This Just In...News
From The Agony Column
05-30-08: Tanya Huff Adjudicates 'Valor's Trial'; Agony Column Podcast
News Report : SF in SF Panel Discussion 05-17-08
hot model and world.
Well, we're all big
Tanya Huff fans here chez Kleffel, for a couple
of reasons, so the release of 'Valor's Trial' (DAW / Penguin Group ; June
3, 2008 ; $24.95) grabs my attention. Let me be brief and to the point
here. My wife and I are hooked on the Lifetime series 'Blood Ties', which
is based on her Henry Fitzroy / Vicky Nelson novels. The people putting
this series together have got enough brains to pull the essentials of
character and story from the novels, so the episodes have like, characters
and story. This is rather unusual for television. Plus, there are occasionally
monsters, which will certainly grab my attention. Monsters, story characters,
we're good. I have never experienced a single rational thought while watching
these TV shows. What more can I ask?
As my wife speeds through the novels, in come this fourth entry in an
entirely different series from the ever prolific Huff. The Confederation
novels (SF writers seem to love confederacies, see Peter F. Hamilton)
by Huff are straightforward mil-sf. The gist is that humans a few other
war-like races have been allowed into the Galactic Fun Club to protect
races that aren't inclined to blow the living shit out of anything that
annoys them. Torin Kerr gets captured by those who ostensibly take no
prisoners, and if the cover illustration is any indication, looks like
a runway model while in captivity. I dont know boo about the rest
of the novels in this series, but given the new interest chez moi in Huff,
well, I'm going back to find the MMPBs and supply them one at a time on
a book drip for my wife who is reading the 'Blood Ties' novels at a perilously
But that's not the only point via which Huff has entered our lives. Thursday,
I talked to Cory Doctorow, and he told me that if was Huff, working at
Bakka, the famous Canadian Bookstore, who introduced a young lad named
Cory to the work of H. Beam Piper. Fortunately, I only need to be hit
over the head once or twice to get it. Huff is worth my valuable time
and I believe yours as well.
Agony Column Podcast
News Report : SF in SF Panel Discussion 05-17-08 : John Shirley, Daniel
Marcus and Terry Bisson Mix It Up
Well, I hemmed and
hawed and fussed and fidgeted and finally decided to finish out this week
with the final entry from the SF in SF
show of May 17, the panel discussion between guests John Shirley
and Daniel Marcus moderated – not really the right
word, as he's anything but moderate – by the incomparable Terry
Bisson. Bisson is really a pro at finding the commonalities between
the writers he's hosting and turning them into a springboard for intelligent
discussion. With writers like Shirley and Marcus, that means a lot of
smart, spiky, entertaining talk. Get ready to hear words used you will
not hear on regular radio. Here's
the link to the MP3.
05-29-08: NPR: Nine First Books for Summer ; Agony Column Podcast News
Report : Agony Column Podcast News Report : John Shirley Reads at SF
in All Senses of the Word
article written for the NPR.org/books website goes live, and readers
are invited to enjoy and email it early and often. As the creator of the
NPR First Books series, I was asked by the Digital Media Group to develop
a web-only list of first books for summer and do a brief article about
each one, a classic roundup that I love to write. Some of these books
readers will have seen, others not. I tried to keep the list varied and
the quality high, of course, but I also wanted to stretch the NPR paradigm
just a bit. There are some titles you might expect to find in an NPR article,
and some you certainly wouldn't. As with anything I do for NPR, I'm hoping
that readers will be willing to use the Email this story button to send
the article along to friends. I had a blast developing this list and writing
the article. As a bonus, all the books include excerpts. That leaves us
to do what we do best and like most: read on!
Agony Column Podcast
News Report : John Shirley Reads at SF in SF : "You Blundering
Idiot, You Fucking Failed to Kill Me Again"
is one of the writers who is something of a chameleon. With today's podcast,
he takes on the aspects of a writer who contributes to an anthology titled
"The Vault of Punk Horror" and mentions in his intro Stanislaw
Lem and Harlan Ellison while delivering a story that would truly delight
the fans of Chuck Palahniuk. This story is crude, violent, and totally
a link to the MP3 file. You will hear the word "Fuck" used
many times, so if you find this offensive, please be sure to listen, then
write the New York Times Editorial page to complain about this website.
05-28-08: "Welcome to Your Brain" on All Things Considered ; Ekaterina
Sedia Reveals 'The Alchemy of Stone' ; Agony Column Podcast News Report
: John Shirley Interviewed at SF in SF
Today my story on 'Welcome
to Your Brain' by neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
will air during the last part of the second hour of All Things Considered.
These two writers were as funny as they were smart. Be
sure to go to the NPR website and use the Email this Story link early
and often. And once you've heard that, give
the full interview a listen, as it is chock-a-block with actually
useful information, and more head-bonk data than youre likely to
find anywhere else!
first appeared here about a year ago with 'The Secret History of Moscow'.
This was precisely the sort of book we specialize in at The Agony Column.
Writing of the highest caliber, sort-of in a genre, but actually just
good, if a bit odd, mainstream literature, published by, in this case,
Prime Books, who are actively bringing some of the best writers out there
to your doorstep. Now she's back with 'The Alchemy of Stone' (Prime Books
; July 2008 ; $12.95), a solid entry into the Steampunk genre that should
grab a larger section of the genre fiction audience, while retaining readers
of her previous book.
'The Alchemy of Stone' is set in the city of Ayona, where the balance
of power between Mechanics and Alchemists can shift without notice. Mattie
is an automaton who is skilled in alchemy and thus caught in the middle.
Her creator literally has the key to her heart, and as the politics of
power play out, Mattie will entertain the living hell out of anyone who
likes to see relevant politics recast into a well-imagined surreal version
of our own tormented world.
"Tense silence filled the room, palpable, broken only by the ticking
of Mattie's heart and the ragged breath of the prisoner who watched Mattie
with almost religious hope on his face, mixed with open-mouthed wonder."
Sedia has a knack for writing well about our world while setting her story
within something entirely different. 'The Alchemy of Stone' may be ostensibly
more rooted in genre fiction and indeed be quite appealing to the genre
fiction audience. But such is the alchemy of literary invention that it's
quite clear 'The Alchemy of Stone' explores our world within the confines
of a world created with language alone.
Agony Column Podcast
News Report : John Shirley Interviewed at SF in SF : From the "Podcast"
to the "Web-O-Net"
I hope you can hear
the quote marks when John Shirley speaks in my interview
with him at SF in SF on May 17. He
was in such a fine, funny mood that it was difficult to keep a straight
face while he spoke, let alone a straight brain. I'd just heard his utterly,
totally, hilarious story, which you will as well, on tomorrow's pod-o-cast.
today, you'll have the pleasure of hearing Shirley discourse on the power
of the web-o-net during my brief interview with him. Here's the link,
with only the warning that if you follow, it will lead you down a rabbit
hole from whence escape shall be difficult, if not impossible. Oh, the
joy of the interweb!
05-27-08: Thomas M. Disch Hands Down 'The Word of God' ; Agony Column
Podcast News Report : Daniel Marcus Reads 'Binding Energy' at SF in
An American Deity
Sure, lots of us might
think that Thomas M. Disch is a literary god. He's the
author of 'Camp Concentration', 'The MD' and 'Fun With Your New Head'.
But we generally would not expect him to share our own opinion of him.
Literary gods are generally supposed to be humble. They're supposed to
think of themselves as "just folks" or one of the people they
write about so well. Not like, well, the Supreme Being.
The marble wings of angels.
But that's precisely what Thomas Disch thinks of himself, at least if
you take his word – and after all, you sort of have to take 'The
Word of God' (Tachyon Publications ; July 2008 ; $14.95) as the Word of
God. Just dont expect the usual "Good News," because
although Disch himself may have ascended, the rest of us are still Deep
In It, and Disch is not leery of joining us and offering a skewed deistic
perspective on matters of Earth as seen from the vantage point of On High.
So what precisely is 'The Word of God'? Is it fiction, or religious drivel,
or something rather more rare than either? I'm thinking the latter, but
it really depends on your ability to enjoy vitriolic discourse of the
highest caliber. What this book is more than anything else is a surreally
hilarious examination of our beliefs, how they shape us and we them, and
how just totally friggin' surreal the whole shebang actually is, when
you get right down to it. And make no mistake; nobody gets down like Thomas
M. Dish. Tachyon has really nailed down an elegant format for this wonderfully
uncategorizable work; their trade paperback printing and designs are nonpareil.
I suppose that's de rigeur for a holy work like this.
Youre going to spend the summer flooded with light reading and
thrilling froth. I'm a fan of thrilling froth, so long as it effectively
prevents all rational thought. I must suggest to the unwary reader that
when reading 'The Word of God', rational thoughts may indeed occur simultaneously
with sputtering, choking hilarity and eye-watering outrage among a certain
set. Get over it. This is God talking. He doesn't write a lot of books.
And Thomas M. Disch is a much better mouthpiece than L. Rob Hubbard, though
if you suggest that he's a dangerous cult, he may elect to stroke you
with lightning, or the closest British bobby, whichever is more convenient.
Agony Column Podcast
News Report : Daniel Marcus Reads 'Binding Energy' at SF in SF : The
Today's podcast is
from SF in SF on May 17; it's Daniel
Marcus reading 'Binding Energy'. I found the story to be toe-tappingly
hilarious and compelling, but then, as you might have heard in my interview
with Marcus, I have friends who have worked in that pressure cooker Aerospace
Corporation environment. But you know what? Even when the gods-damned
Russies were threatening to nuke us till we glowed, there really wasn't
all that much, er, urgency to the whole Cold Warrior gang, at least that
I knew. They were partying hard at the Jet Strip, guzzling $8 beers, chomping
on $2 roast beef sandwiches and shoving $20 bills where the sun generally
dont shine. Hot neon lights, maybe, but not the sun. It was the
days the Doom Patrol. Here's
a link to Daniel Marcus reading 'Binding Energy' a lovely reminder
of what waits us as we hold out for another fine Cold War. I suppose it
beats a hot war.
05-26-08: A 2008 Interview with Jeffrey Alford
Twenty Years of
Culture and Cuisine in the Unseen China
you Capitol Book Cafe!
told me that he started his newest book with Naomi Duguid
– 'Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China'
(Artisan / Workman ; May 1, 2008 ; $40) more than twenty years ago, in
1981, as he traveled through those parts of China generally not found
on the culinary map. It has the heft; it has the history. This is not
a simple cookbook, nor is it a glossy bit of travel writing. It's a tome,
a large book, in every sense. Yes, you'll find lots of recipes that are
easy-to-make (I'll explain why a bit further on); yes, you'll find gorgeous
photographs and recountings of wild adventures on bicycles and being driven
about by those with a seeming lack of regard for physics and life. But
'Beyond the Great Wall' does more than either genre might. It captures
a country, and not just one people, but variety of peoples, lifestyles
that may no longer exist even as you read this article. This book is a
part of the world between hardcovers.
After an introduction that explains what parts of China we'll be seeing
in the pages that follow, Alford and Duguid simply go through a list of
food types and use them as a springboard to explore a China we might no
believe to exist. Its a China that is as much Middle East as Far
East, a China where the food is simple for us Westerners to prepare because
the lives being lived are (or were), as Jeffrey told me, largely pre-industrial.
I made the Beef Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad last night; it took me about
20 minutes from start to serving, and I used mostly ingredients I already
had. And damn it was fantastic; sort of Middle Eastern cuisine more than
what I would generally think of as Chinese cuisine. But that only goes
to show how much I know about much of China, at least until I tuck into
this book further.
Gorgeous photos of the places, the people and the food , a giant format
and lots of easy recipes will make this a book you will want to read and
share. This might be one of the best gift books you could possibly find.
a link to my interview with Jeffrey Alford. Salut!