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A Science Fictional Day: Jamie Todd Rubin and Charles Yu

Yesterday ended up being a science fictional day for me. It shouldn't be a surprise, given that I am a science fiction writer, but it's not every day that I both find out that a friend has reached a publishing milestone and meet a notable first-time novelist.

In the early afternoon, I received a phone call from a very excited Jamie Todd Rubin. Jamie is a fellow writer in the beginning of his career, whom I met through LiveJournal because he had been a fan of my writing in Analog for many years. Jamie's published two stories so far, but the pinnacle of his hopes and dreams has been to appear within the pages of Analog himself.

You can probably see where this is going immediately.

Jamie called me to tell me that he had just received an acceptance letter from Analog, his very first. Through his babbling, I was able to discern that I was actually the first person he told directly. (He had called his wife before me, but had left her a message.) I was delighted by the news. Jamie's written some excellent stories, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he sold to Analog. I found myself reliving the excitement of my own first sale through his bubbly enthusiasm.

I called Jamie later on to congratulate him again, after he had scraped himself off the ceiling. But I don't think his feet had yet touched the ground.


Jamie Todd Rubin Jamie Todd Rubin
Photo copyright ©2010 by Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.



In the evening, I went to Brookline Booksmith to hear a reading from writer Charles Yu, who has just published a fascinating time travel novel called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. (Before I continue, let me just thank Nomi for her willingness to stay at home and do the bedtime ritual with the kids all on her own so I could attend the reading.)

Yu's novel has generated a lot of discussion in the science fiction world, partly because it's a science fiction novel written by what would be classified as a mainstream literary writer. A lot of SF fans don't like it when this happens, as literary writers often discount all that has already been written about a science fictional topic and as a result revisit the same old themes with nothing new to add but think they're being fresh. From what I've read of Yu's book, however, he puts a fresh spin on time travel and has great respect for what has come before. I first discovered the book through this excellent review in SF Signal, and I recommend both the review and the book to your attention.

About twenty or so people showed up for Yu's reading, a good number given the wet weather. On his Twitter feed, Yu said, "Anyone have tips on how to give a reading? I dislike the sound of my voice," but I found his voice to be deep and inviting, perfect for an author doing a reading. My only critique of his reading style is that he needs to make eye contact with his audience more often. (I'm sure he'll be delighted to read that when he comes across this blog post.)


Charles Yu and Michael A. Burstein Charles Yu and Michael A. Burstein
Photo ©2010 by G. Haldeman. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.



After the reading, I introduced myself and he signed my copy of the book. A friend happened to be at reading as well, along with a friend of hers, so I ended up chatting with them until Yu's autograph line was done, and then Yu and I carried on about ten more minutes of conversation. While it's true that he isn't plugged into the science fiction world yet, he does seem interested in catching up, and has been looking for recommendations for authors to read. He's been to one convention, Comicon, at which he sat on a panel with Samuel Delany and noted that others had expressed surprise at Delany's being alive. It was amusing for me to hear him say this, given that I tend to see Delany every year at Readercon (which I recommended to Yu).

After our very pleasant conversation, I took the T home, to find the kids nestled snugly into their cribs. Nomi and I managed to watch No Ordinary Family and Stargate Universe before going to sleep. So it was a science fictional day all around.

Comments

Thanks for the kind words, Michael. I've been a fan for many years, indeed. I can trace my fan-hood of your stories back to at least 1998, when I read "Cosmic Corkscrew". We chatted online about it at the time, a brief exchange on some list or other (I can't find it in my records). But I'm sure you know how that story must have affected me. I seem to recall reading it around the time I was doing my annual Asimov biography reading. I remember reading that story and thinking, "Damn, that's a good story." Followed by, "I wish I had written it!" My feet still haven't touched the ground. I was just happy to wake up this morning and realize it was not all a dream.
How was No ordinary family? I'm catching up on stargate, but look forward to it :)

Chag Samech :)
We enjoyed it. The creators describe it as a family drama with superpowers, and that's what it is. It owes a lot to Stan Lee.

Also, there was a twist in the end that we did not see coming, which makes the show that much more interesting. They did something I wasn't expecting, and if I had been expecting it, I think I would have expected it much later than the first episode.
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