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The Enterprise of Summer Reading

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

Phew.  Back from the blogging dead, it seems.  I’ve been back from Phase One of The Steampunk Bible book tour, which was a steady five weeks of planes, trains, buses and automobiles across 7, was it 8?, cities mostly in the Northeast.  Since then I’ve been playing at Marlene Dietrich, and staying indoors with the A/C, drinking ghetto Iced Lattes, and steadily catching up on deadlines, sleep, and sanity.   I also have finally begun to unpack, and I forgot how quickly my suitcase turned into a portable library.

I began the tour with two books:  An ARC of Thackery T. Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities, the new Ann and Jeff VanderMeer anthology in which I have a story entitled “Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room,” and which I will blog about more when it is unleashed this Thursday, July 7th, and my personal copy of The Steampunk Bible that I had contributor’s sign as I met them on the road.

By the end of the tour, these two books grew to a dozen:

I also picked up some art: on the left is a silhouette portrait of yours truly by the lovely illustrator Amy Houser done at the Steampunk World’s Fair, and to the right is one of a series of Steampug Adventure prints from contributor and manically talented Dr. Grymm, who actually has his own great book out 1,000 Steampunk Creations:  Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art that comes highly recommended!

Each book, and each print, is a souvenir of the wonderful people I met, and a reminder that no matter how dull things feel at home, there are people out in the world making new and beautiful things.  It’s more than most souvenirs conjure, for sure.

I haven’t been reading as much as I would like, so I’m excited to have accumulated this interesting and diverse collection.  I plan on reviewing these books, either here or elsewhere, starting with Jesse Bullington’s Enterprise of Death, which came out last May and is incomparable to anything I have read to date.

It tells the tale of Awa, an African slave who is marooned with her mistress on an island populated by the walking dead and their necromancer master.  She survives to become a reluctant apprentice to the necromancer, and buys her time until she can escape.  However, her freedom has a ten year expiration date, thanks to a precautionary curse placed upon her by the Necromancer.  So she must set out to lift the curse and defeat the old Wizard, and does so by enlisting the help of renaissance painter/mercenary solider Niklaus Manuel Deutsch, who is based upon the artist of the iconic Death and the Maiden, which the cover art for the novel is based on.

One thing that makes this book unique is the balance that is struck between the fun and silliness one can have in fantasy adventure yarns, and the poignancy one can conjure from the supernatural and unexplained. Fans of Grossbarts will find the same well-researched and immersive historical backdrop, but rather than medieval Germany, it is Renaissance Spain.  There are horrendous and terrifying monsters, and scenes that’ll make the faint of heart squirm, and the hard of heart fist-pump the air.  However, the tone is different than Grossbarts, and is not as darkly humored, because at its core Enterprise is a heartbreaking tale of unrequited love, of lifelong friendship,  bildungsroman, and sexuality.  Having serious themes like this set upon a backdrop of a ghoulish and terrifying world makes a magical and poetical concoction that toes the lines between Thomas Hardy’s philosophical disparity and Lovecraft’s cosmic fear.  But unlike the characters in Hardy and Lovecraft, Awa finds people who accept her for who she is, and helps her find herself by their acceptance, and ultimately gets by with a little help from these friends.  Really, that’s all any of us can hope for, so I don’t find the novel that bleak—just damn honest.

Oh, hello there, personal blog

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

Oh, my poor little blog, how I have neglected you.  Since The Steampunk Bible came out May 1st, I’ve been busy directing my automaton Mecha Underwood on how to post to our 2.0 sister site:  www.steampunkbible.com.  For the past two weeks of my tour–in Austin and in Waltham–I have been posting “postcards,” and will plan to do so there for the remainder of my tour throughout June 2.  I am also writing more formal dispatches for Tor.com, the first which regards Austin. So, The Flightless Philosopher will be a little dead, but please look for me on the other sites.  Also, I will be tweeting my whereabouts and “OMGs” while on the road @selena_jo.   Below I am including the rest of my touring itinerary, and if I am coming to a town near you, come up and sigh “Hi.”

This is what is left on my schedule.  First stop is fun and hi-jinx at the Steampunk World’s Fair:

Somerset, NJ – May 20-22 (F-Sun), Steampunk World’s Fair – Panel appearances by coauthor S.J. Chambers, along with contributors Jake von Slatt, Ekaterina Sedia, Ay-leen the Peacemaker, Dr. Grymm, Jaymee Goh, etc. Signing Saturday 12 pm, in The Library of Lost Lit.

Cambridge, MA – May 23 (Mon), Porter Square Books, 7pm – Coauthor S.J. Chambers with contributors Jake von Slatt, Mike Libby, Jess Nevins, and Aleks Sennwald for book discussion, demonstration of mechanical beetles, and more.

New York City – May 26 (Thurs), Barnes & Noble, 7 pm – Coauthors Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers are joined by contributors Evelyn Kriete, G.D. Falksen, Ay-leen the Peacemaker, Dexter Palmer, Aleks Sennwald, and Jaymee Goh for a lively discussion of steampunk, along with a multi-media presentation, and Q&A.

Philadelphia, PA – May 28, Between Books (Delaware, 25 min from downtown Philly), 6:30pm – Coauthor S.J. Chamber discusses the book along with Steampunk experts Ekaterina Sedia and Ed Pettit, with special appearance by the steampunk band The Absinthe Drinkers.

Washington, D.C. — May 31, Library of Congress, 12 pm — Coauthor S.J. Chambers will be giving a lecture entitled “Edgar Allan Poe: SF’s Founding Father,” followed by Q&A and signing.

Richmond, VA – June 2 (Thurs), Fountain Bookstore, 6:30pm – Signing and discussion with coauthor S.J. Chambers.

First stop: Austin, TX

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE is beginning to emerge in bookstores and on doorsteps, and should officially be available by Sunday, May 1st.   By that time I will be in The City of the Violet Crown, celebrating.

First stop is the World Horror convention.  I will be moderating The Horror of the Academy, 5:00 PM Friday, with Stephen Graham Jones, Helen Marshall, Chesya Burke, John Langan, and Matt Cardin.

Saturday night, I’ll be participating in the mass author Signing, 7-9:30 pm, with books supplied by Austin Books and Comics available all throughout the Con.  In fact, you may find me lurking around the Austin Books booth during the day, so please come by and say “Hi!”


Sunday night, if you are still in Austin post-con, or of, or in, the Austin area, come on by the United States Art Authority where Austin Books and Comics presents THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE BOOK RELEASE PARTY.    Doors open at 7 pm and will feature a panel and signing with me and special guests Jess Nevins, Rick Klaw, Liz Gorinsky and Michael and Linda Moorcock.

This event is the official kick-off of my STEAMPUNK BIBLE book tour, so if you aren’t in the Austin area, our paths may yet still cross.  You can check here to find out more.

News and Tour

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

Some exciting things are a foot in S.J. land.  First,  I am very pleased to announce that I now have a literary agent, Howard Morhaim, of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, who also represents some of my favorite authors like Arturo Perez-Reverte, Michael Moorcock, Jeff VanderMeer, and Cat Valente.  I am thrilled to be working with him, and we  are currently in talks with a publisher about a specific book I’ve been working on, and we have several other projects  pending for down the road.

I have also been weaving together a book tour for The Steampunk Bible that will begin May 1st in Austin.  Below are the events I will be at.  Coauthor Jeff VanderMeer has the full tour including his events, and a Seattle event here.

Austin, Texas – May 1 (Sunday), The US Art Authority – Coauthor S.J. Chambers with special guests Rick Klaw and Jess Nevins (both contributors).  Book Release Party, books supplied by Austin Books and Comics. Time still TBD.

I will also be attending the World Horror Convention that weekend.  I will be chairing a panel  Friday at 5 pm:  Horror and the Academy, with Stephen Graham Jones and Helen Marshall.  Sunday, when The Steampunk Bible is officially released,  there will be a signing (thanks to Rick Klaw and Austin Books and Comics).  I also hope those attendees staying overnight in Austin will come to the book release party, which is scheduled after WHC has wound down.

Waltham, MA – May 6-8 (F-Sun), International Steampunk City – Panel/signing at International Steampunk City, with coauthor S.J. Chambers and contributors Ay-leen the Peacemaker, and Jake Von Slatt, G.D. Falksen and Evelyn Kriete, et al.  I will also be giving four lectures about Poe and Steampunk throughout Saturday and Sunday, TBD.

Somerset, NJ – May 20-22 (F-Sun), The Steampunk World’s Fair – Panel appearances by coauthor S.J. Chambers, with special guest Stephen H. Segal of Quirk books and Weird Tales, along with contributors Jake von Slatt, Ay-leen the Peacemaker, Dr. Grymm, Jaymee Goh, etc. Signing TBA.

Cambridge, MA – May 23 (Mon), Porter Square Books, 7pm – Coauthor S.J. Chambers with contributors Jake von Slatt, Mike Libby, Jess Nevins, and Aleks Sennwald for book discussion, demonstration of mechanical beetles, and more.

New York City – May 26 (Thurs), Barnes & Noble – Coauthors Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers are joined by contributors Evelyn Kriete, G.D. Falksen, Ay-leen the Peacemaker, Dexter Palmer, Aleks Sennwald, and Jaymee Goh for a lively discussion of Steampunk, along with a multi-media presentation, and Q&A.

Philadelphia, PA – May 28, Between Books (Delaware, 25 min from downtown Philly), 6:30pm – Coauthor S.J. Chamber discusses the book along with Steampunk experts Ekaterina Sedia and Ed Pettit, with a possible special appearance by the Steampunk band The Absinthe Drinkers.

Richmond, VA – June 2 (Thurs), Fountain Bookstore, 6:30pm – Signing and discussion with coauthor S.J. Chambers discusses the book.

I am also planning an overseas tour to London and Paris in September, the specifics of which I hope to announce soon.

Meanwhile, in-between top sekrit projects and trip planning, I’ve been finishing up some interviews and reviews for Strange Horizons and Bookslut, despairing on the disarray of this website, and dredging through taxes.  I attempted to read Karen Russel’s Swamplandia! but found its infatuation with its southern quirky cuteness annoying.   I think perhaps I just dislike contemporary family sagas, which has made it difficult for me to enjoy Zadie Smith, Jonathan Franzen, and now Karen Russel.  I do like her short stories, however, which shares some of the same cute quirkiness, but I think 400 pages of it, plus the added dose of “ain’t Florida families dysfunctional and carrrayzee” is a bit much.

Now I am half way through Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley and am finding it more my cup of vino.  I think I may have to make a visit to the Paperback Rack and pick up the other titles in her Ripley series.

Japanese Relief Fundraisers

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

While I don’t necessarily think you should give in order to receive, a lot of writers and artists are stepping up and practically giving away their wares to help Japan.

Two especially have caught my eye.

Jesse Bullington is giving away advanced reader copies to the highest donors.

Meanwhile, Libby Bulloff/Exoskeleton Cabaret is practically giving away select prints for $30 (shipping included), with all profits going to Japan Red Cross Relief.

And of course, if you just want to donate, you can do so here.

If you know of any other neat fundraisers going on, please comment.

The Steampunk Beauty

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

After a long and tedious week at the day job, a wonderful thing awaited me on my doorstop Wednesday night. Our wonderful editor at Abrams, Caitlin Kenney, sent Jeff VanderMeer and I the finished The Steampunk Bible. As you can see, I was stunned by the book’s beauty.

The book has come a long way, and I thought I’d share one example of how the book evolved over the year.

In the first galley, we had Kris Kuksi opening up our Maker chapter. Kris Kuksi is a modern Bernini, and one of my favorite artists around.

Then, by the time the BLADs came out, we were thinking of using Sean Orlando’s Steampunk Treehouse.

By the final run, we’d gotten the shots we needed from Jeremy Faludi of Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron, which is a huge anchor in the Maker chapter.

While the book won’t be out until May 1st, Jeff snagged an extra copy that he and Ann VanderMeer will be giving away to a lucky lady or gentleman at their SF in SF event tomorrow night.

The design of the book is very lovely, and graphic designer Galen Smith did a wonderful job interpreting Jeff’s suggestion that we allude to the first editions of Jules Verne’s novels.

A lot of people were involved with this book, and in trying to list everyone, I know I would leave someone out. So, to try and avoid that faux pas, I want to say thank you to everyone involved–you know who you are, and we couldn’t have done it without you!

We got a lot coming up for this book. Towards the end of April, about a week before the book’s release, The Steampunk Bible, Volume 2.0, will be coming out on a url near you. It will have the comprehensive vendor’s list, as well as a lot of extras like interviews with Cherie Priest, Datamancer, and Scott Westerfield.

I am also going to be doing a little bit of touring in New England for the book, and I will have details of that up here soon.

No Reservations, Indeed

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

Saw Anthony Bourdain speak last night. He has this nice style of rambling that sounds conversational and crazed, but really curves upon an axis of clear logic. He spoke about the simplicity of food, explained how to make an omelet [secret lies in cracking the eggs on the counter, and not on an edge], and the cultural and historical importance of dining outside one’s own culture.

What I liked about him was he was no bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, he can talk the foodie talk when he wants too, but I’ve always found that culinary version of Artspeak tedious and well, sort of masturbatory. And, I got the impression he thinks so too. For him, fine cooking is about skill and passion. His biggest advice about traveling to Japan is to first ask the chef what he’d like you to eat, and then complement him on the quality of rice. This is because, as an apprentice, this chef spent about seven years only doing rice duty, and the quality of that is more than just cooking: it is sweat, tears, time, and commitment in a bite. I liked that, because too often we assume everything is for our consumption, and pay little attention to what went behind the construction and conception of a dish, a glass of wine, the art on the wall, the book in our hand. When you read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, or Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, it’s easy to just skim through the tersity. But that tersity is built upon 30-50 years of words–grains of rice, if you will–that all finally came together to wrap around one perfect piece of nigiri.

Do You Like Catwoman?

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

Then come on over to Tor.com where we’re celebrating Batman Week, and I am giving away four Catwoman comics.

Contest is open through February 4.

Morning Coffee–The Awesome Edition

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

The inbox this morning was filled with nothing but awesome. First, my friend Bill in Vancouver sent me this:

Then I found that i09 has announced the Lambshead Table of Contents. Take a gander if you think you can handle it!

And while we’re speaking of awesome , I forgot to mention that Weird Tales has revamped their site, has a new submission portal, and have raised their pay rates.

Fresh Start or Fresh Hell?

Originally published at S. J. Chambers. You can comment here or there.

For reasons I’d rather not get into nonce, 2011 has not started off so great.  Part of it is personal losses, the other professional and aspirational fragmentation.  Either way, it’s left me a bit melancholy this last month, so I’ve been avoiding any and all social outlets (i.e., Facebook sabbatical and neglecting LJ)  so as not to be the residential rain cloud of the Interwebs.  I’m tired of that rain cloud, and in hopes of seducing the sun to shine I thought I’d post some stuff I am looking forward to in 2011. I’m also reading a lot of P.G. Wodehouse and watching Deadwood.  Both excellent coping mechanisms.

Writing stuff:

May 1:  The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature, the coffee table book written by me and Jeff VanderMeer, will be hitting bookshelves both IRL and on the Web.  In fact, you can already pre-order The Steampunk Bible at a very ridiculously low price at Amazon, if you are so inclined.  This is my first book and I am thrilled that it is such a work of beauty.

Sometime around then, a sister site with extra content will be launched, as well as a who’s who vendor list of Steampunklandia.

June 21:  The Thackery T. Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I have a short story appearing in this amazing anthology called “Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room.”  I could fill up an entire journal about how thrilled I am to be a part of this anthology.  It is going to be a jewel among tomes.  You can get a taste of it here.

Meanwhile, I have some stuff in the works that I have slowly, but surely, been plucking away at and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go and where they take me.

Editing:
Strange Horizons has started it’s new year off, and there have been a lot of changes to the Articles department already. We’ve cut our editorial schedule from 52 articles a year, to about 11 monthly. We’re going to start focusing more on interviews and round-tables, criticism, and appreciations–and get away from the writer’s guide aspects familiar to Articles from the past 10 years. Our new year started off with a bang with editor JoSelle VanderHooft’s interview with Cat Valente about Mythpunk. This is one of a two part series, the second of which is a round table and will run tomorrow.

Community:
Oh man, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer announced that they are resurrecting their Leviathan anthology series, and it is going to be a benchmark of anthologies! Check out why and how you can help here. I just bought my copy of The Third Bear as my small token of support for this massive undertaking.

Also, Monster Awareness Month begins this week, and I think we owe it to our monsters to pay them tribute. My friend Orrin Grey will be celebrating alongside Harry Markov, Sharon Ring, KV Taylor, Robert Hood and Mark Deniz. Should be a fun month.

Reading:

Books I am looking forward to this year:  Jesse Bullington’s Enterprise of Death, Jeff VanderMeer’s Monstrous Creatures and Third Bear, Mina Loy’s Collected Short Works, Lenore Hart’s The Raven’s Bride (a fictional biography of my favorite Poe Girl, Virginia). I really slacked with reading last year, so I have plenty of past titles to keep me occupied in-between all these books release dates.

Fun times:

Last, but never least, the fun times. My best friend and favorite living artist Aleks Sennwald and I are doing a prompt photography tumblr called Aim Photo Shoot . Each week, or fortnight, we have a prompt that we try to depict with our iPhones. Sort of a digital scavenger hunt.

World Horror! I am going where the weird turn pro–Austin, TX. Very excited–there will be friends and mayhem, and I may even be on a panel or two?

So yeah–2011 should be fun.

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