Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

My story at The Martian Wave

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

J. Erwine (a newly expectant Dad) has announced that The Martian Wave Science Fiction magazine is now available. I don’t remember if I get a free copy or not.

My story The Reefs of Jove is in it. The story is about adventure while exploring the high atmosphere of Jupiter in a dirigible. The cover could almost be an illustration of part of the story.

I can hardly wait to see a copy. Sorry, the story is not available online. I wonder if I could ask  J. would put it up on the SamsDot site is a kind of teaser for the magazine?

Here is the lineup:

Stories:
Steve De Beer: Adaptor
Tyree Campbell: Somewhere With Mornings
Dan Thompson: Prize Crew
Keith P. Graham: The Reefs of Jove
Patty Jansen: Luminescence
Bret Tallman: Into the Silence Flies a Moth
Rick Novy: The Pillars of Europa
Lawrence Dagstine: The Great Martian Depression

poems:
Shelly Bryant: Bypassed
Justin Bohardt: The Barren Wastes
s.c. virtes: another pit for sale
Marge Simon: A Hollander’s Secret Weapon: 1609
Marge Simon: Hindsight

The Martian Wave Magazines.

Hugo Voting

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Steve Davidson turned me on to the fact that there is unusually low turnout for the annual voting for the Hugo Award, which is like an academy award except that it is for SF.

I did a little research based on Steve’s model for “Rocking the Hugos” and I was able to discover that in recent years it has taken under 20 votes to get a nomination on the final Hugo ballot. Although there are more than 500 nominations for each category, the minimum to get on the ballot was 17 a year ago. That means that all you need to appear on the final Hugo ballot is about 20 nominations. Once on the ballot you could have a real shot at winning a Hugo or at least boosting sales with a “Hugo Nominee” banner on you book, magazine or short story.

The gotcha is that it costs $50 to get yourself a voting membership in the World Science Fiction League. People who would gladly spend $50 on a weeks worth of smokes decide that it is not worth it to hack the system. You get all kinds of bling and extras for that $50, but $50 is too much.

Unless I can find 20 people with $50 burning a hole in their pockets, I can give up on “Best Short Story” this year. I would have been an honor to be nominated.

Project Wonderful

Friday, October 9th, 2009

I activated a new kind of advertising today called Project Wonderful. You can see it on the right hand column (at least for the time being). I don’t have high hopes for this, but we’ll see.

In this system people bid for your ad and the bidding starts at a penny! It means that unless lots of people want to advertise on my site that I don’t make anything. I have a feeling that there are lots more publishers than advertisers. I may make a few cents a day.

If I had a self published sf book or a website that I wanted to promote, I would use this and put ads on my site with a penny a day bid, because as long as no one bids against you, it is free.

I am going to make an ad for my name a star site and advertise it on a bunch of these practically free sites and see if it generates any interest. I might even make an ad for CthreePO.com and get people coming in who’ll see the ads, generate a small (probably pennies a day) income that I can use to leverage other sites. It just might work.

If this works out it means that I will be getting some free or cheap advertising, and maybe some traffic. If it doesn’t, it will cost me practically nothing.

Critters Post Mortem

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I received 13 critiques from critters.org of my short story “The Perfect Gold”. I used this story as a barometer of how the critiques might help me because it was one of the first stories I wrote after a 35 year hiatus. I wrote it early in 2003 and it appeared online in Atsoise (now defunct) in February of 2004. It had 5 rejections before it was accepted and I believe that this is because of my ignorance of how editors expected a story to be written.

I made lots of mistakes in “The Perfect Gold”. I was trying to write in a fairly remote omniscient viewpoint, which is an older style and not acceptable today. Currently, editors want a tight personal viewpoint, almost first person (but they don’t like first person). Another mistake was that I had a break in the middle of the story where the main character leaves the scene to get something, but it chops off the flow until the character returns. In another break I spend some time describing the background and history of one of the characters, almost as though it were a footnote, and this disrupts the narrative. I had lots of trouble with the language. My words flow a little smoother now, but I remember at the time that I was concerned that the sentences seemed like lines from a technical manual with lots of “she did this” and “then he did this”. This computer programmer approach to narrative has been somewhat abated, but I still tend to write in syllogisms.

The critiques I received were of different kinds. One had an attached word document that cannot be opened due to viruses. Four were people who told me that they really enjoyed the story and went on to tell me their favorite parts (useless other than for moral building). Three people hated the story or thought it was boring. It seems that I wrote a “mood” piece. The people that did not like the story wanted less emotion and more blood and guts. The story has an emotional impact, but it is not an O Henry type story with a twist or revelation at the end (I wanted to write a story like “The Dead” by Joyce).

About three quarters of the critiques had valid remarks. They found numerous typos that I did not see. They complained about the narrative breaks that interrupted the flow. Many complained about my short choppy declarative sentences. I am almost tempted to rewrite the story, give it different title and try to resell it as new. I’ve done this with other stories, but right now I have new ideas, and I have dozens of stories that I have yet to write before I rehash older stuff.

The critters experience has been a good one overall. When I first started writing, I would not have found it useful because I would have disagreed with some of the conclusions. My attitude today is that most editors have had their souls corrupted by the Clarion brainwashing and there is nothing I can do about it. The Clarion workshops have created a static standard that renders classic short stories by Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein as “bad”. If I am to publish stories, they must fit into the little box created by advocates of Clarion and the Turkey City Lexicon.

Now that I have been through the critters process, I will be leaving the group. I was going to put my stories “Carnivale of Blood”, “Nigerian Soul”, and “The Reefs of Jupiter” through the process, but it takes too long for too little. In order to get a critique you have to submit 10 critiques, which I find stressful, and then wait 45 days. I’d have to wait four and a half months to get a three stories critiqued, and I usually write one or two stories each month.

I was thinking about hijacking the process in order to speed things up by using four or five different emails and writing a critique a week for all of them, but this would be too much like work. I am far from the right person to criticize a story (pot calling kettle…). I didn’t like most of the stories that I critiqued so it was hard being diplomatic.

I will have to prevail on family and friends to edit my stories. I just don’t see my typos, grammar and syntax mistakes. This would have been a good use for critters, but I don’t have the patience.

Disappointing Stats – Cthreepo, BoingBoing, Freezine

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

The BoingBoing post referencing this blog has pretty much played out. A Sunday in the middle of the summer is not going to be the best time to hit a major site like BoingBoing. Yesterday, three days after the post, the blog is down to 22 hits from BoingBoing related posts. That includes Neatorama and the thousands of sites that clone BoingBoing through their RSS feed. From here on it’s turtles all the way down.

I just had the memory of my late friend Stan sighing “Oh Well”.

I am still hammered by Stumbleupon.com, but the stumblers don’t hang around. The traffic on this site is about triple what it was three months ago, but none of it is important traffic. The traffic from has only grown slowly over the years, and local bumps don’t effect the long term trend.

In similar depressing news, I decided to find out how popular Shaun’s Freezine wound up. I tried Google, Bing, Technorati and Alexa only to discover that there were only three sites giving Freezine any traffic. This site (cthreepo.com) was the main one. I mentioned Freezine multiple times and put a link to my story on about 4000 of my web pages. The Discussion board formerly know as John Shirley’s Board, was another major link to Freezine. I, Shaun and even John plugged Freezine on the Board multiple times.. John Shirley’s web page was the third. John’s blog shows considerably less traffic than mine on Alexa et al, which shows I’m better at SEO and web promotion, even if Shirley is a much better writer. I doubt if there was significant traffic from John’s blog to Freezine. There was brief mention on a few blogs, but I checked a few and they had very low Google page ranks and probably did not send any traffic. Facebook probably sent some traffic, but I can’t measure that.

Freezine was BoingBoinged too, but it was a Friday in mid July, which was probably just as bad a day as Sunday. Believe it or not, most people surf the web at work. People don’t surf on weekends because there are more interesting things to do. I estimate that fewer than 500 people read part of Freezine and a fraction of that, probably less than 50, read my story. Sigh.

I don’t know what I wanted to accomplish by placing a story at Freezine. I hoped to get my name associated with a better class of writers (an oxymoron if there ever was one). It is disappointing to be pretty much ignored.

Status Update

Friday, February 20th, 2009

I am getting over a nasty little cold. I have not been doing much of anything, including reading, just sneezing.

I ordered a new pair of glasses online at quite a savings. I got the eye exam at a department store and I am waiting for the glasses. I will blog about the results when the glasses arrive in the next few days.

I registered for the SAO short course in Astronomy. The international balance of trade make it somewhat affordable again. I have received the welcome letter with instructions on how to get started. I will blog about this regularly.

I have found a farm within driving distance that sells beekeeping supplies and they will have a shipment of bees ready for me on May 9th, if I want it. Getting started costs around $350, but there is twofer deal, so I want to talk to Larry about it. I’ve have to drive up just north of Albany to pick up the bees and hive. It would take about 3 hours up and 3 hours down. There is another site that will overnight the bees and hive to you for a total of $400 if I decide not to drive. I want to do this, but I don’t want to kill the bees.

There is a satellite launch on March 5th at the Kennedy space center. You can view the launch from a beach in Cape Canaveral. Air fares to Florida have dropped so much that it is silly to not go. I will ask Larry or the poker boys if anyone is willing to go down and share expenses for a motel room and the rental car. We could go down the night before, watch the launch and then get our ears at Disney World, or just hang at the beach all day. If I can pull this together I will post the hotel where we are staying and anyone out there who wants to meet us there can join the party on the beach. I’ll be bringing my harmonicas.

I have been taking a course in web design. I know, I know, I have been designing web pages for years and even taught 4 semesters of a course in it. I decided that I did not have a well enough grounding in the actual esthetics of the design process even if I have the mechanics down pat. Everyone agrees that I make ugly web pages. I would like to see how another instructor deals with the topic. I have been in some interesting disagreements here at work about creating simple effective pages without all the fancy clutter. http://webdesign.about.com/

I got a rewrite request on my story The Dinosaur Dance Floor, but I have not been able to get myself excited enough to do the work. Antihistamine pills take all the creative oomph out of your life.

FreeNameAStar.com had a bang up Valentines day, even better than Christmas. It has slowed down since then, but I am still running better than 50% over the same period last year.

I have a camera full of pictures from January and February. I have not found time to empty it out and now there has to be a dozen blog entries worth of stuff in it so I am shirking this. I will try to get to this on the weekend.

In order to save money, all contractors working for the county of Westchester have to take an extra week off without pay. This may go up as the year goes on. It means more free time for me, but less money in the bank. It also means that I may be staying home on a few Fridays over the summer in order to catch some of those Friday afternoon garage sales.

This and That

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

The house was too warm last night. The heat is working much better, although not balanced. It seems to only do one zone at a time and I am fiddling with the thermostats to set the heat on and off in different areas to keep the house comfortable. Last night it was a little cool downstairs, but comfortable. Upstairs was actually too warm, after a couple of weeks of being 62°. I am going to go on Google and see if there is a home thermostat with built in wifi and the ability to program from a remote site.

My brother Larry broke down and paid for cable internet. He got all three, Cable, Phone and Internet for the $99 package deal. It works for him because Mom can get on the phone to her sister in Florida and do $20 of gossiping without thinking. He is actually saving money. I have been collecting cheap wireless routers with the idea of flashing them with a super router software and reselling them on the internet, but I never have time. I gave him one that I bought for a $1. He no longer has to aim his antenna out the window at a weak signal to an open router. He is amazed at his speed and for the first time he can surf YouTube. He is taking lessons from a guitar player from Croatia that he says is the best teacher he’s ever had. Mom has rediscovered Turner Classic Movies and Larry says that she has been watching black and white movies 12 hours a day.

Electric Spec held my story “RepFix” for vote. They keep, so they say, about 20 stories and pick a few from these for the next issue. I submitted to Electric Spec because I saw Tyree Campbell there. If Tyree is submitting there then they might like my stuff because Tyree often accepts my stories. I read on the SamsDot discussion area that Tyree has also been held for a vote. At this moment our stories are duking it out in a cyber death match chamber.

My blogging software has made considerable progress. I still need to add all the standard blog features like rss, archiving, comments, pings, image upload, and link backs. This will be a lot of work. I have to do security next. I spent several days over the holidays working on this, but everyone is back into “work” mode here and the adult supervision has started again, so I may not get to it for a little while.

Koch called me. He is home, but goes to physical therapy at Burk three times a week. He has three vertebra fused in his neck and he can’t turn his head from side to side. He is feeling much better and says that he is coming back to work in a few weeks. If I were him, I would take this as a sign to retire and collect disability. He sent me his son’s laptop, which is so full of viruses and spyware that it stopped booting. He wants me to format the disk and reinstall XP. I will try to get to it one night this week.

I started working on my iPhone app. I discovered that to actually test on the iPhone I would have to pay Apple a $99 registration fee to be a certified developer. I have been testing the sample code apps on their emulator. I guess if I ever get my apps written that I will have to pay the fee.

The Home Inspection course that I wanted to take has been discontinued. It might not have worked out anyway because to be a certified inspector you have to have 40 hours of experience working with another certified inspector or else a PE license. I want to go back to school, but I am not sure what course to take. I don’t think that I want to take any more computer courses, unless it is for something fun. I am way over educated for what I do. I would like to have a fall back career in case the bottom falls out of programming. I don’t want to go back to work in the City.

Call Me a Cockeyed Optimist

Monday, December 1st, 2008

I sent out my story Speed Trap to a new magazine today. This story has accumulated 24 rejections and a rewrite request (which I ignored). I refuse to accept that this is a bad story. Keep your fingers crossed. This could be the one!

Six Months and Counting

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Today marks 180 days that I have been waiting to hear from the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest. Six months is a long time to wait on a story. Their website is never updated and there is no discussion board to check to find out what progress is being made. I think this is one of those where they don’t contact you if you lose. If you are not on the winner list, then too bad. My feeling is that they’ll announce the winners of the 2008 contest well into 2009.

Story finished and out the door

Monday, November 24th, 2008

I spent about 45 minutes on Thursday and and again on Friday writing a 3200 word cyberpunk story. I proofed it one more time today. I sent it to the first of two venues in DuoTrope that had the keyword cyberpunk. I expect to hear by Christmas, but my experience is that as soon as I send something out, the editors get behind in the slush.

The story is based an idea I got from reading that awful book, The King in Yellow by Chambers. The first story in the book, Repairer of Reputations, gave me the idea to write about a modern person who can erase bad reputations from the internet. My story is not as unpleasant as the Chambers story but I had to make the main character very nasty to make the story work, in other words a person who has a reputation he deserves, yet has the money to make it go away. I am afraid that I made the whole story a little too dark. It also uses some pejorative slang, which I normally avoid.

We’ll see.

Another Side of the Galaxy ed. Groff Conklin

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

anotherpart Another Side of the Galaxy (1966), edited by Groff Conklin is the second Conklin anthology that I’ve read in this series. The previous Conklin Anthology dealt primarily with golden age writers. I need to refine that a little in that following the incredible decade of the 1940s where John W. Campbell, Jr.’ s Astounding Science Fiction magazine created modern SF (the golden age), there followed the 1950s where Campbell, although still a powerful force, slowly lost his leading position. Readers began to tire of Campbell’s gadget based technology stories and new pulps like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy and Worlds of If sprang up and presented alternative forms of SF. Campbell’s abrasive style and absolute certainty of his opinions  caused him to lose, one by one, most of his stable of writers. These were the same writers that he had discovered and guided into modern Science Fiction. By 1960, Astounding was still telling technological engineering based gadget stories while the other magazines were exploring characters, social issues and literary forms.

Groff Conklin’s Possible Worlds of Science Fiction presented stories from the 1940s and were mostly Campbell type stories. Another Side of the Galaxy contrasts these with the new writers of the 1950s who wrote about non-technical people with deep emotions, living in interesting societies and coping with problems that could not be solved with a slide rule.

Another Side of the Galaxy starts with a The Red Hills of Summer by one of my favorite writers, Edgar Pangborn. Pangborn produced two of my top 10 SF books, The Judgment of Eve and Davy, but was not as prolific as other writers. It is interesting that the protagonist in The Red Hills of Summer is named Davy. The story, set in a post apocalyptic future, involves humans fleeing a dying Earth, searching for planet where humanity can settle and grow and perhaps, correct the mistakes made on Earth. Four explorers are chosen to land on the planet to see if they can survive with the knowledge that they will never be allowed to return to space. The settlers cannot risk the future of the human race on a hidden disease that might enter the main ship and destroy them all.

The Red Hills of Summer is a love story between a couple who must face the unknown together, but are not quite committed to their love. Although there is little else to the plot other than coping with each of the problems as they arise, we become involved with the lives of the lovers and the story is how they finally come to grips with their own relationship. It is well done and first appeared in F&SF magazine, being the kind of transcendent writing and concepts that they looked for in a story. It was wonderful to find a new (to me at least) Pangborn story.

Paul Ash is in reality Pauline Ashwell, a Hugo nominated Science Fiction writer. Her story Big Sword was published in Astounding. I would guess that Campbell talked her into changing the gender of her pen name to appeal to his overwhelmingly male readership. The story is an odd choice for Campbell because it involves a child with emotional problems and the science is an ecological puzzle on a distant planet. Campbell was nuts about ESP, which figures in this story, and this might explain why he bought it. The conflict involves a child with ESP whose parents are divorced. He is taken by his unemotional and distant father, a spaceship captain, to a strange planet. In an alternate story line, the protagonist is an alien named Big Sword, who needs to communicate with the humans to solve his own serious ecological problem. The resolution is ingenious and satisfying.

The First Lady by J.T. McIntosh was published in Galaxy. It would not have fit in Astounding because the central conflict involves sociology rather than technology. The premise is that a pair of special government agents has to escort a young woman to a planet where she would be the first female on the planet. This would have been a reasonable plot line 1953, although ludicrous by today’s standards. McIntosh envisions a system where planets are settled by men only and then later a woman shows up to be the "First lady". She carries the first child and if it is healthy, the colony is allowed to continue. What makes this a good story, in spite of the silly premise, is the relationships between the male and female agent and the future first lady as they travel in the cramped rooms of the spaceship on the way to the new colony. It becomes a love triangle, which is intensified by the fact that it cannot continue once the planet is reached. The tension involves whether or not the future child will live and the colony survive, as well as the fact that one of the agents knows what the outcome will probably be.

J.F. Bone, Insidekick, is the story of a man who suddenly finds that he can do almost anything because a strange creature has entered his mind in a symbiotic relationship. The title is a pun on sidekick (in-sidekick, get it?). Jesse F. Bone was a prominent veterinarian and was nominated for a Hugo award. He must have been a friend of Robert A. Heinlein because he is mentioned in the Cat Who Walks Through Walls as the veterinarian fetched from another universe to help save the cat Pixel’s life after the raid to save Mike. He is known for his book of sexual mores and animal rights, The Lani People (Available at Project Gutenberg).

The Live Coward  by Poul Anderson is a Planetary League Story, one of a series involving diplomacy in a universe where there are literally millions of worlds settle by Humanity and their alien allies. It is an interesting story where Anderson get’s his character Wing Alak, into difficult situation and then bails him out with ingenuity. I first read this in the pages of a an old Astounding from my uncle’s collection that he kept in his attic. I was convinced that these old magazines were a thing of the distant past and did not exist any more, until I found Analog Magazine at a small soda shop down in the village of Nyack.

Eric Frank Russell’s Still Life is the weakest story in the bunch. It deals with the red tape of a huge and top heavy galactic empire and how a junior clerk goes about finding alternate paths through the miles of regulations in order to get a life saving piece of equipment to a distant colony. I work for the County Government and I am not interested in red tape, regulations or bureaucratic nonsense – I see enough at work.

These stories average around 13,000 words each and are Novelettes rather than short stories. The Edgar Pangborn story would be classified strictly as a Novella. I like these longer form short stories. Magazine editors seem to have liked them in the past, but modern editors, especially in the on-line magazines prefer shorter stories less than 5,000 words. The main pro magazines still regularly publish longer stories in the 7,000 to 15,000 word range. It is a conundrum that modern readers seem to prefer short-short stories over the longer ones, yet most modern novels are padded out from 120,000 to as high as 200,000 words. I have read that some romance publishers have gone back to the shorter snack-size 40k book. I wonder if anyone has test marketed shorter SF novels lately. 40k to 60K is a good length for a novel.

Story ideas

Monday, November 10th, 2008

I was reviewing my “Idea List”. I have too many ideas to actually write them. It is more fun to think about them than to do the hard work of writing down the words.

Here are some interesting entries on my list. If you feel the need to “borrow” any of these, let me know first. I may get around to writing these some day and you don’t want work on a story when I have already sold it (very unlikely).

The Drought – A lake begins to recede revealing skeletons of people who have disappeared years ago. The further the waters recede, the weirder the skeletons. The last of the water in the lake disappears revealing the skeletons of monsters. It ends in a torrential rain.

“It’s a slide rule.” he explained, “An ancient calculating device, like an abacus only capable of much more.” He showed it to the ship’s engineer and explained how it worked. The engineer used it to compute the natural log of the arc-cosine of the product of three numbers and was duly impressed. This was the last anyone thought of it until the computer melted down about half way between Jupiter and Neptune (Uranus was on the other side of the solar system at that time).

The Ruby of Death – steampunk – Victorian inventor explores a Brazilian cave left by an ancient civilization. He makes a laser out of shaving mirrors, a large ruby, and the flash powder from his photography equipment and fights off the angry inhabitants.

GPS story. A couple on vacation plug in “somewhere different” into the GPS and have a weird adventure. Obvious ending is to press in “Go Home” and get a gun (book, large battery, long rope, change of underwear?) before returning.

Time travel story where a scientist couple are abandoned in time far in the past, only to be rescued years later. They are brought back, and are greeted on return by their children, grandchildren and their descendants, who have been working for a 100 years to rescue them, although in their time sense it has only been a few days.

From Louis L’Amour. Ghost Rocker, (Louis did Ghost Boxer) like a ghost writer, but someone who replaces a sick rock and roll star. (think RAH Double Star). Get’s good at it and plays as good or better than the original star. There is conflict and resentment within the band’s other musicians. Finally real rocker is dying, but shows up at a concert, but is actually a ghost, and has one last jam. I think Farewell Tour is a good title or Cover Star, but perhaps Ghost Rocker is better, even though it gives away too much.

From JWC, Jr. Letter: Cosmic rays are evidence of spacecraft engines

From JWC, Jr.. Letter: A World where only women duel.

From JWC, Jr. Letter: A soldier behind enemy lines like the Japanese soldier on the island. He must survive aliens until men come back, but it is 20 years and men have changed.

From JWC, Jr. Letter: Think of a quantum computer that can answer ANY question. What do you do when the device cannot lie and tells the absolute truth, without being asked?

Story of a man who is doing mysterious things – starts out “I’m sorry, but I don’t know why I did that.” He takes wrong turns and winds up in the wrong place. Buys newspapers and scans them quickly and throws them out. Stops mesmerized like a tourist by commonplace things. It turns out that he is being “run” by a time traveler/alien/computer/spirit tourist who views things through his eyes without him knowing it.

Story line about kids who go to the edge of their wireless interconnects to get high on the lack of signal from the central networks. (I wrote a version of this, but there are many other possible variations.)

Weird tale base on the song by Hal Ketchum:
Bobby told Lucy the world ain’t round
Drops off sharp at the edge of town
Lucy you know the world must be flat
Cause when people leave town they never come back

Eating your own babies: It’s a marketing concept. When you release a new product that is better or cheaper than your existing one, you basically destroy the market for the older product. You are hurting any future sales of it. Announcing a new product will freeze sales of the current product. What happens to Artificial Intelligence when the new version of AI is about to appear? What happens to obsolete robots when the next level robot is released?

In the 11th century, it was common for some disputes to be adjudicated by physical trials. Two conflicting Liturgies were decided by jousting knights. Two bishops had a dispute and they were ordered to use judicium crucis, which is when two men spread their arms out in the position of a cross and the first to drop his hands loses. There might be a good S&S story here. How could you modernize it?

“Christ is realized in evolution.” – Teilhard de Chardin

First line: “Eat your supper. There are children in space going hungry.” or “There are children on Earth going hungry.”

“Medium of Exchange” or “Unit of Work” Consider a planet where the unit of currency is not an arbitrary symbolic unit like the dollar, but a small elf like creature capable of doing work. Rich people expend these like burning money. Poor people try to breed them. What does an Earth man do when he buys something and his change is nine small green gremlins?

The Nigerian scam, only this time it’s an Alien or Demon or Time Traveler. Flash?

I think Artie went too far when he hooked the Voder up to Big Jim’s brain. Big Jim is the ugliest and meanest old bull west of the Pacos, and I do not care to hear his opinions about anything.

Beyond Time and Space ed. August Derleth

Monday, November 10th, 2008

There are two August Derleth anthologies with the name Beyond Space and Time. The one that I read is the later and much shorter one published in 1958. There was a longer one, full of poems and excepts and even some Jules Vern and Wells that was published in 1950.

August Derleth is a good writer and is known as the publisher of H.P. Lovecraft. His milieu was the world of 1930s Weird Tales and he published many of the Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction writers from this era. This anthology largely reflects the 1930s, but has a few later stories thrown in, possibly to attract more readers.

The first two stories are from the late 1940s and do not much fit with the rest of the book. Heinlein’s The Long Watch and Theodore Sturgeon’s Minority Report (no relation to the Philip K. Dick story) start the collection. We all should have memorized the Heinlein story – I practically have, but the Sturgeon story might be new to you. It is the most interesting story in the anthology, and might be a considered a bridge between the formal style of the other stories and more immediate style of later SF. Sturgeon presents a fascinating story, partly told by a historical narrator, and partly through the newly discovered words of a mute servant named “Grudge”. An obsessed inventor builds a space ship only to discover a terrible secret that will isolate Earth from the rest of the galaxy forever. This information is filtered through the disturbing mind of the deformed servant that he wrote and hid so well that it was not discovered for centuries. It is an interesting approach with surprising characters and plot.

The rest of the stories are mostly from the 1930s and all are Derleth’s cronies. They are told either in a high fantasy style similar to Lord Dunsany or in a mythic narrative as though it were a retelling of an ancient tale. These formal styles were all the rage in the pages of Weird Tales, but to the modern reader are terribly dated.

Stories:

Colossus [Doane Sharon] – Donald Wandrei – Astounding Jan ’34
Very early SF which describes the incredible shrinking man, only in reverse. It is interesting in that it describes an earth just as it destroys itself in a war. The story wanders off describing wonders of a huge universe where our universe is just an atom. It meanders, and nothing much else really happens.

A Voyage to Sfanomoë – Clark Ashton Smith – Weird Tales Aug ’31
An allegorical trip to Venus without much characterization or plot. Its style is a mythical narrative.

Seesaw [Isher] – A. E. van Vogt -Astounding Jul ’41
The short story which later became The Weapon Shops of Isher. Not as interesting as the novel.

The Flying Men [from Last and First Men] – Olaf Stapledon – London: Methuen, 1930
No story at all, just a description of a race of Flying men told in a mythical narrative.

Fessenden’s Worlds – Edmond Hamilton – Weird Tales Apr ’37
A man creates a universe and then plays god with it. One of the better stories, although in a dated style.

Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall – Frank Belknap Long – Startling Stories Nov ’48
Not good SF, but more like a good horror tale told with SF elements.

I chose this anthology because I had it in my head to read lots of short stories and learn from them. This collection was interesting and fun, but it was no help in writing. The best story, Minority Report is so unique that it would be very hard to imitate. Sturgeon is known for looking at a story from an odd angle and approaching ideas from left field. That is not something that I set out to do as a plan of action. The Heinlein story is so imbued with his personality that it would impossible to use as a guide without sounding like bad Heinlein. The other stories are an interesting read, but are obviously from another context.

Ray Bradbury – Quicker Than the Eye

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

bradburyquicker Continuing with reading only Ray Bradbury books in October – This is the fourth book that I’ve read. I am averaging a little less than a new book every two days (not counting weekends when I don’t have much time to read).

I have the feeling that I’ve read some of the stories in Quicker Than the Eye. The stories were published in 1995 and 1996, but I don’t remember where I would have read them. I don’t read Playboy or American Way, but many of these appeared in F&SF and Omni, so I might have read them there.

Comparing these stories to the stories in Golden Apples of the Sun, you realize that Ray has mellowed over the years. There is no lurking danger or hidden fear in any of these stories. They, for the most part, are much happier and romantic than the earlier works. Many of the stories are downright maudlin (Maudlin: Extravagantly or excessively sentimental; self-pitying; Affectionate or sentimental in an effusive, tearful, or foolish manner, especially because of drunkenness).

To give you an example, in the story Another Fine Mess, Ray writes about a pair of ghosts haunting a stairway in Hollywood. The ghosts are Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano. You can’t be afraid of the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy. At the end, the two women who try to banish them invite them to come back once a year. Maudlin, I said. Maudlin, I meant.

There are other stories about the ghost of Bradbury’s mother and the death of a dog, but the sweet sentimentality ruins the stories for me. I smile when I read them and I did enjoy them, but I am eager for the chilled spine or the goose bumps on my arm. I don’t want these feel-good stories.

There are a couple of more chilling stories. Dorian in Excelsus is about what happened to Dorian Gray’s portrait, but it is a one dimensional story where just the one thing happens and then it ends, no real plot to it, just an interesting idea. There is also The Finnegan about a hidden monster in the woods, but that too is over quickly and the final revelation is telegraphed a little too early in the plot to have an impact.

I am going back to his earlier works. I still have a couple of new books in the queue, but I want to cleanse my pallete a little and read some stories from Weird Tales before I get back to the more recent Bradbury.