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Showing posts from August, 2005

Pause

We (or, well, I) will be taking a break until September 1. Got a bunch of things that need to get written between now and then, multiple piles of books to read, an apartment to clean before I am smothered by dust and cat hair, money to extort, friends to blackmail, gods to offend, etc. etc. etc.

The Breaking Point by Stephen Koch

Below is the latest in an ongoing series of guest reviews. Our reviewer this time is David Schwartz, author of one of my favorite stories from 2004, "The Lethe Man" (in Say...Why Aren't We Crying?), as well as stories in such places as Strange Horizons and Fortean Bureau.


The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of José Robles by Stephen Koch
a guest review by David J. Schwartz


A novelistic account of the disintegrating friendship between American modernists John dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway, set during the Spanish Civil War, The Breaking Point is as frustrating as it is fascinating. In attempting both literary and personal biographies of his protagonists, Stephen Koch ultimately falls short of doing either very well; the result is an odd hybrid between cloak-and-dagger novel and critical psychoanalysis. Yet as a chronicle of the machinations at work behind the conflict itself, the book points at the deeper resonances of the war. Both as shadow-play …

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

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Below is the latest in a continuing series of guest reviews. Our reviewer this time is Teresa Tunaley, who spends most of her waking hours working as a freelance Art/Editorial Director for LBF Books.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
a guest review by Teresa Tunaley


The story of Poison Study centres around Yelena, a young woman who is about to be executed for murder. On the day of her execution, she is brought before Valek, the Commander of Ixia's Chief of Security and more recently, his stand-in food taster. Valek offers Yelena the position of replacement food taster in exchange for her life...but is this a total reprieve or just a delay to her inevitable demise?

The Commander is under a daily risk of assassination from his many enemies and therefore requires a full-time food taster. Yelena quickly accepts the opportunity to taste his food, in exchange for her reprieve...not knowing from one day to the next, if she will die from being poisoned.

To ensure Yelena doesn't escape from…

Natives and Exotics by Jane Alison

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Natives and Exotics is a book I find easy to admire and difficult to love, a book that is complex and suggestive, its prose a model of exactness, and yet it feels more like an essay than a novel, its structure designed to highlight correlations and hypotheses rather than emotions or characters. (I mean that as an observation, not a criticism -- I doubt Natives and Exotics would be half as interesting if its characters were as developed as its historical perspective. The muted emotions, in fact, are a relief when so many novels feel like overfed emoticons.) Nonetheless, it can be difficult to adore a novel about the overlapping colonizations of plants and humans in the past few centuries, wondrous as such a book may be, because it remains at a distance, an engine of concepts that invite us to think about them rather than sympathize with them, to gaze at rather than ingest.

Thankfully, there's nothing wrong with admiring a book without adoring it, and there is much to admire here.…

Diversions and Divagations

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Various and sundry things to look at around the sacred and profane Internets:A new issue of SF Site has been posted, including a review I wrote of Anima by M. John Harrison, which is really the books The Course of the Heart and Signs of Life collected together. Lots of other interesting things posted, so don't ignore the site just because I'm there.

For more M. John Harrison goodness, see Scribblingwoman, who just read Light and mostly liked it. Lots of links, including to my rather empty review of Light hereabouts (no, I'm not going to link to it -- read Jeff VanderMeer's review instead; it actually says something).

The British Fantasy Award nominations have been announced. The Alien Online has a nomination, which is pretty exciting, coming as it does on the heels of their World Fantasy Award nomination.

A good discussion of animal rights at Crooked Timber. The arguments in the comments thread are fascinating.

Plenty of people have already linked to this, but for the …

98 Reasons for Being by Clare Dudman

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That Clare Dudman's second novel, 98 Reasons for Being, is about Heinrich Hoffmann (the German doctor who wrote the classic and somewhat sadistic children's book Strewwelpeter) was enough to interest me. I had read Dudman's first novel, One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead (titled Wegener's Jigsaw outside the U.S.), and though for some reason I didn't find it entirely engaging, I had been impressed by many elements of it. I knew nothing of Hoffmann himself, but a friend had given me an edition of Struwwelpeter illustrated by Sarita Vendetta with images so over-the-top and gothic that it quickly became a cherished artifact, and I was curious what Dudman could do with such apparently rich material.

There's much more to 98 Reasons for Being than Strewwelpeteresque horrors -- it's a book with many layers built from a series of glimpses and portraits that at first seem disconnected, but ultimately come together to show the connections between madness and sa…

Self-Indulgent

Gwenda Bond pointed out that Caitlin Kiernan has made a valuable attack on the term "self-indulgent" as a critical insult of a piece of writing:...this is one of those things that strikes me very odd, like reviewers accusing an author of writing in a way that seems "artificial" or "self-conscious." It is, of course, a necessary prerequisite of fiction that one employ the artifice of language and that one exist in an intensely self-conscious state. Same with "self-indulgent." What could possibly be more self-indulgent than the act of writing fantastic fiction? The author is indulging her- or himself in the expression of the fantasy, and, likewise, the readers are indulging themselves in the luxury of someone else's fantasy. I've never written a story that wasn't self-indulgent. Neither has any other fantasy or sf author. We indulge our interests, our obsessions, and assume that someone out there will feel as passionately about X as we…

Get Your Name in a Book

Neil Gaiman started it, and now it's catching on: Writers raising money for worthy organizations by auctioning off the opportunity to get your name in their book. Now a bunch of them are doing it together for the First Amendment Project. Here's the info, cut and pasted from Neil:Have you ever wanted to be in a Stephen King book? (You must be female in order to die, though.)

Stephen King

What he's offering:
"One (and only one) character name in a novel called CELL, which is now in work and which will appear in either 2006 or 2007. Buyer should be aware that CELL is a violent piece of work, which comes complete with zombies set in motion by bad cell phone signals that destroy the human brain. Like cheap whiskey, it's very nasty and extremely satisfying. Character can be male or female, but a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female. In any case, I'll require physical description of auction winner, including any nickname (can be made up, I don't give…

Out There

Out beyond the limits of this little weblog you will find the latest issue of Strange Horizons, which includes a new column of mine, plus some better things, like fiction and poetry and articles and the final page of the Violet Miranda graphic novel serialization.

If you're not interested in any of that, then the least you could do would be to read Kelly Link's answers to Jeff VanderMeer's silly questions. Although I must say I found the answer to the final question disturbing, because we discover that if Kelly's book doesn't sell and she becomes destitute, she might try auditioning for "Survivor". I find this answer disturbing because I think it would be really fun to see Kelly on "Survivor", but I don't want her book to be a failure or for her to be destitute. So I'll be starting a petition to the Publicity & Laundry Dept. at Small Beer Press to try to convince them to send Kelly to a "Survivor" audition as part of her …

Sunday Night at the Linkdump

It's a new week, so it's time to get rid of some accumulated items of interest:Those of you who are SF fans have probably heard that the Hugo Awards have been awarded. Special congratulations to some folks who stop by here now and then, either in spirit or (virtual) person: Elizabeth Bear, Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Farah Mendelsohn. Lots of assorted notes from Cheryl Morgan, plus some early commentary by Jonathan Strahan. More will, I'm sure, follow, and Cheryl seems to be doing an excellent job of being a clearinghouse for it all.

The collected blurbs of David Mitchell

I think this has been around for a while, but I never got to it: An interview with The Rake! It's the best and most comprehensive interview with a litblogger that I can remember reading.

A new market search database for writers that includes both lit'ry and genre markets for short stories and poetry. (via LitHaven)

"Our Stories aren't All Tragedies": some thoughts on African liter…

Grimm, Kleist, Details, and Belief

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Waggish continues to be one of the most thought-provoking weblogs I've encountered, and the latest post, about the Grimm tales and Heinrich von Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas is worth reading carefully. Waggish takes his inspiration from a Times Literary Supplementreview (subscribers only) by Gabriel Josipovici of a new selection of the Grimms' fairy tales. While most of the review is about the translation, the choice of text, etc., one paragraph offers some tantalizing ideas about fiction, with Kleist's novella Michael Kohlhaas as a key.

For the sake of context, at least, it's worth noting how Josipovici leads up to Kleist. First, a few sentences about belief and storytelling are important:...what we are witnessing in the transformation of the tales is a phenomenon that has analogues in other times and places. ... We see it in the Jewish tradition in the transformation of biblical narratives into Midrash. God calls Abraham. Why? The Bible does not say. But Jewish…

The Rivers of War by Eric Flint

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Below is the next in a series of guest reviews. Our reviewer this time is Nick Mamatas, author of Move Under Ground, Northern Gothic, 3000 Miles Per Hour in Every Direction at Once, and editor of The Urban Bizarre.

Another Chance To Get It Right: Eric Flint's The Rivers of War
a guest review by Nick Mamatas


Despite decades of reading, I was fooled by one of the oldest tricks in, or rather on, the book. The Rivers of War by Eric Flint (Ballantine, $25.95) bamboozled me with misleading cover copy; specifically, regarding during the War of 1812:
What if--at this critical moment--bonds were forged between men of different races and tribes? What if the Cherokee clans were able to muster an integrated front, and the U.S. government faced a united Indian nation bolstered by escaping slaves, freed men of color, and even influential white allies? What if, indeed? Unfortunately, The Rivers of War is not a book that explores these questions. Eric Flint was a breath of fresh air in his earlier…

You're Traveling Through an Anticlimactic Dimension

At McSweeney's, Jim Stallard offers some anticlimactic Twilight Zone episodes. A quick, amusing read, of which my favorite episode is:Ghost War

During maneuvers near the site of Custer's Last Stand, three National Guardsmen find themselves plunged into the Battle of Little Big Horn. After the men radio for help, the cowboys and Indians are forcibly removed and security is beefed up in the area.All seem to be based on actual episodes, of which this one would be "The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms" from the fifth season.

(via Gravity Lens)

Woken Furies by Richard Morgan

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Below is the next in an ongoing series of guest reviews. Our reviewer this time is Meghan McCarron, whose work has appeared in Strange Horizons and is upcoming in the anthology Twenty Epics. She's an alum of Clarion West '04 and recently graduated from Wesleyan University as a film major. She lives, for the moment, in Los Angeles.

Woken Furies was released in the U.K. in March and will be released in the U.S. in October.



Woken Furies by Richard Morgan
a guest review by Meghan McCarron


I have a love/hate relationship with military SF, and judging from all the political hemming and hawing in Woken Furies, so does Richard K. Morgan. And yes, even though the book is being marketed as neo-noir, I would classify it as military SF. It's got much more in common with Three Kings than L.A. Confidential.

Woken Furies is the third book in a series featuring Takeshi Kovacs, ex-UN commando with a flair for violence, some serious emotional issues, and a swagger Philip Marlowe (or Han Sol…

Worst Last Lines

Jeff VanderMeer has come up with a new contest -- inspired by the Bulwer-Lytton Contest for the worst first lines, Jeff is offering some money and books for the worst last line.

I'm working on something involving freshwater squid, evil monkeys, George W. Bush, and RuPaul....

Dead in the West by Joe R. Lansdale

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Below is the latest in an ongoing series of guest reviews. Our reviewer this time is Jon Hansen, and this is, he says, the first review he's written since writing a fifth-grade book report on Stephen R. Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane.


Dead in the West by Joe R. Lansdale
a guest review by Jon Hansen


Dead in the West is Joe R. Lansdale's genre-blending "Zombie Western," the literary equivalent of George Romero making a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Dead in the West first came out in 1986; this 2005 edition from Night Shade Books apparently is a revision. How it differs from the original release, I cannot say, except the intro calls the first "a tribute to the pulps, especially Weird Tales," and this new edition adds on homages to comics like Jonah Hex and horror movie classics like Billy the Kid versus Dracula. Which suggests plenty of blood, guts, the undead, and possibly some sex, in other words.

And in this, Dead in the West does not disappoint.…