Monday, June 15, 2015

Making use of recovery

I'm now into my third week of convalescence. Chaffing a bit. Feeling bored with baby steps and caution and sensibility. Needs must behave, allow myself to heal and fully recovery before leaping off into the great beyond.

So it is I find myself confined to the first and second floors of The Old Stone House, the loft which is my office banned for now. That means the majority of my day to day work routine is verboten, not just because of inability to access the space, but also to pace myself.

I've decided to take advantage of this forced confinement and finish the first draft of The Rose Guardian. Truthfully I'm almost there. All that's required is about another 30,000 words, which is the linking sections to tie together the three narratives of this story. Given I have another three to five weeks in my convalescence, I think it not unreasonable to be able to finish. Then off to Robert for first reading and editing.

We'll see how that plan plays out.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: The Pearl that Broke Its Shell, by Nadia Hashimi

The Pearl that Broke Its ShellThe Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nadia Hashimi's The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is a devastating lens on the horrors of being a woman in Afghanistan, plain and simple. Not the sort of novel one picks up for a light afternoon read, Hashimi, while retaining literary integrity, reveals the myriad daily, devastating details of the absolute subjugation, ownership and commodification of the female sex within this patriarchal, warlord society which is governed by a bastardization of Islam. The novel is relentless.

Hashimi employs a simple narrative style, without embellishment, allowing actions to carry her message. Her characterization is very strong. Her environmental detail is seamless, weaving into the narrative without arresting pauses.

Altogether a novel you should read if for no other reason than to expand your understanding of a culture alien and frightening to Western thinking.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helen Wecker

The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Helene Wecker creates a fascinating tale across cultures, mythologies and time in The Golem and the Jinni. The first of these cultural explorations occurs through the introduction of a kabalistic golem, created as a wife for a immigrant to New York. Instructed not to awaken the golem until he arrives in the new world, the husband ignores the rogue rabbi's caveat, and in the moment of his joy he dies, leaving the golem adrift and frightened without a master to serve.

Concurrent with this, a Syrian tinsmith is brought an olive oil decanter for repair, and in his work removes some of the ancient inscriptions for later reintroduction. The result is the appearance of an arrogant, reckless youth who ends up becoming his apprentice and an artisan in his own right, a youth who is, in fact, a jinni.

As is to be expected, the golem meets the jinni. A tenuous friendship blooms. Their lives intertwine, collide, separate and explode, drawing with them the cultural communities with which they have become involved.

The writing is competent, although there are a few moments of point of view shift; the plot albeit somewhat predictable is entertaining.

Not high literature, but certainly an entertaining read. Not your average urban fantasy, and an interesting melange of cultures which have historically been at odds with one another.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Occupational Hazards appears in Neo-opsis Issue 25

My short story, Occupational Hazards, appears in Issue 25 of Neo-opsis magazine. It's a great little publication, worthy of your time. And you get to read my story to boot!

Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine - Issue 25
The twenty-fifth issue of Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine is 8” by 5 ½”, 80 pages. Not yet in print (at the printers).
The cover of issue 25 is a collaboration by Karl and Stephanie Johanson, Sun-Dragons.
Karl’s editorial is a brief commentary on the notion that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Letters to the Magazine this issue are from: Al Harlow, Catherine Luttinger, Jennifer Fisher, Alycia Mitchell, Maria Isabel Bances, Eric Seaton, Adrian Peterson, Vaughan Stanger, Guy Immega, and Catherine Girczyc.
Karl Johanson’s A Walk Through the Periodic Chart is about the element Bismuth this issue. There are two brief asides about Sodium and Tritium. Illustration by Stephanie Ann Johanson.
The first story in issue twenty-five is Panda-Mensional by Mary E. Lowd. Mary is a science-fiction and furry writer in the Pacific Northwest. She’s had more than forty short stories published, as well as two novels — Otters In Space and Otters In Space 2: Jupiter, Deadly. Her fiction has been nominated thirteen times for the Ursa Major Awards and won a C├│yotl Award. She’s a member of SFWA, the Furry Writers’ Guild, a judge for the Cat Writers’ Association, and co-chair of the Wordos. She lives with her husband, daughter, son, four cats, and three dogs. For more information, visit
The second story is Space Tagger by Daniel P. SwensonDaniel lives in Chino Hills, California with his wife, two children and two furry aliens with claws and whiskers. He has also been published in Lore. He does most of his writing on the train or in other in-between moments.
The third story is New Kid by Guy L. Pace. Guy is a retired information security professional who is now working on novels for young adults, short stories in science fiction and other projects. Guy’s science fiction projects generally center on a universe concept he calls The Expansion. In this concept, humanity leap-frogs out from the solar system to habitable planets circling nearby stars, then further out.
The fourth story is Landing Day by Holly Schofield. Holly has been published in Tesseracts 17AE: The Canadian Science Fiction ReviewPerihelionThe Future Embodied, and Crossed Genre’s Oomph. She has work forthcoming in several publications, including Lightspeed Magazine. She travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of a prairie farmhouse and her writing cabin on the west coast.
The fifth story is License to Live by Nick Aires. Nick is the author of Arrow: Heroes and Villains and the interactive novel app Diabolical. His short stories have appeared in various places, most recently JukePop Serials and Voices of Imagination 2. Nick lives and writes near beautiful Vancouver, BC, and at this moment he is probably thinking about aliens or dragons...or alien dragons flying spaceships through magical portals. Illustration by Stephanie Ann Johanson.
The Sixth story is RestFitTM by Ewan C. Corbes. Ewan lives and writes in Aberdeen, Scotland. His work has previously appeared in Daily Science FictionSand Journal (as Ewan Forbes), and in Digital Science Fiction’s Visions Imprint (as E. C. Forbes).
The Seventh Story is When Every Song Reminds You of a Dead Universe, by Karl Johanson. You’ve seen his non-fiction throughout 25 issues of Neo-opsis, now’s a good chance to check out his fiction. Originally published in Perihelion Science Fiction.
The final story is Occupational Hazards by Lorina StephensLorina has worked as editor, freelance journalist for national and regional print media, is author of seven books both fiction and non-fiction, been a festival organizer, publicist, lectures on many topics from historical textiles and domestic technologies, to publishing and writing, teaches, and continues to work as a writer, artist, and publisher at Five Rivers Publishing. She has had several short fiction pieces published in Canada’s acclaimed On Spec magazine, Postscripts to Darkness, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X.
Reviews this issue are of the book Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ by Tom Demichael, the movie Interstellar, the computer game GemCraft Labrynth by, the movie Jupiter Ascending by Warner Brothers, and the 1988 movie They Live by Universal Pictures.
Awards news includes listings for the Sunburst Awards, the Hugo Awards, the Nebula Awards and the Aurora Awards. There is a collection of photos from the Aurora Awards ceremony on October 4, in Vancouver BC, as part of CanVention and VCon.
There’s a write up on the 2014 VCon in Vancouver, BC.
Additional news is about science fiction and some recent space discoveries.
The Last Nine Pages is an article about Disturbing Episodes of Star Trek. This includes examples from Classic Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, Enterprise, as well as from the Rebooted Star Trek movies.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It isn't every writer who can take the unlikely elements of an unreliable narrator, a main character who is a dog, race car driving, and brain cancer, and work all that into a highly readable, engaging, moving and memorable story. Garth Stein is one such writer.

Clearly a man comfortable with his craft, dedicated to research and the nuance of language, Stein has created the story of a dog known as Enzo, who believes he will be reincarnated as a human when his time as a dog is done. During Enzo's journey as a dog, he becomes emotionally attached to his master, Denny, who is a rising race car driver. Together Enzo and Denny experience joy in a marriage and birth of a child, the thrill of the race course, and then the devastation of the loss of all they've held precious.

Never maudlin or trite, the emotional impact of Stein's story rings true with a subtlety which is quite astonishing.

Altogether a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable read. Highly recommended.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Two reviews of novels by Wilbur Smith

River God (Ancient Egypt, #1)River God by Wilbur Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An entertaining tale of ancient Egypt, told from the perspective of an arrogant slave. Wilbur Smith creates good environmental detail and demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the subject matter.

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The Seventh Scroll (Ancient Egypt, #2)The Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Words fail me! An astonishing work of self-aggrandizement. Badly written, tedious, with cutout characters.

If this novel is supposed to be a sequel to River God it fails in every respect.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Two Reviews

Two overdue reviews from my February reading.

Eric (Discworld, #9; Rincewind #4)Eric by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Engaging escapism combined with Pratchett's customary wit and prodigious imagination. In this installment we return to the misadventures of Rincewind who finds himself the captive demon of an angst-filled adolescent on a quest for world-domination and self-gratification.

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23122312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It is with regret and frustration I found myself at the end of Robinson's much-acclaimed novel 2312. I've spent a great deal of time thinking about why. Perhaps it was the preponderance of scientific terminology this reader found daunting and falling too far into the expository, while for some Robinson's prodigious understanding of science and what might be possible in the far future would be fascinating.

The characterization had moments of brilliance, but overall fell too far into the unidentifiable and understandable. For a brief segment there was an occurrence and journey which very much put me in mind of le Guin's brilliant novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, but alas that sense of epic journey dissipated.

There are sections which are meant to be in the form of found fragments of notes from a journal, very much stream of consciousness. But, again, very often slipped into the extreme end of the scientific so that the average reader, without knowledge of higher sciences, was without frame of reference.

And in the end the entire novel felt like an exercise to demonstrate Robinson's personal knowledge, rather than a novel to challenge and entertain. The plot, if one could call it that, revolved around terrorism and revolutionary planetary colonies, so that once again I felt as though we were dealing with spies in space.

Very, very disappointing, from an author I had long respected.

Your mileage may vary.

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