Monday, April 26, 2010

Bagels & Soup

A few years ago, I started hearing rumors around the intrawebs about this amazing new writer. People were calling him this millenniums answer to Ted Chiang. People were raving about his stark, cruel futures. People were admiring his prose and unflinching honesty. Time passes.

A year or so later, I hear hear his name again. I only recognize it by my inability to actually recognize it. More stories. More beautiful yet grim short stories that pepper the publications. A consistent world is being built, a future foretold. Time passes.

Last fall a new book is published. I notice it on the shelves. It's art alone calls out to me. I hear more rumors, how spectacular this book is, what an unbelievable first time novel. I see his name again, something Italian, I remember that, but little else. Time passes.

Months go by. What do you want for Christmas, people ask me. I ask for the new Cory Doctorow. But there is another book I want too, if only I could remember the author's name... "Ah, it's Latin or something," I tell my wife. "Bagel-soup-y?" I pronounce it. "I think the title has something to do with a clockwork girl."

To my delight, I receive The Windup Girl by Paolo - let me phoneticize for a minute here... Batch-ih-gal-oopy. Paolo Bacigalupi. Not Paolo Bagelsoupy. "Awesome!" I cry "I knew it was something like that." I also knew it had more c's and i's than my initial pronunciation gave it credit for, but hey, that's my lazy American tongue for you. The book was worth the wait. Everything I thought it'd be, and more. A frightening future where food is the only currency and one man, the "calorie-man", hunts Thailand's back streets for new caloric sources that have survived the mass plagues and which can be exploited by his company.

But this story certainly could not have jumped Athena-like from Zeus' head, fully formed, could have it? And it did not, I was delighted to learn. Which brings me to the centerpiece of my post, my latest acquisition. Due to this fascination of mine, I tracked down the down Bacigalupi's short story collection - Pump Six. It contains every story set in the "windup universe". It also contains plenty of other tales. And when I learned that a limited edition was produced by the trade house Nightshade and it contained a bonus short story, not found in the trade edition, I was hooked. I spent some time looking and found a deal I just couldn't pass up.

Locus award winning collection. Three Hugo nods and a Nebula too. Full cloth binding. Signed limitation page. The extra story "Small Offerings". One of only one hundred copies world wide in this state. What more is a boy like myself to ask? I pony up the cash and wait. And when it drops on my front porch I unwrap it, slap a dustjacket protector on it and sink in... it's wonderful. The only thing I can say is that I can't say enough. Words escape me. I've always been better at talking about a book than selling an actual review. The hardcover edition is out of print at the moment, but the trade paperback is due this fall. Do yourself a favor: when it's back in print, find this book. And while you're waiting, track down The Windup Girl. It's already in paperback... and both are worth every penny.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good Stuff: Week of 4/18

First off this week is a title that actually came out a couple of days ago, but that I missed mentioning because, you know, this blog didn't really exist. Arriving in the UK last Friday, New Model Army (U.S.) (U.K.) is the latest from Adam Roberts.

Roberts is a professor of 19th Century literature in London, so his SF isn't always what you'd normally think of as SF. It tends to have bit more literary and philosophical bend to the pieces than one might expect. But that is usually a good thing. His last book, Yellow Blue Tibia was recently shortlisted for this year's Arthur. C. Clarke Award.

New Model Army, presumably taking its name from the standing full-time army that was formed during the British civil war in 1645 by the Parlimentarians, takes place in the near future during a second English civil war. Roberts uses this setting as a philosophical basis for examining the morality of war in a democratic society. Should be good stuff, though as it only has a UK publisher at this time, my US readers (myself included) may have to import this one.

Next up, available tomorrow (or am I typing this in today?) is something rather unique. Stephen King has decided to release a new novella to the streets, without going through his usual  mass-market publisher's. Cemetery Dance Publications,  a small dark fantasy and horror house is releasing Blockade Billy on April 20th. CD has put together a fine little edition of only 10, 000 copies, which are only available directly from the publisher, and which are already (or close to it) sold out after the announcement three weeks ago. (*update* there are still a couple copies of the first edition left. Go get one!)

Highly illustrated, cloth bound, dust-jacketed and including a reproduction card, Stephen King's historical baseball suspense story features the greatest player of the game, Billy Blakely. What King's fans don't know is what happened that was so horrible, that Billy's name was erased from every record book - why his very existence virtually eliminated.

I'm really looking forward to this little book. Those of King's legions that are not able to snag this small edition should not despair however. Coming May 25th his usual publisher Scribner, will be releasing an edition for the rest of the world. Unjacketed and non-illustrated, this edition will nonetheless feature the bonus short Morality that was published in Esquire last summer. You can pre-order that edition here: (U.S.). European fans should expect to see a Hodder & Stoughton edition sometime soon as well (U.K.).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Outbound, Jack McDevitt


This little gem arrived on my doorstep this afternoon. A collection of fiction and other essays called Outbound by one of my favorites, Mr. Jack McDevitt.

Illinois Science Fiction in Chicago is a neat little organization dedicated to promoting SF literacy in Chicago. They support a number of cons throughout the year, primarily their flagship, WindyCon. It is at this convention - since 2004 at any rate - where the publishing arm of the society, ISFiC Press releases a new book by or featuring work by the Guest of Honor for that years convention.

I had been eying some of their books for some time now, as a couple are by favorite authors of mine. As they are printed in relatively small quantities and bound with higher quality material than you'd see from most of the New York houses, there is also a certain level of collectibility built into the books.

Since the last time I visited ISFiC's web-page however, Outbound - one of two books I had been keeping on my back burner - quietly went out of print. Checking for used copies on Amazon sent a shock through my wallet, I was devastated. And if you know me, you know I am not exaggerating. I like to spend money on SF, even more than the next guy, but I was not about to spend $70 on something that would have cost me $30 or less a few months ago.

So anyway, I start excavating the intra-webs. Turning over Alibris, rooting through Abebooks' dustbins and digging through eBay's backyard. All my usual haunts abandoned me, when much to my surprise, I struck gold. Jack McDevitt himself was selling the last few copies... at cost. And to make a good deal great, he would personally sign the book to anyone who asked.

How could I say no? So out went the payment and in came the book. When I unwrapped it this evening, the title page fell open: "To Tim, Hope you enjoy the ride. Best always, Jack McDevitt. Brunswick GA 4/14/10". What a stellar birthday present. I can't wait to get a chance to read it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What I Do, Why I Do It

This little blog here is my space where I talk about what I love. Science Fiction. Fantasy. Horror. Slipstream. Steampunk. Space Opera. Alternate History. Basically anything that those who split the genre-hairs are collectively calling Speculative Fiction.

I think that in reality, all fiction is fantasy on some level. If it did not happen, it is make-believe. If it is not true, it's a lie. And I love being lied to. If everything in the south-west third of my local Barnes & Noble is a lie, it's that smaller, darker section near the restrooms that lies the loudest.

When we speculate, we have the ability to find out the truth about ourselves. To imagine a world. To imagine future. That is why I love Speculative Fiction. There is so much that is new. Wonder and clarity being sought and distinguished every day. The literary/mainstream crowd lies spartanly. Their deceits are so pedantically pedestrian. No truth is sought in their lies. Nothing I can not read in the daily press or see by looking out my window is shown to me. And as nothing is discovered, nothing is learned.

This is what we gain though the lies of speculative fiction. And this is why I read, why I collect. I have another passion though, also. I love book for more than just what truths I can glean from the tales. I love the books for their book-ness, their very essence on my shelves. So while I'll talk about things that are new and exciting, I'll also talk about my recent acquisitions: old to the world, but newly finding a home on my walls. Whether a leather-bound numbered collector edition or a ratty paperback, it is all welcome here.

So come. Tell me a story, lie to me. And while you're at it, I'll tell you why I love you.


P.S. The name of this blog and the nature of this reader owes much to the late Arthur C. Clarke. The tale is a quick one and well worth the entrance price. Check it out here, free online.