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Happy Holidays

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to all my friends and readers out there.

I had a lovely Christmas Day with friends and family, and Santa was very good to me. I hope the same is true for all of you.

Even so, I look forward to the new year. I thought 2016 was a bad year, but 2017 was even worse... if not so much for me personally, then certainly for a lot of my friends and loved ones, and for the nation and the world as a whole.

I hope better times are ahead for all of us.

The Dragon Has Three Heads...

... and he's landed in my back yard.

He's a gift from m'lady Parris, and the work of a marvelous artist named Tyler Eugene Smith.



I love it.

And yes, Tyler's the same amazing sculptor who made the Alfies for Spokane and Kansas City. For those he had old hood ornaments to work from, but the dragon he made from scratch.

Two More Down.

Life is meaningless and full of pain.

The Giants and Jets both played hard yesterday, but they both lost. Again.

The G-Men almost pulled off a stunning upset of the NFC-leading Eagles, but a bullshit non-call on pass interference in the endzone robbed them of the win. Eli passed for more than four hundred yards, showing why he should remain the Giants' qb until he hangs it up.

At least the G-Men tightened their grip on that second overall draft choice.

It's the Jets who need to draft a QB this year, though, not the Giants. Bryce Petty, filled in for the injured Josh McNown, did not impress.

Ah, the bleak December...

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Down Again, Still Dirty

The Wild Cards reread has resumed over at Tor.com, as Katy looks at DOWN & DIRTY, volume five in the series... originally published in 1988.

Check it out at https://www.tor.com/2017/12/07/death-disguises-centaurs-and-cat-ladies-wild-cards-v-down-and-dirty/ and share your thoughts... the comments section is open for discussion.



You can also read my own reflections on editing this particular volume over at the Wild Cards website.

And signed copies of DOWN & DIRTY and many of the other Wild Cards books are available through the Jean Cocteau.

((Comments open: on Wild Cards only, please. Stay on topic)).

Publication Day...

... was yesterday for MISSISSIPPI ROLL, the latest volume in the Wild Cards series.

At least in the USA and Australia. The rest of the world will need to wait a little longer.

MISSISSIPPI ROLL features the work of Stephen Leigh, John Jos. Miller, Carrie Vaughn, Cherie Priest, David D. Levine, and Kevin Andrew Murphy, edited by yours truly with the assistance of Melinda M. Snodgrass. You'll be rolling on the river from New Orleans to Cincinnati with old favorites like Carnifex, the Midnight Angel, Hoodoo Mama, Ramshead, Sewer Jack, Wild Fox, and the Jokertown Boys, and making the acquaintance of Steam Wilbur and the haunted steam packet Natchez. Although this IS the twenty-fourth book in the Wild Cards series, still going strong after thirty years, let me stress that it is not necessary to have read the first twenty-three to understand it. MISSISSIPPI ROLL stands perfectly well on its own, and the story it tells is complete in one volume



MISSISSIPPI ROLL can be preordered from your favorite local bookstore or online bookseller. Amazon has it at https://www.amazon.com/Mississippi-Roll-Wild-Cards-novel/dp/0765390523

Collectors who would like an autographed copy can order one from the bookstore at the Jean Cocteau Cinema at http://jeancocteaucinema.com/product-category/author/ (Signed by yours truly, you will need to track down the writers yourself).

Keep your steam up, boys and girls!

Melantha, Done Right At Last

My novella "Nightflyers" tells the story of a group of scientists who charter a tramp starship to take them into deep interstellar space in search of the volcryn, an alien species thought by some to be mythic. In my original story, only the three main characters are named -- Karoly d'Branin, the leader of the expedition; Royd Eris, the mysterious owner and captain of the starship Nightflyer, who is never seen except as a hologram; and Melantha Jhirl, a genetically engineered 'improved model' from the planet Prometheus, who is larger, faster, brighter, and stronger than an Earth-normal human.

This is how I described her:

"Young, healthy, active, Melantha Jhirl had a vibrancy about her the others could not match. She was big in every way; a head taller than anyone else on board, large-framed, large-breasted, long-legged, strong, muscles moving fluidly beneath shiny coal-black skin. Her appetites were big as well. She ate twice as much as any of her colleagues, drank heavily without ever seeming drunk, exercised for hours every day on equipment she had brought with her and set up in one of the cargo holds. By the third week out she had sexed with all four of the men on board and two of the other women. Even in bed she was always active, exhausting most of her partners. Royd watched her with consuming interest.
“I am an improved model,” she told him once as she worked out on her parallel bars, sweat glistening on her bare skin, her long black hair confined in a net."


FYI, I likely found the name Melantha is one of the "What To Name Your Baby" books I kept on hand for naming my characters. The name means "black flower" or "dark flower."

When "Nightflyers" was first published in 1980, Paul Lehr's striking cover featured the volcryn. I expanded the story from 23,000 to 30,000 words for its republication in BINARY STARS, but that one featured an all-graphics cover. A few years later, I put together a new short story collection for Bluejay Books with "Nightflyers" as the title story (the collection also included my earlier Hugo-winning novella "A Song for Lya," and a handful of other shorts).

The NIGHTFLYERS cover was the first time Melantha Jhirl was illustrated. Take a look:



See the problem?

Truth be told, there are several problems with that cover. The art is mediocre at best (though I've had worse). The scene makes no sense; the woman seems to be standing in space, outside the spaceship, without a helmet. I think the pose may have been intended to evoke echoes from ten thousand Gothics, wherein the governess is running away from the haunted house behind her, where one window shines in the darkness. Here you have one glowing doorway in the darkness of space. If that was the intent, though... well, let's just say it did not work.

All that is minor. The big problem, needless to say, was the race of the character depicted. No WAY that was Melantha Jhirl, my dark-skinned genetically engineered superwoman.

I was not happy. Melantha was black, I pointed out. My publisher acknowledged as much, but declined to make a change. "Do you want your book to sell?" he asked me. Of course I did, I replied. "Well, if we put a black woman on the cover, no one will buy it."

To put this all in context, this exchange took place in 1985. My fourth novel had sold dismally the previous year, and Simon & Schuster, who had published my first four novels under its Timescape and Poseidon Press imprints, had dropped me. I was not in a position of strength. In fact, I was hanging on to my career by my fingernails. Still, I did continue to protest. The publisher's assertion shocked me. This was a science fiction book, after all, the fans I knew read books with elves and vampires and green-skinned martians on the cover, I could not believe what I was being told. What was the evidence for this? I asked. It was something that "everybody knew," I was told. Besides, the cover had already been paid for.

At that point, I folded. NIGHTFLYERS was published in trade paperback with the cover unchanged. A short time later, Tor acquired the mass market rights and reprinted the collection with the same cover. (When the movie was released, Tor reissued the mass market as a tie-in with the poster art on the cover. That version that did not feature Melantha).

I was unhappy with the portrayal of Melantha in 1985. As the years passed, I grew even more unhappy... with the cover, and with myself. No, I probably did not have the power to get the cover changed, not then. I had no contractual right to cover approval. But I could have tried harder, argued longer, made a bigger fuss, gone public (as other, braver writers did). Maybe I could even have withdrawn the book.

Instead I went along. I did not have the courage of my convictions. I did not believe what "everybody knew," but I think part of me feared they might be right, and after ARMAGEDDON RAG I badly needed NIGHTFLYERS to do well. (For what's it worth, the collection sold pretty badly in any case). When I look back now, I am ashamed.

A few years later, the NIGHTFLYERS movie came along. I had no part in the making of the film, beyond cashing the check for the rights (which check saved my house, and possibly my career). I never saw the script. In the film, Melantha's name was changed to Miranda Dorlac, for... reasons, I guess. Maybe they just liked the sound of it better.

((Karoly d'Branin underwent a name change too, to Michael d'Branin, but Royd Eris remained Royd Eris. The minor characters had names completely different from those I'd given them in the novella, but there was an explanation for that... one I guessed at long ago, but only had confirmed this fall, when we presented NIGHTFLYERS at the Jean Cocteau. As I'd surmised, screenwriter Robert Jaffe had worked from the original novella in ANALOG, not the later expanded version... and in the original novella, the secondary characters are never given names, but rather referred to only as "the telepath," "the xenologist," "the linguist," etc. Jaffe invented his own names for them, unaware that I had named them myself in the longer version of the novella)).

The film cast the part of Miranda Dorlac (Melantha Jhirl) with Catherine Mary Stewart.



Catherine Mary Stewart was a well-established, popular actress, one of the biggest names in the NIGHTFLYERS cast, and she did a perfectly fine job of portraying Miranda Dorlac, as the character had been reimagined... but she was certainly not Melantha Jhirl. This time I did not even have an opportunity to protest, as I was never consulted on the casting... though I did meet Catherine Mary Stewart, the one and only time I visited the set. She was perfectly pleasant. And, of course, by then it was far too late to speak up, so I said nothing.

The film came out in 1987. A long time ago. For decades I hardly gave NIGHTFLYERS a thought. Until the spring, when I learned that SyFy, having acquired the rights from Vista via the old movie, was developing a television series. I had no part in the development, and indeed had been unaware of it until then.. and my exclusive deal with HBO meant that I could have no real role in the show... but the announcement brought back a lot of memories. I had been silent twice when I should have spoken up. I was determined not to be silent a third time. So I reached out to UCP and through them to the writers and producers of the NIGHTFLYERS project and told them... well, pretty much what I've told you here. And, I am delighted to say, they listened.

In the series the character is called Mel, but I understand that's just short for Melantha (in the script I read, Karoly d'Branin has become Karl and Royd Eris is simply Roy, so there is a consistency there). And Mel will be played by actress JODIE TURNER-SMITH.



Maybe it took thirty years, but at long last I can say: now, that's Melantha Jhirl.

Showrunner Daniel Cerone writes, "We're beyond excited about her. From the start Jeff maintained that we needed a black actress (Jodie is British and Jamaican) to follow your original vision. We enjoyed your story about how the book publishers (and the original movie) missed the boat on Melantha and we'd love your fans to know that we're working hard to honor your intentions."

You can learn more about her here:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3853652/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

https://www.instagram.com/jodiesmith/

https://www.bustle.com/articles/138584-who-is-the-woman-in-zayn-maliks-pillowtalk-music-video-the-british-actress-is-one-to

I have not yet had the honor of meeting Ms. Turner-Smith, but I could not be happier about her casting, and I cannot wait to see what she brings to Melantha. My thanks go out to all the good folk at UCP, SyFy, and NIGHTFLYERS for making it happen.

I only wish it had happened thirty years ago.

Christmas Sale at the JCC

Autographed books make wonderful Xmas presents for the readers among your family and friends (and if you have family and friends who aren't readers, well, plainly, you need new family and friends).

With that in mind, the bookstore at the Jean Cocteau Cinema is offering $5 off on half a dozen great titles, from now till Christmas... or while the supply lasts.

Take your pick, or get all six:



All books are signed. The two Wild Cards books and the WHEEL OF TIME COMPANION have multiple autographs.

It has come to our attention that certain autographed books from the JCC are being purchased by dealers who then double or triple the prices and resell the books. For that reason, we are limiting these sale books to no more than TWO (2) per customer.

And yes, we will ship overseas... though given the date, to get the books there by Christmas may require costly expedited shipping.

We have lots of other titles available as well... my own books, and those by many other award-winning and bestselling writers who have done events at the JCC. You can see the full list at http://jeancocteaucinema.com/product-category/author/

Happy holidays... and happy reading.

Meow, Meow

Watch this space for exciting Meow Wolf news in the new few weeks.

I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.



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Aces, Aces Everywhere

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December...

And here we are again.

The good thing about December 1, though, is that we're only four days from the publication date of MISSISSIPPI ROLL, the latest Wild Cards original.



And to bide the time till the Natchez hits the river, here's another Wild Cards video from Tor, assembled from the interviews they did at MidAmericon II. This time the subject is aces.



Keep reading... and watch out for talkative ravens.

((Comments welcome: on WILD CARDS))

Eli Benched???

The Giants season is lost, plainly. Whether they win or lose the rest of the way is meaningless. So, yes, it makes a certain amount of sense to see what they have for the future. Eli Manning is aging... though this year's failures are hardly his fault, given the injuries to the wideouts, the lack of a running game, and the porous offensive line that gives him little or no time to throw. Big Blue has a rookie quarterback on the roster, the third round draft choice Davis Webb, and the team needs to know if he is the answer for the post-Eli era, so they can determine whether or not to spend what will likely be a very high draft pick on one of the quarterbacks coming out of college this year.

All that being said.... benching Eli Manning in the manner the Giants did yesterday was classless and inexcusable.

And benching him to start Geno Smith is insane.

GENO SMITH??? Really????

Nobody knows whether or not Davis Webb is a scrub, a journeyman, an NFL calibre starting qb, or a potential Hall of Famer. To find out, he needs some playing time, some experience. Geno Smith has had plenty of playing time, however. Geno Smith was not the answer on the Jets, and he is not the future of the Giants either.

This move smacks of desperation, and Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese have good reason to be desperate. They were on shaky ground before this, given Reese's poor drafts and the way McAdoo has handled this disaster of a season. Come the off-season, I expect McAdoo, Reese, and Geno Smith will all be gone. I certainly hope so.

The sad part is that Eli may well be gone as well.

Eli may be aging, but he is not yet old. He is younger than Tom Brady or Drew Brees, both of whom are still going strong, and he has never missed a start. He has two or three more good seasons in him, I think. Whether his successor is Davis Webb or a college qb yet to be drafted, the best course for the Giants would be to identify that successor and then let him sit and learn from Eli, the way Brady sat behind Drew Bledsoe, Chad Pennington sat behind Vinnie Testaverde, and Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre. But that may be impossible now.

Instead....

Oh, life is miserable and full of pain.

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