Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012 Links and Plugs

And a shout-out to the SF&F translation awards. Last chance to donate (and win prizes!).

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Carpathia by Matt Forbeck

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Elves: Rise of the TaiGethen by James Barclay

Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24, 2012 Links and Plugs

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London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction by Michael Moorcock

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Department of Finance's response to Book Taxes

Last January 10, 2012, I wrote to the Department of Finance the following:
I want to inquire what fees citizens will have to pay for personal use book imports in line with the new Department Order.

The P40.00 post office parcel fee is reasonable for example.

However, it's been my experience that other fees are inconsistently imposed. Some book shipments, for example, charge for the following: Customs Documentary Stamp (P250.00), Import Processing Fee (P250.00), and BIR Documentary Stamp (P15.00) (in addition to previous tax-related charges). At other times, it's just the post office parcel fee.

While I am not against an inspection fee per se, there is something ridiculous about paying P515.00 in addition to the P40.00 post office parcel fee for a book that costs less than P500.00. (I am hoping that such fees, if they aren't waived entirely to simplify the processed, should either cost less [this could be on a sliding scale], or only be applicable to certain book imports [i.e. sum total costs P3,000.00] AND is transparent in doing so [i.e. if it's a metric other than declared value, then it should be clear to both the public and Customs].

Also, where can the public complain if their Customs representative at their corresponding post office still charges taxes for book imports. (Or is there documentation that the public can show, which will be honored by the Customs representative?)

Thanks.
 Last  February 17, 2012, here was their response:


Thankfully that should clear things up.

Thanks Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III, who took care of the inquiry.

February 23, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Sleight of Hand by Peter S. Beagle


Peter S. Beagle is such a talented writer that you could easily pick up any of his recent collections and it'll keep you up all night. What sets Sleight of Hand apart from his other books, however, are two things: 1) There's something apropos with what the title implies—magic and the sense of wonder that goes along with it. Most of the stories fall under that category and it's a convenient framework for these stories. 2) While Beagle is able to work with any genre, there's a certain set of stories which you associate with him. Sleight of Hand includes those that break that mold, and provides a glimpse of Beagle's continuing evolution as a short fiction writer.

When it comes to short story collections, it's not just the stand-out stories that I'm interested in. I'm looking for consistency, or failing that, the versatility of the author. Beagle doesn't disappoint and pulls off what few writers actually manage to do, retaining both qualities in addition to delivering a memorable, resonant story. In fact, perhaps the only "disappointment" of all the stories is "The Best Worst Monster"—and I use the term disappointment not because the story is bad or even competent, but because it feels out of place with its tone and length, at least in comparison to the other, much more engaging stories in the book. At his best, Beagle knows how to tug at the reader's emotional strings, and you can't help but shed a tear by the time you finish "The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon," "Sleight of Hand," and "The Rabbi's Hobby." But being a familiar Beagle reader, what excites me are the stories which don't seem like stories he would have written, yet impresses nonetheless. There's "The Bridge Partner" which arguably isn't speculative fiction, yet there's the sensibilities of the fantastic—and the horrific. What's unappealing about "Dirae" when I first read it in Warriors is that it lacks the sense of wonder that I expect from Beagle, but that's not necessarily a bad thing: this is a different kind of story involving a different kind of metamorphosis and resolution. And then there's "Vanishing" which deals with a subject matter I never thought Beagle would explore, yet fits perfectly with the kind of fiction he's known for, excelling in characterization and emotional resonance.

In many ways, it's difficult to write a review of Beagle's collections because it's all too easy to end up with nothing but praises. There are thirteen stories in Sleight of Hand for example and they're all remarkable stories—caveats explained above—and this isn't an anomaly but the norm for him. So if you've missed out on Beagle's relatively new fiction, I unreservedly recommend you grab a copy of this book immediately.

February 22, 2012 Links and Plugs

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The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman


"Plain" writing can be deceptive. If it's too seamless without the fanfare of style, gimmicks, or a high concept, it's all too easy to dismiss a story or a book. Delia Sherman's The Freedom Maze is one such title. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary to make it stand out (aside from the lovely cover by Kathleen Jennings). But that's the beauty of the book: it's actually flawless and excels in every category of the writer's checklist: setting, characterization, plot, description, etc., to the point that no single quality stands out, at least initially. The writing is so even and seamless that it's a textbook example of avoiding preciosity, and makes for an elegant reading experience.

There's several elements to praise Sherman. As far as the craft is concerned, she has to be credited for maintaining the reader's interest without resorting to cliffhangers and fancy (or desperate) attempts at accelerating the novel's momentum. The book moves at a steady pace and takes its time, even when our heroine is placed in a dangerous situation. It's amazing how Sherman accomplishes this feat without being obtrusive or anti-climactic.

Then there is her characterization and how complex and layered the characters are. Take for example our protagonist: she's vulnerable and foolish, but not to the point where the reader feels frustrated with the character. Her paradigm by the end of the novel could easily have been a didactic representation of stories that deal with slavery, but her crisis in the current era leads to a different, albeit parallel, epiphany. The antagonists in the story aren't caricatures, but they feel genuinely human, even when they're committing acts we should abhor.

What has personal resonance for me, however, is that underneath all this technique, The Freedom Maze feels like a post-modern fantasy story. One issue with "portal" fantasy stories like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the ease in which the protagonists travel from one world to another (or in this case, one time period to another) without much consequence. Here, Sherman fleshes out those implications, and that feels refreshing as an avid fantasy reader.

If you're looking for good storytelling with depth, Delia Sherman's The Freedom Maze is the book for you. There's an important coming-of-age story to be told and Sherman does so using the essentials of good writing.

February 21, 2012 Links and Plugs

Congrats to the Nebula Award nominees.

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Hitchers by Will McIntosh

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: The Thorn and The Blossom by Theodora Goss


For me, there are two kinds of fiction readers: those that revel in formula, and those that are searching for something new. Not that the two are mutually exclusive but rather an expectation we bring when it comes to the reading experience. What's tricky when it comes to "originality" is that we often assume new material is what should amaze us: a new concept, a new technique, a new approach. But the truth is, even experiments can be poorly executed, and the reading experience isn't any better because of it. What's interesting with The Thorn and The Blossom by Theodora Goss is that it's a healthy compromise between both, and a good example of flawless execution.

What's immediately striking about The Thorn and The Blossom is its packaging: an accordion-style, spineless book which can be read in either direction. Part of the novelty is that it has two stories, each one showcasing a different perspective of the same narrative. Which, if we'll be honest, isn't new, but it's not common either. The entire package—the story, the layout, the author's style—however is what makes the book unique and worthy of interest.

In terms of the story, this is where the formula is evident. The Thorn and The Blossom follows the standard romance plot, and Goss doesn't deviate too much from the tropes established in the genre. In terms of execution though, her lines are beautiful and engrossing, and thankfully doesn't tread into preciosity. The characterization lures you in and if we were to assess it on simply that level, it's wonderful entertainment.

It's not immediately apparent but there's something rich beneath the seemingly-mundane text Goss presents to us. There's the ending, for example, which is not only open-ended, but noticing the implicit details in both stories changes the way the story is resolved. There's the issue of perspective, and if it's just characterization we're talking about, The Thorn and The Blossom is a good example of subjectivity and interpretation. There's also the parallelism between the legend in the story and the plight of the characters, which evokes sensibilities of speculative fiction without necessarily treading into that territory directly.

The Thorn and The Blossom is a compelling, entertaining romance that incorporates the best elements of print, design, perception, and clean writing.

February 20, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Wild Justice edited by Ellen Datlow

Friday, February 17, 2012

February 17, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 16, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Shimmer 14

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 15, 2012 Links and Plugs

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 Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012 Links and Plugs

Happy Valentines!

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The Chosen Seed: The Dog-Faced Gods Book Three by Sarah Pinborough

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012 Links and Plugs

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 Snapshots from a Black Hole & Other Oddities by K.C. Ball.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

February 87, 2012 Links and Plugs

Signal-boosting Worldbuilders.

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 Under the Moons of Mars edited by John Joseph Adams

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

February 7, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Monday, February 06, 2012

Friday, February 03, 2012

February 3, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

Thursday, February 02, 2012

February 2, 2012 Links and Plugs

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Clarkesworld February 2012

    2012 January World SF Releases

    I'm attempting to build a database of World SF releases in English--and to a certain extent, work by POC (since there's overlap). This isn't a comprehensive list, so if you have any suggestions or corrections, feel free to comment (which is moderated) and I'll the recommendation to the final list at the end of the year.

    To a certain extent--and there's something ironic in this--I'm basing the list on works first published in the US (when applicable) so these should theoretically qualify for next year's Hugo and Nebula Awards. For translated work, only new translations are included (these don't necessarily qualify for the Hugo).

    Novels (40,000 words or more)
    Anthologies
    • Three Messages and a Warning edited by Eduardo Jiménez Mayo and Chris N. Brown (see Short Stories below)
    • The Weird edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (US eBook now available, US print in May; previously released in 2011 in the UK; see Short Stories and Novella below)
    • Diaspora Ad Astra edited by Joseph F. Nacino (see Short Stories below)
    Novella (17,500 ~ 40,000 words)
    • Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra (eBook)
    • "The Other Side of the Mountain" by Michel Bernanos, translated by Gio Clairval (The Weird)
    Novelette (7,500 ~ 17,500 words)
    Short Stories
    • "The Last Summer" by Ken Liu
    • "What Everyone Remembers" by Rahul Kanakia
    • "Scattered Along the River of Heaven" by Aliette de Bodard
    • "The Stoker Memorandum" by Lavie Tidhar
    • "Birth Story" by Joyce Chng
    • "Remains of the Witch" by Tony Pi
    • "Story with Pictures and Conversation" by Brontops Baruq, translated by Christopher Kastensmidt
    • "Endless Life" by Nadia Bulkin (Phantasmagorium #2)
    • "Under a Mount of Earth" by Celestine Trinidad
    • "The Tower And The Kite" by Matthew Jacob F. Ramos
    • "Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas" by Alberto Yáñez
    • "Cosmic Love" by Harry Markov
    • "Clay, Cast, Cats" by TCA Lakshmi Narasimhan
    • "Maxwell's Demon" by Ken Liu (Fantasy and Science Fiction January/February 2012)
    • "The Guest" by Amparo Davila, translated by Anna Guercio (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Murillo Park" by Agustin Cadena, translated by C.M. Mayo (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Hour of the Fireflies" by Karen Chacek, translated by Michael J. Deluca (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Waiting" by Iliana Estañol, translated by Joanna Tilley (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Hunting Iguanas" by Hernan Lara Zavala, translated by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "1965" by Edmee Pardo, translated by Lesly Betancourt-Gonzalez (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Variation on a Theme of Coleridge" by Alberto Chimal, translated by Chris N. Brown (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Photophobia" by Mauricio Montiel Figueiras, translated by Jen Hofer (The Weird)
    • "The Last Witness to Creation" by Jesus Ramirez Bermudez, translated by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo (The Weird)
    • "Rebellion" by Queta Navagomez, translated by Rebecca Huerta (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Future Perfect" by Gerardo Sifuentes, translated by Chris N. Brown (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Luck Has Its Limits" by Beatriz Escalante, translated by Stephen Jackson (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Stone" by Donaji Olmedo, translated by Emily Eaton (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Trompe-l’œil" by Monica Lavin, translated by Andrea Rosenberg (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Lions" by Bernardo Fernandez, translated by Chris N. Brown (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "A Pile of Bland Desserts" by Yussel Dardon, translated by Osvaldo de la Torre (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Amalgam" by Amelie Olaiz, translated by Armando Garcia (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Nahual Offering" by Carmen Rioja, translated by Emily Eaton (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Pachuca Second Street" by Lucia Abdo, translated by Emily Eaton (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Wittgenstein's Umbrella" by Oscar de la Borbolla, translated by Sara Gilmore (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Mannequin" by Esther M. Garcia, translated by Chris N. Brown (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Mr. Strogoff" by Guillermo Samperio, translated by Steve Vasquez Dolph (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Mediator" by Ana Gloria Alvarez Pedrajo, translated by Anisia Rodriguez (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Pin" by Leo Mendozza, translated by Armando Garcia (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Nereid Future" by Gabriela Damian Miravete, translated by Michael J. Deluca (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Pink Lemonade" by Liliana V. Blum, translated by Toshiya Kamei (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Return of the Night" by Rene Roquet, translated by Armando Garcia (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Three Messages and a Warning in the Same Email" by Ana Clavel, translated by Elsy Jackson (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The President without Organs" by Pepe Rojo, translated by Chris N. Brown (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Transformist" by Horacio Senties Madrid, translated by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo and Jose Alejandro Flores (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Drop" by Claudia Guillen, translated by Leah Leone (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "Wolves" by Jose Luis Zarate, translated by Bernardo Fernandez and Chris N. Brown (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • "The Infamous Juan Manuel" by Bruno Estañol, translated by Anisia Rodriguez (Three Messages and a Warning)
    • “The Dissection” by Georg Heym, translated by Gio Clairval (The Weird)
    • “The Vegetable Man" by Luigi Ugolini, translated by Anna and Brendan Connell (The Weird)
    • "Mister Taylor" by Augusto Monterroso, translated by Larry Nolen (The Weird)
    • "Axolotl" by Julio Cortazar, translated by Gio Clairval (The Weird)
    • "The Ghoulbird" by Claude Seignolle, translated by Gio Clairval (The Weird)
    • "Oplan Sanction" by Alexander Marcos Osias
    • "Ina Dolor's Last Stand"  by Raymond P. Reyes
    • "The Cost of Living" by Vince Torres
    • "A List of Things We Know" by Isabel Yap
    • "The Keeper" by Audrey Rose Villacorta
    • "Ashes/////Embers" by Dannah Ruth S. Ballesteros
    • "Rizal" by Eliza Victoria
    • "Gene Rx" by Katya Oliva-Llego
    • "Robots and a Slice of Pizza" by Raydon L. Reyes
    • "Lucky" by Raven Guerrero
    • "Space Enough and Time" by Anne Lagamayo
    • "Taking Gaia" by Celestine Trinidad

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    February 1, 2012 Links and Plugs

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     Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan