Friday, November 14, 2008

Dennis Lehane on The Given Day (novel)

You can watch this video for free at  
Video: Dennis Lehane on "The Given Day"
Comment: Here's a rare thing--an author interview where the novelist clearly shares his logic in constructing plot and character. Also comments on the gift of those characters that just "show up". Lehane is unquestionably one of my most admired novelists. --Keith Badowski

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct/Nov 2008

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
October/November 2008 • 60th Year of Publication

Days of Wonder (novelette) – Geoff Ryman
5 out of 5

A riveting tale of warfare between horses and cats. Both the horses and cats have human characteristics, such as speech; they also wield guns. The core of the story focuses on Leveza, a horse whose fold is slaughtered by the cats. Leveza in turn takes a cat captive, binds it with ropes, and knocks out its teeth. In the course of the conflict, a fascinating bond develops between captor and captive. I was swept up in the savage heartache of Leveza’s story. The sci-fi concept is that the now vanished humans genetically seeded their own knowledge and characteristics inside the DNA of animals. Leveza believes that humans could be genetically resurrected if all the various elements are brought together from the animal kingdoms.

The Visionaries (novelette) – Robert Reed
3.5 out of 5

Trolling the slush piles of various publishers are the agents of a mastermind who has figured out ways to identify the visions embedded in speculative fiction and apply them as financial tools. Certain rare visionaries have an innate bond with another individual existing 100 years in the future. This story focuses on one such “visionary” writer and his career path as author and forecaster of the future. The concept is clever, the narrator is likable, and there is nice surprise twist toward the end. However, overall the story seems light and designed mostly for brief amusement.

Planetesimal Dawn (novelette) – Tim Sullivan
3 out of 5

On an asteroid two humans struggle to get back to base and accidentally discover an alien mining system. One of the two humans is insufferably antisocial, so much so he resists all efforts to return to base. The other extricates herself from the mining system and encounters a bizarre alien in the process. The story’s concepts and plot held my attention while I was reading it, but characters were so unremarkable, I’m sure this one will quickly fade from my memory.

Inside Story (short story) – Albert E. Cowdrey
4.5 out of 5

Entering the wrong FEMA trailer could turn you inside-out, literarily. This tale feels like the X-files blended with a situation comedy set in New Orleans. I loved the dialogue with Cajun dialect. My favorite line: “’Jeeeeeesus Key-rist,’ Fournet muttered. ‘A four-foot-high parakeet made of rubber bands. I never seen nothing like that, even on Dr. Who. What the hell I’ma put in my report, assuming I ever get to make a report? They’ll think I’m nuts at Tulane and Broad.’” Highly entertaining.

Sleepless Years – Steven Utley
5 out of 5

Admittedly I’m partial to stories that examine issues of faith, particularly the gulf between Christianity and atheism, or in the case of this tale, agnosticism. The agnostic in this story is scientifically revived from death but in a state that prohibits sleep. Since he donated his body to science, his life is not his own, doomed to an endless existence as a lab experiment, since he could be kept “alive” forever. This painful story portrays how throughout a life characterized by tragedy one man is unable to accept Christian faith. I was deeply moved, saddened, and chilled by this story.

The New York Times At Special Bargain Rates – Stephen King
3 out of 5

It’s a ghost story. The eeriness is slight and not too memorable.

Dazzle Joins the Screenwriter's Guild – Scott Bradfield
3.5 out of 5

A talking dog is tapped to write a screenplay based on his biography. It’s amusing send up of Hollywood, worth a few chuckles, but that’s about it.

Going Back in Time – Laurel Winter
4 out of 5

This is a short, fragmented, experimental piece that playfully illustrates some of the theories of physics. It’s sexy, lively, and humorous.

Private Eye – Terry Bisson
4 out of 5

Not a P.I. story, but a vignette about the near-future of voyeurism. Subscribers pay to see what other “wired” people, called “Private Eyes” see. The Private Eye’s strict protocols result in a tour-de-force of sexual tension for the Private Eye, the object of his sight, and his viewers. At the risk of repeating myself, it’s sexy, lively, and humorous.

Whoever – Carol Emshwiller
4.5 out of 5

This is a fascinating little tale of amnesia. The narrator has no idea who she is or how she got where she is. It reminded me of Corwin’s plight in Roger Zelazny’s 1st Amber novel. The story has not only an interesting puzzle, but also romance and action. The narrator’s voice quite engaging as she theorizes what has happened to her.

Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter's Personal Account – M. Rickert
4.5 out of 5

I’m a big fan of M. Rickert, so I’m sad to say this isn’t her best story, but if you’ve never read her work before, it’ll probably blow you away. As usual for Rickert, she’s come up with an extremely creepy premise. Wives and mothers are vanishing, some on the run, others being captured. Some of these women are next seen at their public executions, which are broadcast live. This story follows one family whose wife/mother is missing. There’s a political barb in this one, and it’s fairly disturbing.

The Scarecrow's Boy – Michael Swanwick
4.5 out of 5

In a near-future where robot intelligence has been installed in such things as a scarecrow, a car, and boat, a little boy’s fate is in the hands of a one such scarecrow. This in an intriguing story of how an AI being sorts through memory, emotion, and programming to arrive at a suitable solution for this boy in danger.

December 22, 2012 – Sophie M. White

This poem has vivid details and a humorous premise.

"New Beginning" by Max Bertolini


Monday, November 10, 2008

While Eagerly Awaiting the New Star Trek Feature Film. . .

. . . let's cast our memories backward!

Book Review: Players at the Game of People (1980) by John Brunner

Having been delighted with John Brunner’s The Whole Man, I had high expectations for Players at the Game of People. Unfortunately this novel turned out to be bleak, where as The Whole Man was hopeful, and depressing, where as The Whole Man was uplifting.

Players at the Game of People is also quite a confusing read. If it were not for the dust-jacket blurb, I wouldn’t have understood what was going on until about halfway through the novel. That said, the second half of the novel is much better than the first and almost made the novel as a whole worth my while.

Here’s the basic concept: Godwin is one of many human beings who have surrendered themselves to alien entities (or if you prefer a supernatural metaphor, devils). In exchange for allowing these entities to take over their bodies at a moment’s notice, the humans receive whatever career and/or lifestyle they wish. Godwin has chosen to be a man of leisure, experiencing exotic locales & women, eating posh food, and driving a fancy car.

The first half of the novel is so tough to get through because Godwin is so deeply unhappy and bored with his life. Clearly the deal he made has resulted in his inability to appreciate any of the delights of life, because they come without any effort.

In the second half of the book, Godwin comes to an awareness of how he has “sold his soul,” despite his adamant argument that without the deal he most likely would’ve ended up a wasted drunk on skid row. Sadly his awareness does not lead to character change. The ending is decidedly tragic.

As a reader, I’m perfectly willing to lay aside a book part the way through if it doesn’t please me. So it says something that I finished this novel, actually reading the last half in one sitting. Perhaps the hope of a redemptive ending kept me going. Whatever the case, I must admit that Brunner has done a excellent job of revealing in excruciating detail what it truly means to ‘gain the whole world but lose your soul.’

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Audio Anthology: Poems read by Keith Badowski

These poems were not written by me. I only wish I had written them.

MP3 of the sound of Jealousy

MP3 of the sound of Aging

If you have Quick Time, the track will automatically play in it's entirety when you click on it.You can get Quick Time here.

Your other option is to right click on the link, select "Save Target As", and Browse to the location on your hard drive where you want to save the MP3 file.

In that case, you'll need to open the file in Windows Media Player or some other media program that handles MP3s.