The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), ann…

SFFaudio News

The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), announced the winners of the 2003 Nebula Awards for best science fiction or fantasy this weekend.

Best Novel of 2003

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Best Novella of 2003

“Coraline ” by Neil Gaiman

Best Novelette of 2003

“The Empire of Ice Cream” by Jeffrey Ford

Best Short Story of 2003

“What I Didn’t See” by Karen Joy Fowler

Best ScriptThe Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair & Peter Jackson

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award was presented to renowned science fiction and fantasy writer Robert Silverberg for lifetime achievement in the field.

A very interesting thing to note is that both “The Empire of Ice Cream” and “What I Didn’t See” were published in the free on-line magazine, SCI FICTION. The times, they are a-changin.

On audio, there’s a very nice version of “Coraline”, read by Neil Gaiman, available from Harper Audio.

And what can be said about Robert Silverberg? A well-deserved award, to be sure. He’s had some stuff produced for audio, but I still consider him largely untapped. Check Blackstone Audio and Fantastic Audio (whose website has not been updated for a long while) for the most recently released titles.

Congratulations to the award winners and the nominees!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. GreenbergSci-Fi Private Eye
Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg; Read by Bill Fantini and Nelson Runger
4 cassettes – 6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dercum Audio
Published: August 1997
ISBN: 155656273X
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Utopia / Dystpoia / Sherlock Holmes / Mars / Berzerker / Time Travel / Artificial Intelligence / Covert Warfare /

Decades ago, SF grandmaster Isaac Asimov noted the similarity between detective “whodunit” stories and science fiction “puzzle” stories. Avoiding some of the obvious pitfalls, he began to write stories that contain elements of both of these popular genres. Later as an anthologist, Asimov teamed up with Martin H. Greenberg to collect the best of this subgenre. Sci-Fi Private Eye was the happy result. Though obviously not recorded under perfect conditions, you can literally hear the pages turning, I was flabbergasted by the love and care that went into the recording of this audiobook. It starts off with a haunting original musical score, then, instead of simply reading the first story, as is typical with nearly every audiobook, it introduces the anthology with a brief but well composed essay on the subject of mystery science fiction! The packaging is not as good, while in a sturdy enough case, the original cover art falls into a category I call “computer designed abstract boring”. Even worse, they spelled Asimov’s name wrong. The cassettes themselves also lack important details (what story starts where and ends where). The stories though are so good that I’ve got to summarize and review them individually:

Stories Included:
Introduction written and read by Isaac Asimov
“Getting Across” by Robert Silverberg
“The Martian Crown Jewels” by Poul Anderson
“Of The Metal Murderer” by Fred Saberhagen
“Mouthpiece” by Edward Wellen
“War Game” by Philip K. Dick

Robert Silverberg’s “Getting Across” is a terrific SF short story told in the first person. It was originally published in the anthology entitled Future City (1973). A future society is in danger. To house the engorged human race, the Earth is entirely covered by one large metropolis. But it isn’t one big city so much as it is a million city-states abutting one another. Each district has its own government, its own customs and industries, and it’s own way of life. Contact between districts is restricted and often dangerous to those who attempt it. All districts rely on a master computer program for the smooth operation of these automated communities. So when Ganfield’s master computer program is stolen, things start to deteriorate quickly. Garbage starts piling up uncollected, food stops being delivered, the climate control system stops working, and the deactivated robotic police force cannot prevent the cannibalism that is only weeks away. The man whose “month-wife” stole the program is sent to find her and bring it back. His task is nearly impossible because even if he can get out of his district getting across will only be the first hurdle. Typical of Silverberg’s great work in the 1970s.

Poul Anderson’s “The Martian Crown Jewels” was first published in A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Vol. 1 (1959). The Martian Crown Jewels have been stolen! The theft threatens to destroy diplomatic relations between Mars and Earth. Inspector Gregg, of the Earth police force stationed on Mars, is stumped. Who can solve the baffling locked spaceship mystery and avert a galactic catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions? None other than Mars’ greatest consulting detective, Syaloch, a seven-foot feathered Martian who lives at 221B “Street of Those who Prepare Nourishment in Ovens.” Most entertaining.

Edward Wellen’s “Mouthpiece” first saw print in the pages of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1974’s issue. Most of the stories I’ve read by Edward Wellen tend to be focused on the workings of the human mind, and this one is no exception. This one fictionalizes a fascinating historical curiosity regarding the final hours of “Dutch” Schultz and takes it just that bit farther – into artificial intelligence – leaving us pondering the nature of personality, memory and thought. It’s also a great little mystery to boot!

Fred Saberhagen’s “The Adventure Of The Metal Murderer” was first published in Omni Magazine’s January 1980 issue, and is another in Saberhagen’s long running series of Berzerker short stories. It’s a time travel story that starts in the distant future and then goes back to 19th century London, England. A clever tale that will remind you of Michael Moorcock’s “Behold The Man”.

Philip K. Dick’s “War Game” was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine’s December 1959 issue. Earth’s traditional enemy, Ganymede, is at it again. They are trying to subvert and soften up the good people of Earth by selling potentially dangerous toys and games as a prelude to invasion. One toy appears to assemble itself over time into a nuclear weapon, another convinces the user that the virtual reality he or she is in is actual reality, and a third is a harmless variation on the board game Monopoly. But the market demand for the inventive Ganymedian games is pressuring the Earth customs to clear the toys for stocking in time for Christmas. If they follow the rules only one will get through to the store shelves. Typically Dickian and thus very entertaining.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Legends: Stories from the Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1

SFFaudio Review

Legends: Stories From The Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1 edited by Robert SilverbergLegends: Stories From The Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1
Edited by Robert Silverberg; Read by Frank Muller and Sam Tsoutsouvas
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published:
ISBN:
Themes: / Fantasy /

Robert Silverberg, himself a prolific fantasy author, has gathered with this series a collection of the longer novellas by the most popular living fantasy authors. Each of the authors was asked to write a new story based on one of his or her most famous series.

In Volume One there are two novellas. The first belongs to Stephen King and is set in his popular Gunslinger/Dark Tower universe. Silverberg’s contribution is set in his Majipoor universe. An intriguing premise but did it turn out to be any good?

The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters Of Eluria by Stephen King; Read by Frank Muller
Roland of Gilead, badly needs to find a horse doctor. His horse is ailing and won’t last long, but when he comes across a lonely desert town he quickly ends up needing a doctor for himself. Unfortunately, the only medical attention he’s getting comes from a vampire like sisterhood intent on both healing AND bloodletting.

I’ve never been overly fond of Stephen King, I find his writing like his ideas at best mildly interesting and at worst boring. But, being as I’d not tried anything of his work in some time, I was willing to give him another try. This piece seemed ideal. It was supposed to be fantasy, and not pure horror that he’s so well know for. It was also a prequel to a long series that I’d heard good things about (The Dark Tower series). But alas, I was not impressed in the least. While there are interesting elements, the setting is what appears to be a post-apocalyptic cross between the Zane Grey and The Road Warrior, which while not completely original is at least not a setting that has been done to death. Unfortunately the story is very long winded. I normally don’t care for overly long fantasy tales, The Lord of The Rings being a notable exception, but I am in the minority here. Stephen King fans don’t seem to mind a thicker than thick novel. This production of the Little Sisters of Eluria has the benefit of clarity, at all times I knew what was going on, and Frank Muller’s reading was okay, barring his usual difficulty with women’s voices. There are some writers who while not writing in the clearest manner manage to hold your attention by their very ideas. In the case of the Little Sisters Of Eluria, the clear writing and clear production just made the boredom more obvious for me. If you like the Dark Tower series you may enjoy this novella, but I found it a vulgar, mildly gross, hard to finish and ultimately pointless.

Majipoor: The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg; Read by Sam Tsoutsouvas
Majipoor, a planet settled long ago by human colonists, is ruled by Valentine, once Lord Valentine now Pontifax of the whole planet. Valentine and his court entourage are on an expedition to an ancient city where they intend to investigate the murder of archeological team leader.

First let me say I like a lot of Silverberg’s work, some of his short stories are really good, but I’ve found his work very uneven. Being unfamiliar with the Majipoor stories I thought this novella would be a good introduction to Robert Silverberg’s fantasy series. This story though is a murder mystery, set on an alien world full of traditions and history. Silverberg does a fairly good job of bringing newbies like me up to speed, informing us of Pontifax Valentine’s personal history, and the strained species relations between the native Metamorphs (shapeshifting intelligent aliens) and the Human colonists of Majipoor. That being said, the story isn’t at all enthralling, it has a lot of “your majesty this” and “your majesty that” found in some of the more derivative fantasy fiction. The mystery element is unsolvable by the reader, something that I dislike as a general rule. But on the other hand Sam Tsoutsouvas does a good job, saving his different voices only for important plot characters. As with the other story in this audiobook, perhaps it will be more enjoyable for someone who likes the universe in which it is set. I can imagine never listening to another Majipoor story, and the idea doesn’t worry me in the least.