Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Em Report (2019)

Every once in a while, I remember that I have a blog and that I'm supposed to keep people posted about my stories and books that have been published in the past year or so. If I had more marketing savvy (not to mention more success), I would be doing this every month, but at this point I'm lucky if I remember to comb my hair before reporting to my day job. So I'll have to make do with this annual(ish) report.

I've got two new novels to crow about: Medusa Uploaded came out from Tor in 2018; the sequel, Medusa in the Graveyard was published July 2019. Joel Cunningham, at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, says, “Book Two of the Medusa Cycle is just as dark, daring, and propulsive as the first.” That should be all you need to hear! Run right out to your favorite indie book store (or click on one of my links to the Evil Empire) and buy them today . . .

I had to think harder about which of my stories has been published, but I've got a pretty comprehensive list, here: 

"10,432 Serial Killers (in Hell)” appeared in the May/June 2018 edition of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and was nominated for the 2019 Thriller Award. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine will also be publishing “Not My Circus, but They Are My Monkeys,” on sale August 14.

I managed to make it into two Apocalypse-themed anthologies in 2018/2019: “Cruddy,” a kaiju story, is in Enter the Aftermath, edited by Thomas Gandolfi, and “Appetite,” my riff on zombies/mummies is in Enter the Rebirth, edited by Thomas Gandolfi.

"Wraith” was published in Longshot Island no. 6.  In fact, editor Daniel Scott White did more than his fair share of Em publishing: “Alternate Universe Ernies” is in Unfit Magazine, vol. 1; “Destry” is in Unreal Magazine, vol. 1, and “The Hitter” is in the forthcoming Unfit Magazine vol. 4.

And last but not least, “Jumpers For Jesus” will be published by Mystery Weekly Magazine, (publishing date to be announced, but I've provided a link to the magazine so you can check them out, maybe subscribe). How can you live without weekly mystery? I need mine daily . . .

I hope I have good stuff to report next year, but if not, there's always hiking, geology, ghost stories, music, movies, book reviews, whatever I can come up with. So please watch this space. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Music for Writers (the SciFi and Fantasy Edition)

Lately people have been asking me to recommend music to listen to while writing. A lot of writers already have their favorites, but most people stick with what they already know. Classical music can be off-putting to people who don't hear it very often, because they think it all sounds like Bach and Mozart. I don't mean to cast a poor light on those composers, but they don't represent everything classical music has to offer. After all, most movie soundtracks can be described as classical in form (or jazz, which is a close cousin). So here's a sampler you can explore if you're feeling more adventurous.

Gustav Holst: Most people are familiar with The Planets, and it is, indeed, most excellent music for evoking fantastic images, but if you don't also listen to “The Perfect Fool”, “Egdon Heath”, and Beni Mora (especially the third movement, “In the Streets of Ouled Nails”), you're not getting everything you can out of Gustav Holst. Not by a long shot.

Ralph Vaughan WilliamsI love The London Symphony from start to finish, but by far my favorite part is the 3rdmovement. It’s so rambunctious! You can say the same about The Wasps Suitewhich was written to accompany a play; it has an optimistic, heroic tone. But, my goodness, Sinfonia Antartica! The symphony was adapted from the film score for Scott of the Antarctic. You can see that bleak, majestic landscape when you hear the music, but I feel more inclined to envision the landscapes of Mars. 

Claude Debussy’s famous works are so well-known, I don’t see the point in listing them here, especially when I can recommend something far more magical – his Nocturnes.They conjure mystery, wonder, adventure; what more could a writer ask for? Well, perhaps joy, which is what you’ll hear in “Joyous Isle.”

Yolanda Kondonassis: While we’re on the subject of Debussy, Debussy’s Harp is simply gorgeous, especially Kondonassis’s interpretation of “The Engulfed Cathedral” and “Dances Sacred and Profane.” I would grieve for you if you never heard these, my imaginative friends. 

Isao Tomita: Another beautiful interpretation of Debussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral” is arranged for synthesizer for the album, Snowflakes are DancingEach song on the album is lovingly rendered for the Space Age, but it’s also suitable for those more inclined to Fantasy.

Mahavishnu’s album, Apocalypseblends jazz and classical music. When I hear it (which is often, since it’s on my list of top ten albums), I always envision post-apocalyptic landscapes. “Vision is a Naked Sword” also provokes memories of intense thunderstorms in the Sonoran Desert.

Another of my favorite albums of all time is Gail Laughton's Harps of the Ancient Templesinspired by the music of ancient cultures (including a couple that exist only in legend).  (Note: try the Laurel Website, for new copies.)

Chances are, you've heard the first movement of Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazadeand that's about it. Most music samplers don't bother to move beyond that magnificent opening. However, if you saw Amazon's Prime series, The Romanoffsyou may recall the first episode, about the beautiful Paris apartment. The son (who hopes to eventually inherit that fabulous joint) turns on the radio and listens to gorgeous music. If you play Scheherazade all the way through, you'll get to hear that lovely piece, too. Once you have, treat yourself to The Golden Cockerel and Skazka (Fairy Tale), too.

Anatoly Liadov was not as prolific as some of his contemporaries – he liked to take his time. So we're fortunate he produced works like “Baba Yaga” and “Kikimora.” For those trying to envision something different from the European mythos that permeates the fantasy genre, try some Russian flavor from Liadov. 

Jean Prodromidès was a composer of French film scores who isn't well-known in the U.S., but if you were one of the lucky kids who saw La Voyage en Ballon when it premiered over here in the 60s, you got to hear one of the best scores ever composed. This music is adventure, distilled. We have Jack Lemmon to thank for that – he bought the American rights. The best version of the movie is the one that has no narration, just action and music. 

I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still is the essential SciFi soundtrack, and Jason and the Argonauts is the essential Fantasy.

I searched for Georges Auric's La Belle et la Bête for 40 years before someone finally released it on CD, and that's when I discovered that the score had been lost among his personal papers that whole time. Someone found it when they were sorting through, after his death. As beautiful as Cocteau's images are in that movie, Auric's score is half the experience (at least!).

Igor Stravinksy's Rite of Spring was adapted for Disney's film Fantasia by Leopold Stokowski. Many have grumbled about his version, by I think it captures the essence of the piece. You can't hear that music without seeing the dinosaurs. However, if you want to see dragons, go with the original. 

When you were a kid, you heard Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the WolfNow that you're a grown-up – possibly writing a novel with characters in the military? – try the Lieutenant Kije Suite.

Sergei Rachmaninoff would be insulted if we included the work of his countrymen and not his majestically macabre masterpiece, “Isle of the Dead.”

Ottorino Respighi is one of my top ten favorite composers, and the album I've linked to for Pines of Rome is one of the greatest recordings ever made.  This music is a link to ancient Rome, and the wider world beyond it.  However, for pure ecstasy try "The Birth of Venus" from Three Botticelli Pictures.

This is a long post, but a short list.  If you like this music, explore a bit more. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Playlist for Medusa in the Graveyard, with Links:

Music is just as important in Medusa in the Graveyard as it was for Medusa Uploaded, so I thought I would provide a playlist with YouTube links. Those of you who like Spotify can create your own playlist on that site using this list for reference.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice” by Paul Dukas illustrates the actions of the scrubbers on Olympia, cleaning toxins from the surface of Merlin after she docks in the infamous Lock 212.

If you hear the score for La Belle et La Bête, by Georges Auric, you may be tempted to sit and watch the whole movie.

"Suites for Two Pianos” by Sergei Rachmaninoff is amazingly romantic, and the perfect music for a garden party.

"Halloween Town” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, by Danny Elfman, is my favorite song from the whole movie.

"There's No Business Like Show Business” by Irving Berlin, is Kitten's favorite song, ever, and the one that really sums her up.

Selections from The King and I, by Rogers and Hammerstein, cannot be fully apreciated unless sung by a Mini, but certain Broadway personalities have given it the ol' college try.

The score for Around the World in 80 Days, by Victor Young – as Oichi says, it makes you feel as if “We have nothing better to do than drift lazily in this balloon. . . . ”

The score for Mysterious Island, by Bernard Herrmann, is packed with dangers and thrills.

"Hydra's Teeth/Skeletons/Attack” from Jason and the Argonauts, by Bernard Herrmann, makes excellent use of the bassoon and a variety of interesting percussion instruments. 

"Baba Yaga” by Anatoly Liadov will evoke images of the hut that walks on hen's legs.

"My Little Grass Shack” from Ports of Paradise, arranged by Alfred Newman and Ken Darby, performed by Mavis Rivers, is the definitive version of this song, and showcases the variety of Indigenous percussion instruments that were lovingly recruited by Ken Darby for this recording.

Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Maori folk music is best appreciated when it's sung, danced, and played at once. It's hard to find good performances online, possibly because there are so many to sift through. Probably you have to see it in person to appreciate its full impact.

"Nocturne/The Flashlight/The Robot/Space Control” from The Day the Earth Stood Still, by Bernard Herrmann, is Sense of Wonder, personified.

Oichi's Default Majesty Music makes another appearance, once she catches sight of The Three, close up.

"The Sunken Cathedral” a.k.a “The Engulfed Cathedral” by Claude Debussy, arranged for synthesizer by Isao Tomita, is my favorite rendition of this piece, which has always sent chills down my spine. Yolanda Kondonasses also does a gorgeous version for solo harp.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Lady Sheba's “Canon in D” by Pachelbel, which turns out to be a bit of a plot point.