Why you should download the massive, free e-book ‘Up and Coming’

AnthoCover3_400.pngWhat is the future of science fiction?

It could be in the pages of Up and Coming: Stories by the 2016 Campbell Eligible Authors.

You can download the book here: http://www.badmenagerie.com/

Hurry up, though, the download will only be available until March 31, 2016.

What is a “Campbell Eligible Author” you may ask? These are writers who are new to the science fiction and fantasy field with their first professionally paid publications. The John W. Campbell Award is presented at the World Science Fiction Convention (this year, it will be held in Kansas City, Mo., in August). More info on the awards is available here: http://www.writertopia.com/awards/campbell

I was happy to see lots of writers that are familiar to me from my reading of shot stories and/or SFF-related blogs, including:

  • Nicolette Barischoff
  • S.B. Divya
  • David J́on Fuller
  • Jaymee Goh
  • LS Johnson
  • Alyssa Wong
  • Jeff Xilon
  • Isabel Yap

So you could consider this list of writers as a point of entry into this tome. You may find plenty of your gems in it, though.

Let me know what you find and recommend.

 

Audio book review: ‘Prophecies, Libels and Dreams’ by Ysabeau S. Wilce


This was a fun listen: “Prophecies, Libels and Dreams” by Ysabeau S. Wilce, which I got in a giveaway from Small Beer Press (Thank you, Small Beer Press!).

I didn’t know what to expect, and so this was my introduction to the fictional world of Califa that Wilce has written about in previous books, where there’s magic, magic boots, thieves, soldiers, deceptions, betrayals, and arranged marriages.

The best part of these interconnected stories is Wilce’s exuberant facility with language. Here’s a long example from the story “Quartermaster Returns”:

He died a hero’s death, Lieutenant Rucker did, trying to save, not another comrade, but rather the hog ranch’s entire supply of beer. The story is short and tragic: the freight train dropped fifteen cases of beer at the hog ranch, before proceeding on to Rancho Kuchamonga; an inexperienced drover off-loaded the beer in the arroyo below the hog ranch; when the storm came up, Pow organized his fellow whist players into a bottle brigade and supervised the shifting of fourteen cases to higher ground; the water was already foaming when Pow went back for the last case—refusing to allow the others to join him in harm’s way; Pow heroically managed to shove that case up the bank, just as a wall of water twenty feet high came roaring down the ravine.

This minitale is a great example of the kind of tall tales that dominate the seven stories in this collection. And these stories are offset by short “corrections” in the guise of an academic critique, often decrying the inexactitude of the previous tale. It’s a nice movement to add this layer to deepen a sense of place and time.

An unfortunate aspect of this audiobook is that the first story, which may be the whimsical, elicits from the reader some of the most forced interpreations that make him sound actorly in a too-forced storybook way. The audiobook does get better though.

Book review: ‘1Q84’ by Haruki Murakami

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Little People are Watching You

“If something really existed, you had to accept it as a reality, whether or not it made sense or was logical. That was his basic way of thinking. Principles and logic didn’t give birth to reality. Reality came first, and the principles and logic followed.”

Murakami’s imaginative worlds — with preternaturally gifted girls, bewildered young men, misshapen men, magical creatures, violence, and passageways between various forms of reality — all set in a recognizable every-day mundaneness of contemporary Japan are the main element that attracts me to his work.

“1Q84” doesn’t disappoint. And the quote above does a great job of summing up the novelist’s approach to this novel and to writing in general — you have to go with wherever “reality” takes you. In “1Q84” that reality is a strange Japan in 1984, in which some characters can see two moons, and in which strange beings, called Little People, have such extraordinary powers that they help to power a religious cult, which rests at the heart of this really long novel.
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Slate Picks make a great pick

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Slate has a new feature called Slate Picks, and under the heading “Science Fiction That Can Change Our Future” they asked contributors what books they would recommend for the 2016 presidential candidates.

The list of books includes such well-known and respected authors as Margaret Atwood, Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, and Samuel Delaney. The list also includes an anthology that has a story by yours truly in it, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History.

So if you’re looking for a gift for the presidential candidate in your life, check out Slate Picks.

#tbt review: Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

This review originally appeared in the Times Union on March 1, 2007.

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“Lisey’s Story” by Stephen King. Read by Mare Winningham. Unabridged, 19 hours, 16 CDs. Simon & Schuster. $49.95.

In ancient Greek drama, deus ex machina was used when the plot got so out of control that only divine intervention could resolve it. “Lisey’s Story” is the opposite.

Lisey is the widow of a famous author still dealing with grief two years after his death. Her loneliness is convincing, as is the magical place — Boo’ya Moon — where her husband found inspiration and confronted horrors.

What bedevils the plot, though, is an insane stalker who terrorizes Lisey for her husband’s papers. This one-dimensional, inexplicable character clearly arrives for some anti-divine intervention to create chaos. King, however, eventually keeps the plot tidy and unsurprising.

Winningham does a winning job of conveying Lisey’s melancholy as well as other characters’ madness.

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#tbt review: Intergalactic Nemesis live-action graphic novel

This review originally appeared in the Times Union on Jan. 12, 2012.

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A scene from “Intergalactic Nemesis”

“The Intergalactic Nemesis” has landed at Proctors in Schenectady with an answer to the question, “What exactly is a ‘live-action graphic novel’?”

That’s how “Nemesis” bills itself, and though that term may bring to mind Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” series of movies, “Nemesis” is a stage-play hybrid: part radio show and part slide show.

Three actors at microphones voice multiple characters, while a Foley artist creates sound effects from objects on the tables before him — such as shoes, crinkled paper and even a box of macaroni and cheese — and a keyboardist maintains a dramatic score. Meanwhile, one comic book image after another is projected on a screen that towers above the people. The show uses more than 1,200 images.

The story is set in 1933 and reporter Molly Sloan, her assistant Timmy Mendez and a mysterious and heroic librarian named Ben Wilcott join forces to thwart the impending invasion of sludge monsters from the planet Zygon, who are aided by the evil hypnotist Mysterion.

The show has plenty of charm. A lot of that has to do with watching the quick work of Foley artist Buzz Moran and his delighted expression when he shakes a metallic sheet to create booming sounds of thunder.

Other fun moments come from the multiple voices the actors assume for different characters, especially when those characters are having a dialogue and one actor does both voices. The actor Chris Gibson stands out in this regard, as he hams up the maniacal laughter of the evil Mysterion, who is often in dialogue with Wilcott.

Silences are also effectively used, as when a revelation leaves the characters dumbfounded and the actors say nothing as the screen shows one surprised face after another. Also of note are the humorous ways the three actors create crowd conversation noise at a fancy party and on a street in Tunisia, and how they create the sound of applause by gently slapping their cheeks.

The show has enough of these moments to make up for some of its weaknesses, such as an overlong and static first act. A lot happens in that act, and I don’t want to give it away, but it does more to set up situations in which the characters react them to, instead of revealing to us who these characters are and what motivates them. In that regard, the second act is much better. I also wished that more of Tim Doyle’s images were better drawn, because too often the expressions and body positions seemed awkward and distorted.

One of the difficulties of this hybrid show is knowing what to watch: the images or the actors and Foley artist. In some ways, it seems as if it is playing against too much nostalgia for a clear focus. But if you’ve never seen a Foley artist at work, then this a must-see. Best of all, it is appropriate for audiences of all ages, from those who’ve never known a world without iPhones to those who once gathered around the wireless (radio, that is) for nightly news and entertainment.

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#tbt review: World War Z by Max Brooks

2013-03-12-worldwarz_audiobookThis review originally appeared in the Times Union on Jan. 2, 2007, long before the Brad Pitt movie came out.

“World War Z,” by Max Brooks. Read by a full cast. Abridged, 6 hours. Random House Audio. $29.95.

The stellar cast includes Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, John Turturro, Rob Reiner and Brooks as the one compiling interviews with survivors of a worldwide war between zombies and humans.

While the variety of locales — China, Israel, South Africa, Canada, the United States, Cuba, Chile, Finland, Greenland, Barbados, Japan — puts to shame any James Bond story, the book lacks suspense.

Instead, it has realism to emphasize how the zombie wars upend how people live and what they hold sacred.

The best example occurs in South Africa, where a dreaded apartheid-era figure comes up with a plan to save the country by sacrificing parts of the population. Though most of the politicians are aghast, they accept it once the unnamed but recognizable Nelson Mandela figure approves.

The performances emphasize this human quality of physical and psychological struggle.

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