Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blogging Northwest Smith: Black Thirst

"Black Thirst"
C. L. Moore

SPOILER ALERT - You've been warned.

"Black Thirst" is the second Northwest Smith story, published  in the April 1934 issue of Weird Tales shortly after "Shambleau".  Upon rereading, I found this story lacked the power of its predecessor.  It may have been that I wasn't able to get to the story until late at night, and therefore was fighting fatigue.

The story begins with Smith casing a warehouse along the waterfront of the Venusian city of Ednes one night when a woman walks by and asks him if he'd like to make a gold coin.  This isn't any ordinary woman, but a Minga woman.

When the first settlers landed on the shore, they found a giant castle ruled by a being, apparently a man, called the Alendar.  He had a small entourage of the most beautiful women, which he began selling to the traders and settlers.

Over time, the Minga women, renowned for their exquisite beauty and chaste bodies, have been the prizes of kings, sultans, and chieftains throughout the solar system.  They are never allowed to walk the streets at night alone and unescorted.  But this one is.

She recognizes Smith, although they've never met, and raises her offer to one hundred gold coins.  To receive it, all he has to do is come to a particular gate at the Minga castle in one hour, give her name, and enter.

Other men have died for lesser offenses against the Alendar.

Smith decides to take her up on the offer.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blogging Northwest Smith: Shambleau

"Shambleau" is the first of the Northwest Smith adventures, and the first published story by C. L. Moore.  According to Lester del Rey, in his introduction to The Best of C. L. Moore (1975), she had been writing for 15 years before she submitted anything for publication.  I'd like to know where he got that information, but I'm not questioning it.  Since he'd known Moore personally for decades, I'm inclined to believe him.  Of course, what I'd like even more is to get my hands on some of those unpublished stories.  I suspect they've long since ceased to exist.

I don't remember if "Shambleau" was the first story I read by C. L. Moore, but it certainly made the strongest impact on me.  Here's a synopsis of what happens (spoiler alert):

C. L. Moore Turns 102

Catherine Lucille Moore was born on this day in 1911.  She was one of the greatest fantasy and science fiction authors to work in the field.  That's the oldest picture of her I could find.  I saw a photo of her when I was in college that was (I think) taken shortly before her death.  She was sitting on the steps of a back porch, and the photo was shot from what I would consider an intermediate distance.  If anyone is familiar with the picture and knows where I can get a copy, I would appreciate your letting me know.

I wrote a tribute last year and a belated tribute the  year before, so I wanted to do something different this year.  So after giving some basic facts, I'll tell you what I have in mind.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

One Hundred Seven Years Ago Today...

...Robert E. Howard was born.  While his popularity has waxed and waned over the years since his premature death, his legacy has endured.  Right now, we're seeing a boom in Howard's works and in Howardian studies.  Maybe soon he'll take his proper place in the canon of great writers of the early 20th century.  We can hope.

But whether that happens in the near future, the far future, or not at all, one thing is certain.  We shall not see his like again.  While he's had many imitators over the years, none have matched the power of his writings, the lyricism of his poetry, or the (sometimes) bleakness of his world view.  He helped define a genre, something few men or women can boast.  As long as there are people who love a good adventure with depth as well as action, he will endure.

So raise a glass with me and toast the birth of Robert E. Howard.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Amazing Stories (TM) is Now Live

Hey, everyone.  The Amazing Stories (TM) blog is now live.  I've got several pieces up, with more to come on a weekly basis.  The link is Amazing Stories (TM) .  There's a lot of great stuff over there, and I don't mean the things I've posted.  There are posts about Robert E. Howard, fantasy, science fiction, writing short fiction, indie publishing, and tons more cool stuff.  So head over there and check it out.

What follows is the press release that should be on various media outlets today: 

Friday, January 18, 2013

It's Been Awfully Quiet Around Here...

...and for a good reason.  Or not, depending on how you want to look at it. 

My day job is in academia.  Normally, the first part of January is a little hectic as things gear up for the new semester.  When I came back from the break, I discovered I had a new class to teach in addition to my regular class and supervisory duties.  One of our faculty was awarded an endowed chair at another institution, and he and his wife, also a faculty member, are in the process of relocating even as I type this.  I was assigned one of her classes.  It's intro planetary astronomy, a course I've taught before, but it's been a few years, and I don't have lecture notes ready.  Classes just started, so once I get the holes filled in the TA teaching schedule, things should fall into a routine.

Also, my in-laws are celebrating their 50th anniversary, and we're traveling this weekend for the dinner.  I hope to get some reading and writing done while I'm gone.  We'll see.

Anyway, I've spent three weeks trying to finish two books, one for review at Futures Past and Present, and one for Amazing Stories (TM).  Normally, I would finish both within a week.  I think I can finish them this weekend.  Then I'll dive into the stack waiting for me that just keeps getting larger.

I'll try to get a short fiction review or two up here in the next few days as well.  As well as writing some of my own.

Anyway, that's why I've been kinda quiet except for a couple of news items.  Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

RIP, Steven Utley

Lawrence Person is reporting that science fiction author Steven Utley has died.  Utley announced on December 27, 2012 that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.  On January 12, he slipped into a coma and died that night.

Along with George W. Proctor, Utley was coeditor of Lone Star Universe, an anthology consisting of Texas writers, many of whom went on to become major figures in the field.  Utley wrote mainly at short lengths.  For the past decade much of his output centered on his Silurian Tales, regarding time travel to, what else, the Silurian Era.  I met Utlely only once, at an Armadillcon a few years ago.  I found him to be a soft-spoken, quiet man.  We only spoke for a few minutes, and I wish I had visited with him more. 

The only current US edition of his work is The Beasts of Love, and I'm not even sure that is in print anymore.  That none of his other work is in print in this country is a disgrace.  If you can find any of his work in anthologies, or if you are fortunate to get your hands on a copy of one of his collections, I encourage you to read it.  I especially recommend "The Country Doctor", most recently reprinted in Where or When from PS Publishing.  Unfortunately, that volume is out of print. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mike Resnick Launches New Short Fiction Magazine

Back in the late 80s/early 90s, there were a number of theme anthologies edited by Mike Resnick.  Really Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, but you know what I mean.  Resnick wins awards, especially Hugos, at a rate that turns most writers green.  He's a fantastic writer if you haven't read him.  I've got some of his titles in the queue.  Well, now he's launching a new short fiction magazine, Galaxy's Edge.  It goes live on March 1.  You know I'm going to be there.  Look for a review either here or at Futures Past and Present. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goals Followup + Amazing Stories

This post will be both a followup on the goals post plus an update on the status of things at Amazing Stories (TM).

First, I hit my writing goal of at least1500 words a week with 1664.  I'm counting a week starting with Sunday.  I wrote 311 last night before I had to stop and think about what comes next.  Not sure how much I'll write in a few minutes.  I'm thinking of putting a little box up in the corner of the blog with the date I last wrote and word count in it.  If that information is there for all the world to see, I'll be more motivated to write.  I think I can do that without everybody who follows the blog getting a notice each time it updates. 

Of course, things might be about to slow down.  I found out over the weekend there's an unexpected vacancy in the department, and I'll be teaching an additional course this semester.  I go back tomorrow, with classes starting next week, so I'm not in my routine yet.  My son went back to gymnastics tonight and starts back with diving tomorrow night, so once I get into a routine, I may be cursing those 1500 words.

My first post went live at Amazing Stories (TM) today.  The site is still in beta and not accessible to the general public yet.  It should be live for everyone in a week or so unless something unforeseen  happens.  All the posts that have gone up since Thursday, the first day they were up, will be available when the site opens to everyone.  I'm not sure if the present posts will be reposted with everything starting over from scratch or if they will be archived and new material will continue without interruption.  I'll let you know when that decision is made.

My first post is about some of the changes in publishing and why I think small presses and indie published books are important, and the second will contain the terms I'll be using and what I mean when I say them (as opposed to what someone else means with the same words).  Then I'll start in on reviews.  The first is written and ready to go.  It will be a review of Five by Five.  The next review will be of Space Eldritch (which I'm reading now), followed by Frogs in Aspic.  After that is a little up in the air still.  I'll have my own email address at Amazing Stories (TM).  It's  Once everything's a go, I hope you'll drop by and check it out.  And not just my stuff.  There's some really cool things being posted. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Thought or Two on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

We finally got our act together and saw The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  It was better than I was expecting.

I'm not going to try and do an in-depth analysis of the movie.  There are other people who are much more qualified than I am for that.  I've only read the book twice, most recently prior to the release of the first LOTR movie.  Some of the details are a little blurry, to say the least.

On the whole, the movie matched the book quite well, at least to the best of my memory.  There were a few details I thought were different.  I know Jackson is embellishing the story a little, drawing on sources in Tolkien's writings other than the novel itself.  Those scenes were fairly obvious.

The cinematography was great.  Every time I see one of these movies, I want to move to New Zealand. 

One thing I did find interesting.  With all the running the party did, I was impressed that no one ever seemed out of breath, especially since it was in the mountains. 

On the whole I was impressed.  This is one I'll be getting on DVD. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Goals for 2013

I'm not much for resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals.  So I thought I'd set out a few goals for 2013. 

First, I want to write more.  And by that, I mean fiction.  Blogging is fun, but if I'm not careful, it can take over all my time.  So I want to write at least 1500 words of fiction a week.  That's a minimum, and if I see that I'm hitting that without breaking a sweat, I'll probably up that amount.  I'm looking into ways to keep documents in the cloud so I can work in multiple locations and not be constrained to a single computer.  Or have to keep up with a flashdrive. I'm thinking about posting a weekly recap on what I've accomplished here.  Maybe a little positive peer pressure will work in my favor.

Second, I want to post more often at Futures Past and Present.  By more often I mean more frequently than once every few months.  I'd like to post at least twice a month.  We'll see if that happens.  I posted there earlier this evening, and the next several novel I'm planning on reviewing will be science fiction, so I should meet that goal at least one month.

Of course I want to keep posting regularly here.  Since I've expanded my focus, I'll be able to write about things other than just fantasy and historical fiction.  I'm also going to look at more short fiction, which should make things easier.

I'd like to make all my deadlines at Amazing Stories.  If I can stay ahead, then I should be able to do that.

One of the things I'm going to do to help manage my time is to not spend so much time on Twitter.  I'll still check in, but it may not be every day.  Beyond that, I'll tell myself that Free Cell is broken.  It all comes down to time management, which is mainly self-discipline.  Not one of my strong points.  But I'm going to try.  Not that I've said publicly what I hope to achieve, all the world will be watching if I fail.  No pressure.