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Archives: September 2006

Sci-Fi Bio Slights Sci-Fi Writer

marta-randall.gifEverybody seems to like Julie Phillips’s James Tiptree, Jr.—everybody less one, that is. Science fiction author Marta Randall (left) is less than thrilled about how she comes across in the book, and she’s sent us (along with Locus, Salon, and a few other people) a copy of her letter to Phillips about it:

“On page 360 of your biography of Alice Sheldon,” Randall writes, “you say that in December of 1976, I sent a letter of welcome to Ms. Sheldon on the revelation of her identity as the woman behind the pseudonym of James Tiptree, Jr. Indeed I did. In that solitary reference, you identify me as ‘[Robert] Silverberg’s girlfriend, Marta Randall’ and nothing more.”

Thing is, by 1976 Randall was a lot more than “Silverberg’s girlfriend;” she was a Nebula-nominated novelist who was just a few years away from being selected as the first female vice-president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (and president some time after that). “My sister writers are identified by their genres or their works, so I do not understand why my professional credentials were ignored,” Randall presses. “At the very least, this error should be corrected in any future printings and editions of your book. I would like a formal acknowledgment that this will happen.”

Elsewhere @ mediabistro.com…

mblogo.jpgIn the latest installment of mediabistro.com’s “Pitching an Agent” series, available only to AvantGuild subscribers, Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency shares some insights into what she’s looking for in various fiction genres, from sci-fi/fantasy to YA. You can also get an ongoing look at Nelson’s modus operandi from her Pub Rants blog, where she explains, to take one recent example, the right way to turn down a request to blurb somebody else’s book (the magic word is “deadlines”).

“JT Leroy” Peeks Out to Say Hello

I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from JT Leroy late Tuesday night, the first time I’d heard from the author since the myth started unravelling late last year. In the note, Laura Albert (using her real name) cheerfully notes an essay in the latest issue of Lemon, “the most beautifully produced magazine I’ve seen.” And what’s that essay about, you might ask? “Yes, Virginia, there is a JT Leroy.” And, yeah, it’s pretty much a note-for-note parody of that classic Santa Claus letter. “When you found out that Santa was a myth, did you revile your parents for telling you about him in the first place, and hate them forever after?” asks Lemon editor Robert Bundy. “Or maybe, looking back, did you realize that you had enjoyed the sleigh ride?”

Chomsky Still Hot, So’s Sam Harris

hugo-chavez.jpgApparently, Hugo Chavez’s book picks have legs: the AP reports that Henry Holt has ordered another 25,000 copies of Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, one week after the earlier 25K re-up capitalizing on Chavez’s flaunting the book during his address to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Trachtenberg files a WSJ story on the rapid sales of Letter to a Christian Nation, the Sam Harris book that has been hovering right alongside Chomsky at the top of the Amazon list, with more than 110,000 copies in print just a week after its release. How’d it happen? Knopf made a point of reaching out to conservative Christian publications and blogs that might be expected to react unfavorably to Harris’ “philosophical attack on the basic tenets held by all major religions.”

Amazon & Penguin Team to Promote Classics

kathryn-gursky.jpgThe folks at Penguin Classics tell us that they’ve just launched a new marketing venture with Amazon.com: The Penguin Classics Reading Group is a quarterly program that will lead moderated discussions of books from the familiar black-white-and-orange collection of world literature touchstones. The first book featured? Fifth Business by the late Canadian author Robertston Davies. A bit of a left-field choice, but all the better.

To lead the discussions, Amazon and Penguin have tapped retired librarian Kathryn Gursky (left), who inspired a brief media stir last year when her husband bought her Amazon’s Penguin Classics collection to replace the personal library lost in a fire (although the Davies wasn’t an official Classic back then).

I’m Waiting for Walter Monheit’s Review

Radar Online reveals the backstage drama with Kurt Andersen and Graydon Carter during the making of Spy: The Funny Years, a new coffee-table book celebrating the magazine’s peak half-decade (“certain to be on the holiday wish lists of aging hipsters,” backhands Publishers Weekly). The parody—and it is a parody—goes on quite a bit, but is highly amusing to those who liked that sort of thing back in ’86. (My favorite jab: “Michael Wolff has an uncanny ability to stretch a 100–word idea into a 4,000–word column.”)

Cancer Vixen Hailed in Print, Headed to Screen

Today’s NY Observer features Toni Schlesinger’s coverage of last week’s book party for Marisa Acocella Marchetto, on the heels of a Hollywood Reporter story revealing that Cate Blancett is negotiating for the film rights to the graphic memoir of Marchetto’s recovery from breast cancer. One wonders if it will include the showdown with Death featured in the book’s online trailer, narrated by Marchetto herself:

cancer-vixen.jpg

In a related story, Page Six is reporting that the silent auction of Marchetto’s artwork at the party raised $12,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Over at PW’s The Beat, comics blogger Heidi MacDonald passes along further news: Marchetto will donate a portion of the book’s profits for free mammograms for women without health insurance at St. Vincent’s.

So much for the “blogger book deal” bandwagon being over

Because the latest to step right up to the deal plate is Catherine Sanderson, whose blog Le Petite Anglaise caused a furore this past summer when her employers, the accountancy firm Dixon Wilson, decided to fire her for what she said on the blog – even though she never named them directly. And so, the Bookseller reports, Katy Follain at Michael Joseph/Penguin signed Sanderson up in a two-book deal, paying a sum approaching the mid six figures. The deal was done after a heated auction conducted by Simon Trewin and Sarah Ballard at PFD.

Follain describes Sanderson as “a very talented writer, one that we are very keen to build so that she becomes a household name with Petite Anglaise and future books.” PETITE ANGLAISE will be published in the UK in the spring of 2008, and will also be published by Spiegel & Grau in the US and with Doubleday in Canada, through Zoe Pagnamenta at PFD New York. RCS/Sonzogno has also bought rights through Nicki Kennedy at ILA.

The First Lady and her Dirty Books

The Washington Post’s Tamara Jones has a slightly strange conversation with Laura Bush on books – which shouldn’t have been that strange since the National Book Festival is coming up this weekend, but then you get gems like this, following the revelation that she read LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER in high school:

Was the once-banned classic the steamiest novel she ever read?

“Probably not,” she replies breezily. “I’ve probably read some steamier since.”

Smile.

Silence.

S teamier? Like what?

Smile.

She turns to the librarian of Congress for rescue.

“It’s hard even having to name ones that are steamy, don’t you think, Dr. Billington?”

The librarian of Congress isn’t sure he has heard this correctly. He leans in closer.

“Beg your pardon?” he says.

Which of course, is classic evasion right then and there…

Mosley Declares NaNoWriYear, More Advice Follows

According to a Reuters dispatch (don’t mind me, I just love saying “Reuters dispatch”), Walter Mosley is joining the writer’s guide brigade with This Year You Write Your Novel, because everybody’s always asking him how they can do it. “Some want to do it because they think it will make them rich, some think it will make them famous, or become a movie,” he explains. “This (book) is for if you believe there is a novel in you and you want to write that novel. It tells you how to write a novel in a year. I am not saying how good the novel will be or that it will ever get published. All I am saying is that you can write a novel.” Publishing…well, for that part you’re on your own.

Meanwhile, at his Goblin Mercantile Exchange blog, Alan DeNiro offers some advice on how you’ll feel while you’re writing that novel. “Any novel is an act of courage,” he explains, “and it gives us, in our ordinary lives, a project of sustained courage.” Which brings us to another metaphor:

“The scale of a novel is that of a supercollider/atom smasher. It’s daunting. It’s supposed to be daunting and difficult. And not only does it have to work—like an atom-smasher—it also has to look pretty. So it has to have an aesthetically pleasing structure and great landscaping and everything. It’s the whole deal: a supercollider where you’d want to get married or have a big party, or send a postcard of which to your grandmother.”

DeNiro’s thoughts spark a lively discussion that brings Jeff VanderMeer, who says the initial premise about novel writing is wrong: “It is an act of endurance. And an act of faith. But not an act of courage.”

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