Tag Archives: sci fi

Capsule Reviews – Short SF and Fantasy Stories

In addition to writing short stories, I also enjoy reading them – just haven’t had much opportunity recently. That changed over the weekend, when I found out that I can subscribe to magazines over Kindle. (I know. I know. I knew in theory. Stop laughing.) So I did.

Here are a handful you might enjoy.

Analog Science Fiction & Fact, September 2015

Racing to Mars by Martin L. Shoemaker
A ship makes a trip to Mars to drop off some supplies, and one of the people along for the ride is the son of the company’s owner. Along the way, the spoiled brat is forced to grow up, and the narrating character – a woman whose medical career is on the ropes because she blew the whistle on medical negligence at an old job – watches it happen. Interesting because of what it says about how learning – sometimes forced – can overcome ignorance.

The Crashing of the Cloud by Norman Spinrad
Short, but I liked the twist at the end. Can’t say much more than that without giving it away.

Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, july 2015

Johnny Rev by Rachel Pollack
The tone of this story (and several others in the magazine) reminded me of China Mieville, Charles de Lint, or Neil Gaiman. To do with dreaming and mysticism. Interesting plot and characterization, though the general shape of the story is fairly familiar. Very entertaining and I liked the ways Pollack built her world. Vivid.

The Deepwater Bride by Tamsin Muir
I liked this one a lot. A weird, dreamy sort of language that was also forceful and specific as needed. The protagonist is a seer from a long line of seers, trying to find her way through a prophecy of death and destruction. Characters were well-drawn and vivid, and while I probably should have seen the final twist coming, I didn’t – and I loved the story all the more for that.

Dixon’s Road by Richard Chwedyk
An engaging concept, well-told. The home of a well-loved poet is run as a visitor center, there’s some interesting stuff done with time travel and relativity, and the narrating tour guide gives some insight into a well-constructed world that quickly becomes enjoyably familiar. Another one with a final twist – and not the one you think is coming midway through.

The Silicon Curtain: A Seastead Story by Naomi Kritzer
I’m not a reader of Kritzer’s series, so I’ve never encountered this world or characters before. It was still a fun adventure, though I feel like there were nuances to the tale that I would appreciate more if I had more familiarity with her world. Industrial espionage plot. I wasn’t entirely sure of the ages of the characters – teens or young adults or thirtysomethings – but this might be because I was reading on a plane. I might look for more of the books at some point.

There were other stories in each magazine, but I wasn’t particularly taken by them. Some were boring, some were borderline offensive, and more than a couple weren’t worth finishing. But I’d be interested in reading more from any of these writers, so even if you don’t feel like picking up the magazine, keep an eye out for their other work. And if you do, let me know what you think of it.

 

Black Mirror, Blunt Teeth

Last week, a friend recommended Black Mirror – or rather, they expressed shock when they found out I hadn’t watched it yet. I finally got around to starting it a few days ago, armed only with the notion that it was some kind of modern-day British Twilight Zone.

The first episode of the first season, The National Anthem, had me hooked within minutes. “I’m not going to fuck a pig,” the Prime Minister declares, faced with a list of demands from terrorists who’ve kidnapped Britain’s sweetheart of a princess. While the premise of the first episode is set up quickly, the remainder of the hour-long show feels toothless. Objections to carrying through the terrorists’ demands center largely around whether the cost/benefit balances out, and the story tips dramatically once the kidnapper starts sending non-essential body parts to local news agencies. I know there’s a limit to what can be accomplished in an hour of anthology television, but focusing on the journalistic side of the ethical conundrum comes at the cost of really peeling back the layers of what it means for a human being to weigh ethics and choose to make the decision to engage in sex with a creature incapable of consent. The idea of a journalist willing to exploit her body and her connections for a story isn’t a new one, and the story doesn’t delve any deeper than that.

Fifteen Million Merits, the second episode, evokes Doctor Who’s Satellite Five, (“The Long Game,” “Bad Wolf,” “The Parting of the Ways”) in that it’s set in a world based around a reality-show model of civilization. Individuals go to a gym and pedal on stationary bikes all day (I admit, my attention wandered a little bit, here) and earn credits, which they spend on things like food – and avoiding erotic commercials. They watch a reality competition called Hot Shots, paying millions of credits to compete. Here, our protagonist (who’s conveniently inherited millions from his dead brother) falls for a girl whose singing talent, he thinks, is enough to get her a ticket out of their mundane existence. Ultimately, the corruption of the system swallows both of them whole.

So far (I’m now watching episode three, The Entire History of You), the show seems to set up intriguing premises without fully examining them. While ambiguity is the stock-in-trade of shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits (which, I’d argue, this show tracks with more closely), there’s a difference between being ambiguous and being noncommittal, and I would argue that so far Black Mirror is erring on the side of the latter. It’s less stylized than Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place and while its creator, Charlie Brooker, is quoted as saying “Each episode…[is] all about the way we’re living now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy,” I’m not sure that the episodes so far are really being true to that vision.

Might a government official be coerced into an abhorrent sex act? Might we wind up living in pod hotels and generating electricity via stationary bicycle? Who knows. So far, the third episode seems the most realistic – and its conceit actually echos the basis of my story A Fixed Perspective, available in Short Frictions,

I’m not ready to say that Black Mirror is a miss, but so far, it hasn’t hit that sweet spot where, as an anthology show, it becomes more than a collection of brief conceptual exercises and morphs into something truly iconic.

Here’s hoping it hits that sweet spot soon.

Black Mirror is available via Netflix streaming service.

 

Edit: After writing this last night, I went on to start series 2; one episode into that and all I can say is, HOLY JUMP IN QUALITY, BATMAN! Looking forward to the rest of the second series, and hoping the quality keeps up!

SHORT FRICTIONS, Coming Up Shortly!

A robot I met some time ago, on the Upper East Side. Not in any of my stories. But doesn't he look dapper?

A robot I met some time ago, on the Upper East Side. Not in any of my stories. But doesn’t he look dapper?

For the last month or so, I’ve been receiving helpful comments from wonderful people who’ve taken time out of their lives to prepare for advance reviewing of SHORT FRICTIONS – my upcoming collection of short stories. Their assistance has been invaluable, and the book you’ll eventually read has already been made leagues better thanks to their thoughts and comments.

So when do you get to check out this fabulous new collection of stories about vampires, robots, evil corporations and more?

One thing’s for sure: it won’t be long, now!

I’ve met with the designer – the stylish Sarah Hartley (who was responsible for the gorgeous cover of HOT MESS) and she’s working on some frankly brilliant ideas for the SHORT FRICTIONS cover. I hope you’ll like it. I know I love what she’s thought up so far.

I really can’t wait to share this collection of shorts – and a play! – with all of you. Most have been written in the last few years, with one outlier that dates back to my college days. Some, you may have seen in other places in the past. Others are fresh and new and clean and excited to be allowed out into the world.

The e-version will likely debut in August on several platforms, shortly ahead of the print one, and don’t worry – I’ll keep you updated. Just enter your info into the subscription widget – upper right hand side of this blog entry to make sure you don’t miss the new release. Or give me your email address (I’ll never sell or share it), below:

 

Advance Copies, coming up!

Woooo! Just got the manuscript for Short Frictions back from my editor, with some great notes. Now that I’m working through those, it’s also time to prep for a new stage in my new self-publishing checklist: advance reviewers.

Image from phys.org (http://phys.org/news/2014-01-google-machines-robotics-companies-involved.html).

Image from phys.org (http://phys.org/news/2014-01-google-machines-robotics-companies-involved.html).

About a month ago, I took a webinar from Writer.ly  that suggested ways of getting the word out about your self-published book. One of the ideas I loved was setting up a list of readers who would comment on the book before its publication, then leave reviews on release day!

Adding a new step to a self-publishing strategy is tricky, but one of the points @Kelsye (who gave the webinar) made that really stuck with me was that reaching as many advance reviewers as possible is important because of how it helps generate word of mouth, and gives people an incentive to read and review your work. While I’ve heard of some writers (specifically, Guy Kawasaki) crowdsourcing feedback, I’ve never tried this strategy myself – it’s a little nervewracking, but I think it will be worth it!

If you still want to sign up to be an advance reader and reviewer, there’s still time to get me your info! You’ll receive a thank-you in the final edition of the book, as well as a free e-copy. Interested? Click here for more information.

Win a $15 Gift Code to ThinkGeek.com!

2014-04-07 11Since Short Frictions, my upcoming short story collection, includes a number of science fiction stories, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a geeky gift code giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ThinkGeek.com is full of fun, nerdy collectibles. T-shirts, toys, robotic knick-knacks and more. Whatever your geeky obsession, from TV shows like Star TrekDoctor WhoGame of Thrones or Breaking Bad to tech-themed house or office gadgetry and beyond, ThinkGeek.com has loads of fun distractions.

From today through June 29th 2014, you can enter the contest by participating in this Rafflecopter giveaway.

Using the above Rafflecopter entry form, join my mailing list, then earn extra “credits” towards winning by sharing this giveaway on Facebook and Twitter – which you can do every day. If you’re already on the mailing list, go ahead and enter your address again – you’ll still only get one copy of each email, and that way your entry will still count towards the giveaway!

List members receive special previews and announcements of upcoming productions and publications, and as always, I promise not to share or sell your email address.

The giveaway results will be announced on June 30th – will you be the winner?

In addition to the giveaway, I’m also currently seeking beta readers/advance reviewers for SHORT FRICTIONS. If you’re interested in an advance copy, writing a review and being thanked in the digital copy’s acknowledgements, please click here to find out more!

Please Verify Your Humanity

2013-01-20 13.41.42We’ve all seen them – verification captchas that ask you to type a handful of letters and numbers – usually quite difficult to read – in order to create an account or access information. “Prove you’re human.” Lately, the wording of these has started to get to me.

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time with my head in science fiction, but “Prove You’re Human” seems like a great way to piss off either an artificial intelligence singularity or an alien species that comes into contact with our internet. Or, maybe they wouldn’t want to access our stupid information anyways.

Today I registered for STEAM in order to get a copy of ACTUAL SUNLIGHT, an incredible and insightful game that deals with themes of depression and suicide (the original demo version was amazing, if intense), and was prompted by a new wording of the usual question: “Please Verify Your Humanity.”

While my quibble with the usual wording of this question might be pretty out there (and yes, I admit that they’re pretty out there), “Prove Your Humanity” makes me cringe. Why? Because there are plenty of humans capable of answering the question whose “humanity” I would call into question. (Example: the terrorists responsible for the kidnapping and subsequent “forced marriage” – i.e. sex trafficking – of over 200 young women in Nigeria on April 15th – they could probably answer the question, but I seriously doubt their “humanity,” per se.)

Google defines “Humanity” as:

hu·man·i·ty
(h)yo͞oˈmanitē/
noun
  1. 1.
    the human race; human beings collectively.
    “appalling crimes against humanity”
    synonyms: humankindmankindmanpeople, human beings, humans, the human race, mortals; More

  2. 2.
    humaneness; benevolence.
    “he praised them for their standards of humanity, care, and dignity”

 

 

But plenty of people guilty of crimes against humanity are still capable of typing a few letters and numbers, and all that says is that they can read and recognize letters – not that they treat others with humaneness or benevolence, and certainly not that they’re collectively human beings or “the entire human race”.

While I doubt this phrasing (or the original phrasing) bothers anybody but me, I thought it was interesting that in this case, not only is “humanity” being held up as the standard one should meet in order to participate in Steam’s community, but also that the test they give is no measure of humanity at all.

Thanks for indulging this minor digression into semantics. I appreciate your patience with my editing brain, and leave you with this video of humans kicking Big Dog, videotaping it, and putting it on the internet for our future robot overlords to see. Robot mistreatment starts around :40s.