Tags: aether age

Sweet! The gay book gets a fresh new positive review! And I remember "The Robbie"

I have spent some of this New Year Day bragging anywhere I can find to brag about the very nice review at the cool new Rise Reviews site of M-Brane Press's queer spec fic anthology Things We Are Not. I am way pumped up that someone has taken a look at this book again and posted about it now, because for the most of the past year, it has not done well as far as selling copies, and I hope at least a couple more people will consider buying it now. It started out strong with a lot of pre-order sales ahead of its release in October of 2009, and it did earn just barely enough money to where it is now technically profitable, but I have yet to disburse any royalties to the authors because it seems really dumb to Pay Pal everyone barely four dollars (my usual practice with royalties is to pay them when we're at least at $10, which is a good way away from happening with Things We Are Not.) 

The book has not been reviewed very often, and not usually in a very comprehensive way like this new review of it by novelist Kelly Jennings who really seemed to "get" me in what I was trying to accomplish with it. Is the book the greatest thing ever? No, certainly not. Would I change some things about it if I could go back and do it over? Yeah, probably. But with a bit more than a year of hindsight on it, I still think it's pretty damned great and I am very proud of the range of writers and visions in it. 

I must admit that my stomach nearly dropped out as I was reading the review and I realized that she was going to comment directly on my own story, "The Robbie." 



Then I heaved a great sigh of relief when the reviewer seemed to understand and like the story I was telling or at least trying to tell. My nightmare, ever since I made the decision to include my own story in that book, is that a review would appear saying something like,

"While Things We Are Not is overall a very solid collection of daring short fiction, it is tragically marred by its editor's own entry, the abysmal  'The Robbie.' He should have kept this one to himself. Leave the writing to the writers, Mr. Editor."  

So I gotta tell ya, it was a big damned relief to see a nice review of "The Robbie" (and especially so from someone who does not know me and has no vested interest in flattering me). But all this made me reflect upon my decision to publish the story in the first place. I do not ever run my own fiction in my magazine, M-Brane SF. It's a rule that I imposed on myself at the beginning of it because being the one controlling the content could make it too easy for me to turn the zine into a platform for promoting myself (or make it look that way, at least), which I definitely did not want to do (though I would like to follow Oprah's example and start putting pics of myself on every cover ;) ). So my little handful of published fiction credits have all been attained fair-and-square by submitting for approval from another editor and publisher (even my Aether Age entry needed to pass muster with my co-editor, and he would have told me if it was crap). Except for "The Robbie" which I accepted for my own antho and never showed a single other set of eyes before it was published. And that's what's a little weird about my thought process on it: why did I not at least pass it by a single "beta" reader or even just ask my friend Brandon (H. Bell, of Aether Age and Fantastique Unfettered) to look at it and warn me if I was about to print some real garbage before I did it? I did, in fact, show him my foreword to the book (which is admittedly a somewhat haranguing piece) and he wisely got me to turn down the volume on it a little bit. But I didn't show him or anyone else "The Robbie" even though I knew they'd see it eventually.

Why? Oddly, I think it is because I was somewhat embarrassed by the way I probably reveal a personal sex fantasy with it. It is very graphic in several places with its depiction of sex acts, and somehow to just hand a single copy of it to someone seems like more of an exposure than publishing it far and wide. I'm kind of an exhibitionist anyway (I think a lot of writers are, and probably certainly ones who write erotica) and am happy to share what turns me on...but it somehow seems more comfortable to do that in front of a distant audience than directly with one person.

"The Robbie" is one of two sex-oriented stories that I wrote in 2009, inspired by dreams and written rather frantically first thing in the morning. The other was an untitled werewolf story, that I gave the working title "Wolven" (yeah I know that's been used elsewhere). After some additions and revisions to both of them, I really felt that "The Robbie" was printable if only there were a market for it. ("Wolven," on the other hand, is so transgressive and sick-ass that it may never see the light of day even though I do like it; it's become the troll under the bridge of my unpublished fiction). Things We Are Not became the market for it, and now I think it was maybe not such a bad choice.

Things We Are Not is available at Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle. 

Summary of 2010

End of the year is a logical time to review one's status, either to identify things that point toward a decent next year or suggest that much improvement is needed. In no particular order, these were the major features of my year 2010:

Professional: In May of this year, I returned to a proper day-job as a working culinarian after years spent in the Exile. This has made all the difference as far as the management of the household economy and my general attitude on the ongoing, intractable need to work for a living. I owe this turn of good fortune to a very dear friend. Since I don't talk specifically about the day job here, and because I do not want to embarrass anyone, I will not mention him by name here. But good friends are things to be thankful for even more so this year than most. 

Homelife: We returned from the Exile this year. Our long, dark, insanely self-imposed sojourn in OKC was finally brought to its blessed bloody end by my partner's clear thinking. Well, Jeff had some help in the form of inheriting enough money to finance a move, but he talked me out of delaying the move until the end of the lease on our OKC home and instead saying "fuck that" and moving months early like we did. This wisdom on his part not only brought the Exile to an end months earlier but made the timing perfect as far as getting my new day job.

Writing: I wrote a lot, but didn't finish very much. On the other hand, I submitted two short stories for publication, which is far more than the zero that I had submitted during the previous three years. Of the two stories that I submitted, both were for specifically-themed publications and both were accepted. That puts my acceptance rate for the year at 100%, bitches! (Only two, I know...but still!) But tempering that success was my epic fail at NaNoWriMo in November. While I did clock about 30,000 words, they were quite a mess. Also, they were 30K words of a thing that needs to be more like 100K to actually be done rather than NaNo's 50K winner threshold. Projects that had fallen more or less into hiatus, like my military sf novel Shame and my non-fiction restaurant memoir/cookbook Stackin' Hogs, did not advance much during 2010, though both did have some words added and neither have been given up upon.

Publishing: If the actual work that I perform to make a living is my "day job," then my other job is as the editor of M-Brane SF and the publisher of the recently retooled M-Brane Press. 2010 was really only my second full year in this role, but it was a big one. Other than edit and publish the monthly issues of M-Brane, I also brought out a couple of single-author collections: Cesar Torres' The 12 Burning Wheels and Derek J. Goodman's Machina. I co-edited with Jaym Gates a one-off (maybe) erotic spec fic zine for Crossed Genres called The Little Death. I also published 2020 Visions, a really remarkable collection of near-future spec fic, edited by Rick Novy. We also started a second zine. Brandon Bell's Fantastique Unfettered published its first issue just a few days ago in a beautiful print edition. But perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the year was the publication of The Aether Age, co-edited by Brandon and me and published by Hadley Rille Books. This one was a long time in process and is absolutely the coolest book of the year, period. There's nothing quite like it. Anyone who thinks they know what it is but hasn't seen it yet is wrong. It may take a few months for the word to spread, but begun the Aether Age has!

Political: My undying disgust for teabaggers, Republicans, and other assorted morons reached new heights in 2010. If anyone had any doubt that American "conservatives" are wholly invested in promoting plutocracy, theocracy, know-nothing-ness and bugfuck dumbassedness, then no one need look any further than than the news of 2010.  I actually don't much care at the moment that these people have taken control of the House of Representatives. In fact, I look forward to how they will have to explain to the public why they want to destroy everything. The public needs a fucking refresher anyway: these are some of the same jackasses (Boehner) who ran the Congress just a few years ago, and now they are joined by some even crazier ones. On the upside: the health care law was passed and so was the REPEAL OF DADT!! In your face, McCain!

Personal: Ten years into the relationship with my significant other, I have never been more in love. This is why I do and care about all the rest of it.

I think that's everything from 2010.

The AETHER AGE is coming

Last night we posted the story line-up for the upcoming shared world, "open culture" anthology The Aether Age, co-edited by Brandon Bell and me, to be published by Hadley Rille Books. We are very excited about the results of this project, which started as conversation on Twitter and then moved into a discussion on the M-Brane blog last summer. Now we are at the point where stories have been selected--nineteen windows into this amazing new world--and we are in a final (or at least close to final) editing phase. I am getting very excited about it as it finally comes to fruition. Indeed, as Vice President Biden said today about another topic, "This a big fucking deal!" Here's a peek at the cover art by M.S. Corley:

Though I had some book editing and publishing experience behind me, I learned a lot through the process of putting this project together. The biggest and most useful lesson I learned is that collaboration is really, really frakkin' awesome and that I don't need to to go it alone all the time, even as a micro-press guy. In fact, this project would be nowhere near as good if I had tried it as an M-Brane project without my terrific collaborators, co-editor Brandon and Eric Reynolds of Hadley Rille Books, as well as all the other talented people they brought to the party. Eric found a couple of writers for us who turned in fantastic stories. Brandon found the talented TC Parmelee who will be doing our audio and the Chameleon Chamber Group who will be doing our music (yes, this book will have music associated with it--I can't even describe how awesome I think that is!). Now it seems completely ridiculous that I had originally considered this shared world project as nothing more than a special issue of M-Brane (I was such a dork back then. Right. Just back then!).

Aside from the vast expansion of the talent pool that having collaborators provided, I realized during the process of reading and selecting submissions, and now editing them, that I would have been seriously under water without Brandon. The Aether Age, due to the very nature of the project, is no ordinary anthology as far as picking stories and getting them ready for publication. It's much more complex than a themed project; the stories are all set in literally the same world, but were written independently by over a dozen different writers, no two of which knew what the other was doing, with nothing to go on other than the writer's guidelines that we provided. Granted, we provided a rather extensive set of guidelines, but it's still remarkable to me the way this actually worked out. All these different writers produced work uniquely their own, yet which fits into this shared world, and which opened my eyes to potential for this world that I hadn't imagined myself. As we read stories and made our selections, Brandon and I let these stories and the various visions of these writers enhance and reshape the plan, too. My own idea of what the AeA world is now is a lot different in some ways than what it was a few months ago--and it's better. Because it is a collaborative creation.

Another thing that was very different about this project than my zine or my experience with Things We Are Not (queer sf antho from last fall) was the quality and quantity of submissions. While I always get great submissions for my other projects, I also get plenty that can go quickly to the reject pile without much thought, and that's actually what happens with a majority of them. The AeA submissions, however, were a bit fewer in number than I had expected, but as a group they were of a very high grade. Even the stories we passed on were markedly better than what's usually in the "no" folder for M-Brane. I can honestly say that were no really bad submissions, no totally unsuitable ones, just ones that weren't as strong for various reasons as the ones that did make the final cut. The writers who answered this call for submissions really worked on these stories. They really got into it, and that was maybe the most gratifying thing so far, the fact that a lot of people believed this was a good idea. 

I'll stop now. Just realized I am going on as if it's all done and I am just kicking back, reflecting on it. In fact, there is a whole bunch of work to do yet, but we're getting closer.