Monday, November 14, 2011

One Year Later - My Magic Book Journal

In a couple of days, it will have been a year since I first got my Kindle. Before the Kindle, I think I had almost forgotten how much I liked to read. I don't know particularly what was preventing me from reading. I have a number of ideas, but I'm uncertain as to which ones are correct, and which ones are incorrect.

Well, when I was going to university, I had a list of necessary reading material, and a very short list of extraneous material. When I finished, I almost stopped reading altogether. At least, I stopped reading books. I was reading short online articles. But, nothing much more than that. I had a decent library of maybe a few hundred books, but I for the most part, I wasn't reading them. I suppose it wasn't long after that that I came to Korea.

The Amazon Kindle 2Image via WikipediaI had to choose a very small selection of books that I could take with me on the airplane. I think that in total there were four, heavy books. There are bookstores in Korea, but mostly they sell expensive paperbacks (expensive to me at least, considering I was a used bookstore kind of guy). Also, I've never been a New York Times Best Seller reader, and those are the types of books that find their way into the typical bookstore in Korea. Therefore, I never did get into collecting books while here.

Now, I have about 300 some odd books on my Kindle now, and thousands of books more to choose from should that number dwindle significantly.

The first source of books I found was Now, Gutenberg is great. You can find all kinds of classic literature from Shakespeare to Edgar Rice Burroughs. I have not exhausted their collection by any stretch of the imagination. There are still hundreds more books to be read from there.

Since late last summer, I was pointed in the direction of a webpage which has an RSS feed which plugs in nicely into MyYahoo. The blog, , gives a list of free books which is updated almost daily. It's very good. But, since then, I found on my own an even better free books list which is at They both have the same books. But what makes ereaderiq better, in my opinion at least, is that all the books are shown in an image gallery with full descriptions, Amazon rating, as well as other brief pertinent information. I believe it's updated in real time. There seems to be some automated process going on. It's a great webpage and it also has a feed which appears on MyYahoo. As far as I can tell, it has every book that ireaderreview has.

Finally, there's the subscription model. There are a number of magazines, periodicals, and newspapers, and this number is growing, many of which can be purchased for a fairly low price. I am currently subscribed to two: Fantasy and Science Fiction and Asimov's Science. Both are excellent publications, with my current preference being for the former, but Asimov's got a lot more material to read than the former. I plan on subscribing to a few more publications, and I am very curious about how to start a magazine service. Some of them are quite bad, but have received good reviews (see eFiction). There is nothing for poetry.

There is one area which I feel is still lacking in the world of ePublishing: graphic intensive literature. Everything from the graphic novel to books about art and even the larger format technical books are lacking. Simply put, the Kindle is incapable of supporting a good colour graphical experience. The new Kindle Fire is simply too small to offer a good experience in this venue. The fact of the matter is that graphically intense material often starts at around A4, or 11.7 x 8.3 inches or 297 x 210 mm. I do not think you can shrink that form factor of media to a tiny screen. Another thing to consider is that a part of the joy of a Kindle in the first place is the fact that it uses eInk technology. eInk is very easy on the eyes. It's even better than traditional novels. This is because in traditional print, sometimes they have to cram a lot of letters onto the page, not to mention the lines on top of each other. With my poor eyesight, that can cause a lot of eyestrain. With the Kindle, you can size it however you wish. So, that is a distinct advantage. There is also the fact that eInk is a lot easier on the eyes than LCD. Because of all these reasons, I do not feel tempted by the Kindle Fire at all, and I am eagerly awaiting the introduction of the first great eInk 11.7 x 8.3 / 297 x 210 mm screen. I believe I have a long wait ahead of me. The stories about eInk and colour are at a trickle and what products there are have had poor reviews. What about next year? Time will tell. When they do have one, though, I think I could part with as much as $300 for it. Also, the market place simply isn't quite there yet. There isn't much by way of ebooks that would take advantage of such a tablet. But, build it, and they will come!

There has also been a happy side effect to all this extra reading I've been doing. I'm writing a lot more now than I have in years. Maybe I'm even doing more writing today than I have in my lifetime. What with school far behind me, a teaching gig that has a lot of hours of idleness, and a burning itch on the tips of my fingers, I've been producing more than I can ever recall. I also have the strong desire to become a writer by profession. So, these are good times.

So, there you have it. One year with the Kindle. Here's to year two!

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine - January 2012

 Introduction - Getting to Know my Kindle Subscriptions
These last several weeks have been very strange for my subscription to Asimov's Science Fiction. First, I had November's edition. Just as I was winding down to the last stories when suddenly it disappeared and was replaced by the December copy. This then quickly disappeared and was then replaced by January's edition. Now, to be fair, the issue is quite simple: they can be found in the newly formed 'Periodicals: Back Issues' section to the rear of my Kindle's library, on page 13. However, it was quite confusing to me. I actually tried to download it again, but still could not find it until I did a search for the copy. Even this did not show me where it was, but it did allow me to open the November edition again so that I could finish it before opening the January edition.

So, I thought that I had been hallucinating about the December edition or something since it was there and then gone so quickly. So, I went to the Kindle FAQ and read the part about the 'Periodicals: Back Issues.' Shortly thereafter, the whole mystery of how periodicals work on the Kindle is solved.

I will be reading the December edition after I've finished reading the January edition I guess. Vital statistics for the main body of fiction: 48,487 words, 1 Novella, 1 Novelette, 5 short stories, and 2 poems. There is also a short essay by Robert Silverberg.

In the House of Aryaman, A Lonely Signal Burns - Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear's name was oddly familiar. I didn't know from what or why, but somehow I knew that name. After doing a little digging, it's no wonder why. Surely I've seen her books scattered throughout the science fiction and fantasy dens of second hand book stores aAmerican science fiction writer Elizabeth Bear.Image via Wikipediand libraries. She has done a lot of writing and a lot of her writing has been published. She has a generous article about her on She also has an active and attractive web page/blog of her own, There is a lot of information on her webpage about her various interests and activities in her profession and some personal anecdotes and photographs. On second thought, I was thinking about Greg Bear or Grizzly Bear. Is there any relation to the three? I didn't find a connection. I guess this Bear is a new Bear to me.
The setting is in India, in the somewhat distant future. One thing that kind of threw me off is her use of the word 'farang' to refer to foreigners, or Caucasians in India. It's odd because that's the word that Thai people use. It's a Thai word. Why would it be used in the context of India? Well, that's always a potential pitfall about writing a story in a country you're not all that familiar with. It's a bit easier if it doesn't exist at all. The editor wrote that the story is 'set in a stunningly rendered future India.' I think I agree and disagree with that statement. First, I disagree with it because it doesn't really feel much like India to me, future or present. More importantly, I agree with it because it is an excellent picture of a certain future. I enjoyed the forays into the alternate reality cyber world. I also enjoyed the playing with genetic engineering which appears quite often throughout the story: it affects Ferron to obey her mother when really she doesn't want to; there's a cat which is engineered to be blue with golden eyes. Not only that, but it can also learn how to talk.
The story is written in third person limited point of view from the perspective of a detective, Ferron. A murder has been committed, and it's quite an extraordinarily brutal one at that. In the apartment of the deceased, or so it's assumed to be early on, the victim - one Dexter Coffin, is not so much beside himself as he is inside out of himself. Much of what we're led to believe early on gets turned inside out, however, much like the corpse which leads to the investigation.

Eventually everything is sorted out, and the mystery is solved. I don't think it was a particularly good mystery. Maybe I've been watching too much CSI. It turns out that the corpse is a matter of mistaken identity and the murderer being thought of as the victim who had taken on someone else's identity. The charm of this story is definitely the setting, as well as the relationship between mother and daughter (with the mother being hooked on the cyber world).

Bruce Springsteen - Paul McAuley

Paul McAuley has an impressive bibliography that can be found at I did not find anything else worth mentioning in terms of a personal or professional webpage.

This story is set on earth near Las Vegas. The setting is not so distant future. Things change in a hurry when an alien species, the 'Jackaroo' makes first contact with humankind. From there, the changes are rapid. 
A man on death row for some murders is confessing his story leading to the crimes to an alien from the culture called !Cha. He was working in a substandard casino when he ran into a woman, Rachel, who talked him into going on an adventure with her to steal an artifact. They succeed in getting the stone she was after, but not without committing some acts of murder in the process. They bring it to the tombs of the alien when the girl hits him over the head with a flashlight and attempts to make a getaway. The authorities are able to stop and kill her, however.

When the authorities are about to pick up the narrator, he first smashes to bits the stone that they had brought there in the first place. He swallows one of the pieces and thereby makes himself a host to one of the ghosts which inhabit the tomb.

Recyclable Material - Katherine Marzinsky

This is Katherine Marzinsky's first story. She has no webpage or any information about her anywhere in the top 100 Google results. However, I really enjoyed this very short and simple story.

The story is told from the perspective of a sanitation robot. Out of the first three tales I've read thus far, I enjoyed this one the most. It's very short, almost 1,200 words. A robot is cleaning the streets as his function requires when he runs into a discarded baby. He brings it to a hospital for recycling. On the one hand, it horrifies the nursing staff in the hospital. What's left unsaid, though, is what the other robots might have done with other abandoned babies. It might have been the first time a machine came in with a baby, but it's unlikely that it would have been the first time a baby had been encountered.

Maiden Voyage - Jack McDevitt

Jack McDevitt has a webpage,, of his own and there's also a article on him. Evidently, according to, he started off on his writing career in his early 50s. That sure gives late bloomers the message that you can get started at any time.

The story is told in third person. Mankind has enabled himself to go beyond his own star system and is visiting the first planet which is truly suitable for human habitation. It's verdant beyond belief and puts Brazil's Amazon to shame.

Those who were sent there to study it discover an extinct culture. There are cities, but no one is left in them. There is the mystery of what happened to them which may never be answered. This is due to the pilot's opinion that the discoveries should not be revealed to the human community. The reason for this is that she doesn't like the commercialization of untouched places. She remembered how the craters on the moon were being 'ruined' by humanity.

I don't know if I believe in that sentiment, but, it is what it is. Morally, I suppose, he's trying to suggest that some tombs in Egypt ought not to be touched, and ought to be left to time to destroy. Well, he doesn't put it that way, but I feel that inference. I figure if they're dead, well, it's not going to bother them at all if we explore their culture. If anything, it is what brings them back to life. King Tutankhamen is more alive in the last twenty years than he has been in the last two thousand because of the archaeologists who have painstakingly pulled his remains apart and examined them, and the things which he 'possessed' in death. Commercialization is unfortunate, but it's also an enabler for people, individuals, to visit an area for themselves.

The War is Over and Everyone Wins - Zachary Jernigan

Zachary Jernigan has a nifty little blog:

This story has its roots in racism and genocide. In essence, the white race has been annihilated. The main character is an Indian who married a Vietnamese and then produced offspring together that looked white. As a result, they were murdered. His father was a part of the army that introduced the virus that killed every white person. His father also had no sympathy for his son's loss and attributes the murder of his son's family to the fact that his family was too white.

I think that the editor's note at the start of the story was attempting to difuse a bomb before it went off. The author quoted Margaret Atwood, "I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one 'race'-- the human race -- and that we are all members of it." If we are to follow that line of thinking, not in terms of the intent of meaning but how it might mean if followed in another direction, it might suggest that genocide would not cover the active extermination of a certain race. But, there are races. There is but one species, the human species, but of race, we have many. I know that the intent was to say that every division within the species ought to be thought of as equals, but following the line of thinking to its edges will reveal that it is a poorly worded sentiment.

Writing about genocide is bound to be a hot topic. Writing about genocide about an alien culture is one way to avoid the controversy. However, Jernigan chose to write about Caucasians being exterminated.

Now, one thing that is suggested in the text is that Caucasians are the glue that keeps the races together. After the extermination, all the other races quardoned off themselves from the others, literally built walls around them, and began to war between districts within cities which had concentrations of the remaining races. He writes that "we're not violent because there are no Caucasians around to keep things peaceful." However, what else are we to infer from the fact that suddenly all the races left (all non-Caucasians) are fighting hand-and-foot. The culprit is suggested to be the last vestiges of white culture left behind, with certain people being targetted as being too white and perhaps the cause of the current friction in Jernigan's world.

In any case, the grandfather of the narrator (narration is in first person) has died. He was half white, and a little too white for his father. His father is only quarter white, and therefore much darker. Thus, the father is quite happy that his own father has died. The narrator, however, despite being unable to remember white people, remembers his grandfather as a good man, and loved his Vietnamese wife and his daughter. Therefore, he is upset by the genocide.

I suspect that if this same type of story was to be written about Africans being excised from the human race, it wouldn't be tolerated. Nor would it be tolerated of any other race. Imagine a story based on the extinction of the Jewish people? What kind of story could we infer from that? But, shoes never do fit on the other feet.

The Burst - C. W. Johnson

I couldn't find anything decent about C. W. Johnson online when I went looking for it today.

One thing that bothers me a little bit that I often run into is the idea that somehow physicists are intellectually superior to everyone else. I see it on a comedy show that I've really been enjoying, "The Big Bang Theory" where Sheldon is at the top of the intellectual pecking order of his friends. There was even an article about it somewhere. Often I see the sentiment that liberal arts degree holders ought to be considered less intellectually capable than those who hold science degrees. It usually bothers me. Especially considering that understanding the basic premises and principles of what the current generation of scientists believe is mostly old hat and quite simple.

The reason I'm bringing it up is because of the conversation Cayla has with her boyfriend, Rish. They are discussing the basics of Big Bang Theory. When the super intelligent Cayla asks if Rish remembers the conversations he replies, "Talk, yes. Understand, no. All I remember is, dark energy something something expanding universe something something accelerating something something, or something." His degree is in history. How it is that we're to assume that someone who enjoys history has somehow ignored the history of science or cannot comprehend it is pretty lame and a tired old sentiment.

In any case, to round up the plot: girl is a student. She's really smart. She finds a bit of data and forms a theory about how it shows that dark matter has been observed. She tries to tell her professor, but his dog just died and he's torn up over it. Turns out that it was his wife's dog, and the wife had died six years earlier.

This story was definitely not my cup'o'tea and perhaps a tad offensive. Perhaps he should do a bit of research on the Wright brothers. A high school dropout dispelled the myth then held by the brightest minds in the physics community that technology would never lift man into the sky. Quite frankly, a lot of the problems facing the physics community look quite simple with simple solutions and explanations. Sometimes, they remind me of priests with followers rather than people who are genuinely interested in the phenomena in the universe. I guess this story has brought out some of those old feelings and disgust.

Friendlessness - Eric Del Carlo

Eric Del Carlo has a webpage of his own. It looks like some of the books that he's selling have same-sex relationships going on. That is to say, on several of the covers, actually more than half, there are two scantily clad men. I have nothing against same-sex relationships, but taking a look through it made me wonder if there was any relationship between homosexuality and the sad character of the story.

One interesting sci-fi spec, and this is the only thing that makes this story sci-fi, is the 'socweb.' The socweb is not really explained fully. However, it seems like an implanted number which gives everyone who sees each other with one of the devices a score of how socially valuable the character is.

In this case, the character is some kind of extremely socially awkward individual. He briefly had friends, but these friends were not really friends. But once he lost his job and his money was gone, so too were his friends (nobody knows you when you're down and out).

He hitchhikes back to his home town. And, when it seems he's about to commit suicide, though subconsciously, an old acquaintance stops him. That friend had not only lost his socweb implant, but had grown to like not having it at all. He offers friendship and assistance. He doesn't care about socweb scores. He just wants to help an old friend in need.

I had wondered if there was some homosexual element to these characters, but there's nothing to suggest that at all in the story itself. Also, having briefly scanned Johnson's short autobiography, I don't think he is either. So, I don't think that is an element to the story. It was just a thought. I thought that maybe there was some shame in the main character which was causing his extreme feelings of social awkwardness. But, nothing is said explicitly to reveal the reason for this. He's just naturally antisocial.

The Essays

Reflections: Rare Earths, Getting Rarer--Robert Silverberg

We are facing some kind of crisis. I don't think many people are even aware of the problem or even know what rare earths is. They probably don't know that they are essential molecular components of all of our advanced technogadgets: computers, cell phones, lithium batteries, etc. They probably don't know that China likes to inflate the cost of the materials from time-to-time, and that we're in just such a time now. This causes artificial scarcity, but the truth is that eventually they will be very scarce materials.

There is not much effort being made to recycle components so that those molecules might be reused. Apparently mining is still a cheaper way to get these materials.Perhaps one day we won't have a choice, and we'll have to get raw materials from our waste. Wouldn't that be nice?

On the Net: Son of eBooks, the Next Generation, Vol. III--James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly writes a brief essay about how ebooks are growing. I have to agree with that sentiment. Wow... has it almost been one year since I bought my Kindle? It's the best thing I've bought for myself in years - aside from the netbook I'm using right now. I'm reading more than I have since I left Concordia University in 2005. Back in 2005, when I came to Korea, I had to pick and choose gingerly what texts I could bring with me to savour as I suffered in a country with little to offer the literary aficionado. Well, the Kindle has completely changed all that.

I now carry around with me more than 300 books wherever I go. Just a few months ago I started some subscription services, and I'm considering ordering some more. I'm eagerly anticipating the time when I can hold a coloured version of the Kindle that's about A4 in size so that I can read graphic novels and graphically rich content with the same gusto as I do text on my b&w Kindle.

Also, the amount of subscriptions on Amazon is small, but slowly growing.

These are really exciting times in the publishing industry. I do believe James has the right idea when he wrote, "Certainties are profound: at some point the ascending digital line must cross the descending print line. not if, friends, but when. The Two Certainties point to a future in which ebooks inevitably dominate paper books."

I don't think paper books will ever disappear. However, I do expect that market to fluctuate. I believe that the print-on-demand presses are just getting started. Micro publishing will rise up in a tide as have the micro brewing industries of beer. I think this is a great thing, and it excites me tremendously as I ponder my own existence in this universe. I also fully believe that the world of professional publishing will eventually look to the success of self published writers before committing to trying a new writer. Or, perhaps they'll just start offering a lot less money. Maybe they're doing that already. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

In conclusion, he writes, "Oh, and FYI: ebooks are here to stay. you read it here first." I think I can also say the same about pbooks (paper books). They are here to stay. They will transform into something that is more crafted and elegant than it has been in the past. I think this is a great thing.


Again, I enjoyed this edition of Asimov's Science magazine. I was kind of happy to see a few essays to the rear of the magazine, but I still feel that this is a weak point of the magazine. They could do a lot to bolster that section. Also, sometimes I find the language of the writers to be a bit ill under educated sounding, especially when that language is handled by these allegedly superior intellects in their dialogues in the stories. One of the reasons I like watching the TV comedy series, "The Big Bang Theory", I realized, is because of the rich geek-speak that I hear from the characters. It really is like they're speaking my language.
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Fantasy and Science Fiction - November, 2011


This is the second edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction that I have received since I purchased my subscription last September. Since then, I have read a lot more fantasy and science fiction through reading my first instalment of my Asimov's Science subscription. My mission was to make myself more familiar with modern literature in the genres that I like best: science fiction and fantasy. It turns out that Asimov's Science is not entirely science fiction, as I had previously guessed.

This second copy of Fantasy and Science Fiction that I have received for November consists of two novellas, four novelets, and one short story. In total, that's nearly 82,000 words worth of short fiction for about $1.98 (it's bimonthly). For new work that's filtered and edited by skilled editors, I still think that's a good deal.

After having read the first and more than half of the second of the novellas, I have to say that this November/December edition is much better than the October/September edition which I read last month. A lot of the stories from Asimov and Fantasy and Science Fiction from the last few months have ranged in quality between a bit of poor, lots of mediocre, and a few good stories. The first novella, "Quartet and Triptych" by Matthew Hughes, was hands down the best short fiction I've read out of the five short-story style magazines that I've read of late.

Quartet and Triptych - Matthew Hughes

This story has been around for a little while. Buying it in book form is prohibitively expensive. I have to wonder what Matthew was thinking when he decided to sell this 90 page book on Amazon for about $40. So, really, buying the magazine is a cheaper way to get your hands on the story. I don't think this novella is worth $4, let alone ten times that amount. Wikipedia has a short article on the author, but I couldn't find very much else about the author.

The protagonist of this novella is one Luff Imbry. He is not the stereotypical hero of Hollywood or even the novel. He is a heavy man. Hughes refers to him on one occasion as being of epic proportions. Being a large man myself, I often find common portrayals of large men to be inaccurate and somewhat insulting. That is to say, we occupy the comical arena and little else. I cannot think of any non-comical movie where the hero is of 'heroic proportions.' This story is somethin of an exception.

I say something of an exception because Imbry is a thief by profession. When we're introduced to him, he is described as piggish. He is swilling and stuffing his face. But between that moment and the end of the story, he is transformed from a barnyard animal into a sophisticated and well disciplined thief. He is enlisted to retrieve an item of incalculable worth. He manages to get that thing, but is essentially caught red-handed with it. However, the circumstances of him being caught, in the clutches of the owner of that item called the Triptych, by a high ranking Archon enforcer, suggests that the whole time Imbry has been a tool in an Archon's hands (think of the Archon as a kind of emperor's organization). There is more evidence to support this theory.

The essence of a man or woman can be held in a type of mask. By wearing that mask, one of the living can join the 'essence' or soul of the occupant. Inside the mask he discovers the daughter of the man who ran an estate and owned the valuable art. She agrees to help Imbry if he promises to help her find a certain Broosh, a young man whom she loved and whom her grandfather had covertly killed. This was in exchange for her help through her father's defences which ultimately result in Imbry being caught up and trussed and on the very verge of being dismembered by the robotic spider which housed the essence of her grandfather. In going after the love interest, Broosh, Imbry had to penetrate a great storage complex where the essences of all the high ranking aristocrats were kept. The only way to do this was to go through the very hub of their security. A mysterious caller to the caretakers of this area allows Imbry to secure the essence of Broosh, and lets him finish his mission. Of course, if the Archon emperor (my word choice) was involved, he could have been the one ordering Imbry's access to whatever he wanted allowing him to get further than he really could have otherwise.

Matthew never does name who the emperor is, but I suspect that the person who met with Imbry to send him on this chase was the Archon emperor himself. However, I cannot say this conclusively.

This tale is well told. Matthew Hughes is a talented writer. I really enjoyed the story. His language skills are very good. His play with the plot is very entertaining and well controlled. This was a story I thoroughly enjoyed. I really think Matthew Hughes ought to do something to improve his visibility online. It would probably really help his career.

The Ice Owl - Carolyn Ives Gilman

Gilman is another author who hasn't done much to control her appearance in Google searches using her name as a keyword. In the first 100 items, I could not find a personal website. She has some pages that show bibliographies and reviews of some of her books, but there is no information on Wikipedia or personal page for prospective fans to discover. She has a number of books around for sale.

The story is about a young girl who lives on a planet where cities are built within bubbles. She lives in a bad part of town in the middle of a political upheaval. She's actually about 141 years old. The reason for this is that she has been travelling from planet to planet using lightspeed travel. So, if a planet is 17 lightyears away, she doesn't age, but it takes 17 years for her to get there. The planet is a bit dystopic. The ruling class is far from ideal. It is corrupt, but in its corruption, it allows the underground to thrive provided they pay for that right. Under the incoming system of 'incorruptibles,' they have no place at all. In essence, it's a culture of corruption that is destroying the corruption and everything else in its path.

The little girl, Thorn, from whom the story is told, has been doing this for quite some time. She finds herself an interesting teacher who takes it upon himself to become her mentor. Her mentor turns out to be someone who inadvertently helped in the genocide of a culture. He's trying to make up for it by hunting down the perpetrators of that crime. After he kills his target, in the middle of the revolutionary bedlam, he abandons Thorn.

The title of the story is related to a bird which can survive in hundred year winters and defrost to live again. Thorn is given this bird by her teacher to take care of which is kept in a small freezer. However, through some carelessness and neglect,  the freezer is unplugged and the bird dies.

Under Glass
- Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan is all over the place. He's a director, a writer, and many other things I'm certain. He is a man of many talents, as one may find in any number of databases, including an article on Wikipedia.

In essence, the story is told about a friend of an oddball collector who recently died and left the narrator as the executor of his will. After a somewhat interesting character description of the recently deceased, Bob Krovantz, we are led to his more unique collection of souls. That's right... he collects souls which are encased in a type of glass. The essence, as Matthew Hughes would have called it, can be put into a glass container and held indefinitely, or until the glass container is destroyed.

The character of Bob is somewhat interesting. The narrator, a lot less so.

They That Have Wings - Evangeline Walton

Evangeline Walton is long gone. However, some of her unpublished work has surfaced, and this is one of those stories. She has a generous wikipedia article about her that can illuminate her achievements. This is the first fiction of hers that has been published since 1981.

This story is set in Crete circa WWII. A handful of Allied soldiers are stranded on the island. They have no support, no way of returning to their comrades, and are very much on the verge of starvation when a bird of mercy comes to rescue them.

Though, it is not so much of a rescue as it is drawing the prey into the lair of the predator. I sort of saw this one coming a long ways off - but that's not a complaint. As the saying goes, if you can't see it coming, you'll scratch your head and wonder if the author thought of it at the last moment.

Two witches of particularly good craft are shape shifters, and can turn into dark birds at will. However, when they draw in the men, they are half starved and too skinny. The witches then determine to fatten them up before consuming them. However, the younger witch falls in love with one of the men, and dies to protect him. The protagonist and Ronnie, the witch's love interest, manage to escape their fate.

The story is a good old fashioned myth used in a WWII story. It was an enjoyable short piece of fiction.

Object Three - James L. Cambias

James has a short article on wikipedia and a short autobiographical article. It appears that he writes material for games and books.

The story is that of an archaeological adventure. There is an awesome object which is impervious to the great technological efforts of super advanced alien and human study and effort to penetrate. ie., Despite the fact that it lays in space as an object occupying about 32km2.

The main character is hired to secure what is suspected to be the key into the object. To obtain the key, they must first steal it from someone who may not even know what it's supposed to be used for. After an adventure, a fight with her co-thieves leading to their respective deaths, the protagonist is left alone with the key on the object. We do not discover what's inside the object or even if she ultimately manages to win her way inside.

How Peter Met Pan - Albert E. Cowdrey

There is a funny introduction to this story. It's the editor's defence in having a lot of stories set in worlds where global warming has come true. Well, it's true that this is a common and reoccurring trope in this magazine. That's true of this story, which is set in the wilderness near Edmonton, which is now a fairly hot and super urban city (18 million people). Cowdrey is all over Fantasy and Science Fiction. He's been publishing 3-5 stories in it every year for more than a decade.

Somehow, the story seems more like something set in the southern part of the US, due to the accent of some of the characters local to the forested area - the small town's denizens that is. They seem like hillbillies, but not the type you'd find in Canada. More the type you'd find in the US.
Nit picking aside, onto the story itself. Basically, two guys are off hiking. While hiking, they run into a couple. They hear a scream, which is the result of a super sized bear ripping to shreds the second couple. The two guys run to see what's going on, and into the bear, which gets one of them. The other runs off, eventually runs into the girl who also ran off, and eventually they find salvation.

I was not all that fond of this story. I think it's mostly language related things that I didn't like. For example, instead of saying binoculars, he wrote "'nocks." I think I can accept stuff like that in dialogue - after all, the writer is supposed to reflect the character. But in the general descriptive text, I don't think that's the right place.

The Story I didn't Read and Final Thoughts

"The Klepsydra: A Chapter from a Faunary of Recondite Beings" I did not read. I did not read it because it's a sample. Maybe if it was the first of a series, I would have reluctantly read it. As it stands, I refuse to read a sample chapter from a book. I could do that on Amazon's website. Most books have a sample that one might read for free. Why is Fantasy and Science Fiction  printing a sample? It really ought to have a better explanation. Here's the deal: if you like it, you can't buy it. That's because it doesn't exist yet. It's either not finished or it's finished and not printed or available in any form. So, even if you do like it, you have a wait, or, at worst, it never gets finished or printed and you'll never hear the end of this story.

I think this was a poor taste choice by the editors of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. I suppose I would be more upset if not for the excellent fiction toward the beginning of the book. In this edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction, there definitely seemed to be a downward sloping curve of quality with the first stories being at the top of the curve, and the last stories being at the bottom.

The first stories of this edition were good enough to keep me signed onto the magazine subscription.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Asimov's Magazine - November 2011 - The Short Stories

Fin Whale from the air.Image via WikipediaThe Cult of Whale Worship - Dominica Phetteplace

Dominica Phetteplace has a small webpage with a link where you can say 'hi.' On the front page, there is a nice little picture of a whale in blue. The page is very micro - there are probably less than six sentences spread out over the entire webpage.

I think whales are pretty awesome creatures. Octopi, too, are pretty amazing. I admire them for their intelligence. Octopi I admire, also, for their amazing ability to adapt to their environment. They can also be extremely beautiful creatures. Nonetheless, there is a large market for both of these animals. That is sad. I suppose everyone probably has an animal or two in mind that they object to the killing of. However, it is a little easier when it comes to killing for food. Japanese people eat the whole whale: bones, organs, meat, and even the semen I've heard. In other words, they waste nothing of it at all. When western European nations hunted for whales, they did so for the oil it would give their lamps. When they did so, they pushed the populations of whales to the brink. I have an easier time accepting that people might eat them without waste than I do using them for lamp oil. That bothers me a lot.

The protagonist of this story is Japanese. A scientist, Tetsuo, has accidentally infected himself with a disease that had been created as a biological weapon to be used against the eaters of whale meat. The disease causes the infected to have an abnormal love for these whales. It works so well that Tetsuo, after becoming infected, fantasized about being eaten by one of the whales.

This Pretty Face - Jason K. Chapman

 Chapman actually has a pretty decent webpage for himself. It's really a blog, but it's actually pretty well crafted. It's much better than a lot of the other personal webpages I've found over the last few months while reading these short story magazines. It offers a small list of his published work and links to get your hands on it.

This is a story about time travel. A very distant descendent from the future is travelling back in time to try to change the future. That is to say, the protagonist will begat offspring who will be extremely destructive to the culture, according to the individual who is travelling back in time to try to change the past so that the protagonist, Kyle, never begets the child who will beget the child who will... etc. 

He is faced with the task of having to kill himself and his family. However, in his recent history, he had lost the love of his life in a terrorist attack on a Parisian cafe. Later, he meets another woman, and it's this relationship that will cause him to have the children who will lead to the children, who ultimately have that destructive individual.

Rather than kill himself and his family, however, he decides to send a message 200 years into the future that they should contact him in his own past, just before the terrorist attack, so that he might save his first love, Anna. This is successful, he goes back in time, and everything gets changed from that point. 

The SimpsonsI am not a big fan of these types of stories. They never really work because of the paradoxes. He does talk about there being multi-universes or dimensions, or as the author wanted to coin the term, quantiverse (due to his love for quantum mechanics, most likely). However, it is a kind of weak work-around. However, this is not new, and my objection to it is not new either. Time-travel stories are too often incapable of working seriously. The Simpsons did it successfully because it was a comedy and it was funny. H.G. Wells' Time Machine kind of worked, because it did not try to go to the past to try to change the present. Although, he does try to change things so that the future changes. Star Trek IV kind of worked, because it had something to say about what we were doing wrong in the then present (90s), and it was a very funny critique of the past and comparison of the present to Roddenberry's vision of the future. However, flying around the Sun really fast was a dumb idea to make time travel work. It's always a dumb idea. This story, in my opinion, like so many like it before and after, simply fails in the logical side of making it work.

The story is OK, I guess, but not really my thing.

The Pastry Chef, The Nanotechnologist, The Aerobics Instructor, and the Plumber - Eugene Mirabelli

Mirabelli does not have her own webpage. At least, it was not in the first ten hits. There are a lot of links to other sites that talk about him. The best webpage I found was at the author's guild.

This story is kind of funny. It starts with the nanotechnologist who is something of an ass. The story's setting is at the 'other woman's house' far from the wife and kids. 

The pastry chef, his live-in lover, can hear the faucet talk. It talks in Italian. Later, the toilet speaks Turkish. Finally, the shower is Italian. Everyone can hear it except the nanotechnologist. 

I guess the story was a little funny, but I didn't really enjoy it much.

Free Dog - Jack Skillingstead

Jack does have his own webpage. It's actually pretty slick looking. Nice picture, good theme, with lots of information about his other work.

When I first started reading this magazine (Asimov's), I thought that I would find a magazine all about science fiction to be too much of a good thing: science fiction. However, I was wrong. In fact, I'm starved for science fiction, and here I am near the end of the magazine.

This short fiction was actually pretty interesting and good science fiction. It actually plays with an idea that I've had for awhile, which more-or-less came from a Boston Legal episode. That episode, I cannot remember the name of it, centred around the idea of DNA and who owned the rights to it: the hospital or lab that took it from the man, or the man who gave the DNA to the lab. That is to say, they patented his DNA, and he no longer had control over what they would do with it. Combine this with P2P and Napster style copying of intellectual property (songs), and thinking about Star Trek's replicator technology, it isn't difficult to piece together the idea of stealing intellectual property and replicating things that are much more advanced.

The divorcee wins his dog from his wife, but she wins the ability to copy the dog for a holographic representation. She then makes that copy available online for download. Before long, there is a copy of Travis Larson's dog everywhere. He hates the way it detracts from Cory's (the dog) uniqueness. He does hold that there is no dog like his dog, even thought there are copies. In the end, he is bothered further by the fact that Cory gets sick and is lethargic, whereas the copies, named Corky, are lively, even if they are just holographic.

It was an interesting idea, which is what science fiction should be about.

To Live and Die in Gibbontown - Derek Kunsken

Derek Kunsken is an author who lives in Quebec. Hey, that's where I'm from. He's got a wordpress webpage where you can learn more about him and follow his activities. However, his posts are very rare. One is a year old, and the other two years old. I don't know if there is anything better available.
This story is set in a world of primates who are quite evolved. Species of apes are represented in much the same way as races are in humans. The main character, Reggie, and the narrator of this first person tale, is an assassin. But, he's no ordinary assassin. His job is euthanasia. He is contracted by people who want to die. In this story, they are all elderly people.

I suppose one might say that this is kind of like Assassin on the Planet of the Apes, but without the humans in the story.

A Hundred Hundred Daisies - Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress has a nice little webpage where you can learn more about her.

The premise of the story is based on a lecture that Nancy heard that proposed the idea that one day we'd be fighting wars over water. One day, the Great Lakes will run out of water, and that might very well be the end of it for life as we know it.

Though, I don't buy the premise. She talks about how they hold 4/5 of the earth's water. OK, I will take her word for it on that one. However, the rest of the world lives off of the remaining 1/5 of the earth's water. How am I supposed to buy the idea that if, suddenly, the Great Lakes lose most of their water that water will somehow become incredibly scarce?

Also, no matter how much global warming we have, we will never lose all our water. Water does not evaporate into space, at least not while we have air to breathe. There are also the awesome contents in the ocean. I realize that we would have to desalinize the water first, but this would be a challenge we could meet. If Abu Dhabi can do it, I feel confident that we could as well. Simply put, when you have your life to save, you can do an awful lot.

The story is about a family of terrorists who are trying to sabotage water pipelines which lead water from the Great Lakes to Tucson and other southern properties. The protagonist, a young man in highschool, remembers the time before the great drought. There had been beautiful fields and flowers, and many other things that they could appreciate. They're all gone. The boy is about to stand trial for murdering someone his father murdered in order to hit the water pipeline.

The story is well told, I just don't think the story holds water.

Concluding thoughts

Well, I think it's pretty much a mixed bag in terms of quality of literature here. Some of it is good, some is really good, a good chunk of it is mediocre. Overall, though, I have enjoyed this edition of Asimov's fiction. This goes for the novellas, novelettes, and short stories. There's definitely less science fiction than I would have liked. $2.99 is not a bad price for a good mixture of work, styles, and ideas.

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