Saturday, March 31, 2007

Assorted Links of Interest On the Hugo 2007

Jed Hartman's journal offers these: "Hugo Complaining as a Spectator Sport," where he covers several of the complaints out there and responds. And he also posted on "Women on the Hugo Ballot." This year, one woman--ONE--shows up in the 20 fiction nominees among the four categories. That does make The Mir raise a surprised and wondering eyebrow. He suggests ways to improve the profile of XX writers in the future. Anne/Netmouse is calling for reading suggestions from folks who thought certain women authors SHOULD have been on the list of nominees. If you have a name or two, comment on her blog.

Here's a blog entry on the art nominees, with links for each artist.

Here are the fiction works available online:

"The Walls of the Universe" by Paul Melko (novella)
"Inclination" by William Shunn (novella)
"All the Things You Are" by Mike Resnick (novelette)
"The House Beyond Your Sky" by Benjamin Rosenbaum (short story)
BLINDSIGHT by Peter Watts (novel)

Agent Kristin Nelson On What You Should Hone

A writer’s voice is the singularly most important aspect of writing and I hear that from editors with every conversation.

A writer can have a good, high concept idea but without voice… it’s a car with an engine but it’s not going anywhere.

And plot can be fixed. Voice can’t. You either have it or you don’t.

So if you are a struggling-to-publish writer, honing your voice should be your top priority.
--Kristin Nelson, from a blog entry March 29, 2007.

Ever-helpful Mir-related note:
I posted five entries on "voice and style" over at Speculative Faith.
See the list here.

~~

Friday, March 30, 2007

Count The Mir In As a New Jim Butcher Fan

As my blog readers know, I am not enthused about the Sci-Fi channel's THE DRESDEN FILES. The show puts me to sleep.

Josh Vogt insisted in comments the books are worth reading. I took his word and got a copy of STORM FRONT, the first novel in the series by Jim Butcher.

Josh was right. The novel is oodles of wizardy, urban fantasy fun. (And it reminds me of the novel I'm plotting even now, oddly enough. Maybe it's that urban fantasy vibe I so dig.)

Anyway, I just five minutes ago finished STORM FRONT (a quick and fast-paced read) and loved Harry, loved the pizza-loving fairies, loved the zippy pace, loved some of the angsty touches. Just had a whole lotta fun, fun, fun. Butcher knows how to paint Harry into a breathlessly dangerous corner, and he's a smart enough writer to know how to do the preceding set-ups so that there is always an out for Harry, though you might not expect the "how." It's all justified.

The proof I had a grand old time: I just ordered books 2 through 5. I would have ordered 6, but I like that promotion thing amazon.com has where you buy 4 eligible paperbacks and get one free. So, I got the four, got one free, and with my gift certificate that arrived in the mail yesterday, I actually was owed a buck and change. So, this batch of fantasy cost me zip.

I like that a lot, too.

So, if I feel like it, I'll post a review in the coming days. But if I don't, take my word for it: If you like mystery-thrillers with lots of action and a dose of humor and a fast pace, and more than a dose of magic, start reading THE DRESDEN FILE novels. And forget about the crappy show. The book's Harry has it on. The show's Harry is a ho-hummer.

Oh, and if you buy the book(s), please use my portals below. I covet amazon.com points.

Are You Writing A Novel for the YA Market?

Then you need to know about these contests.

"What Makes A Christian Novel Christian?"

The crew over at Charis Connection takes on the question, "What makes a 'Christian novel' Christian?"

In case you missed it last summer, I took on a similar challenge at SPECULATIVE FAITH by answering, "What makes 'Christian Speculative Fiction' Christian, anyway?"

Hugo Nominations Up at Locus

Head over to Locus for the complete list. I was delighted to see John Jude Palencar get his first nomination. (I just ordered his book from amazon, LOVE his art!) Oh, and note the link to one of the short stories and a novelette available online, and also to BLINDSIGHT.

I see that Tor did amazingly well in the novel category, and Asimov's ruled the shorter fiction categories:

NOVEL
Blindsight, Peter Watts (Tor) *
Eifelheim, Michael Flynn (Tor)
Glasshouse, Charles Stross (Ace)
His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik (Ballantine Del Rey; Voyager as Temeraire)
Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge (Tor)

NOVELLA
"A Billion Eves", Robert Reed (Asimov's Oct/Nov 2006)
"Inclination", William Shunn (Asimov's Apr/May 2006)
Julian: A Christmas Story, Robert Charles Wilson (PS Publishing)
"Lord Weary's Empire", Michael Swanwick (Asimov's Dec 2006)
"The Walls of the Universe", Paul Melko (Asimov's Apr/May 2006)

NOVELETTE
"All the Things You Are", Mike Resnick (Jim Baen's Universe Oct 2006)
"Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth", Michael F. Flynn (Asimov's Oct/Nov 2006)
"The Djinn's Wife", Ian McDonald (Asimov's Jul 2006)
"Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)", Geoff Ryman (F&SF Oct 2006)
"Yellow Card Man", Paolo Bacigalupi (Asimov's Dec 2006)

SHORT STORY
"Eight Episodes", Robert Reed (Asimov's Jun 2006)
"The House Beyond Your Sky", Benjamin Rosenbaum (Strange Horizons Sep 2006)
"How to Talk to Girls at Parties", Neil Gaiman (Fragile Things)
"Impossible Dreams", Tim Pratt (Asimov's Jul 2006)
"Kin", Bruce McAllister (Asimov's Feb 2006)

You might note this little anti-theist dig in the protog's POV in the prologue, third pragraph, of BLINDSIGHT:
His parents had never had him optimized. Those few TwenCen relics who still believed in God also held that one shouldn't try to improve upon His handiwork. So although both of us could have been repaired, only one of us had been.

I don't know about your brand of Christianity, but most of the folks I know who believe in God would happily cure their kids' nearsightedness and acne and substance abuses. I think many of us would not blink at genetic manipulation if it fixed things that hurt our kids or ourselves. I'd happily submit to genetic fixes for my bad eyesight, zits, asthma, allergies, autoimmune misfunctions, and thyroid dysfunction. Note he doesn't specify a specific sect or subset of a faith. Just "who still believed in God." So, color me miffed.

And I"m guessing groups of non-theists would oppose it, just as New Agey types who believe in no particular God oppose genetic modification of veggies and fruits and grains for other reasons than religion.

Whether that's just a character trait distant from the author, or the author's anti-theist slip showing, I dunno. But there ya go...

Speculative Faith Friday Post is UP!

Read it now:

The Creation of a Christian SF Story: "Waiting for Appa"

It's part one:

Sometimes, a story or a poem takes weeks or months, revision after revision, before it has any shape at all.

Sometimes, it comes out fast, and, though it may not be ground-breaking or brilliant, it comes out with a clear shape and tone and enough emotional punch to work. And, unexpectedly, it develops its biblical themes simultaneously with the plot and characters.

I wrote “Waiting for Appa” in five hours. Because it happened so quickly, I can analyze its birth and evolution without too much trouble and without overly taxing my lousy memory. So, I will, for those interested in one person's creative process.

What Topics for Speculative Faith

Chime in. I'm looking for ideas on future Spec Faith posts.

What would you like to see discussed at Speculative Faith that you haven't seen touched on yet. (I've done myths/fairy tales, attempted to define CSF, analyzed specific stories by name authors to see if they were CSF, I've posted a series on "voice and style", etc.)

More story analysis? A particular topic? A particular novel?

Suggest away.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Speculating Runs Amok Due to Artwork on Various Harry Potter "Hallows" Covers

How fun. The book isn't here yet, but we have four months to speculate about the events in the novel just from the cover art of the various editions of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. (Trivia: 784 pages, US edition.)

For those of you dissecting the previous Harry Potter cover we posted here at Mirathon and other sites, make sure you take a look at this lovely close-up of the UK edition over at the Leaky Cauldron.

I've browsed a few of the sites with speculations, which include:

1. An alchemical analysis of the serpent in the globe in the UK children's edition. Additionally, is that a prophecy about Nagini or about Slytherin or about Salazar S.? Or is it a crystal ball and is Trelawney about to prophesy again with key effects?
2. A discourse on the Christ motif in the American edition--what with Harry's body in a cross form, arms outstretched, one high to heaven, and the broken wood (chopping block for execution?) at his feet evocative of a demolished cross.
3. Dobby seemingly piggy-backed on Harry, brandishing a sword. (Will the house elves mass to battle on Harry's side?)
4. The masses of treasure in the UK children's version's art: a vault at Gringott's?
5. The stadium or colisseum background in the American edition: a showdown with an audience? An execution interrupted?
6. And what is that prominent helmet and breastplate with--what, a gryphon? a dragon?--in the UK kid's edition, sitting there amidst the treasure? If it's a gryphon then...Is this a Gryffindor vault? I'm thinking, yes, it's Gryffindor stuff and this is a vault at Gringott's relating to the G. Maybe something key is in there--a horcrux? Or perhaps Harry is assembling some special armor for the showdown. Gryffindor armor, sword, gauntlet, helm, and breastplate and...shield? Is that a shield there? And is that an arm-guard or leg-guard. Hard to tell what the silvery stuff is on the right.
7. Do the hand gestures and sight-lines of the American cover say something? Why are Lord Voldemort and Harry NOT looking at each other, but looking away at someone or something else? Speculations: Snape's surprise revelation of where he REALLY stands. (ie. he's a good guy, as I choose to believe, ergo Voldemort's distress and Harry's open palm.)
8. What do the hand gestures say, magically? Is Lord Voldemort warding off something that Harry has summoned with that upraised and open hand?
9. The UK adult editon has a locket with the Slytherin S and green stones. Just that. Is this the REAL locket that Dumbledore and Harry sought in the cave with the inferi? If so, RAB didn't destroy it, and Harry must find it in the last novel. And if it's on the cover, it's IMPORTANT. (Is this what Harry has around his neck in the US edition, but covered?)
10. The UK kid's edition back cover art has a huge full moon depicted in a landscape with Hogwarts (is it?) at night. Does that refer to werewolf (Lupin) activity being important?
11. And what's with the wounds evident on Hermione's and Harry's arms in the UK children's edition? Is the sword-wielder hidden cause it's NOT Dobby, but Kreacher? Are they cut or burned?
12. If the US cover is the showdown, then it looks like our boy Harry wins, cause Voldemort looks clearly on the shocked defensive. If the Christ imagery is right, then he may need to die to save the world. (I think he will die and somehow live again, as I've said before, completing the Christian imagery.)
13. Any significance to the bright white reflection in Harry's glasses? A patronus? A phoenix (there is also yellow and red). There's a fire feel to both the UK kid's and US covers (lots of reds and oranges), that make one think FIRE, FIRE. Also, Gryffindor colors, so perhaps it symbolizes the supremacy of the G over the S and Voldemort. OR, there will be a heckuva conflagration.
14. What is that thing around Harry's neck that you can't miss in the US edition? Is it a sack with an amulet or some talisman? Is it the locket we see on the UK adult edition, the one with the S in green stones? Why is Harry wearing it at the showdown?
15. What does the "Deathly Hallows" have to do with the cover? In the US editions, some speculate, the cover always shows something key to the title, whether it's the sorcerer's stone, the goblet of fire, the half-blood prince's potions, etc. So, what in the US cover connect to "deathly hallows"? Some say the "hallows" refers to the horcruxes. Some say the hallows refer to PEOPLE, and they might be the spectators that are shadows in the background of the US edition. (I dig that one.) If hallows is some sort of consecration or blessing, then deathly blessings may be some sort of what? Incantation or blessing that comes from the dead? We saw how Harry's mom and dad were able to help him in GofF. Perhaps spirits can aid yet again in some way. (I didn't come across that speculation. It's purely mine, and maybe incredibly stupid.)
Then again, maybe it refers to Halloween. Is it a "Deathly All Hallows Eve"? Will the showdown be on Haloween?
16. The curtains on the cover? I read one theory that it's the "closing curtain", symbolic of the saga's finale. Another theory says it refers to The Veil from OotP, where whispers are heard. Will Harry venture into the Veil? Or will Harry push Voldemart past the veil and into...what? The realm of the dead? Since I am convinced Harry has to, as Christ-figure, die and come back, perhaps it won't be a literal death, but a death of transition, ie., he goes to the "underworld" or the world beyond the veil to retrieve something or get particular knowledge? Perhaps THAT is the deathly hallows--whatever is beyond the veil, whatever is whispered to him or whatever consecration he receives.
17. Back to the curtain--or veil? Is that how Dumbledore appears to us again, given JKR had stated that Dumbledore was giving her fits in writing bookd 7? Will Sirius make an appearance that way? Will we see one or both when Harry enters the realm of the dead? Will the showdown be in that realm, hence the shady outlines in the US cover?

Expect more and wilder last minute theoris and speculations as July nears.

Lit Agent X Gives Advice on Hooks

It's a very good and to-the-points post, so just go read "Thoughts on Hooks."

Here's a taste:


5. IT COMES DOWN TO AN AGONIZING CHOICE
I've seen whole novels work as a buildup to the ending of a huge decision the protagonist must make... and choose wisely--make a selfish scared choice, or make the riskier self-sacrificial choice. I'm more interested in seeing what the protagonist is up against, and then have the question: How will she keep what she dearly wants but still rescue the man she owes her life to? So the question is how can she get everything she wants with the smallest casualty. I like how questions better. I'm not so interested in a choice that's A, B, or C. I want to see the protagonist choose D. None of the above and make her own way. If your book isn't so straightforward, don't let your hook suggest it's that simple either.

6. CLICHES
Visions and prophetic dreams, a quest to find a person or object, a portal into a new world, a girl who goes on disasterous dates until finding Mr. Right, etc. Read a lot. Know what's been done already so that you can do something new, different, better.

7. UNLIKEABLE CHARACTER
Get my sympathy or admiration, and I'm hooked.

POD Critic Does CHRONICLES OF SOONE

James Somers' THE CHRONICLES OF SOONE: Heir to the King gets the POD Critic treatment. (2 1/2 out of 4 stars). Read the review.

POD-DY MOUTH is defunct now, but this is a still-active site where POD books can get an editor's careful review. If you're a POD author, you need to bookmark this site, and maybe email the reviewer. (I dunno if he/she takes requests, but possibly.)

SCAR NIGHT: Urban Fantasy by Alan Campbell

This is what hooked me (from a starred PW review) into pre-ordering the paperback (emphases mine):

Campbell sets his stunning debut fantasy in Deepgate, a town wreathed in chains that keep it hanging suspended over a bottomless abyss, peopled by worshippers of Lord Ulcis, the god of chains, and tormented by a mad angel named Carnival. The author, who was a video game designer, renders Deepgate beautifully. It's a complex city of creaking metal links, stone and shadow, inhabited by priests, assassins and the boy-angel Dill, who will lead a journey into the abyss in a desperate attempt to save the city. Campbell has Neil Gaiman's gift for lushly dark stories and compelling antiheroes, and effortlessly channels the Victorian atmospherics of writer and illustrator Mervyn Peake as well. This imaginative first novel will have plenty of readers anxiously awaiting his follow-up.



Read the STRANGE HORIZONS review. Here is an excerpt:

Utilising elements of Christian and vampire mythology, Campbell also borrows freely from sources like Ghormenghast, Dickens, and the traditional coming of age parable. Re-inventing rather than recycling, (it's not often you get to read about a vampire angel whose modus operandi also hints at lycanthropic tendencies), Campbell serves up a dark, explosive fantasy that singles him out as one to watch.

His prose is vivid and evocative; Deepgate in particular is lovingly depicted, in passages which are as aural and tactile as they are visual. Here you're haunted by the creak and groan of a thousand chains of various sizes, a "tangle of metal that the smallest breath of wind set quivering and singing ", and elsewhere by smog so thick that "when you spat you looked to check if it was black" (p. 54). When it does come to visual description, Campbell has the eye of a film director, creating almost cinematic images in the mind:

A smoking fuel burner set low on the wall cast long shadows as he walked, intermittently covering and revealing the bruises on the two guards' faces. (p.268)

He's also unafraid to discard or re-mould fantasy traditions as he sees fit; if, for example, many fantasy writers remain loyal to the notion of a particular type of old-world vernacular, Campbell sees no reason not to use contemporary colloquialisms from our world if it will make his dialogue more fun to read:

Blood streaked the God's battered face. His massive chest rose and fell from exertion. He said, "You, my child, have seriously pissed me off." (p. 480)


If you've read it, tell me what you thought.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

And THIS Evangelical Says "Amen!"

"Christians are actually, to me, anyway, as a Jew, much more interesting in America. And weirdly, much more misunderstood. Evangelical Christians are the most incompetently portrayed group in America, in TV, in fiction, in the news. When Christians say that the media gets them wrong, Christians are absolutely right. Christian life in this country is really horribly documented, and way more interesting than is done. Generally, in the media, very religious Christians are portrayed as hardheaded doctrinaire knuckleheads. But in fact, from my experience, the most religious Christians I know tend to be incredibly thoughtful, complicated, generous to a fault, very principled and not knuckleheads. Actually, they're sort of weirdly the opposite of the stereotype, and that includes people from the hardcore fundamentalist faiths."

~~Ira Glass, in The Jewish Daily Forward.

hat tip to Elliot

Here It is: Cover Art of Final Harry Potter Book




See larger images (and all the different cover art for global releases of the final novel) HERE.

Some Fun Fantasy Digital Images

SEE THEM HERE AT WORTH1000

Really liked some of them. The blue/green cocoon one. The one after Caspar David Friedrich (whose art I dig as well). Those two best. Also like the one with the alien dreaming of the other side of the river.

And that's just page one. Check out the "leaping/dancing" tree on page two. "Options" on page three.

Go see.

hat tip to Christian Girl for linking to Worth1000, where I happened upon the fantasy art.

Saturn's Hexagon and "Eye": Freaky Planet!

Saturn is one freaky big ole planet.

Here are two pics to prove it. Number one:


In the north pole of the planet, we have a truly funky hexagonal thing going on:
Something downright weird has been sighted twirling over the north pole of Saturn: A long-lived double hexagon formed in the clouds.

The two six-sided features — one inside the other — are in stark contrast to the hurricane-like vortex that has been observed at the ringed planet's south pole. Both poles have been imaged by NASA's orbiting Cassini spacecraft.

"We haven't seen a (geometric) feature like this anywhere else on any other planet," said Cassini scientist Kevin Baines of the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's unbelievable."


And here's the other:

At the bottom of the giant planet, the southern pole, you get this startling bull's-eye pattern.

A hurricane-like storm two-thirds as wide as the Earth is raging on Saturn's south pole, new images from the Cassini spacecraft reveal. Such clear hurricane-like features have never before been seen on any other planet, but scientists are not sure what is causing them.


I think it's rather spooky, really. But then, anything that's hurricane-like scares this Miami-dwelling Mir.

Snazzy Poem by Mikal Trimm

I like the mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Read "An Atypical Reaction to the Death of the Sun and the Moon" over at STRANGE HORIZONS.

A killer last line.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Feel Like Entering Some Writing Contests?

Here's a terrific site with a bunch of contests with nice prizes:

Creative Writing Contests

~~

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2007 Colorado Gold Writing Contest includes a "speculative fiction" category. While the cash prize is not huge ($100), and there is an entry fee ($25), the final judge is promised to be an acquiring agent or editor who works with the genre.

~~


E.M. Koeppel $1,100 Short Fiction Award:

First Place Award: $1,100.
Editors' Choices: $100 each.
Maximum Length: 3,000 words. Stories must be unpublished.
Annual Submission Period: Between Oct. 1 and April 30. (Postmark Deadline, April 30)
Award winning fiction writers are the judges.
No limit on number of stories entered by any one writer.

~~

Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

First Prize: $1,000
Second and Third Prizes: $500
$10 entry fee. Postmark between May 1 and May 15

~~

L Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future
No entry fee. SF/F stories of up to 17K words.
Deadline for this cycle approaches: March 31, 2007

~~

12th Annual PARSEC Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story Contest
Holly Lisle is one of the judges. Stories up to 3500 words.
April 15 postmark deadline. FIRST PRIZE: $200.00 No entry fee.
Theme: FEWMETS AT THE END OF TIME

~~


Wanna write short? Then this: Whim's Place Flash Fiction Contest

First Place $250; Second Place $150 ;
Third Place $100; 5 Honorable Mentions $50 each
Entry fee: $5

Current deadline: March 30 (But another quarter's contest begins right after)

~~

And, of course, the second annual DKA Fiction Contest.
$5 entry fee
$60.00 first prize + publication + writing software from Jeff Gerke
Deadline: April 10, 2007
Themes: New life or Secrets
Length: 1,500 to 4,000 words
Must be speculative fiction (science fiction/fantasy)

~

V. Strauss on Stealth Vanity Publishers

Just another good Victoria Strauss blog post for the education of writers, who can so easily be ensnared in something iffy 'cause we get crazy to have our stuff published. (Well, some of you get crazy. I'm pretty calm and laidback and slothful.)

Read it all, then check out other entries you may have missed an the At Last! Writer Beware blog.

STEALTH VANITY PUBLISHERS

Yearning for Harry Potter Seven

Today, I had this particular urge to read the finale of the Potter saga. I still have to wait just under four months, though.

I expect Harry to die (in some fashion) in his valiant fight with Voldemort (cause, okay, I don't keep up with Potter-speculations, but I assume that Harry is himself a horcrux (the parseltongue, the sorting hat's wanting to put him in Slytherin, the connection to Voldemort, all those tell me part of Voldemort is almost surely inside Harry or the scar tissue.) I expect Harry to come back from the dead (in some fashion), because readers would be seriously ticked off if Harry stayed dead. Me included.

I also have no spent that much time thinking about it, so I may be way, way off base, speculations-wise. And that's fine, too. I just want to see how it all turns out.

And I'm getting antsy. Anyone else?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Making a Looker Out of Plain Jane Austen

Well, Jane Austen has received a posthumous makeover.

Here is Jane "before" in a portrait done by her sister Cassandra while the author lived:



Reports are that this was not a true image of Jane, that Cassandra's art was off and "hideous." Okay, maybe.

Here is the after:



Look. We don't really know what Jane looked like, although contemporaries reported her as attractive. Now, her books will show her as attractive. It certainly is a nicer image, cause what it comes down to is that Cassandra's portrait is really unappealing, as it gives Jane a dour and grumbly look. I don't imagine Jane Austen as pinch-mouthed and mean looking.

I am disturbed by the comments from the publisher:

Helen Trayler, the publisher's managing director, said: "She was not much of a looker. Very, very plain. Jane Austen wasn't very good looking. She's the most inspiring, readable author, but to put her on the cover wouldn't be very inspiring at all. It's just a bit off-putting.

"I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Sadly people do. If you look more attractive, you just stand out more. Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world and people do judge by appearance."


So, people are shallow and you just give in to it? Frankly, I think anyone out to purchase an Austen doesn't give a fig what she looked like. I would just put something nice on the cover, and ditch the ugly Cassandra portrait. Lots of images could portray a Regency milieu, a country estate, etc. Why does one need a portrait of Jane at all?

Emily Dickinson wasn't good looking, but who cares? Her poems had enough beauty. Why does the look of an author matter, really? Are we really that dumb to not buy a book cause the author's plain or fat or dorky or pimply?

Well, shoot, if they're gonna be fair, I expect to see makeovers of Whitman and Poe and Tennyson and Shakespeare. Those dudes were not exactly Gerard Butlers...

A Soon-To-Be Released Anthology of SF
Stories on the Subject of Jesus Christ

Considering how many tales of SF over the years I've come across that treat Jesus Christ and biblical events with less than due honor--from the merely skeptical to the outright blasphemous--it is with some trepidation that I'm about to preorder the following anthology edited by Michael Bishop, winner of the Nebula, Mythopoeic, and Locus awards for his works:

A Cross of Centuries: Twenty-five Imaginative Tales About the Christ



Most of the stories are not newly created for the anthology, though, yes, some are. And you will recognize some of the titles if you've been reading SF for a while. Ecco the contents:

(tentative, as of 01/20/07)
Introduction: An Epistle to the Curious (Michael Bishop)
The Man (Ray Bradbury)
Early Marvels (Romulus Linney)
Miriam (Noni Tyent) *
Friends in High Places (Jack McDevitt) *
Behold the Man (Michael Moorcock)
Sequel on Skorpiós (Michael Bishop)
Shimabara (Karen Joy Fowler)
The Pale, Thin God (Mike Resnick)
The Inquisitor General (from The Brothers Karamazov) (Fyodor Dostoyevsky; adapted by Michael Bishop)
The Sin of Jesus (Isaac Babel)
The Detective of Dreams (Gene Wolfe)
The Gospel According to Mark (Jorge Luis Borges)
Ragman (Walter Wangerin, Jr.)
Christus Destitutus (Bud Webster)
Slow Dancing with Jesus (Gardner Dozois & Jack Dann)
On the Road to New Egypt (Jeffrey Ford)
Understanding Entropy (Barry Malzberg)
Murmur's Laws (Jack Slay, Jr.)
The Coming of Christ the Joker (George Zebrowski)
Passion (John M. Williams) *
Lignum Crucis (Paul Di Filippo) *
Touring JesusWorld (Gregory Frost)
Cross Carriers (Bruce Holland Rogers) *
A Cross of Centuries (Henry Kuttner)
The Selfish Giant (Oscar Wilde)
Recommended Reading List
* Stories original to this anthology


Anyone out there gonna buy it, too?

~

A Reading List of Contemporary Fantasy

In case you've been stuck in the pseudo-Euro-historical type fantasy, why not sample some contemporary/urban fantasies? Here are some linked-to-amazon.com suggestions from Endicott Studio:

Contemporary Fantasy Reading List

The Coolest Fantasy Fic-Style
Wedding Announcement...EVER!

See it here


Congratulations and blessings to Tiff and Stu!!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rich Horton's Lists of Best in 2006 SF

Well, the guy reads a lot of stories. Here's his own tally, emphases mine:

This year so far I have read a total of 65 novellas, 315 novelettes, and 1580 short stories. The novella and short story totals are up a great deal from last year. The novelette total is almost the same. Of the short stories, 227 were short shorts. (I consider a short-short to be anything under 1500 words.) The total length of the new short fiction I read last year was about 10.8 million words, versus a final total of between 9 and 10 million each of the last three years. Total stories: 1951. (I estimate there are at least 2500 stories published in some at least vaguely semipro form each year, but that's really just a guess.) When the last magazines are in, I should be close to 2000 total stories and 11,000,000 words.


Whoa. My left eye is twitching at those numbers and trying to keep that many stories straight. I have trouble keeping FIVE stories straight if I read them the same week.

I envy Rich. I want android eyeballs, too. I had them in my twenties. Could read all day without needing to rest or barely blink. Now, after 25 pages, I need a nap.

Only slightly kidding.

Head HERE to see his lists of Best Of in fantasy, science fiction, space opera, online SF/F, and his other lists of faves (and presumptive Hugo nominees. Here's his list for short stories:

My tentative Hugo list is just four deep for now, with four or five stories vying for the last spot:

"The House Beyond Your Sky," Rosenbaum
"Another Word for Map is Faith," Rowe
"Eight Episodes," Reed
"Life on the Preservation," Skillingstead


And here's his list for novelettes:


"Journey Into the Kingdom," Rickert
"Salt Wine," Beagle
"A Siege of Cranes," Rosenbaum
"The Cartesian Theater," Wilson
"Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)," Ryman


with Barnes's "Every Hole is Outlined" and Williams's "Incarnation Day" knocking on the door.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Torreo Coffees: Mir Does Some Sampling

A couple months ago, going through one of my "MUST HAVE BETTER COFFEE" phases, when good old Maxwell House and Folger weren't cutting it, and even my Melita drip brand was boring me, and since I got a new coffeepot that seemed to call for NEW coffee to break it in, well, cause of all that...I went new coffee hunting.

And no, I didn't head to STARBUCKS. I do not like Starbuck's blends. Bleh.

I came across some intriguing coffee reviews that sent me, eventually to TORREO COFFEE's site. I ordered three not-at-all-cheap brands. The following are the TORREO COFFEE website descriptions:

1. Nicaragua El Progreso Cup of Excellence Lot #1
12 oz. Bag - $24.95 (Coffeereview.com gave this one 95 points out of 100)
This first place winner of the 2006 Nicaragua Cup of Excellence is the culmination of the Talavera's family dedication to producing excellent coffees, while providing hope for a better economic future. A big coffee with lots of flavor. This coffee instantly got our attention and was well deserved in it's first place ranking. Notes of lemon citrus blossom, honey, and red currant make this solid structured coffee worth its premium.

2.
Colombia Hato Viejo Cup of Excellence Lot #8
12 oz. Bag - $17.15 (91 points at coffeereview.com)
This 100% Caturra coffee is grown by the Ortega family on their small farm in the famous Narino region of Colombia. Grown in volcanic soil, under semi-shade, this prize winning coffee is a refined powerhouse, with a full body and a very pleasing fruit finish. Notes of caramel, grapefruit and pineapple help make this is an exemplary example of a traditional Colombian coffee.

3. A Guatemalan coffee I no longer see listed at their site, so, oh, well.


I'm no connoiseur (I don't even know if I spelled that right). I just wanted to try something true coffee in-the-knowers rated highly.

So, the result. I wouldn't reorder the Hato Viejo. Nothing about it made my mouth really go yay. I would reorder the El Progreso, if I didn't cringe at habitually paying 25 bucks for less than a pound of coffee. If hubby got, say, a 50,000 dollar bonus tomorrow, yeah, I'd get a couple bags. I'd even spring for the El Salvador Los Planes Pacamara, which got 96 points and costs 40 bucks a bag. Ouch. At least I know the coffee farmers aren't getting ripped off if the price trickles down to them (which seems to be the case here.)

I'm ordering some more from TORREO, hoping to find a more affordable single bean or blend that will make me as happy as the El Progreso. In my cart is their breakfast and house blends, a Costa Rican tarrazu, a Guatemala Rio Azul, and a Kenyan AA special lot. I'll let you know if these 10 buck a bag ones have a real winner.

If you're a coffee lover, why not let me know what you've tried that's been totally exceptional. I tend to like smooth and not overly acidic, and I adore winey and chocolatey ones, and a nice touch of honey or caramel won't put me off. But, hey, as long as it's not a really dark roast, I'm game.

Drop By And Welcome a New Blogger

Christian Girl: Fantasy Freak!

One more young reader into CSF. Say hi, why don't you?

Friday, March 23, 2007

In Case You Want To Die Sooner

Eat This every day

John Scalzi's Presidential Platform

You know, if I were eligible to join SFWA (which I'm not), and I joined (which I would), I'd vote for the guy. He does, after all, come with his own tiara and many cool campaign posters

Read his platform.


The comments discussion is interesting. Boy, can PNH get snarky, or what?

Spec Faith Post Is Up

Well, okay, it's been up since this morning, I just forgot to link.

Christian Fantasy: Seeking Stories as Surprising as...Jesus.

Faboo Keyboard: WP Goes Steampunk

I loved this site! Watch the process as a "steampunk keyboard" is created. The final look is so dashingly retro. It's got character. Go see it!

Now, who wants one? (Me!)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

THE DRESDEN FILES: Yep, I'm Done

Well, since the debut that left me less than enthusiastic, I kept tuning in to The Dresden Files to see if, maybe, just maybe, it got better, if somehow the lead got more magnetic, or if some chemistry erupted between him and the cop chick.

Er. No.

I'd usually make it to ten minutes, fifteen tops of story time before the remote control called my name.

My husband walks by last week, sees I've turned on to some episode of TDF, takes in my face, all bummed out with disappointment, and says, "Why do you keep hoping this show gets better? Just give it up."

I say, "But, but, hope's my word for the year."

Okay, so maybe The Dresden Files shouldn't be using up my 2007 hope energy, little enough energy that I have these days.

Come on. Is there anyone out there who also found the show a letdown but, for whatever reason, maybe that loyalty to SF, the genre, keeps checking in, five or ten minutes, hoping, hoping...?

(And if you love the show, can you give me a blow-by-blow why? I'm clueless. Well, other than the skull dude is Brit-cool and my anglophile core can't help but respond a bit.)

I bought STORM FRONT, the first book in the series, figuring there must be something fun there to inspire a series, something lost in the translation to television.

Spur 58: Worship Music Without the Yawn

So, I'm in the mood for some worship tunes, eh. I go to Rhapsody.com and browse the CCM category and, after listening to some oldies, check out stuff I wasn't familiar with. And I found Spur 58.

I have no idea what the group's name means. Spur 58? I do know that I like the energy and passionate vocals and the fun, quirky bits of sound added to the pop/rock worship tunes.

I've been sampling songs from both SLEEPWALKERS and BLESSED CATASTROPHE, the two albums listed at the music site. Fun stuff. If you never checked this group out and you enjoy a bit noisier kind of worship song--let's say, maybe Chris Tomlin makes you doze off after a while--then go check them out.

And if you figure out what the name means, let me know.

Sanjaya Stays, Stephanie Slips Away

I liked several of the songs from Tuesday's American Idol show, and it was fun to see ebullient Lulu (whose "To Sir, With Love" was one of those songs I couldn't stop singing way back when) and Peter Noone (who was one of those, "Oh, he's so cute" Brits to my very young heart). But then, I was born in 1960, so the sound of the British Invasion was the soundtrack of my early, formative, South Bronx years.

After the performances, I counted Sanjaya, Stephanie, Gina, and Haley as my least favorite. Melinda, as usual, blew the roof off with raging talent. Lakisha was very, very good, as always, a terrific emoter and a powerful voice. Simon was an idiot about the look. The gal has improved in how she dresses and presents herself, and I give her props for the sexy green dress and the bling. (The shoes. Urp.) Kisha's the only real competition for ridiculously superb Melinda D.

Sanjaya was...a joke. And that crying kid was annoying. I think she realized she'd get camera time if she blubbered, and then she decided to blubber through every performance. Fake crying. I didn't buy it. Was she an A.I. plant? Annoying kid. I hope she's not gonna be a fixture, chin trembling in that oh-so overdone way.

Stephanie did a dreadful, pitchy, wobbly performance Tuesday, lacking breath control. I even wondered if she was maybe ill or something. So, being in my bottom four, I can't say she didn't put herself in a bad position by just not rocking the place. However, she would have given better performances, unlike Sanjaya, who is destined to be rotten for as long as American insanely, inexplicably keeps him on.

Some things should never, ever happen

And this is one of them: Little bitty children should not get cancer.

This wee one has it. Lung cancer. Sucks, don't it? I hope you will add her to your fervent prayers. She deserves a miracle of healing.

Thanks, Heather, for spreading the word on Keira Grace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour:
Randy Ingermanson's Tools for Writers



Sorry to have been lagging on my blog tour posts, but I just slept 17 hours straight and am feeling very lethargic. Concentration's tough. I go through these high-fatigue phases, so if it passes soon, yay. If not, back to the specialist for some medication tweaking.

But, enough of me. On to our blog tour subject: Randy Ingermanson, author of many novels, including DOUBLE VISION. He's also a mentoring sort of pal to various writers, and he offers an assortment of resources for all who are seeking to improve their fiction and marketing techniques.

Have you ever used a snowflake to plot a novel? If you have, you know it can be really useful.

If you haven't, then visit Randy's page on The Snowflake Method. It's great for people who love to outline and prep all important points before beginning chapter one, and it's great for pantsers who are tired of spontaneously writing themsevles into a story wall due to lack of plot forethought.

Here's just the first step of many as you progress through the additive and ever-expanding Snowflake Method
Step 1) Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your story. Something like this: "A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul." (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.

When you later write your book proposal, this sentence should appear very early in the proposal. It's the hook that will sell your book to your editor, to your committee, to the sales force, to bookstore owners, and ultimately to readers. So make the best one you can!

Some hints on what makes a good sentence:

* Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
* No character names, please! Better to say "a handicapped trapeze artist" than "Jane Doe".
* Tie together the big picture and the personal picture. Which character has the most to lose in this story? Now tell me what he or she wants to win.
* Read the one-line blurbs on the New York Times Bestseller list to learn how to do this. Writing a one-sentence description is an art form.


The great thing is that as you do it, you create your own marketing and proposal writing tools--your hook, your pitch, etc.

Also Randy, aka America's Mad Professor of Fiction Writing, offers a free Advanced Fiction Writing ezine. See back issues here, and then I suggest you subscribe. (I do.) Once you subscribe, Randy will send you a free 5-day course on how to publish a book and a free report on "tiger marketing," and Seth Godin's free e-book, "Unleashing the Ideavirus."

So, go over and sign up for the ezine. I'll wait.

Nice to have you back.

If you're a beginning writer and want to study under Randy's tutelage, you can purchase his Fiction 101. For those at varying levels, you can also find Fiction 201, 301, and 401 available for purchase. I know a few writers who have used Fiction 101 and found it really helpful. You may, too.

Now, if you're no longer a novice, maybe you have one or four or a dozen novels sitting around on the desks of various editors and an agent, and you want to learn what to do once they finally sell; or if you've sold your first novel and wanna pump up the marketing, then visit Randy's Mad Genius Writer site for brilliantly mad marketing methods.

Also keep an eye out for Randy. He pops up as a teacher at various Christian conferences. I hear he's a really fun guy and a good teacher.

So, I hope you checked out my tourmates this blogging edition, those who didn't sleep most of the week away like I did--yawn--and I hope you're more familiar with what Randy Ingermanson offers you as a reader and a writer.

Now, go buy DOUBLE VISION and Fiction 101, and have a ball.

Other fine bloggers who are on the CSFFBT team this round:

Nissa Annakindt
Jim Black
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Tessa Edwards
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Leathel Grody
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Karen
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Nicole
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Robin Parrish
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Tsaba House Authors
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mir's Fave Ballerina: Sylvie Guillem

It's always been very hard for me to find her on film/tape, but I found Sylvie is featured in various vids over at YouTube. Just look at those extremities and those AMAZINGLY graceful, strong, and flexible. And those feet! The best feet in ballet, imo.

Sylvie Guillem Dances Kitri's Act 1 Solo


Here she is in "Wet Woman."

What she does with her limbs just ravishes me. Her legs speak!

And "Swan Lake"

Those arms might as well be wings. Amazing.

"Excerpt from Four Last Songs"




If you ever find that terrific documentary on her called "Sylvie Guillem At Work"--a biographical one, and I think a couple of the YouTube vids are from it, if I remember correctly, though it's been a few years since I caught it on PBS--and you don't want it, let me know. No, really. Cause I want it.

"How Should We Then Live" Video

"There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted in what people think, and what they think will determine how they act."


I watched this ten-part series by the late philosopher Francis Schaeffer back in the 80's. If you never watched it, check out episode one on Google video:

"The Roman Age"

I don't know how well it's held up in 30 years, but I'm guessing F.S.'s wisdom won't have aged much.

Yet Another Book I Am Coveting





A WALKING TOUR OF THE SHAMBLES by Gene Wolfe and Neil Gaiman with a Gahan Wilson cover.

Wolfe. Gaiman. Wilson. What's not to want?

Evil Editor Does Dialogue

If you have problems with dialogue, that's the subject Evil Editor is now blogging about. Real snippets of dialogue from unpublished manuscripts are on display, and EE comments. Comment yourself, if you want.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour:
Randy Ingermanson's DOUBLE VISION


The March 2007 edition of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog tour focuses on CBA author Randy Ingermanson, particularly his novel DOUBLE VISION and his writing resources.

Today, I'll offer you some information on Randy and the novel. Later on, I'll review the assorted resources he offers for beginning, intermediate, and advanced fiction writers.

But first, an introduction to Randy: Randall Ingermanson, born 1958, is a Christian, a physicist, and a self-described computer geek. He also has published several novels. He's married, has three kids, and has this thing for helping other people learn to write better. His first novel, TRANSGRESSION, won a Christy, as did OXYGEN (with co-writer John Olson). His wife seems to be as brainy as Randy, so I expect their kids will be new Einsteins, Maxwells, and Newtons. (One can hope.)

Here is Randy's own description of DOUBLE VISION:

Double Vision is a contemporary romantic suspense novel. The leading man, Dillon Richard, is a brilliant engineer with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Dillon's never had a girlfriend before. Now he's got two leading candidates . . . Rachel Meyers, girl genius biophysicist, is as free-spirited and loosey-goosey as Dillon is uptight and rigid. Keryn Wills, the company chief financial officer, is a mystery novelist who's got her eye on Dillon and who might have a chance -- if only Rachel weren't working with him on a secret quantum computing project that could break the standard encryption schemes. And oh yeah, plunge the world's financial institutions into chaos. Somebody Bad seems to know they're developing this new toy, and all of a sudden, Rachel, Keryn, and Dillon don't have time for a silly love triangle, because somebody is trying really hard to kill them.

DOUBLE VISION opens with this hook:

Keryn Wills was in the shower when she figured out how to kill Josh Trenton.


If that makes you want to read on, you can read the first three chapters online. Yep. That's right. Not one or two, but three whole chapters.

I bought the novel last summer, and promptly misplaced it in the chaos that is the Mir Home. I will find it again, I'm sure, unless there is a supermassive black hole in my library or living room, in which case, I'll need Randy to figure out the math for me on that one, so I can have some chance of locating it.

Here's an excerpt from a Focus on Fiction interview with Randy:

Focus: Your latest book, Double Vision, certainly addresses a few issues that both non-believers and believers face with Christianity. Can you tell us a little about your three main characters, Dillon, Keryn, and Rachel?

Randall Ingermanson: This was a really fun book for me to write. Dillon is a fairly rigid Christian, a genius engineer, a guy who’s never had a girlfriend because he’s been dealing all his life with Asperger’s Syndrome—a high-functioning form of autism. Now, with some counseling, he’s coming out of his shell, and he’s got two very nice ladies interested in him. And he’s just a bit naïve and clueless about how to deal with them.

Keryn is a Christian novelist who works with Dillon. She’s employed part time as Chief Financial Officer at the startup company where they both work. Keryn has a bit of a checkered past, but she’s a great lady for Dillon. She’s a little frustrated that he’s so dense, but at the same time, it’s very nice to be dating a guy who doesn’t have a long history with women.

Rachel is the loose wire in this circuit. She’s brilliant, sexy, exotic, flirtatious, and an agnostic. She was raised in a home with a Jewish father and a Christian mother and she is fed up with religion. Rachel has invented a quantum computing device that will be worth trillions of dollars if she and Dillon can bring it to market. They make a terrific team, but sparks soon start flying. Keryn has to mediate, and she really does not want Rachel and Dillon getting too close together.

The problem is that Somebody Nasty wants Rachel’s device. If Dillon and Keryn and Rachel can’t get along, then they are toast. It’s a gnarly little love triangle, and I didn’t know how it would turn out until the fourth draft.

Focus: Dillon really is a fascinating character. What prompted you to write about a hero with Asperger's Syndrome?

Randall Ingermanson: A friend who used to come to my church has Asperger’s Syndrome. He described it to me, and I thought it sounded fascinating. I did some research on it and realized that folks with Asperger’s are a very diverse and remarkable set of people. It’s been suggested that Einstein and Isaac Newton and Michelangelo had Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s possible—all three had amazing powers of concentration.

Autism is often made out to be weird and scary, but inside, we’re all just people. So I wanted to write a book that put my reader inside the skin of a character with Asperger’s and experience it all first hand. I hope I succeeded.

Focus: Two other burning questions I’ve got to ask about Double Vision: First, can you confirm your cameo appearance in the book as a cat sitter? And for the record, do you use a Mac or a PC?


Randall Ingermanson: Here are the facts: Keryn has a neighbor who’s a writer and stays up late working and is willing to go check on her cat at midnight when she’s afraid to go home. And that neighbor has a wife named Eunice and a cat named Zephyr. I write late at night, and my wife is named Eunice and my cat is named Zephyr. It’s an amazing coincidence, isn’t it?

As for the computers, I use a Mac at home and a PC at work. I’m fine with both—it’s that ambiguity theme playing in my life again.


Well, I hope you feel more acquainted with Randy and DOUBLE VISION. If the novel is tempting to you, do click my amazon link for it on my sidebar (scroll way down) and put some pennies in my amazon kitty. (It's underneath DRAGONSPELL and next to ENDER'S GAME and above PASSAGE)Thanks.


If you want more on this month's tour subject, or a different emphasis, or reviews on the novel, please visit my CSFF Blog Tourmates:

Nissa Annakindt , Wayne Thomas Batson, Jim Black , Grace Bridges, Jackie Castle, Valerie Comer, Karri Compton , CSFF Blog Tour, Gene Curtis, D. G. D. Davidson , Janey DeMeo, Tessa Edwards, April Erwin, Kameron M. Franklin, Linda Gilmore, Beth Goddard, Marcus Goodyear, Andrea Graham, Leathel Grody , Katie Hart, Sherrie Hibbs, Sharon Hinck, Christopher Hopper, Jason Joyner, Kait, Karen, Tina Kulesa, Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium, Rachel Marks, Shannon McNear, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Nicole , Eve Nielsen, John W. Otte, John Ottinger, Robin Parrish , Rachelle, Cheryl Russel, Hanna Sandvig, Mirtika Schultz, James Somers, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Daniel I. Weaver

Jane Orcutt Passed Away

I remember Jane from the Christian fiction boards at AOL, back when I haunted them years ago. I had read one of her Barbour books and THE HIDDEN HEART, and she was not someone who drew attention to herself. In fact, the remembrances being posted on listservs to which I belong all hone in on her particular quality of humility.

She lost her battle with leukemia Sunday, and so she has joined her Savior. She and Janet Edgar are catching up now in that better place, two romance and Christian fiction writers who left us too soon.

I hope you pray for Jane's family, and I hope you consider supporting them by pre-ordering her Chick Lit Regency novel ALL THE TEA IN CHINA.

Wanna Catalog Your Books Online?

LibraryThing lets you do just that.

I have a few thousand books in my supermassive chaos, so I just don't see myself entering that many books on any database. However, I am tempted to do so for the most useful and favoritest ones, a few hundred or so.

Let me know if you plan to do it. I'd love to see what your library looks like.

If The Mir and Her Hubby
Showed Up On South Park

The "AofV" aka The Mir:

"The Professor" aka Hunky Hubby:

and the non-book version of me:



That's actually pretty close to my hair and how I dress, as lately I'm into red with my black. Previously, I was into turquoise or periwinkle with my black. A group of my pals dubbed me the Angel of Vengeance (the AofV) some years back when I was ranting hugely about the sort of deaths that certain global villains ought to get. I went into some rather gory detail. I earned my nickname. Hence the wings. The book needs no explanation. The crown refers to my often joked about wish to be Empress of Everything and Boss of Everyone. The expression is a product of my critical editor's eye, says hubby. (He said, "That's it! That's the look!") I took a bit of imperial umbrage at being assessed as medium-level cranky.

These same pals nicknamed hubby The Professor, cause he's smart, has taught computer science, and has written a textbook. Hubby is big into his music (playing, composing) and always finds a way to be in some praise band. And he loves his iTunes and iPod. His hair is not really gray. It's dark ash blonde with some silvery agelights. But that's the closest color. He does, indeed, have rosy Germanic cheeks and green eyes. He is much handsomer than depicted. Much.

If you want to do up yourself and family a la South Park style, goeth here.

hat tip to Mrs. J.M. Bertrand, AKA Laurie Click over to see her adorable South Park version of J. Mark.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Quick! Before They Take It Down!

Trailer for flick of Neil Gaiman's STARDUST

It won't be there long, I'm guessing. Go. Now!


hat tip to Richard and Jo Blog and Vnqshr.

Gerard Butler to Play Snake Plissken

This is where I confess to having something of an eyepatch fetish.

Stop laughing.

This quirk of mine has led me to purchase nearly every romance novel I've come across with a hero who wears one, historical or contemporary, (at least back when I was really into romance). I'm even drawn to animated patches. (Kenpachi Zaraki from BLEACH) I greatly rejoiced when Jamey Sheridan got to sport one on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, although I certainly don't rejoice in Bell's Palsy. And the only time I found Robert Wagner eye-catching, ahem, was when he played Number Two, with one-eyed panache.

I have no idea where this strange fascination came from, but, well, I suspect it has something to do with that whole, "I am a he-male. I have survived the dread ordeal and I bear the marks of it on my body" thing.

So, yeah, eyepatches on heroes, cinematic or fictional or animated or Moshe Dayanish: very cool.

Ergo my excitement at the following:

Things change and movie productions go into limbo, as we've seen happen with the casting of Gerry in PRIEST, but Richard over at FILMSTALKER--who's becoming a good pal to us "tarts"--reported a couple days ago that our own Gerard Butler is set to star in the remake of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK in the lead role of Snake Plissken.

You might remember that Kurt Russell did a really good job with the role, though the film, well, coulda been better. (There was a sequel, too. A rather weird one, actually.)

Me, I think Gerry could do better even than Russell. I'm biased,naturally, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that Gerry can do tough and competent and sexy like nobody's business. His work as Terry in CRADLE OF LIFE and as Leonidas in 300 and as Beowulf in BEOWULF AND GRENDEL shows that he can do the tough hero type, and do it ridiculously well. And he can make you believe he's got that outlaw edge, too. Oh, yeah.

Hope they get a killer writing and directing team behind Gerry. He deserves the best.

Wonder who will play the gal originally done by Season Hubley, who shone as the sweet-faced but troubled chick in flicks for a brief spell, then disappeared off the screen.

Of course, the idea of Gerry Butler wearing an eyepatch brings me to a place of euphoria which makes it hard to type. Hmmm...maybe I need to get the hubby a nice brown leather one for Christmas. Hmmm.

And we may have to make Richard an honorary Man-Tart for keeping us GB.netties abreast of the Gerry news.

Wanna Win Tickets to the Nebula Awards?

ENTER TO WIN

Win two tickets to the Nebula Awards ceremony and banquet in New York!
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and AbeBooks.com have teamed up to give a pair of lucky speculative fiction fans the chance to attend the Nebula Awards ceremony and banquet on May 11-12 2007 in New York.


Oh, and if you don't know the entry question answer, here it is: CAMOUFLAGE by Joe Haldeman (Another book that's currently dozing on one of my TBR piles)

Terrific Discussion At Wright's Blog

Go read the March 15 and 16 entries at John C. Wright's blog, The Marching Morons and Sterile Discussion. Make sure to follow down through the comments.

I love when he gets all debatey.

Lit Agent X's Writing Exercises

If you want to develop a better hook or create a tighter and more complex plot, Lit Agent X has some exercises for you. I've blogged a large section at Once Upon a Novel, but the whole shebang is HERE.

Anyone With Kids Who Ride School Buses?

A good reason to consider driving and picking up your kids yourselves:

Foreign Extremists Sign Up To Drive School Buses

Saturday, March 17, 2007

How NOT to Query and Agent or Editor

A Really, Really, Awful Query Letter.

Also, how not to write a synopsis, and how not to write a hook, and how not to write a science fiction novel, or any novel, and how not to promote your novel.

You gotta feel sorry for the guy's being totally self-deluded about his talents. He's a really bad writer. Sorry, but that's the whole truth, right there.

It's kinda sad to see someone so disconnected from any sort of objective self-assessment.

One of the promotional quotes, btw, is from an agent Preditors and Editors rates as "not recommended" for charging hundreds in upfront fees and having no documented sales. And, presumably, is not the guy's agent, since he's querying agents. So, he's quoting--what?--a rejection letter from a terrible agent? Whoa.

The query as posted at Miss Snark's is amazingly arrogant and pushy and drenched in a sort of desperation that evokes both guffaws and disbelief. And pity. Lots of pity.

Mir's Newest, Lesser TV CrushBoy

~Sir Guy of Gisborne

He's really Richard Armitage in the new BBC Robin Hood . He's got that bad boy in black leather, sorta goth-rocker look. Me like. It's a minor sort of pseudo-Spike fix, since Spikey's gone. Plus: cool black hair. Yeah.

Have you seen the show? It's okay. I'm not gonna jump up and down and gush about it, but it's not totally wretched, either. It's got a sense of humor, action, broody beefcake, and British accents. This is sometimes enough for The Mir.

Edited to Add: A commenter left a link to a very cool Richard Armitage fan site. Lots of pics for girls who, like me, dig heavily on the British hotties. And R.A. is most definitely one of those.

Really Easy Sci-Fi Quiz

I got them all right. Not a hard test. Anyone even minimally into SF should get most or all of these, as a lot of the answers you'd have come across in school or from just living in our era.

Visit Country Cousin for the questions and the link to answers.

I would add that I don't consider the Shelley work to be fantasy. I consider it science fiction. But, hey, I could be wrong.

Genre Traveler Photo Contest

Do you have a knack with a camera and you enjoy the speculative genres? (Rebecca G, you listening?)

Well, if that's you, and you think you can capture a fantasy, science fiction, or horror sort of destination, then snap away and enter the First Annual Genre Traveler Photo Contest:

The term "destinations" is loosely defined as "someplace a person can visit", which means it can be an SF/F/H themed attraction, a location where an SF/F/H film was shot or where a story was set, or even just a cool looking place that might be featured in the "Scene Around" section of The Genre Traveler. Use your imagination!


Spec fic aficionados will recognize the name of one of the judges: artist Bob Eggleton.

Submission deadline is May 31, 2007. Open now to entries. Details and prizes are HERE.

Christianity and SF: Scott Roberts Muses

Scott Roberts, whose had stories in a WRITERS OF THE FUTURE anthology and in INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW, reflects on his book signing experiences:

The neat thing about the experience, or the thing I wound up taking away with me from almost every single event, was how…entitled complete strangers felt to give me future writing advice. Almost all of these comments were religious in nature; one well-meaning gentleman said, “Next time, you should write something about the Lord.”

It would be nice to report that I shrugged demurely and let the comment pass. I did not. “The Lord’s got a book already.”

What I’ve observed and experienced leads me to believe that there is a general mistrust of speculative fiction (that is, science fiction and fantasy) in the wider Christian community in the United States. I’m not talking about the nutsos who burn Harry Potter books; I’m talking about the soccer moms and dads who teach Sunday School, who study the Bible, who love God and their neighbor, and who are generally decent people.


I loved that comeback, because it feels very close to something that would rise to my lips in a similar circumstance, but I'd choke down and say something less snippy. (Most of the time, less snippy. Sometimes, quite, quite snippy or snarky.)

Those of us in the CSF communities I hang with well know the frustration of which Scott speaks. The very people who should most be into fictional tales of wonder and powers and cosmic forces are sort of hemming and hawing and casting suspicious glances.

:::pulls yet another hank of hair out:::

Why not drop by and give him your comments on why Christians give SF such a wide berth, and what we're trying to do to change that?

LORD OF ALL FOOLS

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mir Reviews PALADIN OF SOULS
by Lois McMaster Bujold

MILD SPOILERS

Well, I was so totally delighted with THE CURSE OF CHALION , that I plunged immediately into the sequel, PALADIN OF SOULS, .

This novel picks up three years after the grand and happy conclusion of the first. Here, the Provincara who first sheltered Cazaril (the hero from CHALION) is dead, and Ista--she generally thought driven mad by her sorrows, but whom wise and deep-seeing Cazaril came to understand was one of the specially-sighted, a once-saint of the Mother goddess--remains feeling more trapped than ever in the fortress under the care of the kindly, but overprotective dy Ferrej and her own powerful brother.

She is still much angry with the gods for her sufferings and their meddlings-to her sense, poorly done and mostly ineffectual--in her life. She yearns, desperately, for escape. And so she does, under pretense of a pilgrimage to plead the gods at various holy sites for the boon of a male heir for her daughter and her husband, the rulers of Chalion-Ibra.

But the gods are not done with their reluctant and bitter saint, and the pilgrimage turns into an unexpected and harrowing journey into the demon-infested and tragedy-haunted northlands, where Ista must choose to truly be a saint and work with the gods or remain in defiance and turn her back on a great need in her land.

The choice will make or unmake her.

McMaster Bujold builds slowly, as she did with THE CURSE OF CHALION, but once the key characters are involved--first dy Cabon, the portly and dream-touched divine of the Bastard's order; then the amiable and heroic dy Gura twins from the first book; and the sexually magnetic and magnificent leader Arhys, lord of Porifors, who lives with an uncanny situation and wounds from the past and present; and his stricken brother Illvin, who haunts Ista's dreams and is haunted in dreams by Ista; the spunky female courier Liss; the beautiful marchess Cattilara, obessed and loyal wife of Arhys-- and once the most dreadful conflicts emerge, the pace quickens and much action ensues.

Will Ista find redemption, and will she become an instrument of salvation in doing so? Or is the dark conspiracy too much for a memory-haunted and shame-burdened royina (dowager queen).

As in CHALION, the spiritually focused and dramatic climax is a beautiful and wondrous thing to read and experience.

I still think that I prefer CHALION by a few hairs. I found the repeated capture and rescues in PALADIN a bit tiresome as we neared the grand conclusion. But the characters are sympathetic and flawed, and it is a pleasure to see them face huge obstacles. As in CHALION, there is a lovely romance we root for and heroic men and women who change the world into a better place by just doing what they must and cana according to their abilities as the need arises, and sometimes, even doing what they think they can't, stepping out in faith or hope or love or for honor.

The medieval Spanish/Portuguese echoes are strong here as in the first novel, and the villain is more gruesome. A curse of a different sort is lifted by the cooperative efforts of courageous and trusting humans and enigmatic gods. Here, the Bastard god is at work, even as the Daughter goddess was focal in the spiritual action of the first book; and he is absolutely fascinating and quite a tease. The Father god, barely present in the first novel, gets a beautiful scene of his own, one that will resonate with Christians.

The climactic battle sequences are very strong, quite moving, and rivetting, as this is no conventional warfare. I won't divulge any details, because plot points would be ruined, but LMB certainly opened the conduit of creativity to come up with this powerful endgame. I wept, more than once.

This novel won the Hugo award, and it's certainly another fine offering from the very talented LMB. I look forward to delving into THE HALLOWED HUNT, even with the reviews not so glowing for the third in the CHALION series.

Highly RECOMMENDED

Workshop on Writing Thrillers

I know some of you out there love reading and are writing thriller types stories. Chris"Nifty" Well is posting parts of a video workshop by author Gayle Lynds:

PART ONE

Parts two and three are also available at Chris' blog.

Sanjaya Safe Yet Again on American Idol

::::::::huh?::::::::

Come on, America. Stop with the sympathy voting for the big-eyed, big-haired, skinny kid who can't really sing--unless you call that monotone, emotionless sound coming out from his mouth singing--and has zip stage presence--unless you consider that panicked deer-in-headlights expression "presence."

Please. I beg of you, America's grandmamas and aunties and other pity-voters and Sanjaya champions, stop! Look at the kid's face. He's known for weeks he doesn't belong there. Stop forcing him to continue putting on pathetic performances. Let him go home and take singing and dancing lessons for a couple years.

Anyone who votes for Sanjaya when the huge talents of Lakisha and Melinda are on display is clearly just not listening.

Motorcycle Ride Through Chernobyl

When you ask if they not afraid to die, they telling that at home they may die with radiation and in some other place they would definately die with home-sickness. They eat food from own gardens, drink milk of their caws and claim that they are healthy, but we can't get away from facts, only 400 of them left out of 3.500.
--Elena about those who continue to live in Chernobyl area

GHOST TOWN

I found this 27 chapter photo-report really cool. The gal, Elena, who takes her radiation counter and her Kawasaki through the deserted areas surrounding the disastrous power plant, offers plenty of photographs and some commentary on what she sees on her ride. Some of the pics are just laden with metaphor, no comment needed.

Her commentary is often quite delightful. You can tell English is not her first language, and that adds to the charm. I especially enjoyed her moments of humor, such as with the "prehistoric" horse herd. Or the free drinks necessary to get folks to turn out and vote in elections without choices. (Yeah, my relatives in Cuba know about that!)

New Scientist Article to Inspire Sci-Fi-ers

The Universe is a String-Net Liquid:

"Suddenly we realised, maybe the vacuum of our whole universe is a string-net liquid," says Wen. "It would provide a unified explanation of how both light and matter arise." So in their theory elementary particles are not the fundamental building blocks of matter. Instead, they emerge from the deeper structure of the non-empty vacuum of space-time.

"Wen and Levin's theory is really beautiful stuff," says Michael Freedman, 1986 winner of the Fields medal, the highest prize in mathematics, and a quantum computing specialist at Microsoft Station Q at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "I admire their approach, which is to be suspicious of anything - electrons, photons, Maxwell's equations - that everyone else accepts as fundamental."


I chuckled every time I read the term "herbertsmithite."

~

Latest Issue of IN SPEC Now Out

Drop by the CSFF Blog Tour site for links, or, if you can read pdf, go here:

IN SPEC

Thanks, Tina for the editorial work, and Rachel for the artwork. Newsletter looks nice, indeed!

DKA Short Story Contest--a Reminder

Today is the 15th. As the eloquent Mr. Bertrand mentions, the "Daily Sacrament" contest's deadline is...today, the ides of March. If you planned to enter, get to it.

And now that their deadline is passing you by, remember we have a contest over at DRAGONS, KNIGHTS, & ANGELS, whose deadline is April 10th. That means you have less than a month, 26 days to be precise, to get your speculative short story on "new life" or "secrets" written and electronically submitted.

See details of the hows and whens and whys at the the DKA website's contest announcement.

This is a fundraiser for our magazine of Christian science fiction and fantasy. Please come and support us.

Tor / Forge Shows Off Redesigned Website

Much improved official site.

Check out the new releases from Tor.

Premiere: ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS SF Mag

Visit the web site of a new SF short fiction magazine called ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS.

You may see a familiar name in their list of contributors. Yep, the CSF community's own Daniel Ausema.

It's tough getting a magazine off the ground, and it's tougher keeping it going. So, if you are a fan of SF and want to try a new magazine to see if it suits your tastes, why not get an issue of ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS?

OH, and they have an ongoing contest set-up that might interest you SF writers of short fiction out there. It might bring in some moolah for ya. They, of course, take regular subs and pay below-pro-rates, but hey, they pay. Here are the Submission Guidelines.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mir Reviews THE CURSE OF CHALION

I've had THE CURSE OF CHALION sitting in one of my many to-be-read piles for more than a year. I knew McMaster Bujold could write very well from her Vorkosigan books. I simply am easily distracted by something new.

I regret not reading it sooner. This is a truly marvelous novel of one man's journey through tremendous difficulties and how those woes are redeemed, ultimately, for the good of many. And if you are tired of SF novels not dealing with matters of spirituality in any depth--a lack that is shameful given how very religious humankind has always been and likely always will be--you will find this a truly satisfying exploration of faith, loss of faith, prayer, curses, blessings, fate, free will and divine intervention. It's also a novel that, while dealing with religion, doesn't sneer or cast ministers or saints in an sarcastic or demeaning light. It takes the subject quite seriously and explores it without the arrogance that a secular elite can cast on it. It takes the "what if" of this religion being truly existent and says, "Now, how does this work out in a cursed kingdom with a man who's suffered about as much as he can humanly take?"

Whom the gods choose is not always a happy camper. (Think of all the martyrs of various religions.)

The fantasy setting: A medievalish, fortress and castle filled world akin to Spain/Portugal several hundred years ago, where reilgion is part of civil and royal life, where saints are acknowledged as god-touched, and where a curse has come upon a royal line due to a cataclysmic event during a previous time of warfare.

The protagonist: Lupe dy Cazaril, an honorable man and brave soldier of gentlemanly lineage who had been betrayed in warfare, resulting in a tour of galley slavery (think Ben Hur-ish oaring for one's enemies). He is damaged in body and humbled, but his nobility of spirit and wisdom and unselfishness and wits are intact. You will root for this character, and perhaps, like me, weep for him, too.

The situation: Through a chain of events, Cazaril comes back to his home town and is engaged as tutor to the royesse (a princess), whose brother is heir to the throne. Terrible events have fallen and continue to befall this cursed family, and Cazaril, who feels great loyalty and comes to love his charges and his patrons, becomes inextricably entangled in the intrigue and plots (supernatural and human), while himself a target of those who originally wished him dead and caused his slavery, the two most powerful men in the land of Chalion, barring the ruler himself. Court intrigue abounds. Cazaril must use all his powers of observation and intelligence, and all his courage and endurance, to seek and accomplish the liberation of his beloved charges from dangers of curse and plotters.

I don't want to say much beyond that, since the pleasure of the novel is in the reading and the roads taken. I"ll let you walk those roads unspoiled.

What I will say is that as a devout Christian, I thoroughly enjoyed the spiritual world McMaster Bujold has created. You get a sense of a religion drenched, god-observed world, and how that can bring great dangers (heresies are punished in just as cruel ways as history records), and obedience and selflessness are as powerful as a Christian would expect. The religion is certainly not Christianity (five gods of both attributed genders, various sexual preferences acceptable), but the echoes of a Roman Catholic religion is there in the sanctuaries, devouts, pilgrimages, saints, miracles, etc.

And the idea of the chosen ones of the gods/God is there: One person's virtue can make a huge difference to his circle of influence, as it does here. And the climactic scene is so beautifully and simply depicted (no excess of prose, no over-the-top language pyrotechnics), that it allows us to feel the lightning-fast and world-altering moment as participants, without clutter, with just wonder. It's magnificently achieved.

Cazaril is one of my fave characters ever. A man we'd all like to know, a man we'd all love to see in the corridors of power-someone who puts the good of others above his own good, someone who acts with total purity of heart, wise and generous and humble.

I'm already a third of the way into the second and Hugo-winning book in this series, PALADIN OF SOULS, which follows the adventures of one of the cursed and redemption-needy characters from this novel. The religous exploration remains, and Ista, the protagonist, will have to take a journey similar to Cazaril's in order to help her people, it seems. However, so far, I'd rate THE CURSE OF CHALION higher. We'll see how that turns out once I complete the story.

THE CURSE OF CHALION was nominated for a World Fantasy (lost to LeGuin's THE OTHER WIND) and a Hugo (lost to Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS), and it won a Mythopoeic Award.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. A novel that rewards the reader who is patient and observant during the slower-paced opening.