Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: January 2008

The Terror


Around one year ago I bought the just-released new novel by Dan Simmons, a nearly 800 page imagined account of the real-life disastrous John Franklin expedition to sail the Northwest Passage in 1845. I’ve long been a fan of Simmons’ books, and own a copy of almost every one of his books. Yet The Terror sat on a shelf for over a year before I pulled it out and started reading. The books sits at eye level as I leave my study, so I see it nearly every night. Yet for many months I have been daunted both by its size and subject matter. I’ve read Simmons’ posting about the book on his website, and even many of the non-spoiler reviews. I was intrigued by the tale of polar exploration, but being aware of the inevitable ending, and of the fantastical nature that appears now and then, I felt reluctant to invest so much time in such a massive book. Yet now, nearly 300 pages into the novel (in just over one day of reading), I feel foolish for having held off so long reading the book. In my opinion this is probably the best Simmons novel since Hyperion, and despite the immense detail and sometimes long drawn out episodes, I find it impossible to desist from reading. It’s hard to believe this expedition took place over 150 years ago. How quickly the world has shrunk.

From his original fantasy novel set in India (Song of Kali) to his hard sf novels, then horror, then hard-boiled fiction (yes, I’m bitter that he stopped writing that series after three books…), to The Terror, to his current work on a novel about Dickens, the art of Dan Simmons has come a long way. The coldest weather I’ve experienced was -13 Fahrenheit, which pales in comparison to what Franklin’s men experienced. Let alone the dangers of strange and fantastical creatures hunting men on the ice, just trying to survive winter north of mainland Canada is terror enough for me.

New L. Neil Smith story online

After almost two years as a serialized publication, L. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser’s Roswell, Texas saga recently wrapped up at Big Head Press. Almost without a break, a brand new Smith story debuts online, this time drawn by Sherard Jackson. TimePeeper, a futuristic juvenile tale shows great promise in the first dozen and half pages currently online, though for some reason when I clicked on the story link for the first time it took me to the last page, not the first page. Another difference is that this story is black and white, whereas Roswell, Texas appeared in full color. Not sure if that will affect the rate new pages are added, but Smith fans get to enjoy another story, although once again they will need to read at the publisher’s pace, instead of being able to have the entire story available at once.

A timid libertarian

One of the stories I bookmarked some weeks ago I read in the print edition of Time. The headline virtually sneers: “Elitist, Moi?” The face that gazes back you in the photo is one a rumbled but fashion-conscious European. The story itself is far more interesting, as it profiles Tom Stoppard, who sees himself as a “timid libertarian.” I first encountered his work in college, when I read his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and watched film and live play versions. Stoppard’s also written screenplays, most notably Terry Gilliam’s dystopian movie, Brazil. This libertarian leaning might explain some of the content and themes of his plays, such as “The Coast of Utopia, his nearly nine-hour trilogy about Russia’s radical political thinkers of the 19th century.” Being located far from New York (though ten minutes walking distance from San Antonio’s own Broadway Ave), I have slim chance of attending any of his plays, but I’m going to have to try to located published versions of the same.

MacLeod interview

Here’s another recent interview with Ken MacLeod, conducted a couple of weeks ago. In this one MacLeod discusses politics and sf in great detail. I’m behind on my reading of current books, and have not yet read The Execution Channel, but I find myself agreeing with his sentiments about the war on terror.

Friedman on his favorite poet

A slightly different version of David D. Friedman’s paean to his favorite poet will appear in the next print issue of Prometheus, which currently nearing completion. Here is the original entry at Friedman’s blog.

I’ve been collecting links of interest over the past month or so, but my computer bought the farm last month. Or rather, the hard drive itself died. The rest of the now four-year-old computer is fine. I managed to get the computer to Apple one day before my extended Apple Care ceased, and so they took care of it, replacing the entire drive. I had a back-up plan, but it seems to have been so fragmented that it took me a few weeks to re-assemble everything, and I think an item here or there vanished into the ether. I think a better and more cohesive plan is required for the future…

“Lipidleggin'” podcast

An audio version of F. Paul Wilson’s very libertarian short story, which was released last year as short film on a DVD by someone unrelated this project.

‘Nother interview

Here’s a interview at IO9 with last year’s Prometheus Award-winner, Charles Stross.

This new SF blog site rocks.

Ken MacLeod interview

Over at the new SF blog IO9, an interview with multiple Prometheus Award winning writer, Ken MacLeod. Dare I say he might be the front runner again this year with The Execution Channel? What libertarian can’t help cheering at a quote like this? (“Whoops, my own ‘litmus test’…” he says with a sardonic smile)

in my own case, the political philosophers whose ideas most directly give rise to SF are the libertarians. Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia more or less compels you to think science-fictionally: how would this work? (Or not work, as the case may be.) You start imagining a crazy quilt of societies, and for me it was not far from there to something like Norlonto in The Star Fraction. Then there are the ecologists, but I can only imagine dystopias about them …

New book on the future

Via Ken MacLeod’s blog, word that David D. Friedman is writing a book on the future.

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