Also known as Walter Miller’s other Hugo-winning story, "The Darfsteller" presents an episode late in the life of aging theatrical actor Ryan Thornier. Years ago human actors have been bullied off the stage by mechanic automotons called dolls which have been imprinted with the personality patterns of popular actors who have signed their careers away to the Smithfield corporation. Those actors popular enough got a Smithfield contract, and the rest got a stolen dream, but none of them got to stay on stage. Thornier has never given up on artistic integrity, even though he had to make a living as a janitor in one of the robotic theatres, but while he "had stood firm on principle… the years had melted the cold glacier of reality from under the principle." This story is an account of his last attempt to save himself.
Much like "Dumb Waiter," this story takes place in a future that is, if not exactly post-apocalyptic, at least a pessimistic take on the human race. Meteors have fallen to earth which contained a parasitical infection that has already spread to one-third of the human race, causing the structures of civilization to collapse. The infected are known as "dermies" because the infection is spread by physical touch of hand-on-skin, and because the infected possess an almost irresistable urge to touch the uninfected. The dermies’ skin turns grey, and they are said to experience hallucinations that some think are tied to a restructured nervous system. It’s unclear to many if the dermie infection is even harmful, but mass panic has caused all social systems to collapse and has driven the world into a state of perpetual fear. The "benediction" of the title is a play on the religious practice of the laying on of hands to give a blessing, and indicates the belief of the dermies that they are giving a gift to those they infect. (Incidentally, the sperm-like creatures on the book cover above is a representation of the alien parasite from this story.)
Set on the moon in the late twenty-first century, "The Lineman" is a brief look at the harsh life endured by lunar workers in the early stages of extraterrestrial colonization. The twist that gets the story moving—the arrival of a space-bound brothel—reminded me of the old C.S. Lewis story "Ministering Angels," but without the wry sense of humor Lewis brought to the subject. This is one of Miller’s weaker stories from this collection, and it never really comes together coherently to make a point.
Vengeance for Nikolai
This story, on the other hand, is a short but frightfully vivid nightmare of a near-future war between an America that has been overtaken by a nationalist party and the Soviets (this was written in 1956, mind you). A woman, Marya Dmitriyevna, has recently lost her infant son Nikolai in an attack, and is given the chance to revenge herself upon the Americans by a Russian colonel. The American military has a general, Rufus MacAmsward, who may be half-mad, but whose strategies have thus far managed to overcome any obstacle. He also has a thing for women. I won’t ruin the ending, but it is dark and funny and disturbing all at once.
All things considered, this is a pretty solid collection of science fiction stories. It shows off Miller’s talent as well as his versatility. I suspect he could have written a dozen novels, and each one would have been both brilliant and entirely different than any of the others. It’s a pity his output mostly stopped with A Canticle for Leibowitz, especially after seeing the potential only hinted at in this collection.
Next up for review, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman?
The winners for the 2010 Locus Awards have been announced at the Science Fiction Awards Weekend in Seattle, WA. They winners are:
- Science Fiction Novel: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor)
- Fantasy Novel: The City & The City by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
- First Novel: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
- Young Adult Novel: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)
- Novella: The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker (Subterranean)
- Novelette: “By Moonlight” by Peter S. Beagle (We Never Talk About My Brother)
- Short Story: “An Invocation of Incuriosity” by Neil Gaiman (Songs of the Dying Earth)
- Magazine: F&SF
- Publisher: Tor
- Anthology: The New Space Opera 2 by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan, eds. (Eos; HarperCollins Australia)
- Collection: The Best of Gene Wolfe by Gene Wolfe (Tor); as The Very Best of Gene Wolfe (PS)
- Editor: Ellen Datlow
- Artist: Michael Whelan
- Non-Fiction/Art Book: Cheek by Jowl by Ursula K. Le Guin (Aqueduct)
Thanks to Locus Online for the live coverage of the event. You can go to their website to see the official announcement. Congrats to all the winners and nominees. You can see the list of finalists for the SF and Fantasy novels here.
So, Boneshaker and The City & The City. No surprises there as they have both been very well received and won multiple awards – especially City with six nominations and now three wins. Impressive. Both books are still in the running for the 2010 Hugo as well with City also still in the hunt for the 2010 Campbell.
Last month the fine folks at Pyr started sending books to WWEnd for us to share with our visitors. I’ve been a bit remiss in getting these posted in a timely manner (World Cup, Baby!) and I’d like to rectify that. In no particular order:
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.
Welcome to the world of The Dervish House; the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union; a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million; Turkey is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It’s a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia.
Gas is power. But it’s power at a price, and that price is emissions permits. This is the age of carbon consciousness: every individual in the EU has a card stipulating individual carbon allowance that must be produced at every CO2 generating transaction. For those who can master the game, who can make the trades between gas price and carbon trading permits, who can play the power factions against each other, there are fortunes to be made. The old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away.
The ancient power struggled between Sunni and Shia threatens like a storm: Ankara has watched the Middle East emerge from twenty-five years of sectarian conflict. So far it has stayed aloof. A populist Prime Minister has called a referendum on EU membership. Tensions run high. The army watches, hand on holster. And a Galatasary Champions’ League football game against Arsenal stokes passions even higher.
The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core–the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself–that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama and a ticking clock of a thriller.
Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk
In the holy city of Othir, treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, just the place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and few scruples.
Caim makes his living on the edge of a blade, but when a routine job goes south, he is thrust into the middle of an insidious plot. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers, and sorcery from the Other Side, his only allies are Josephine, the socialite daughter of his last victim, and Kit, a guardian spirit no one else can see. But in this fight for his life, Caim only trusts his knives and his instincts, but they won’t be enough when his quest for justice leads him from Othir’s hazardous back alleys to its shining corridors of power. To unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he must claim his birthright as the Shadow’s Son . . .
The Defense and Wellness Council is enmeshed in full-scale civil war between Len Borda and the mysterious Magan Kai Lee. Quell has escaped from prison and is stirring up rebellion in the Islands with the aid of a brash young leader named Josiah. Jara and the apprentices of the Surina/Natch MultiReal Fiefcorp still find themselves fighting off legal attacks from their competitors and from Margaret Surina’s unscrupulous heirs – even though MultiReal has completely vanished.
The quest for the truth will lead to the edges of civilisation, from the tumultuous society of the Pacific Islands to the lawless orbital colony of 49th Heaven; and through the deeps of time, from the hidden agenda of the Surina family to the real truth behind the Autonomous Revolt that devastated humanity hundreds of years ago.
Meanwhile, Natch has awakened in a windowless prison with nothing but a haze of memory to clue him in as to how he got there. He’s still receiving strange hallucinatory messages from Margaret Surina and the nature of reality is buckling all around him. When the smoke clears, Natch must make the ultimate decision – whether to save a world that has scorned and discarded him, or to save the only person he has ever loved: himself.
When Jack Churchill and Ruth Gallagher encounter a terrifying, misshapen giant beneath a London bridge they are plunged into a mystery which portends the end of the world as we know it. All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic myth are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are creatures of folklore: fabulous bests, wonders and dark terrors As technology starts to fail, Jack and Ruth are forced to embark on a desperate quest for four magical items – the last chance for humanity in the face of powers barely comprehended.
The eternal conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side stand the Tuatha de Danaan, golden-skinned and beautiful, filled with all the might of angels. On the other are the Fomorii, monstrous devils hell-bent on destroying all human existence. And in the middle are the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, determined to use the strange power that binds them to the land in a last, desperate attempt to save the human race. Church, Ruth, Ryan, Laura and Shavi have joined forces with Tom, a hero from the mists of time, to wage a guerrilla war against the iron rule of the gods. But they didn’t count on things going from bad to worse…
The Eternal Conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side stand the Tuatha de Danaan, golden-skinned and beautiful, filled with all the might of angels. On the other are the Fomorii, monstrous devils hell-bent on destroying all human existence. And in the middle are the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, determined to use the strange power that binds them to the land in a last, desperate attempt to save the human race. Church, Ruth, Ryan, Laura and Shavi have joined forces with Tom, a hero from the mists of time, to wage a guerrilla war against the iron rule of the gods.
The Quiet War is over. The city states of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn have fallen to the Three Powers Alliance of Greater Brazil, the European Union and the Pacific Community. A century of enlightenment, rational utopianism and exploration of new ways of being human has fallen dark. Outers are herded into prison camps and forced to collaborate in the systematic plundering of their great archives of scientific and technical knowledge, while Earth’s forces loot their cities, settlements and ships, and plan a final solution to the ’Outer problem’.
But Earth’s victory is fragile, and riven by vicious internal politics. While seeking out and trying to anatomise the strange gardens abandoned in place by Avernus, the Outers’ greatest genius, the gene wizard Sri Hong-Owen is embroiled in the plots and counterplots of the family that employs her. The diplomat Loc Ifrahim soon discovers that profiting from victory isn’t as easy as he thought.
And in Greater Brazil, the Outers’ democratic traditions have infected a population eager to escape the tyranny of the great families who rule them. After a conflict fought to contain the expansionist, posthuman ambitions of the Outers, the future is as uncertain as ever. Only one thing is clear. No one can escape the consequences of war – especially the victors.
Midwinter has gone, but that cold season has been replaced by a cold war in the world of Faerie, and this new kind of war requires a new kind of warrior.
Seelie forces drove back Empress Mab at the Battle of Sylvan, but hostilities could resume at any moment. Mab has developed a devastating new weapon capable of destroying an entire city, and the Seelie have no defense against it. If war comes, they will almost certainly be defeated.
In response, the Seelie reconstitutes a secret division of the Foreign Ministry, unofficially dubbed the “Office of Shadow,” imbuing it with powers and discretion once considered unthinkable. They are a group of covert operatives given the tasks that can’t be done in the light of day: secretly stealing the plans for Mab’s new weapon, creating unrest in the Unseelie Empire, and doing whatever is necessary to prevent an unwinnable war.
The new leader of the “Shadows” is Silverdun. He’s the nobleman who fought alongside Mauritane at Sylvan and who helped complete a critical mission for the Seelie Queen Titania. His operatives include a beautiful but naïve sorceress who possesses awesome powers that she must restrain in order to survive and a soldier turned scholar whose research into new ways of magic could save the world, or end it.
They’ll do whatever is required to prevent a total war: make a dangerous foray into a hostile land to retrieve the plans for Mab’s weapon; blackmail a king into revolting against the Unseelie Empire; journey into the space between space to uncover a closely guarded secret with the power to destroy worlds.
We’ve got our team reading some of these books now and we’ll start posting the reviews as they come in. A few of these are sequels to other books we don’t have so it may be some time before we get around to reading those. Our thanks to Pyr for their generosity and the many wonderful books they publish.
The finalists for the 2010 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel of the year have been announced by the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas. They are:
- The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood (Talese)
- The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
- Transition, Iain M. Banks (Orbit)
- Makers, Cory Doctorow (Tor)
- Steal Across the Sky, Nancy Kress (Tor)
- Gardens of the Sun, Paul McAuley (Pyr)
- The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey)
- Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
- Galileo’s Dream, Kim Stanley Robinson (Ballantine Spectra)
- WWW: Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Gollancz)
- The Caryatids, Bruce Sterling (Del Rey)
- Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
My God, it’s full of stars! The awards will be presented at a banquet on July 18 as part of the Center’s annual Campbell Conference.
Awhile back I ruminated on the phenomenon of rock stars appearing in science fiction films.
While I’m still at a loss as to why this seems to be so pervasive, it did engender a little soul searching. And the conclusion that I came to is that, in matters of art and expression, it’s a two-way street. Give and take. Turnabout’s fair play, etc.
This got me to thinking, “What opportunities are there for science fiction films to encroach upon the musical landscape?”
You know, there have been a lot of bad science fiction films. A lot. A painful amount of lot. Like, “Man, that’s a lot of bad” lot. But what if some of those films had instead been sent out to us in the form of rock albums?
You know, there may be something to that.
So I present to you, unscientifically arrived at and totally subjective, my list of the
Top Ten Science Fiction Movies That Would Have Been Better as Concept Albums (and the Artists Who Should Have Recorded Them)
10) The Astronaut’s Wife (1999), as recorded by David Bowie
The Libretto: Johnny Depp as an astronaut? Okay, whatever. Anyway, during a spacewalk Depp and his fellow astronaut are overwhelmed by an explosion and lose contact with mission control for a couple of minutes. When they return to Earth, the other guy dies from a stroke and Depp starts acting weird. His wife, pregnant with twins, suspects that Depp is more Wonka’d than he’s letting on. Murder and mayhem commence. Before Depp dies, he transforms into an alien being who possesses his wife.
Why David Bowie? It was obvious that I had to put Bowie on this stinking list, so let’s just be done with it. Seriously though, Bowie is headmaster of the “Hey, I’m an Alien Weirdo Guy” school of rock ‘n’ roll. Not only that, but he’s equally comfortable with suave romantic ballads. Being able to balance weird aliens and romance is not a tightwire act that just anyone can pull off. Plus, his eyes are different colors, and his son directed the uber-cool Moon. Reasons enough for me.
9) Species (1995), as recorded by Lady Gaga
The Libretto: Picking up signals from outer space, scientists use the DNA information encoded in the messages to create an alien-human hybrid female. Worried that the creature is becoming uncontrollable, they attempt to kill her, but she escapes and makes her way to Los Angeles, where she hopes to make the most of the social scene. Hunted by a team of scientists, cops and a marriage counselor, she undergoes several changes of appearance.
Why Lady Gaga? After bursting onto the music and fashion scene and grabbing it by the collar with both hands, Lady Gaga has proven that she has the moxie to handle the Sex and the City/Alien mash-up that is Species. Known as much for her costumes as for her music, this is the long set piece that her career is ready for. Plus, H.R. Giger (the designer of the Species critter) once designed a music video for Debbie Harry of Blondie, whom Lady Gaga has been compared to.
8) Sunshine (2007), as recorded by Earth, Wind & Fire
The Libretto: Here’s the scoop – the sun is dying. The only way to save it is for eight scientists to crash a spaceship into its heart and kick start it a la nuclear defibrillator. Not a plum assignment. But if they don’t do it, the world will die. Along the way, they run into technical difficulties, as well as the derelict of the previous mission which failed to deliver the goods. You know the guys on the second mission just had to hate the guys on the first mission for dropping the ball. There’s a lot of space mishaps that compound matters. And it’s so darn hot. Not an easy film to sit through at any time, but especially in Texas during the month of June.
Why Earth, Wind & Fire? A big band with a bright sound and galactic aspirations, EWF were the sun kings of the 1970s musical landscape. Given that the band lineup averaged eight musicians during its various incarnations, each band member would have a role to play in Sunshine. Besides, I can just hear that sweet Philip Bailey falsetto hitting the high notes over the blare of horns as their ship does the ultimate solar swan dive. Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be.
7) Surrogates (2009), as recorded by Todd Rundgren
The Libretto: In the not-too-distant future, everyone has become a shut-in, preferring instead to vegetate in barcaloungers and experience life via android dopplegangers they are neurologically linked to. After FBI agent Bruce Willis’ android (who sports totally ridiculous Corbin Bernsen/L.A. Law hair) is blown to bits by reactionaries, he must venture from his couch and crack the murder case at direct risk to his own body. Oh yeah, he has to also try to rekindle the romance with his grief-stricken, shut-in wife.
Why Todd Rundgren? At first liberating from the fear of pain, ultimately the surrogate lifestyle proves debilitating as people become prisoners in their own homes, fearing to risk the dangers of everyday life. It’s that dichotomy of technological embrace / distrust that plays to Runt’s sensibilities. As a studio wunderkind, producer, video pioneer, early proponent of virtual reality and embracer of the possibilities of the Internet and interactive entertainment, Runt has built a career that readily embraced advances in technology. At the same time, his lyrics have often discoursed on the collision between man and the modern world.
6) The Hidden (1987), as recorded by The Smashing Pumpkins
The Libretto: An alien creature with a taste for violence and body possession arrives in Los Angeles and goes on a crime spree. Particularly troubling for the LAPD is that the creature can jump from human host to human host, which presents just a few problems in tracking his identity. Enter the creepy stalker kid from Blue Velvet (only this time with a badge and a gun). He too is an alien, and together with his human cop buddy they manage to save the day. The film’s bittersweet ending and sincerity provide a surprising depth of pathos to what is otherwise a violent buddy flick.
Why The Smashing Pumpkins? For a narrative such as The Hidden, you need a band that is well-versed in shifting identities, wild mood swings and an easy vacillation along the musical scale from heavy rock to tender ballad. Enter the Smashing Pumpkins. While many bands may try to lay claim to that throne, very few are in the same league of heavy weirdness that seems to come second nature to the Pumpkins. Plus, as Billy Corgan writes all the songs, produces, engineers, gets the coffee and essentially plays all the instruments, his chameleon ways make him perfectly suited to tackle simultaneously the roles of both heroes and the villain.
5) Space Cowboys (2000), as recorded by The Highwaymen
The Libretto: A crusty old Soviet satellite is about to fall to Earth, and the only ones who know how to handle its outdated motherboard is the equally crusty and outdated Air Force team of Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland and Garner. There’s a lot of human interest for awhile (including some backstory conflict between Eastwood and the NASA project director), then our boys are sent up in a space shuttle to deal with the Rusky orbiter which, whoa, is loaded with nuclear warheads. A lot of space catastrophe and heroic self-sacrifice ensues.
Why The Highwaymen? This is not an assignment for boys. For something this testosterone infused, you need real men. Real crusty men. Men like Willie. Waylon. Johnny. And Kristofferson. Throw in Steve Miller as the project director, and you have more countrified firepower than a Dairy Queen in Beaumont, Texas.
4) Megaforce (1982), as recorded by The Black Eyed Peas
The Libretto: Directed by the man who brought you Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run, this tale follows the exploits of a crack fighting squad led by Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick of Nancy Drew fame). They battle international terrorism with the help of missile-firing motorcycles and dune buggies. It gets bonus points for featuring Michael Beck (otherwise known as Swan from The Warriors) as one of the Megaforce dudes. Plus it stars the bald babe from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Why The Black Eyed Peas? The military spandex. The Bee Gees hair. The beautiful woman. And lots of explosions. This thing was tailor made for a Black Eyed Peas video. Picture Will.I.Am, Taboo and Apl.De.Ap parachuting to the stage on phunked out motorcycles while Fergie struts out dressed like a discotastic Fidel Castro. Boom boom pow.
3) They Live (1988), as recorded by Iggy & The Stooges
The Libretto: A homeless, flannel shirted professional wrestler finds a pair of Ray Ban knock-offs at a bulldozed church, and suddenly his world is turned upside down (like things weren’t bad enough before). Subliminal advertising is everywhere, telling him to breed, sleep, eat and consume (as if he needed the pointers). Even worse, Los Angeles is run by hordes of alien yuppies who look like Skeletor from Masters of the Universe and who use a TV station to hypnotize humanity.
Why Iggy & The Stooges? Thematically this story is, at its heart, every punk rocker’s war cry. But what it really comes down to is a question of who among punk’s royalty really has the cajones to deliver this immortal line with conviction: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass … and I’m all out of bubblegum.” This is not something that can be said with an English accent (sorry, Joe Strummer). For my money, only Iggy Pop could pull it off.
2) Hollow Man (2000), as recorded by The Who
The Libretto: A brilliant but psychotically self-obsessed scientist develops an invisibility serum for the military, and of course he tests it on himself. Unable to restore himself to visible normalcy, jealous over his ex-girlfriend’s social life and furious at his team’s disapproval of his nocturnal criminal activities, the hollow man hunts down his team members one by one until he’s eventually hurled into an inferno at the film’s climax.
Why The Who? The kings of concept, The Who created and mastered rock opera in one fell swoop with Tommy, that magical deaf, dumb and blind boy who could play a mean pinball. A few years later, Townshend and company delivered a second seismic shot of epic teen angst with Quadrophenia, following the exploits of Jimmy and his four distinct personalities. Hollow Man completes the trilogy of disaffection – this time, instead of the hero being unable to see, he is unable to be seen by the society that he loathes and who loathes him. No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man.
1) The Incredible Melting Man (1977), as recorded by Meat Loaf
The Libretto: The lone survivor of a failed mission to Saturn returns to Earth suffering from some kind of space radiation that causes his body to melt. To combat the process of melting, he has to eat people. Eventually, he melts away to nothing and is swept into a garbage can. But a radio newscast at the end tells us a future Saturn mission is in the works.
Why Meat Loaf? A hulking, sweaty mass with the voice of an angel and a flair for the dramatic, Meat Loaf just very well may have been the best frontman of the 70s. Really. Able to defy convention time and again and deliver massive-selling albums (and even being cool enough to land a role in Fight Club), Meat Loaf is the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll outcast. In Meat Loaf’s hands, Incredible Melting Man chronicles in operatic fashion a man shedding all layers to reveal the romantic loner at his core.
A couple weeks back I posted 20 Harlan Ellison books to WWEnd but I never got around to mentioning them in the blog. Real life can be such a hassle. Anyway, they’re here now so we’ve fixed that gaping hole in our coverage at last. Mr. Ellison is famous for his short fiction (and his short temper ; ) and we’re starting to get into shorts via collections and anthologies aroud here so Ellison was a great place to start.
I’m a relative novice when it comes to Ellison but what I’ve read so far in his collections have me wanting to read more. His stories leave me just a tad creeped out and that feeling stays with me for days. That’s not a complaint, mind you. Ellison makes you think. The titular short, I Have No Mouth & I must Scream, is a prime example of his disturbing genius as is A Boy and His Dog found in Vic and Blood. In case you missed it, Paul wrote a fun review of the film version that you should check out.
All 20 books are part of a complete set from publisher e-reads.com using the same cover art but with variations on the title colors. They look better in person but they tend to run a little bland after a dozen or so. Jynnantonnyx has added a bunch of the more colorful older cover art to some of the pages that fit the weird nature of the contents better than the cookie cutter covers in the new series. Check out the arternate images for Ellison Wonderland for some examples. Trippy.
One thing that I really like about Ellison is his flair for story titles. I Have No Mouth & I must Scream, The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman, The City on the Edge of Forever and The Whimper of Whipped Dogs are just a few examples.
Of course, not all 20 of the new books are Ellison’s story collections. We’ve also got two short story anthologies that he edited: Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions. From all accounts these are two of the best anthologies ever produced. Says, James Blish: “There has never been a collection like this before… it will entertain, infuriate, and reward you for years.” Take a look at the list of contributors and tell me you don’t want to read these.
If you’ve not tried Ellison before, now is a good time to start. Ask Pete Hamil: “Harlan Ellison is the dark prince of American letters, cutting through our corrupted midnight fog with a switchblade prose. He simply must be read.”
These last two years have been particularly tough on the American worker.
A turbulent economy. Industries roiling on the brink of collapse. Layoffs and pay cuts. Government takeovers and bailouts. An increase in disaster epics at your local cinema. And more zombie films.
A big downer all around.
Basically if you’ve remained employed during this time, you were one of the lucky ones. (A fact not lost on the evil overlords at the C-level of your company.)
A few highlights from the Bureau of Labor Statistics / June 4, 2010:
In May, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was about unchanged at 6.8 million. These individuals made up 46.0 percent of unemployed persons, about the same as in April.
Among the marginally attached, there were 1.1 million discouraged workers in May, up by 291,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.
Really? Hmm. Your friends at Worlds Without End figured we’d put this budding optimism to the test. It wouldn’t be socially responsible of us if we just took this information on face value. After all, if science fiction films of the last thirty years have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t trust the government or big business.
(Interesting to note is the evolution of villainy in science fiction films from rogue government agencies in the 1970s to corporate entities in the 1980s and beyond. Some try to blame Reagan for the Gordon Gekkozation of sci fi’s malevolent wonders. For my money, the blame goes to the hippies. After all, wasn’t it in the 1980s when they finally discovered gainful employment? And showers? The shift of collective hippie anger from government to business is hardly surprising, when seen in this light.)
To that end, we devised a special socio-economic project for our WWEnd intern, Barry. Young, foolhardy and naively trusting of his WWEnd supervisors, Barry is up for just about any assignment, which makes him the perfect intern.
(“Intern,” as anyone who has ever interned will tell you, is a code word for “slave labor.”)
Barry’s assignment? To secure a position – any position – at a real company, using a resume peppered with fictitious evil corporations from science fiction films of the last 30 years.
We wish to learn if: 1) companies really are starting to ramp up their new hire positions, as pundits claim; and 2) just how savvy their hiring executives are.
We’re sending Barry out with a variety of resumes and a borrowed suit. He’ll pound the pavement over the course of the summer and report back to WWEnd. We’ll tabulate his progress and then share the results with you in a future installment.
The nominees for the 2010 British Fantasy Society Award have been announced.
- Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)
- Futile Flame, Sam Stone (House of Murky Depths)
- One, Conrad Williams (Virgin)
- The Naming of the Beasts, Mike Carey (Orbit)
- Under the Dome, Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)
- Old Man Scratch, Rio Youers (PS)
- Roadkill, Rob Shearman, from Roadkill/Siren Beat (Twelfth Planet) and Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical (Big Finish)
- The Language of Dying, Sarah Pinborough (PS)
- The Witnesses Are Gone, Joel Lane (PS)
- Vardoger, Stephen Volk (Gray Friar)
Best Short Story
- Careful What You Wish For, Justin Carroll, in Dragontales: Short Stories of Flame, Tooth and Scale, ed. Holly Stacey (Wyvern)
- George Clooney’S MoustachE, Rob Shearman, in The BFS Yearbook 2009, ed. Guy Adams (BFS)
- My Brother’S Keeper, Nina Allan, Black Static #12
- The Confessor’S Tale, Sarah Pinborough, in Hellbound Hearts, ed. Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane (Pocket)
- What Happens When You Wake Up In The Night, Michael Marshall Smith (Nightjar)
- Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9, ed. D.F. Lewis (Megazanthus)
- Dragontales: Short Stories Of Flame, Tooth And Scale, ed. Holly Stacey (Wyvern)
- Hellbound Hearts, ed. Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane (Pocket)
- Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honour of Jack Vance, ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (HarperVoyager)
- The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20, ed. Stephen Jones (Constable and Robinson)
- Cyberabad Days, Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
- Just Behind You, Ramsey Campbell (PS)
- Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, Robert Shearman (Big Finish)
- Once & Future Cities, Allen Ashley (Eibonvale)
- The Terrible Changes, Joel Lane (Ex Occidente)
PS Publishing Award for Best Small Press
- Newcon Press (Ian Whates)
- Screaming Dreams (Steve Upham)
- Subterranean Press (William Schafer)
- Telos Publishing (David Howe)
- TTA Press (Andy Cox)
Best Comic/Graphic Novel
- Fables, Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
- Freakangels, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield (Avatar & warrenellis.com)
- Locke and Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
- The Girly Comic, ed. Selina Lock (Factor Fiction)
- Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert (DC)
- Charles Vess, for work including Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl
- Les Edwards, for work including the cover of Cemetery Dance #62
- Shaun Tan
- Steve Upham, for work including the Estronomicon Sketchbook Special
- Vincent Chong, for work including covers for The Witnesses are Gone (PS) and Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 20 (Constable and Robinson)
- Ansible Link, David Langford (http://news.ansible.co.uk)
- Case Notes, Peter Tennant, Black Static
- It Lives Again! HORROR MOVIES IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM, Axelle Carolyn (Telos)
- John Scalzi, WHATEVER (http://scalzi.com/whatever)
- Knowing Darkness: Artists Inspired By Stephen King, George Beahm and various artists (Centipede Press)
- Black Static, ed. Andy Cox (TTA)
- Cemetery Dance, ed. Richard Chizmar (Cemetery Dance)
- Interzone, ed. Andy Cox (TTA)
- Midnight Street, ed. Trevor Denyer (Immediate Direction)
- Murky Depths, ed. Terry Martin (The House of Murky Depths)
- Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, ed. Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood (Silver Age)
- Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi/Sky 1)
- Being Human (BBC3)
- Doctor Who (BBC1)
- Lost (ABC/Sky 1)
- Torchwood: Children of Earth (BBC1)
- Avatar, dir. James Cameron (Twentieth Century Fox)
- Coraline, dir. Henry Selick (Focus)
- District 9, dir. Neill Blomkamp (Tristar)
- Let the Right One In, dir. Tomas Alfredson (EFTI)
- Watchmen, dir. Zack Snyder (Warner)
So what other novels were in the running? Check out the BFS Long List released at the tail end of March.
Commander Eli Roki shoots down an emergency supply ship from Earth in what is apparently cold blood, but why? He has suspicions about the cargo the ship was holding, but has no proof of any wrongdoing. He is stripped of his rank and sets out to prove himself right… or die trying. In “Blood Bank” Miller creates a galaxy of planets which individually hold various evolutionary lines of the human race, each having adapted in some way to its environment. While Miller overestimates the speed at which the Darwinian theory of natural selection allows for such change, it does make for some fascinating speculation. There is also in this story a brief touch upon Miller’s favorite theme of abandoning or limiting the use of technology.
Big Joe and the Nth Generation
It is Mars in the far future, and the artificial atmosphere humans generated eons ago is slowly leaking out into space. Add to this problem the fact that Martian inhabitants have regressed into a primitive society which only has legends about the trees and the air being planted from the heavens by the Ancient Fathers, and you’re in a lot of trouble. Asir is an idea thief who has spent his life collecting—society calls it stealing—fragments of ancient wisdom which have been passed down through oral tradition, and having put these fragments together he realizes that the world will end soon if he doesn’t do something about it.
The Big Hunger
This is Miller’s poetic ode to space travel. Told from the perspective of some enigmatic and abstract observer, mankind reaches out to the stars over and over again. He leaves Earth and finds a habitable planet; he settles down, gets comfortable, builds a new civilization; he gets tired of the comfort, yearns for the stars, and leaves, beginning the cycle anew. Over and over he spreads himself across the galaxy, looking for something, maybe some kind of paradise from which he was banished. Many planets eventually lay claim to the name of Earth, to being the place of origin, but will the restless race find happiness even if it can find its roots?
Inspector Norris is in charge of a pound, and his new wife is very unhappy to find out about this. In the near future, population growth has led to draconian limits on procreation, and subsequently to the creation of mutated animals that have just enough intelligence to fill the emotional void of the child that is not there. Dogs can talk gibberish and chimps have been altered to look almost human, and have their physical development arrested at the level of a toddler. Mommy’s little baby. Norris catches strays and unwanted “children,” and quietly disposes of them as needed. It is a cold, frightening look at the things we are willing to do to keep ourselves comfortable at any cost.
Next time we close out this collection with “The Darfsteller,” “Dark Benediction,” “The Lineman” and “Vengeance for Nikolai”