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26 August 2012

This one isn’t fictional, it’s quite true. It’s out in the SPCA’s latest issue of Animals” Voice and is titled Hare-Raising. One of the advantages of having a small farm and working from home is that I get to see the activities, not only of my farm animals, but also of some of the wildlife that exists on and around my farmlet.  This was one of those occasions when I watched the interaction of wildlife here and found it interesting at the time and something to ponder later on.

If I had any doubt of that it was resolved two days back when I went to count spare fence posts – a friend is collecting a number from my stack of them to build a shed – and I wanted to see how many I’d have remaining once she had all she needed. From behind the posts a great commotion arose. Flapping, screams, shrieks, and more flapping. Senior goose then emerged, feathers fluffed up, beak open as she continued to shriek. The ganders, Stroppy and Sonny came racing down the lawn. I spoke firmly and some of the excitement died down. Oh, it’s her. “Her” investigated, to discover that the gaggle have started nesting. Four eggs to date and more to come. They very rarely manage to hatch anything, but I’ll let the girls sit on maybe three eggs each to see if we get goslings. I’ll be surprised if we do, but I can find homes for them if goslings are achieved, and a few more burglar alarms in the area won’t be a bad thing either. So I await events and will report at the start of October when either we’ll have goslings – or some very addled eggs.

large size anthology, 9 stories, edited by David B. Riley, weird western theme. Reviewed by Steve Johnson.

I got back from a week in Wellington to find that this anthology had been dropped off for me to review, and I’ve had some amusement doing that. I like a good WW story and this anthology has some excellent tales – and none that weren’t good. Commodities of Nature by David Lee Summers manages to combine canals, Martian influences, Tesla, and the art of compromise, in one solid story. It is a little-used aspect of westerns that this tale featured a man able to accept that someone else’s POV might also be valid and I liked that. Then, not to be influenced, but I thought that Lyn’s A Day Out Shopping really fitted the ‘Weird” part of the anthology. It’s difficult to describe because it’s a very odd story, but quite fascinating to read because you have no idea where this plot is going until you arrive.

Go West, Young Martian, Go West by Laura Givens made me laugh. I could just see the Martian trying to establish telepathic rapport with a wagon team and finding that the horses simply didn’t want to hurry up. But it’s a very pleasant tale about prejudice, and finding that those who are really different may still have a lot to contribute. Sam Kepfield’s The Treasure of Vallis Marinaris is a riff on the old theme that ‘a treasure isn’t always gold and jewels,’ and is none the worse for that. A well-written variation.

I enjoyed the remainder of the stories but don’t have anything more specific to say about them.I can add that I liked the large size format, by which I mean that this anthology isn’t thicker, it’s several sizes up from a normal softcover, closer to large comic book dimensions. But with that size and the vivid attractive cover, it catches the reader’s eye, and that’s always a good thing.








Yes, that’s a provocative title but I’ll connect it in a minute. As just about everyone will have heard by now. Lance Armstrong has stopped fighting allegations that he’s a drugs cheat. And those attacking him have taken that as an admission of guilt. Hang on a minute. What he’s said is that the very long fight to clear his name is damaging his family life, his work for the Cancer Foundation he started many years ago, and exhausting both him and his bank balance. What part of that isn’t believable? After years of fighting someone calls a halt, why is that taken to indicate guilt?

Suppose a women is attacked one night while walking home alone after work. There are a number of men who grab her and she fights them off as they attempt to take turns. The first, the second, the third, she’s exhausted, she can’t fight any longer, she has no strength or energy left, so she stops fighting. Is what follows evidence of consent? Is her exhaustion proof that she really asked for this? That she agreed? Every feminist, every woman I know would stand up to deny that. The agency attacking Armstrong says it has proof. Armstrong says that in his career he was tested literally hundreds of times with no positive test ever found. The agency hasn’t shown any positive test to the public. It says that it has some ten or so fellow cyclists/team members from Armstrong’s time as a rider, who will testify that they saw him use drugs, receive intravenous infusions, that he encouraged them to use drugs. I’d like to take a closer look at those making the allegations. How much pressure has been put on them to testify? Have allegations against them been dropped as a quid pro quo? Or have they received lighter penalties if they testify as directed?

To me this entire history smells. If Lance Armstrong was taking drugs during the period in which he won the Tour de France over and over, why did nothing show up? Why did no one speak out? And why now, years after his retirement is this agency going after him when there is little doubt that there are others still actively in the sport who cheat? This smells, and to me it smells of an agenda. The years of attacks, the crazed determination to find some sort of – any sort of – proof, to find someone who will swear Amstrong was dirty.  Is this all to aggrandize the agency – and perhaps to terrorize those who fall under its aegis so that anyone they accuse from now on will fold, rather than endure the years of assult that  Armstrong has endured? I admit the possibility that he’s guilty but both NZ and American justice were founded on the premise of “innocent until proven guilty.” calling a halt to a fight when you are exhausted, when despite knowing your innocence you have no more strength or cash to fight, when you see that it is severely damaging everything else that you care about, is NOT proof of guilt not matter what the accusing agency says. It is merely proof of exhaustion and a decision to no longer allow the innocent to be damaged in this futile fight against those with greater numbers and a larger bank balance. Nor is it right that the law should agree that because an institution has prevailed against a single man, that he is guilty by default.

Any more than a women attacked by a number of men should be deemed to have consented because, exhausted, she could finally fight no more. Justice should be more than a word, I fear that in this case, this may be all it is, and Americans are the poorer if that is so.















21 August 2012

On Farside my heating system is dual. I have a free-standing enclosed fire that puts out 19 kw when roaring along well, and I have an oil column heater, and two hot-air heaters. But the heating mainstay is firewood. That not only provides heat that costs less than electricity would to heat the house, it also provides a lot of exercise as I plod backwards and forwards across the lawn with armfuls of firewood. Should the gaggle be in the vicinity and feeling belligerant, it can provide more exercise than is appreciated too. And there are other drawbacks. This year hasn’t been as cold as it can be but  it’s been very wet. The house feels damp, my dud leg doesn’t like that, and to counter the problem I’ve been keeping the fire going most days – and running down my firewood stack.

I got to the last two weeks’ worth and decided I needed more, a.s.a.p. The problem was, that with all the rain many firewood merchants had discovered that their own stacks of wood were becoming inaccessible. I phoned one. No, he couldn’t deliver, his merchandise was all under cover – on the other side of a large paddock that was now too waterlogged for it to be reached without ending up with his truck bogged to the axles.A second would be very happy to provide me some of his excellent dry wood. He came with it when I was out, a friend who was here took one look and sent him away again before I even returned. The wood was soaked and useless. I phoned a third chap, and he put me on his delivery list. Fortunately he uses a small truck that takes about 4 cubic metres, and which could navigate safely up my lawn to the woodshed without becoming sunk in my lawn – which is also waterlogged of late. After that I had a second lot of wood delivered, rain-wet but burnable and I’m set, probably into October when it may be warmer, drier, and I can get wood delivered more easily. I’m also staying exercised so long as I have wood and the house is damp. Silver linings anyone?






As I reported a few weeks back my publisher agreed to the next Daze book at Continuum 8, while we were both there. Since I returned from the convention I’ve been working on that and this morning I turned in the results. The artist has a list of possible chapter illustrations, the cover is in discussion, and we’re on the way. IF all goes well, the book should be out sometime in the first half of next year and I’ll have copies available at Au Contraire II for those interested.

edited by David B. Riley, cover by Laura Givens. 87 pages in large size with nine stories.

The SF Trails anthologies are ‘weird western’ stories and the editor has been building an excellent stable of writers in this sub–genre for quite a few years now. (And yes, one of them is me but not in this issue so I feel free to say that and do a review.) General comments – excellent editing, and the cover is dynamic and eye-catching.

This issue starts out with Lou Antonelli’s Pirates of the Ozarks. I found the story interesting on three levels. It’s a rip-roaring tale of derring-do, it also quietly sneaks in a number of genuine names from history, and finally, while I can’t be certain, I think that geographically the idea of a huge inland sea, just where Lou has one for the purposes of the story, is correct. That makes it three for three and I loved the story. Sam Klepfield’s They Zapped With Their Boots On, I enjoyed for very similar reasons. It’s an alternate world story, and very nicely realized. The third of the stories I most enjoyed was Dave’s The Dinosaur Who Loved Twinkies. Again, some historical background, and it made me smile – more than once. The other stories were all good solid work.

This is a growing sub-genre, for years I’ve sold the occasional weird western story to David, and for years his was almost the only market that wanted them. But this past two or three years I’ve observed that an increasing number of anthologies are opening for submission. Full-length books are being accepted in small press markets, and genre anthologies are now often accepting this sort of story where years ago they weren’t interested. I won’t say that this is entirely down to David, but I do think that  his Trails series has had a lot to do with it. And long may that continue.




14 August 2012

Charles Eric Maine (pseudonym of David McIlwain; born England 21 January 1921 – died 30th November 1981) was an SF writer whose best works were published in the 1950s and 1960s. His books dealt with new scientific technology and some of the alarmist theories of the time concerning its use and dangers. He began his career in SF very early being a member in the late 30s of a group that included future SF authors John Christopher and John Burke. With John Burke he was involved with the publication of three issues of an SF magazine called The Satellite where he was co-editor. From 1940 to 1941, he published his own magazine called Gargoyle. During World War II, he was in the RAF and served in Northern Africa in 1943. After the war, he worked in TV engineering, and became involved in editorial work with radio and TV. (Many of his fictional characters have backgrounds in technical journalism and publishing.)

In 1947 he married Joan Hardy. Divorcing in 1960, McIlwain married his second wife Clare Came in 1961. But during 1952, he sold his first radio play, Spaceways, to the BBC, instantly popular, the work was rewritten as a novel, and later became a film as well. Another of his most popular works, Timeliner, traveled the same road, being first a radio play named The Einstein Highway, which was rewritten as the novel Timeliner (a scientist is experimenting with a time machine but is thrust in the future by a fellow scientist who was having an affair with the first scientist’s wife.)

His work often crossed genres – with murder as a secondary theme as it is in both Timeliner and Countdown, – while novels The Isotope Man, Subterfuge, and Never Let Up, feature Mike Delaney and Jill Friday, whose work as science reporter and photographer for a magazine lead them into a mixture of espionage mystery and science fiction thrillers, with a little romance thrown in. He made use of a wide variety of science fiction themes throughout his novels. Complications and dangers from forms of time travel are the concern in Timeliner and Calculated Risk. World Without Men and its revised version Alph, consider the war between the sexes. Social themes are the concern of The Mind of Mr Soames. High Vacuum is a fight for survival on the Moon. Most of his novels involve then-topical aspects of technology. McIlwain’s grip of his technological subjects were not always perfect – a point regularly made by reviewers within the science fiction field. But McIlwain’s work is entertaining, often casting a new light on previously used idea.

He then followed friend John Christopher’s example and wrote a couple of disaster novels – The Tide Went Out, and The Darkest of Nights – in which an apparently minor event leads to worldwide destruction. The Tide Went Out is the better of these, with a possible premise. (It may not be technically correct, but it was – and remains – very plausible in explanation.) Scientists have exploded a bomb series, (yes, again) and so massive have the explosions been that they have cracked the outer shell of earth and the oceans are draining away . The main character is Philip Wade, a jaded, cynical, technical reporter for The Outlook newspaper. He arrives at work to be told that his article speculating on the outcome of the bomb series has been pulled from the current edition.

It becomes clear over the next few chapters that his speculation as to the dangers has come true, and that the government is frantic to keep it quiet while they make desperate preparations to move the seat of government, friends, family, and those who will be useful, to an area where they can survive. The remainder of the population will be left to die.

Wade’s actions as the situation descends into savagery are well-written. He is the sort of man who cares little for others, a bystander who only acts when it appears that he may be in danger, and then he is capable of utter ruthlessness. No second thoughts, no hesitation, and no conscience. Mcllwain makes all of that reasonable, this is who and what Wade is, and even his occasional selfless act is understandable, the more so as sometimes in hindsight they aren’t quite so selfless. Philip Wade is not a pleasant character, but the story is more effectively told because of this. Even the outcome for Wade is in character.

Both Alibris (used) and Amazon (new and used) have copies available of the later publication of this book under the alternative title, Thirst. Recommended if you enjoy a good disaster novel and don’t mind the main character being rather unpleasant.

Note: Maine also wrote as Robert Rayner (for mysteries) and Robert Wade (for general fiction) however in this article I have covered only those of his works that could be regarded as SF since that is the purpose of this series.


Spaceways (1953) (Variant Title: Spaceways Satellite)

Timeliner (1955)

Escapement (1956) (Variant Title: The Man Who Couldn’t Sleep)

High Vacuum (1956)

The Tide Went Out (1958) (Revised in 1997 with Variant Title: Thirst!)

World Without Men (1958) (Revised in 1972 with Variant Title: Alph)

Count-Down (1959) (Variant Title: Fire Past the Future)

Crisis 2000 (1959)

Calculated Risk (1960)

He Owned the World (1960) (Variant Title: The Man Who Owned the World)

The Mind of Mr. Soames (1961)

The Darkest of Nights (1962) (Variant Title: Survival Margin)

B.E.A.S.T. (1966)


The Electronic Monster (1958)

Timeslip (1956; it was the basis for the later novel, The Isotope Man)

The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)


and it still is. So far this month we’ve had only one 24 hour period in which there’s been no precipitation of any kind, and total for the month soared past four and a half inches last night. On the other hand temperatures are quite mild – and Stroppy the gander and Sonny, his 2IC, sneaked around the water tank this morning hissing at me in a way that suggests the geese may be going broody in the near future. Another early nesting year if so.

Delighted to announce that my story, a ‘weird western’ titled, I shall Do Nothing, has just been accepted by Hadrosaur Press’s Tales of the Talisman. The story is to appear in volume 8, issue 4 of the magazine scheduled for publication in Spring 2013.


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