Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weird Tales, Issue 361, Summer 2013

This is going to be hard; it won't be the usual review.
Last time I reviewed Weird Tales (Issue 360) I wrote a paragraph about the new anthological format of the magazine. The editors had the idea of having a single theme for each issue. For example, Issue 360 was about the Elder Gods, Issue 361 (current) is about Fairy Tales and issue 361 is going for the “Undead” theme.
My paragraph was in strong disagreement with this choice for several reasons, all of them can be read here, including the fear of lowering the quality of the stories. Some personal background is needed.
As with many of us, my introduction to weird fiction was through H.P. Lovecraft when I was a teenager. I remember I was around thirteen years old when I bought a collection of his stories. At the time I still lived in Italy (it was around 1993) so my first HPL readings were translated in Italian; the edition was cured by Sebastiano Fusco and Gianni Pilo. I believe it was published by Newton Compton. I even remember where I got it: one of those old bookstores with a lot of interesting books. You know, the one packed with books owned by chain smokers that spend all day reading books and actually knowing what readers need and the location of a book without the use of a computer. I knew the three owners (Renato, Valeriano and Lucio) very well. They used to give me books for free to encourage me in reading. They made me discover H.P. Lovecraft, his world of fiction and his circle. I clearly remember some of the books they gave me mentioned, in the preface, the importance of Weird Tales. After all, that was the magazine that published HPL. For a long time, Weird Tales was for me an almost surreal and non-existent literary entity that lived glorious days but died with HPL. I didn’t know that Weird Tales was still around. And even if I knew it was alive it would have probably been impossible for me to get a hold of an issue.
Therefore, the sole mentioning of “Weird Tales” brings many memories, many ideas; many many things. Weird Tales reminds me of Renato, Valieriano and Lucio; Weird Tales reminds me of long gone non empirical worlds or places that never were. It reminds me of the fact that for a while I was the only one in my entire school that knew who H.P. Lovecraft was. This was until luckily one day a friend of mine asked me to read a Cthulhu mythos collection I had with me; after reading it he got as addicted as I was (I never got the book back. I hope he still has it). In other words, Weird Tales has been an important part of me, even though I started reading it recently. Reading forums and talking to people it becomes clear that Weird Tales is an important part of everyone who is interested in the genre.
The obvious consequence is that most of us consider this magazine, a sort of Totem. It’s there, it might do something or it might just sit still, yet it is extremely important. No one wants to see it disfigured. This is why I opposed the editor’s decision to encage the themes in the magazine and why I complained about it. I was dead wrong.
Weird Tales 361 is a literary gem that might end up being of unique, high quality in its genre. Every single story published in this issue is simply well above average and deserves an award or medal. I am not fond of (nor expert on) fairy tales but, oh boy, this is almost perfection. Anyone who is interested in fiction – and I mean fiction in general, not only weird/sci-fi/fantasy – should get a copy of WT #361 and read it as soon as possible. I am sorry I didn’t start reading it as soon as it arrived at my house but a few things (work, a family trip, and an awfully long reading queue) prevented me from enjoying this magazine at an earlier point in time. If only I could put my hands on an advanced copy! Well, better late than never, right?
Now, it’s important to understand that I am not expecting every issue to keep the same quality. There are going to be inevitable ups and downs but I am going to be satisfied even if the quality is half of what I have seen in WT #361.
Good job to the authors and the publishers. Even if there is much to be said for every story, I will not review them as that it would spoil the fun. It's better to read the magazine without any prior knowledge of what you will find.
The only thing I can tell you is not to expect the usual fairy tale; expect something that Brom would write. Expect to go from New York, to the La Guardia airport, to lands that don't exist.

Final Comment: this issue is the perfect explanation of why Weird Tales is so magic.

If you want to read more about it I suggest the following:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

10,000 VISITS!!!

Eerie Worlds reached ten thousand visits!

The ten most read posts:

I would like to thank you all, humans and bots alike.
How did I celebrate? By having a tooth extracted; not bad, huh?
Well, let's get some cake and celebrate!

Updated reading queue (Sept. 2013)


My reading queue is quite packed right now. List is NOT complete.

Science Fiction:
Asimov's Science Fiction, October/November 2013 (Double Issue)
Galaxy’s End Magazine, Sep-Dec 2013
Analog Science Fiction, December 1960
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2013
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October 2013
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2013
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 2013 (Double Issue)
Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2013
Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2013
Interzone July/August 2013

Mystery and Crime:
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November 2013
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, October 2013

Fantasy and Weird:
Fantasy & Science Fiction, September/October 2013
Weird Tales, Summer 2013, Issue 361

A Song of Ice and Fire Book I – A Game of Thrones – By George R. R. Martin
Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry
Sisterhood of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Wernher von Braun by Erik Bergaust

To Read Read  On Hold  Will Not Read/Gave up


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Interzone #247, July/August 2013

Browsing my local Barnes and Noble’s magazine section I founInterzone (July/August 2013 issue) hidden behind other magazines. I couldn’t pass on this one, so I quickly grabbed it to enjoy some British Sci-Fi once I arrived at home. Quick review.

“The Pursuit of the Whole is Called Love” by L.S. Johnson. I mean, seriously? This is going to win the award of “Worst Story I Read – 2013 Edition”. This story is just a meatloaf of concepts.  For some reason it reminded me of movies directed by Cronenberg. Sadly, this story is not as nearly as good as the movies I had in my mind. Cam and Jess are two beings that become one when they go back to their nest until the two stop understanding each other. I had to check Lois Tilton’s review to be sure I wasn’t missing a great piece of literature. Apparently, I wasn’t. Only good thing is the delicate Cabernet Sauvignon I was drinking while reading this piece.

“Automatic Diamante” by Philip Suggars is an enjoyable work about an AI with PTSD or something like that.

“Just as Good” by Jacob A. Boyd is certainly the second best story in this magazine. The Exchange is a monstrous entity that simply… exchanges stuff in people’s lives. At first it removes items from houses and replaces them with others. Then, when there's nothing more to swap it starts with people. Unfortunately, the exchange includes the main character’s mom who’s replaced with a new one. Sad.

“The Cloud Cartographer” by V.H.Leslie is my favorite piece in this issue. Ahren is on the payroll of a powerful company that sent him to map the cloudsphere. He believes he is the only human there, until he finds a fresh body. Nice adventure in a strange land.

“Futile the Winds” by Rebecca Schwarz. Curiously, V.H. Leslie’s story contains a reference to my favorite poem by Emily Dickinson… and so does the title of this story! A lone couple is sent to Mars, with the hope of colonizing it. So far, every other mission failed and everyone else that attempted to survive on the Red Planet simply died. Enjoyable enough.

“The Frog King’s Daughter” by Russ Colson. Arnie is the CEO of a very powerful company. Unfortunately, he is also a frog. Even more, he and his daughter have many enemies. Awful.

Final Comment: the fiction is absolutely not worth the cover price.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Voyager I reached interstellar space!!

The historical moment has arrived.

“NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space.” (NASA, News release 2013-277).

We waited for a long time. Millions of years, if we want to be as precise as possible. Since the dawn of life on this planet only one thing was taken as granted. The Sun.
Our beautiful star shined before the dinosaurs even existed. It shined before the first humans looked at the skies. Consider this. Everything we did, everything we saw and every moment we lived was done under the Sun. Even when we did things in the darkness of the night.

For the first time something we created is not affected directly by the Sun. It’s out there!!!
The ultimate border has been breached by the same spacecraft that shot the famous “Family Picture” in which our Earth appears as a Pale Blue Dot, putting everything in perspective as explained by Carl Sagan. Voyager I, as its twin Voyager II, is bringing humanity into deep space; their Golden Record contains a summary of our species, our voices and pictures of us. Voyager is far away from home, a good seventeen light hours. It will communicate for a few years more, telling us how’s living  outside of our System.
Keep moving forward, don’t stop. Ever.
No doubt, this is humanity’s biggest accomplishment and I celebrate it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - November 2013 - Volume CXLII, No. 5

As I mentioned in my previous review, I started reading some crime fiction. After Alfred Hitchock Mystery Magazine it's time for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, the more "mature" of the two.

"Small Kingdoms” by Charlain Harris. Travis High School’s principal Anne DeWitt seems a person affected by OCD. She has a very tight schedule, she loves punctuality and she likes efficiency. One morning, someone breaks into her house. She ends up killing him with some scissors. We can all agree that would freak anyone out. Well, Anne DeWitt is more concerned about her disrupted daily routine than of having killed a man. After all, disposing of a body requires some time. Nice story; I believe that Anne DeWitt is characterized very well although the ending is somewhat weak.

“The Covering Storm” by David H. Ingram. I cannot be happier to see a story based in Texas! In 1900 a rich man, Wendell Asquith, is very jealous of his beautiful wife, Amelia. Things are made worse by another member of high-society that basically goes around proclaiming his love for Amelia. Wendell cannot take it anymore and decides to teach the guy a lesson, weather permitting! Nice short story, great ending. I strongly recommend it.

"A Study in Mint" by Lou Manfredo is a complex story with a nice pace. As the previous story by Ingram, this piece is based in pre-WWII period. Constable Gus Oliver is called to investigate a suicide. Everything seems to suggest that it's actually just that, a suicide. Very nice and a worth the read.

“Sob sisters” by Kris Nelscott is another good piece of short literature. Val Wilson is a volunteer for a hotline for rape victims. Detective Kaplan calls her to unofficially investigate the murder of the most important woman in town, a very rich philanthropist. As one would imagine when rich people are murdered in crime stories, a lot of  dark secrets will come afloat. The only thing I really did not like (small spoiler) is the whole idea of a “secret room in the house.” It looked more like a quick plot device to add some unnecessary mystery than something that the story actually needed. Good read.

"Princess Anne" is a short story about a murderer and a happy family. Not really great, but it's a nice bedtime story (if you're twisted as I am).

"Interview" by Neil Schofield is an interesting story about a woman (a divorcee) that while driving picks up a random guy. Is he dangerous or does she have a plan?

"Darkness in the City of Lights" by Hilary Davidson is a love triangle story in Paris. I didn't really enjoy it as it seemed more fit for young adults, for my tastes.

"Statement No. 060.719-67" by Raphael Montes is this month's "Passport to Crime" story. Very Poeseque (The Tell-Tale Heart, anybody?) with a very good ending.

"Doloroso" by Stephen T. Vessels is about drug lords and ghosts. Interesting enough, but the story did not really flow for me. In addition, I am not really fond of drug related stories unless they are very well written.

Final Comment: Very good issue, well worth the price. Good job to all the writers.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, October 2013, Volume LVIII, No. 10

I decided to step out of my comfort zone and take a look at a completely different genre: crime fiction. I believe that crime fiction and science fiction can get along quite well so I had no choice but to get the two most important magazines in the area, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (AHMM) and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (EQMM).
Not that I have ever read them nor ever opened a crime fiction book before, but I plan to make them a consistent part of my monthly reading queue.
AHMM is known as the "lesser EQMM", in that its quality is commonly understood as inferior to the other magazine. However, thanks to many new authors AHMM seems to have a very important component: freshness.

Let’s dive into the October 2013 issue.

“Faraway Nearby” by David Edgerly Gates is a crime story that hints of modern noir. Two burned bodies are found inside a car. Since they are located inside an Indian reservation, the FBI is called to intervene. Special Agent Bevilacquia and local police force Pete will investigate and even shoot some bullets. Good start.

In the introduction to this review I wrote that sci-fi and crime fiction can be joyfully mixed together. I am very glad to find an example of this in Tony Richards’ “The Hunting Party”. In a futuristic Africa which is now ruled under a fair federalist government, a Nobel Prize Winner is plotting against his own government. This story is noteworthy because the sci-fi element exists but is not substantial enough to make it hard-core sci-fi. Good read.

“Under Cap. Ste. Clare” by Jas. R. Petrin starts as a "Murder, she wrote" meets "Father Brown" episode but quickly becomes action and conspiracy packed. The beginning is somewhat slow, but the story quickly recovers. It’s a disappearance/murder mystery.

"Two Men, One Gun" by Robert Lopresti is a short hostage story. A technical writer, Britell, is held hostage at gunpoint by a guy that wants to be called Richard. He wants to tell Britell a story. Nice read.

“Dress Blues” by Chris Muessig is the only story in this issue that couldn’t keep me interested enough. It’s actually well written, but I didn’t like the pace of the unfolding of the events. It’s a crime story based in the Vietnam Era where an African-American is justly/unjustly charged of a crime.

At last we have some good white collar crimes in “The Gypsy Ring” by James L. Ross. It’s a clever story about Wall Street, illegal trade, millions of dollars and technology. Not bad at all.

Final comment: I’d like to underline that I truly enjoyed reading this issue of AHMM.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review - Analog, November 2013, Volume CXXXIII, No. 11

This is sleepy issue. Only positive exception is Lerner's novella.

“Bugs” by Ron Collins is this month’s cover story. It starts well but it ends quite abruptly and in a cheesy fashion. In other words, it’s a wasted opportunity. The story: John McDonald suffers from heart disease and his condition is worsening day by day. He’s soon going to be dead. Thankfully, he’s approved for a new revolutionary procedure that involves nanotechnology. I am not sure if it’s a story about his love for his wife Carol or about technology. Love and technology are two subjects that could be blended well together but unfortunately it doesn’t happen in this story.

"Make Hub, Not War” by Christopher L. Bennett features a hub in space, different alien races, humans, humanoids and space invasions. It also explores the possibility of wiping an entire race without firing a single shot. Enjoyable enough.

“Deceleration” by Bud Sparhawk is a very nice read. For thousands of years something mysterious cyclically appeared in the sky, Humans always dismissed it as not important and never considered it an immediate threat. If only they prepared themselves…

“Distant” by Michael Monson is quite… useless. A lone astronaut is sent in space and he’s terribly afraid to die. He wants to tell something to his daughter, but he doesn’t. That’s it, that’s the whole story.  WTF.

"The Eagle Project" by Jack McDevitt is a short depressing story. Scientists send a few nanorobotic probes in a different constellation system in the hope of finding some proof of alien life.

"Copper Charley" by Joseph Weber is an interesting short story about mining with the use of "smart" cyber plants. And also a story of lawyers. Likable.

"Redskins of the Badlands" by Paul di Filippo is one of this two month's novelettes. In a future in which Earth has been badly ruined by environmental change, some if not all humans live with an artificial enhanced skin that basically is a life size condom.

“The Matthews Conundrum” by Edward M. Lerner is an ingenious novella. Saying that this is the best story of this issue (by far) would’ve been a much better compliment if the other works weren’t so low-to-average quality. This novella is a part of a long going series of which I am not familiar with. This means that I probably missed a few references and back stories. It’s not really a problem since the work is very enjoyable. Joshua Matthews is the historian for the ICU (Interstellar Commerce Union). He suddenly disappears and then he comes back after about a month. Apparently at his return he is so drunk he can’t even stand still; to make things worse he can’t remember what happened.  This causes him to get fired from ICU. Unfortunately for him, he becomes a sort of planetary meme. He’s the talk of the week, everyone treats him as someone who belongs to AA. Unfortunately, no one understands how his theory, the “Matthews Conundrum”, is revolutionary. He noticed that something in interplanetary history doesn’t really make sense. Earth is right in the middle of an eleven-planet system, each one evolved on its own. However all the planets gained more or less the same technological level. Other than that, it appears that nothing else in the galaxy bears signs of intelligent life. The various planets and their species even share folkloristic tales, such as Frankenstein. How could planets separated by several light years be so synchronized? Very nice indeed. Thank you, Mr. Lerner for making the issue a worthwhile reading.

2013 Hugo Awards

Source of the following post:

2013 Hugo Awards

Presented at:LoneStarCon 3, San Antonio, Texas, August 29-September 2, 2013
Toastmaster: Paul Cornell
Base design: Vincent Villafranca
Awards Administration: Todd Dashoff, Vince Docherty, Saul Jaffe, Steven Staton, Ben Yalow
Best Novel
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi (Tor)
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
  • Blackout, Mira Grant (Orbit)
Best Novella
  • The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit)
Best Novelette
  • “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
  • “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  • “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
  • “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
Best Short Story
  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
Note: Category had only 3 nominees due to the minimum 5% requirement of Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.
Best Related Work
  • Writing Excuses Season Seven, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson
  • Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them, Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who, Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)
  • I Have an Idea for a Book … The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg, Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
Best Graphic Story
  • Saga, Volume One, written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
  • Grandville Bête Noire, written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
  • Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
  • The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
  • The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
  • Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
  • Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)
  • Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”, Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Fringe, “Letters of Transit”, Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
  • Doctor Who, “Asylum of the Daleks”, Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who, “The Snowmen”, written by Steven Moffat; directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
Best Editor, Short Form
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Sheila Williams
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Jonathan Strahan
Best Editor, Long Form
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Toni Weisskopf
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Lou Anders
  • Liz Gorinsky
Best Professional Artist
  • John Picacio
  • Dan dos Santos
  • Julie Dillon
  • Chris McGrath
  • Vincent Chong
Best Semiprozine
  • Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
  • Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross
  • Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
Best Fanzine
  • SF Signal, edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester**
  • The Drink Tank, edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
  • Banana Wings, edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond
Best Fancast
  • SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)**
  • SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
  • StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
Best Fan Writer
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Steven H Silver
  • Christopher J. Garcia
  • Mark Oshiro
  • James Bacon
Best Fan Artist
  • Galen Dara
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Maurine Starkey
  • Steve Stiles
**These winners have recused themselves from future eligibility for these works in these categories.
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (476 nominating ballots cast)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)
  • Mur Lafferty*
  • Stina Leicht*
  • Chuck Wendig*
  • Max Gladstone
  • Zen Cho*
*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.
1343 valid nominating ballots (1329 electronic and 14 paper) were received and counted from the members of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3 and Loncon 3, the 2012-2014 World Science Fiction Conventions.