Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SKINJUMPERS published!

Posted On 12:14 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments


It's been a long time coming, but M-Brane Press has a fresh new book out in the world as of today: Skinjumpers by Michael D. Griffths, with a vivid front cover by Hannah Walsh. This is a book that I committed to so long ago that I was still living in The Exile in OKC when I first announced it. I remember sitting at my desk there informing the Twitterati about it. And I returned from Exile three years ago, so it's been a while. Several issues of the first year of M-Brane SF Magazine during 2009 and 2010 featured a serial of short fiction by Mike concerning the adventures of the Enforcer Dak and his body-swapping partner Erin in the deadly city of New Cluster. This new novel continues their tale in a big way, but it is not necessary to have read the original stories to enjoy this new one. It stands alone just fine. I placed a preface in the front of the book, the text of which I will copy below. It's for sale now on Amazon and will show up elsewhere shortly.

PREFACE to Skinjumpers
I first encountered the world of Skinjumpers—a strange and dangerous milieu—in a short story that the author submitted at the end of 2008 to my then-fledgling zine M-Brane SF. The story “A Clone of a Different Color” introduced New Cluster, a decaying city in an unspecified future and location, run by a corrupt and authoritarian police-state structure that resembles a mafia as much as a government and which is shot through with struggles among various factions. But it was not the post-cyberpunk veneer of this tale that appealed to me, but rather its subversive core conceit that people can move their consciousnesses, their very selves, from one body to another and somehow remain whole.

Specifically, the first Skinjumper tale evoked a topic that I’d wondered about a lot before I’d read that story: if I somehow change bodies (a perennial fantasy of mine), am I still me? Is there even actually a “me” outside my physicality? This remains a vexing question that we may—within the lifetimes of people reading this—have answered for us when we find out whether or not it is possible to separate consciousness from the body, move it into another body or possibly into a computer construct and learn whether that consciousness can survive intact or if it will be radically altered by the nature of its new physical form. I’ve wondered whether my “selfness” is really somehow a wholly different thing than my body in the way that humans tend to believe it is or if all I am is simply the compound of the literal physical stuff of my body. Is that which makes me an individual, a consciousness, actually a real thing that can be taken out of my body by some sort of futuristic instrumentality and moved elsewhere? Or is my body’s physical gender, its chromosomes, its genitalia, its sexual orientation, its age and condition and experience inseparable from the “me” of me? We don’t know this answer yet in the real world, but in the world of Skinjumpers, the answer is no: we can separate from our bodies and remain ourselves. We can even become even more our real selves by doing so.

In Michael D. Griffiths’ series of Skinjumper short stories that I published in M-Brane SF, and in this novel, a lot of questions are left unanswered. One is not given a detailed rationale as to why things are the way they are in New Cluster, but the reader doesn’t really need one either. The titular Skinjumpers threaten the social order and draw the fire of the authorities because (among other reasons) they are sex-rebels. They not only change bodies and cheat death by “jumping” into cloned replacements, but they can change physical gender. Some of them choose to do so permanently. In this story, you will meet Erin, a young woman whom you may underestimate at first because of the way she chooses to present herself. She is the long-term girlfriend of our protagonist Dak. But Dak has a particular sexual kink that is fabulously enabled in this world: he is oriented toward men who inhabit female bodies. Erin was once a guy and still somehow is even within her unambiguously feminine physical form. But she seems to not quite fit into our current understanding of LGBTQ-ness either. She and he are a shade different than what is enabled by or even understood in our so-called “real” world. Underneath their more or less conventional gender self-portrayals, they are both fascinatingly queer.

I am brought back to my original wondering about whether all this is possible and plausible. If I could move from my own body into that of a female, would I still be basically the same person, a gay male but somehow with a female physicality like that of Erin? What if I moved into the physicality of a straight guy? Or that of a one hundred-year- old man or a ten-year-old boy? Or even a younger clone of myself? Skinjumpers proposes, with great enthusiasm, that it is all possible: you can have the body you want and still be you—and maybe even a better “you.” It’s wonderfully subversive in the world of New Cluster in almost the same way that simply not being straight can be in our real world.

Now, please relax, turn the page, and recline into a world where your body is not a permanent boundary.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Behold, the M-Brane SF Double!

Posted On 3:22 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

A short video of me showing off the proof copy of the new Double, due to be live any hour now with the major online booksellers.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2020 VISIONS released in epub format on B&N

Posted On 4:54 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

It's a few months later than planned, but we finally have an .epub-format ebook version of Rick Novy's 2020 Visions available as a Nook Book at Barnes and Noble, and directly from M-Brane Press as well (details below). It's our hope that people who passed on the lovely print version of the book (also available at B&N as well as Amazon) were just waiting for a version that they could read on their Nook or iPad or a variety of other devices and will now go ahead and get a copy of this great book. 2020 Visions is a beautiful original anthology of very near-future speculative fiction (the "2020" in the title refers to the year) featuring stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Alex Wilson, Jack Mangan, David Gerrold, Emily Devenport, Alethea Kontis, Ernest Hogan, Jeff Spock, David Lee Summers and many others. This is a very cool book, and for only $4.95 at Barnes and Noble, it should not be missed.

You can also buy it right here for only $3.95, using the Pay Pal button below (takes credit cards and e-checks if you don't have a Pay Pal account). One may wonder why we seem to be undercutting our own price at Barnes and Noble. We're really not--it's just that direct purchase from M-Brane means a bit more money more quickly that can eventually go to the authors when this book goes into profit. But if you're shopping at B&N anyway, then by all means get it there. By the way, if you purchase it here, allow anywhere from a few hours to a day or so for delivery: we're not rigged for direct download from this site, so we send a link to you by email.

One last special detail: Anyone who buys 2020 Visions in any format (print, Nook, Kindle) from B&N, Amazon or directly from M-Brane Press will get a free subscription to the electronic (PDF) edition of M-Brane SF, our very nice monthly magazine of short speculative fiction. If you purchase from B&N or Amazon or any other retailer, just forward a copy of your order confirmation or receipt to mbranesf at gmail dot com, and we will add you to the M-Brane SF subscription list.






Sunday, May 1, 2011

DOUBLE PRE-ORDER SPECIAL BEGINS!

Posted On 1:17 PM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

The M-Brane SF Double, by Alex Jeffers and Brandon H. Bell, is finally within days of completion. This beautiful book is due for official release May 31. People who have followed my blogs or paid attention to me on Twitter and Facebook over the past year know that I have long dreamed of publishing a book that would honor the style of the old Ace Doubles from decades ago, those wonderful books where two short novels were published back-to-back (and upside down in relation to one another), so that the book has the effect of having two front covers. Over the last two years, I have had the joy of publishing monthly issues of M-Brane SF, a couple of gorgeous anthologies, a couple of lovely single-author short fiction collections, and the new fantasy periodical Fantastique Unfettered. I adore all of these things, but this new book, the Double, has become something of the new baby of the family, the special adored one, the focus of all attention (The rest of my operations will probably be glad when it's finally released! )

While I have worked hard on this project, the work I that have done is petty, insignificant, a mere trifle compared to that of the real talent behind it, the two great writers and the one great cover artist. These three came together to make my pet project not just real but actually a thing worth doing. I am going to introduce the two authors and their stories at length below, in the form of publishing here the actual intros that I prepared for the book. But first I want to acknowledge artist Jeff Lund for making two fine, matching covers for this book which each catch an essence from the stories they introduce but which also together create the whole look that I was after for this book. Of course everyone who knows me at all knows very well that Jeff is also my life partner, but his employment as the cover artist was by no means an easy inside job. He fought me for months on actually doing the work, insisting that he wasn't qualified for it. But I knew that he could do it--because I had seen so much great work from him before--and that he was the exact artist that I needed for this very special project. This post on my Live Journal , from many months ago, tells the story of getting the covers done in more detail.

M-Brane Press is offering a fine domestic (US and Canada) pre-order special for the M-Brane SF Double: The New People/Elegant Threat, Print Edition. Buy here, using the Pay Pay button below (takes credit/debit cards and e-checks if you don't have an actual Pay Pal account) for $14.95. For this price, you will get a copy of the beautiful print edition of this book (shipping included) plus this giant slew of electronic bonuses: 

1) permanent electronic (PDF) subscription to M-Brane SF, the monthly magazine of astounding science fiction. Your subscription will begin (and never end!) with a three-issue "starter pack" consisting of issues #25, #26 and the new #27--check out a free issue with the button over in the right side bar...
2) Electronic copies of Fantastique Unfettered #1 and #2 (worth the price right there). Fantastique Unfettered is our new "Periodical of Liberated Literature," a gorgeous magazine edited by Double author Bell... 
3) Electronic copies of our fabulous anthologies Things We Are Not (queer sf) and 2020 Visions (near-future sf)...
4) An electronic copy of Ergosphere, the special twelfth issue of M-Brane SF, guest-edited by Rick Novy...
5) A giant mega-bundle of the entire second year of M-Brane SF, back issues #13 through #24. 

(Again, US and Canadian orders only; sorry, we can't manage high overseas shipping costs at this low price, but the print book will become available in the UK, Europe and Australia after release.)

We are giving away nearly everything we have to give away with this special. That's how terrific we think it is, and how important we think it is that people get a copy of this book. But there's one catch: The special ends by the 5/31 publication date or as soon as 100 readers order this special. As soon as order #100 is received, we will will shut down the pre-order and the book will then be available only through B&N, Amazon, etc. (This isn't just an arbitrary number or a gimmick--processing pre-orders is a lot of work, and a 100 is about as many as we want to commit to in the next couple weeks). Readers who decide to jump on this good deal should do so right now by using the Pay Pal button. Allow us up to a day to send you by email the details of your purchase, including all your download links to your fat new cache of electronically preserved fiction. The print Double won't ship to you until 5/31, but you'll have more than enough to read in the meantime.

Here's the nice, easy-to-use Buy Now button, and please continue reading below to learn more about the authors and their novels...

$14.95 includes M-Brane SF Double (print), and everything mentioned above.












T


he fact that Alex Jeffers does not quite yet seem to be a common household name among readers of speculative fiction is a deplorable situation that I mean to do whatever little I can to correct. A writer of fantasy, science fiction and difficult-to-categorize literature, Jeffers has been one of my favorite writers that I have encountered over the last couple of years. He is a storyteller of remarkable imagination, a wordsmith of great talent and an editor’s dream of a writer with whom to work on a project.
I first learned of Jeffers when he offered a story for my GLBT science fiction anthology Things We Are Not (2009). I accepted “Composition with Barbarian and Animal”—a gorgeous, exotic, enthralling tale—for the book and counted myself lucky to have gotten such a nice item for my first attempt at editing an anthology. After I learned more about Alex Jeffers, I suspected that he was a writer perhaps a bit out of my league at the time (as the very small-time editor I was), and I doubted that I’d have a shot at publishing him again any time soon. But a short while later he surprised me with “Jannicke’s Cat” (M-Brane SF #10, November 2009). And it was then, while reading this achingly lovely story, that I learned of the singular world of Rahab, an oceanic place with but a few small islands where humans live in interstellar isolation from their cousins on other distant, out-of-reach planets. There befell a situation that resulted in the birth of no more females to the last generation of women on that world. Jannicke, an old woman at the time of the story, is one of the last of her sex, in a soon-to-be all-male world where the very survival of the species may be in peril.
Fast-forward many, many years: Science found a way where nature didn’t, and the humans—the men—of Rahab survive and flourish as humans always have, living their lives, dreaming their dreams, marrying and having families. But something else also remained the same as it had always been: most males were still born heterosexually oriented but they would live their lives never knowing a single living woman. This biological, existential conundrum and one possible solution to it are at the core of The New People. If, based on what I have just said, you have already formed expectations or made presumptions about what you will find in The New People, you are probably wrong. Jeffers surprises throughout both with the details of the story and the way his vividly rendered characters navigate through it.
When Jeffers submitted The New People to me over a year ago, I was frankly stunned. Because he submitted it for consideration as a story for the normal run of the M-Brane SF magazine, taking me at my word that I had no upper limit on word count. Indeed I do not have a firm upper word count limit for the magazine, but a thirty thousand word novella that I suspected would be fantastic (before I’d even read a single word) seemed altogether too much to treat as a normal submission. So, what to do? I had already been chattering on the web about my dream of creating a new book in the old style of the Ace Doubles, but I was still pretty far away from committing to the actual doing of it, and I had no idea what I’d be able to get for its content.  But as I started reading The New People, I realized that I had one half of my Double in hand already. It was the perfect situation all around: I had one story that would work beautifully for the new book, and it was a story that had long deserved but had never gotten a proper presentation to the public.
As with the story that forms the other half of this book, Jeffers’ tale is one stand-alone piece of what we must hope will one day come forth as part of a much larger story. Jeffers says he has in process a work called A Boy’s History of the World, which will incorporate all of his Rahab stories. This is something that ranks highly on my personal list of Books That I Wish Existed. But for now, I will content myself with the terrific pleasure of being the one to point toward this great open window into that world. Enjoy.
—Christopher Fletcher, Editor, M-Brane SF

Foreword to Elegant Threat by Brandon H. Bell..

I
 have been telling readers about Brandon H. Bell since I first read his work in the slush-pile the first month I was producing M-Brane SF magazine. In the slightly more than two years since M-Brane SF #1, I have published Brandon’s stories twice more in the magazine and in a couple of anthologies (Things We Are Not and the M-Brane SF Quarterly #1), and I have been gratified to see, as his list of publishing credits steadily lengthens, that other editors are seeing what I see in this extraordinarily imaginative and intelligent writer.
The story you are about to read is a marvel, and the realization in print of a project that Brandon Bell has been working on for a long time. He has created a rich, lavish, fascinating and sometimes frightening Post-Singularity, interplanetary milieu. Some lucky readers have had a chance to peer into it a couple of times already: one of his first published short stories, “Best Gift” (Return to Luna, Hadley Rille 2008) was, as Bell describes it on his website, “a tale about Sterling Suits, Neo-Dromedaries, and the persistence of love, trust, and faith on the lunar surface.” The next glimpse into this strange world was in M-Brane SF #5 (June 2009), with the story “Abraham Discovers an Artifact Impenetrable to All Harm,” an enigmatic and startling story about an unusual family struggling to make their way in the universe at the edges of an impending war between humans and Post-humans. These stories were so fascinating that my only complaints were that they were too short and that there weren’t enough of them. But now, with Elegant Threat, we finally get to spend a longer time in Bell’s world.
Elegant Threat—the story of people who wrangle aquatic fauna from the harrowing tides of the moon Shanama against a backdrop of imminent conflict with the mysterious Post-humans and sectarian strife within their own ranks—was envisioned by its author as the first of a triptych of stories that will eventually comprise a much longer novel. But this story herein—a novella of about thirty thousand words—is also complete, self-contained and will satisfy readers even if the other portions are never seen (though all readers of this one will certainly clamor for the rest and Bell likely shall feel obliged to produce it soon enough).
Bell has deployed an interesting and unexpected literary device in telling this story. Its subtitle, On the Demise of Captain Fantomas Patton-Guerrero and Loss of La Amenaza Elegente, gives the reader a big clue up front essentially how the story is going to end, as does the very first chapter’s final line: “…La Amenaza Elegente dropped toward the planet, beginning its descent toward the place that would soon become its grave.” As with an ancient Greek tragic play or a Shakespeare drama, we go into it knowing that Captain Fantomas and his ship are doomed but the fascination lies in seeing how and why this disaster unfolds. And even though the ending is foretold from the earliest pages, the reader will not see coming the stunning sequence of events that bring about that ending. This way of telling the story, as if it is a recounting of an event that the reader may have heard of before, adds an alluring patina of history to it. But what really makes this story and this way of telling it succeed is the way that Bell draws such lovely, nuanced characters and makes the reader really care about them enough to hope that maybe somehow, against all odds, they will still avert tragedy even though we already know that the Amenaza is not going home again.
Now, without further delay, please visit spectacular, deadly Shanama and witness the fate of La Amenaza Elegente.
—Christopher Fletcher, Editor, M-Brane SF


Monday, March 28, 2011

FU gets fantastic review

Posted On 6:44 AM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

I am reprinting here a great review of our periodical Fantastique Unfettered. But you may want to instead visit its original posting at the Future Fire site because links to a lot of the writers are intact over there. 

Reviewed by Nader Elhefnawy
M-Brane Press, the publisher of small press science fiction magazine M-Brane SF, launched a fantasy counterpart to that publication last year, Fantastique Unfettered (or FU). Under the editorship of Brandon H. Bell, FU has as its stated purpose the publication of ‘well-written, compellingly readable, original stories of fantasist fiction,’ both short fiction and poetry, which is ‘unfettered by traditional copyright,’ so that all its content carries a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license.

The authors appearing in the premier, Winter 2010 issue of the publication, which has eleven short stories and three poems in its 140 pages, offer a wide range of approaches and settings. Perhaps exemplary in this respect is the story to which the issue’s cover art is devoted, Michael J. Shell’s ‘The Death of a Soybean’, which presents an off-the-wall alternate version of the Manhattan Project and World War II. More a uchronia than an alternate history, ‘Soybean’ surreally scrambles the events of our timeline rather than exploring a counterfactual scenario, with Robert J. Oppenheimer just a Los Alamos security guard who happens to be eccentrically preoccupied with an idea called ‘nuclear fission,’ and a femme fatale lady physicist with the unlikely name of Maladi scheming, seducing and killing her way to fame, fortune and a place in scientific history.

Offering a nightmare complement to Shell’s noirish dream is Kaolin Fire’s ‘The Aetheric God’, in which a young technician named Asher who spends his days building steam-men for his employer ‘Chief Technician’ Father Isaiah. He spends his nights hiding in the cathedral’s library-desperately burying himself in its books to try and quiet ‘the voice of God within his head’ calling for Asher’s mutilation and destruction, a crisis that soon enough moves out of his head and into the physical world.

Going in a sharply different direction from either is Alan Frackelton’s ‘A Blessing From the Blind Boy’, the story of a disgruntled gaucho named Juan Hernandez who burglarizes the mansion of his ruthless landowner employer somewhere (and somewhen) in twentieth century Latin America, putting Hernandez’s young son Ramon in the center of a cycle of revenge, loss and longing.

In a lighter, more fanciful vein, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s ‘Breaking the Spell’ (a reprint from Philippine Speculative Fiction 4) has for its protagonist a little girl who becomes fascinated with the miniature world her father keeps under a bell jar. While her father’s fairy tales never ring true for her (she is ‘determined not to kiss a prince’), entry into that little world becomes the object of her own fairy tale quest.

However, in contrast with exoticism, the issue favors toward contemporary contexts, and compared with the world-changing (and rather nihilistic) events of Shell’s story, or the intense confrontation with the supernatural of Fire’s, subtler uses of speculative elements inside quieter, more personal stories. The descriptor that came to mind when I read Frank Ard’s story of a love triangle between a man, mer-man and woman ‘Small Fish in the Deep Blue’ is ‘slipstream.’ Others incorporate surreal intrusions into what might otherwise be a realist narrative, like in Mary J. Daley’s ‘The Book of Barnyard Souls’, in which a young farm girl named Kalee receives nightly visits from the souls of deceased animals; Natania Barron’s ‘Without a Light’, in which a sixth-grade teacher in a small town starts an affair with a mysterious colleague; Elizabeth Creith’s ‘Five Oak Leaves’, where a man encounters a young changeling girl living on the street.

In Anna Manthiram’s ‘Boris’, a meditation via fortune cookie-like clothing tags on the titular character’s involvements with various women; Christopher Green’s ‘Holding Hands’, in which a Vietnam veteran encounters a girl he left behind at thirteen many years later in his wife’s ballet studio; or Michael J. Deluca’s ‘The Driftwood Chair’, in which a man roams the beach trying to cope with the loss of a love; it is possible to blink and miss the speculative touch.

By and large the sensibility is ‘literary,’ and the quality is high (the two, of course, not always the same thing), virtually all the stories assembled here working, though to different degrees and in different ways. ‘Death of a Soybean’ succeeds on the strength of its pacing and strangeness, Fire’s ‘The Aetheric God’ on the nightmarish force of the telling. The poems offer similar grandiosity, particularly Bruce Boston’s rich, dark, chaotic ‘The Time Traveler Leaves History Behind’ and Alexandra Seidel’s glittering ‘In Babel.’ Daley’s touching ‘Barnyard Souls,’ is the most emotionally resonant story in the volume, though the pieces by Frackleton and Creith also succeed on this level.

That combination of quality and variety means that Fantastique Unfettered #1 offers something for many different tastes, in what seems to me a very promising start for the new publication.

This review is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, (c) Nader Elhefnawy. You are free to republish this review anywhere you like, so long as you give attribution to the author and to The Future Fire and keep this license text intact in any copy.




Sunday, March 20, 2011

M-Brane SF Quarterly #2 has been released

Posted On 11:14 AM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

My real job--the one that provides my paycheck--got rather unexpectedly busy over the last couple weeks, causing me to fall behind on normal updates in the M-Brane world, such as the release of M-Brane SF Quarterly #2 last week (thank you to the writers who have done more to spread the word on this so far than I have). This is the second volume of a print book series collecting the fiction from three electronic issues of M-Brane SF. Also, this book contains some items not included those issues: two spectacular stories by Zachary Jernigan and an interview with him. It's such a lovely book, way worth the $9.95 on Amazon. M-Brane SF makes a couple dollars profit on each sale, and all of this money goes right back into continuing the zine and our other publishing projects, so picking up a copy is a good way to support us and also to find some really fine fiction.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

TWAN gets nice write-up at new Rise Reviews site

Posted On 11:46 AM by Christopher Fletcher 0 comments

The new site, Rise Reviews has launched with a slew of reviews of indie press books, including our very own Things We Are Not (2009), the anthology of queer speculative fiction. Curated by managing editor Bart Leib (co-founder of Crossed Genres) and a staff of well-qualified reviewers, Rise Reviews' mission is to provide a review space for publications that pay writers less than pro rates but which pay at least something. This is welcome thing especially after Tangent Online moved recently to drop coverage of non-pro publications.

As the editor and publisher of Things We Are Not, I was very flattered that reviewer Kelly Jennings had a lot of good things to say about the stories and that she also really got where I was coming from philosophically with the project. Also, since we haven't sold any copies of it in recent memory, I admit that I hope this new attention on the book will attract some more readers--readers that I hope will also pick up from Amazon some of our other titles as well, like Cesar Torres' The 12 Burning Wheels, Derek J. Goodman's Machina, Rick Novy's 2020 Visions, and Hadley Rille Books' The Aether Age. All qualify for Free Super Saver Shipping on orders of $25 or more, you know!


 

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