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A Review of The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF 2015

years-best-militaryThe Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF 2015
David Afsharirad, ed.
Trade paper $16
ebook $8.99

My project to read all the Year’s Best anthologies from this year (those covering 2015) has stalled again, but I’m going to try to get through at least one more before I call it quits and move on to other things.

This time around it’s a science fiction only anthology, the second in a new series focusing on military and adventure sf.  I met David Afsharirad at Armadillocon this past year.  I hadn’t realized he was going to be there or I would have taken my copy for him to sign.

But that’s not what you want to hear.  You want to know about the book. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Eric Frank Russell

Eric Frank RussellBritish science fiction author Eric Frank Russell was born on this date 111 years ago.  (That’s January 6, 1905 for those of  you reading this at a later date.)

Russell isn’t as well known as he should be these days.  I’m not aware of any new editions of his work in the last decade or so.  There are a couple of ebooks available on Amazon, but for the most part, you’ll have to look for his work in second hand editions of the two NESFA omnibuses (short fiction and novels) from about 15 years ago.

During World War II, Russell worked in the same unit in British Intelligence as a chap named Ian Fleming.  Russell used some of the ideas he developed for sabotage in his novel Wasp.  There’s an ebook version, and the book is included in Entities from NESFA.  The novel is about a man sent behind enemy lines to disrupt and cause trouble.  It’s essentially primer on how to be a terrorist without actually killing anybody.  Like most of Russell’s work, there’s an element of humor that runs through it.  These days, it’s hard to imagine a novel dealing with these themes that fits the description I gave, but Russell pulls it off. Continue reading

What is Science Fiction?

A couple of weeks ago, over at Amazing Stories (TM), Paul Cook stirred up a great deal of controversy when he took some well known authors to task for writing what he viewed as something other than science fiction.  The well-known included Gene Wolfe, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Sharon Lee & Steve MIller.  Of course there was a reaction, including this rebuttal at Amazing by Nina Munteneau; in other places this one and this one as well.  I’m sure there were people voicing their thoughts in parts of the interweb I don’t go into after dark.  (Or before dark, either.)

GatewayI’d already been thinking along these lines, and I’m ready to put my thoughts down in writing, if for no other reason than to get them out of my head.

I like cross-genre writing.  While none of you have seen any of them yet, much of the fiction I attempt to write is a blend of mystery and some other genre, with the mystery being the secondary genre.  In fact the second and third longest things I’ve ever written, and the two longest things I’ve actually completed, are a science fiction private eye story and a fantasy who-done-it.  You may see the latter soon.  Both are too short for traditional publishing and too long for the short fiction markets.

I also like my science fiction pure, like the high end product you can only buy on the schoolyards in the rich part of town.  Err…forget I said that.

Science fiction is one of those things that people can’t necessarily define, but htey know it when they see it.  Kind of like Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s definition of pornography.

Here is my definition:  Any story in which the science is so integral to the story that the story collapses without it.  That story can be set in the future, the past, or a time that never was or will be.  The story can be a mystery, a thriller, a western, or (gasp) a romance.  And of course, there’s always the scientific puzzle story.  Whether the science fiction is the main genre or the supporting genre really doesn’t matter as far as this definition is concerned.

Now I personally prefer my science fiction either fairly straight, or if I’m indulging in a mixed genre, on at least equal terms with the other genre.  I realize not everyone feels this way, and that’s fine.  If you won’t tell me what to read, I won’t tell you where to go.Kuttner Thunder in the Void

As a practicing scientist (some would say a scientist who hasn’t practiced enough), I personally prefer hard science and the scientific puzzle.  I also love space opera, military sf, and a good time travel story.  I’m a sucker for a rousing space adventure, especially one with well thought out aliens who are more than just caricatures of the things that used to appear on the covers of second rate pulps.

If an author is a good enough writer to put some other genre in the mix, then great!  I suspect some of Mr. Cook’s objections grew out of finding someone else’s genre mixed in his science fiction.  He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, and I can understand where he’s coming from, even if I don’t completely feel the same way.


Big Changes Coming to the Blog

This is the same post I ran yesterday at Adventures Fantastic.  The readership of the two blogs overlaps quite a bit but isn’t identical.  I’m reposting the announcement here in case anyone missed it.  If you saw it yesterday, it’s the same thing, verbatim.

Traffic the last few days has been up quite a bit, so when traffic today was down, I wasn’t too worried.  I’ve noticed that trend before, a drop in hits on the day following higher than usual traffic, even thought the traffic drop today is greater than usual.

Then I noticed something in my inbox.  It was from Google.  It had come in overnight, and at first glance I thought it was spam that had slipped through the filter.  Instead it was accusing this blog of being spam.  The second line read, in part, “As a result of your site having pure spam, Google has applied a manual spam action…”

Excuse me!?!

I’m not sure what is going on here.  Google’s Webmaster Guidelines say that if I post a lot of content from other sites with links back to those site but don’t provide original content, then the site is a spam site.  Reviews of products with links back to other sites are not considered spam sites by the terms of the Guidelines.

Yes, I include links to a book’s page, publisher’s page, author’s page, and vendors (Amazon, etc.) as well as a copy of the cover.  I do this as a courtesy to anyone who might be interested in the book.  But there will always be plenty of original content.  I also post rants and opinion pieces, news items if I hear about them soon enough, trip reports, and the occasional obituary or tribute.  And while I am an Amazon associate, as duly noted at the bottom of the page, I’ve never made enough money ($10, cummulative) from it for Amazon to pay me.  In other words, to the best of my knowledge I am not nor ever have been in violation of Google’s Guidelines.

I’m not sure how this blog got flagged as a “pure spam” since there are (at a guess) hundreds, if not thousands, of book related blogs out there that do essentially what I do in pretty much the same way I do it.  Futures Past and Present wasn’t included in the spam classification.  Just Adventures Fantastic.

So either something at Google flagged as spam or else someone reported this site as spam.  Frankly, I can’t imagine who would do that or why.  I have intentionally stayed out of most of the controversies in the field at the moment.  I don’t usually write totally negative reviews.  My intention isn’t to trash someone’s work.  If I absolutely hate something, I usually don’t review it, assuming I even finish reading it in the first place.  In my post at Amazing Stories this week, I did write a pretty negative review.  (Okay, yeah, I pretty much trashed the book, but it was a biography, not fiction, and the standards of quality are different.)

I submitted a reconsideration request.  The response I got was that it would take a few weeks before they changed anything, if they did.

I’m not going to wait that long.  I bought a domain name earlier this year with the intention of self publishing some of my own work.  Being a creature of inertia, I’ve not made the time to get up the learning curve on that yet, I’m about to.  I’ll still review the items I listed a few posts ago, but August may be pretty sparse. I’m going to be switching blogging platforms and transferring everything from here and Futures over there as well as getting some things up for sale.  If anyone has some suggestions about the best way to go about that, I’d appreciate hearing them.  I want to move all 500+ blog posts over.  I’m familiar with WordPress, but I don’t know if it will let me do that.

Once the site is up, I’ll post a notice here.  At that point everything will move over to the new site.


It’s been a while since I posted here, and I regret that.  I’ve been swamped with classes starting this week.  My job duties have changed with the new semester, so I’ve got a whole new set of plates to juggle.  Also, I have an out of town job interview on Monday that I’ve been trying to find time to prepare for.  After I get back, I should start posting again.  My goal when I set this blog up was to try to post at least once a week.  When things settle down, I should be able to meet that deadline at least part of the time.