Monthly Archives: April 2010

DayBreak Fiction: “Arsonist”, v2

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Arsonist

Jennifer Linnaea

Jennifer Linnaea is somewhat of an old acquaintance in that I lifted her story “Pseudo-Tokyo” from the Interzone e-slushpile, and was quite happy to see it appearing in IZ #214 (and podcasted at Transmissions from Beyond). In “Pseudo-Tokyo”, she travels into a strange culture, then makes it even stranger.

Here, in “Arsonist” she’s also not afraid to venture into another culture. As with all such exercises, the risks are huge while the payoff can be tremendous. Even if they’re wrapped up in a deceptively quiet narrative.

Can we re-educate criminals (even if some say we shouldn’t even try), and prepare them for a return to normal society? The TBS system here in The Netherlands is controversial: on the one hand it has helped reduce the number of inmates so that right now we are actually renting one of our (empty) prisons to Belgium. On the other hand, every recidivist that returns back to crime is weeks-long headline news in all the newspapers (not just the tabloids).

The point is, I suspect, that this is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of solution, but an approach that needs to be carefully aimed at each separate person. Almost exactly as it is done in “Arsonist”.

NOTE: Jennifer read this story in full (OK: it’s not that long) at the DayBreak Reading at the last World Fantasy: as I mentioned of other readings, it was an eye- (or should I say ‘ear’-)opening experience.

The first thing that happened was they moved him to a larger room. When they left him there he stood, looking at it, wondering what it meant. The new room was as plain as his old room — a cot, a squat toilet, a recycled plastic chair and a table for writing — but it was … different. It had been freshly whitewashed. The furniture was, not new, but without the quality of neglect that his old had. His new room had a window that looked out on an empty lot. Weeds grew through cracks in the concrete. He lay down on the cot and closed his eyes.

The second thing that happened was the old man. A prisoner like himself, in a prisoner’s green clothing. Green, the prophet’s color, the color to remind them of God, that they might repent. The old man came into the lot one day and gave it a long, hard look. He and the jailer exchanged words — their mouths moved but the sound did not carry.

Beyond the empty lot, a high fence topped with razor wire and punctuated with guard towers. Beyond that, a world that the man, whose name was Jamil, tried to forget about. It had changed. The skyscrapers had been dismantled to reveal the hills beyond. The call to prayer still sounded, but the other noise — the highway into downtown Amman that ran past the prison walls — was less. He wanted to wonder what these things meant, but he did not dare, for to wonder was to care, and to care only led to suffering. Continue reading

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DayBreak Fiction: “Arsonist”

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Arsonist

Jennifer Linnaea

Jennifer Linnaea is somewhat of an old acquaintance in that I lifted her story “Pseudo-Tokyo” from the Interzone e-slushpile, and was quite happy to see it appearing in IZ #214 (and podcasted at Transmissions from Beyond). In “Pseudo-Tokyo”, she travels into a strange culture, then makes it even stranger.

Here, in “Arsonist” she’s also not afraid to venture into another culture. As with all such exercises, the risks are huge while the payoff can be tremendous. Even if they’re wrapped up in a deceptively quiet narrative.

Can we re-educate criminals (even if some say we shouldn’t even try), and prepare them for a return to normal society? The TBS system here in The Netherlands is controversial: on the one hand it has helped reduce the number of inmates so that right now we are actually renting one of our (empty) prisons to Belgium. On the other hand, every recidivist that returns back to crime is weeks-long headline news in all the newspapers (not just the tabloids).

The point is, I suspect, that this is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of solution, but an approach that needs to be carefully aimed at each separate person. Almost exactly as it is done in “Arsonist”.

NOTE: Jennifer read this story in full (OK: it’s not that long) at the DayBreak Reading at the last World Fantasy: as I mentioned of other readings, it was an eye- (or should I say ‘ear’-)opening experience.

The first thing that happened was they moved him to a larger room. When they left him there he stood, looking at it, wondering what it meant. The new room was as plain as his old room — a cot, a squat toilet, a recycled plastic chair and a table for writing — but it was … different. It had been freshly whitewashed. The furniture was, not new, but without the quality of neglect that his old had. His new room had a window that looked out on an empty lot. Weeds grew through cracks in the concrete. He lay down on the cot and closed his eyes.

The second thing that happened was the old man. A prisoner like himself, in a prisoner’s green clothing. Green, the prophet’s color, the color to remind them of God, that they might repent. The old man came into the lot one day and gave it a long, hard look. He and the jailer exchanged words — their mouths moved but the sound did not carry.

Beyond the empty lot, a high fence topped with razor wire and punctuated with guard towers. Beyond that, a world that the man, whose name was Jamil, tried to forget about. It had changed. The skyscrapers had been dismantled to reveal the hills beyond. The call to prayer still sounded, but the other noise — the highway into downtown Amman that ran past the prison walls — was less. He wanted to wonder what these things meant, but he did not dare, for to wonder was to care, and to care only led to suffering. Continue reading

SHINE Released!

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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!

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

The Shine anthology has been released in the USA March 30, and in the UK April 15, to high critical acclaim. Check out the Table of Contents below. Story titles link to story excerpts, complete with pictures, review quotes, exclusive interviews & interactive maps; author names link to their websites:

Here are some review quotes:

That’s why Shine is such a significant — dare I say, historic — anthology. And with a rich diversity of settings and thematic speculation, this is a collection most science fiction fans will undoubtedly embrace.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

Overall, Shine is utterly worth reading.

SciFi Wire;

But it would be difficult — some might say doubly impossible — for every entry in an anthology as ambitious as Shine to appeal to every reader. It is to de Vries’ credit that all but the most hard-hearted of sci-fi readers should find their own brand of optimism represented somewhere among Shine’s array of bright futures.

New Scientist;

But if we are to have some some influence over how that change unfolds, isn’t it important that our stories, whether they be in the news, on television screens or in the pages of science fiction novels, fully explore the optimistic possibilities that technology represents?

The Guardian;

If another collection of stories as good as this is published this year, it will be an annus mirabilisShine is one of the best single anthologies of recent years.

Suite 101;

There are SF writers who continue to explore non-Singularity earth societies that work without reverting to feudalism: Ursula Le Guin, Jack McDevitt, Alex Jablokow, to name just a few. Shine is a worthy squire to these paladins. Granted, it’s a qualified success; yet the fact that it exists at all and that several of its stories are high quality is reason to hope that SF won’t become a whiny couch potato on Prozac.

The Huffington Post;

To round off this very long review I’m happy to report that Shine was a truly fascinating and enjoyable read. I’m not the biggest SF fan in the world, but I’ll happily promote this to others who, like me, feel the same way. Here are authors with stories and characters I could relate to. But then, I suspect hardened SF readers out there will devour this with gusto. Jetse de Vries has done a truly remarkable job putting Shine together and I’d like to be signed up to read any follow-up anthology because this one has genuinely broken down some preconceived ideas I’ve had about the genre.

SF Revu;

For an anthology with a very tight remit — optimistic near-future science fiction — there is a huge variety in the stories themselves. It occurs to me that this book is the perfect introduction to SF for readers who wouldn’t normally venture into the genre.

Catherine Hughes;

The diversity of the stories and the consistently high quality of this collection is testament to his passion for this project. […] A shining example of what positive thinking can achieve.

Val’s Random Comments;

[…] it also ably demonstrates the potential of optimistic science fiction to entertain and speculate at the same time.

Futurismic;

Jetse de Vries did an excellent job in selecting and editing beautiful stories from a group of talented writers. I greatly enjoyed all of Shine’s stories, maybe with one or two exceptions. I would highly recommend Shine.

Speculative Book Review;

The whole collection has the effect of leaving you in a better frame of mind at the end of each story. It’s not that all of the stories are warm and cosy. On the contrary, some of the narrators are coarse, violent and vulgar. The overall tempo succeeds in meeting the aim of the anthology, demonstrating that mankind, either individually or collectively, socially or technologically, can make a positive difference.

SF Crowsnest;

Shine left me feeling like a cat lazing in the sunshine, happy and inspired.  It’s vital and relevant, an almost living thing.  If it’s not looked back on as a significant early step on a new path for sci-fi — along with The Apex Book of World SF — I’d be surprised.

Dylan Fox;

It’s a bold attempt to counter the prevailing doom of much current SF.

The Guardian;

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An interactive map of SHINE story locations:

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!

SHINE excerpts: “Ishin”

Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the sixteenth and final one: “Ishin” by Madeline Asbhy:

“Oh, dear.”

Brandon pauses, his fingers suspended over the keys. “What?”

“Stoning in progress. Well, a pebbling. Some girls going home for lunch. Their route passes some labour pick-ups.”

Brandon accesses Tink’s feed. Onscreen, the girls have formed a defensive cluster, heads ducking slightly as they walk onward. As Brandon watches, one of them brandishes her mobile and starts snapping pictures. Tink’s view is exceptional; he can see the defiant press of the girl’s thumb and her quick, almost unfazed dodge when a rock whips past her ear. Another girl dashes backward and grabs her elbow, tugs her back into the group as it re-assembles itself.

“Can we get her phone number?” Brandon asks.

“Probably. If we break some laws.” Through the earbud, Brandon hears Singer typing. “The mobile’s old; she probably got it as a donation. Could take a while. Better if you just hijack Tink.”

Brandon accesses Tink’s command line and inputs his own hack: ↑↑↓↓←→←→573. Now she belongs to him entirely, priorities momentarily forgotten, processes un-logged, movements off the grid. He directs her with his finger. She swerves, hovers, waits as Brandon plots safe Euler paths between the school and the nearest teashop. She pounces on the girl’s mobile, planting herself inside the phone, streaming the maps there. The girl nods as the first image pops up. Brandon watches through Tink’s eye, sees the slightly worried faces of the other girls as they look back at the labour pool on the corner, watches their lips move with a mixture of frustration and fear. When Tink withdraws they escape.

The people here are already so used to the bots, Brandon realizes, that they barely recognize them as surveillance. They are part of the landscape. As in a fairy tale, they have come alive through prolonged use: real dragonflies, real camels, real birds of prey.

For the first time, he thinks that this might have been the plan all along.

When he releases her from the hack, Tink zings upward and into the sky. She homes in on the beacon from a predator above, first aligning herself with its wide, arcing flightpath, and then pinning herself to its white steel flank. It blinks at her rapidly, and she dives off and streaks away back into the city.

“What was that?” Brandon asks.

“A work order,” Singer says.

Excerpt from “Ishin” by Madeline Ashby. Copyright © 2010 by Madeline Ashby.

Picture credits:

NOTE: when searching the internet for ‘spider robot’ images for the excerpt of Paula R. Stiles’s “Sustainable Development”, I came across the BAE Systems website which features a video called Micro Autonomous System and Technology (MAST). I’m mentioning it, because such robots—either remote controlled or autonomous—play an important role in two Shine stories (“Ishin” and “Sustainable Development”) and one DayBreak Magazine story (“Fembot”). This is the future at your doorstep and near-future SF in action: while these systems are being developed, SF is already working out their implications.

NOTE 2: when trawling the internet for images (especially for the interactive google map below), I found out about a ship design called ISHIN via Ecofriend: this is serendipity!

Madeline Ashby can be found at her blog, escaping the trunk, and @madelineashby on Twitter. She immigrated to Canada in 2006, where she joined Toronto’s Cecil Street Irregulars genre writing workshop. Since then, she has been published in Flurb, Nature, and Escape Pod. When not working on her novel, she’s a student of the Strategic Foresight and Innovation program at the Ontario College of Art and Design, a blogger for WorldChanging Canada and Frames Per Second Magazine, and a fan of anime and manga.

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

Review quotes:

Madeline Ashby’s Ishin is masterfully plotted with two very engaging characters that hold your attention. It’s a volatile story of two men — the one jaded and tired, the other optimistic and almost naive — who do their best to walk the fine line between making right choices for the right reasons in a world filled with political land mines. A truly well executed set piece of story-telling.

SF Revu;

I had heard praises for Madeline Ashby before but it was only after reading her story Ishin that I had the realization that this was the Madeline Ashby other people were talking about. Ashby writes compelling hard science fiction that’s both imaginative and very down-to-earth. I could easily see this author giving Ted Chiang a run for his money down the line, and while Ishin isn’t the best story in the anthology, it’s certainly reason enough to buy the book.

Charles A. Tan;

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!

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

SHINE excerpts: “Paul Kishosha’s Children”

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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 fifteenth one: “Paul Kishosha’s Children” by Ken Edgett:

“To summarize, we’re expecting a little light rain in the morning and partly cloudy conditions this afternoon with a high of twenty-eight. Tonight, overcast with a low around sixteen. Up next on StarTV MorningStar News, we’ll meet Doctor Paul Kishosha, creator of Joe the Martian’s Adventures, a new show airing each Saturday morning at nine, here on StarTV,” the beautiful young anchorwoman, Teresia Bilame, teased.

During the commercial break for Coca-Cola, HIV prevention, and wireless smartphone services, I was directed to put out my cigarette and join Miss Bilame on a set that resembled a western-style living room—a couch, a couple of comfortable chairs, a coffee table, bookshelves behind the couch, and a television.

Miss Bilame faced one of the cameras and read from the teleprompter, “Welcome back to StarTV MorningStar news.” She smiled and said, “Joining me this morning is Doctor Paul Kishosha, the creative force behind Joe the Martian’s Adventures, a new program running each Saturday morning here on StarTV at nine.”

She turned toward me, “Dr. Kishosha, how are you this morning?”

“Paul, please. And I am well. Very well on this fine Thursday morning, Miss Bilame,” I smiled.

“So, tell me about Joe the Martian. The show has been airing for three weeks, now. How is it going?”

“Uh—so far, very well. Excellent indeed.”

“And your subject is science?”

“Our subject,” I winked, “is entertainment. For children. And their parents and grandparents. Everyone,” I smiled again. “It is an entertaining show with a little sense of humor so that the whole family can enjoy. But, you are right, it is also about science.”

“And, so, what is a typical show like?”

“Each show has a variety of things. There is always an animated piece featuring Joe the Martian and Beauty the Leopard and a visit with a real, east African scientist, doctor, or engineer. We also like to show children doing a science project—like planting trees and flowers in their schoolyard, or setting up a weather station. And there is always an update on what is happening in the sky with the stars, planets, and the moon. We offer tips on disease prevention and protecting the environment, and we like to show something going on in nature—wild gorillas, flamingos on Lake Natron, an erupting volcano, the silence of snowfall on Kilimanjaro, things like that.”

“Let’s see a clip.”

They showed a couple of minutes of the five-minute claymation piece about Joe and Beauty exploring the dunes of Titan. These were compared with the linear dunes on the coast of Namibia, and other dunes in the Sahara. It was from our second episode.

“The Martian,” Miss Bilame smiled, “is really cute. Titan, that is a moon of,” she looked at an actual note card that she picked up from the coffee table, “Saturn, right?”

“Indeed it is, Miss Bilame. A wonderful world orbiting our sixth planet from the Sun.”

“Why, Doctor Kishosha, are the characters rendered in clay? Why not use computers? Is it too expensive?”

“We use clay because it is fun. Kids respond to it. Yes, computer graphics would cost more, but, honestly, clay is more fun. And clay is something a child can work with at home.”

“Speaking of cost, how did you fund your project, Joe the Martian’s Adventures, which runs each Saturday morning here on StarTV at nine?”

Excerpt from “Paul Kishosha’s Children” by Ken Edgett. Copyright © 2010 by Ken Edgett.

Picture credits:

Ken Edgett is a geologist whose research has largely focused on the planet Mars. Working at Malin Space Science Systems of San Diego, California, USA, he targeted tens of thousands of images acquired by the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. In 1997-2002, Edgett was a regular on-air contributor of 1-2 minute science education pieces for a children’s television program, Brainstorm, produced by KTVK-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. He is the co-author of a children’s book, Touchdown Mars!, published in 2000, and his first published short fiction was in the 2008 anthology, Return to Luna, from Hadley Rille Books. In addition to writing, Edgett’s present effort includes that of being the Principal Investigator for a camera aboard the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, launching in 2011.

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

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Review quotes:

Paul Kishosha’s Children by Ken Edgett — wow. Wonderfully expressive, clever and amusing, Ken’ s managed to create characters who reflect a humanity we’re in danger of losing. Having fun learning is becoming more and more outdated and he tackles this very well in this story, with its setting in a small school in an African nation. I would make this something for most teachers to read — regardless of their own reading habits! It reminds us that learning can be fun, and learning clever stuff creates enthusiasm and enthusiasm helps work out problems. It sounds simplistic but you have to read it to appreciate where I’m coming from.

SF Revu;

A touching story about scientist Paul Kishosha who returns to Tanzania and inspires a country through his stories about Joe the Martian Adventures; wonderful and lyrical.

Fantasy Book Critic;

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!

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

DayBreak Fiction “Barcode Babes”, v2

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Barcode Babes

Martin McGrath

The first time I met Martin McGrath was at the 2005 SciFi London Film Festivals. I was there to present a documentary—Chasing God—directed by my sister, who lives in Melbourne (which is a bit out of the way from London). I was at the screening of a B-movie from a Canadian director, a film that was full of tongue-in-cheek references of the SciFi canon when Martin came to sit next to me. He mentioned—among many other things—that he watched genre movies indiscriminately, from A to Z.

We crossed paths at several conventions after that (and should meet again at the Odyssey EasterCon right when his story goes up), and at one he asked me to do a column about writing for Focus, the writing magazine of the BSFA, which he edits. (Unfortunately, I was so busy in the last year that I didn’t send him anything. I hope to pick it up again after most of the SHINE madness has calmed down.) Martin is very active in SF fandom and writing, not only with Focus, but also producing Illuminations—an anthology of the Friday Flash Fictioneers—together with Paul Graham Raven, and typesetting the BSFA’s last twenty year review, among many other things.

On top of that, he also writes fiction, and “Barcode Babes” is one of the last fruits of that labour. On the one hand it’s got its tongue firmly in its (barcoded) cheek, but on the other hand it’s also a rumination about the power of social media against the devious minds from the powers-that-be. 21st Century Grrrrl Power!

Cat woke up with an itch on the back of her right hand and a throat as dry and as that place in Patagonia where it hasn’t rained since before Elvis was born. Blearily, not quite half awake, she scratched the itch.

“Ow!” She leapt up in bed. “Shit!”

The back of her hand was red raw and burning. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “Barcode Babes”

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

Barcode Babes

Martin McGrath

The first time I met Martin McGrath was at the 2005 SciFi London Film Festivals. I was there to present a documentary—Chasing God—directed by my sister, who lives in Melbourne (which is a bit out of the way from London). I was at the screening of a B-movie from a Canadian director, a film that was full of tongue-in-cheek references of the SciFi canon when Martin came to sit next to me. He mentioned—among many other things—that he watched genre movies indiscriminately, from A to Z.

We crossed paths at several conventions after that (and should meet again at the Odyssey EasterCon right when his story goes up), and at one he asked me to do a column about writing for Focus, the writing magazine of the BSFA, which he edits. (Unfortunately, I was so busy in the last year that I didn’t send him anything. I hope to pick it up again after most of the SHINE madness has calmed down.) Martin is very active in SF fandom and writing, not only with Focus, but also producing Illuminations—an anthology of the Friday Flash Fictioneers—together with Paul Graham Raven, and typesetting the BSFA’s last twenty year review, among many other things.

On top of that, he also writes fiction, and “Barcode Babes” is one of the last fruits of that labour. On the one hand it’s got its tongue firmly in its (barcoded) cheek, but on the other hand it’s also a rumination about the power of social media against the devious minds from the powers-that-be. 21st Century Grrrrl Power!

Cat woke up with an itch on the back of her right hand and a throat as dry and as that place in Patagonia where it hasn’t rained since before Elvis was born. Blearily, not quite half awake, she scratched the itch.

“Ow!” She leapt up in bed. “Shit!”

The back of her hand was red raw and burning. Continue reading