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This Just In....News from The Agony Column

12/15/02 Timothy Ferris Seeing in the Dark one of the NYT Top Books of the Year, Jerry Brown on the Media


Jerry Brown Interviewed on KCBS 12/15/02

Commentator: Well, isn't that part of the problem? The Oakland Military Academy is successful, but you're siphoning students out of the regular classrooms, sucking them out of the standard school system into the Academy...

Jerry Brown: That's the problem with you media. You're using words like "siphoning" and "sucking". This isn't a toilet we're running here.

I may have mis-remembered the commentator's words -- but not Jerry's. -- Rickk

Timothy Ferris makes the top ten NYT Books of 2002 before the year even finishes.

While I've never understood why people do it this way, the NYT has released their list of the ten best books of 2002, at least according to our local bookstore. Included in the list was Timothy Ferris' 'Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril'. I talked to Mr. Ferris upon the release of this wonderful book, and I'll try to see if I can get a copy of the interview online. If you're itnerested in amateur astronomy -- a a wonderfully poignant look at home science -- you might want to pick up this book. If you give you kid a telescope for Crhistmas, definitely pick up this book -- it really helps suck in the reader to the lure of using the damn things!

12/14/02 It Can't Happen Here

Thanks to the fine folks at for these inspirational messages.

I know, I know -- "They're coming to take me away..."

12/12/02 PS Publishing Announces Powers & Etchison

According to their website, PS Publishing has plans for a major collection by superstar writer Tim Powers..I quote the inestimable Mr. Crowther:

"...Plans are also well underway to publish a big collection of Tim Powers material -- fiction and non-fiction -- much of it hitherto unpublished and the rest of it very obscure, the central structure of which is an exhaustive bibliography of Powers's work by the book's editor, John Berlyne. The book will additionally incorporate stories, novel outtakes and vignettes, notes, essays, articles, artwork and observations (all from Powers) and a comprehensive overview written by Berlyne, who has just returned from California loaded up with enough material to turn the project into a multi-volume epic. Time alone will tell, but certainly this first book will feature an Introduction, an Afterword and additional essays and articles, all from guest contributors, and all of whom will be signing the slipcased hardcover and lettered tray-cased editions (there will be an additional trade paperback edition). More details -- including print runs and prices -- as soon as they're finalised: please don't place an order until the book is formally announced. And finally, if all goes according to plan, PS will also be publishing a new collection of LA-based stories by Dennis Etchison and an eclectic multi-genre collection from Brian A. Hopkins -- watch this space for more on all of these."

For lots more exciting releases -- to me at least, check out their website at

The cover of the new Mieville novella.

Today's graphic of the day is also stolen from the PS Publishing Website. This is what happens when you do a column on short books. It's the cover of the new China Mieville novella, which is NOT aset in Bas Lag. Much thanks also to Andy Richards over at Cold Tonnage. They have a new catalogue out with a collection of many signed and limited Jonanthan Carroll books. If you have too much money hanging out, here's your chance to lose a little.


12/11/02 Horror Blooms in Bad Times?

The 1980's were a heyday for the horror genre. As the United States girded itself for a Final Showdown with the Evil Empire and the world watched in horrified fascination, writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub became household names and bestellers. Leisure Publishing led the way with foil and holographic covers. Clive Barker was an enfant terrible, the "future of horror".

How many times can we hurl that prediction from Time magazine back at the venerable Mr. King? The near future of horror, at least, turned out to be a downturn that took Leisure down to the bare bones so often described in its novels, while the enfant terrible grew up to be a fantasy writer. Only the strong survived the 1990's. The rest dissolved in a bitter backwash of bile that results in articles like the recent rant by Paula Guran over at Locus Online.

Many of us liked the 1990's. Peace and prosperity seemed like good things, and there was still plenty of good horror to be found as well. But since we've apparently had enough of boom time economics, and since we've found another Evil Empire that we can engage in a near apocalyptic Final Showdown -- with many of the same players working the levers and dials -- isn't it fitting that horror should once again bloom?

The small press horror publishers can't seem to get books out fast enough.and the big-time publishers are once again beginning to fuel the paperback fire. Leisure has graduated to a hardcover release schedule with some very prestigious titles in the offing. Even the venerable Arkham House, which spent so much on science fiction has once again returned to its roots. Witness these recent arrivals in my mailbox. And realize that we're still in the horror-boom equivalent of 1982. There's a long cold economic winter ahead. Let's hope this doesn't go all nukular on us.

A new collection from Subterranean Press.

One of the most familiar and felicitous combinations from the 1980's was the small press and J. K. Potter. This new collection featuring stories based around Potter's artwork is now finally available from Subterranean press. The contributors include Michael Marshall Smith, Poppy Z. Bright, Dennis Etchison, Kim Newman, James Morrow and even John Crowley.

A new horror novel from Arkham House.

Arkham House is the father of all the small horror presses, but took a heavy turn towards SF. The most recent novel from Arkham however, is the beginning of a horror trilogy. A horror trilogy? Things have come to a pretty pass indeed!

That tiny bit of type reads "It ignites Your worst fears." Does it now...

Another horror masterwork?

I've also recently come into two new paperback horror novels. Remember when you could insulate your houses with these things? Evan Kingsbury's 'Fire and Flesh' looks like a fun little cheapie about one of my favorite Fortean events, spontaneous human combustion, or as we call over on the Forteana list, SHC. And what to make of Thomas Sullivan, whose novel 'The Phases of Harry Moon' was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize? A couple of years ago 'The Martyring' heralded the return of the gerund title. Now we've got ourselves a Chair of Evil. It's going to be a long, long economic winter.


12/10/02 PS Publishing and Thomas Ligotti

I promise I won't always have this much crap to talk about. I'm just catching up.

Thomas Ligotti is a house favorite around here, so I'm looking forward to tucking into his latest novel -- yes novel! What more could you ask for then a novel about working in a bureaucracy from Thomas Ligotti? Well, you could ask for a beautiful small-press publication. You get it -- from Mythos books. You could ask for a Harry O. Morris cover -- check. And finally, you could ask for a signed version at no extra cost -- check. Ziesing has these with wonderful small cards inlaid. They're in the range of thirty bucks, which seems like a bargain to me. If you're interested in this unique author, it's time to roll out the checkbooks.

PS Publishing

PS Publishing returns with the latest Michael Moorcock Jerry Cornelius novella. Yes, Jerry Cornelius, that swingin' hipster whose only movie, 'The Final Programme' was recently released on DVD, with some embarrassed shrugging and mugging all around, is back. PS Publishing have even got themselves a perfect pseudo-70's cover image. It's been years since I read Moorcock --probably twnety or more. We'll see how he stands the test of time.

Geoff Ryman comes highly recommended as one of the more literary speculative fiction authors out there. 'The Child Garden' garnered reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle as if it were only a novel and not an SF deal, yet it won the Arthur C. Clarke award in the UK. This novella looks a little different, with an almost exploitation-affair plot about seniors locked in a secure community that is turned against them, but also poor seniors rioting in the streets. I can't quite suss it out from the cover blurb. But it's really short, and I may read it before I manage to finish this Pinto deal.

This novella got a really good review from somebody. I was not wowed by the last one by this author from PS Publishing. Baxter seems a bit on the dry side for me, but this promisews to be a bit wetter perhaps? We'll see. It's a sequel to the first one from PS. Nice, since it's always hard being dropped in the middle of some huge universe abot which you know zippo. But then, that's Life's Rich Pageant, isn't it? Inspector? Inspector Clouseau., could you step this way?

12/09/02 New New Books and New Old Books

I'm adding a section to the website where I can dispense of news that I think readers will find of interest. I'll let readers know what books I'm getting, and what books of interest are coming out. I'll also cover various reading and publishing related stories as well. If you have something to contribute, email me. The plan is to update during the week as required.

Michael Walsh of Old Earth Books announced that the works of Edward R. Whittemore, including Quin's Shanghai Circus, and the entire Jerusalem Quartet, are now again available directly from the publisher, Old Earth Books. I covered these fantastic novels in a column on Weird Middle Eastern Literature. If you have not read them yet, order them all and begin a wonderful reading experience.

With some luck, I'll be interviewing Robert Jordan when he comes to sign books in Santa Cruz. This puts me in the middle of a fantasy reading frenzy. I'm currently reading Ricardo Pinto's 'Stone Dance of the Chameleon: The Chosen'. Next up is Jordan's latest, and I want to wedge in Barker's Abarat and Lian Hern's 'Across the Nightingale Floor' in as well. I heard rumblings that the Hern is a pseudonym. The novel, which is aimed at younger readers is reputedly fairly violent.

Today's mail brought three signed hardcovers and one signed trade paperback that I've been waiting for from Cold Tonnage. These include Peter Hamilton's 'Misspent Youth', Ken Macleod's 'Engine City' , M. John Harrison's 'Light' and Christopher Priest's 'The Separation'.