Thursday, July 23, 2015

Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond has a Table of Contents

We are one step closer to the world's first unauthorized but completely legal James Bond anthology today: here is the table of contents for LICENCE EXPIRED: The Unauthorized James Bond. There are 19 stories altogether from fantastic writers. My co-editor and partner Madeline Ashby has written more about the road we've traversed so far at her own blog--so I will be brief.

This is going to be a fantastic collection. There are stories here that inhabit the space between the novels Fleming wrote and stories that take James Bond on a wing to undiscovered lands; stories that dig deep into the more problematic elements of the James Bond mythology (the still-shocking sexism, racism, and sadism) and stories that are almost as shocking for their raw humanity. The stories are sensual, and propulsive, and often, very, very funny. I can't imagine anyone wanting to miss it.

Because of the discrepancies in international copyright law, it will only be available for purchase in Canada, where copyright is extended 50 years past an author's death. That may not last long--there are rumors coming out of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations that Canada will be asked to extend copyright protection from 50 to 70 years--but we're confident any legislative changes won't beat our November 17 2015 publication date.

They better not. Because this, if I say so myself, is an extraordinary lineup.

• Forward by Matt Sherman
• Introduction: The Bitch is Dead by David Nickle
• “One Is Sorrow” by Jacqueline Baker
• “The Gale of the World” by Robert J. Wiersema
• “Red Indians” by Richard Lee Byers
• “The Gladiator Lie” by Kelly Robson
• “Half the Sky” by E.L. Chen
• “In Havana” by Jeffrey Ford
• “Mastering the Art of French Killing” by Michael Skeet
• “A Dirty Business” by Iain McLaughlin
• “Sorrow’s Spy” by Catherine McLeod
• “Mosaic” by Karl Schroeder
• “The Spy Who Remembered Me” by James Alan Gardner
• “Daedelus” by Jamie Mason
• “Through Your Eyes Only” by A.M. Dellamonica
• “Two Graves” by Ian Rogers
• “No Mr. Bond” by Charles Stross
• “The Man with the Beholden Gun: an e-pistol-ary story by some other Ian Fleming” by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
• “The Cyclorama” by Laird Barron
• “You Never Love Once” by Claude Lalumière
• “Not an Honourable Disease” by Corey Redekop
• Afterword by Madeline Ashby

For more info, check out ChiZIne Publications' LICENCE EXPIRED website, right here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Art Lessons

Lawrence Nickle, 1931-2014, photo by Liz Lott
It's funny the things that pre-occupy one on Father's Day. In the best of worlds, the day would be spent talking, hanging out, maybe a bit of tippling with the old man.

But that is not the world we inhabit today. My father, Lawrence, died just a few days into 2014. He was 83, which is not a bad time to die if you're finished with things, but as bad a time as any if you're not, quite yet.

Dad spent is life marrying and divorcing--twice for each--and lovingly raising the boys that came from those marriages--one from each. He also painted. Dad was a professional artist, and a single-minded one. He painted in the mode of the 20th-century Canadian art movement of the Group of Seven, en plein air, which is to say outdoors and in sight of his subject.

By the time of his death, he was touted as one of the last of the en plein air painters. It was no wonder that he was: for decades in the Canadian art world--the decades that Dad was working in his prime--en plein air didn't get much respect. It was representational and illustrative... decorative and old-fashioned... apolitical, except maybe to the extent that it celebrated the natural world in the time of strip mining and urban sprawl. People did buy Dad's paintings--he was able to make a solid living at it--but they weren't celebrated; Jackson Pollock he was not.

In Kleinberg, Ontario, there is a private art gallery that collects and celebrates the Group of Seven: the McMichael Collection. It is a sprawling log structure that reminds one of a James Bond villain lair, as might exist if Tom Thomson and A.Y. Jackson ever conspired on dreams of world domination. I vividly recall an excruciating visit there with Dad in the 1970s, when I was very small. Dad had an appointment with the curator, to pitch a special exhibition of his work. It seemed like a good bet: he was working in the Group of Seven tradition, and he thought his work compared well with some of the works on display there.

It was, alas, not to be. The problem, said the curator, was that my father's work compared too well with the museum pieces already on display. If they were to do a special exhibit at that museum dedicated to en plein air painters, it would not be the work of an artist who had dedicated himself to such an antique mode of artistic expression.

I don't recall exactly what we did after that failed pitch. We probably drove into Toronto to go to the Royal Ontario Museum or the Ontario Science Centre or the Sam the Record Man's record store, or one of the other places that Dad and I went on our weekend visits (this was some time after divorce #1).  What I absolutely don't recall is seeing my father Lawrence in a toxic rage at the utter disrespect the curator had shown to the artistic discipline that he had spent his own life honouring. However he filled the rest of the day, it involved the steady business of being a good and loving father--and the day after that for him, the various tasks associated with being as good a painter as he could be.

Which brings me around to what turns out to be my preoccupation this Father's Day: the Sad Puppies, the Rabid Puppies, the Hugo Awards and the attempted ongoing boycott of TOR.

A lot of words have been blogged and tweeted and Facebook'd refuting the arguments of a crowd of writers who maintain that "social justice warriors" have taken over science fiction and fantasy's Hugo Award and so marginalized the kind of old-school space adventure stories that they write and like to read. These writers and fans have chosen to retaliate to this imagined slight by campaigning to have works they prefer on the Hugo ballot. There is a nasty hard-right-wing tone to the whole business, and the stink of vendetta hangs over it all--particularly surrounding the 'boycott,' which demands the firing of TOR's artistic director Irene Gallo for some comments she made and the punishment of various TOR employees for comments they've made.

I keep looking over that last paragraph to make sure I've got things right and included all the twists and turns in this so-very-public narrative, but I have to keep reminding myself the details are ever changing and not, as far as I'm concerned, what is at the core of this.

What is then? To my mind, it is a seething resentment that every artist (or prospective artist) feels when it becomes clear that their work is not receiving the respect they feel it is due.

Lawrence Nickle knew something about that. His work sold steadily but unspectacularly. In lean years, he would cut back on expenses--and generally worked to live as far off the grid as he could, so as to keep those expenses low no matter what. He worried during recessions that people might be simply giving up on original art. But his response was always the same: to go out and make more paintings.
Photo by Liz Lott

He didn't care to self-promote. I remember asking him in the early years of the internet why he didn't get a website, and seek out interviews in newspapers, and do other things that artists at the time were doing. He told me that he felt he had a choice: he could devote himself to promotion, or to painting. He chose painting.

It is not that Lawrence was without envy or above pettiness. He had a real, not-always-quiet contempt for quite a few of his peers in the art world, who he relentlessly held to his own aesthetic and vocational standards even when they may not have been all that relevant.  His gender and race politics were, shall we say, inconsistently progressive at best. He was a reformed-Baptist-turned-Atheist and had harsh and unkind words for believers.

For that, I don't think he even conceived of tearing down the careers of artists working in the abstract or hyper-realist or minimalist or surrealist modes that had supplanted his niche. I think he would have seen public complaint as a kind of admission of failure. And allowing that sort of admission would have been first, horribly demoralizing; and second, inaccurate. Smart collectors paid good money for his work, and cultivated his friendship, and if they painted themselves (as many did), benefited from his mentorship.

And most importantly, he made paintings like these:






It seems to me that the life of my father Lawrence is a good example to bring up right now, in this very political culture war about what is at its root, an art form.  The point of doing art, to paraphrase Neil Gaiman, is to make good art. It is not to chase awards, or other sorts of validation; it is not to look enviously at those who do receive those awards, who bask in that validation, and try to supplant them through forces democratic or otherwise.

It would be naive to say that such things don't happen in communities of proper artists. They do, again and again, and are happening now in this science fiction and fantasy community of proper artists.

But I think my father would have said that the behaviour of the Puppies whether sad or angry, is the one sure sign of their not being proper artists. He would take it as a vulgar sign of weakness. It would earn his quiet but certain contempt.




Friday, April 3, 2015

We don't want you to talk. We want you to submit.

You thought we were just monologuing when we said we'd be doing an anthology of unauthorized James Bond stories? Hah. Not so. LICENCE EXPIRED: The Unauthorized James Bond is open for unsolicited submissions, until the end of May. Madeline Ashby, my co-editor and other things too, have already got a couple of stories in the bag (and they are corkers) but we're looking for more. The deal, as you've heard here before, is straightforward as defusing a nuclear warhead: write stories under 5,000 words about James Bond as Ian Fleming wrote him. But DON'T CROSS THE WIRES and write about any of the movies or subsequent books. That is because as things stand today, Fleming's work is in public domain in Canada, but not in most of the rest of the world. Your story, if selected, will therefore only be published in Canada (unless we can convince the holders of the rights to allow publication elsewhere). But you will have written a story about James Bond. And you know you've always wanted to.

Any more questions 007? Here's the full dossier. You can read it on the plane.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Turtles, all the way down...

"No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away."
-Terry Pratchett

I did meet Sir Terry Pratchett--a very long time ago, in 1990 at a science fiction convention in Toronto. I was doing arts journalism at the time, and had hooked in with the publicist at H.B. Fenn,  who was happy to oblige my fan-boy interest in his distribution company's list of science fiction and fantasy authors. Over a short but fruitful relationship, he sat me down with Orson Scott Card, Gene Wolfe, Robert Jordan... some others who've receded into the fog of memory.

And he also sat me down with Terry Pratchett.

At the time, I wasn't sure what to make of him. The interview opportunity came up quickly, and I had only a little time to prepare, and in those dark, early days I hadn't read much of him and knew nothing of the Discworld. So I did my best to get up to speed. That is not to say that I got up to speed. By the time we sat down, I'd just made it a few chapters into The Colour of Magic and was, I have to admit, just mildly amused. I recognized and appreciated the Fritz Leiber shout-out with Bravd and The Weasel. The wizarding business that followed was good fun and damn, but the dude could write.
But really, I had no idea who I was talking to.

I had not yet met Death, and had no idea about his daughter. I couldn't name the Night Watch. It was some time before he joined forces with Neil Gaiman so I had little sympathy for the Devil and no idea about his son.

I hadn't had a sense, yet, just what a master Terry Pratchett was.

At the time, I think he was just coming to understand what he might do himself. When I admitted that I was getting started with The Colour of Magic,  he told me that wasn't the best place to start, if I wanted a sense of what he was up to. He was still pulling gags in that book, he said, setting up in-jokes for genre nerds (Bravd and Weasel, standing in for Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser being one notable example).

At the time we spoke, he was in the process of leaving all that behind.

Of course, he didn't completely leave it behind. Pratchett's novels are nearly all comic, even when they are heart-breakingly sad and honest, and true: in the way that the best comedy always is.
But Pratchett then and through his life, was doing art. Popular art, whimsical art, sometimes surprisingly dark art--but Art. The A, capitalized, deliberately.

I don't think I did a good interview, but Pratchett didn't make me feel it the way that some subjects can. He spoke generously about his work, his aspirations--the difficulty at the time (a difficulty that soon passed) of building an audience in the United States and Canada to equal the one he had in the U.K.

I never ran into Terry Pratchett again--not in person, at any rate. Over the years since, I've delved into his novels and collaborations, watched his work in adaptation--and also watched his struggle with early-onset Alzheimers.

I got word of his death today in a very Pratchett-esque circumstance: sitting in my tax accountant's office, looking away from the screen she was using to type in my T4 information, at my own screen where I was desperately emailing my financial advisor for a document that I had left on the sofa at home. An email from my friend, fellow writer and lifelong Terry Pratchett fan Michael Skeet was headlined "Terry Pratchett, RIP."

And then, as my accountant worked away, I checked Twitter, and read the last three tweets from the account he shared with his assistant:
""AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER. 
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night. 
The End."
I managed not to cry. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Everything Erik Mohr touches turns to excitement...

We are still waiting on stories. But in the meantime, we have a cover for LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND. As is the case with all the very best covers, it is by ChiZine wunderkind Erik Mohr.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond

 "The bitch is dead now."
-From Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

So here's a funny story: in 2015, and only in Canada and a few other countries, James Bond entered the public domain.

Not the constantly morphing fellow from the movies, now.  That's firmly in the possession of Eon for the forseeable future. But the literary character, created by former spy and bon vivant Ian Fleming, is now inhabiting the same legal space as Sherlock Holmes, Captain Nemo and Count Dracula. It is, as I mentioned, effectively only in Canada and a few other places, because Canada is one of the few countries that have held with the minimum 50-year time-span within which a copyright might be held following the creator's death.

And as of January 2015, that time-span has been deemed to have expired, following Ian Fleming's death in 1964.

Absorb that a moment--perhaps perusing io9's excellent piece on the subject as you do so.

Because that is what Madeline Ashby and I were both doing, independent of one another, a couple of weeks ago when we read the story. I was just about to leave work at city hall for the day. Madeline was at work at home.

By the time I'd gotten home, we had both done something else independently: decided to co-edit an anthology--maybe the first anthology--of perfectly legal, unauthorized stories about Secret Agent 007.

This kind of thing goes on all the time with other public-domain characters, often in kooky genre mashups. But James Bond has generally been left out of that party. New James Bond novels are nothing new--various authors starting with Kingsley Amis and John Gardner have been churning those out for years. But those have by necessity been authorized by the Fleming estate. And while some of them are very good, and even take interesting liberties with the character (William Boyd's 2013 novel Solo had 007 very creepily stalking a horror film actress based loosely on Hammer star Ingrid Pitt, as a particularly psychotic birthday present to himself), there has always been a sense that the 007 sandbox is a supervised one. James Bond is a character, but he is also a property. And there are rules...

Wouldn't it be something to sneak into that sandbox after dark, gather up all the toys and just invent our own game? Write stories about Bond that transgress a little further, and maybe offer some outside-the-sandbox critique of this at-root pretty awful character that has become such a central part of our pop-culture mythology?

When I got home, and we realized what we'd both been thinking, we called up Sandra Kasturi at ChiZine Publications and told her what we had in mind.

It was not a tough sell.

So here it is: in mid-November, Canadian readers will be able to pick up a copy of LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND, from ChiZine Publications. The anthology will feature original, transformative stories about James Bond as he appeared (and lived and killed and drank and pill-popped and travelled and yes, fucked) in Ian Fleming's original stories. These stories will categorically not reference anything from the films or the subsequent novels because the copyright still stands on those. As mentioned above, ChiZine will be taking great care to ensure that the book respects all the existing copyright protections on the licence at the same time as we take the liberties copyright law affords us.

The stories will be told by some interesting and talented writers, some of whom you will have heard of: Tony Burgess, Laird Barron, Nathan Ballingrud,  Claude Lalumiere, Robert Wiersema, A.M. Delamonica, Ian Rogers, Corey Rekekop and Kelly Robson are firm commitments now. Some of them may well be new to you, as we expect that we will be opening the book up for submissions in the coming weeks.

There will likely be a Kickstarter to make sure that this is the biggest Bond ever, and so that we can launch the book someplace with a nice shark tank. Again, stay tuned to this frequency.

It is going to be an all-time high (well not precisely, because that is from the movies).

Read Madeline Ashby's thoughts on this whole business here.

Here is the official news release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ChiZine Publications to Publish Unauthorized James Bond Anthology

TORONTO, Ontario (January 19, 2015) — Independent Toronto publisher ChiZine Publications announces they will be publishing a new anthology of short stories featuring James Bond now that Ian Fleming’s work has entered the public domain in Canada. The anthology, titled Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, will be edited by Toronto authors Madeline Ashby (vN, iD; Company Town) and David Nickle (Knife Fight and Other Struggles,The ’Geisters, Eutopia).

“We want to feature original, transformative stories set in the world of Secret Agent 007,” says Nickle. “We're hoping our contributors will combine the guilty-pleasure excitement of the vintage Fleming experience with a modern critique of it.”

“This is an opportunity to comment on the Bond universe from within it,” adds Ashby. “We're specifically looking for writers and stories that would make Fleming roll in his grave.”

Since only Fleming’s Bond novels have entered the public domain, the stories won't reference the films, subsequent novels written by others, or any media tie-ins. However, within Fleming’s works are well-known villains Rosa Klebb, Oddjob, Dr. No, SMERSH, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE. Familiar allies include Moneypenny, Honey Rider, Pussy Galore, Felix Leiter and Quarrel. The story authors will be able to call on any of these characters and organizations along with the many others that have appeared in Fleming’s stories.

Authors who have confirmed their appearance in Licence Expired include:
  • Tony Burgess
  • Corey Redekop
  • Robert J. Wiersema
  • Laird Barron
  • Nathan Ballingrud
  • Kelly Robson
  • A.M. Dellamonica
  • Ian Rogers

Licence Expired is scheduled to be published in November 2015.

Contact

Sandra Kasturi, Co-Publisher
ChiZine Publications
sandra@chizinepub.com

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A New Year, New Knife Fight (reviews)

The turning of the calendar turned out to be a good thing for Knife Fight and Other Struggles, at least in terms of reviews. In the days leading up to, and the days following, my second story collection released in November showed up in a lovely cluster of review outlets, with some very good reception.

On December 27, the Winnipeg Free Press ran a full review of the collection by Keith Cadieux (which you can view here), which read in part:
"Anyone even vaguely interested in horror or weird fiction owes it to themselves to give David Nickle a look, and Knife Fight and Other Struggles is a great place to start. Those already familiar won't be disappointed."
 Then on New Year's Day, Josef Hernandez at Examiner.com penned a full review (readable here) that among other things says this:
"When reading the collection, the reader never knows what comes around the next corner when one story turns to another. All the reader can be sure of is that it will be unexpected and entertaining."
On January 3, Alex Good at The Toronto Star led off his science fiction review column with Knife Fight and Other Struggles (here) starting off thusly:
"David Nickle, one of a number of Toronto writers making this month’s column, doesn’t believe in holding anything back. With this new collection he takes the reader on a series of wild rides at manic velocity, careening through a dozen explosive and surreal stories that dip into fantasy, science fiction and horror, exploring alternative worlds and crazy futures." 
That review had some legs: over the course of the next week, it was reprinted (at least online) at papers in Hamilton, Halton Region, Windsor and probably some others. I was feeling pretty good about the review situation until this weekend, when I had cause to feel goddamn good, at my first-ever appearance in the review pages of The Globe and Mail.  My book leads off a column of small press recommendations by Jade Colbert, who offers up the following eminently pull-able pull-quote:
"Genre, unfairly, can be a ghetto. Scan the cover blurbs on David Nickle’s new collection of horror and dark fantasy – he has an armful of awards to his credit – and you might well wonder how you’ve missed him. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the talent based on preconceptions of what horror might be – read one of these stories and see if you aren’t hooked... Believe the hype: David Nickle is very good."
You can go read the whole thing here.

I honestly didn't know what to expect in terms of reviews and sales for this second story collection of mine; short stories are traditionally considered poor sellers in the book-buying marketplace, and often disappear entirely. A story collection released in the pre-Christmas marketplace, competing with publishers' all-star fall lineup is an even better candidate for invisibility.  This little explosion of attention is welcome, and met with a whole lot of gratitude here at the Yard.