Even Great Paintings Can Be Lousy Covers

A couple of weeks ago, Vonda concluded her contest on bad book covers, showing some truly awful ones. But how about book covers that are good art, but have absolutely nothing to do with the book?

About 8 or 9 years ago, I saw Charles Keegan’s painting, Held by Honor, which I really liked. Others must have liked it, too, because it won Best in Show at the World Fantasy Convention.

It’s a painting of a young woman warrior in chain mail, holding a large sword. The fact that the warrior is wearing serious mail is enough to put this picture head and shoulders above all those dreadful ones that gave Esther Friesner the title for her series of funny sword and sorcery anthologies, Chicks in Chain Mail. But the part of the painting that really got me — as a martial artist who has devoted some time to sword training — was her forearms. They are the forearms of someone who could actually use the massive sword she holds. Continue reading


EVERGREEN: On Becoming a Professional Amateur # 12: Because the Writer Said So

Sample scenario: A detective is in a car crash and passes out twice in the flaming wreck, which he escapes at great peril. Five minutes later he just gets up and flags down a passing cop.

“Hey,” the detective says as his car combusts quietly in the background, “can I trouble you for a ride home?”

The responding officer smiles. “Anything for a fellow cop.”


How realistic is this scenario?

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Animal of the Day: Aye-Aye

In my quest for ever-more charming and unusual creatures, I came across the shy, nocturnal Aye-Aye, a rare primate found only on the island of Madagascar.

Aye-aye_2 My first thought upon seeing this small, slightly deranged-looking creature was “Julien”!  Yes, Julien the “king” from Madagascar I and II, the animated films, portrayed memorably by Sacha Baron Cohen (otherwise known as Borat).

However, Julien is not supposed to be an Aye-Aye.  Technically, Julien is supposed to be a ringtailed lemur, and his small partner Maurice is the Aye-Aye.

Aye-Ayes, in addition to their somewhat Gollum-like looks, have very long, flexible middle fingers on their already long-fingered hands.  These fingers are used to retrieve insects from trees, which are their primary food.  The Aye-Aye is adapted to seeking insects at night underneath the bark of the forest trees that they live in.  Perhaps because of their odd, large, vaguely insane-looking eyes, the Aye-Aye was considered bad luck by the natives of Madagascar, and was hunted to endangerment until more recent years and efforts to protect and renew the species. Continue reading


Legion of Super-Heroes #50: A Very Short Review

Once again it is the last issue of this wonderfully old title.  Cover -- Issue #50 The Legion of Super-Heroes, a superhero team that debuted in 1958,  has come and gone more often than William Shatner, and with just as great a variety of incarnations. It is usually easy to account for their comic’s demise — poor sales has done them in at least half a dozen times.  But why do they keep on coming back?  That is unusual — we see no revivals of Brother Power the Geek or Sugar N Spike. Something must account for the LSH’s enduring appeal. Continue reading


Returning Light

lightWe are halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In the northern hemisphere, the earth is waking, responding to the lengthening days, the beginnings of warmth. We dare to hope for more signs of spring, in the garden, in the sky. They are small and few, but they are there. New buds on branches, still tightly furled. Thawing ice, shrinking patches of snow. Birds frantic and frenetic in their courtship. New babies in barn and fold.

Light has been celebrated at this time of year for many centuries, by many cultures. From Roman candlelight processions in honor of Ceres, to the Continue reading


My Year in L.A. (Day One & Day Last)

The GuesthouseSome years back I spent a year in Los Angeles in the Writers Film Project workshop sponsored by Chesterfield Films and Amblin Entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed the year, and found out a number of things about myself including that I have terrible Movie Star Antennae:

“Did you see? That was Dennis Franz!”

“Huh? No, where?”

“He just walked past us, doofus.” Continue reading


Things That Don’t Go Away

My new “Things That Don’t Go Away,” column is now up on BookSpot Central.  Perhaps unwisely, I am wading into a new variant on an old debate…

“It has come to the attention of yr. humble author that down in the intertubes, a new variant an old argument has taken place. For those who want a summary, and links, Metafilter provides these. The short version, however, is this: Once again, an argument has arisen over how writers of American speculative fiction should/shouldn’t, do/don’t, can/can’t present people/beings who are not white, American and male.

It is a fact that the authors of speculative fiction who come from the United States remain majority white and majority male and the majority of the human beings presented in the futures imagined by these authors remain white and male.

The question is then, with all the changes in the culture that have taken place in the US over the last 70 years, why is this still the case? Since arguments about the presentation of race/culture/gender in American SF is is clearly one of those things That Don’t Go Away, I humbly submit that a historical overview of science fiction in the US might be useful here.”

Read More…


Sarah’s Travels in Florence


It is 3:50 pm and I am sitting at Gate 28 in the McNamera terminal of Detroit Metro. So far, everything has gone very smoothly. We dropped Alexander off at the Piziks’s. He is excited by the prospect of a week of brothers and sleepovers. We had to stop off back home, because while making sure nobody else forgot anything, I managed to forget my carryon bag. But we hit the airport in good time, found a parking spot easily, checked in sans problem and even made it quickly through security. Evidently late on a Saturday afternoon is not prime travel time.

The only thing which is not making me happy is the flight has just been delayed 15 minutes. I REALLY hope this is not a sign of things to come. We’re going to have to go through customs in Amsterdam as that’s our EU entry point, and we only have 3 hours to make the connection.

Still, we shall keep a good thought. Tim has gone off to find an electrical outlet. There’s a man next to me passing the time sketching the various scenes. The couple across from me is speaking Russian to each other and the man is reading Vonnegut’s PLAYER PIANO.

Travel is the time when stories intersect and are born.
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The Aurealis Australian Genre Fiction Awards – 2


So, the Event – the Aurealis Award Gala Ceremony, to give the full title – is over; eight or ten authors or illustrators are feeling very happy, four times that number are feeling disappointed, or at the very least, slightly let down. Have to say that I’m among the disappointed crew. Yes, needless to say, my novel Amberlight didn’t get the cigar for best Autralian fantasy novel of 2008.

That said, it was quite an evening. The program book, as you can see from the cover, was quite spectacular. The theatre was sold out (the free drinks  had already run out when my mates and I arrived half an hour before the start,  though they lasted better at the post-awards cocktail party. ) The light show and Continue reading


Science Fiction: The Future is Now

Here’s a horrible thought:

All that technophobic science fiction is happening:


All I can say is: why? Do we really need to so egregiously sacrifice privacy for safety? This is not just going through your bags at the airport here. This is preemptive strike on a personal level. Who should have the power to command such tech? We just spent eight years losing all kinds of rights and privacy due to unnecessary paranoia (and quite possibly greed on the part of powerful people I might add). There’s no guarantee Obama’s going to get them back for us. By the time the next reactionary gets to wreak havoc in the U.S. administration, they’re going to have all this tech to help them. RFID pales in comparison to this.

Continue reading