Where to find me at Capricon

I’ll be at Capricon, a Chicago science fiction convention that’s been held annually for the past 43 years. This year it will be downtown from February 2 to 5 in the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The theme is “Eternity Awaits…”

“For centuries, writers and artists have speculated on What Comes After; some with smug anticipation, others in abject terror; with abated breath or baited curiosity. Often with a degree of bald humor — gallows, or otherwise. Mythologies and entire religious experiences have been built around these themes, as have stories, novels, poems, plays, movies, and television shows. The Afterlife has become not only a subject for contemplation, but also for entertainment, social commentary, and even adventure. At Capricon 43, we will embrace it all. At Capricon 43, Death is where the story begins.”

What will we do? Capricon describes itself this way:

“We celebrate the best of science fiction and fantasy, with a focus on literature. We are part of the world-wide fannish community, where diversity is encouraged and all are welcome. During the day, members attend programming on a variety of topics: books, movies, television, anime, space exploration, and science. There’s something for everyone including a special children’s track for our young fans and a teen lounge. Visit the dealer’s room, see the art show and attend the auction, get into gaming, karaoke, filk, or party all night long!”

The program of activities and events is here. You can attend for the whole weekend or just one day. Registration information is here.

I’ll be on some panels:

Saturday, February 4, 1:00 p.m. – Flash Fic Meets Scribble Art: A flash-fic/scribble-art challenge: A prompt will be presented and the authors will write a few paragraphs while the artists do quick sketches. Perhaps some will actually go together. Tammy Coxen (moderator), Dex Greenbright, Gene Ha, Tina Jens, Alessandra Kelley, Christine Mitzuk, and Sue Burke.

Saturday, February 4, 2:30 p.m. – I’m a Writer! Now What?: Writing is a solitary act that has few rules of the road. Measuring success and setting expectations as a writer is hard when often we try to compare ourselves to the giants of genre. This session is about how to set your own writing career goals, growing your own audience, and staying on a path of success without having self-defeating expectations. Mary Mascari (moderator), Jonathan Brazee, Sue Burke, Heshe Leontess, and Donna J.W. Munro.

Saturday, February 4, 4:00 p.m. – Writing Short Fiction: What are the beats to a short story? How many plots should you have? Learn why a short story is more than just a smaller novel.    Jonathan Brazee (moderator), Sue Burke, Brendan Detzner, Donna J.W. Munro, and Sophie Partlow.

Sunday, February 5, 1:00 p.m. – Killing Characters for Plot Reasons: No matter how well loved a character is, sometimes they need to die. Shaun Duke (moderator), Jonathan Brazee, Sue Burke, Reina Hardy, and Jeri Sherpherd.


By the way, my report about Chicon 8, the World Science Fiction Convention held in Chicago from September 1 to 5, 2022, has been posted at Concatenation.

Barnes & Noble pre-order sale, 25% off

From January 25 to 27, Barnes & Noble is taking 25% off the price of all pre-orders: dead-tree books, audiobooks, and ebooks.

This includes my next novel, Dual Memory, available May 16. The coupon code for checkout is PREORDER25

Soon, my novel will have cover art. I’ll explain the delay later. Meanwhile, it’s a good time to pre-order all the books you’re waiting for if B&N is your bookseller. You can find a listing of some great upcoming books here.

By the way, Dual Memory is included in The Most Anticipated Chicago Books of 2023 by Chicago Review of Books!

Review: “The Apex Book of World SF 5”

The Apex Book of World SF 5 (Apex World of Speculative Fiction)

The Apex Book of World SF 5 by Cristina Jurado
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For me, the strength of an anthology is in its variety as well as its quality. These eighteen stories cover a variety of countries, cultures, and nations; a variety of story-telling styles; and a variety of speculative fiction — which includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The editor, Cristina Jurado, and I have worked together on other projects, and I can see her hand in the choices. A fair number of stories show her fine sensibility toward horror, not with blood and gore, but with dread.

I’ve checked some other reviews, and different readers have loved a story that others found meh, and I think the variety of reactions means that there’s something in the anthology for a wide variety of readers. Here are my favorites, but you may have different choices:

“A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad: The story has fun with technology, and it could only have taken place in China.

“Violation of the Truenet Security Act” by Taiyo Fujii: I admit I didn’t follow all of the technicalities of a computer programmer falling afoul of a dystopian internet failure, but I understood the plot. The story could only have happened in Japan.

“Ambiguity Machines: An Examination” by Vandana Singh: Three accounts of unnerving encounters with impossible machines. It ends with a haunting twist.

“An Evolutionary Myth” by Bo-Young Kim: This tale about something like a shape-shifter is steeped in Korean culture.

“You Will See the Moon Rise” by Israel Alonso: A war turns out to be something else. As an aside, I knew the translator, Steve Redwood, and delighted in his anarchic humor; he died in 2022.

“The Seventh” by Eliza Victoria: Truly creepy horror.

“Screamers” by Tochi Onyebuchi: A series of murders leads to a transcendent conclusion.

“Ugo” by Giovanni de Feo: An odd romance takes a philosophical turn that subverts genre expectations.

Again, you might enjoy different stories, but they’re all worth reading. More than ever, speculative fiction plays out on a world-wide stage, and language barriers and national borders give us only glimpses. Here’s a chance to take a closer look.

View all my reviews

We are all illiterate

In my novel Dual Memory, which comes out in May, the main character is illiterate (he had a rough childhood), but he lives in a society much like ours: everybody reads, and he’s surrounded by writing. Some beta readers of the manuscript thought he couldn’t survive if he couldn’t read. I ignored that advice.

I knew better. A long time ago, I taught reading to adults at Literacy Services of Wisconsin, where I learned a few things about reading and about people who can’t read.

People can’t read for many reasons. Some never get much education. I remember an elderly Black man who grew up in the South when people who looked like him were barred from quality schools. Some people fall through other cracks in the educational system. Many, though, can read, but not English.

These are people just like you in that sense. Can you read Chinese, Russian, and Arabic? I can’t even read German, and it uses a familiar alphabet. Drop me in Japan, and I will be utterly illiterate. Of course, your phone and computer have AI programs that can help by translating and reading aloud, but first you have to figure out the software.

So, how do non-readers survive? Often they face frustration, but they find work-arounds. A friend or family member can read for them. They might memorize facts and procedures, like recipes, that readers would look up. In addition, the world offers subtle help.

The photo with this post shows some packages of food with the words describing the content erased. Can you guess what’s in them? Yes, because the artwork, photos, and clear panels tell you. Manufacturers know that not every customer can read, but they want every customer’s money.

I once worked in an ice cream store, and at first I got annoyed at some old ladies who would come in, point, and say, “What’s that? And that?” Then I realized they couldn’t read the labels on the tubs of ice cream. They spoke with an accent, so maybe they came from somewhere with limited education, at least for girls. Maybe they just never learned to read English. But they enjoyed ice cream, and my job was to get them what they wanted.

That elderly Black man had made his living as a professional tap dancer, and he was one of the most charming people I’ve ever met. He was hard to teach because rather than get to the reading lesson, I would have rather listened to his stories about his career and all the fun he’d had. He’d made it through life with his extraordinary people skills.

You meet illiterate people all the time, and they manage to survive.

“Myself and my circumstance”

José Ortega y Gasset, from The New York Review of Books

My novel Immunity Index opens with a quote from the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset: “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo.” I am myself and my circumstance, and if I do not save it, I do not save myself.

If you know nothing else about José Ortega y Gasset, remember that sentence, his most famous, written in 1914. The Spanish philosopher died in Madrid on October 18, 1955, at age 72. He was active in the Second Republic and went into self-exile at the outbreak of the Civil War, although after 1945 he returned frequently to Spain.

For him, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia” expressed the constant conflict between every person and the time and place where they are born: the drama and tragedy between necessity and freedom, of living with a reality that “forms the other half of myself.”

For him, freedom meant “being free inside of a given fate,” with a necessity to act: “if I do not save it, I do not save myself.”

 “Life is what we do and what happens to us.” Within fate, we can choose our destiny and create “a project of life.”

Some may find their philosophy of life in religion, existentialism, or nihilism. He created a philosophy based on pragmatism:

“Living is a constant process of deciding what we are going to do.”

What are you going to do?

José Ortega y Gasset, from The New York Review of Books