Birthday Reviews: Peter David’s “Alternate Genesis”

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Roger Stine

Cover by Roger Stine

Peter David was born on September 23, 1956.

Peter David’s novel Star Fleet Academy: Worf’s First Adventure received the Golden Duck Award for Middle Grades in 1994 and his Star Trek novel The Rift was nominated for a Prometheus Award by the Libertarian Futurist Society. In addition to his science fiction and fantasy, David has written for several comic books, including The Incredible Hulk, Aquaman, Supergirl, and Spider-Man 2099. His television career includes scripts for Babylon 5, Young Justice, and the creation of Space Cases with Bill Mumy. His work in comics has earned him an Eisner Award, a Wizard Fan Award, a Julie Award, and a GLAAD Media Award. In 2011, he was named a Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

“Alternate Genesis” first appeared in the June 1980 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, edited by George H. Scithers. It was reprinted by Jim Reeber and Clifford Lawrence Meth in 1997 in the anthology of Jewish science fiction Stranger Kaddish.

David uses the structure of the opening verses of Genesis as the format for his shaggy dog story “Alternate Genesis,” in which God creates the world in a topsy-turvy manner, following the guidelines in Genesis, but naming things differently so darkness became daytime and light becomes nighttime with fish created in the sky and birds in the sea, only corrected that latter when it shows itself to be unsustainable.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1954: A Retro-Review

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction April 1954-small Galaxy Science Fiction April 1954-back-small

The April, 1954 issue is one of the more remarkable issues of Galaxy Science Fiction, in my opinion. I’m amazed at the quality of the stories. There have been many good issues, of course, but this is one of those rare issues that jumps out at me. It’s like watching a beloved TV series where a few episodes really stand out. It’s the nature of art, I suppose. Every piece is its own and affects people differently; some may enjoy it, some may reject it, some may be confused, some may be enlightened. And the same artist might create multiple pieces that evoke different reactions from the same person. Rather than ramble on about my thoughts on art, I’ll return to the topic of this article and review the fiction.

“The Midas Plague” by Frederik Pohl — In Morey’s world, consuming is mandatory. Houses, clothes, and food must be purchased and used to meet quota. There must not be waste. Those at the high-end of society have low quotas and can live the high-life of one-room houses, perhaps without any cars. But those at the low-end of society struggle in consuming enormous mansions, luxury cars, and so much of material products and food that there aren’t enough hours to consume it all. Morey only works one day per week because the demands of consuming take the rest of his time. Robots have helped to create a world where there is an abundance of everything, forcing the quotas in order to avoid waste and support the massive production.

Morey’s wife Cherry comes from a well-off family who has very little to consume. She loves Morey, but it’s a difficult adjustment to his lower-class life of consuming so much. Morey tries to help her by consuming more, but they’re not making their quotas.

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Dead Cities, Space Outlaws, and Planet Gods: The Best of Leigh Brackett

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

The Best of Leigh Brackett 1977-smll

Although Leigh Brackett (1915–1978) wrote planetary adventures during the Golden Age of Science Fiction and was married to Edmond Hamilton, one of the Golden Age’s most praised masters, she seems to, well, bracket the era rather than belong to it. Her stories set on fantastical versions of Mars and Venus are indebted to Edgar Rice Burroughs, while her dark emotional intensity looked forward to New Wave SF of the ‘60s. In his introduction to Martian Quest: The Early Brackett, Michael Moorcock wrote that “It’s readily arguable that without her you would not have gotten anything like the same New Wave … echoes of Leigh can be heard in Delany, Zelazny and that whole school of writers who expanded sf’s limits and left us with some visionary extravaganzas.”

The cocktail of Leigh Brackett’s style — mixing ERB and Robert E. Howard (Brackett could’ve written fantastic straight sword-and-sorcery) with the influences that shaped authors like Gene Wolfe and Jack Vance — is what makes her explode off the page in a way many of her Golden Age contemporaries no longer do. She feels startlingly fresh even when her stories occur in an impossible solar system. All the data NASA has brought back from the other planets cannot dampen Leigh Brackett’s power.

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Birthday Reviews: Jerry B. Oltion’s “The Menace from Earth”

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Randy Asplund-Faith

Cover by Randy Asplund-Faith

Jerry Oltion was born on September 22, 1957.

Oltion was nominated for a Hugo Award and won a Nebula Award for his novella “Abandon in Place,” which he later expanded to novel length. He has also won the Endeavour Award for his novel Anywhere But Here. His story “The Astronaut from Wyoming,” written in collaboration with Adam-Troy Castro, won the 2007 Seiun Award. Oltion has also collaborated with Bruce Bethke, Stephen L. Gillett, Kevin Hardisty, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Alan Bard Newcomer, Kent Patterson, Robert Thurston, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Amy Axt-Hanson, Elton Elliott, and his wife, Kathy Oltion. For a few years, beginning in 1992, Oltion presented on an irregular basis the Jerry Oltion Really Good Story Award, but ended the award when he realized how many people were sending him stories hoping to receive the honor.

Jerry Oltion published “The Menace from Earth” in the October 1999 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, edited by Stanley Schmidt. The story was the seventh to appear in his “Astral Astronauts” series of short stories about explorers who found a way to allow their consciousnesses explore the galaxy in a space ship and adjust the amount of mass and solidity their forms had.

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In 500 Words or Less: It’s Not the End and Other Lies by Matt Moore

Friday, September 21st, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

oie_2002521f3K3WVh7It’s Not the End and Other Lies
by Matt Moore
ChiZine Publications (300 pages, $17.99 paperback, $10.99 eBook, July 2018)

When I was newly-arrived in Ottawa, starting my first year as a high school teacher and still struggling to “break in” as a writer, I subscribed to On Spec, Canada’s premier magazine for short speculative fiction. One of the first issues I received was On Spec #92 in spring 2013, containing an op-ed titled “Next Stop: Suburban Fantasy” that discussed the popularity of urban fantasy and how the subgenre might evolve. It’s sitting on my office bookshelf right now, and rereading it this week I’m just as impressed as I was over five years ago.

That first read was long before I became friends with Matt Moore, whose recent story collection It’s Not the End and Other Lies proves several of the points he made in his op-ed, including that the urban sprawl we find ourselves in today can be just as bizarre and terrifying as the wilderness humanity has left behind. What I’ve loved about Matt’s work for a long time is his ability to combine an everyday suburban setting and make it the perfect place for something uncanny. The core of “Only at the End Do You See What Follows,” for example, is really a widower struggling over what to do with his house – except that his dead wife somehow predicted every person who would come to see it. The supernatural element isn’t really the hook, though; instead, it’s the protagonist’s relationship with his wife, a malicious cheater who’s borderline emotionally abusive, and the question of whether he’s hearing her from beyond the grave at all.

Like the best science fiction or horror writers out there, Moore’s talent doesn’t stop at combining the everyday with the speculative – the real magic is his character work. The supernatural force killing townspeople in “The Leaving” is just the vehicle; the real intrigue is waitress Georgina, desperate to atone for sending an ex-lover out into the night to die. Whether “Of the Endangered” is alternate history, slipstream or far-future SF is a mystery right to the end, but so is Noah, the Gunslinger-esque hunter chasing a backwoods demon. The fallen sky in “Touch the Sky, They Say” is a beautiful concept, but only because of the people wanting to press their hands against the stratosphere. But my personal favorite (I think) is “Brief Candles,” focusing on a couple desperate to have children in a post-Vietnam suburb, but forced to wait until they get a candle holding a soul that can be given new life through reincarnation. Whether the Cycle in this world is fact or fiction is never established; the important thing is what these characters believe, and what they’re willing to do because of it.

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Birthday Reviews: Andy Duncan’s “Santa Cruz”

Friday, September 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Shawn T. King

Cover by Shawn T. King

Andy Duncan was born on September 21, 1961.

In 1998, he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Duncan has won the World Fantasy Award twice, for his collection Beluthahatchie and Other Stories in 2001 and for his novella “Wakulla Springs,” co-written with Ellen Klages, in 2014. “Wakulla Springs” was also nominated for the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Duncan did win a Nebula Award in 2013 for his Novelette “Close Encounter” and he has a total of 8 nominations for the Nebula Award and three for the Hugo Award. He also won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for his Novella “The Chief Designer,” which was also up for the Hugo and Nebula. Duncan has won the Southeastern SF Achievement Award twice, for “The Chief Designer” and “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.” He is currently on the Board of SFWA.

“Santa Cruz: A True Story” was published in Jaym Gates’s anthology Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place in 2016. The original publication received poor distribution and there are currently plans in the works to re-release the volume through another publisher with better distribution. The story has not yet been reprinted.

Duncan relates “Santa Cruz: A True Story” as if it had happened to him. The fictionalized version of Duncan is on a trip through California and stops in Santa Cruz, just south of San Jose, to visit with an old friend, Rob, who wound up settling in the city because there was something magical about the place that spoke to him, even if he couldn’t quite explain what it was.

For the most part, the story is completely mundane. Andy and Rob finish a night of reminiscing and while walking across an empty parking lot come across a drunk woman who has been abandoned in the lot. Andy offers her a lift home with Rob following her. Even when the story gets weird, it doesn’t get particularly weird. Andy makes a turn that causes him to lose Rob. The woman gives him drunk directions to a random cul-de-sac and eventually to her home. He manages to extricate himself from her neighborhood in about a tenth of the time it took to get there, and he reconnects with Rob.

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The Underwater Ballroom Society: A Review

Friday, September 21st, 2018 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

The-Underwater-Ballroom-Society

In The Underwater Ballroom Society, an anthology sprung what-if-ily from a Twitter discussion, Tiffany Trent and Stephanie Burgis have edited a book targeted most righteously to the naiads, nāgas, and merfolk among us. Eleven stories of splendiferous sub-lacunar spectacle await the invited… and we’re all invited! Put on your best fishing net dress, string yourself with drowned doubloons and deep-water pearls, and dive in!

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Goth Chick News: Visiting Chicago’s Own Masters of Disguise

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Zagone Studios-small

We first became acquainted with the gents at Zagone Studios way back in 2012 when Tony Kosart (champion of the SyFy channel’s show Face Off) brokered an intro. At that time Tony was using Zagone’s latex prosthetics in his special make-up effects and we were thrilled to learn Zagone creations had a storied history right here in Chicago.

Over 40 years ago, Chicagoland brothers Phil and Bob Zagone realized that nothing ruined the chances of picking up a date on Halloween with a fantastic costume, faster than the sweaty mess you became under a rubber mask.

That — and there was no way to consume adult beverages while wearing one.

Committed to solving this age-old dilemma the brothers started working on several solutions which they eventually proposed to the Godfather of Halloween himself, Don Post of Don Post Studios in California.

Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), Mr. Post was too busy to consider their ideas, but advised the Zagones that if they were so keen to improve the mask industry, they were welcome to start their own company and have at it.

Which was precisely what Phil and Bob did in 1974, here in their hometown of Chicago.

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New Treasures: The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories edited by Stephen Jones

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories-smallI love these Mammoth anthologies. Because they’re mammoth! You can curl up with them for an entire weekend. Or use them as a stepladder to get to those dishes in the top cupboard. They have countless uses around the house.

Stephen Jones’ latest, The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories, arrived earlier this month, and it looks like an essential fall purchase. It’s 528 pages of new and reprint stories from Ramsey Campbell, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe R. Lansdale, Helen Marshall, Angela Slatter, Neil Gaiman, Storm Constantine, Alison Littlewood, Robert Silverberg, Michael Marshall Smith, Adrian Cole, Christopher Fowler, Scott Bradfield, Robert Shearman, and a dozen more — plus a spooky new poem by Jane Yolen.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

“Introduction: When Churchyards Yawn”
“October in the Chair” – Neil Gaiman (Conjunctions: 39, The New Wave Fabulists, 2002)
“Reflections in Black” – Steve Rasnic Tem
“The Halloween Monster” – Alison Littlewood
“The Phénakisticope of Decay” – James Ebersole
“Memories of Día de los Muertos” – Nancy Kilpatrick (Dead of Night #8, Fall/Winter 1993)
“Fragile Masks” – Richard Gavin
“Bone Fire” – Storm Constantine
“Queen of the Hunt” – Adrian Cole
“The October Widow” – Angela Slatter (The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, September 2014)
“Before the Parade Passes By” – Marie O’Regan

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Birthday Reviews: James P. Blaylock’s “Doughnuts”

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Phil Parks

Cover by Phil Parks

James P. Blaylock was born on September 20, 1950.

Blaylock won the 1987 Philip K. Dick Award for his novel Homonculus. He won the 1986 World Fantasy Award for the short story “Paper Dragons” and again in 1997 for “Thirteen Phantasms.” Blaylock has also been nominated for the Mythopoeic Award three times, the Nebula Award once, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award once. Blaylock’s most frequent collaborator is Tim Powers and the two have also used the name William Ashbless, which can be used jointly or individually. Ashbless has also been featured as a character in each of their works. Blaylock has also collaborated with Adriana Campoy, Alex Haniford, and Brittany Cox.

“Doughnuts” was originally published as a chapbook by Blaylock through Airtight Seels Allied Productions in 1994, a publishing house set up by James T. Seels in 1992 to publish Seels’s bibliography of Blaylock. The story was reprinted by Subterranean Press as a chapbook in 1997. Blaylock included it in his collections 13 Phantasms (2000) and The Shadow on the Doorstep (2009).

There is really nothing fantastic or science fictional about Blaylock’s “Doughnuts,” although the story, which deals with addiction, does have an horrific element to it as Walt and Amanda each deal with their own addictions and turn on each other when their problems are pointed out. Walt’s wife has informed him that his diet is no longer going to include doughnuts. Although he has been playing along with her ultimatum, he sneaks out of the house before she wakes to go to his local shop, Lew’s Doughnuts, only to discover that Lew has changed his hours. The shop is no longer open twenty-four hours, and Walt will need to wait until 8:00 to get his fix. Eventually, he returns home with a box of doughnuts.

Amanda’s own addiction is shoes. Just as Walt sneaks out early to buy doughnuts, littering the floor of his car with bags from Lew’s, Amanda buys multiple pairs of shoes and hides them in the trunk of her car until she can sneak them into the house. When Walt goes into the trunk to retrieve her car jack and discovers two pairs of the same shoes, he confronts Amanda, setting of a brief but intense fight that roils both of their emotions throughout the day, leading Walt to binge on nearly all the doughnuts he bought that morning. A later discovery of shoes in the trunk that his neighbor identifies as $1,000 Ferragamo’s exacerbates the situation.

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