Neil Gaiman reads chapter 1 of his newly released novel, The Graveyard Book, an excerpt from the audiobook. Shh! Listen…
Archive for September, 2008
REVIEW SUMMARY: This is a very readable anthology despite my usual aversion to history.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of 15 original alternate-history mystery stories.
PROS: Alternate history and mystery are two good genres that taste good together.
CONS: My own ambivalence towards history made the stories that emphasized it less enjoyable.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthwhile anthology for alternate history lovers and mystery lovers alike.
I was never a student of history. It always bored me. It wasn’t until I ran across engaging alternate history stories in science fiction anthologies that I took a mildly active interest. Admittedly it was limited to Googling for the true history to better understand the fictional one, but even so, the sub-genre of alternate history intrigued me.
In his illuminating introduction to Sideways in Crime, an anthology of alternate-history mystery stories, Lou Anders sheds some light on why that might be. It has to do with another genre I like: mystery. Anders makes a compelling case for both alternate history and mystery being close genre cousins since both engage the reader by dropping clues that explain the world or plot. He’s right. There is an added appeal to these stories for being two-pronged mysteries that reward careful reading.
That tasty blend is not necessarily a sure-fire formula for success, though. Like any anthology, this one has some hits and misses. The ones that didn’t work so well for me were the ones that put the emphasis on the history instead of the mystery – an impression that is probably a holdover from days of long and dreadful history lessons in school.
Be that as it may, there were plenty of enjoyable stories here. Two of them stood out as being exceptional: “Via Vortex” by John Meaney and “Murder in Geektopia” by Paul Di Filippo. These stories went one step further than just offering up an alternate history and a mystery. They also mixed in some more traditional science fictional elements and for me, that made all the difference between a good story and a great one.
Individual story reviews follow…
Here’s a bunch of links to recently-free fiction (too much for a tidbits post!), courtesy of eagle eyes over at QuasarDragon
- @Munseys: The Fire People by Ray Cumming (1922).
- Gwyneth Jones has posted an extract of Spirit: Or, The Princess Of Bois Dormant. [via MobileRead]
- @Subterranean: “Mirror of Fiery Brightness” by Chris Roberson (part 1 of a new Celestial Empire story)
- @Polu Texni: “Collapse” by Michael A. Burstein.
- Lilith Saintcrow is serializing her novel Selene, here’s Part 18.
- @Hub Magazine: “We. They.” by Dave Hoing.
- @Strange Horizons: “Kimberley Ann Duray Is Not Afraid” by Leah Bobet.
- Anil Aggrawal has a collection of forensic Science Fiction stories online. [via Variety SF]
- @Fantasy Magazine:
- Audio Fiction:
- @Escape Pod: “How The World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth” by Rachel Swirsky, read by Frank Key.
- @Escape Pod: “Usurpers” by Derek Zumsteg, read by Stephen Eley.
- @PodCastle: “The Fable of the Ostrich” by Peter S. Beagle, read by Stephen Eley.
- @Maria Lectrix: Parts Three and Four of “Code Three” by Rick Raphael, read by Maureen O’ Brien.
- @Beam Me Up: Episode 123 with Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Evil Robot Monkey” read by the author and Frederic Brown’s “Earthmen Bearing Gifts” read by Dave Tackett
- @Beam Me Up: Part One of “Uxo Bomb Dog” by Eliot Fintushel, read by Paul Cole.
- @Librivox: Ghost Story Collection Volume 006 by Robert Howard and other authors, read by many readers
- @Clonepod: “Inside Every Successful Man” by Gareth D. Jones, read by Patty Kim.
- @Chatterbox Audio: Part Two of Jules Verne’s “Master Zacharius” directed by Robert Arnold.
- @Variant Frequencies: “All The Time” by Anne Stringer, read by Marck Pearlstone.
- @SciFi Wire, Star Trek:TOS scribe D.C. Fontana picks her favorite Star Trek episodes, including ones written by Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, and David Gerrold.
- Interviews & Profiles:
- @Bibliophile Stalker: Mur Lafferty (Playing for Keeps).
- Meanwhile, Mur Lafferty interviews Connie Willis (part 1).
- @Whatever: Kenneth Hite (Tour de Lovecraft).
- @Polu Texni: Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future).
- @Genreville: Tobias S. Buckell (Sly Mongoose).
- @Enter the Octopus: Mike Allen, editor of Clockwork Phoenix.
- Charlie Stross says: “We are living in interesting times; in fact, they’re so interesting that it is not currently possible to write near-future SF.”
- “Censorship is a terrible thing. So thank goodness it never works, says Philip Pullman.” [via Bookninja]
- H.P. Lovecraft Had a Sense of Humor.
- Samuel L. Jackson did voice work for the Afro Samurai video game, which is based on the animated series that he produces and also voices.
- Shaun Farrell looks at The First Wave of Podcast Novelists.
- In October, the Beyond Reality discussion group will be talking about Singer of Souls by Adam Stemple and Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell and will be joined by the authors.
- Paolo Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) asks: Should Fiction Writers Write About Politics? One reader says, “Do you think authors blogging about their views on the election can undercut their fiction? It is very difficult to experience the fiction of Orson Scott Card or John Scalzi the same way after reading their political posts.”
- Literacy outreach: Stormtroopers and Cybermen to teach reading.
- Bored? Make a stormtrooper helmet out of paper. OK, maybe you’re not that bored.
- io9 lists The 12 Coolest Deaths In Science Fiction History.
Here are the books we received this past week.
Fun games you can play:
- Rate the book covers!
- Tell us which books pique your interest!
- Tell us about past reading experiences with any of these authors!
(Note: The last three are final copies of books for which we received advanced copies).
- Free Fiction: Gwyneth Jones has posted a PDF version of her book, Bold As Love. [via Futurismic]
- Jay Lake shows off the cover for Alembical, an anthology of four novellas by Lake, Bruce Taylor, Jim van Pelt, and Ray Vukcevich.
- Jason W. Ellis at Dynamic Subspace considers David Foster Wallace, Philip K. Dick, and Transgressive Parody: “Is PKD like Wallace in respect to the concept of ‘transgressive parody’…? How does PKD move beyond parody?”
- James Wallace Harris looks at Future History and Science Fiction in which he looks at some of the technologies s”promised” by science fiction.
- Steven Harper Piziks on ePublishing: “Electronic publishing is the future! Embrace e-publishing! Paper is dead! You publishers are idiots, ignoring this new market! Please.”
- Cat Rambo on writing groups: “Bearing in mind that everything I say may be wrong for you, writing groups can be pretty useful — if it’s a good group.”
- Dear Abby on the joys of reading: “…while history, science fiction, mysteries and romance provide a wealth of diversion, reading provides far more than just an escape.”
- Full Contact Christianity looks at Theological Science Fiction and the Fall of Satan: “Theologians love to speculate. The problem arises when they begin to think of their speculations as fact — and especially when they begin to convince laymen that their speculations are fact.” [via Planet-x]
- From a SciFi Standpoint lists The Top 5 imaginary literary works from science fiction.
- Mike Brotherton implores writers of SF TV and movies who are adapting SF stories to not add some sort of ‘societal message’. There’s a reason the story is good, adding a message can only muck it up.
- BuddyTV gives us 5 steps for success for Knight Rider. After seeing the series premier, I don’t think success is in the cards.
- Aaron Douglas supposedly spills some heavy duty spoilers about the ending episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Could be cool, depending on how they do it, if this is true.
- Kristin from E! Online has a bunch of spoilers for Heroes season 3 and boy, if they don’t convince you Heroes is a soap opera, nothing will.
- Is Fringe already too predictable? I’d have to agree so far with the thesis…
- Check out this cool Cylon Raider Artisan Replica from Quantum Mechanix, and all for just a tad under $1k.
- And finally, here’s Amanda Tapping talking about the upcoming Sci Fi Channel series, Sanctuary:
Follow the link for the rest!
Matt Selman offers A Moral Guide to Online Book Buying, in which he says:
The sticky question is this: when you buy a book online, you must ask yourself, “Who needs the money more — the author or the bookstore?”
Authors deserve to be paid for their work, but America’s independent bookstores are dying. When you buy a NEW book on Amazon, a royalty is paid to the author, and the rest of the money goes to the publisher and Amazon. When you buy a USED copy from a network of independent book sellers, like Alibris or AbeBooks or even Amazon Marketplace, the store gets (almost) all the money — and the author gets nothing.
Yes, ’tis a sticky question indeed. That’s why I steal books.
How about you? Do you think about author compensation when you buy books online?
This week Dan tries to protect a witness from certain death. However, armed with knowledge of the future, Dan and Livia ensure things turn out how they are ‘supposed’ to, and Dan’s actions in the past start to intrude on present day time.
- Concept Sci-fi interviews Gareth L. Powell (The Last Reef).
- Theodore Judson’s The Martian General’s Daughter was again featured on Stargate: Atlantis.
- How SciFi Channel Twittered Its Way to 3,000 Fans.
- @Geekend lists The Worst TV Science Fiction Shows.
- The International Society of Supervillains lists 9 Grossly Underrated Supervillains.
Chakotay pulls a Green Lantern…
[via Poe TV]
- John Scalzi shows off the cool cover of Metatropolis, an audio fiction compilation featuring Elizabeth Bear, Toby Buckell, Jay Lake, Karl Schroeder, and Scalzi himself.
- Interviews & Profiles:
- Free Excerpts:
- SciFi Scanner asks: What Weapon Is the Deadliest in SciFi? (No, Waterworld is not a valid choice. Hi-yo!)
- Tor.com debuts the web comic Better Zombies Through Physics.
- Quip-of-the-Week award goes to John Brownlee: “A long time ago, in a bathtub far, far away….” in reference to these Star Wars ducks. (Not to be confused with My Little Star Wars Ponies.)
What kind of freaky stuff is the Riddler into? You be the judge…
[via Poe TV]
- DreamWorks has acquired the film rights to John Wyndham’s Chocky. “Steven Spielberg is said to be keen to make the adaptation his next directing project.” [via Locus Online]
- An I Am Legend prequel starring Will Smith is being planned. Topless Robot is not amused.
- At SciFi Scanner, John Scalzi talks about SciFi film music.
- Damien G. Walter Guardian piece, Science fiction doesn’t have to be gloomy, does it?, gets responses from Kathryn Cramer and Lou Anders.
- The Guardian interviews Peter F. Hamilton (The Void trilogy).
- io9 interviews Diane Duane [via SciFi Scanner]
- Free Excerpt: Sly Mongoose, Chapter Two by Tobias Buckell.
- Via Boing Boing: The Sorted Books project makes stories from book spine text.
- Tor shows the progression of Todd Lockwood’s artwork for Tom Lloyd’s Stormcaller.
- Pawel D. writes in to tell us that Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is being adapted as a stage play in Poland.
- Vote in this year’s SFX Awards!
- Just in case you were wondering…Nicole Richie Totally Looks Like A Sleestak. [OpticalPoptitude]
For those users who have been using Internet Explorer to read SF Signal, it seems that the Google book Preview widget we posted yesterday causes IE to crash.
That post has been updated. Apologies for the inconvenience.
And a pox on Google! A pox, I say!
Thanks to loyal Reader/Spell-checker/Trivia-Master/Fanboy Fred K. for alerting us
- Interviews and Profiles:
- Free Fiction @Starship Sofa: “The Seventeenth Kind” by Michael Marshall Smith.
- The Guardian asks: Science fiction doesn’t have to be gloomy, does it? “The challenge for writers of science fiction today is not to repeat the same dire warnings we have all already heard, or to replicate the naive visions of the genres golden age, but to create visions of the future people can believe in.”
- Science Fiction: A Defense of the Genre. “To assigning genre fiction to “low-brow” and literary fiction to “high-brow” is a means of controlling the context in which the work is received and therefore the importance it should have in the minds of the readers.”
- Frank Herbert does poetry: “Carthage: Reflections of a Martian“. [via Marooned]
- Author and teacher James Van Pelt has evidence that high school kids are reading for pleasure.
- Vote Nurglon in 2008!
- Do you Know Your Spock?
BenBella Books has just released a new book about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stories entitled The Turtle Moves!: Discworld’s Story Unauthorized, written by author Lawrence Watt-Evans. It’s part reference guide and part commentary, and all written in Watt-Evans’ humorous style. We have one copy to give away to a lucky reader, but we’re going to do something a little different. This time, we’re going to make you work, a little, to win.
Mr. Watt-Evans, as a part of publicizing his book, is available to us to answer SF Signal reader questions. This will happen in a later post, but first, we need questions. That’s where you come in. You see, you get to ask the questions that Mr. Watt-Evans will answer. As you might guess the contest rules involve you sending us questions. So, the rules are:
- Enter a question you’d like Mr. Watt-Evans to answer in the comments to this post. One question only per person but it can be about anything Discworld or Watt-Evans (stories, writings, etc).
- This contest will run for one week, through Oct. 1st, at which point we’ll close the comments and pick a winner.
Once done, we’ll collect the questions and send a selection off to Mr. Watt-Evans for him to answer. You’re question does not have to be selected for you to win. Everyone who submits a question will be entered.
So get to asking and good luck!
Next year, “Everyone Will Finally Be Equal”.
That’s the tag line for 2081, a short film version of Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron”.
This is not the first adaptation, though. In 1995, Showtime aired a star-studded version of “Harrison Bergeron”, which you can watch right here. It is described thusly:
Welcome to the future. It’s a no-brainer. “All men are not created equal. It is the purpose of the Government to make them so.” This is the premise of the Showtime film adaption of Kurt Vonnegut’s futuristic short story Harrison Bergeron. The film centers around a young man (Harrison) who is smarter than his peers, and is not affected by the usual “Handicapping” which is used to train all Americans so everyone is of equal intelligence.
[via Jesse Willis of SFF Audio]