the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘guest post’ Category

I met Lesley Connor at ConText down in Columbus last summer, and we became fast friends. Lesley works for Apex Books, and she’s one of the people to thank for next month’s Book of Apex blog tour.

Taking Flowers for Algernon by Lesley Connor

Lesley Conner is the social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, keeping the Apex blog in order, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on Twitter at @ApexBookCompany.

*Warning: This post includes MAJOR spoilers for Flowers for Algernon. You’ve been warned. Go read the book. You’ll be happy you did.*

I can still remember the first time I read Flowers for Algernon. I was in the seventh grade; Mrs. Smith’s advanced reading class. I don’t remember everything, of course. Over the years the classroom discussions dissecting the diction and Daniel Keyes’s decision to tell the story through a heartwarming but unreliable narrator have faded. The hours I spent with my legs curled beneath me as I read Charlie’s journal entries, letting the story unfold first in clunky, unsure sentences but quickly hurtling toward a level that was nearly beyond my thirteen years, are more of imprint, rather than a true memory.

But the emotion those words invoked. That I will never forget.

The tears blurring my vision, tracking down my cheeks, dripping from my jawline. The ache that gripped my heart when Charlie realized Algernon was regressing and there was nothing he could do, no matter how desperately he tried, to keep the same from happening to him. Rereading his early journal entries with him, knowing where he was going back to, how he’d let people hurt him, tease him, push him around, because he hadn’t realized they were being cruel. When he goes back to his adult education class in the final scene, sitting in his old seat, and a part of his teacher, Miss Kinnian, breaks down, knowing the man she’d grown to love was gone forever. I cried for Charlie, for Algernon, for Miss Kinnian, for every time I felt like I hadn’t quite fit in.

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Joining me today is reviewer, blogger, author, photographer, podcaster, and all around nice guy Paul Weimer, to discuss L. Sprague De Camp’s Viagens Interplanetarias series of short stories and novels.

Viagens Interplanetarias

An expat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota for the last 9 years, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Besides his regular presence at SF Signal and his chatty presence on Twitter (@Princejvstin)Paul can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, a contributor to the Functional Nerds, as a co-host on Skiffy and Fanty, occasional guest on SFF Audio, and many other places on the Internet. Read his story “Newton’s Method” in Tales of Eve, an anthology from Fox Spirit Press.

After World War III in the 1960’s, Earth became Brazilian for a while. The Southern Hemisphere was not as affected by the fallout and damage of the Northern Hemisphere, and so it, led by Brazil, led the world to recovery.

So when Man went to space, and eventually to the stars, the men and women who went to the stars spoke Portuguese. Exploring space and dealing with aliens requires an agency to handle the interactions. And thus, the Viagens Interplanetarias watches the starways.

The Viagens Interplanetarias is the eponymous name of a set of stories and novels written by L. Sprague De Camp. Written primarily in the 1950’s, the Viagens Interplanetarias novels have the virtues of De Camp’s strengths, in a light and fun setting he explored for decades afterwards.

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Joining me today is Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow, to talk about The War of the Worlds radio broadcast.   And yes, this is eligible for the Retro Hugos under the Dramatic Presentation category!

 

The War of the Worlds Broadcast, by Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow

Lisa is a Scottish blogger and voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy in most of its forms. Tea junkie, Dresdenphile, nail polish enthusiast, nibbler of cheese, devourer of cake.

Original air date: October 30th, 1938

Aired on: Columbia Broadcasting System

Where I got it: Amazon UK – MP3 (original recording)

My rating: 4/5

This adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic sci-fi novel was performed by Orson Welles, in a Halloween episode of the radio drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre On The Air. There have been a good few adaptations of this story over the years, from TV and movies to a bestselling album, but for this year’s Vintage Sci-Fi Month – and given the approaching Retro Hugos event at this year’s Worldcon – I thought I’d go right back to the ‘Panic Broadcast’, as well as reviewing the original novel.

For those who might not know the story, the broadcast of this adaptation, thanks to the news bulletin-style presentation of the first two thirds, apparently caused a widespread panic among listeners who believed the events being ‘reported’ were really happening.

D’oh.

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What Joseph didn’t mention in his bio is that the last name isn’t coincidence: he’s related to Roman Starzl.  If that’s not bragging points, I don’t know what is!

On Roman Starzl and In The Orbit of Saturn, a guest post by Joseph Starzl

Joseph Starzl is a science fiction and fantasy aficionado in his early twenties, currently living at a children’s home in Santa Barbara, Honduras. When not roaming the halls of the bilingual elementary school he works at, “Mr. José” can usually be spotted playing soccer with a gaggle of kids, huddled over a computer screen typing away, or lounging on a hammock with a good book. If you’d like to follow Joseph and his random ruminations, you can read his on-line journal: http://xzlonlinejournal.wordpress.com/

Considered by some to be one of the critical pioneers of science fiction, Roman Frederick Starzl wrote some twenty stories between 1928-1934; he was notably featured numerous times in Amazing Stories. The owner of a newspaper in LeMars, Iowa, Starzl began writing for financial reasons related to his newspaper business, and retired from writing science fiction once his monetary issues were resolved— his pragmatic motives, however, did nothing to dilute the quality of his writing. Roman Starzl is most appreciated for his story “Out of the Sub-Universe,” in which he explores the already established concept of a microscopic world-within-a-world, but adds the critical element of relative time; the blink of an eye in one world lasts millions of years in the other, a discovery with tragic consequences for those who seek to travel between the two.

Despite his contributions to the genre, Roman Starzl has mostly faded into obscurity, though if you look in the right places his writing can still be found. Fortunately, some of his stories can even be downloaded for free from the Project Gutenberg website. I recently read one such story, “In the Orbit of Saturn”.

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Today’s guest post is from  Kamo, who blogs at this is how she fight start.  If that’s not an alluring enough blog name for you,  Kamo posts about speculative fiction, life in Japan, and food with a quippy wry style.

The Future Was Now, by Kamo

kamo blogs about books, Japan, and cake (in precisely that order) at this is how she fight start and sporadically twitters as @tihsfs. He doesn’t really own a cape.

“Vintage Science Fiction.” There’s an oxymoron right there.

In my day job I teach English to Japanese high school students. At night I don a sentient suit of armour (with cape) and deal out vigilante justice to the scum of the city in a psychologically disastrous attempt to displace my raging alcoholism and avenge the death of my parents at the hands of Big Mo’s henchmen when I was naught but a child. But I’ve been asked to write about Science Fiction here so I’m going to talk about the day job instead.

In addition to the linguistic aspects of English teaching, there are also certain cultural considerations that accompany the role. As such, I’m expected to be something of an ambassador for the entire Rest of the World. Me. This is hilarious.

I am patently unsuited to many roles, but perhaps none more so than Ambassador of the World (Ambassador OF THE NIGHT, maybe). But I’m getting paid real money for this so I may as well give it a go, eh? Thus we watch a lot of dvds and clips I’ve ripped off youtube. This year my students have been subjected to Jane Eyre (the BBC TV adaptation), Mad Men (the AMC mega-phenomenon), and The Matrix (the movie, singular. There is only one Matrix movie).

In preparation for their final presentations I’ve also shown them a couple of famous speeches: Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech (obvs) and JFK’s speech at Rice University launching the Apollo programme. I must have watched the same clips about fifty times by now, and the part that still surprises me is when JFK poses the question, “Why, 35 years ago, did we fly the Atlantic?” Thirty-five years ago. The speech was made in 1962. We are now further away from Armstrong’s moon landing than Armstrong was from Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight.

Let’s all just take a moment to consider that.

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Our first guest post of the month is from Richard Robinson, blogger extraordinaire over at The Broken Bullhorn, where he’s been blogging since 2009.  Richard is one of the very few people who is allowed to call me “kiddo”.

Poul Anderson collected short works from NESFA, by Richard Robinson

Okay folks, buckle your strato-belts. We’re going to talk about a giant in field of science fiction of writing. Poul Anderson won 7 Hugos and 3 Nebulas over his career. He was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1998.

Readers who started with the SF-F genres in the Eighties and after may not be familiar with Anderson. That’s a shame because they should be. The science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s was some of the finest written. Many make the mistake – if they decide to read “the old guys” at all – of sticking with the “big three”: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, assuming their works to be the best of the times. That’s certainly arguable, but there were many other outstanding authors writing science fiction at the time, just as there are now, including Hal Clement (Mission of Gravity is a classic), Eric Frank Russell and, best of all, Poul Anderson.

Anderson wrote a lot of novels and short stories (listing here) and many of the novels are my favorite works of SF, but since short stories are often more accessible and provide a nice sampling of the work of an author, I’m going for that. And since we’re going to go with Poul Anderson’s short works, I’m going for the best collections available.

The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. edited by Rick Katze & Lis Carey, NESFA Press hardcover – science fiction short story collections:
Volume 1: Call Me Joe, Volume 2: The Queen of Darkness, Volume 3: The Saturn Gate,
Volume 4: Admiralty, Volume 5: Door to Anywhere

p_anderson_all5

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That’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’ll focus here on the first volume.

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Gillian Philip has been making me all sorts of squeerolling happy lately.  It was only April of this year that I read Firebrand, the first book in her Rebel Angels series. And just, WOW.  Go read my review.  no, seriously, go read it. And then go read the even better review of the second book in the series, Bloodstone, which just came out.

Ok, so what’s better than these two incredible books?  well, two things, actually.  Thing the first, is Gillian’s superb guest post below on character point-of-view, and thing the second is Tor is giving away two copies of Bloodstone!  See details at the bottom of the post for rules about the giveaway.

about the author:

Gillian Philip was born in Glasgow, lived for twelve years in Barbados, and now lives in the north of Scotland with her husband, twin children, three dogs, two sociopathic cats, a slayer hamster, three chickens and a lot of nervous fish. She’s the author of The Darke Academy series (writing as Gabriella Poole), the  Survivors series, (as part of the Erin Hunter writing team), a long list of children’s and young adult stand alone novels, and the Rebel Angels dark fantasy series.  She’s been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend award, the Carnegie Medal, and been shortlisted for numerous other book awards. Learn more at her website her twitter, and her facebook page.

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A viewpoint on points of view…  by Gillian Philip

When I wrote Firebrand – and I still remember how much fun it was, for me if not for my characters – I had the best time spending an entire book and months of my life in Seth MacGregor’s head. Every word was written in his first person narrative. I lived with that boy every minute of every day and it felt like having… well, let’s see… a very, very close younger brother constantly at my side (anything further might verge on creepy, ahem). I knew what he was thinking and feeling, I knew what he was planning, and it felt very much as if that came from him, not me.

Now, Seth had actually started his life as a minor villain in Bloodstone (the first of the series I actually wrote) and he’d barged in, taken over and demanded it be all about him. I didn’t mind.  I liked him. I liked him more than I really should have, given the kind of things he got up to in Bloodstone.

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Women in SF, a Guest Post by Ian Sales

Ian Sales is a writer, reviewer and the curator of SF Mistressworks. He has been published in a number of magazines and original anthologies. He won the 2012 British Science Fiction Association Award for his hard sf novella Adrift on the Sea of Rains, the first book of the Apollo Quartet. It was also a finalist for the 2012 Sidewise Award. The second book of the quartet, The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself, was published in January 2013, and the third, Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, was published in November 2013. He can be found at iansales.com

During the 1950s, Margaret St Clair published almost eighty stories, all in major sf magazine titles. Some might know her 1963 novel, Sign of the Labrys, although it has never been reprinted. Marta Randall’s debut novel, Islands, was shortlisted for the 1977 Nebula Award, and she was the first female president of the SFWA. Islands has not been reprinted since 1980. Doris Piserchia published thirteen novels between 1973 and 1983. She has not had a book in print since 1987. Phyllis Gotlieb was shortlisted for a Nebula in 1973, and won two Aurora Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. She published ten novels between 1964 and 2007, few of which were ever reprinted and none are currently in print. Jo Clayton was hugely prolific: beginning in 1977, she wrote thirty-four novels in twenty years. All of her books are now out of print.

EPSON MFP image

The list of forgotten women sf writers is embarrassingly long. While it’s true there are male writers of science fiction who have also been forgotten, there are also many who are remembered as “great” or “classic” authors, or even as “grand masters”. The list of women remembered in this way is far smaller. Ask someone to name five sf writers of the 1950s, or the 1960s, and chances are the names they will give are all male. It’s almost as if women’s contribution to science fiction has been written out of the genre’s history.

And, in a way, it has. If you search online for a list of “best” or “classic” science fiction novels or short stories, any list you might find will be predominantly male – if not entirely male. Only this month, redditors voted on “the 25 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time”, and there was only one book by a woman on the list – The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin.The original SF Masterworks series published by Millennium contained only four books by women out of seventy-three titles (and two of those were by Le Guin). In 2010, Joanna Russ’s classic The Female Man was the first book by a woman published in the relaunched series, but the twentieth title.

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AshbyID

Madeline Ashby is the author of two of my favorite recent novels, vN and iD (links go to my reviews). In the Machine Dynasty series, Ashby envisions a near future world where Von Neumann self replicating androids have become an every-day part of our lives.  They raise and teach our children, take on dangerous occupations, and were supposed to make our lives easier.  Sounds easy, right? not so much, when you get the story from the vN’s point of view.

For more information about Madeline Ashby, her fiction, her travel schedule, and more, I encourage you to visit her website, and follow her on twitter. More than that, I encourage you to read her amazing fiction!

My question/prompt  to Ms. Ashby for her guest post was:

Once upon a time we started with Asimov’s unemotional humanoid robots, and then we evolved to robots who could be tricked/programmed to believe they were human and robots who desperately wanted to be human, and now in the Machine Dynasty series we have robots who know they aren’t human, but tend to feel emotions even stronger and more powerfully than many people.  What’s the next step for robot/AI fiction? Where do we go from here?

And here’s what she had to say:

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Madeline-Low-Res-02-e1348636903481I think robot subjectivity is still a wide open space for science fiction writers. I think the challenge is to actually dig in to the reality of computer vision, and algorithmic detection of motion, affect, and identity. One of the things I beat myself up for is not digging more deeply into those things. There are other writers who just kill it when it comes to that kind of rigorous depiction of another’s consciousness. Peter Watts is probably the best at it — in his stories “The Things” and “Malak,” he’s able to write exactly the experience that an alien and a predator drone would have, from their perspective, without making any room for the human element. If you want it dumbed down or warmed up, well, that’s just too bad. He’s that disciplined in his approach.
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So I think inevitably, we’ll get more of that kind of story. Less anthropomorphizing, and more cognitive re-framing of what “point of view” really means. When you think about it, the robots we work with on a daily basis have a split point of view: there’s what the drone “sees” (white and neon squares on a field of grey), and what the human “pilot” observes (targets). Together, that data and interpretation work together to create what we might call a vision, or a perspective, but by themselves neither component is entirely complete. Sitting at my desk, that’s an interesting challenge. How do I write something so split, so different? How do I write about that kind of sight? How do I establish that type of consciousness as a distinctive, memorable character?

Today’s guest post is from Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. When I first started visiting his blog about two years ago, I was immediately struck by his well considered and lovingly written reviews and all the beautiful artwork that graced his website. Beyond the artwork and enlightening content, every post generates warm and friendly conversation.  Please welcome Carl!

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(Image Credit)

The book cover—at its very best it draws you in, singling itself out amidst the noise of other books vying for your attention, and your book buying dollars. At its worst it provokes a visceral reaction, discouraging you from giving any consideration at all to what the book in question may be about and it may even turn you off from the genre in question completely. That is a lot of responsibility for an illustration to bear and the interesting dilemma facing art directors the world over is that the same book cover illustration will elicit both reactions at the same time. We are all different and we all respond to different visual cues, especially those of us who are fans of science fiction and fantasy, a genre in which the community is not afraid to vocalize their opinions. But this guest post is not about good or bad genre cover art, it is about the importance, or lack thereof, of the art itself in the wake of the rapid rise of electronic books, or ebooks.

Laying aside the pro and con arguments of reading paper books vs. electronic ones, let us agree with the premise that ebooks offer publishers a way to cut production costs significantly over their traditional paper offerings. That cost savings presumably translates into a cost savings for the consumer. That  being the case I have often wondered over the last year if there will be an increased move by publishing companies to eliminate or significantly reduce the costs associated with cover art by moving away from commissioning artwork from established artists and up and coming talent. This question was brought back to my mind when a reader asked this question on my Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Covers of 2012 post:

“Given so many people are using ereaders nowadays, does that make cover art more or less important? Ebooks don’t have covers, and they’ll soon make up most of the market (if they don’t already). Does that mean it’s not worth bothering, or mean the looks of dead-tree copies matter more as people attach more worth to them as actual physical things?”

My first reaction, which I stated in my reply, is that ebooks do have covers. As I thought about it, however, I understand that both answers are correct. Many ebooks currently have covers in the sense that they have an image advertising the book and for those books that also have print copies available the image used is often the same as that created for the book cover of the physical copy. On the other hand they do not have covers in that the word does not apply. The image attached with the ebook does not “cover” anything. Will publishers begin to think this way as well and if so will that translate into fewer actual pieces of art being commissioned for the use of science fiction and fantasy novels, short story collections and anthologies.

And perhaps more to the point, do you care?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.