On My Shelves: Secret Identity

  Clark Kent is a teenage boy living in Picketsville, Kansas, a boy who has dreams of being a writer, and a well-developed ability to endure the constant teasing – both well-meaning and malicious – that comes with being named after the secret identity of the most famous superhero of all time. For he lives in our world, or one very like it, where there are no superhuman beings, only stories of them. But one night, while camping alone, he awakens to find himself actually floating in midair. He can fly. He has super-strength, and [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Shadow

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"      In 1930, Street and Smith's Detective Story Hour began featuring a sinister-sounding narrator who identified himself only as "The Shadow". Somewhat to the publisher's surprise, The Shadow was so distinctive that listeners started asking for "The Shadow" magazine rather than "Detective Story". Not being foolish, they immediately began publication of such a magazine, featuring a fleshed-out version of the character who had previously been little more than a voice with an [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Phantom Tollbooth

"There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself – not just sometimes, but always."      Milo is a boy who – in a later era – might be heading towards the clothing racks to find something darker than black to wear. He sees nothing of interest in his world; even the few things that he might care about he can't work up the energy to engage with. He stares at the pavement when he walks, seeing nothing around him. He waits desperately to get out of school, but finds himself so bored outside of it that he longs to be back [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Jennifer Morgue

Bob Howard is back. A hacker-turned-agent for the supernatural covert agency of the United Kingdom, The Laundry, Bob has recovered from his earlier encounters with a parallel-world Nazi plot to summon an energy-consuming "ice giant" into the world and an internal power struggle that revealed part of the government's plans for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (when the Stars are Right and Things emerge from beyond the realm of sanity). But things are never quiet when you're one of the people on the front lines between the rest of humanity and someone who [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Relics of War

  Young Garander's sister Ishta insists on going off into the woods by herself, even though there could be very dangerous things living there – monsters, remnants of the great war between the Northerners with their sorceries and Ethshar, a war that destroyed the Northern empire and, in the end, shattered Ethshar into multiple pieces. This time, Ishta has found something strange and wonderful, a talisman that shows unknown, glowing shapes when touched. Such ancient devices could be harmless… or lethal. Garander makes her show it to [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the First Kind: A UFO is seen at close range. Close Encounters of the Second Kind: Physical evidence of visitation Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Unknown entities from the UFO are sighted   I have often said that in my view, Stephen Spielberg produced two masterpieces. One of them, reviewed earlier, is Jaws. The other is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. CE3K, as it is known, is a classic SF story: it takes one strange, out-there premise and then builds a story on it. For CE3K, the premise is: what [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: H. P. Lovecraft

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. -- H. P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu   Howard Phillips Lovecraft was never well-known during his lifetime, and indeed died nearly completely destitute, having gone from a comfortable middle-to-upper-class upbringing to poverty. But following his death, the stories he had written for the various [ Continue reading... ]

Authorial Musings: Ideas Are Not Valuable

  One of the most pernicious – and ultimately damaging – myths that newbie or would-be authors often buy into (and I do not exclude myself from this!) is that "my ideas are valuable!" Specifically, they think their ideas are so valuable that they must HIDE those ideas to keep other authors or publishers from stealing them. In almost all circumstances, this is utterly untrue. Believing this myth severely constrains a prospective author (or other artist) because they look at other authors and editors as, at best, competitors, and at [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Ghostbusters

The year was 1984, Orwell's year, the year that the Apple Mac first burst onto the scene, also the year I finished graduating from Hudson Valley Community College and moved on to SUNYA to study psychology. It was also the year of the Terminator, of the Karate Kid, and the original Nightmare on Elm Street.   And it was the year that Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd, and Sigourney Weaver told us who we're gonna call.   Ghostbusters begins with a brilliantly atmospheric stage setting, with the New York City Library [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Running With the Demon

The spine of the copy of Running With the Demon that I have just says "Fiction"; associations with the author's name invoke a general "fantasy" expectation. Running With the Demon could be considered "urban fantasy", but to me, it's clearly in another genre: modern supernatural horror.   This is Terry Brooks playing directly in Stephen King's bailiwick. I found myself thinking a LOT of King's work while reading Running With the Demon, and King suffers badly in the comparison. In this book, Brooks gets to show off a somewhat different [ Continue reading... ]