We barely put away the pumpkins and the post-election tissues and they’re already decorating for list-making season

Hey friends: How ya doin? How you holding up? Still breathing? British friends: Did we cause some retrauma over there? Some secondhand trauma? I’d give you all a nice one-armed side hug with a shoulder squeeze if I could.

I, thank the granfalloon, was busy most of last night, and by the time I got home it already wasn’t looking good. I had a minor moment of obsessive electoral count refreshing, but when Florida went all red, I went to bed. It was done. I’ve been through this before.

Some good news from this election: Continue reading

Radiomen (2015) by Eleanor Lerman

images-2When Eleanor Lerman’s Radiomen won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year back in August–out of ten other much more widely talked about, publicized, and celebrated SF novels–it absolutely caught my attention. Compared to its shortlisted peers (even Linda Nagata’s initially self-published series), Radiomen seemed to come out of nowhere, having appeared on zero other SF shortlists–not even the 218-item Tiptree recommendation list!– and absent from any of the SF discourse I usually observe. Even after winning the award, the book seems to have drifted back into obscurity, despite having won against an impressive and critically solid shortlist (not counting the few bits of gristle I’m choosing to ignore). I don’t know how this small press gem wound up on the shortlist, but the Campbell Memorial Award jury did us a service to bring it out into the open like this.

So why isn’t anyone talking about it? Continue reading

The Gracekeepers (2015) by Kirsty Logan

images“While we realize it’s not a crime to be creepy…”

I enjoyed a momentary snicker at that quote from a local newspaper a few weeks ago when it addressed our own local epidemic of painted jokers who were creeping in parks at midnight and scaring kids, prompting superfluous arrests and increased weapons sales. (Not that it takes much to do that around here.) But it also marked a moment of fiction-reality overlap that spun my own rational stability into a tailspin.

My sense of estrangement occurred just before the peak of public hysteria, when I pulled into the parking lot of my place of work at 7:30 am and nearly collided head-on with a swerving red car driven by a blue-wigged, red-suited individual. Naturally, I forgot the incident just seconds after they zoomed by, and went about my day, only recalling it hours later, just after the explosion of local and national headlines, arrests, and pepper spray kiosks, prompting me to wonder if I had really seen what thought I had seen, or if the day’s events had somehow transformed the memory in my mind.

It’s an odd feeling when you think you can’t trust your own memory. Continue reading

September 2016 Reading Review

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I haven’t been as fastidious about my blog this month, partly because I got hung up on writing that stupid review of The Clone. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I think I’m running out of things to say about the schlock I’ve been reading– I’ve said it all before, others have said it all long before, and lately I’ve been more interested in reading those other people than just spouting off my ignorant drivel. Also, I’ve been restricting my post-writing time to a small window in the mornings, as this blog has been leaking into my weekend days more than I’d like.

Plus, the weather has been nice! It’s like we’re having an actual autumn this year and it’s only been like in the 80-somethings this month, which makes me want to be outside more.

Books Read and Blogged Continue reading

The Clone (1965) by Theodore L. Thomas & Kate Wilhelm

TheClone1One night, beneath the streets of the city, four ingredients found their way into the same collector box in the underground sewer system. There these ingredients–muriatic acid; trisodium phosphate; a bit of meat; and a fleck of silica gel– combined in a warm, seething liquid and gave birth to a hideous, destructive force: the clone…

 

If you pay attention to any B-movie film analysis–which I don’t, so I assume it’s entered the realm of common knowledge ever since SF clickbait sites have gotten hold of it– you are likely aware that the sci-fi and horror B-movies of old have been interpreted as figurative embodiments of subconscious social fear, usually of communism, but sometimes of sex. The Blob (1958) is a classic example of this idea, where theorists have posited that the pulsating, slithering, red glob of taciturn goo from outer space is actually a metaphor for America’s uninformed terror at the spread of the Soviet state. The Blob is the embodiment of the Red Menace.
Continue reading

The Slightly Alternate History of The Man in the High Castle (1963) by Philip K. Dick

thmnnthhgh1982Throughout all my writing (including TMITHC especially) there is a preoccupation with fakes and the fake: fake worlds, fake humans, fake objects, fake time, etc… Again and again I attempt to formulate critieria for what is fake and what is not fake. (21:22, Part Two, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick)

TMITHC is a fascinating adjunct to all this, i.e., to the Gestalt. Fakes are discussed. Alternate universes exist. Fascism is the topic, and a book is reality, which seems to have some connection with Tears. TMITHC seems to be a subtle, even delicate questioning of, what is real? As if only the 2 books in it, Grasshopper and the I Ching, are really the only actual reality. Strange. (19:35, Part Two, The Exegesis…)

Juliana’s bra size is thirty-eight, signaling the 38th hexagram in the I Ching, ‘opposition is a prerequisite for union.’ The ongoing bra references are a metaphor for our own irreality, an effort to lift-and-separate the converging realities, the borders of which we cannot otherwise perceive.” (Archer Maytree, controversial PKD scholar and author of The Grasshopper Lies: The Philip K. Dick of the I Ching, p. 38)

 

This year’s Exegesis with a side of fiction PKD challenge hosted by BookPunks means that I have officially overdosed on Philip K. Dick and it’s a lot worse than just seeing a pink light while an AI satellite channels God or something into my brain. I’ve temporarily postponed The Three Stigmata of Timothy Archer because I simply could not do with more quasi-religious psychedelics, and moved ahead to his politically-charged alt-history The Man in the High Castle. This was a good decision. Continue reading

The Exile Waiting (1975) by Vonda N. McIntyre

TheExileWaiting1Disorienting and blurry, the subterranean world of Vonda McIntyre’s The Exile Waiting (1975) hosts a confusion of social structures that aren’t easily deciphered. The first few chapters are especially complicated as the first act winds its way through a series of tunnels and bends and broken thoughts as Mischa resists Gemmi’s empathic tugs, rescues a self-destructive Chris, and observes the so-called normalcy of this alien place called Center. Disjointed journal excerpts by an outsider named Jan intensify the narrative haze.

Center is a strange place. Unfamiliar in the ways it defies present-world logic (hired beggars; dormant political and mechanical power systems in some places, active in others; nuclear-crystal alchemy) and familiar in the ways it employs standard sci-fi tropes (telepathic communication, dog-eat-dog dystopia, pernicious underboob cleavage), but all of those odd details add up to a cohesive and thought-provoking framework from which McIntyre hangs her complex and many-tendriled tale. The claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere is intertwined in each theme, where a potent mix of ageism, lookism, ableism, and toxic family systems has the potential to drag each character down into a self-hating pit of inaction. Some succumb; some overcome. Continue reading

Summer 2016 Reading Review

August is always a difficult and hectic time for me, but this month in particular has been extra difficult and hectic, no thanks to my particular sick anthill of work being extra sick and chaoticky, which I can usually forgive when I see it simply as the flaws of capitalism manifesting in the public sector, but this year, I can actually attribute our problems to some real concrete things that nobody can do anything about anyway. So I’ve been busy. I hope it wasn’t too apparent in my posts.

Since my last reading review post, I ditched the States, saw some sights, picked up a Peruvian parasite, and then returned home in order to burn out on stupid SF book awards. 70757 Continue reading

The 2016 Clarke Award Shortlist: Surface, Contrivance, & Salience

Perhaps most indicative of the mood surrounding the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist is that most of the discussion is about the Clarke Award itself, rather than the mostly baffling list of novels the jury selected this year. It’s a fairly cut-and-dry list that doesn’t garner much debate or consideration; each book seems to inspire unequivocal feels from most readers, but they do make a odd collection when taken together. After much thinking, and some discussion with Jonah Sutton-Morse and Maureen K. Speller on the Cabbages & Kings podcast, it seems some themes of kinship have emerged from what is an otherwise unfocused and random-looking award list.

There is more than one way to slice this, but I think the following pairings seem to suit: Surface. Contrivance. Salience.

 

Surface: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and Way Down Dark Continue reading

Perelandra (1943) & That Hideous Strength (1945) by C. S. Lewis

PerelandraI’m just going to gloss over my review of Perelandra (1943), number two in Lewis’ space trilogy, because it’s not a book that inspires much secular discussion. Perelandra is a 1940’s conception of a water-covered Venus, populated by one naked green woman, a devil-possessed bad guy from Out of the Silent Planet, and maybe Jesus(?). After his return from Malacandra (Mars), our good man Ransom decides to rocket through the sunlit vacuum of outer space to Venus, which turns out to be the allegorical heaven-and-hell planet of Perelandra (1943). His experiences on Perelandra reek with Greek mythology, replete with Aphrodite-isms, a River Styx, and a wounded heel. The naked green woman is an innocent virgin and Ransom is really kind of into it, so he dedicates most of his time and energies on Perelandra to cock-blocking the devil. Continue reading