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The Lights are still out at SFSignal

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 5.13.35 AMI glanced at SFSignal this morning, and, as expected, there were no posts yesterday, May 6, 2016. None. Zero.

After 12 years of not missing a day, John got a well-deserved day off.

Some have speculated (ok, some = me) that somewhere in that decade-plus there must have been at least one day. I certainly am not going back through 12 years of archives to double check that claim. One year of posting every day is pretty spectacular; posting for 12 years, through family events and crisis, through Houston hurricanes and thunderstorms, and through the demands of a full-time job…well that’s an extraordinary accomplishment.

What did John do yesterday, with that extra 4-5 hours? Sleep? Have an extra bag of bagels? Catch up on his reading? Run a marathon? 

John has three Hugos, deservedly so. He should have one for every year for the amount of time, effort, care and feeding he has put into the website for so many years (with his only pay being books sent to him by publishers/authors and a small bit of online ad revenue). John recused himself from any more awards after winning the two Fanzine Hugos, mainly because he believes there were others out there like him that put their sweat and time into it and should have a chance to win. He should get another Hugo just for that … and that describes John pretty well. He did it because he really REALLY liked science fiction. He didn’t care about the politics, or the puppies (I’m not sure he likes cats either)…he just liked the genre.

I’ve taken advantage of John’s kindness and good humor and have thus been writing occasional posts for SFSignal for eight years.  I met John in 2007 after I sent in a query to see if there was interest in reviewing a copy of my first book. When he gave me the shipping address, I emailed him that I could walk it to his house faster than the USPS would get it there (sadly true for many transactions these days). We both had worked at Compaq, so we met.

It started out as a great way to get great books before anyone else and interview some very cool people…and meet some outstanding fellow contributors, first online, then at a few of the conventions.

Because of John and SFSignal, last year alone I was able to interview two gentlemen whose works are on my “read everything they put out” list: the legendary Michael Moorcock, and Robert Charles Wilson. I still owe them both a beer (or do they owe me one?), and Mr. Moorcock is in a city where I visit often, so I certainly intend to collect that one.

I was given the opportunity to interview Andy Weir, the legendary James Gunn, and several others. John let me indulge myself with a Doc Savage Primer, a John Carter primer, even an article on Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and its place in Fantasy canon (Fantasy? On SFSignal? Ye Gads!).

And then…there were the books. Did I mention the books?

Now…it’s over. I hope John and JP have taken the time, after the overwhelming outpouring of thanks and support they received in the last couple of days, to reflect on this massive thing that they built. Twelve years…it is quite an accomplishment.

I’m pretty sure John still owes me bagels….and I intend to collect…many times in the future.

Thank you, John, for the opportunities. And…did I mention the books?
HugoAwardWinner-Fanzine2013HugoAwardWinner-Fanzine2012

Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal

Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal


I enjoy writing reviews but I admit I am something of a wimp in doing so. Writing a book is a difficult task, despite what the proliferation of self-published tomes indicates. Each of the ones I’ve written is an exercise in perseverance, self-discipline and repetition. I applaud anyone who has successfully gone through that process.

Which is why I really dislike writing negative reviews.

For the most part, if I usually read a book if I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it. Most readers are like this, no doubt, as we are all influenced by what we have read before, and our time is precious so we do not want to invest it in reading something that may not bring us satisfaction, wonder and enjoyment (or knowledge, if reading non-fiction).

This brings us to the review just posted on SFSignal of The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, the first in the Vault of Heavens trilogy.

It is probably the most lukewarm, middle-of-the-road review I’ve written…and, in spite of it, I am plowing through and thoroughly enjoying the second book in the series, Trial of Intentions.

The version of the book I reviewed is labeled “Author’s Definitive Edition.” I have no idea what changed, though I have read in other places that the original book was a lot like The Wheel of Time series. Though I admire what Robert Jordan (and after him, Brandon Sanderson) have accomplished with that series, I could not finish it – it just got too boring and convoluted in the middle. I saw some similarities, but they were the same fantasy tropes that you find in all fantasy series.

An excerpt from the review:

It’s a bit of a rocky start, with a lot of jumping around, and references to characteristics of the world that are undefined and confusing (e.g., the creatures that are being held back by the veil (and sometime breaking through) are called “the Quiet”; I may be slow, cause I didn’t get it for a while). And I have the unfortunate vice of being a map hound…and, even with reading glasses, it looked to me like distances were not making any sense in the group’s travels.

At this point I almost gave up on the book. Life’s too short to have to force your way through a book that is meant to entertain.

And yet…there were intriguing characters with interesting problems and a complex world that was developing and deepening. The main character, Tahn, has forgotten a large part of his past, and is limited by the power of the chant he must says before he uses his bow. The Sheason can use “the Will”, the life-energy of this world, as a weapon at the cost of draining his own life energy. And the concept of the Veil, which is failing (as evidenced by the Bar’dyn from the other side that they encounter) and which would launch a third all-out war, sets up much of the impetus of the plot. Political intrigue is added by introducing a faction bent on modernization, believing that old stories of the Veil, the creatures beyond it and the first two wars are mere fairy tales, and that all who believe in them should be subdued to make way for progress.

The story follows some oft-used tropes: a forgotten past; an unlikely hero who is more than he seems; music as power. But, each unwinds in interesting ways:

 If you’ve read it, I’d appreciate your comments.

 

Review of SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY posted on SFSignal

Review of SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY posted on SFSignal

My review of Sleeping Late on Judgement Day, the third novel in Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar series, was posted at SFSignal on Christmas Eve. Does that make it a Christmas miracle?

An excerpt:

In this the third (but doubtfully final) novel in the Bobby Dollar series, Williams has propped up many questions to be answered:

  • Who in Heaven has it in for Dollar and why?
  • Who is Bobby? Or rather who was he when he was alive? And does who he was in real life have anything to do with Why these things keep happening to him?
  • Who is Clarence really and who is he spying for?
  • Why don’t the all knowing powers of Heaven smite him down for his recent trip to Hell.

It is difficult to do world building in a known world. The tropes of Heaven and Hell are well known and have been written to death (poor pun intended). But Williams does create a unique vision where Heaven is not all knowing, is certainly not perfect and is prone to insurgencies just like any other Kingdom.

He’s built this world around a rouge angel who is now an advocate for the dead but used to be in the Navy Seal part of the angel corps. Dollar curses, drinks, is sometimes irreverent and always sarcastic.

“That’s not an excuse, or rather it is an excuse. Yes, I drink more than I should, and if I didn’t have a very fit angel’s body which could heal a deep wound in twenty-four hours or less, I’m sure my liver would be in a jar somewhere in a medical museum, next to Rasputin’s famous kielbasa and Einstein’s deli-sliced brain.” (pg 197)

The rules of this world and the character of Dollar are what makes this series interesting. The closest character that I’ve seen to Dollar is Constantine though there are some marked differences. Both are irreverent but Dollar shows a certain respect and fear for what those in charge in Heaven would do to him if he’s caught breaking the rules. Their motivations are different as well, as Dollar gets in trouble just trying to save his demon girlfriend, and trying to have more hot demon sex (can I say that out loud here on SFSignal?)

Henceforth details of the first two books will be included, thus noted for spoiler avoidance.

Dollar has survived Hell only to have lord of Hell Eligor trick him and keep both his girlfriend and the angel feather. The angel feather was part of a pact with some unknown angel and Eligor to create a “Third Way”, a place outside of Heaven and Hell for souls. And Dollar’s best friend Sam, who has made himself scarce as of late due to his own involvement in the “Third Way”, could have the answers that Bobby seeks.

After a drunken stupor, Dollar realizes that Eligor must have exchanged something to the angel for the feather and that whoever the angel is that is Eligor’s partner in crime has been sending nasty things Bobby’s way to try and kill him. Dollar tries to figure out both mysteries: who is the powerful angel doing these things behind Heaven’s back and where is the item Eligor traded for the feather? And can Dollar use it to get his girlfriend back?

Click here for the entire review.

Review of HARRY HARRISON, HARRY HARRISON: A MEMOIR posted at SFSignal.com

Review of HARRY HARRISON, HARRY HARRISON: A MEMOIR posted at SFSignal.com

My review of the late Harry Harrison’s memoir, appropriately entitled Harry Harrison, Harry Harrison, has been published on the two-time Hugo-award winning SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:

World War II veterans and early pulp fiction writers share a common timeline; they come from a common generation and most of them are slowly but surely passing from this earth. Born in the early 1920s, they went through the depression and then straight into World War II.

Harry Harrison (1925 – 2012), the author of Deathworld, Stainless Steel Rat, the West of Eden series and Make Room! Make Room! (which made into the movie Soylent Green) followed this path, was influence by it and then went off on his own path.

Born in Connecticut to a “mother from a family of Jewish intellectuals” and a father whose “family was middle-class immigrant Irish”, Harrison and his family lived through the Depression in and around New York City.

I was shielded from the rigors of grim necessity; there was always food on the table. However I did wear darned socks and the same few clothes for a very long time, but then so did everyone else and no one bothered to notice. I was undoubtedly shaped by these harsh times and what did and dod not happen to me, but it must not be forgotten that all of the other writers of my generation lived through the same impoverished Depression and managed to survive. It was mostly a dark and grim existence; fun it was not. (pg 34)

Harrison’s novel Bill, The Galactic Hero demonstrates his dislike of the military, and his memoir echoes that sentiment. Though he never saw combat (spending most of his WWII years at a gunnery range near Laredo), he still learned to hate military life.

My life at the time was quite boring in content and can be summed up quite easily. It was the same as every other draftee of my generation. We grew up, starting as teenagers, and ending as army adults perfectly adjusted to military life. We learned to curse constantly, to chase girls when we got a pass to town – and to avoid work whenever possible. I could now fieldstrip a caliber .50 in the dark, could drive a truck – double-shifting the clutch, now a lost art – had hear untold live rounds fired on the ground gunnery range where I ended up – and have been deaf ever since. (pg 65)

Harrison used his GI Bill money to attend art school and began illustrating comics and science fiction. He was one of the founders of the Queens Science Fiction Club, keeping close to the genre.

After being discharged and living in NYC for a short time, Harrison had the audacity/fearlessness/cajones to leave the comfy confines and English speaking world of the US and live in Mexico, Denmark and Italy with a young family, in his quest to become a full time writer. His philosophy on life (it seemed like a good idea at the time) and writing helped cope with these times when money and other essentials may have been scarce:

A word of sage advice for any young writers: hock the bourgeois gear. Art comes first. If you are not committed completely you do not deserve to succeed. Harsh but true. (pg 147)

Harrison and family (with baby Todd) were in Italy when their resolve for this type of life was tested.

We now reached the bottom moment, the blackest night we had ever experienced. This moment came when we were down to exactly sixteen cents – one hundred lire. The price of one more airmail stamp to my agent or a liter of milk for Todd. These are the kind of moments in life one really does not need, but we had walked into it with our eyes wide open. Making this decision had been much harder for Joan than me. I had known that I wanted to write, needed to write, had stories and books that needed doing. I hoped that I would succeed. Joan did not hope. She felt very secure in her knowledge that I would do these things, create art, create literature – and support our family with earned income. I had no such assurance – she was rock steady in her belief. She had put everything on the line and would not waver. So she solved this one as well. Since I wasn’t doing too well as a good provider, she realized she had to go out and do it herself. She talked to the two brothers who ran the grocery store. In Spanish-Italian, she convinced them that it would be a wise thing to extend us credit. An acknowledgement to her tenacity, and their kindness. This was done. (pg. 147-148)

The memoir piece of this book sputters to a halt around the 1970s, with some brief vignettes that cover the next few decades. My assumption is that this part had to be cut short due to Harrison’s illnesses toward the end of his life. Some of these vignettes cover “not writing porn” (“I didn’t join the Silverbergs and Malzbergs and all the others who wrote porn back then.”), organizing the first World SF conference in Ireland in 1976, and other snapshots.

However, several essays are added to this memoir that were to be integrated are included, and, IMHO, they are worth the price of admission (yeah, okay, this is an ARC, so a low price of admission for me, but you get the drift).

The essays included as Part II would be worth the read as stand alone efforts. They cover a wide range of topics and Harrison’s most well-known works/series. The essays are:

  • John W. Campbell – “When I was fifteen years old I thought John W. Campbell was God!” This essay includes great descriptions of lunches with Campbell as he rattles off ideas, and Harrison’s idea to film with James Gunn (who had grant money) lunch with Campbell.

Real evidence of the dubiety of the screenplay was driven home to me when I overheard Edward G. Robinson say to the director, “Dick, I read the script and I don’t understand my role.” With good reason: there was nothing there to understand. Summoning up my courage, I introduced myself and offered to provide answers about his character. He ignored my rudeness, invited me to lunch with him, then listened closely while I explained the character he played as I had visualized him in the book. “You are the only person in this film who has lived in the world the we know now, who has seen a world of plenty. He can survive in this world of pollution, overpopulation and chronic food shortages. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.” Robinson said: “That’s a very good idea. Why didn’t they tell me? It isn’t in the script.” (pg 275)

  • Esperanto – first exposed while in the service in Laredo, Harrison was a big supporter of this world language.
  • Russia – Harrison’s Russian agent says to him “Harry, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you are the most popular author in Russia, and also the most stolen!”
  • Stainless Steel Rat
  • West of Eden
  • Alternate History

The book contains a detailed timeline of Harrison’s life and a detailed bibliography.

This review is based on an Advanced Reader Copy sent to SF Signal.

Review of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie at SFSignal

Review of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie at SFSignal


My review of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie has been posted by the wonderful, bagel-loving JohnD over at SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:

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REVIEW SUMMARY: The world-building is not as deep asBest Served Cold and The First Law trilogy, and there is a bit of a quick twist at the end but Half a King is a fast paced enjoyable read.

MY RATING

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Yarvi, second son of a King, born with only a partial arm, is heading for the ministry when both his father and older brother are killed. As King, he is quickly betrayed, and must survive on his wits as he plots his vengeance.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fast paced, with Abercrombie’s expected action and bleak world.
CONS: Not much new in the setting as the world is similar to Abercrombie’s other novels; ending has a convenient twist; could have been an awesome fantasy.
BOTTOM LINE: The world feels familiar, the revenge theme is present again, the ending a bit rushed…but if you enjoyed the worlds of Best Served Cold and The First Law trilogy, you’ll enjoy Half a King, the first novel in the Shattered Seatrilogy as well.

Joe Abercrombie’s world’s are harsh. There is no middle class, only Royalty and those associated with Royalty and the poor, the slaves, the wretched, living in the mud (many of them going “back to the mud”).

So what can Abercrombie do to make one of his world’s worse? He makes one of his lead characters handicapped. Not “Nine Fingers” handicapped but half an arm, unable to hold a shield, in the usual harsh Abercrombie-esque world where warriors rule. Then he makes him a King, and then a slave.

Yarvi is second in line for the throne. With birth deformities which keep him from being a warrior like is father and older brother, he is trained for the “ministry”, to be educated as an advisor to Kings. But when his father and brother are both murdered, he future changes direction and he must try to prove himself a warrior.

His shield was lashed tight about his withered forearm with a sorry mass of strapping, and he clung to the handle with his thumb and one stub of a finger, are already burning to the shoulder from the effort of letting the damn thing dangle.

He gets his butt kicked in the training ground, challenges his opponent again (who is the same age, but well-trained), then selects a champion to take his place. The champion promptly returns the butt kicking that Yarvi received.

“That was ungenerous, my king,” said Uncle Odem, falling into step at his shoulder. “But not unfunny.”

“I’m glad I made you laugh,” grunted Yarvi.

“Much more than that, you made me proud.”

Yarvi glanced sideways and saw his uncle looking back, calm and even. Always he was calm and even as fresh-fallen snow.

“Glorious victories make fine songs, Yarvi, but inglorious ones are no worse once the bards are done with them. Glorious defeats, meanwhile, are just defeats.”

Yarvi is smart but inexperienced, so it is little surprise that, on an invasion to avenge his father and brother, he is betrayed, attacked, and left for drowned as his jumps into the sea. Sold into slavery, he vows revenge and must use his wits to try to escape and seek vengeance.

Without spoilers, the rest of the book follows Yarvi, who was a protected part of the Royals/upper class world, as he works to survive with the dregs of the Shattered Sea world, as a less-than-two-armed slave on a boat that takes him to parts of the world he has only read about, meeting people from other lands.

ALthough this new series has similar themes and action as Abercrombie’s other series, it doesn’t have the depth in the world building. There were lots of characters (like the folks they meet in the snowy north) and parts of the world that were interesting but were touched on briefly as the story rushed on. Yarvi’s “oar-mates” and the other people on the ship are the deepest, most enjoyable characters in the book, but many others were not given much time on the page. At 350 printed pages, it is quite a bit skinnier than each of The First Law books (which were 500-600 pages each). And there is a bit of a twist in the end; maybe I’m getting slow in my old age and missed the foreshadowing.

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Read the entire review at the two-time Hugo-award-winning SFSignal.com.

Interview with Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN, on SFSignal.com

Interview with Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN, on SFSignal.com

My interview with Andy Weir, author of the bestseller THE MARTIAN, is live on the two-time Hugo award winning SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:

LARRY: In the Ares 3 mission team in THE MARTIAN, you have a Commander, Pilot, Doctor and three “mission specialists” (to use the NASA term). Could any of the others have coped with being stranded better than Watney?

ANDY WEIR: Excellent question. I’ve actually put some thought in to that. I think most of them would have died under the circumstances, with the exception of Johanssen. Johanssen is a software engineer and electrical engineer. She would probably know how to fix the communication system and get back in contact with NASA right away. So she would have had all of NASA to come up with ideas to keep her alive.

LARRY: Agreed, but without the botany skills, it would have been a race between how long it would take her to get comms back online versus when she started to run out of food. One of my favorite employees came to me one day and said she’d been offered her dream job and could no longer work for me. I told her I could outbid them, but she said it was working in video/images/audio for NASA. I cried and asked her to hire me in the future. In recompense, she sometimes regales me of astronaut stories (and has shown me the refrigerated vault where the original Mercury, Gemini and Apollo films were kept before they were translated to digital!). One astronaut story was of an ISS astronaut who would put signs in front of the cameras (which the world could see eventually, via the Freedom of Information Act, as you use in your book) some that would say “Please make up room.” Astronauts are smart asses. So is your Mark Watney. What research did you do for his character? Who did you speak with?

ANDY WEIR: I didn’t do any research at all on astronaut personalities. I had no contacts at NASA or JPL before the book came out. I made his personality up for the story.

At the time, I figured it was unrealistic. I assumed real astronauts were much more serious and professional. But after the book came out, I got emails from NASA personnel and actual astronauts saying the personalities of Mark and the other Ares 3 astronauts were very plausible. So I guess I stumbled in to that one with luck.

Mars, The New Space Race

LARRY: The type of hobbyist passion for space one has to have to make a simulator to make sure orbital dynamics are correct seems to be making a resurgence.  That passion and enthusiasm may head toward the levels it hit during the space race days (which I enjoyed experiencing while my Dad was chasing Apollo rocket stages in the South Atlantic working for RCA) which spawned many industries and general interest from citizens. Then most of the world and most Americans went into a lull, with only events/accidents similar to what you portray in your book (Apollo 13, the Space Shuttle tragedies) re-kindling any interest. Now with SpaceX, Planetary Resources and other companies in the news, and with other countries pushing themselves into space, interest seems to be flaring up again. THE MARTIAN and books like it could be nice fuel for this, since your book is ‘near-future’, describing technology that is mostly in-hand and could be used. As an enthusiast, what levers and buttons do you think need to be pushed to get Americans and the world excited about the need for space travel, and a Mars landing in particular?

ANDY WEIR: I’m not sure how to get Americans excited over the prospect. The truth of the matter is that there is no profit motive for going in to space, so it’s hard to justify spending the tens of billions a manned mission to Mars would cost. Though there is one thing we Americans have a history of valuing over money, and that’s national pride.

The Chinese are working on their space program and have a manned Moon landing planned for the 2020s or 2030s. If they see that through, you may see Americans start to demand a better space program.

 

Read the entire interview at SGSignal.

Interview with James Gunn, Grand Master of Science Fiction

Interview with James Gunn, Grand Master of Science Fiction

My interview with James Gunn, recipient of the Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction award, was posted on the Hugo award winning SFSignal. It was also picked up by io9 where a nice discussion has ensued.

An excerpt:
LARRY: Your novel THE LISTENERS (1972) is an excellent example of that feeling you describe as “unity of goal and effort, and mutual sacrifice, and a feeling that we were all in this great enterprise together.” Robert MacDonald, the protagonist, keeps the band of searchers together for several decades in spite of political and religious opposition to their “great enterprise”, with the goal of finding evidence of alien life. The SETI Institute parallels (and was no doubt inspired by) your novel; founded in 1984, nearly three decades later they are still searching, and others have been searching longer. There have been scientists modifying the Drake equation to make it more optimistic (including this interesting one from Sara Seager at MIT that revamps it from radio aware life to focusing on the presence of alien life), and some that make it more pessimistic (as I was getting a Physics degree one of my professors was Dr. Michael Hart, who co-edited Extra-Terrestrials, Where Are They? In 1982). That is a long-winded way of asking: are you optimistic? Pessimistic? Are they out there? Or are we alone?

JAMES GUNN: Story premises require different states of mind.  When I read Walter Sullivan’s WE ARE NOT ALONE in the last 1960s (I think I got it from the Science Book Club), the thought that inspired THE LISTENERS was how humanity could sustain an effort for a century without results, and for that purpose it was necessary to assume that the only contact with aliens that was possible was through messages propagated by something like radio waves.  But I do believeand have been convinced by powerful voices like Carl Sagan’sthat there are intelligent aliens out there and maybe even intelligent aliens with technology, but that the difficulties and costs and lack of compensation for interstellar travel are such that we are unlikely to ever come into contact.  But we can still share the intelligent beings burden of understanding the universe and our place in it by means of some such means as I describe inTHE LISTENERS, and that would be a shattering accomplishment that would change us and our world-view, and would be quite enough.

But that doesn’t keep me from writing about interstellar travel as I have in GIFT FROM THE STARS and TRANSCENDENTAL, in the furtherance of larger goals.

So, in spite of everything, I’m an optimist.  I believe in what William Faulkner said in his Nobel acceptance speech, that humanity not only will survive but will prevail.

And I hope science fiction will be a tool in that.

LARRY: It would be interesting to see a timeline of waves of optimism, pessimism and other historical movements, juxtaposed with science fiction novels from those times…a project for another day.

JAMES GUNN: It was hard for optimism to survive the brutality of two world wars.

SanFernando

WorldCon 71 / LoneStarCon 3

I only had a half-a-con, spending the mornings at the conference and the afternoons/evenings with family in San Antonio. But even a half-a-con was full

  1. SFSignal, which I occasionally post an article here and a review there, won its second Hugo for Best Fanzine. John DeNardo, the hardest working man in the blogverse, won his second…showing that sometimes these popularity award are actually given to those that deserve it. Hats off to JP and Patrick for their first Hugos.
  2. SFSignal is a group blog, as JD describes it. And, thanks to his efforts, I got to meet several of the SFSignal irregulars in person whom I’d only emailed, commented or heard on Podcasts. Derek, Jeff, Stina, Karen, Matthew, Josh, Jaime…enjoyed seeing the faces. It is always better to connect in person.
  3. Joe Lansdale did a demo and discussion of Shen Chuan, the martial art he created. Master Lansdale is deservedly in the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and he asked me to be one of his demo boys. Always better to learn up close and personal, and a hard reminder of how much I’ve let my own martial arts training slack off.
  4. I am interviewing Grand Master of Science Fiction James Gunn for SFSignal, and stalked him throughout the conference. At age 90, his memory is better than mine at 30..and he is gracious and polite. I look forward to more questions, and learning through the interview process. And I found some excellent out-of-print Gunn books on sale in the dealer room and got them before DeNardo. Fred Pohl was on of Professor Gunn’s first agents, and it was very sad to hear of Mr. Pohl’s passing just as WorldCon was ending.
  5. The “what happened to the boom in Spanish language books” panel had only two participants, and one of them was Norman Spinrad. I wasn’t sure why, until he went through the tale of his publishing of his book Mexica with a Mexican publisher.
  6. As I was carousing the dealer room, looking at books, this taller grey bearded gent was following me…except he was pulling out books to sign. I had the pleasure of asking Harry Turtledove if he was practicing for his upcoming autograph session, and he replied “Practice helps me remember my name.” I briefly accused him of stalking me.
  7. Hogg Shedd. Saturday night Rock and Roll. It has nothing to do with WorldCon, but everything to do with my past, present and future in San Antonio. If you haven’t seen Louis, Danny, Darryl and Craig rock it, what are you waiting for?
  8. The Legacy of Omni magazine panel was entertaining, with Ben Bova, Bob Silverberg and Ellen Datlow doing most of the reminiscing about the Bob Guccione slick that merged Science Fact with Science Fiction. I still have a collection of many of the original Omnis. Rumors of a reboot persist, but I would rather see the legend remain a legend.
  9. The Doc Savage panel, on his 80th anniversary, was missing Will Murray (who is no doubt hard at work on the latest Doc Savage novel).
  10. The Thursday evening Ghost Tour was hot and humid (expected in San Antonio) and, though I’d heard many of the stories before, the tour guides did an excellent job. We visited the Menger, the Emily Morgan, the San Fernando Cathedral (which looked great at night) and the old Bexar County Jail, which is now a Holiday Inn Express. The tour guides said room 305 was where the gallows used to be, and that the pool was the location of the crematorium. Enjoy your next stay.
  11. I also managed to hang a drapery valance for my mom, do multiple virus clean-ups for my step-dad, set up mom’s new email…and fall a bit more for my beautiful wife, which happens most days.

As always, THANK YOU SAN ANTONIO!

Review of The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams up on SFSignal

Tad Williams is one of my “read-everything-he-puts-out” authors…except for the cat book. No cat books.

My review of the first book in his latest series, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, is up on the Hugo award winning and 2013 Hugo nominated SFSignal.

An excerpt:

Tad Williams in known for his LARGE (door stoppingly LARGE), genre-jumping, hard to categorize series:ShadowmarchOtherlandMemory, Sorrow and Thorn. (And apparently he’s known for a cat book, which, since I’m a dawg guy, I probably won’t read.) One characteristic that runs through all of these is that Williams not only follows the “show don’t tell” writers’ philosophy, he also follows “show, but don’t show everything.” Both Otherland and Shadowmarch possessed some pieces that were never quite explained, which made me wonder about them even long after I’d finished. (And sometimes tempt me to re-read…but re-reading is a no-no…there are too many books in this world!)

I appreciate Williams thoughtfulness for those of us who can’t remember the last book…as he always adds in a Here’s-What-Happened-Before synopsis to the front of books that come later in his series. I’ve also read his short story collection A Stark and Wormy Night (no synopsis needed, they were short enough that they didn’t test my old memory). But Williams’ new Bobby Dollar series is different from all of the rest. It is, again, a hard to categorize tome some call it urban fantasy, but that label reminds me retchingly of Twilight  but it differs from his previous works in several aspects:

  • It is based in a somewhat modern locale, as opposed to a world built in fantasy or cyberspace. The fictitious city of San Judas is mapped to the Palo Alto/ Silicon Valley area (and includes Stanford U.), which is the area where Williams grew up.
  • It is written in 1st person. Bobby Dollar spends quite a bit of time talking to the reader.
  • While it still “shows”, this novel does an awful lot of telling. (I smell misdirection here, but a bit on that later.)
  • It is not door-stoppingly LARGE, on my shelf next to the Otherland and Shawdowmarch hardbacks, it looks like it has been on an Atkins diet compared to the rest.

With Bobby Dollar, an advocate angel, Williams explores the people and beings that populate Heaven, Hell and Earth and the rules that keep Armageddon from a’comin’. There is a mystery to be solved, and there is more than a bit of crime noir bent to the telling. But rules that Dollar tells the readers in the beginning and what actually happens to Dollar turn the rules upside down.  And while some of the rules follow the norm of the Western cultural definitions of Heaven and Hell, this is the unknown fringe that Williams enjoys playing in, and he definitely seems to enjoy  himself.

Quotes and spoilers from here down, so turn back now if you haven’t read the book and are planning on it.

Read the rest here.

The 2013 HUGO Voter Packet: Why Would You Not Do This?

The 2013 Hugos are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. The Hugos are awarded each year by the World Science Fiction Society, at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). This year that convention is LoneStar Con 3 in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas August 29 – September 2.

Voting is only open to members of LoneStar Con 3 (71st Worldcon).

To be a supporting member is 50 bucks. And not only does this allow you to vote, but you also get the “Hugo Voter Packet“.

…which contains the five nominated novels (in various formats), all of the graphic novels and several other of the nominated works for novella, novelette, short story, works from those authors nominated for the Campbell award….

As with my post for last year, i have two major points:

  • why would you not do this, given the price of all of the novels alone combined?
  • vote for SFSignal for Best Fanzine and Best Fancast (full disclosure: I occasionally participate in both of these wonderful sites and podcasts)

The Hugo group should be applauded for this most excellent bribery to get people to read the nominated works and voted from the experience of reading, not from the reputations of the authors. This is done with a lot of trust (a fact that is pointed out, as it should be, in several places in the packet and on the website) and with the suggestion that readers support the authors who have contributed their works.

I do not normally follow or worry about the awards given out, as many of them are popularity contests (only 1,343 valid ballots were cast for the 2013 Hugo nominees). But this is an excellent investment, and a great way to participate.

I’ve included some simple math in a table below. Fifty bucks is a lot of money, but there is a ton of material in here.

The big question, as always, is: how much will get read before the voting deadline of July 31st?

TITLEAUTHORKINDLE PRICEPAPERBACK PRICEPUBLISHER
2312Kim Stanley Robinson9.999.00Orbit
BlackoutMira Grant7.598.99Orbit
Captain Vorpatril's AllianceLois McMaster Bujold9.9910.58Baen
RedshirtsJohn Scalzi7.9911.47Tor
Throne of the Crescent MoonSalidin Ahmed9.9910.87DAW
TOTALS
45.5550.91

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

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