2. The Moon is no longer Earth's sole satellite
3. Gravity waves from a neutron-star collision.
4. Are you dead when you die?
Editor's Note: Dan and I have been writer buddies since we met at Clarion in 2002. He is a fine writer with a verve for strange imaginings. Our tastes converge on all of the writers he discusses here--Tim Powers, Tanith Lee, Lucius Shepard, Ray Bradbury--but that does not prevent me from being critical. Here, for example, while Dan discusses setting, I suspect the success of these writers has just as much to do with an elusive quality of voice as setting. He is correct: These writers do pour themselves into their worlds... but also their words--the way they are told. What do you think? What accounts for the power of these tales? Character, plot, setting, or voice?
“In the early winter, when the seas are strong, the gray seals come ashore among the islands. Their coats are like the dull silver in the cold sunlight, and for these coats of theirs men kill them. It has always been so, one way and another. There were knives and clubs, now there are the guns, too. A man with his own gun and his own boat does well from the seals, and such a man was Huss Hullas. A grim and taciturn fellow he was, with no kin, and no kindness, living alone in his sea-gray croft on the sea rim of Dula under the dark old hill. Huss Hullas had killed in his time maybe three hundred seals, and then, between one day and the next, he would not go sealing anymore, not for money and surely not for love.”
“It was his wife’s debt to Onofrio Esteves, the appliance dealer, that brought Esteban Caxx to town for the first time in almost a year. By nature he was a man who enjoyed the sweetness of the countryside above all else; the placid measures of a farmer’s day invigorated him, and he took great pleasure in nights spent joking and telling stories around a fire, or lying beside his wife, Incarnacion. Puerto Morada, with its fruit company imperatives and sullen dogs and cantinas that blared American music; was a place he avoided like the plague: indeed, from his home atop the mountain whose slopes formed the northernmost enclosure of Bahia Onda, the rusted tin roofs ringing the bay resembled a dried crust of blood such as might appear upon the lips of a dying man.”
Never Stop on the Motorwayby Jeffrey ArcherDiana, successful business woman and single parent, feels pressure on multiple fronts. She still feels the sting of the year-old divorce. Yet she chooses to remain single, partially because the single choices left much to be desired. And the men tend to think of her promiscuous after a single mistake:
St. Martin's Press
General Fiction (Adult)
"[E]very other man on the premises either smirks behind your back or treats your thigh as an extension of the arm on his chair."Driving her Audi suburban and jamming out to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." She does have a good friend, Daniel, who has been married for twelve years with three children, she being the godmother. It is their family she is driving out to visit in the country.
Commentary with SpoilersYou have read the story, yes? It's only a dollar.
Summary:Elephant tusks get gambled away in an alien game. The last member of the tribe is seeking it. He has employed in order to find it. This novel tracks those movements over the centuries of its displacement.
Commentary:This is a book I rather love and I have a hard time accounting for it. It's a minor SF masterwork--that illustrious tier when you have read SF classics like Dune and Foundation, etc. and are scratching your head about what to read next. This has nothing to do with awards. This outshines some winners although a few award-losers might might outshine this one. But not many.
The DilemmaA friend watched Blade Runner while distracted, she admitted, but didn't appreciate it. I looked for a simple webpage to point her to, but nothing obvious cropped up although Wikipedia quotes it as showing up on multiple Best lists (mostly belated as a cult classic). Worse, Siskel and Ebert panned the movie when it first came out:
Analysis with Spoilers
Summary:Lessa is champing at the bit. She is supposed to be Weyrwoman, which is supposed to mean something, but she's kept uninformed and occupied with busywork. She wants to be out flying her dragon with the other riders. Instead, she's memorizing ballads.
Commentary:This is the section connecting the two award-winning novellas, including "Weyr Search" and "Dragonrider". It is the stitching holding these two tales together. It has wonder of its own, but the stitching bears some of the more interesting parts. This section also matches the title, lending the section additional weight.
Seas boil and mountains move,The lines are taut with strong enough imagery. It even surprises with the changing of "passes" from verb to noun. Separate from the narrative, the verse--while good--are not especially remarkable. But McCaffrey does infuse these with a mythic power. In one of my first workshop classes, a young woman imitated the use of these verses mixed with narrative. Even should a young poet manage strong lines, it is only when Lessa ponders their purpose that they gain particular significance. Just picking at the lines seems to lend verse more gravity.
Sands heat, dragons prove,
Red Star passes.
Stones pile and fires burn,
Green withers, arm Pern.
Guard all passes.
"Manora regarded Lessa warily. Lessa smiled at her reassuringly."Some readers want to be told how to react, some do not.
A poetry writing book pointed out the attitude toward the young in the first two lines. But zeroing in on that misses out on the larger picture since it is a poem about the continuity. See the title again. Genius. Beautiful, funny and moving.the nation of the young, like jungle birdsthat scream as they pass, or gyrate on playgrounds,their frenzied bodies jittering with the diseaseof youth. Knowledge can cure them. Butnot all at once. It will take time.
"Hey, give me my witch back."
"You want your what?
"Oh. Okay. If you lost your witch doll, I'm sorry, but I don't have it."
"Projection without personal contact is dangerous. Thousands, even millions of American men projected their internal feminine onto Marilyn Monroe. If a million men do that, and leave it there, it's likely she will die. She died."It may be within the realm of possibility that that is why she died, but it seems doubtful. Unless she were part of a hive mind, she probably had her own issues. One of the measures that some poetry readers use to decide the quality of a poet is their personal mythology. It seems likely that Bly's is unique, so maybe he'll remain within the canon for centuries to come.
As the officers visit Commodore Travers on Cestus III, Travers request tactical people as he has an interesting problem. When they beam down they find the colony outpost destroyed. After they find life a mile away, they are immediately under attack.Summary:
Analysis with spoilers:Kirk believes the messages he'd received from the Commodore were faked. Red shirt dies. Meanwhile, Enterprise is under attack. If they lower shields to beam up officers, they would be vulnerable to attack, so Kirk orders shields up and retreats.
Summary:After spotting an Outsider scouter beyond Pluto's orbit, Carson almost crashes into a planet. The g-forces cause him to black out. He awakes, naked, on a blue-sand planet--not even a planet, but a hemisphere bordered by force fields.
Analysis:They cannot get at each other directly, but by the Roller's killing and throwing a lizard, they learn the projectiles work fine. Carson has the stronger throwing arm and forces the Roller back. Carson, already parched, has a gash in his leg. He tries to patch it with local vegetation, but that only seems to make it worse. Meanwhile, the Roller has constructed a catapult. He manages to destroy it, but he is weakening. It makes another.
Colony Beta VI waits for supplies. Officers open with a discussion of deserts. Spock, "logically," fails to see their beauty. McCoy and Kirk smirk at Spock's Vulcan ways.Summary:
Analysis with spoilers:DeSalle requests to search planet; McCoy seconds; Spock, now in charge, denies and pursues understanding of planet first (second point for Vulcans over humans).
SummaryIn a small town, people unwillingly come to Anthony's house. Anthony is a young lad who can make things happen by thinking about them. A rat bites his tail off. A man on a bicycle wants to bike away quickly, but Anthony reads the thought and sends the man rocketing away only because Anthony was in a good mood. Around Anthony, everyone mumbles and thinks simple multiplication tables so that he cannot read their thoughts. They talk about how good everything is, lest Anthony improve things for the worse.
Analysis with Spoilers:Can there be a spoiler with this? The tale is less a story than a slice of life (albeit, a rather extraordinary one), but there is no plot, per se. Just events. In fact, the tale doesn't seem to have received much notice until Frederik Pohl reprinted it seven years later, followed the next year by Alfred Hitchcock's reprinting.