Monday, May 31, 2010

Telepaths Don't Need Safewords - Cecilia Tan

"His colors, as always, were black and dark green. My own costume had less elements--a basic black halter stretched over my breasts and black dancers' tights came to mid-calf. Oh, and the leash. "

3.5 out of 5

Permanent Fatal Errors 1 - Jay Lake

"Maduabuchi liked to sit in the smartgel bodpods and let the ship perform a three-sixty massage while he watched the universe. The rest of the crew were like cats in a sack, too busy stalking the passageways and each other to care what might be outside the window. Here in the lounge one could see creation, witness the birth of stars, observe the death of planets, or listen to the quiet, empty cold of hard vacuum. The silence held a glorious music that echoed inside his head."

4 out of 5

With stark, pessimistic science fictions, Nebula winner intends a reality check - Clay Evans

"Again, take the iPad.

"Where did you get the materials for the batteries? What people were hurt in the manufacturing and shipping process? When you ask about using oil that's running out. . . . If those are your data points, the iPad is just window dressing on something very ugly," he says."

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Ambassador - Sam Merwin

Don't want any old Earth junk on Mars, darling.

2.5 out of 5

Stalemate - Basil Wells

Earth Satellite One little war.

3 out of 5

Henry Horn's X-ray Eye Glasses - Dwight V. Swain

War spy perv.

1.5 out of 5

Let There Be Light - H. B. Fyfe


2 out of 5

The Secret of Kralitz - Henry Kuttner

Prefer hereditary secrets to not involve Cthulhu.

3.5 out of 5

The Old Martians - Rog Phillips

And their terrible science.

2 out of 5

One Way - Miriam Allen deFord

Baby record, lots.

3 out of 5

The Basics of Flight 4 - Joyce Chng

"Now Alethia’s professed vocational training astounded her. She was not training to be a pilot. Instead, she was training to be a controller, the person tasked to give directions to the leo-fin pilot. Now how she was going to do so remained a mystery, even for Katherine. Alethia’s senses of perception were uncanny; she claimed to hear the leo-fins by color and was hence – or she said – able to direct the leo-fin when it took off or landed."

3 out of 5

The Basics of Flight 3 - Joyce Chng

"Old Liu was particularly angry, he recalled the old retainer’s face, reddened from furious shouting and half-blackened with soot from the gunpowder ship which exploded mid-air, right in the middle of the family courtyard, much to everyone’s consternation and horror. Old Liu looked just like Kwan Kong, the red-and-black faced god of justice."

3 out of 5

The Basics of Flight 2 - Joyce Chng

"The old harridan stalked towards her, witch-thin and witch-terrible. She had her belt ready and Katherine was quite well acquainted with the belt. Her ankles bore previous scars.

“So, Miss Riley,” the old witch snarled. “What is balance?” Her bony fingers twitched, as if in wicked anticipation."

3.5 out of 5

Deepfreeze - Robert Donald Locke

"I am Shir K'han, of the people of Tegur, detailed to interpret your meager tongue, oh frozen primate."

2.5 out of 5

Big Stupe - Charles De Vet

No superior trip.

2 out of 5

The Golgotha Dancers - Manly Wade Wellman

Painting grab.

3 out of 5

The Jammie Dodgers and the Adventure of the Leicester Square Screening - Cory Doctorow

Cecil B De Vil's Great Work.

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Sword's J.D. Cronise: The Kind of Music We Play is the Aural Equivalent of Science Fiction - Matt Staggs

"We only have a few songs which you could say are directly inspired by literary works, but all of our material is somewhat inspired by either science fiction or mythology. For clarification the songs directly inspired by specific stories or novels are “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter,” “To Take the Black,” and “The Black River” (all from our album Gods of the Earth); the first obviously referencing Robert E. Howard’s Conan story of the same name, and the second concerning itself with the Night’s Watch from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. ‘“The Black River” is inspired by the Conan story “Beyond the Black River.” The song’s primary theme is death, and it utilizes the river to symbolize the passage to the next world. Also the title of the album, Gods of the Earth, was partially inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Other Gods.” There’s a line from it that reads, “Atop the tallest of earth’s peaks dwell the gods of earth, and suffer no man to tell that he hath looked upon them.” In another passage, the character Barzai the Wise exclaims, “The moon is dark, and the gods dance in the night; there is terror in the sky, for the moon hath sunk an eclipse foretold in no books of men…. At last! In the dim light I behold the gods of earth!” "

4.5 out of 5

The Trouble With QWERTY - Stephen Ross

Is that he is a woman stealer.

Can't swim though..

3.5 out of 5

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gardner Dozois the Revitalization of Genre SF and The New Space Opera - Dave Truesdale

"Dozois's affection for Adventure SF and Space Opera is given voice when he says of Poul Anderson's 1995 story "Genesis" (from Far Futures, ed. Gregory Benford): "The Anderson in particular delivers a few genuine jolts of pure-quill old-fashioned undiluted Sense of Wonder, something the genre does all too seldom these days." –Gardner Dozois, in his "Summation: 1995," from The Year's Best Science Fiction, 13th Annual Collection, 1996.

This is reaffirmed two years later, where Gardner has begun to spot a trend, when he writes (emphasis mine): "In fact, it seems to me that the percentage of really hard-core 'hard SF' has gone up sharply in recent years, as has the percentage of wide-screen, Technicolor, baroque Space Opera, stuff reminiscent of the old 'Superscience' days of the '30s, but written to suit the aesthetic and stylistic tastes of the '90s. There's more 'real' SF of several different flavors and styles around these days than ever before, if you open your eyes up and look for it—" –Gardner Dozois, in his "Summation: 1997," from The Year's Best Science Fiction, 15th Annual Collection, 1998.

Not content merely to comment on an upsurge in Adventure SF and Space Opera, he decides to become a participant by editing two wonderful volumes of it. While noting the differences between the two types of SF, he then gives readers The Good Old Stuff (1998) and its followup The Good New Stuff (1999). Both volumes are subtitled "Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition."

4.5 out of 5

Free SF Reader List Updated

Free SF Reader List updated :-

A Door Into Ocean Study Guide - Joan Slonczweski

"In A Door into Ocean, the Sharers use advanced skills of "lifeshaping," a kind of genetic engineering, to manage the ecology of their ocean-covered planet. They must use all their skills, as well as the discipline of nonviolence, to repel invading traders and soldiers, without destroying their own way of life.

To appreciate the context, Ocean was written during the early eighties, at the height of the Reagan era, when the very survival of the planet was threatened by nuclear winter. Peace was thought unattainable; anyone who even suggested that repressive socialist governments might be overthrown peacefully was viewed with suspicion. Advocates of noncooperation with draft registration risked a $5,000 fine. Women's rights and environmental concerns were considered a hangover from the sixties. Secretary of the Interior James Watt began selling off national forests."

4.5 out of 5

Youngstown State Oral History Program - Leigh Brackett

A brilliant and wide-ranging interview:

"H: That's true. You carry these things around with you all the time. Very often, I get this far-away look and Ed will say, "You're thinking, aren't you?"
R: Do you try on your thoughts with each other?
H: Yes, a good bit. Our marriage almost broke up shortly
after it began because I had an order for a novel from
Startling Stories. It was a whole $800 and boy did
we need it.
E: What year was this?
H: This was in 1947; we were married at the end of 1946. I sat down at my typewriter and wrote the opening chapters. I handed them to Ed, he read it and said, "This is great. Where do you go from here?" I said, "I haven't the foggiest idea." He said, "That is a so-and-so way to write a story." Right there, we discovered we couldn't collaborate too well. So, I went on with it. Then I said, "I think I'm getting into a little bit of trouble here." He said, "Let me read it." So he read it and he said, "Back of chapter two, put in a Dhuvian--a Dhuvian being a strange alien character--on the ship." I could have killed him. The trouble was, he was right. So I had to throw away four chapters and start over again.
Thank you for this interview. We really feel it's been a privilege. We've enjoyed it so much.
You're so welcome. I hope I have been helpful to you. I'm flattered that you came all this way."

"Authors: Brackett, Leigh.
Roderick, Juanita.
Earnhart, Hugh G.
Title: Science fiction writing
Date Issued: 1975
Description: "Experiences as a Writer."
Transcript of interview taped on October 7, 1975. Tape length 63 minutes. Tape stored in History Department."

5 out of 5

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Golden Amazons Of Venus - John Murray Reynolds

With some Earth blokes, vs the Scaly Ones, and traitors.

1.5 out of 5

Sci Phi Show Greg Egan Overview - Matt Arnold

There's also an mp3 at :

Greg Egan Overview

From The Sci Phi Show podcast. MP3 link (21 minutes 59 seconds)
A photo used to be here, with a caption saying it “reportedly” depicted Greg Egan. I acquired it from a German webpage about him. It was actually a photo of a different person of the same name, and I have taken it down. To my knowledge, there are no available photographs of the author. I infer that is probably by his choice, and I respect that.

This episode will be a general survey of many of the works and themes of my favorite science fiction author, Greg Egan. His fiction exemplifies a crunchy technological coating with a chewy philosophical center. The mysterious Mr. Egan lives a famously reclusive life in Perth, Australia. He never comes to science fiction conventions to promote his work, and his fans don’t even know what he looks like. Another author, Karl Schroeder, once humorously speculated that this might be because Mr. Egan is secretly an artificial intelligence.

That certainly would explain why his speculations are so rigorously within the bounds of existing cutting-edge science. If you encounter paragraphs of extremely crunchy math and speculative physics in his novels, and find that you aren’t enjoying that passage, please, don’t let that stop you. Just skim forward past the passage if you have to, and you’ll still be rewarded by the story. His imagination has been described as a quadruple-decker ice cream sundae with a cherry on top, and another ice cream sundae balanced upside-down on top of that.

One of his major themes is an intense fear and loathing of postmodern relativism. In the mid-to-late 21st century he depicts, protests and acts of violence against science are common, academics, literature, and art have been destroyed from within, and new-age holistic confidence games are so prevalent that they actually cast down real medicine and cost lives. The stories “Silver Fire” and “Mitochondrial Eve” best exemplify this.

Egan’s novel Distress is my favorite. This is the first time I’ve seen anyone invent a whole new cosmology of the beginning of the existence of reality. I’m not referring to an easily-imagined fantasy mythology. Egan actually makes it seem plausible. Distress also includes a radical rethinking of gender, psychology, politics, and what it means to be “human” and “healthy”, the two most dangerous words.

Permutation City: Ten Million People On A Chip is a novel about new universes. Here’s the back cover text:
The good news is that you have just awakened into eternal life. You’re going to live forever. Immortality is a reality. A medical miracle? Not exactly..

The bad news is that you are a scrap of electronic code. The world you see around you, the you that is seeing it, has been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. You are a copy that knows it is a copy..

The good news is that there is a way out. By law, every copy has the option of terminating itself and waking up to normal flesh-and-blood life again. The bailout is on the utilities menu. You pull it down.

The bad news is that it doesn’t work. Someone has blocked the bailout option. And you know who did it. You did. The other you. The real you. The one that wants to keep you here forever.

Permutation City explores more thoroughly another of Egan’s major themes. If you simulate a person perfectly in a computer, right down to the last subatomic particle, is that simulation a person? Philosophically, if they can’t tell the difference, and by talking to them, we can’t tell the difference in them, how is that any less than what we already are?

These are uncomfortable questions which make for very tense plots. Viewers of the new “Battlestar Galactica” TV series are already familiar with these questions, but that show shies away from making viewers uncomfortable with mind-bending ideas. Egan has no such compunction. Do some mental calisthenics before Egan stretches byzantine ideas through the iris of your mind’s eye.

The novel Diaspora might be the culmination of that. This is a work about the expansion of a digital posthumanity and their backup copies throughout the galaxy and into virtual reality universes. Groups in Diaspora with different ideologies get to share their own private virtual reality universe in which to run the software of their minds however they wish. Or they send software copies of their minds to sleep for centuries on a chip traveling just under the speed of light, and rebuild themselves physical bodies on a star system all their own. Some groups believe it’s only moral to stay in flesh. Some believe it’s wrong to run multiple copies of their minds. Others occasionally leave virtual realities to inhabit robots as missionaries to try to persuade the fleshers not to let themselves die of old age. Others are solipsists, who treat the physical reality as if it doesn’t exist. There are countless other ideological variations. Each chapter of Diaspora has enough satisfaction to stand as its own story. In fact, chapter eight, “Wang’s Carpets”, has been printed that way.

In addition to the novels, here are two stories available on I like “Reasons To Be Cheerful”. The synopsis of this idea is: If you suffer brain damage, which parts could you replace with computational prosthetic and still be you?

Another story is “Cocoon”: What if tomorrow someone discovers a way to ensure that embryos grow heterosexual brains? Would that be anti-gay?

Here are some Greg Egan stories which are free online at the author’s website. The story “Border Guards” contains a view of death from the perspective of a civilization that hasn’t had anyone die in centuries.

I highly recommend “Oceanic”. In this short novella, a scientist on another planet discovers a biological basis for his religion. There is another noteworthy thing dropped into the background setting of the story, without being relevant to the main plot thread. That is the unique biological engineering that his species appears to have undergone to promote gender equality. This is a family podcast, so I won’t describe it, but it’s quite imaginative. And no, it’s not what you’re thinking.

My favorite free story, for strictly personal reasons, is “Oracle”. What if Alan Turing, the Father of Computers, had survived, and met C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia? Despite the pseudonyms used in “Oracle”, it’s clear the story is about these historical figures. For those as familiar as I am with the science fiction writings of C.S. Lewis, such as the Out of the Silent Planet trilogy in which he pillories the modern world, or The Great Divorce, describing Lewis’ vibrant and attractive speculations on the afterlife, the ending of “Oracle” has a powerful emotional resonance. In addition to being free online, “Oracle” was printed in Galileo’s Children: Tales of Science and Superstition.

In “The Planck Dive”, a posthuman poet joins a colony of software minds diving into a black hole. The poet does this in an attempt to give their scientific experiment “meaning” by describing it with mythopoeic archetypes. During the story another character attempts to refute him by saying about mythopoeic archetypes,
They’re the product of a few chance attractors in Flesher neurophysiology. Whenever a more complex or subtle story was disseminated through an oral culture, it would eventually degenerate into an archetypal narrative. Once writing was invented, they were only ever created deliberately by Fleshers who failed to understand what they were. If all of antiquities’ greatest statues had been dropped into a glacier, they would have been reduced to a predictable spectrum of spheroidal pebbles by now. That does not make the spheroidal pebble the pinnacle of the art form. What you’ve created is not only devoid of truth, it’s devoid of aesthetic merit!

Doubtless that character was speaking for the author in saying that, because it’s as good a summary as any of Greg Egan’s way of writing. Imbuing his stories with beauty, enjoyment and inspiration does not require contradicting the laws of science in his fiction, or introducing any supernatural element. His visions manage to fit within that window of future possibility which science has not yet disproven. This has settled for me the worries about the conflict between truth and beauty, which were expressed by the poet John Keats and his contemporaries. Keats wrote about science in his poem “Lamia”, in 1820:
Do not all charms fly

At the mere touch of cold philosophy?

There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:

We know her woof, her texture; she is given

In the dull catalogue of common things.

Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,

Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,

Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine–

Unweave a rainbow…

Compare the posthumanist works of Greg Egan, when you’ve read them, to the imagination of C.S. Lewis. Lewis gave us amazing visions of God’s heaven, in which we could run up waterfalls, change bodies, and live happy for centuries. What impresses me about the posthuman worlds of Greg Egan is that in a world where none of his characters can violate the speed of light, and there isn’t any god that can violate the speed of light either, this rigorously dispassionate and objective universe still contains so much possibility, and so much to live for. He demonstrates the poet Keats was wrong: there is no shortage of wonder in the real world. We can hope for all of these things without abandoning rational materialism. The world of science and technology reveal the real-life universe to be a bigger and better place than any tribal holy book ever even considered.

It’s rare to find strongly articulated intellectual philosophies about the meaning of life and the human condition– or in this case, the posthuman condition– combined so seamlessly with strong talents at prose, characterization, plot and setting. Greg Egan could be the most brilliant visionary of our time, tuned into the meaning of life as it is, and as it could be.

4.5 out of 5

Gravitomagnetism in Brane-Worlds - Ali Nayeri and Adam Reynolds

" In this paper we discuss a physical observable which is drastically different in a brane-world scenario. To date, the Randall-Sundrum model seems to be consistent with all experimental tests of general relativity. Specifically, we examine the so-called gravitomagnetic effect in the context of the Randall-Sundrum (RS) model. This treatment, of course, assumes the recovery of the Kerr metric in brane-worlds which we have found to the first order in the ratio of the brane separation to the radius of the AdS$_5$, $(ell/r)$. We first show that the second Randall-Sundrum model of one brane leaves the gravitomagnetic effect unchanged. Then, we consider the two-brane scenario of the original Randall-Sundrum proposal and show that the magnitude of the gravitomagnetic effect depends heavily on the ratio of $(ell/r)$. Such dependence is a result of the geometrodynamic spacetime and does not appear in static scenarios. We hope that we will be able to test this proposal experimentally with data from NASA's Gravity Probe B (GP-B)and possibly disprove either the Randall-Sundrum two-brane scenario or standard general relativity."

5 out of 5

Zendegi 2 - Greg Egan

"Martin turned to Omar. “So what does a paramedic do when he comes across a man dressed as a woman?” He was assuming Jabari's companion was pre-operative, though that wasn't necessarily the case; Ayatollah Khomeini, no less, had issued a startlingly enlightened fatwa in the eighties, declaring that gender reassignment surgery was a perfectly acceptable practice.

Omar said, “For a heroin addict lying in an alley, who knows? But for this, I think he acts like he doesn't notice. Why make te-rouble?”

Martin pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes. A male paramedic had an excuse to play dumb, but what happened when a female doctor examined the patient more closely? Notwithstanding Khomeini's ruling, there was no guarantee that a man who took oestrogen and put on an evening gown was going to sail through the segregated medical system without igniting some form of commotion."

4 out of 5

The Complete Guide to the Year's Best Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror

Updated with the new Guran Dark Fantasy book.

A Covenant With Death - James Enge

A Covenant With Death - James Enge

Unicorn saving problems.

3.5 out of 5

Combined Free SF Reader and Not Free SF Reader List By Author updated

Combined Free SF Reader and Not Free SF Reader List By Author updated :-

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Armaggedon 2419 AD - Philip Francis Nowlan

Armageddon 2419 AD - Philip Francis Nowlan

Anthony Rogers enters suspended animation in 1927 and wakes up in 2419.

He soon finds himself surrounded by some pretty cool technology, and in a military conflict. His military skills are still transferable to the present day, so he becomes an important player in the fight against the Han, especially with Wilma Deering by his side.

3.5 out of 5

Shaping the Future - Charles Stross

From Worldchanging :

It's even harder to predict the second-order consequences of new technologies when they start merging at the edges, and hybridizing.

A modern cellphone is nothing like a late-1980s cellphone. Back then, the cellphone was basically a voice terminal. Today it's as likely as not to be a video and still camera, a GPS navigation unit, have a keyboard for texting, a screen for surfing the web, an MP3 player, and it may also be a full-blown business computer with word processing and spreadsheet applications aboard.

In future it may end up as a pocket computer that simply runs voice-over-IP software, using the cellular telephony network — or WiFi or WiMax or just about any other transport layer that comes to hand — to move speech packets back and forth with acceptable latency.

And it's got peripherals. GPS location, cameras, text input. What does it all mean?"

5 out of 5

The Dervish House 1 - Ian McDonald

"Necdet sees the woman’s head explode. He was only trying to avoid more direct, challenging eye contact with the young woman with the good cheekbones and the red-highlighted hair who had caught him looking in her direction three times. He’s not staring at her. He’s not a creep. Necdet let his eyes unfocus and wander mildly across the passengers, wedged so politely together. This is a new tram at a new time: twenty minutes earlier, but the connections get him into work less than an hour late, thus not upsetting Mustafa, who hates having to act the boss. So: his tram-mates. The boy and girl in their old-­fashioned high-button blue school uniforms and white collars that Necdet thought they didn’t make kids wear anymore. They carried OhJeeWah Gumi backpacks and played insatiably with their ceptep phones. The gum-chewing man staring out the window, his mastication amplified by his superb moustache. Beside him the smart man of business and fashion scanning the sports news on his ceptep. That purple velvet suit must be that new nanofabric that is cool in summer, warm in winter, and changes from silk to velvet at a touch. The woman with the curl of silver hair straying over her brow from under her headscarf and the look of distant rue on her face. She frees her right hand from the crowd, lifts it to touch the jewel at her throat. And detonates her head."

4 out of 5

By the Way - Charles Stross

"1. Quick! Tell us a little about yourself and The Jennifer Morgue.

Must I? Oh very well. The Jennifer Morgue is my latest novel, and it's the second in a series that follow the misadventures of a slashdot-reading sandal-wearing hacker-geek who's fallen into the wrong universe and can't get out. We first met "Bob Howard" (as he calls himself in these stories) in The Atrocity Archives. It turns out that magic exists; but it's a branch of applied mathematics. Computers being gadgets that can be used for theorem solving at high speed, Bob stumbled across this the hard way at university -- and only just survived long enough to be drafted by the Laundry, a shadowy British government agency for defending us from the scum of the multiverse.

And by "scum", I mean "scum". Or ichor. Or bubbling vile tentacled horrors from beyond spacetime. We are in H. P. Lovecraft territory here, and the horrid truth is that the stars are due to come right in just another twelve yearsor so, at which point we'll have Cthulhu to deal with. And Bob is expected to deal with this on a civil service salary, with matrix management and paperclip audits on top."

3.5 out of 5

Genre Ducking A 2006 Interview with - Charles Stross

"We covered all the high points that I suspect listeners will want to hear; space opera, economic genre fiction, gender bending and everything from the status of children in so-called Victorian London to Napoleonic space battles over far-flung planets, from the Cory Doctorow-alike lead character of 'Accelerando' to the status of children in so-called Victorian England. "

4 out of 5

The Big Idea - Vicki Petterssen

"The initial premise for my Signs of the Zodiac series was simple: take the superhero construct of good and evil and drop those dueling sides – represented by Light and Shadow – down in Las Vegas to watch them battle it out against the neon backdrop. Vegas is my hometown, so research is a cinch and the real world setting is just odd enough that readers often question the gray areas of what’s real and what’s not. (After all, what’s stranger, superheroes duking it out in Sin City or the fact that Wayne Newton is still headlining here?)"

3.5 out of 5

The Weird of Ironspell 4 The Jewel and the Giant-King - John R. Fultz

A wailing guard, having slain the last of the tigers, jabbed his spear at Ironspell. The warrior dodged its oversized point. He opened his fist to receive the hilt of the spinning Runesblood. As he slew the last two sentinels, leaping to slash their throats, a third giant rushed into the hall brandishing a great stone hammer. Tumnal downed the contents of a flask he’d been saving and leapt into the giant’s path as it raised the mallet high for a killing blow. The thief spit a gout of swirling orange flames upon his attacker. The burning giant dropped his hammer, rolled across the floor and howled.

“I’ve got it,” Tumnal said, belching black smoke.

“Time to leave,” said Ironspell.

Tumnal tossed him the flask, motioning for him to drink it down. “Dragon’s Rum…”

3.5 out of 5

The Weird of Ironspell 3 Return of the Golden Skull - John R. Fultz

"“Lord Ironspell, we hereby appoint you Warlord of the Triple Alliance. Lead our troops against the death horde. For this service, we will grant you anything in our power to give.”

Ironspell picked up the golden bowl from which he had been drinking.

“Give me more wine,” he said, and they did."

3 out of 5

The Weird of Ironspell 2 - John R. Fultz

"“Open your gates, Slaves of Azazar!” bellowed Grobos the gnome in the eastern dialect. He dismounted from his camel and pointed a stubby finger up at the sentinels. “Tell your master that Ironspell has come for him!”

The wall guards laughed. “Why don’t you write him a letter, dog?” one of them shouted. The rest howled with mirth. “Leave off! Or we’ll show you the true meaning of devil!” shouted another.

Ironspell drew his silver blade. The soldiers above gasped when they saw the dancing crimson of its runes against the sunlight. Ironspell exchanged a silent glance with Grobos, and the gnome nodded his tiny head. His little hands knotted into fists, his eyes glowing like hot coals, and his crooked mouth opened wide. He growled at the iron citadel, his voice a croaking moan. It sank into a tremendous basso tone that shook the gravel below his feet. Pears and pomegranates fell to the earth throughout the orchards; the green grasses swayed in the path of some invisible storm. The sentinels blew upon great, curling battle-horns, but they were barely heard over Grobos’ deepening roar."

4 out of 5

The Office of Shadow 1 - Matthew Sturges

"She shook her head sadly, worked to speak clearly. “Someone from the City of Mab had been to see him. Five times in the past year. I was just curious. Bel Zheret showed up when—” She winced.

Paet brought up the knife. “They take him?”

Jenien nodded. “He struggled; they killed him.”


“I don’t want to die,” she said. It was a statement, merely an observation.

“We’ve been dead for a long time,” he whispered in her ear. He drew the knife across her throat in a quick, sure motion, and pulled her neck back to hasten the bleeding. She shook; her chest lurched once, then twice. He waited until he was certain she was dead, checking her eyes. He looked into them until all the life had gone out of them. It took time. Dying always took time.

Paet took a deep breath and braced his knee against her back. He put the serrated blade of the knife to Jenien’s throat again, using the original cut as a guide. He buried his other hand in her hair and pulled, hard, as he began to saw."

4 out of 5

Optimism and pessimism-where did it all go right? - Alastair Reynolds

"With some honorable exceptions, though, science fiction seems to have rather fallen out of love with the idea of the technological but livable future. After writing a slew of books and stories set in the Revelation Space universe, I was a little taken aback to find myself routinely described as a purveyor of dark, grim, pessimistic SF. That wasn’t what I’d set out to do, after all. My counterstrike was to point out that 1) any work of fiction positing the existence of humanity several centuries from now is, on some level, ultimately optimistic and 2) for the purposes of fiction, I was necessarily zeroing-in on groups of characters in extremis, caught at pinch-points in the future history. Presumably for every character caught in a space battle or some other less-than-pleasant life-threatening situation, there were millions - billions - going about their ordinary lives off-page. But in hindsight I can’t deny that there was something fundamentally “dark” about the RS books, a kind of miserabilist ruling aesthetic or purple-tinged gothlike mood. I sometimes think of my brain as resembling a giant mixing desk in a music studio, with lots of sliders. In the RS books, those sliders were very evidently pushed to one end of the scale. That was all well and good, and I’m not done with the RS universe yet - but was that all I wanted to do? I hope not, and I hope it’s become clear through some of the other books and stories that the sliders can be adjusted a bit. It’s never going to be entirely happy-clappy in one of my universes, but it doesn’t all have to be read to a background score of punishing death metal. In fact, you’re probably better off with some Sibelius."

4 out of 5

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wolves of Darkness - Jack Williamson

Wolves Of Darkness - Jack Williamson
An other-dimensional werewolf story reminiscent of (and earlier than) Darker Than You Think.

3 out of 5

The Three Planeteers - Edmond Hamilton

Space Musketeer subterfuge.

War is brewing between the Alliance and the League. John Thorn and his two mates decide to fake outlaw status to see what they can do to help the Alliance. However, getting into trouble, this means falling in with the space pirate Companions and their leader, Lana Cain.

So, it is some of :
"From Mercury to Pluto,
From Saturn back to mars,
We'll fight and sail and blaze our trail in crimson through the stars.
We'll cram our holds with plunder
From every world and moon,
And thunder back on the homeward track To feast at old Turkoon!"

Pirates, of course, will not be too happy to find they have undercover space agents in their ranks. Even less so when they discover they have agents from both sides around, and a kidnapped boss.

Lots of problems for the John Thorn trio as the Alliance fleet is hard pressed, and he has a pirate leader to rescue, and a super weapon component to retrieve.

3.5 out of 5

Deluge 51 - Brian Keene

"“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were tame. Is that it? Were you a pet rat? Did you belong to the guy who shot at me?”"

3.5 out of 5

Deluge 50 - Brian Keene

“He’s naked?”

“Yeah. Why? Is that important?”

Novak shrugged. “It’s better for Gail. Naked people often feel more vulnerable. He might be less likely to attack her if he’s feeling that way.”

3.5 out of 5

Sandbagged by the near future - Charles Stross

"Back in mid-2008 I mentioned that what I thought was a futuristic-circa-2023 technology for the next novel was too damn close. Slightly more recently, in Living through interesting times, I mentioned that it was becoming near-as-dammit impossible to write near-future SF; I was sore because Bernie Madoff had stolen the plot of my next novel."

3.5 out of 5

Talks to io9 About Sex Prison and Politics - Charles Stross

"When is science fiction a form of political intervention?

That's a tough one!

Looking at fiction in the broader sense, it's fairly clear that it can have political repercussions; Orwell's work (from "Animal Farm" and "1984" to the less-well-remembered journalistic indictment, "The Road to
Wigan Pier") was unequivocally political, and in "1984" he certainly worked with tools from the box labeled "science fiction". But it's relatively rare for politics to be the main purpose of a work of fiction, and even rarer for a work of avowedly political fiction to be any good.

Fiction, confabulation, story-telling — is, when you get down to it, usually used as an entertainment medium, and also as a mechanism for showing us about other ways of thinking, and if you try to preach a
political message you usually end up with something that's not very entertaining (if not outright annoying to a lot of your readers)."

3.5 out of 5

Nebula Awards Interview 2010 - Nancy Kress

"“Act One,” your novella on the final ballot for the Nebula Award for 2010 , is a story of genetic engineering in the near future. What was the inspiration behind this story?

It wasn’t any one thing, but rather a combination: a long-standing interest in the ambiguities of genetic engineering; happening to stumble across a fascinating book on dwarfism; an image of a beautiful woman descending a grimy basement stairs; and a poodle who seems exceptionally adept at reading body language. Such things cross-fertilize in the mind, and I’m usually surprised by what emerges. "

3.5 out of 5

Mr. Spaceship - Philip K. Dick

Mr. Spaceship - Philip K. Dick
Needs brains to avoid space mines.

3.5 out of 5

Anticipation World Con - Charles Stross and Paul Krugman

Anticipation World Con, audio recording of the discussion.

4 out of 5

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sci-Fi Week Chat with Hugo nominees - Charles Stross and Peter Watts and Vernor Vinge

"cstross: Question: 2006ade: Charles Stross: You skip forward in time considerably with story number four, which picks up with Manfred's daughter Amber. At first I was disappointed to see Macx go, but now I'm falling in love with her. Why the generational jump and will we do this again in part three? Any chance dad (or a part of him) will make a reappearance?

Answer: I structured ACCELERANDO as a trilogy of trilogies of novelettes -- each trilogy tracking one generation of a dysfunctional posthuman society. And yes, your guess is correct (but I'm not spoilering anything)."

3.5 out of 5

The Tech Lab - Charles Stross

"Consider a carbon crystal, created (and edited) one atom at a time by nanomachinery; there are two stable isotopes of carbon, and we can use a Carbon-12 atom to represent a binary 0 and a Carbon-13 atom to represent a binary 1.
1024 terabytes
1,048,576 gigabytes
1,073,741,824 megabytes

One gram of this substance could store 10 to the power 21 bytes (887,808 petabytes) - the equivalent storage of more than 11 billion typical PCs.

By way of comparison, in 2003 we as a species recorded 2,200 petabytes (2.5 x 10 to the power 18 bytes) of data - enough to fill the hard drives of more than 28m typical PCs.

If we can figure out how to read and write data on the atomic scale, you could store the sum total of all the data we recorded in 2003 on a grain of sand."

3.5 out of 5

On the Spot at BSC - Charles Stross

"Lawrence – What were your aims when writing your latest novel, Halting State?

Charles Stross: Halting State is an attempt to explore the very real virtual realities that are now coming into existence. VR was meat and drink for SF from 1984 — with William Gibson’s Neuromancer — until some time after Neal Stephenson published Snow Crash, but it hasn’t had a lot of love since then. Which is odd, because we finally have broadband internet and massively multiplayer online roleplaying games which actually fit the model for large VR communities! So I decided to revisit the whole VR in SF thing, but on the basis of existing technologies, and see where it was set to take us in the near future."

4 out of 5

Tomorrow's Everyday - Damien G. Walter

"But for all the consistency of his intelligence, he has always made a point of working in as many of science fiction's diverse sub-genres as possible, resisting the pressures of a commercial genre to repeat a formula. "I decided a long time ago that I wanted to write full-time," he explains. "But because I get bored easily, I kicked back pretty hard against the demand that I do more of the same." Alongside space operas like Singularity Sky, he has published a series merging Lovecraftian horror with British cold war thrillers, and what he describes as a "fantasy series that isn't" with echoes of Roger Zelazny and H Beam Piper."

4 out of 5

The Legion of Lazarus - Edmond Hamilton

The Legion Of Lazarus - Edmond Hamilton
Long time dead, now need heaps of Titanite for hyperdrive.

3.5 out of 5

Crooked Timber Seminar - Charles Stross

Talking about his books. It also has an author response.

4 out of 5

Keeping Life Interesting - Charles Stross

From Gary Kemble's Articulate in 2006 :

""Similarly, the Internet didn't really begin to appear in fiction until about 1992 even though it had been around a long time.

"There are a few exceptions, for example Vernor Vinge but for the most part it blind-sided us and one of the questions I'm interested in is, what is the next big thing that's going to blind-side us?"

He says the rise of online gaming is a prime candidate."

4 out of 5

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Missile Gap - Charles Stross

Online story.

4 out of 5

The Taste of Night 3 - Pat Cadigan

""Just from what I could see, the tumour has either co-opted part of your wife's brain -- stolen it, complete with blood supply -- or there's a second brain growing in your wife's skull."

3.5 out of 5

The Taste of Night 2 - Pat Cadigan

"And that was how it would be. No, that was how it was always, but the five senses worked so hard to compensate for the one missing that people took the illusion of contact for the real thing. The power of suggestion -- where would the human race be without it?

Sight. Hearing. Smell. Taste. Touch. _________.


3.5 out of 5

Notes from Coode Street: Live with Gary Wolfe - Jonathan Strahan

"In the second of our regular series of weekly podcasts Gary Wolfe and I discuss canon formation, Joanna Russ, and all sorts of other stuff. It’s kinda long. I accidentally messed up the first take so this actually is a complete re-recording. We hope you like it. Right now we plan to do this pretty much every week."

4 out of 5

Borders - Charles Stross

"Charlie Stross visited San Francisco for a reading & Q&A at Borders - Union Square. This was the last event in his October 2007 tour of the West Coast, in support of Halting State."

4 out of 5

Episode 3 Live With Gary K Wolfe! - Jonathan Strahan

"This time we discuss reviewing, books, and all sorts of other stuff. I did promise to mention any specific titles, but today’s chat is pretty general so there’s nothing specific to mention. Except, oops, The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction, we do discuss that a bit. More next week!"

4 out of 5

On Canonical List Making - Jonathan Strahan

"John DeNardo and the good people over at discuss ‘What science fiction books should be in every fan’s library?“. While I love SFSignal and think they do cool stuff, the question itself bothers me so I recorded a new monologue where I talk about canon building, making lists and so on."

3.5 out of 5

On Subterranean Magazine and an Editor's Living - Jonathan Strahan

Lucky not only in it for the money, as monologuing is one of the incipient signs of a descent into supervillainry?

(new issue of subterranean magazine is hsi)

3.5 out of 5

The Taste of Night 1 - Pat Cadigan

"The ripples kept expanding until they reached the backs of her eyes and swept through them with a sensation of a wind ruffling feathery flowers. She saw twinkling lights and then a red-hot spike went through her right temple. There was just enough time for her to inhale before an ice-pick went through her eye to cross the spike at right angles.

Something can be a million lightyears away and in your eye at the same time."

3.5 out of 5

Charles Stross: On Her Majesty's Occult Service - Marty Halpern

"Charlie sent a reply that very same day:

"Firstly, I'm up to my eyeballs in work right now. I'm writing a series for Asimov's SF which will turn into a fix-up novel [Accelerando, Ace 2005], I'm working on book #2 of a contract for Ace [Iron Sunrise, 2004], and my agent is hoping to sell a tetralogy [Merchant Princes series] -- only one book of which is written so far! -- in the next couple of months. (Meaning, yet another big fat novel to write.) Therefore I almost certainly won't have time to write an original novella for you before March of next year.... However, if you're willing to settle for slightly-less-than-100%-original.... There's a second possibility, but this one is slightly offbeat. You may have seen my short novel "The Atrocity Archive", which Paul Fraser is currently serialising in Spectrum SF. It's 76,000 words long; he's running it in issues #7 through #9. Book rights to this short novel have not been sold; my agent is focusing on my SF work... [this is] a borderline horror/SF/thriller crossover... If you'd like to look at it I'd be happy to send you a copy and if necessary get [my agent] Caitlin Blasdell to talk to you about rights.... let's meet up and chat about things at ConJose.""

4.5 out of 5

Bad Language Interview with sci-fi author - Charles Stross

"Tools: on a software level, I tend to be fanatical about cross-platform portability. I dislike Windows, but am able to use it; I mostly run Macs, but keep one foot in the Linux pool. My core tools are: Thunderbird (for email), Firefox (web browser), OpenOffice (office suite), and Vim (text editor). It’s no coincidence that they’re all open source, and run on Windows/Mac/Linux. I want to maintain ownership of my data — my business cycle is so radically different from that of the usual customers of, say, Microsoft, that I don’t want to entrust my writing to any format I can’t to some extent reverse-engineer. (Novels, for example, can remain in print for 30 years if you’re lucky; but your average business document is a fossil at 3. Ditto magazine features.) I’d stick to UTF-8 and RestructuredText files if publishers didn’t have a Microsoft Word fetish — that’s where OpenOffice comes in."

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Wives (and Drives) of Robert Heinlein: Leslyn The Wives (and Drives) of Robert Heinlein: Ginny - Frederik Pohl

"Robert Heinlein’s next, and final, wife was Lt. Virginia Gerstenfeld. She worked with (and outranked) Heinlein at the little wartime research group in Philadelphia that was charged with trying to figure out what a high-altitude (read: space) suit should be like.

Politically, she and I were nowhere near close, but we agreed to disagree and generally talked about something else. That didn’t really matter. Bob had picked her and she was his loyalest fan and ferociousest protector, and as long as he lived that was plenty good enough for me."

4 out of 5

Discord's Apple 1 - Carrie Vaughn

""Meet Queen Mab," her father said.

"When did you get a dog?"

"She was a stray. Showed up on the porch a while back. Since I caught a couple of prowlers last month, I thought having Mab around might be a good thing."

"Prowlers? Out here?"

"Oh, prowlers, salesmen- you'd be surprised how many visitors I get."

3 out of 5

The Devil In Green 1-3 - Mark Chadbourn

"He dug his heels hard into the weary horse’s flanks, but all he could get out of it was a burst of steaming breath and a shake of sweat. A cry caught in his throat. He wanted to wish himself somewhere else, he wanted his parents, but the shakes that swept through him drove everything away.

Though the blasting wind made his eyes sting, he kept his gaze fixed on the wet road ahead, but soon his peripheral vision was picking up motion. He was caught in a pincer movement. Some of them could have had him then, but they were waiting for the others to catch up. Briefly, the hellish whistling faded, but that was only because it was drowned beneath the constant low shriek that rolled out of his own mouth. Dignity no longer mattered, only his poor, pathetic life.

And then the things were at the side of the road, tracking the horse with wild bounds. With rolling eyes and flaring nostrils, his mount found some reservoir of energy.

In a brief instant of lucidity, he remembered the cricket bat. His panic made him yank at it so wildly that the clothesline caught around his neck. Frantically, he tried to rip it free, but it was plastic and wouldn’t break. His actions became even more lunatic until, miraculously, the makeshift weapon came loose. He whirled, ready to beat off the first of the wave.

One of the things was already at his side. It moved with the easy grace and awkwardness of a monkey, long arms flipping it forward as fast as the horse could gallop. It had orange-red fur like an orangutan and it reeked of rotting fish. Then it turned its head toward him and it had the face of a child."

4 out of 5

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cyberpunk detective novel Altered Carbon really is all that - Charlie Jane Anders

"For years now, people have been telling me to read Richard K. Morgan's cyberpunksploitation novel Altered Carbon, and I've been meaning to get around to it. But holy fuck, it really is that great."

4.5 out of 5

He Walked Amng Us 1 - Norman Spinrad

"So what was now called the New Age Circuit had always been here in one incarnation or another, for the sacred orgy ranches, the seminar centers, the plush retreats for artists and writers and well-heeled pilgrims, grew naturally out of this landscape like magic mushrooms and wild marijuana.

And Amanda kidded herself not, as long as there were paying rubes to be fleeced, there would be snake-oil salesman and sleazy side-show gurus working the Cosmic Carney Circuit. Indeed, she had to take care to avoid becoming one herself, having better tools with which to do so than most."

3 out of 5

The Mad God's Amulet 1 Sorandum - Michael Moorcock

"The first man was tall and lean, and although weary he moved with the graceful stride of the trained warrior. His long fair hair had been bleached near white by the sun, and his pale blue eyes had a hint of madness in them. But the thing most remarkable about his appearance was the dull black jewel sunk into his forehead just above and between the eyes, a stigmata he owed to the perverted miracle workings of the sorcerer-scientists of Granbretan. His name was Dorian Hawkmoon, Duke von Köln, driven from his hereditary lands by the conquests of the Dark Empire, which schemed to rule the world. Dorian Hawkmoon, who had sworn vengeance against the most powerful nation on his war-tormented planet.

The creature who followed Hawkmoon bore a large bone bow and a quiver of arrows on his back. He was clad only in a pair of britches and boots of soft, floppy leather, but the whole of his body, including his face, was covered in red, wiry hair. His head came to just below Hawkmoon’s shoulder. This was Oladahn, cross-bred offspring of a sorcerer and a Mountain Giantess from the Bulgar Mountains."

4 out of 5

No Shield For the Dead - Gordon R. Dickson

Comptroller kill.

2.5 out of 5

To A Woman - Robert E. Howard

Though fathoms deep you sink me in the mould,
Locked in with thick-lapped lead and bolted wood,
Yet rest not easy in your lover's arms;
Let him beware to stand where I have stood.

I shall not fail to burst my ebon case,
And thrust aside the clods with fingers red:
Your blood shall turn to ice to see my face
Look from the shadows on your midnight bed.

To face the dead, he, too, shall wake in vain,
My fingers at his throat, your scream his knell;
He will not see me tear you from your bed,
And drag you by your golden hair to Hell.

4 out of 5

The One Black Stain - Robert E. Howard

They carried him out on the barren sand
where the rebel captains died;
Where the grim gray rotting gibbets stand
as Magellan reared them on the strand,
And the gulls that haunt the lonesome land
wail to the lonely tide.

Drake faced them all like a lion at bay,
with his lion head upflung:
"Dare ye my word of law defy,
to say this traitor shall not die?"
And his captains dared not meet his eye
but each man held his tongue.

Solomon Kane stood forth alone,
grim man of sober face:
"Worthy of death he may well be,
but the trial ye held was mockery,
"Ye hid your spite in a travesty
where justice hid her face.

"More of the man had ye been, on deck
your sword to cleanly draw
"In forthright fury from its sheath
and openly cleave him to the teeth --
"Rather than slink and hide beneath
a hollow word of the law."

Hell rose in the eyes of Francis Drake.
"Puritan knave!" swore he.
"Headsman! Give him the axe instead!
He shall strike off yon traitor's head!"
Solomon folded his arms and said,
darkly and somberly:

"I am no slave for your butcher's work."
"Bind him with triple strands!"
Drake roared and the men obeyed,
Hesitantly, as if afraid,
But Kane moved not as they took his blade
and pinioned his iron hands.

They bent the doomed man over to his knees,
the man who was to die;
They saw his lips in a strange smile bend,
one last long look they saw him send,
At Drake his judge and his one time friend
who dared not meet his eye.

The axe flashed silver in the sun,
a red arch slashed the sand;
A voice cried out as the head fell clear,
and the watchers flinched in sudden fear,
Though 'twas but a sea bird wheeling near
above the lonely strand.

"This be every traitor's end!"
Drake cried, and yet again.
Slowly his captains turned and went
and the admiral's stare was elsewhere bent
Than where the cold scorn with anger blent
in the eyes of Solomon Kane.

Night fell on the crawling waves;
the admiral's door was closed;
Solomon lay in the stenching hold;
his irons clashed as the ship rolled.
And his guard, grown weary and overbold,
lay down his pipe and dozed.

He woke with a hand at his corded throat
that gripped him like a vise;
Trembling he yielded up the key,
and the somber Puritan stood free,
His cold eyes gleaming murderously
with the wrath that is slow to rise.

Unseen, to the admiral's door,
went Solomon Kane from the guard,
Through the night and silence of the ship,
the guard's keen dagger in his grip;
No man of the dull crew saw him slip
through the door unbarred.

Drake at the table sat alone,
his face sunk in his hands;
He looked up, as from sleeping --
but his eyes were blank with weeping
As if he saw not, creeping,
death's swiftly flowing sands.

He reached no hand for gun or blade
to halt the hand of Kane,
Nor even seemed to hear or see,
lost in black mists of memory,
Love turned to hate and treachery,
and bitter, cankering pain.

A moment Solomon Kane stood there,
the dagger poised before,
As a condor stoops above a bird,
and Francis Drake spoke not nor stirred
And Kane went forth without a word
and closed the cabin door.

4 out of 5

Solomon Kane's Homecoming - Robert E. Howard

The white gulls wheeled above the cliffs, the air was slashed with foam,
The long tides moaned along the strand when Solomon Kane came home.
He walked in silence strange and dazed through the little Devon town,
His gaze, like a ghost's come back to life, roamed up the streets and down.

The people followed wonderingly to mark his spectral stare,
And in the tavern silently they thronged about him there.
He heard as a man hears in a dream the worn old rafters creak,
And Solomon lifted his drinking-jack and spoke as a ghost might speak:

"There sat Sir Richard Grenville once; in smoke and flame he passed.
"And we were one to fifty-three, but we gave them blast for blast.
"From crimson dawn to crimson dawn, we held the Dons at bay.
"The dead lay littered on our decks, our masts were shot away.

"We beat them back with broken blades, till crimson ran the tide;
"Death thundered in the cannon smoke when Richard Grenville died.
"We should have blown her hull apart and sunk beneath the Main."
The people saw upon his wrist the scars of the racks of Spain.

"Where is Bess?" said Solomon Kane. "Woe that I caused her tears."
"In the quiet churchyard by the sea she has slept these seven years."
The sea-wind moaned at the window-pane, and Solomon bowed his head.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and the fairest fade," he said.

His eyes were mystical deep pools that drowned unearthly things,
And Solomon lifted up his head and spoke of his wanderings.
"Mine eyes have looked on sorcery in dark and naked lands,
"Horror born of the jungle gloom and death on the pathless sands.

"And I have known a deathless queen in a city old as Death,
"Where towering pyramids of skulls her glory witnesseth.
"Her kiss was like an adder's fang, with the sweetness Lilith had,
"And her red-eyed vassals howled for blood in that City of the Mad.

"And I have slain a vampire shape that sucked a black king white,
"And I have roamed through grisly hills where dead men walked at night.
"And I have seen heads fall like fruit in a slaver's barracoon,
"And I have seen winged demons fly all naked in the moon.

"My feet are weary of wandering and age comes on apace;
"I fain would dwell in Devon now, forever in my place."
The howling of the ocean pack came whistling down the gale,
And Solomon Kane threw up his head like a hound that sniffs the trail.

A-down the wind like a running pack the hounds of the ocean bayed,
And Solomon Kane rose up again and girt his Spanish blade.
In his strange cold eyes a vagrant gleam grew wayward and blind and bright,
And Solomon put the people by and went into the night.

A wild moon rode the wild white clouds, the waves in white crests flowed,
When Solomon Kane went forth again and no man knew his road.
They glimpsed him etched against the moon, where clouds on hilltop thinned;
They heard an eery echoed call that whistled down the wind.

4 out of 5's_Homecoming

The King and the Oak - Robert E. Howard

Before the shadows slew the sun the kites were soaring free,
And Kull rode down the forest road, his red sword at his knee;
And winds were whispering round the world: "King Kull rides to the sea."

The sun died crimson in the sea, the long gray shadows fell;
The moon rose like a silver skull that wrought a demon's spell,
For in its light great trees stood up like spectres out of hell.

In spectral light the trees stood up, inhuman monsters dim;
Kull thought each trunk a living shape, each branch a knotted limb,
And strange unmortal evil eyes flamed horribly at him.

The branches writhed like knotted snakes, they beat against the night,
And one gray oak with swayings stiff, horrific in his sight,
Tore up its roots and blocked his way, grim in the ghostly light.

They grappled in the forest way, the king and grisly oak;
Its great limbs bent him in their grip, but never a word was spoke;
And futile in his iron hand, a stabbing dagger broke.

And through the monstrous, tossing trees there sang a dim refrain
Fraught deep with twice a million years of evil, hate and pain:
"We were the lords ere man had come and shall be lords again."

Kull sensed an empire strange and old that bowed to man's advance
As kingdoms of the grass-blades before the marching ants,
And horror gripped him in the dawn like someone in a trance.

He strove with bloody hands against a still and silent tree;
As from a nightmare dream he woke; a wind blew down the lea,
And Kull of high Atlantis rode silent to the sea.

4 out of 5

The Ghost Kings - Robert E. Howard

The ghost kings are marching; the midnight knows their tread,
From the distant, stealthy planets of the dim, unstable dead;
There are whisperings on the night-winds and the shuddering stars have fled.

A ghostly trumpet echoes from a barren mountainhead;
Through the fen the wandering witch-lights gleam like phantom arrows sped;
There is silence in the valleys and the moon is rising red.

The ghost kings are marching down the ages' dusty maze;
The unseen feet are tramping through the moonlight's pallid haze,
Down the hollow clanging stairways of a million yesterdays.

The ghost kings are marching, where the vague moon-vapor creeps,
While the night-wind to their coming, like a thund'rous herald sweeps;
They are clad in ancient grandeur, but the world, unheeding, sleeps.

4.5 out of 5

Thursday, May 20, 2010

De Bello Lemures or the Roman War Against the Zombies of Armorica

"If men armed with swords could not lay these monsters2 low, I doubted I could do much good with my dagger. I gave the one nearest to me a good shove instead, pushing it backwards as it reached out to pin down an arm of Radamyntos. The cavalryman shook free of his opponent, and lifting his sword high again this time struck for the neck. The blow did not quite decapitate, but came near enough to finally stop the monster’s advance. “Come on then!” Radamyntos shouted at the large one he had earlier seemed to recognize. The recognition was not returned. The monster hissed and moaned and continued its attack, but its eyes showed no awareness. Radamyntos cleaved its skull in two from right to left. This was as effective as a stopping blow as the neck-strike had been. The momentum of the sword-cut carried him forward just enough to cause him to stumble, though, and the last of the monsters to our front clambered on to his back. I brought the pommel of my pugio, which ended in a thick ring, down upon the back of its head with all my weight, and shattered its skull with a loud and painful crack."

4 out of 5

The Dark Is Rising - Susan Cooper

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

This second rhyme only refers to events in The Grey King and Silver on the Tree:

On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,
ac y mae’r arglwyddes yn dod.

All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter - J. R. R. Tolkien

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

4 out of 5

The Man From Snowy River - Banjo Paterson

The Man from Snowy River

Banjo Paterson

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses -- he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up --
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony -- three parts thoroughbred at least --
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry -- just the sort that won't say die --
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, "That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop -- lad, you'd better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you."
So he waited sad and wistful -- only Clancy stood his friend --
"I think we ought to let him come," he said;
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred."

"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."

So he went -- they found the horses by the big mimosa clump --
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, "Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills."

So Clancy rode to wheel them -- he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side."

When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat --
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reedbeds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

5 out of 5

R.E.H. - Robert Hayward Barlow

R. E. H.

_Died June 11, 1936_


* * * * *

Conan, the warrior king, lies stricken dead
Beneath a sky of cryptic stars; the lute
That was his laughter stilled, and sadly mute
Upon the chilling earth his youthful head.
There sounds for him no more the clamorous fray,
But dirges now, where once the trumpet loud:
About him press old memories for shroud,
And ended is the conflict of the day.

Death spilled the blood of him who loved the fight
As men love mistresses, and fought it well--
His fair young flesh is marble where he fell
With broken sword that vanquished all but Night;
And as of mythic kings our words must speak
Of Conan now, who roves where dreamers seek.

4 out of 5

The Big Idea - Paolo Bacigalupi

"And that’s where Ship Breaker comes in. I wanted to write a story for young people set inside the consequences of our present. Life when the bill comes due, so to speak. But beyond all that disaster stuff, I also wanted to write an adventure story, because, if you can’t tell by now, I’m sort of depressing to hang out with. I even depress myself. So I wanted Ship Breaker to be gripping and pulse-pounding, instead of relentlessly depressing."

3.5 out of 5

The Thing In the Attic - James Blish

Time to go out for us small people.

2.5 out of 5

Queen of the Flaming Diamond - Leroy Yerxa

Fox, she on the run Cinderella.

3 out of 5

At the Post - H. L. Gold

At the Post - H. L. Gold

Species survival writing release.

3 out of 5

Way of A Rebel - Walter M. Miller

Destruction war.

2 out of 5

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Duel on Syrtis - Poul Anderson

Bagging a Martian is hard.

4 out of 5

It Takes Two - Nicola Griffith

Strip memory contract.

4.5 out of 5

The Model of a Judge - William Morrison

The Model of a Judge - William Morrison
Have your alien cake.

Have your alien cake.

4 out of 5

The Sensitive Man - Poul Anderson

Social engineering is hard. Super agents, we can have a good crack at though.

3.5 out of 5

Fritz Leiber-Selected Stories Introduction - Neil Gaiman

"Leiber wrote some great books, and he wrote some stinkers: the majority of his SF novels in particular feel dated and throwaway. He wrote some great short stories in SF and fantasy and horror and there's scarcely a stinker among them, even when the SF elements feel tacked on or redundant or protective colouration for the fantastic."

3.5 out of 5

The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories Introduction - Charles Stross

"Walter is one of the science fiction field's secret treasures. It wasn't always thus; his first five novels were of a nautical, if not Napoleonic, type (a form that he has successfully translated into space opera in his Dread Empire's Fall series). For reasons I'm unclear on (but applaud the results of) he turned his hand to science fiction in the early 1980s, releasing a steady stream of novels over two and a half decades that bracket the quirks and obsessions of some of the genre's leading lights with his own inimitable style. From the Zelazny-esque world of Knight Moves to the criminal comedy caper of the Drake Maijstral books (think Raffles in Space, with just a touch of Jeeves, and you won't go far wrong), he's put his own distinctive stamp on a host of popular themes—and broken new ground of his own, with such landmark novels as Aristoi and Metropolitan. Along the way he came close to leaving a mark of a much more significant kind, writing the definitive cyberpunk novel in the form of Hardwired. (Gibson's Neuromancer, while widely admired, is seldom emulated; Hardwired, mostly written before Neuromancer was published, seems to have defined the form.)"

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Basics of Flight 01 - Joyce Chng

"He disappeared into the flying lion fish. For a moment, nobody dared to speak, all eyes intent on the contraption. Someone loosened the rope and the pilot appeared from an window, quickly pulling the rest of the rope back in. The lion fish was no longer floating but moving with purpose. Everyone gasped and ducked as one when it shot over their heads and lifted into the air.

She tilted her head up, shielding her eyes. The lion fish – leo-fin – shimmered in the Dorset sun. It was glorious. It was magnificent.

She wanted it so much to be hers."

3 out of 5

On the Net - James Patrick Kelly

In this installment of his column he goes looking for other planets :

" It is a pleasure to report that, as I type this, we now know of 429 extrasolar planets (aka exoplanets) in orbit around 362 stars, according to Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s PlanetQuest site. "

4 out of 5

Mariana - Fritz Leiber

Switch off.

3 out of 5

Thing of Beauty - Damon Knight

No chips time slip.

2.5 out of 5

Broken Mirrors 11 - Tim Pratt

"Crapsey was glad he’d never seen Dr. Husch before, because he probably would have done something stupid like pledge his life to defend her. It wasn’t just that she was beautiful, though she was that – Helen of Troy beautiful, classical statue beautiful, Emma Frost in a white corset beautiful, the kind of woman who necessitated the invention of painting – it was the fact that her beauty was somehow perfectly calibrated to trip all Crapsey’s switches and levers. If asked, he’d have said he liked girls with lots of piercings and tattoos, so slender their hipbones and ribs showed, though big fake boobs were acceptable additions to the standard template. And yet it turned out his ultimate heart’s delight was platinum blonde hair in a tight bun and va-voom curves barely contained in a severe dark blue suit-with-skirt."

4.5 out of 5

Broken Mirrors 10 - Tim Pratt

"Marla cleared her throat. “How sure are you two that this hole you’re about to tear open in space-time actually leads to Beta-B’s world? How do you know it’s not a trap the possible witch left for us, a portal to some nightmarish hell dimension of electrified lava and demons with chainsaws for genitals?”"

3.5 out of 5

Broken Mirrors 08 - Tim Pratt

"Rondeau nodded. “It’s true. Marla can be cranky, but she’s no epic supervillain. She did take over the land of the dead one time, but not for keeps. I mean, she gave it back, once she found the right guy to take over.”

“You’ve been to the actual underworld?” Bradley said.

“B, you’re the one who got me a ticket on the train that took me to Hell. I couldn’t have done it without you. Or, not you, but Alpha-B. You know.”"

4 out of 5

Personnel Problem - H. L. Gold

Rocky living inside.

3 out of 5

A Slight Case of Sunstroke - Arthur C. Clarke

The Stroke Of the Sun - Arthur C. Clarke
South American soccer dodgy even in Clarke stories, but frying the ref probably wasn't intended.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Stroke of the Sun - Arthur C. Clarke

The Stroke Of the Sun - Arthur C. Clarke
South American soccer dodgy even in Clarke stories, but frying the ref probably wasn't intended.

3.5 out of 5

Lastborn - Isaac Asimov

Neanderthal stasis maternal ending.

4 out of 5

The Ugly Little Boy - Isaac Asimov

Neanderthal stasis maternal ending.

4 out of 5

Human Error - Raymond F. Jones

Project Superman problems.

2 out of 5

Clarkesworld 44 - Sean Wallace

3 articles in this one and a decent story make it come out average.

Clarkesworld 44 : A Jar of Goodwill - Tobias S. Buckell
Clarkesworld 44 : A Sweet Calling - Tony Pi

Hermaphrodite Friends don't lobotomise alien races Compact.

3.5 out of 5

Toasty Monkey.

2.5 out of 5

3 out of 5

A Jar Of Goodwill - Tobias S. Buckell

Hermaphrodite Friends don't lobotomise alien races Compact.

3.5 out of 5

A Sweet Calling - Tony Pi

Toasty Monkey.

2.5 out of 5

Executive Solutions - Bruce Sterling and Chris Nakashima-Brown

Her Royal Corpseness communication.

3 out of 5

Black Man's Burden - Mack Reynolds

Islam primitive problem.

2.5 out of 5

Oogie Finds Love - Berkeley Livingston

Ugg! After the women!

2 out of 5

The Priests of Psi - Frank Herbert

Agent recruiting war prevention.

4 out of 5

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Black Amazon of Mars - Leigh Brackett


Number of words : 23900
Percent of complex words : 5.3
Average syllables per word : 1.4
Average words per sentence : 15.3


Fog : 8.3
Flesch : 76.5
Flesch-Kincaid : 6.4


Eric John Stark

N'Chaka, the Man-Without-a-Tribe. Earthman, out of Mercury.


A dying Martian.


The warlord Ciara, Black Amazon of Mars.

Ban Cruach

A great Martian king of old.


Leader of the Riders of Mekh.


One of Ciaran's men. Elderly and crazed.


A Kushat girl who helps Stark. Balin's sister.


The military leader in Kushat.


A soldier of Kushat. Thanis' brother.


A noble in Kushat.


A girl Stark knew in his youth.



A Martian desert region.


Where Stark is heading. A city in the Martian north.

Thieves' Quarter

Where Camar was born.

Gates of Death

A pass that opens into the black mountains beyond Kushat. Domain of Ban Cruach.


Ancient Earth city.

Phobos and Deimos

The moons of Mars.

Jekkara and Valkis and Barrakesh

Southern cities of Mars.


Lord of Silence

A deity.

High Martian

Ancient dialect.



A crystal lens, some four inches across with an intricate interlocking of many
facets. Ban Cruach's, and contains his knowledge.

Crystal Globes

Ancient technology, used for heat blocking.


Technology of the ice-folk.


Riders of Mekh

Ciaran's barbarian warriors.



Shining faceless ones. The kings of the glacial ice of ages past. Banished by Ban Cruach.


Ban Cruach's sword

Worries the ice-folk.


Stark's friend Camar has taken the Talisman of Ban Cruach, and wants to take it back to Kushat. However, he has been mortally wounded, so passes it on to Stark.

Stark runs into a problem when he encounters the Riders of Merkh - a barbarian horde under the command of Lord Ciaran. He is brought in front of the lord, who shows both intelligence and brutality, but he manages to escape and make it to Kushat. Despite two of the locals, a brother and sister believing him, those in charge do not believe in barbarian hordes at the gate.

Hence, unprepared and despite Stark's effort, Kushat will soon be overrun. Stark decides to lead a charge, however, futile, and heads straight for Ciaran. They clash on horseback, both losing their weapons. This brings Stark an advantage in size as they grapple - and even more so when he realises Ciaran is actually female. She still has a good punch though, knocking Stark back.

Her own men are shocked by this revelation, but she declares he accomplishments, and when they waver she rides into them, slaughtering several. So the new boss is the as the old boss. Stark gets away in this confusion. Fascinated, however, he seeks her out in her new chambers in Kushat.

She says will eve go beyond the Gates of Death - and knows that Stark has the talisman.

Thanis' brother Balin has gone to the Gates of Death, which is very bad if in his anger at his city's loss he looses what Ban Cruach stived to hold in check. The coming of the ice-folk again.

Both Stark and Ciara are too brave to see the city go this way, even if it is not hers, and they head out to try and find Balin. There they find ancient super science and the old, cold race, and Ban Cruach's sword.

It is up to Stark to use the talisman and Ban Cruach's knowledge within to hold back this old anyway, and save Balin and Ciara.

5 out of 5