REVIEW: Triptych by J.M. Frey

REVIEW SUMMARY: An interesting look at humanity from the POV of an alien, the book is insightful while never feeling preachy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two specialists travel back in time to stop the murder of one of them, after their alien lover is killed for being a traitor.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Crisp writing, interesting alien culture, clever time travel plot.
CONS: Lots of time spent exploring sex (how humans and aliens differ), don’t learn that much about the alien culture or technology.
BOTTOM LINE: If you like a lot of human interest in your time travel and alien contact stories, give this a try.

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‘Alien Contact’ Close Encounter Recap

Over the past several days we’ve featured interviews with (and guest posts from) some of the contributors of Marty Halpern’s new anthology Alien Contact. In case you missed any of them, here’s an index to all the goodness…

Thanks to all the contributors for their generous contributions and to Marty Halpern for pulling this together.

Pat Cadigan: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Pat Cadigan!

SF SIGNAL: Hi, Pat! What’s the appeal of Alien Contact stories for you?

Pat Cadigan: I love a good alien contact story. The most intriguing thing someone can say to you is, ‘You will meet a stranger’-and the stranger, the better! Personally, I’ve always actively courted the unknown. With mixed results, of course, but it gives me something to write about.

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Bruce McAllister: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Bruce McAllister!

SF SIGNAL: Hi, Bruce! Thanks for joining us. What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?

Bruce McAllister: As a former academic I could take hours to answer this wonderful question, bore everyone and not really get to the truth. These days I simply go back to how it felt as a kid reading science fiction for the first time. The excitement. The sense of wonder that held both excitement and fear. The strangeness of every alien: Will it be at all human? Will I find myself in him /her/it? Or will it be so alien –so different–that I’ll be frightened? I think that we approach all aliens wondering whether we will find mirrors and whether those mirrors will show us only what we’re comfortable seeing or distort us in the ways that are also us. We go to the stars to find ourselves in a strange act of honesty….wanting the mirrors to give us what is comfortable and yet also risking seeing what’s true and less comfortable. The alien is us, in other words, but it/he/she/they let us go off on wonderful adventures to discover this fact when trying to do it our offices and bedrooms would be so much less fun, much more disturbing and much less heroic, epic and grand.

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Jack Skillingstead: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Jack Skillingstead ! (Also, check out Jack’s Guest Post.)

SF SIGNAL: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?

Jack Skillingstead: The most interesting aspect of alien contact, for me, is how the humans behave in relation to the event. A change in perspective is bound to occur.

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Ernest Hogan: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Ernest Hogan! (Also, check out Ernest’s Guest Post.)

SF SIGNAL: Hi, Ernest! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?

Ernest Hogan: One of the most exciting things in life is discovering something new: new ideas, new kinds of thinking. It’s what I like about science fiction. Have a character face something different from his or her everyday reality, and you’ve got a story. To me that’s what this genre should be all about, encountering the alien, which of course starts with the strange things lurking in the human brain, and ends with the far edges of the universe. Also, imagining aliens helps us to deal with the incredible diversity of our species, and realize that the strangest, most bizarre human beings you can meet are still human.

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Mark W. Tiedemann: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Mark W. Tiedemann! (Also, check out Mark’s Guest Post.)

SF SIGNAL: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?

Mark W. Tiedemann: For me it’s an opportunity to ask questions about the nature of sentience and the consequences of civilization-building. At a basic level, aliens are always just us with a twist, since imagining the truly alien is almost impossible. No matter how well we think we’ve done it, you can dig around this planet and through history and find examples of things humans are or were that trump the wildest product of our imagination. But the use of the alien is a very much a mirror, held at an unexpected angle, so we can fool ourselves briefly that what we see coming around that corner or through that door is not human.

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[GUEST POST] Jack Skillingstead on Thermalling


Jack Skillingstead is the author of two books: Harbinger, a science fiction novel, and Are You There and Other Stories, a collection from Golden Gryphon Press. Jack’s first professional sale was short-listed for the Sturgeon Award. His stories have appeared in Asimov’s, F&SF, and Realms of Fantasy, as well as various anthologies and year’s best volumes. He lives in Seattle with his wife, writer Nancy Kress.

Thermalling

I used to fly airplanes. I didn’t do it professionally but as a private, recreational flier. All through high school I rented Cessnas and gave my friends scenic, and on some occasions hair-raising, tours of the airspace over the Puget Sound Basin. Eventually, I think I was twenty-two, I decided to try gliders. I had the idea this would be more “pure.” On my first instructional flight I learned something invaluable about staying up in the air without an engine–and about writing.

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Paul McAuley: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Paul McAuley!

SF SIGNAL: Hi, Paul! What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?

Paul McAuley: I think this anthology shows just how flexible first contact stories can be. No matter when or where they are set, whether the aliens come to us or we stumble upon them, they all address that fundamental question: are we alone? It’s a simple but profound question, and until it’s answered I don’t think we’ll ever exhaust its speculative possibilities.

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Ernest Hogan is the author of Cortez on Jupiter, High Aztech, and Smoking Mirror Blues, as well short fiction in Analog, Amazing, Tales of the Talisman, 2020 Visions, Space Horrors, Flurb, and other publications. He is working on ebookization. His progress can followed on his blog, Mondo Ernesto: http://www.mondoernesto.com, and his Chicanonautica posts on La Bloga: http://labloga.blogspot.com.

Once Upon a Time in SoCal: The Making of “Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song”

This is going to take some time travel: back to my early days as a writer, as an artist, as me. Back to my hometown of West Covina, in SoCal, just down the San Bernardino freeway from Los Angeles. It was the dreary, post-Watergate mid-Seventies.

You think things are bad in this recession?…it ain’t nothing compared to the life in the smothering fallout of Nixon. People actually thought that the world had come to an end. The future? What’s wrong with you, kid? There ain’t gonna be one! Science fiction? You gotta be kidding!

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TOC: ‘Alien Contact’ Edited by Marty Halpern

Marty Halpern has posted the table of contents for his new anthology Alien Contact. Here is the anthology’s complete table of contents, with links to each story’s invidivual blog post on Marty’s blog. In some instances, the entire text of the story was provided; in other instances, a link was provided to elsewhere online for the text and/or a podcast of the story.

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Nancy Kress: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Nancy Kress! (Also, check out Nancy’s Guest Post.)

SF SIGNAL: What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?

Nancy Kress: Aliens in SF are always “other” — living beings different from us. This means they represent not only extraterrestrials but, on some level, all the parts of ourselves and of other humans that we don’t understand. How do you cope with creatures who don’t behave as you do? How do you figure them out? Why do they act that way? These, the basic questions in any alien contact story, are also basic questions in human relationship. You may not be a four-armed, green BEM, but you are “not me” and, therefore, alien.

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Adam-Troy Castro: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Adam-Troy Castro!

SF SIGNAL: What’s the appeal of Alien Contact stories for you?

Adam-Troy Castro: A good alien contact story is a confrontation with a different way of thinking, a mind that formed its model from different starting assumptions, a value system that makes ours wholly irrelevant. And sometimes they burrow into our skulls and eat our brains.

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Mark W. Tiedemann has been publishing science fiction since 1986. In 2000, Mirage, an Asimov Robot Mystery, appeared, first of a trilogy in Asimov’s Robot City universe, followed by Compass Reach, Metal of Night, and Peace & Memory, all part of the Secantis Sequence. Compass Reach was short-listed for the Philip K. Dick Award, and 2005 novel Remains was short-listed for the James Tiptree Jr. Award. Mark has also worked as a professional photographer. In 2005 he was elected president of The Missouri Center for the Book, the state affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book. During his tenure, the organization was instrumental in the establishment of Missouri’s first State Poet Laureate position. In 2011, Mark retired from the Center. He is represented by the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

It’s Not About the Buttons

From time to time I have this conversation, usually after having spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a computer to work properly (or at all):

“You know, for a guy who writes science fiction, you are a real technophobe.”

Or Luddite, depending on how angry I am at the machine in question.

On its face, it’s a fair criticism. But the fact is, I’m not a technophobe. I love technology. Part of my early attraction to science fiction was because of the cool machines. Computers, spaceships, robots, all that marvelous, labor-saving, sometimes-menacing, awesome high-tech hardware appealed to a latent modernist sensibility. Far from phobic, my difficulties with operating technology stems from a basic impatience with the internal workings of just about any mechanical device, and in this sense, yes, programming a computer, and all the related minutiae of operating it, equates to mechanical devices.

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Mike Resnick: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview


This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Mike Resnick!

SF SIGNAL: What’s the appeal of Alien Contact stories for you?

Mike Resnick: I think the fascination comes from the fact that we’ve never made contact with a sentient alien special, yet assuming the race lives long enough there’s a 100% certainty that we well, especially since the Hubble has now proven that almost every star has planets, and there are maybe half a billion G-type stars in our local galaxy.

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Nancy Kress is the author of 29 books. Her fiction has won four Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Award. In a change of pace, her most recent novel is Crossing Over, a YA fantasy written under the name Anna Kendall.

Building a Story from Fortuitously Nearby Construction Materials

A few years ago, this question arose on an SF listserve: “If aliens did show up in very large and very many spacecraft in Terran orbit, what would be humanity’s response?” Various answers were offered. My answer was: “Every response you can think of.” Different human beings would view the aliens as threats, as friends, as trading partners, as mentors, as proof that God exists, as proof that God does not exist, as a reason to pass more laws, a reason to hold more revels, and a reason to build more bunkers. There would be joy and fear and awe and rioting and prejudice and TV shows. Humanity is not a monolith.

A more interesting question might be: What would be the aliens’ response to us? The aliens are here; they presumably expended a lot of resources to get here; what do they want?

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Over the next couple of weeks, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the contributing authors of Alien Contact, the new anthology edited by Marty Halpern.

Keep one eye on the skies (see what I did there?) and the other on this space for posts by (and/or interviews with) Adam-Troy Castro, Barbara Hambley, Ernest Hogan, Nancy Kress, Paul McAuley, Mike Resnick, Jack Skillingstead and Mark W. Tiedemann!

The fun kicks off later today with a guest post by Nancy Kress!

Stay tuned…