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Showing posts by: James Frenkel click to see James Frenkel's profile
Oct 11 2011 1:07pm

Working With Vernor Vinge: Thirty Years On

About a month ago I realized that today’s publication of The Children of the Sky will not only mark the eighth book of Vernor Vinge’s that I’ve edited, it will also mark thirty years that I’ve been working with this talented writer. If we’re going to be picky, I have actually been working with him for slightly longer, but the first book of his that I worked on was a Binary Star double-novel book that included his short novel “True Names,” which was published in February of 1981.

We lived in a different world in 1981. I hadn’t yet started using a computer for word processing, no less for communicating on the internet. And the science fiction publishing world was a very different place as well. I — as is true of many colleagues both at Tor Books and elsewhere, could go on and on about how publishing has changed over the past thirty years or so. But I will refrain. In this blog post I will limit myself to talking about what the title suggests.

When I first read Vernor Vinge’s work, it was in the pages of Galaxy and Analog magazines. I particularly remember reading Grimm’s World, first the novella, then the novel. I was struck by the . . . I believe I would have said “nifty” world he had created. Like many SF readers, the notion of a world that had an SF magazine publishing company on a boat was nothing less than cool. It’s a tribute to his ability to evoke a sense of wonder in his readers.

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Aug 28 2008 7:00pm

Still Waters Run Deep

Jeffrey A. Carver is a writer I’ve worked with longer than perhaps any other. He’s a nice guy, and someone who has been active in the field since the mid-1970s. He’s one of the writers who to me exemplifies the fusion of hard science fiction adventure and humanistic literature in the best of his works. He’s been a Nebula Award finalist, published on three continents, and translated into a number of languages.  He’s given me and others many hours of reading pleasure, and he’s one of those writers who often challenges himself and his editor by writing in an intuitive fashion…without necessarily knowing how his story will end up until after he’s written it.

When I became an editor I thought—and I suspect most editors feel this way when they start out—that editing manuscripts is fairly straightforward. Before you start editing books, the only real experience you have with books is as a reader of the finished product. I have interns in my office from the University of Wisconsin, and they’re all English majors, as I was. They’ve been reading lots of the classic literature written in the English language (including Middle English) for two or three years before they come to intern for me, and they’ve never seen book manuscripts that haven’t already been published.

[More behind the cut...]

Aug 11 2008 9:47am

Mile High Worldcon...and old Worldcon memories

I haven’t counted how many Worldcons I’ve attended, but I sure remember my first one. It was St. Louiscon in 1969. I was still in college, and with Sharon Kennelty, I was representing the Stony Brook Science Fiction Forum.

Looking back now, it was such a different age. For starters, air travel was so much easier. If you were in college, there was American Airlines’ “Youth Fare,” basically half-price travel if there was room...and there tended to be room in planes. So it cost, I’m pretty sure, $50 one-way to St. Louis from New York. Youth Fare was truly incredible—a couple years earlier, at the end of final exams, I’d hitched rides to Syracuse to visit Joel Raphael, a high-school buddy who was in college there, and since I was tired of hitchhiking by the time I got there, on the way back I flew from Syracuse to La Guardia. Eight dollars...and they put me in first class, with all its perks, because they needed to balance the plane. Eight bucks! Even then, that was ridiculously cheap. And of course, there was no airport security. No ID checks, no restrictions on fluids, no x-raying of carry-ons; no TSA people rummaging through your checked luggage. No “allow two hours” to get on your flight. It was easy.

St. Louiscon was the biggest Worldcon there had ever been up till that point. 1600 members—an astounding number. To me it was simply a big con, only my third or fourth, with amazing things happening. I knew this was a special weekend before I got on the plane. Lin Carter, at that point one of the most important people in fantasy publishing, was on my flight. He was everything I might have imagined a fantasy figure to be: impeccably trimmed and shaped goatee, impressive eyebrows, ornately carved cane; flowing cape trailing behind...I was too young to consider that perhaps this costume was not intrinsic to his position as the consulting editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line. Years later I would get to know and work with Lin, but the moment I saw his august presence at La Guardia Airport, I only knew he must be going to Worldcon, and I was convinced that this weekend would be something incredible.

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Jul 24 2008 2:10pm

SDCC: Training Day at Comic Con

I didn't expect my first post on the website to be about Comic Con, but I didn't get a chance to post sooner, and Comic Con in San Diego is something I can't not write about.

I've been going to science fiction and fantasy conventions--as well as other cons--for, I shudder to admit it--forty years. Of course, I was a small child (okay, I was in college) when I attended my first Lunacon in New York, in 1968. I've been to bigger events  than Comic Con, notably the Frankfurt (Germany) International Book Fair, which attracts more than 350,000 people.

But Comic Con is different. I'd been warned; I'd heard talk; I'd seen figures, pictures, the faces of Comic Con veterans. Huge, packed, the evidence all said; unlike anything else. And yesterday I discovered that it's all true. In Frankfurt, the 350,000 people are spread over ten buildings, big buildings. If you go to the German building (or "Halle"), where the German attendees of the  book fair, the "Buch Messe" can see new German popular fiction and non-fiction, it's crowded, and that's probably as close as I've ever seen to what I experienced last night at Comic Con in San Diego's convention center. But in Frankfurt, the German Hall (actually, one of two huge buildings with German publishers' booths; the other is occupied by booths of German scientific publishers, a whole other universe) is open to the teeming throngs for only three of the five main days of the Fair. The other days, only professionals are allowed in the hall. At Comic Con, there are hours when the public doesn't come in, but from what I saw last night, just three hours, from 6 PM to 9 PM, Comic Con is much more intense than Frankfurt.

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