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30 November 2012

yesterday I posted several items on my blog, this morning I clicked on it to check something and discovered that in less than 24 hours I’d received another 50+, and I wonder why on earth these idiots keep bothering. Apart from anything else, I have no interest in buying camping gear (I’m crippled) fake Louis Vuitton handbags, (a fashion icon I am not) American vaporisers, (isn’t that something you use for asthma and I don’t have asthma) 49 kinds of cosmetics (I don’t use them either) and a weird and wonderful assortment of other merchandise,  most of which I wouldn’t want if it was free, let alone at the prices they’re probably demanding.

Nor are these offers at the first time of asking. Most are something I’ve seen over and over and why – if I didn’t want them the first time – would the idiots trying to sell them, assume that I’d want them the 27th time either? Let alone trying to persuade me by praising my blog, claiming that they have clicked on the wrong item and could I I come back to them to correct that (oh, please…) or offering ways in which I could make my blog noticeable throughout the blogosphere, improve it tremendously, and – and you’re wasting your time with those too, my site is run by a friend who does all that sort of thing. me – like Schultz – I know nothink. So to everyone who’d like to sell me ugg boots, fake fashion items, and all the other stuff you’re offering in which I have no interest – and if I did I’m perfectly capable of looking it up at source and buying it anyhow – I know you aren’t listening, I know you won’t stop, but let it be known that on a matter of principle,  I won’t ever buy anything I see offered by spam on my site. And to those of you out there who read my blog, I suggest that you make the same decision. because maybe if enough of us did that, spam would no longer be worth it and it’d stop – and isn’t that a pleasant thought on which to sign off for the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 November 2012

Anthologies can be very useful as samplers. I read a number for this reason and in the past stories from theme anthologies have put me onto writers I might otherwise have missed. But editing an anthology is an art. I read an anthology and mark the stories three ways as Category One, for this story alone I would have bought the anthology. Category two, a solid readable story. And category three, what was the editor thinking? Or occasionally, while I found none of the first category in the anthology, all of the stories were in category two, in a progression that lead you eagerly on until you finished reading, and I did so with a satisfied sigh. In which case it too is going to join the ‘permanent shelves’. Over many many years and even more anthologies I’ve found that the average of Category One stories tends to run about 3-5 per volume. Thus when I originally picked up this anthology and read it I was startled to discover that out of the fourteen stories, I’d listed seven as Category One. Even better, when I re-read it last week (I’m having a binge of re-reading the editor’s work, having just read (loved madly) and reviewed her latest) I added another story to that for a final result of 8 Category One stories out of the 14. I should point out that this is entirely my opinion. However, in the past, I’ve had friends read the same anthologies, and while the stories they categorize aren’t the same as my Category One’s necessarily, the number of stories that they rate as C1, are about the same. In other words. If I rate the anthology as having five C1 stories, they are likely to agree even if they aren’t the same stories.

Space Inc. is a clever themed idea. It has stories about people in a number of different trades, and that’s the angle. What sort of employment will there be out in space, what are the advantages to those particular jobs, what are the downsides, and how will some of those people who find the disadvantages, cope with them? Some of the professions written about are the sort of thing that is obvious. We’re still going to need medical staff out there, mechanics, general labourers, minsters, librarians, demolitions experts, and food technicians. But a ballet teacher? And I’d never thought about a professional bartender as someone a space station could need desperately. And riggers, I thought they’d gone out with sailing ships. Chaperones? Why would you need those? But the story made it clear why they could be required. As did the story about an assistant editor. But a Pullman porter? Why… and the story made that believably clear too. This anthology was an expert mix, it contained eight authors with whose work I was very familiar, (a match for the 8 C1 stories although only six of those were written by the familiar authors.) None of the stories were C3, and while I didn’t like a couple, that was personal, and not failings in quality. Choosing stories for a theme anthology is an art, and in my experience editors either have it or they don’t. Julie Czerneda has it and my very strong suggestion is that if DAW can persuade her to edit a few more theme anthologies for them between writing terrific books, they’ll be having their cake and eating it too. As for fellow readers out there, look up the theme anthologies she’s edited and buy when and as you can. They should be worth the money because this one certainly was.

 

yes, I’ve just received an email to say that my horror stories, Little Girl Lost, (H/SF) and Sowing on the Mountain, (H/M) have been accepted by an Ontario horror anthology, and that I should receive contracts early in New Year. I’m really pleased with this sale, those involved are professional as is the word payment rate and I look forward to seeing the anthology when it appears in 2013.One of the nice things about selling short stories is that part of the deal is usually author copy or copies, and thus you get free reading. That’s always welcome.

 

No, not me. But to start from the beginning, last Saturday morning my sheep were sheared and then let out onto my large front lawn to graze that down before the ankle-deep grass rose much higher. The sheep aren’t always keen on being sheared but it’s a lot better than being encased in solid wool over summer and suffering from heat prostration, so like it or not, one by one they lined up and Shayne fleeced them. Elly Mae had the most trouble with it, not the actual shearing but the outcome. Her offspring, a large sturdy ram lamb, was confused when she was returned to him. He’d started the day with a large, comfortable, round, warm woolly mum, and what had been returned to him was angular, smaller, almost nude, and…he backed away and bawled. This wasn’t his mum, it was some stranger making unwelcome advances.

“Mum? Mum? Where are you?” The stranger assured him that she was his mum. Oh yeah? Instant disbelief! He didn’t know what was behind these claims, but that angular harridan screaming at him wasn’t his mum, definitely not. Elly Mae insisted she was, her lamb was convinced she wasn’t. She shrieked angrily, He should come to her at once – he backed away. Her intentions could be sinister, heaven knew that she looked the part. He tucked himself into the middle of the other sheep and ducked down. If she couldn’t see him maybe she’d forget he was there. She didn’t. The shrieking continued all afternoon and into the evening while she tried to persuade him that she was indeed his mum and not some would-be lamb molester. By now he was also thirsty,( he’s still drinking from Elly as dessert to a good grass dinner). And I decided that listening to a sheep screaming outside my window for the past eight hours was quite enough. I went out and ran everyone into the very small back paddock for the night. The yelling would not only be muffled, but over time in close proximity that fool lamb might get the message – that Elly was telling the truth. He did. I let them out at 7am and they’re happily back together again – thanks be. The pleasant thought about that is, that next time Elly is sheared, junior will have been long since weaned and I won’t have that carry-on again. Although on past experience, another of the flock will find something else to do that keeps me occupied. That’s farm life-  and sheep.

 

 

 

 

 

25 November 2012

Leanne Frahm was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in 1946. (Yes, another of us 1946ers) She received the first nomination for her work in 1978 when she was a finalist for the 1979 Ditmar Award for best fan writer. The following year she won the best fan writer award. Leanne’s first professional story was in 1980, entitled “The Wood for the Trees” which was published in the anthology Chrysalis 6, edited by Roy Torgeson. In 1981 her story, “Deus Ex Corporus”, won the 1981 Ditmar Award for best Australian short fiction. She won a Ditmar again in 1994 for “Catalyst”. In 1996 her story “Borderline” won the 1996 Aurealis Award for best science fiction short story. The following year she won the Ditmar Award for best fan writer for the second time.

In my opinion it’s a pity that Leanne has never moved on to writing books, because her short work is so good that I believe her books would have been well worth buying. I have her collection Borderline, which has five of her stories, each of them a small gem, never going quite where you expect and each with an ending that can be startling, but which is always satisfying. Her work can be hard to find, and, apart from Borderline, exists only in an assortment of magazines and anthologies. But it’s worth the time and trouble if you go looking for them, and I would particularly recommend the stories, Ithaca Week, On The Turn, Catalyst, Skein Dogs and Jinx Ship.

Short fiction

  1. “The Wood for the Trees” (1980) in Chrysalis 6 (ed. Roy Torgeson)
  2. “Passage to Earth” (1980) in Galileo, January 1980 (ed. Charles C. Ryan)
  3. “Deus Ex Corporus” (1980) in Chrysalis 7 (ed. Roy Torgeson)
  4. “Barrier” (1980) in Chrysalis 8 (ed. Roy Torgeson)
  5. “Beyond Our Shores, a Colony” (1981 with Paul Collins) in Distant Worlds (ed. Paul Collins)
  6. “Horn O’ Plenty” (1981 with Terry Carr) in Science Fiction Stories (ed. Judy-Lynn del Rey)
  7. “A Way Back” (1983) in Universe 13 (ed. Terry Carr)
  8. “Lost” (1983) in Chrysalis 10 (ed. Roy Torgeson)
  9. “High Tide” (1983) in Fears (ed. Charles L. Grant)
  10. “The Visitor” (1985) in Midnight (ed. Charles L. Grant)
  11. “On the Turn” (1986) in Shadows 9 (ed. Charles L. Grant)
  12. “The Supramarket” (1987) in Doom City (ed. Charles L. Grant)
  13. “Reichelman’s Relics” (1990) in Amazing Stories, July 1990 (ed. Patrick Lucien Price)
  14. “Olive Truffles” (1991, a.k.a. “Olivetruffles”) in Eidolon, Winter 1991 (ed. Jeremy G. Byrne)
  15. “The Buyer” (1991) in Aurealis #5 (ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser)

*****

 

 

21 November 2012

well, not exactly a book but a short story collection. Shortly after I returned from Melbourne, I was discussing a cat story that I’d sold to a regular anthology publisher, and I started wondering just how many cat stories I did have. I’ve always written one or two each year and after 20+ years that had to be mounting up. Of course, a number are in the  detective collection due to appear around 2015 from Cyberwizard Publications in the USA and others are in a theme SF collection possibly appearing in 2013. But others are SF or fantasy stories too and some dated back to the mid-1990s when they appeared in print and in a single country only. Several had been award winners, and I was also holding a couple that had been written for specific markets, those had folded, and I’d never gotten around to resubmitting them.

I checked, wrote a couple more SF cat stories for which I’d been holding over plots, and found I now had 17 works that would be suitable for an SF/F cat-themed collection. So I gathered them together, added a page of notes on when and where those that had been published had appeared, listed the awards they’d won, and offered the collection to Sky Warrior Books – who had previously taken the Young Adult book I mentioned in this section as having been sold in October. I know the publisher likes cat tales, and I hoped… In which I was both right and fortunate. Contracts have now been signed, and the as-yet untitled collection should appear sometime in 2013. So, baring acts of Ghod, next year will see out, one SF/F cat stories collection, one YA book, Flying Free, (SF) the next in my Daze series, Rustic (And Rusted) Daze – and possibly also the SF theme collection – which has a cat or two drifting about in that as well. One of the advantages of writing about 6-12 short stories a year is that after 20+ years you can start doing theme collections. Which makes me wonder about all the ghost tales I must have by now…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last three years have been wetter than usual which has resulted in more available food for creatures. Last summer the small birds around my farmlet nested three times and produced a fountain of babies. The single yellowhammer (or his descendant) that has appeared regularly for two decades, multiplied, and for the frst time ever I was seeing three of them arrive to steal the hens’ food. This year everything nested early and already nestlings are taking wobbley flights, crashlanding on the lawn and in the cat park. (If I move fast enough I can retrieve and release them safely elsewhere before Thunder gets to them,) and I still have three yellowhammers. While the late lambs that arrived on my neighbour’s place three weeks ago are already twice their usual size for that age.Last year hay contracters were going slightly crazy. There was far more hay needing to be cut and baled, but with the extra rain, it was difficult to find sufficient dry days to let the cut hay cure and do the baling. This year may not be any better. Which means that the 2012/13 summer could see myriads of small birds, very large lambs, and many frustrated hay contracters. No change there then.

 

from Steve Johnson – guest blogger.

There was a tragedy in the waters off Auckland recently. Seven large males went out in a small boat. They grossly overloaded the boat’s capacity in those numbers, and they went out without bothering to take lifejackets. As anyone with a grain of commonsense would have expected, the boat overturned, and all seven ended up in the water. Despite prompt action by the coastguard, two of the men drowned. It is now being suggested that in addition to the carrying of a life jacket per person in any boat being compulsory, the law should go further and that the actual wearing of a lifejacket should be compulsory.

There’s two obvious problems with the suggestion. One is that this bunch didn’t bother to obey the law requiring that they have lifejackets with them. So why should they obey any further law saying they not only have to have them, but that they must be worn? The other problem is that what may be really required is a law making it compulsory to use your brain in situations like these. But then  you have to have something to use it!

Maybe we should change the law to read that if you do something incredibly stupid, ignore the law designed to save you from the consequences of that, and get killed or maimed, that you have to pay for the cost of your rescue, and also that all of those with you who survived be changed with “assisting suicide” or some similar criminal charge. If you refuse to get into a boat that is leaving without the required number of life-jackets and without those in the boat wearing them, then at least you should survive. Your example may also persuade them to comply. You will know that you did your best to help your friends, and you’ll live with a lot less guilt if tragedy does strike. And a few people being charged with a crime, in that they failed to stand up and demand their friends obey the law, might encourage others to do likewise. That was done several years ago when a teenage boy was changed with something similar when his friend died in a car accident under preventable circumstamces. Maybe it’s time we extended it to those who go down to the sea in very small boats and no lifejackets – or commonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 November 2012

Watching TV news the other week it occurred to me that some businesses do howl when they kick someone else and stub a toe. There was a news item about the amount of stock that self-service checkouts in supermarkets are losing. But that goes back to their own decision to lose a number of checkout operators. What you had originally were low-paid, physically hardworked people, mostly women, who stood on their feet all day, took a fair amount of abuse from customers, and cast a beady eye over every single item that went past them. It was rung up on the till, listed accurately (almost always and if not you could point that out) on the receipt, and you were wished ‘have a nice day’ as you departed. In the name of making more money, or at least, in saving outlay, certain supermarkets then shed staff. Persuading customers to do the work free would mean that they could operate with a far lower annual salary outlay, and wasn’t that a wonderful idea?

Er, no. What puzzles me is just how stupid an idea that was, and why supermarkets espousing it didn’t pause to think out the system beforehand. For heavens sake, we all KNOW that customers have ‘”taking ways,” that the younger generation are computer savvy, and that for some people, anything that isn’t nailed down is fair game. (and for items that are nailed down a percentage of those people carry a pry-bar anyhow.) So why would supermarket chains assume that all of their customers will join the queue, check out every item with meticulous honesty, and go on their merry way having saved the business the salary of an operator? Perhaps someone should have explained the meaning of the word ‘naive’. (as in – having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information; credulous…) What made supermarkets think that they wouldn’t have stock stolen if they stopped having human operators who watched for that?

However it finally appears to have dawned on them. Why ‘finally’? In Britain they’ve had this system for some time. I would have thought that any business with a grain of common sense would have looked at the benefits and problems of  a new system when it already exists elsewhere. In Britain a survey showed that almost one third of shoppers admitted using self-service checkouts to steal. And that’s admitted, the actual numbers could be higher. Move on to NZ, and you find that a poll here in August claims one in ten kiwis say they’ve stolen via a self-service checkout. And how many aren’t admitting that? No way of knowing. But there could be far more than are happy going on line to admit they’re thieves. In Britain they found that another problem was that of customers who had trouble working the self-service system. This not only slowed down the queues, it also endangered checkout operators because customers could (and some do) take their anger out on the person available and the numbers of that sort of incident seem to be climbing there.

In the end what supermarkets are going to have to decide is, do they make more with self-service systems and thieving customers, or by paying operator salaries and having far less theft? And are they also factoring in that if assaults on operators become more common and those operators must go on paid sick leave – and possibly be compensated for an unsafe workplace environment by higher salaries – just how long is it going to be viable to have self-service checkouts in supermarkets? More so if you move on to a worst-case scenario… (as in Murphy’s Law) and say that assaults on operators become common, OSH steps in, and the supermarkets find that they have to pay guards to prevent the attacks – and things come full circle. It’s cheaper to have checkout operators with less theft, and fewer frustrated bad-tempered customers – and not have to pay for expensive security guards in stores. But then, wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper all around to stay with what we already have? Probably, but you can’t stop some businesses assuming that progress = increased profit. It’s just unfortunate that those who’ll suffer until possible end results sink in, will be the supermarket operators, who’ll have fewer jobs available. It will perhaps, be some compensation as they watch events unfold and snicker into their unemployment records.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

published softcover, Booktrope, 2011. Cover art by author.

This came flapping into my mailbox unexpectedly and I fell on it with cries of delight.  It seems incredible that I’ve known the author for more than 20 years, (and liked her work for just as long) but when I checked, yes, that’s so. Chico’s main character is a Portuguese sea captain named Da Silva, and he has some great adventures. I’ve been buying chapbooks on those for years, however I was pleased to see that this book is a full-length story.

The story expands several themes that have been glimpsed in shorter works, Da Silva’s estrangement from his father, the problems of his second-mate, Harris, the bond between the captain and his son, Jose, his love for Emilia, his wife, and, of course, Da Silva’s ability to see ghosts ever since a demon took out one of the captain’s eyes. The story begins with a separate flash in which a father and daughter are discussing revenge on an enemy. This is tied up very nicely further on, although in the end it comes with a clever twist. Then the story jumps, first to Emilia having her portrait painted, and then to Da Silva arriving back in port to discover the father he hasn’t spoken to for thirty years, waiting for him on the dock. The book’s theme is a hunt for a grimoire, a book that is dangerous to anyone who uses it.

The story ends with an anticipated kiss, but in between that and the beginning there is a lot of excitement, mayhem, black magic, and derring-do. I’ve been buying and reading Chico’s Da Silva stories for almost two decades – and no reader does that if they aren’t worth the cash outlay. da Silva isn’t the standard character for this type of magic realism. He’s devoted to his wife, a good father and husband, a rather reluctant hero, and – two most interesting points. Da Silva is Portuguese, (about the only Portuguese character I’ve ever run into in this genre, and yes, the author does know the language and background) and the stories take place not in the usual contemporary times, or the quasi-medieval period, but on the cusp of the 1900s. When sail is giving way more and more to steam, and Da Silva’s barque is the sort of sailing ship that is being slowly phased out. Again, this is a period and background that I’ve never seen used before which makes it all the more reader-catching.

Demon Weather has sent me back to re-read all of this author’s chapbooks that I have, including those on bells and bell ringing (Chico is a farmer campanologist) and her excellent ghost tales.  And on re-reading her Tor-published book, Printer’s Devil, It also reminded me that too many people are unaware of her work, and sometime in the next few weeks when I have time I plan to do one of my “Have You Overlooked?” articles on that. I recomend Chico’s work in general, and note for those interested that Chico is on Facebook, may be found also at chicokidd.wordpress.com/ and that the next Da Silva book, The Werewolf of Lisbon, should be out shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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