Cog is a Film Star!

29DaysLater

My book, Cog, and I appeared (for about 3 seconds) in a film made for the 29 Days Later Project. The film will screen on Friday, September 11, at 7:30 in Baltimore at the Creative Alliance: http://29dayslater.com/

Fiction, Film

TOC of Anthology: The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom

Here is the TOC for the anthology I’ll have a story in:

The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom

11 May 2015

Edited by Joanne Merriam, The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom is an anthology of science fiction featuring blunt force trauma, explosions, adventure, derring-do, tigers, Martians, zombies, fanged monsters, dinosaurs (alien and domestic), ray guns, rocket ships, and anthropomorphized marshmallows.
ISBN 978-1-937794-47-7 (print) is forthcoming in spring 2016.
ISBN 978-1-937794-58-3 (mobi) is forthcoming in spring 2016.
ISBN 978-1-937794-59-0 (epub) is forthcoming in spring 2016.

Table of Contents:

Khadija Anderson, “Observational Couplets upon returning to Los Angeles from Outer Space”
Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, “Photograph of a Secret”
Kristin Bock, “I Wish I Could Write a Poem about Pole-Vaulting Robots”
Alicia Cole, “Asteroid Orphan”
Jim Comer, “Soldier’s Coat”
James Dorr, “Bubba Claus Conquers the Martians”
Aidan Doyle, “Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost”
Tom Doyle, “Crossing Borders”
Estíbaliz Espinosa, “Dissidence” (translated by Neil Anderson)
Kendra Fortmeyer, “Squaline”
Miriam Bird Greenberg, “Brazilian Telephone”
Benjamin Grossberg, “The Space Traveler and Runaway Stars”
Julie Bloss Kelsey, two scifaiku
Nick Kocz, “The Last American Tiger”
David Kopaska-Merkel, “Captain Marshmallow”
Ken Liu, “Nova Verba, Mundus Novus”
Kelly Luce, “Ideal Head of a Woman”
Tim Major, “Read/Write Head”
Katie Manning, “Baba Yaga’s Answer”
Laurent McAllister, “Kapuzine and the Wolf: A Hortatory Tale”
Martha McCollough, “valley of the talking dolls” and “adventures of cartoon bee”
Marc McKee, “A Moment in Fill-In-The-Blank City”
Sequoia Nagamatsu, “Headwater LLC”
Jerry Oltion, “A Star Is Born”
Richard King Perkins II, “The Sleeper’s Requiem”
Ursula Pflug, “Airport Shoes”
Leonard Richardson, “Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs”
Erica L. Satifka, “Thirty-Six Questions Propounded by the Human-Powered Plasma Bomb in the Moments Before Her Imminent Detonation”
G. A. Semones, “Never Forget Some Things”
Matthew Sanborn Smith, “The Empire State Building Strikes Back!”
Christina Sng, “Medusa in LA”
J. J. Steinfeld, “The Loudest Sound Imaginable”
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, “The Wanderers”
Lucy Sussex, “A Sentimental, Sordid Education”
Sonya Taaffe, “And Black Unfathomable Lakes”
Mary Turzillo, “Pride”
Deborah Walker, “Sea Monkey Mermaid”
Nick Wood, “The Girl Who Called the World”
K. Ceres Wright, “The Haunting of M117”
Ali Znaidi, “A Dolphin Scene” and “Australian Horoscope”

Uncategorized

Baltimore Book Festival

BBFBanner

I’ll be appearing at the Baltimore Book Festival on two panels:

Future: Charming? Baltimore City as a template for futurism
DATE: September 26, 2015
TIME: 4PM-5PM
LOCATION:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

What does Baltimore look like in the future? SFWA Guest of Honor Tobias Buckell and a panel of writers, futurists and social designers discuss Charm City’s future through the lens of the engineer, the writer, and the activist. Panel led by Jason Harris (“Redlines: Baltimore 2028”).

Panelists: Anatoly Belilovsky, Tobias S. Buckell, Jason Harris, Nia Johnson, K Ceres Wright

Earl Grey, Hot: Future Food, Fantastical Food
DATE: September 26, 2015
TIME: 5PM-6PM
LOCATION:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

From food pills to food printers to the latest in Elven lembas bread, our experts will whet your appetite for fictional food.

Panelists: Diana Peterfreund, Cat Rambo, Lawrence M. Schoen, Bud Sparhawk, Fran Wilde, K Ceres Wright Signing Table: Cinda Williams Chima

Conventions, Diversity, Futurism, Science Fiction, Uncategorized

Confluence SF Convention

I attended Confluence in Pittsburgh/Cranberry, PA, last month. Here’s a pic from a panel I was on, “Not Just Anglos,” and a picture with Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson of Dog Star Books/Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Confluence

Confluence2

Conventions, Diversity, Science Fiction, Writing ,

StarShipSofa Interview

Link to interview:

http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/2013/09/11/starshipsofa-no-304-m-bennardo/

Cyberpunk, Diversity, Fiction, Futurism, Publishing, Reading, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Guest Blog Post by Liz Coley: Just a Thriller—No Mere Mortal Can Resist

    Liz Coley has a new YA thriller out titled, “Unleashed.” She asked me if she could guest blog. Heck yeah! So here is her exciting post about why she writes thrillers.

I’m just back from the Southern Kentucky Book Fest, where as an author, I sat on two “thriller” panels, where we debated, “Why do people like thrillers so much?”

One of the offered answers was that we chase an adrenalin rush of fear—people love to feel scared. As the other panelists talked about their love of horror movies and novels, I realized that wasn’t the case for me. If The Shining comes on the TV, I have to leave the room.

Another potential answer was that thrillers are a “worst case scenario survival handbook” for our minds, a vicarious way of planning for awful things that will never happen to us. Thriller writers are worriers with active imaginations, maybe even phobias, that they play out on the page like a therapeutic exercise. I have yet to write a runaway car scene, or a trapped in a sinking car scene, but those are recurring nightmares/worries for me. Still—I haven’t taken them to the page, maybe because they are too close for comfort.

Another suggested answer was almost the opposite—that thrillers are a great escape from day to day realities, a way of taking our minds on an adventure and leaving our bodies safely at home. In my writing, I suspect I’m the third kind of person. My heroes and heroines face odds and have adventures that I’m not up to in the flesh, but I can ride their story while I am writing it. For me, that is thrilling.

I think there’s a morsel of truth in each explanation, depending on the reader, depending on the writer.

My new heroine Tor Maddox is much taller, cooler, mouthier, and braver than I am. Here’s a sneak peek excerpt from her first book, Unleashed.

TorMaddox

    The black car lurked at the curb again, right in front of my house. Surveilling.

    Two Men in Black got out. No, I’m not kidding—they were really men in black. Black suits. Impenetrable black glasses. Big black bulges under their black jackets. They walked to the front door and rang the bell. Surprising. I had expected them to kick it down. I froze behind the door, peering through the peephole. They rang again. One of them dragged his hands through his thinning hair. The other one gave a visible sigh. He leaned his face right up to the peephole so that it became huge and distorted. He backed off and pointed at the hole. Spit. He knew I was watching. He reached into his coat, and I closed my eyes tight. I braced myself. I took a final breath. This was the perfect end to a miserable day. I prepared myself to die.

    Yet I still had so many unanswered questions. Was there an afterlife? Would I meet God? What would my parents think? How would bullets feel drilling into me after they used up their energy penetrating a door. Would it be over quickly? What was taking so long?

    What was taking so damned long?

    I exhaled, opened my eyes, and peered out again. One of the men was holding up an embossed gold badge to the peephole, too distorted to read. The other one knocked twice.

    Fine. I opened the door. “You can’t come in,” I said firmly. “My parents aren’t home.”

    The guy with the badge folded it away into his coat and extended his hand. “Ms. Maddox? I’m Agent Turner. This is my partner.”

    “I’m Solly,” his partner said.

    “Seriously? You’re sorry? I’m sorry I ever got up this morning. What do you want?”

    The agent muttered back “I didn’t say I was sorry.”

    “Well, you ought to be,” I said. “Scaring the spit out of a teenage girl. Harassing and following me. Breaking into my house.”

    “We’re not in your house,” Agent Turner pointed out.

    “Right,” I said. “And stay out.” I slammed the door, barely missing the hand he was still holding out to me. I put my eye to the peephole.

    Solly ran his hands through his hair again. If he did that all the time, no wonder it was thinning. Turner rang the bell.

    I opened the door four inches. “What?”

    A well-shined shoe slid into the opening. “Ms. Maddox,” Turner said through the gap. “We really don’t mean to alarm you. You’re not in trouble. We just need to ask you a couple of questions.”

    Great. I’d given him a literal foot in the door. If I slammed it now, I’d be assaulting a Federal Agent. Most likely.

    I opened to slightly more than a B-width shoe to size them up. “Are you guys Federal Agents?” I asked, just to be clear on my risk here.

    “Yes, ma’am,” Solly said.

    “What’s the penalty for assaulting you?”

    A slow smile spread across Turner’s face.

    That made me mad. Totally mad. So mad I flung open the door, reached down deep, and found my dormant rough, tough, screaming, kicking chick and woke her up. “Heeeeey yaaaah!” I yelled as I dropped into a back stance, ready to let loose with a powerful side kick.

    Solly stepped forward, in front of Turner. “Now sweetheart, don’t be—”

    “Sweetheart? I’m not your sweetheart, you balding male chauvinist swine!” My foot flew up as if it had a mind of its own, planted one dirty sneaker in the middle of Solly’s chest, and sent him sprawling across the sidewalk. He rolled and came up in a crouch, a menacing black gun pointed straight at me. I lunged forward, ready to deliver a breaking kick to his gun hand and felt myself pulled back abruptly. Turner had my arms twisted behind me in a full Nelson, and I couldn’t get a leg into position to break his knees.

    “Calm down, Ms. Maddox,” he said with a soft, silky voice in my right ear while I struggled helplessly. His breath smelled like peppermint. “In answer to your prior question, right now, you’re looking at under a year. But if you do serious harm to my partner there, we’re talking ten to thirty.”

    I glared at Solly. He stood and holstered his gun. He smoothed down his coat and raised his hands to his head. I just couldn’t help myself. “Stop it,” I yelled. “You’re pulling all your hair out with that stupid habit.”

    Turner shrugged. “She’s right, you know. Now, young lady. Let’s take this off the street and inside where we can have a quiet, civilized chat.” He relaxed his grip and set me loose.

    “I know how you guys do this. I have your number. I watch TV. Are you supposed to be the good cop? You know the good cop doesn’t wrench the victim’s shoulders out of their sockets.” I rubbed my shoulders for good measure.

    “I’m sorry,” Turner said.

    “I thought he was Solly,” I said, recovering my wittitude. “Okay. You can come in and wait. But I’m not saying anything till my parents get home. I’m a minor.”

    “You may be a minor, but you’re a major pain,” Solly grumped.

    “Ha, ha. Wait till your boss finds out you pulled a gun on a fifteen-year-old girl.”

    “Aw, crap. Fifteen? Really?” Solly rubbed the sore spot on his chest.

    Turner chuckled quietly, a nice laugh. He let me go and patted me on the shoulder. “Hey. Sorry about your shoulders. I didn’t want you leaping down the barrel of Solly’s gun. It might have gone off, and then where would we be?”

    Where indeed? I’d be lying in a pool of my own blood and Turner would be trying to revive me and then my parents would come home. Dad would see this stranger with his face all over me and then he’d go all Rambo on him. Awful. Time to step it down a notch.

    “Fine. Apology sort of accepted,” I said. “But the door stays open.”

    So these two Federal Agents followed me into the kitchen and sat down at our table. Where I eat breakfast. Where I do my homework. Where I watch CNN. It was a bit surreal.

    We stared at each other. I broke first. “You guys want coffee?”

Ebooks, Fiction, Thriller, Uncategorized, Writing

Blog Hop: The Liebster Award OR Ten Questions on my Work in Progress (WIP)

Michael Mehalek of Writing is Tricky tagged me in a ten-question blog hop called the Liebster award. So here goes…

1. Where did the idea for your current Work-in-Progress (WIP) come from?

I had seen several news stories about China investing in Africa and did some further research. I discovered that the Guangzhou area of China was known as Chocolate City because of all the African businessmen that had come there for import/export opportunities. Many had married Chinese women to help them in their business, and I wondered what China would be like when these couples’ children grew up.

2. Quote a favorite line from one of your favorite books.

“Really bad media can exorcise your semiotic ghosts. If it keeps the saucer people off my back, it can keep these Art Deco futuroids off yours.” ~ William Gibson, The Gernsback Continuum (short story)

3. Now quote your favorite lines from your current WIP

The scent of stale Tsingtao and rancid urine forced Bo to crank open an eye in half-hearted reconnaissance. Iron-framed lanterns hanging overhead told him he had fallen asleep on the living room couch, confirmed by the twinge in his back caused by the second-hand temperfoam. Memories flitted across his mental landscape—a big project with a big percentage, hence the big party. Data display in his periphery blinked a 63.5 percent chance of getting back together with Mei, based upon last night’s conversations and pheromone output. A higher than usual chance, he thought. He winked off the display, anything beyond offstream proving to be information overload.

A hangover nagged at the edge of his consciousness, a feeling quite familiar. He rolled off the couch and onto his knees, letting the vague pain take center stage before clawing his way to vertical.

4. What unique challenges has your current WIP had that your previous ones did not?

Since the story takes place in China, I have to do a lot of research on the country. My last book took place in the Washington, D.C., area, where I’ve lived for the past 30 years. I’m also using more themes, which I have to try to figure out how to tie together.

5. If you saw your main character at a party, how would you react?

I would sit quietly in a corner and observe him, and see what I got right and what I got wrong.

6. Who would play your main protagonist/antagonist if your current WIP were made into a movie?

Bo would be played by Will Demps

will-demps-300x425

Hao would be played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Cary+Hiroyuki+Tagawa

Mei would be played by Amandla Stenberg (in a few years)

amandla-stenberg

7. What are your biggest inspirations for writing?

To inspire Black filmmakers to create visual media to reflect the diversity we see in the world today, which, in turn, will inspire the children of today to bring about a better tomorrow

8. Summarize your WIP as a haiku.

Guangzhou future days
Taiwan nuclear danger
Programmers save world

9. What role does music play in your writing?

Not that much. I can only listen to classical music when I’m writing, which doesn’t exactly evoke visions of the future, and I’m not good at predicting music trends, so I don’t know what popular music will sound like 65 years from now.

10. What’s one thing you’ve learned about the craft that you wish you had learned earlier?

I need deadlines to help me write, to give me a sense of urgency. Oh, and don’t use filtering. Here’s a great article on it: http://www.scribophile.com/academy/an-introduction-to-filtering

Now I get to tag some other writers and get them to answer 10 questions. I tag Milton Davis, Kai Leakes, and Balogun Ojetade.

1. Tell us about your work in progress (WIP)
2. How is your WIP different from your prior work?
3. How has writing changed your life?
4. What inspired you to start writing?
5. Who is your favorite character from all your works?
6. Do you like to write villains?
7. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve learned?
8. How have you grown as a writer?
9. What’s your favorite line from your WIP?
10. Do you like dragons?

Blogs, Character, Cyberpunk, Diversity, Fiction, Science Fiction, Writing , , , , , ,

Diversity in Fantasy

I attended the World Fantasy Convention during the weekend of November 7–9, 2014, and was honored to serve on the panel, “Everybody was There: Diversity in Fantasy.” I learned much from my esteemed fellow panelists: Sarah Pinsker (moderator), Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kit Reed, and S. M. Stirling. I didn’t get a chance to touch on everything I wanted to say, so I’ll include it in this post.

The issue looming over the convention was the World Fantasy Award and whether the board would decide to keep the caricature bust of H. P. Lovecraft or scrap it. Lovecraft made significant contributions to fantasy, but was also known for his racist views toward African Americans, Asians, Jews, and just about everyone who wasn’t White. But what do we owe Lovecraft and his literary contributions?

I think you have to assess a book by both past and current standards in order to see how societal views have changed over time, and ultimately, why societal views have changed. To me, it’s not owing the past anything or forgiving the past, it’s understanding how historical events have molded world views. It’s good to have a holistic overview of the era in which the book was written, rather than taking views out of context.

I think we acknowledge Lovecraft’s contribution to the fantasy genre, but we also recognize his flaws, as with any writer. It makes them more human in our eyes. However, we, in 2014, are not beholden to Lovecraft. If handing an award with his likeness to people makes them uncomfortable because of his racist views, then I think the award needs to be changed.

Change is the nature of our society. As far as fantasy is concerned, I think we’re starting to see more change in YA fantasy, because I think younger people are more willing to entertain change. They’re growing up in a more diverse culture and open to seeing that diversity reflected in their media. However, I think a major problem is that children are not usually taught history from the person of color’s point of view. I was grown before I knew about Alessandro de’Medici, the Duke of Florence; Saint Maurice of Switzerland; or Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. By the time kids are grown, they believe they know exactly what shaped Western culture, and when they find out that yes, Blacks and Asians and women and others besides white males also played prominent roles in history, it upsets their world view. And people are loathe to change. They don’t like it.

I think that diverse books will allow readers with different abilities, backgrounds, and cultures, to see themselves reflected in the books they read. And diverse authors may encourage them to aspire to become writers of diverse books themselves. I know some writers may be hesitant to write about other cultures for fear of offending someone, but if one intends to become a serious writer, one has to learn how to research other cultures and incorporate that knowledge, in some way, into one’s writing. For example, don’t assume that the same standards of beauty cut across all cultures. I have a cousin who’s 6’3” and model thin, and felt she was discriminated against in the Bahamas because she was not overweight. I watched a documentary of an African man who wanted his wife to weigh 200 pounds for their wedding, so she sat in a hut and drank goat’s milk for weeks.

The incorporation of research makes for richer prose. If you’re worried about offending someone of a particular group, get on the Internet and ask someone to read some of your work and offer advice. Read the works of other writers of color, or women, or those who are differently abled to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Also, read “Writing the Other” by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

I know it’s all about money in the world of publishing. But a recent Pew study showed that the most likely reader was a college-educated Black woman. I think there needs to be a paradigm shift across the industry, from the CEO, to the acquisitions editor, to the copy editor, to the book store owner. New audiences may require new marketing methods, but as I said before, change is the nature of our society.

One way to help bring about positive change surrounding diversity in fantasy is for editors of anthologies and magazines to solicit stories from diverse authors to let readers know about the existence of writers from different cultures and backgrounds. I think the traditional publishers aren’t taking risks as they would during flush economic times, so people looking for something different are starting to turn to small, independent, and self-publishers.

And if you want some recommendations, try Abengoni: First Calling, by Charles Saunders, who has been writing diverse fantasy since the seventies. There’s also the Constant Tower by Carole McDonnell, Changa’s Safari by Milton Davis, Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective by Valjeanne Jeffers, Taurus Moon: Magic and Mayhem by D. K. Gaston, Ghosts of Koa by Colby R. Rice, Sacrifices by Alan D. Jones, the Scythe by Balogun Ojetade, Sineaters by Kai Leakes, the Seedbearing Prince by Davaun Sanders, and Neon Lights by Zig Zag Claybourne.

If you find a diverse book you like, call or write the publisher and let them know you appreciate their efforts, and tell them you’ll purchase more books like that.

As Barbara Deming once said, “The longer we listen to one another—with real attention—the more commonality we will find in all our lives.”

Afrofuturism, Blogs, Conventions, Diversity, Fandom, Fantasy, Fiction, Publishing, Reading, Science Fiction, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

World Fantasy Convention 2014 Photos

Here are some photos from the World Fantasy Convention:

Panel on diversity in fantasy
WFC-Diversity-Panel

At the mass book signing with Lyle Blake Smythers and John Edward Lawson
WFC-Book-Signing

At Heidi Ruby Miller’s reading with Tom Connair
WFC-Heidi-Reading

With Maria Alexander at the Raw Dog Screaming Press party
WFC-Maria-Alexander

Conventions, Diversity, Fandom, Fantasy, Fiction, Publishing, Reading, Science Fiction, Sword and Sorcery, Writing , , , , , ,

World Fantasy Convention 2014

I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel at World Fantasy Convention 2014. The name of the panel was “Everybody Was There: Diversity in Fantasy.” My esteemed fellow panelists included Sarah Pinsker (M), Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kit Reed, and S. M. Stirling.

Description: Fantasy has had characters of many races, some human and others beyond. Whether it’s the young soldier woman in Deeds of Paksenarrion being asked whether she minds sharing a dining hall with “elder races” (elves and dwarves), or the alternate orientations of characters in Marion Zimmer Bradley Darkover series or Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, or the beauty of a foreign culture, such as that depicted in Bridge of Birds, fantasy authors have bravely gone where others feared to tread. How has diversity of race, ability, gender, sexual orientation, or belief system in fantastic literature changed over time? ​

WFC-Diversity-Panel

Classics, Conventions, Diversity, Fandom, Fantasy, Fiction, Games, Genre, Literary, Poetry, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing , , ,