Recent Reading

I finished Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy tonight.

It’s the third in a trilogy – Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. I’ve read all three.

The trilogy follows Breq, the sole survivor of a starship destroyed by treachery and a human clone that is the vessel of the starship’s artificial consciousness, as she attempts to revenge herself on the ruler of her civilization. Leckie explores what makes an individual human and defies our society’s binary gender paradigm by using the feminine pronoun for all characters and refusing to use character descriptions that might, in any way, suggest sexual identity. That is jarring, at first, but I soon fell into the notion and found it comfortable. The three books also suggest that the only way to earn loyalty is by giving loyalty, of which I very much agree.

Ancillary Justice, published in 2013, won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, British Science Fiction Association Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award. It is one of the few novels to sweep those awards and is, in my opinion, the best of the three books by far. All the awards were well deserved.

I recommend it.

Ancillary Sword, the second book, offers some surprises, but doesn’t have the power of the first, and Ancillary Mercy runs a distant third. It’s not much more than “this is how Breq’s story ends.”

Read them to finish up Breq’s tale, but don’t expect any of the surprises of the first book.

A great way to start the day

This morning I received the most delightful story rejection I have ever had. I won’t say who sent it or which story it concerned, but here’s part of what it said:

“I absolutely loved it up to around Page 11. You’ve given us some of the best fiction we’ve ever published. If you’ve a mind to dream up a honking knock-my-socks-off second half to this piece, I’d run through molten lava to read it.”

So to the editor who sent this, I tip my glass of cranberry juice in an early-morning toast. Thank you! You’re kind words have made my day.

Recent Reading

I just finished reading The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King’s new collection.

A King fan since I read Carrie, I am sorry to say the short stories in this book are not up to King’s best work.  None of the stories are truly awful, but none are memorable, either; except for the last story – Summer Thunder.

It’s a melancholy piece about the end of the world; somewhat reminiscent of the early pages of  The Stand, but with a tighter focus. Stuart Redman and Glen Bateman come to mind, as King relates the last few days of two men and a dog, and although the ending is expected it still carries quite a punch.

Just before King, I read George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Although it’s novel length, it’s really a collection of three connected novellas set in Westeros two hundred years before the Starks and Lannisters and Baratheons went at it, toe to toe.

I was drawn into the lives of Ser Duncan the Tall, a hedge knight who is far too honest and noble for his own good, and his squire, Egg, who is really a prince-to-be, Aegon Targaryen.  Although the stories were previously published in 1998, 2003 and 2010, I had never read them. The first one, The Sworn Sword, is the best, but I enjoyed all three tales.  If you’re a fan of Martin, the book is well worth the read.

Now if we can just get George to finish the next A Song of Ice and Fire novel …

The Expanse

the expanseI just finished episode six of SyFy Channel’s new series, The Expanse,  and it continues to get better and better.

Tightly written. Well acted. Great graphics and  a superb attention to the little details.  I have been hooked since the first minutes of episode one.

SyFy has finally given us real science fiction, instead of the crap the channel has been serving up for years. Good on them. I hope they continue.  [After note: I have been told they have green-lit season two.]

Two more episodes before the season ends.  It’s not too late to catch up.

At Daily Science Fiction

I’ve got a piece of flash – Last Call – appearing today at Daily Science Fiction. The story is about baseball; about umpires and newspaper reporters and computers. And how some folks are attracted to their jobs out of love of the work, not a desire for money.

I am particularly pleased with this story.  It’s very near-future science fiction.  All the elements are there; human arbiters are already using high-resolution cameras and computer tracking  to make final judgments on disputed calls at first, second and third base.  And television networks show viewers whether or not pitches were in the home plate strike zone — after the human umpire’s call.

Technology has a way of pushing forward, whether or not people want it or not. Like Pandora’s Box, once opened, it’s difficult to put things back and ignore potential changes. And not everyone benefits from such changes.  Buggy-whip manufacturers come to mind.

I hope you enjoy the story.

A New Year Update

Thanks to excellent feedback from Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Rebecca Stefoff, I have completed a final submission  draft of my alternate history fantasy novel, now titled Seventh-Hour Man, and I’ve begun a search for an agent and/or a publisher.

Back in August, I submitted a pitch  for the book – then titled Shadowman – to an open submissions call from the publisher Hodder & Stoughton. They received almost 1,500 proposals and have been plowing through the slush pile ever since.

They completed first read December 31st and it appears I’ve made it out of the slush and will received a second reading. Still lots of time and room for them to say no, but it is a step further along the path to a contract.

I’ll keep you posted.

Also, I’ve got a piece of flash scheduled to appear in Daily Science Fiction on January 15th. Last Call is about baseball; about umpires and newspaper reporters and computers. And how some folks are attracted to their jobs out of love of the work, not a desire for money.

I’ll post a link when the time comes.

And finally, the ink is dry on the contract for Little Green Guys, which will appear in Little Green Men – Attack! The anthology is from Baen Books. It is edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Robin Wayne Bailey, and should be out sometime later this year. The story is homage to Damon Runyon. It’s set in Albuquerque in 1947 and features a burglar named In-And-Out Wachowski. I hope it makes you laugh.