Birthday Reviews: Dean McLaughlin’s “The Permanent Implosion”

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by John Schoenherr

Cover by John Schoenherr

Dean McLaughlin was born on July 22, 1931.

McLaughlin’s career began in 1951 and his most recent story, “Tenbrook of Mars,” appeared in Analog in 2008 and won the next year’s Analog Readers Poll. His 1968 novella “Hawk Among the Sparrows” was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Award, losing to Robert Silverberg’s “Nightwings” and Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonrider,” respectively.

“The Permanent Implosion” originally appeared in the February 1964 issue of Analog Science Fact àScience Fiction, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. It was reprinted in 1966 in the anthology Analog 4 and was the cover story of the 1970 anthology The Permanent Explosion: Science Fiction Edited by John W. Campbell. McLaughlin included the story in his only collection, Hawk Among the Sparrows: Three Science Fiction Novellas, published in 1976. Stanley Schmidt chose the story for Analog: The Best of Science Fiction in 1985.

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Newman: Monster-Killing Gnome Webcomic with 50% More BDSM

Saturday, July 21st, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Newman Josh Ulrich-small

I hadn’t been reading webcomics for a bit, so I went back to and skimmed through their fantasy section. I had previously enjoyed (and blogged about them here) Elf and Warrior and Cyko-KO. This time, I ran across Newman and immediately loved it.

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Shameless Confession: I Enjoyed Rampage to a Ridiculous Extent

Saturday, July 21st, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


Giant monsters are a part of my extended family. They’ve been around since I was a kid, and even if I didn’t see much of them during my years at college, they’d always come back into my life to provide support and wellness. Yeah, some are not that great and maybe I’d rather visit with them again, but the best of them will always be there for me.

Rampage is now a favorite second cousin. It’s no classic Godzilla flick (a godfather figure) or King Kong (a beloved sibling), but I look forward to hanging out with it at the next family gathering, ‘cuz it’s a real cut-up. And since Rampage arrived on home video and VOD platforms this week, I can now kick back with it whenever I need a pick-me-up.

And no one is as surprised at this new addition to my kaiju family as me. When 2018 started, I pegged my giant monster hopes on Pacific Rim: Uprising. The first Pacific Rim was a blast, and even if this sequel lacked the guiding hand of Guillermo del Toro, it still had the strong support of the original’s world-building. Rampage, an adaptation of a video game — rarely a positive sign — from the director of the dreadful San Andreas, didn’t have such promise. Dwayne Johnson was adding his welcome presence, but Dwayne Johnson was also in San Andreas and ended up helping that not a bit. I held out shaky hope that Rampage might be “okay” and looked forward to Pacific Rim: Uprising.

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Birthday Reviews: Valerie J. Freireich’s “Vashti and God”

Saturday, July 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Mel Odom

Cover by Mel Odom

Valerie J. Freireich was born on July 21, 1952.

Freireich has written four novels in her Harmony of Worlds series, beginning with the Compton Crook Stephen Tall Memorial Award-nominated Becoming Human. Her short story “Sensations of the Mind” was a quarterly winner of the Writers of the Future Award in 1991.

She wrote “Vashti and God” for Susan Shwartz and Martin H. Greenberg for the anthology Sisters in Fantasy 2. Published in 1996, the story has never been reprinted.

In the Biblical book of Esther, Queen Vashti only appears in seven verses of the first chapter and is mentioned in two verses of the second chapter. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, her character is something of a tabula rasa. Vashti’s refusal to appear before King Ahasuerus has led to her being adopted by some as a feminist icon. In “Vashti and God,” Valerie J. Freireich fleshes out Vashti’s story and motivations in support of a more feminist interpretation.

The story is told mostly in flashback after Vashti has been removed as the queen and made a maid in the Great King’s household, where Esther now sits in her place. The flashbacks detail the seven days of feasting that lead up to Vashti’s demotion. During that time, as Vashti realizes more and more that the woman are segregated and unimportant to their husbands, she also begins to hear a voice spurring her to take action and she demands that her husband invite the women to join their husbands on the last day of the feast. When he commands her attendance, and only her attendance, she refuses to come, leading to her punishment and replacement.

However, the voice, which she attributed to the Persian god Ahuramazda, wasn’t done with her and begins to tell her to support Esther’s own dealings with the Great King. Although Vashti complies with the god’s request, she also comes to realize that the commands weren’t coming from Ahuramazda, nor were they for the benefit of women, Vashti, or the Great King, but rather they were the commands of Esther’s god and all she could do was warn her ex-husband that he should not try to interfere with Esther’s god’s plans if he wanted to thrive.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 3, Part 2: Boiled Angels: The Trial Of Mike Diana

Friday, July 20th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Boiled AngelsAfter my first two films last Saturday, I left the large Hall Theatre to see a documentary in the 150-plus-seat De Sève Theatre across the street. The documentary was called Boiled Angels, and it presented the case of zinester and comics creator Mike Diana, whose transgressive work led to him being arrested and put on trial in Florida in the 1990s. I’d followed Diana’s plight at the time through reports in The Comics Journal, and was intrigued to learn more about it now. But if I personally was interested in the film as a look at comics history, I was surprised to find that much of the rest of the crowd was drawn by the chance to see new work by horror director Frank Henenlotter, creator of works like Bad Biology, Frankenhooker, Brain Damage, and Basket Case.

Boiled Angels is his third documentary, and boasts interviews with comics luminaries like Neil Gaiman, Steve Bissette (Taboo, Tyrant, art on Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run), Peter Kuper (The System, World War 3 Illustrated), and Peter Bagge (Hate). It’s narrated by Jello Biafra, and does a strong job in tracking down and interviewing people who were involved with Diana’s case nearly twenty-five years ago. We see and hear from Diana’s parents, from the prosecutors, from journalists, even from one of the women who protested Diana at the courtroom. They speak to an off-camera interviewer we don’t hear; we also see Diana himself, describing his background and life. Diana’s comics are dramatised by a live reading by the creator, the camera focussing on the panels as Diana reads out the dialogue. Other segments of the film, particularly early on, give background on things like the history of horror comics, underground comics, and early-90s zine culture. And there are clips of talk shows and news shows dealing with Diana’s case.

There’s not much debate over what actually happened to Diana. In the early 1990s, when he was in his early and mid 20s, he sold a few hundred copies of his obscure comics zine Boiled Angel through the mail. The content of the zine was brought to the attention of the Florida authorities (although there’s a minor dispute about how). Diana had written and drawn comics filled with horror, rape, mutilation, and various kinds of unpleasantness; seemingly as many kinds of unpleasantness as he could think of. For doing so, he was arrested, tried, and found guilty of obscenity. He was fined and put on probation. Drawing comics would potentially violate his probation and cause him to be thrown in jail. And he was subject to warrantless searches to ensure he was not in fact drawing. In other words: the legal authorities forbade an American artist from making art.

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New Treasures: The War in the Dark by Nick Setchfield

Friday, July 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The War in the Dark-smallNick Setchfield is a writer and features editor for SFX, the British genre media magazine. His first novel is The War in the Dark, a moody thriller that blends dark fantasy with post-war noir, and explores a hidden world in the heart of Cold War Europe. I like the cover, and the spooky-spy vibe. Here’s the description.

Europe. 1963. And the true Cold War is fought on the borders of this world, at the edges of the light.

When the assassination of a traitor trading with the enemy goes terribly wrong, British Intelligence agent Christopher Winter must flee London. In a tense alliance with a lethal, mysterious woman named Karina Lazarova, he’s caught in a quest for hidden knowledge from centuries before, an occult secret written in a language of fire. A secret that will give supremacy to the nation that possesses it.

Racing against the Russians, the chase takes them from the demon-haunted Hungarian border to treasure-laden tunnels beneath Berlin, from an impossible house in Vienna to a bomb-blasted ruin in Bavaria where something unholy waits, born of the power of white fire and black glass . . .

It’s a world of treachery, blood and magic. A world at war in the dark.

Ian White at Starburst previewed the book back in April, saying

It’s 1963 and British Intelligence agent Christopher Winter is on a quest to obtain a powerful occult secret before it falls into the wrong nation’s hands… the Russians are the least of Winter’s problems because, between demon possession, runes bloodily inscribed on the body, photographs in which he doesn’t have a face, and monsters who assume the features of people Winter knew (and loved) who are now long since dead, our hero is about to discover that the war in the dark even rages within daylight… it’s basically a more stylish reboot of The Devil Rides Out… It’s a terrific adventure, and let’s hope there’s more like this to come.

The War in the Dark was published by Titan Books on July 17, 2018. It is 405 pages. The cover artist is uncredited. Read a brief excerpt at Ginger Nuts of Horror.

TV At The Movies

Friday, July 20th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

Addams originalIn my last couple of posts I’ve looked at TV to TV remakes, and film to TV remakes. It’s reasonably easy to judge the “success” of these endeavours by the number of seasons a TV series lasts. It’s not that easy when the remake is a film, and the original material is a TV program. Sometimes what we have is a true remake, in the sense that the movie stands alone, recreating the circumstances or premise of the TV series. However, we also have films which aren’t remakes as such, but rather continuations of story arcs that began on television.

In the true remake category, we often see a classic TV show that was either very popular in its day, or that developed a cult following film producers felt would generate a hefty audience for a remake as a movie. Cynics will say that these producers are usually motivated by financial considerations, not nostalgic ones, but surely that couldn’t always be the case?

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Birthday Reviews: Martha Soukup’s “Sweet Bells Jangled”

Friday, July 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by George H. Krauter

Cover by George H. Krauter

Martha Soukup was born on July 20, 1959.

Martha Soukup received the Nebula Award in 1995 for her short story “A Defense of the Social Contracts.” She had been nominated for the Nebula Award four previous times. Soukup has also been nominated for the Hugo Award, the World Fantasy Award, The James Tiptree Memorial Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. In 1988, she was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

“Sweet Bells Jangled” was published in the September 1995 issue of Science Fiction Age, edited by Scott Edelman. It has never been reprinted.

One of the most famous science fiction novels of all time is built around the concept of an earworm. In Martha Soukup’s “Sweet Bells Jangled,” earworms are paired with the concept of memes (which have evolved in meaning considerably since the story was published) in Laurie’s mind after a shoot-the-breeze conversation with her friend Chuck, who suggests without evidence that the unintentional ability to remember song lyrics could eventually fill up a person’s memory.

Although Chuck is making a joke, Laurie took the idea to heart and throughout the story, filled with random lines of song lyrics she hears each day, Laurie’s ability to hear anything other than the music or, indeed, to function on any level, becomes stunted. Because she isn’t able to articulate what is happening to her, and Chuck shrugs it off as part of a harmless joke, nobody is able to help her when the eventual shutdown of her brain occurs.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 3, Part 1: Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms and Unity of Heroes

Thursday, July 19th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

MaquiaWeekend days are busy days at the Fantasia film festival. Weekends are when most people are most often free to see movies, so the programmers obligingly schedule a lot of films for Saturdays and Sundays. Last Saturday I had three movies I wanted to see. On the Sunday, I had five. Which meant that Fantasia was well and truly underway.

The first film on the Saturday was an anime from Japan called Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazaro, which according to Wikipedia translates directly as “Let’s Decorate the Promised Flowers in the Morning of Farewells”). Written by veteran anime screenwriter Mari Okada, it’s also her first feature as a director. Opening this weekend in a limited release across North America, and next weekend in the UK, it’s an elaborate secondary-world fantasy story that mixes the epic and the domestic startlingly well. Not only is it an early contender for my favourite film of this year’s festival, it’s immediately become one of the best high fantasy films I’ve ever seen.

In an idyllic forest live the Iorph, an immortal people who weave long cloths called the hibiol, which are symbols of their lives and destinies: “the work of a loom is like the flow of time,” we’re told early on, and this is a movie that is deeply concerned with time. For while the Iorph’s society is timeless, their world’s shattered by the invasion of a human army from the kingdom of Mezarte. The Mezartians ride dragonlike creatures called Renatos, and easily destroy the Iorph. Only one youthful Iorph escapes, Maquia (voiced by Manaka Iwami). In doing so she stumbles across a human infant, whose parents have been killed by bandits. She decides to save the child.

There are a lot of ways for the story to go at this point. Most of the standard ways would involve Maquia trying to overthrow the Mezarte, or maybe the baby growing up to fight them. Absolutely nothing like that happens. Instead the film follows Maquia as she wanders deeper into Mezarte, away from the ruin of her homeland, and tries to learn how to raise the child she’s now acquired. The concern of the movie is with how she lives over time, over the years as she raises her son, who she names Ariel (also Erial, according to the IMDB, in either case voiced by veteran voice actor Miyu Irino, who among other films had a role in Miss Hokusai and was the male lead in Spirited Away). The politics of Mezarte are important, but only insofar as they shape Maquia’s everyday life. We have to understand them to understand what’s happening to Mezarte society, and have to understand Mezarte society to understand what options there are for Maquia and Ariel and the other people they come to live with.

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Future Treasures: Planetside by Michael Mammay

Thursday, July 19th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Planetside Michael Mammay-smallIn their list of the most interesting new sci-fi of July, io9 includes Michael Mammay’s debut novel Planetside, summing it up by saying,

A semi-retired war hero takes on a mission at the behest of an old friend, searching for an important officer’s MIA son. But what seems like a simple search-and-rescue gig soon gets a lot more complicated when he arrives on the far side of the galaxy and discovers a strange, ravaged planet teeming with secrets.

Deep space, battle-ravaged planets, mysterious aliens…  I like what I hear. Marko Kloos (the Frontline series) calls it “a smart and fast-paced blend of mystery and boots-in-the-dirt military SF,” and that’s not a combo I come across every day. Here’s the description.

A seasoned military officer uncovers a deadly conspiracy on a distant, war-torn planet…

War heroes aren’t usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it’s something big — and he’s not being told the whole story. A high councilor’s son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated — but there’s no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command.

The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won’t come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there — Butler just has to make it back alive…

The book has a stellar, near-perfect 4.8 record at Goodreads (based on 47 ratings), which is not something you see every day, especially for military SF. Check it out.

Planetside will be published by Harper Voyager on July 31, 2018. It is 384 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Sébastien Hue.

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