Agony Column Home
Agony Column Review Archive

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

10-09-03: New Edition of Death to Dust, New Harry Turtledove, New Caitlin R. Kiernan, Time Traveler John Titor, and Wireless Agony for the World

Galen Press Offers a New Edition of Death to Dust

Galen Books Namesake looks on in approval.

For some reason, though I enjoyed Galen Press' 'Death to Dust', I never got round to investigating the publishers themselves. Someone with the name of Sales almost didn't make it through my level one spam filter, but fortunately, I try to trawl through the trash to find the treasures such as this, and I'm really glad I did. As a sometime horror writer, I've often used 'Death to Dust' as a reference. Had I been to the Galen Press Website, I might have seen the absolute bounty of great stuff they have to inspire and back up writers.

More fun every day!

From 'Physicians as Serial Killers' (more horror non-fiction reading in the tradition of Mary Roach's wonderful 'Stiff') to 'Death Investigation: The Basics' to 'Grave Words: Notifying Survivors about Sudden, Unexpected Deaths', to 'The Cost Effective uses of Leeches and Other Musings of a Medical School Survivor', these guys have a very peculiar market cornered, nailed down and tied to the railroad tracks. I know a number of folks who would probably love these books; what better gift to give than the gift of eternal rest!


A new, expanded edition of this classic text is now available.

Yes, at $48.95, it's pricey, but well worth it. Kenneth Iserson's 'Death to Dust' has been re-issued in a second edition. If you wonder whether it's worth it, you can look at the web page for the book. It includes "Funeral Industry Jargon", "The Worm Song" and even a handy Decomposition Table. What more could you ask for? Well there are 822 pages in the expanded edition, which includes news sections on "Death Photography" and up-to-the-minute death factoids. Yes, you are reading this column on purpose. Go ahead, admit it and then visit the website. Hours of fun for the whole family with the new Leech Farm!

Turtledove Re-Writes WWII For the WW Second Time

Damn! We need a WW III so alternate history authors can hop to it and revise what really happens. Who's gonna drop that bomb for Uncle Harry? C'mon, I know you're out there!

There have been alternate history versions of World War Two as there were battles in World War Two. In case you were longing for another, Harry Turtledove has answered the burning question: What would happen if Germany won World War Two and was still going strong? Presumably, the trains are running on time, but it's my understanding that's not the point of 'In the Presence of Mine Enemies'. Turtledove's last standalone novel, 'Rule Britannia' actually received quite favorable reviews, though I never got round to reading it. We'll see if one of the intrepid reviewers here can't get a look under the hood and report back to us. I must admit I loved the first three, no four volumes of Turtledove's WordWar series, wherein the Earth is invaded by a rather inept set of aliens while in the midst of fighting WWII. I've even got hardcovers of the followup ready for a rainy day. Where's my damn monsoon? Probably stuck in some alternate history, where I read faster and have enough time to read all the books I want to read.

Low Red Moon by Caitlin R. Kiernan

The look and feel of last year's 'Threshold'.

Caitlin R. Kiernan follows up last year's 'Threshold' with 'Low Red Moon'. We find our heroes from 'Threshold' married with children pending. But Chance is hallucinating, seeing blood everywhere, and her husband, the psychic Deacon, is afraid he'll be drawn into the search for a serial killer after experiencing a vision of the killer in action. Kiernan writes with passion and some very nicely chosen prose. Readers who enjoyed Poppy Z. Brite's horror should seek Kiernan out, as well as Poppy's latest.

Kiernan credits perennial favorite Charles Fort, so there's likely to be some more enjoyably Fortean material within. Yes, with Halloween coming up, expect a slurge of scary books. If in fact, you don't find reality frightening enough.

Time Traveler John Titor

John Titor's Time Machine.

Now, some of you may have heard all about this, but this is the first time it's come my way -- via the Fortean list, and it's a pretty fascinating science fiction tale. At least I hope it's science fiction. If it's not, it's pretty damn scary.

Let me quote directly from the John Titor - Time Traveler web site to give you an intro:

Although there is debate over the exact date it started, on November 02, 2000, a person calling themselves Timetravel_0, and later John Titor, started posting on a public forum that he was a time traveler from the year 2036.

One of the first things he did was post pictures of his time machine and its operations manual. As the weeks went by, more and more people began questioning him about why he was here, the physics of time travel and his thoughts about our time. He also posted on other forums including the old Art Bell site. In his posts John Titor entertained, angered, frightened and even belittled those who engaged him in conversation.

On March 24, 2001, John Titor told us he would be leaving our time and returning to 2036. After that, he was never heard from again. Speculation and investigation about who John Titor was and why he was online continues to this day.

Although it may be easy to dismiss all this as science fiction, most people who read his posts agree that there is something very haunting about John Titor and what he said. In addition, and open to more debate, he also made a series of predictions and comments that eerily seem to be coming true.

The Web site has a few photos and the story that unravels -- what of it you supposedly get from John Titor -- is quite interesting. Civil war in America starting in 2005, shortly after the elections, lasting for ten years, nuclear war that follows, predictions here and there that seem sort of borne out. Let's be optimistic and say this is all made up.

A cutaway view of John Titor's time traveling mechanism.

Even so, it makes for some pretty compelling Web reading. For those of us who love fictional non-fiction, this is sort of a treasure trove. The creators get it right enough to seem rather haunting. To a certain extent, it just feeds on the incipient depression that follows "interesting times". But is there something more here? We've got a couple of years to go to see if this civil war things bears out. If it does, then perhaps it's time to head to the shelters. Or, at least invest in the bomb shelter industry. Maybe it's time for me to haul out my PAST -- that is, my Post Atomic Sales Technique. You too can win World War Three! And when we're done, you can start your novel about the alternate version of World War Three. See? Goodness surrounds us, even in the depths of despair.

Wireless Agony for the World

Now you can really feel the world's pain!

In case you weren't feeling enough pain, this new website offers another great technological advance. offers an eclectic art gallery, and this piece is fairly fun. The idea is that you buy a little bit of wifi technology that gives you a gentle shock every time one of 140 scannable news outlets mentions death, war, pain, or any one of a list of keywords. Alas, these guys make it amply clear that this is an art project. We're living in a world where the advertisement has replaced the product as the product. Yes, I guess we can look forward to that civil war soon. And pretty soon thereafter, hope for it.

10-08-03: VanderMeer Flashes on The Day that Dali Died, Chistopher Moore Makes it Back East

VanderMeer Flashes on The Day Dali Died

Prime Books has created a beautiful setting for Vandermeer's flash fiction and poetry.

I've got to admit that I'm a bit unclear on the concept of flash fiction. One is inclined to think that it's something to do with the program Flash,used to deliver movie-like content over the web at a fraction of movie-like bandwidth. Well, it turns out it is rather like that flash; flash fiction has the same relation to regular fiction that Flash conent has to movie content. that is, a similar experience at a fractin of the bandwidth. Or at least, that's how I'm defining it here. VanderMeer's collection gives a distilled idea of his novel-length work at a fractin of the bandwidth. This Prime Books paperback is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. The paper is heavy, the binding, though a trade aperback iws full and strong and cover is -- well, you can get a pretty good look at the cover.

One of the problem with books like this is that upon their arrival, being filled with so many things that aqre so easy to read, they tend to get gobbled up before you even realize that you've started. These are beautiful jewels, nicely set. Take your time. read one or two, sip a glass of wine, enjoy the twilight of evening.

Chistopher Moore Makes it Back East

Christopher Moore's is a thoroughly enjoyable bit of science fiction shot through with humor.

Christopher Moore wrote me to mention that he's going to be on tour back east, promoting a book I loved titled 'Fluke'. Here's the skinny:


Christopher Moore, author guy here. After many requests from , I'm finally going to be in New England. Here's the info:

Thursday, October 23, 2003 07:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Christopher Moore, will be promoting Fluke

Appears on/at: NORTHSHIRE BOOKS/Reading/Signing

4869 Main St., Manchester Center, VT 05255

Tel: 802-362-2200

I'll also be appearing at NEBA (the New England Booksellers Association Convention) in Providence, RI that weekend, so if you're a bookseller, you can catch me there. I don't have the schedule yet.

These are the only New England events for a couple of years. Hope to see you Yankees there.

Your pal,

The Authorguy

Chris Moore

If you haven't glommed on to this book, you need to. Timews have become far too interesting to be without the resources offered by novels such as this; mainly fun and more fun. Tell him I sent you and get a free funny look as he says "Who?"

10-06-03: Robin McKinley Steps into Sunshine, Lambshead Contest Deadline 10/10/03.

Robin McKinley Steps into Sunshine

Neil Gaiman sells books. Vampire books.

While I pretty much need another vampire novel as much as I need a stake through my heart, Sunshine, by Robin McKinley looks to be just different enough that I might give it a try. Set in a near future after the Voodoo Wars, it looks to tread the Anita Blake territory with perhaps a bit more forethought and logical consistency -- a bit more sfnal than Hamilton's hard-boiled shtick. She's currently on tour, and is married to Peter Dickinson. I recently covered an anthology they released titled 'Water Spirits'. She's on a 12 city tour, including a stop tomorrow at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. This novel is her adult fiction debut; her previous works come recommended by none other than Charles De Lint. As soon as we get a chance to read this, we'll post our review and let the readers know whether or not this is a debutante ball to attend. Given the good press from Charles De Lint and Neil Gaiman, this seems like a decent bet.

Lambshead Contest Deadline 10/10/03

The deadline to turn in material to win a free copy of a proof -- very nice bound trade paperback proof, I might add -- of The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases is this Friday, 10/10/03. Winners will be posted in this column next week, and sent out then as well. I have some wonderful entries so far. Send away, we need and want to give these proofs away!