Monday, February 11, 2019

"Trace the Stars": Anthology Funding Student Entry to LTUE

Greetings, my dear Internet friends, neighbors, and the occasional family member who actually reads my stuff!

Papa Pat has something special for you today!
This book will NOT be published until FEB 14, 2019!!!

If you don't run an ad-blocker, you see the link. If you DO run an ad-blocker (as I do). you see zip, so here is this:

And the reason you see THIS, is because the proceeds from the sale of 
subsidize student admission fees to the LTUE conference.

Also: If you click a link in my blog and then buy the product from Amazon, I get a referral fee. It's not much; I've made $20 over the last four years. However, whatever minuscule amount comes my way from referrals on this post, I will also donate to LTUE, and match, up to the aforementioned $20.

I received a copy of this work from the editor, who requested a fair review. I was happy to oblige, as at the moment I was watching my daughter cheer for her middle school basketball team, and any distraction was welcome.

Proceeds from the sale of this work will be used to sustain the ability to offer students attending the Life, The Universe and Everything conference a much, much reduced entry fee. That's worth doing, so, buy this one, okay? The authors DONATED their work to this cause!

I've never been to LTU&E, and just from the reading I've done as prep for this review, it seems to me that the overall theme is this: what we do matters. Decisions must be made ethically, even if no one knows about it. I may be utterly wrong about that, but I include a couple of links so you can read up on it yourself:  About LTUE. ;   LTUE on WikipediaA History of LTUE.

I began reading with a bit of confusion, due to the dedication. I find that my reading pattern involves routinely skipping over content-free sections of text, a category to which I have assigned poetry, proper names, and most designations of time and geography. This USUALLY works, although sometimes I do have to go back and re-read, when I find myself hopelessly lost. That was the case here.

The book is dedicated to (mumble mumble) “Doc” Smith. Well, that's reasonable. Doc Smith was one of the early SF writers, and a noted mentor to Heinlein, after all. So there is no incongruity in the dedication of a volume  of space opera to him. Right?

Wrong. My flash-reading let me down; in the place of the (mumble mumble) up above, I find not 'Edward Elmer,' but 'Marion K.' It's an entirely different Doc Smith, linked, as far as I know, only by love of science fiction, and the accident of academic credentials and a common last name. THIS Doc Smith receives proper homage in Monson's “Foreword,” and I encourage you to read it as well as the stories.

To which we now turn our attention:

“Angles of Incidence,” by Nancy Fulda. The good doctor Kittyhawk – call her Kitty – is perfectly happy dealing with dead things, whether it's pieces of beings or pieces of structures. They don't bother her with disturbing intrusions into her space; they just sit there, at peace and in pieces, and allow her to discover their secrets at her own pace. So, it's bothersome to her when she is pulled off her field site, and asked to solve a question under a deadline; particularly when this is a literal deadline.  Deadly serious actions, with elements of comedy.

“The Road Not Taken,” by Sandra Tayler. It's likely that every one of us have spent time wondering (or fixating upon) what would happen had we made a different choice. We think we would be happier, if we had gone the other way. I've read several stories revolving around ways to make the choice differently, and it never works out, but this is the first story I've seen with this approach. I DO hope the author was going for 'creepy' in the reader reaction, because this one sent chills.

“Log Entry,” by Kevin J. Anderson. He's really a masterful writer: gives you (almost) the punchline, then tells the story. It is an engrossing tale of resolve, youthful expectations meeting reality, and a very strange alien ecology. This is one of my favorites in the collection, as it speaks directly to my love of military sci-fi. 

“The Ghost Conductor of the Interstellar Express,” by Brad R. Torgersen. If he knows how to write a bad story, I have found no evidence of it yet, I've just reviewed his short story 'Scrith' in the recently-issued “Man-Kzin Wars XV,” (it was wonderful) and then I was pleasantly surprised to discover he has a story in this collection as well. WOOT! I don't QUITE know how to describe the feel of this work; it's a bit melancholy, almost. The protagonist, Caddy Brenton, was removed from her parents as a young child, and sent with an older brother on a centuries-long journey to colonize a planet that there was only theoretical evidence of. When the ship arrives, there is, in fact, a planet, but it is totally devoid of life and the chemicals needed to create or sustain life. The solution: send out comet-catchers, to snag long-period comets and divert them to orbit around New Olympia, where their raw materials will be used to bring a garden where there is only desert. And that's what Caddy's beloved older brother was doing, when he vanished. Just him; his ship returned without him. She has to find out what happened. 

“A Veil of Leaves,” by M. K. Hutchins. It's her wedding day, and to her great joy, the star-man arrives! The star-people have provided them with power and light; who knows what beneficence will come this time? Surely it will be something wonderful! 

“Freefall,” by Eric James Stone. Anyone who has read “The Cold Equations” will never forget it, and it has such an emotional impact that you overlook the fact that it's utterly preposterous. It's entirely possible you won't ever forget “Freefall,” either.

“Launch,” by Daniel Friend.  Charity Penland is on the witness stand, to give testimony that will convict a co-worker of negligence or sabotage of the colony ship that carried away, among others, her treasured baby sister.  
This one is over the top, in my opinion; it produces a visceral reaction, but at the expense of distorting how humans handle guilt and grief. No one can tolerate living with such strong emotions as are expressed here without blurting out a confession. Just my opinion.

“Glass Beads,” by Emily Martha Sorensen. I've read a couple of good treatments of First Contact where the inequality of trade is a factor, starting with "Liberation of Earth" (1953) by William Tenn, with the lovely riff “Any lendi, dendi?” It wasn't until years later that I heard Glenn Miller's band play “Got a penny, Jenny?”More recently is the entire Four Horsemen series, which MUST have reached a hundred volumes by this time (at least, it seems that way). However, I haven't seen the treatment done in quite this way, and really, it's a very good read.

“Sweetly the Dragon Dreams,” by David Farland. Space Monsters wish to destroy all life in the galaxy; on a distant planet, humans and allies fight back.  That sounds like science fiction, but this reads like fantasy. I NEVER read fantasy if I can help it. If you like fantasy, I expect you will like this. 

“Working on Cloud Nine,” by John M. Olsen. Loved this one; didn't think I was going to at first, because it took me a while to understand the plain words on the screen. I have no excuse for that; it's a GREAT read! Sabotage on a space station, having to solve the problem before the rescue team gets there because unauthorized experiments; GREAT stuff! 

“Fido,” by  James Wymore. I was deeply taken into the world of the protagonist, a human on an alien spacecraft. He volunteered to go, because he felt he had nothing to hold him to Earth. After he discovers he was wrong, it's too late to return. And they are messing with his mind... Upon reflection, perhaps this is a horror tale; it's certainly of Twilight Zone quality. Very well done.

“Knowing Me,” by Eric G. Swedin. In 20+ years as an educator, I encountered more than a few kids  on the Asperger's/Autism spectrum that required modification of their educational program. A very few of them were also extremely intelligent.  Only one came anywhere near the limits and the abilities of this protagonist, and he wasn't even that close. What I find best about this selection is the sympathetic way in which he is treated by the author: this is not a monster or a freak. He is a highly gifted individual, with no social skills to speak of, and an overarching need for routine. It's through no fault of his that he was chosen to save the world, and that his selection cost him all that he had. Beautiful story.

“Making Legends,” by Jaleta Clegg. There are all sorts of ways in which we are denied our heart's desire. Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways we can find it, as well. Wonderfully wacky story. 

“Neo Nihon,” Paul Genesse. China has a population bomb that has already exploded on them; it's just that the shock waves haven't reached their limits yes. That's a truth, and this work uses that as a basis for the story. It's set in a far-distant time, and on a far distant planet, but it strongly evokes the Rape of Nanking, which some believe to be the true beginning of WWII, rather than the German invasion of Poland. I wonder if the author had the rape of Nanking in mind when he wrote this?

“The Last Ray of Light,” by Wulf Moon. You MUST read the Editor's Note and the Author's Note on this story! The author was 15 years old when this work was published. Seen with that perspective, it's a work of genius.  Otherwise, it's merely good, and the 'merely' qualification comes only because the characters' names are Xenon and Argon. That's the kind of thing a 15 year old inserts into the story to highlight the science fiction nature of the writing; it's not something an adult writer would do. Well, except for Isaac Asimov. The other noticeable discrepancy of the story is a function of the time in which it was written (1978) ; charmingly (to those of us of a certain maturity), the computer ends each sentence with 'STOP.' I am grateful they decided to release it in this form, instead of editing it to remove what would cause dissonance today.

“Cycle 335,” by Beth Buck. I really can't say very much about the plot of the story without spoiling it horribly, and I won't do that. I will say that the author sticks in nicely disconcerting thoughts in the protagonist's head. I'll also say that this is one of the worst wide-awake nightmares to have. 

“Sea of Chaos,” by Julia H. West. All of the science in the world won't make a good story if the characters aren't real. As far as the science goes, you really aren't asked to make too many leaps of faith. The first one is a standard, which is that there exists a FTL drive, in this case referred to as 'overspace.' However, the charming aspect of this particular drive, is that it is managed by a navigator using a VR interface that simulates the long voyages taken by the Polynesian explorers. Both of those are merely an excuse to bring the real joy of the story, which is of an old dog and some new tricks. 

So, the book will go on sale the day of the LTUE conference kicks off, February 14, 2019. However, I think you can pre-order.
Not trying to tell you how to run your life, okay? Only giving you some information.
Because that's how I roll.

Peace be on your household.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds good, and since I'm going, I'll pick up a copy there.