Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fleet of Worlds - World Herding at its Best! :)

Larry Niven and Edward R. Lerner
TOR August 2008

Reviewed by Carl Cheney

Imagine fleeing danger (that’s 20,000 years in the future) by moving your entire solar system, accelerating it up to ninety percent of the speed of light!  This is the solution adopted by the Pierson’s Puppeteers.

Pierson's Puppeteers are an alien race created by Larry Niven, which appears in Fleet of Worlds by Niven and Edward R. Lerner. They (the Puppeteers not Messrs. Niven and Lerner) have three hoofed legs supporting a maned body, topped by dual, flexible necks. Upon each neck sits a head with an eye and a mouth. The heads resemble two sock puppets, hence the nickname. Their lips are prehensile and their voices are amazingly flexible—in fact you can’t properly pronounce their names unless you can sing two-part harmony.

Originally, the Puppeteers were grazing herd animals where caution became their watchword, their M. O., in fact, their entire approach to existence! Their leader is known as Hindmost because leading from the safest place has the most status. Now they are fleeing the galactic core to avoid a cascading chain reaction of supernovae that will arrive in their planetary system’s original location in only 20,000 Earth years.

In general, Puppeteers are way too careful to travel in starships, so they take along several planets from their solar system and some adopted planets with a couple of stars in their long migration toward galactic north, somehow pushing the whole artificial solar system using an inertialess drive.

However, there’s always the possibility of encountering something scary along the way, an intolerable idea to the Puppeteer psyche. Enter Nessus, the insane (though not too insane!) Puppeteer scout. A sane Puppeteer wouldn’t venture from its home planet of Hearth, much less go looking for trouble and nevermind meddling in the affairs of humans.

Sometimes Puppeteers have an odd idea of being cautious. When alien races appear to be a threat or an opportunity presents itself, Puppeteers meddle in their affairs. In fact Puppeteers are shameless meddlers. Working through bribed proxies, they carefully shape the human politics and technology of Earth, discrediting policies and individuals as needed to create the conditions they wish. For example, they decide to alter the human genome—never mind why. To destroy the humans’ administration that controls procreation, they plant misinformation making the process seem corrupt.

In Fleet of Worlds, there is a whole planet for farming. Humans tend the crops and some areas are set aside as natural preserves. According to revealed Puppeteer history, the Puppeteers found a derelict ship stuffed with human embryos, home unknown. Humans turn out to be useful as farmers and later as scouts since they don’t have to be insane to take risks. Humans that the Puppeteers keep as unknowing slaves are completely ignorant that the Puppeteers are also involved with the humans of Earth and its colonies.

Kirsten Quinn-Kovacs has a gift for mathematics and computer science. This pursuit is hard to justify in an agrarian setting, so she signs up as navigator on a journey to examine a potential threat to the Puppeteers. A faint radio signal has been detected near the future path of the Fleet of Worlds. Nessus and his human crew are dispatched to examine the source of the signal. They discover a fledgling, waterborne race using primitive technology to discover what lies beyond their knowledge. An orbiting comet is arranged by the Puppeteer-led crew to smash the home world of the Grouth on command, just in case it becomes necessary to eliminate this potential threat.

Examining the onboard computer in the scout ship, Kirsten discovers that there are big holes in the information concerning how Puppeteers came to know their enslaved humans. Her quest to reveal the truth leads her to find the original colony ship and eventually much more.

Niven and Lerner spin a delightful saga with logical consequences following each bold element of their story. The characters, human and otherwise, are fascinating as are the intricate webs they weave. I especially love the grand scale of things with the cowardly yet clever Puppeteers fleeing long-term doom by moving a whole solar system as though pushing around toys.

Larry Niven with and without other authors has written interlocking stories in what he calls “Known Space”. Although Fleet of Worlds is first of three books about the Puppeteer exodus (Juggler of Worlds and Destroyer of Worlds continue the theme), there are numerous other books set in the same universe with additional characters, themes, and wondrous stories. This website suggests an order of reading books in this literary canon. If you explore this encyclopedia of Niven’s stories, you may find yourself hip-deep in spoilers, although they’re carefully labeled. You could easily start with this book and then branch out, although someone who is a devout avoider of spoilers would begin at the beginning with Neutron Star (unfortunately now out of print). The avid science fiction reader would not care to miss Ringworld, perhaps Niven's magnum opus.

Fleet of Worlds contrasts the thinking and beliefs of three different races as their destinies intertwine and bonds are created and severed. There are strong female characters, alien sex, interspecies politics, surprise developments and infinite empty space where anything can happen. I loved it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The World Can't End, Because Amazing Stories Is Back!

Well, we're still here. And it's raining water, not fire (at least here in the North Bay). I wonder how many Mayans are laughing their asses off at the thought of us thinking the world would end today. I think they just didn't get around to doing the succeeding calendar. What was the hurry, after all? Who can come up with a calendar that lasts for all eternity?

There are loads of wonderful things in store for science fiction fans. For instance, on January 2nd, the original science fiction magazine, that was in uninterrupted existence for fifty years is back. If you remember Amazing Stories, you're excited already. If you don't, you will be after you read the press release below. This has been in the works for years and promises to be everything the old rag was and so much more as it embraces the possibilities that modern technology presents.

DON'T MISS THE 2013 MOVIE TRAILERS after this press release...

Dec. 21, 2012 -- Amazing Stories, the world's first science fiction magazine, opens for Beta Testing of Phase 1 on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013.

Fifty+ Writers Sign On to provide genre-related content!

Experimenter Publishing Company
Hillsboro, NH
December 20, 2012

The Experimenter Publishing Company is pleased to announce the  reintroduction of the world's most recognizable science fiction magazine – AMAZING STORIES!

Set to relaunch with a Beta Test of its new Social Magazine Platform, Amazing Stories will feature content from 50+ bloggers, covering an enormous array of subjects of interest to genre fans.

“We've got authors and agents, bloggers and editors, pod casters and broadcasters; we've got gamers and game designers; artists and art collectors; pulpsters and indie authors; we've got Hugo winners, John W. Campbell Memorial Award winners, John W. Campbell Best New Writer winners, Nebula and Hugo Award winners and nominees and winners and nominees of many other awards;  people who review films, people who make films; we've got fanboys and fangirls; we've got former editors of Amazing Stories, writers who've become synonymous with the field and writers who are just getting started; comic artists, book reviewers; traditionally published authors, self-pubbed authors and authors who've done it all.  The response to my request for participation was phenomenal – it couldn't be more perfect if I had set out with a list of must-haves!” said Steve Davidson, publisher. 

Amazing Stories' Social Magazine platform is designed to create an interactive environment that will be familiar to fans with blog content designed to encourage discussion  and take things beyond the usual user-generated content model for social networks.

The Amazing Stories Blog Team will cover (for now – more coming!) fourteen popular topics – Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, (lit), Film, Television, Gaming, Comics and Graphic Works,  the Visual Arts, the Pulps, Audio Works,  Anime, the Business of Publishing, Science and Fandom itself. 

At this year's Worldcon (Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon, Chicago), Toastmaster John Scalzi talked about what it was to be a fan and concluded by saying

We are diverse - and we are all in this together.”

We are diverse – and we are all in this together, a sentiment that captures the very heart and soul of what it means to be a fan.  Amazing Stories aims to be a vehicle through which the diversity of fandom can come together. 

Amazing Stories' relaunch will take place in two phases.  Those interested in participating in the Beta Test of Phase 1 should contact the publisher at  Participants will receive full access to the site with Member status and will receive on-site benefits as the project moves forward.

Phase 2 will introduce additional interactivity and user-customization to the site.  Following the completion and testing of Phase 2, the magazine, featuring both new and reprint fiction, essays, photo galleries, reviews and more will begin publication.  Readers who are interested in what the magazine will look like can read two Relaunch Prelaunch issues on line, or download them from the Amazing Stories store.  (Additional Amazing Stories themed product is also available here.)

Experimenter Publishing is pleased to introduce the  Amazing Stories Blog Team:

Cenobyte, Mike Brotherton, Ricky L. Brown, Michael A. Burstein,
Catherine Coker, Johne Cook, Paul Cook, Gary Dalkin, Jane Frank,
Jim Freund, Adam Gaffen, Chris Garcia, Chris Gerwel, Tommy Hancock,
Liz Henderson, Samantha Henry, M. D. Jackson, Monique Jacob,
Geoffrey James, J. J. Jones, Peggy Kolm, Justin Landon, Andrew Liptak, Melissa Lowery, Barry Malzberg, C. E. Martin, Farrell J. McGovern, Steve Miller, Matt Mitrovich, Aidan Moher, Kevin Murray, Ken Neth, Astrid Nielsch, D. Nicklin-Dunbar, John Purcell, James Rogers, Diane Severson, Doug Smith, Lesley Smith, Bill Spangler, Duane Spurlock, Michael J. Sullivan, G. W. Thomas, Erin Underwood, Stephan Van Velzen, Cynthia Ward, Michael Webb, Keith West, John M. Whalen, Karlo Yeager, Leah Zeldez


Originally published in 1926 by the father of science fiction, Hugo Gernsback, Amazing Stories helped to launch both the science fiction genre and its most enduring feature, science fiction fandom.  The magazine is well known for its Frank R. Paul covers and for publishing the first stories by many iconic authors such as Isaac Asimov, Jack Williamson and Ursula Le Guin.  Published continuously from 1926 until 1995, followed by two brief resurrections from 1998 till 2000 and again from 2004 thru 2005.  In 2008 Hasbro, the then current owner, allowed the trademarks to lapse and publisher Steve Davidson applied for and eventually received them in 2011.

Additional history and background on Amazing Stories can be found at the Science Fiction Encyclopedia and Wikipedia.  A complete gallery of all 609 previous issues with publication history is also available.

The Experimenter Publishing Company was created in 2012 for the purpose of returning Amazing Stories magazine to regular publication.  The company  shares the name of the original magazine's publisher as homage.  The trademarks for Amazing Stories were acquired by Steve Davidson in 2011,  the previous owners having allowed the marks to lapse in 2008, at which time application was made for a new incarnation of the same title.

A complete copy of this press release will appear on the Amazing Stories Blog on the date of release.

Here are some hot movies to look forward to in 2013. Not exactly uplifting, feel-good movies. But they are a testament to the determination of the human spirit, even when the world is destroyed...


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Windrider is full of delicious conflict

by S. A. Bolich
Sky Warrior Books (2012)

Windrider is the second volume in the Masters of the Elements series by S. A. Bolich, an entertaining and refreshing brand of fantasy. The novel takes the reader back to the land of Metrenna, where the powers of fire, wind, water and earth both threaten and sustain the land through their separate aspects. In the first book, Firedancer, we were introduced to Jetta ak'Kal and her struggle to keep the Ancient, the malevolent face of Old Man Fire, from destroying her newfound home in the mountainous territory of Annam Vale. In the second book, our narrator changes to Sheshan ak'Kal, windrider of the third rank, and pledged lifemate of Jetta.

All is peaceful in Annam Vale until a Messenger arrives. Driven by urgency, he fails to yield and causes an accident on the road. The Ancient takes this opportunity to strike, and Jetta, her Firedancer partner Settak and the other inhabitants of Annam Vale work to squelch the flames. The Messenger lays grievously wounded but will only speak his message to Wyth, head of the windrider clan. Wyth refuses to hear the message, and the Messenger dies unheard.

Soon enough, Wyth reveals that he has already received one message from the Storm Council and that the Messenger had likely been sent to demand his answer. The Ancient and the Hag, Metrenna's dangerous personified Fire and Wind have become unpredictable and unresponsive to the usual containment methods. Word has spread of how the firedancers and windriders of Annam Vale worked together to thwart the fires of the Ancient. Wyth decides that Clan Heshth cannot remain isolated in Annam Vale, and his clan, as well as Jetta and Settak, set out to speak with the Storm Council in distant Oppanum.

Sheshan is reluctant to face the outside world. The tempest that destroyed most of his clan and his first lifemate left him scarred in many ways. In the events of the first book, he learned to find purpose again in the defense of Annam Vale's gentle inhabitants, and love again with Jetta. But he is still unable to interact with the Wind through song, wrestling it with his will alone. Before leaving Annam Vale with the rest of his clan, he challenges the Hag, shrieking at the cruel sister to Wind. Anger drives this rash act, and the voice of the Hag stays with him, taunting him as he travels through the lowlands with Clan Heshth.

As the windriders and their companions travel, they discover that much of the world has suffered from the depredations of the untamed elements. Sheshan must fight against his own doubts, the Hag, and the prejudices of others, as well as strife in his relationship with Jetta. All these conflicts come together in an outstanding climax that makes an excellent conclusion to a middle volume while leaving enough questions remaining that readers will be eagerly awaiting the last book in the trilogy.

Those readers familiar with the first book will be swept into this second volume, and even newcomers should be able to quickly get their bearings with the series. The strongest aspects are the brilliant characters and the fascinating cultures of Metrenna. It was nice to see the characters travel out of Annam Vale so that we had a view of the rest of the land and its people. The only criticism that I will raise is that I felt like the focus of the plot drifted in the middle of the book. This was not enough of a problem to bother me much, as the characters and their problems kept my interest.

The third book, Seaborn, has no release date at this time.

Editor's note: 
This review is very timely because I wanted to write to tell you about my friend Sue (S. A. Bolich) and why you should read her work. I've known her for probably five years now and have read a lot of her short stories when I was in the online critique group, Other Worlds Writers Workshop, that she co-founded in 1998. Her rough drafts look like my finals. And her descriptions are more vivid than any I've read. She doesn't waste words and chooses them with care.

Now she needs care. The cancer she had been told was defeated ten years ago has returned, going into her lungs and bones now. Nobody writes because they think they will get rich or even live comfortably doing so. We write because we must. It's our passion. Unless we hit the bestseller lists time and time again, we will struggle financially. Sue has health insurance, but it's a high-deductible plan that are the only ones, as self-employed writers, most of us can afford. Some don't even have that.

I encourage you to buy this series of books. You'll be doing yourself a favor, while also helping a struggling writer -- at least with the bills. Cancer isn't the automatic death sentence it once was, but the treatments don't come cheap and are mostly unpleasant. And often far away - made worse by the price of gas and the taxing trip home.

Please read the Clare's review of Firedancer and my interview with Sue herein.

This holiday season, consider purchasing a gift that will keep on giving. And make one struggling writer's life a little easier. Buy S. A. Bolich's books here. There's even a facebook page dedicated to the cause.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Magnificent Minister (of Chance) is BACK!

The Minister of Chance is at it again. I can NEVER say enough good things about this exciting, well-done, audio space-opera series. The characters and settings are limited only by your imagination. The sound effects and acting are superb! If you love Dr. Who, you'll love the Minister, too. If you don't love Dr. Who, well, I guess you'll also not get half my jokes. Use the Google search engine on the right if you haven't read all my reviews of this fabulous series. There are also quite a few interview videos posted here as well.
graphic by Radio Static/Lee Sullivan
The Minister of Chance
starring Julian Wadham,  Jenny Agutter,  Gethin Anthony, Lauren Crace,  Paul Darrow,  Beth Goddard,  Tamsin Greig,  Sylvester McCoy,  Paul McGann

NEWS RELEASE -November 22, 2012
The response to our crowd-funding campaign for Episode 4 of the Minister of Chance was incredible and we were able to greenlight it entirely based on fan support.  However, as you may have already heard if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, we then had to delay its recording because Lauren Crace, our lovely 'Kitty',  had a baby!  He's very beautiful and we're very excited to be starting recording in a couple of weeks time.

We've used the waiting time to get the Episode 5 script ready for pre-production too  -  and this would be the final one in the first season.  In an attempt to get straight onto that after Ep 4  we are therefore starting the crowd- funding campaign for Episode 5 on 23rd of November and it will run for one month until 23rd December with a host of new perks.
We are always overwhelmed by the support of our fanbase and from so many of you, and we really, really appreciate every posting, every retweet and every Facebook mention.

NEWS RELEASE -December 3, 2012
More exciting casting news for The Minister of Chance: Mad Dogs and Life on Mars star Philip Glenister joins the production for Episode 5!  Philip comes fresh from the National Theatre stage where he has been appearing in the sell-out show THIS HOUSE, which also starred the Minister of Chance's Julian Wadham. Phil is looking forward to the opportunity to play another role opposite his cast-mate. He'll play The Summer King opposite The Minister in an episode which will also include The Hobbit's Jed Brophy as The Pilot.

Episode 4 of the series starts recording this week, financed entirely by its fanbase, and a crowd-funding campaign for Episode 5 is currently underway. Fans can grab a variety of exclusive perks ranging from cast-signed art to limited-edition mugs, caps and tees..

The first three episodes and a prologue for this epic sonic movie are available as a free download from

Photo by Ian Nolan
Sylvester McCoy
at recording of Episode 3 

Our pals over at Phoenix ( have another free ebook for you...
L. Neil Smith’s The Venus Belt. December’s code is  9991305 and will be good through December 31.

The Host released a new trailer. Looks very exciting, but I kept thinking "V". I guess there really are no new plots.

And in the age of Indie Films and Kickstarter crowd-funding, there's always some new flick or the beginnings of one to share. Check it out and let him know what you think.

PROSPECT: Concept Reel from Shep Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Heaven's War Will Grab You and Not Let Go

Heaven's War 
David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
ACE July 2012

Review by Ann Wilkes

I called Heaven's Shadow a thrill ride. Heaven's War keeps that ride going from the first page to the last. In this second book in their Heaven trilogy, authors Goyer and Cassutt take an interesting cross-section of humanity and put them in an alien environment as castaways. The struggle to survive inside the Near Earth Object that has been dubbed Keanu (Really? Still don't like the Matrix reference. Probably because I'm not a big Keanu Reeves fan.) is only the beginning of the conflict that the shipwrecked crews and the abducted humans face.

In Heaven's Shadow, astronauts from a Russian/Indian/Brazilian Coalition and NASA are sent to investigate the NEO. They soon discover that the NEO is an alien spacecraft. Not only that, it can recreate people from the Brahma and Destiny crews' pasts to communicate with them. At the end of the last book, two big white blobs or "vesicles" sent by Keanu scoop up about 100 people from Bangalore and another 80 from Houston. One of the pod people hatched by the NEO is the Destiny Commander Zack Stewart's dead wife - who he must watch die again. Feel free to read or reread my review of the first book, Heaven's Shadow, herein.

While some of the Bangalore folks acquaint themselves with the alien technology in "The Temple", replicating food and vessels to serve it in, a small group led by Zack Stewart search for a way out of the human habitat into an adjacent one in hopes of increasing resources and finding the control center of the ship.

Camilla seemed equally surprised (at seeing the lipstick duplicated). Hesitantly, she reached out for the "new" lipstick. 
"It's warm," she said. She handed it to Valya.

"Shouldn't you keep the new one?"

"My mother told me I couldn't wear lipstick until I was twelve."

Valya wanted to laugh. This girl had died and been reborn on another planet! She had just taken part in some type of alien techno-magic! Yet she remembered some argument with her mother! For an instant, Valya wished she could become mother to a daughter — just to know that one of her parental strictures would sustain itself across time and space, and through death!

On the heels of finding one of the refugees murdered, Zack's 14-year-old daughter Rachel and Pav, the 16-year-old Brahma commander's son, go missing. You know that the new normal is really whacked out when former astronaut and close friend Harley Drake sends a murderer out to find Rachel. The interplay of the characters with each other is nearly as riveting as their struggle with the aliens and the alien environment. Each of the main characters stands out in chapters in their own point of view. I have seen this done better, but still the technique was effective, allowing the reader to see not just the outward reactions, but the inner thoughts that we dare not utter. How would you react in a situation in which almost nothing is familiar? That's what I liked best about the book, though the plot and descriptions were top-notch. I love seeing how humans react when pushed to the limit and when put into foreign situations where they have little or no control. 

The humans have not been the first to be scooped up and brought to Keanu, where a war wages among the residents for control of the ship. Both Zack's group and Rachel's meet creatures along the way that may or may not share their goals.

My only complaint about this book, and its the same as with its predecessor, is the poor editing. It wasn't just the stray typo. Some sentences just came out plain wrong and indecipherable. And there were more than a few places where it was hard to tell who was speaking because of the inefficient placement or lack of proper dialog cues. Both authors are primarily screenplay writers, with an impressive list of credits. In fact, they simultaneously wrote the screenplay, which perhaps accounts for some of these anomalies popping up.

I can't wait to read the final installment and see Heaven's Shadow, the movie! It's still in development, but is slated for a 2013 release. You can check back with IMDB for more details as they are made available. I also invite you to read my July 2011 interview with the authors

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Romance? It belongs in real life!

I started a rather lively discussion here on romance in sci-fi. I like mine kept to a minimum. However, in real life, baby, bring it on! I mentioned here on Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys that I have been spending much of my time dancing. Well, you know what dancing leads to…

Guess who's engaged? w00t!!! Kevin wrote a song for me that ended in a proposal and played it during the band's break at my 50th birthday party (yes we hired a band for the occasion!).

I knew he had been writing a song for me, and knew he was going to play (kinda hard to tuck an electric guitar in your pocket), but didn't know the song was finished, that that's what he was going to play, nor that it contained his proposal. Is that romantic, or what?

And the insurance came through, so I can replace my MacBookPro…then they promptly cancelled Kevin's policy. What bastards! His one and only loss and it was chicken feed. Really! I will name names this time. It was Hartford. Steer clear folks.

Enough about me. Here's what's new in Sci-fi circles:

A new spec fic mag, Waylines Magazine, is offering short films in addition to short fiction. Not a bad idea! Send them some love via Kickstarter. Their first issue in January will feature Cat Rambo and her Near + Far, which will be reviewed shortly here at SFOO. I interviewed Cat three years ago here on Science Fiction and Other ODDysseys. 

The Host trailer is now available at I tried to load it. Maybe you'll have better luck.

Iron Man 3 - Booyah!

The Hobbit is less than a month away!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bobby Dollar series worth the bucks

Dirty Streets of Heaven
Tad Williams
DAW Sept. 2012

Review by Carl Cheney

Bobby Dollar is an angel. Not like an angel, not angelic (decidedly not angelic!) but an actual angel sent by heaven to do God’s work on Earth. When someone dies, Bobby meets them and advocates for the now ex-person in his post-life judgment. There’s an opposing demon from hell prosecuting and a neutral judge supplied by heaven. It’s a lot like going to court but being judged for your whole life. The judge decides and the person goes to hell, heaven or sometimes purgatory. Bobby’s territory is San Judas, the region south of San Francisco and west of the San Francisco Bay. But saying this misrepresents the tone of the book badly—these are dirty streets. Think Sam Spade or film noir. 

When confronted by a mystery, the cagy down-and-out detective consults informants, trades insults with the opposition, gets in people’s - or rather demons' - faces, cavorts with fallen females, has fights, gets beat up, and so on. Along the way he’s displeasing his superiors, his friends and the opposition. But all the way he exhibits panache and swagger.

This is a fun read. It’s a fantasy but set in a mythos familiar for those with an Old Testament background. Tad Williams concocts a delightfully refreshing universe view of the big questions confronting believers, disbelievers and agnostics. He answers some of these questions. Is there a heaven and hell? Yes. Is God real? Yes, but you have to be far above Bobby’s pay-grade to get anywhere close. Bobby’s never met anyone who’s met God. Other big questions get dodged or answered in hilarious ways. For example, working for heaven is a lot like working for a Fortune-100 company with heavy bureaucracy, accountability, standard procedures, executive privileges, snitches and so forth. 

An angel occupies a sturdy body on earth and has to cope with normal earthly existence, i.e. eating, sleeping, vices, parking and so on. Though angels know they can survive the demise of their bodies, they are not spared the pain and trauma of the morbid event. 

The plot, like the mysteries it descends from, has numerous twists, turns, surprises and colorful characters. The mystery at the core of the story is a grand puzzler, way outside the box.

Bobby turns out to be a lot like most of us, rationalizing his often unsupportable choices even while plunging into his next misadventure. He takes his chances often, hoping for the best but sometimes taking lumps. The story gathers plenty of momentum as the questions pile up. I’m delighted by The Dirty Streets of Heaven and I’m suddenly interested in reading more from Tad Williams. Next time I find a Bobby Dollar novel on the shelf, it’s a lead pipe cinch it’ll be coming home with me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DIY Time Machine, Nostalgia and Comedy Relief

I surfed YouTube, so you don't have to. :)

Have you always wanted your own DeLorean Time Machine? Why not build one? Personally, I think some people have too much time on their hands. I'm waiting for the working version. I can think of a lot of cool things I could do with a time machine. History beware!

And here's a bit of nostalgia for those who remember, and a funny look into the past for those who don't.

Finally, a little comedy relief from the original Star Trek.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Trailer Cache

I have been invited to a number of press screenings in LA. Unfortunately, I live in Northern California and my reviewer's schedule has prevented her from attending premieres and press screenings. So, I guess I could use an additional reviewer there. If you live in LA and want to try your hand at reviewing, drop me a line. I can't pay you, but you'll certainly have bragging rights with your friends that you saw that great sci-fi, fantasy or horror movie already while they're waiting for it to hit the theaters. Meantime, here are some trailers with you.

Here's a flick you can view now on Netflix. Gotta love those Indie filmmakers!

Acclaimed Indie Horror Parody PELT Hacks Its Way To Netflix
LOS ANGELES (September 10, 2012) – Osiris Entertainment’s award-winning horror feature PELT is now available on Netflix. Since it hit the festival circuit, PELT gained a fast following for its quick-witted parody on the “girl meets psycho” formula by bringing together an unmatched cast with an unwavering screenplay orchestrated by Prison Diaries director, Richard Swindell.

PELT introduces viewers to beautiful Jennifer and her friends as they embark on a backpacking excursion deep into the woods of Caveland Kentucky despite dire warnings from local residents. Sudden, gory death hides behind every bush when they come “chest to chest” with an evil as old as the trees.

The film stars Ashley Watkins (1000 Ways to Die) as Jennifer, while the titillating triumvirate is completed by Marie Bollinger (Hell-O-Ween) and Sara Zurell (90210, No Ordinary Family).

Winner – Outstanding Film, Audience Choice Award – Big Bear Horror Film Festival

“PELT was a wonderful film to work on and I can’t wait to share it with viewers through Netflix,” said Swindell. “I am proud of our incredibly talented cast and crew who turned this project into a one of a kind film that holds its own next to any ‘big budget’ offering.”

Listen...above the crackling of the that the sound of a twig snapping or your best girlfriend's neck? Check out PELT on Netflix today!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

by Jim C. Hines
DAW (2012)

Review by Clare Deming

Have you ever been so caught up in a book that you felt like the story, characters, and the items within were just as real as this world? Have you ever wished that you could pull a particular fictional item out of the pages? Well, in Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines, Isaac Vainio can do just that. He's a libriomancer and a member of Die Zwelf Portenære, the world-wide organization that oversees this magic, known more simply as the Porters. However, Isaac and his fire spider, Smudge, are stuck cataloguing books at a library in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is forbidden from practicing libriomancy after an incident with zombies and is banned from field work for the Porters.

Many books are open to the use of this magic, but only small items can fit through the pages. Johannes Gutenberg, creator of moveable type printing, has locked more dangerous volumes to prevent items such as The One Ring or an untreatable virus from being realized. In this story, Gutenberg also discovered libriomancy, established the rules of its practice, and is one of the most powerful men in the world, artificially prolonging his life with magic.

During a quiet day at the library, Isaac is alarmed when Smudge starts to smolder, a sign of imminent danger. Isaac clears the library of patrons and pulls a disruptor pistol out of a science fiction novel just before three sparkling vampires walk through the door. The Sanguinarius Meyerii vampires make demands upon Isaac and when he refuses to cooperate, violence ensues. Before the vampires can finish him off, Lena Greenwood arrives to assist in the fight, using her wooden bokken and her powers as a nymph to overcome the enemy.

Isaac has known Lena for several years. Once the two of them are able to regroup, she informs Isaac that several Porters have been murdered, and their mutual associate, Doctor Nidhi Shah, has been abducted. In addition to this, Johannes Gutenberg is missing. Thrown back into the field, Isaac must work with Lena to discover who is behind the slayings, recover Doctor Shah, and uncover Gutenberg's fate.

This was a fun and engaging story, and anyone with a love of books will instantly sympathize with how libriomancy uses that love to allow access to the book's contents. Most of the rules for libriomancy were logical, but a few felt like they were a tad too arbitrary, made up solely to let the plot happen in the way that it needed to. While magic is not limited to only libriomancy in this urban fantasy tale, it is Isaac's focus, and he slings healing potions, charms, and famous swords out of books from Alice in Wonderland to Starship Troopers. The author incorporates a great variety of science fiction and fantasy books, most familiar to me, some that were not, and others that were made up for this novel.

The book is sprinkled with humor as well, and the plot threads came together nicely at the conclusion, while still leaving enough mystery for further development. I loved the interplay between the characters - Isaac, Lena, Doctor Shah, and Smudge were all portrayed with enough detail and emotion that I could almost pull them out of the pages myself.

Libriomancer is the first book in the Magic Ex Libris series. The second book will be Codex Born, but I have no information on a release date.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Opps and Apps - sci-fi style

How about a little Dr. Dread to chase away those humpday blues?

And a little Harry Turtledove for 99 cents perhaps?

Phoenix Picks releases Harry and Rachel Turtledove’s On The Train: ebook $7.99/paperback $12.99.

LAUNCH SPECIAL: ebook is only 99 cents on Amazon through October 4th.

Here's the Publishers Weekly review of the book:

“Turtledoves père and fille offer two stories set on a railroad-girt
world. Harry Turtledove (Supervolcano) introduces Javan, a young man from
the city of Pingaspor whose third-class ticket allows him to expand his
worldview, and whose ambition allows him to make a life for himself in the
narrow confines of the Train. Rachel Turtledove’s story describes the
first-class travels of nanny Eli, hired by the Baroness Vasri, who becomes
entangled in the world of the Directors of the Railroad and the slinkers
who stow away. The world of the Train is insular even as it circles the
planet, offering only fleeting glimpses into the wonders beyond, whether
the ravages of war or the effects more magical regions have on the Train’s
mechanism. The original setting and likable characters have a surprising
number of possibilities that could easily be explored in future books.

And their usual free ebook special is as follows:
Charles Sheffield's collection Georgia on My Mind and Other Places, which includes a Nebula and Hugo awarded novelette can be had for free with coupon code 9991264 (through October) at

We interrupt this commercial with a whine break. I not only do NOT have an iPad - or even an iPhone - I don't even have a smart phone. I keep getting asked to try this and that app on my iPhone or iPad so I can review it for you all. It's like salt in the wound really. Especially after the theft of my nifty MacBookPro not long ago. >sigh<

By the way, I had an opportunity to review a book for a woman who stole my story. Really. She published my story without my knowledge or permission, then several years later, wants me to review her book. I had quite a few suggestions as to what I should do over on my Facebook personal profile. They ranged from "Good for you for taking the high ground," to "Name and shame! Don't miss an opportunity!" to "Sue her a*(!" It happened a long time ago. I reported her everywhere at the time. Why should I mention it again now? But, wow! How can she actually forget my name or, if she hasn't, expect me to give her a review of her book? Too bad I don't give negative reviews here. Then I could just happily oblige. But it would not be an unbiased, honest review. And I'll walk over hot coals before I read her book. And it was a Christian magazine she published it in. Not very Christian of her. Then she expected me to understand her "mistake" and bear with her, presumably because we're both Christians. Ugh! She's givin' us a bad name!

So, these are for those of you who DO have an iPad and love geeky new things.

Press releases below:


NARR8 to Bring Exclusive, Original, and Free Content to iPad Users Worldwide

San Francisco, CA. September 17th, 2012 – NARR8, a new digital entertainment start-up, today announced the launch of its corporate operations, handling development and publishing of a bold and diverse lineup of episodic multimedia series for digital devices. NARR8 will launch as a free downloadable application in Q4 2012 on the new iPad©, and iPad©2 with plans to expand the service to Android devices in the near future.

NARR8 is a digital content channel that delivers an eclectic array of interactive stories, articles, and motion comics encompassing a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction. The vision behind NARR8 is creating an innovative and highly interactive experience for users to read and experience content, with on-page animations, touch-screen controls, and integrated audio. Transcending traditional reading media, this application uses HTML5 technology coupled with a proprietary editing platform to produce high-quality entertainment with shorter production times and faster turnaround than traditional publishing.

“The goal of NARR8 as a company is to change the way people interact with their content of choice. The core idea for NARR8 stemmed from my passion for comics and graphic novels, but we quickly saw the potential applications to other genres and content,” explained CTO and founder Alexandr Vaschenko. “We’ve used our technical expertise in the mobile space to bring a more tactile and interactive experience to readers. NARR8 provides those who have a passion for any and all types of reading an opportunity to delve into expansive, unique worlds that come alive with a single touch.”

NARR8 plans to deliver fresh, varied, exclusive, and regularly updated interactive content to its users with deep stories, gorgeous artwork, dynamic animations, and special effects that leap off the page and breathe life into each story. Initial offerings from NARR8 include genre-specific content including fantasy, horror, and sci-fi, as well as nonfiction articles treating on popular science and world history...and more! NARR8 seeks to become a leader in written entertainment with its generous, rapidly growing, and constantly updated content catalogue.

NARR8 was founded in October of 2011 by Alexander Vaschenko, formerly of and Astrum Online, with initial funding of $4 Million (U.S.) through IMI.VC Venture Company, a Moscow-based investment firm led by Internet entrepreneur, Game Insight board member, and former and Astrum Online visionary Igor Matsanyuk. NARR8 is scheduled to launch in Q4 of 2012 with the goal of becoming a world leader in creating and distributing interactive stories for digital devices, and with a heavy focus on shaping the culture of consuming entertainment and informational content.


NARR8 Explores the Unknown With New Horror and Science Fiction Serials, Fear Hunters and MultiVerse, For Digital Entertainment Channel on iPad

Today NARR8, the new digital entertainment start-up releases interactive novel series details as well as corresponding videos and images for the upcoming application launch on the new iPad© and iPad© 2 this Fall 2012. Leading the charge in episodic multimedia series for digital devices, NARR8 will launch with a diverse array of serials in genre, presentation and style. With a total of nine series at launch, NARR8 touts expansive worlds and illuminating series starting with two interactive novel series – Fear Hunters and MultiVerse.

Mental diseases stem from nightmare monsters that jail the human soul. However, there are those that believe these monsters can be slain by penetrating a patient’s subconscious. These people, known as Fear Hunters, are a part of Doctor Powell’s crew of elite psychiatrists. Ready to take on this dangerous paranormal battle, they aim to eradicate these creatures of madness.

On the origin of Fear Hunters, Head of Midian Studio, Vasily Melnik imparts, “I’ve always wanted to write a fantastic book about psychiatrists who are able to penetrate their patients’ subconscious and fight their painful nightmares. But this project was too big for me; it required too much effort and specific knowledge, so I kept postponing it. However, after becoming the head of one of NARR8's studios and reflecting on the concept as a potential series, I decided to go back to Dr. Powell and his team of fear hunters, especially because the idea of the project seemed quite interesting visually. Outstanding artists and writers at our studio have deepened the original idea and developed it considerably.”

Parallel universes, paranormal detective work and suspense are all terms that embody Multiverse. Ordinary programmer Mark Stone could never have imagined his fate would transport him on an unreal journey to discover and capture aliens. On each new assignment, he will be challenged to uncover new mysteries while working for a network of special agents trained to fend off unforeseen threats and maintain the balance of the Multiverse. How will he learn to cope with this illusory reality, and the even greater responsibility of being the chosen one?

Head of BookCase Studio, Jenny Spasskaya, provides a glimpse into the Multiverse series creation, “I've found working with the team to craft an original sci-fi concept, plot, ongoing storyline, and social and physical laws for our new fictional universe to be every bit as colorful and unique an experience as the visual design for our series. I can tell you that MultiVerse represents a synergy of universes, and spheres that combine and connect them. Despite its complexity, this infinite sci-fi world our team has created is surprisingly fragile, and our story tells the tale of how humanity has come to test that strength.”

At NARR8, each series is handled carefully from the initial concept to realization in the artwork, writing, programming and sound. While flipping through the deep chapters of these novels, readers are able to interact with the scenes laid out before them. Coupling the power of imagination with interactivity, ambient sound design compliments each scene for a new entertaining and immersive experience.

**NARR8 will be at New York Comic Con, October 11th -14th! Stop by booth #803 to immerse yourself in the NARR8 application on iPad and check out our LIVE art demonstration! **

For more news on NARR8 please visit the promo page. Don’t forget to like NARR8 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! Subscribe to NARR8 on YouTube.