I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but go check out this interview of the Altered Fluid writing group (including yours truly) over at Clarkesworld. We had a lot of fun responding to these questions. I think it gives you a good sense of the genuine camaraderie and support that exists among this group of truly talented writers. (I’m just so lucky to have somehow managed to sneak in to their ranks.)
I’m pleased to report that Black Static, considered the preeminent horror magazine out there, will be publishing my dark fantasy/horror story, “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us” in its next issue. Andy Cox has done a phenomenal job making this magazine look every bit as beautiful and professional as its sister magazine, Interzone.
This story marks my first foray away from pure science fiction, so I’m glad the story is appearing in such a great market.
In other news, Murky Depths has taken my flash piece “All Smiles” about invading clown-like aliens. This magazine is of special interest to me because of the graphic illustrations that accompany its various stories. I can’t wait to see what they do with my story.
Finally, my SF advice-column story “Dear Annabehls” which originally appeared in Electric Velocipede #17/18, was broadcast last week on the Maine radio show “Beam Me Up.” The story is set in the same universe as “Snatch Me Another.” You can listen to a podcast of the program here. (My story begins at the 35:30 minute mark.)
I had the honor of co-hosting last night’s New York Review of Science Fiction Reading with Jim Freund, and I thought it went very well. It featured Altered Fluid and the three readers (E.C. Myers, Devin Poore and N.K. Jemisin) all did a stupendous job. Kudos, Fluidians!
The Czech Republic’s largest circulating SF magazine, Ikarie, is reprinting “Longing for Langalana” in its current issue (pictured above). Or as they call it: Desire for Langalaně. So cool! And here’s a review, translated from Czech by Google, which makes it somewhat amusing:
The desire for Langalaně is readable story of people and wergenů on a strange planet. Shimera and Phineas are children who learn language tutoring for the second of them. Immediacy of children during story turns into a mature adult and opinions by the way, we learn interesting information about wergenských relationships, marriage and reproduction. Although Mercurio D. Rivera is a man, the narrator of the history of dueling Langalaně wergenská is just a girl who fell in love with the human boy. Relatively normal plot is complicated by wergenským worship of human beings.
And here’s another Czech review:
Shimera Wergeňanka and is with his father and mother are working together to teraformaci Langalany planet. Is responsible to pay his nephew Dr. significant, Phineas. At first glance it seems that perhaps the children can resolve differences between two races. Remarkable story of the encounter of two civilizations, which prevents unilateral okouzlenost in full cooperation. Alien eyes watching developments and thus becomes for us to fully understand the contradiction that can not be overcome with time. The main character herself is aware of this situation, and yet it can not get rid of the desire for return and contact with people.
Finally, iconic SF editor Gardner Dozois devoted a nice little chunk of real estate (a full paragraph, which is quite a bit; his fiction reviews usually run a sentence or two) in this month’s Locus to my “In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty” from Interzone #226. He wrote:
“Also good here is Mercurio D. Rivera’s ‘In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty’ about a man obsessively following his ex-lover to the ends of the solar system, convinced that she’s been stolen from him by the application of a mind-altering chemical aphrodisiac; this turns out to be both true and not true. The motivations of the human-obsessed aliens here, the Wergens, who are willing to do almost anything for the humans they’ve become fixated on (and who remind me a little of Al Capps’ Shmoos, who will invite you to eat them and obligingly fall over dead if you look even the slightest bit hungry) may be a bit hard to understand if you haven’t read Rivera’s other story in this sequence, ‘Longing for Langalana’”
It’s quite a kick to think that the great Gardner Dozois — whom I consider the personification of SF — is familiar with my work.
A few new bits of news to report. “Beam Me Up,” a local radio show that has aired in Maine over the past five years, broadcast a reading of my story “Snatch Me Another” in this week’s episode. (The original recording was masterfully produced by Tony Smith and the crew at StarshipSofa a few months ago.) Paul Cole, who runs Beam Me Up, told me he has already received several telephone calls with positive feedback. You can listen to a podcast of the show here.
“Beam is Up” is also in the process of recording “Dear Annabehls,” a companion piece to “Snatch Me Another,” which will be airing on the program next month.
I still can’t thank Wendy Delmater enough for originally publishing “Snatch Me Another” at Abyss and Apex. Since then, the story has been reprinted in Rich Horton’s anthology Unplugged: The Web’s Best SF and Fantasy, Download 2008; finished at #25 on the Locus Recommended List for 2008 for short stories; appeared as a notable story on the 2009 Million Writers Award List (where it made the short list but just missed the Top 10); was podcast on Starship Sofa (pitted against a C.M. Kornbluth classic); and now has appeared on the “Beam Me” Up radio program. Wow. I never would’ve predicted such a long shelf life for this little story.
The best part about having a story published in Interzone is the attention that each issue routinely garners from reviewers and bloggers. The wave of reviews for Interzone #227, featuring “Dance of the Kawkawroons,” has started to sweep across the Internet. (I’m almost [but not quite] getting used to being on the hot- burner):
My story “Dance of the Kawkawroons” is featured in the March 2010 issue of Interzone (#227) , the first time I’ve appeared in back-to-back issues of the popular British publication. The magazine is being distributed in the U.S., including Barnes and Noble, by its new distributor.
I’m particularly proud of this story, the first draft of which I wrote during a writing retreat with Altered Fluid last year. It was inspired by the sleep cycles of albatrosses, which I learned about during a trip to the Galapagos Islands in 2008.
I’m off to this year’s Fluidian retreat–up at Woodstock–on Thursday. (Going without television for 4 1/2 days will be a challenge. Hopefully I’ll be able to retain my sanity and not harm anyone.) I’m hoping it proves to be as productive as last year’s.
I start, as I always do, by flagging the handful of critically acclaimed movies that are notably absent from my list below. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, which graphically depicts the mental, physical and sexual torture of an overweight Harlem teen at the hands of her monstrous Pepsi-guzzling “mother,” is far too repugnant in far too many ways to recommend. Where the Wild Things Are, a dark but far tamer film about the turmoil of childhood, takes a more fantastical approach, but makes the fatal mistake of assuming that a little boy playing make-believe with his imaginary friends—rejects from H.R. Pufnstuf—can sustain a ninety-minute film. Another movie that failed to hold my interest, the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man, purportedly based on The Book of Job, celebrates quirky characters in a stylish but meandering story. Other critical darlings that fell flat in my book include Gomorrah, Goodbye Solo, The Last Station, Nine, Paris, Summer Hours and The White Ribbon.
In the category of movies-I-admired-that-just-missed-the-cu
The following movies were my favorites of 2009:
10. Zombieland. A dork (Jesse Eisenberg channeling Teen Woody Allen) teams up with a badass (Woody Harrelson channeling Chuck Norris) and sets off on a roadtrip to a west coast amusement park with a pair of con artist sisters (Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone) in this hilarious post-apocalyptic zombie comedy. A mashup of belly laughs and gore, it tackles important questions such as: how difficult is the dating scene in a world overrun by the walking dead? And will the Jesse Eisenberg character live long enough to lose his virginity? Along the way they encounter the last living celebrity in the year’s funniest cameo.
9. The Messenger. Ben Foster plays an emotionally detached and wounded soldier and Woody Harrelson (again!) is his brash superior officer, a recovering alcoholic, both of whom are assigned to notification detail—advising next of kin of the death of their loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan. This heart-rending indie gem explores grief from an entirely original perspective—the point of view of the bearers of bad news—and features the year’s best ensemble acting. Foster and Harrelson are both Oscar-worthy as is Samantha Morton as a soft-spoken widow with whom the Foster character – in violation of all the rules and protocols — forms a bond.
8. The Hurt Locker. Kathryn Bigelow’s electric war drama explores the hearts and minds of an elite squad tasked with defusing bombs on the streets of Iraq. The handheld camera shots and the soldiers’ constant interaction with locals – who may or may not be hostile – create edge-of-your-seat suspense. Jeremy Renner steals the show as the latest addition to the squad, a reckless risk-addict who endangers them all.
7. Crazy Heart. Jeff Bridges gives the performance of a lifetime as a washed up, alcoholic country singer who falls in love with a reporter and single mom (Maggie Gyllenhaal) writing about his turbulent career. Colin Farrell is surprisingly effective in a minor role as the talented protégé who has eclipsed his mentor’s fame. The terrific country music and Bridges’ stellar performance make this an absorbing and superior character portrait.
6. An Education. Carey Mulligan, in a starmaking performance, plays a whip-smart 16-year-old student on track for Oxford in this charming coming-of-age story. When a sophisticated suitor (Peter Sarsgaard) exposes her to an alluring world beyond her textbooks, he offers her a different type of education in life and love. Mulligan’s enchanting performance is sure to garner an Oscar nod.
5. Inglourious Basterds. A strike force of Jewish assassins sets off to battle the Nazis in Quentin Tarantino’s riveting alternate-reality revenge flick. In vintage Tarantino style, the dialogue crackles and the film’s interrelated vignettes climax in an explosive, Fuhrer-bashing finale. Christoph Waltz deserves special kudos for the most menacing performance of the year as a charming, multilingual, killer Nazi.
4. Up. In this uplifting tale about beginning life anew, a curmudgeonly widower (voiced by Ed Asner) attaches helium balloons to his house and sets off on a quest to Paradise Falls in South America, the exotic destination he and his late wife had always dreamed of visiting. His plans are complicated when he discovers an eight-year-old Cub Scout stowaway. Another Pixar classic in the tradition of Toy Story and WALL-E, it departs from familiar formulas – the hero and villain are septuagenarians and the love story is between a man and his deceased spouse – but still delivers adventure aplenty, including lost explorers, talking dogs, exotic birds and dirigible battles. It also features the most poignant five minutes of any movie in 2009 in its opening montage, which chronicles the protagonist’s relationship with his wife from childhood to old age.
3. Up in the Air. George Clooney stars as a freelance hatchet man who travels the country terminating employees of the airline industry in Jason Reitman’s timely dramedy about the pain of corporate downsizing. Clooney’s character finds his own job is at risk when a young up-and-comer (Anna Kendrick) pitches the idea of saving time and money by firing the workers via webcam. Vera Farmiga plays Clooney’s kindred spirit, a fellow nomad racking up frequent flyer miles who makes him reassess the value of a life without meaningful emotional connections. Smart, sad, and slick, Reitman’s film hits all the right notes and surprised me with its ending.
2. Moon. Duncan’s Jones’s suspenseful and cerebral sci-fi indie stars Sam Rockwell in a bravura single-actor performance as a solitary worker monitoring a mining plant on the dark side of the moon. Kevin Spacey provides the voice of his cloying companion computer. In the final weeks of his three-year assignment and desperate to be reunited with his wife and daughter on Earth, an accident and its aftereffects spur Rockwell’s character to question not only the true purpose of his mission, but his sanity. Smartly riffing off of—and subverting—expectations created by movies such as Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the eerie Moon explores the nature of identity in a thoughtful and original way.
1. Star Trek. J.J. Abrams’ adrenaline-fueled re-imagining of the Star Trek franchise exploded onto the big screen in the year’s best popcorn movie, which provided the most fun I had in the theater in 2009. By cleverly using a time travel story, the screenplay injects a breath of fresh air into the series as relationships are re-jiggered and the Enterprise squares off against a genocidal Romulan hellbent on revenge. The breakneck pace and superb recasting would mean nothing, however, without making us care about the characters, and the film faithfully captures the brashness and swagger of James T. Kirk, the inner turmoil of half-Vulcan-half-human Spock and the loyalty (and general irascibility) of Dr. Leonard McCoy, the troika at the heart of Trek. The story is so compelling that it’s easy to overlook – even on a fifth viewing! — some plot holes and bad science pointed out by the ever-vigilant Trekker contingency on the Internet. Pass the popcorn; I’ll be watching this one again and again.
The five runners-up:
11. Watchmen (visually stunning adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel, a noir whodunit set in an alternate 1985 as nuclear war looms and members of a retired superhero group are killed off one at a time); 12. Avatar (James Cameron’s revolutionary special effects film—the highest grossing movie of all time—provides the ultimate immersive 3D experience and would have ranked higher on my list had it moved beyond its Pocahontas redux plot); 13. The Hangover (a Las Vegas bachelor party gone horribly wrong provides the most raucous laughs of the year); 14. In the Loop (a political satire that boasts the sharpest dialogue of the year, it depicts the behind-the-scenes wrangling of British and American politicians prior to a possible invasion of an unnamed Middle Eastern country); 15. (500) Days of Summer (jigsaw pieces of a bittersweet romance that captures the exhilaration and heartbreak of a summer tryst).
Over at the Asimov’s Forum, StevenLP writes:
Matt Bruensteiner at Garbled Signals writes:
“In the harsh glow of its incandescent beauty”, Mercurio D. Rivera. Maxwell is traveling the solar system in pursuit of his abducted wife. He’s joined by a pair of Wergen, aliens who have granted humanity access to immense amounts of new technology, and also follow humans about with an unexplained cloying devotion. Maxwell is part of a team that discovered a chemical that induces a similar unconditional love in humans. This sets up a neat counterpoint between the Wergen-human relationship and his personal relationship with his wife. Well done.
Some additional reviews can be viewed on the links below:
John’s Reading by John Fair
I’m tickled to see that “The Scent of Their Arrival” appears in this month’s issue of Ikarie, the leading SF/Fantasy magazine in the Czech Republic, along with stories from Daryl Gregory, Jay Lake and others. It’s amusingly translated as “The Smell of Their Arrival.”
Finally, “In the Harsh Glow of Its Incandescent Beauty” appears in the January/February issue of Interzone #226. My story features some absolutely stunning color artwork by the acclaimed Jim Burns.