Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Long Haul by Ken Liu


Issue 98, Nov 2014
21/100

Alternate history stories can really make you think.

Here the question of, what if the Hindenburg never crashed and burned?

There would be Zeppelins everywhere is what. 

In this story Liu shows us an impeccably realized time where a world that has embraced green energy and transportation solutions created a market for heavy-lift cargo Zeppelins. 

It is written like a magazine article where a reporter accompanies a married couple, who operate their own independent ship, on a typical run from China to the U.S.  

I loved this story, it showed what could have been just a normal slice of life. 

Recommended. 

Ken Liu's website is:
http://kenliu.name/

Ken Liu

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pernicious Romance by Robert Reed

20/100

Presented here is a mystery. What seems like a terrorist attack at a college football game has very unusual results. 

The blast at centre field was an unusual explosion. Those closest to the epicentre died but most of the 70,000 fans were knocked into a strange kind of unconsciousness. 

I liked the way the story was structured and I found it very entertaining. I could certainly see it developed as a movie. It's very cinematic in the telling and there is a lot to consider here. It's definitely something you can spend some time discussing with your friends. 

Robert Reed's website:
http://www.robertreedwriter.com/

 Robert Reed

Monday, March 23, 2015

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown by John Jackson Miller - Book Report #130

Oh my god - what fun.

It's Riker vs. Picard in a battle to save the Federation.  Yup William T. Riker is in a battle against our beloved captain.

What's going on?  Why did Riker sneak off to a super secret meeting and why is he and others from that meeting now attacking key infrastructures?

It's a mystery and a race against time to figure it all out and stop the attacks.

The novel was pure, thumping good fun.  I found the voices of the main characters were well captured and the plot felt like it could have come from a two-part episode of the TV series.

This is John Jackson Miller's first Star Trek novel and I believe we will be hearing more from him in the future.

Never a dull moment here.

Recommended.


Miller's website is:
http://www.farawaypress.com/

John Jackson Miller





Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cameron Rhyder’s Legs by Matthew Kressel

November 2014
19/100

What a strange time travel/alternate reality story.

A rock concert is the ultimate battleground in a war to preserve True Time.

In this battle technology so advanced is used to instantly occupy and control minds.  Warriors from the future try to change the outcome of the concert by manipulating small details of the lives of people in the concert hall.

Sound confusing?  Well, it kind of is but the author does a great job of keeping the story from spinning out if control.  It's disorienting enough to make you feel like you've had one too many drinks before you started reading.

This was definitely strange and fun. 

Matthew Kressel's website:
http://www.matthewkressel.net/

Matthew Kressel





Friday, March 20, 2015

Dancing in the Dark by Ramona Louise Wheeler

April 2015
18/100

The ship Roaring Candle is much like a whaling ship of old; in deep space looking for comets to bring back to the home world of Tarse. The comets are then carefully landed onto the surface where water and atmosphere are extracted in a process of terraforming that has been going on for 700 years.

The story opens with them finding the biggest one yet recorded. What follows is the discovery of a cluster of such comets. This would constitute the discovery of the Mother Lode. But there is a complication when a unique form of life is discovered there.  

These lifeforms are like nothing yet imagined; and they can herald a new epoch for the planet Tarse and the humans who live there.

A bold a beautiful story.  To call it Space Opera is to diminish the scope and hope of the story.

Wonder-full.

Ramona Louise Wheeler's website is here:
http://www.ramonalouisewheeler.com/home.html

Ramona Louise Wheeler





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Last Days of Dogger City by Mjke Wood

April 2015
17/100

Global warming?  What global warming?  In the future it's a freaking ice age.

Deep in the North Sea is a conglomeration of oil derricks tied together to form a city.  The city no longer produces oil, that's all gone.  Here they produce wind generated electricity and ship it to mainland Europe.

The trouble is; the ice is shifting putting Dogger City in danger.

This was a good, straight forward action piece that I found compelling.  When I read it I envisioned the same types of settings as Aliens 2.  Lots of steel and dim lighting, no monsters though.

I found the story very fun and kept me turning pages.

Well done.

According to the ISFDB this is Wood's third published story.
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?192409









Monday, March 16, 2015

Astounding Armstrong by Jeffery D. Kooistra

April 2015
This was a very interesting bit of history.

Sadly there are legions of people who are forgotten in the popular consciousness.  People whose work is still felt and used today.

If you say "radio" you'll think Marconi.  

If you say "FM radio" you'll probably come up with a blank, I know I did.  

Edwin Armstrong is not a household name but it should be.  In our home and cars, we benefit from Armstrong's work.

Like so many folks, Armstrong's story does not end well.  He was defeated by patent trolls and greedy corporations.  And yet we benefit where he did not.

Take the time to read Kooistra's article.  Then perhaps read a bit more from Wikipedia. As mentioned in the article, there is not a whole bunch written about Armstrong but it is worth knowing a bit more about a man who has impacted all of our lives.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Down Please: The Only Recorded Adventure of Lars Fouton, Captain's Lift Operator on the Starship MAGNIFICENT by Adam-Troy Castro

April 2015
17/100

I just love the title.

Yes, indeed, a starship that has a lift operator. 

All the questions that pop into your mind are asked in this irreverent and clever story. 

It left me with a smirk on my face for the rest of the day. 

Excellent.

Adam-Troy Castro's website:
http://sff.net/people/adam-troy/index2.html

Adam-Troy Cast

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Partible by K.J. Zimring

April 2015
16/100

This was a surprising delight.  It was touching, sad and hopeful throughout.

The science in it is so subtle that is melts into the background and what you are left with is a moving story about love, missed opportunities and chances taken. 

I wasn't expecting to find such a humane story in this magazine. The author has excellent skills. I found myself thinking about it for many days. 

Recommended. 

According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database Zimring has not been publishing for very long.  Here is hoping for more.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?50421





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hiding the Info Dump by Stanley Schmidt

April 2015


I must say that I agreed with the writing advice Schmidt shares in this article.

In it he lays down some rules and suggestions on how to incorporate exposition without boring the reader or interrupting the narrative. 

As a reader, exposition and description can easily take me out of a story.  A good example of poor exposition, in my opinion, comes in movies that open with a blank screen and a long winded explanation of the setting in text form.  (Of course, now that I think of it, Star Wars made the text-based opening iconic. Let's call that the exception that proves the point.)  In books, I'd much rather start right in with the story by focusing on an opening piece of action or a character that will see us into the adventure.

Too much explanation (telling) takes away from the narrative (showing).  It is a difficult balance to make but Schmidt does a good job of explaining how to work non-narrative information into stories. 

I'm not a writer but I'm always interested in finding out about the art of it.   I am happy it was included here. 

Learn more about Stanley Schmidt:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Schmidt

Stanley Schmidt


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Transfer Point by Barry N. Malzberg and Bill Pronzini

April 2015
15/100

This was s cool story. 

Think what immigration and border control would be like in a situation like Star Trek, with many different alien species, flying back and forth to and from Earth. 

What I like best was how it gives an appreciation to current border protection services. Plus, there is also a mystery to solve. That part of the story suffered a bit from the confines of a short story.  Had this been a novella the authors would have had the space needed to flesh it out. The way it stands the resolution came a bit suddenly.

There is a certain ease and confidence in the work, you can feel it in the humour that is just below the surface.  In many ways it has a tone that reminded me of the movie Men in Black.  It is a bit irreverent without being overly so.

A joyful, entertaining work.

Here is something I've discovered from reading these short story magazines: some of the contributors have careers spanning decades and are so accomplished that I am shocked I've never heard of them before.  These guys have been collaborating since at least the early 70's and this is my fist look at them.  What an educational experience reading Analog can be.

Barry N. Malzberg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_N._Malzberg
and
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?Barry_N._Malzberg

Bill Pronzini
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Pronzini
and
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?1417

Barry N Malzberg

Bill Pronzini


Friday, March 6, 2015

Daily Teds by Ron Collins

April 2015
14/100

This is a fun time travel/cloning mash up. 

What if you can travel forward in time? 

What if you can only travel a short distance forward?

What happens when you catch up with yourself?

Human nature and math is what. 

An entertaining and thought provoking story.

Gather your best geek friends and have each of them read the story.  Then sit down at a table together, pour your selves some drinks and start talking about it.  You'll be discussing it for hours. 

Ron Collins web site:  http://typosphere.com/

Analog Magazine:  http://www.analogsf.com/

Ron Collins









Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New Horizons at Pluto: The Grand Tour Finally Completed by Richard A. Lovett

April 2015
This is a timely Science Fact essay as New Horizons has turned on its science instruments last month and will have its closest approach in July.

This article explores the possible geologic history of the Pluto/Charon system.  The main topic of discussion is the likelihood of discovering a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust. There are many possible ways this could happen and Lovett does a very nice job of explaining each one.

What I appreciated most was how he laid out the evidence needed to prove each theory and how, once the spacecraft is near enough, its instruments will reveal the geology.

We are living in a wonderful period of robotic exploration.

Richard A. Lovett's website is here:   richardalovett.com/

Analog Magazine is here:  http://www.analogsf.com/

To follow the New Horizons mission go here:   http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/

Richard A Lovett


New Horizons


Monday, March 2, 2015

The Eighth Iteration by Bond Elam

13/100

Oh, my!

Now this is classic Science Fiction, providing a mind-blowing sense of wonder. 

This story had it all; the colonization of another planet, cloning, genetics, a strange alien environment, robots and a cool AI.  Best of all, it was all about the humans.  Very early on there is significant conflict between members of the colony.  The planet and the native life is strange, stranger still; the colonists have very limited memories about themselves and how they came to this planet.  Wherever they go they are followed by robots who observe them but do not communicate.

Slowly the mystery of how the colonists arrived is revealed.   I found the premise so interesting that I took every spare moment I could find to finish the story.  It just keeps getting more interesting with each page and comes to a very satisfying end.  The last paragraph made me say, "Oh, wow!"

I loved it.

A must read.  I'm sure it will make the readers choice awards for 2015. 


Analog Magazine:  http://www.analogsf.com/

Bond Elam has no web presence that I could find.  His entry on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database is here:  http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?114913


Bond Elam





Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lightspeed Magazine January 2015 a recap.


Generally I'd have to say that I enjoyed this issue.

Some of the stories felt more like Soft SF which I'm less thrilled by.

That said I never found myself wishing I'd not read a story or wanted to give up one one.  All of them had interesting subjects.  The two highlights of the issue, for me, were The Choice by Paul McAuley and More Adventures on Other Planets by Michael Cassutt

Find the links to each story below

Ad Astra.

Beautiful Boys by Theodora Goss:
http://eric-the-mailman.blogspot.ca/2015/02/beautiful-boys-by-theodora-goss.html

He Came from a Place of Openness and Truth by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam:
http://eric-the-mailman.blogspot.ca/2015/02/he-came-from-place-of-openness-and.html

More Adventures on Other Planets by Michael Cassutt:
http://eric-the-mailman.blogspot.ca/2015/02/more-adventures-on-other-planets-by.html

Men of Unborrowed Vision by Jeremiah Tolbert:
http://eric-the-mailman.blogspot.ca/2015/02/men-of-unborrowed-vision-by-jeremiah.html

The Choice by Paul McAuley:
http://eric-the-mailman.blogspot.ca/2015/02/the-choice-by-paul-mcauley.html


Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Choice by Paul McAuley

12/100

Set in post-apocalypse Scotland after the melting of the ice caps and after aliens have found earth and live among us in the ruins.

I often find these types of stories intriguing but often depressing; only because I very much want to live in the "shiny" future not the "grubby" one. 

Here we find two teen boys going on an adventure to see an alien sea-craft accidentally beached in some shallow water nearby. 

There is some perfectly incorporated world-building making the story incredibly rich.  In the spotlight you learn that there are many other stories set in this world. 

There are some ramifications to the boys' trip that make this a most satisfying read. 

One thing I must commend Lightspeed Magazine for is providing author spotlights and interviews.  I just love DVD extras and it is most welcome to find it in a print publication.

Highly recommended.

The author's website is here:   http://www.omegacom.demon.co.uk/index.htm

This was included as an ebook exclusive and is only available if you purchase the issue.
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/issues/jan-2015-issue-56/

This story was first published in Asimov's February 2011 issue.

Asimov's February 2011

Paul McAuley



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Men of Unborrowed Vision by Jeremiah Tolbert

11/100

This was an interesting riff on the Occupy Wall Street protests. With a healthy dose of conspiracy theory.

Was it interesting?  Yes.

Was it science fiction?  Not even close.

Time to be fair - It was a really good story.  I found the characters interesting and I liked the friction between Mara and Adam.  It tackles the notion of inequality by taking a closer look at the people who participate in political protests.  There is even a nod to those folks who believe the government is trying to control our minds with "chem-trails", the CONtrails (short for condensation) that you sometimes see from overflying aircraft.  It is here that the story probably qualified as SF.
Yikes!  The government is out to get us.
The real trouble I had with the story is that it was published in a science fiction magazine.  So the difficulty I'm having lies with the editor and not the author.  I"m always happy when an author makes a sale but, as a reader, I question if this even qualifies as soft SF.

Opinions may vary.

Jeremiah Tolbert's web page is here:   http://www.jeremiahtolbert.com/

The story is available to read online here:
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/men-unborrowed-vision/

Lightspeed Magazine is here:  http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/

Jeremiah Tolbert.  Love the hat.