Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Phun Phacts

In the course of writing The Shipwrecks of Time, TOF has had occasion to look back and realize how much things have changed since those halcyon days of the 60s in which the narrative is so far set. An example:
  • In 1965, no more than 20 percent of Americans had EVER flown in an airplane. By 2000, 50 percent of the country took at least one round-trip flight PER YEAR. The average was two round-trip tickets.
  • In 1965, flying was a serious business, and people normally "dressed up" for the occasion, at least to the extent of wearing sports coasts or business suits.  
  • For you ynglings, people back then could walk down the concourse to the gates -- anyone, passenger or not. No identification need be shown, and no security screening was employed. Friends and family would often see the passenger off in this fashion.
  • Family members greeted returning passengers at the arrival gate itself by standing directly in the flow of disembarking passengers, as close to the gateway as possible. Business travelers would sometimes use their briefcases to club their way through the press. 
  • People routinely placed tightly-rolled tubes of tobacco in their mouths and lit them on fire while on board aeroplanes. A special section in the rear of the plane accommodated this practice. There was some debate as to whether sucking burning leaves into your lungs might not be an entirely healthy thing to do. 
  • In 1965, no airline passenger was dragged, screaming, by his limbs down the aisle of the plane.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Another kind word for "Nexus"

received at ANALOG:
Dear Mr Quachri,
I have just read the first Novella in this double issue - "Nexus" by Michael F. Flynn. I have not read anything else as yet in this issue - I wanted to write to you forthwith.
If I find nothing else worth reading in this issue, so be it.
"Nexus" is an Analog masterpiece! I have to confess that the first 2 or 3 pages seemed difficult to read and understand, had me confused and wondering what sort of rubbish is now being produced for consumption by readers. And suddenly it clicked for me, and I realised that I was reading the best Science Fiction story that has come my way in years. My congratulations to you for printing it and to Mr Flynn for having written it. It has originality, great characterisation, a superb writing style, the prose is beautifully-written, the plot sensationally bringing together so many Science Fiction memes, the imagination and ideas making a story that is about 95% narrative (breaking all the rules) fascinating, and all with great style and class. I absolutely loved it. This should become a classic in the genre and a master-class in how to write great fiction. More like this, please!
Sincerely,
Mel Anthony
(English but living in France)
TOF's reaction: I could not have said it better myself.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fake News Redux


The recent revelation that bomb threats directed to Jewish Community Centers in the United States and two Canadian provinces originated in Ashkelon, Israel, by an Israeli hacker "with a medical condition" raises once again the theme by Gilbert and Sullivan:
"Things are seldom what they seem
Skim milk masquerades as cream"
Scientists know -- or used to know -- that a fact is not self-demonstrating. What the fact means depends on other things and what seems to support one theory may in fact support another. So that bomb threats called into JCC centers seemed to mean a rise in antisemitism in Canada and the USA, but might mean instead a mentally disturbed hacker acting out. 

In the ever popular category of Fake News there was an item that popped up four months ago (2 December 2016) in the New York media. It was first reported in DNAinfo, a neighborhood newspaper.
MANHATTAN — A Muslim woman wearing a hijab was harassed by three drunk men on a Manhattan 6 train who called her a “f---ing terrorist” before trying to pull off her head scarf Thursday night, DNAinfo New York has learned.
The 18-year-old boarded a northbound 6 train at Park Avenue and 23rd Street after attending an event at Baruch College when three young white men approached her yelling "Donald Trump," sources said.
One of them screamed, "Look, there is a f----g terrorist! Get out of this country, you don’t belong here!”
...
The story naturally went viral, with other news outlets reporting her allegations and Yasmin Seweid [the young woman in question] giving interviews to local news stations.

Unlike other shocking stories, this article is not attended by the usual flotilla of "alleged" or "unsubstantiated" or "offered no evidence."  This is because any story that tends to reinforce a dominant paradigm is accepted with little question, as Thucydides noted a long time ago:
For the usual thing among men is that when they want something they will, without any reflection, leave that to hope, while they will employ the full force of reason in rejecting what they find unpalatable.
-- Thucydides IV, 108
We can see this in the media reactions to various stories regarding this vs that public figure.

The media did carry the follow-up story: viz., that the young woman, Yasmin Seweid, had made the whole thing up "because of problems she was having with her family," namely that she had missed a curfew.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that incidents like this were indicative of the "tremendous psychological stress and pressure" that Muslims are under. IOW, even if it was a false report, it darned well should have been true because Trump. Or something.

Her sister blamed the media for covering the story and blamed the NYPD for investigating the hate crime claim, apparently not aware that in the USA this is what these two institutions do. She wrote on Facebook:
“The NYPD should have never been involved in the first place
even if the incident did happen.”
But of course that is just what NYPD should have done if a crime has been reported. The police grew suspicious when no witnesses or surveillance footage could be found. The sister complained that:
"Things snowballed out of our control." 
which indicated a peculiar attitude toward the purpose of crime reporting. She wrote further:
"I’m deeply concerned about the mental state of young Muslim women who feel that they have to lie so intensely to survive."
To survive? Survive what? What was going to happen to her for staying out past her curfew? Why are we reminded so strongly of Tawana Brawley, who also lied about staying out from fear of consequences at home?

And why is one of the tags on the story "Donald Trump"? 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Nexus Reviewed

From a review of "Nexus" in Tangent Online, the remainder of which contains spoilers:
"What an amazing and exciting story! Each character is fully humanized, even the most alien ones; we even feel for the spider-alien. Normally I get annoyed by stories that jump from one point of view to another, but the way this technique was used here was just perfect—each point of view had a segue into the next, like carefully drawn lines from a center we can’t see—until the climax, which draws all the characters into the same scene and shows us the center in all its spinning, integrated glory. Time travel stories aren’t uncommon, but finding one that is so exquisitely paced is rare and so appropriate. This is the best piece I’ve read in a long time."
-- Colleen Chen
TOF supposes this is also technically a spoiler, as it reveals how wonderful the story is to those hitherto suspecting a dog, but we'll just have to live with that. 

Whoa, What's This?