“We Clever Jacks”, by Greg van Eekhout

October 4, 2016 Leave a comment

“We Clever Jacks” is a story about a Halloween rebellion, of a kind, from one class of unspoken victim of the holiday.

Non-Spoiler Summary

We pick them, we bring them home, we hollow them out, we give them faces… but nothing more.  They want more.  So much more.

Why should you read it?

“We Clever Jacks” is a sad and funny piece, about a page long, about the fate of jack-o’-lanterns, who don’t want to just be sitting on porches.  They want to rise up.

This is another story that’s so short, you may as well read it instead of reading me convincing you to read it.

Where to find “We Clever Jacks”

This story is available freely on van Eekhout’s website, Writing and Snacks. It is also available in audio form from Podcastle.

(I have been meaning to post this in October for at least two years, now.)

Categories: Uncategorized

“Mutant”, by Michael Montoure

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

“Mutant” is a story about a familiar figure from song and story, told very differently.

[Updates, two:  I forgot to mention that I know Michael Montoure personally, although this story was a complete surprise to me when I found it, and that the web page I link to below has broken headers, as of 12/21/15.  The story is present on the page and perfectly readable.]

Non-Spoiler Summary

Ever wonder if Rudolph actually liked saving the day, that Christmas?  He didn’t.  Oh, how he didn’t.

Why should you read it?

Because in about a page, Montoure can make you look at a story you’ve known your whole life a new way, teach you some things about inclusion and exclusion, and make you fear for next Christmas.

Where to find “Mutant”

This story is available freely on Montoure’s website, Bloodletters.  Find it here.

Read _The Martian_.

August 25, 2015 Leave a comment

That the imperative form, not the past tense–I just said “reed” The Martian, not “red” The Martian. Which I have also done, twice, but I’m telling you that if you haven’t, you should.

(People ranging from Adam Savage of Mythbusters to Barack Obama of the White House are also recommending this book, so I’m not alone. Not hardly.)

_The Martian_ is the story of the third manned trip to Mars. The first one to experience any real difficulty. A sandstorm. It forces the month-long trip to be aborted after less than a week. It causes them to leave for Earth, and kills one of the crew members.

Except, y’know, it _doesn’t_. It leaves Mark Watney supposedly dead and abandoned on Mars. Alone. For the first time in human history, there is only one person on a planet. And nobody knows he’s there.

He tries to survive one day. Then another. Then another. And things happen. I have now spoiled the first, oh, five pages of the book. Maybe a bit more.

This book is very much for anyone who thought that the best part of Apollo 13 was when the flight director dumped a pile of parts the Apollo astronauts would have out on the table and said “We need to connect this [one port] to that [another port] using only this [pile of junk].” This phrasing is not original to me, but it is both apt and funny, so I’m stealing it.

It is also for anyone who recognizes and values human ingenuity, dignity, heroism, sacrifice, and several other high-minded emotions I can’t even name without getting sucked back into a complete re-read of the book.

Yes, it gets math-ey, in some places. If the numbers bug you or bore you, skip them. Some of them aren’t exactly right anyway, and very few of them are important to the story of a man who will. Not. Give. Up.

There’s a movie coming. Let me tell you, I avoided the trailer as long as I could, because I didn’t need to be sold. I was going first weekend, likely first night. But when I saw it, a _trailer_ made me weep. Weep. My son Joshua asked me if I was okay, the tears came so hard and fast.

I have recommended many works of fiction over my years as a bookseller and after. _The Martian_ gets my very highest recommendation.

Categories: Recommendations Tags:

Not going to do it.

August 27, 2013 2 comments

Heh. I proved to myself that I could get my goal met in the rest of the year with a near month-long sprint a couple of months ago. . . and then found out that I didn’t want to. Honestly, folks, while I’m still looking to the Hugo list for reading suggestions, I’ve been focussing on technical reading and reading longer fiction right now. And reading for comfort.

I don’t think anyone is disappointed but me, but I’m releasing myself from a goal. Stuff will appear here when I have something so good you need to know about it. . . not because I have a goal to hit, that I’m not enjoying.

Sorry, and glad.

Categories: Uncategorized

“San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats”, by Mira Grant

“San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is a 2012 science fiction short story by Mira Grant, who is also known as Seanan McGuire.  It is currently nominated for the Hugo for Best Novella of 2013.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is the story of some attendees at San Diego Comic Con.  When the zombies attack.  And how the humans react.

Why should you read it?

You shouldn’t.  Unless you’ve already read Feed, and the rest of the Newsflesh trilogy, and then you either know you don’t want you, or you don’t need me to pitch this story, except to say that it’s an early days story of the Newsflesh universe.  All three books of the trilogy were nominated for the Hugo, and this spin-off; I’m not the only one who likes this series.

Where to find “San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats”

This story is not available freely.  You can purchase it from Amazon for the Kindle for $2.99, and it’s well worth the cost.

“The Fort Moxie Branch”, by Jack McDevitt

“The Fort Moxie Branch” is a 1988 science fiction short story by Jack McDevitt.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1989.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“The Fort Moxie Branch” is the story of a discouraged writer who sees a nearby house… changing.  He goes to visit and find out what happens, and it’s been turned into the Fort Moxie branch of the John of Singletary Library.  And the librarian has a very interesting offer for him….

Why should you read it?

Because it’s so full of hope.  For struggle.  For humanity.  Because the librarian makes perfectly good points that are still infuriating.

The writer is being invited to have some of his work included in the Library.  It’s a library of lost works, of books that didn’t fit their times, so they didn’t sell, or couldn’t be released, or something.  And it’s a story full of hope.

Where to find “The Fort Moxie Branch”

This story is available online from the publisher, Baen Books.

“Fermi and Frost”, by Frederik Pohl

“Fermi and Frost” is a 1985 science fiction short story by Frederik Pohl.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1986.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Fermi and Frost” is the story of a SETI astronomer who’s at an airport when a global nuclear war begins.  He rescues a small boy from horrible, overcrowded conditions and in in turn rescued by a fan of his work, and put on a plane to Iceland, which is assumed to be safe.  It turns out that Reykjavik is destroy, but the rest of Iceland survives the nuclear war.  Can it survive the nuclear winter?  Well, there’s no longer a sun… but Iceland has some geothermal energy to count on, and underground spaces can be converted to various kinds of farming…  I won’t spoil whether or not they survive, but I will tell you they do better than anyone else on Earth.  Which is to say, they’re the last survivors.

Why should you read it?

Because the portrayal of people trying to survive without a sun, but with other advantages, is fascinating.  Unfortunately, Pohl’s choice of presenting multiple options and then choosing one for you is off-puttingly old-fashioned, but for the most part, when he’s not doing that, the writing is as good as anything he’s ever done.  In fact, I’d go as far to say that this is half a story from the 1950’s and half from the 2000’s.

Where to find “Fermi and Frost”

This story was re-published in 2005 in Platinum Pohl: The Collected Best Stories, which is currently available from the King County Library System.  It does not appear to be freely available in text or in audio.