Pride & Prejudice: A Very Short Review

PandP Of the versions of Jane Austen’s classic novel there are no end. But I could not resist taking in NextStop Theatre Company‘s staging this autumn. A new script, 21st century casting and a good couple spoonfuls of added modernity are added to the story we all know so well.

Look at that photo! From left to right we see Lizzy, Jane, Lydia, Charlotte Lucas, and Mary Bennett, who I hope you notice is played by a guy. There are perhaps two other men in the cast. All the actors shuffle all the roles between them, whipping off costumes and switching gender with alacrity. This is not your father’s Austen here. Continue reading


BVC Announces Soul of Fire by Laura Anne Gilman

Soul of Fire by Laura Anne GilmanSoul of Fire
by Laura Anne Gilman

Three months ago, Jan had a crash course in the supernatural. Werewolves, kelpies, elves, trolls —all real. But reclaiming her boyfriend from predatory, abusive elves was only the start of her story….

Now, Jan and her supernatural companions have a new deadline: ten weeks, ten days and ten hours until the elves are able to use the portals again. Until they overrun the unsuspecting world, and destroy it.

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You Can’t Stop Stepford!

In this 3rd entry in my Horror Month movie binging, I want to talk about two movies that scream for context. By 1975, through consciousness raising, bra burning, and symbolic jettisoning of razor blades, feminists were scaring men. In 2004, the United States had walked into Iraq under what was later known to be political fabrication, Lance Armstrong won his 6th Tour de France—later known to be the result of illegal doping, and the U.K. banned fox hunting.

Also, in 1975, The Stepford Wives was released, adapted from Ira Levin’s suburban thriller. In 2004 the film was remade by Frank Oz, aka Miss Piggy and Cookie Monster. Before starting my review, opinion, and serialized listing of facts, I need to disclose that I had not seen the remake until today because one of my failings is that I sometimes form opinions without knowing the facts.

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Crete, Part 1: Rethymno

After 37 years, I return to this singular Greek island — virtually a country to itself in size and culture — and bring Thor along to meet “glorious Kriti.”

I was a hippie backpacker in my twenties when I first followed my childhood dream to visit Greece, home of the dramatic Olympian deities, Classical marble statues, and the early stirrings of democracy. I had inhaled Greek mythology ever since I could read, but didn’t know a lot about the earlier Minoan culture of Crete. My travel partner and I simply decided to take the night ferry from Athens to this largest and southernmost Greek island, camping out on deck through a fierce storm and then approaching the island as dawn sunlight spilled over the mountains and dolphins frisked around the bow of the ferry. I was in love with the island even before disembarking. And as we visited and camped in ancient Minoan sites, I fell even harder for the mysterious and beautiful remnants of the vanished culture here that was the basis for the lost Atlantis myth. The story of princess Ariadne and the Minotaur’s labyrinth gave rise to my own novel finished many years later, THE ARIADNE CONNECTION. Continue reading


New Worlds: Angels

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Like several of the other creatures discussed this October and last, angels are, in the strict sense, a very culture-specific concept. They’re a key element of the Abrahamic religions — to the point where in Islam, belief in angels is one of the six articles of faith. But as with faeries or vampires or chimeras, when you look more broadly for celestial creatures that serve the gods, you can find semi-parallels in other places.

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Nisi Shawl’s Talk Like a Man

Nisi Shawl: Talk Like a ManThe thing I like most about all of Nisi Shawl’s fiction is the imagination that underlies every piece. The stories collected in Talk Like a Man, the latest in PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series, are no exception. Each one of them takes a concept or image or idea and goes some place where no one else would take it.

It is said to be a marketing strategy to describe someone’s work as similar to that of another author. Since what I most want as a reader is to stumble across a story that does something I never thought about before, this doesn’t work for me.

Imagination in the hands of a great writer – and Nisi is a great writer – is my idea of the perfect reading experience, because it creates something that doesn’t fit into neat categories.

In the nonfiction piece in this book, “Ifa: Reverence, Science, and Social Technology,” Nisi talks about the lack of conflict in their mind between writing science fiction and practicing the Ifa religion. One might think Nisi’s imagination comes out of finding that balance and relationship, though I could equally argue that it is their imagination that allows them to see the interrelationship among Ifa, science fiction, and science in the way that they do. Continue reading


What’s in a Word?

The words we choose to use when we speak and write can bring people joy or sorrow, can make them angry or calm them down, can lead to understanding or conflict.  They can excite, amuse, enthrall, and/or inform. 

A single written word can color the reader’s perception of a subject. In a book of fiction, it can manipulate the reader’s feelings about a place, a character, or a situation. It can signal to the reader whether they’re supposed to trust and like or distrust and dislike a particular character.

Think about this for a moment. Think about school text books. Imagine how the words used to describe historical figures can make the difference between them seeming like heroes or scoundrels. 

I grew up reading and hearing word pictures of George Washington and other foundational figures of America that made them superhuman heroes in my mind. Washington, so the story goes, could not tell a lie. He and his fellow Founders were somehow bigger and better than ordinary human beings, with loftier thoughts more eloquently expressed. I have to admit, reading the literate and elegant prose of men like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison does make me long for days of yore at least when it comes to the way we use language. This made it all the more jarring when, for example, I discovered through primary sources (specifically, letters he’d written to a colleague) that George Washington’s investment in the Revolution was in part driven by the profits he expected to derive from Indian land he had illegally speculated on. This was land the British treaties with native peoples denied him. Convince the Brits to stay at home and poof! no more onerous treaties.

This seeming paradox created what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. It’s what happens when your assumptions about someone or something, based upon what you’ve been told about them, clashes violently with more nuanced reality. This forces some folks to feel as if they must make a choice: Do I believe in the heroic George Washington or the venal one?  Continue reading


The BVC Newsletter Is Out


The latest issue of the Book View Cafe newsletter is out in the world and in your email inboxes. This month features five new releases from Laura Anne Gilman, Deborah J. Ross, Irene Radford, and Sherwood Smith (two books!).

Books by Laura Anne Gilman, Jennifer Stevenson, Sara Stamey, and James A. Hetley are on sale. And there’s the usual gossip and other information.

If you don’t subscribe, go here to sign up.


Deborah’s Excellent Mountain Adventure

I ran away to the mountains.

That’s an odd thing to hear from someone who lives “in the mountains.” But my lovely, peaceful mountains are really just forested hills. The highest point in the entire range is only 3,000 feet. What constitutes a mountain versus a hill is apparently up for debate. The usual definition of a mountain is a landform greater than 1,000 feet above sea level. But other definitions put the limit for a hill at twice that. (There are also other characteristics of mountains, like steepness.) So technically my home is “in the mountains,” but viscerally only in the sense of being remote, peaceful, enclosed in redwoods, and requiring 45 minutes to get anywhere except here. Visually, forested hills. Snow maybe once a decade, and mostly along the crest line.

One of the neighbors I go walking with has a family cabin up in the Sierra Nevada. Those are real mountains! The highest point is Mt. Whitney (14,500 feet). Lots of snow. Years ago, I went cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Royal Gorge, not too far from my friend’s cabin.

Enticed by the Sierra, no access to internet, dubious cellphone coverage, and a chance to curl up in a corner and write, my older daughter and I eagerly accepted my friend’s invitation.  Off we went, carpooling with our friend. A fourth joined us, taking the train to the nearest town. The drive was about four hours, strongly reminiscent of other road trips but without the singing at the top of our voices. We settled in, explored the town, walked around the neighborhood in the increasing chill, and tucked in for the night. Continue reading