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Friday, April 18, 2014

"What Moves the Sun and Other Stars" by K.C. Norton

Appeared in Writers of the Future 30.  Author interview with Hardwick.  

Here's a futuristic Wizard-of-Oz type quest-adventure--only with a narrator who's more acerbic.  The narrator, VRG11, is a thousand-year-old robot who feels his years are largely a waste.  He's been living or sleeping on this comet for longer than he cares to count.  He runs into Pilgrim, who is fascinated by VRG11 and urges it to join an escape off the comet.  VRG11 is curiously drawn to this charismatic Pilgrim who emits his own light.  Although incredulous they can escape (it's been attempted before), he joins.

They find a winged hermaphrodite, a mutant, whom Pilgrim invites to come along.  They run into their opposites, their trio of villains:  Sergeant Leon, his lover, and a nameless third with many teeth (but who is coward).  There is a strange conflict, and they escape only to fall into a pit.  VRG11 had been placed on here on the comet for some reason, and is the first of the first AI with many years of witnessing history [sort of.  He says it's mostly sleep and darkness].

One of the nicest moments is when VRG11 challenges Odd Nobody to escape, and it is not a simple process.  Just a grueling, repetitive leap and climb.

A compelling read.  Norton invokes a lot of different literary classics:  Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Dante's Divine Comedy, Baum's The Wizard of Oz--probably others.  The background story is a bit thin.  The author is fantastic at hand-waving ("These are not the droids you seek," and the reader thinks "These are not the droids I seek."), but at some point the SF readers will ask for more details of why these events came to be.  (It may be that the work is intended only as an allegory, which is fine, but SF readers tend to want to understand the universe they're inhabiting.  As she is compelling, I will be on the lookout for more of Norton's work.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Free and reduced ebook lunches

by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin

by Elizabeth Massie 
Winner of the Bram Stoker award

Reboots + Diabolical Streak (two books)
by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin 

by Andrew Macrae 
The Weightless 1-Day Sale title for April 17th, 2014! 
This is up for awards in Australia. Sounds pretty cool.  Author's PhD thesis.  Only a few hours left!

The Stress of Her Regard 
by Tim Powers 
multiple World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick award winner (I'm sure he's written disappointing stuff, but I just haven't found it yet.)

Steven Barnes has a name your price program that's supposed to be the secret to The Secret.  I will get it eventually and report.  I've been motivated by his programs thus far, if that's what you're needing now.

On Stephen King

I haven't had a favorite novel, but I believe my favorite story of his was "The Raft", which I recently saw had been up for a Locus award.  I should reread it to see what I think now.

Richard Thomas lists his top 11 Stephen-King essentials. 

Gilbert Cruz ranks all of Stephen King's books.

As the above two confirm, in my ongoing anecdotal survey, The Stand is consistently ranked #1.

It is to be two films.  The first half of the first movie was indeed spooky.  The second, less so.  It will be interesting to see how this one fairs.

Stephen King: How I wrote Carrie:
"The author describes the inspirations for his first novel, and how the horror landmark – 40 years old this week – was very nearly destroyed."

"The Clouds in Her Eyes" by Liz Colter

Appeared in Writers of the Future 30.  Author website.

An excellent tale--sweeping and imaginative.

Amba has literal clouds in her eyes.  She helps her father harvest the sparkers, a grub-like worm that provides electricity and a little water.  Although rain hasn't visited their land in a long while, the father siphons water from the earth to keep the sparkers from drowning.

Meanwhile, a ship (real or unreal?) gets closer and closer over months.  Finally, it arrives.  The captain learns her true name "storm-bringer" and spurs, stirs latent abilities.  But should she disturb the current, delicate ecology?

Like many in the anthology this years, the author is concerned with ecology, but she seems to have a good handle on developing what feels like the ecology of the place.  It may be worth studying her example.  I'll be looking for Liz Colter's name.  Write like the wind! ( ever the wind writes... breezy? with gusto?)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Beginning: Tales from the Pulp Era by Robert Silverberg

I've been collecting Silverberg's story collections but hesitated on this one.  He writes:
"I have to confess, right up front here, that you will not find a great deal of poetic vision in these stories, or singing prose, or deep insight into character.  Nor are these stories that will tell you much about the human condition."
He needn't confess.  Describing what a work isn't, isn't necessary.  Just say what it is.  I haven't read or bought books by authors whom I've admired because they belittled their own work--Bear, Fowler, Powers.  On the one hand, you don't want to raise expectations, so that the reader never reads your stuff again. But on the other, the reader might like it.

I reciprocated for Fowler when she asked me to sign a story.  I dismissed the tale, flushing, embarrassed that my literary hero was asking me for a signature.  What if she didn't like it?  Unless the work is really bad, please don't dismiss it.  Let the reader decide.  Point out what the tale is or attempts, or that it was early work.

In Silverberg's essay, the lines that follow are enough.  These are simple pulp tales written speedily for the money.  That's descriptor enough.  If a person doesn't like pulp, they won't buy it.  For those that do, they'll buy it.

The collection's tales and the accompanying biographical material are a romp....  Aliens come to Earth seeking advanced technology, but the lines are long--at least two year long.  ...unless you can think of a way to shorten the time, like play on human preconceptions of danger.

Or an escaped prisoner--one who is always optimistic he'll get out of this fix--crash-lands on a planet where he will have to be a Robinson Crusoe... only the natives have different plans.

The plots aren't fresh but fun.  The biographical material sold me.  How did Silverberg establish homself?  If you enjoy Silverberg's Reflections columns for Asimov's magazine, you'll find this one a similar treat.

Speaking of which, why hasn't anyone collected his Reflections columns?

"Carousel" by Orson Scott Card

First appeared in 21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology. Reprinted by Dave Wolverton.

Card introduces this story as what most fits a WotF story:

  1. Complete in itself (not part of a series)
  2. Have emotional impact
  3. Clear resolution
  4. Idea intriguing enough that people want to talk about it
  5. Story must be mailed.
Cyril doesn't get along with his wife, Alice, who is dead.  She's a lot more blunt, willing to talk about sex with her husband to her kids--going so far to say how it's helped or hurt them.  Alice encourages the kids to live on the edge because, after all, death's been pretty good to her.  When the kids pass away, their banter is even harsher than his wife's.

Cyril finds a carousel.  There he meets Dorcas, the dead woman who runs the carousel.  And God.  He's tried to make people happy by setting up the resurrection, but of course the people complain.  The best lines:
Cyril said[,] "I want my wife to love me."
"I can't make people love other people," said God. "Then it wouldn't be love." 
"You really have a limited skill set."
[Spoiler] Cyril's given a new child.  It's not about moving somewhere but about the ride.

Not only a novel use of the zombie trope, but also a cleverly developed speculative idea to show that people in a place may not understand the harm it may cause another.

Does it align with Card's thought of what a WotF story should be?
  1. The story is complete--not necessarily an easy one.
  2. It hits in the hardest way: family lost.
  3. It resolves with the idea of why life is worth living.  
  4. Loved ones come back, even after death.  While not gruesome, it's not especially lovely.
  5. It's published.
It's a little dialogue-heavy, but witty banter helps.  I'm not sure if a new writer could get away with abandoning the zombie trope for a god one, or even introducing the big fella.  But I defer to Card's greater knowledge.

New and reduced ebook lunches

The Shadow Eater 
(The Dominions of Irth) 
by A. Attanasio 

The Shining 
by Stephen King 
Up for Locus and Gandalf awards

Different Seasons 
by Stephen King 
Up for World Fantasy and Locus awards

Heir to the Glimmering World 
by Cynthia Ozick 

by Stephen King 

The Essential Rumi 
- reissue: New Expanded Edition 
by Jalal al-Din Rumi, 
Coleman Barks (Translator) 

Rumi: Bridge to the Soul 
by Coleman Barks 

The Moon King 
by Neil Williamson 

The Gallery of His Dreams 
by Kristine Kathryn Rusch 
Note: novella.
Won Locus and HOMer awards. Up for Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Asimov's Reader Poll

The Falling Woman 
by Pat Murphy 
Won Nebula award. Up for Locus and Mythopoeic.

Points of Departure: Stories 
by Pat Murphy 
won Philip K. Dick award and up for Locus

The City, Not Long After 
by Pat Murphy 
up for Locus, Mythopoeic, Clarke awards

Bad Grrlz' Guide to Reality: 
The Complete Novels Wild Angel and Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell 
by Pat Murphy 

Unwrapped Sky 
by Rjurik Davidson