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... ]

On My Shelves: Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship

Lawrence Watt-Evans is one of my favorite authors, and he nails this one perfectly.   The initial, spoiler-free review: _Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship_ is a nigh-perfect recapturing of the spirit of pulp and, really, pre-pulp adventure fiction. Not really steampunk, but close to it, this is more an Edisonade or a Vernian homage in a sense. The language and setting evoke those of the older works, while avoiding the overly-intrusive narration which sometimes will mar older works for new readers.   Tom himself is an [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: JAWS

  A long time ago – forty years ago, to be exact – summer was considered the "dead time" for movies. It was assumed that most people wouldn't go to movie theaters in the summer, preferring to pursue other activities. But in 1975, that changed, and the "summer blockbuster" was born, with the release of one of Stephen Spielberg's true masterpieces: Amazon instant Video link for Jaws. Jaws was also the very first movie I ever saw by myself in the theater. No one else in my family was interested in it, so I went to see it on my own… and [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Big Hero 6

  Hiro (yes, our Hero is named Hiro) Hamada is a teen genius – 14 and already graduated from high school. Raised by his aunt Cass and his considerably older brother Tadashi, Hiro has yet to find direction for his genius and when we meet him is making money by hustling in "bot fights" – robot combat duels with significant money riding on them. His cockiness almost gets him in serious trouble, since he doesn't recognize that tricking people involved in illegal operations doesn't just get you a stern talking-to. Fortunately big brother [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: The Atrocity Archives

The idea that thoughts, concepts, mathematics, logic themselves can affect reality is hardly unique. I've previously reviewed The Incompleat Enchanter by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague deCamp, in which Harold Shea and Reed Chalmers work out the Mathematics of Magic which allow the users to cross to other worlds, Doctor Who has frequently used the concept (Castrovalva, the Shakespeare Code, etc.) and numerous other authors have taken their turns with it. The Atrocity Archives is Charlie Stross' take on the concept, done in a more modern and [ Continue reading... ]