Archive for January, 2011

A Tim Pratt road-trip triptych.

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Thought I was gonna miss my deadline, didn’t you? Be honest–you wanted to see me crash and burn. Ha!

I actually have a mostly done draft of another post ready, but as some of you know, I’ve been on a road-trip this week, driving about 2,500 miles, from Washington to California and back. That’s consumed a lot of podcasts. Lots of stories, but three stand out. As I’m currently in the parking lot of a Jack in the Fog, I thought I’d write something fresh. This does mean I’m invoking the rule that allows me to have crap formatting…. Until I clean the post up, later.

Remember when I said I wasn’t going to recommend any more Tim Pratt for a while? Sorry, man. He’s just excellent.   I’m also not going to apologize for the fact that all three of these are available freely only in audio.  Either learn to read with your ears or toss the man some money.  The print link is to his collection Hart and Boot and Other Stories.  Well, okay, that’s not possible, but I can’t even pick which stories to tell you it contains, I like them all so much.  Does include “Impossible Dreams” and “Terrible Ones”….

Podcastle 136: “The Christmas Mummy” (audio)
Podcastle 140: “Terrible Ones” (NOT FOR CHILDREN) (audio or print)
EscapePod 276: “On A Blade Of Grass” (NOT FOR CHILDREN) (audio)

“The Christmas Mummy”: Tim actually wrote with his wife, Heather Shaw, and I do apologize to Heather for getting this far without mentioning her, but again, writing on smartphone in fog. The story… Imagine if your weird uncle was Indiana Jones instead of being an embarrassing alcoholic. Then imagine that his archenemy sends you a gift. Imagine further that that gift is a mummy, and it arrives on Christmas. Very funny.

“Terrible Ones”: Tim, you need to follow up this short story with a series of novels. I love Marla, but I could love Zara, too. Please give me the chance?  See, Zara is an actress, who starts out in a classic Greek play… Before she gets selected for a very different role in Greek mythology. Which I guess isn’t mythology if it’s real. Which it is. In this story. It’s important that you know I can tell the difference.

“On A Blade Of Grass”: a great story about interstellar war and intestinal parasites that is not at all harmed by being surrounded by the second funniest bit of writing I’ve ever heard Norm Sherman do.

Also, Tim posts stuff about his son, River, and the adventures that River has at Tim’s day job, to Twitter, and it’s often hilarious and touching. Look for hashtag #officebaby or just mentions of Officebaby.

Update 2/8/11: “On A Blade of Grass” is now available as part of the Sound-Proof Escape Pod #4.

_Ender’s Game_, by Orson Scott Card

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I feel like I’m cheating by recommending Ender’s Game.  It’s not free, it’s not short, it won the Hugo and the Nebula, and you’ve all already heard about it.  I’d be very surprised if less than 75% of you have read it already.  So this week, I’m speaking to the very few people who’ve missed it somehow.

What are you waiting for?  There’s a reason it won the Hugo and the Nebula!  It’s very very good, and it’s important to the history of science fiction, and it’s even considered an important novel outside the genre.  And it’s very very good.  Did I mention that?

Ender’s Game is the story of Andrew Wiggin, nicknamed Ender.  As the novel begins, he’s at the tail end of a period of consideration for military service.  He’s been watched by a “monitor” in the back of his neck, and he has it removed  pretty much as the novel starts.  Shortly after that, they decide that he’s a fit candidate to go to Battle School and learn to fight, to lead men, to be the next Genghis Khan.

Did I mention that he’s five?

Humanity is facing an opponent that they can’t defeat, and so they need a new kind of general, and they need him fast.  They’re starting with children, and exposing them to carefully constructed games that teach them, shape them, and allow their talents to be seen.

Ender is very good at these games.  Very very good.

The book is the story of his training and what he goes through during the effort to make him the general they need.  If you think you can subject a child, eventually a pre-teen, to the stresses of military school without effect, well, you’re wrong.

Ender’s Game spawned off three direct sequels, a parallel series focussing on one of the other characters, and several other works featuring Ender.  You don’t have to read any of them.  To some extent, I’d suggest you don’t.  This book stands best on its own.  Most all of the other works in the world are fine reads, but none of them is as important, or as good, as the original.

Copies of Ender’s Game are trivially easy to find new, only slightly less easy to find used, and available in every library in the known universe.

“Reparations”, by Merrie Haskell

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

We bombed Hiroshima.  We bombed Nagasaki.  Seventy-five thousand people killed on the first day, and another hundred and fifty thousand dying over the next two years.

I’ve read the arguments.  I hear the assertion that more lives were saved by killing these people.  Part of me even believes it.  Sometimes.

But despite that, my country burned more people to death in atomic fire than I will meet in my entire lifetime.  And I can’t do anything about it.

But what if you could?  What if you could go back and help the survivors?  What if time travel was real and you could go back and offer aid and comfort to the survivors of this horror?  Would you do it?

Would you do it over and over?

And what would it do to you if you did?

“Reparations” is not an easy story.  And again, like last week, I’m not even really recommending it for the plot.  It’s the experience of watching Laura do what. . . needs to be done.  What must be done, once it’s possible.  Addressing this incredible inhumanity in the only way one can: by going back and helping.

As a person of Jewish extraction, I’ve always found something of a balance between the Holocaust and usage of the atomic bomb.  World War II was not a humane war.  But in the context of this story, it’s finally made a human war.

Text of “Reparations”
Audio of “Reparations”

“Kimberley Ann Duray is Not Afraid”, by Leah Bobet

January 6, 2011 2 comments

Leah Bobet has written some very atmospheric pieces, including “Furnace Room Lullaby”, that demonstrate to me that she is a very good writer with the potential to get even better.  I did not select this story on the strength of the writing.  In fact, I don’t even think this is the best of her stories from that angle.

No, I picked this one because of the idea, and my reaction to it.  And the fact that nearly a year later, I still think about this story, when hundreds of others–even better ones–have gone by the wayside.

You see, Kimberley Ann works in the Bruce clinic, which is bombed at the start of this story.  You’re supposed to think about abortion clinic bombings, but this isn’t an abortion clinic.  It’s a race-change clinic.  It caters to people who, like those who find themselves in a body of the wrong gender, identify as something inside that they aren’t outside.

I’ve seen people in my life go through changes of religion, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, and legal status.  The simple idea of a process that can move you from one race to another hit me completely without warning.  Is race a social construct?  Does it continue to exist truly because we don’t have any options with regards to it?  As a Caucasian, race is slightly baffling to me–if you ask me to define myself in a limited number of words, the number would get pretty high before “white” was one of the things I listed.  This story made me think about that assumption, and stop taking it for granted.

Text of “Kimberley Ann Duray is Not Afraid”
“Kimberley Ann Duray is Not Afraid” does not appear to have an audio version available.


January 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Started off like I expected, posts coming out easily, and then life kicked up. The tiny backlog I’d built up went away in no time. Last post was in October. Blogfade? Bah.

Enough. I’m committing to a new recommendation every Thursday by 11:35 PM. I reserve the right for posts to be short, badly formatted, or not about new material or authors. (If I get desperate, I can always recommend Tim Pratt’s stuff over and over again.) Certainly, I’m not going to be bothering with Amazon links any more. Was fooling myself with that from day one.

Also, a new meta post during the first week of every month.

Let’s talk on 1/1/12, and see if I delivered at least 64 new posts this year…. One down, sixty-three to go.


Categories: Meta