Good Good Reviews

Last month over at the SF Signal Mind Meld, the question was, What makes a good genre review? I held forth on my three wishes for better reviews: I want more context (telling me what the book is saying in relation to other books and the culture), I want some discussion of the prose itself (with excerpts, please), and (especially) I want reviews that are well written. Is that too much to ask?

I guess not. The universe answered in the best possible (and most ego-pleasing) way:  with James Sallis’ review of Raising Stony Mayhall, in the May/June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The review is extremely positive (that’s the ego-pleasing part), but it also fulfills my three wishes.

First he talks about the book in terms of where it fits in terms the genre, and how he deals with students who come across a genre book and say they “don’t usually read this sort of thing”:

Nor will many claims bring a more impassioned response from me than “Well, this isn’t really science fiction (or a mystery, or a western), is it? This transcends (or deconstructs, or suberts) the genre.”

Draw them guns, partner, you better be ready to open fire.

He goes on to talk about why he doesn’t read much zombie fiction, because zombies are “Your basic one trick, or half a trick, pony.”

Well, not if the zombies have the good fortune of being in Daryl Gregory’s blazingly intelligent novel that doesn’t subvert or transcend or deconstruct one damn thing but instead, as all great writing does, honors and fulfills its heritage.

Wish #1: Check.

Sallis goes on to quote the opening page of the novel, and after that, a few more sentences as well, talking about what he likes about the prose. Wish #2: Done and done. But even more pleasingly (but not surprisingly– Sallis is an excellent writer, probably more famous now for having written the novel behind the also excellent movie Drive)  the way he writes about the book makes me want to read my own novel. That’s Wish #3 to retire the side. I’m a lucky man.

Other review news:

In Episode 10 of the SF Squee Cast, Seanan McGuire delivered a blush-inducing review of Unpossible and Other Stories. I only learned later that I’d met Seanan at Bill Willingham’s party at the San Diego Comic Con… and ignored her.  Even though she tried to talk about my book Devil’s Alphabet. WHAT?! First of all, I feel terrible. Second, I can’t believe I passed up a chance to talk about my own book with someone who wanted to hash through the weird genetics in that novel.

Last, I came across a lovely review of Raising Stony Mayhall on Geek Speak Magazine. In their “Recommended” status they rated it “Hell yes!” But here’s my favorite paragraph, which comes at the end:

Geek Speak’s Brad Crammond had the nerve – the nerve, I say! – to skim through this and call it “Jodi Picoult with zombies”, and while I take exception to his dismissive tone, I don’t entirely disagree. This novel doeshave some elements of the tear-jerking saga about it, and I won’t deny there were tears for me in here: many. But every single one of them was worth it, and the novel’s thought-provoking ending has stayed with me in all the months since first I read it, and often comes to me at quiet moments, when I am contemplating the vast complexities of life, the universe and everything. Indeed, if the job of speculative fiction is to make us think, then all I can say is this book is due for a stellar performance review and a hefty Christmas bonus, because think I did… and still am.


Carlos Magno is Lord of the Apes!

Planet of the Apes #10 is out in stores this week, and Carlos Magno, the genius behind the artwork, just KILLS IT in this issue. There’s a huge battle, and Carlos crams the pages with awesomeness.  Dafna Pleban, our editor on the book, just posted one of the panels, which spans two pages.  She then got everyone in the BOOM! office to try to count how many apes, humans, and horses Carlos had fit into that one panel — but only Carlos knows the truth.

Click on the pic to see their analysis:

And for the record? The description for panel 3 is TWO SENTENCES.

I love being a writer. And thank God for Carlos.

E-Possible: Unpossible now on Kindle

Hey folks, just a quick note to say happy holidays, and to tell you that thanks to the work of Patrick Swenson, publisher of Fairwood Press,  Unpossible and Other Stories is now on Kindle:  It will be out on Nook soon as well.

UPDATE 12/30: The Nook version is now available on Barnes & Noble:

And did I mention that they’re both only $5.99?

Now I’m going to go back to eating, drinking, and playing World of Tanks.

Criminally Overlooked Books of 2011: Unpossible is Guilty

So Deb Coates (a pal and fantastic writer who has her first novel coming out next year), was browsing Huffington Post, and came across this article, reposted from Flavorwire: “The Most Criminally Overlooked Books of 2011.” And hey, Unpossible and Other Stories is on the list! I’m flattered, but now I feel weird, because I think this makes Raising Stony Mayhall twice as overlooked. Maybe there’s another list out there. Books So Overlooked It’s Not Even Criminal, It’s Just Sad.

On the other hand, the books in that list sound very cool. More reading to do this winter break…

Audible Stony: Best Zombie Book of the Year released their Best of 2011 List, and Raising Stony Mayhall is their Best Zombie Book of the year.  (Audible didn’t make a category for horror, but they did for zombies — which just goes to show you, those living dead guys will take over everything.) My thanks to everyone who downloaded and rated the book!

If you’re the type to read books through your ears, you can buy the book here. The narrator, a voice actor named David Marantz, does a fantastic job.

Librarians dig the Stony

The Library Journal just released their Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy books for 2011, and Raising Stony Mayhall made the list, along with books by some other guys. (This kid George RR Martin is supposed to be pretty good, I hear.)

Back in July, LJ gave Stony a starred review — but my Google alerts failed me, and this was the first I heard about it. Their review, in its entirety, was this:  “Part superhero fiction, part zombie horror story, and part supernatural thriller, this luminous and compelling tale deserves a wide readership beyond genre fans.”

In other review news, Paul Witcover just reviewed the book in Realms of Fantasy Magazine. The magazine is going out of business again (it’s happened a couple times before), but perhaps it will rise again, just like… but you know where I’m going with this. Here’s part of what Mr. Witcover had to say:

Richly imaginative, surprisingly funny, both grippingly and sensitively told, the novel is by turns nostalgic, grim, and redemptive. It’s also got real crossover potential, yet it will also satisfy the most demanding zombiephiles. This is a book that has brains… and eats them too.

Farewell, RoF — we hardly knew ye.

Cluting Stony Mayhall

But if it is a stricture to suggest that apophasis-ridden SF texts are time-wasters (I do mean to suggest that), then Wilson and Gregory are exempt…

That’s the logline, more or less, of John Clute’s review of Robert Charles Wilson’s Vortex and my book Raising Stony Mayhall. I love reading Clute’s reviews and essays, even when they’re not about me (and they’re never about me — this is the first), if only because I have to work so hard to figure out if I’m getting scammed. Is he serious? Is this a con job? Can a guy really create, unilaterally, new critical terms, define them as he sees fit, then club you over the head with them? And get away with it?

As it turns out, yes, yes he can. Because Clute thinks hard about SF, fantasy, and horror, and he’s wicked smart. I’ve learned a lot from his essays and interviews, not the least of which is at least one new vocabulary term per outing. (“Apophasis”, as it turns out, is a real word. I looked it up. Later in the review he uses the phrase “apophatic-lock-in.” Bonus!)  And as you can see from this blog post, if you’ve read some Clute recently, it’s inevitable that soon you’ll be writing long sentences with an inordinate number of commas and coining terms like Cluted and Clutastic-Lock-In.

Clute’s review (and isn’t it fun to say Clute? Clute Clute Clute) isn’t going to sell more copies of RSM. In fact, it may scare off a few people, by making the novel seem like a brainy deconstructionist exercise in genre-bending wankery. Which it is, in part. I only have three themes in my fiction — messiahs, the mind-body problem, and mash-ups (of genres, that is) — and RSM hits all three of those, but especially doth whale upon the genre-warping whammy bar. But as a writer, it pleases me  to have a critic like Mr. C take the book seriously for what I was trying to say about SF, fantasy, and horror  –or as he calls it, the metatext. When he says, “The first hundred pages of the book, which are sustainedly engrossing, contains some of the most quietly virtuoso negotiations of the SF megatext I’ve run across for a long time,” I get all glow-y inside. (Or perhaps that’s the Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA I just drank. Regardless…) The glow fades a bit when he says the rest of the book isn’t as good as that first hundred, I have to remind myself that he called RSM and Vortex two of the best SF books of the year.

So he liked it, right?




Unpossible is a PW Book of the Year

I’m sorry, I can’t come up with a clever headline. But I’m pleased as all get out that Unpossible and Other Stories, the collection we just launched, made  Publishers Weekly Top 5 science fiction and fantasy books of the year.

Click to enlarge. I had a great time at World Fantasy. The Unlaunch Party went well, with a lot of people hanging out on the patio in the bright San Diego sunshine. Patrick Swenson, my publisher, sold books in the kitchen, Tim Akers played bartender, and pals like Mark Teppo and Sean E. Williams helped me set up and tear down. My thanks to everyone who stopped by.

I was especially glad that my great friend of 20-something years, Andrew Tisbert, was there (and working hard, hauling ice). The book is dedicated to him and Gary Delafield, because Andy and Gary have read and critiqued just about every story in the book. I owe them a ton.

On Saturday of the con I held a reading and read “Persistence”, one of the new stories in the book, and finished with a story that will never see print, “The Aristocrats by Isaac Asimov.” Maybe some day I’ll read it aloud again. It’s dirty.

But mostly World Fantasy was about having a good time with friends. Mission frickin’ accomplished.

Unlaunching Unpossible

The cover, from Antonello SilveriniTomorrow I leave for my favorite con, the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego. I’ve got a couple cool things planned, most of them involving eating and drinking with good friends. SO looking forward to this.

At the con we’ll be launching Unpossible and Other Stories, my first collection of short stories, including two never-before-published shorts. I am SO proud to have an introduction from Nancy Kress, a cover by Antonello Silverini, and everything else from Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press. The book is the usual eclectic mix of science, superheroes, and general weirdness, including the world’s only graphical sinus story.

A couple activities:

Happy Hour: On Friday, from 4-6pm, I’ll be hosting a little party to celebrate the launch of the book. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood. I mean, come on, it’s free beer.

On Saturday at 4, I’ll be reading one of the new stories from the book, as well as reading the great underground classic from 1947, banned for years: “The Aristocrats by Isaac Asimov.”

And all through the weekend, Patrick Swenson will be at the Fairwood Press booth, selling the hell out of the book. I’ll be there to sign books, skin, affidavits…

And if you can’t make it to San Diego, you can always order online:

Direct from Fairwood Press
Barnes & Noble

How to get someone to blurb your book

I’m about to leave for Renovation, the 2011 World SF Convention, but I received a wonderful bon voyage gift from Patrick at Fairwood Press: the advance copies of  Unpossible and Other Stories, my collection that’s coming out this Fall, and now available for pre-order.

One thing I need to do at Worldcon is find people to blurb the book.  I hate asking for blurbs.  There’s nothing like shoving your prized possession into someone’s hands and saying, “Would you please take a moment to look this over?” to make you feel like a Mormon missionary, or that homeless guy who keeps finding dead squirrels.

But that book won’t blurb itself *, so I spent the last few days practicing at home, developing a sure-fire, 3-step process for getting that blurb! And I have named it…

Daryl’s Sure-Fire 3-Step Blurb-Getting Process

Step One: Make the product attractive.

Nothing beats a full-color ARC on real paper, with beautiful art. (This cover’s by Antonello Silverini, all-around cool guy.)  How can you say no to this book? You can’t, that’s how. It’s the slutty girl you had the hots for in high school, or the hot guy you had the sluts for, and they  just invited you over to their house while their parents are away on a couples retreat at Warren Dunes, but the important thing is, the house is empty–and they have Cinemax.

And look, it's already been pre-blurbed! This tells your target what kind of top-notch quoting you expect, and that if they don't like your book, there's something wrong with them.

Step Two: Include a bonus.

One thing I’ve learned from practicing at home — keep a bunch of dog treats in your pants. Reviewers GO CRAZY for ’em. If you don’t have dog treats, substitute with a hot Panini, or beer.

Allow your target to smell the product. And, if necessary, your butt.

Step Three: Don’t take no for an answer!

If your target insists that they are too busy to read the book, simply smack them with a rolled up newspaper.

Try to find blurbers who have all their teeth.

Thank me now, fellow writers! You’re guaranteed to have as much success as me!