Monthly Archives: March 2010

SHINE podcast: “The Earth of Yunhe”

With great thanks to Kate Baker, I am happy to present you—on this beautiful March 30, SHINE’s US release date—a podcast of the Shine anthology’s opening story: “The Earth of Yunhe” (excerpt here).

Enjoy!

Eric Gregory’s stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsInterzoneBlack StaticSybil’s Garage, and more. He has also written non-fiction for Fantasy Magazine and The Internet Review of Science Fiction. Visit him online at ericmg.com.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with him at SF Signal.

Review Quotes:

Eric Gregory’s sublimely powerful The Earth of Yunhe takes place in a region of China devastated by a flood of toxic coal waste and a dissident native son who risks everything to find a solution — a solution that could transform the entire planet.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe has to be my favourite out of all of the stories in Shine. It deals with two siblings in rebellion against their father and the current state of things. Gregory’s descriptions of the world of Yunhe is tightly controlled, allowing us glimpses of a future where China could perhaps be the garden of the world. What I truly liked in this was how quickly I grew fond of the characters and to be honest, I am willing Mr. Gregory to put pen to paper and offer up a full length novel soon because he writes very well indeed.

SF Revu;

The opening story, The Earth of Yunhe by Eric Gregory is a strong one. […] Gregory weaves a very interesting tale of a displaced people, conflict within a family and nanotechnology. What I particularly liked about this story is the way the author manges to capture such a complex theme as the conflicts arising within a community of displaced people in one family. Do you resign yourself to finding your place in your new environment or try to reclaim what was lost? And what if technology allows you to reclaim but politics won’t?

Val’s Random Comments;

In the relocated village of Little Yunhe, Yuen the daughter of the “village chief” tries to save her brother Xiao who has “defected” in college to Ecclesia, a transnational organization that plays the role of a state in this environmentally troubled Earth, only to return with a discovery that may allow Yunhe to be “grounded on soil” again. However Xiao is regarded as impious and “heretic” and his brash manners on return did not help, so he got flung in jail by his father. An excellent story that works at all levels — world building, action, inventiveness and characters and a superb start to the anthology.

Fantasy Book Critic;

Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe takes the reader to a future China suffocating beneath ash and pollutants. The remedy takes the form of nanite soil a hyper-complex algorithm, but the real problem is not pollution, but the government unwilling to compromise. Highly Recommended, and a promising opening.

Suite 101;

Eric Gregory likewise goes for technical plausibility in The Earth of Yunhe, though he keeps things closer to home as his characters use social networks mobilise support for rebuilding a climate-wrecked city with nanobots in the soil.

Futurismic;

[…] a fair number of them do a credible job of successfully balancing drama and optimism without sacrificing cultural complexity. The stories here that probably do the best job with this complex balancing act are The Solnet Ascendancy by Lavie Tidhar, Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic by Gord Sellar, and The Earth of Yunhe by Eric Gregory.

—Garner Dozois in the April Locus Magazine;

Also, though half the stories take place in unusual locations, few present worldviews that diverge significantly from the default Anglosaxon mindset. Interestingly, the two that go farthest are those in which the first-person narrators don’t match the gender of the authors (Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe, a happy-outcome alternate of Tiananmen Square; Jason Andrew’s Scheherazade Cast in Starlight, an upbeat version of the Iranian election Tweeter phenomenon).

The Huffington Post;

The state is viewed with suspicion, while the market moves so quickly that malevolent corporations die off with a minimum of fuss. China, Brazil, tiny Vanuatu all have powerful roles in a post-superpower future.

SciFi Wire;

Eric Gregory’s The Earth of Yunhe is a more reflective and nuanced tale of repression and rebellion. The spare prose and the nicely drawn characters reaffirm the notion that sedition is always a possibility.

—Interzone;

An interactive map of the SHINE story locations:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Order SHINE via Pick-a-Book!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!

Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!

India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

ELECTRONIC:Buy SHINE at MobiPocket!Buy SHINE at Amazon Kindle!

SHINE excerpts: “Castoff World”

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the fourteenth one: “Castoff World” by Kay Kenyon:

Child knelt at the edge of the ocean and carefully spread the bird bones on the water, putting them out to sea. She waited for them to burst into feathers and rise from the ocean, flapping in circles, corkscrewing into the wind.

Not this time, though.

Child always hoped to see the leftover bones from meals reform in their proper shapes: seagull, turtle, swordfish. When she was little, she used to think Grappa was saying they had to put meal leftovers out to sleep, not out to sea. So even though she knew better now—being almost seven—she still thought of the bones as sleeping. And it was their little fun thing that they said, her and Grappa: out to sleep.

She checked the fishing lines on this side of the island for any catches—none—and scanned the horizon for pirates. The blue-green sea stretched in gentle swells to the edge of the world. No pirates today. If you saw pirates you had to crawl to the trap door to meet Grappa who would have a rat for protection. They’d practiced many times, always quiet and serious, but Child would have liked a glimpse of pirates. The book had a picture of one, but Grappa said, no, that was like in the movies, and not a real pirate. Movies was a before word. The book didn’t have a picture of movies. But it had other before things, like fire hydrant, bicycle, and nano assembler.

“You dropped a bone, Child.”

Grappa stood, his beard fluttering in the wind, and pointed to the tiny bone.

“Can I watch Nora kick it off?”

He nodded, and they crouched beside the bone, watching as the nanobots slowly moved the fragment toward the water’s edge. You couldn’t see the nanobots because of being too small, but they were there, working hard, passing the bone to the nanobots next to them. It would take all afternoon for Nora to put the bone out to sleep. Child would come back later to check on the progress.

“Nora doesn’t like our garbage,” Child pronounced.

“Not her kind.” Grappa stood and looked out over their floating home. It was made entirely from garbage, an island of toxic trash, collected over years of swirling round the ocean gyre. The more garbage collected, the bigger Nora got. Here and there you could see plastic bottles, sty-ro-foam cups, white and yellow bags, and crunched up cans. Over there, a collection of tiny stirrers and straws, lined up like a miniature forest. (Forest: many trees clumped together. Tree: tall growing thingy.) Nora was going to break all these things down and make them into good stuff so that bad stuff wouldn’t leak into the water.

Grappa said Nora wasn’t alive. But they called her her, because he said you could call ships her, and what they were on was like a ship or maybe a raft.

Picture credits:

Kay Kenyon’s latest work, published by Pyr, is a sci-fantasy quartet beginning with Bright of the Sky, a story that introduced readers to the Entire, a tunnel universe next door. Publishers Weekly listed this novel among the top 150 books of 2007. The series has twice been shortlisted for the American Library Association Reading List awards. The final volume, Prince of Storms will appear in January 2010. Her work has been nominated for major awards in the field and translated into French, Russian, Spanish, Czech and audio versions. Recent short stories appeared in Fast Forward 2 and The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two. She lives in eastern Washington state with her husband. She is the chair of a writing conference, Write on the River, and is currently working on a fantasy novel. All of her work has happy endings, except for those with characters who, alas, must die.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with her at SF Signal.

Review Quotes:

Kay Kenyon’s fantastic Castoff World chronicles the life of Child, a young girl whose entire existence has been spent on a garbage island adrift in the ocean. Her only companionship is a sickly grandfather and something she calls Nora — a Nanobotic Oceanic Refuse Accumulator that has continued its mission of collecting pollutants from the water, breaking them down, and transforming them into “good stuff.”

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Likewise the events of the touching Castoff World by Kay Kenyon are restricted to a tiny stage — a makeshift Pacific raft — that nonetheless serves as an effective microcosm of broader ecological concerns.

New Scientist;

Kay Kenyon’s wonderful story Castoff World of a young girl’s life aboard a floating reclamation centre;

Catherine Hughes;

Castoff World by Kay Kenyon has an amazing dreamlike feel to it. It’s about a girl, her Grappa (older grandfather figure) and a boat called Nora drifting on the ocean. It’s about truth and having to fend for yourself. It’s a bit Big Blue in its feel and the ending made me well up and sigh that Child will now no longer be alone. Beautiful.

SF Revu;

The last story I want to mention is Kay Kenyon’s Castoff World. The story is about Child and her Grappa floating around on a barge originally intended to clean up the Ocean of pollutants like plastics. The barge has long since lost contact with the people who designed and ran it and it is now floating freely on a dangerous ocean, collecting ever more rubbish. We see the story from Child’s perspective. It’s a very touching story, I particularly liked the subtle presence of artificial intelligence. Beautifully written. This one is probably my favourite in the entire collection.

Val’s Random Comments;

A story about the “friendship” between the orphan Child and Nora, a “Nanobotic Oceanic Refuse Accumulator” aka “an ocean garbage eating artificial island” which is Child’s only known home. While a bit too short, this story hearkens back to the traditional lost in the world adventure and it’s wonderful.

Fantasy Book Critic;

An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!

Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!

India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

SHINE excerpts: “Russian Roulette 2020”

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the thirteenth one: “Russian Roulette 2020” by Eva Maria Chapman:

Next morning MV was woken by singing. Cursing, he went to the window. He’d been up half the night catching up with pips and downloads. Just a few hours away from his ZiSleeve was lethal. It mustn’t happen again.

Out of the window the garden looked resplendent in the morning sunshine. Tripping through it barefoot was his nemesis, that temptress Rada. It looked like she was singing to the flowers. Bloody hell—what a kook! Colleen had made such a mistake bringing them to this Godforsaken place.

Well it must be near midnight in New York—time for a game before Jeezbob hit the sack. He closed the curtain. Jeezbob had manoeuvred him into a cave full of unexploded mines, and the sound of whizzing, banging and explosions drowned out that wretched singing.

A shaft of sunlight slipped through a crack in the curtain and caught his face. Dammit. It reminded him of the sparkle on Rada’s pearly teeth. He went to the window. Oh God she was cartwheeling again. As she came up, she spied him.

“Come, come outside! It is so wonderful out here.” He was torn. Then he saw the quote above his door.

If we don’t change our direction, we’ll wind up where we are headed.

Boy, was this place trying to brainwash him? He decided to take his ZiSleeve with him. As protection.

“Oh okay, but I’m not doing any more cartwheels.”

“Of course not—I want to show you the gardens.”

“Just for a short while.” Out he went, armoured with his ZiSleeve.

The garden was bursting with vegetables and flowers. Cabbages the size of footballs swelled out among a riot of nasturtiums.

“You grow all your own vegetables?”

“Yes, and fruits, and healing herbs. We use permaculture techniques.”

“Do you guard your gardens?”

“No.”

“Why not?” In LA, gardens had sprouted everywhere—disused lots, sides of roads where guerrilla gardeners had to become more guerrilla-like to protect their produce. MV earned extra money by patrolling gardens at night, entertained by his ZiSleeve of course.

“Well Miroslav.” She lowered her voice as she said his name. Despite himself he thrilled at the way she pronounced it. “We have plenty of gardens in Russia. And land. You must remember the Soviet Union collapsed twenty years before the world financial crash of 2009. Fortunately most people, even those in the cities, still had access to a dacha and garden. In the early 1990s while Russia boiled out of control in a soup of intrigue, power and greed, these gardens saved Russia from starvation and possibly another revolution.”

“Revolution may have been a good thing.”

“No Miroslav—our country was worse than a battered, bloody dog after seventy years of revolution. In 1995 there emerged from the Siberian Taiga my heroine, the eco-mystic Anastasia, who persuaded hundreds of thousands of people to turn away from the transient attraction of luxury consumer goods, and delight in the simple pleasures of planting seeds and creating gardens. By the time Capitalism cracked apart, President Medvedev was passing legislation for people to acquire land cheaply, so they could be self-sufficient. What was great was that these people were well educated and technically literate and brought their new knowledge to the land. My parents were successful city people who became quickly disillusioned with a Western copycat lifestyle; they traded their concrete coop in Moscow for an eco-house in the countryside, at first commuting while they built it.”

Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of her parents. “Oh Miroslav I wish I could take you to visit them, so you could eat one of the apples from the tree they planted when I was born. It would help your skin condition.”

MV looked at the rosy flush of her skin and longed to touch it—to somehow infuse it into his own.

“So what is so special about this school?” He had avoided going to Shchetinin’ s talk, pleading Zi overload.

“We learn how to create a positive future.”

“How?”

“In many ways, but basically by relating to each other and thinking.”

“Thinking?”

“Yes, most people only use a fraction of their thinking capabilities.”

“Well I don’t. I think all the time.”

“Miroslav, you never have time to think—a slave to your ZiSleeve.”

“I’m thinking the whole time—responding to hundreds of pieces of info every day, through my live-Stream.”

“Just Nowism; downloading data. Reacting. Not retaining it.”

“Yes I am.”

“I doubt that. When do you contemplate deeply, sharpen your understanding—ponder whether something optimal in the present may not be optimal in the future? Do you observe nature for example? Work out the true laws that govern everything?”

“Well—er…” MV thought of his mother who commented sadly that old-fashioned daydreaming had disappeared?

“Well Miroslav—the deep, quiet thinking process is alien to many today because of the influence of the technocratic world. People spend their entire life marshalling their thoughts towards using and creating better widgets and gadgets. You are seduced by these substitutes for real life.”

MV’s Wii injury throbbed. His ZiSleeve winked and beeped.

“Substitutes! You’re unbelievably arrogant! You should have seen the amazing devices at the Expo. Technology that will save our planet.”

“Miroslav, the planet needs greater consciousness, reflective awareness, not just technical fixes.”

But MV was back at Moscow’s Crystal Island. His eyes glazed over. “You should have seen the robots.”

“Just clever inventions, nothing more.”

“Inventions? Robots will take over.”

“Only the brains behind them will take over. Our brains. Technology is created by us; by our thoughts. It is us humans who are amazing. Robots, at best, are useful servants.

“Look at this ZiSleeve! I can get any piece of information I want at any time. I’m being better educated than anyone in mankind’s history.” MV’s Zi bleeped obligingly in emphasis. “I’m proud to be part of a cross-fertilisation that’s driving a generation of new scientific knowledge and technological innovation at an unprecedented rate.”

“Yes that is good—it makes you flip from topic to topic easily and you learn a lot quickly, but it also makes you lazy. Your mind is continually searching for input—the latest disaster, the latest news, the latest—what do you call it? Thrill.” She pronounced it ‘T’rill.’

MV had to acknowledge that point. Each day brought an exciting breaking news story on ZiNet—plenty of them—cyclones, fires, riots, floods, sieges. There was even a special part of YouTube called SiegeTube where people could tune into their own reality siege. It felt dull if a day went by without a disaster to tune into.

“But it’s good to be tuned into the world. I’m connected to millions of people in real time. Live-streaming.”

“Real time? A delusion. Just an impression of real life. Live-streaming enslaves you to the web. Why are we here? How can we save the planet? How do we relate to each other? They are the real time questions.”

“I am relating to others all over the globe. Strangers reach out to each other—open up, express themselves more easily. I respond to so many people.”

“Yes but you never have time to deeply ponder. You are mesmerised by the web like a baboon is to a red bottom. Easily led. Never stopping to think.”

Picture credits:

Eva Maria Chapman has successfully pursued a variety of careers; teacher, academic, psychotherapist and director of an energy efficiency company. In her career as author, she is a genre hopper. Her first book Sasha & Olga, a memoir, charts the adversities of her Russian refugee family, before and after emigrating to Australia; her second, Butterflies & Demons, unveils the extraordinary past of the Kaurna Adelaide Aborigines, combining historic fiction with fantasy. ‘Russian Roulette 2020’ is her first foray into Science Fiction and has inspired her to embark further into this genre. She is now writing an optimistic novel set in the future. She lives in happy seclusion in a wildlife sanctuary on the edge of Exmoor, England, with her husband Jake. When not writing, or growing vegetables, she likes to make (and wear) hats, party with friends, and frolic with her grandchildren.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with her at SF Signal.

Review Quotes:

Eva Maria Chapman’s Russian Roulette 2020 genuinely took me by surprise. I truly enjoyed her writing style and the voice of her characters. Set in the very near future, it focuses on a group of high school children who have come from an intensely high tech community to spend time at one of Russia’s ground-breaking schools where technology is not the main focus of their every day lives. Chapman writes eloquently of how difficult the kids find it to relate to being outside, to talking to each other and their guides at the school, when they’re more used to being linked into a the wider world and conversing by message with others all over the world. A very interesting, sobering look at how technology invades our lives. Oh, and there is a wonderful budding romance and I adored it. More please?

SF Revu;

Russian Roulette 2020 by Eva Maria Chapman touches upon the social media phenomenon, too, in that it recounts the story of a group of teens who are compelled to disengage from their cyber-existences and fully engage with reality. The story made me consider how you might blend science fiction with traditional fantasy using virtual worlds. Or maybe even put a new spin on historical fiction.

Catherine Hughes;

In Russian Roulette 2020 by Eva Maria Chapman we get to see the downside of all that instant access. People are consumed by the present, constantly in touch and responding to what is happening elsewhere. A group of American technology addicts encounters a Russian school where they live and teach according to a different philosophy. The group does not shun technology but clearly thinks a connection with the land and your community is equally important. It’s one of the more spiritual stories in the collection. What I particularly liked about it, is that the contrast the author is trying to create between the two groups does not result in one of them completely ignoring the possibilities of technology. It’s about balance. Technology has its uses as both groups will find out in the story.

Val’s Random Comments;

In Eva Maria Chapman’ s Russian Roulette 2020, for example, a blasé teen’s quick-fix addictions dissolve over the course of a slushy summer-camp romance with an insufferably twee hippy.

New Scientist;

Russian Roulette 2020 by Eva Maria Chapman for example falls into the trap of utopian didacticism as the protagonist is reduced to merely being a foil in what is a one-sided narrative.

Charles A. Tan;

An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!

Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!

India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

January 2010 @outshine Prose Poems—Inspiring

January 6:

Powered by the sun, they built themselves from scattered trash. They traveled the world, sending pictures and love, cleaning as they went.

[Bio] @kaolinfire has more for you to read: http://erif.org/published/ and: http://gudmagazine.com/ .

January 13:

Frantic, Lea pushes the implant in her wrist, flushing her body with calm. Anxiety and anger melt away. Just another day in traffic.

[Bio] Lesley Conner is a stay-at-home mum and horror writer. Check out her short stories in Abaculus II and Abaculus III.

January 20:

“Nothing to lose, but so much to gain; she lifts her head proudly. With all her heart she can only hope to achieve.”

[Bio] Raisah Ali is a high school student who aspires to aim for the moon so in case she misses, she’ll still be among the stars.

January 27:

A Bowie-fan’s words
On disturbing the red dust
There’s life on Mars now.

[Bio] David Moore: 34, Australian émigré, editor, writer, geek. Married, lives in Reading, UK. You’re glad you met him.

DayBreak Fiction: “The Rules of Utopia”, v2

Download files of the story:Download PDF version of the story!Download WORD version of the story!

The Rules Of Utopia

James Bloomer

While James Bloomer is a staunch supporter for optimistic science fiction, he also does not shy away from telling when a DayBreak story didn’t work for him, sometimes remarking that the ‘feel-good’ factor was tuned too low for his liking (or even missing). Make no mistake: I welcome comments and critiques, both positive and negative.

Nevertheless, I think every magazine needs variety: also one dedicated to upbeat SF. So sometimes progress will be a small step, incredibly hardfought. Sometimes progress in one area comes together with decline in another. Sometimes the road ahead is harder than we expected, but sometimes it’s easier than we feared. And sometimes, yes, there will be unmitigated Utopia.

To paraphrase a world famous poem:

Idyllic Utopia, shining bright
In SF’s dystopian night
What immoral hand or eye
Dare propose thy fearless lullaby?

Kidding aside, even James Bloomer’s “The Rules of Utopia” does not come without its price. But yeah, does it shine bright, eventually…

1. No One Is Lonely

The evening sun was still high and golden, yet the light had a thicker consistency than earlier on in the day. The pub had a large front garden, dotted with wooden picnic tables, some with umbrellas, some without. People were everywhere: old, young, parents, single, kids, dogs. Local. Meaning from within the area. It wasn’t a special holiday or a weekend, it was just a sunny evening with blue sky and warm air, and like every other day you could always find someone to talk to. No one was lonely.

And on other nights there was not just people to meet but things to do: make, do, learn, volunteer. Providing people joy and purpose. There was a church for those who believed, a shop to post notices in the window and a cricket pitch around which to gather on match days.

Lucas stood on the edge of the social fray, alone and intimidated, feeling lonely and a little scared. He had moved into one of the old terraced cottages on main street a week ago, after returning from three years working in Switzerland. After his life had collapsed around him. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “The Rules of Utopia”

Share/BookmarkDownload files of the story:Download PDF version of the story!Download WORD version of the story!

The Rules Of Utopia

James Bloomer

While James Bloomer is a staunch supporter for optimistic science fiction, he also does not shy away from telling when a DayBreak story didn’t work for him, sometimes remarking that the ‘feel-good’ factor was tuned too low for his liking (or even missing). Make no mistake: I welcome comments and critiques, both positive and negative.

Nevertheless, I think every magazine needs variety: also one dedicated to upbeat SF. So sometimes progress will be a small step, incredibly hardfought. Sometimes progress in one area comes together with decline in another. Sometimes the road ahead is harder than we expected, but sometimes it’s easier than we feared. And sometimes, yes, there will be unmitigated Utopia.

To paraphrase a world famous poem:

Idyllic Utopia, shining bright
In SF’s dystopian night
What immoral hand or eye
Dare propose thy fearless lullaby?

Kidding aside, even James Bloomer’s “The Rules of Utopia” does not come without its price. But yeah, does it shine bright, eventually…

1. No One Is Lonely

The evening sun was still high and golden, yet the light had a thicker consistency than earlier on in the day. The pub had a large front garden, dotted with wooden picnic tables, some with umbrellas, some without. People were everywhere: old, young, parents, single, kids, dogs. Local. Meaning from within the area. It wasn’t a special holiday or a weekend, it was just a sunny evening with blue sky and warm air, and like every other day you could always find someone to talk to. No one was lonely.

And on other nights there was not just people to meet but things to do: make, do, learn, volunteer. Providing people joy and purpose. There was a church for those who believed, a shop to post notices in the window and a cricket pitch around which to gather on match days.

Lucas stood on the edge of the social fray, alone and intimidated, feeling lonely and a little scared. He had moved into one of the old terraced cottages on main street a week ago, after returning from three years working in Switzerland. After his life had collapsed around him. Continue reading

SHINE excerpts: “Scheherazade Cast in Starlight”

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Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the twelfth one: “Sheherazade Cast in Starlight” by Jason Andrew:

The Qur’an says that all people are a single nation. Though we failed that day, we were shown the way by the will of Allah. Globalization has been a dirty word for oppressive governments. They want to keep their borders clearly defined with walls of stone and barbed wire and land mines. They want their citizens to think only of what happens in their lands, to their familes. They want us to forget that we all are one family.

Technology blurs those borders. It allows information to flow freely. It is the bane of any oppressive government. There were no more barriers to hide us away from the rest of the world. No firewalls that could keep out our stories. The world hungered for reality entertainment. When I was ready, I stepped into the starlight.

My v-casts are circulated around the world. Every action recorded and captured in amber for the world to study. Anyone in the world can watch me. I am Scheherazade cast in starlight, telling a story each night to keep my head. I competed against drunken bears roaming free in Butte, Montana. I told the world of the food shortages, the war, tragedies, and love against the tale of seven strangers trapped in a house forced to live together. I battled against Big Brother by showing stories about all of our brothers and sisters. We showed the world that the greatest stories come not from forced drama, but from life and living despite the darkness.

Each night before I slept, I checked my ranking. I was safe as long I had eyes upon me. Or so I believed. I am shamed to admit that I was drunk with my new celebrity. I had messages from foreign leaders, proud mothers, and little girls seeking a role-model. I thought that I had made a difference.

Picture Credits:

Jason Andrew lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Lisa. By day, he works as a mild-mannered technical writer. By night, he writes stories of the fantastic and occasionally fights crime. As a child, Jason spent his Saturdays watching the Creature Feature classics and furiously scribbling down stories; his first short story, written at age six, titled ‘The Wolfman Eats Perry Mason,’ was rejected and caused his Grandmother to watch him very closely for a few years.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with him at SF Signal.

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Review Quotes:

Scheherazade Cast In Starlight by Jason Andrew is a strong,sharp story about an Iranian woman who uses her kills to tell the world of her country in all it’s brutality. She recounts how her mother had been thrown in jail for drug abuse, but her only crime was being elected to the parliament. If you read this and you mistakenly think it’s the one story in Shine that’s downbeat, it isn’t. Here we have a modern day storyteller who gets the world to listen, who empowers and who becomes the face of what a patriarchal society tries to destroy. Spikey, vivid storytelling.

SF Revu;

We get more information technology in Scheherazade Cast in Starlight by Jason Andrew. A brief account of how blogging leads to a political change in Iran. It’s clearly based on events that took place in that country right after the last elections, where the Internet was instrumental in getting the news about the protests out to the world. This story is more peaceful but only because the main character manages to keep the spotlight on herself. Locking people up or killing them is still a fairly effective way of silencing a dissident. It made me wonder if authoritarian regimes are rethinking their methods of suppressing opposition. Is the Internet really going to help spread democracy?

Val’s Random Comments;

There are also stories which are quite competent , but simply fail to be striking, such as Sustainable Development by Paul R. Stiles and Scheherazade Cast in Starlight by Jason Andrew.

Charles A. Tan;

An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

SHINE excerpts: “Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic”

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Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the eleventh one: “Sarging Rasmussen: A Report by Organic” by Gord Sellar:

We started out as far from idealists, of course. As my teacher, Praxis, said when he met me: “Environmentalist? Ha, you know who gets laid less than a green radical?”

“Nobody?” I said, wishing I’d mentioned my day job as a lab tech instead of how I spent my weekends.

It was true, though. Women had seen fit to chain themselves to trees beside me, and join me in hijacking oil tankers on highways, and march arm in arm with me in the streets of a dozen countries by my side. But I’d gotten precisely one girl out of a bra in my life, and that had lasted just five weeks. 37 days, to be precise. And that had been four years before.

“‘xactly,” Praxis said with a sneer. “Nobody. But we’re gonna change all that. You’re gonna,” he said, on day one.

That was back in the days when fellas like Praxis were called mPUAs. Guys like him made a living running “boot camps” for AFCs, the Average Frustrated Chumps. Guys who didn’t know how to talk to women and were willing to spend a thousand bucks for a weekend of being coached on how talk to women.

Guys like me.

Mostly, they learned by being forced to go sarging—approaching thousands of women in a row, until they stopped pissing themselves with fear and grew a backbone. And Praxis was right: during that weekend, he changed my life… or, well, really, I did. He’d taken me and the other AFCs—a hardware engineer who called himself Axiomatic, a lonely high school teacher we dubbed Homework, a recently-divorced cop called Slammer, and some Japanese poet or something—and baptized us by fire. We went out sarging all weekend—chatting up hot women in bars and bookstores and coffeeshops, coming onto them and hassling them, teasing and rubbing shoulders and even scoring some phone numbers.

That weekend was the first time I ever wore leather. Tight leather. Peacocky leather. Praxis taught us routines, taught us cocky-funny, taught us rules of thumb and dozens of techniques, and by the end of it, every one of us had learned the secret: there wasn’t one. Getting a woman’s phone number—or anything else, for that matter—didn’t require magic, or an eleven-inch cock, or perfect white teeth. All it took was asking for it in the right way, once she was ready to give it… once you’d helped her become ready. Pretty soon, we were having the time of our lives with the kind of babes who’d terrified us just months before. I was no longer Andrew Dalton: I had become Organic, and now I was swimming in women. Tall women, short women, dark and pale, funny and serious, wild and schoolmarmish alike. I tasted every flavour there was. I’d learned techniques for getting them to come home with me in less than thirty minutes of first contact. For engineering a threesome. For getting them to give me a sponge bath dressed in nurse uniforms, while speaking in fake Polish. (Look, everyone has his kinks, and whoever claims otherwise is lying.) For the first time in my life, I was getting laid like a truckload of linoleum. And it was the part of me that was really, really enjoying all that sex that spoke first when Katana had laid out his plan.

That was the part of me that had stopped caring about how many trees got cut down at Clayoquot sound, and didn’t give a shit about the coral reefs and strip mining in the Northwest Territories. They say that a sense of impending death makes people have more sex—it’s a mammalian instinct. Well, the first year the icecaps melted completely in summer? I made that work for me, and worked out my own mammalian panic all at once. From there, I hadn’t looked back, not once, at the dying Earth.

Not till that day. And it hurt to look again at what I’d once cared about—which I think is why I yelped, “That’s fucking crazy, Katana! The tools we have… they’re for pickup. For getting laid. Not for… saving the world.”

“Yeah, man,” Biosfear said, nodding his head. “What d’ya wanna do, seduce the sun into shining less brightly? Sarge lumberjacks? Toss a few negs at metacorporations and hope that they go sweet on us?”

Biosfear laughed at the absurdity of it. We all did.

“You’re not listening, bros,” Katana said, his hands parallel in front of him like some kind of loony Japanese evangelical minister. His eyes shone with some kind of insane, holy-fire light. “You can’t seduce the sun, but you don’t need to. The environment? The ecology? It’s people. I’ve been rereading Dawkins and Page…”

We all groaned.

“…and there’s something to this extended phenotype thing,” Katana went on. “The world is what we make it. What governments decide. How giant companies decide to behave. But governments and companies, what are they?”

“People,” Biosfear said. “They’re just people, and so they can be seduced…”

“Wrong,” said Katana, flicking at the wall with his keychain remote. The smartwall flickered, and images from satellites flooded it at high speed, corporate logos and national flags flashing superimposed onto creeping desertification, megastorms, and black-smoke flashes of brief, vicious water wars. “They’re persons, legally and functionally. They’re the ultimate amogs. And they can be amogged too.”

Someone who hadn’t known us would have taken one look around the room at us in our freaky peacocky clothing—Homeboyostasis’ purple fur vest, my depilated scalp, Biosfear’s animated Magic Eight Ball T-shirt cycling through its advice—No Way!… Yes Way!… Maybe!… Go Fuck Yourself!—and declared Katana’s attempt to sway us a complete, hopeless failure.

Goes to show you what total strangers know about anything.

Picture credits:

Gord Sellar was born in Malawi, grew up in Saskatchewan, and currently lives and works as a professor of English Language & Culture in South Korea. Since attending Clarion West in 2006, his work has appeared in Asimov’s SF, Interzone, Clarkesworld, Subterranean, and The Year’s Best SF Vol. 26, among other venues, and in 2009 he was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This story is dedicated to his buddies named Mike—in Jeonju, Utah, and Toronto alike, for being very different kinds of men, each excellent in his own way.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with him at SF Signal.

Even more, check out the podcast, with a full cast, at StarShipSofa!

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Review Quotes:

Gord Sellar offers up a great title—Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic)—and a great story about the use of the current creepy trend of Pick-Up Artistry, augmented by cyberstuff, to save the world and find a li’l love.

SciFi Wire;

Gord Sellar’s Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic) fuses pick-up artistry with, of all things, environmental treaty negotiations — to amusing and surprisingly compelling effect.

New Scientist;

Striking the balance between sense of wonder, hard science fiction (be it biological or sociological), and social relevance is Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic) by Gord Sellar. This one immediately catches your attention with the author’s style, and actually manages to sustain it until the very end. To me, this is optimistic science fiction done right, even surpassing de Vries’s own fiction. The conceit here is that the short story doesn’t read like it’s preaching an agenda to you, and Sellar’s enthusiasm for the story is conveyed in the text. There’s a Second Foundation vibe to it and reminiscent of Nicola Griffith’s It Takes Two from Eclipse Three but Sellar takes the concept into a different direction.

Charles A. Tan;

Sarging Rasmussen: A report (by Organic) by Gord Sellar is unfortunately the one story I genuinely struggled with in this anthology. To be honest, I’ll say that it’s 150% my fault as I think it’s that little bit too hard edged for me to fully get into and comprehend. However, I’m sure that should a dedicated SF reader pick this up, they’d be laughing at my failure to get it.

SF Revu;

An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

DayBreak Fiction: “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, v2

Share/BookmarkDownload files of the story:Download PDF version of the story!Download WORD version of the story!

The Notebook of my Favourite Skin-Trees

Alex Dally MacFarlane

Alex Dally MacFarlane is — as far as I can see — on a rather extended wanderjahr. My sister did something similar more than a decade ago, and eventually she wound up (via East Asia and Japan) in Australia, where she basically hasn’t returned from (apart from several family visits): she’s an Australian citizen now. I don’t know if Alex will return to her native England, but she sure seems to have fun travelling, and if that leads to stories like “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, then we all are all the richer for it.

Also, while my original intent with my Twitterzine @outshine was mainly to promote the SHINE anthology, I was (and am) happily surprised by the way it attracted talented writers and interesting pieces that were — as I found out later — hypercondensed forms of a short story. One of these was a tweet from Eric Gregory that was directly related to “The Earth of Yunhe” — his SHINE story — and another was a tweet from Alex Dally MacFarlane (published on Wednesday July 15, last year, which I’ll display below) that was directly related to “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”.

A woman grafts a miniature, nano-engineered breed of fruit to people’s skin. Orchards travel the world and seed onto garbage heaps.

The actual story, as you can read below, goes quite a bit further, though…

BANANA

The best part of these are the fruits, growing on their fat stem, dangling down the person’s back or from their arm. I always bow and smile, asking, “Can I taste one of your fruits? Bananas from a skin-tree are so sweet.”

So sweet and so small, a single mouthful.

I also enjoy the place where banana tree meets flesh, roots curving over and into the person’s limb — pressing my lips there, my tongue — and the small shade cast by the leaves. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”

Download files of the story:Download PDF version of the story!Download WORD version of the story!

The Notebook of my Favourite Skin-Trees

Alex Dally MacFarlane

Alex Dally MacFarlane is — as far as I can see — on a rather extended wanderjahr. My sister did something similar more than a decade ago, and eventually she wound up (via East Asia and Japan) in Australia, where she basically hasn’t returned from (apart from several family visits): she’s an Australian citizen now. I don’t know if Alex will return to her native England, but she sure seems to have fun travelling, and if that leads to stories like “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, then we all are all the richer for it.

Also, while my original intent with my Twitterzine @outshine was mainly to promote the SHINE anthology, I was (and am) happily surprised by the way it attracted talented writers and interesting pieces that were — as I found out later — hypercondensed forms of a short story. One of these was a tweet from Eric Gregory that was directly related to “The Earth of Yunhe” — his SHINE story — and another was a tweet from Alex Dally MacFarlane (published on Wednesday July 15, last year, which I’ll display below) that was directly related to “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”.

A woman grafts a miniature, nano-engineered breed of fruit to people’s skin. Orchards travel the world and seed onto garbage heaps.

The actual story, as you can read below, goes quite a bit further, though…

BANANA

The best part of these are the fruits, growing on their fat stem, dangling down the person’s back or from their arm. I always bow and smile, asking, “Can I taste one of your fruits? Bananas from a skin-tree are so sweet.”

So sweet and so small, a single mouthful.

I also enjoy the place where banana tree meets flesh, roots curving over and into the person’s limb — pressing my lips there, my tongue — and the small shade cast by the leaves. Continue reading