April 11, 2016

Oh, Poor North Carolina

by Alan Beatts

A fine local bookstore in North Carolina is suffering from the national reaction to a recent discriminatory law passed by the state legislature.  Though I understand the underlying  reasons, I think that there's some unfortunate ally-harming going on.  In a recent open letter, Linda-Marie Barrett, general manager of Malaprop's Bookstore, explained that authors canceling appearances could be very harmful and is perhaps not really justified.  http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=2728#m32075

Speaking from personal experience, Malaprop's is a lovely shop that embodies everything that is good about independent bookstores.  It's located in Asheville, N.C., which is a hot-bed of liberal attitudes in a mostly conservative state.  Honestly, they might as well have a sign at the entrance to town saying, "San Franciscans Welcome".  But, due to the recent passage of HB2, many businesses, organizations and individuals have chosen to protest by refusing to do business in the state.  (For details about HB2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Facilities_Privacy_%26_Security_Act).  Probably the highest profile protest thus far was Bruce Springsteen's cancelation of his Greensboro concert  -- with only two days notice.

HB2 is a loathsome law.  The headlines about it have focused on bathroom access for transgender people but some of the other parts are much more serious.  Notably, it requires that a person's legal gender is fixed at birth and cannot be changed.  And it sharply restricts legal enforcement of the state's existing anti-discrimination statutes in the state courts.

I agree with the prevailing attitude that the best way to hit almost any government or organization is in the pocketbook and that refusing to conduct business in states that promote discrimination is an outstanding way to foster change.  But, just like anytime you start hitting someone or something, it's important to avoid collateral damage.

Bookstores have been a bastion of free expression and the free exchange of ideas from their very beginning.  Certainly, in the last century, bookstores have consistently stood up to attempts to censure thought, most notably in their resistance to banning books.  In addition, bookstores have opposed other attempts to restrict civil rights -- in the early part of this century many stores erased customer purchase records and stopped collecting that information due to concerns about over-reaching search warrants derived from the original Patriot Act.

Recently, Sherman Alexie canceled an event that he had scheduled with Malaprop's, for exactly the reasons you would expect.  While I applaud his convictions, both generally and in this specific case, I think that his situation is very different from Bruce Springsteen's.  We all know that bookselling has been suffering financial challenges for decades and we also know that independent bookstores are strong supporters of freedom of speech and other civil rights (with the exception of one type of specialty bookshop - I think you can guess what kind).  Author events are a hugely important source of income for bookstores.  They are also a critical part of a bookstore's mission to spread ideas and inspire readers and future writers.

I hope that other authors who might be considering canceling or refusing to do events in North Carolina would consider alternatives that would allow them to help overturn HB2 while still supporting the bookstores that are fellow-travelers in the fight for civil rights.  It seems to me that donating the royalty from each book sold to organizations opposed to HB2 would be a possibility; as would using the opportunity of a public event to speak out against HB2 and rally opposition.

It is ultimately the duty of each individual to decide what course their ethics demand and I support anyone who makes that sort of principled and ethical decision.  But I hope that my fellow professionals in the "business of words" will consider all the possibilities before making the decision to boycott North Carolina (or, for that matter, Mississippi).

Upcoming Events

SF in SF with authors Peter S. Beagle and Carter Scholz (at the American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina, San Francisco) on Sunday, April 17th at 5:30 pm

InsideStorytime SUPERPOWERS at The Armory Club (1799 Mission Street @ 14th Street) on Thursday, April 21st at 7:00 pm

Paolo Bacigalupi, THE WATER KNIFE (Vintage, Trade Paperback, $16) on Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 pm

Seanan McGuire, EVERY HEART A DOORWAY (Tor.com, Trade Paperback, $17.99) on Saturday, April 23rd at 6:00 pm

Richard Kadrey, THE EVERYTHING BOX (Harper Voyager, Hardcover, $24.99) on Sunday, April 24th at 3:00 pm

Abby Smith Rumsey, WHEN WE ARE NO MORE: HOW DIGITAL MEMORY WILL SHAPE OUR FUTURE (Bloomsbury, Hardcover, $28.00) (at the Internet Archive, 300 Funston Street, San Francisco) on Tuesday, April 26th at 6:30 pm

And coming up in the summer, we'll have a drop-in signing with Joe Hill, and you can meet Amber Benson, Mira Grant, Sarah Kuhn, Charles Stross, Na'amen Tilahun, and many, many others!

March Bestsellers

1. ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders
4. FIRE TOUCHED by Patricia Briggs
5. MARKED IN FLESH by Anne Bishop
6. ARKWRIGHT by Allen Steele
7. QUANTUM NIGHT by Robert J. Sawyer
8. LADY MIDNIGHT by Cassandra Clare
10. MEDUSA’S WEB by Tim Powers

Mass Market Paperbacks
3. MADNESS IN SOLIDAR by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
4. THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir
5. A RED ROSE CHAIN by Seanan McGuire
6. MOTHERSHIP by Martin Leicht & Isla Neal
8. VISION IN SILVER by Anne Bishop
9. ALLIANCE by SK Dunstall
10. THE LONG UTOPIA by Terry Pratchett

Trade Paperbacks
1. BORDERLINE by Mishell Baker
2. THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
3. UNITED STATES OF JAPAN by Peter Tieryas
4. UPROOTED by Naomi Novik
6. THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM by Victor LaVelle
7. THE FOLD by Peter Clines
8. WOMEN UP TO NO GOOD by Pat Murphy
9. TRANSREAL CYBERPUNK by Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling
10. LAGOON by Nnedi Okorafor

April News

* Overheard in the store:
"Asking me for wedding planning advice is like asking Patrick Stewart for hair-styling tips."

* "Batman Vs. Superman" has raked in a massive amount of money and a massive amount of criticism.  Rob Bricken has returned with his alway- hilarious FAQ review series to make you laugh whether you are staying as far away as possible or loved it and saw it twice:  http://io9.gizmodo.com/batman-v-superman-spoiler-faq-of-justice-1767720335

* For the price of a latte, you can support Litquake for a month!  Donors receive special perks and help with Litquake's great work.  More info here: http://www.litquake.org/donate-litquake

* The competition for Oddest Book Title of 2016 has many competitors, from an academic study of anuses, to a study of the ancient Greek art of divining the gods’ will by using intestines, to a study of cult film.  Want to know the titles?  Click here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/oddest-book-title-of-the-year-2016-cultural-history-of-the-anus-up-against-soviet-bus-stops-a6897221.html

* Uncanny Magazine is open to speculative poetry submissions until April 15th.  Write a SciFaiku or a villainous villanelle or Space Opera Sonnet and submit!  http://uncannymagazine.com/submissions/

* KILLER ROBOT ARMY ON ITS WAY! World leaders throw up their hands!  Billionaires and world leaders (which world leaders?  We'd like to see that attendee list!) met in January to discuss the fear of robots going to war.  http://www.albanydailystar.com/science/science-fiction-might-become-science-fact-killer-robot-army-fontana-daily-news-15706.html

* Sadly the Bay Area is losing another bookstore.  The Castro Books Inc. location, which hosted many wonderful events and has been a book-lover's haven, has lost their lease and will be closing in June.  https://www.hoodline.com/2016/03/castro-books-inc-loses-lease-will-close-in-mid-june

* In better Bay Area book news, Dog Eared Books is opening a Castro location where the much-beloved Different Light bookstore used to be.  http://hoodline.com/2016/03/dog-eared-books-to-open-castro-location-in-former-a-different-light-space

* Jeff Nichol’s new speculative film "Midnight Special", about a father, a son (who may not be what he seems), and friend escaping from a cult, is getting great reviews and good word of mouth from science-fiction fans.  http://substreammagazine.com/2016/04/midnight-special-review-2016/

* A list of the Top Ten Coolest Bookstores in San Francisco was released and we made the list!  Check out the other SF bookstores that are almost as cool as we are -- almost.  http://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/california/articles/san-francisco-s-10-coolest-bookstores-you-should-visit/

* Calvin & Hobbes and "The Force Awakens" mashup!  Stop what you are doing and go read!

* Luc Besson gave us the visually stunning science fiction classic "The Fifth Element", and in the nearly twenty years since its release he’s kept busy making films.  Arguably none of his films since "The Fifth Element" have had the same lasting cultural impact, but some are hoping his new science-fiction film will be a return to form.  (Those of us who remember "Columbiana" and "Lucy" might have some more skepticism than hope at this point.) http://www.hitfix.com/motion-captured/luc-bessons-new-science-fiction-film-looks-bananas-and-we-love-it

* Simon Moya-Smith over at "Indian Country" takes the recent J.K. Rowling controversy and places it within the Western context where all Native Americans are dead or else living stereotypes.  A great article that looks at the larger picture while not ignoring the individual instances of Native racism that we participate in everyday.  http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/03/09/moya-smith-jk-rowlings-got-nothing-us-history-textbook-fiction-163705

* So the first season of the television adaptation of "The Expanse" has come to an end, and NPR is ready to crown it the best science-fiction television in a decade.  Adam Frank, a fan of the book series, lays out exactly why and how the adaptation worked so well for so many people.  http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/03/10/469626620/the-expanse-best-science-fiction-show-in-a-decade

* Speaking of "The Expanse", Andrew Liptak over at io9 gives us twelve Easter eggs in the first season that you might have missed.  (We haven’t looked them over yet only because we're not done with the whole season yet.  We know, we know, we are ashamed.)  http://io9.gizmodo.com/heres-12-easter-eggs-from-the-expanse-you-might-have-mi-1756115458

* Jesse Bullington has announced that he’s actually Alex Marshall (and vice-versa , we would assume).  (And any of you who haven’t read the fantastic "A Crown For Cold Silver", you should jump on that!)  http://jessebullington.com/announcement/

* Charles Stross is contemplating writing far-future SF and in preparation has assembled a list of cliches in a variety of sub-sections of far-future stuff.  A great list to check out if you plan to write some far-future SF -- avoid tropes, embrace them, or break them into pieces, whichever you prefer!  http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/03/towards-a-taxonomy-of-cliches-.html

* Nisi Shawl has worked up a post to give newbies a crash course in Black Science Fiction: both authors and specific creations of theirs.  She states that this is not a comprehensive list, but it stretches from 1859 - 2015 and is sure to introduce readers to many new names and stories.  http://www.fantasticstoriesoftheimagination.com/a-crash-course-in-the-history-of-black-science-fiction/

* Science fiction author Jack McDevitt recently had an asteroid named after him.  This inspired one fan to go on a bit of a research binge for asteroids named after their favorite authors.  Check out the list and star maps here: http://visiblesuns.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-asteroids-of-science-fiction.html

* The lawsuit between Writer Beware and Publish America/America Star Books has been settled.  Details are not that forthcoming (probably because of conditions in the settlement,) but here is Writer Beware’s announcement of the news:  http://www.victoriastrauss.com/2016/03/23/publishamerica-america-star-books-lawsuit-against-writer-beware-settled/

* Artist Robert Altbauer makes amazing fantasy maps on his site, but it’s his other illustrations that are catching everyone’s attention now.  In the style of medieval art,  Altbauer takes you to an alternate world where Lovecraft’s creations are a very real threat!  http://io9.gizmodo.com/lovecrafts-creatures-would-have-made-excellent-opponent-1768666924

* Friend of the bookstore, sponsor and Tachyon publisher Jacob Weisman was profiled recently in JWeekly.  Click here to read the interview, which covers Jacob’s personal history and connections between science fiction and Jewish culture.  http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/77238/small-s.f.-publisher-nurtures-jewish-sci-fi-tradition/

* We're so sorry we missed this -- it's the ultimate anti-social social event; a silent reading party!  Hopefully we can attend the next one: http://www.newsweek.com/silent-reading-parties-san-francisco-444787

Award News
* One of the SF Awards we look forward to every year is the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, which celebrates speculative fiction that explores and expands our ideas of gender.  Their winners and honor list always provide a great and diverse reading list.  This year the winners are a short story and a YA novel, and the honors list contains everything from a comic anthology, to short story, to novel, to graphic novel, to cartoon.  Check out the whole list here: http://tiptree.org/award/2015-james-tiptree-jr-award

* The Kitschies, which celebrate progressive, intelligent, and entertaining speculative fiction have announced their winners!  http://www.thekitschies.com/margaret-atwood-tade-thompson-jet-purdie-square-enix-and-patrick-ness-take-home-tentacles-from-the-kitschies/

* The finalists for the 28th Lambda Literary Awards have been announced, and not only do they have an entire LGBT SF/F/H category, but books in plenty of the other categories have speculative elements as well.  Check out the full list here:  http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/03/08/28th-annual-lambda-literary-award-finalists-announced/

* The winner and runners-up for the 2016 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Contest have been announced --we hopefully will be able to read the winning story on Baen.com soon.  Announcement of the 2016 winners and lists with links to previous winners here: http://www.baen.com/baenmemorialaward

* The winners of the 2015 Aurealis Awards, which celebrate speculative fiction in Australia, have announced their winners: https://aurealisawards.org/2016/03/25/the-winners-of-the-2015-aurealis-awards/
For the shortlist/full nominee list, go here: https://aurealisawards.org/2016/02/17/announcement-2015-aurealis-awards-shortlists/

* The British Science Fiction Awards have announced their winners and one of the editor's personal favorites,  Aliette de Bodard, became the first author to win both best novel and best short story in the same year.  Check out the full list of winners here: http://www.bsfa.co.uk/bsfa-awards/

* The 2016 Seiun Awards, which celebrate SF published in Japan and translated into Japanese, have announced their finalists.  Locus has the nominees for translated works on their website and a link to the full list of nominees if you happen to read Japanese: http://www.locusmag.com/News/2016/03/2016-seiun-awards-nominees/

* The 2016 Auroras, which celebrate speculative fiction by Canadians in 2015, have announced their finalist, and the list looks great.  So many more things to read!  http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/2016-aurora-award-ballot/