Starting A Very Short Review (Comics)

I’ve been posting Very Short Reviews of comic books on Usenet for some time now — they show up on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe. So it seems natural to post them here too.

The basics: I do not pretend to read all comics, nor even all DC comics. I read what I read, and only review the few worthy of mention. Brevity is key. The original idea was to get the entire thing onto one screen; obviously this is not so important in a blog but I still vow to keep it short. I am incurably plot-centric and character-focused, as most writers are; you cannot blind me with gorgeous art although vile art is never a plus. And I get bored, oh! so rapidly, which is actually a virtue. Because who wants to be bored by a comic? If I am bored, I tell you, and you can save money by not buying a boring issue. I will therefore try to keep these as current as possible, as a shopping aid.

So to start us off, here is a Very Short Review of Detective Comics #850, just out last week.

Batman’s current arc, about the past 5 or 6 issues, has been depressing and uninspiring. The storyline was cruelly handicapped with the dullest and least interesting member of Batman’s rogue gallery, Hush. Let’s face it, a comic book villain with no especial costume, no particular powers, and an unknown motivation is a recipe for ennui. And the emotional plot engine (is Batman/Bruce going to open up emotionally?) is a conundrum of such antiquity, we might as well be trekking with Allan Quatermain looking for the lost tomb of the kings of the Kukuanas. Batman has been doing this for at least twenty years — either resolve it or give it a rest!

However. This is the final issue in the arc, which means that it really is the best of the bunch. Comic book creators know to start an arc off with a bang, to hook readers, and to conclude it properly, lest there be rioting int he streets. (The hope is that the fascinating premise will keep you hooked through the saggy middle issues.) The art in this issue is especially beautiful — they should chain artist Dustin Nguyen to his desk by the ankle. Any story with a tyrannosaurus rex stomping through the Batcave has a gold star in my book. And if God is merciful, developments with Selina (aka Catwoman) will actually develop instead of dropping into the usual comic book limbo. The mention of a followup arc in January is a good augury for this.

Brenda Clough


A Flash of Inspiration


[Updated 11/17 to provide links to Book View Cafe and stories.]

Sudden fiction. Micro fiction. Short-shorts. People have come up with many names for very short stories. My favorite is flash fiction. Maybe it’s the alliteration.

There are at least as many length rules for flash fiction as names: Under 250 words? 500? 1,000? Sometimes a contest goes even higher.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are extremely short stories. The Canadian magazine NFG runs what it calls the Great 69er contest, where all the stories are 69 words long. And Wired got a bunch of SF/F writers to contribute 6-word stories.

Bruce Holland Rogers is a master of the genre. Continue reading


Everybody Needs a Hobby

by Vonda N. McIntyre

Hyperbolic creature with tentacles

I always have to have a fiddly hobby. Needlepoint, crocheting, web page design (than which there is nothing more fiddly).

Some years back I noticed beads. “Shiny!” as the kids in my neighborhood and the characters on Buffy the Vampire Slayer say.

So I bought some beads and some long skinny bead needles and discovered the wonder that is Shipwreck Beads and started playing around.

Continue reading


The Travelling Writer

I don’t’ travel much, so I really enjoy it when I do.  For writing my series PATHS TO CAMELOT (to read a piece of Camelot’s Blood, visit  I had the opportunity to take a flying visit to Cornwall.  The following is, more or less, what happened as I went there and back again:

Sarah in Charge

Sarah’s UK Trip Part One — Getting There is Half the Fun?

From Sarah’s Journal:

Well, I’m on the plane, full now, next to a guy headed home to Romania. Met Comrades (Steven and Kala Piziks) at fountain (the big water sculpture in the new Northwest Terminal at the airport) and shared dinner(in the airport’s Coney Island. Not great, not terrible). Guy next to me has an 8 hr. layover in London and we talked about how he should spend it. So far, so good.

This was before the drama. I got up to use the bathroom. There was an older gentleman in the aisle in front of me, I presumed getting ready to do the same thing. Next thing I know, he’s falling over, on top of me. Everything I know about proper emergancy first aid goes right out of my head, and I’m crouched down beside him, my hand on his cheek, alternately yelling in his ear “Sir? Sir!” and yelling over my shoulder “Somebody get the stewardess!” His eyes were open, but he was NOT responding. I was thinking stroke? Dead?! When, blessedly, a voice shouts behind me. “I’m a nurse! I’m an EMT!” _Right_ I levitate sideways and let the woman through. She’s now down where I was and the stewards are charging up the aisle behind her. She’s down where I was and saying “I can’t find a pulse!”

Oh, Christ!

It ended well, though. Crew swung into action. O2 is brought, feet are elevated, well-meaning gawkers are settled back into their seats, “Just give him some space and air” I’m shuffled back to my seat, which was a bit of an operation, because the emergancy personell were blocking the aisle but we get me out on the other side. I found out later, he had just fainted. The stewardess said, “Oh, yeah. Happens all the time. Sometimes we get 2 or 3 a flight.”

Whew. Okay.

After that, the flight was, thankfully, much more boring. Got into Heathrow on time, found my bag, got to customs. Customs agent was I thought, a little overly concerned that the author in front of him had enough money to be getting on with (you know what a lot of spongers we are), but I was able to assure him I had access to cash and credit, and he let me in. Found the express to Paddington Station and got past with my railpass without problem. Express train duly pulled into Paddington.  It was now about 8:30 am local time. I could either grab some fast food and the train due to leave in the next 20 minutes, or I could go outside and have a little walk and get a reasonable breakfast.

Choosing the latter, I went out onto the street and very shortly found an open sandwhich shop, where I got a toasted ham and cheese sandwhich, OJ, and a cup of milky tea. Good tea at a cheap sandwich shop, I’m HOME! Also found cash machine and loaded up on British pounds.

Loaded for bear, I went back to the station, used calling card to contact car hire agent to say when I’d bee there, purchased a cheap mobile phone and kit when the shop opened, bought food for the train, caught the train and was on my way to Cornwall.

I was also exhausted by this time, and slept a large part of the trip. Almost didn’t figure out how to work the door at my stop (they don’t open automatically, you have to open the window, reach through and open the door, AND THERE’S NO NOTICE OF THIS). Fellow traveller came and helped, and I was out on the platform in Cornwall. And there was the car hire agent. A quick inspection and a few signatures later, there I was. Me, and a car, and Cornwall.

No, if you’re wondering, I never had driven in the UK, let alone in Cornwall. I had a map, I had a route, I had a lot of nerve, and I needed every single one of them.
Let me tell you about the roads between Bodmin and Tintagel. There are three kinds: narrow, tight and you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me. There are no shoulders. There aren’t even any ditches. There are hedges. Six-to-eight feet tall living green embankments that are impossible to see over and when the corners and bends are tight, which is frequent, you cannot see where you’re going, or when the next turn it coming, and this turned out to be the land of S curves and hairpin turns. Oh, and did I mention that many of the roads are paved, but not painted? No striping, no center line?

Add to the fun that the signage is poor, and the auto club route was about as complicated as it could possibly get.

Upshot: I got lost, quickly and thoroughly. I got scared, frequently. Like, every single little town where I seemed to have to go through the traffic circle. I went really, really slow. As a result, I did not hit the lamb that was going for a stroll. Nor did I hit Hazel-Rah who was determined to see if he could make it across in front of me. I finally resorted to stopping to ask directions every mile or so.

“Am I on the road to Tintagel?”
“No, but you could be just, go here…”

“Am I on the road to Tintagel?”
“No, but you go up ahead there, and turn right…”

Oh, and incidently, the roads are also STEEP, and there was one moment when, as I was gripping the wheel and chanting “Stay left, stay left, stay left,” I saw through a gap in the hedge that the other SIDE of said hedge was the drop off for a cliff.


It all came to a head when I turned down a really steep one-lane road. And met another car coming up. There was no way to pass. He had to back up until I could creep past him.

Over an hour from my start time, and about at my wits ends, I did finally creep into Tintagel. I parked and WALKED to find my B&B, where they were ready for me, helped me get parked and my gear stowed and brought me a nice cup of tea, which I desperately needed. I called home and let them know I was okay, relatively speaking. I was shaking.

It was now around 4:00. Tintagel castle was only open until six. I had two choices. I could stay here and just, chill and shake, and possibly not have any chance to see the castle at all, given how tight my schedule was, or I could suck it up and get out there.

I sucked it up, put on my hiking boots and got out there.



Welcome to the Book View Cafe blog!

I’ll be brief.  Partly, I admit, because it’s a bit daunting to be writing our very first post.  We’ve all been working madly since March to get ready for this launch and it’s hard to believe that it’s finally here.

The idea behind Book View Cafe is simple; we as authors wanted to make our work available in digital form and bring that work directly to our readers.

We hope you like what you’re finding, on the site as well as on this blog, and that you’ll let us know when you do.  If there’s something more you’d like to see, or something by our authors you can’t find but want to, let us know that too.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and welcome to your Book View Cafe!


The Skin

Ursula K. Le Guin

“All around us is the skin,
helping keep our bodies in.”

I’ve known that poem sixty years.
There’s more to it than first appears.

If we were skinless, like a cloud,
would we not mingle with the crowd?

Would not our little bodies be
more boundless even than the sea,

and gaseous as the atmosphere?
Would we be there as well as here?

Would I be you, and you be me,
and both of us mere entropy?

The two it takes to tango need
to be discrete, not just discreet.

The skin, however, does have holes
for letting in and out our souls,

our food, and such necessities.
It is designed to serve and please.

It washes well, but with the years
gets wrinkles, little spots and smears,

and somehow doesn’t seem to fit
as seamlessly as once as it did.

But still it is my nomad’s tent,
my shelter, my integument,

the outside of myself, this thin,
seemingly superficial skin,

that hems me neatly all about,
keeping foreign bodies out,
and keeping me, a while yet, in.

Ursula K. Le Guin