Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: April 2010

Reading Prometheus Award finalists

A few days ago I received three of the current finalist novels for the 2010 Prometheus Award. Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Dani and Eytan Kallin’s The Unincorporated Man, and Orson Scott Card’s Hidden Empire. Not sure which one to start with yet, but I am leaning toward the Doctorow book at the moment. It’s the one I know the least about, so maybe it will clear some pre-conceptions out of the way before I start the other books.

Near Space Press

Recently Sunni Maravillosa posted about a new libertarian publisher, Near Space Press. Their first book is a novel by Carl Bussjaeger entitled Net Assets, in both e-book and trade paperback formats. Originally published in 2002, Net Assets was selected for the Freedom Book of the Month Award by FMN. It will be interesting to see the other books they intend to publish, and if there is a market still for libertarian science fiction.

Prometheus newsletter Winter/Spring 2010

The latest edition of the Prometheus newsletter is finally in the mail. Due to the extra length and the production delay, this is a double issue. Next issue is set for the summer. Reviews, letters, articles welcome from any and all writers.

Dealing with comment spam

Lately I have been inundated with comment spam. One spammer went through every single post and attached a spammy comment to each one. Last week a spammer attached 50+ comments to one post. This week, more random comment attacks. For this reason I have set comments to be moderated from the start, and it took a few months before spam appeared. At the moment I can only deal with this by turning off comments, at least until I find another option. This blog has consisted of random and sporadic thoughts from the beginning, so probably nothing of interest to real people, at least most of the time.

One last thing. I’m brightening up the look, as older posts were getting lost in the descending gloom of the previous theme.

Michael Shea’s The Extra

Like Patton Oswalt, I have been reading Michael Shea since high school. That’s when I picked up a copy of the 1985 Grafton edition of A Quest for Simbilis, a novel originally published in 1974 by DAW (years later I would come across a copy of the first edition in a used book store for next to nothing). Shea’s first novel was an authorized sequel in Jack Vance’s Cugel universe, before Vance wrote his own sequel. As soon as I discovered Shea’s other books I bought copies, including the dark fantasy In Yana, The Touch of Undying, the Lovecraftian tale The Color Out of Time, and his uniquely own character, Nifft the Lean. In 1988 I bought the gorgeous Arkham House edition, Poylphemus. I also acquired some novellas published by various small presses, as well as the two Nifft sequels, The Mines of Behemoth and The A’rak. I reviewed the latter in Lawrence Person’s magazine NOVA Express. At one point I was trying to collect all of Shea’s short stories, until Centipede Press published all but two in The Autopsy and Others a few years ago, in a very handsome and expensive limited edition.

The I heard news last year that a new Shea novel was in the works, a hardcover edition called The Extra. Published in February 2010, this novel expands on the original 1987 short story (first collected in Polyphemus), about a futuristic movie set where people actually die as part of the movie concept. The extras are paid to battle deadly animatronic spiders the size of humans.
Expanding a short story into a novel is nothing new among sf writers. Dan Simmons turned a very short story into the massive novel Carrion Comfort in the late 1980s. But taking 20 years between the two forms probably is a little unusual. Would the times have changed too far for the story to work? In this case, even though the dystopian setting is more in tone with an Escape from New York/L.A. scenario, the non-stop action required by the characters is timeless. I read the book in one day, so compelled by the tense action and plot. A chapter into the book I stopped a re-read the short-story, just so see where it held to the original line and where it diverged. There were two major changes, one being the main character’s name, the other being a death that never happened in the novel. The background was a little confusing, with the Zoo and ‘rise people not clearly delineated. Still, the rest of the book was pre enjoyment.

Shea speaks about the novel in a brief interview, stating he is blending genres, from horror to sf, in his current fiction. This is true for many of his stories, such as “The Autopsy,” or “I, Said the Fly” and even “Polyphemus” where humans exploring another world encounter great horror that is merely “nature, red in tooth and claw.” That in itself contains an element of horror.

Shea is currently working on a the sequel to The Extra, called The Siege of Sunrise. He is a master of language and character, and the tense action in this book is perfect for the movie set sketches and background.

Michael Shea and the Lovecraft mythos

A few days ago I received a copy of Michael Shea’s latest novel, The Extra. Glancing at his list of published books I saw one that I failed to recognize, Copping Squid, a collection of Lovecraftian tales. Some of the stories in this collection I have read, but others are new, so being a major Shea fan I had to buy a copy. Glad to see more of Shea’s books getting published, and especially his novel The Extra getting lots of attention in the online press.

Republicans fight to save Obamacare

I almost wrote a few weeks ago to predict this, but I didn’t want to bother with politics. Now I find that it’s actually come true. Once entrenched, no government program will ever be repealed.*

*Note: I am neither pro-Republican nor pro-Democrat.

2010 Prometheus Award finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society announced this year’s finslists for the Prometheus Best Novel Award, for fiction published in 2009.

I have not yet read a single one of the nominees, though I admit to some surprise that Harry Turtledove has two books in the running. I have read only a handful of his books, and (my opinion only) I find them far from gripping and engaging in the manner I expect from an award winning novel. As for the other nominees, I read Card’s earlier novel, or rather, skipped huge chunks to get through it out of sheer sense of obligation. I enjoyed Doctorow’s Little Brother, but have read nothing else by him, and the Kollin brothers debut with their novel. Am I just losing touch with modern SF? I found the recent list of Hugo finalists also distressingly banal and uninteresting. It has been a long while since I truly enjoyed most of the new books I read, and I seem to read fewer each year. There is no sense of wonder in today’s SF, or maybe that’s just me. In movies, everything is a reboot. I expect more from books, but maybe the magic has faded. I get more out re-reading Jack Vance these days.

Books read

I finished Paul McAuley’s latest novel, Gardens of the Sun, his sequel to The Quiet War. I actually liked most of this novel better than the first. McAuley seemed more comfortable with his characters and the events of the story, although several main characters from the first book either died or underwent radical change. Excellent hard sf novel on a grand scale, so for the most part the characters played their parts and drifted off, exit stage left.

Gardens of the Sun

Gardens of the Sun

I also read Sarah Hoyt’s novel, Darkship Thieves, a book that focused very much on the characters, especially the female protagonist. This character tended to be unsympathetic almost until the end, while her male co-star sulked a great deal throughout the novel. The book was far from unfavorable, and I am planning a longer review in Prometheus, but I have not processed all my thoughts about this book yet.
Darkship Thieves

Darkship Thieves

Angela Carter

What a master of style and images. Just finished her novel, Nights at the Circus, about a half woman, half swan trapeze artist at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, and the journalist who follows her across Europe and Siberia. Bawdy, breathtaking, funny, bizarre, and brilliant. I had read several of Carter’s short stories in her collection Burning Your Boats, but this was her first novel I tackled. I think I need to add her to the list of authors worth searching for at the local used book store.

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