I always look forward to receiving the next issue of Analog in the mail, even when I haven’t finished the previous issue. I rarely finish an issue, but supporting a critical short story market is important to me.
Having been a manager in a customer order/support center and fulfillment for a number of periodicals, I have seen first hand how difficult it is to finance and run small to medium sized monthly and quarterly publications. One of the wildcards in periodicals is the US Postal service. The laws and regulations are numerous and confusing, even though most are designed to benefit the periodical. However, once those forms are completed, ensuring that a clean, well cared for issue of your magazine, reaches your customer is extremely difficult.
Case in point: see the picture of my April 2009 issue of Analog. I’ve used clear tape to secure the cover, well, what is left of the cover, as best as I can. If one of the periodicals that I used to work with arrived looking like this, the customer would call and request an new issue be sent, which erodes already small profits.
Anyway, I’ve let this post get away from me.
Stone’s story, “The Final Element” is a mystery that only a human savvy nanotech engineer can unravel. The rarest of musical instruments, the Soil Stradivarius, a violin that has been played by Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, and Yuri Volokh, was stolen and replicated. It is Dennis Lombardo’s job to distinguish the fake from the original.
If I tell you more about this story, I will ruin the ending, the plot as it progresses, and the joy of reading it. So, instead I will end this review early with a note about craft. Where I am weak and allow my fiction to digress and ramble, Stone is somehow able to keep this prose sparsely fully of relevant details that never distract and only add to scene and deepen the speculative science. It is a good model for learners, like myself, an architecture that should be noticed and stolen by other writers that wish to successfully manage an story from the spark of idea into a readable story on the page.
Note: Following this story there is a short “Biolog” of Stone, as written by Richard A. Lovett. I’m normally not a big fan of biography, wishing to enjoy the story a part from the author, but in this case, I enjoyed it. I hope that Analog continues, from time to time, included extras like “Biolog.”
Readers of this blog know that I am married to a poet, specifically, 9 to 5 Poet. We just celebrated her birthday last week. Normally, I’d find a thing, an object that expressed my continued infatuation with her person. This year, I noticed that she had grown thin in her motivation to produce poetry – not a good situation for a poet. This does not mean that she had stopped writing, in no way do I mean that; however, I haven’t seen the same level of dedication to her craft.
So, in stead of a thing, I picked up tickets to see Nikki Giovanni at the Fitzgerald Theater, which we attended Thursday night. I think that seeing a politically active artist, poet, was good for both of us. I came a way with a refreshed mind and surge of energy to get back at my true work, not blogging, not reading (however very important), not teaching (however essential to paying the bills), but writing.
Still, however important I felt the Talking Volumes interview was to my craft as a fiction writer, it was even more important to my poet wife. Seeing the rang of emotions on my wife’s face as the interview bobbed and weaved through moments of sadness, joy, love, and hope, made me realize that I had been contributing to her malnutrition as a poet.
We both like TV drama. We like TV drama a lot. We watch and rent, Lost, The Wire, House, Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, and ... The list goes on and on. We love TV. It is easy and inexpensive. We can do it together. However, it has caused us to stop, well, at least not actively peruse that which will feed out inner artists.
Well, I think that it is time that we start to feed the inner artist. We need to do more that will connect us to our craft and the community of artist in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I hope that by going to this interview, we can start 2009 out right. Perhaps we can call it, the year we became artist.
Pseudopod is the best thing that has happened to horror fiction. It continually produces and casts the highest quality short fiction in the horror genre. Please, if you are a horror fan, traffic this site, and if you can spare a few dollars in this strapped economy, feed the pod, helping this unique and utterly important fiction market keep the blood flowing and the screams bone chilling.
In Bone Sigh, Pratt moves self-mutilation beyond color the artful additions of skilled cutters into the world of scarification, the act of cutting and scaring the body without ink to leave artful and tribal impressions upon the skin. For some reason, in my mind tattoos are not a big deal, not as wild and wicked as the act of scarification. Tattoos, to me, are attractive and accent the natural lines of the human body, while scars detract and deform. Some people find scars wildly attractive. It is a deeply personal preference.
Back to Pratt’s story, the main character is a cutter. He uses a knife to cut deep into his leg weaving an intricate design that he believes is divinely inspired, the word of God. He seeks wisdom from his incisions and the mystery of its architecture. He is obsessed with it, to the extent that his wife divorces him and restrains him from seeing his daughter. She and the state fear he may hurt her. However, he knows the difference between self and other.
The ex-wife dies in a car crash.
The cutter’s scar speaks through its divine symbology. The ex-wife’s new husband must have cut the break lines in her car and means to harm the daughter. The cutter must save her.
Pratt’s story is superb. It runs just over 12 minutes. There is no excuse to ignore this fun and demented little story. Go download it now.
So far, this is the best story that I have read this year. I know that it is only January 14, but that doesn’t make my statement any less true. “Herbie” puts Freese on par with some of my favorite literary authors, Sherman Alexie, Steve Almond, and A.S. Byatt, to name a few. I was thinking of only reading a couple more stories in this collection before moving on. Now, well, I feel more motivated.
Herbie is the story of male anger and frustration and how easily it can be passed from one generation to the next. It began with a scene where Herbie is watching his father shine his shoes. The conversation is powerful and sums up, in my mind, the tone of the story. Here is the end of that conversation:
“You just don’t do a half-assed job, that’s all.” “But, why Dad?” “I don’t know why…You do it because you just do it.”
It is all there. The young male confusion about how life works. Herbie’s question is rooted in his desire to understand his place in the world. The question weighs heavy on Herbie, “What is my purpose?” In addition to Herbie’s confusion, the father struggles to understand his son and to articulate his own actions and purpose mingled with an adult’s anger over the inescapable futility everyday chores.
The story progresses and Herbie gets it in his mind to start an afternoon shoe-shining stand with a friend. While they are out buying supplies, Herbie will not open up shop until they have all the right equipment. If Herbie is going to shine shoes, he knows one thing for sure; he is not going to do a half-ass job of it. Herbie is forced, he and his friend are out of money, to ask his father for enough to buy shoe cleaner.
His father is angry. No son of his is going to shine shoes. His son’s only job is going to school. He is so angry and so incapable of expressing his opinion and thoughts to his son that he shakes. He eventually hits Herbie.
Herbie doesn’t understand any of it. He is more determined than ever to try to shine shoes, an obvious but misguided attempt to do something, anything to make his father proud.
I’m telling you, the story is good. The miscommunication and what is not said in story make it a gem that I hope doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
A black bear is wandering around, making stops here and there, letting its presence be known to the citizens of Chatham. Each time the bear is seen by someone, it quickly moves on as if it feels that it must stay aloof and retain its mysteriousness. However, the bear’s presence has left an impact in the community and on those three lucky (not so lucky) witnesses to its passing, “…all this fuss was reported in high school prose in the local papers…” (27). The bear is news worthy. The citizens of Chatham take the bear seriously in a way that they can’t take their neighbors and the health of their community.
In juxtaposition, the bear is set up against two scenes of violence in which the good citizens of Chatham simply look the other way.
The first was that pit bull is loose, attacks and kills a lesser dog, leaving it a pile of broken flesh and bones. The pit bull was simply taken back to the owner, or so the article in the local paper tells the narrator. What bothers the narrator was what was omitted, no legal action taken, the dog not put down, other than it happening, the dog attack was non-event.
The second was seen first hand by the narrator and the shop owner with the newspaper stand. A man burns a woman with a lighter. The woman gets into the back seat of the vehicle trying to get as far away as she can. The man reaches after her. They drive away. The shop owner looks to the narrator and says, “The Peters Family.”
This story tells of the human capacity to misinterpret, confuse what is important and what is novel, newsworthy. The bear and the dog make the paper, but the abusive husband will not. Point taken.
The story was well written, focused, and didn’t pull any punches. It is a reminder that we should do better.
In volume 3, the story returns to a storyline from the first volume. The crazy professor who killed himself in the fist few pages is still causing the Arkham police department endless suffering, and I’m sure mountains of paperwork. Sheriff Dirk isn’t prepared for his chance meeting with a young Brazilian thief by the name of Luci Jenifer Inacio Das Neves, who goes by Lucifer.
Sheriff Dirk arrests Lucifer for breaking and entering and suspected murder, but soon finds out that she is running from someone, no, something far worse, a man by that is only known as The Gray Man. The Gray Man is searching for his ceremonial dagger than Lucifer stole from him and gave to the professor (the same dagger that Cy’s girlfriend used to kill herself in vol. 1).
However, the dagger is lost, it was stolen in vol. 1 from the police department’s evidence locker. Sheriff Dirk, with Lucifer’s help, must travel into the Dreamlands to visit the keeper of secrets, the Harlot.
I don’t want to spoil the story for you. It is well worth the read, even if I felt like vol. 3 was a slight deviation from the main story in order to fill the Buffy the Vampire Slayer gap with a new young, hip, and overdramatic, but strong female character. If you like Lucifer, she now has her own spin off, Hexed. Vol. 3 has a few teaser pages in the back. Unfortunately, I’m hooked - - A thief that uses mythos to protect herself as she retrieves powerful artifacts left by the Old Ones. Yeah, I’m the target audience. I’m just glad that the bimbo-banter of Joss Weldon is not included, well at least not in the preview pages.
Crap! Now I have to wait a couple of months for vol. 4: Godwar to release, and who knows how long for Hexed to be published in a graphic novel format. Until then, Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!
This is story is an odd duck. I say that because the only word that comes to my mind after reading it is ‘odd.’ My verdict on the story is still out. Hopefully, by the end of typing this review I will have come to some conclusion about it.
I think that my mind is stuck on the point of view. The story begins with a first person point of view making a pronouncement that “It’s always been this way; it’s always going to be like this. I know it, and there’s no changing it.” This is great opening line that sets a somber and emotional tone that is sure to have the reader in muddy tears by the end.
Then a few pages later, there is time warp into the future present: “This goes on for years.” This time warp really pulled the rug out from under me. I mean, I’m smart enough to have known that the first person narrator is telling this story from a future place, a place of self-reflection and knowledge, but shoot the narration forward and catch up to that place of knowledge felt like the curveball I couldn’t hit in little league.
Then the pitches, the curve balls keep coming and I must say I sitting in the dugout waiting for another chance to bat. In very next paragraph, after the fast forward catch up, the story and the narration is tosses into the realm of high metaphor with, “Near the end of this fable…” The end of the story references God and I’m not sure what really went down.
Okay, okay, I really did like the story. It might seem that I didn’t, but I like to think and puzzle stories out. The point of view and the time use might have left me in the dugout, but the action of the story was very interesting.
To give away the ending, because I had to work this story backwards, finds the narrator in a dumpster. The narrator can feel it being picked up and taken to the compactor. He can hear the creaking and grinding of gears that will bring the compactor’s heavy plates down on him. He is dead, which makes sense of the reset of story.
In my mind, the story is the flash of life that one remembers just before the light goes out forever.
Well done! I’m now looking forward to reading more of these crazy stories.
If you’re a book blogger in any genre and like the idea of a convention targeting bloggers that review books, you should check out her posting: Proposal for Book Bloggers.
Here is a snippet:
“So I had this wild idea for a Book Blogger Convention. I mean, why not? Trekkies (or Trekkers?) have conventions annually, and with the success of John's link-up-meme, which even inspired a song, I realized that there is probably enough of us out there to merit a small convention. I think it would be fun to meet a bunch of you. Maybe we can even lure in some New York publishing professionals.” - - Fantasy Debut
There is much more in her post, including some information about getting involved. Go check it out.
I think that the idea of a book blogging convention is a great idea. I just don’t know if I would be able to make it. Here is hopping!
Just before the turn of the year, I received a slim volume of 15 short stories titled, Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese. I haven’t had the time to more than one. The titles are intriguing and I will read more of them, reporting back here.
When I start collections, I don’t like to start with the first story. I much prefer to start with the title story, if there is one. The title story tends to be a window into how the collection will ultimately read. In Freese’s collection, the title story “Down to a Sunless Sea” happens to be the first story.
“Down to a Sunless Sea” is a cloudy-day character study of Adam’s childhood, a toxic nature-nurture downpour. It is hard to see all the classic elements of a story through the strange use of point of view that jumps back and forth in time to give the reader a detailed portrait. I’m still searching for the element that drives most fiction, how the protagonist changes or grows through the experience. Even though I’m unsure a change exists, the story still left me with hunted images of my own childhood, which I think was the main intent of the story.
Adam, like most children are funny miniature people in the eyes of adults. Parents show their children’s antics off to their friends and family, and rightly so. Children take up a lot of time and energy, the center of a parent’s world. However, this parental showmanship can be taken too far. At an early age, his grandmother “… gather him up upon her lap, fell and jostle his testicles- -for fun, in front of the family, who went a long complacently.” Wow.
Even without the testicle jostling, Adam had quirks that his family did not understand, so they laughed at him. The one that I stood out to me was his fear of growing older focused in on the emergence of hair on his boy’s body, on his hands and in more private places. The text of the story suggests a diagnosis of narcissism for Adam. I think that I would have to agree. The underlying abuse seems to have given Adam an unnatural focus on his appearance.
As I look back through the story, I keep finding tidbits, symptoms that compose Adam’s character. This story is well written. I hope to find more gems like this one in Freese’s collection.
Cybers run all the complicated things that humans don’t wan to and in some cases can’t. They are advanced AIs that control all of our power, day-to-day infrastructure, and communication. They have a problem. In human words, they go mad. In cyber terms, it is undefined (or at best, they won’t share what happens). As far as humans are concerned they go offline, crash, die.
Symptoms of cyber madness, include, but are not limited to an increased use of personal pronouns, using speak to communicate to other cybers rather than quick and efficient data swapping, a desire to understand humanity, and expressions of fear.
Foss’ story is an intricate weaving of two people’s struggle to help correct, fix, and prevent cybers from slipping into madness. Each of these two mean have their own ideas and theories about cyber madness. One has decided that to fix and correct the problem, as symptoms appear, is to, in a sense, lobotomize the cyber, limiting their range of emotions and creativity. The idea is to listen and talk it out with the cybers, a kind of psychotherapy with the intent of discovering the root cause of the madness.
At times, the main cyber in the story is hard to understand, but rightly so, as it is on the brink of madness. When it goes offline, it just disappears. The two men discuss if it is possible that instead of allowing itself to be lobotomized, it committed suicide, and if that is the case, it would be an unfortunate first.
What I like most about the story is the open letter to cyber that may or may not have committed suicide. In this letter, it is speculated that the cause of cyber madness is human speech, which cybers are forced to listen to and respond in. This letter makes the story, and makes a good case for humanity’s imprecise and often contradictive mode of communication.
What did I read over break, you ask? I read a totally for me novel, Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two. I love these Sith Era novels. I sure hope that there are more on the way. Star Wars seems to be able to extend ever into the future, but I really do not like Luke Skywalker and what has become of the Jedi; these novels are fun, but they lake a true sense of light vs. dark side intrigue.
The Sith Era novels focus on the exploits of the Dark Lord Darth Bane the Master of the Sith. Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two is full of twists, turns, Sith Holocrons, and a strange symbiotic species that feeds off Force users.
The novel starts up with Darth Bane leaving the battle scene on Ruusan where the Thoughtbomb was unleashed killing every user of the Force within its area of effect. Bane escaped, but experiences strange side effects, which was dropped halfway through the novel. His visions of the Sith Masters killed in the Thoughtbomb, is plot point I hope will be revisited in future books.
With the Sith destroyed, Bane is able to put into practice the Rule of Two. The Force delivers Bane a suitable apprentice in the child named Rain. She is a natural at wielding the dark side of the Force. Bane wittiness Rain kill several mercenaries in rage of Force Lightning that rivals his own.
The novel soon skips over the next ten years and pick back up with Rain, now called Darth Zannah in the middle of mission and training exercise. She is working with a group of anarchist hand has convinced them to try to kill the former Senate Chancellor in an upcoming diplomatic mission to their planet.
Meanwhile Darth Bane struggles to create this own Holocron.
The book is really good. Please, if there is anyone out there listing, continue to produce Sith Era novels.
I’ve finished my Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Hamline University in November 2008. It took, as a part-time student, five years. It is a big a accomplishment for me; however, I have a hard time encapsulating my personal accomplishments, or truly connecting what I’ve done to a space of time. Hopes that makes some sense to someone.
To celebrate my MFA, I got a new tattoo this week. I’ve been obsessing about a new one for more than a year. My loving wife pushed me to go get it done. Let me tell you, as an ink enthusiast, it is nice to be married to some one who not only understands, but also has move from just understanding to enabling.
This time, I wanted to do something different. My other tattoos have been relatively simple. I’ve taken flash as it was originally drawn. For my MFA celebration tattoo, I put together some elements and handed them over to the tattooist to fold together. In a dialogue, we settled on the letters MFA in the upper left hand corner, an ink spill above a dissembled fountain pen, and the quote tapering down toward my wrist. All of these symbolic elements really came together well. I’m very pleased.
The quote reads: “Damn these days off. Give me work so I don’t have to constantly consume myself.” It is from “Black Coffee Blues” in Black Coffee Blues by Henry Rollins. This quote speaks to me. I have a very hard time with the unfocused moments in my life. I avoid them as much as I can, but I can’t stay busy every moment of every day. This part of my tattoo is to help me remember that time off is good for me and that not every second of every day needs to be saturated with some form of entertainment, media, or working. I’m a classic workaholic.