Sunday, November 29, 2009

Robert Holdstock

Just received word that genre author Robert Holdstock has passed away. Very sad, once again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prepare the Red Matter!

So now that it is finally out on DVD, I finally watched the "reboot" of Star Trek.

So, Fred, you're a trekkie from way back, what'cha think of it?

Sorry, but I am not a trekkie or a trekker. I am a science fiction fan who is a big fan of the original Trek series (but not to the extent that I ever owned a costume or even attended a Trek convention, or even, past a certain point, continued to follow the series via books, etc.) In fact, I've been pretty much out of the Trek loop since I gave up around the end of Next Generation, the middle of DS9 and the first season or so of Voyager. I haven't seen most of the past several movies or run out to buy a Blu-Ray player to get the latest iteration of the DVD's...

That having been said, I did want to see the movie (Real Life (TM) intervened) and bought the DVD. I watched it and...

There is much I enjoyed. My head did not explode over the meddling in the "canon" given the reasons for it (branching universes). The actor's pretty much nailed the characters (although the one shot of Chris Pine in the "big chair" had me wondering how they let a ten-year-old on the ship). The story was OK, but pretty "meh" when you boil it down (the villain was ludicrous, sorry). Special effects were very nice (and makes me wish I had seen it on the big screen), most of the sets were nice (although I think the number of ship interiors that take place in obviously redressed chemical factories was...odd).

But. Red matter? Really?

Look folks, the universe is a pretty wonderous place. There's a lot of nifty stuff out there (real or theorized) that would make some pretty fascinating stories. Look at the SF of Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, David Brin. Look at Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, Kim Stanley Robinson. Haul down off your shelves any number of anthologies. You mean the best we could come up with was some stuff from a lava lamp that gets injected into a big hypodermic needle and hand-loaded into a spiky-looking torpedo and causes hole?

Another thing that really irked me: the universe is big. Really big. Really, really, really big. So a supernova would threaten a galaxy? And create a wavefront that would destroy a planet? And when you turn one planet into a black hole a guy can stand on another planet (in a different star system because of the name) and be able to see the process (with the view being larger than how we see our Moon) and not be affected? A bunch of ships come out of warp, get whacked and the follow-on ship flies through a debris cloud thick enough to scrape the skin off their ship?

O.K., it is a movie. There is sound in space. Ships the size of skyscrapers are flying like jet planes. Why am I complaining about this stuff? I just keep hoping that we'll finally get a movie that can be both exciting and somewhat accurate, maybe?

(And I didn't even bring up how silly it was to build something as big as a Constitution class starship on a planet's surface!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another 15 Picoseconds of Fame

Run your peepers down the page, sixth entry...
Visiting with Eich-Pee-El

A remark by John Shirley (author of various science fiction and thriller books, plus author of lyrics for bands like Blue Oyster Cult) has led me back to the the works of Howard Philips Lovecraft.

I first came across Lovecraft as a mention in a story by Ray Bradbury (in which a man finds a world where all horror stories have been erased and tries to reintroduce horror into society), later as a series of reprints by Ballantine Books with wonderfully strange covers (generally a face...distorted...). I worked through them, found more (collections with his stories, "collaborations" with August Derleth) through the local library (I was probably responsible for most of the horror purchases that year!). Overwritten? Sure. Effective? Yes. Still. Lovecraft's prose is "purple" at times, but the guy could write a good tale when he put his mind to it and he used some interesting techniques (writing stories with "facts" such as diary entries, newspaper clippings and the like, see the "amateur" film based on The Call of Cthulhu for a good look of how this can be translated to the screen). I dip into his stuff now and again; thanks to the comment by John Shirley (and several follow-up comments on Facebook), I seem to be doing a bit deeper on Lovecraft and some of his influences.

Howard Philips Lovecraft (edited and annotated by S.T. Joshi); Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature (Hippocampus Press; 2000; ISBN 0-9673215-0-6; cover by Vrest Orton).

S.T. Joshi; Lovecraft's Library: A Catalogue (Hippocampus Press; 2002; ISBN 0-9673215-7-3; cover by Jason C. Eckhardt).

I read these two more or less together and find them somewhat linked, so I'm reviewing them together. Both bear the hand of S.T. Joshi, who has made a one-man industry of critical works on horror literature (countless critical works plus countless antholgies with extensive introductions and/or annotations, both for Lovecraft and others such as Arthur Machen...the man is unstoppable!).

Supernatural Horror in Literature is a non-fiction work by Eich-Pee-El, a survey and analysis of what makes horror...horror. Joshi points out a number of criticisms of the work from when it was first published to recent times, but there is no denying that it was one of the earliest such works in the field, and as such, has not only influenced a lot of subsequent work but remains one that you should examine (however "creaky" it might be). The annotations by Joshi point to references in Lovecraft's (extensive!) correspondence that show how his theories on horror grew. The book has an extensive index of "key works" that will (no doubt) lead me to many book searches.

Lovecraft's Library is a (alas, incomplete) look at the books that Lovecraft owned. I say "alas" because his library was broken up before a complete catalogue could be made (one effort to index it by a family friend was incomplete at best). However, despite gaps (the list mentions no William Hope Hodgson, for example, but it is clear that Lovecraft read Hodgson) it is a fascinating look at the books Lovecraft owned. Anthologies that are listed are further broken down into the works in the anthologies, which should help in "reconstructing" these (I'm willing to bet the Project Gutenberg and other sites will yield a lot of these titles); Joshi also peppers the list with comments by Lovecrafte mentioning any criticism he had, how he acquired the book (gift of a friend, etc.) and what stories were influenced or even mentioned one of the books.

Something of a strange thing to read end-to-end, this will (I can tell) become a key reference guide to me.

I'll also note the cover art by Jason C. Eckhardt. A nicely subtle pen-and-ink drawing of a library with Eich-Pee-El's beloved Gothic/Colonial architecture, with a figure walking down the aisle reading a book. I would love to get a print of that one.

Howard Philips Lovecraft and S.T. Joshi (editor and annotator); The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft (Dell; 1997; ISBN 0-440-50660-3; cover by Nicholas).

Joshi continues to deconstruct Lovecraft's work with this first volume of an ongoing series (two volumes so far). The introduction is informative, but I think he is a tad harsh in his opinion of other authors who have contributed to the so-called Cthulhu Mythos. For one thing, many of those authors went on to have distinguished careers beyond their initial (crude) contributions. For another, if it were not for those various efforts, Joshi's career would be that much poorer (!).

Made up of: Introduction (S.T. Joshi); The Rats in the Walls; The Colour Out of Space; The Dunwich Horror; At the Mountains of Madness; Lovecraft on Weird Fiction (Joshi); Appendix: Lovecraft in the Media (Joshi).

Counts as 2 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.

FTC Disclaimer: Both these books were purchased with real money! My own! Take that!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Edge In His Voice

Harlan Ellison; An Edge In My Voice (E-Reads Ltd.; 2008; cover by Leo and Diane Dillon).

I wasn't expecting much out of this collection of Ellison's essays that originally appeared in the late Future Life magazine (sister, more serious sister when it started out, to Starlog) before moving into other venues. After all, I figured that they probably had aged and I would be scratching my head over various references, trying to dredge up memories of what was going on in the science fiction world then.

Wrong, so wrong. In addition to Ellison's usual attempts to beat back at stupidity, there are excellent references to his failed attempt to bring I, Robot to the screen (but hope still springs that maybe when they decide to remake what we saw the alleged it was based on the works of Isaac Asimov, maybe they will dust off Ellison's excellent screen treatment and get it right, for once!), there is one essay (so far) that makes the whole collection worth it: that would be Ellison's wonderful report on the close encounter with the Voyager probes with Saturn (oddly enough, this generated a science fiction you know which one?). As Ellison keeps saying in his essay, "I sigh deeply. Ain't we a wonderful species."

(Besides, in another essay he mentions Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change, there's a name I haven't heard in a long time!)

Followup: Probably the most moving piece in here is when Harlan is back in NYC in the winter and sees a homeless person. Been there, done that, got my humanity back.

Made up of: Foreword (Tom Snyder); Introduction: Ominous Remarks for Late in the Evening; Installment 1: 25 March 80; Installment 2: 5 May 80; Installment 3: 9 June 80; Installment 4: 20 July 80; Installment 5: 8 September 80; Installment 6: 13 November 80; Installment 7: 1 January 81; Installment 8: 27 February 81; Installment 9: 25 April 81; Installment 10: 5 June 81; Installment 11: 18 June 81; Installment 12: 2 July 81; Installment 13: 2 July 81; Installment 14: 25 July 82; Installment 15: 1 February 82; Installment 16: 5 February 82; Installment 17: 16 February 82; Installment 18: 21 February 82; Installment 19: 1 March 82; Installment 20: 4 March 82; Installment 21: 10 March 82; Installment 22: 19 March 82; Installment 23: 29 March 82; Installment 24: 1 April 82; Installment 25: 19 April 82; Installment 26: 26 April 82; Installment 27: 1 May 82; Installment 28: 7 May 82; Installment 29: 25 May 82; Installment 30: 7 June 82; Installment 31: 21 June 82; Installment 32: 24 June 82; Installment 33: 2 July 82; Installment 34: 12 July 82;
Installment 35: 19 July 82; Installment 36: 23 July 82; Installment 37: 2 August 82; Installment 38: 8 August 82; Installment 39: 16 August 82; Installment 40: 20 August 82; Installment 41: 30 August 82; Installment 42: 2 September 82; Installment 43: September 82 (no date listed); Installment 44: 20 September 82; Installment 45: 24 September 82; Installment 46: 1 October 82; Installment 47: 18 October 82; Installment 48: 25 October 82; Installment 49: November 82 (no date listed); Installment 50: 7 November 82; Installment 51: 15 November 82; Installment 52: 16 November 82; Installment 53: 29 November 82; Installment 54: 6 December 82; Installment 55: 19 December 82; Installment 56: 22 December 82; Installment 57: 3 Janary 83; Installment 58: 10 January 83; Installment 59: 25 January 83; Installment 60: 23 June 82; Installment 60: 21 August 84 (yes there was more than one Installment 60).

Counts as 63 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.

FTC Disclaimer: Yes, I bought the book. So there.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Down to the Wire

Well, we're just about halfway through November, which means a month-and-a-half until the end of the year. How am I doing? Progress!

Shorts: 523 short works!

Longs: 252 books!

My eyes are melting...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Charlie Don't Surf

Oh, sorry, your comment failed to be approved on two counts. (1) No anonymous comments. (2) Your comment must have something to do with the actual posting, not a thinly-veiled attempt to promote some no-doubt spyware/malware-loaded software.
Psychological vs. Physical

While listening to an interview with Kim Newman that appeared in The Agony Column some years ago (a database crash with iTunes has me listening to stuff I missed the first time around and re-listening to stuff again) I was struck by something: what makes a better horror movie? Gore? Suspense? Psychology? (Newman was talking about various films, as well as his books, and seemed to like those that infer blood more than those that show it.)

"Suspense" is probably a bad term because "gore" can give you a feeling of suspense (as you wait for the next bucket of blood) and psychology can give you a feeling of suspense. So let's just look at those two.

I'm thinking of The Young Lady here. She sat through the Jurassic Park movies (at a pretty young age). She has seen the various Walking With... television shows. She has seen Indiana Jones (but not Temple of Doom yet) and Star Wars movies. Probably the Jurassic Park flicks had the most gore...but they never really scared her.

On the other hand...she left the room when I watched The Haunting (the original, don't even bother to mention the remake, piece of garbage that it was), a movie without a drop of blood to be seen. The sewer tunnel sequence in Them! also drove out of the room.

Which is scarier? The original The Haunting when Eleanor is in bed, hears noises, looks at the plaster and thinks somebody is holding her hand? Or The Shining, when the elevator doors open and buckets and buckets and buckets of blood flood the corridor?

Me, I think The Haunting was a much scarier movie. The Shining had its moments ("Here's Johnny!"), but the scariest moment in that movie, to me, was when Jack Nicolson was in the empty hotel bar, said "I need a drink" and looked find a bartender there. Real? A ghost? Totally in his imagination?

Is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre really scary or just a bad comedy at this point? Do the Saw movies scare you or have you gotten bored with them? What stands the test of time...showing a ghost or buckets of blood or hinting at the horrors that lie beyond the camera?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL...

Earlier in the year I was concentrating on audiobooks during the daily commute and the regular trips out to visit the parental units. Lately I've been downloading podcasts and listening to them. Here's a round-up of what has been making the rotation through the iPod.

The Agony Column: The Mother and Father of All Literary Podcasts. A bit hard to navigate the archives (big list here, roughly the last year's worth here, last several months worth here). The earliest shows, alas, are in RealAudio format only, then there is a switch to both RealAudio and MP3, then a switch again to MP3 only. Dozens upon dozens of interviews ranging from David Weber to Charles Stross to William Gibson to John Shirley to Kim Stanley Robinson to a bunch of people who don't write genre. Which is a good thing and a bad thing...bad because I keep saying, hey, that sounds interesting...maybe I should give it a try (and then the wallet cringes). Rick Kleffel is an amazing guy and an amazing hosts; unlike some podcasters he actually has read the books of the people he interviews and asks some great questions. He also knows when to stay out of the way and let the guest speak. Good stuff here.

Babylon Podcast: A fanboy, a geek girl and a actor-turned-producer get together on a regular basis and talk about one of the best things to hit science fiction televison (still). 178 episodes so far, running from interviews with cast and crew to behind the scenes to deep looks ("deep geeking") about specific episodes and themes in the show. Unless you've watched the show, you probably won't be interested, but there is a lot of good stuff here.

Fringeworthy: A podcast about a pretty obscure roleplaying game (but one of my favorites). Start with the bonus episode if you are not familiar with the game. The podcast goes beyond game mechanics and talks about things that can be applied to any game or even to writing in general.

Writing Excuses: Hosted by Howard Tayler (author and illustrator of the popular Schlock Mercenary webcomic), Brandon Sanderson (author of numerous fantasy novels, author of the recently published first volume of the concluding trilogy of Robert Jordan's big massive fantasy epic) and Dan Wells (horror novelist, starts the podcast run unpublished). Three guys with wildly different writing experiences, both from what they do (Tayler publishes he stuff on the internet, gives it away for free...but manages to support himself; Sanderson writes young adult and adult fantasy, both his own and from the works of others; Wells has worked as a corporate writer and is now an "overnight" success after years of work). "Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart" is the theme to the show, fifteen minutes dealing with a particular technique or method, what to do or not to do, examples from movies and other authors and the occasional special guest. I don't know if I'll ever write anything "for real", but this show has given me plenty to think about.

More podcasts to come, as I cycle through the downloads...

Naruto, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and to Accept Manga

Masashi Kishimoto; Naruto Volumes 01-46 (Viz Media, various publication dates, various ISBN's, artwork by Masashi Kishimoto).

Several years ago The Young Lady got hooked on Pokemon, thanks to the influence of classmates and other kids (mostly boys) at her summer camp. This later evolved into an interest in Bakugan, and (most recently) Yu-Gi-Oh. In each of these, you've got a toy line, a game line (sometimes tied together), a show/movie line and a manga line. Anything that encourages reading is pretty much O.K. by me, so we encouraged the interest (to a certain extent!).

About a year or so ago, The Young Lady started getting interest in manga, again, thanks to classmates. We bought a couple of series (ranging in numbers from a one-off that is never repeated to a small run of three, to runs of thirty or more) and took some out from the library (hard to get a complete run there): the only thing we insisted on is that we would look at it first and make sure it was age appropriate (yes, these things have ratings on the back...but they are all mixed together on the shelves and the more adult ones are not, for example, sealed in plastic or your standard brown wrapper...). So we worked through Fruits Basket and Kitchen Princess and moved into fantasy such as Anima or Mamotte Shugogetten.

One series that seemed to be read by her classmates was Naruto. It seemed tailor-made for what she was reading: there were young characters, it was an ongoing series, it mixed fantasy with action/adventure or science fiction, and even had multiple strong female (secondary) characters. So I bought the first four or five issues of the (trade paperback) manga for her to read.

Well...what happened next was not what I expected. The Young Lady did not really seem that interested in the series, but I started reading it (we were spending a week "dad sitting", so my entertainment resources were limited). Five volumes were joined by the next five...and the next five...and the next five...and the "Official Fan Book" and a book of artwork and a series of books on the anime and the next five installments and...well, you get the picture when I list 46 books having been read this year.

See the link (to Wikipedia) above for a description, list of characters, etc. After 46 books I'm finding it hard to summarize what has happened, there are so many characters, primary story lines, secondary story lines and the like!

So why did this hook me? The artwork is great. It is reduced for these slightly-larger-than-standard-paperback-size volumes from the original appearances, but still look good, especially when the drawing spreads across two pages. Toss in a number of interesting characters with many quirks running from what we are used to (conflicts among schoolmates) to the pure fantasy (spirits trapped inside children). We've got a strange mix of the primitive (all transport seems to be on on foot, unless you use a animal or animal equivalent) and the advanced (those wonderful electrical poles you find in Japan) the magical (spells and potions) and the mundane (raman noodle shops). Storylines that run across multiple volumes, both major and minor. Characters that care for each other, and base their actions on ethics, beliefs, and things like trust, friendship and love.

And dozens of "action sounds". Some day I'll sit down and make a list.

Good stuff, fun stuff. Recommended.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Subtle Horror

Arthur Machen and S.T. Joshi (editor); The Three Imposters and Other Stories (The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen, Volume 1) (Chaosium; 2000; ISBN 1-56882-132-8; cover by Harry Fassl).

I had read many of these stories, but not in years and years. Some I read in college, when I worked nights as a security guard and got creeped out on occasion by horror. I then re-read them when I started running (as mentioned in the previous post about William Hope Hodgson) Chaosium's The Call of Cthulhu horror RPG. I pulled these off the shelf when I started re-reading H.P. Lovecraft's extended essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, which mentions Machen as one of Eich-Pee-El's favorites.

So far, I've only gotten through the introduction and The Great God Pan. The story creeped me out...on several levels. You have the casual experimentation on a young woman merely because the scientist-doctor had somehow "rescued" her (street waif, perhaps?). But creepier and creepier was the slow, plodding, deliberate pace as the events subsequent to the experimentation, events that take place several decades in length. You can see how Lovecraft was influenced by Machen in both adopting a pace of horror of similar length and the use of witness statements, diaries and the like for background.

The pacing was particularly interesting because in several interviews I've listened to at Rick Kleffel's excellent The Agony Column have mentioned pacing. Several authors seem to feel that the only effective horror is a quick horror: events that take place over a few days or a few hours. Machen's horror is a slow and inexorable one. A disturbing one.

Made up of: Introduction (S.T. Joshi); The Great God Pan; The Inmost Light; The Shining Pyramid. The Three Imposters; Or, The Transmutations: Prologue; Adventure of the Gold Tiberius; The Encounter of the Pavement; Novel of the Dark Valley; Adventure of the Missing Brother; Novel of the Black Seal; Incident of the Private Bar; The Decorative Imagination; Novel of the Iron Maid; The Recluse of Bayswater; Novel of the White Powder; Strange Occurrence in Clerkenwell; History of the Young Man with Spectacles; Adventure of the Deserted Residence.

Counts as 2 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.

Arthur Machen and S.T. Joshi (editor): The White People and Other Stories (The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen, Volume 2) (Chaosium; 2003; ISBN 1-56882-172-7; cover by Harry Fassl).

Made up of: Introduction (S.T. Joshi); The Red Hand. Ornaments in Jade: The Rose Garden; The Turanians; The Idealist; Witchcraft; The Ceremony; Psychology; Torture; Midsummer; Nature; The Holy Things. The White People; A Fragment of Life. The Angels of Mons: Introduction; The Bowmen; The Soldiers' Rest; The Monstrance; The Dazzling Light. The Great Return; Out of the Earth; The Coming of the Terror; The Happy Children

Part of the 2009 Year in Shorts.

Arthur Machen and S.T. Joshi (editor); The Terror and Other Stories (The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen, Volume 3) (Chaosium; 2005; ISBN 1-56882-175-1; cover by Harry Fassl).

Made up of: Introduction (S.T. Joshi); The Terror (unabridged); The Lost Club; Munitions of War; The Islington Mystery; Johnny Double; The Cosy Room; Opening the Door; The Children of the Pool; The Bright Boy; Out of the Picture; Change; The Dover Road; Ritual; Appendix: The Literature of Occultism.

Part of the 2009 Year in Shorts.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Collected Fiction

William Hope Hodgson; Jeremy Lassen (editor): The House on the Borderland and Other Mysterious Places (The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, Volume 2) (Night Shade Books; 2004; ISBN 978-1-892389-40-4; cover by Jason Van Hollander).

I first came across William Hope Hodgson in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of books that introduced me to so many wonderful authors in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I encountered him again when I was running the horror RPG from Chaosium, The Call of Cthulhu and was mining the horror and fantasy genres for ideas and settings. I was lucky enough to find (in a New York City specialty shop) the Sphere editions of most of his tales, including a full version of The House on the Borderland (the BAF version had been abridged).

Of particular interest, both as something to read but also as source material for The Call of Cthulhu, were the stories of Carnacki, The Ghost-Finder. Carnacki was a detective, following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, who investigated hauntings. Armed with both science (for example, a pentacle made out of neon light tubes) and knowledge taken from various dusty and musty tomes, Carnacki investigated haunted ships, haunted houses and more.

The framework of the stories were all essentially the same. The narrator (Hodgson, slightly renamed) and several of Caracki's friends would receive an invitation to dinner (think of the dinners held by the nameless Inventor in The Time Machine by H.G. Wells). No conversation other than the ordinary was allowed during the dinner. After dinner, when the group had sat in their usual places and were smoking their usual pipes, cigars, etc., Carnacki would recount his most recent adventure. Sometimes it was a real haunting, sometimes it was a fake (and the best stories were fakes that had elements of a real haunting thrown in...much to the surprise of those running the fake!). Carnacki would pepper his tales with references to his equipment, his research and (tantalizingly to us!) references to many other adventures that were never written down (!).

I started reading this batch on Halloween, after the trick-or-treaters had been driven away by the rain. I read all ten in one night, shivers all around! Best of the batch were The Whistling Room, The Horse Invisible, and The Pig (a very scary tale).

The Night Shade Books editions (five on my shelf so far) are somewhat expensive; I'm not sure if other editions of these stories are currently available. Luckily, there are alternatives; eBook editions of a lot of Hodgson's stories are available at sites such as Project Gutenberg.

Made up of: Editor's Introduction (Lassen); The House on the Borderland (novel); Carnacki the Ghost-Finder: The Thing Invisible; The Gateway of the Monster; The House Among the Laurels; The Whistling Room; The Searcher of the End House; The Horse of the Invisible; The Haunted "Jarvee"; The Find; The Hog; Other Tales of Mystery and Suspense: The Goddess of Death; Terror of the Water-Tank; Bullion; The Mystery of the Water-Logged Ship; The Ghosts of the "Glen Doon"; Mr. Jack Danplank; The Mystery of Captain Chappel; The Home-Coming of Captain Dan; Merciful Plunder; The Haunting of the "Lady Shannon"; The Heathen's Revenge; A Note on the Texts (Lassen).

Counts as 10 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.
Annotating the Canon

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Leslie S. Klinger (editor and annotator); The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1 (W.W. Norton & Co.; 2005; ISBN 978-0-393-05914-4; cover by Sidney Paget).

I've gone back to Holmes every couple of years, sometimes reading the entire set again, sometimes just dipping into favorites (my first encounter was in a anthology supposedly edited by Alfred Hitchcock for children and was "The Red-Headed League"). My interest in The Canon has risen and fallen, probably it reached its height when the excellent Jeremy Brett series was running on PBS; I even had a Sherlock Holmes birthday party then, making multiple dishes from a Sherlock Holmes cookbook (took about 8 hours to do the whole meal, no wonder they had so many servants then!).

I received this volume last year for Christmas (and purchased the two follow-up volumes with money received as gifts). At first I was skeptical...why an annotated version? Especially since I had a two-volume annotated version (which I was mystified to learn was somehow "controversial"), the massive two-volumes edited and annotated by William S. Baring-Gould (only slightly massive than the one volume version I owned for a short time...too big!). Was there room for more annotations?

So enthusiastic yes! The "controversy" with Baring-Gould seems to be in that he re-ordered the tales, moving from the way they were published or previously anthologized originally, to a chronological order. Now, seeing that this volume contains a chronological listing, I would guess that the controversy was less in developing a timeline for Holmes and Watson than breaking up the crown jewels.

Klinger puts them back into their "proper setting" and sprinkles a series of notes (sometimes several to a single paragraph) and short articles throughout the book. Some notes concern things that we "modern folk" might not be familiar with. Others illuminate weapons, the interior makeup of various poultry, dates, lapses of memory by Holmes or Watson (or their "editor", Doyle), etc.

If you have Baring-Gould, is it worth purchasing this set? Between the notes, the illustrations and the nice production of this trio, I say yes. If you've never encountered Holmes and Watson before (and I suspect there will be people who look at this volume when the dreaded "rebooting" of the series appears in the movies shortly), welcome to The Great Game!

Made up of: Introduction (John Le Carre); The World of Sherlock Holmes (Klinger); The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia; The Red-Headed League; A Case of Identity; The Boscombe Valley Mystery; The Five Orange Pips; The Man with the Twisted Lip; "A Rose By Any Other Name" (Klinger); The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle; "A Winter's Crop" (Klinger); The Adventure of the Speckled Band; "It is a Swamp Adder!...The Deadliest Snake in India!" (Klinger); "The Guns of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, M.D." (Klinger); The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb; The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor; The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet; The Adventure of the Cooper Beeches. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: Silver Blaze; "...And the Calculation is a Simple One..." (Klinger); "I Stand to Win a Little on This Next Race" (Klinger); The Cardboard Box; The Yellow Face; The Stock-Broker's Clerk; The "Gloria Scott"; The Musgrave Ritual; The Ritual of the Musgraves (Klinger); The Reigate Squires; The Crooked Man; The Indian Mutiny (Klinger); The Resident Patient; The Text of "The Resident Patient" (Doyle and Klinger); The Greek Interpreter; Mycroft Holmes (Klinger); The Naval Treaty; The Final Problem; Revisions of "The Final Problem" (Klinger); Chronological Table: The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes (Klinger).

Counts as 40 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.

FTC Disclaimer: Book 01 was a gift from a person who bought it. Book 02 and Book 03 were purchased with money.
How Can I Keep From Screaming?

Aaaaahhhh!!!! I missed posting the arrival of Ansible 268!!!!!

JOHN CLUTE, with David Langford and the co-editorial team, celebrated passing 10,000 entries in the third-edition-in-progress of the _Encyclopedia of SF_. The 1993 volume had 6,571. Owing to differences about the nature of the project, the _EoSF_ has amicably parted company with Orbit/Hachette and acquired enthusiastic new backers from outside the conventional publishing world. Keep watching the skies!

Looking forward to it!

HARLAN ELLISON announced on 22 October that his action against CBS/Paramount (for not paying royalties on spinoffs from _The City on the Edge of Forever_) has been settled: 'The _Star Trek_ lawsuit is over. I am pleased with the outcome. [... T]hree years' litigation is completed. Lordy, I am tired. Smiling at last.' ( [DKMK]

Go, Harlan! While we're mentioning Harlan Ellison (R), I recommend Dreams With Sharp Teeth. Excellent movie.

And of course, many entries from Thog's Masterclass!

THOG'S MASTERCLASS. _Distributed Middle Dept._ 'Jackson could see one of the enemy soldier's _[sic]_ midsection splatter red against the brick behind him and then fall forward dead.' (Travis S. Taylor, _One Day on Mars_, 2007) [MB]
Fred's Reading Report (October 2009)

Whoops! Behind the curve already! Well into November and I haven't posted October's report (that's OK, I haven't done my link to Ansible yet either!).

Shorts! Shorts! We're moving...may not make 2008's count, but we're moving! 508 short works (more or less, I'm still behind in logging these), last year was 848 (!). A big bump in the count came thanks to Halloween (where I read a bunch of stories by William Hope Hodgson) and the decision to re-visit "The Canon" of Sherlock Holmes.

Longer works grew to 251. My eyes are bleeding... In a switch, I haven't been listening to audiobooks while driving to and from work or too and from Pennsylvania, mostly podcasts, otherwise the count would have been higher.

The quest continues!
All Gunn, All the Time

Ben Bova; The Sam Gunn Omnibus (Tor Books; 2007; ISBN 978-0-7654-1620-2; cover by Vincent Di Fate).

Previously read in 2004 (in part) with the separate editions, I picked up this omnibus (it only took me two years to get to it!) when I saw there was new material added to the sequence.

Sam Gunn is one of Bova's three main creations dealing with our "near future". The other two are his Kinsman tales and his stories from the loose Grand Tour sequence. Both those are fairly serious in nature (especially the Kinsman stories); with Sam Gunn, Bova gets to look at the more humorous side of space travel.

This omnibus is a cross between a collection and fix-up. There are a number of bridging sequences where Our Intrepid Reporter, Jade, tries to find out about the legendary Sam Gunn. Between the bridges are the longer Sam Gunn "set pieces" (previously published in Omni, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog and other magazines). Sam sees an angle, runs a con, tries to get in at the bleeding edge. He steps on toes, makes enemies, gets fired, loses a fortune. Along the way he helps to open up the frontier, and more importantly, makes a large number of lasting friends. Fun stories, even on a re-read.

Made up of: Preface; Selene City; The Sea of Clouds; The Supervisor's Tale; The Hospital and the Bar; The Long Fall; The Pelican Bar; The Audition; Diamond Sam; Decisions, Decisions; Statement of Clark Griffith IV; Tourist Sam; The Show Must Go On!; Space Station Alpha; Isolation Area; Lagrange Habitat Jefferson; Vacuum Cleaner; Selene City; Armstrong Spaceport; Nursery Sam; Selene City; Statement of Juanita Carlotta Maria y Queveda; Sam's War; Habitat New Chicago; Grandfather Sam; Solar News Offices, Selene City; Bridge Ship "Golden Gate"; Two Years Before the Mast; Bridge Ship "Golden Gate"; Asteroid Ceres; Space University; A Can of Worms; Titan; Einstein; Surprise, Surprise; Reviews; Torch Ship "Hermes"; Acts of God; Torch Ship "Hermes"; Steven Achernar Wright; The Prudent Jurist; Pierre D'Argent; Piker's Peek; Zoilo Hashimoto; The Mark of Zorro; The Maitre D'; The Flying Dutchman; Disappearing Act; Takes Two to Tangle; Solar News Headquarters, Selene; Orchestra(ted) Sam.

Counts as 19 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.