Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kindling the Mosque

Ahmed tells me that A Mosque Among the Stars is now available on Kindle.

So come one, come all! Download your favourite collection of Muslim-related SF, including "Miss Lonelygenes' Secret" by C. June Wolf. Just follow the link to the great prayer rug in the sky.

Kindle Price: $7.20 & includes wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
You Save:$1.80 (20%)

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Library Listing

Happily, Finding Creatures & Other Stories is now being carried by the Vancouver Public Library, so if you haven't got a copy and would like to read it (and live really really close by) you can do so for freefreefree!

Here's the link.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Overlooked Praise: SF Waxes Philosophical

Two reviews of Ahmed A. Khan's anthology "SF Waxes Philosophical", 2008, ZC Books have come to my notice. The first is a LiveJournal review by [info]selfavowedgeek. For the full review please click on the link above.

Finally finished the SF Waxes Philosophical anthology edited by Ahmed A. Khan...So, I didn’t read a single clunker. Granted, any given anthology is bound to have that waxing and waning effect with me. Anthologies by their very nature invite a buffet of styles and voices; heck, you even get that with a single-author short story collection. I didn’t feel as if I wasted my time reading any of the stories.

I’ll hasten to add Ahmed appears to have done a very careful, deliberated job of soliciting and winnowing based on the quality of what I’d encountered (and hope this anthology is an indication of things to come from our doughty author-editor).

My single complaint: I wish it had been a bigger anthology.

Without further ado, I won’t bore you with a rundown of each and every selection but will lump them into three categories. Again, it’s rare for me to come away from reading an anthology and liking each selection.

And, based on my totally subjective experience as a reader, here are the stories that I more-than-liked. You might also notice that I’m partial to the pieces by the ASFM forumites, too. Hey, they write well and dominated half the TOC ‘cause that‘s just how they roll.

The Good:

* “The Day the World Lost Gravity” by Ian Shoebridge
* “Different and Different Again” by Sean M. Foster
* “Lords of Light” by Ren Holton
* “These Old Bones” by C. June Wolf
* “The Squirrel That Didn’t Bark” by Douglas A. Van Belle

selfavowedgeek then goes on to list the ones he likes even more. So he more than likes mine, but is over the moon about some others. Not a bad recommendation at all for this unusual anthology.

The second review--in actuality the first review, from 16 May 2008 in the Australian SF zine, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, is by Simon Petrie.

SF Waxes Philosophical is a collection of fourteen short stories, slightly over half of them original to this volume, whose unifying characteristic is the application of science-fictional techniques to philosophical concerns. It's a moot point, to my mind, as to which works of SF don't, in some matter, deal with philosophical questions - both fields of endeavour, as the introduction notes, tend to ask the question 'What if?' and then seek to follow it to its logical conclusion, in both cases inviting comparison with our present-day circumstances. My impression is that the editor's strategy has been to select stories which aim to tackle the sorts of questions for which Douglas Adams once proposed a numerical answer lying somewhere between forty-one and forty-three. Here, though, calculations on such problems tend to deliver a rather different result. SFWP is a reasonably serious-minded anthology, to the extent that it also features explanatory notes, presumably scripted by each of the story authors, which deal with the origins, the history, and/or the implications of the philosophical principles they've explored in the preceding story...

..."These Old Bones," by C. June Wolf, is a subtle, atmospheric tale of the interaction between two loners who share an interest in palaeontology. It's an intriguingly elusive story that's reminiscent in style to the work of Kate Wilhelm. For me, it echoed long after I'd finished reading...

I finished reading the anthology not entirely convinced of the overall success of these efforts to marry SF and philosophy. The most effective stories here, as works of fiction, I judge to be the reprinted offerings of Utley and Kosmatka and the first-release works by Wolf, Holton and Van Belle, though these were not the only stories I found enjoyable. The exploration of philosophical components in the commentary following each story was, in most cases, interesting but hardly essential for an appreciation of the fiction, and I found the stories which appeared to deal most directly with philosphical issues - such as "Waveform", "Different and Again Different", and "The Saving Power" - were less than completely successful in their efforts to craft memorable fiction from the tenets of philosophy. This is not to say that the anthology is unsuccessful: even a negative result is worthwhile, and there are a good number of intriguing stories here. So: if you're shopping around for a new philosophy textbook, I don't think this would fit the requirements; but if you're looking for a collection of intelligent, thoughtful, mostly serious SF, SF Waxes Philosophical is worth a peek.

For the full review, click here.
To purchase a copy of SF Waxes Philosophical, click here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle--Wow, My Heart.

When I went to You Tube and began to watch this video I had two reactions. I was delighted with Susan as she spoke and laughed, and twirled her hips most admirably, and I was sickened by the snickers and rolled eyes. If I hadn't trusted the woman who sent me the clip (Eileen Kernaghan) not to send me something terribly upsetting, I would have turned it off right then.

I have seen these shows in the past and their despicable treatment of people who don't fall into the audience and presenters' narrow view of what is beautiful and who is worthy. I avoid them firmly.

But I watched on. When Susan opened her mouth and began to sing tears sprang to my eyes. This was the beauty I see inside every squashed down working class kid and woman and man, every person who has been shunted and ignored and discriminated against, and it was rising like a plume of luminous joy from Susan and lighting everyone who heard.

For the moments she was singing, we were all there, all together, no one critical and nasty, no one hoping for someone to fail, no one terrified they were going to be the next one to be targeted. What an absolute moment of bliss.

Thank you, Susan, for your commitment to your dream, for not letting the sniggers extinguish you, for caring for your mum and caring for yourself. Thank you for showing your splendid face and heart, and for awakening our own lost dreams in our own burdened breasts all around the world.

Blessings, all.

I tried to upload the video but had problems. I'll try again but in the meantime, here is the link to the best version of Susan Boyle's triumph on You Tube.

Click here to hear the only song (so far!) that Susan has recorded on CD:
Cry Me a River.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CheriePie's Nibbles on Finding Creatures...

Ah, ah,,,...! It is so lovely to see people enjoying something I labored over in my wee dark room and wondered at times, would anyone but my goodest pals ever see this stuff? And if they did, would they like it? Sigh... Thanks, CheriePie.

CheriePie's Books ::..

Books I've had my nose in lately, and my snots thoughts on them. *snort*

Cherie: an eclectic free-spirit with a passion for books, bunnies, natural makeup and
skincare, and various other witchy and spiritual pursuits.
View my complete profile

Friday, April 03, 2009

Humanizing the Impossible: Ursula Pflug Reviews Finding Creatures

Ursula Pflug, author of Green Music, reviews Finding Creatures & Other Stories for the Internet Review of Science Fiction.

Ursula's long awaited story collection After The Fires is on the Aurora Awards short list. She is also a journalist, produced playwright and creative writing instructor.

April, 2009 : Review:

Humanizing the Impossible

Finding Creatures and Other Stories, by Casey June Wolf

I first ran across Casey June Wolf's work in the Canadian speculative anthology Tesseracts. The ninth volume in the series, edited by luminaries Geoff Ryman and Nalo Hopkinson, included a wonderful fantasy story of Wolf's called "The Coin," about Haitian street-children. Its sense of place was almost palpable, hence I wasn't surprised to find out Wolf has worked extensively as a volunteer in Haiti. The second time I ran across her writing was when she posted a rant on the SF Canada list-server. [See Comment Secion of this post for the full rant. CJW] The subject was feminism—the many headed monster—though I can't remember whether people were for or against. Wolf's observations were ones I largely agreed with, but my point is that her rant was deeply passionate and personal and intelligent. It evidenced a life rich in experience, and a mind noble enough to examine that life, and brave enough to turn some of its gleanings into art. I must have made a mental note to pay attention, because when Wolf's debut story collection "Finding Creatures" recently launched, I immediately got myself a copy.

The same rich breadth of experience, passion, and compassion fires the nine stories herein, which includes the (previously mentioned) magical and thought provoking story, "The Coin." The titular "Finding Creatures" is about a dusty Winnipeg summer, during which eight year old Bernadette, an only child, wishes terribly for playmates, and if she can't have those, an animal will do. She has richly detailed fantasies, the kind only children and world-building fantasy and science fiction writers have. She brings home worms and leeches and dogs and things, all of which are disallowed. Then one day, seemingly in answer to her fervent prayers to baby Jesus, a horse appears in her yard. The horse is quickly named Angel, and takes the little girl for rides around the neighborhood, during which they are invisible, which is probably a good thing, as Bernadette and Angel wander farther and farther afield. One day all this changes. They visit a section of town they've never been to before, where a little boy plays alone. When he looks up he sees both the horse and the girl. Another day, the pair encounter a girl called Manjeet, who thinks Angel is her horse, and named Sita.

Over the rest of the summer, the list grew. Children who had played with Angel at lunchtime or on weekends. Lonely children seeing her for the first time. Children who'd spied her in their yards but never approached her. Children who had known her long ago, who thought they'd never see her again, and there she was, and there we were, too.

And when September comes, and Angel stops coming, those who had the luck to ride her around the dusty summer streets of Winnipeg form an ad hoc gang. There is a surprise ending to do with living breathing dinosaurs, but I won't spoil it by including it here.

In the story "Claude and the Henry Moores," a security guy (Claude) at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto (where Wolf has also worked) discovers that the Henry Moore sculptures are inhabited by beings, trapped within them in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the alien-in-the-tree in the second story, "Thunderbirds." Claude also discovers he is able to free them using a combination of empathy and what can only be called metaphysical faculties. But first he takes them (and himself) north to watch the Aurora. The deep and healing beauty of nature is wonderfully described in this passage as well as many others in the collection.

In the aforementioned "Thunderbirds," an indigenous back woods sort called Norman encounters a crashed alien ship. He buries the body, first wondering what the proper protocol for doing so is, finally deciding that all dead must be treated with respect, even if one doesn't know the customs by which they lived and died. Meanwhile the alien, who goes by the name Chitta and is capable of such things, isn't dead at all. She has however exited her body and entered the first living thing within easy reach, which happens to be a tree. Chitta spends days on end learning about her new body, and is only a little sad that she will no longer be ambulatory nor have an intellect with which to engage with others as before. Nevertheless, inhabiting a tree with one's spirit and mind intact is preferable to death. One day, Norman returns to the crash site, and something draws him to the tree. He sits there, and maybe he falls asleep for awhile, but in the end the alien in the tree and the man communicate somehow, and leave one another enriched, even though the meeting and the communication have both been so subtle as to be barely acknowledged by its participants.

What is curious about both stories is what happens to their protagonists when they encounter the alien Other, largely by the use of subtle skills which some might call psychic and others might say are the inevitable result of true compassion. Both Claude and Norman wish mainly for their strange friends to find freedom. Claude, in particular, leads an isolated life but both characters go largely unnoticed and, uncomplaining, try to find joy in their simple routines. These stories exemplify Wolf's central theme which is: what is one to do with one's loneliness? Her answer seems to be: reach out in any way you can, even if the reaching takes a form that many might tell you is simply not possible. And as such, of course, these stories about alien communication serve as metaphor for the eternal human problem of communication.

In both stories, what is at first momentous becomes small scale and human, and this, in the end, humanizes the impossible. Charles de Lint, in his lengthy introduction, makes much of Wolf's work for her combined rich imagination and rich reserves of empathy.

Wolf uses different genres, different voices, different cultures—in short whatever she needs to make the story work. What ties it all together is her sure-handed prose and a depth she brings to her writing, that indefinable element that rises up from between the lines and gives a good story its resonance.

I might add that she creates characters whose human vulnerability readers will recognize and take joy in. Not only that, but fiction writers with serious intentions must be supported, or we as readers have all fallen victim to the censorship of the marketplace.

And I've always had a soft spot for bravely ranting women.

Copyright © 2009, Ursula Pflug. All Rights Reserved.


Apr 3, 00:36 by IROSF
Comment below!

Want to Post? Evil spammers have forced us to require login:

Sign In



NOTE: IRoSF no longer requires a 'username' -- why try to remember anything other than your own email address?

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now!

Problems logging in? Try our Problem Solver

Internet Review of Science Fiction, Site Design © 2007, Quintamid LLC.

Creative Commons License
The design of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

To order Finding Creatures & Other Stories, click here.

A Room of One's Own

'a woman must have money
and a room of her own
if she is to write fiction'

Virginia Woolf

I thank heaven every day that I have the room, if not much money. Thank you, world.