Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Eclipse Four

The Eclipse series of anthologies was started by Jonathan Strahan five years ago, and this is the fourth volume.

I'm going to be honest and say I don't like the cover. I want to like the cover. It's nice to see a more feminine color scheme and style on science fiction. It doesn't work. And while you shouldn't judge a book by its cover - people do. Might I suggest avoiding the lilac next time?

At Balticon I ended up with a challenge to write a story out of chronological order. I also picked this book up there. If I'd looked at the book first - Caitlin R. Kiernan does it and she pulls it off. Michael Swanwick's story is also one of the best, but I've always liked his work. I also liked the mall ghosts (Nalo Hopkinson).

Overall, I liked this anthology, but I didn't love it. It was solid, well put together, with no bad stories, but also no great ones that I want to read over and over again. I'm not going to be remembering any of them and I don't have a great hankering to reread. Still, there were no unpleasant surprises either - and other people may disagree.

I do recommend this one if you're looking for something to read on a train or plane - nothing to throw one out of the book, but it's not going to end up on the list of greats. Sorry.

Three and a half stars.

(Book picked up for free at Balticon).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Which I Stick Up For Orson Scott Card


I do have pretty major problems with Card's politics. I am also not a huge fan of his work. It's my opinion that he had one great book in him and everything else has been shadowed by that.

That book, of course, is Ender's Game. It's one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time. It's about child soldiers - that tragedy that exists in far too many parts of our planet. It's about trickery and deceit, and it's about the utter cost of war.


I was absolutely horrified last week to walk into a Barnes & Noble and see a little stack of Ender's Game paperbacks...

...on a table marked "Teen Action Adventure."

Dear booksellers and publishing industry:

Books are not YA just because the protagonist is under 18. This trend has disgusted me for a while and I have been jokingly saying "Next they'll put Ender's Game on the YA shelves." I was joking. Now they've done it.

On top of that, how dare they call it "action adventure?" Pacific Rim is action adventure. Ender's Game is a lot more than that.

Regardless of my personal opinion of the writer, it is a very special book and it is a true insult to Card to shelve it where they did.


I'm pretty mad about this. I can't believe I'm sticking up for Card, but I have to say something - because it's not just him. Hunger Games is also a great anti-war novel (and yup, was on the same table).

I get it. YA sells better. But classing books as YA that aren't does a disservice to the author, the material, and the readers.

And classing deeply philosophical books as "action adventure" is just ridiculous.

Sorry, Barnes & Noble.

You fail this time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Thoughts on Pacific Rim

So, I finally got to see it last night.

It was...refreshing. It was a summer popcorn movie that made no pretense of being anything else, but it did manage to avoid becoming, as I say, "Mecha vs Kaiju Porn" - that is a string of fight scenes stuck together with only the vaguest semblance of plot.

True, the plot was not exactly deep and was, in places, highly predictable - but this wasn't a movie I went to for amazing plot and deep character development. It was shamelessly exactly what it was.

From the artistic point of view, this is the first time really BIG mecha have been seen in a live action movie - and they pulled it off great. (The Transformers are A. Smaller and B. Robots not mecha). It was considerably better than Transformers, for that matter.

Fans of the genre will probably do better than I did at recognizing the various kaiju. The only one I pegged was Rodan - and I can't even swear to that identification. (The codenames used in the movie were different, no doubt for copyright reasons).

And yes.

They do trash Tokyo.

The only real "theme" in the movie other than beating on kaiju is the relationships between the pilots. Pacific Rim's mecha require two pilots to operate - linked through a sort of machine telepathy. This requires two "drift compatible" pilots - and the majority of the pilot pairs seen are blood relatives. The relationships give the movie a bit more depth than just monster smashing.

If you haven't seen it yet and are a fan of kaiju, mecha, or that kind of anime - better get to it, as the movie is already starting to disappear from theaters. I think it's in grave danger of turning into a cult classic...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Updates


Layout and editing work is continuing with the RPG. We're hoping to get it out to beta testers in the fall (and are potentially looking for beta testers. This is a supplement based off of slightly-modified FATE Core).

Oh, and it's my anniversary. May not get much work done today...meeting the husband at the zoo later and thinking I *might* go over slightly early and do some photography. I'll see how it goes time-wise.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Doing Things "In Public"

I just saw somebody in my G+ stream confessing to reading an RPG book in public. Oh, and there's "Read Comics In Public Day." Uh, isn't that also known as Wednesday?

As "geek culture" becomes more mainstream, people will be more likely to do stuff in public they wouldn't have before. I've wandered out of convention centers in costume more than once - and usually not got much of a stare (because, natch, people knew the con was going on and oh, it's just one of those weird con people). In fact I've only once been asked why I was dressed like that and "What on earth is going on?" (There was an entire pirate crew in downtown Columbus. Mostly by coincidence).

So, I've thought a bit about it. Some people want to hide their fandom like a guilty secret. Then there are those of us who've never cared, who cheerfully wander around in Doctor Who T-shirts - or full blown costume. Who read comics in public every Wednesday and who aren't ashamed to admit they're meeting their gaming group. And that's a good thing. The only things anyone should be ashamed of are those that hurt others.

The only things my gaming habit has ever hurt are orcs and demons ;). And the occasional stormtrooper...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Extreme Zombies

This thick book, edited by Paula Guran, contains 25 stories (all reprints) and a health warning.

It's not unwarranted (although as a Brit, I'm amused by the word choice on the cover. Does Guran know what "bloody" means in Britspeak? She could have known and picked it anyway). These stories are absolutely not for the fainthearted. Or to be read alone at night. Or to be read while eating.

Yup. You've been warned. Extreme Zombies contains stories that avowedly cross the line into splatterpunk. "Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy" by David J. Schow turns certain parts of the zombie trope around. "An Unfortunate Incident At The Slaughterhouse" gives a new meaning to mad cow.

This is a reprint anthology, which probably helps keep anything within it from being terrible and the stories frankly range from good to excellent. My favorite is "Meathouse Man," but that may speak more to my great liking for George R.R. Martin than it's real quality.

They're all good, but none of them are for the kiddies. If you are a zombie fiction aficionado or simply love extreme horror, you need this book right now. If your "horror tolerance" is low, stay away.

Four and a half stars.

(Copy acquired at Balticon)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The howl yesterday afternoon was all the people in Britain who bet on the baby being a girl.

The new prince (so no lingering controversy about the amendments to the Act of Settlement) has presumably been named - but tradition requires at least a polite delay in the announcement of the name. (Charles and Diana waited a week, so I predict about the same gap here).

Said name has to be approved by the palace (So any Brit knows the joke about him being called "Kendall" is just that - there's no way the Queen would approve something that...modern). There's a relatively short list of names to choose from.

Lead in the betting: George. I personally like the idea of Philip.

Yeah. Still British enough to obsess about the royals. What can I say?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thoughts on Responsibility

If you've been paying attention, then you will know that a woman fell off a steel hybrid roller coaster in Texas.

An unfortunate accident, but part of the sequence of events gave me thought. The woman complained to the ride operator that she did not think her safety bar was properly engaged. The ride operator said "Oh, it clicked. It's fine."

Clearly it was not fine. The ride manufacturer is insisting it is impossible for the safety bar to break or to open mid-ride...but first of all, no mechanical failure is ever "impossible."

So, we have several levels of responsibility here.

The manufacturer is responsible for making cars in which it is as hard as possible for the bar to malfunction.

The park is responsible for properly maintaining the rides.

The ride operator is responsible for making sure everyone is secure before the ride started.

But the woman herself was responsible for her own safety.

Did she pass that responsibility on when she asked the ride operator to check the bar? I am a firm believer in checking my own safety gear - but most likely she did not have the expertise to know for sure whether it was properly secured or not.

I place ultimate responsibility with the ride operator, but I would also say this: If you are not comfortable about ANY safety gear - don't use it. The last time I didn't check everything thoroughly I ended up cantering a horse with one stirrup hanging off my foot - oops, and could have been a worse problem if I wasn't a competent rider.

Something made that safety bar ineffective. Something that the passenger concerned noticed but, like any of us, she listened to the "expert."

I blame, ultimately, the ride operator. Perhaps he was more concerned about getting the ride off on time than safety.

Perhaps. It's hard to tell. But it was his responsibility to make sure that didn't happen, in the end.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Updates

First - not an update. I happened to look at Transpecial's page on Diesel today. Now, very few people use Diesel, but the listing is not correct.

They have me, for some reason, listed as an "Indie Author" and my publisher is not listed. Obviously, that's wrong - so if, by any tiny chance, you're one of the five people who still use Diesel...yeah. It's wrong.

The RPG book is now in editing and layout - and still doesn't have a title. We're hoping to get it into beta testing once preliminary editing has been done (so we're handing out a clean copy). Hopefully it will have a title by then.

I hate titles some days.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Medical Progress

Found a bunch of interesting medical titbits today.

First of all, a surgeon has designed a smart knife for use when removing cancers. It reads the smoke that comes off when the area is cauterized and determines if there are any cancerous cells left.

Second, scientists have managed to correct the defect that causes Down's syndrome - albeit in the petri dish. The therapy, if it can be made to work, involves "turning off" the extra chromosome - by using the same mechanism that turns off the extra X chromosome in women.

And while I don't believe it any more than the last wonder pill claims, how about an exercise pill?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

I had yet to be introduced to Sarah Monette - ironically she was recommended to me while I was in the middle of reading this book.

The Bone Key is more literary than I normally go for, but it reminds me of classic old English mysteries (to the point where I had to remind myself the stories were in fact set in 19th century America). The book contains ten interconnected short stories, presented in chronological order, and overtly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James. And it has me thinking I need to read more Lovecraft.

Monette produces a sympathetic protagonist who inadvertently attunes himself to the spiritual world in the first story and then ends up a kind of psychic troubleshooter. All against his will, of course, he never seeks out problems. Rather, he stumbles into them.

Kyle Murchison Booth hunts ghosts, deals with a family curse and has problems with an incubus. (Yes, I did say incubus, not succubus). Each story is a different incident in his life, and the book doesn't pretend to be a novel.

The thing I appreciated the most was Monette's treatment of homosexuality in a society in which it is not acceptable - subtly, without anachronisms, and with a measure of loneliness that recalls the old term "confirmed bachelor." Monette's style is elegant and I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes period mysteries as well as to fans of supernatural horror.

Four and a half stars.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hot, hot, hot...

Yeah. I'm going to whine a little. It's not as bad as last year - it's only going to be in the mid to high nineties all week not the low hundreds.

It's still too hot. The A/C is struggling to keep up - with all of the blinds closed. I really wish I could enjoy summer instead of it crossing the line into an outer circle of hell every year. It's about time, I think, to flee somewhere colder...

Ah well.

At least I have A/C.

Monday, July 15, 2013

J.K. Rowling...

It's weird how much fuss people are making about J.K. Rowling...oops, I mean Robert Galbraith.

What Rowling did is actually fairly common. The Rowling "brand" is associated with quirky YA fantasy. Many authors who decide to write a series in a completely different style and genre will choose to do so under a pseudonym. It has to do, more than anything else, with reader expectations. Avoiding hype is a very secondary reason.

"Robert Galbraith" is a brand - one that will develop its own expectations over time and, eventually, it won't matter that we know who it is. It allows Rowling to establish these books as separate from everything she has done before.

It's not at all as uncommon a move as people seem to think - in fact there's nothing odd about it at all.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Updates!

Prime Books' "Shades of Blue & Gray" anthology, edited by James Berman, went to press on Wednesday. I'm really excited about this anthology, and not just because it's scheduled to be released on my birthday!

You can pre-order the book through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Prime Books always makes good anthologies and I'm sure this one will be no exception.

We're editing the RPG book right now and will be sending it to the editor. I'm hoping to schedule some alpha testing for August-September, if all goes well.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


For some reason it's being reported as news that the solar system appears to have a tail. You know, like a comet's tail.

Is anyone who knows anything about physics at all surprised by this? We don't really grasp how fast the solar system itself moves through space (the answer is: Very).

What is a surprise is that it appears to be shaped rather like a four-leaf clover. Why? It has to do with the solar cycle.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Robots: The Recent AI

This is another of those thick Prime Books anthologies (just over 400 pages) and has some big names in it - Elizabeth Bear, Ian McDonald, Catherynne M. Valente, etc.

Although the title is "Robots" not all of the stories are about what we would consider robots. For example, you could make a case for the houses in Mark Pantoja's story by the same name, but Metta in "Kiss Me Twice" is a sessile AI who's hands and eyes are the police officers she works with.

All of the stories in this collection were good. "Kiss Me Twice" by Mary Robinette Kowal is probably my favorite - and includes an intriguing answer to the question of "is an artificial intelligence a person" that says as much about today's politics as her future. Ian McDonald knocked it out of the park again with "The Djinn's Wife" - if you are interested in stories that step out of our western mindset and paradigm, take every trip to India this man offers.

My least favorite? Catherynne M. Valente's "Silently and Very Fast." I've never been fond of stories that are told in snippets with sub stories. It's a shame, I normally quite like Valente, but this one didn't do it for me. I also found "Alternate Girl's Expatriate Life" by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz less than satisfying.

Overall, though, this is a good anthology - and the variety of the stories is sufficient to keep one from really noticing how thick it is.

Four stars.

(Another one I picked up at Balticon)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Michael Flynn... your heart out.

SpaceX's grasshopper did a 100 foot "leap." Okay, it's not quite the same vehicle as Flynn's "planks" (which were SSTO), but it flies and lands in a very similar way.

I love it when predictions come true. Especially ones made by cool people.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Doing Things You Never Thought You Could

I promised videographic evidence. It's coming. Well, half of it is. Unfortunately, the second video got corrupted and while the person who took it is *trying* to resurrect it, no promises.

I have a good friend, +Tim Ballew, who is one of those guys who likes to do crazy physical things like, you know, hiking up mountains, white water rafting, you name it, he's tried it.

I also firmly believe in trying any new experience I'm offered at least once. Yeah, these two things came together. Tim somehow managed to talk me into going to trapeze school.

Trapeze school. This is the girl who's strongest memories of her brief foray into scouting were being mocked in Brownies for not being able to do a cartwheel - no matter how hard I tried, I just could never do it. The girl who was yelled at by gym instructors because any idiot should be able to walk along a balance beam. You know, just walk, no tricks, nothing, without falling off. It's not that I "don't" do gymnastics. It's that I can't. I am no GOOD at that stuff.

But. Somehow I got talked into it. Here's what happened the first time I tried it.

Yeah. Much mid-air flailing. Go ahead, laugh. I did. All I was trying to do was trapeze 101, which is to bring your knees up and hook them over the bar. It's easy. Just not for always-picked-last-in-gym-class girl. Except that I realized.

The only thing making me no good at this was me. All I had to do was get out of my own way...and by the end of the class I could do it. (I wish I could show you, but that's the one that got eaten by gremlins).

Moral? If you know you can't do something but haven't tried it - try it. You never know. You might be wrong. And if you aren't wrong, then you haven't lost anything. Goes for writing. Goes for art. Goes for life.

(I will note that my abs were sore for days, though!)

(Video taken by Tim Ballew)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Update

Two sales this week.

Simian Publishing purchased "For The Children for their Future Embodied anthology - release date to be determined.

Edwin E. Smith Publishing purchased "The Locket" (one of my few non-genre stories) to run in Edwin E. Smith's Quarterly Magazine, most likely in September.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: Man of Steel

1. Jonathan. I hated their portrayal of Jonathan Kent. I didn't have as much of a problem with the "Maybe" scene as some did, but Jonathan Kent is an open-hearted man and Clark's real father. The Jonathan Kent I know is not cold, is not ruthless, would not admit to not being Clark's dad even if Clark said he wasn't in a teenaged moment. He absolutely wouldn't ask Clark to do what he did. Ever.

2. Martha. Have we ever had a really good screen Martha? The one in Lois & Clark wasn't bad, but it seems she's a hard character to get right. The one in this movie simply killed my suspension of disbelief. I could not imagine somebody as weak as her running the farm without either Jonathan OR Clark to help her.

3. To be honest, my dearly beloved had a point. This movie had what I call the "movie problem." Or, as I characterized it at dinner, "This is the Superman run DC wouldn't give the writers." I'd actually like to see the Director's Cut to see if it helps, but there was a bit of a sense of watching a "Highlight reel" caused by trying to get too much into a movie. Nolan and Goyer's prior work has not had this problem, but I wonder if there was a weird intersection between Nolan's often non-linear style and Snyder's tendency towards choppy imagery and camera work.

4. They do the classic Kid Clark in a cape scene. When Superman is clearly the only hero and nobody wears a red cape. Sigh.

5. Nolan and Snyder. You do not have the right to change Kryptonian female naming convention. Even if it is ridiculously patriarchal for an advanced society. And if you must change it, do it consistently...why do we have Lara Lor-Van and then Faora-Ul?

6. Lara Jor-El, or Lor-Van as she was credited for some reason, was be a leading scientist in her own right.

7. Pete Ross ends up working at iHop? Give me a break. Way to turn a cool character into a total loser.

8. No Jimmy. No Jimmy Olsen.

So, what made me like it.

1. What set this movie apart, for better or worse, from other Superman movies was its unashamed echoing of the character's pulp roots. This is the closest Superman movie ever to being a planetary romance. We see Jor-El flying across Krypton on a creature that clearly originated on Barsoom, the terraforming device the Kryptonians use has three legs, there's even a nod to the original explanation for Superman's powers. And I loved all of that. I'm a huge fan of pulp in its true form, and it was nice to have a reminder that supers comes out of pulp.

2. Henry Cavill was awesome. He was really awesome. I think he carried the movie through its flaws. He's the first Superman since Christopher Reeve to catch the humor at the edge of the character, particularly at the end.

3. Antje Traue as Faora-Ul. For those who don't know, this IS the same character as Ursa (DC changed the name, perhaps because they wanted something less "Earth"). She. Was. Awesome. She wasn't the same Ursa Sarah Douglas played in Superman II. Sarah Douglas' Ursa was arrogant and cold. She used Zod and he her and they both knew it. Antje's was the loyal lieutenant, cold, ruthless, the perfect soldier, but with just that slightest edge of being in love with Zod even though she could never act on it. I like both approaches to the character equally. And she was visually perfect.