I, Cyborg

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Living in the Third Place Between Me and You

We’ve all been there: for some reason you lose your web connection. All of a sudden, it’s like you’ve lost a limb. You wander around, listless, anxious, this terrible nagging feeling of being cut off from the world. It happened to me last month: for two whole days (days!) my modem died, and I wrestled frantically with technicians checking phone lines and digging round my house as my cyberself entered intensive care.Daddy Can You Fix It?

As I mooned around in doomed isolation, it occurred to me that my plight – comprehensible to the vast majority of people reading this – would be a complete mystery to my parents’ generation (with apologies to adventurous silver-surfers out there) – who’d grown and matured before the internet came to stay. I had a vision of a world with two types of people: those who enjoyed the comforting buzz of eternal information streams sliding effortlessly through the backs of their minds, ready to bathe in at any moment; and those for whom information was something static, hard, and external – something to be looked up in a book, or researched with painful diligence. Both staring at one another across an invisible chasm with utter incomprehension.

My dictionary (online, naturally) defines “cyborg” as “a human who has certain physiological processes aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices”. Setting aside dependencies on televisions, games consoles, and certain brands of coffee machines, recent studies do seem to be suggesting there’s now a qualitative difference in the thought processes and possibly even brain structures of those of us who’ve spent years happily plugged into the vast ocean of freely available information on the worldwide web. I don’t just mean plugged in 24/7 – this isn’t some secret of the anorak illuminati. Not at all – look around on any bus or train, any bar, café, restaurant, at any time of day or night, at the constant dataflow of texting and twittering and facebooking zipping around the globe. Or ask yourself – how many of us buy encyclopedias any more? Or write letters, rather than a quick email? What’s our reaction when we find a question we can’t answer – do we throw up our arms, go buy a book? Or do we simply surf a while, till the information we need appears?

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Art of the Genre: Concepts of a Fallen Vanguard

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Brom makes beauty out of death like only he can

Brom makes beauty out of death like only he can

Last week I wrote about art direction in a film, primarily a film that failed, but that certainly isn’t the only such place where an unfortunate failure can happen. I recently had the opportunity to go to Oceanside California and share a lunch with Nick Parkinson a former developer on the Sony Online Entertainment MMORPG Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

Now I’d had some limited experience with Vanguard back in about 2008. In a former life I took part in Sony’s Star Wars Galaxies circa 2003, and a friend of mine convinced me to come over to Vanguard and say hello many years later. Since it was only eight months after Vanguard’s release, I figured I’d oblige, so I went to a local Gamestop and asked the clerk where I could find the game. He actually laughed in my face.

Come to find out Vanguard had been a colossal bomb, so much so that you couldn’t even find a retail copy less than a year after it hit the shelves. In fact, Wikipedia lists Vanguard’s awards as: Gamespy awarded Vanguard the “Biggest Disappointment” award for 2007. Vanguard also won the awards in the categories for “Least Fun”, “Most Desolate” and “Lamest Launch” in the MMORPG.com MMOWTF Awards for the worst games of 2007

[Note: As bad as this game may or may not have been, there is absolutely no way it could have been a complete failure in every way like Final Fantasy XIV. That is hands down the worst MMORPG ever released on the mass market.]

Still, even after being thrown out of the store, I eventually I found a version and loaded it up. Thinking I’d meet up with my uber experienced friend, I purchased a full-blown max level character from a clearing house site and was ready to roll! What happened? I promptly fell off a pier in the city my avatar originated, drowned, and lost all my items….

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Today’s Post Brought to You by Every Letter Except “E”

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

barrylyndon-copyThe English alphabet contains twenty-six letters. They all have their uses. Some more than others. The letter “E” gets the most use: how could we live without it?

Not easily. But it can be done.

The French Oulipo group advocates experiments that purposely limit the tools in a writer’s toolkit. Most famous of these experiments is the “lipogram,” which excludes particular letters of the alphabet. Of all lipogram experiments, the excision of the letter “E” has caught the most attention. Georges Parec’s 1969 novel La Disparition contains no letter “E” outside of its author’s name. Perhaps more astonishing is that the English translation of the novel, A Void by Gilbert Adair, also contains no occurrence of the letter “E.” Another example, predating the Oulipo group by twenty years, is Ernest Vincent Wright’s novel Gadsby (1939).

So it can be done. But why do it? Shouldn’t writers make use of every piece of available in their arsenal to tell a story, make a point, or convey information?

I believe so. That’s one reason I have defended the semicolon from detractors who want it exiled from fiction. It’s also why I think “e-prime,” writing without the verb “to be,” should not be pushed as a replacement for writing with the verb.

However . . . I love writing exercises. I write every day, and since I’m not always in the middle of a novel or a short story, exercises fill in the gaps. They keep the writing muscles of the brain tones, inspire new ideas, and show writers different paths to expressing themselves.

This weekend, I tackled writing sans the letter “E” for the first time, thinking I would never get far with it. However, I managed to write a 1700-word story — one with a comprehensible plot — in the space of two hours. I present the complete text of “A Ghost’s Claim” below.

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New Treasures: The Monster’s Corner

Monday, September 19th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill


I have a weakness for monsters.  And who doesn’t, really? I have a theory that sword & sorcery readers all loved monster movies as a kid. We talk about a fondness for the literature of the rugged individual, but secretly we just want to read about monsters.

But enough about me.  The topic at hand is monsters.  And the book at hand, compliments of today’s mail and the publicity department at St. Martin’s Press, is The Monster’s Corner, an anthology of all-new stories edited by Christopher Golden.

All new monster stories, I hasten to point out. 19 tales of classic and original creepy-crawlies, all told from the point of view of the monster. Here’s the marketing blurb:

Demons and goblins, dark gods and aliens, creatures of myth and legend, lurkers in darkness and beasts in human clothing… these are the subjects of The Monster’s Corner, an anthology of never-before published stories assembled by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden.

With contributions by Lauren Groff, Chelsea Cain, Simon R. Green, Sharyn McCrumb, Kelley Armstrong, David Liss, Kevin J. Anderson, Jonathan Maberry, and many others, this is the ultimate anthology on the dark heart of a monster.

I like it. I also like the author line-up: a fine mix of names I admire — including David Moody, Tananarive Due, Michael Marshall Smith, Gary A. Bruanbeck, and the marvelous Tom Piccirilli — and a terrific sampling of up-and-coming novelists whose work I have not yet tried. A great way to survey the horror field while enjoying some fine monster fiction, I think.

Christopher Golden’s previous anthology for St. Martin’s Press was The New Dead, which I quite enjoyed (when my teenage sons finally let me have it back, anyway). The Monster’s Corner is 389 pages in trade paperback, with a cover price of $14.99. The official on-sale date is Sept. 27.

You Can’t Read the Same Comic Twice: Justice League of America 183-185

Sunday, September 18th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Justice League of America 183I was planning to start the series of posts on Romanticism and fantasy this week, but something came up in the last few days that I’d like to write about; particularly since it seems to resonate with a recent experience of John O’Neill’s. Earlier this week, my friend Claude Lalumiére sold off much of his library of sf, fantasy, and comics in preparation for an upcoming move. I’ve known Claude for a long while, and esteem his tastes highly. It’s not surprising I came away from his sale with a huge amount of material. What was surprising, to me at least, was that of all the many things I picked up — fiction by Zelazny, Lafferty, Delaney, Tanith Lee; comics by Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Jack Kirby — the first items I chose to read were three Justice League comics from over thirty years ago.

There’s nothing particularly exceptional about the books. They do feature the last issue drawn by former JLA mainstay artist Dick Dillin before his death, and the first two issues drawn by George Pérez, as well as dynamic covers by Jim Starlin. But that’s not why I was drawn to them. They’re a three-issue story, telling a tale of one of the JLA’s annual meetings with the parallel-earth Justice Society of America; that’s not why either. It’s a storyline that uses Kirby’s Fourth World characters and concepts; but that also isn’t it.

It’s simply that I remember reading those comics when they first came out, and I remember loving them. The books are cover-dated October, November, and December, 1980, meaning they’d have come out in the summer of that year. I was six. Like John’s experience with Little Lulu, when I found new copies, the draw of my childhood was overpowering. But Little Lulu’s frequently held to be some of the greatest kids’ comics ever done. These are just a few random issues of a mid-tier superhero book. Well-drawn, yes, but not spectacular. Still, I found that in part because the work is decent without being great, I could re-read them with a double vision, remembering how they seemed to me at six as much as I reacted to them in the present moment.

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An Excerpt from Shadow’s Lure by Jon Sprunk

Sunday, September 18th, 2011 | Posted by Jon Sprunk


By Jon Sprunk
Pyr Books (391 pages, $16, June 2011)

Warning: Adult language

Caim pitched forward as a stray root snagged his toe. With both hands bound behind his back, he would have fallen if not for the men holding him upright.

They had been marching for some time now, first across snow-covered fields and then along a hunting trail through woods that turned out to be deeper and more extensive than he first assumed. The trees grew taller than Caim had ever seen before, some more than ten times his height. Masses of black briars with finger-long thorns made travel in a straight line impossible. In the distance rose the dark outlines of hills against the starry sky. If they were the southern tip of the Kilgorms, that would put him roughly southwest of Liovard.

His captors were fifteen cloaked men, including Keegan and his large comrade. Kit flitted among them, peering under their hoods and occasionally darting ahead. Every so often she returned to report her findings, which weren’t much. They were local men, which he had already guessed. None of them wore anything heavier than a thick woolen jacket, but each man held some type of implement in hand, however, whether it was a simple truncheon or a rusty thresher. The big man, Ramon, was their leader, although how Kit discovered that when the men hardly spoke was a mystery to Caim.

A light appeared through the trees ahead. Small and flickering at first, it grew brighter as they traveled, even as the path became more uneven, sometimes disappearing altogether for a few yards before it reappeared. Another few minutes brought the party to a wide clearing lit up by three bonfires. Sturdy boles as wide as a man’s height surrounded a patch of ground seventy paces across.

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An Alternative Market

Sunday, September 18th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

stupefyingSince the estimable editors at Black Gate have managed to attract such a crowd of high-quality submissions that the soonest a newly submitted story can reasonably expect to be published is sometime around Issue 47 in the year 2026, I thought it might be of interest to the various writers who follow this blog to know about an alternative that pays less and is presently less prestigious, but has a more pressing need for publishable material. I should mention that I have no connection with the publication except for the appearance of one of my short stories in the second issue. Here is the publisher’s statement:

The original vision for Stupefying Stories was that we were going to put together a series of quarterly, print-oriented, “theme” anthologies, and then, in about a year’s time, when we felt we had all the bugs worked out of our processes, we were hoping to be in position to cut over to doing a monthly e-book only magazine. We’ve since had cause to reevaluate our plans, and have concluded there’s nothing to be gained by waiting.

Therefore, effective immediately, Stupefying Stories is going to a monthly release schedule, switching to a direct-to-ebook only format, dropping the concept of “theme” anthologies, and dropping all plans to do a print version. Also effective immediately (and retroactively, for our original contributors—thank you!), we are raising our base word rate to 1-cent/word. I would much rather put the money into the people who write the words than the dead trees upon which those words are printed.

Obviously, this change in plans also means we’re going to be publishing lots more original content, and we’re going to need to be seeing new submissions sooner rather than later. So again, effective immediately, we are open to reading new submissions

If you’re interested, you can find the submission details for Stupefying Stories at the Original Cyberpunk’s place.

Little Lulu Volume 25: The Burglar-Proof Clubhouse and Other Stories

Saturday, September 17th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

little-luluDuring my heyday as a young comic collector — from maybe 1973-1977 — I primarily chased Marvel titles, with the occasional DC offering like Legion of Super-Heroes, and a smattering of Charlton comics such as Blue Beetle. Like most ten-year-old collectors I scorned kid’s comics, of course.

At least in public. Behind closed doors, I loved virtually all comics, and read whatever I could get my hands on: Archie, Uncle Scrooge, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and even Little Lulu, which featured the comparatively tame adventures of Lulu Moppet and her neighborhood friends as they hunt for wild turkeys in the local woods, solve the mystery of a missing tea cup, and go to school.

I only recently discovered that Dark Horse Comics has reprinted over a decade’s worth of Little Lulu in 29 volumes (!!), many of them in full color. A pretty staggering feat of cultural scholarship, sure, but I have to admit my initial reaction was “Who the hell wants to read that much Little Lulu?”

Me, as it turns out.

Just as I did roughly 40 years ago, I slipped a copy of Little Lulu into a stack of larger comics when I thought no one was looking.  Back then it would go between Amazing Spider-man and Grimm’s Ghost Stories, just before I marched up to the drug store counter with my stack of quarters.  Last week, I quietly added it to my Amazon cart between Hellboy, Volume 1 and Marvel’s collected Son of Hulk, when my kids were in the other room. Listen — no matter how old you are, the scorn of children is a terrible thing.

As soon as that package arrived, it wasn’t Hellboy or Son of Hulk I opened first. It wasn’t even Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, Volume 7, and that baby had storm troopers on the cover. No. It was Little Lulu.

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Saturday, September 17th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

jp-planet-articleinline3In a galaxy, far, far away, Kepler 16b (aka Tatoonie) circles a binary star.

Next thing you know they’ll discover a race of Wookies.

Rise of the Mutants?

Friday, September 16th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

Four-year-old David Petrovic demonstrates the mutant abilities that make him your future master.

Four-year-old David Petrovic demonstrates the mutant abilities that make him your future master.

You can’t trust anything you read on the Internet — even articles from mainstream sources like AOL and CNN. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enthusiastically share them with all of your friends.

In that spirit, I’d like to pass along this little tidbit I read this morning about a pair of mutant cousins in Serbia who exhibit magnetic powers much like Marvel Comic’s Magneto — minus (so far) the latent megalomania and cool helmet.

Two boys from the central Serbian town of Gornji Milanovac have the rare ability to attract metal objects, acting much like human magnets… Sanja Petrovic, the mother of 4-year-old David, said it first came to her attention “about a month ago.”

“I asked him to fetch me a spoon so I could feed his little brother, and he yelled back: ‘Mom, it sticks!'” Petrovic recalls. “I found him with several spoons and forks hanging from his body.”

The phenomenon is rare and so far medically unexplained. Several similar cases, however, have recently been reported in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia. “As far as I know, there is no medical or scientific explanation,” said radiologist Mihajlo Dodic, who runs a practice in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. He said the cousins’ magnetism borders on the “paranormal.”

Well, that about wraps it up for normal humans.  I thought for sure we had a few generations left before being put out to pasture. I hope the camps they make for us are comfortable and equipped with most amenities.

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