Review of Little Green Men–Attack! for Tangent

In this, Michelle Ristuccia reviews the first half of the book and I review the second:

Review of Little Green Men—Attack!, edited by Robin Wayne Bailey & Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Recommended: no originals (but it was mostly quite readable; the Cato, Steele, and Ball would be honorable mentions or close to it; and the reprint of Robert Silverberg’s “Hannibal’s Elephants” (1988) is highly recommended.)

Rec: “Come See the Living Dryad” by Theodora Goss

Come See the Living Dryad” by Theodora Goss, Tor.com 2017-03-09, novelette

A woman in the present investigates the murder of her great-great-grandmother who was part of a “freak show” as a “living dryad.” (She actually had an extremely bad (and non-fictional) skin condition.) The story is told through narration in past and present as well as by means of sometimes nested letters, book excerpts, and other sorts of things (such as a box of evidence at a police station), producing the effect of looking through a scrapbook or mementos and family heirlooms which is basically what the present-day protagonist is doing.

If you need this story to have a revelatory twist, you’ll likely be disappointed as the whodunnit is pretty clear early on. Perhaps more problematically, this story’s vegetable love grows more slow, as Marvell might have it. However, while I value pace more highly than most readers, even I found the backstory, foreground, phrasing of the tale, and strokes of characterization sufficient to keep me involved. Perhaps the most problematic issue is that this is basically a mainstream story (and closer to SF if anything, despite being billed as fantasy). Unless I missed it, nothing supernatural happened and nothing scientific was projected though the story was reasonably scientific in both medical and criminal terms. All that’s particularly “made up” are the plot and characters, as in any fiction. But, much like Apollo 13 is sometimes lumped in with SF because “a space movie equals a science fiction movie,” so this “feels” a bit like SF and a bit like fantasy, so is “of interest” to the field. And, speaking of movies, I feel like anyone who enjoyed The Elephant Man would enjoy this story. There are so many similarities that this story could be dismissed as “derivative” but I feel it would be fairer to say it was partly “inspired by” the story of Merrick (who is name-checked in this tale). Finally, another of this novelette’s better features is its humanist theme which is certainly clear but handled reasonably lightly. While the heroes and main villain conform to today’s standards, the story does not settle for simplistic praise or condemnation (when it has more reason to than many stories) but remains true to its universal theme.

Linky Tunes (2017-03-09)

Previous posts like this were titled “McGregor’s Miscellany” after things like Tottel’s Miscellany but it bugs me in a couple of ways. Of course, you know this means a name change. (Now let’s see how long this one lasts.)

What If There Was a New What If?

In case you don’t subscribe to the RSS feed, xkcd has a new What If? about Electrofishing for Whales.

SciAm on PolCorr

Here’s a newish and oldish article from Scientific American about offensensitivity. (Disclaimer: I’m sympathetic to most aims of most PC folks but very rarely with their methods and find some (some) PC people, bluntly, to be dictators in liberals’ clothing or people who are otherwise projecting personal issues. These articles seem to be quite balanced though, neither defending nor attacking PC/”EI” but merely making observations.)

The Personality of Political Correctness

Too Much Emotional Intelligence Is a Bad Thing

I Regret That I’m Not a Time-Traveling Immortal Speed Reader

Thrice Read has Top 5 Thursday – Bookish Regrets. Regarding Jenn’s #1, I tend to go as far into series as I want (which is sometimes not far) but I do wonder if I’ll ever finish Revelation Space. (Absolution Gap has been near the top of the Pile for years now but never quite gets to the very top.) On #3, I also don’t tend to stop in the middle of individual books much but regret it when I do for the same reason she gives: gotta start over. Probably my biggest book-related regret is when I knew about something years ago but never got around to it and then, when I do, find myself wishing I’d read it earlier. Sometimes this is personal, such as when I finally get around to reading something I’ve known about since I was a teen and suspect I’d have loved it even more as a teen. Sometimes it’s related to reviewing – I could have reviewed B so much better if I had read A first. Sometimes it’s scientific or historical – some science fiction is very timely and it has to hold up then and now but I missed the opportunity to at least read it when it wasn’t “dated.” But we all know time is what keeps everything from happening at once; the only sort of solution would be to, for example, read everything at the same time with that time being yesterday. Still, it’d probably be a good idea to read my newest book now and my old classic later rather than my old classic now so that I don’t get to my new book until it’s an old classic, itself.

Cover Shack

And, as always, the tunes! Today’s a Threefer Thursday because one thing led to another to another…

Continue reading

Rec: “Rising Star” by Stephen Graham Jones

Rising Star” by Stephen Graham Jones, Uncanny March/April 2017, science fiction short story

If nothing else, I like this story for talking about the spatial problems with time travel but there’s much more. The synopsis is quite simple, though. A scientist – or crackpot? – or the author? writes a proposal to a grant committee with great certainty that it will be accepted and explain a (real) mystery.

The only real complaint I can see regarding this story is that, by being a letter, it isn’t the most action/adventure-oriented plot but, by being all about the concept and detailing some pretty intense stuff it’s quite exciting. Otherwise, this has clean narration and the perfect marriage of form and content that “Cease and Desist” had. Further, it’s a genuinely tight and fun concept. I’m a guy who’s a hard sell for time travel stories but I’m buying this one and hope you do, too.

No Rec: Strike Thirteen, You’re Out

The sun set, casting the world into darkness. A thick, dense darkness, so dark that it would take extended sentences full of polysyllabic opacities to fully convey its impenetrability. Of course, that was broad daylight in comparison to my mind and heart, given that my wife had just committed suicide after killing my dog after that creature had been given rabies by my enemy and had eaten my daughter. So I set out to hunt that enemy down but tripped and suffered a compound fracture in the darkness. Now I lie here, writing this tale in my blood which is probably illegible because it’s hard to write in blood and very hard to do so in such dark, dark, darkness.

Okay, boys and girls! Just a tip: I’m tired of reading stories akin to the paragraph above. Usually, for the webzine stories, I just post about what seems good and let sleeping stories lie but I read thirteen stories of forty thousand words last week and, except for a downer of a forthcoming honorable mention, I didn’t appreciate any of it. So “I Die a Little,” and an all-horror issue of FFO, and an almost all-downer issue of Clarkesworld (and especially “Crown of Thorns” and “Real Ghosts”) and a boring Terraform and an all-downer BCS (with “Suddenwall” and “Ghosts of Amarana” duking it out with “Crown of Thorns” for most suicide-inducing tale)… I’m talking to all of you. Not singling out any one – anybody can do anything they want – but singling out every one for all writing the same story. Being down and dull and depressing with molasses-like prose doesn’t of itself make a story “adult” or “literary” or “good.” It just makes it down and dull and depressing with molasses-like prose.

While I’m at it, I don’t need to read so many Weird Westerns or VR/AI/holograms used as metaphors of familial isolation or so many superhero/comic book tales or so many postmodern cynical ironic satires of cliches which are far more cliched at this point than the original cliches themselves. And now I’ll leave you with some words from the philosopher of the gay science, the joyful wisdom (and a couple of tunes from other philosophers of joy):

All good things approach their goal crookedly. Like cats, they arch their backs, they purr inwardly over their approaching happiness: all good things laugh.

A man’s stride betrays whether he has found his own way: behold me walking! But whoever approaches his goal dances. And verily, I have not become a statue: I do not yet stand there stiff, stupid, stony, a column; I love to run swiftly. And though there are swamps and thick melancholy on earth, whoever has light feet runs even over mud and dances as on swept ice.

Lift up your hearts, my brothers, high, higher! And do not forget your legs either. Lift up your legs too, you good dancers; and better yet, stand on your heads!

—Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Kaufmann trans.)

And for audiovisual illustrations… Continue reading

Dead Zine Memorial Service

Ralan has moved Fantasy Scroll Mag to the dead zone. We’ve lost several zines recently including Fantastic Stories (2017-01-19), New Zenith (2017-01-23), Betwixt (2017-02-06), and Triptych Tales (2017-02-27). (Terraform is also listed as “only sleeping” but, whatever their submission condition, they just published a story yesterday.)

Fantasy Scroll Mag paid a mere penny a word. There are some zines (not naming names!) that make me wonder where they get all their money and why they choose to waste it the way they do. While I only read a few issues and it was clear that FSM was no prozine, I was surprised at the great bang for their penny they got and I figured I’d memorialize the zine by dredging up some old recs and mentions.

A zine I miss even more is Unlikely Story (2016-12-20). Again, I only read a couple of issues but how you make “clown fear”-themed issues and issues on bugs (and computers) and so on and make them good, I don’t know, but they were my kind of crazy.

Finally, I’ll note Cosmos (2016-03-18). Somewhat like Nature in the UK, Cosmos is an Australian science zine which brought pretty good science fiction (of a rare sort) to the web for awhile (and, unlike Nature, wasn’t limited to flash).

Who knows? Maybe if you give these zines a million hits and buy back-issues and whatnot, they’ll come back to life. And there are plenty still alive so check ’em out.

Finally, some tunes… Continue reading

Summation of Online Fiction: February 2017

Thirteen February pro-rate webzines (the same as last month‘s list except that a new bimonthly issue of Compelling replaced the defunct Fantastic) produced forty-three stories of 196,912 words. I most appreciated six (amounting to 14% of the whole).

Recommended:

Science Fiction

Fantasy

There are several honorable mentions this month, so I’ll give them their own section. In principle, the only webzine stories I write up on this site are recs but you can read about the Lightspeed honorable mentions in my review of the whole issue at Tangent, if you wish. As far as the others, “Cupids” would appeal mostly to some women, people with an interest in postmodern mythology, or those who respond to its sense of humor (I like classical mythology and thought it was kind of funny) and “Thule” would have interest to some fans of Poe (he plays a large role in the story – perhaps larger than the author even intends, given its theme) and to those who can get through its over-engineering to enjoy its rococo prose and sneakily involving action.

Honorable mentions:

Science Fiction

Fantasy