Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amazing Stories Trademark Bought

Steve Davidson (Crotchety Old Fan) has acquired the trademark to Amazing Stories.  He is looking at relaunching the magazine online with containing new and reprint stories with a strong social networking component.  You can read his press release here.  There are further updates here and here.  The website for the magazine is up and is  There’s not much there yet, but check back frequently.  I used to pick up Amazing Stories regularly and am thrilled it will be coming back.  Thanks, Steve, and best of luck. 

Report on Fencon

Fencon VII/Deep South Con 49 was held in Dallas (well really, Addison), TX on September 23-25.  While I can’t say that a good time was had by all, a good time was certainly had by me.  Everything had a steampunk theme, with many of the guests being steampunk authors.

As usual, there was much more on the programming than I had time to attend.  I didn’t make it to either slide show by the artist guests, Vincent DiFate or Stephan Martiniere. Not because I don’t like those artists.  I do.  It was just that there were other things conflicting with their slideshows.

Rather than try to sum up the whole convention, I’ll hit some of the high points of the events I attended, then post some pictures.

My favorite panel was the one Saturday afternoon devoted to Phineas and Ferb.  Yes, yes it was.  It was the most fun I’ve had at a panel in years.  I hadn’t had a chance to check the schedule in detail before I left, so it was only coincidence when I put on my Perry the Platypus T-shirt that morning.  Really.

I met Phillipa Ballantine (see my review of Geist) and Tee Morris.  They were a lot of fun.  I hope the convention brings them back.  In addition to being two of the nicest people, they were also funny, high energy, and more approachable than many professionals I’ve encountered.

Other good panels include remembrances of the Shuttle, discussions of near space exploration (more than I was able to attend), and a panel on publishing scams that could have been twice as long and still not exhausted the subject.

I got a chance to visit a little with Lou Anders, editor of Pyr books.

There were plenty of room parties, although I found it offensive that the hotel posted a uniformed security guard in the hall near where the parties were being held.

Finally, one of the things I like most about Fencon is there is an entire track of programming devoted to music.  This, I’ve discovered, is a great way to keep me financially solvent  out of the dealer’s room occupied when there’s not a panel or reading I want to attend.  I just read and listen to the music.

I had a good time and came back much more relaxed than when I went.  (I really, really, really needed the break)

Phineas and Ferb Panel

Toastmaster Brad Denton signs for a fan.
Tee Morris and Phillipa Ballantine
Lou Antonelli channels Harlan Ellison by writing in public.

Attendees came from the North, South, East, and West

Publishing scams panel

Who’s Who in the pictures, if not identified in the captions:

1.  l. to r. :  Gloria Oliver, Shanna Swendson, Perry the Platypus, Cathy Clamp, Todd Caldwell, Rhonda Eudaly
2.  Brad Denton and Steven Silver
5.  unidentified
6.  L. to r.:  A. Lee Martinez, Rachel Caine, Tee Morris, Cathy Clamp, Selina Rosen, Amy Sisson
7.  unidentified

A Roiling Adventure

Trent Jamieson
Angry Robot Books
$7.99, 432 p. mass market paperback
$5.99 ebook

The publisher’s website classifies this one as fantasy, but I’m going to pick nits and call it science fiction (which is why I’m reviewing it here rather than over on Adventures Fantastic), or as a compromise, science fantasy.  Unless I misread something, this one takes place on another planet thousands of years in the future, after at least one civilization’s global collapse.  In other words, Roil is science fiction that reads like fantasy.

I’ve never read William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, but from what I’ve read about it, I suspect there are similarities between that work and this one.  The subtitle of the book, or rather the title of the series, is The Nightbound Land, after all.   In addition, Roil has elements of steam punk with a dash of pulp adventure thrown in.  There are airships, but they’re organic, living things.  There are examples of advanced technology in a milieu of Victorian era science.  There’s a man who is at least one thousand years old.  There are strange races that are only partly human.  And a cast of Dickensian characters.  If any of these appeal to you, then you should check this book out.

Things aren’t well when the book opens.  David has just seen his father murdered by political enemies.  One of the few remaining political allies, Cadell, is his only hope of survival.  But Cadell is the man who killed David’s uncle.

Far to the south, deep within the Roil, Margaret is the only survivor of the city of Tate.  Now she has to make her way hundreds of miles north, out of the Roil.  Fortunately, if anyone can survive the roilbeasts, she can.  That’s her on the cover.

For David, Cadell, and Margaret, things are going to get worse before they get better.  If they get better.  The Roil is a region of heat, inhabited by bizarre beasts, that has been spreading slowly northward for years.  And it’s about to pick up the pace…

Things move fast.  The roilbeasts are really unique, especially the Witmoths.  Those were just plain creepy.  And the Vermatisaur was cool.  The image of one nesting in the tower in an abandoned city was one of the strongest in the novel.  I hope one shows up in the next book.  There’s plenty of mystery about how things got the way they are, and Jamieson unveils things at a nice, steady rate, so that the reader is drawn into the story deeper and deeper the more he reads, just like being lured into a trap.  The characters grow and change, and their relationships don’t remain static.  And there’s no guarantee they will all survive, adding to the suspense.

This book was a little different from what I’ve been reading over the last few years.  It had a much more old fashioned feel to it, as though I were reading a Victorian or Edwardian novel.  That’s a good thing, and for a number of reasons.  Not least of which was the fact there were several places Jamieson could have inserted a sex scene and didn’t.  Coupled with the low amount of profanity, that makes this a novel that could be given to younger readers, building the author an audience that will probably outlive him.  While not exactly YA, it’s got enough cool stuff in it that teens and preteens would enjoy it, as well as characters they could identify with.

Intelligent, well-read adults will enjoy it, too.  I normally put up a link to Amazon when I review a book, but that feature doesn’t seem to be working at the moment.  Instead, I’ll leave you with a sample chapter, courtesy of Angry Robot Books.


Long Looks at Short Fiction: "D.O.C.S." by Neal Barrett, Jr.

“D.O.C.S.” by Neal Barrett, Jr.
Asimov’s Science Fiction
September 2011

I know, I know, this is the previous issue, not the current one.  It’s still available at Fictionwise.  I’m behind on my reading, so sue me.  Most of you have a stack of things to be read just like I do.  Are you caught up?  I didn’t think so.

Before you read further, be aware this post contains spoilers.

The D.O.C.S. of the title is an acronym for Department of Curative Science.  It’s not a nice outfit.  They don’t practice the type of medicine you want if you’re sick.  For that you go to a doktr.  The doktrs are required to keep detailed notes on people’s medical conditions, which are reported to DOCS.  If they can’t be helped, then all medical care is cut off.  “Denied furtherance of medical intervention” is what it’s called. 

In other words, the government run medical care determines who lives or dies. 

The story concerns a boy whose mother is on the list.  It’s not a happy story.  Rather it’s a warning of where we could be heading.  “D.O.C.S.” is short, so I’ll not spoil any more of it for you.

End of spoilers.

I will, however, make the following general comments on the story.  It’s told from the viewpoint of Bobby, who seems to be a preteen boy when the story opens.  He’s aged considerably by the closing line.  While I often have reservations about stories told from a child’s viewpoint (they tend to be somewhat passive), this is a perfect viewpoint of this tale.  Barrett uses it to build suspense as Bobby has to try to make sense of events he doesn’t completely understand but knows are bad, very bad. 

Barrett’s prose, as usual, is compelling, pulling the reader into the events.  This one has all the punch of the first time you slammed back a shot of good single malt.

Neal Barrett, Jr. is a unique voice in the world of fantastic literature.  If you haven’t read him, you need to rectify that omission ASAP.  This is a perfect place to start.