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About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, August 6, 2018

San Jose - here I come!

My second WorldCon in San Jose, and it's starting next week.

Here are some things I remember from ConJose in 2002:

John Hemry/Jack Campbell and I went looking for lunch, and we walked and walked and walked on a kind of hot day, and we never exactly found the restaurant.  John still holds this against me.  And I kind of can't blame him.  But, like -- there was barely MapQuest in 2002, let alone the wonder of Google Maps.

Tobias Buckell isn't a client of mine any longer, but I had the honor of representing him at the start of his career, and we had a pretty long chat at the Starbucks in downtown, around the corner from the Waldenbooks now long since gone, about the wonderful novel that became Crystal Rain.  The Starbucks is still there, and I'll think fond thoughts of Toby and Crystal Rain every time I pass by.

It was an adventure getting to the party floors at the Fairmont, finding the secret stairs to walk up and up and up because the elevator service wasn't up to it.  Sadly, this is a familiar story at lots of conventions.  Rarely do hotels have elevator service designed for peak hours.

The Marriott didn't exist yet.

Those were the days when you could still head out and catch a mall bookstore, a B&N, a Borders, more -- all in close proximity.  I visited sooooo many bookstores in 2002.  Borders in Milpitas and Los Gatos and Fremont and Emeryville and Dublin and San Ramon and here and there and lots of other bookstores besides.  The store in Milpitas, not far from the Cisco HQ, was a fabulous store for science fiction and fantasy.  And back then, the front of the store wasn't being sold off to the highest bidder and was still largely determined by what was doing well at each store, so you knew the moment you walked in that you were in science fiction heaven.  L. E. Modesitt visited as many or more bookstores as I did, and however many I went to in 2002, but he had a car.

Still around, the Barnes & Noble on Steven Creek Pkwy, which I took the bus out to, and which was an amazing store as well for science fiction and fantasy.  I kind of miss when my life was a little less busy, a little simpler, and I could more easily explore the world beyond WorldCon when I went to a WorldCon.

Meisha Merlin did exist.  

In any event, it's sixteen years later with one World Fantasy at San Jose between now and then.

Maybe you can help me create some new memories this year?

There are three JABberwocky authors up for Hugo Awards this year -- Marie Brennan, Suzanne Palmer and Brandon Sanderson.  The last time I was in San Jose, I had read some Brandon Sanderson but not yet Elantris, and we weren't officially author/agent for another six months.  

My 2018 schedule:

Friday, 11am, 211C in Convention Center
Negotiating Book Contracts

Saturday, 3pm, 211B in Convention Center
This event will require an advance registration through the convention

The link on internet to my schedule page is here:

For another couple of days, I've opened an express line for querying me.  If you are going to San Jose, and if you put WorldCon in your schedule line, we'll give top priority to looking at queries.  What better way to find a great new manuscript for me to take on, and maybe even talk about it at the Starbucks just like I got to talk about Crystal Rain with Tobias Buckell sixteen years ago.
Find my query guidelines here.

I'd love to have more panels on my schedule, so more definite places where you can hear me speak, find me after, collect a business card -- that sort of thing.  But I'm going to WorldCon to be part of it.  I'll be around the Dealer's Room when I can be, so maybe you'll find me roaming about there.  If you're a SFFWA member, I'll pop into their hospitality suite.  I'll be hanging at whatever hotel bar all the publishing people end up hanging at.  I like to visit the different bid parties or publishing parties, so sometimes at night it's just a question of being in the right place at the right time as I rotate from the bar to the SFFWA suite to the bid parties to a publisher party.  And wherever I am, unless I'm in a meeting I'm there to meet people.

WorldCon, Baby!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Balticon 52 - Program Schedule

Can't wait to be back at Balticon this Memorial Day weekend, and am sharing my full program schedule below.  The convention and all of the events are at the Renaissance Inner Harbor hotel.

This is a special convention for me.  Balticon was the first convention I attended as a pro, heading down to meet up with Elizabeth Moon the year she won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel for Sheepfarmer's Daughter, which is about to be reissued in a 30th anniversary trade paperback edition, with a new introduction from Elizabeth.  Last year's Balticon was where I sat down in the Renaissance, read the opening page of Nick Martell's The Kingdom of Liars, and knew instantly that I'd found a great new author, ultimately doing my best deal ever for a debut author.

Balticon has done a great job keeping with the times, broadening its program to appeal to a wide range of ages and a wide range of interests, all unified by their love of science fiction and fantasy in all its many forms.

It's a great opportunity to get some quality time with me.  JABberwocky client Jack Campbell is also attending; link to his schedule follows mine.


Friday May 25, 2018, 6pm
Intellectual Property and You
St. George
James R. Stratton (moderator), Harold Feld, Joshua Bilmes, Doc Coleman
What you need to know about the legal framework for protecting your works.

Sunday, May 27, 11am
Best Books on Writing
Mount Washington
Joshua Bilmes (moderator), Val Griswold-Ford, Sarah Pinsker, Scott Edelman, Marilyn "Mattie" Brahen
What books should you have on your shelf when you're trying to read about writing?

Sunday, May 27,  5pm
How to Incorporate Critique
Joshua Bilmes (moderator), Day Al-Mohamed, John Appel, Leah Cypess, Alan Smale, Rosemary Claire Smith
What do you do when you have two readers giving you different or even contradictory feedback? How much are you willing to let the feedback change your work?

Sunday, May 27,  8pm
Long Live the King: The Success of Black Panther
St. George
John Edward Lawson (moderator), Joshua Bilmes, Inge Heyer, Devin Jackson Randall
Black Panther shattered box office records from the time tickets went on sale. What about the writing and visual storytelling resonated so strongly with audiences?

Sunday, May 27,  9pm
Tales From the Slush Pile
Mount Washington
Joshua Bilmes, Neil Clarke, John Edward Lawson
Editors share tales of some of the gems they’ve received, and give advice on how to avoid becoming fodder for future panels like this.

Monday, May 28, 10am
Who Cares About the Critics?
Room 8006
Track: Television/Film
TV and film crtiics have a habit of panning genre works, even if it's exactly what the audience wants. What's the disconnect?

Monday, May 27,  11am
Pitches We're Sick Of (and Ones We Want to See)
Mount Washington
Sarah Avery (moderator), Joshua Bilmes, Neil Clarke
Agents and editors discuss trends in submissions.


Jack Campbell, website and con schedule

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Three Oscars Outside Hollywood, CA -- the 2018 Oscar Live Blog

11:55 PM - 3:53, but thought it moved at a decent clip. At the end of the day, no great surprises.

11:46 PM - Three Humbugs Outside Queens, New York.

11:37 PM - "We'll be opening this envelope when we come back."

11:22 PM - I melt in Timothee Chalamet's smile.

11:20 PM - John Avildsen for Rocky, Jonathan Demme for Philadelphia, Michael Ballhaus for Fabulous Baker Boys, Roger Moore when all I wanted was a sweet distraction for an hour or two, Sam Shephard for The Right Stuff,

11:14 PM - del Toro not my first choice, but he gave a really nice speech.

10:59 PM - well, multiple great scores had to lose, and no complaints here about what won.

10:56 PM - This Is Me. Best for Last. The only musical number when I closed by iPad to watch the whole number without distraction. What a great number,more at performance, great anthem. Can this please win? And the movie such a word of mouth audience driven hit.

10:51 PM - Deakins!

10:38 PM - Screenplay was an interesting race. A school of thought for Three Billboards, but even people who liked it often didn't like it all the way through. A lot of love in the room for Jordan Peele and Get Out. And his speech was on the long side but had a vivid passion and purpose, as did the movie. It captured a moment without every trying to be important or worthy. Have sometimes told my clients not to worry too much about theme in writing, because theme arises from whom they are, and whom they are provides guide rails which will provide the theme. Tell a good story, the theme takes care of itself.  The speech Michael Stuhlberg delivers in Call Me By Yoir Name -- the acting puts it over and it's a really really good speech, but doesn't it also show a lack of confidence in the writing to put across the message without announcing it?  I'm not upset or surprised to have a win for Call Me By Your Name, but doesn't make me more of a fan of that style of filmmaking.

10:35 PM - Listening to the long, worthy, stolid acceptance speech from James Ivory encapsulates in a minute or so my general dislike of the Merchant Ivory school.

10:32 PM - Len Wein didn't last long enough to hear his name read on an Oscar telecast.

10:16 PM - There are only nine awards left to go. I actually think they're doing a not bad job moving things along.

10:14 PM - Woth a title like "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405" how can you not win an Oscar.

10:09 PM - "do not aim the hot dogs at the vegetarians"

9:59 PM - "I'm am editor. I should be able to do this."

9:57 PM - Editing. Another tight category. Dunkirk deserves, but Baby Driver especially, hate to see lose.

9:54 PM - Blade Runner 2049!

9:52 PM - Shouldn't Spider-Man have a Queens accent?

9:49 PM - Verizon ads -- like, isn't there some other ad agency, any other ad agency, that would be better for Verizon than the one it's using?

9:41 PM - Looking over my list of movies seen in 2017 during the animation awards I don't care about. One of two clear snubs for me is in the animation category, I actually saw Captain Underpants, and I really, really enjoyed it, and I can't believe it wasn't better than one or another of the movies that were nominated.  Second snub, Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger.  The acting categories are tough, since you've always got to ask who gets the boot to make room for your preferred.  But that was such a vivid, memorable performance, and I don't believe in 20 years that anyone will study Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour as a lesson in acting the way they might pore over every frame of Gyllenhaal's performance in Stronger. They don't get better, just don't.

9:35 PM - What a pod. The Hans Zimmer Walmart ad, the AARP ad, and the T Mobile all rocked.

9:28 PM - A consensus that Janney would win, but could you watch Laurie Metcslfe in Lady Bird and not want very very badly for he to take the award?  I have this sudden urge to see Lady Bird again after watching that clip.  Like, I liked I Tonya and I liked Janney's performance and yet can't feel right now very very clearly that the wrong person won.

9:23 PM - First year I can remember that I've seen not a one of the Foreign Film nominees.

9:20 PM - Rmember Me production number drew my attention to the TV screen over my iPad more than the Mary Blige performance did. The very long Google ad did nothing for me at all.

9:11 PM - Shape of Water wins for Production Design, a category I don't mind having it win in. It is very stylized, very much an artistic vision, and none of the other nominees strike me as being better or more so.

9:10 PM - "I am from Pakistan and Iowa; two places that no one from Hollywood can find on a map."

9:06 PM - And this is a good opportunity to talk about the Best Score category, which has so many amazing and very different scores. At least two of three when I saw the movie I tweeted "this should be an Oscar nominee," amd they were.  It's hard to think of watching Dunkirk with a different score. Carter Burwell's for Three Billboards was different and pitch perfect.  Johnny Greenwood also different and tonally adroit over the course of the movie.  Anything other than a multi-way tie, and multiple deserving scores are going to lose. About as close as Oscar ever comes to the difficulty of knowing every tennis match will have a loser when you really really like both players.

9:00 PM - The Sound categories -- tough this year. Sound so integral to Dunkirk and to Nolan's vision. Saw Blade Runner in IMAX and wow! A Star Wars movie. A movie like Baby Driver with music so integral and action so timed to the music.  Can't complain to have Dunkirk win both, but poor Blade Runner. But maybe in Cinematography for Blade Runner moment.

8:50 PM - What do we think of the Twitter ad?

8:46 PM - 
Justin Chang

Willam Hoke has this comment: "Since when does having a microphone allow you to attack someone? So far Jimmy Kimmel has attacked Mel Gibson and others by name. How is that decent? Let us all remember that Obama's attack on Trump got us where we are today. This is shameful."

A good point, actually -- though we are losing sight of the idea that we hold the President to a higher standard of behavior than we do a talk show host.  Part of the damage that may not get undone in my lifetime, the coarseness of discourse.

8:42 PM - Funny story: I went to see Icarus and slept through almost all of it. Abacus the other one I was interested in, but having read extensive coverage of the event it described in New York Times and New Yorker, figured movie wouldn't add anything more to my knowledge of it.

8:37 PM - Really liked not just having Eva Marie Saint present an award, but letting her precede with a really classy, historically minded speech. For all the "rich history of Oscar" claims by Oscar producers, a rare instance of actually doing it.

8:35 PM - 
Justin Chang

Did not know this: Jordan Peele is the first filmmaker to be nominated for best picture, director and original screenplay for a debut film.

8:31 PM - It would have been weird for Costume Design not to go to a movie about fashion designer, but some thought it might have gone to something more period, or as part of a Shape of Water sweep.

8:29 PM - The big "Costume Design" on the envelope -- why didn't they think of that 89 years ago?

8:27 PM - maybe more of a burgundy tux. The make up award foreordained.

8:26 PM -- will there be better dressed pair of presenters? Love the red tux, and the silver dress goes well with the crystal theme of the set.

8:24 PM -- that was a Rolex ad? I've seen movies that are worse, with lower budgets.

8:18 PM -  "Everyome who's ever looked at a billboard." Sam Rockwell's win widely predicted. It is a great performance in a movie I loved, for an actor with a great CV.  When I was 8, my parents were taking me to see things like Walking Tall, Godfather, and Deliverance.  As Jack,Torrance says in The Shining "perfect for a child."

8:10 PM - love that Timothee Chalamet has the confidence of youth to be doing the white tux.

8:08 PM "if we can't trust agents." Trust me😬
8:07 PM - Kimmel is nailing it. Funny, serious, tonally about perfect.

7:52 PM -- getting ready.

Oscar Warm-Up

Movies are the thing I do that I've done the longest, aside from reading, and aaaahh! Oscar night.

I saw over 100 movies in 2017, a lot but there are years I've been closer to 120. Around 90 of those new first run films. Most but not all of the Oscar nominations.  I'm old enough to know what I'm not likely to like, and if there's a movie like The Florida Project or Mudbound, where every wonderful review screams out "Joshua will not like this," I am happy to listen to that voice,

Call Me By Your Name was close to being that kind of movie, but the Paris has a nice balcony, and Timothee Chalamet was very pleasant to watch in Lady Bird, and even though I hate Merchant Ivory movies I went to see this movie with a screenplay from James Ivory.  And it was about as good as a movie I'm not going to like can be? Did I snooze through the peach scene? Possibly. But I mostry stayed awake. Chalamet was good. The last scene was great. Yeah, could have and should have been ten minutes shorter, but I don't mind the movie having success, or winning an Oscar or two.

The Shape of Water, however...  That one I mind. It isn't very good at all.  It's a highly stylized movie like The Artist, but to me stylization isn't a substitute for the real world. Part of why I don't like on the whole the Wes Anderson school of filmmaking. There isn't a true word, a true moment, a true performance, a true anything. It's craft that's about nothing other than its own craft.  Not happy, not happy at all, that people talk about this as Best Picture material. Best Director material.  If someone wants to give an Oscar to Alexandre Desplat, have at it. Anything else....

Lady Bird... Frances Ha was an awful dull miserable sit through with not an enjoyable moment to be had, amd the critics swooned over it. Having the star of that in another movie with critics swooning.... I made that the second half of a DIY double feature so I could walk out guilt free when it proved to be another Frances Ha.  Which it totally is not. This movie was full of humor and great performances, and wit and reality and an utter delight through and through. My first glimpse of Timothee Chalamet. A true introduction to Sacramento.  It isn't my choice for Best Picture, but it is still an amazing movie.

And like Get Out, Lady Bird captures a moment.  And my did Get Out capture a moment. Solid acting, a script that transcends its genre, and so so so of its time.  Is Get Out in the Best Picture mix?

Phantom Thread? Tell me after the Oscars how you like your asparagus and your mushrooms. It's interesting. The Post is too safe, though accomplished. Darkest Hour is safe.

Ah, Dunkirk. A spectacular achievement for Christopher Nolan, fascinating to watch once, lots of great ingredients. And then seeing it a second time, the icy chill of a movie with barely a human soul to be find left me so utterly cold that I tuned out, and then walked out,

My clear favorite Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

Yes, I get it.  The lead character is annoying. Agree. There are great scenes where we see the writer writing, like the lecture to the priest comparing the Catholic church  to the Crips and Bloods. There are ridiculous things, like having a cop throw someone out the window with no real consequence, someone else firebomb a police station, and no real consequence. And yet, I was utterly caught up with these characters, not as symbols of our time but as themselves. If we can enjoy the unreality of Get Out because we are caught up with the symbolism of the moment of the movie's exaggerations, can't we be caught up enough in the strength of these characters to let the falseness of individual moments slide on by?  With sharp writing, indelible characters, a suite of strong performances, one of the year's best scores, excellent photography -- the moment the movie ended, with sublime perfection with the perfect line at the perfect time, I wanted to see it again. And when I did see it again, I liked every moment and every element every bit as much.

Almost 8pm. Time to end the warmup and get ready for the live blog.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Boskone 55 - My Schedule

Pasting below my full schedule for Boskone 55, which will be taking place at Boston's Westin Waterfront Hotel from 16-18 February.  Hope to see you there!

If you're spending all of your time hanging out at big comic book and media conventions, and you have any ambition to be a published writer, I'd strongly suggest  you do a re-think some, and look a lot more closely at attending some of the conventions like Boskone that have been part of the science fiction and fantasy community for several decades.  In a convention center full of tens of thousands of people, I'm awfully hard to find.  At Boskone, it's a great opportunity to find and spend quality time with the editors, agents and most especially the authors that can help you to achieve your dreams.  In 2018, Boskone will have half a dozen of our clients attending, and some of them clients as a direct result of my meeting with them at Boskone or another sf/fantasy convention like it.

clients in attendance:
Dan Moren - author of The Caledonian Gambit.  First met him at Boskone.
Auston Habershaw - series with Harper Voyager Impulse. First met him in Boston, and the Boskone trip forced me to get his letter out of my in-box.
Suzanne Palmer - author of Finder, forthcoming from DAW, and first met her at a convention in Boston.
Gregory Scott Katsoulis - author of All Rights Reserved.
Erin Underwood - have a proposal from her on submission, first met her at Boskone.
Toni L. P. Kelner a/k/a Leigh Perry - author of the Family Skeleton mysteries.

Most of them will have their own schedules for Boskone available on their individual websites, and you can find a text view of the entire schedule here.

And as I type this, I'm on submission with a debut fantasy by Nick Martell, whom I saw in 2017 at both Boskone and Balticon.  Without my having met him at two conventions last year, his amazing novel might still be hiding away on my iPad.

You'll get to see me on a few panels at Boskone, including one that also includes literary agent Barry Goldblatt, who is especially well known for his great list of YA authors.  I'll often be hanging out in the hotel lobby or in the dealer's room.  And for some real quality time, sign up for my Kaffeeklatsch, which will be just me and no more than ten or twelve people for an hour of conversation.

Can't wait to be at Boskone.  See you soon!

What Good Is an Agent?

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 18:00 - 19:00, Marina 3 (Westin)
Everybody wants an agent — but why? What's the big deal? Sure they can help you make contacts with publishers, but is that their only purpose? What else can or should an agent do for you? How do you know when your agent isn't really working out? How do you transition between agents without burning bridges?
Erin M. Hartshorn (M), Joshua Bilmes, Barry Goldblatt, Richard Shealy, Hillary Monahan

Soup to Nuts: The Life Cycle of a Book

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 21:00 - 22:00, Marina 3 (Westin)
What is the life cycle of a book, from completion to publication? Our panel of agents, editors, and authors share advice on everything from querying an agent or an editor to dealing with revision requests, reviewing the contract, maintaining the relationship between editor and agent, and more.
Joshua Bilmes, Richard Shealy, Pete Hollmer, Susan Jane Bigelow, J. Kathleen Cheney

Kaffeeklatsch: Joshua Bilmes

Format: Kaffeeklatsch
18 Feb 2018, Sunday 10:00 - 11:00, Galleria - Con Suite (Westin)
Joshua Bilmes

Marketing Uphill

Format: Panel
18 Feb 2018, Sunday 11:00 - 12:00, Harbor II (Westin)
Sometimes marketing for writers feels like walking uphill to school barefoot in the snow. Does it ever get easier? At what point is enough enough for you and your social network? What about live events? How much should you invest, and how do you measure the return? Our panelists share their experiences and tips for managing your marketing.
Alexander Jablokov (M), Melanie Meadors, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Joshua Bilmes, Craig Miller