Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes

I haven't talked much about the Sherlockian anthology forthcoming from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, have I? Edited by Jeff Campbell and Charles Prepolec, the anthology is entitled Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes, and "features 11 all-new short stories that combine Sherlock Holmes with elements of dark fantasy, pulp-style adventure, horror and the supernatural."

The book is due out in time for World Fantasy Convention in Calgary, but will be available through the various online retailers and through better specialty stores at about the same time, I imagine. My own humble contribution is "Merridew of Abominable Memory", and it appears alongside such worthies as Barbara Hambly, Barbara Roden, Kim Newman, and others.

Campbell and Prepolec have set up a blog to promote the book, and have been hosting a series of brief interviews on all things Sherlockian with the book's contributors. Today I'm the one in the barrel, answering "5 Sherlockian Questions."

They've also put together a "book trailer" for the antho, if you've got three minutes and 37 seconds to spare and would like to see some of the art commissioned to accompany the stories.


Monday, September 29, 2008


New Celestial Empire story - "Mirror of Fiery Brightness"

A few readers of The Dragon's Nine Sons have pointed out that the "Mexica" Aztecs are fairly one-note black hats, death-worshiping villains for our heroes to defeat. That's a fair assessment, and one I should have anticipated. The idea with The Dragon's Nine Sons was to show the Mexica from the Chinese perspective, who naturally would few them in fairly stark and limited terms, and then in another story view the Chinese from the Aztec perspective. What I failed to consider, of course, was that readers would have no way of knowing my master plan, or that they were only getting one side of the story.

Well, the Aztec-centric story is still over the horizon, but I've written a new novelette that serves to bridge the gap somewhat, written from the perspetive of someone who stands between the two societies, and who sees more of the Mexic culture than other citizens of the Middle Kingdom normally do.

"Mirror of Fiery Brightness" is a spy thriller set during the Cold War between the Middle Kingdom and the Mexic Dominion, and takes place in Fusang, the Celestial Empire analogue for Brazil. The story is being serialized in the "pages" of Subterranean Magazine, with the first installment now online.

Here's how the story is introduced on the Subterranean blog:
Chris Roberson kicks off the Fall 2008 issue of Subterranean Online with part one of a long novelette set in the world of his Celestial Empire, in which the future space race doesn’t go quit as anyone intended. “Mirror of Fiery Brightness” is action filled, the result of strange conjectures, and imbued with humanity, as are most of Chris’ entries in this future history. Please check out part one today, and the other installments over the coming weeks.
For anyone interested in behind-the-scenes stuff, this story was greatly influenced by my reading of Charles C. Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which I recommend to anyone with even the slightest interest in history, archeology, sociology, cities, nature, or the environment (which, really, should be just about everyone).

Friday, September 26, 2008


Where's my jetpack?

Oh. It appears this guy has it.

A Swiss man has become the first person to fly solo across the English Channel using a single jet-propelled wing.

Yves Rossy landed safely after the 22-mile (35.4 km) flight from Calais to Dover, which had been twice postponed this week because of bad weather.

The former military pilot took less than 10 minutes to complete the crossing and parachute to the ground.

The 49-year-old flew on a plane to more than 8,200ft (2,500m), ignited jets on a wing on his back, and jumped out.
Hello, future. So glad you could join us.


Head of Skate trailer

Too amusing not to share...

Thursday, September 25, 2008


After Swimsuit and Evening Wear comes the Onstage Question...

Am I the only one who keeps flashing on this...

... when seeing this?

This is, after all, the former Miss Wasilla (and second runner-up to the title of Miss Alaska).


Haaretz's Forthcoming Books List

My friend Rani Graff (who is, coincidentally, the publisher and chief editor of Graff Publishing, who will be doing a Hebrew-language edition of The Dragon's Nine Sons in Israel next year), sends me the following clipping from the September 24th edition of Haaretz (which translates into English as "The Nation" or "The Country"), the 3rd largest newspaper in Israel.

Next week marks the Jewish New Year, Rani explains, and every year Haaretz publishing a special edition of their respected Books Supplement, in which they cover what they consider to be the most interesting of the books scheduled to be published in Israel in 2009. Graff Publishing got 8 books on the list this time out, including the following mention:

For those of us who don't read Hebrew, Rani offers the following rough translation:
The Dragon's Nine Sons * Chris Roberson

Graff Publishing

Imperial China and the Mexican Dominion are the main superpowers in the alternate universe in which the novel takes place. They have been fighting each other for many years but now, in the 21st century, the war between them breaks into outer space. Roberson uses this set up as a background for a thrilling story containing many plot twists. Roberson is nominated for the 2008 World Fantasy Award.

Of course, as Rani points out, I have only his word to prove that's what the clip actually says. For that matter, I'll only have his word that the books he'll send me next year are actually mine!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Wario Land footage

This is a little bit of cleverness.


Scott Campbell's E.T. Prints

Last month I pointed out Scott Campbell's awesome "Cult Tree", you may recall. Well, this morning on his blog Campbell announced that four of his other pieces are being released as prints by Gallery 1988. The four pieces are from a Gallery 1988 show this last spring, "One To Grow On," and all feature E.T. in a variety of nostalgic vignettes.

E.T. playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with the Universal monsters may be my favorite of the bunch.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


ArmadilloCon 31

Have I mentioned online yet that I've been invited to be the Editor GoH at next year's ArmadilloCon? I don't think I have. Well, now I've done. The Author GoH is Scott Lynch, Artist Guest is Stephan Martiniere, Fan Guest is Karen Meschke, Toastmaster is Scott A. Cupp, and Special Guest is Joan D. Vinge. And yep, for anyone who might be wondering, this is my first GoH gig.

The ArmadilloCon 31 website is now live, with a swanky Baskin-Robbins theme, which is only fitting, I think.

Friday, September 19, 2008



Going into silent running for a couple of days, as Georgia and I drive north to Duncanville for my grandfathers 93 birthday. Think about that for a minute, folks. This is a man born in 1915, who already had a job before the Great Depression hit.

My parents still live in the last half of the 20C, and their house is unwired ("We have internet at the office, why would we need it at home, too?"), so I won't be back online till next week. Have a good weekend, internets.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Book Report

Hey, internets! It's book report time again!

I just finished rereading all of Mike Mignola's Hellboy family of titles, but I'm still digesting it and probably won't be writing it up until next week at the earliest. In the meantime, here's a couple of other things I've read lately.

Shannon & Dean Hale and Nathan Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge

I read this one on the flight to Denver for WorldCon, and am just getting around to writing it up. Written by Newbury Honor-winning author Shannon Hale and her husband Dean Hale, and illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation), this is a graphic novel in the truest sense of the word, a done-in-one novel length comic book. It's intended for, and marketed to, the middle reader set (ages 9 to 12), but it's just as suitable for young adults and adults alike.

Rapunzel’s Revenge takes place in a fairy-tale-version of the American west, in which standard fairy tale tropes are recast in western idioms. The main character is Rapunzel, a young girl raised in a well-guarded villa by a woman she thinks is her mother. When Rapunzel learns that the woman is in fact an evil sorceress who rules the land with an iron fist, she tries to escape, only to end up imprisoned in a high tower, her hair cursed to grow endlessly. But rather than waiting for any handsome prince to come along and rescue her, Rapunzel simply braids her hair into two long rope-like braids, frees herself, and then using her braids as lariats and whips sets out to end the sorceress’s rule once and for all. She meets up with a young ne’er-do-well named Jack, who is down on his luck until his pet goose finally lays an egg, and together they travel across the deserts and forests, having adventures. Highly recommended.

Check out the authors' site for some nifty extras, including some spoilerific world notes and a nice view of the map of the setting.

Paul McAuley's Cowboy Angels

I've had this on my To Read pile for ages, but finally had a chance last week to dive into it. It was well worth the wait.

In Cowboy Angels, McAuley breathes new life into a fairly well worn idea. This is a story of alternate histories and parallel worlds, of people travelling through magic doors to worlds that are almost-but-not-quite their own. This was an idea that wasn't new when Andre Norton did it in The Crossroads of Time, much less when Keith Laumer tackled it in Worlds of the Imperium or when Harry Turtledove more recently dusted it off for Gunpowder Empire. But as Cowboy Angels shows, it's an idea still worth exploring, if an author can come up with a novel approach to the subject. McAuley's twist here is to view the interactions of different histories through the lens of American foreign policy, and in particular the CIA's "dirty tricks" in the mid-20C Cold War. The superpower in this particular multiverse is the "Real," a version of America that didn't experience our WWII, but in which physicists at a high-energy physics lab in Brookhaven in 1963 discovered the secret of creating "Turing gates," doorways to parallel worlds. The US government takes control of the technology, and uses it to "spread democracy" to the various alternate Americas it finds out in the multiverse. The various worldlines, or "sheaves," are known by the name of whomever was in charge of America when contact is first made, hence the designation "Nixon sheaf" for our own history. The structure of Cowboy Angels is part thriller, part murder mystery, with a fair number of pulse-pounding action scenes along the way. But it's really in the examination of the history of the 20th Century seen from a variety of angles, and the history of America and her foreign policy in particular, that Cowboy Angels shines. Highly recommended.

McAuley has made available online a short story, "A Brief Guide To Other Histories", set in the same multiverse as the novel, as well as a Q&A and sample chapters of Cowboy Angels.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Whither Weather

The summers in Austin are long and hot. So long, in fact, that they start around the time that people in more delicate climes are just beginning to enjoy that strange custom known as "spring," and continue straight through to sometime in late September or October.

Imagine my shock this week, then, to go outside in the afternoon after being cooped up in my office all day, to discover that it was about the same temperature outside as it was in my nicely air-conditioned home. Daytime temperatures in the 70s? Outside? How is that possible?

My brain can only hold one season at a time, and every year when it starts to cool off again, I'm completely flummoxed. Thankfully, I'll clearly be able to ease into it this year, as the daytime highs have climbed back up into the upper 80s. But still and all, it was down into the 50s the other night. Imagine that!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008



Hey, internets. How was your weekend? (I know it's Tuesday, but I couldn't work up the will to post anything on Monday, so sue me.) We spent all day Friday getting ready for the wrath of Ike to descend on us, but ended up not getting a drop of rain here in Austin. It was crazy windy on Saturday, though, so the family headed down to the park for a bit of kite flying. Georgia, who has never flown a kite and has insisted for months that she Had To Fly A Kite Right Now!, was content to watch me fly her new Hello Kitty kite, while she ran around on the ground underneath, watching it. Within half an hour she was bored silly and toddled off to the swings. Then it was off to Home Depot to buy a bunch of bags of sand to make a makeshift sand box in the backyard. (In the decades since I last bought sand at a hardware store for a sandbox, they've actually developed play sand, which comes premoistened in the bag. How nice is that?)

We had a couple of "evacuees" from Houston come and stay for a few days, though, Allison's mother and one of her friends, so we didn't completely escape the effects of Ike. They headed back yesterday, loaded up with coolers full of ice and food, hoping that the power will be back on by the time they got home. Or the water. Or both, for preference.

I sent off the second script for Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love to Vertigo yesterday, and today dive into the rewrites on Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II. I'm a third of the way through DM Cornish's second Monster Blood Tattoo book, Lamplighter, and loving it, and also rereading of Mike Mignola's Hellboy and related series, both of which I'll probably be doing book reports on in the near future.

So what have you nice people been up to?

Friday, September 12, 2008


Cat Blogging, Redux

It's been a few weeks since Blue the Cat came to live with us, and he's settling in nicely. Georgia's cat-juggling has improved considerably, as well.

Blue is about four months old now, I think, give or take a bit, and has got to be the most mellow, most affectionate cat I've ever owned. Also, he plays fetch, which is something of a surprise.

Georgia likes Blue to lay with her on the couch in the evenings, as she watches her daily episode of Little Bear before shuffling off to bed. Last night they stretched out under a blanket, and I snapped off a few shots.

And, after Georgia rolls over, hugging the cat to keep him from scurrying away:

I love the look of resignation in the cat's face. That look says, "Let me know when I can get up again, okay?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Uncle Sam & 9/11

(via) From Super News, Uncle Sam and 9/11 have to talk...


They Might Be Giants' "Davy Crockett in Outer Space"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Monkey Wedding

(via) Clearly, this is a practice that all zoos should adopt.

TWO MONKEYS tied the knot during a special wedding ceremony at a zoo in Wenling, Zhejiang province in China today.

A 7-year-old male monkey named Wukong and a 6-year old female monkey named Xiaoya are seen during a special wedding ceremony at a zoo in Wenling, Zhejiang province, September 4, 2008.

The zoo organised the special wedding ceremony hoping to attract more visitors, local media reported.
Monkey weddings. Just like they have in the wild.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Summer of Tears' "Teen Wolf"

(via) It's a bit on the long side, but lots of payoff along the way.


Iron Jaw and Hummingbird reviews

My forthcoming YA book with Viking, Iron Jaw and Hummingbird, won't be in bookstores until next month, but the first of the reviews have already appeared.

First up is Kirkus, whose review is in the September 15th issue (and online, apparently):
Taken from the streets and educated by a wealthy aristocrat for years as part of a cruel game, orphan Gamine finds herself back on her own at 13. She falls in with a conman and, later, an itinerant preacher. Meanwhile, an 18-year-old reluctant soldier named Huang becomes an even more reluctant bandit when his division is bested by renegades. The two are thrown together, and the movement they lead reshapes the political landscape of a China-controlled 26th-century Mars. Roberson’s detached and contemplative narrative spends far too much time setting up only to lead readers to a disappointingly anticlimactic denouement. The milieu is nicely constructed, which stands to reason, as Roberson has written adult novels and stories in this alternate-history future. Patterned on, but not paralleling, the Boxer Rebellion, this would probably work best for lovers of historical fiction who wish to take a small step toward more fantastic material, but SF and martial-arts fans should look elsewhere. An attempted rape and intimations of a sexual relationship between the leads push the age-range up.
Also weighing in on the book is Angela from SciFiChick.com:
In an alternate reality, the Chinese control Mars and its inhabitants. Gamine was rescued from the streets as a small child, where she was raised and schooled by the upper class. But after serving her purpose, she was abandoned on the street yet again where she takes up with a con artist. Soon after young Huang Fei joins the army, his ship is attacked by bandits. But Huang quickly moves from the bandit leader’s pet to trusted advisor. When Gamine (Iron Jaw) and Huang (Hummingbird) meet, they team up to overthrow the current regime.

Geared towards teens and older, this science fiction story has the feel of a fantasy, as Roberson’s other books Set the Seas on Fire and Paragaea also do. But this story is completely unique as it is based solely on an alternate reality Mars. Granted the planet itself has little bearing on the story, which revolves around the two central characters Gamine and Huang. Both go through tremendous ordeals and hardships which eventually lead the two together, aiming for a common goal. Both Gamine and Huang also have to go through a range of emotions that eventually force them to deal with the thoughts of revenge in their hearts.

Gamine and Huang’s stories began as completely different situations. Gamine, as a child from the streets, who eventually grows from a thief and con artist to a respected leader. And her ideals slowly change over time as well. And Huang, as a spoiled rich boy, bored with army life, who eventually evolves from a slave of a group of bandits to their leader. But meanwhile, he discovers the bandits are more than just thieving monsters, they have a past and a purpose.

Iron Jaw and Hummingbird is a fascinating story of two very different young people and their journey to finding themselves and a fight against a corrupt authority.


Monday, September 08, 2008



I don't know, internets. Does this look like Gatchaman to you?

It's not a million miles away, I'll admit. But this is Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, in my book:

Do I hold out hope about the new big screen revival? Well, I'll give it a shot, but I'm not holding out hope.

More images and a brief teaser trailer of the new flick are online at Collider.com.

Friday, September 05, 2008


The (New) Labors of Herakles

Mattias Adolfsson shares a modern interpretation of the Labors of Herakles. As he says, "Slaying animals and cleaning out barns are so passe."


New Beanworld

There is a new Beanworld story online. (And longtime readers of the Ramble may remember how much I love Beanworld.)

Well what are you waiting for?! Go read it, already!


Cartoon College

Over on Lucy Knisley's Livejournal (which is completely full of awesome, and is highly recommended to all) I found a link to this trailer for a forthcoming documentary about the Center for Cartoon Studies, Cartoon College.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


You Need This - The Family Dynamic

I've been a fan of J. Torres for years. I followed him through creator-owned work like Siren, Monster Fighters, Inc., Allison Dare, Sidekicks, and the terrific short stories in Love in Tights. The last few years he's been doing stellar work on DC's all-ages books, an in particular on Teen Titans Go!, which given Georgia's obsession with the Teen Titans is a particular favorite around our house.

A couple of weeks ago, the first issue of Torres's new creator-owned book, which is also an all-ages DC title, oddly enough. It's called The Family Dynamic, and it's more fun than any comic I've come across in ages.

The "Family Dynamic" is a superhero team with elemental-based powers (fire, water, air, and earth), who get their powers from magical rings. Naturlally.

What makes the concept interesting, and distinguishes it from any other elemental-based superhero team, is that the characters really are a family, and more than that they are merely the latest generation of the family to put on the rings and go out to fight crime.

They aren't the only heroes in town, of course.

There is Defender, a Superman-type (refreshingly portrayed as African-American).

And there is the dark night duo of Blackbird and Little Wing.

And there are villains around, naturally, including the clown-faced Tragedy Ann and Tom Foolery (genius!).

The art chores are supplied by co-creator Tim Levins, who worked with Torres on the creator-owned urban fantasy series Siren years ago. Levins style has really developed in the years since, and is nicely evocative of Mike Wieringo without being the slightest bit derivative.

This is an all-ages book, but in the old sense of the term. It isn't a "kiddie book", but a comic that would as easily appeal to an eight year old as to a middle aged fanboy like me. And since it doesn't depend on any prior continuity, being set in it's own little world (namely, the fictional Canadian "Metropolis" of Storm City), even those who aren't regular superhero comic readers could easily pick it up and enjoy it.

Order numbers on the first issues were apparently too low, and DC reduced the series from six issues to three before the first issue hit the stands. I hold out hope, though, that sales are good enough of the three to maybe convince DC to green-light another mini-series, or to at least give it a nice digest collection with extra bits.

Unless you hate goodness or something, you should hie yourself to your local comic shop and pick up a copy of Family Dynamic #1 (and in a few weeks, go back for the second issue, and then the third). Heck, buy two copies, or three. It's only money, right?


Keep the Hairy B*ggers Where They Belong

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Book Report

Hey, internets, you know what I haven't done in a while? A book report. So, what have I been reading lately?

Well, ever since turning in Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II, I've found myself in the unique position of not having to do a lot of research. I've been working on the scripts for Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love, but most of the reading I've been doing for that has been short-ish, bits and pieces here and there. And so the time that I've got set aside to read for part of every day (while I walk for 30 minutes in the morning, primarily) has been completely free and open. I could read anything I wanted...

And so I did.

George Mann's The Affinity Bridge

I've been looking forward to this book for ages. In addition to being the head of Solaris Books and Black Library (and one of my favorite drinking buddies), George Mann is a terrific writer, a fact that not many people know... yet. A lot more people are going to be discovering that fact very quickly, I imagine. His first full length novel, The Affinity Bridge, comes out from the UK press Snow Books about any minute now, it's not out already, and will be coming out from one of the larger US houses sometime thereafter (I'm not sure if it's been announced yet who the US publisher is, so you won't be hearing it from me). I read parts of the manuscript early on, but this was the first chance I'd had to sit down and read the whole novel from start to finish.

The Affinity Bridge is the first "Newbury & Hobbes Investigation", and hopefully the first of many. Sir Maurice Newbury, scholar with the British Museum, expert on the unexplained and the occult, and occasional agent of Queen Victoria, is aided by his new assistant Veronica Hobbes, who may be more than she appears. Veronica is not a stranger to the unexplained and the occult herself, as the older sister of a girl who is haunted by visions of the future. The London that Newbury and Hobbes inhabit is almost the one that history records, with a few tweaks here and there. Airships sail across the smoky skies, piloted by brass automata, undead "revenants" prowl the fog-wrapped streets hungry for the taste of human flesh, and the ghosts of dead policemen bring a bloody justice to criminal who have escaped the law's grasp. Queen Victoria continues to rule, her life artificially extended by steam-driven cybernetics.

The Affinity Bridge is a nicely constructed "fair play" mystery, a Steampunk adventure, and an alternate history with intriguing worldbuilding, all rolled into one. To share even a few of my favorite moments from the plot would threaten to spoil some of the surprises, but suffice it to say that this is a book that features a dude in fist fights not only with zombies and brass robots, and that those aren't even the best bits.

Mann's first novel is absolutely an enormous pile of awesome, and is highly recommended to anyone who thinks that fist fights with zombies and steampunk robots might be their cup of tea.

Greg Bear's The City at the End of Time

I read a capsule review of Greg Bear's latest novel, The City at the End of Time, and had to check it out. People shifting their consciousnesses across alternate dimensions? Teenage runaways in modern America dreaming of a doomed city at the end of time? Vast libraries, containing every possible book? It sounded like it was right up my alley.

And it is. I think this may be the first of Bear's novels that I've read, but I've already added a few more to my To Read pile. This is a hugely ambitious book, and one that plugs into many of my personal obsessions. The first moment that one of the characters started talking about the "fictional encyclopedia" commissioned in the 1920s by an Argentinian named Borges, I knew that this was a story for me. (Though, interestingly, the story seems to take place in an alternate history in which Borges never wrote fiction.) The mentions later on about the "Last Redoubt" only sealed the deal.

The action in City at the End of Time alternates between modern day Seattle and the Kalpa, the titular city at the end of time. In Seattle we follow a teenage runaway and a busker, both of whom visit the end of time in their dreams, and both of whom are able to affect causality in the near term, and a vagrant who is possessed by a consciousness capable of shifting from one parallel worldline to another. In the Kalpa, we follow two young "ancient breeds" (genetically engineered humanoids who are approximations for what primordial humanity--i.e. us--might have been like), who play host to the two dreamers in modern day Seattle, and a "Keeper" involved in a last-ditch effort to stem the tide of unreal Chaos that threatens to engulf the last remnants of the universe.

The far future sections of the novel are really far future, and it's here that the novel really starts to sing. The following are two paragraphs from just one of the many potted histories that are threaded through the book, hinting at the vast gulfs of time connecting now to then.
"As for the late Trillennium, in the shadow of the Chaos: broad legends describe the age of the Mass Wars. Bosonic Ashurs had returned from their mastery of the dark light-years, seeking ascendance over all... and were subdued by the mesonic Kanjurs, who in turn were defeated by the Devas--patterned from integral quarks. Devas were then forces to give way to the nootics. Nootic mater was hardly matter at all--more like a binding compact between space, fate, and two out of seven aspects of time.

The nootics--calling themselves Eidolons--gathered survivors from the last artificial galaxies and forced nearly all to convert. The last remnants of old matter were preserved and transported to a number of reliquaries with the longest continuous histories--including Earth."

This is a terrifically smart book, but in many places a very funny one as well. While not overlong, it is considerable dense in places, and having finished the book I tend to think that the journey might have been more enjoyable than the destination. But it's a wide-ranging, mind-expanding trip of a book, and something that science fiction needs more of. Recommended.

Daryl Gregory's Pandemonium

A few weeks ago, I'd never heard of Daryl Gregory. Then I bumped into Gary K. Wolfe in Denver as he was reading Gregory's first novel, Pandemonium, and the brief description of it that Gary shared was more than a little intriguing. Then I met Daryl himself the next day at the bar, and we struck up a conversation. He seemed like a sharp guy, so when I got back to Austin I dug up a recent "year's best" collection and read Gregory's "Unpossible." Then I read "Damascus." Then I read "Second Person, Present Tense," and "Dead Horse Point," and "The Continuing Adventures of Rocket Boy." And so on, and so on. In the course of a couple of days I read a half-dozen or so of Gregory's stories, and quickly came to a conclusion: Daryl Gregory can write like a son-of-a-bitch.

Pandemonium is Daryl Gregory's first book-length work to be published, and to my thinking it's the single best debut novel I've read in years. The back cover blurb doesn't even begin to do this book justice. This is the story of Del Pierce, a guy who dreamed of being an artist and whose dreams haven't worked out quite as he planned. Del lives in America, but it isn't quite our America. This is a world in which, for at least sixty years and possibly quite a bit longer, various individuals have, for varying lengths of time, been "possessed." By demons? Possibly. By telepathic mutant "slan" who control them at a distance? Unlikely, but not impossible. By free-roaming personalities dredged from Carl Jung's "collective unconsciousness"? Just maybe. But what does it mean that these demons/personalities/etc. so often appear in the forms of heroes from comic books and pulp novels? The Captain, shield-wielding super-soldier; the Truth, a grim avenger in fedora and trench coat, with twin .45s and a menacing laugh; the Boy Marvel, a hero in red tights and a white cape with a boyish smile. Or that another of the "demons" is called Valis and possesses an elderly science fiction writer named Philip K. Dick?

Gregory's short fiction displays certain central obsessions--a keen understanding of cognitive sciences; an interest in families and questions of relationships and maturity; and an obsession with popular culture, in the form of science fiction, superhero comics, pulp novels, etc. All of these factor into Pandemonium, to great effect. To give much more than a broad summary of the plot threatens to spoil too many of the surprises, so I won't bother. (Should I admit that the ending was so affecting that I actually teared up in Starbucks while reading it? No, perhaps not...) I can say, though, that the writing is accomplished and polished, employing a first-person voice that is deceptively conversational and familiar, but which is capable of spinning out devastatingly clever turns of phrase when needed, laugh-out-loud funny in places and knuckle-whitening-terrify in others.

Pandemonium is simply a stunning debut, and I for one can't wait to see what Gregory does next. Highly, highly recommended.



MIND MELD: How Do Media Tie-In Novels Affect SF/F?

I've participated in another of SF Signal's "Mind Meld" round-table discussions, this one on the topic, "How do you think media tie-in novels affect the genre of sf/f?"

Of all the answers, I think I like William C. Dietz's the best. But many of the respondents, myself included, seem to be singing from the same hymn book: "media tie-ins = new readers for sf/f = good"

Of course, not everyone agrees (and respondent Alan Beatts and I have had this discussion before, and I know we will again, though admittedly my position on the matter keeps changing). Check out the link above to see the range of responses, all well worth considering.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Saving the house where Superman was born

Brad Meltzer has launched a campaign to help preserve and restore the house where Jerry Siegel lived as a young man, and in which he and Joe Shuster created Superman
The house where Google was created is saved. The farm where Hewlett Packard was founded is preserved. And Richard Nixon’s house is a museum. But the house where Superman — one of the world’s most recognized heroes — was created? It’s a wreck. It's actually a great old house -- painted bright red and blue (really) -- and owned by one of the kindest elderly couples in the world. But as the neighborhood sank, so did the house. When you walk inside, you feel like your foot might go through the floor. The roof is flawed. The paint is a mess. When you look up at the ceiling, you see the exposed rafters overhead. It's a mess. Worst of all, the city of Cleveland let it happen. As the owner told me, “They won’t even give us a plaque. Not even a plaque to say, ‘This is where Superman was created.’”
Here's Meltzer explaining what happened, and what he's trying to do about it.

For more, visit Meltzer's charity site, OrdinaryPeopleChangeTheWorld.com.

(I bought this shirt, myself...)

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