.

“It wasn’t a decision made lightly,” he explains, “nor would I want anyone to think it represents an attitude of complacency on our part. When we started we published four books in a year; now that number is closer to forty. With the best will in the world, that’s not so small anymore! The support of the BFS membership has meant a great deal to us over those ten years but the time has come to stand to one side and instead help to acknowledge the great work being done by other imprints.”

With that in mind the BFS is joining forces with PS to rework the award. The PS Best Small Press Award will, as before, be voted on by the membership of the BFS and FantasyCon with the winner receiving not only their award but also a prize of £250 donated by PS.
“Running a small press can be a thankless and expensive task,” Pete comments. “Indeed, there have been many times for us when an extra £250 towards ever-increasing bills would have been a godsend. If our contribution helps in some albeit small way to maintain and promote the valuable work done by independent presses, then it will be money well-spent.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

2009 World Fantasy Awards Judges

Whilst on the subject of the World Fantasy Awards (see a previous post), I've learned that the 2009 judges, covering the 2008 award year, have been appointed. They are:

Jenny Blackford, Peter Heck, Ellen Klages, Chris Roberson and Delia Sherman

Vist the WFA for addresses, if you wish to submit material

2009 BBC National Short Story Award

The 2009 BBC National Short Story Award was launched on 26 March. This year's panel of judges are: singer-songwriter Will Young, broadcaster and journalist Tom Sutcliffe (chair), author Dame Margaret Drabble, Orange Prize winner Helen Dunmore and BBC Radio 4’s Editor Di Speirs. The shortlist will be announced on Friday 27 November with the five stories broadcast on BBC Radio 4 each weekday before the winner is announced. The five stories will also be published in a special collection. Entries are now open for the Award. The deadline for entries is 5pm on 15 June 2009

Go to the Beeb for details.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Here Comes The Judge!

I was asked by Jo Fletcher if I wanted to be a judge for the World Fantasy Awards a few months into 2008. The request came out of the blue and left me stunned. I've never considered myself an expert although I like to think I was -- am -- widely read. It was an honour, of course, and so I agreed. I soon found myself working alongside -- in a virtual world sense -- Robert Hoge, Dennis L. McKiernan, Mark Morris, and Steve Pasechnick. And pretty quickly the books started arriving. Sometimes they came singly or in parcels of two or three. Sometimes huge boxes arrived pack full of hardcovers and trade and mass paperbacks.

The judges soon agreed on a score-keeper, to whom we were to send comments and scorings. It sounds harsh, but it came down to marking a book or story or collection out of ten (plus a comment or two); there was no other way. I also kept my own notes -- a notebook full of them -- in order to keep track of everything. My dining room became a library, with publications stacked all over the place. And then all the books and magazines needed reading.

As far as I was concerned, I wasn't simply looking for stories, novellas and novels I liked and enjoyed -- I was looking for books (and stories and novellas) that stunned me. I believed that an award winner should be outstanding. Thus the daunting task wasn't quite as bad as I was able to pass on from one title to the next. Of course, the more I enjoyed a book the more of it I read -- all of the it -- which takes time (I am not the fastest of readers). Many books were put into 'I must read this book next year' heap -- interesting and intriguing titles, but not quite there.

I was impressed by the quality of the novellas. This is a story length that suits fantasy, I feel, and those I read demonstrated this perfectly. Novels that formed part of a series were more difficult to judge. It took a lot more work to get into the story, especially if a knowledge of the previous title was a prerequisite. I felt that this put series books at a disadvantage, but ultimately each volume had to be judged on its own, not as part of a trilogy (or whatever). Some publishers seemed to have sent everything they produced in 2007, some were more selective, and some didn't bother sending anything without a reminder. I was especially pleased with the overall quality of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, so much so that I've now subscribed to it (but to be fair, I used to read it when Andromeda Bookshop sold it ... when Andromeda Bookshop still existed, actually).

In due course, we judges completed our tasks and following many, many emails bouncing between us we came to our shortlists and winners. I am more than happy with the finalists, even if my own favourite didn't get the prize. talking to judges from previous years, my experience pretty well matches theirs, so I felt I did a good job. Alas, I didn't get to convention in Calgary for the Awards presentation last Autumn; I suspect the winners all had a good time.

A couple of issues from this process. One is that the judges were criticised for being all white men. The complaints suggested that the Administrators were lazy and didn't search hard enough for a 'balanced' jury. Before I saw these comments it never occurred to me that a World Fantasy Award judge would be swayed by a writers' gender or colour or, perhaps, sexual orientation or religion. Yes, these moans did annoy me. I was told by one of the Award Administrators that securing the services of a 'balanced' jury was proving to be more and more difficult because more and more of those approached decline due to the heavy workload demanded of a judge.

The other thing is this: early on in the process, Jo Fletcher warned me that several judges in the past had found it difficult to retain the reading habit. She was right. Since I no longer have to read books, I find myself starting an awlful lot of them, but finishing few. I seem to be picking up more non-fiction -- such as a book on quantum mechanics recently (and no, I still don't understand it).

But, at the end of the day, when all is done, when the fat lady had sung, etcetera, etcetera, it was an experience well worth ... experiencing.

To remind you, here are the winners:

Life Achievement: Leo & Diane Dillon and Patricia McKillip
Novel: Ysabel Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada/Penguin Roc)
Novella: Illyria Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing)
Short Story: "Singing of Mount Abora" Theodora Goss (Logorrhea, Bantam Spectra)
Anthology: Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural Ellen Datlow, Editor (Tor)
Collection: Tiny Deaths Robert Shearman (Comma Press)
Artist: Edward Miller
Special Award—Professional: Peter Crowther for PS Publishing
Special Award—Non-professional: Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for Endicott Studios Website

For more information, visit the WFA website.

The Stokers

The Horror Writers' Association has announced the recipients of the 2009 Life Achievement Award. They are F Paul Wilson and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. The HWA's Stokers are also awarded in other categories. The nominations for Best Novel are:

COFFIN COUNTY by Gary Braunbeck (Leisure Books)
THE REACH by Nate Kenyon (Leisure Books)
DUMA KEY by Stephen King (Scribner)
JOHNNY GRUESOME by Gregory Lamberson (Bad Moon Books/Medallion Press)

The Stokers will be announced in Burbank, California, over 12-14 June. Visit the Stokers website for full details.

I was in Glendale and Burbank last November -- wish I could return this summer (although it may be just a tad too warm for this Brit).

Investigating Crime with Margaret Murphy

The Crime Writers’ Workshop, held on Saturday 15 March in Hanley Library, was a great success. About a dozen want-to-be writers turned up (including someone from London) and were entertained by, and learned from, Margaret Murphy. Margaret is the author of several crime novels, including The Dispossed and Now You See Me – copies of these two were available for purchase. We also discovered that Margaret is due to take over the Chair of the Crime Writers Association and that she was a founder member of the Murder Squad. The workshop was very relaxed and friendly... To read more, go to the SToW blog.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fantasycon 2009 -- website

The Fantasycon 2009 website is improving all the time. Check it out for full info, including details of the banquet.

Alan Moore's The Courtyard

Alan Moore’s The Courtyard by Alan Moore, Antony Johnston and Jacen Burrows. Avatar $7.99. Reviewed by Peter Coleborn.

No doubt about it: Alan Moore was fundamental in the revamping and updating of the comics industry. His importance is highlighted in Garth Ellis’s introduction, and far be it from me to argue against him. Except… I don’t think that Alan Moore’s The Courtyard (that’s the full title of this comic) is all that cutting edge – and we come to expect material at the vanguard of the genre from the wonderful Mr Moore. Don’t get me wrong: this is an enjoyable comic story, nicely embellished with Jacen Burrow’s artwork, which presents the story mainly in portrait-style panels, two per page. And I guess that $7.99 isn’t too bad for 50 or so pages. Anyway, this is a Cthulhu tale (which they spell as ‘Cthulu’ in the introduction), so that should make many of you sit up. It tells of an FBI undercover agent investigating a series of bizarre murders with seemingly no links. But there is one: Club Zothique. The agent discovers a ‘drug’ but in an attempt to obtain it he is exposed and succumbs, with bloody consequences. I thought the story was a bit predictable, but then I’ve read some of this Mythos stuff for decades. I’m sure that younger comics fans will not spot the route so easily.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WHC2010 Guests of Honour -- latest

Les Edwards and a younger Dave Carson
Photos (c) Peter Coleborn

The Guests of Honour line up for the WHC in 2010 now includes authors Tanith Lee and David Case and artists Les Edwards and Dave Carson. Les and Dave have been associated with the BFS and Fantasycon for many years -- sometimes working on my publications, such as Winter Chills and convention souvenir booklets -- and so it is a thrill to see them so honoured. I remember reading Tanith Lee's The Birthgrave when it was first published by DAW in 1975 and was blown away by its sheer energy. I met her again at Eastercon last year -- and she looked as great as ever. I've only met David Case once or twice and unfortunately never managed to get a really good photo of the man. I'm looking forward to meeting him -- and Tanith, Les and Dave -- next year.

WHC2010 takes place in Pinky's world, Brighton, in early spring. I suppose that will encourage attendees to remain in the confines of the hotel over the weekend -- although if the wind is strong enough, perhaps a gale, I'll need to go out to reminisce about a wind-swept afternoon in Littlehampton (not too far from Brighton) in the 1990s. Check out the convention's website for details.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Night Shade Titles

While browsing the Night Shade Books' website, I note that they are about to publish volume 5 of the Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson. This will be a 500 page hardcover, selling for $35, which isn't bad for this type of book.

NSB are also publishing five volumes of the collected fantasies of Clarke Ashton Smith. Volume 4 is due in April, and like the Hodgson this is a hardcover edition. The Red World of Polaris by Smith is another NSB hardcover -- a reprint of a difficult-to-find book.

And in a similar vein -- NSB also have Manly Wade Wellman's short stories collected into five volumes, plus some other of his titles.

All these volumes would be excellent and welcome additions to my book shelves. Maybe Sir Fred could pass onto me some of his millions...

And just in case you are wondering, Night Shade Books are not paying me for this publicity.

The Mall of Cthulhu

I quote: "When Ted stumbles onto a group of Cthulhu cultists planning to awaken the Old Ones through mystic incantations culled from the fabled Necronomicon, calling forth eldritch horrors into an unsuspecting world, he and Laura must spring into action, traveling from Boston to the seemingly-peaceful suburbs of Providence and beyond, all the way to the sanity-shattering non-Euclidian alleyways and towers of dread R'lyeh itself, in order to prevent an innocent shopping center from turning into... The Mall of Cthulhu."

Well, with such bumf, it's got to be a book worth a look ... I imagine! Check out further details on the NSB website.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Conrad's Competitions

Conrad Williams is running a competiton from his website. You have a chance of winning signed books, including a couple of rare items -- assuming you get the answer right of course ... and that you send in the best photo of yourself reading one of Conrad's books, in an exotic location. I suppose that rules out my patio.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

House of Mystery: A Review

House of Mystery #1: Room & Boredom by Matthew Sturges and Luca Rossie. Vertigo $9.99

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

This graphic novel brings together issues 1 to 5 of Vertigo’s amazing fantasy series. There are two houses: the House of Secrets and the House of Mystery – and readers of Gaiman’s Sandman saga (and other astute folk) – will know where this is heading. The Sturges/Rossi collection focuses on the second house, but of course.

A mystery is always more exciting, and perhaps a lot more dangerous, than a mere secret. And mysteries are part of all good stories. Stories may have messages, for sure. They also provide an escape. The House of Mystery isn’t so obliging, especially for the five main protagonists of this series.

Fig is a young woman who dreamt of being an architect and dreams of a house, thinking it’s just part of her imagination. She runs from a spooky couple (their drawing reminding me of Buffy’s gentlemen). She enters a building, through a door, and into the House of Mystery, specifically into the bar part of it. There she encounters Harry the barkeep, Ann the pirate, Cress the waitress (and drama queen according to the blurb), and the Poet – all long-term residents. The house will not allow them to leave, and Fig soon finds herself in the same predicament.

But the bar is also full of itinerants, folk who pass through the watering hole – and payment for their drinks and food (there is always plenty of that, the house ensures) is through their stories. So in this volume, besides the overall arc by Sturges and Rossi, we have mini-tales by Bill Willingham, Jill Thompson and others. They work remarkably well. After all, story telling inside an inn isn’t that unusual.

The story boils down to this: Fig arrives and attempts to escape, and fails (it’s OK, I’m not really giving way the dénouement). The important aspect is the developing relationships between these five people and Fig’s coming to appreciate her situation. You’ll need to read volume two of House of Mystery, whenever that becomes available, in order to follow the tale further. I have, in fact, been reading this series the monthly magazine format and I must confess that the story – with its subtle sub-plots – works better as a bound volume rather than waiting a month between reading each chapter; this is no simple superhero comic.

Rossi’s artwork is tremendous. It is nice and angular and tastefully coloured. The characterisation is expertly captured and the faces are quite distinctive; and the three ladies do look rather sensual in some panels. It’s this kind of graphic novel that answers the common ascertain that comics are simply for young children. House of Mystery is definitely aimed at the mature-of-mind reader. Recommended.

Tim Powers book launch

For further information visit the BFS

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gone Away

This post has migrated to my new blog, A Bearded Star.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

WHC 2010

The second Guest of Honour has now been announced. David Case joins Tanith Lee as GOH. More information to come. In the meantine, visit: World Horror Convention 2010