Hey, sorry it’s been most of the year since an update. Let’s get back in the driver’s seat (figuratively speaking) with a classic Stephen King story – Trucks.
Read a short story in the May issue of Analog magazine that kind of bugged me today. It took me a little while to put my finger on exactly what that was, but I think I’ve gotten it figured out.
What happens when death becomes all but a bad memory? Do we eventually forget about it, or does our fear of it become even stronger? This is the main question that Dancing With Eternity poses, but John Patrick Lowrie goes much further in his exploration of humanity after it’s figured out a way to conquer death.
One of the nice things about medium-scale conventions is the ability to meet or read material from relatively unknown authors and sample their work in a way that you can’t in bookstores or over the internet. I picked up Dancing With Eternity at the GMX convention in Nashville, TN back in October. Valve (the gaming company) had a booth there, staffed by Ellen McLain (who most probably know as the voice of GLaDoS in Portal). Her husband, John Patrick Lowrie, wasn’t present, but she was selling his book at the booth. After a few kind words, I picked up the book. I don’t regret it one bit.
My introduction to Robert J. Sawyer came when WWW:Wake was serialized in Analog magazine back in 2008. I remember reading a couple pieces of the novel and thinking it was pretty interesting stuff, but I didn’t get around to rereading and finishing the novel back in 2011. It held up through my changing tastes, and I’m looking forward to digging into WWW:Watch soon.
A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of his 2000 novel, Calculating God. I’d never heard of it, but the concept was pretty interesting: aliens land on Earth, part of an investigation into the existence of a God. Their first stop is a Toronto museum, where a paleontologist named Tom Jericho works. Their theory: God has been steering the evolution of life through the history of the universe. Their proof: two other planets in the galaxy have suffered a series of mass extinctions at precisely the same times, among other things. Their intent: to see if Earth is part of the same grand plan.
The Starry Rift (1986), written by James Tiptree Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon), is a collection of three novellas linked around the common theme of navigating the troubles of a frontier region, in this case a star-void region between arms of the Milky Way. Separated in time over decades and centuries, the stories recount some of the problems humanity encounters as it spreads into the galaxy at large – unknown life forms, piracy, and diplomacy are only a few of the things characters encounter as they fill in blank areas on the star maps.
The stories are as entertaining as they are thought-provoking, but this is something to be expected when dealing with Tiptree stories. Written late in Sheldon’s life, The Starry Rift is among the last of her fiction to be published. Since I’m really not too familiar with Tiptree’s fiction, but from what little I’ve read of her earlier works, The Starry Rift seems quite a bit less pessimistic in tone.
William Tenn has a gift for telling a story that is funny, entertaining, and interesting all at the same time. Of All Possible Worlds collects eight of Tenn’s stories written from 1947 to 1954. The stories are rooted in science fictions pulp roots, but still seem surprisingly modern in certain aspects. “The Liberation of Earth” (first published in 1954) in particular seems almost like a direct forerunner of the New Wave movement that would take hold in sci-fi during the 1960s.
That being said, the collection isn’t really food for deep thought, but there are a few interesting things that could be said about the stories contained within. Let’s get started, shall we?
Next week brings the opening of the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago, and with it the Hugo Awards for best science fiction and fantasy. In anticipation of this event, I will be reviewing this year’s nominees for Best Short Story. This year’s nominees, in no particular order:
Above are links to the stories which have been available by the publisher or author. Definitely worth a read if you have time (and you won’t need much). A fuller review of each nominee will be presented in its own blog post over the next week or so. I’d love to discuss them in the comments of their respective posts.
(Note: Sorry for the lack of updates for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been working in wilderness area and am in the process of moving.)
Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall” (first published in 1941, collected in “Nightfall and Other Stories”, 1970) is considered to be one of his best stories. The tale is an account of a civilization experiencing total darkness for the first time as a result of a rare astronomical phenomenon. What I find most interesting is that it “predicted” a science that wouldn’t be formalized for another 30 years: geomythology.
I am currently reading through Haikasoru’s wonderful collection of short stories The Future is Japanese. The collection is a blend of Japanese-style short fiction written by both Japanese and Western authors. I’m four stories in so far, but the first one to really impress me is Project Itoh’s The Indifference Engine (2007, 49 pages, translation by Edwin Hawkes). A basic synopsis for those interested:
The fictional African nation of Shelmikedmus is in a state of civil war. The sides are divided along ethnic lines, the ruling Hoa and rebel Xema. The civil war is a bloody one, with both sides committing genocide against the other. The Americans and Dutch intercede in the war, negotiating a ceasefire between the two armies. With them, they bring an invention, the indifference engine, that will bring peace to the country. However, the invention isn’t necessarily what you say…completely ethical.
A full synopsis (warning: spoilers), and discussion after the jump. Continue reading