Monday, November 2, 2015

New Cover Design for "Love, Death, and Overlapping Bosonic Singularities"

Here is the new design for the cover of the short story, “Love, Death, and Overlapping Bosonic Singularities,” a romantic science fiction available to eBook readers for 99¢. The cover is designed using exclusively MicrosoftPowerPoint for Office 2010. The right to use two pieces of art was obtained from Dollar Photo Club. A white background in one image was removed using PowerPoint’s “Set Transparent Color” feature, and the rest was a matter of arranging things, playing with basic fonts, and saving a single slide as a PDF file. (All of the paperback and e-Reader mock ups here are provided by Adazing Design.)
561fdb8b5673dThe cover breaks at least one cardinal rule for amateur book cover designers–it uses five different fonts. But I think it fits the story and its title. The story involves Amy’s involuntary traversal through inconsistent realities. At the outset we’re aware that Amy doesn’t consider reality to be fixed, and in short order it becomes evident why she thinks that way–or at least one explanation becomes evident. Soon another explanation is offered that is as plausible, or more plausible, than the first. But still, that is just the beginning. In my clearly unqualified opinion, this broken stream of experience is well matched to the changing fonts of the title in the new cover.
Similarly, the title is, all by itself, quite clunky. One of the story’s original working titles was “Shuffle.” That title certainly fit the story, but not obviously so until after the story was read. As an introduction to the story, “Shuffle” was remarkably uninformative, and the story screamed for a title that better set the stage. Enter “Love, Death and Overlapping Bosonic Singularities” (the Oxford comma was added later). The clunkiness of the title is painstakingly deliberate. It darned near tells the story, or at least foreshadows the central personal struggle for Amy as well as the key SF element of the story. But it is a mouthful. And the problem with the old cover design was that the title was squeezed in there like it was not something that draws attention to itself–leading to the very natural question, “Why such a long title?” Better to simply embrace its abrasive length and syntax with a visual presentation consistent with its message. The font being “shuffled” as it is, says a bit more now about the story, and makes clear (or at least I’ve convinced myself for the time being it makes clear) that this title means something to the story.
561fdc96dd1feI still like the old cover design. But in a list of other covers with similar search criteria, it didn’t pop. All that effort to reflect the story and reveal the mood and problem of the tale, had the same trouble as the early working title, “Shuffle.” It didn’t capture the mood and promise of the story for a prospective reader. Rather, it was a satisfactory cover for a person that already had read the story. So out with the old, and in with the new.
By the way, I also still like the artwork that was used to illustrate the story when it was first published in The Lorelei Signal edited by Carol Hightshoe. The associated artwork in that publication was a piece by Lee Kuruganti, who was also the design winner for the2oo8 Hugo Award Base, and who also illustrated Twisted Thorn, by Richard King Perkins II, in the same issue.
Finally, if you haven’t read it yet, and if you’re an e-Reader, give the story a glance. It’s available from many eBook sellers, and at most sites you can read the beginning for free. If you like it and want to read the rest, the full piece is just 99¢.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Look at the Nebula Winners

Here is a rundown of the Nebula Awards® winners for best science fiction or fantasy in 2014 in certain writing categories:
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
Aliens have landed in New York.
A deadly cloud of spores has already infected and killed the inhabitants of two worlds. Now that plague is heading for Earth, and threatens humans and aliens alike. Can either species be trusted to find the cure?
Geneticist Marianne Jenner is immersed in the desperate race to save humanity, yet her family is tearing itself apart. Siblings Elizabeth and Ryan are strident isolationists who agree only that an alien conspiracy is in play. Marianne’s youngest, Noah, is a loner addicted to a drug that constantly changes his identity. But between the four Jenners, the course of human history will be forever altered.
Earth’s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent human extinction—and not everyone is willing to wait.
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF)
Key’s favorite time of day is sunset, her least is sunrise. It should be the opposite, but every time she watches that bright red disk sinking into the water beneath Mauna Kea her heart bends like a wishbone, and she thinks, He’s awake now.
Key is thirty-four. She is old for a human woman without any children. She has kept herself alive by being useful in other ways. For the past four years, Key has been the overseer of the Mauna Kea Grade Orange blood facility.
Is it a concentration camp if the inmates are well fed? If their beds are comfortable? If they are given an hour and a half of rigorous boxercise and yoga each morning in the recreational field?
It doesn’t have to be Honouliui to be wrong.
When she’s called in to deal with Jeb’s body—bloody, not drained, in a feeding room—yoga doesn’t make him any less dead.
Key helps vampires run a concentration camp for humans.
Key is a different kind of monster.
Read the rest of the story HERE.
“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex)
They were shy creatures, the jackalope wives, though there was nothing shy about the way they danced.
You could go your whole life and see no more of them than the flash of a tail vanishing around the backside of a boulder.
If you were lucky, you might catch a whole line of them outlined against the sky, on the top of a bluff, the shadow of horns rising off their brows.
Apex Magazine is a monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine featuring original, mind-bending short fiction from many of the top pros of the field. New issues are released the first Tuesday of every month. “Jackalope Wives” appears in Issue 56 HERE.
Love Is the DrugAlaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.
Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.
The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.
See additional award winners and information about the awards HERE.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

AMBITION – Short Film Peeks into the Far Future and the Legacy of Today’s Accomplishment with Rosetta

If you haven’t yet seen this wonderful and visionary short science-fiction film, please set aside 6 minutes to enjoy it. Ambition is a collaborative project of ESA and Platige Image. Directed by Tomek Baginski and starring Aiden Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, Shanghai Nights) and Aisling Franciosi (The Fall, Jimmy’s Hall, Quirke), it was shot on location in Iceland, and screened on 24 October during the British Film Institute’s celebration of Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, at the Southbank, London.
In six short minutes we glimpse a future with tremendous and elegant technology in which the spirit of humanity remains strong. ESA’s ostensible motive in producing the film is to promote its wonderful Rosetta project–the amazing success of which has now been widely acknowledged worldwide. But the film is not a mere promo piece. It is visionary and inspiring in its own right, with director Tomek Baginski pulling off a beautifully timed and moving story featuring great performances by Aiden Gillen and Aisling Franciosi as a master and apprentice, respectively, in this mysterious and optimistic flash of a possible future.
Yes, this short film is, on one level, a blatant plug for the Rosetta mission. But it is so well done, and such a welcome contrast to the bloated and physics-ignoring blockbusters that call themselves science fictions these day, that the relatively underplayed promotional intention of the film is more than wholly forgivable. Never mind that the Rosetta mission is, indeed, the monumental event this film suggests.
IMDb describes the story line like this:
The story of one of the most important space exploration endeavours of this decade. Just as Gillen’s enigmatic Master encourages Franciosi’s Apprentice to seek out the key to life amidst a rugged alien landscape, ESA has been on a decade-long ambitious journey of its own, to unlock the mysteries of a comet and the origins of our Solar System with its Rosetta spacecraft, hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth. Ambition complements the ongoing communication about Rosetta and adds a “human dimension” to the scientific and technological achievements of the mission, which include curiosity, drive and ambition.
The Director
Tomek Bagiński is a Polish illustrator, animator and director. His first film Rain won local awards. Between 1999 and 2002 he worked his short film debut, The Cathedral, which was nominated for an Oscar for the best animated short film. He is also the author of all covers of Jacek Dukaj books, including the novel entitled Ice. Apart from his own projects, Bagiński works as a director on commercials and stage shows. He has published in many trade magazines, from United States to China and Japan. His directing film credits include the Ambition (2014), Animated History of Poland (2010), Beig (2009), Making of Fallen Art (2005), The Cathedral (2002) and others. His writing credits include Ambition, The Kinematograph (2009), Fallent Art (2004), and The Cathedral.
Visit the Ambition website:
Watch the teaser trailer here
Watch the film here
Watch the Making of Ambition film here 
Listen to the soundtrack here

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hugo and Nebula Recommendations for Short Reads

I have always loved science-fiction short stories, novelettes, and novellas. They are shorter than novels, so they take less time to read. But good ones do not short shrift the story along with the word count. To the contrary, well drafted shorter works are tight and pack aDPCwallop. Science fiction is particularly well-suited to these shorter forms because, more than any others, it is the genre of ideas. A great idea in science fiction may or may not support an entire novel. But presented in a form of the proper length, inspiration and awe await the reader.
Like many, I’m busy. So I try to find ways to guide my selection of shorter works to read. One way I do that is to consider the nominees for the two most well-known awards in science fiction–the Nebula and the Hugo. I compare the lists of finalists and, typically, first look to the stories that have been nominated for both awards. It’s a good sign when the science-fiction writing community (for the Nebula) and the science-fiction writers/readers/fans community (for the Hugo) both find particular works worthy of consideration for their highest honor. I usually also read the stories that appear on only one list or the other. But for starters, there is (usually) always the cross overs.
There are no cross overs this year in the categories of novella, novellette, or short story. In fact, there is not even any cross over in the sources of the stories. (There is a current raging voting controversy. This piece is not about that.)
If I’m reading their lists right, the Nebula award nominees for shorter works come from Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Daily Science fiction, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Granta, Lightspeed, NobleFusion, Qualia Nous, Subterranean Summer, Tachyon,, and Upgraded, with the following number of nominees from each publisher:
Nebula Chart
While the Hugo award nominees are from Analog, Broad Reach, Castalia House, Galaxy’s Edge, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Sci Phi Journal in the following numbers:
Hugo Chart
With a total of 35 stories nominated overall in these categories across both award final lists, that’s a lot of reading. If you’re like me, you’d like a little more information to help decide where to start. Given that Castalia House is the runaway nominee source for the Hugos, and Fantasy & Science Fiction is one of the leading sources for the Nebulas, here is a description of each of those publishers from their websites:
Castalia House
Castalia House is a Finland-based publisher that has a great appreciation for the golden age of science fiction and fantasy literature. The books that we publish honor the traditions and intellectual authenticity exemplified by writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, G.K. Chesterton, and Hermann Hesse. We are consciously providing an alternative to readers who increasingly feel alienated from the nihilistic, dogmatic science fiction and fantasy being published today. We seek nothing less than a Campbellian revolution in genre literature. (Link:
Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949, is the award-winning SF magazine which is the original publisher of SF classics like Stephen King’s Dark Tower,Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon, and Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz.Each double-sized bimonthly issue offers:
 compelling short fiction by writers such as David Gerrold., Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Bisson and many others;
 the science fiction field’s most respected and outspoken opinions on Books, Films and Science;
 humor from our cartoonists and writers. (Link:
I couldn’t find a specific self description at (there probably is one; I just didn’t find it). But suffice it to say it is a top-tier publisher of novellas, novelettes and short stories, among other things. (Link:
Happy sorting and choosing. If you have any tips, or if you’ve read one or more of the nominated stories and have an opinion about it, please share.