All posts by Fabio Fernandes

Fabio Fernandes is an SFF writer living in São Paulo, Brazil. He has several stories published in online venues in the US, the UK, New Zealand, Portugal, Romenia, and Brazil. He also contributed to Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's Steampunk II:Steampunk Reloaded, Southern Weirdo: Reconstruction, and The Apex Book of World SF Vol. 2.

2013: A Short Review

2013 was a good year to me. On the story front, the first semester wasn’t a strong one; too much work at my day job at the university (and the non-stop work translating SF works from English to Brazilian Portuguese) prompted me to create a blog just to jot down a few unfiltered thoughts in the form of flash fiction. Narrative Textures had a very brief life – 3 or 4 months tops, I guess; I saved the cache but I deleted the blog, so I don’t have the precise number.

It was a lifesaver, though – it helped me to keep focus through a rough patch in my personal life. It was a year for trying to achieve some peace of mind, and writing was part of the process. But I wasn’t aiming at anything in particular then: I had no stories published in any venue in 2013, but until May I had written at least thirty pieces of flash fiction or fragments of larger stories. It was good practice. Because the next step would be the best and the hardest.
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MIND MELD: The Influence of “The Princess Bride” on Today’s Writers

Today’s Mind Meld was suggested by Orbit’s publicist. [Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

The movie The Princess Bride is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. Next year, by the way, the William Goldman novel that inspired it will turn 40, another landmark to be celebrated by fans worldwide.

So, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How has The Princess Bride influenced today’s fantasy writers?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the New York Times, USA Today and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the immensely popular Morganville Vampires series, the Weather Warden series, and the Outcast Season series.

The Princess Bride was the first movie I’d seen that was able to take fantasy, give it a gorgeous look and feel, add a snarky, humorous edge and NOT fall over into broad comedy … the jokes were razor sharp, the acting was brilliant, the fencing was Old Hollywood fantastic. And let’s face it, who among us hasn’t said, “Have fun storming the castle!” or, “Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!” … or, my personal favorite, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya …”

In fact, I think Inigo Montoya formed the basis of what I wanted in a character — someone with a tragic past, a sense of humor, a wicked talent for mayhem, and the ability, when the moment of truth came, to shed all of that and convey the fury and passion inside.

It was a watershed for much that came after its release — suddenly, writers in fantasy felt free of the old constraints. Fantasy could be epic without being humorless, and it could be funny without falling into slapstick. It set a solid middle course that allowed fantasy to be seen as thrilling, funny and romantic all at the same time — a feat that Joss Whedon would repeat years later for the paranormal genre.

It’s quite simply my favorite fantasy movie of all time. So excuse me, but I need to go watch it again …
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MIND MELD: Science Fiction Biographies We Would Like to See Published

[Today’s Mind Meld was suggested by an SF Signal reader, Gary Farber, who is here among our guests. Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

In the past couple of years, we have seen the appearance of at the least two important biographies of Science Fiction writers, the first volume of Robert Patterson’s work on Robert A. Heinlein (Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve) and Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, a sort of complement to Weller’s biography, published in 2006. But there are so many writers out there, living and dead, whose lives we would have loved to know a bit more so we maybe could feel the same feeling of closeness we use to feel when we are reading their stories.

So, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: Which figure in the history of the creation of science fiction, living or dead, would you most like to see the next thorough biography of?

Here’s what they said…

John Joseph Adams
John Joseph Adams is the bestselling editor of many anthologies, such as Other Worlds Than These, Armored, Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom, Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, The Living Dead, The Living Dead 2, By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard. John is a four-time finalist for the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award, and he has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble. John is also the editor of Lightspeed Magazine and the new horror magazine, Nightmare, which launches October 1. In addition to his editorial projects, John is the co-host of’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. His next anthology, Epic: Legends of Fantasy, comes out in November. Forthcoming in December is a revised and expanded second edition of his critically-acclaimed anthology, Brave New Worlds, and then, in February, Tor will publish his anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. For more information, visit his website at, and you can find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.

I’d love to see a biography of Alfred Bester. I don’t know if his life was interesting enough to warrant one, but I do know that he left his literary estate to his bartender when he died, and anyone who does something like that had to have had SOME good real-life stories. (Apparently the bartender didn’t know what to do with the estate, and as a result Bester’s work was out of print for several years, until Byron Preiss rescued it and brought it back to light in the 90s.) Bester also wrote Green Lantern for a while, and created the oft-quoted Green Lantern oath, when he was writing the comic, though I don’t know if there would be any interesting stories surrounding that or his time writing comics. A few years ago, I went on a big Bester kick — I’d gone back to read though his ouvre more completely, and re-read The Stars My Destination (my favorite novel). Then, sometime later, I read the brilliant Tiptree biography by Julie Phillips, and that’s when I first conceived of this desire to read a Bester biography. Given there wasn’t one, I went on a bit of a scavenger hunt, tracking down all the information about Bester I could find, not just online, but in old magazines and the like–looking for interviews or anything that talked about the man himself, as opposed to just his fiction. I never did find much indication that there’d be enough good material to make a biography, but still I wish there was one (or perhaps that Bester had been as interesting in life as his fiction was).

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MIND MELD: Non-Anglo Presence in the Hugo Awards – Is it Possible?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This year’s Hugo award ceremony was a very interesting one, regarding gender and ethnicity. Most of the winners were women (congratulations to E. Lily Yu for the Campbell, and Maurine Starkey, Ursula Vernon, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, Catherynne M. Valente, Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, Betsy Wollheim, Sheila Williams, Charlie Jane Anders, Kij Johnson and Jo Walton) and the Short Story winner, Ken Liu, is of Asian extraction, so maybe we can safely say the fandom has finally reached a point where writers are finally being voted for the sheer quality of their work instead of their sex or their color? Even if it’s too early to tell, things are seemingly going in the right direction regarding this matter – but there are still many things to assess. One of them is the virtually invisible presence of non-Anglo writers in the Hugo Awards (also in other Awards, but hey, this is Hugo week, so let’s talk Hugo as a symbol of all the other awards in Anglosphere).

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: Do you think the Hugo Awards nominations are underrepresented by non-Anglo writers? Do you think it’s something to care about? If you care, what do you think could be done to change the current state of affairs?

Here’s what they said…

Berit Ellingsen
Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in Unstuck, Coffinmouth, Rocket Science, elimae,SmokeLong Quarterly, Metazen and other literary journals and anthologies. Two of her stories received an honorable mention by Ellen Datlow for Best Horror of the Year Volume 4. Berit’s novel, The Empty City (, is a story about silence. Her short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, will be published by firthFORTH Books at the end of 2012.

I looked through the list of Hugo nominations for the last 10 years and the only nominations of work from outside of the Anglophone countries (the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) were the movies Spirited Away (nominated in 2003) and Pan’s Labyrinth (nominated in 2007).

Is that because translated work is not commercially viable, lacks popular appeal or literary quality? Some of the biggest commercial successes in recent years outside of SF/F have been translated work, such as Stieg Larsson’s or Jo Nesbø’s crime fiction, and Per Petterson’s literary fiction. Not to mention the imaginative work of Haruki Murakami, who is currently favorite for the Nobel Prize in literature. Hence, that conclusion does not seem to be correct.

Perhaps the lack of nominated translated work reflects the lack of translated work published in English SF/F in general. I find this problematic because that leaves literally a whole world of fiction with long traditions in the imaginary and fantastic, such as the Scandinavian, Japanese, Mongolian, Eastern European, African, to mention a few, largely inaccessible to English-speaking readers. I say this as a writer whose biggest influences have been translated work, from Scandinavia, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Korea and Japan, as well as the Anglophone world. Without translations, there would have been little access to those works. (I write in English myself, my stories are not translations from Norwegian.)

Also, in what ways will reading or knowing works only from your own culture and language skew your perception of the rest of the world?

As has been discussed in other Mind Melds, translations and the flow of culture follows the general lines of political and financial dominance, from the English-speaking nations to the non-English, and from the industrialized countries to the developing countries, and much less frequently in the opposite direction.

It’s therefore very refreshing to see that some editors, such as Jeff VanderMeer and Nick Mamatas, are presenting translated fiction from outside of the English-speaking nations. Maybe that’s what’s needed for translated work to catch on in SF/F; more translated work published, a higher degree of exposure, more visibility, more magazines being open for submissions of translated work, so that translations become something familiar instead of something strange.

I find this important, because reading or watching a story from outside of one’s own country and becoming acquainted with the fears and hopes of other cultures and other people, might be one of the easiest and most direct ways in today’s conflicted world that we can truly get to know one another beyond the grating of economic and political differences and sensationalist news.

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MIND MELD: Ticklish Subjects in SF

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Is there any subject science fiction hasn’t turned its eyes (or feelers, or antennae) to? Maybe not, but with the passage of time, habits change, mores change, worldviews change, new writers come to the fore bringing new questions, or new ways of asking old questions. There is always a flavor of the month, a subgenre favored by media or by writer’s movements now and then (cyberpunks and steampunks promptly come to mind, but we can also think of the New Weird and New Space Opera, to name just very, very few). On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are always delicate subjects, things that don’t give themselves easily to scrutiny, for a variety of reasons.

Bearing this in mind, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What are, in your opinion, the themes and subjects which science fiction never have delved into properly but should have? (sex, politics, religion, sports may be part of this list – or not) Is there an author or story in particular which you feel has treated said subject in the right way and could be an example to be followed among new writers?

Here’s what they said…

Nick Mamatas
Nick Mamatas is the author of several novels, including Sensation, and Bullettime. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction,, New Haven Review, and many other venues. As an editor and anthologist, he has been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and the Bram Stoker awards. His most recent anthology, The Future is Japanese, co-edited with Masumi Washington, is available now.

In a field as wide as SF, surely any mention of a taboo topic will only lead to someone appearing with a copy of a ragged pulp magazine from 1937 to declare, “Aha! You forgot this story! It’s been covered! We need never discuss this again!” But a few things come to mind.

SF in the US has long been a propaganda wing for, inexplicably, both the libertarian movement and US space program. A contradiction, to say the least, but it’s a contradiction that can be papered over by contending that both small-government classical liberalism and enormous government expenditure with military and propaganda purposes are part of the broader narrative of “Americanism.” It is quintessentially American to be a rugged individual, and to have a giant technocratic apparatus to project and extend this individualism. And there is plenty of SF in which America fragments, or collapses, or it superseded, but this is only rarely if ever depicted as a positive good for the world—despite very many people outside of the US who would be pleased if the country, or at least its political power on the world scene, went poof tomorrow. So the happy circumstance of an American implosion is one taboo that comes to mind, though the lack of SF with this theme might just be a case of writers and publishers knowing where their bread is buttered.

In Japanese SF, where the bread is buttered on the other side, the US occasionally shuffles off the scene to allow for a realistic near-future in which Japan predominates, but a lot of Japanese SF also features Japanese characters collaborating with friendly American rivals/partners. One book that approaches the happy end-of-America theme is Genocidal Organ by Project Itoh, which we just released over at Haikasoru.

Another issue not much talked about is the philosophy of science. In SF, it seems to stop with Kuhn. There’s not much discussion of Feyerabend or others of his ilk. Perhaps everything after Kuhn was nonsense, but at least we could expect to see some brickbats leveled at them then. Instead, SF seems happy to shoot spitballs at scientific non-entities like “young Earth” creationists. Kiddie stuff. SF writers and fans often prize their own rationality, but many of them are just mere rationalists.

Finally, the biggest taboo has nothing to do with content, but rather than form. The very notion that there is such a thing as good writing and bad writing, rather than just stuff some people like and others don’t, is looked at with a lot of skepticism in SF circles. It’s a taboo to valorize quality writing, or to claim that there is such a thing as a good reader, and a poor reader.

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INTERVIEW: Kim Stanley Robinson on 2312, Mars and Climate Change

Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer best known for his Mars trilogy. His novels delve into ecological and sociological themes regularly. In his latest novel, 2312 (reviewed here), Robinson takes us across the Solar System to investigate the destruction of a habitation on Mercury and its unfolding consequences that ripple through human occupied space (hollowed asteroids working as spaceships-cum-biospheres included) from the neighborhoods of the Sun to Saturn. As always, but most pointedly since the Mars Trilogy, Robinson does a masterful job describing the ecosystems and all the massive work required to build them – and keep working.

One of the most important SF writers of the world, and one of the most interested in investigating the impact of ecological changes in our world and beyond, he was kind enough to take a quick break from his vacation to answer a few questions, not about his books (even though there are many literary questions we wanted to ask), but about ecology and climate, two pivotal subjects not only for worldbuilding, but for surviving, here and in other planets.

Fabio Fernandes: Did you follow the discussions of the Rio+20 conference? What are your impressions on it? (If not particularly Rio+20, what conferences on environment have you followed via the press – or even participated personally?)

Kim Stanley Robinson: My impression is that there is a fading media interest in environment and climate change, that these crucial issues have been normalized in a sense and are now not considered as important to report, even as they become more important to our lives.  They are also not something politicians want to talk about, as the money controlling politics does not want them discussed.

There are big advances being made in materials sciences and design based on ecological principles that suggest we can successfully deal with the huge problems we have created, so the actual project of decarbonizing and dealing with our environmental impacts more generally are ongoing and worth celebrating and intensifying, but we live in a stupidified media and political culture that insists on focusing on trivial matters, and regarding this big question with a mixture of ignorance and apocalyptic thinking.  In parts of the culture this has created a Gotterdamerung mentality that has given up even trying, and indeed wants to increase the destruction as part of its denial of reality, which is profound and at the base of their philosophy.  There are also big financial interests at stake, and when shareholder value is the only value, general destruction (including of shareholder value itself) is the result.  Also, the carbon industry is well-funded and in its own interest will impede any progress on this front.  So it is a very confused moment, with much to celebrate in terms of real progress in the sciences and humanities, but much to worry about in the world of economics and politics.  It sets up a kind of race or struggle between different human groups, and the scientific-ecological group must win, for the sake of future generations.

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MIND MELD: Ecological Science Fiction

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

The recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio 2012 or Rio+20, where the heads of state of 192 governments discussed sustainable development and declared their commitment to the promotion of a sustainable future, has – even if for a short while – galvanized the media attention. Science fiction, however, has never turned its back on ecology, being a constant theme, growing strong particularly in the past few years, with authors ranging from the master ecothinker Kim Stanley Robinson to younger and prolific Paolo Bacigalupi, all focusing in strategies to survival of humankind under a grim scenario of climate change.

So, we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: With all the debates on global warming, the constant fear that we may be running scarce of basic resources such as potable water in the near future, what is science fiction’s role in this panorama? What are your favorite SFnal scenarios for problem-solving regarding the maintenance and sustainability of ecosystems, if any? Is there any scenario science fiction could be exploring better with relation to ecology?

Here’s what they said…

Tobias Buckell
Tobias S. Buckell was born in the Caribbean and lived on a yacht until he moved to the US. He writes science fiction. His latest novel, Arctic Rising, is out from Tor Books. He lives online at

Is potable water really that huge of a threat, I wonder? I think my background actually plays into my answer here. I spent my high school years in exactly the sort of dystopia that people posit when talking about ‘peak water’ or ‘water wars.’ In St. Thomas, USVI, the sole spring doesn’t produce much in the way of potable water for the 150,000 or so people on the island at any given time (residents plus tourists). As a result, water is made using reverse osmosis from the ocean. There’s a lot of ocean in the world, well over some 1 billion cubic kilometers. What happens is price. The reverse osmosis system requires energy (in St. Thomas it’s diesel power, so the whole edifice of being able to drink there requires fossil fuels) to be created, and the cost of water I grew up using was $65 per 1,000 gallons, versus $1.50 in Ohio for the very same amount. I grew up with water costing 50 times what it does in the US. What does it do? Well, it changes your conservation behavior, for one. I remember reading in the papers that Californians were in a drought, and being told to limit their showers to ‘fifteen minutes’ and laughing. Who the hell took fifteen minute showers? That shit was expensive.

But even at over 50 times the cost, we didn’t don our Mad Max American Football-inspired leather uniforms and head out to do battle. There were water trucks, more conservation, more awareness of water use, and lots of clever human hacks around the situation (roofs that collected rain, cisterns, etc). People are clever.

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MIND MELD: Has Space Opera Lost Its Luster?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Late last year, after John Ottinger wrote a passionate review of John C. Wright’s Count to a Trillion, he was asked by Tor Books publicist Cassandra Ammerman on twitter about why, in his opinion, Space Opera, hadn’t gone more mainstream, like steampunk? (her words.) The question made sense: since Steampunk was The Next Big Thing a few years ago and apparently still hasn’t begun to lose its (steam) power, should science fiction writers and readers worry about its predominance as a subgenre in detriment of Space Opera, even with many new novels fresh in the market?

So, we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: With the growing success of Steampunk in recent years, is Space Opera losing its appeal as a subgenre?

Here’s what they said…

Mary Turzillo
Mary Turzillo‘s Nebula winner, “Mars Is No Place for Children,” and her novel An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl, (Analog) have been selected as recreational reading on the International Space Station. Her work has appeared in Electric Velocipede, Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Cat Tales, Space and Time, The Vampire Archives, Goblin Fruit, New Verse News, Strange Horizons, and F&SF. Her Nebula finalist, “Pride,” appears in Tails of Wonder and Mystery.

How could anybody think space opera was losing its appeal when we have such stellar practitioners as Iain Banks, Walter Jon Williams, and Lois McMaster Bujold? What I like is that space opera is a big pie-in-the-face to the mundane science fiction movement. Space opera just outright says, so what, it’s unrealistic, it violates the laws of physics, but it’s heart-racingly imaginative (Ooooh, that Culture), so get used to it. And every time I sit down to a really great space opera (a good place to start is that gorgeungous anthology, edited by Kathryn Cramer and David Hartwell, THE SPACE OPERA RENAISSANCE), I feel that I’m going back to my fannish roots — this is how SF started. Think big. Think romantic!

But steampunk is an alluring contender: Tobias Buckell does both genres with all kinds of sparkle. But think of Cheri Priest and even Cory Doctorow. The one appeal steampunk has is the visual: there are whole catalogs featuring steampunk clothing (The Pyramid Collection). Last time I went to my optometrist, I was just so dismayed that he didn’t have any goggles with funny gears on the side. Soon everybody will be wanting steampunk sunglasses. And then there are movies like HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and HUGO. This isn’t all that new, really; a very stylish 90’s TV show, THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR. is an early contender. Oh, heck, let’s even go back to WILD, WILD WEST. How many fans watched that and said to themselves, “Well, what is this all about? Western? SF?”

As for me, why do I have to choose? I’ll take both, thank you very much, by the bushel! Continue reading

MIND MELD: How to Write Science Fiction on a Post-Colonial World?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

In recent years, the ascension of several former Third World countries to a better economical and geopolitical standing (the best example of which are the like the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) has been slowly but steadily bringing a change of paradigms in the way science fiction sees the world. Could it be that novels like Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Wind-Up Girl, Ian McDonald’s Brasyl and The Dervish House, to name just a few, are some of the harbingers of this change? Or, as their authors are Western in origin and haven’t lived in the countries they portrayed, would they still be focusing on the so-called exotic aspect of foreign countries and therefore failing to see the core of these cultures?

We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: How do you Write Science Fiction on a Post-Colonial World? Do you think belonging to a Non-Western culture is essential to write a really good, convincing story about it? Is being an outsider to the culture you want to write about, an enriching or impoverishing experience (or doesn’t it matter in the end)?

Here’s what they said…

Joyce Chng
Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction (SFF) and YA fiction. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, Semaphore Magazine, Bards and Sages Quarterly and Everyday Fiction. Her urban fantasy novels Wolf At The Door and Obsidian Moon, Obsidian Eye (written as J. Damask) are published by Lyrical Press. Her short story “The Sound Of Breaking Glass” is side by side with luminaries in The Apex Book of World SFF vol II. Her blog is found at A Wolf’s Tale. She wrangles kids and promises she is still normal.

I have to disagree, though a writer from a non-Western culture might understand the nuances of being a post-colonial writer better.

A Western writer who wants to write a convincing story has so many opportunities at his or her fingertips. Thanks to globalization, we have access to the Internet, the chance to talk to people living in non-western countries via a plethora of tools and gosh, libraries. Accessing information now is so easy, so simple – many do not even have to step out of their rooms. At the same time, you can ask a friend who is from the said culture(s) you are writing about to vet it. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Research. Let it be an enriching experience. Worldbuilding does not emerge out of the ether nor do you pluck it out of thin air.

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INTERVIEW: Some Thoughts on Post-Colonialism and Politics in SF with Djibril al-Ayad, Editor of “The Future Fire” Magazine

Djibril al-Ayad is general editor of The Future Fire, an online magazine of social-political speculative fiction. In the past, TFF published themed issues on Feminist SF and Queer SF, and two guest-edited, themed anthologies are currently in development: Outlaw Bodies, themed around trans, queer and disability issues with a cyberpunk flavor, edited by Lori Selke; and We See a Different Frontier, which will publish colonialism-themed stories from outside of the white, anglo, first-world perspective, edited by this interviewer (which was missing from this site in the past few months mostly due to this project).

The story of We See a Different Frontier is already too long to be told in an introduction to an interview. To learn more about it, I strongly recommend you read:

I decided to interview Djibril not just because of the project, but for all the great job The Future Fire has been doing tackling *ticklish subjects*, in the words of Slavoj Zizek: the outsider, the perceived minorities, the voiceless. That was the reason I approached him in the first place to propose the abovementioned anthology. Because he cares. With you, Djibril al-Ayad:

Fabio Fernandes: First of all, Djibril al-Ayad is not your birth name. I’m not going to ask you your former name, but I’m curious to know why you chose this particular name, and what meaning (linguistic, social, political) it has in your life?
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E-Libris: My Smartphone is More Than a Phone

I use my smartphone a lot, and not as a phone.

That much is pretty obvious, isn’t it? I haven’t read any recent research about smartphones, but the last one I remember reading was already pointing out that its users are now doing more texting, tweeting and browsing on them than making calls.

That’s my case.

I use my smartphone more and more to do all the NCS (non-calling stuff) – and reading is in the forefront.

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REVIEW: Flashback by Dan Simmons

REVIEW SUMMARY: A dark, wry “post-fall-of-the-US” novel set in the near future.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An ex-detective-turned-drug-addict gets a chance of redemption if he can find who killed the son of a powerful Japanese megacorp owner, which can be easy if he manages not to get killed in the process.


PROS: Simmons knows his craft, and every one of his stories is a page-turner; the concept of the drug Flashback (already mentioned in other stories, albeit briefly), is too good not to explore further, and that’s what he does here.

CONS: The whole novel smells of hatred – a hate speech that cannot simply be attributed to the mastery of Simmons’s art of convincing his readers through the POV of his characters; there is more than meets the eyes here: a kind of righteous (?) fury with USA’s biggest problems since 9/11.

BOTTOM LINE: It may well be the worst novel Simmons has ever written so far. Only recommended for die-hard fans.

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MIND MELD: What Is Your Favorite SF/F/H Saga/Series of All Time?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

If there is one thing fantastika has a-plenty, this thing is called the Saga. Unrestrained by the so-called “reality” that plagues mainstream literature, SF, Fantasy, and Horror genres have told us since time immemorial stories that span large swathes of space and time, creating in the best cases new epic legends – or at the very least giving us readers (or spectators, in the case of film or TV series) unforgettable moments of joy and fun. So we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What Is Your Favorite SF/F/H Saga/Series of All Time?

Here’s what they said…

Charles Tan
Charles Tan‘s fiction has appeared in publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and Philippine Speculative Fiction. He has contributed nonfiction to websites such as The Nebula Awards, The Shirley Jackson Awards, SF Crowsnest, SFScope, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy Literature, BSC Review, The World SF News Blog, and SF Signal. In 2009, he won the Last Drink Bird Head Award for International Activism which is described as “In recognition of those who work to bring writers from other literary traditions and countries to the attention of readers in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia…” He is also a 2011 World Fantasy nominee for the Special Award, Non-Professional category. You can visit his blog, Bibliophile Stalker, the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, or Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009.

“Of all time” is a difficult qualifier because my tastes are constantly changing.

Still, here’s a brief list of series that I want to mention:

Empire Trilogy by Janny Wurts and Raymond E. Feist: I really consider this Wurts’s writing more than Feist’s, and she subverts the D&D-esque setting the latter established in the Riftwar Saga by fleshing out the details of her non-European culture. The politics is a precursor to many modern epic fantasies like The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire, and reading about a blatantly Asian-influenced culture was more than welcome. (Also, if you’re familiar with the Collectible Card Game and RPG Legend of the Five Rings, these novels immediately capture the flavor of that world.)

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E-Libris: About PDF (More Than You Probably Want to Know)

As I said in a previous installment of this column, most e-ARCs these days still come in the time-honored format of the PDF file. It’s still the easiest, fastest way to format a text – editorwise, I mean.

PDF format was created in 1993 by Adobe Systems (in fact, it evolved from a system called “Camelot”, created in 1991, so we’re dealing with a Jurassic file in Internet-time) with a laudable goal: according to J. Warnock, author of the first document describing it, “The specific problem is that most programs print to a wide range of printers, but there is no universal way to communicate and view this printed information electronically.”

So the programmers at Adobe created what they called the Postscript language, devised to make documents visible on any display and printable on any printer. It took them two years to go from Camelot project to the first certifiable PDF file – but it paid up. PDF isn’t old because people are lazy or overlooked something – it wasn’t discontinued until now because it is good and it serves its purpose fairly well – even to be read in a mobile device. Just not in every mobile device.

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E-Libris: Shopping Fever (or, How I Almost Went Broke When I Started Buying More Than a Book a Day)

The title of this fortnight’s installment should tell you everything, isn’t that so? Let’s just start in a more formal way, then:

My name is Fabio Fernandes, and I’m a book addict.

So far, no biggie, right? That’s what all of you must be thinking. After all, if you are reading this column (and by now you really should know what this column is about), you must love books, so that makes you, dear reader, a colleague, an associate, an accomplice, a sister or brother in vice.

If you can see yourself in me, then you recognize the symptoms: the dry mouth, the sweaty palms, the accelerated heartbeat every time you pass in front of a bookstore. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good one or a rattrap, a used bookstore with a veritable treasure trove so far hidden from other eyes (for naturally only you, and nobody else, could see the value in that, yes, that dusty Charles Eric Maine pocketbook or, say, a rare Chad Oliver first edition, or even that one fairly recent Karen Traviss’s Wess’har novel you needed to complete your collection…)

You know what I mean.

Therefore, you will already believe me when I say it’s not different in the world of e-books. Not at all.

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MIND MELD: Why Has Steampunk Persisted For So Long?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Steampunk. It keeps going and going and going… So we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Why has steampunk persisted for so long?

Here’s what they said…

Jeff VanderMeer
World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer grew up in the Fiji Islands and has had books published in over 20 countries. His books, including the bestselling City of Saints & Madmen, have made the year’s best lists of The Wall Street Journal, LA Weekly, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many more. He reviews books for, among others, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as being a regular columnist for the Omnivoracious book blog. Current projects include the short story collection The Third Bear, the UK publication of his noir fantasy novel Finch (Atlantic), The Steampunk Bible (Abrams; with S.J. Chambers) and the forthcoming anthologies, co-edited with his wife Ann, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Fictions (Atlantic) and The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (HarperCollins). He maintains a blog at and serves as assistant director to the teen SF/F writing camp Shared Worlds.

To answer this question requires some context, and an understanding of my position: I have documented and studied Steampunk, but I don’t write it that often and I don’t self-identify as a steampunk. This is by way of saying, my view is an overview from outside looking in, and trying to get at the whole of it…

Much of what we see about Steampunk is in the form of received ideas–someone reads something about it and then blogs, or they’ve read a couple of books, and maybe not the best ones, and they’ve got a sense of what the subgenre is and isn’t from a small sample. It’s an easy target because the term itself may conjure up for some escapism and perhaps a false romanticism for a bygone age. But Steampunk is more complicated than that. One of its precursors, H.G. Wells, was a socialist and wrote anti-Imperial novels and socially aware novels as well. Another precursor, Michael Moorcock, wrote his Nomads of the Air series specifically as a comment on the ills of Empire. Jumping forward to the creation of the term by K.W. Jeter in 1987, you have Jeter’s own Infernal Devices, which satirizes and comments on the Victorian era right there at the start–it isn’t a lovesong to Victoriana.

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E-Libris: The Kindle Has Landed!

As I mentioned in my previous installment, I had quite a few apps for reading e-books on my iPhone – until I went to to search for a book and – hey, they have free Kindle apps for iPhones AND for PCs too! I should try it one of these days…

You already know what I just did right after that thought, don’t you?

It was November 21, 2009. I downloaded and installed both apps. The first book I bought was one that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time – Aegypt by John Crowley. (I wanted very much to read this book, but what I really wanted to buy then was Little, Big, which made quite an impression on me when a friend loaned it to me on my early twenties. Sadly, he had to take it back because he was moving to another city and I never finished it – still haven’t, by the way.)

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E-Libris: My First e-Reader Was Not an e-Reader

Ok, let’s start this one with a universal truth: nobody (at least until now – from 2011 on things might be a lot different) has ever started reading e-books on an e-reader.

I’m counting, naturally, PDF files – after all, most e-ARCs these days still come in this time-honored, God-forsaken format (more on that later).

However, you can’t take a desktop computer to bed – and that’s, my dear readers, that’s the precise point where necessity arises, and necessity, as all of us knows (Frank Zappa’s band included) is the mother of invention.

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REVIEW: Little Machines by Paul McAuley

REVIEW SUMMARY: Seventeen stories ranging from time travel to alternate histories, with plenty of tributes to SF masters like Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: McAuley’s third collection, containing stories from the late nineties to 2005 (?). Little Machines had a previous, hardback edition by PS Publishing in 2005. This edition is solely digital.


PROS: McAuley writes compelling stories, giving each one a distinct voice. It’s almost as if Little Machines were an anthology of different writers, which is intriguing and compelling at the same time.

CONS: Some of the stories have an unfinished feel, as if they were not exactly drafts, but the next-to-last versions, where the tiniest details are missing that could make them just perfect. The e-book also has lots of little revision flaws that don’t spoil the reading, but are positively irritating at times (like the table of contents, that doesn’t link the stories).

BOTTOM LINE: A good collection of stories, recommended as much for readers as for writers who are curious to get a glimpse of his evolution as a writer.

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MIND MELD: What’s The Importance of ‘The Russ Pledge’ For Science Fiction Today?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Recently, a poll in The Guardian created to the readers nominate their favorite SF writers revealed an appalling result: 500 men in the list – but only 18 women made it. This result sparked a chain of reactions in the blogosphere, from Nicola Griffith to Cheryl Morgan to Ian Sales and many other critics and writers, including this Mind Meld moderator. However, one of the most interesting results of this discussion was a proposition made by Nicola Griffith of what she called The Russ Pledge. Please read the links above before reading below.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What’s the Importance of the Russ Pledge for Science Fiction Today?

Here’s what they said…

Farah Mendlesohn
Farah Mendlesohn used to edit Foundation, and is now Immediate Past President of the IAFA. She won the Hugo for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, and nominations for Rhetorics of Fantasy, The Inter-Galactic Playground, and On Joanna Russ. She is currently writing The Cambridge Introduction to Children’s Fantasy Literature with Michael M. Levy.

I am more interested in hearing why male writers think the Russ Pledge is important for science fiction, and then watching them act it out, than I am in writing yet one more exhausted rant stating the obvious.

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