BVC Announces The Jani Kilian Chronicles Books 1-3 by Kristine Smith

The Jani Kilian Chronicles Books 1-3 by Kristine SmithThe Jani Kilian Chronicles Books 1-3

by Kristine Smith

A three-volume omnibus containing Books 1-3 of the Jani Kilian Chronicles:

Code of Conduct: Jani Kilian has been on the run for 18 years. But when Interior Minister Evan van Reuter, her former lover, tracks her down and begs her help in finding his wife’s killer, she has no choice but to agree.

Continue reading

Masquerading as Science Fiction

What makes science fiction a genre? Is it the bells and whistles, the FTL space ships, the futuristic technology? Is it the ability to travel in time or across vast regions of space? Does it involve interactions with alien species, either for the first time or as a matter of course? Or is it simply because the author or the publisher says so? I will not dignify the argument put forth by “litr’ary” types that science fiction is an inherently inferior form of literature. Clearly, they haven’t been reading the superbly imaginative, elegantly crafted work of the last couple of decades.

Following the principle of showing instead of telling, I refer you to the discussions surrounding The Time Traveler’s Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger, Harcourt, 2003). With due respect to my colleagues who might disagree, I thought the only people who considered this novel science fiction were those outside the genre. Yes, the man of the romantic pair bops about from one time period to another (losing his clothing along the way), but that did not make it science fiction in my eyes. I could accept it as romance. The focus, as in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, is the (romantic) relationship between two people. (Although Outlander involves time travel, very few readers I know would classify it as science fiction rather than fantasy or romance.) For me, the aspect that put The Time Traveler’s Wife firmly outside science fiction was the failure to develop the implications of time travel for society. How has this one man’s ability changed the world? What are the moral and political consequences of his actions? Why isn’t he found out and his abilities exploited? How can the “fabric” of time continue linearly with such repeated “tears”?

In other words, science fiction doesn’t just present nifty ideas in a vacuum – it focuses on how those ideas and gadgets and twists of fate have larger effects on the natural and human world. Perhaps back in the age of pulp magazines, a fun gimmick was sufficient to sustain a story with flimsy plotting, cardboard characters, and mediocre prose, but that hasn’t been true for a long time now.

This, too, is why I believe Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale falls squarely in the science fiction genre. Atwood herself refused to consider her dystopian world as science fiction, calling it instead “speculative fiction.” I think that’s a distinction without a difference. One critic (readily identifiable as ignorant of the field by his use of “sci-fi”) wrote, “Sci-fi sells us fantasies. Margaret Atwood’s classic novel is all about the danger of fantasy.” To those of us who are actually conversant with science fiction, the reverse is true, and is a powerful argument for The Handmaid’s Tale belonging on the same shelf as other brilliantly written feminist dystopian science fiction. Continue reading

Legal Ways to Oppress Women, the Victorian Edition Part 2

This is part of a longer blog post that originally appeared in Crimereads.

 A major legal renovation of the Victorian period was in the area of divorce. Until the divorce laws were renovated in 1858, marriage really was for life. You could only get shed of your unsatisfactory spouse by spending several thousand pounds for an act of Parliament, which meant essentially that no one could afford a divorce – only 325 had been granted since 1670. But in 1857 the Matrimonial Causes Act shifted the jurisdiction of divorces to a separate secular court that allowed ordinary people to petition. It was still difficult to undo the knot – you couldn’t just say you were incompatible, but you had to provide evidence of adultery or non-consummation. And the law was still weighted heavily against the woman, who had to prove not only adultery but some other extenuating circumstance like brutality. But at least the chance was there. Further refinements even allowed the mother to retain the younger children.

Continue reading

BVC Announces The Fog of Time by Brenda W. Clough

The Fog of Time by Brenda W. CloughThe Fog of Time
Edge to Center: Book 3
by Brenda W. Clough

What is time travel good for? Well, you need never lose. Redo that failure, rerun that war, reboot that relationship, until it flies. You can do and be whatever you desire. No one will know — no one can know, if you’re rewriting history out from under them. But what does that do to the time traveler?

Continue reading

BVC Announces Meet Myself There, by Brenda W. Clough

Meet Myself There, by Brenda W. CloughMeet Myself There
Edge to Center: Book 2
by Brenda W. Clough

What good is time travel anyway? For Col. Ben Ming, head of Jalanesia’s armed forces and husband of President Calla Ang, it’s nothing but a headache. Time Traveler Jack Wragsland transported Calla to this space/time. Continue reading

Ponce Chronicles the Fourth: And Finally There Was Light!

Continuing my saga of the repair of the Puerto Rico house…

This was in some ways the most difficult trip of our annual series, partly because problems we thought we’d fixed last time came back to bite us again. Just about everything that could go wrong, did. Water, electric, plumbing, appliances, even unexpected repairs to the roof. The cistern pump that we spent so much time getting to run? It burned out and seized when the incoming power line kacked, giving us an impromptu brownout. The nice remote-operated driveway gate? The same. Continue reading

Food Politics

I recently listened to a lively call-in show on which experts (dieticians) and callers (complainers) discussed food politics. Among the many maladies that food and eating inflict on us are 1. the impact of food production on the environment, 2. the zealousness of vegans and those who challenge the vegan diet, and 3. obsession, hysteria, stubbornness and fear.

Without going into particulars or even science, I would like to say a few words about food. We need to eat to live. First I’ll get my own guilty concern out of the way. While we in the privileged West argue about the value of quinoa and acai berries, there are people starving to death in Yemen. There, I said it. Let’s get some perspective on this.

No, this will not be a blog about food insecurity, because we really don’t like to either think about it or believe it’s a thing.

Salad series 1

Let’s take the first point as above: the impact of food production on the environment, and subsequently, the human race around the world. Many foodistas will argue that factory farming of animals—beef, poultry, pork—is a resource-heavy enterprise. Lots of water, grain, fossil-fuels. Resources that could be better used producing food for the entire world. Except one has to ask oneself, if mass hypnosis overcame U.S. meat industrialists, ranchers, and chicken-moguls and they switched to producing emmer, wheat, barley, millet, and potato starch, would they also be inclined to sell to poor countries? That remains to be seen.

Chick peas and soy beans are already big here. Rape seed and grape seed (must be lots of grape seeds coming off wine-production, wouldn’t you think?) are cooking oil sources. Dairy products are of great concern for a variety of reasons. The lipophobe shuns butter, cheese and 4% milk! The idea of it! Manure is viewed as a smelly hazard when it’s an excellent source of both compost and methane—fuel, get it? All of Paris heats their homes with it! They eat horse meat over there, too, though. Non-fat yogurt will suffice, because my god, my microbiome is all out of whack! Continue reading

The Rambling Writer Explores More Greek Islands, Part 11: Fabulous Beaches of Rhodes

Come join Thor and me as we pursue our obsession with the luminous, sapphire-blue Aegean Sea, its siren song calling us to dive ever deeper.

NOTE: Since our trip last fall to Greece to research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT, Thor and I knew we had to return to this magical region. My first entry in this new blog series posted here on Saturday, 10/20/2018. It gives an overview of our rambles from Athens to seven islands in the Dodecanese and Cyclades groups, ending our ferry-hopping pilgrimage on the anciently sacred island of Delos.

From the depths of winter, as I fondly recall our latest Greece trip, it’s the rocky coves and pebble beaches that call me to return for more swims in the sunshine. So here’s a tour of our favorite literal waterholes from our last two trips to Rhodos. This time, we first plunged in at Charaki Beach, where we had a charming room overlooking the cove…. Continue reading

New Worlds: Perfume

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

When it comes to beautifying our bodies, we haven’t stopped at the visual. For millennia, people have sought to improve the way they smell, too — for a whole host of reasons ranging from masking unpleasant odors, to actively creating olfactory appeal, to achieving medical and religious effects. I was recently skimming a book on foreign trade in Tang Dynasty China, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand by Edward H. Schafer, and at the beginning of a series of three chapters on Foods, Aromatics, and Drugs, the author says:

Just as no hard and fast line can be drawn between cosmetics and drugs in the civilization of the medieval Far East, so any attempt to discriminate precisely between foods and drugs, or between condiments and perfumes, would lead to frustrated misrepresentation of the true role of edibles in T’ang culture […] Every food had medicinal properties […] Spices in particular — and exotic ones above all — because of their aromatic nature, infusing their wonder-working properties by means of unmistakable effluvia, were ranked high among the useful drugs […] spices and perfumes had their parts to play in religion as well as in medicine, and also in daily life, to preserve food, to repel unpleasant insects, to purify noxious airs, to clean the body and beautify the skin, to evoke love in an indifferent beloved, to improve one’s social status, and in many other ways.

Like Schafer, I’m going to arbitrarily talk about perfume as if that’s a wholly separable subject from food and religion and medicine, even though it never has been (as aromatherapy today attests). But we have to draw lines somewhere, or else one essay would go on for a whole book.

Continue reading

Following the Rules/Changing the Rules

One morning, it dawned on me – at dawn – that the rules of political life are much like the rules of boxing: they are structured to favor specific people, but are applied as if they are neutral.

Boxing is governed by rules that favor upper body strength. The only legitimate targets are the body and the upper torso; hitting “below the belt” is strictly prohibited. Despite the fact that boxing is a sport, anyone who does not follow boxing rules in an actual fight outside the ring – such as a woman defending herself against a man or a boy defending himself against a bully – is considered a “cheater.”

Applying the rules of sport fighting like boxing to real life, we get a culture that accepts without question that women can’t protect themselves from men because men are “bigger.” But in a self defense situation, no one should be following rules that put them at a disadvantage. Fighting for your life is not a sport. Continue reading