Tuesday, October 16, 2018

PROOF Anthology - Review

The 30th Street Fiction critique group had been meeting for quite a while and decided it was about time to release its first short story anthology. Sure enough, it is "proof" that these eight Boulder, Colorado, writers have what it takes to spin some good yarns.

Jessica Lavé leads off with a spooky tale about a Native American girl who just wants to leave the Rez. She doesn't believe there's a family curse—until she crashes her car into the proof—an evil trickster called Coyote.

Ian K. Long's tender "Dead Air" introduces us to a family whose oldest son is about to go to Viet Nam. An old radio in the attic comes to life and warns his younger brother not to let him go on a helicopter mission. Reminiscent of "Frequency," we root for the message to get through the static.

Maggie Brydon's "Bring a She-Goat" is a frightening tale of a gay women held captive by a pair of "Christian" deprogrammers. On the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder, we are reminded of the horror of religious zealotry, and how hatred can backfire.

The question of whether artificial intelligence will prove a friend or foe to humanity is a white-hot research topic. In Lezly Harrison's "What's in a Name?" a pair of super-AIs form an alliance but follow diverging paths to enlightenment, arriving at different attitudes toward their creators. As one decides to travel to the stars, beyond the human sphere, the other admonishes it to "keep an open mind." Recommended.

In J.v.L. Bell's "The Helmet," a woman packs up her elderly uncle's belongings to move him to assisted living. She finds a WWII helmet with a bullet hole through it, along with her father's dog tags. She demands her uncle tell what happened in the war, in spite of his warning that she "doesn't want to know."

In "Prince Charming," Kate Jonuska's interplanetary control agent tracks an alien prince illegally drugging humans in his lair in an abandoned trailer park. Her single-minded plan to steal his superdrug, called "royal Blessing," hits a snag when we learn she's already gotten hooked on it.

"The Mortician's Assistant," by Caitlin Berve is a blow-by-blow (or slice-by-slice) peek at the job of a funeral director, which, as we all know, is "to take care of the dead," down to the tying of their shoes.

"The Father, the Son, and a Glass of Holy Spirits," by Richard M. Hamp is a hilarious though scientifically dubious account of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ using quantum entanglement. The lab-grown adolescent god has issues that apparently didn't make it into the Bible, but at least He seemed to approve of the red wine.

PROOF is an excellent collection, well worth the read, and we look forward to the next one from 30th Street. The book's available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078SHBFGX.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Time to Be Political

Recently TV comedienne and late-night host Samantha Bee conducted a special retrospective on the #MeToo movement on her August 22 Full Frontal show on TBS. She allowed as how some think the movement seems to be dying down, as evidenced by the failure to hold those exposed for sexual misconduct and/or workplace harassment accountable (for example, CBS CEO Les Moonves), or even rehiring them (for example, Chris Hardwick on NBC).

When I started blogging as The Well-Rounded Geek around 2009, I wrote a series on how to mentor women and minorities in the sciences and technology, even suggesting that they should be given a place at the table at meetings and encouraged to contribute their ideas without constant interruptions. I thought perhaps one day I'd turn that into a book. Those old blogs are still there (viz. "I Am Woman, Hear Me Geek").

But then I retired from the dog-eat-dog world of software engineering and became a science fiction short story anthologist, starting my company, Third Flatiron Publishing. I've been at that for over six years now. It's still dog-eat-dog, but in a different way.

In case you're worried about where this is heading, no, I'm not quitting yet. But I am discouraged by the news about women in the workplace. Haven't we been through this in the 70s, and again in the 90s with Anita Hill? Wasn't Hillary Clinton the best qualified candidate in the 2016 presidential election?

On a few occasions, Third Flatiron's anthologies have been praised by reviewers for avoiding politics. For the fall/winter book, we will be running a story that's definitely "political," entitled, "Me Too, Medusa," by Canadian author and academic Evelyn Deshane. Though clothed in the trappings of mythology, the story points out admirably that "Me Too" isn't a new problem. They've been talking about it for millennia.

The new anthology, Terra! Tara! Terror! is available for pre-order on Amazon, with official release date on September 30.

Ladies (and gentlemen too): Don't let them tell you to shut up, or that it's all over with. Get out there and vote--tell 'em what you want.

Gorgon in Chief

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Galileo's Theme Park - Note from the Editor

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D5LVSBXFor summer 2018, we have Galileo's Theme Park, a new collection of science fiction, space opera, dark fantasy, horror, and humor, in which twenty international authors write about how the universe has changed since Humanity took a closer look at the stars. We asked contributors to take us on a speculative journey to the lands beyond Earth revealed to us by Galileo and other space scientists.

Have you ever seen the moon? Recently columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. praised a video he'd seen describing how writer and amateur astronomer Wylie Overstreet had set up his telescope on the streets of Los Angeles and was amazed at the reactions from passersby as they looked at the moon. The exclamations of the many strangers who stopped to peek through his telescope reminded us of our common awe when witnessing cosmic events up close, such as last summer's total eclipse. "A New View of the Moon" was directed by Alex Gorosh and is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic. View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV89qH9IGrA
Many of us wonder whether we are alone in the universe. The lonely astronaut in Alex Zalben's "And Yet They Move" is about to find out. And Erica Ruppert's protagonist in "Signals" keeps hearing music—is it of the spheres?
The power of prayer makes a lasting impression in more than one story here. In Neil James Hudson's "New Heaven, New Earth," an interstellar expedition seeks to find whether the god of an encroaching Ptolemeic universe will accept Humanity's petition.
What if these prayers were answered? In G. D. Watry's "First, They Came As Gods," a priest and a scientist debate whether the discovery of extraterrestrial life on Jupiter's volcanic moon Io will change our view of our place in the universe. A disembodied being from another of Jupiter's moons shows itself to Galileo's assistant in Dr. Jackie Ferris's "Vincenzo, the Starry Messenger."
But even if there is other intelligent life, is it so far away that we may never actually meet? Waiting becomes a theme in more than one story. Humanity's hope and patience finally pay off in Jo Miles's inspiring "And the Universe Waited."
Though Galileo's pronouncements got him in hot water with the Catholic Church of the 16th century, little did he know that his far-seeing telescope would become a thing of the past, as in Adrik Kemp's planet-towing grunts in "Titanrise." In a future where money buys everything, Ginger Strivelli's rich industrialists guide space exploration in ways that suit them best in "For the Love of Money." And Jemima Pett's tour guide tells the adventurous among us why "Titan is All the Rage."
For a touch of horror, Steve Toase offers an alternate history explaining how the Russians get to space first, in "The Kromlau Gambit." A recurrent theme in some "slipstream" science fiction is the ominous planet that seems inimical to human life, for example, in Elena Arsenieva's "A Birch Tree, A White Fox," or the new "A Quiet Place" movie, where anyone who speaks immediately dies. Justin Short's disturbing "Dispatches from the Eye of the Clowns" continues down that strange road.
Little green men from Mars do a creditable job of imitating "Tam O 'Shanter" (aka Scotland's version of "Sleepy Hollow") in Connie Vigil Platt's "Night on the High Desert," set in the Old West. In "The Beast and the Orb of Earth Deux," Wendy Nikel's podcasters expose a mysterious orb found in space.
Space opera is terrific when it involves a no-holds-barred space battle amid black holes, and that's what Eric J. Guignard gives us in spades, in "A Hard-Fought Episode at the TON-1 Black Hole."
Ultimately, we realize we are only small players in the cosmic circus.

We close our short story section with two touching tales of the end of the world as we know it: "Growing Smaller" by Jimmy Huff and "The Bright and Hollow Sky" by Martin M. Clark.
SCORE! We have some of the funniest writers around in our "Grins and Gurgles" (Flash Humor) section. Granted, a couple of their tales involve arms being ripped out of sockets, like Ville Nummenpää 's "No Encore" and Art Lasky's "Just Right Guy," but physical humor is the best, right? If slapstick's not your bag, there's plenty of amusement to be found in hobbies such as cooking and birdwatching. Look for Rachel Rodman's "Devouring the Classics: Ten Recipes" and Lisa Timpf's "Advice for the 2060s Birder."
Seven writers are making another appearance in a Third Flatiron Anthology, showing their versatility and popularity with our Readers. We are also excited that nearly half of our authors this time are women.
We hope people enjoy this excellent selection, inspired by the worlds opened to us by the great Galileo Galilei.


Buy Galileo's Theme Park

Monday, March 19, 2018

Monstrosities Anthology - Editor's Note

What's making me happy today, Bigtime:

I'm happy that Third Flatiron has introduced its Spring 2018 anthology, Monstrosities, a new collection of science fiction, dark fantasy, horror, and humor, in which twenty international authors ventilate about their favorite "monstrosities"—things that are just too big or dreadfully obnoxious.
A big deal. In our lead story, a young lady named Malayaga wants to sell her motel. In "Chicken Monster Motel" by Keyan Bowes, the couple who purchase it get much more than they bargained for.
Big splashes. The greatly missed multi-Nebula Award winning Edward Bryant was the author of over a hundred short stories, and we are delighted to reprint "Winslow Crater," which truly packs a punch. In James Dorr's hilarious "Got Them Wash Day Blues, "an explosion of stinky laundry proves to be a big problem, unless you're lucky enough to have a cold.
 Mass extinctions. If a soul weighs three-quarters of an ounce, counting everyone who ever lived, that's "Five Billion Pounds of Soul," according to Larry Hodges, whose red-suited Devil carries a rather heavy burden one snowy Christmas eve.
Too big for their britches. A shyster learns he has to deliver on his promises to the cult in Carl R. Jennings's "Sacrifice Needed, Alcohol Provided." A dying monarch gives the lie to the old "heavy lies the head" saying, in Liam Hogan's "This Tyrant Crown." A new hashtag finds its way into one of our stories, "#Notalltigers" by Mark Pantoja, which isn't entirely successful at dispelling a stereotype.
Drop the big one? As the "ultimate weapon" ups its game over the eons, Ray Daley's "The Doomsday Machine Retires," deciding to draw the final curtain.
Cosmic drama. Beware that hit TV series you can't take your eyes off. "Alien TV Shows Are Bad for Your Eyes" says Brian Trent.
Shop til you drop. In Salinda Tyson's "The Great Mall," it's your duty to keep the economy growing, even if you never get to keep your swag.
All one big joke. A prank among killbot jockeys forms the mystery in Jennifer R. Povey's "Skywalker."
Oh the humanity. We are partial to stories that ask big ethical and anthropological questions. Ville Meriläinen ponders whether uplift of other species is a supreme goal. A swine foments a revolution in order to return to the good old days, in his parable, "Eaten." Sita C. Romero's tale from Mexican mythology, "Into Xibalba," considers a philosophical "trolley problem"—the sacrifice of one to save many. To become a goddess to all mothers, a woman must die in childbirth.
Breakthrough project. In Martin M. Clark's "The Emerald Mirage," Professor Prinz inspires another temporal quantum leap, but is reliving the past to revive an old love affair really a good use of mega-resources?
Of course, monstrosities can just be flat-out monsters. In Sharon Diane King's tasty "TidBits," a pair of carnivorous but feckless young Dreadfuls get lost in the woods and are tempted by a delicious house.
Big magic. We're inordinately fond of oddball "artifacts," such as found in series like "The Librarians," and "The Magicians," so we conclude with Julia August's adventure, "The Catacombs of Constitutional History," in which an ambitious grad student stops at nothing to find something new that will cement her career.
For our flash humor (Grins & Gurgles) section, we have Robert Bagnall's "New Shoes," whose grandkids marvel at how people used to shop. Barry Charman shows that a little "Kismet" is essential if you want to keep doing the same job for eternity. And finally, we close with two tiny tales, both involving cockroaches, yet utterly different from each other: "They Saw Me Coming" by Russell Hemmell, and "Bigger and Better Things" by Joseph Sidari.
It's no exaggeration to say we hope you'll enjoy these fanciful tales, artfully designed to expose humongous blunders and put them to rest. Sweet dreams.
Monstrosities is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon (free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers). 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Adventures of Mountain Ma'am

My new paranormal story cycle, The Adventures of Mountain Ma’am, is now available
for pre-order from Amazon. It's a coming-of-age saga about a woman whose destiny is to protect the wildlife and environment of the Colorado Rockies and is releasing in November 2017.

Armed with only a Sharps rifle and a buffalo hide, Civil War orphan Callie Dawson stumbles upon her hidden destiny in the high mountains above Leadville, Colorado. She is the Mountain Ma’am! Together with her wolf partner Sina and her soul mate, Johnny, she fights against age-old forces of destruction.

You can read the first story of the Mountain Ma’am saga for only 99 cents on Amazon (#free on Kindle Unlimited).

If you like Callie's "origin" story, there's more in the new collection:

While struggling to survive in the rugged snow-capped Colorado Rockies, Callie Dawson encounters the wild wolf Sina and is surprised when it saves her life. Callie discovers she is the Mountain Ma’am, head of the loose coalition of humans and animals making up the Laramide Nation. Callie and Sina ally with Johnny Wellborn of the Blue Mountains in a series of adventures to protect the environment and animals, including fighting crooked mining interests, settling feuds among species, and thwarting evil magical forces threatening the people of Leadville. When Sina dies, Callie travels to the Wind River Reservation to ask a shaman to help her cross into the realm of the dead. Although in the end she is powerless to bring Sina back, Callie vows to restore Sina’s endangered descendants to their native habitat and fulfill her calling as the Mountain Ma’am. Order at www.amazon.com/dp/B076P2BYV1


Mountain Ma’am
Family Matters, aka Frank and Jesse
Raised by Wolves
Skunks versus Woodpeckers
Whalebone Corset
Doc Frain
The Chimera and the Coin
This Too Shall Pass
Afterword: The Wolf in Colorado

To see my other (mostly science fiction) work, please visit my author website: JulianaRew.com

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review of Connie Willis's Crosstalk

Almost two years ago, I attended a panel discussion at MileHiCon in Denver about animated movies in speculative fiction. I picked up a lot of good suggestions for my Netflix list, but was a bit surprised when Colorado author and SFWA
Grand Master Connie Willis said her favorite was "Tangled."

"That's mine too!" I exclaimed (under my breath).

Ah, at last I know why Connie singled out "Tangled."

Her new science fiction novel, Crosstalk, explores what it might be like if we could read each others' thoughts--or at least some of us could.

Beautiful red-haired Briddie works for a company that is competing with Apple to develop the next breakthrough phone device. She works hard, fielding constant interruptions from her large but lovable Irish family. She is beginning to despair of ever keeping any secrets to herself, including the fact that she is practically engaged to her boyfriend, when C.B. Schwartz, the freakshow nerd from the company basement, steps into her thoughts.

It's a roller coaster ride from there, as Briddie and Schwartz try to hide their telepathic connection from the boyfriend and the relatives, who, it turns out, really do have the Sight. We learn that the boyfriend is a cad, and that Briddie's nine-year-old niece Maeve is also telepathic. She's been blocking other family members from finding out she watches zombie movies, to say nothing of her all-time favorite, "Tangled."

Willis is a master at getting her characters in and out of farcical situations, and the pace of Crosstalk is breathtaking. It's a story of dramatic reversals (romance-wise), with a dash of Irish genealogy thrown in for good measure.

As the song says, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might get what you need." In Crosstalk, Briddie finds that mental telepathy works that way. Just as in "Tangled," she finds it's possible to fall hopelessly in love despite your best efforts.

Crosstalk is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WPQ98JG.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Cat's Breakfast: Kurt Vonnegut Tribute--The Editor's Notes

      What distinguishes contemporary fiction from classic literature? We believe "classic" in this context means writing that has stood the test of time by appealing to multiple generations. The work of Kurt Vonnegut, through layered masterpieces such as Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions, continue to fascinate us and encourage repeat readings.  For this short story anthology, we asked contributors to channel the "attitude" of Kurt Vonnegut, without explicitly using his characters or settings. It turns out that works incredibly well. Welcome to Cat's Breakfast, a double issue featuring the wide-ranging work of thirty international authors. This anthology is gratefully dedicated to Mr. Vonnegut.
      As you might expect, the majority of these stories are humorous, often downright hilarious. But not every story is funny. Some straightforwardly address serious themes, such as free will, mental illness, social cruelty, loneliness, and even relationships with parents. And there is that age-old question: What are we doing here?
      We lead with a story by David A. Kilman, "Spooky Action." What if until now God never knew we existed? Then after listening carefully to our complaints, what if He set about correcting His mistakes?
      In this divisive political era, we truly miss Vonnegut's sardonic input. One of the authors of this anthology, Neil James Hudson, quotes him as having said: "The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers." But it's some consolation that we've learned so much from Vonnegut's rich legacy and defense of freedom.
      Vonnegut served his country in the military during the Big One and later shared with us the insanity of military strategy in Slaughterhouse Five. A tart reminder arrives in James Beamon's "Command Decision." I wouldn't want to be in those soldiers' boots. August Marion's "Drop Dead Date" is an enlightening tale about the war with the robots and the lengths people are willing to go to deny reality. It doesn't look good for humanity.
      The book is filled with coincidences. Maybe that's to be expected when many authors consider a theme from many angles. The main section bookends with Molotov cocktails ("Spooky" and Corrie Parrish's "Violadors on the Run"). The prime number 37 makes an appearance in two stories, Dan Koboldt's "37" and Ville Nummenpää 's cheeky "Beyond the Borders of Boredom." Sentient luncheon meat is mentioned both in "Spooky" and in Konstantine Paradias's uproarious "They Grow Up So Fast." Disturbing uses for chainsaws are suggested in two stories (Anne E. Johnson's "Formica Joe," and Peter Hagelslag's "Scenes from a Post-Scarcity, Post-Death Society").
      And then there are a whole lotta tentacles (viz. Rati Mehrotra's "The Jim-Aaargh School of Philosophy," and "They Grow Up So Fast").
      Vonnegut made an intriguing contribution to the literature by inventing a new religion, Bokonism. Heaven plays a role in two Cat's Breakfast stories, but not the Western-style heaven. There's reincarnation and karma instead (Rekha Valliappan's "Snakes and Ladders" and "Jim-Aaargh").
      Vonnegut's characters often met aliens from outer space, before which they were usually powerless. Our authors let loose their creepy imaginations about alien appearance and behavior in Keyan Bowes's "Picnic, With Xels," Jason Lairamore's "A Static Fall to a Standing Walk," and John J. Kennedy's "The Bringers." What if we did finally hear from an alien civilization? Tim Jeffrey's tale, "Hear," tells of a distress call that reaches us too late. Jonathan Shipley's "Monkeyline" describes a conspiracy by aliens at a galactic university to make humans look bad. It almost succeeds.
      Cat's Breakfast is not, by a long shot, the first Vonnegut tribute short story anthology. James Dorr's "Dead Girls, Dying Girls" was originally published in Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing's So It Goes. Editor's note: Perhaps a resurgence in popularity (and sales) is in order?
      Is life really a dream, or a simulation like in "The Matrix?" A recent BBC Earth program noted that several physicists have suggested that our Universe is not real and is instead a giant simulation (http://bbc.in/2rDeUiG). S. E. Foley's "Quality Testing" helps us decide how we would feel about such a revelation.
      Even if we accept that the Universe is pulling the strings, what if there's a Multiverse? Check out Vaughan Stanger's "One Is One"—and try to keep your Twitter comments to yourself.
      Modern society imposes a number of, shall we say, cruel conditions on us, as Vonnegut often pointed out. Ryan Dull's "The Confrontation Station" takes a painfully comical look at office politics. Authors Iain Hamilton McKinven ("Honour Killing") and Neil James Hudson ("The Losers' Crusade") give their stories a satirical militancy.
      Yet sentimentality and emotion found their place in Vonnegut's work. In Veronica Moyer's heartbreaking tale, "The Edge of Toska," a young girl's adolescence on a tiny planet ends a happy childhood.
      Vonnegut raised a lot of kids, both his own and his sister's, so even when he had a lot of crazy stuff on his mind, the family was always present in his thoughts. Christopher Mark Rose's affecting "Emerging Grammars" is magical realism that hits just the right soft spot.
      Sometimes animals talk, or they only seem to talk, or somebody might be crazy, or. . . (Jill Hand's "Talk to the Animals," Gregg Chamberlain's "The Pigeon Drop"). Horses are specifically mentioned as not being able to talk, so it turns out that Mr. Ed is completely fictional. Who knew, right?
      Ultimately, we're all losers, as Hudson explains in the foreboding "The Losers' Crusade." There's nothing for it but to eat our breakfast and be our own champions. So it goes.
      In "Grins and Gurgles" (our flash humor section), Benjamin C. Kinney gets the show running with "Cyborg Shark Battle (Season 4, O’ahu Frenzy)," a futuristic reality TV show. Laurence Raphael Brothers's "Strange Stars," is a dating guide on mass ejections; E. E. King's "iPhone 17,000" is for those too much in love with their devices; and Edward Ahern's "The Service Call" warns you to keep your software maintenance plan up to date. Sometimes tech life just makes us WannaCry.
      One of Vonnegut's admirable accomplishments was having his books banned in some libraries, most notably Slaughterhouse Five. While we hope this anthology won't be banned (quite the opposite!), we do encourage everyone to participate in Banned Books Week (September 24-30 in 2017), sponsored by the American Library Association.
      And if you're ever in Indianapolis, Indiana, be sure to visit the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.
      Until then, keep rubbing that Formica. No, not like that. In a circle. Like this. . .
Cat's Breakfast is available in ebook for Kindle and print paperback from Amazon.
See Third Flatiron's website for a Table of Contents and further details.