The ABC’s of DNA and Other Thorny Themes: Daryl Gregory’s “The Devil’s Alphabet”

Sunday, March 14th, 2010 | Posted by Mark Tiedemann

the-devils-alphabetPaxton Martin has come home to Switchcreek, Tennessee, to attend the funeral of a childhood friend. He drove in from Chicago, pulling an all-nighter, because he could not decide until the last minute if he wanted to go back. He’d been living in Chicago since running away from Switchcreek, 13 years ago, after everything changed.

The opening of any number of novels, classic in its prodigal simplicity, promising Faulknerian brambles with a dash of Wolf (Thomas that is) and a thread of O’Connor. The returning son of the local preacher, reconnecting, abrading old scabs, stirring nearly-dead ashes, the stuff of Americana along gothic lines. The changes, of course, mask how much everything has remained pretty much the same. After a time, one can even overlook those changes…

Not in Daryl Gregory’s second novel, The Devil’s Alphabet. The changes in this case cannot be ignored. By anyone.

Switchcreek has undergone a profound experience in the form of mutations which swept through the small population, transforming many residents into distinctly divergent species. The genetic instructions for these people have been rewritten by some unknown process, which did not strike all people. When the changes worked their way through, Switchcreek was home to populations of what became known as Argos, Betas, and Charlies, as well as the untouched population.

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Short Fiction Beat: Quirkiness

Saturday, March 13th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

door99The latest issue of  webzine Flurb, is now online.  After an erratic start, this seems to be publishing on a regular schedule, with the next installment promised for September.  In addition to the current issue #9, you can access all the previous editions in what seems to be an exercise for co-founder/editors Rudy Rucker and Paul DiFillipo to ask their friends to submit stories.  Check out, for example, “Clod, Pebble” by Kathe Koja and Carter Scholz. It’s about book signings. And what to choose, when all your choices seem bad ones, particularly if you’re not seeing things in the right light.

Given the company it keeps, you can expect Flurb to be a little quirky. Speaking of which, Small Beer Press has announced an upcoming edition of Lady Churchhill’s Rosebud Wristlet, though there’s nothing up yet on the website.

You know how it is with zines. They’re nothing if the first page isn’t an apology for being late. And, you know, we haven’t gotten that apology written yet, which is really holding things up.

What’s in that issue (number 25) of LCRW? Fiction and poetry and Advice from: Veronica Schanoes, Richard Parks, Dear Aunt Gwenda, Jeanine Hall Gailey, and more as well as not one but two translations. We may have more news on the translation front later this spring, keep an eye out. (Ouch.) The translations are from Edward Gauvin of French author Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s “A City of Museums” (which will be included in A Life on Paper, the first book by G.-O. C. in English which we will publish in May— galleys are going out now!) and a self-translation by award-winning Chinese author Haihong Zhao (which was brought to our attention by Michael Swanwick, yay!).

Goth Chick News: A Curiosity “From Hell”

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

From The London Times, October 1, 1888

From The London Times, October 1, 1888

Between August 31st and November 9th, 1888, the first widely documented serial killer known as “Jack the Ripper” brutally murdered five prostitutes in the heinous poverty that was the Whitechapel area of London.

In 2010, a Google search on “Jack the Ripper” returns over 2 million entries, and Amazon lists 605 books and 64 movies, all focused on an unsolved mystery that is 122 years old and which frankly, by today’s standards would hold the headline spot on CNN for a week at most.

I had to literally ask myself why?

Meaning I’ve been right there fascinated along with everyone else.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of Jack and his bloody doings, but I do recall that taking the after dark “Jack the Ripper Tour” was high on my list of priorities when I packed off to London the first time. 

There on a perfectly damp and foggy evening I, along with a couple of dozen other tourists, followed a guide wearing a fairly cheesy black cape and top hat through some very fragrant Whitechapel alleyways.  And though this neighborhood is a mostly respectable industrialized area today, it doesn’t take much encouragement to imagine coming upon the mangled mess of Polly Nichols spread unceremoniously across the wet bricks.

OK, now that I’ve engaged your gag reflex and you’re thinking I should try going someplace nice like Vegas next time, I will tell you that at that moment I completely understood the term “morbid fascination.”

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SKULLS – Chapter 10

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz


For best viewing:

– Scroll to the right to see the entire comic page

– Hit your F11 key to maximize your viewing area

– Scroll down to read from page to page

To read earlier chapters:

– Type SKULLS into the search field at the left and the earlier chapters will pop up. Enjoy…

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Two Blasts from a 70 mm

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


I spent a large chunk of the evenings this weekend watching two films in 70 mm prints on the large screens of grand old Los Angeles cinemas. The timing was right for the prodigious L.A. revival screening community to drag out the mega-sized celluloid for enjoyment in Gargantua-Vision: it was Oscar weekend and everybody was talking and joking about Avatar, even if they knew Hurt Locker was going to win Best Picture. Which it did. (I think District 9 should have won, but didn’t delude myself for a moment that this would happen. But Jeff Bridges, huh? Pretty cool. Kevin Flynn has an Oscar.)

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Monday, March 8th, 2010 | Posted by Charles Saunders

conan-the-heroRyan Harvey has graciously allowed me to make a foray into his “Pastiches R Us” with some thoughts on Leonard Carpenter’s Conan the Hero, which was published by Tor Books in 1989. reviewer “raif10” characterizes the novel as “Conan in Vietnam,” hence the title of this post.  To anyone familiar with the United States’ involvement with the Vietnam War, the allegory is abundantly — and sometimes painfully — clear.

But the Vietnam connection wasn’t what initially attracted me to this novel. Instead, it was the inclusion of Juma, a Kushite who is a fellow recruit with Conan in the Turanian army.

It should be noted that Juma is not a Robert E. Howard-created character. The Kushite was the product of the imaginations of L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.  Juma first appeared in “The City of Skulls,” a de Camp-Carter story in Lancer Books’ Conan.  Conan and Juma bond because they are both outsiders: physically powerful barbarians at odds with, yet attracted to, the opulent civilization they serve with their swords.  Although Conan is a white man from the northern land of Cimmeria and Juma a black man from the tropics of Kush, that difference in background is of no consequence to their friendship. Read More »

The Death of Storytelling

Sunday, March 7th, 2010 | Posted by Theo

Although I’m a technophile, I haven’t seen Avatar. Nor do I intend to. The problem with Avatar is not that its story is a lame and nonsensical retelling of Dances with Wolves in space; we do not go to the movies in order to experience a more logical and realistic world than the one we already inhabit. The problem is that James Cameron appears to have shamelessly lifted a great deal of the story and the stylistic trappings from an obscure British comic named Firekind. If the rumors of Terminator-related payments to Harlan Ellison are true, this would not be the first time either.

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Short Fiction Beat: Nebula Nominees

Saturday, March 6th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

imagesHere are the 2009 Nebula Award nominees for short fiction of varying lengths. As with previous award nominees I’ve reported, I’m again left out in right field. Haven’t read any of the short stories. I have read The Gambler, which I highly recommend, and Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: Red Mask, Gentleman, Beast, which I’d also recommend checking out. The titles alone make me want to seek out the Bowes and Bishop.

As for the novellas, the late Kage Baker may be a sentimental favorite, but the only one I’ve read is Shambling Towards Hiroshima. Not his strongest work, but you can’t go wrong with anything by Morrow.


“Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” Saladin Ahmed
“I Remember the Future,” Michael A. Burstein
“Non-Zero Probabilities,” N. K. Jemisin
“Spar,” Kij Johnson
“Going Deep”, James Patrick Kelly
“Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh


“The Gambler,” Paolo Bacigalupi
“Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage,” Michael Bishop
“I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said,” Richard Bowes
“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Eugie Foster
“Divining Light,” Ted Kosmatka
“A Memory of Wind,” Rachel Swirsky


“The Women of Nell Gwynne’s,” Kage Baker
“Arkfall,” Carolyn Ives Gilman
“Act One,” Nancy Kress
“Shambling Towards Hiroshima,” James Morrow
“Sublimation Angels,” Jason Sanford
“The God Engines,” John Scalzi

HBO’s Rome to hit the Big Screen

Friday, March 5th, 2010 | Posted by Bill Ward

rome-hboA while ago E.E. Knight posted a nice review of the two-season run of HBO’s Rome, calling it: “about 25 hours of what I consider the best Sword and Sorcery I’ve seen in about the same number of years.” Knight goes on to point out just how this historical epic satisfies the S&S itch, and I recommend that both fans and those unfamiliar with Rome but interested in bloody good adventure go check out Knight’s review.

It’s been more or less an open secret that Rome was headed for a big screen follow-up for some time (Knight’s review is from June of last year, and a commenter mentions just this fact), but a recent article from Entertainment Weekly has brought the rumors back to life and appears to indicate that Bruno Heller has finished the script for the film, and regulars Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson will be back. EW erroneously goes on to say this is a surprise, since both Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo appear to be dead at the end of the show. This was picked up by nearly every other reporting agency running this story — apparently not many of these entertainment reporters have bothered to watch the entertainment they report on, as a living, breathing Pullo is walking down the street at the close of Rome, and the off-screen death of Vorenus is ambiguous enough to suggest he lives on in hiding.

Anyway, whether or not this item is strictly news is open to debate, but it is ‘good news’ regardless, and it gets me interested to see how the film will develop. Now, if only they’d do the same for Deadwood, a show that met the same ignoble fate as Wild Bill Hickok in the Number 10 Saloon . . .

Goth Chick News: The International Halloween, Costume and Party Show

Thursday, March 4th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

hcpChicago once again played host to the IHCPS, February 26-29, but to say the show as a whole was a disappointment is the understatement of the century.

This is the event around which my entire calendar revolves, and it usually requires a full ten-hour day to visit all of the exhibitors. I actually have a countdown clock on my computer ticking away the days to this most anticipated of events.

However, in their first year back after a two-year run in Vegas, this year’s show was less than 50% of the size of previous years. Gone was “The Dark Zone,” my most favorite area, which used to take up the entire upper floor of the convention center, and where Hollywood’s finest special effect magicians from the horror genre showcased their latest wares.

The exhibition hall itself was spread thinly across two rooms instead of three, and was heavily dominated by been-there-seen-that costumes and drug store decorations.

Even the “party” part of the IHCPS seemed to be missing. In the past, yet another hall was occupied by general party items, not Halloween themed. Though a little tame for my taste, I always found one or two cool things to share with you, as well as for my own future use. All in all the IHCPS consumed the entire convention center in prior years.

And sacrilege of sacrilege, this year my beloved “Dark Zone” space was occupied by…I can barely write it…a GOLF show. Oh the humanity!

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