Monday, December 31, 2007

SFSNNJ 2007 Year in Review

Greetings Earthlings,

Well, 2007 is finally winding to a close and what a great year it has been. We have seen notable and ignoble efforts in the field of Science Fiction grace the silver screen, we have witnessed a deluge of new books, and we have gotten to meet a number of great friends who share our love of the genre. Let's recollect and take a quick tour of this past year...

January: This month marked two firsts for the SFSNNJ: our featured guest speaker, Kenneth Eng, was a no show, and we introduced the Hillsdale area to our new Medium Screen Classics event. On the Kenneth Eng front, it seems a boon that the insane Asian racist did not show up, as his antics throughout 2007 have been anything but laudatory (he was fired from his job at AsianWeek Magazine for an article entitled "Why I Hate Black People" and eventually arrested for menacing in Brooklyn when he threatened a mother and daughter with a hammer). Chris Hasselkus and Barry Weinberger worked hard and brought us a line-up of films for our viewing pleasure at the Hillsdale Library. This library, already the home to That's Science Fiction, played host to a run of Unfaithfully Yours and Citizen Kane as the inauguration for this event.

February: We played host to super-blogger and author Paul Levinson this month, and boy what a great event that was. Paul talked at length about his new novel, and thoroughly enchanted our modest gathering. As one of the lucky few to get their hands on the book, I got a chance to get mine autographed and to read it all the way through. All I can say is that this is a fantastic page-turner with none of the pitfalls one expects of a time-travel book. It is one of the most carefully and well-thought-out books that I have read this year, and there are no strings left dangling. February also saw Medium Screen Classics graduate from single shows to festivals as we ran a Godzilla marathon and a double-feature of the Directors editions of Alien and Aliens. It should be noted that although I love the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise, I am not so huge a fan of the cross-over movies.

March: In like a lion and out like a lamb... a mutant mega-lamb with laser eyes... OK, maybe not... Anyway this month was an interesting one as we played host to Natalie Danford, author of Inheritance. Natalie is a great literary critic, with many interesting stories to tell about the field, and a great book to discuss. Having read Inheritance myself, I can wholly recommend it, and say that it would be a good idea to have some tissues handy.

April: You know what they say: April showers bring hordes of the undead... What? They say that where I come from. Just wait and you will see. Anyway, April brought a visit from the jolly bearded man from Iona College: Dr. Kim Paffenroth! What a stimulating and engaging discussion we had, as the good Doctor discussed the fine points of Zombie lore and we talked about his new book Dying to Live. This is truly the most intelligent Zombie story around, and I highly recommend anybody who loves horror to go out and read this one.

May: Another first for the SFSNNJ as noted radio host Ken Gale joined us to talk about comic books, radio, and the state of the arts. What a great night this was as we were trapped in the basement of the Bergen Mall, with Madeline taking pictures of strange statuary, Sandy Schlosser wondering how many ghost stories were waiting to be told in the creepy confines of the basement, and many others exploring the bowels of the Bergen Museum of Science and Technology, which was kind enough to host our little group.

June: Our return to the renovated Borders Garden State Plaza store was heralded by the arrival of best selling author "Dallas" Jack Ketchum. Jack discussed new works, old works, violent pornography (get your mind our of the gutter, he was referring to a quote from the Village Voice regarding his book Off Season). Remy took notes, most of us grew frightened. Having read Off Season for the first time, I have to say that Dallas certainly has a way of making the reader feel ill at ease. Possibly one of the scariest books I have ever read, if only because the monsters are all humans.

July: It's our Anniversary! That's right, in July we marked the official 1 year anniversary of the SFSNNJ with a dinner out to the great Westwood, NJ eatery The Iron Horse. What a fun time we had there as food was consumed and members chatted socially around the room. It was our chance to thank everyone for all their hard work and horseplay throughout the past year, and we took it. July was also graced by guest speaker Erroll Martins, author of Pell Provence, a rather strange story of a man who destroys worlds.

August: Unfortunately for the world, the Newport Jazz Festival falls in August, and thus I missed out on Face the Fiction's special guest, Sarah Beth Durst. This wonderful new Fantasy author so captivated the audience that Borders nearly sold out of her book. Her new, expensive, hardcover book. Now that is what I call a draw! I have not yet had the chance to read Into the Wild, but considering what I have heard (and read on the author's blog) I am excited to do so. I should also point out that Ms Durst has been corrupted by the heady power of the SFSNNJ's microphone.

September: Clayton McNally is a horse of a very different color. A military Science Fiction writer and martial arts expert, Clayton regaled us with tales of writing, reading, reviewing, and more. He explained the exciting world of working for small press publications, the ability to determine page-layout more for himself, how to produce a commercial for the SciFi Channel, how to juggle 13 projects at the same time, and the mechanics of visiting his daughter in NJ. We were left exhausted and happy by the end of that event!

October: Yet another first for the SFSNNJ as we gathered a panel of authors to discuss the state of mystery, suspense, and intrigue at the Borders Garden State Plaza. Jackie Kessler, author of Hell's Belles, Ken Isaacson, author of Silent Counsel, and Brian Wiprud, author of Tailed, joined forces to form a literary juggernaut the likes of which could easily have destroyed Voltron. Seriously, though, the panel waxed eloquent on a number of subjects, starting by going in order, and then going the tag team route as they worked with the audience. I have now read all three books, and though they are very different from one another, they are all equally excellent works.

November: S.J. Rozan came to us from the heart of New York City to discuss her new anthology, Bronx Noir, as well as many of her prior works. A great mystery writer, if SJ is a good a basketball player as she is a writer, then Shaq better beware. Though she only really read from Bronx Noir, SJ got the attention of a number of bookstore shoppers when we began discussing her novels Winter and Night and Absent Friends. It was a pleasure hearing this Bronx native talk about murder and the city, and Bronx Noir should grace everyone's shelves, as it hs some of the best mystery short stories I have seen in a while.

December: It's a party! December is always a time to kick back, relax, and take a break from the routine of the rest of the year, and as such we lighten the load for the month to let our friends relax. Face the Fiction holds its annual Holiday Party in December, and Sandy Schlosser was again our honored guest. Sandy, who is a wonderful and fantastic member of the SFSNNJ, is the author of the Spooky series of books, and also a contributing commentator on the Supernatural series DVDs. Her insights into folklore and mythology are great. A new addition this year, Sandy had many of the regular members read from various spooky books. Gene read a story from the forthcoming Spooky Wisconsin about trapeze artists and ghosts. Dean read a story from Spooky Maryland reminiscent of Poe's The Telltale Heart. Madeline read a story of witches from Spooky New England. I read the story One Last Head from the book Spooky Michigan, and Sandy read several stories, including the story of the Jack-o-lantern, and finishing up with a tale of Christmas from the Pennsylvania Dutch. A grand time was had by all!

And that, in a very small nutshell, was 2007's highlights from guest speakers and some special events. For more in depth views of each month, please review our archived Monthly newletters on the SFSNNJ Yahoo Group.


robustyoungsoul said...

Sounds like a tremendous year. I'm looking forward to picking up some of the books recommended here for reading in 2008!

KPaffenroth said...

Glad you enjoyed the visit! Let's do it again sometime!

Todd said...

Well it was a great event, and I had a blast. Dying to Live was fantastic, and I have ordered a copy of The Truth is Out There. You should get in contact with Ann Marie and see if you can get in the schedule. We are booked for most of 2008 already, but we are putting together some panel discussions.