Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Day I Traded My Dad for Two Goldfish

Inspired by a reading of the Neil Gaiman book, my daughter said she wouldn't trade me for two goldfish. She'd rather win them at the church picnic.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tom Swift and the Land of Wonder

A very good article about a series of "boy's books" that I read during my misbegotten youth. I visit the series now and again.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Browsing in the Psychoshop

Virtual Unrealities (Alfred Bester, introduction by Robert Silverberg. Vintage Books, ISBN 0-679-76783-5)

Introduction: A good overview of Bester's career. It's too bad he spent more time out of science fiction than in it!

Disappearing Act: Where are all the patients in Ward T going to? An early tale, but showing many of Bester's best touches.

Made up of: Introduction (Robert Silverberg); Disappearing Act; Oddy and Id; Star Light. Star Bright; 5,271,009; Fondly Fahrenheit; Hobson's Choice; Of Time and Third Avenue; Time is the Traitor; The Men Who Murdered Mohammed; The Pi Man; They Don't Make Life Like They Used To; Will You Wait?; The Flowered Thundermug; Adam and No Eve; And 3 1/2 to Go (fragment); Galatea Galante; The Devil Without Glasses (previously unpublished).

Counts as two entries in the 2006 Short Story Project.

Part of the 2007 Short Story Project.

Part of the 2008 Year in Shorts.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Psalm 119

I (Aleph)

They are happy whose life is blameless, who follow God's law!
They are happy who do his will, seeking him with all their hearts,
who never do anything evil but walk in his ways.

You have laid down your precepts to be obeyed with care--May my footsteps be firm to obey your statues.
Then I shall not be put to shame as I heed your commands.

I will thank you with an upright heart as I learn your decrees.
I will obey your statues: do not forsake me.

II (Beth)

How shall the young remain sinless? By obeying your word.
I have sought you with all my heart: let me not stray from your commands.

I treasure your promise in my heart lest I sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes.

With my tongue I have recounted the decrees of your lips.
I rejoiced to do your will as though all riches were mine.

I will ponder all your precepts and consider your paths.
I take delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

III (Ghimel)

Bless your servant and I shall live and obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see the wonders of your law.

I am a pilgrim on the earth; show me your commands
My soul is ever consumed as I long for your decrees.

You threaten the proud, the accursed, who turn from your commands.
Relieve me from scorn and contempt for I do your will.

Though princes sit plotting against me I ponder on your rulings.
Your will is my delight; your statutes are my counsellors.

IV (Daleth)

My soul lies in the dust; by your word revive me.
I declared my ways and you answered: teach me your statutes.

Make me grasp the way of your precepts and I will muse on your wonders.
My soul pines away with grief; by your word raise me upl.

Keep me from the way of error and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of truth with your decrees before me.

I bind myself to do your will; Lord, do not disappoint me.

I will run the way of your commands; you give freedom to my heart.

V (He)

Teach me the demands of your precepts and I will keep them to the end.
Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart.

Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight.
Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain.

Keep my eyes from what is false: by your word, give me life.
Keep the promise you have made to the servant who fears you.

Keep me from the scorn I dread, for your decrees are good.
See, I long for your precepts: then in your justice, give me life.

VI (Vau)

Lord, let your love come upon me, the saving help of your promise.
And I shall answer those who taunt me for I trust in your word.

Do not take the word of truth from my mouth for I trust in your decrees.
I shall speak of your will before kings and not be abashed.

Your commands have been my delight; these I have loved.
I will worship your commands and love them and ponder your will.

VII (Zain)

Remember your word to your servant by which you gave me hope.
This is my comfort in sorrow that your promise gives me life.

Though the proud may utterly deride me I keep to your law.
I remember your decrees of old and these, Lord, console me.

I am seized with indignation at the wicked who forsake your law.
Your commands have become my song in the land of exile.

I think of your name in the night time and I keep your law.
This has been my blessing, the keeping of your precepts.

VIII (Heth)

My part, I have resolved, O Lord, is to obey your word.
With all my heart, I implore your favor; show the mercy of your promise.

I have pondered over my ways and returned to your will.
I made haste and did not delay to obey your commands.

Though the nets of the wicked ensnared me I remembered your law.
At midnight I will rise and thank you for your just decrees.

I am a friend of all who revere you, who obey your precepts.
Lord, your love fills the earth.
Teach me your commands.

IX (Teth)

Lord, you have been good to your servant according to your word.
Teach me discernment and knowledge for I trust in your commands.

Before I was afflicted I strayed but now I keep your word.
You are good and your deeds are good; teach me your commandmants.

Though proud men smear me with lies yet I keep your precepts.
Their minds are closed to good but your law is my delight.

It was good for me to be afflicted, to learn your will.
The law from your mouth means more to me than silver and gold.

X (Yod)

It was your hands that made me and shaped me: help me to learn your commands.
Your faithful will see me and rejoice for I trust in your word.

Lord, I know that your decrees are right, that you afflicted me justly.
Let your love be ready to console me by your promise to your servant.

Let your love come and I shall live for your law is my delight.
Shame the proud who harm me with lies while I ponder your precepts.

Let your faithful turn to me, those who know your will.
Let my heart be blameless in obeying you lest I be ashamed.

XI (Caph)

I yearn for your saving help; I hope in your word.
My eyes yearn to see your promise. When will you console me?

Though parched and exhausted with waiting I have not forgotten your commands.
How long must your servant suffer? When will you judge my foes?

For me the proud have dug pitfalls, against your law.
Your commands are all true; then help me when lies oppress me.

They almost made an end of me on earth but I kept your precepts.
Because of your love give me life and I will do your will.

XII (Lamed)

Your word, O Lord, for ever stands firm in the heavens:
your truth lasts from age to age, like the earth you created.

By your decree it endures to this day; for all things serve you.
Had your law not been my delight I would have died in my affliction.

I will never forget your precepts for with them you give me life.
Save me, for I am yours since I seek your precepts.

Though the wicked lie in wait to destroy me yet I ponder on your will.
I have seen all perfection has an end but your command is boundless.

XIII (Mem)

Lord, how I love your law! It is ever in my mind.
Your command makes me wiser than my foes; for it is mine for ever.

I have more insight than all who teach me for I ponder your will.
I have more understanding than the old for I keep your precepts.

I turn my feet from evil paths to obey your word.
I have not turned away from your decrees; you yourself have taught me.

Your promise is sweeter to my taste than honey in the mouth.
I gain understanding from your precepts; I hate the ways of falsehood.

XIV (Nun)

Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.
I have sword and have made up my mind to obey your decrees.

Lord, I am deeply afflicted: by your word give me life.
Accept, Lord, the homage of my lips and teach me your decrees.

Though I carry my life in my hands, I remember your law.
Though the wicked try to ensnare me I do not stray from your precepts.

Your will is my heritage for ever, the joy of my heart.
I set myself to carry out your will in fullness, for ever.

XV (Samech)

I have no love for half-hearted men: my love is for your law.
You are my shelter, my shield; I hope in your word.

Leave me, you who do evil; I will keep God's command.
If you uphold me by your promise I shall live; let my hopes not be in vain.

Sustain me and I shall be saved and ever observe your commands.
You spurn all who swerve from your statutes; their cunning is in vain.

You throw away the wicked like dross: so I love your will.
I tremble before you in terror; I fear your decrees.

XVI (Ain)

I have done what is right and just: let me not be oppressed.
Vouch for the welfare of your servant lest the proud oppress me.

My eyes yearn for your saving help and the promise of your justice.
Treat your servant with love and teach me your commands.

I am your servant, give me knowledge; then I shall know your will.
It is time for the Lord to act for your law has been broken.

That is why I love your commands more than finest gold,
why I rule my life by your precepts: I hate the ways of falsehood.


Your will is wonderful indeed; therefore I obey it.
The unfolding of your word gives light and teaches the simple.

I open my mouth and I sigh as I yearn for your commands.
Turn and show me your mercey; show justice to your friends.

Let my steps be guided by your promise; let no evil rule me.
Redeem me from man's oppression and I will keep your precepts.

Let your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees.
Tears stream from my eyes because your law is disobeyed.

XVIII (Sade)

Lord, you are just indeed; your decrees are right.
You have imposed your will with justice and with absolute truth.

I am carried away by anger for my foes forget your word.
Your promise is tried in the fire, the delight of your servant.

Although I am weak and despised I remember your precepts.
Your justice is eternal justice and your law is truth.

Though anguish and distress have seized me, I delight in your commands
The justice of your will is eternal: if you teach me, I shall live.

XIX (Koph)

I call with all my heart; Lord, hear me, I will keep your commands.
I call upon you, save me and I will do your will.

I rise before dawn and cry for help, I hope in your word.
My eyes watch through the night to ponder your promise.

In your love hear my voice, O Lord; give me life by your decrees.
Those who harm me unjustly draw near: they are far from your law.

But you, O Lord, are close: your commands are truth.
Long have I known that your will is established for ever.

XX (Resh)

See my affliction and save me for I remember your law.
Uphold my cause and defend me; by your promise give me life.

Salvation is far from the wicked who are heedless of your commands.
Numberless, Lord, are your mercies; with your decrees give me life.

Though my foes and oppressors are countless I have not swerved from your will.
I look at the faithless with disgust, they ignore your promise.

See how I love your precepts; in your mercy give me life.
Your word is founded on truth: your decrees are eternal.

XXI (Shin)

Though princes oppress me without cause I stand in awe of your word.
I take delight in your promise like one who finds a treasure.

Lies I hate and detest but your law is my love.
Seven times a day I praise you for your just decrees.

The lovers of your law have great peace; they never stumble.
I await your saving help, O Lord, I fulfill your commands.

My soul obeys your will and loves it dearly.
I obey your precepts and your will; all that I do is before you.
The Dream Is Always The Same

Whenever we get a thunderstorm, the dream returns. First, the realilty of what happened to me on the actual day.

The noise. The smoke. The confusion. The need to get away. Every time.

I left the building. On the street, I could see paper. Paper was floating down. Burned paper. Presentations. Printing instructions. Manuals. Trade tickets. Paper from the towers.

I looked up at the towers. I could see them clearly, both surrounded by a lot of smoke.

Then I saw a dot fall from the North Tower. And another. Another. I realized what they were. People. People who had gotten to the point of having two choices. A choice of death by fire or death by jumping. I lost count after fifteen.

The streets were full of people, going back and forth, no single direction. Cars were abandoned in the streets. I remember being amused (!) at the sight of an abandoned UPS truck with it's back door open. Nobody was going to be looting anything today.

I went towards a subway station, the #2 and 3 line on Wall Street. It was a mob scene, no way I was going to get in that subway.

Looking at the towers, looking at the smoke, looking at the people falling, I proceeded on automatic pilot to the next nearest subway stop. I am, to this day, not even certain where I was. But I went down, to the 1 & 9 line. I swiped my Metro card (it worked!), and went to the platform. A half-empty train came shortly thereafter, going uptown.

We pulled into the stop under the World Trade Center. It was empty. It was silent. The doors opened. Then we heard the noise, the noise of a mighty wind (no movie jokes, please), the sound of a dozen jet engines, a hundred thundering locomotives. We thought there was another attack. People started screaming, "Go! Go!" and the doors closed and we pulled out of the station.

Then the end. Things loop back in time and the dream goes from what happened that day to the real nightmare of what happened to others.

Somehow I am in the lobby of the South Tower. There is nobody around. There is no noise except for the occasional "thud". I have to get out. I know what has happened, I know what will happen next. I have to get out.

Then the noise comes.
As with what really happened, the noise of a wind. The building crashes down around me, choking me in dust and debris.

I am trapped, unable to move, waist-deep in the debris, waiting for more to fall.

I wake up, sweating and shaking from a dream, from nightmare where I was trapped up to my waist in debris, as the world exploded around me.

The dream is always the same.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Shelving Matters

I've got a fair number of non-fiction books. Up to now, I've shelved them purely in alphabetical fashion (last name of the author). Recently I started pulling out books on observational astronomy, because I might be out observing in the backyard and come in to pull a book down off the shelves. It made it easier to group all the observing books together.

If certain things come to fruition, then I'll need a better way of shelving my other non-fiction books. Shelving solely by alphabetical fashion means that books on a certain subject might be hidden (out of sight, out of mind). So I'm thinking of adopting the Dewey Decimal system or something equivalent. Anybody out there do anything similar?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's Origin and Purpose Remain a Mystery

After finishing up 2001: A Space Odyssey, I started in on "The Ultimate Log of the Ultimate Trip", Arthur C. Clarke's The Lost Worlds of 2001. Part narrative of his experiences in writing the book and working on the movie, part discarded drafts, storylines and blind alleys, it also contains the short story that was the origin of the book and movie, The Sentinel (and as such, this book also counts as one contribution towards the 2006 Short Story Project!).

It was interesting to see some of the items that had been discarded in the evolution of the story. For the most part, I think the choices made were correct. For example, I think it was better to leave the aliens who visited the Earth and who made contact with Dave Bowman at the end of the book (and movie) offstage (as it were). Some of the story ideas that Clarke presented in this book, while interesting, were not as thought-provoking as what was ultimately depicted.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Years Best SF 11

Year's Best SF 11 (Eos Books, ISBN 978-0-06-087341-7). Edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer.

It's that time of the year again! Time for the onslaught of "annual best", "world's best" and award-related anthologies. And here I am with a pile of unread magazines, books, etc., from previous years. Let's see if I can get at least this collection and the megathology from Dozois read this year!

Introduction (Hartwell and Cramer): Not as good as the introductions by Dozois produces for his annual. Some of the predictions about the demise of the short story market (this seems to be an annual prediction by several editors). Less of the introduction is concerned with the field or even items that might be of interest to readers of science fiction (e.g., the exploration of the Solar System) than "real world" (current events) items. Oh well, I'll wait for the more complete Dozois introduction.

New Hope for the Dead (Dave Langford): Langford is known for his excellent fanzine (Ansible) and his reviews, but this shows that he is a polished writer of short fiction as well. Originally written as a short piece for a non-SF magazine, Langford pulls off a side-splitting tale of virtual reality, economic troubles and something that bothers us every day...spam! Good stuff. (First appearance: Nature.)

Deus Ex Homine (Hannu Rajaniemi): Oh no! Another story about the rapture of the nerds! And following on the Langford tale of VR! Well, much better than I expected, so I'll forgive the editors. I'm hoping that this is not a trend for collections these days. A tale of a ex-nerd-rapture "god" and how he is rehabilitated. (First appearance: Nova Scotia.)

When the Great Days Came (Gardner Dozois): I usually think of Dozois as an editor, but he writes stories. Now that he has retired from some of his editorial duties, maybe we'll see more stories like this one. When the end of the world comes, will be be more interested in the cold pizza? Through most of this story you'll be scratching your head and saying, "Why is this in a science fiction collection?" This tale, told from a rat point-of-view is quite clever. (First appearance: F&SF.)

Second Person, Present Tense (Daryl Gregory): The editors make the claim as this being the best story of the year. I enjoyed it, but it did not move me or interest me as much as some of the other tales in the collection (for example, the Ken MacLeod contribution). Also, other than one drug that is not all that far from some that are currently on the market (legal or illegal), I wouldn't really call this story "science fiction". (First appearance: Asimov's.)

Dreadnought (Justina Robson): What is death? What is post-humanism? I think its pretty gutsy of Nature to feature these stories; it is about time we put more science fiction into the science! Or, at least, make those who are coming up with all the stuff think about what they are coming up with. fiction as a literature of ideas? Naaaaahhhh. (First appearance: Nature.)

A Case of Consilience (Ken MacLeod): A play on A Case of Conscience by James Blish as well as other works of science fiction that take on the concept of God (usually from a pro- or anti-Christian point of view). The story takes on several ideas. They are big ideas, perhaps too big for a story of this length, so I hope MacLeod comes back to this at some point. Can we communicate with an alien? What if the alien were an intelligent fungus? What about religion: Do the concepts of various Christian beliefs operate in other races? Was there, for example, a Resurrection on other worlds? A great tale, but again, too short for a full discussion. (First appearance: Nova Scotia.)

Toy Planes (Tobias S. Buckell): A space program in the Caribbean? Are you kidding? Well, why not? Closer to the equator, for one thing. (First appearance: Nature.)

Mason's Rats (Neal Asher): Two stories about rats in one anthology! Told this time from the human point of view, this is a pretty funny tale about tool-using rats and a farmer's attempts to get rid of them. Things escalate pretty fast... (First appearance: Asimov's.)

A Modest Proposal for the Perfection of Nature (Vonda N. McIntyre): What happens when we go from agriculture to monoculture? Another thought-provoking tale from Vonda N. McIntyre, making an appearance in Nature.

Guadalupe and Hieronymous Bosch (Rudy Rucker): I don't know what Rudy Rucker used to smoke. It stills seems to catch up with him. (Don't get me wrong. I like Rucker's stuff and I'm looking forward to his newest novel. I just have a feeling at times that a few circuits might be misfiring.) (First appearance: Interzone.)

The Forever Kitten (Peter F. Hamilton): What if you could grant immortality but the clock had to stop before the onrush of hormones that led to adulthood? (First appearance: Nature.)

City of Reason (Matthew Jarpe): A hard SF tale that explores the concept of space habitats (and the idea that any splinter group could have its own habitat). As such, it fits in well with the stories that I've been reading here and here. A frontier enforcer has to intercept and stop an attack by one space habitat upon a second space habitat. Jarpe has some interesting ideas about how frontier justice might be funded and also manages to (gently) poke fun at the post-humanist "Rapture of the Nerds" folks. (First appearance: Asimov's.)

Ivory Tower (Bruce Sterling): Another short short from Nature. An amusing dig at alternate lifestyles and geekdom. (First appearance: Nature.)

(O.K., before I get to the next several...gee, is the whole transhuman/post-singularity movement starting to choke science fiction as much as vampires, cyberpunk and other mini-movements? It'll be interesting to see how long the trend continues!)

Sheila (Lauren McLaughlin): AI's plotting, counter-plotting and scheming. Didn't do much for me. (First appearance: Interzone.)

Rats of the System (Paul McAuley): Transhumanism plus space opera! Now we're getting somewhere! This story reminded me of Ken MacLeod's Newton's Wake, which was one of my favorite books in the year I read it. Like MacLeod, like Vinge, McAuley is a writer that can take what is (to me) rapidly becoming a tired SF cliche and breathe new life into it. He was one of the folks who brought back the "dead" sub-genre of space opera, it's nice to see him infuse some change into another sub-genre. I'd like to see this one expanded into a series of short stories or spun into a novel. (First appearance: Constellations.)

I Love Liver: A Romance (Larissa Lai): This collection is really relying heavily on these short shorts that appeared in Nature. Some of them work, like the Sterling entry. Others, not so much. (First appearance: Nature.)

The Edge of Nowhere (James Patrick Kelly): Ack! Another post-singularity tale. O.K., Kelly manages to do some nice characterization. But maybe it's like reading all of Stephen Baxter's stories in the Phase Space collection in rapid succession. You rapidly get tired of the themes explored. I think I'm starting to overdose here! (First appearance: Asimov's.)

What's Expected of Us (Ted Chiang): If it were proven that there was no such thing as free will, how would people act in a universe run by predestination? A very short, but very thoughtful story. (First appearance: Nature.)

Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play (Michael Swanwick): Third in a series which the editors say seems inspired by Cordwainer Smith. I'm not sure I'd agree, to me this tale felt more like a cross between fantasy and Sherlock Holmes than anything Smith may have done. Despite that quibble, it was quite fun, especially the two characters that (sort of) stand in for Holmes and Watson. Hopefully the first two tales in the series are in my piles of to be read anthologies. (First appearance: Asimov's.)

Lakes of Light (Stephen Baxter): A short story set in Baxter's Xeelee series, which is undergoing a revival/revision thanks to his recent trilogy (Coalescent, Exultant, Transcendent, and the related short story collection Resplendent). Humanity is on the rise again and the Earth-centered empire is gathering all her children together for the fight against the Xeelee. They encounter a human colony living on a sphere that encloses a star (sort of a Dyson sphere, but with some interesting twists). Will those people lose their lifestyle? Plus, what does it mean to be "human"? (First appearance: Constellations.)

The Albian Message (Oliver Morton): Morton is better known for his non-fiction (and his Mapping Mars is one of the best books out there on the present—but pre-Spirit and Opportunity—base of martian knowledge). This is an amusing little tale about the discovery of an alien message and an alien structure. What will be found inside? (First appearance: Nature.)

Bright Red Star (Bud Sparhawk): I have only read one other tale by Sparhawk, but that one made enough of an impression on me that I ordered two short story collections by him. This one is a tale about a war, possibly a war with only one ending for humanity (total defeat). The question is, have the humans given up too much of what makes them human in order to "win"? Given the alternative (total enslavement by an alien race that just doesn't seem interested in working things out), is that (given up "humanity") going to be a bad thing? (First appearance: Asimov's.)

Third Day Lights (Alaya Dawn Johnson): The editors mention that this starts like a fantasy and ends up as science fiction. I disagree. Mentioning other universes and tossing a "transhuman" label on top does not make a story science fiction. This one just didn't do anything for me. (First appearance: Interzone.)

Ram Shift Phase 2 (Greg Bear): A review of a computer-generated story by a computer! Some subtle humor here. See if you can spot the cliches put to good use. (First appearance: Nature.)

On the Brane (Gregory Benford): Astronauts explore a universe next door...only twenty centimeters away in one measurement, a universe away in another. An excellent tale by Benford, combining his usual great characterizations with mind-stretching physics. (First appearance: Gateways.)

Oxygen Rising (R. Garcia y Robertson): A fantastic story of war, politics, terror and belief marred by an unbelieveable pair of main characters. (First appearance: Asimov's.)

And Future King... (Adam Roberts): I'm sure there was a story in here...somewhere. (First appearance: Postscripts.)

Beyond the Aquila Rift (Alastair Reynolds): The editors say that this story has a feelig like some of the works of Philip K. Dick; me, it reminded me of some of A.E. van Vogt's better stuff where the hero is caught in a waking nightmare and seems powerless to get free. Some interesting background here that I hope Reynolds uses in some future (longer) work. (First appearance: Constellations.)

Angel of Light (Joe Haldeman): An amusing tale of holiday time after Islam manages to take over the Earth. Toss in the discovery of an old science fiction story and intelligent aliens and you get a solid tale from Haldeman. Not as solid as some of his other short works (and he has produced many), but a notch above several other items in this book. (First appearance: Cosmos.)

Ikiryoh (Liz Williams): This one felt more like fantasy to me than science fiction. Maybe it's another transhuman tale, where the lines seem to be blurring the two genres? Some nice atmosphere and plot, as well as a provoking background. (First appearance: Asimov's.)

I, Robot (Cory Doctorow): Eeek! Another transhuman tale! I guess it was intended to be a homage to Isaac Asimov, both due to the title and the names of some of the robots, but not much of the plot or background really "did it" for me. (First appearance: Infinite Matrix.)

Overall review of the collection? Several stand-out stories here, such as Reynolds' Beyond the Aquila Rift, Baxter's Lakes of Light MacLeod's A Case of Consilience, and good stories by several folks that I was not as familar with. Heck, any collection that has two stories about rats (McAuley and Asher) is worth a look! However, I think that the collection was burdened by too many stories in the "transhuman" theme and by an over-reliance on the short works that appeared in the magazine Nature. It almost seems like the editors decided to opt for a greater number of titles and authors by including all those short works rather than a fewer number of quality longer works. But I guess for long works, I'll turn to the Dozois megathology.

Made up of: Introduction (David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer); New Hope for the Dead (David Langford); Deus Ex Homine (Hannu Rajaniemi); When the Great Days Came (Gardner R. Dozois); Second Person, Present Tense (Daryl Gregory); Dreadnought (Justina Robson); A Case of Consilience (Ken MacLeod); Toy Planes (Tobias S. Buckell); Mason's Rats (Neal Asher); A Modest Proposal (Vonda N. McIntyre); Guadalupe and Hieronymus Bosch (Rudy Rucker); The Forever Kitten (Peter F. Hamilton); City of Reason (Matthew Jarpe); Ivory Tower (Bruce Sterling); Sheila (Lauren McLaughlin); Rats of the System (Paul McAuley); I Love Liver: A Romance (Larissa Lai); The Edge of Nowhere (James Patrick Kelly); What's Expected of Us (Ted Chiang); Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play (Michael Swanwick); Lakes of Light (Stephen Baxter); The Albian Message (Oliver Morton); Bright Red Star (Bud Sparhawk); Third Day Lights (Alaya Dawn Johnson); Ram Shift Phase 2 (Greg Bear); On the Brane (Gregory Benford); Oxygen Rising (R. Garcia y Robertson); And Future King... (Adam Roberts); Beyond the Aquila Rift (Alastair Reynolds); Angel of Light (Joe Haldeman); Ikiryoh (Liz Williams); I, Robot (Cory Doctorow).

Counts as thirty-two (32) entries in the 2006 short story project.

Squadron Actions

The Mauritius Command (Patrick O'Brian, ISBN 0-393-30762-X).

I read this one by accident. Really. I've been working on our deck/porch and the fence around our backyard. They all need a good scrubbing (to get off the mildew, mold, dirt, etc., plus the old water treatment). As a result, I've been smelling a lot of wet wood, varnish, etc. That leads me to thinking about wooden ships and iron men, which led me to picking up this volume (the next in my re-read of the series). A few days later...and I've read it!

"Lucky Jack" is given the command (and the temporary rank of Commodore) of a squadron and the instructions to take the islands of Mauritius. The French are harassing the ships carrying the treasures of India back to England, so the investors in those fleets are harassing the Admiralty to Do Something. Aubrey has to deal with a seasick government appointee, one captain who may be past his prime, one captain who is a bit of a dandy (as well as being a manic-depressive) and one captain who takes sea discipline to the point where he crew is ready to mutiny. Despite all this, he is on the verge of winning the day when the local admiral and the local general sail in to take over (thus snatching victory, as well as the prize money and glory, from Aubrey and his Army counterpart).

As with the other books in the series, the joy is in the characterization, the careful descriptions, the wonderful writing. I'll probably bring the next one or two volumes with me on vacation and will have more to report then.
A Century of Shorts

The Science Fiction Century, Volume 1 (Orb/Tor Books, ISBN 0-312-86484-1). Edited by David G. Hartwell.

Somehow or another I missed this one when it was out in hardcover. I have the other Hartwell "megathologies" (these are really big books) and I'm looking forward to the newest installment (covering space opera) when it is published in July 2006. So, I'm happy to pick up half of this anthology, even if it is a trade paperback (but I'm sad that I'll have to wait until much later in the year before the second installment comes out).

The introduction by Hartwell is somewhat brief, but is supplemented by the commentary he provides with each story, so overall it is a good look at the 100 or so years covered in the anthology. I was somewhat surprised by the way the stories are mixed (old and new), but it looks like it'll work. As for the selection, I think he did an excellent job here. He could have gone with the tried-and-true and countlessly anthologized tales of various authors. Instead, we have a good representation of the old and new authors and a solid selection of titles that are not the ones you would expect. So, for example, for A.E. van Vogt, instead of another reprinting of one of the Weapon Shops tales we have Enchanted Village.

Beam Us Home (James Tiptree, Jr.): I'm going to assume that most readers of this site know who James Tiptree, Jr. was; if not, click on the name and you can learn the facts. A few sentences into this tale I was struck by the realization that I had read it before. In fact, I read it in its original magazine publication, back in 1969, in the late, lamented Galaxy. Both amusing and sad, it is the story of a boy obsessed with a certain prime-time science fiction show, his failure to become an astronaut and his fate. Was he really beamed home? Or was it all a fever. The commentary by Hartwell talks about how Tiptree's tales got darker and darker towards the end; at the beginning of "his" career was this an echo of things to come?

Made up of: Introduction (David G. Hartwell); Beam Us Home (James Tiptree, Jr.); Ministering Angels (C.S. Lewis); The Music Master of Babylon (Edgar Pangborn); A Story of the Days to Come (H.G. Wells); Hot Planet (Hal Clement); A Work of Art (James Blish); The Machine Stops (E.M. Forster); Brightness Falls from the Air (Margaret St. Clair); 2066: Election Day (Michael Shaara); The Rose (Charles Harness); The Hounds of Tindalos (Frank Belknap Long); The Angel of Violence (Adam Wisniewski-Snerg); Nobody Bothers Gus (Algis Budrys); The Time Machine (Dino Buzzati); Mother (Philip Jose Farmer); As Easy as ABC (Rudyard Kipling); Ginungagap (Michael Swanwick); Minister Without Portfolio (Mildred Clingerman); Time in Advance (William Tenn); Good Night, Sophie (Lino Aldani); Veritas (James Morrow); Enchanted Village (A.E. van Vogt); The King and the Dollmaker (Wolfang Jeschke); Fire Watch (Connie Willis); Goat Song (Poul Anderson); The Scarlet Plague (Jack London).

Counts as two entries in the 2006 short story project.

Part of the 2007 Short Story Project.

Part of the 2008 Year in Shorts.