This past weekend, I joined fellow authors Sarah Kozloff, Stephanie Ann Smith, and Robert V. S. Redick, as we read excerpts from our recent works of fiction for the autumn virtual ICFA (International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts).
The VICFA was on Zoom, so naturally, when I read from my my new short story “Anywhere But Here,” Shayna and her cousin dog Maggie made an appearance, too. Well, Maggie’s tail did, and they were both in good voice, barking in the background. (Apparently, the neighbor’s cat was teasing them through the patio glass doors by walking on “their” property.)
In a few weeks, I’ll be attending one of my favorite conferences — World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon — in one of my favorite cities — Chicago. (This iteration of Worldcon is also known as Chicon 8.) The Worldcon annual gathering of science fiction writers, fans, artists, publishers, editors, filmmakers, and costumers is a smorgasbord of intellectual stimulation, great storytelling, fascinating folk, and great fun.
I’m honored to once again be speaking on various Worldcon panels, doing a reading of my fiction, and giving a presentation. But the one big change from my traditional subjects is that I’ll be conducting a workshop called “Mining Our Matriarchs.” The workshop will be my first public appearance connected to the new direction I’m headed in both my writing and my speaking career — specifically, exploring the relevance of the stories of the women in the Hebrew Bible to our lives today.
Here’s my schedule for Chicon 8 (barring last minute changes):
Ask a CoverArtist, a panel that I’m moderating: “What are the elements of a great book or magazine cover? What color trends or styles are related to historical illustration, and how do you make something futuristic? For artists and enthusiasts alike, this is your chance to learn more about the art of cover-making. Which images are iconic from the past, groundbreaking in the present, and will capture our imaginations in the future? Let’s find out together.” Panelists: Alyssa Winans, Dex Greenbright, Eric Wilkerson and Ruth Sanderson. Thursday, September 1, 2022, 4:00 PM CDT.
Work/Life Balance for Artists, a panel on a topic that I struggle with (as I expect every artist does): “It’s easy for artists to overwork themselves when the world constantly reminds them that their work is other people’s leisure. Defining and enforcing boundaries to allow for rest and recuperation are vital for avoiding burnout. It is impossible to get a one-size-fits-all solution to this struggle though. Our panelists will discuss their own practices and others they’ve come across in exploration of the wide-span of ways to address these tensions in order to provide a wide array of practices.” Fellow panelists: Tabitha Lord (moderator), Alyssa Winans, Gideon Marcus, and Lorelei Esther. Friday, September 2, 2022, 10:00 AM CDT.
Grants & Residencies, a presentation based on my experience with applying for and winning a number of grants (I haven’t pursued residencies until recently): “Trying to find the right grants and residencies welcoming your kind of art and writing, and providing room for your desired growth, is a dense and tedious task full of details and red tape. Attend this presentation offered by Sally Wiener Grotta, who will provide you with some expectations and guidance in this complicated landscape.” Friday, September 2, 2022, 1:00 PM CDT.
Mining Our Biblical Matriarchs, a workshop based on my research for my two current works-in-progress: “The women of the Bible (Eve, Esther, Miriam, etc.) have been the West’s most enduring female archetypes. As lush and varied as any mythology, their stories have been reinterpreted by every generation’s artists, clerics, and political leaders, according to how they expected women to be. However, these archetypes have been largely overlooked by modern spec fic authors. In this workshop, we’ll have fun challenging and toppling common preconceptions about various women of the Bible, as we mine this rich mother lode for fresh SF&F story ideas.” Friday, September 2, 2022, 4:00 PM CDT.
Judging the Cover, a panel that I’m moderating: “The saying goes ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover,’ but what if you can? As a reader, what can you tell about the story inside from the cover? How are covers reflective of artistic and marketing trends? Join us as we explore everything that goes into cover art, and how to use cover art to successfully pick your next favorite read.” Panelists: A.L.DeLeon, Maurizio Manzieri, and Pat Robinson. Saturday, September 3, 2022, 1:00 PM CDT.
Readings. I’m sharing the hour with fellow authors LP Kindred and Michael Haynes. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll be reading. Saturday, September 3, 2022, 2:30 PM CDT.
James Joyce’s Ulysseswas published in 1922, and for its 100th anniversary, Last week, on June 16th, Philadelphia’s Bloomsday celebration returned to 2000 block of Delancey Street after a two year pandemic hiatus. And I was thrilled and honored to be invited to read a portion of Joyce’s masterpiece as part of the celebration.
Why Delancey Street? Because the Rosenbach Museum & Library is there, and part of its incredible collection of rare books and related artifacts is the original Ulysses manuscript. So for more than 20 years, the Rosenbach has closed off the 2200 block of Delancey Street for a day of music, readings from the novel, plus a Beer Garden, free admission to the museum, and general Joycean merriment.
The portion I was asked to read was from Chapter 16, Eumaeus pages 540-541, lines 1770-1806. The program was that specific because aficionados bring their own copies of the book to follow along with the readings. Before my reading, I met a man sitting in front of me in the audience, who had dug out a copy from his college days (which had to have been a couple of decades ago). He said he had struggled with the book then, but never got rid of it. And now, listening to the readings, he was finally understanding its beauty and humor.
It had been quite a few years since I had read James Joyce’s Ulysses, too. But tackling just that one small piece, gave me insights I don’t remember having way back when. But then, it could also be attributed to the years I’ve lived between then and now. When I was a callow youth, I might have respected the exquisite craft of the book, and how innovative it was, but I’d also found it a dense book, that fought my attempts to love it as I had been told I should.
In the weeks leading up to my Bloomsday reading, I discovered not only insights into the characters and story, but also a sense of pure delight that had been missing all those years ago. Mostly, I realized that the rhythms and lilt of Joyce’s language, and especially his dialog, demands to be read aloud. It’s a book that’s more suited for an urban beer garden or an Irish pub than a hushed college library. It’s raucous and rich, like a June day in Dublin.
I plan to read the entire book again before next year’s Bloomsday, hopefully with friends over a series of good hearty meals and a few bottles of wine, definitely aloud.
The Recording below of last week’s Bloomsday celebrations of readings and music is bookmarked to start when I took the stage, but I recommend listening to other portions too.
During this past November’s virtual Philcon, I went back and forth what piece of fiction I should read. For much of the past year, I’ve been pouring all my passion into a new mainstream novel Women of a New Moon, and that’s what I really wanted to share with my friends and fans. However, Philcon is a science fiction conference, and I worried that my audience would expect me to read one of my recently published science fiction short stories or a new not-yet-published speculative novel. Uncertain what to do, I asked a number of people who had mentioned they’d be logging into my online reading, and they all wanted to hear Women of a New Moon, even though it is still in its first draft. Decision made.
Women of a New Moon centers on a woman’s Torah study group. We learn about the six modern women of the group – their personalities, histories, crises and story arcs – through the filter of their monthly discussions of women of the Bible (such as Eve & Lilith, Sarah & Hagar, Miriam, and so forth). At the beginning of the book, they are what I call “intimate strangers,” because they know each other only through frequent but superficial schmoozing at synagogue events. They meet once a month, taking turns hosting in their homes, and each chapter is from the host’s point of view as she leads the group for that month. I read portions of Chapter 2 in which Jen (a retired war correspondent and secular humanist) is leading a discussion of Sarah and Hagar.
Unfortunately, the recording of my reading failed. Again, I listened to my friends and fans, and a number who hadn’t been able to join me for my Philcon reading asked me to do another recording of it, and to let them know when it was posted. Of course — how could I resist? So, here it is.
George Harrison is on a mission: To convince the leader of the free world to stop going to war — abroad *and* at home. But will President Richard Nixon listen?
“I’ve got to get Nixon hooked on transcendental meditation. Can you imagine a chilled Nixon, at peace with himself? No more daring the world to knock that chip off his shoulder. No more ‘manning’ it up to hide his inner doubts. TM will get him past all the nonsense that blinds him to the truth within him. And poof! No more carpet bombing and napalm and so many dead and wounded. No more war.”
If you enjoy this story, please share it with your friends.
Click here for more author video recordings from Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles.
What a thrill and an honor it was to be invited to read one of my science fiction short stories at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday, December 22nd. The event was hosted by Lawrence M. Schoen, and also featured a reading by David Walton. And it was in conjunction with the museum’s fascinating Designs for Different Futures exhibit which combines art, sculpture, science and futurism.
“Sally and David read two very thought-filled stories about an all-too-believable woman who’d won the Nobel-prize in medicine (Sally Wiener Grotta) and the problems inherent in a new type of ‘drive-by’ accident (David Walton)”
~ Samuel R. Delany
David read the first chapter of his novel Three Laws Lethal, which is a thriller about how self-driving cars and AI are rewriting our futures. It’s been getting all kinds of raves, including being listed first on “The Wall Street Journal’s” Best Science Fiction of 2019.
I read an excerpt my story One Widow’s Healing, a Health Odyssey award winner which explores the personal and ethical issues of technology-driven health care.
And Lawrence provided an interesting intro regarding science fiction predictive “what if” nature, and how mass media has taken over part of that role.
The art museum’s staff made us feel very welcome, and what a great audience! I’m still riding high on the entire experience. Thank you everyone.
I’m thrilled that I’ve been invited to read some of my science fiction at the Philadelphia Museum Art on December 22nd. David Walton will also be reading. Below are the details from the flyer: (Or if you prefer, here’s a flyer that you can share, in PDF or JPEG.)
Science fiction readings by authors David Walton & Sally Wiener Grotta in conjunction with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Designs for Different Futures Exhibit
Sunday, December 22nd, 2:00 to 3:00 PM
(in the exhibit’s Future Therapy Lab, free with museum admission)
DAVID WALTON‘s latest book is Three Laws Lethal, a thriller about how self-driving cars and AI are rewriting our futures. He is the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction and the John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel. The Wall Street Journal wrote that David Walton “has brought hard sci-fi roaring back to life.” He lives a double life as an aerospace engineer with Lockheed Martin by day and mild-mannered father of eight children by night.
SALLY WIENER GROTTA will read from her short story “One Widow’s Healing” (a Health Odyssey award winner), which explores the personal and ethical issues of future technology-driven health care. Her books include The Winter Boy (a Locus Magazine’s 2015 Recommended Read) and Jo Joe (a Jewish Book Council Network selected book). Her far-ranging experiences as a journalist covering all corners of the world flavor her tales with a sense of wonder, otherliness and common sense. A popular speaker, Sally has a reputation for stimulating meaningful discussions and workshops on creativity, storytelling, and on crossing our tribal divides.
LAWRENCE M. SCHOENholds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, is a past Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula, nominee, and twice won the Cóyotl award for best novel. His science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his alien animal companion. Other works take a very different tone, exploring aspects of determinism and free will, generally redefining the continua between life and death. Sometimes he blurs the funny and the serious.
Across the Universe is the Beatles tour you never thought you’d get a front row seat for, with speculative fiction stories examining other galaxies, worlds, professions and existences John, Paul, George and Ringo might have experienced … or maybe they did ….
Join us for the book launch party & readings December 3rd in Brooklyn
Coming out next month from Fantastic Books, this short story anthology reprints two classic alternate takes on the Fab Four: Spider Robinson’s “Rubber Soul” and Gregory Benford’s “Doing Lennon.” Plus it features new stories by Matthew F. Amati, Eric Avedissian, Patrick Barb, Charles Barouch, Pat Cadigan, Brenda W. Clough, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Gregory Frost, David Gerrold, Alan Goldsher, Carol Gyzander, Gordon Linzner, Gail Z. Martin, R. Jean Mathieu, Jody Lynn Nye, Beth W. Patterson, Cat Rambo, Kenneth Schneyer, Christian H. Smith, Allen M. Steele, Bev Vincent, Lawrence Watt-Evans… and me!
My story “The Truth Within” explores the unexpected repercussions when George Harrison follows through on his plan for World Peace that involves teaching transcendental meditation to Richard Nixon.
The anthology got raves from both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly (See the attached back cover.) The PW review included a mention of my “The Truth Within.”
Preorder the Book
You can preorder the trade paperback or the hardcover from Amazon or Barnes & Noble! (Links aren’t up yet for the eBook editions, nor are any links up yet on Indie Bound or Kobo.)
I’ll be joining several other contributors in reading portions of our stories. You’ll also meet Randee Dawn, one of our editors, and Ian Randal Strock, our publisher. Randee has been hinting that we may have cake. A group of us got together for pre-launch readings to a packed-room audience at Philcon a few weeks ago; it was a blast. (See the picture below.) This one promises to be at least as much fun, if not more so.
Such a lovely honor. Yesterday, just before the Yom Kippur afternoon service, Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum handed me a copy of this poem which I had given her some time before, and she asked me to read it near the end of the concluding service. Her request surprised me, because I never thought of the poem as having any religious aspect. (Of course, I was pleased.) When I wrote it, I was thinking about the decisions we make daily about the life we choose to live. She felt it was appropriate for the concluding service of the day. How interesting and rewarding it is to have my work fed back to me, changed by a reader’s interpretation and perception (especially a reader I respect so highly), so that I see it anew. Thank you, Rabbi Peg.
I don’t often go to conferences that require flying, unless I’m a headliner for the conference. But WorldCon is in San Jose, California, which means I can double-duty the trip by seeing some old associates and friends in Silicon Valley. In particular, I’ll be spending a day at Adobe (which I’ve been covering since Photoshop 1.0); their headquarters is walking distance from the convention center and the hotel where I’ll be staying. So I’ll be flying to California two days before the conference starts.
Of course, I’m also very much looking forward to being at WorldCon, where the whole point (for me) is seeing friends and making new ones. I’m scheduled to participate on two panels, one group reading and will have an autograph session at the SFWA table. If you’ll be at the con, please come by and say hello.