sartorias: (Fan)
Whisperthumb

Whispered Magics (Kindle here), is a collection of my short stories. Most were written for anthologies for kids, except one story, "Mom and Dad at the Home Front," which was written for me, and to my surprise, it actually became a Nebula finalist. A couple of them have sf elements, most are fantasy, and all concern kids--some are upbeat, a couple are definitely not, though none of the endings are downers, as I hated that as a kid, and still don't much like 'em. I can watch the news for that.

I also have a new fantasy adventure coming out later this month, so there will be two of these ME ME ME posts in August, but meantime, a couple of small press e-book reads that I recently enjoyed a whole lot:


Sorcerer's Luck by Katharine Kerr.

One of the things I appreciated most when I put this book down was how Kerr had so skillfully taken the popular elements of the current wave of urban fantasies, and given them all a hard twist into weird. Or wyrd.

We've got the two guys and one gal. We've got a vampire. We've got shapeshifters. Powers. Icelandic mythology. A hip city, San Francisco, with secret magic drifting through it like its famous fogs. And we've got passion, oh my, the passion!

We even have Instalove. Of a kind. And for what turns out to be not only understandable but inescapable reasons.

But where so many of the urban fantasies I've read pretty much keep the characters at the high-school end of the emotional spectrum, that is, instant-and-forever passion, a lot of will-he-or-won't-he angst (and Byronic brooding or flippant quips on the part of either the good bad boy or the bad bad boy) here, we begin with attraction but the main relationship develops. And develops more! And evolves! Each level of magic, and of risk, brings its own set of problems to the relationship, which are dealt with. While I loved the action, the tension, the magic and mystery, the sheerest pleasure was watching the two main characters mix passion and intelligence in a fashion I found totally bewitching.

And our heroine is far from Fridge Girl when the fewmets fall (see my entire review at Goodreads).

Just One Damn Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor. (right now, free on Amazon!)

Max (Miss Maxwell, but everyone calls her Max) was a troublesome kid from a terrible family life. But her headmistress, Mrs. de Winter, recommends she apply to the University of Thirsk at St. Mary's Priory.

There Max flourishes for the first time in her life, because she finds people as smart and as curious and wild and never-say-die as she is. She has the "real" interview, that is, finds out the true purpose of St. Mary's, and of course doesn't look back, even when the risks are outlined. Even when she discovers that those risks are real. She is determined to become a historian, to go back in time to see events as they happened.

At that point, it's better to stop and let potential readers discover what happens next. The pacing absolutely crackles, not only because--as the title says--one damn thing after another happens, but it's the voice. Max's voice is a wild delight, and the hyperspeed unfolding of events kept me glued to my chair. A nifty range of female characters, intense love of history, Englishness, mad passion, and conundrums are bonuses . . . after I finished it, in retrospect, a few aspects made me go "Huh," but not while I was reading.

WFC swag

Nov. 1st, 2011 06:33 am
sartorias: (Default)
Some exchanges I thought interesting to be typed up. but first, goodies.

WFC's a great con for finding cool stuff from small presses as well as books just out, or even ahead of release. Like The Freedom Maze, by Delia Sherman. The Small Beer Press people went to great effort to secure a stack for sale three weeks early. A quick glance through promises excellence--this one needs to move up the TBR list for Andre Norton Award purposes.

I bought Larry Hammer's translation of One Hundred People, One Poem Each from him in the con lobby before the last copy could vanish. It's a beautifully printed little book--the link is to the Kindle version. This is a translation of a compilation made in 1235 of the 100 best poets. Larry has been writing up his translation process over at his LiveJournal. His witty explanations for word choices and meanings have been entertaining me for months. The poems show the Japanese, the translation, and each has a footnote to give the English reader some context. I put it by the bedside so I can dip into a poem or two before I sleep.

I mentioned this one before, but I will again because I enjoyed it so much, and because I want to support a fine small press--Madeleine Robins' Miss Tolerance is back! The new one is called The Sleeping Partner. I've loved this alternate Regency, and Miss Tolerance (an Agent of Inquiry), ever since the first one came out, Point of Honour. If you like Regency romances in the silver fork (Georgette Heyer) mode, Book View Cafe is offering three of them here.

WFC swag

Nov. 1st, 2011 06:33 am
sartorias: (Default)
Some exchanges I thought interesting to be typed up. but first, goodies.

WFC's a great con for finding cool stuff from small presses as well as books just out, or even ahead of release. Like The Freedom Maze, by Delia Sherman. The Small Beer Press people went to great effort to secure a stack for sale three weeks early. A quick glance through promises excellence--this one needs to move up the TBR list for Andre Norton Award purposes.

I bought Larry Hammer's translation of One Hundred People, One Poem Each from him in the con lobby before the last copy could vanish. It's a beautifully printed little book--the link is to the Kindle version. This is a translation of a compilation made in 1235 of the 100 best poets. Larry has been writing up his translation process over at his LiveJournal. His witty explanations for word choices and meanings have been entertaining me for months. The poems show the Japanese, the translation, and each has a footnote to give the English reader some context. I put it by the bedside so I can dip into a poem or two before I sleep.

I mentioned this one before, but I will again because I enjoyed it so much, and because I want to support a fine small press--Madeleine Robins' Miss Tolerance is back! The new one is called The Sleeping Partner. I've loved this alternate Regency, and Miss Tolerance (an Agent of Inquiry), ever since the first one came out, Point of Honour. If you like Regency romances in the silver fork (Georgette Heyer) mode, Book View Cafe is offering three of them here.
sartorias: (Default)
Lethe Press is a year away from ten years old. As Steve Berman, the Press's chief editor, says in this interviewhalf at Tor.com Lethe Press is a place that gives gay writers a voice, such as in the yearly anthology, Wilde Stories, featuring what editor Berman thinks the best LGBT short fiction of the previous year.

But not everything is strictly about teh gay. If you take a look at the catalogue you'll see that Lethe prints a wide range of works, from spiritual to non-fiction.

Here are a couple of recent publications that stood out for me:

Are fantasy short stories beginning to seem predictable? A dip into Sandra McDonald's wild romp of a collection, Diana Comet, and Other Improbable Stories, is sure to cure that. Some of the endings left me going huh? but I could never predict what was going to happen in any of these alternate universe tales. What struck me most was the sheer exuberance. The stories are all over the emotional spectrum, from sly and wickedly funny to haunting, and oh yes, haunting in the other sense, as there are ghosts. The heroes are unusual--transgendered, gay, cross-dressing--and all heroic: firefighters, soldiers (the war that calls Vietnam to mind is fought entirely by women), cowboys, musicians, poets and a superhero or two . . . as for Diana Comet herself, what is her secret? Or does it matter?

Beth Bernobich's collection, A Handful of Pearls & Other Stories, gives the reader a taste of this writer's intensely sensory evocation and moody, sometimes ambivalent stories. This collection could be read as a prelude to the soon-to-be published Passion Play, which is already causing quite a stir. [livejournal.com profile] jimhines and I will be discussing this book closer to the pubdate.

Then there is the stunning surreal, elegiac Subtle Bodies: A Fantasia on Voice, History, and Rene Crevel, by Peter Dube. Ordinarily this is not my kind of thing--set in a difficult time, featuring a real life artist who killed himself--but the writing is so superlative I had to keep coming back to it. Short at 106 pages, it's packed with image and thinkage.

Finally, there's a deal going on for subscriptions to Icarus, the Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction. This latest issue has an intense, hypertexty story by Hal Duncan, an interview with Lynn Flewelling, and a lot of other good stuff. Check it out!
sartorias: (Default)
Lethe Press is a year away from ten years old. As Steve Berman, the Press's chief editor, says in this interviewhalf at Tor.com Lethe Press is a place that gives gay writers a voice, such as in the yearly anthology, Wilde Stories, featuring what editor Berman thinks the best LGBT short fiction of the previous year.

But not everything is strictly about teh gay. If you take a look at the catalogue you'll see that Lethe prints a wide range of works, from spiritual to non-fiction.

Here are a couple of recent publications that stood out for me:

Are fantasy short stories beginning to seem predictable? A dip into Sandra McDonald's wild romp of a collection, Diana Comet, and Other Improbable Stories, is sure to cure that. Some of the endings left me going huh? but I could never predict what was going to happen in any of these alternate universe tales. What struck me most was the sheer exuberance. The stories are all over the emotional spectrum, from sly and wickedly funny to haunting, and oh yes, haunting in the other sense, as there are ghosts. The heroes are unusual--transgendered, gay, cross-dressing--and all heroic: firefighters, soldiers (the war that calls Vietnam to mind is fought entirely by women), cowboys, musicians, poets and a superhero or two . . . as for Diana Comet herself, what is her secret? Or does it matter?

Beth Bernobich's collection, A Handful of Pearls & Other Stories, gives the reader a taste of this writer's intensely sensory evocation and moody, sometimes ambivalent stories. This collection could be read as a prelude to the soon-to-be published Passion Play, which is already causing quite a stir. [livejournal.com profile] jimhines and I will be discussing this book closer to the pubdate.

Then there is the stunning surreal, elegiac Subtle Bodies: A Fantasia on Voice, History, and Rene Crevel, by Peter Dube. Ordinarily this is not my kind of thing--set in a difficult time, featuring a real life artist who killed himself--but the writing is so superlative I had to keep coming back to it. Short at 106 pages, it's packed with image and thinkage.

Finally, there's a deal going on for subscriptions to Icarus, the Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction. This latest issue has an intense, hypertexty story by Hal Duncan, an interview with Lynn Flewelling, and a lot of other good stuff. Check it out!

Kittens!

Apr. 5th, 2010 06:51 am
sartorias: (Default)
If you're in the mood for some light-hearted fun, then check out the International Kittens of Mystery.

Chris Dolley is a writer who moved to France, wrote entertainingly about his adventures, and occasionally posts beguiling bits about life with raising lambs.

I've read the Kittens of Mystery. It's light-hearted fun as we learn about the international spy force of kittens, who use the power of cute to carry on their high tech secret agent ops.

The book is short, crammed with delightful photos. I've actually looked at it several times--stories aside, the power of "cute" is a real deal--given that you accept whatever it is offered as cute. I've read about how small animals are used in therapy and so on, so decided to test it on myself. It's those photos, and the captions, that make it such stress-banishing fun; I opened the file a couple of times when I was in a crap mood, and it really did help me get my blood pressure down. That's an interesting phenomenon, there.

Anyway, back to the Kittens of Mystery. Right now it's an ebook in several formats, no DRM; eventually he'll print it, at which time it would make a great gift for anybody who loves kittens, or enjoyed LOLcat type stories.

Kittens!

Apr. 5th, 2010 06:51 am
sartorias: (Default)
If you're in the mood for some light-hearted fun, then check out the International Kittens of Mystery.

Chris Dolley is a writer who moved to France, wrote entertainingly about his adventures, and occasionally posts beguiling bits about life with raising lambs.

I've read the Kittens of Mystery. It's light-hearted fun as we learn about the international spy force of kittens, who use the power of cute to carry on their high tech secret agent ops.

The book is short, crammed with delightful photos. I've actually looked at it several times--stories aside, the power of "cute" is a real deal--given that you accept whatever it is offered as cute. I've read about how small animals are used in therapy and so on, so decided to test it on myself. It's those photos, and the captions, that make it such stress-banishing fun; I opened the file a couple of times when I was in a crap mood, and it really did help me get my blood pressure down. That's an interesting phenomenon, there.

Anyway, back to the Kittens of Mystery. Right now it's an ebook in several formats, no DRM; eventually he'll print it, at which time it would make a great gift for anybody who loves kittens, or enjoyed LOLcat type stories.
sartorias: (Default)
Book View Café is continuing to experiment around with new forms, connect with new groups, and take advantage of how publishing seems to be changing every day.

Newest? Aqueduct Press launches three authors, Nancy Jane Moore, Sylvia Kelso, and Sue Lange. Each is launching an ebook this week, through BVC.

Lange’s ebook, WE, ROBOTS a novella of the Singularity, launched on Tuesday March 30th at BVC. io9.com included WE, ROBOTS as one of the "13 Books that Will Change Your Mind About Robots" along with works by Asimov, Vinge, Stross and others.

On Friday, April 2, BVC will feature a free excerpt from Kelso’s THREE OBSERVATIONS AND A DIALOGUE: ROUND AND ABOUT SF in celebration of the release of the 2009 non-fiction title as a BVC ebook. THREE OBSERVATIONS contains essays from the circumference on: SF communities, terraforming, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s work (http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Sylvia-Kelso/Essays/).

Moore’s science fiction novella, CHANGELING, published in 2004, will be launched as an ebook on Sunday, April 4 (http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Nancy-Jane-Moore/). CHANGELING is a coming of age in two realities story. Not about fairies.

In addition to the ebooks, Lange and Moore will be offering their novellas as free serializations at BVC on Tuesdays and Sundays respectively at http://www.bookviewcafe.com.
sartorias: (Default)
Book View Café is continuing to experiment around with new forms, connect with new groups, and take advantage of how publishing seems to be changing every day.

Newest? Aqueduct Press launches three authors, Nancy Jane Moore, Sylvia Kelso, and Sue Lange. Each is launching an ebook this week, through BVC.

Lange’s ebook, WE, ROBOTS a novella of the Singularity, launched on Tuesday March 30th at BVC. io9.com included WE, ROBOTS as one of the "13 Books that Will Change Your Mind About Robots" along with works by Asimov, Vinge, Stross and others.

On Friday, April 2, BVC will feature a free excerpt from Kelso’s THREE OBSERVATIONS AND A DIALOGUE: ROUND AND ABOUT SF in celebration of the release of the 2009 non-fiction title as a BVC ebook. THREE OBSERVATIONS contains essays from the circumference on: SF communities, terraforming, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s work (http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Sylvia-Kelso/Essays/).

Moore’s science fiction novella, CHANGELING, published in 2004, will be launched as an ebook on Sunday, April 4 (http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Nancy-Jane-Moore/). CHANGELING is a coming of age in two realities story. Not about fairies.

In addition to the ebooks, Lange and Moore will be offering their novellas as free serializations at BVC on Tuesdays and Sundays respectively at http://www.bookviewcafe.com.
sartorias: (Default)
Last night I finished reading Silver Kiss by Naomi Clark, an ebook from Queered Fiction Press, centered in Durban. The book was just released last week. Print info here.

Did I like it? Put it this way. My son wanted to attend an event on the other side of town, at which there was no room for moms (it was very crowded) so I had to sit in the parking lot, under a freeway overpass, for over two hours. (It would have taken nearly an hour to inch back home in the traffic, just to turn right around again.)

So I thought, I'll see how much farther I can get in this book before the light fades, because the Sony Reader, while perfect during the day, is harder on old eyes at night. The screens are not back lit, so I need strong light on it. Well, next thing I knew I was crouched on the edge of the shotgun seat, the Sony angled up to catch the light from the freeway ramp, and the two hours had flashed by while I read the climax. My son had come out to check on me and ask if he could go back in and chat a bit more. I was in the middle of the climax--I waved him on, and he went, and I read.

Wow.

Ayla and Shannon, a lesbian couple, have just moved back into "the city." (This is really my only creeb about the book, and this wouldn't bother every reader, but we never really know where we are, though toward the end, brief mentions of Yorkshire hint at England.) Ayla is a werewolf; the stresses in her family over her gender choice, and her place in the Pack, had driven her out for eight years.
Her partner is a human woman, a PI named Shannon. Ayla's parents are not bad people. From their point of view, it's a werewolf's duty to the Pack to produce offspring, as birth rates among the werewolves have been dropping steadily--ironically about as long as they've been able to live openly among humans. Ayla and Shannon do not want offspring, something the parents obviously struggle to accept.

Though the setting seems a trifle unmoored, we catch hints that this is an alternate Earth through mention of Yorkshire, and Roman history. In this world, there are no other supernatural beings, only the werewolf, who has been living among humans for a very long time.

Ayla wants badly to become a police community support officer, and that means jumping through social hoops like attending Lupercali, at which the young cubs are blooded and made members of the Pack. Ayla was not outcast, which is the Pack's way of punishing wolves, forcing them away from family and wolf community. Ayla was a lone wolf by choice, so when she moves back, she's invited to Lupercali to be blooded, after which she gleefully shifts and runs on the hunt.

On that hunt, she discovers that dangerous rarity, a werewolf who has gone feral: all wolf. She nearly does not survive the encounter. She returns to report, and ends up in a nasty fight with Shannon, who was so worried that she reacts with anger.

Already Ayla regrets moving back. She feels crowded, uneasy because Shannon willingly gave up her connections in order to move. Shannon has had to cold-start her career.

Encouraged by their friends Vince and Leon, a pair of wolves, Ayla and Shannon try to settle in . . . and at first Ayla is glad when Shannon gets her first break, a case of a runaway wolf teen.

The book starts off at a leisurely pace as we get to know Ayla, Shannon, Ayla's co-workers at the tattoo parlor, and the couple's wolf friends, Vince and Leon. Glory, a cross-dressing wolf friend, invites Ayla for a run that turns out to be far more dangerous than either expected. Clark might not do much with setting, but her characters are fully fleshed out, with their own reactions and agendas.

When Ayla and others wolf out and go running, the sensory shift is compelling, from the sepia tones of visuals to the explosion of emotion-charged scents, and the wolf emotional spectrum and interactions. Clark's wolves are compelling and real.

Ayla and Shannon both begin to pick up clues centering around the supposedly harmless herbal cigarettes called Silver Kiss, used by teen wolves who seem to be out of control. Adding tension to the confusion of clues is ugly anti-wolf and anti-gay graffiti on Shannon and Ayla's home, the work of a group called Alpha Humans, who are a lot like the KKK in politics and in tactics.

Why do some wolves go feral after smoking Silver Kiss, and who's dealing it to them--and why? Why are the Alpha Humans harassing Shannon and Ayla? Where is the wolf girl runaway? Behind all these questions lies another reason Ayla ran all those years ago: the brutal murder of a young wolf cousin of hers, murderers unfound.

As the mystery deepens--intensifying the stakes exponentially--Clark develops relationships: Ayla and Shannon as a couple, as wolf and human. The couple's relationship with their friends, with Ayla's parents, with the Pack, with the community. Ayla is impetuous, physical, strong, her emotions all over the place. She is aware of the wolf inside her, and sometimes it's a struggle to control those instincts. Sometimes she just gives in, and not always when it's a good idea.
One of the underlying questions Clark raises is the question of savagery: wolf or human? How do wolf and human relationships work, especially under stress? Ayla and Shannon are beautifully rendered, with conflicting desires, worries, reactions. Tender and fierce by turns, Ayla wants to protect Shannon, yet when the call comes, she cannot resist running off, even into danger. She sees the effect on Shannon; will they survive the wolf impetuosity?

Everyone's relationships are tested--Ayla's human and wolf side, her bond with her partner, her bond with her friends, with her parents, with the Pack. With her expectations of a career, and in a larger sense, with society: whose justice should prevail, the human laws or Pack law?

The mystery is solved, but these larger questions remain unanswered, leaving me wanting to know what happens next to Ayla and Shannon, and to the werewolves in this world.
sartorias: (Default)
Last night I finished reading Silver Kiss by Naomi Clark, an ebook from Queered Fiction Press, centered in Durban. The book was just released last week. Print info here.

Did I like it? Put it this way. My son wanted to attend an event on the other side of town, at which there was no room for moms (it was very crowded) so I had to sit in the parking lot, under a freeway overpass, for over two hours. (It would have taken nearly an hour to inch back home in the traffic, just to turn right around again.)

So I thought, I'll see how much farther I can get in this book before the light fades, because the Sony Reader, while perfect during the day, is harder on old eyes at night. The screens are not back lit, so I need strong light on it. Well, next thing I knew I was crouched on the edge of the shotgun seat, the Sony angled up to catch the light from the freeway ramp, and the two hours had flashed by while I read the climax. My son had come out to check on me and ask if he could go back in and chat a bit more. I was in the middle of the climax--I waved him on, and he went, and I read.

Wow.

Ayla and Shannon, a lesbian couple, have just moved back into "the city." (This is really my only creeb about the book, and this wouldn't bother every reader, but we never really know where we are, though toward the end, brief mentions of Yorkshire hint at England.) Ayla is a werewolf; the stresses in her family over her gender choice, and her place in the Pack, had driven her out for eight years.
Her partner is a human woman, a PI named Shannon. Ayla's parents are not bad people. From their point of view, it's a werewolf's duty to the Pack to produce offspring, as birth rates among the werewolves have been dropping steadily--ironically about as long as they've been able to live openly among humans. Ayla and Shannon do not want offspring, something the parents obviously struggle to accept.

Though the setting seems a trifle unmoored, we catch hints that this is an alternate Earth through mention of Yorkshire, and Roman history. In this world, there are no other supernatural beings, only the werewolf, who has been living among humans for a very long time.

Ayla wants badly to become a police community support officer, and that means jumping through social hoops like attending Lupercali, at which the young cubs are blooded and made members of the Pack. Ayla was not outcast, which is the Pack's way of punishing wolves, forcing them away from family and wolf community. Ayla was a lone wolf by choice, so when she moves back, she's invited to Lupercali to be blooded, after which she gleefully shifts and runs on the hunt.

On that hunt, she discovers that dangerous rarity, a werewolf who has gone feral: all wolf. She nearly does not survive the encounter. She returns to report, and ends up in a nasty fight with Shannon, who was so worried that she reacts with anger.

Already Ayla regrets moving back. She feels crowded, uneasy because Shannon willingly gave up her connections in order to move. Shannon has had to cold-start her career.

Encouraged by their friends Vince and Leon, a pair of wolves, Ayla and Shannon try to settle in . . . and at first Ayla is glad when Shannon gets her first break, a case of a runaway wolf teen.

The book starts off at a leisurely pace as we get to know Ayla, Shannon, Ayla's co-workers at the tattoo parlor, and the couple's wolf friends, Vince and Leon. Glory, a cross-dressing wolf friend, invites Ayla for a run that turns out to be far more dangerous than either expected. Clark might not do much with setting, but her characters are fully fleshed out, with their own reactions and agendas.

When Ayla and others wolf out and go running, the sensory shift is compelling, from the sepia tones of visuals to the explosion of emotion-charged scents, and the wolf emotional spectrum and interactions. Clark's wolves are compelling and real.

Ayla and Shannon both begin to pick up clues centering around the supposedly harmless herbal cigarettes called Silver Kiss, used by teen wolves who seem to be out of control. Adding tension to the confusion of clues is ugly anti-wolf and anti-gay graffiti on Shannon and Ayla's home, the work of a group called Alpha Humans, who are a lot like the KKK in politics and in tactics.

Why do some wolves go feral after smoking Silver Kiss, and who's dealing it to them--and why? Why are the Alpha Humans harassing Shannon and Ayla? Where is the wolf girl runaway? Behind all these questions lies another reason Ayla ran all those years ago: the brutal murder of a young wolf cousin of hers, murderers unfound.

As the mystery deepens--intensifying the stakes exponentially--Clark develops relationships: Ayla and Shannon as a couple, as wolf and human. The couple's relationship with their friends, with Ayla's parents, with the Pack, with the community. Ayla is impetuous, physical, strong, her emotions all over the place. She is aware of the wolf inside her, and sometimes it's a struggle to control those instincts. Sometimes she just gives in, and not always when it's a good idea.
One of the underlying questions Clark raises is the question of savagery: wolf or human? How do wolf and human relationships work, especially under stress? Ayla and Shannon are beautifully rendered, with conflicting desires, worries, reactions. Tender and fierce by turns, Ayla wants to protect Shannon, yet when the call comes, she cannot resist running off, even into danger. She sees the effect on Shannon; will they survive the wolf impetuosity?

Everyone's relationships are tested--Ayla's human and wolf side, her bond with her partner, her bond with her friends, with her parents, with the Pack. With her expectations of a career, and in a larger sense, with society: whose justice should prevail, the human laws or Pack law?

The mystery is solved, but these larger questions remain unanswered, leaving me wanting to know what happens next to Ayla and Shannon, and to the werewolves in this world.
sartorias: (Default)
At Book View Cafe I started posting; I was told that the readers liked posts about writing, so I put up a short one about stuff I've been learning. Come on over and talk to me!

As always it seems about a dozen YA books get mentioned, blogged, reblogged, etc all over my corner of the world. No problem with that--I love most of them--but there are plenty of other good reads out there.

These two are science fiction adventure--a form that isn't as easy to find these days, as fantasy is currently the popular subgenre. There are many my age who opine that if only the Heinlein juvies would be repackaged, teens ought to love them . . . ought to be reading them . . . something I have not found to be true. I had the juvies on my school bookshelf, and the few kids who tried them either put them back or finished but said that they were boring because there was way too much blabbing, and that stuff about slide rules didn't make any sense.

There have been some attempts to take Heinlein's story bones and reclothe them in more modern characters and ideas. I strongly suspect that's what Cory Doctorow was doing with his Little Brother . . . which gives us a privileged white male yattering on and ON about politics, and when he throws himself into the admittedly good cause, somehow the issues become all about him.

I don't know how teens have done with the book, as it came out when I retired, and though I've been talking to teens since, I keep forgetting to ask if anyone has read it; the conversations mostly shift to current fantasy reads, the kids recommending what you'd expect to hear.

Here are a couple of exciting science fiction adventures that don't have that heavy libertarian/privileged white male overlay. One by a female, one by a male.

The Aztec Eagle, by Catherine Wells, is a short, terrifically fast-paced read. It's for the older teen, as the teens in it get involved with one another; it's also about psi powers, which was a guaranteed read for me when I was a teen. It does get into politics, but these don't overwhelm the story, and there is no thinly veiled libertarian oratory. Instead, the politics are accessible to kids--and thoughtfully presented as we don't know which side is "right." They both have their good reasons for their conflict.

Enrique is a street kid in Mexico who uses his ability to 'see' the face of playing cards to hustle tourists for cash to help his mother, a morose single mother working for a venal cantina owner as a drudge. Enrique also sees things about people, including danger. So he's a survivor, but he's also got a solid moral core, and he really takes to a visiting Peace Keeper pilot who tells him about being a pilot, and visiting the planet Alpha, which has been terraformed for a couple hundred years.

Enrique throws himself into studying for the first time in his life, despite a lot of discouragement, and when he gets older and the pilot returns, he begins to find out about the politics between the settlers and the Terrans having escalated to war. How Enrique gets to the first stage of pilot training (which requires neural implants, and needs psi abilities) and what happens to him among other teens forms the story: Wells keeps the pacing super fast, the characters surprisingly complex for so short a book. Nobody has cardboard motivations or reactions--I really enjoyed this book, and I could see my teen self loving it to bits.

The second one comes from a bigger publisher, Usborne--in the UK. (And I had to laugh to see UK spelling in details about Montana ranches.) I suspect Justin Stanchfield sold these books to a UK publisher because USA ones were afraid kids wouldn't read about ranch life, even if the ranch is on a terraformed planet, as in his first book, or with an evil corporate guy with mad science going on, UFOs, other planets, and a time warp, as in this one.

In Timewalker, Sean and his brother Trick are working unhappily for their morose dad on the failing ranch. Their mother took off suddenly some time ago, and everyone assumes it was because of the loneliness and tough life of ranchers. But when Sean sees a girl who can change into an owl, who says, "Help me," and stumbles into tense, life-threatening adventures, life is far from boring or lonely.

Stanchfield writes so beautifully about the vast Montana spaces, as he is in real life a rancher. But he doesn't overload the book with detail--he's very skilled at deft, vivid words to evoke the smells, the sights, the sounds, and above all the brilliant big sky. I suspect kids here would actually get into this book (ranch life may as well be alien culture to city kids) if they could find it.
sartorias: (Default)
At Book View Cafe I started posting; I was told that the readers liked posts about writing, so I put up a short one about stuff I've been learning. Come on over and talk to me!

As always it seems about a dozen YA books get mentioned, blogged, reblogged, etc all over my corner of the world. No problem with that--I love most of them--but there are plenty of other good reads out there.

These two are science fiction adventure--a form that isn't as easy to find these days, as fantasy is currently the popular subgenre. There are many my age who opine that if only the Heinlein juvies would be repackaged, teens ought to love them . . . ought to be reading them . . . something I have not found to be true. I had the juvies on my school bookshelf, and the few kids who tried them either put them back or finished but said that they were boring because there was way too much blabbing, and that stuff about slide rules didn't make any sense.

There have been some attempts to take Heinlein's story bones and reclothe them in more modern characters and ideas. I strongly suspect that's what Cory Doctorow was doing with his Little Brother . . . which gives us a privileged white male yattering on and ON about politics, and when he throws himself into the admittedly good cause, somehow the issues become all about him.

I don't know how teens have done with the book, as it came out when I retired, and though I've been talking to teens since, I keep forgetting to ask if anyone has read it; the conversations mostly shift to current fantasy reads, the kids recommending what you'd expect to hear.

Here are a couple of exciting science fiction adventures that don't have that heavy libertarian/privileged white male overlay. One by a female, one by a male.

The Aztec Eagle, by Catherine Wells, is a short, terrifically fast-paced read. It's for the older teen, as the teens in it get involved with one another; it's also about psi powers, which was a guaranteed read for me when I was a teen. It does get into politics, but these don't overwhelm the story, and there is no thinly veiled libertarian oratory. Instead, the politics are accessible to kids--and thoughtfully presented as we don't know which side is "right." They both have their good reasons for their conflict.

Enrique is a street kid in Mexico who uses his ability to 'see' the face of playing cards to hustle tourists for cash to help his mother, a morose single mother working for a venal cantina owner as a drudge. Enrique also sees things about people, including danger. So he's a survivor, but he's also got a solid moral core, and he really takes to a visiting Peace Keeper pilot who tells him about being a pilot, and visiting the planet Alpha, which has been terraformed for a couple hundred years.

Enrique throws himself into studying for the first time in his life, despite a lot of discouragement, and when he gets older and the pilot returns, he begins to find out about the politics between the settlers and the Terrans having escalated to war. How Enrique gets to the first stage of pilot training (which requires neural implants, and needs psi abilities) and what happens to him among other teens forms the story: Wells keeps the pacing super fast, the characters surprisingly complex for so short a book. Nobody has cardboard motivations or reactions--I really enjoyed this book, and I could see my teen self loving it to bits.

The second one comes from a bigger publisher, Usborne--in the UK. (And I had to laugh to see UK spelling in details about Montana ranches.) I suspect Justin Stanchfield sold these books to a UK publisher because USA ones were afraid kids wouldn't read about ranch life, even if the ranch is on a terraformed planet, as in his first book, or with an evil corporate guy with mad science going on, UFOs, other planets, and a time warp, as in this one.

In Timewalker, Sean and his brother Trick are working unhappily for their morose dad on the failing ranch. Their mother took off suddenly some time ago, and everyone assumes it was because of the loneliness and tough life of ranchers. But when Sean sees a girl who can change into an owl, who says, "Help me," and stumbles into tense, life-threatening adventures, life is far from boring or lonely.

Stanchfield writes so beautifully about the vast Montana spaces, as he is in real life a rancher. But he doesn't overload the book with detail--he's very skilled at deft, vivid words to evoke the smells, the sights, the sounds, and above all the brilliant big sky. I suspect kids here would actually get into this book (ranch life may as well be alien culture to city kids) if they could find it.
sartorias: (Default)
Now there's a combination I would never have put together!

But S. Dorman has. Fantastic Travelogue: Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis Talk Things over in The Hereafter

"Dressed as though for bed, a young man is walking a path in the nightshade of trees where moths sip nourishment among bark crevices. It is a moonlit night among the fresh breezes of the miscellaneous headwaters of the mighty Mississippi. Here are all manner of lakes, streams, bogs and aquifers, replete with birds and rushes and grasses and willows; the sounding of peepers and wheedling of insects. Here are moths sucking the sap of the straight trunks in the mild spring evening somewhere in the thoughts of God.

Walking watchfully along he draws upon a cheap cigarette, stoking a tiny artificial glow. The path dips down and curves. He finds himself near the shoreline of a lake where, on a great rock, a figure in white is sitting, also smoking. The thump of the young man's tread sounds upon the uneven path, and the figure turns, his white hair gleaming in a cloud of cigar smoke, exhalations of the finest cigar tobacco.

"Good evening," he says in a voice something like a cross of American soft and southern with a Midwestern tang.

“Hullo!” says the other, surprised. “Wasn’t quite expecting anyone out here.”

Read more of the excerpt here.

Another excerpt.

Order directly from the printer.
sartorias: (Default)
Now there's a combination I would never have put together!

But S. Dorman has. Fantastic Travelogue: Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis Talk Things over in The Hereafter

"Dressed as though for bed, a young man is walking a path in the nightshade of trees where moths sip nourishment among bark crevices. It is a moonlit night among the fresh breezes of the miscellaneous headwaters of the mighty Mississippi. Here are all manner of lakes, streams, bogs and aquifers, replete with birds and rushes and grasses and willows; the sounding of peepers and wheedling of insects. Here are moths sucking the sap of the straight trunks in the mild spring evening somewhere in the thoughts of God.

Walking watchfully along he draws upon a cheap cigarette, stoking a tiny artificial glow. The path dips down and curves. He finds himself near the shoreline of a lake where, on a great rock, a figure in white is sitting, also smoking. The thump of the young man's tread sounds upon the uneven path, and the figure turns, his white hair gleaming in a cloud of cigar smoke, exhalations of the finest cigar tobacco.

"Good evening," he says in a voice something like a cross of American soft and southern with a Midwestern tang.

“Hullo!” says the other, surprised. “Wasn’t quite expecting anyone out here.”

Read more of the excerpt here.

Another excerpt.

Order directly from the printer.
sartorias: (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] burger_eater, Betsy Mitchell speaks up on what she rejected in 2009. She gets more specific in the comments.

The hope note is that indeed, new people do get read and published--in fact, [livejournal.com profile] burger_eater himself is evidence. His insanely fast-paced, very dark fantasy Child of Fire is a first. If you go back in his journal, you can track his progress, because he talked about it upfront--first the many rewrites, then the systematic agent search, then the long white-knuckle wait for the agent to send it out . . . and then the buy. Then the editorial rewrite. So yup, it still can happen, even in this economic climate.

The downer note is that line about "beautifully written but hard to promote." I can't help but think that this is exactly the kind of thing that longtime readers really long for--something that more or less lands in their favorite edge of the genre pool . . . but different. (And of course definitions of "beautifully written" are going to vary.)

But the main buyership out there--first timers, folks who maybe read ten books a year, if that, folks who only like one type of book but really, really like it and will only buy that--still want clear category, or the numbers would change.

So I hope those beautifully written but tough to categorize (that's what tough to promote means) books end up published somewhere, probably in a more venturesome venue. That's why I really like it when people talk about small press discoveries.
sartorias: (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] burger_eater, Betsy Mitchell speaks up on what she rejected in 2009. She gets more specific in the comments.

The hope note is that indeed, new people do get read and published--in fact, [livejournal.com profile] burger_eater himself is evidence. His insanely fast-paced, very dark fantasy Child of Fire is a first. If you go back in his journal, you can track his progress, because he talked about it upfront--first the many rewrites, then the systematic agent search, then the long white-knuckle wait for the agent to send it out . . . and then the buy. Then the editorial rewrite. So yup, it still can happen, even in this economic climate.

The downer note is that line about "beautifully written but hard to promote." I can't help but think that this is exactly the kind of thing that longtime readers really long for--something that more or less lands in their favorite edge of the genre pool . . . but different. (And of course definitions of "beautifully written" are going to vary.)

But the main buyership out there--first timers, folks who maybe read ten books a year, if that, folks who only like one type of book but really, really like it and will only buy that--still want clear category, or the numbers would change.

So I hope those beautifully written but tough to categorize (that's what tough to promote means) books end up published somewhere, probably in a more venturesome venue. That's why I really like it when people talk about small press discoveries.
sartorias: (Default)


Ars Memoriae by Beth Bernobich.

Commander Adrian Dee (who is pestered by false memories) is sent by her Hibernic Majesty to investigate some mysterious political machinations in Austria and Montenegro, though the trouble might actually be treachery closer to home.

One of the elements of steampunk is clocks, and while this story does not contain an orrery, it has balloons and mathematical mysteries concerning the nature of time, as well as spies and action.

I compare it to Shostakovich's 11th--deceptively slow beginning, as Dee waits upon the young queen with whom he has some sort of past, and visits each member of her inner council. Then he travels to Europe, using disguises and code words set up according to diplomatic useage . . . which gets him into trouble. Somewhere along the line, he's been betrayed. He has no idea if he's been sold out locally--or back at the capital, so he can trust no one. Communicate with no one.

As he travels on, using his wits and experience, he's still pestered by weird memories. The story builds to a crashing crescendo, like the Shostakovich piece, which was inspired by politics at that very time.

There is easily enough material here for a full novel; readers might wish the climax was explored more fully, but overall I am left longing for more about this world, how it works, and above all, more about Commander Adrian Dee.

I asked the author some questions about this novella and about steampunk in general, in hopes that our exchange might spark off some discussion.

Smith: Why is steampunk sexy?

Beth: I've wondered that myself. I think it's because of the contrast between the strict, staid Victorian era and the exuberance of steampunk fiction. And the technology used in steampunk is so very rugged and physical and...

*pauses to fan self*

Smith: Heh! ‘Rugged and physical’ and stylish. My son was watching the Back to the Future Trilogy recently. I walked in just as the last film was ending—and there was the Doc and his teacher wife and their futuristic flying train. It hit me that that picture absolutely captured Steampunk—the immensely stylish retro clothing, the beautiful pre-art nouveau design work on the train, the combination of steam and magic.

BethYes! Trains and flying machines are both romantic images that frequently show up in steampunk. I think that’s because they combine science--the idea of progress which is another characteristic of the age--and great style.

Smith: My understanding is, steampunk is nor just about steam, but about fin de siecle styles, and nascent governments breaking the economic and political as well as cultural traditions of empire. It seems to me that breaking the hold of super-powers is relevant today. Same with the sense of the working man feeling helpless against those powers—and finding ways to harness it. And as for the sense that machines are one step from magic, as tech changes accelerate rapidly . . . well, I see parallels.

On the other hand, some say Steampunk is all about clocks. Gears. Wheels and time. One of the strong draws of your stories set in this milieu is how you use numbers and time. Did your exploration of mathematics and the limitations of time arise out of the setting, or did the idea come first, and you imposed the vaguely Ruritanian, pre-WW I setting?

Beth: As usual, the whole thing came to me backwards, and in pieces. I had
never heard of steampunk, and I had no grand ideas about addressing the limitations of time. I just had an image of a young woman whispering prime numbers. Eventually, after quite a few false starts, that image turned into the first Eireann story ("A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange").

Smith: That is one of my favorite stories of the past ten years.

Beth: It was Oliver Sacks’s book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, that gave me the image I described. There’s a chapter where Sacks tells about his encounter with two brothers, twins, who could visualize multi-digit prime numbers--and this was back in the days before supercomputers. I decided to write about a different pair of twins, mathematical geniuses who were obsessed by prime numbers, to the point where the sister was driven mad by them--or so her brother and the doctors believed.

At first, I set the story in the real world in England, but as I struggled through the first draft, a second image came to me--that of a red balloon drifting through the sky--which gave me the story of the queen and her lover. From there all the details of the alternate world just spilled out.

Smith: Purely for the fun of the history geek, did your timeline diverge around 1603?

Beth: Further back, actually. I decided that Henry II’s invasion of Ireland didn’t succeed because the Irish formed an alliance with the Danes of Northern England. They divided England between them, with the southern part of England becoming the Anglian Dependencies.

Smith: I so hope there going to be a novel about these people and this setting?

Beth: I am currently waiting for word about a proposal for just that. The plan is to base the novel on the existing three Eireann stories (“A Flight of Numbers,” “The Golden Octopus,” and Ars Memoriae), with a fourth, new segment that will finally address the problem of the Anglians, tie up all the loose ends, and bring Eireann fully into the 20th century.
sartorias: (Default)


Ars Memoriae by Beth Bernobich.

Commander Adrian Dee (who is pestered by false memories) is sent by her Hibernic Majesty to investigate some mysterious political machinations in Austria and Montenegro, though the trouble might actually be treachery closer to home.

One of the elements of steampunk is clocks, and while this story does not contain an orrery, it has balloons and mathematical mysteries concerning the nature of time, as well as spies and action.

I compare it to Shostakovich's 11th--deceptively slow beginning, as Dee waits upon the young queen with whom he has some sort of past, and visits each member of her inner council. Then he travels to Europe, using disguises and code words set up according to diplomatic useage . . . which gets him into trouble. Somewhere along the line, he's been betrayed. He has no idea if he's been sold out locally--or back at the capital, so he can trust no one. Communicate with no one.

As he travels on, using his wits and experience, he's still pestered by weird memories. The story builds to a crashing crescendo, like the Shostakovich piece, which was inspired by politics at that very time.

There is easily enough material here for a full novel; readers might wish the climax was explored more fully, but overall I am left longing for more about this world, how it works, and above all, more about Commander Adrian Dee.

I asked the author some questions about this novella and about steampunk in general, in hopes that our exchange might spark off some discussion.

Smith: Why is steampunk sexy?

Beth: I've wondered that myself. I think it's because of the contrast between the strict, staid Victorian era and the exuberance of steampunk fiction. And the technology used in steampunk is so very rugged and physical and...

*pauses to fan self*

Smith: Heh! ‘Rugged and physical’ and stylish. My son was watching the Back to the Future Trilogy recently. I walked in just as the last film was ending—and there was the Doc and his teacher wife and their futuristic flying train. It hit me that that picture absolutely captured Steampunk—the immensely stylish retro clothing, the beautiful pre-art nouveau design work on the train, the combination of steam and magic.

BethYes! Trains and flying machines are both romantic images that frequently show up in steampunk. I think that’s because they combine science--the idea of progress which is another characteristic of the age--and great style.

Smith: My understanding is, steampunk is nor just about steam, but about fin de siecle styles, and nascent governments breaking the economic and political as well as cultural traditions of empire. It seems to me that breaking the hold of super-powers is relevant today. Same with the sense of the working man feeling helpless against those powers—and finding ways to harness it. And as for the sense that machines are one step from magic, as tech changes accelerate rapidly . . . well, I see parallels.

On the other hand, some say Steampunk is all about clocks. Gears. Wheels and time. One of the strong draws of your stories set in this milieu is how you use numbers and time. Did your exploration of mathematics and the limitations of time arise out of the setting, or did the idea come first, and you imposed the vaguely Ruritanian, pre-WW I setting?

Beth: As usual, the whole thing came to me backwards, and in pieces. I had
never heard of steampunk, and I had no grand ideas about addressing the limitations of time. I just had an image of a young woman whispering prime numbers. Eventually, after quite a few false starts, that image turned into the first Eireann story ("A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange").

Smith: That is one of my favorite stories of the past ten years.

Beth: It was Oliver Sacks’s book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, that gave me the image I described. There’s a chapter where Sacks tells about his encounter with two brothers, twins, who could visualize multi-digit prime numbers--and this was back in the days before supercomputers. I decided to write about a different pair of twins, mathematical geniuses who were obsessed by prime numbers, to the point where the sister was driven mad by them--or so her brother and the doctors believed.

At first, I set the story in the real world in England, but as I struggled through the first draft, a second image came to me--that of a red balloon drifting through the sky--which gave me the story of the queen and her lover. From there all the details of the alternate world just spilled out.

Smith: Purely for the fun of the history geek, did your timeline diverge around 1603?

Beth: Further back, actually. I decided that Henry II’s invasion of Ireland didn’t succeed because the Irish formed an alliance with the Danes of Northern England. They divided England between them, with the southern part of England becoming the Anglian Dependencies.

Smith: I so hope there going to be a novel about these people and this setting?

Beth: I am currently waiting for word about a proposal for just that. The plan is to base the novel on the existing three Eireann stories (“A Flight of Numbers,” “The Golden Octopus,” and Ars Memoriae), with a fourth, new segment that will finally address the problem of the Anglians, tie up all the loose ends, and bring Eireann fully into the 20th century.
sartorias: ("Butler sneaks a read" (Der Buecherwurm)




Shadow Conspiracy Offered by the Book View Café.

A group of authors with long and award-gemmed publishing histories put together a Steampunk idea and timeline. Basically, in the Year Without a Summer, the Shelley and Byron ménage halted in Geneva, hemmed by rotten weather, as we know. In addition to the days and nights of creativity this anthology has posited that early scientists, including John Polidori, who accompanied Lord Byron as his physician, are working on a radical invention that might preserve the soul of a diseased person—permanently. The result spawns secrets, destroyed lives, and hidden coded papers.

Years later, Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace meets up with Charles Babbage, inventor of the analytical engine; she invents the “automatic sciences,” allowing the creation of machines that mimic human action, and even human thought. Once again, history has changed, as politicians and economic manipulators as well as adventurers all try to discover the secrets of Ada Lovelace—and she carries on her dreams.

The stories are quite different, ranging from Steven Piziks’ dark, tense “The Soul Jar” to Jennifer Stevenson’s lighter, mannered “A Princess of Wittgenstein.” I enjoyed them all, especially Sarah Zettel’s “The Persistence of Souls,” which captures the period tone, verisimilitude in period characters, and blends tension, scientific and emotional conflicts. Judith Tarr’s “The Sister of Perpetual Adoration” begins with what one would think (and enjoy, if you’re me) is a fairly predictable turn-the-tables tale. A young Victorian lady who is trying an experiment permits a really nasty rake to draw her off of a walking party, though she suspects he’s up to no good—though in truth she can handle herself. But when a storm overtakes them and they find themselves in a secluded monastery, things take some very odd turns.

The overall effect is a delicious world, if you like a fictional orrery powered by retro-Victorian style, science, and magic. The possibilities make me hope that there will be more stories using this setting.




Lovers’ Knot, by Donald Hardy.

Jonathan Williams has inherited an estate. With his best friend Alayne Langford in tow, Jonathan leaves London for the country to take possession, and learn what it’s like to live as the landed gentry. He’d been there fourteen years earlier, the hot summer days filled with wandering, swims in the sea--and the pleasures of discovering a new friend, Nat. That was also a summer of rumors and strange happenings, romantic triangles and wronged lovers. By the summer’s end, one young man was dead, and another haunted for life.

Now Jonathan is determined to start anew. Until he starts seeing the ghost of his former friend everywhere he looks.

Hardy is an experienced RenFaire and Shakespearean actor, which informs his ability to evoke mood and time. I read this story in beta, and thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the attention to detail, and the subtle way Hardy wove in magic before one was aware it was there. The central romance is delightfully done, and very much in period.

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