Friday, May 30, 2008

Grease and Guano

What a fascinating modern age we live in! Restaurants are guarding their fryer grease. And Peru is once again...guarding its guano!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Shorter Works of Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things; Neil Gaiman (Harper Perennial; 2007; ISBN 978-0-06-125202-0; cover by Gregg Kulick).

Any collection that has a story called Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire or a story called Pages from a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky has got to be good, no?

Seriously, the stories in this collection are good. Ranging from horror to fantasy, from poetry to short stories, from a Sherlock Holmes pastiche to a tribute to Ray Bradbury, you're sure to find something to captivate you here.

At this point, I've read a number of Gaiman's books. I'm finding that I like the shorter books better than the longer and the short stories I like the best of all. His writing is improving, as I work my way through; but like others, he seems best in the short form. There are other good writer's in the same boat, indeed two are mentioned in this collection: Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury. Both write in the long and short form, but both, like Gaiman, do better in the short form than the long.

Made up of: Introduction; A Study in Emerald; The Fairy Reel; October in the Chair; The Hidden Chamber; Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire; The Flints of Memory Lane; Closing Time; Going Wodwo; Bitter Grounds; Other People; Keepsakes and Treasures; Good Boys Deserve Favors; The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch; Strange Little Girls; Harlequin Valentine; Locks; The Problem of Susan; Instructions; How Do You Think It Feels?; My Life; Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot; Feeders and Eaters; Diseasemaker's Croup; In the End; Goliath; Pages from a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky; How to Talk to Girls at Parties; The Day the Saucers Came; Sunbird; Inventing Aladdin; The Monarch of the Glen; Credits.

Smoke and Mirrors; Neil Gaiman (Harper Perennial; 2001; ISBN 0-06-093470-0; cover by J.K. Potter).

This collection confirms my assertion, mentioned above, that I prefer Gaiman in short form over long. I think that fantasy writers such as George R. R. Martin and Tim Powers are better because they are denser. Gaiman's novels feel like expanded short stories, for the most part...but his short stories range from good to excellent. This collection has an interesting mix of horror, fantasy, science fiction and pastiche (especially of H.P. Lovecraft).

Made up of: Reading the Entrails: A Rondel; An Introduction; Chivalry; Nicholas Was; The Price; Troll Bridge; Don't Ask Jack; The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories; The White Road; Queen of Knives; Changes; The Daughter of Owls; Shoggoth's Old Peculiar; Virus; Looking for the Girl; Only the End of the World Again; Bay Wolf; We Can Get Them for You Wholesale; One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock; Cold Colors; The Sweeper of Dreams; Foreign Parts; Vampire Sestina; Mouse; The Sea Change; When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, age 11 1/4; Desert Wind; Tastings; Babycakes; Murder Mysteries; Snow, Glass, Apples.

Both part of the 2008 Year in Shorts.
The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, Stephen Metschan continues his look at alternatives to Ares (part 1 is here). Jeff Foust looks at the successful landing of the Mars Phoenix Lander. Taylor Dinerman discusses creaky joints on the ISS. And, Alan Murphy looks at space superstition. Superstitions or traditions? (He misses at least one tradition...the meal eaten by ground controllers after a launch...)

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Space Review

Several items of interest in the current edition of The Space Review. Stephen Metschan looks at alternatives to Ares (part one of two). Irina Kerner looks at the ESA's proposal to convert their unmanned cargo carrier into a manned vehicle. Taylor Dinerman wonders if NASA should be involved with solar power. Finally, in a subject near and dear to my heart, Anthony Young speculates on the whereabouts of Tom Swift, Jr.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Space Review

A couple of articles of interest in the current issue of The Space Review. Jeff Foust looks at orbital propellant depots (something we'll need if we're going to have any sustained presence in space). Eric R. Hedman wonders why we should be exploring the Moon. Jeff Brooks looks at the crop of presidential wannabees...and concludes they're no Jack Kenndy. Dwayne A. Day follows up on his Monster Chopper article with a deeper look at Skycrane.