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July 10, 2006

20 Epics

20e2006.jpg

I've been meaning to write about Twenty Epics for a while now, but I wasn't sure when it would be out. Well, now it's out (it's available on Lulu at the moment, and I understand will be out on Amazon and other books sites reasonably soon), so now I can talk to you about it. I was given a copy by its co-editor David Moles at Wiscon (the fabulous Susan Marie Groppi is the other editor), and I have to say that the book saved me from going absolutely bugnut insane while my plane was parked on the airport tarmac for three hours, awaiting its clearance for the 28-minute flight to Chicago.

The conceit of the book is that each of the stories is supposed to be epic in sweep: armies of the dead going off to battle, incredible travels through time, quasi-demonic creatures in a hard-fought battle for the fate of the universe, and so on and so forth. As promised, there are twenty such stories, and they run the full range of fantasy and SF tropes. Some of the stories take themselves seriously, some not so much (there's even a "choose your own adventure"-like story for those who like to build their own epics).

By and large I came away from the anthology quite satisfied; with a book of twenty stories there are bound to be a couple of them that don't work me, and indeed there were three that didn't. But that left 17 which I thought worked to varying levels of success, which is a good ratio. The one that worked best for me was Sandra McDonald's "Life Sentence," which put a particularly poignant spin on the karmic wheel; structurally it's like a snowball, starting off slow and accreting emotional weight until it bowls you over. I thought it was excellent. I also particularly liked Chris Barzak's "The Creation of Birds" and Tim Pratt's "Cup and Table," the former of which I found delicately designed and the latter of which was all X-Men-ny, but in a good way. Of course, with an anthology which ones work for you and which ones don't will depend on you, but as the editors, David and Susan have intelligently laid out a smorgasbord of stories; I expect there's something here for everyone.

On Lulu it's available both in a print version and as a pdf (the book is $20; the pdf $7.61); I think it's worth checking out, and if you're unsure the pdf is a good option, not just because it's cheaper but because most of the stories are short enough to be read comfortably onscreen. In any event, check it out and let me know what you think.

Posted by john at July 10, 2006 02:50 PM

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Comments

Chris Gerrib | July 10, 2006 03:39 PM

although our kind and generous host hasn't declared an open pimp, I'm going to presume on his hospitality.

So, while you're on Lulu, my SF novel "The Mars Run" is available as well. It's been getting good reviews, and there's a lengthy preview as well.

If you're interested, click on my name below to see more.

Kate Nepveu | July 10, 2006 03:46 PM

Sandra McDonald's "Life Sentence," which put a particularly poignant spin on the karmic wheel; structurally it's like a snowball, starting off slow and accreting emotional weight until it bowls you over.

At the reading, I came in late and so didn't hear the announcement that they were only reading excerpts; so for a few minutes afterward I was sitting there thinking, "Well, that was a pointless, nothing-happens everything-sucks mainstream story."

I was relieved to hear that the story went on from there.

I bought a copy from the Small Beer Press table [*] before leaving the con, but haven't read any of the stories yet. I can recommend Yoon Ha Lee's "Hopscotch," which I heard in its entirety at the reading, however.


[*] Gavin Grant: "Special Readercon price of $16!"
Kate: hands over $20 bill
GG: "Do you have a single dollar?"
Kate: shakes head
GG: (without missing a beat) "Special Readercon price of $15!"
gives me a $5 bill in change
Kate: finds Chad, gets dollar bill, goes back, gives dollar to GG
GG: "Aww, you're sweet."
Kate: exits, stage left, amused

John Scalzi | July 10, 2006 03:53 PM

Chris Gerrib:

"although our kind and generous host hasn't declared an open pimp, I'm going to presume on his hospitality."

Uh, yeah, generally speaking, don't do that. I declare open pimps fairly regularly around here, so there are enough chances for that.

Kate:

"I was relieved to hear that the story went on from there."

Indeed!

Tim Pratt | July 10, 2006 04:56 PM

Thanks, John. Several people have told me "Cup and Table" is the best story I've ever published, so I'm glad you don't think it stinks!

Andrew Cory | July 10, 2006 04:56 PM

Hm. Am misreading this, or will it not be coming to a bookstore near me?

Chris Gerrib | July 10, 2006 06:10 PM

Sorry about that - won't do it again.

Susan Marie Groppi | July 10, 2006 07:38 PM

Andrew-- We are working on getting it into some bookstores, and it should be easy for any interested bookstore to order some stock. (Lulu books are listed with Ingram, if I understand the process correctly, so it's not like bookstores have to special-order their copies from me and David. Any bookstores that wish to do so, of course, should feel free to contact me and I'll hook them up.)

Christopher Barzak | July 10, 2006 11:23 PM

If you read my story in the copy that David gave you at Wiscon, John, it actually had several misplaced scene breaks in it, so I'm glad that it worked for you even so. The scene breaks have been corrected in the new edition that was being sold at Readercon though. Hopefully it still reads delicately designed. ;-)

I'm glad you went and got your Mieville book signed too. hehe

Peter | July 11, 2006 12:09 AM

Lulu? That is [i]very[/i] interesting. Why the choice of Lulu?

Susan | July 11, 2006 11:09 AM

Peter-- The short answer to "why Lulu" is that we found ourselves, late in the production process, without a publisher, and had to figure out a Plan B. I wrote up a slightly longer answer too.

Tim Elliott | July 11, 2006 12:16 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, John.

For those considering the PDF option from Lulu, you should know that the PDF version does *not* include any artwork, including the cover image. I had an online chat with a Lulu rep who suggested that I e-mail the author (editors, really) and ask for a high-res image. Susan, if you're monitoring these comments, any thoughts on sharing the cover art with PDF customers?

I mentioned that it would be nice for Lulu to make it clear to potential buyers *before* the purchase that the PDF is an incomplete package. The rep agreed to broach the subject with the site engineers.

Thanks again,

Tim

Susan | July 11, 2006 01:05 PM

Oh! I didn't realize that, about the lack of artwork. So the PDF version doesn't have any of the internal artwork either? That's strange. (Does it have the index?) I'll look into that.

Lars | July 11, 2006 01:40 PM

Hi John and other thread people,

I just downloaded the book, and I'm wondering if you could point out to me what you thought were the most interesting stories in it. If you could narrow your choices down to a top 5, that would be perfect.

John Scalzi | July 11, 2006 01:42 PM

Well, I've already noted my top three. I also liked Mary Robinette Kowal's piece quite a bit.

Lars | July 11, 2006 02:14 PM

Woops, i overlooked that. Thanks!

David Moles | July 11, 2006 03:51 PM

Could someone who's bought the PDF tell me whether it has the maps or not? When I download the file from Lulu it does, but that's not quite the same process as buying it.

Lulu doesn't seem to separate the downloadable PDF from the book text PDF in their upload process, so I don't think there's a way for us to include the cover. But you can download it in several sizes from the All-Star Stories website.

Lars | July 11, 2006 04:01 PM

Yeah it's got maps.

David Moles | July 11, 2006 05:41 PM

Then I don't think there's anything missing but the cover. (And, you know, people who shell out for the actual book have to get something for the additional twelve bucks...)

Lars | July 11, 2006 08:24 PM

Reading books this way is better to be avoided. Navigating in a PDF file of this size is really difficult. It's also hard on your eyes, and i stare at a screen too much as it is. Then there's the whole portablitiy-factor. I'm reading this mainly to research the market, which is why i'm ok with the cheaper medium.

Tim Elliott | July 11, 2006 11:49 PM

David Moles wrote:

"Then I don't think there's anything missing but the cover. (And, you know, people who shell out for the actual book have to get something for the additional twelve bucks...)"

I was mistaken when I wrote the PDF version did not include "any art." My apologies. What's missing is the front and back cover art. As to whether people who want the print version should get something the PDF buyers do not - well, maybe. But I've purchased PDF versions of books before and received the full package, cover art and all. I still contend it's easy enough to let the buyer know what's missing and make his or her own choice *before* the purchase.

Failing that, Lulu could automatically include a link to the "All-Star Stories" site (as David did above) and let the PDF buyer know the art is available elsewhere.

In any case, I'm looking forward to having "20 Epics" on hand to keep *me* "from going absolutely bugnut insane" on my all-too-frequent hellish airport excursions.

Thanks again,

Tim

Mary Robinette Kowal | July 12, 2006 09:58 AM

"I also liked Mary Robinette Kowal's piece quite a bit."


Thanks! That's very kind of you.

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