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29 October 2011

How any time the media or friends start hammering on about something – it’s the opposite that usually happens? Back in 2004 a few spots of the country were getting mildly dry. That caught the media’s attention and they started. A drought was on the way! Just another week of no rain and we’d all be in desperate straits! NZ was about to dry up and either burn down or blow away! And so on and so on. We didn’t do any of that. What happened was that it started to rain – and rain – and rain. And the next thing was the media were all out in oilskins knee-deep in water and reporting the floods.
So when my friend had her hay paddock cut for baleage the other day and said to me that all they needed now was some good rain to bring the grass on…I winced. We’d had a reasonable month of precipitation to date. 107ml by my rain gauge. A nice balance between last year’s 83ml for October and 2001’s 118 ml for October. And sure enough, it started raining and kept raining, a steady mix of drizzle and brief heavy showers. I think that it may have stopped as of this morning, but the amount we got has been sufficient to bring the month’s total up to a rather high 163mls, or 6 and a half inches. With over 2 inches of that (56ml) falling over the past five days since the paddock was cut. Not quite enough for floods – so long as no one else stands around suggesting that we could do with more rain.
But it makes me wonder if it wouldn’t work to pay the media to mutter darkly about droughts any time we actually need rain…

The other week I glanced at a list I have and saw that unless I got two stories away I’d miss having them in their anthologies. So I saved the letter I was writing and moved on smartly to emailing the stories. One advantage of leaving things until the last moment is that you often get a really fast reply and I have. My story CURSED ARE THEY has been accepted by Strange Mysteries 4, (out early January) and VALENTINE’S DAY NIGHT will appear in Valentine, (out in early March.) So that’s a good start to the Christmas season.

I mean, in many ways they are, but they also seem to know more ways to drive you crazy than anything else. This afternoon I wanted to send an email to a friend. I hurled it into the aether, and it came back like a boomerang on speed. According to her ISP my ISP is all kinds of undesirable. Something that, as irritating as they can also be at times, I don’t believe. I tried again – then again – and it was bounced each time. Eventually I got on to her website and left a message – about that and the original query too. But despite her ISP’s claims, I doubt that mine indulges in spam, abuse, mopery and dopery in the spaceways or spitting on sidewalks. It’ll just be one of those weird electronic things that – every so often – leave me wishing that the days of my nice simple word processor would return.

23 October 2011

Baen paperback, published October 2011, reviewed by Lyn McConchie.

It’s been far too long since there was a new “Miles Vorcosigan’ book out, this is it, and worth the wait. I found this series a long time ago and quite by accident.I’d seen the original publication of Shards of Honor and decided that it probably wasn’t something I’d like. I couldn’t buy every SF/F book published – although if I ever win lotto I’ll probably try – and some books have to be left on the bookshop shelf. But when I was at our National SF Convention about five years later, I saw a copy of ‘Shards’ for less than half-price. I bought it, read it that night and in the morning descended on the hucksters room tables to buy the series up to date – another three books. Since then I’ve bought every one as it is published – two even in hardcover – and while some are better than others, (Shards, Ceteganda, Memory) all are very good.
Cryoburn, like the gap in real time, starts seven years after the previous book. Miles is 39, he’s been happily married for that period, has several small children, and continues with the job he was given in Memory, as an Imperial Auditor. The planet Kibou-daini has an obsession with cryogenics, they are about to move into Mile’s homeworld with that and Gregor the Emperor would like to be sure that all is on the level – which, of course, it isn’t. Miles goes to Kibou-daini, is drugged (and he’s allergic) dumped in a supposedly abandoned facility (it isn’t) and is aided by a young runaway boy (with a very odd collection of pets.) Meanwhile his embassy are running in circles, the villains are confused, and Miles is doing his best – which may not be good enough because it tyurns out that there’s a glitch in the cryo-system.
The book was as good as any in the series, and, while I tend to dislike books that run to over 400 pages, this one had enough always going on to keep me solidly involved. With this series I recommend that you start from the first book and read forwards, but if you buy this one as a first, you won’t do so badly. I recommend the series very strongly if you like mysteries and SF. The author produces an excellent combination – and a fascinating character with Miles.

Last week I had the friends of a friend staying two nights, plus the advent of a local reporter to ask questions about the books I have about to appear. Both times I raced out carrying a stick to make sure that my visitors weren’t eaten. The geese have finally come to the conclusion that their eggs were infertile, and have stopped bothering to sit. However the gander isn’t convinced and he’s the boss. Willy nilly the girls are sitting anyhow for another week or so until he gives up, and vistors who don’t watch out may be like Edmonds baking powder – sure to rise.

While waiting for the paperback proofs for a 2010 book to arrive for checking, I found time to fling out a number of submissions. short stories have gone to a number of anthologies, and I hope to hear on them before Christmas. On the ‘appeared” side was a recent letter to a magazine on ‘names and their spelling’ and several articles published in our local newspaper, The Dannevirke News. Two books have gone out to publishers too, and I have all of the fingers that I don’t need to type, well crossed.

It seems to me that the 1940s must have been a terrific decade for the birth of SF writers. Another, born in the same decade as Sandra Miesel, Claudia Edwards, Ru Emerson and William Burkett, was David Palmer born in Chicago in 1941. His first book originally appeared, as a number of fine books have done, as a novella series in one of the pulp magazines. Analog’s January 1981 issue featured a novella titled Emergence. This was followed by a second novella entitled, Seeking, that appeared in Analog the following month. Both novellas won Reader’s Choice Awards, both were Hugo Award nominees, and when the book, Emergence – using the novellas as the first two sections of that – appeared, in 1984, it was also a Hugo nominee and won the Compton Crook award.
Emergence is a riveting book. It purports to be written by Candy Smith-Foster, a child genius who throughout the majority of the book writes in her own form of English, a telegram format that omits most link words such as “the, and, she/her/ his/he, I/me/mine” etc. This made the first few pages hard to get into but only initially. I then found that I was swept into the work by the character and her story and I stayed up all night finishing it. If Palmer has not been the only person to tell a port-holocaust tale using a child, he is certainly the very best. Candy’s adoptive father is an eminent pathologist, (and, unbeknown to Candy, a major figure as a government consultant) her adoptive mother died six years earlier. Her father, Doctor Foster, has a bomb shelter below the house in case the worst occurs, it does when he’s in Washington and Candy is alone – if you don’t count Terry, whom she introduces as her retarded twin-brother, he is in a way, but not at all the way you’d think. Virtually all the population is dead when Candy emerges three months later. How she copes, who isn’t dead and why, who she meets and what happens from those meetings, and where she goes from there is riveting. At least, it riveted me when I read it first and still holds my attention strongly each time I’ve read it thereafter.
Unhappily Palmer’s second book, Threshold, (published Bantam 1985 and said to be the first in a trilogy – To Halt Armageddon) I found to be nowhere near the quality of Emergence. This may have been because I wanted to read more of Candy, but I found the characters didn’t engage me, and I read the book once cursorily and discarded it. (My opinion appears to be shared by a number of other readers and critics.) Palmer is said to be still working on the next in this trilogy (Special Education). But on checking I discovered something I had not been aware of, that a sequel to Emergence (Tracking) was published in three parts in Analog over July/August, September, and October in 2008. I can only hope that this will be brought out as a book, since it’s the Palmer book that I have been waiting for since 1984. (And if not I must try to find copies of these three issues that I can buy, I’ve been dying to know for almost thirty years what happened to Candy after “Emergence.”) Palmer has a standalone novel, Schrodinger’s Frisbee completed – the blurb I’ve seen does sound interesting – and Wormhole Press was suggested as a publisher for this at some stage in the future along with indications that they would be publishing/republishing all of Palmer’s work. Unhappily this has not materialised and the publisher appears to have folded.
David Palmer has produced a very small body of work – two published books and three novellas, and two more books completed but as yet unpublished – since 1984, but I really recommend Emergence, and if the novellas in Analog’s 2008 issues are a sequel to Emergence then they are almost certainly worth a good look as well. Second-hand copies of Emergence are listed as available on Amazon as varying prices. And a final note: I loved the cover art on Emergence, this was from Jim Burns, and it conveyed the feel and theme of the novel in one sweeping look. More covers should be of this type and quality!
Bibliography
Novels
Emergence (1984)
Threshold (1985)
Short fiction
“Tracking – part 1”. Analog 128 (7&8). July/August 2008. 
“Tracking – part 2”. Analog 128 (9): 90–133. September 2008. 
“Tracking – part 3”. Analog 128 (10): 86–133. October 2008.

15 October 2011

tradepaperback published by Hyperion, copyrighted in 2008, but may have been published later. Reviewed by Lyn McConchie.

The subtitle for this book is “The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed,” and it’s accurate. between the damage being done to the area by literally tens of thousands of people coming and going every climbing season, the theft of climbing gear that risks their lives, the companies, some of which seem to be incompetent and others plain greedy, and the dangers of dealing with the Chinese Government, it’s no surprise to anyone reading this book that climbing Everest isn’t what it used to be.
The main difference is that climbing Everest has gone from being a sport for amateurs who did it to be the first and/or best, to being something done to make money. A high proportion of the climbers are now there so they can go home with proof that they reached the summit of Everest and use that as leverage on the promotional/motivational speaking circuit, to get into a better position in their employment, or for a string of other reasons, most of which include self-aggrandizement, and/or money. It certainly isn’t being done for love of climbing.
In one way I can see why. The sheer cost of getting to one of the countries where you can make the ascent, the huge price of proper gear, what you’ll pay to any company involved, permits to climb, the list goes on, and if you pay that’s a lot of money, if you don’t then you’ve probably spent months to years beforehand fund-raising. So far as I can tell, trying to climb Everest is likely to cost around $50,000 to $150,000 NZ. That’s trying – not succeeding. If you reach the top and can prove it, you may get your money back and a lot more besides. If you don’t you’re well out of pocket, and that’s not counting injuries, time, and emotional stress that may cripple you.
Frankly, after reading this book, it seemed to me that unless you’re a climber’s climber and want to summit on Everest for the sheer delight, then don’t bother. The chance of losing your money and/or dying is a lot less with other investments. I’m sad to read about the constant thefts, the threats, the greed of some of the companies and those who run them, (yes, a company is entitled to make money but too many of those in the book seem to be grossly incompetent and killing people as well) and frankly, I liked Everest a lot more when it wasn’t littered, people-covered, and a cash cow for most concerned. If you are ever approached to contribute to someone’s climb of Everest, I’d recommend that you sit down, read this book – then donate elsewhere!

13 October 2011

Claudia J(ane) Edwards was born in 1943 and died (so at least one site claims) six months after the release of her fourth book. I can find almost nothing on her either as a person or an author save that she was married to Tex Hill. What I do know is that she produced a very small body of work over a handful of years, four books, no short stories I can trace, and she wrote no more after the fourth book, which had been intended/announced as the first in a series.
But the books she did produce were quality. I can well believe that she did die after the fourth. All four books received a large number of very favorable reviews, all four, considering that, should have sold very well, and it is unlikely that any publisher with an author who is selling well, would have arbitrarily cancelled a new series that readers were buying in numbers.
I purchased Edwards’ first book, TAMING THE FOREST KING, at the time it appeared in 1986. This is Military fantasy, a very solid story of Tevra, Colonel in the Light Cavalry, and her Second-in-Command, Hetwith. They are sent to the Forest province of their kingdom to sort out the depredations of the Governor there. Tevra finds that he’s been bleeding the province dry through huge and illegal taxation, half the population is starving, and the other half, weakened by hunger, has died of plagues over the previous winter.
Tevra hangs the governor, sets out to settle the bandit problem, the attacks by supernaturals, and deal with the Lords who don’t like soldiers in their province, don’t like being ruled from afar, don’t like women soldiers, and would rather be left alone. To help her she finds a secretary, Dard, originally heir to the province, trained to be its king, and possibly the basis of provincial rebellion against the kingdom. How Tevra handles everything is a great read. I’ve had the book for over twenty years, read it six or seven times, the most recent time being April last year, and it holds up as well as ever.
Edwards did have a basic theme. All of her books show a woman in a world where for one reason or another she has problems, some of which are based on a woman’s problems differing from those of the average male, yet these aren’t ‘feminist’ books. The thread through FOREST KING is not that she is resented because she is female, but that as a woman who is also a ranking soldier, she is determined not use her rank to obtain personal desires – and that she is, through most of the book, uncertain of what those desires are. In the third book, BRIGHT AND SHINING TIGER, the thread is that Runa, who has lived alone so long, has now found herself responsible for a small castle full of people, and must learn to cohabit with them and the stranger she has married for their sake, to accept love, and to deal with her enemies rather than simply moving on again as she has always done before.
In all of the books the heroine is skilled with, and knowledgeable about, horses. It was clear to me that Edwards really knew what she was talking about there – something that, as someone who rode for much of my own life, I increasingly notice isn’t always so in fantasy books. Again it’s a great pity that this author didn’t write more, she had the plots, the characters, and the background knowledge to produce terrific work, and judging from reviews, a very large number of readers were looking forward to her new series continuing. Secondhand copies of Edwards’ book are readily available and I recommend the first and third on the list below in particular.

Bibliography
Novels:

Taming the Forest King [Warner Books, 1986; Headline, 1987;
Popular Library/Questar, 1986]

A Horsewoman in Godsland [Warner Books, 1987; Headline, 1988;
Popular Library/Questar, 1987]

Bright and Shining Tiger [Warner Books, 1988; Headline, 1988;
Popular Library/Questar, 1988]

the “Bastard Princess” series:
* Eldrie the Healer [Pageant Books, 1989]

I’ve been a member of the (International) Cat Writers Association for many years. Some years I haven’t writen a new ‘cat’ story or book so have nothing to enter into the annual Muse Medallion Awards, but any year that I have something, it’s on the way to America when the awards open. Last year I’d had a tale on the HazardCat website, it was one that Andre had really liked and somehow I hadn’t got around to submitting it anywhere for years. Last year I did, it was accepted, published, eligible this year – and in the mail today I found I’d received The Certificate of Excellence for it. That’s separate from the Muse. You can receive the certificate without winning the Muse, and win the Muse without receiving a certificate. Basically the Certificate says that in the Judging panel’s opinion, this story was right up to professional standards. And that’s a very pleasant thing to hear.
and for anyone interested, you can find the Cat writers site at http://www.catwriters.org/

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