This Just In...News
From The Agony Column
07-04-08: Earthling Independent Press; Agony Column Podcast News Report
: Carol Emshwiller Reads at SF in SF June 21, 2008
It's funny what gets
you thinking about your early encounters with compulsive book-buying.
I just got an ARC of the forthcoming fourth book in Earthling Publications'
Halloween series, 'Moontown' (Earthling Publications ; October 2008 ;
$45) by Peter Atkins, and it sent me straight to the
shelves. Oddly enough, I was able to go directly to the place where I
have my all-too limited Atkins stash –'Morningstar', 'Big Thunder'
and 'Wishmaster and Other Stories', pull them all, and make a nice little
book pile as I swam back through the years. It's an odd collection of
You'll not forget the picnic.
I first bought 'Big Thunder' from Mark
V. Ziesing. I was mired in the world of IT at the time, and the set-piece
scene from that novel still echoes in my mind. I remember reading it in
Branciforte Park here in Santa Cruz, surrounded by ancient redwoods capped
with blue sky. Atkins' writing is elegant without being fussy, straightforward
with style. He knows when to focus the reader on details that disturb
and when to dial back to pure terror. 'Big Thunder' was one of the novels
that made me think that horror could be both entertainingly disturbing
yet still be classy.
So I backtracked and picked up his novel 'Morningstar'. It's a vampire
and detective novel that in retrospect presaged much of the vampire literature
that to this day inundates the shelves, so much so that the horror ghetto
in your chain bookstore is likely to be pretty much vampires and Stephen
King, full stop. But while other writers mow down forests to meld hard-core
pornography and sharp teeth, Atkins was able to accomplish a greater goal
– entertainment, enchantment and classy writing – in a mere
Wishmaster – that was, I believe, for my son and I, the
last hurrah of the Rio Theater, and appropriately so. The Rio is an old-fashioned
theater. It has a big marquee, it has a single big screen, it has a "crying
room" upstairs. These days, it gets used mainly for events like the
Salman Rushdie appearance. But back
when "Wes Craven's Wishmaster" came out it was one
of the last, great movie theaters. My son was what, 11 years old in 1997
– but already well versed in horror fiction. I have to tell you
that we didn't expect much with Wishmaster, but we both came
away quite happily surprised. Here was a movie where the excellent special
effects were actually bolstered and based on a good story, well told.
A story written by Peter Atkins. My son and I saw a matinee and I'll always
recall the afternoon sunlight on the green paint of the theater as we
walked out and said, "Damn, that was actually good..."
That same son had begun his education in terror very early on when I sort
of accidentally made what seemed like the mistake of taking him to see
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The terrifying death angel
early on made him hide his eyes, but what really scared the bejesus out
of him was Robin Willams as the Moon King. I was able to chase him down
the streets saying "I am the Moon King" for years afterwards.
All of which brings us to the oh-so welcome return of Peter Atkins to
novels with 'Moontown'. Yes, you get the moon king and the kind of classy
but truly frightening writing that gave horror such a boost back in the
1980's. But back in the 1980's something else gave the genre a boost as
well, and that was the work of the sort of strong, independent presses
– I think of Scream / Press and Dark Harvest – that were able
to bring out many of the writers who really mattered. (Atkins was published
by HarperCollins in the UK, so it wasn't only the small presses.) Today,
there are still small presses driving the best writing, bringing it to
you. But frankly, sometimes you have to act fast. You look at Earthling's
web site, theyve got as many books out of print as in print.
One both hopes and fears that 'Moontown' will sell out. Atkins, who has
been a mainstay of the Rolling Darkness Revue, knows how to tell a Halloween
story; Earthling is at this point free to publish such potentially mind-damaging
material. We like our Sky Fairies friendly. Atkins has a different take,
one that may just inform some other father and son. Free to buy. Free
to read whatever the heck we want. Listen. The words matter.
Agony Column Podcast
News Report : Carol Emshwiller Reads at SF in SF June 21, 2008 : 'Whoever'
The words matter as
well for Carol Emshwiller. She's a purely intuitive writer, and you
can hear this with complete clarity when she reads her story 'Whoever'
at SF in SF from June 21. Here's the link; she speaks best for herself.
07-03-08: Jeff VanderMeer Reveals 'Secret Lives' ; Agony Column Podcast
News Report : Pat Murphy Reads (and throws cards) at SF in SF
"My life is
an open book"
This is a phrase we
hear all the time, and while it's certainly true of me .... well, no wait,
it's NOT true of me. I value my privacy, screw that, secrecy, because
shame and shock are entertaining when viewed from afar and not so entertaining
when experienced from within. What shocking, shameful stuff am I getting
up to? I'll leave that to your imagination, just as a variety of volunteers
left it to Jeff VanderMeer's imagination, resulting in
this slim cool hardcover (and trade paperback as well) collection, 'Secret
Lives' (Prime Books ; June 15, 2008 ; $35). Now, some of my readers are
in here; Troy Knutson gets tangled up with a private eye; Rebecca Saunders
has a secret life that I can't reveal here, because well, they'd have
to kill me if I told you and I have to finish up a bunch of stuff or else
all sorts of people will be upset. Secret people, I can't tell you about
them. But if you knew ...
Here's what we do know. Jeff's collection 'Secret Life' comes out and
ever-vigilant Mark looks for an angle. He's good at angles and it keeps
him in business. Maybe a bookplate that Jeff could sign or something.
But not, Jeff gets it in his head to write out a "secret life"
sort-of bio for every customer, starting out with handwritten notes and
graduating to full-blown, typewritten ... collectible-in-an-antho stories.
These stories. Maybe your story is in here. Even if your name isn't.
The sorts of story that are in here range from the giggler to
the grimacer ; stuff that will make you laugh and stuff that will make
you blanch, lighthearted japes that dont wander far from the kind
of reality that gets reported on in the newspaper to stuff no newspaper
would publish even after the aliens landed. What draws these
stories together is a sort of community of the mind. 'Secret Lives' is
a hardcover version of one of those pernicious social networking sites.
Everybody here has been "friended" (alas there is no typeface
named Disdain, or else I'd be using it for that non-word) for better or
worse, for richer or poorer by Jeff VanderMeer. Sureality follows, along
with wonderment, name-dropping and ancient cities. In another universe,
or in his own secret life, VanderMeer is actually the man behind McSweeney's,
the man behind Found and the man in the Iron Mask, just to be safe. Though
it's small, 'Secret Lives' sports an entire "Found"-styl short
story on the endpapers. If your digging the cover, and who wouldn't, the
artist is Terry Rentzepis, with more on view at his website.
The experience of reading about real people's unreal lives is unsettling
and strange. It's unique. It's why you read.
Agony Column Podcast
News Report : Pat Murphy Reads (and throws cards) at SF in SF Fantasy
At the latest SF in
SF, author Pat Murphy gave listeners a lot more than
they may have bargained for. Sure, we enjoyed her wonderful but unfinished
story that unfolded in the streets of San Francisco and in a toy company
that sounds rather like Murphy's "day job", that is, working
as a writer for Klutz publishers.
That explains the card-throwing, at least as much as I want to. You
can hear the rest of this delightful story from this link. Be careful,
that card-throwing is harder than you think. Murphy makes that look easy
and she makes the writing seem easy, which is why you know she works so
07-02-08 : Neal Asher Casts 'Shadow of the Scorpion' ; Agony Column
Podcast News Report : NPR Report on Paolo Bacigalupi
A Matter of Scale
unmistakable Bob Eggleton. Cool!
It seems like it was
just yesterday and I was writing about this phenomenal trade paperback
book titled 'Gridlinked'
by this guy named Neal Asher. But I've been at this since
January 2002, and here we are six years later. Asher no longer an unknown
(at least it worked out for one of us!) and we're well into his Agent
Ian Cormac series; so far, in fact, that "Agent Cormac 5", 'Line
War' (Tor UK / Pan Macmillan ; April 4, 2008 ; £17.99) was just
released in the UK and 'Shadow of the Scorpion' (Night Shade Books ; July
2008 ; $14.95), the second in a series of TPB originals, is due in trade
paperback in the US later this month. Given the go-ahead to publish novel
as fast as he writes them, Asher can offer a 500+ page novel every nine
months and a 250-page novella as well. Note that – novella. For
any other writer, that 250-page book would be the main course; for Asher,
it's just an appetizer.
and now venerable Steve Rawlings.
But not really. 'Shadow of the Scorpion' takes readers back to Ian Cormac's
childhood, growing up as the human race is at war with the Prador. So
what you get with 'Shadow of the Scorpion' is a "coming-of-age"
tale, Asher-style, while 'Line War' offers the perspective of a grizzled
and gridlinked combat veteran. One is small and intimate, the other grand
and effusive. Well, explosive at any rate. Asher blows up shit real good
in these Cormac novels and the latest from Tor UK is no exception. AI
overlords, a boosted Cormac, the Dragon and Mr. Crane are all in the mix.
It's a pretty sure bet that somewhere along the way someone will suggest,
"That could have gone better."
On the other side of the scale, it's the little things that make Ian Cormac
a man who could end up being boosted. And in 'Shadow of the Scorpion'
we meet those things and they prove to be disconcertingly human. Funny
how we're always the most efficacious enemy we could meet, isnt
it? On the other hand, at least Asher gives us the Prador, so effectively
illustrated on the cover by Bob Eggleton; Steve Rawlings provides the
usual and effective cover for 'Line War'. I do find it interesting that
as Asher's work for Pan Macmillan becomes increasingly big-scale and baroque,
his titles seem to get sheared down into almost generic territory.
To my mind, Asher's reached a sort of "like him or not" point.
If you like Neal Asher, then you'll want both of these novels. He's a
solid writer who delivers outstanding monsterific science fiction. If
you've not read Asher, 'Gridlinked' is a great place to start, and you
can rest assured that there is a lot more to the story. Big scale and
small-scale stories to play out in the Polity. Child and man.
Agony Column Podcast
News Report : NPR Report on Paolo Bacigalupi : Green Sci-Fi from Bacigalupi's
Night Shade Books and in short supply!
So readers, first and
foremost, thanks for emailing
the story. Feel free to go to the website and do so again! It really
did well, which will help book sales and thusly, the cause of reading
itself. As ever, these pieces are all about the people I speak with, and
Paolo Bacigalupi, Jeremy Lassen and
Michelle Nijhuis deserve all the credit. All that is
a just a means of adding enough verbiage to justify the
link to the high-quality MP3 of the report itself. Science fiction
really is a unique storytelling medium, and as we enter more and more
future, well, the genre will become less and less important. Not because
it doesn't matter, but because the world we live in has become, as Kim
Stanley Robinson once told me, a bad science fiction novel. I just hope
it doesn't end up like a Paolo Bacigalupi story. A more straightforward
apocalypse would be preferable.
07-01-08: A 2008 Interview With Robert Scheer, Part 2
government is incompatible with democracy"
to mention the book, damnit!
If you decided to get
your Robert Scheer in measured doses, then today's podcast
is a dose of truth about our government, and freedom of the press –
which belongs, Scheer quips, taking a line from Henry Mencken, to those
who own one. (Be assured he attributes the quote; he's a pro through and
through.) Scheer himself now owns a press, in this case, Truthdig.org,
and his approach is refreshingly distant. Sure, he contributes to the
site, but he encourages diverse views and runs articles that he knows
wont have the biggest readership, simply because he thinks the
things they say need to be heard. Rather like the gentleman himself. Here's
link to part 2 of the interview, part
1, in case you missed and the
whole kit and caboodle, in case you like to get a LOT of truth in
one big dose.
06-30-08: A 2008 Interview with Robert Scheer, Part 1 + The Whole Shebang
a scam of unbelievable proportions"
I'm calling this conversation
with Robert Scheer an interview, but that's something
of a misnomer.
Basically, I just said, "We're on!" and let Scheer speak his
mind, which he does without reservation, but with the same eloquence you'll
find in his columns. From Nixon in China to Bush in Iraq, from General
Curtis LeMay to Donald Rumsfeld, Scheer unleashes his keen analytic and
vitriolic sensibilities on the mediated world around us to scrub away
the stories until he's scorched the earth down to something remotely resembling
I guess that I shouldn't be surprised that the master of the written polemic
proves to be canny, convincing speaker, firing off words, ideas, facts,
assertions, conclusions, analogies and analysis like a verbal gattling
gun. I'm not going to say anymore; I'll
let Robert Scheer speak for himself in the first of two parts. Do
note that my usual podcasting rule applies here, to wit, when I get more
than an hour of tape, I split the podcast into two pieces; I've done so
here once again and the second
of two parts will go out tomorrow. But you know, Scheer is something
of a force of nature and I hesitate to interrupt him, so
I'll offer listeners the choice to hear the whole shebang in one, uninterrupted
podcast. The sort of insight you get from Scheer benefits from the
firehose approach. It's rather like having your mind cleansed. Thoroughly.
Though whats interesting is that for a guy with some real strong
opinions and the facts to back them up, he's surprisingly self-deprecating,
noting that he has gone it wrong as well as right. To my mind, he's a
bit harsh on the Clintons. That said, I do like that he calls out the
Dems when they sin just as quickly as he'll call out the Gasoline &
Oil Party. Of course, given that the North
Pole is going to melt away, it's just not possible to be "too
harsh." I think the world around us is going to give us a good idea
of just harsh things can get.