Yog Radio: Interview with Charles Stross

April 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Yog Radio PodcastPaul Maclean (aka Paul Of Cthulhu) kindly wrote in to say that he’s got An interview With Charles Stross up and ready for listening over on Yog-Sothoth.com. It was recorded at a EasterCon 2009. Here’s the |MP3| or you can subscribe to the Yog-Sothoth podcast feed:

http://www.yog-sothoth.com/podcast.xml

Posted by Jesse Willis

ADDED: an AUTHOR PAGE for ROBERT J. SAWYER

April 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Robert J. SawyerROBERT J. SAWYER now has his own entry in our AUTHOR PAGES section. On it you’ll find a listing of all the Robert J. Sawyer audiobooks, MP3s of interviews and lectures he’s given, as well as a podcast short story. We’ve also added a HuffDuffer podcast feed for him too!

Podcast Feed: http://huffduffer.com/jessewillis/tags/robert_j._sawyer/rss

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

April 29, 2009 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt VonnegutSFFaudio EssentialSlaughterhouse-Five
By Kurt Vonnegut; Read by Ethan Hawke
5 CDs – 6 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433269691
Themes: / Science Fiction (or maybe not) / World War II / Time Travel / War / Aliens / Mind /

And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.

So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes.

—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

During World War II, author Kurt Vonnegut was taken prisoner by the Germans and held captive in the city of Dresden, which was later reduced to flaming rubble during a harrowing fire-bombing by American forces. According to Vonnegut, the city was a gorgeous center of art, architecture, and fine civilian life; its value as a military target was negligible. “What I’ve said about the firebombing of Dresden is that not one person got out of a concentration camp a microsecond earlier, not one German deserted his defensive position a microsecond earlier,” Vonnegut said.

Somewhere between 25,000 and 120,000 civilians (the upper figure is an early estimate, which has since been revised downward to 25,000-40,000) were killed in the inferno of incendiary and high explosive bombs. As such, Dresden remains a controversial, dark chapter of America’s involvement in the war.

Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut’s look back on this dreadful event. It’s not a traditional biography, but a modified account of his own experiences as seen through the eyes of Billy Pilgrim, a tall, awkward, disconnected dreamer who is drafted into the army and thrust into combat. Pilgrim is a pathetic soul with the appearance of a “filthy flamingo,” involved in tragic events beyond his control.

Captured during the Battle of the Bulge, Pilgrim and 100 other soldiers are shipped to Dresden to serve as prison-labor. At night they sleep in a storage-cave beneath a slaughterhouse amidst the butchered carcasses of animals, and it’s this arrangement that allows them to survive the attack. After the firebombing, they emerge the next morning to find the once-beautiful Dresden so utterly destroyed that it resembles the surface of the moon.

A part of me feels guilty for reviewing Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five on a science fiction/fantasy Web site. The connections of this classic anti-war novel to the science fiction genre are tenuous, but it attains this designation (in some circles) due to the presence of the Tralfamadorians, a race of aliens that capture Pilgrim and bring him back to their planet for examination. During his months on Tralfamadore, Pilgrim is placed in a sort of zoo, his body and mind laid bare to the curious aliens.

The Tralfamadorians may be simply the imagination of an unwell, traumatized mind. Pilgrim is emotionally unbalanced, suffers a head injury after the war, and reads voraciously of the novels of science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, one of whose novels concerns an alien abduction that sounds suspiciously like Pilgrim’s own experiences on Trafalmadore. But the Tralfamadorians—real or not—allow Vonnegut to explore the concept of time and our place in it, which is the larger theme of the novel. The Tralfamadorians can see in four dimensions and have no concept of time; life just is, and human existence is a series of events and happenings with no beginnings and ends. Events simply occur; wars are fought, we are powerless to stop them and it’s ridiculous to think we can. Free will is a farce.

Pilgrim’s time among the Tralfamadorians allows him to experience his life in this fourth dimension, moving his mind back and forth to the past and future, seemingly at will. He is able to see his own death, and relive events from his childhood, his marriage, and his career as an optometrist. But Pilgrim’s wandering, time-traveling mind returns again and again to the terrible events of Dresden, an experience so powerful that his mind is unable to make sense of it. It just is, and all he can do with the rest of life is to try and look upon the good times in his life, the moments of joy, and not linger too long over the blackened, shrunken bodies, or a fellow American and friend executed for salvaging a teapot from the ruins.

Actor Ethan Hawke (of Dead Poets Society and Hamlet fame) serves as the narrator and does a nice job reading with an understated, dispassionate voice that perfectly fits the tone of the novel. This Blackstone Audio production also includes an unexpected and enlightening 10-minute interview with Vonnegut on the final disc. Here Vonnegut reveals that Pilgrim’s character was based on a real person, Edward Crone, an American who died in Dresden. “He just didn’t understand the war at all, what was going on, and of course there was nothing to understand—he was right,” Vonnegut says.

Posted by Brian Murphy

StarShipSofa: Aural Delights No. 82 Michael Bishop

April 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Aural Delights No 82 Michael Bishop

Editorial: Michael Bishop by Tony C. Smith

Poetry: Jamie’s Hair by Michael Bishop 02:00

Intro to Main Fiction: Michael Bishop

Main Fiction: Vinegar Peace by Michael Bishop 07:41

Sofa Art Cover: Ed Bellisimo

Narrators: Diane Severson, Dale Manley

Published in the July 2008 issue of Asimov

StarShipSofa narrates Vinegar Peace, an SF story writtten by Michael Bishop for his son Jamie Bishop who died two years ago at the Virginia Tech shooting.

Michael Bishop says:

I wrote “Vinegar Peace” — in August of 2007 — because I had to. Our 35-year-old son, Jamie, died on the morning of April 16, 2007, as one of thirty-two victims of a disturbed shooter on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Jamie, an accomplished digital artist who did lovely covers for four or five of my books, was holding forth in Room 2007 of Norris Hall in his German class more than two hours after his eventual murderer had slain two students in a dormitory on another part of campus. The administration failed to issue a warning — a warning that might well have saved many lives — in a timely fashion. However, some of its members secured their own offices and notified their own family members of this initial event; and so the worst school shooting in the history of the United States claimed our son, four other faculty members (including a man, Dr Librescu, who had survived the Holocaust and who held a table against his classroom door until all own students could escape), four of Jamie’s students, and twenty-one other young people in Norris Hall, not to mention the first two victims in West Ambler-Johnston dorm. Another twenty-eight students were wounded by bullets or injured leaping from upper-story windows. Some of these young people will live with their injuries the rest of their lives.

All of the administrators, with the exception of a woman who later died of a stroke or a heart attack (a death that my wife and I can’t help but attribute partially to the stress of living with the mistakes of the President and the other Policy Group members), remain in their positions. So much for accountability, and so much for justice.

In any case, “Vinegar Peace” grew from this disaster and from a grief that I can’t imagine ever laying totally aside. Jeri and I mourn Jamie’s loss every day in some private way, and we think continually of all the other parents and loved ones of the slain and injured who will carry a similar burden with them until they die. We think, too, of the parents and loved ones of the dead and wounded from the United States’s optional war in Iraq, who long for their dead and who pray for their injured with an intensity not a whit different from our own. How ironic that our son died on American soil. How sad the wasted potential and disfigured lives resulting from violence everywhere. And forgive me the inadequacy of these remarks. Clearly, I wrote a story because I could not address either my outrage or my grief in any other way.

-Mike Bishop

StarShipSofa is very honoured and humbled to be allowed to bring this story to a wider audience. I know I speak for the SF community when I say our hearts and prayers go out to Mike and Jeri and all the families who have to live with this grief every day.

Posted by Tony C. Smith

Broken Sea: Escape From New York

April 28, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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Broken Sea Audio Productions - Escape From New YorkBLACK SCREEN, RISING MUSIC…

In the year 1988 the crime rate in the United States rises 400%. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem river, and down along the Brooklyn shorline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. The prison’s name: New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, Manhattan Island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners, and the worlds they have made. The year now… 1997.

Stevie Farnaby, (aka the voice of Conan from Queen Of The Black Coast) writes in to boast of his new project with Queen Of The Black Coast scripter Bill Hollweg. It’s a fan audio drama version of Escape From New York. Sez Stevie:

“This was a total joy of a series to produce. Bill Hollweg did an absolutely amazing job adapting the scripts, and there’s quite simply some of the finest VAs [voice actors] in the business on the show, giving some of their finest performances. As for the Production values, I went into sonic overdrive on this one, and created the audio equivalent of a thermo nuclear Strike ! – LOL I genuinely believe this to be one of the most groundbreaking and innovative shows around. The word, ‘explosive’ seems to fall woefully short of describing it.”

This isn’t exactly a re-imagining, more of a tribute to the original, but one that fills in more details. My hope is that in a later episode we’ll see the head of the Statue Of Liberty lying on a Manhattan Street (like in the poster).

Episode one is online now check it out |MP3| or subscribe…

Podcast feed:

http://brokensea.com/efny/feed/

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton

April 28, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Blood Noir by Laurell K. HamiltonBlood Noir
By Laurell K. Hamilton; Read by Cynthia Holloway
11 CDs –
13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN:  1-59737-895-6
Published: 2008
Themes: / paranormal romance / vampires / shapeshifters / mystery / sex / BDSM / urban fantasy

Blood Noir is the sixteenth installment in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. Thats an impressive track record for any writer–and somehow Hamilton has found time to work on several other series as well. This particular Anita Blake novel is heavy on the romance and emotional development of its characters. It’s fairly light on the “paranormal” or “supernatural” element until it nears its conclusion. While a fun emotional and sexual romp, Blood Noir lacks the intellectual teeth to be called “fantasy” in any meaningful sense of the word.

The book opens with a bang of the Jenna Jameson variety, as Anita Blake comforts her grieving werewolf friend Jason in the most intimate way possible, while her more regular lover Nathaniel looks on and later joins in. Libido calmed, for the moment at least, the story then commences in earnest, and Blood Noir actually presents an intriguing premise. Jason’s estranged father is dying of cancer, and Jason wants to patch up the relationship while he still can. Jason’s father, despite much evidence to the contrary, labors under the delusion that Jason is gay. To dispel this misperception, Jason brings Anita to his home in North Carolina to present as his girlfriend, a front that is only half a lie. The plot thickens further when Jason is mistaken by hometown residents for the son of the state governor.

You might be wondering how the supernatural fits into all this. So was I. While the story is well-told and the characters are emotionally complex, the fantastic elements of Anita Blake’s world don’t really manifest themselves for the first two-thirds of the novel. Sure, we’re told that Jason is a werewolf and that Nathaniel her lover is a were-leopard, and we witness several telephone conversations between Anita and her protector Jean-Claude, one of the vampire masters of St. Louis. But Hamilton is breaking the writer’s axiom of “show, don’t tell.” The early parts of the novel play out like any romance-cum-mystery, with only the barest of supernatural trappings.

Once “the metaphysical shit”, as Blake utters several times, does finally hit the fan, the action ramps up and Blood Noir becomes a thriller on par with other urban fantasy, replete with shapeshifting, vampire charms, and a bit of old-fashioned gun play. The payoff is worth waiting for. The novel draws its title from Marmee Noir, an ancient vampire who, despite slumbering somewhere in Europe, manages to wreak havoc in the lives of characters halfway around the world. The book advances the larger Vampire Hunter story arc, and promises an intriguing direction for future books in the series.

There’s no getting around it, Blood Noir is about sex. Anita Blake is possessed by the ardeur, an urge that requires her to “feed” periodically through sexual acts. Yes, Anita’s come a long way since her celibate days of the first few novels. She openly maintains several serious sexual partners, and she engages in sadomasochism and other “non-standard” sexual practices. The emphasis on eroticism feels mostly in line with the plot, and seldom ranges into the realm of over-indulgence. What saves Blood Noir from devolving into a wholly superficial sexual dog pile is Anita’s self-awareness. Anita is mostly comfortable with her open lifestyle, but she occasionally expresses misgivings about its potential negative impact on herself and others. Her external sensual and erotic lust is also complimented by a fine-tuned emotional sensitivity.

Brilliance Audio has made a modest effort to put some production shine on its audio version of Blood Noir, with some minimal distortion effects when characters speak on the phone or overhear a television news report. Cynthia Holloway’s narration tackles the novel’s sexuality head-on; she doesn’t flinch at even the most graphic scenes. Holloway especially succeeds in capturing Anita Blake’s wide expressive range, from her angry outbursts to her few moments of vulnerability.

Long-time readers of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series will doubtless wish to follow the heroine’s latest adventures, and fans of paranormal romance who have somehow missed Hamilton’s work will probably want to jump into the series as well. Other readers of fantasy, even of urban fantasy, should approach Blood Noir with caution. The book provides a solid plot and well-rounded characters, but Hamilton’s hit-and-miss writing fails to conjure up the magic that fantasy, even dark fantasy, should.

DISCLAIMER: Any sexual puns or double-entendres contained in this review were purely inadvertent.

Posted by Seth Wilson

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