Archive for the ‘Books & Writing’ Category
Friday, 5 April 2013 • 0 comments
Mrs. Kuhl expressed surprise upon seeing the fantastic cover of this month’s Calliope, in particular to the “POWs Meet Their Captors” blurb. The story examines three different experiences during World War II: those of German POWs in England, German POWs in the US, and of Japanese-Americans in American internment camps. Her shock is why I adore Calliope — it’s not the pablum like Time For Kids they shovel at my sons’ school.
The entire issue explores such differing perspectives of and within history. Also inside are letters from Pliny and Trajan regarding early Christians, a story about the racism that surrounded the archaeology of Great Zimbabwe, conflicting theories about the peopling of Polynesia, and the arguments that led to the Civil War. I round out the issue by describing some of the comparatively mild disagreements over which sports should be included in the Olympics.
You can purchase a subscription to Calliope at Amazon.
Saturday, 16 February 2013 • 0 comments
The theme of February’s Calliope is dictators and tyrants throughout history: men like Peisistratos of Athens, Shi Huangdi of China, and of course, Julius Caesar of Rome. There’s also a fun imaginary debate between Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau about what government students should choose if the adults vanish from their school, leaving them in a state of nature (the pig’s head was unavailable for comment). I have a feature about modern dictators, some of whom are still kicking and some — like Muammar Qaddafi — who are not.
A one-year, nine-issue subscription to Calliope is available at Amazon.
Sunday, 27 January 2013 • 0 comments
Reacting to IBM’s prediction that steampunk will reach the tipping point in 2013, Alternate History Weekly Update notes that, like it or not, corsets and goggles are the visible standard-bearers for the entire genre of historical what-iffiness:
Business News reported that IBM predicted steampunk will be the next major fashion trend in 2013. They based their prediction by having a supercomputer (presumably not a steam powered Babbage Analytical Engine) analyze “more than half a billion public posts on message boards, blogs, social media sites and news sources.”
IBM and, frankly, most people don’t distinguish between steampunk the visual-arts movement, steampunk the sartorial movement, and steampunk the literary movement, nor consider how much overlap between the three really exists. Cinematically I think saturation has already occurred; just as time travel was once a very explicit subset of science fiction but is now a common plot device in mainstream television, tropes like airships in the sky to telegraph an alternate reality (e.g., Doctor Who, Fringe) will continue to be absorbed into popular consciousness. I certainly welcome renewed interest in Nouveau style and Craftsman architecture and furnishings, but those stand on their own. As for fashion, I’m skeptical of who’s chasing whose tail. Designers may embrace Victorian callbacks like high boots and snug bodices — or even mirror steampunk’s notorious mix of 19th-century décolletage with 21st-century gam — but looking around at the women of New York and Connecticut, I’m certain any similarities occur independent of a cosplay community. Using steampunk as a marketing gimmick is different than drawing inspiration from it — an obvious deficiency of a metric designed simply to count buzzwords.
But will supposed popular interest in steampunk extend to what initially began as a literary trend? Magic 8-Ball says Outlook not so good. I doubt I’m alone when I question if alternate-history’s poster child has sunk to self-parody; for every VanderMeer collection, twenty girl-on-girl steampunk anthologies inundate Amazon. Meanwhile, some editors report a scarcity of appropriate material for their pubs. Would anyone not already a heavy spec-fiction reader pick up a Cherie Priest novel? Forget Main Street — has anyone already involved in steampunk ever read a Jeff Barlough novel? My guess is that the biggest in-roads are being made in the Young Adult market.
I’ve no reason to complain if steampunk as a whole has raised the profile of alternate history, regardless of whether the written variety — or at least, the inventive written variety — will ever be ubiquitous enough to reach a general audience. So chatter it up, Internets! And then go hit the Kindle store.
Monday, 14 January 2013 • 0 comments
Over at Black Gate, you can read my interview with Jeffrey Barlough, author of the long-running Western Lights series of alternate-history novels.
There’s nothing out there on the shelves like Jeffrey Barlough’s Western Lights novels. The series — called such because “the sole place on earth where lights still shine at night is in the west” — is a bouillabaisse of mystery, ghost story, and post-apocalyptic gaslamp fantasy. His seventh and most recent book, What I Found at Hoole, was published in November.
Dr. Barlough, who moonlights as a veterinary physician, kindly spoke to me about the world-building of the Western Lights, his latest project, and which Ice Age animal he’d most like to meet in a dark alley.
Barlough has flown under the radar for far too long; in a just universe, steampunk convention-goers would be cosplaying his characters and dressing up their pets as woolly mammoths. Here’s hoping the interview brings him a little more attention.
Friday, 4 January 2013 • 0 comments
For a mile or so they would be aware of their running. Then, in time, they would become lost in the monotonous stride of their pace, running, but each somewhere else in his mind, seeing cool mountain pastures or palm trees or thinking of nothing at all, running and hearing themselves sucking the heated air in and letting it out, but not feeling the agony of running. They had learned to do this in the past months, to detach themselves and be inside or outside the running man but not part of him for long minutes at a time.
— Elmore Leonard, Forty Lashes Less One.
Friday, 14 December 2012 • 0 comments
The current issue of Black Static opens with my historical fantasy, “Barbary.”
I began to smoke mummies on the advice of a pharmacist off Pacific Avenue. His was an almost derelict alley-way shop, the sign faded, the bills in the window brown and curling. Several times I had to step like a Lipizzaner in the lane over inebriates or dragon-chasers, and I couldn’t imagine how such a frail old geezer passed daily to and from his business unmolested. For all I knew he never left and slept under the floor, subsisting on unguent and rose water. And for me — well, the risk of a blackjack or a knife between the ribs was a lesser injury than my chronic disorder.
One reviewer at Tangent said the story is “very well-done, spooky and disturbing … The prose is realistically archaic without being awkward or stiff,” while another wrote that it “twists to a perfect ending.” Author and fellow cider-swiller Matthew Dent noted, “it was the peculiar and slightly archaic way in which it was written — fitting the plot like a glove — which fascinated me … An excellent piece of fiction.”
Thank you for your kind praise! I’m very pleased — it’s one of my better efforts. Artist Ben Baldwin created an amazing accompaniment to the story, seen above. Thanks to him as well.
Alas, while Black Static is available at the Waterstones in every burgh’s High Street, I have no idea how you buy it outside of the UK. You can wait for the Kindle version — though I don’t know when that will be available — or purchase a hard copy off the publisher’s Back Issues page once the next issue is out.
Update: You can read the whole thing for free on Smashwords.