Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lavie Tidhar's Central Station Wins the John W. Campbell Award

New Central StationIn a May 3 blog post, I announced that Lavie Tidhar's novel Central Station was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (the winner to be announced in the U.K. on July 27).

And today I'm pleased to announce that Central Station has won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel of the year.[1]  The award was presented during the Campbell Conference, on June 16-18, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The Campbell Conference is an annual weekend event focusing on "discussions about the writing, illustration, publishing, teaching, and criticism of science fiction."

I worked on Central Station back in 2015, and wrote about it in my November 30 blog post. And in my book received post on May 6, 2016, I included some thoughts from the author himself when he announced the sale of Central Station to Tachyon Publications. Between these three blog posts of mine, you can read commentary from the author Lavie Tidhar, excerpts from the book itself, and starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

Central Station is currently available direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, as well as Amazon.com, or your bookseller of choice.

---------------
Footnotes

[1] The John W. Campbell Memorial Award website has a complete list of the 2017 award finalists.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Demon Spawn: The Painters From Hell

On May 16, I posted a couple pics of our dining room "under construction," as it were. The painting was to have taken a week to ten days; unfortunately, the project took a full two weeks -- maybe because the painters had to redo so much of their work, which is surprising since they were only working in two rooms, a very small entrance way, and a hallway. Of course, some things got five coats of paint! Why five coats, you may ask? Because after the bookcases were primered (one coat), they painted them two coats the wrong color, and had to repaint them an additional two coats the correct color once my wife and I discovered the error.

I was going to do an entire blog post -- with photos -- as a way of flushing all this crap out of my system, but the wife said let it go, it's not worth it. (She, who told the company she never wants one of their painters to ever set foot in our house again -- so all the repair and touch up work we had -- and still have -- to do is on us, along with the help of our handyman, at a cost, of course.)

The dust generated from spray painting the ceiling was so intense that it set off our smoke alarms. We had dust and white spray paint everywhere! Even in rooms in which the painters never set foot! After these yahoos left, we had to scrape every window in the living room, dining room, kitchen, and entrance way with razor blades to remove the spray. My wife, bless her heart, spent three hours scrubbing the white spray off the fireplace bricks with a bloody toothbrush to get in amongst all the nooks and crannies in the brick. And let's not forget the three hours cleaning the two sets of full-window blinds from the dining room, slat by bloody slat, because the brainless painters left them lying on the floor to inherit all the dust they generated during the spray painting. I could go on, and on (and on), but the wife said, "Let it go." But, oh, it's so hard....

Here's a typical photo of the quality of the work: this is one of the pieces of hardware for the living room curtain rods. Note the care with which they masked the hardware; the care with which they removed the surrounding wallpaper; the care with which they "prepped" the wall for the paint. This, by the way, is the finished work. My wife and I had to take a box cutter and cut around the hardware, scrape away all the wallpaper and crap they didn't remove, prep the wall correctly, and then paint it. The hardware in the dining room was so completely covered with paint that we simply purchased new hardware and replaced it all.

This is one of the painted doors left in their wake: when they removed the blue tape, the tape took off much of the paint, clear down to the old color. But, hey, it's on the inside, nobody will see it -- until they open the bloody door! We fixed it as part of the cleanup and repair. Oh, and note the color of the floor in the background: this is (or was) bare concrete because the carpeting had been removed prior to the the arrival of the painters. I guess since nothing was on the floor, and it would eventually get covered with new carpeting, who cared that the concrete was now splashed with white paint!

Ah, but life is short, and tomorrow, hopefully, we'll finish up the last of the painting fixes and touch ups.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

First Ever TED Talk on the Culture of Record Digging






This TED Talk video on record digging (aka crate digging) was brought to my attention via The Vinyl Factory's news blog. The video lasts just under 16 minutes. If you have any interest in music/music appreciation (and vinyl in particular), or music preservation, or cultural anthropology, or a combination there of, you'll want to set aside some time for this TED Talk.

There's No Place Like Home

If you're wondering why I have been fairly quiet blogwise, the pics below should help to explain... This is the living room in my house, just one of the rooms undergoing what I would call a demolition derby. (Through the large window, you can see my wife hanging out in the backyard.)

Carpeting has already been removed (which has allowed the painters to drop voluminous amounts of paint on the bare concrete out of carelessness -- but fortunately it won't matter as it will be covered up eventually with new carpeting).

The two brown shelf units, leaning against each respective wall, were originally mounted in each corner of the room, to the left and right of the window. Those brown bookcases now have a white primer, and will eventually be painted "bone" to match -- and blend in with -- the walls.





The painting should be completed by the end of this week. And then the real fun begins... Clean up, clean up, everybody (my wife and I!) clean up!

We'll need to have the air ducts cleaned first: long story, but the dust from spraying the ceiling got so thick that it set off our smoke alarm and I had to have a nice chat with our alarm monitoring service. Then a complete dusting of all the furniture including having the living room drapes cleaned (you can't see them, but that's one of the lumps underneath the plastic that is covering our couches). After the ducts are cleaned and the furniture dusted, I'll rent a shop vac to clean the floors of said dust and bits of wallpaper and blue tape and other unknown debris....

Then, finally, the new carpeting and flooring can be installed -- hopefully before the onset of winter and the rainy season!

Then, we get to move all the smaller furniture and books and stuff (lots of "stuff") back into the rooms that have been stored these past two weeks (so far) in the bedrooms. After which, I plan to collapse....


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lavie Tidhar's Central Station: Arthur C. Clarke Award Finalist

New Central StationThe Arthur C. Clarke Award has announced the nominees for 2017, and I was pleased to see that Central Station by Lavie Tidhar had made the shortlist.[1]

The Clarke Award lists the publisher as PS Publishing: since the award is a British award, the book must be published in the UK -- which it was, by PS Publishing, in a 100-copy signed and numbered limited edition with a sticker price of nearly $100.00. Of course, the trade paperback edition was originally published in the US by Tachyon Publications, and is available for a mere $15.95 (and much less when on sale, like right now!) from Amazon and elsewhere.

I worked on Central Station back in 2015, and wrote about it in my November 30 blog post. At that time the cover art had yet to be finalized. The final cover art, by Sarah Anne Langton, was showcased in my Book Received blog post on May 6, 2016. And just a couple weeks ago, on April 16, the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards were presented at Innominate, the 68th Eastercon, and Ms. Langton won for Best Artwork for the Central Station cover art.

As I wrote on November 30, 2015: "Central Station delivers a complex, idiosyncratic story, with multiple story lines and multiple points of view: robo-priests, strigoi (data-vampires), robotniks (cyborg ex-Israeli soldiers), enhanced humans, revolutionaries, space colonies -- and weaving through it all, flows the Conversation, the stream of consciousness that connects everyone and everything."

Here are a couple starred reviews to pique your interest (if it's still necessary at this point):
World Fantasy Award–winner Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming) magnificently blends literary and speculative elements in this streetwise mosaic novel set under the towering titular spaceport. In a future border town formed between Israeli Tel Aviv and Arab Jaffa, cyborg ex-soldiers deliver illicit drugs for psychic vampires, and robot priests give sermons and conduct circumcisions. The Chong family struggles to save patriarch Vlad, lost in the inescapable memory stream they all share, thanks to his father's hack of the Conversation, the collective unconscious. New children, born from back-alley genetic engineering, begin to experience actual and virtual reality simultaneously. Family and faith bring them all back and sustain them. Tidhar gleefully mixes classic SF concepts with prose styles and concepts that recall the best of world literature. The byways of Central Station ring with dusty life, like the bruising, bustling Cairo streets depicted by Naguib Mahfouz. Characters wrestle with problems of identity forged under systems of oppression, much as displaced Easterners and Westerners do in the novels of Orhan Pamuk. And yet this is unmistakably SF. Readers of all persuasions will be entranced.
Publishers Weekly, starred review
. . . a fascinating future glimpsed through the lens of a tight-knit community. Verdict: Tidhar (A Man Lies Dreaming; The Violent Century) changes genres with every outing, but his astounding talents guarantee something new and compelling no matter the story he tells.
Library Journal, starred review

The winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award will be announced at a public award ceremony held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on Thursday, July 27, 2017. Central Station is currently available direct from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, as well as Amazon.com, or your bookseller of choice.

---------------
Footnotes

[1] The Arthur C. Clarke Award website has a complete list of the 2017 award nominees.


Monday, May 1, 2017

John Langan's The Fisherman Wins the Bram Stoker Award

The FishermanIn my July 19, 2016, blog post, in which I wrote of my work on John Langan's novel The Fisherman, I said -- and I quote -- "...there is no reason for any hesitation whatsoever to purchase a copy of this new John Langan novel, which I am sure will be on award shortlists next year."

And here we are, in the "next year," and The Fisherman has won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel, which was presented at StokerCon 2017 by the Horror Writers Association.[1]

Matt E. Lewis, on Horror Talk, reviews The Fisherman; I'm including a small excerpt but do check out the full review:
This novel is, without a doubt, the most beautiful I've read all year. In the beginning it's obvious to see the influence of greats like Melville in Langan's writing — in fact, this entire book might be viewed as a twisted spiritual cousin of Moby Dick. But thankfully it isn't exactly like that. Langan borrows from an omnivorous assortment of fiction writers, at times incorporating aquatic abominations that could have sprung from Lovecraft's darkest nightmares, to a hodgepodge of references to the lore from throughout time and cultures....The pacing of the story is consistent, page-turning, on par with the bestsellers of Stephen King. The exposition is shared sparingly, like a heady scent on the wind that only just registers before it's swept away.

But the most important aspect of the book is the all too relatable grief of the characters. It is the anchor that firmly lodges in the heart of the reader, reminding us that true horror does not simply spring from gross-outs and jump-scares, but the darkness of the human soul, the meeting of our primal emotions and our accursed hyper-intelligence....

In addition to the July 19 blog post mentioned above, I had posted on February 23, 2017, that The Fisherman was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. That blog post also included an excerpt from the New York Times Book Review by Terrence Rafferty. So if you're still not convinced that you need this book in your library, read the NYT review of The Fisherman -- and then hit up your fave bookseller and buy this book!

--------------
Footnotes:

[1] The Horror Writers Association website has a complete list of all the Bram Stoker Award winners.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Robert M. Pirsig (September 6, 1928 – April 24, 2017)

"The truth knocks on the door and you say, 'Go away, I'm looking for the truth,' and so it goes away. Puzzling." —Robert M. Pirsig



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

$1.99 For The Alien Contact Ebook [Ended]

Alien Contact ebookI don't know how long this offer will be available: the ebook edition of my Alien Contact anthology is currently on sale for $1.99.

The $1.99 price is for either the mobi (Kindle) or the epub (Nook) edition of the book. If you haven't already done so, now is your chance to read 170,000 words of some of the best alien contact stories for a buck-99, all between the virtual covers of a single ebook.

Just click the Alien Contact ebook cover to the left to make your way to Amazon. For the epub edition, click this Nook book link.

One caveat: The ebook editions do not contain the Stephen King story "I Am the Doorway."

For more information on my Alien Contact anthology, please visit the dedicated Alien Contact page, which includes behind-the-scenes blog posts and links to the complete text of about a dozen of the stories.


Friday, March 3, 2017

The Austin 100 Playlist


"Every year, the SXSW [South by Southwest] Music Festival serves a daunting, days-long feast of sounds from around the world. And once again, NPR Music's Austin 100 is here to distill it all down to a digestible meal of music discovery.

Picked from a playlist that spanned more than a hundred hours, these 100 songs represent a broad and exciting cross-section of SXSW's many highlights...."

If you click on the NPR link above, you'll find yourself on a web page containing the "Austin 100 Playlist" -- some of the best new music to be showcased at the South by Southwest Music Festival to be held March 13-17, 2017.

The NPR web page provides three ways in which you can listen to the entire playlist:
  1. You can stream the songs via the "NPR One" app; a link is provided to download the app from Amazon, Google Play, the App Store, and Microsoft.
  2. You can download each individual song on the web page; or use the provided link to grab the 900MB zip file containing all 100 songs. Downloads expire on March 31.
  3. And lastly, if you are a Spotify user, use the provided link to pull up the "Austin 100 Playlist."

Personally, I'd prefer vinyl, but then again, 100 songs -- let's say an average of three and a half minutes per song -- would work out to at least nine LPs! Much easier to tote around a 900MB zip file!

Enjoy the tunes....


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Philip K. Dick on Reality

...today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups.... So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing....

—Philip K. Dick

From a 1978 speech entitled "How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later." Included in the anthology The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, edited by Lawrence Sutin (Pantheon, 1995).


Monday, February 27, 2017

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

The Forgotten Beasts of EldAs I continue to catch up on my belated blog posts....

My most recent project was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip, forthcoming in September from Tachyon Publications.

I'll admit that I had not read this book previously (it was originally published in 1974), and to my delight, the story had me intrigued from the very beginning. Which seems to be the overall consensus from the many reviews I have read since completing work on this project.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld has the honor of winning the very first World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, presented in 1975 at the first World Fantasy Convention, held in Providence, Rhode Island, the home of H. P. Lovecraft.

This is one project that I wanted to keep working on, and working on...not to be done with the project itself, but to find out what came next in the story. And as noted in one of the reviews I read, the prose is so seductive that I had to keep reminding myself that this is work!

Here are some mini excerpts from a few of those reviews I read, with links to the full reviews (and doing my best not to reveal too many spoilers):

I admit it: I have been seduced by Patricia A McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, ...the latest in my trawl through fantasy champions of days gone by. Gorgeous, lyrical prose, a story that is more than just a linear journey from one drama to another, and a three-dimensional female character: it feels a million miles away from my manful slogs through Michael Moorcock's Corum trilogy, and Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga.
...
I think I've fallen for this book because it's so different to what I was expecting: a cool drink of water in the midst of the overwrought, derivative, under-edited and overwritten tomes that dominate much of fantasy today – and, judging from my excursions into Corum and Kraki, did in the past as well.
—Alison Flood, The Guardian Books Blog

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a gorgeously told tale of love and the human cost of war and revenge. It has a love of riddles, inventive magical beasts, and a well-drawn cast of believable characters with a strong, engaging female protagonist. However what truly elevates the book is Patricia A. McKillip's poetic language. Her command of striking imagery and finely balanced phrases places The Forgotten Beasts of Eld in another category altogether, ...a high Fantasy that almost qualifies as a prose poem.
...
The complexity of the book's view of love, as something that ties the couple together but that can also be twisted and subverted into something damaging and ugly, is refreshing. In the end it is not just their love that pulls Coren and Sybel back from the brink, but knowledge, wisdom and self-awareness. Both Coren and Sybel, having looked into themselves, can see something of Drede in themselves, a man who let his feelings for his wife be twisted into something unpleasant and destructive by his fear and jealousy. Coren and Sybel first have to reject their own destructive, violent impulses, before they can return to each other purified....
worldswithoutend.com

There is a sense of antiquity about this book -- and by that I don't mean dusty obsolescence and a sliding into oblivion. On the contrary, this is one of those shining complex things that our ancestors seemed to find it easy to do and that we have somehow forgotten in the rush and spin of our modern days -- this has the feel to it of a tale that has come down from some ancient dawn, a day long gone, but it is bright with the ancient magic and it feels ageless, eternal...
...
There are fantasy tropes aplenty in this book -- animals that never were and that you wish could have been, cold sorcery, human drama involving inheritances and betrayals and wise enchantresses, lost prince-heirs, and much else besides. McKillip weaves them with the light touch of her own magic. It might all sound kind of recognisable, even familiar -- there are dozens and dozens of fantasy tales involving talking beasts and dragons and human wars and romances -- but somehow, here, you feel like you're drinking it from the source.
—Alma A. Hromic, SF Site


The Forgotten Beasts of Eld will be published in September and is now available for preorder directly from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, or from Amazon.com, or your friendly neighborhood bookseller.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

John Langan's The Fisherman: Bram Stoker Award Finalist

The FishermanWhen I first wrote of The Fisherman in my July 19, 2016, blog post, I said (and I quote): "...this new John Langan novel, which I am sure will be on award shortlists next year."

And here it is, next year, and the final ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards has just been announced by the Horror Writers Association -- and The Fisherman by John Langan is one of five finalists for the award for "Superior Achievement in a Novel."

I am not surprised that a story (actually, a story within a story) such as this has been recognized by the HWA members and awards jury.

Here's an excerpt from The New York Times Book Review by Terrence Rafferty on October 26, 2016:
In his superb new novel THE FISHERMAN (Word Horde, paper, $16.99), John Langan also manages to sustain the focused effect of a short story or a poem over the course of a long horror narrative, and it's an especially remarkable feat because this is a novel that goes back and forth in time, alternates lengthy stretches of calm with extended passages of vigorous and complex action, and features a very, very large monster. Like Robert Aickman, Langan is a short story writer by inclination; The Fisherman is only his second novel, and this one took him over a dozen years to finish.
...
The Fisherman is unusually dense with ideas and images, and, with the tale heard in the diner taking up the middle third of the book, it's oddly constructed. But there's a beauty in its ungainliness. Langan writes elegant prose, and the novel's rolling, unpredictable flow has a distinctive rhythm, the rise and fall of its characters' real grief. These fishermen are restless men, immobilized but never truly at peace. Again and again, they cast their lines in the hope of catching something, anything, that will restore them to who they were. Abe characterizes himself as "desperate for any chance to recover what I'd lost, no matter what I had to look past to do so," and you feel that sad urgency on every page of his strange and terrifying and impossible story.

Langan's novel wears its heart on its sleeve.

The Fisherman is available direct from publisher Word Horde, in a $16.99 bundle that includes a signed bookplate and the ebook in your choice of format, or from Amazon, or from your bookseller of choice.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari by James Morrow

[Added 02/05/2017: Expect to see this novella on many awards' short lists come 2018....]

I have been quite fortunate to have worked on not just one, not two, but three novellas by James Morrow that have been -- or will be -- published by Tachyon Publications. The first of these, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, was published in 2009.

The second, The Madonna and the Starship, published in 2014, was the focus of my blog post of November 24, 2013, in which I wrote of my work on this novella.

In that blog post I stated (and I quote): "James Morrow is an absolute master of the sardonic..." -- and with The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, his third novella from Tachyon, due to be published in June, James Morrow does not disappoint.

Here is the ad copy for the book:
The infamous Dr. Caligari: psychiatrist or psychopath? In this wry and satiric tour de force, award-winning author James Morrow offers a surprising and provocative take on a silent film classic.

In the summer of 1914, the world teeters on the brink of the Great War. An American painter, Francis Wyndham, is hired to provide art therapy at a renowned European asylum, working under the auspices of its mysterious director, Alessandro Caligari. Francis is soon beguiled by his most talented student, Ilona Wessels, whose genius with a brush is matched only by the erotic intensity of her madness.

Deep in his secret studio, Dr. Caligari, rumored to be a sorcerer, struggles to create Ecstatic Wisdom, an immense painting so hypnotic it can incite entire regiments to rush headlong into battle. Once Francis and Ilona grasp Caligari's scheme in all its supernatural audacity, they conspire to defeat him with a magical work of their own....

The story is all about a painting -- Ecstatic Wisdom (well, actually two paintings, but you'll have to read the story to learn about the other) -- and its effect on the viewer, or viewers, as they came in regimental numbers to view the painting(s).

Here's a brief excerpt from the story itself: Francis Wyndham is clandestinely observing Dr. Caligari at work on his painting:
Watching Caligari suffuse his canvas with whatever species of wizardry or variety of delusion possessed him, I decided his methods represented neither imagination abandoned by intellect, nor revelation tempered by logic, but a third phenomenon. He had beguiled both forces into a condition of mutual betrayal, reason convincing fantasy that violent monsters were desirable, fantasy coercing reason into abandoning its tedious allegiance to facts.

"Effundam spiritum meum in vobis, virtutibus! Perfectus es!"

Now he began spinning in circles—like a deranged dancer, or a whirling dervish, or a man inhabited by devils....

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari will be published in June and is now available for preorder directly from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, or from Amazon.com, or your friendly neighborhood bookseller.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Original Blue And Lonesome

Blue and LonesomeOne of the best selling albums in 2016 was Blue & Lonesome, The Rolling Stones' cover album of electric blues songs. Now these aren't the typical blues songs that one is used to hearing on blues-rock albums; there is no "Crossroads," no "Hideaway," no "Driftin' Blues," or "You Shook Me," to name just four, on Blue and Lonesome. So unless you are a follower of blues music, most, if not all, of the twelve songs on this album will be new to you.

According to the Stones' website:
"The album was produced by Don Was and The Glimmer Twins [aka Mick Jagger and Keith Richards] and was recorded over the course of just three days in December last year [2015] at British Grove Studios in West London, just a stone’s throw [pun intended?] from Richmond and Eel Pie Island where the Stones started out as a young blues band playing pubs and clubs. Their approach to the album was that it should be spontaneous and played live in the studio without overdubs...."

As I said, Blue and Lonesome is a cover album; all of the songs were previously written and recorded (not always by the same person in each instance) by blues greats during the 1950s and '60s, with one track dating to 1971. Here's the 12-song tracklist for the 2-LP vinyl edition:
SIDE A
1. Just Your Fool
2. Commit a Crime
3. Blue and Lonesome

SIDE B
1. All of Your Love
2. I Gotta Go
3. Everybody Knows About My Good Thing

SIDE C
1. Ride 'Em on Down
2. Hate To See You Go
3. Hoo Doo Blues

SIDE D
1. Little Rain
2. Just Like I Treat You
3. I Can't Quit You Baby


My goal with this blog post is to introduce you to the original recordings (or as close to the original recordings as the internet, and YouTube, will allow) of these twelve songs, to provide you with a wee bit of a feel for the musical influences on the Stones as a band, and the Glimmer Twins in particular.

I'm not going to bore you with a lot of facts and details, so I'm linking each artist to his biography on the AllMusic website. If you want more info on the likes of Little Walter or Howlin' Wolf or Lightnin' Slim or whomever, you can simply click on their linked names to read their AllMusic entry. From the biography page you can click to their discography, read reviews, etc. Also, the tunes that I am providing below are audio files only, but each is posted as a video on YouTube simply because that's how YouTube works. The video for each entry might be just a static picture, or pictures might change throughout the length of each song -- just keep in mind that there really is no video per se associated with each of these entries. The whole point is to listen:

Side A, Track 1: "Just Your Fool" was originally written and recorded in 1960 by Little Walter:


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale

Hap & Leonard: Blook & LemonadeSo, as I stated at the beginning of my previous post, while I was absent from blogging, life still moved on...other projects were completed, books were received....

One of the projects that I worked on is the new Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade novel by Joe R. Lansdale, his ownself. This title, forthcoming in March from Tachyon Publications, will coincide with the premiere of season two of the SundanceTV series Hap and Leonard. (Check out the SundanceTV site for some H and L season two trailers, if you're not already familiar with this series.)

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is actually a "mosaic" novel. A mosaic novel is comprised of a number of related stories that are tied together with new connecting material; occasionally the author will even tweak the beginnings and/or endings of some of the stories so that the book flows more cohesively from one story to the next. If you have read Ray Bradbury's classic The Martian Chronicles, then you have read a mosaic novel. Back in 2005 I acquired and edited a mosaic novel for Golden Gryphon Press entitled From the Files of the Time Rangers by Richard Bowes. The San Francisco Chronicle, in its review of Time Rangers, described the mosaic novel as "something more integrated than a simple story collection but not confined to a singular, linear narrative structure."

Here are the 14 stories that comprise Blood and Lemonade:
"Parable of the Stick" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"Tire Fire" - original to this volume

"Not Our Kind" - first appeared in Hap and Leonard (Tachyon Publications)

"Down by the River Side" - original to this volume

"Short Night" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"The Boy Who Became Invisible" - first appeared in The Bleeding Edge: Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers, edited by William F. Nolan and Jason V. Brock (Cycatrix Press)

"Blood and Lemonade" - original to this volume

"In the River of the Dead" - original to this volume

"Stopping for Coffee" - original to this volume

"Apollo Red" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"Coach Whip" - original to this volume

"The Bottom of the World" - original to this volume

"Squirrel Hunt" - original to this volume

"The Oak and the Pond" - first appeared in Hap and Leonard Rides Again (Tachyon Publications)

The stories are primarily from Hap's point of view, while he's hanging out with Leonard -- often when they are driving in Hap's truck, occasionally hanging out at the local Dairy Queen; a few of the latter stories take place at Hap's house, in the presence of both Brett (Brett Sawyer, Hap's on-again, off-again girlfriend) and Chance (Hap's daughter).

We learn how these two disparate individuals -- Hap Collins, a liberal, typically non-violent white boy (who spent time in federal prison as a young man for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War), and Leonard Pine, a gay, black, Vietnam vet (and a Republican) -- actually meet, and not only become partners and friends, but brothers.

In his review of Blood and Lemonade on Dangerous Dan's Book Blog, Daniel Schwent writes: "Lansdale's beer and tailgate style of storytelling gives him a unique voice and feels like it was written specifically for my ears. There is comedy, fist fights, and even some horror in the form of a ghost story, showing the depth and versatility of Lansdale's style."

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is available direct from Tachyon Publications, and always through Amazon.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book Received: Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

Pirate UtopiaSo while I was absent from blogging, life moved on...other projects were completed, books were received....

One such book is Bruce Sterling's Pirate Utopia, a beautifully crafted hardcover from Tachyon Publications.

In addition to the *starred* Publishers Weekly review I posted on October 6 last year, here are excerpts from a few more reviews:

1. From author Michael Swanwick's blog Flogging Babel:
Bruce Sterling has always had a complicated relationship with science fiction. He has a particular brilliance for writing the stuff and a noted loathing for its conventions. This explains much about Pirate Utopia, which is almost not SF and yet should prove eminently satisfactory to genre readers.

The Free State of Fiume was a real thing. Fiume was a port city which was seized by troops led by the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. Very briefly, it became an attempted Futurist utopia.

The novella explores this strange phenomenon through the lens of the single worst member of the new government, exposing along the way the seductively poisonous appeal of fascism. At the end, after the inevitable has played out, Harry Houdini appears with two alt-historical pulp writers to implicate science fiction and fantasy literature in the whole mess.

It really is quite brilliant.

2. From Locus magazine's review by Gary K. Wolfe:
One can be reasonably suspicious of a novella whose alternate history is so obscure, contorted, and bordering on the absurd that it needs appendices to help us draw the connections, but the overall effect of Pirate Utopia is more chilling than comical...

The idea of a brutality as policy crops up repeatedly in the many discussions that make up the intellectual heart of the story, and you can't help but read forward a century or so to see how such ideas persist even today. In his interview with [Rick] Klaw, Sterling relates his tale to Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here and notes that, as Lewis said, fascism in the US "would arrive wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross under American circumstances." Pirate Utopia may seem to be about an ancient and almost forgotten struggle between Italy and Yugoslavia, but its themes are as relevant as this year's presidential politics.

3. From author Cory Doctorow on boingboing.net:
Sterling's Pirate Utopia captures both the excitement and the shabbiness of Futurism and fascism, the sense of trembling anticipation and the terror of merciless technocratic rule where corruption is considered efficient and meritocratic. For all that this is a very cerebral story -- much of the prose is distant and precise, like a Futurist's oiled machine stamping out words -- Sterling masterfully winds in all manner of blood and love and sorrow into the story, not to mention the odd belly-laugh.

This novella is a beautiful object, with the most amazing super-modernist black and white interior illustrations and a cover that beggars belief.

4. And lastly (though there are many more very fine reviews available on this novella) from Max Booth III on LitReactor:
This is a very short book occupied by an impressive cast of characters—most of them grabbed straight from history, although used in ways you might not entirely expect. This is a Futurism novel that looks at the past rather than the future. It's an alternate history clusterfuck of brilliant, whacky world-building and hilarious, bizarre characters. I am not going to discuss the plot, but I will tell you that, in the world of Pirate Utopia, Hitler passed away while saving someone's life in a bar, Lovecraft works not only for Houdini, but is also a member of the U.S. spy delegation—oh, and Mussolini has evidently been shot in the cock, which is of course wonderful. This is a book about piracy and Futurism. Building a world while stealing everything in it. When you have an oxymoron for a title, there's really no way to predict what awaits you, and Pirate Utopia exceeds all expectations. Also, make sure you stick around afterward for the impressive special feature essays and interview with Sterling. They'll help you make sense of what the hell you just read.


In his review, Cory Doctorow refers to the "most amazing super-modernist black and white interior illustrations and a cover that beggars belief." [Note: other reviewers have mentioned the artwork as well, but I simply didn't include that in my excerpts.] All the illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who has written a very enlightening 1,000-plus-word essay entitled "Reconstructing the Future: A Note on Design" that you'll find at the end of the book. You can read my blog post on my initial work on the novella, published on June 14, 2016, with a link to some of the interior illustrations (scroll down to the end of the blog); and a follow-up blog post on July 14, 2016, with additional examples of the illustrations.

Pirate Utopia is available direct from Tachyon Publications, and always through Amazon.com.


Monday, January 9, 2017

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross: Laundry Files Book 8

The Delirium Brief
Tor.com cover
Okay, okay...so I haven't been the world's best blogger these past few months (though I did try to keep you entertained on occasion with quotes, vids, etc.).... Blame it on the run-up to the presidential election (and of course the aftermath, sigh....), but then again that excuse is only good through the beginning of December.

For the past nearly four weeks I have been working on the latest installment of Charles Stross's Laundry Files series: volume 8, entitled The Delirium Brief. This new novel will be published in July 2017 in the U.S. by Tor.com and by Orbit Books in the UK. [*]

So while I slaved away working on The Delirium Brief, the publishers were, naturally, shut down for the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Orbit UK cover
But I'm not really complaining, honest: one of the best Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa presents I could ever ask for is the opportunity to work on a new Laundry Files novel. (Also, I'm always pleased to have work in front of me -- any work, at any time!)

According to the content blurb provided by the publisher (available for your reading pleasure on Amazon.com) -- and I quote, though not in its entirety:
"... following the invasion of Yorkshire by the Host of Air and Darkness, the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British government looking for public services to privatize. Inch by inch, Bob Howard and his managers are forced to consider the truly unthinkable: a coup against the British government itself."

So, what we know here is that the British government is outsourcing a number of its services, which obviously includes the Laundry... But the real question is: Why?

I will warn you right now that to answer that question without giving away the entire punchline I will still have to yield to a few "mini" spoilers. So if the idea of knowing any spoilers whatsoever for The Delirium Brief, regardless of how small, offends your better judgment, then you had best close this blog post window now!

On the other hand, if you are still reading, let me provide a caveat: If you are fairly new to the Laundry Files series and haven't read all the prior volumes, then you just may want to stick around to learn which volumes you will need to catch up on before The Delirium Brief is published six months from now. (Or maybe you have read all the volumes but it's been years for some of them and, well, the memory ain't what it used to be....)