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13 September 2011

Ru Emerson was born in 1944 and is the author of twenty-three novels, including the Nedao trilogy, the six-volume Night-Threads series, media tie-in novels based on Xena: Warrior Princess, and (as Roberta Cray) The Sword and the Lion.
Emerson’s first novel, Princess of Flames came out in 1986, I bought it the moment I saw it on the shelf and was struck all of a heap by the writing and characters. This is a standalone book, it starts with the four legitimate children of the king who are increasingly unhappy about his insistence in keeping Elfrid, his bastard daughter by his mistress, at court. They hatch a plot, the king is deposed – and injured during this event so that he becomes mentally impaired – and he and his bastard daughter are exiled – with an attempt to assassinate them on the road out of the kingdom. Eight years later Sedry, the king’s oldest son who had taken the throne needs assistance and calls in the well-known fighter, Archbishop Gespry, to lead a task force composed of locals and mercenaries against an enemy on his borders. But Elfrid has been waiting for the past eight years to return. This is her chance and the book is how and what she does to avenge herself on those who deposed the king and were responsible for her father’s death. The book was well rounded with a fleshed-out background that made it and the characters fascinating, and it was excellent militaristic fantasy.
When, the year after it, the first of a trilogy appeared, I grabbed To the Haunted Mountains eagerly. I subsequently seized the other two and more than twenty years later all four books are still in my library being re-read every few years and I still love them. The Nedao trilogy was again a well filled-out background, and I hoped that it might be only the first three books set within that and that there’d be more. Sadly it was only three books. I didn’t find the six Night-Threads books nearly so good. I read the first, held it until I’d bought and read the second, and then dropped both. It wasn’t that it was bad, but it just didn’t engage me. I found the characters unattractive, and they didn’t make me care whether they survived or not. Other readers may well feel differently but even within the books they couldn’t hold my attention let alone from one book to the next.
After that Emerson seemed to move into tie-ins or into other-author-series of some sort.
Her Xena books were of their kind, very well-written, a friend who has all of the Xena tie-ins agrees that Ru Emerson’s books were by far the best of them all. Her “Starbridge” book was very good, (I have almost all of that series and cherish it) and considering her Xena work I was surprised when in 2001, the anthology, Further Adventures of Xena: warrior Princess appeared and there wasn’t a story by Ru Emerson within. (I had my story “Horsing Around” in that.) And by 2003 Ru Emerson seemed to have vanished as an author.
I have no idea why, she wrote well, in many cases very well, but it may be that she felt she had no more to say and therefore stopped writing. There are a host of reasons why an author may stpp writing. But I do recommend her first four books in particular, and the Xena, Starbridge, and Grayhawk books to those who like such works. I only hope that one day Ru Emerson will decide to return to the worlds of her original four books and do more within those backgrounds.

1986. Princess of Flames (Standalone)
1987. To the Haunted Mountains (Trilogy)
1988. In the Caves of Exile
1989. On the Seas of Destiny

1990. Masques (Beauty and the Beast)

1990. Spell Bound (Standalone)

1990. The Calling of the Three (Night-Threads series)
1991. The Two in Hiding
1992. One Land, One Duke
1993. The Craft of Light
1994. The Art of the Sword
1995. The Science of Power

1993. The Sword and the Lion (Epic fantasy – standalone) listed as written by “Roberta Cray”)

1993. Fortress of Frost and Fire (One of the Bard’s Tale series – see Mercedes Lackey bibliography anywhere)

1996. The Empty Throne (Xena- warrior Princess tie-in novels)
1997. The Huntress and the Sphinx
1997. The Thief of Hermes
1999. Go Quest, Young Man
2000. How the Quest Was Won
2000 Questward Ho

1998. Voices of Chaos (Ann Crispin and Ru Emerson This is actually
the seventh in the Starbridge series)
1999. Against the Giants (Greyhawk series – D&D)
2001. Keep on the Borderlands (as above)

Short Fiction: (And perhaps someone will gather these short stories into a collection for those of us who missed them in original markets. )
1987. A Golden Net for Silver Fishes
1988. The Werewolf’s Gift
1988. Two-Edged Choice
1990. Shapeshifter’s Duel
1993. Looking Forward: Excerpt from The Craft of Light
1996. Call Him By Name
1996. Miranda
1998. Three-Edged Choice
2003. Find a Pin

I’m not sure if I’m a complete philistine or a bit too much of a realist. But when discussing abstract art recently I had to say that I had little or no appreciation for it. That black canvas with a small white triangle in the lower left corner, the work entitled Consideration of Infinity. And someone paying tens of thousands of dollars for it. I look at the item, the amount paid and feel that it’s a case of oneupsmanship. “I’m so much smarter that I understand and appreciate this form of art where you don’t.” I look at the item again, and shake my head. No, I just don’t get it. I’m not sure if I’m a complete philistine or a bit too much of a realist. But I do know one thing. If I had the money to buy something like that – I wouldn’t.

and it did, on and off all yesterday. I’m not actually complaining since with that and showers we’ve had about 30mls of wet on the ground in the last 48 hours and we needed it. The hail did no damage – although the bombarded hens were annoyed – and, most conveniently the hail stopped for about ten minutes mid-afternoon, just long enough for my mailman to arrive, hand me the day’s newspaper and my mail, and drop off a sack of wheat for the hens without either of us being hailed on. That should counterbalance the hen protests, a month’s worth of their meals got through safely.

7 September 2011

Rick Raphael was born in 1919 and died in 1994. He wrote only a small amount of work but it’s quality and much of it is both clever and amusing. It’s surprising to note just how many older SF writers had a very wide spread of occupations – either that or unusual ones. They may turn to writing because these occupations allow them the time, or because in some way they spark interest in genre fiction. Raphael was a journalist, photographer, columnist and TV writer, as well as producing a small select amount of SF.
A lot of his stories are technologically oriented, The Thirst Quenchers is one of those and in the first two sections of that book he foresaw the problems that a growing megapolis could have with inadequate water available. It features the DivAg Hydrology section, a department that collects, conserves, and allocates precipitant water, (rain, hail, snow) and how the staff handles emergencies. The first section, the title piece, deals with an earthquake that cracks three main reservoirs where the loss of water will be catastrophic for the urban areas that reply on them. The second section (Guttersnipe) deals with the work of the sanitation water reclamation section, commonly known as guttersnipes. That section, while moderately graphic in places as to the work and how and why it is done, is also a very solid forerunner of work that is done now more than fifty years after Raphael wrote this book.
(The first section, the collection and use of precipitant moisture is already starting to be truth in a number of countries as well. Another instance where an SF writer has produced suggestions that have come true many years later.)
After those book sections Raphael moved on to postmen in space with The Mailman Cometh, a very funny space opera tale of man versus technology, the mail must go through, and the unexpected arrival of a Galactic Postal Service Inspector. And the last section is a provoking, biting, and poignant story about the Park Service in a massively overcrowded world – with several terrific one-liners.
All (but the final story) are based strongly on future technology and in a very effective and believable way. By the time that Raphael began selling his SF he would have been almost forty and between life experience and what he’d learned as a journalist, he clearly hadn’t wasted his time. I suspect that part of his journalism career he spent in writing stories on new technology and from these he extrapolated both future technology and increasing urbanization. But despite the solid technological backgrounds, people are still the focus of his work, the question being of how they deal with the technology around them, in what ways it impacts their lives, and if it is possible at times to make an end run around the technology or bureaucracy that can be stifling people’s lives. I particularly recommend The Third Quenchers.

Bibliography –

The Thirst Quenchers 1965 (Collection)
Code Three 1966 (possible collection)
The Defector 1980
The President Must Die 1981

Short Stories –
1959. A Filbert Is a Nut
1960. Make Mine… Homogenized
1963. Code Three
1963. Sonny
1963. The Thirst Quenchers
1964. Guttersnipe
1964. Identity Mistaken
1964. Once a Cop
1965. Odd Man In
1965. The Mailman Cometh
1981. False Scent
1981. Pelangus

His short story, Code Three was a Hugo Nominee in 1964, and Once a Cop was a Hugo nominee in 1965.
Many of the short stories listed ultimately became a ‘book’ and are listed as that although in effect they are collections. A fair amount of Raphael’s work is now available as free downloads from Gutenberg Press and other works from various free download sites.

I headed out on my electric scooter yesterday, a quick trip to the shops, and as I passed my hay paddock a movement caught my eyes. There was a young hare running for his life, while behind him about ten feet up and to the rear cruised a hawk in hungry pursuit. The hawk wasn’t exerting himself, he was gliding, apparently certain that he could get the hare without having to try too hard.
I was motionless, half obscured by the shelterbelt trees and neither noticed me. The hare suddenly jinked, crossing the hawk’s flight path and coming straight for me. The hawk almost visibly shrugged, He’d reach dinner before the dinner reached safety under the trees. They were closing in when he discovered how wrong he was.
Half a dozen White-Backed Magpies exploded from the shelterbelt. The hawk dropped a wing-tip, spun, and in about a body-length was going in the opposite direction at much higher acceleration. The magpies followed screaming – if I translate correctly – definitions of “territory,” “family protection,” and “general agreement on the definition of unwanted visitors.”
They came back a few minutes later, settled back into some of the many nests with which they fill my farm trees at this time of the year, and muttered quietly amongst themselves about hawks that don’t know their proper place in the scheme of thing. The hawk had vanished and didn’t appear to be returning – somehow I think he does know his place.
The idea that made me look thoughtful as I continued my ride to the shops was, just how aware had that hare been of the possibilies? When he jinked to run directly for the trees, was he merely hoping for shelter, or did he know that at this season the nesting white-backed magpies are very very territorial?
Perhaps the female hare that I’ve often seen in that paddock over some years is carefully teaching each new litter of babies that trees don’t just provide shelter from a hawk overhead, they can also produce a number of black and white fighter-bombers to drive a hawk right out of the area. If so, then it seems to be working.
(The white-backed “magpies” in my area are actually the Australian Currawong and described in my bird book as ‘voluntary migrants’. They are said to be aggressive although I’ve never had a problem and dozens live here. In fact a few years ago a wild juvenile approached me for help and I became his friend for a couple of years until he was killed. By then he’d grown up, found a mate, nested, and had fledgelings but still trusted me – and any of my friends. His story is in my book – Rural daze and (K)nights.)

4 September 2011

Another theme anthology has accepted one of my stories. Halloween Hell-o-ween from will be out very shortly and can be purchased from that site. It contains my ghost tale, Neither Brick Nor Stone.

2 September 2011

reviewed by Lyn McConchie.

I’ve been reading this series for a couple of years now and I’m looking forward to finding the cash to buy the next ones available in the series. The story is basically a quest stretching over a several years road trip with those involved travelling towards the quest’s achievement.
Dale is stranded on a planet where wizards have power. Once down on the planet he begins to accumulate a group who will follow him, some voluntarily, others not quite so willingly. Here and there one drops out, but numbers are usually made up by another who comes along and joins them.
At the start of this volume we have Dale, his friend Jarl, Aerline, a local girl Dale married who is also a sorceress, Kheri, a city thief who originally joined Dale unwillingly, his magically symbiotic twin, Kaowin, Farran, 27th son of a Baron, Sas an ex-trainee-assassin, and Rik, a city bully. In the course of this book they add Raven, a deposed godling, Pharcle, an alien, Thorgeld, a dwarf, Erran, a miniature demon, and a couple of imps. You can’t say that this group is bland.
At the beginning of the book the group has left the city of Villenspell and is heading for where King Yaybar – of the prophesy they received – may even now be fighting for his life against the Gorg invasion. They need to reach him in time to help but his kingdom is on the other side of the world and it isn’t going to be easy to reach the king at all, let alone in any reasonable time.
Again, throughout this book the companions are on the move, most stops of any length being when something goes wrong. The first of these episodes occurs when they cross into a land ruled by a godling, Raven, who calls Kaowin to him – possibly to cause him injury or death. Dale follows and fights the godling, winning the battle and afterwards one of the major gods appears and Raven’s powers and lands are taken from him. He chooses to join the group and travel on with them.
Raven, his character improving, saves a sprite from a spider’s-web, Aerline heals her, and the ruler of the Sprite Realm offers them help. They accept what is offered and after being taken by a difficult path back to their own world from that of the Sprites they travel on again.
They reach the mountain they need to pass, and the road takes them into deep tunnels and caves. This isn’t a path that is quick or easy, as in succession they fight a golum, discover a forgotten outpost of Dale and Jarl’s people where Pharcle, a stranded alien is freed to go with them, Aerline summons Erran, a very small demon, they meet Thorgeld, an old dwarf who elects to join them, a host of imps appear and cause real trouble while large portions of the cave’s roofs fall in trapping the horses which are killed or eaten by cave trolls.
Several of the group are developing dark suspicions now about the Villenspell wizard who helped them, and Kheri is shot while finding an escape route. It transpires that a man, under the command of another godling who is trying to murder Raven, has done this. Jarl tries to teleport to where he may find replacement mounts, but his ‘port’ is intercepted. Once again the group is stalled, in trouble, and all at sea in a wizard’s castle. There they find a trapped, enspelled dragon, whom they release. And thereafter things go wrong to an even greater degree – where this book ends.
Again, I enjoyed Wizards and Wanderers, good characters, great adventures, an intriguing mix of magic and science, and solid plotting.
I continue to buy and read the series and recommend it.

reviewed by Lyn McConchie.
some time back I purchased “Wizard’s Bane,” the first in this six book series. After that I was very busy revising several of my own books, but with those out of the way I discovered that the next two in the series were available. So I bought them. This on its own says a lot about the first book. I liked it sufficiently to buy the next – not one but – two.
I moved on after re-reading Wizard’s Bane, to Villenspell: City of Wizards. This picks up immediately after the first book, it adds several new characters in the course of the story, but all are fleshed out in depth, and have a distinctive voice. The books are “science fantasy”, with the background roughly corresponding to our 1700s.
Briefly, the main character, Dale, made an error when attempting to close a warp rift and landed on this world. In book one he acquired a boy, Kheri, a thief, as a combination of friend/trainee/servant. He added Faran, 27th child of the local Baron, a sixteen-year-old who is ignored by his father, has no mother, and is rapidly going to the bad with no good role model. Dale becomes mentor for both lads and the way their characters changed was very believable.
Along with Galdur, the young son of a bandit leader, Aerline, a sorceress, and Dale’s friend, Jarl, they travel to the city of Villenspell to find the College of Wizards and ask a few pertinent questions, while also getting a major spell on Jarl removed. They arrive, the spell is removed, the bandit’s son who has a talent for healing decides to remain in the city and train his ability, and Dale marries Aerline before they pack up and leave the city again.
All of which sounds if it wouldn’t fill a book, but it does so very pleasantly. There is Kas, a trainee assassin who bounds into the middle of events, is caught, and decides that he’d be better off with them. There’s the startling transformation of purple syrup by symbiotic magic into Kaowin, a younger brother for Kheri. And then there is a bully, Rik, who finds himself bound to Faran after he fails to kill Faran in a fight to the death. There is also Aerline’s problem with her prejudices against something that apes human life. The ultimate disposal of the College’s pizza transporter, and the incident at the Redhorn Tavern.
Villenspell is the second book in a series that I think of as a “road trip”. You have someone who is traveling down a very long road at the end of which they will have to do some major deed of great importance. Along the way they pick up companions, some stay for a while then leave, others will continue to the end of the road and help in the final denouement.
The main question is, can the author make each book in the series interesting enough? And the answer to that, in this case and so far, is – yes, she can. The characters have in-depth backgrounds that make them come alive, and render their actions believable and understandable. The gradual revelations are very well done, just enough and no more.
There is the occasional minor event I disliked, but that was a personal preference, and it certainly wasn’t sufficient to put me off. I look forward eagerly to reading the next book, WIZARDS AND WANDERERS, which I bought at the same time, and I have ordered the remainder of the series. If the author keeps up this standard of work I’ll be re-reading the six books, once I have them all, for many years to come.
One warning, read the books in order, they don’t read so well either out of order or as standalone volumes. But that’s something that applies to many series, and I don’t feel that it detracts from this one.

Author Janet Kagan died 29 February 2008 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after a long illness. Born in 1946, she was 63 years old and so far as I can tell from various sources, she’d been ill for much of her life. She started her career by writing a fake ad (Analog in 1982,) then wrote what is arguably the best of all the Star Trek novels, no. 21 on the list, UHURA’S SONG. This was a great book, one of the few that would still have been a wonderful book if you deleted every ST name and reference.
The basic plot was a well-used one, a new disease appears on a Federation world. No matter what the medics do, it spreads, and then, it moves on to infect humans – whom it attacks more ferociously. The Federation needs a cure, but nothing is discovered. Then Uhura – whose friend years ago was one of the felinoids on the world where the disease first appeared – remembers a song her friend taught her, one of many songs they shared. And from this the Enterprise crew realizes that the felinoids did not originate on the world the Federation is trying to save, and that they may have a way to find the home-world, which could have the cure. How they find that world, make friends with the people, and find why it is forbidden on each world to discuss the other, made a story that was wholly engrossing.
After that Janet produced a single stand-alone book entitled HELLSPARK. Again it’s part mystery – one of a team of people studying a new planet has been found dead, part psychological – how your own culture of gestures, physical nearness to another, affect you when working with others from a different world, and part SF – the descriptions of the world on which it takes place are brilliant and believable. The characters are people you’d recognize, the problems are ones you can understand, and through it all, strides Tocohl Susumo who isn’t who they take her to be, and the natives of the world who are more than the study team know – all but one member who is afraid ‘they’ do know. The of the brilliant things about this book is that of the dozen or more ‘alien races’ only one is physically alien, the others are variations of humanity that Janet makes fascinatingly alien.
After Hellspark Kagan went on to write a series of short stories set on a new planet, interspersed with other stories not in the series. The six that were, were collected in the book MIRABILE, (which ones are noted below) that appeared from Tor in 1991. It’s difficult to sum of the theme of the Mirabile stories in a short paragraph, but settlers have come on a generation ship to Mirabile. With them they have brought flora and fauna that has redundancy inbuilt. i.e. one in a hundred daffodils may produce cockroaches. These may in turn produce something else. It was done to make sure nothing that was required in Terran genetic material was lost, but what has been lost is the computer lists of what produces which. Annie Jason Masmajean is the main one of those in this generation attempting to cope with the results. The stories are funny, charming, and noir in turns, and it’s almost impossible to put them down – regularly voted so by the readers of Asimov’s Magazine in which they appeared.
So, a body of work that comprises two books, one collection, and another collection’s worth of stories as yet uncollected. Not a long list, but then if you have half a handful of diamonds, it’s still far better than a bagful of citrines. I recommend all three books without reservation. Yes, even those readers who don’t much care for the Star Trek series, should enjoy Uhura’s Song, (cat lovers in particular.) Run, do not walk, to Janet’s site and buy a copy of the original edition, HELLSPARK, go without lunch if need be, then look for the others. Note, the list below came from Janet’s website still run by her husband, Ricky. Where it says you can get something “here” it’s to be found on –


“Faith-of-the-Month Club”
    (fake ad, p89, uncredited & NOT listed in the table of contents)
    ANALOG, Feb 1, 1982
    original version in SHAGGY B.E.M. STORIES, ed. by Mike Resnick, Nolacon Press, ’88
UHURA’S SONG (Star Trek #21), Pocket, Jan ’85
    Gregg Press hc, ’85
    Titan Books, London, May ’89

HELLSPARK (sf), Tor pb, July ’88*
    *cover art by Rick Sternbach miscredited to Bryn Barnard
    SFBC hc, Main Selection, cover art correctly credited (Thanks, Ellen!)
HELLSPARK (revised)
    with afterwords for HELLSPARK & UHURA’S SONG & additional reading list for both
    Meisha Merlin Publishing, tp, Jan ’98
Copies of the ’98 edition of HELLSPARK may still be had here but not for long. Get ’em while they last.

#”The Loch Moose Monster”
“Naked Wish-Fulfillment”
    reprinted in PULPHOUSE WEEKLY, Issue Zero, Mar ’91
    reprinted in UNICORNS II, ed. Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois
    Ace, ’92
#”The Return of the Kangaroo Rex”
    2nd place in ASIMOV’S Readers’ Poll, ’89
#”The Flowering Inferno”
    3rd place in ASIMOV’S Readers’ Poll, ’90
#”Getting the Bugs Out”
    Winner of the ASIMOV’S Readers’ Poll Award for Best Novelette of ’90
“What a Wizard Does”
    winner of the MZB Cauldron Award for best of issue
“From the Dead Letter File”
    STARSHORE, Winter ’90
#”Raising Cane”
“Winging It”
    ISAAC’S UNIVERSE, VOLUME 2: PHASES OF CHAOS, ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg Avon, July ’91
MIRABILE (contains all the Mama Jason stories marked # above)
    Tor hc, Oct ’91 Tor pb, June ’92
“Love Our Lockwood”
    ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS, ed. Mike Resnick & Martin H. Greenberg
    Tor, Feb 1992 Or you could read it here.
“Fighting Words”
    ISAAC’S UNIVERSE, Vol 3: UNNATURAL DIPLOMACY, edited by Martin H. Greenberg
    Avon, July 1992
“Out on Front Street”
“The Last of a Vintage Year”
    ALADDIN, MASTER OF THE LAMP, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg DAW, Dec 1992
“The Nutcracker Coup”
    Winner of the ASIMOV’S Readers’ Award, Best Novelette ’92 Hugo Award, Best Novelette ’93 Nebula nominee
    reprinted in CHRISTMAS MAGIC, edited by David G. Hartwell Tor pb, Nov ’94
    reprinted HUGO & NEBULA WINNERS FROM ASIMOV’S SF, ed. Sheila Williams, Wings Books hc, ’95
    also reprinted in ISAAC ASIMOV’S CHRISTMAS, edited by Gardner Dozois and Sheila Williams Ace pb, Dec ’97
“She Was Blonde, She Was Dead—And Only Jimmilich Opstrommo Could Find Out Why!!!”
    MORE WHATDUNITS, ed. Mike Resnick DAW, May 1993
“No Known Cure”
    PULPHOUSE: THE HARDBACK MAGAZINE (#12, THE LAST ISSUE) Pulphouse Publishing, 1993
“Christmas Wingding”
    CHRISTMAS FOREVER, edited by David G. Hartwell Tor hc, Nov ’93
“Space Cadet”
    BY ANY OTHER FAME, ed. Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg DAW, Jan ’94
“Face Time”
    HOTEL ANDROMEDA, edited by Jack L. Chalker Ace pb, Feb ’94
“Fermat’s Best Theorem”
    ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE, Issue #3, Summer ’95, DNA Publications
    reprinted in THE BEST OF ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE, edited by Warren Lapine and Stephen Pagel Tor hc, May ’97
“Standing in the Spirit”
    ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION, Dec ’97 Psst—or you could read it here.
“The Stubbornest Broad on Earth”

just had a fast email from Christopher Ficco, editor of RuneWright,(Publishing) to say that his theme anthology, Spirit Legends: Of Ghosts and Gods, will be out any day now. Copies available on and I have a story in this and I’m looking forward to seeing my copies since this is the first time I’ve sold to the market.

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