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BULL SPEC a magazine of speculative fiction


















31 CLOSED SYSTEM Mike Gallagher PART 3 OF 4


24 THE LEGIONS OF FIRE David Drake ≈ Excerpt; Review by Paul Kincaid; Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn [SMB] 38 WHERE I WRITE Joe Haldeman ≈ Article by SMB 42 ZERO HISTORY William Gibson ≈ Article by SMB 44 THE WAY OF KINGS Brandon Sanderson ≈ Article by SMB 46 FIFTEEN Tachyon Publications ≈ Article by SMB 48 GREASING THE PAN Paul T. Riddell ≈ Review by Jeff VanderMeer; Interview by SMB 52 THE ORDER OF DAGONET Firetower Studios: Jeremy Whitley and Jason Strutz ≈ Interview by SMB


36 HAPPENINGS 54 REVIEWS ≈ SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY Mary Robinette Kowal ≈ Review by Natania Barron; THE DERVISH HOUSE Ian McDonald ≈ Review by Richard Dansky; THE CARDINAL’S BLADES Pierre Pevel ≈ Review by Richard Dansky; THE BIRD OF THE RIVER Kage Baker ≈ Review by Joseph Giddings 58 POETRY ≈ DOLLY BONE DREAM AND THE STANDING STONES HAVE FALLEN, BUT THE DEBT REMAINS Deborah Walker; WHEN I GROW UP David Sklar; MAGNETIC MOMENT Rob Elkind; THREAD HEAD Matt Ronquillo; WITH A CHANCE OF SUCKING VACUUM AND WHAT THE POET WROTE AFTER HIS WIFE PUT THAT BIG SEED POD UNDER HIS BED Robert Laughlin 60 TRILINGUAL FLASH FICTION ≈ SAND Natania Barron AND A CROWDED PLACE Paul Celmer ≈ Translated into French by Gio Clairval and into Spanish by Itzel Leaf 62 EDITORIAL ≈ MIND THE NEWSSTAND



ISSN 21 52-5234 is published quarterly by Bull Spec / PO Box 1 31 46 / Durham, NC 27709 / United States [+1 .877.867.6889] and is copyright © 201 0 Bull Spec & its contributors. Find it in your local book or comic shop or online at [bullspec.com]! Burning Catalonian Bull photo originally by Stuart Yeates, used and available under a Creative Commons BY- SA 2.0 license. Bleeding Cowboys font used by permission.










This is a love story. This is an adventure story. This is a sad story. Watch.


The stars are scattered across the darkness of space like a concentration of sand flung from a child’s small hand, wet from the ocean’s water, shining and dense like a cloud of fireflies. The stars are pretty and the stars are old. In the midst of the dimming brightness of stars there is a single globe where men and women once were. It all happened after the people went, after the machines failed, when the star cloud was only just beginning to age. It all happened before the Dog Wars, in the days before the Albino Cat and the exodus of the Avians. When the Green Menace was still







Y DAD TAUGHT ME AT DINNER THE OTHER day what the word “insipid” means. Our neighbor sent over some food for us, knowing that we were migrating the next day. Dad said that the soup was insipid, a comment he was sure to whisper in my mom’s ear. But I caught it. I asked a few minutes later, and he said it meant bland, something that really didn’t taste like anything. But I wonder if that applies to more than just food. As we drive through one of the cityscapes today, I think about the word “insipid.” I hear empty cans rattling around in a honeycomb as we drive by, and I wonder when the inhabitants of this particular one decided to migrate. We pull over in our car to rest for a while. For the past two days we have driven towards the sunlight. We are now in evening. Mom says we will keep driving until we reach late-afternoon. I think back to the lesson my dad taught me once about the other planets. He said that in a different galaxy was a planet called Earth. Our people only visited the place once, and that was just before the expanding sun enveloped the whole thing. Why didn’t we come sooner and save them? Maybe they were too weak for our lives. Their planet spun, making sure that every 24 hours they went through each of the cycles of day. Our planet is not so considerate. We travel around it, plan our learning, meals, and sleep around its schedule. My dad also told me once that what we call morning through night is kind of like what they called spring through winter. The more I think about these things, the more I wish our planet was like theirs. But it’s not. It provides nothing but the ground we step on. I wanted to know more about Earth, but the more I asked, the less he wanted to say. When I asked what it was like to live there, Dad said it was like living in one of the Pole Metropolises all the time. There was so much more I wanted to know, but he cut me off with a wave of his hand. He wore a look of disgust as he got up and walked away. I didn’t ask him again, but I found other people to talk to. A few of the visiting Nomads I had spoken with told me about the Pole Metropolises. None of them portrayed the cities kindly, but I thought they sounded incredible. Or maybe that’s just what I wanted to think. The poles are located precisely between night and day, so the weather is always tolerable. The Metropolitans can just stay there, make


their lives, and really know people. Our car starts up again, and I push these thoughts away. I haven’t been to late-afternoon before. My dad says the sun is orange and bright, and the soil hasn’t had the chance to cool yet. I ask why we’re going so far ahead this migration, and he says it’s because we need to cross the ocean this time. Pointing way ahead on the road, he shows me a blue line on the horizon. The next shift, we reach the beginning of the East Ocean Bridge. It intimidates me, knowing how strong it is and how long I will have to rely on it—a creation of other men. I don’t know these men. How can I trust them? How do I know that they didn’t sabotage it, that we would be able to cross without harm? Mom and Dad say they’ve crossed it many times in their lives. I hold in my breath as we pull onto it. There are cars on all sides of us, each trying to pass us before our order is determined for the entire journey. My parents will take turns driving so that neither will get too tired as they travel along the narrow path. The journey across the bridge lasts several days, but the change in the light is evident. By the time we reach the other side, we enter sunset. The cityscapes we pass by now are accumulating people. They will have to migrate sooner than us next time. I watch a man climb up a staircase to the room he has claimed for his family in the honeycomb. The myriad tall windows of the concrete edifice gape open at me like so many yawning mouths. I, too, am tired. What existence do we have? I think we were robbed of a proper life. Those people on Earth, even though they are dead now, they had something beautiful. Nothing here has the chance to grow beautiful. Anything attached to the ground is scorched by the day or frozen by the night. Our neighbor, the one who made us dinner, told us in confidence that she was planning on staying through the night this year. My dad took her aside and spoke to her, reminding her what night was, what lived in night, and what night could do to her. She shook her head, determined that she would not move. She said she was too old, and that she was tired of the migrations. We waved to her as we pulled away from the honeycomb we had all shared. Mom cried. Dad shook his head for the next three miles. Now long past the first honeycomb, we begin to feel the residual heat of daytime. I pull off my jacket, comfortable






BY KATHERINE S PARROW 1649, St George’s Hill, Surrey “For the Earth, with all her fruits of corn, cattle, and such like, was made to be a common store-house of livelihood to all mankind, friend, and foe, without exception. Know this to be always true. Money must not any longer be the great god, that hedges in some, and hedges out others. And so we take back our common lands, to fill our common treasury!” Across St. George’s Hill men raised their trowels and shovels at Winstanley’s words, eager and ready for the work about them. As one they dug into the earth. Forty good men began planting rows of vegetable seeds in the mucked earth on the cold brown lump that was St. George’s Hill. Forty hungry men toiled upon the land that they might eat well come solstice. Winstanley knelt and worked the hard ground with fingers numb and stiff as potatoes. He had never known the soil like this; so raw and untilled. All the riches, right here, he mused. Perhaps one day all men would look back upon this day, marked bright within the books of history, as the first day of freedom. Winstanley wore a pouch of dried beans around his waist and planted each with care. The seeds would grow, just like the words of the True Levelers would grow and spread across England. Poor England, sick with the Norman Yoke and Babylonian desires, lost in the instincts of selfishness, of tainted man. Such thoughts dulled the pains of his body, the knotted ache of his belly, and the chill deep in his bones that never left him—not even when he slept cuddled beside the warm body of his wife, Susan. Other men planted carrots and parsnips into the folds of the hill. It was all changing. He could feel it in the soil—the warmth from below, the promise of summer and fairer times. From down the hill horses whinnied. A man sitting in a hackney coach came down the road. The horses strained and labored to pull the carriage’s tall wooden wheels through the mud and over stones. Winstanley eyed the coming man, exhaled a long plume of breath, and walked down to greet him. It was the Lord of Manor and Cloth, Parson Pratt. Other Levelers stopped in their pursuits and stood, hesitant and frozen, upon the hill. Some had been wage earners for Pratt, and their faces held fear as clearly as Pratt held the whip upon his lap. “Men of England, what in divine God’s name are you doing?” Parson Platt asked in his best Sunday voice. “Working the commons for shared gain,” Winstanley replied. He had to strain his neck upwards to look at the Parson in his coach. “’Tis devil’s work and will bring damnation. Who gave you the right?” Platt asked. “It is the true rights of man. Bondage is Satan in you and among you.” Winstanley said it


Pittsboro author David Drake has been writing professionally for “forty-odd� years, spanning decades of adventure, mililtary, and fantasy stories and novels. His latest fantasy novel The Legions ofFire (Tor Books, May 2010) starts a new tetralogy, weaving the ancient world, the four classical elements, and the four cardinal directions into a tapestry of magic, poetry, sphinxes, and swords. Read on for an excerpt, a review, and an at-length interview.

David Drake

The Legions of Fire



From The Legions ofFire by David Drake. Copyright © 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of Tor Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. EXCERPT: CHAPTER 1 0, SCENE 2

Alphena found herself standing on turf instead of the stone coping. She flailed her arms instinctively as her cleats dug into the sod. The weight of her shield nearly pulled her over. It was night instead of noon as it had been in the garden. Besides that, the moon was in its first quarter instead of being a day past full as it would be when it rose tonight in Carce. The warm air was scented with unfamiliar spices, and the trees were nothing like anything Alphena had ever seen. Something very close by screamed in metallic rage. Alphena turned toward the sound and drew her sword. She didn’t know what was happening, but it obviously wasn’t happening in the garden of the noble Senator Gaius Alphenus Saxa. The shriek sounded again. Alphena sidled toward it carefully, looking over the top of her rectangular shield. Three layers of birch had been laminated into a sheet so that the grain crossed and then recrossed. The whole was about two inches thick, bulky as well as heavy. Alphena suddenly didn’t mind the shield’s awkwardness. At the moment it gave her more confidence than the doubleedged short sword in her other hand, though that too was of army pattern. She worked her way around a line of leaves which were each the size of a blanket. Twenty feet away, a cat the size of an ox was clawing at the thin trunk of a tree topped not with branches but rather what looked like a single dock leaf. A man in a full cloak balanced precariously on the leaf. His broad-brimmed traveler’s hat lay near the base of the tree where the cat must have surprised him. He met Alphena’s eyes, then looked away. The leaf concealed him from the beast’s vantage, but out of sight obviously didn’t take him out of the creature’s mind. The cat stretched to its full height, then ripped both forepaws down. Strips and fragments flew from the trunk; the top wobbled, causing the man to adjust his position. The cat couldn’t reach to within fifteen feet of him, but in a few minutes the severed trunk would topple him to the ground. The cat moved back slightly and paced, its eyes always upward. Alphena had thought it was a cat beyond the size of any lion she’d seen in the arena. When it moved out from the shadow of the leaf, she saw that its head was human—or almost human. The creature’s long, narrow face wouldn’t have aroused comment on the streets of Carce so long as it kept its mouth shut. When it opened its jaws for another high-pitched, ter-


Do you listen to audiobooks? I don’t listen to audiobooks, but I do listen (have listened for decades) to recordings of old radio shows while I do my daily exercise. Radio scripts are intended for oral delivery; books are not. (I listened to a great deal of radio when I was a kid.) Have you really not driven a car since the mid-1980s? I really haven’t driven a car since the year (somewhere around 1986-88) Mark Van Name counted the preliminary Nebula votes and found that the story which ultimately won had been improperly left off the ballot. I have a couple motorcycles, and my wife drives a car. Since I work on my porches, I can generally stay home if the weather is abysmal. I guess I’ll add to that. I was never a very good driver. I finally decided that the risk ofkilling somebody else ifI drove a car bothered me more than the greater risk ofbeing killed ifI rode a motorcycle. I therefore switched completely to motorcycles. Can you expand on the subconscious activity that goes on when you’re involved with your immediate surroundings when on motorcycle, something you’ve called “even better than sleeping on problems”? I’m going to give you my best analysis of why riding a motorcycle helps me get through writing (and particularly plotting) cruxes. Remember, however, that I’m talking about stuff that goes on out of—beneath—my conscious awareness. I have a great deal of stored information, but it isn’t all in what I’ll call the ready-use memory. When I’m riding a motorcycle, my conscious mind is completely in the moment: you don’t daydream on a bike and keep the rubber side down (the basic rule of motorcycling). Therefore my conscious mind isn’t able to focus directly on the writing problem, and my subconscious is able to free-associate until it comes up with an answer. I wouldn’t have been having the problem if my conscious ways of dealing with the question were working; but there probably is an answer somewhere in that mind of mine, along with a lot of other stuff. (Including, I’m sure, cobwebs in some of the corners.) How is the translation of the rest of Ovid’s Metamorph-


oses: The Hercules Cycle going?

I need to get back to the chunk of Ovid’s Metamorphoses which I’ve been working on for months. I have a complete rough translation, but I’ve only started the refinement.

Who are you reading, other than Ovid and Homer? I read a couple things at a time. At the moment these are Tank Men: The Human Story ofTanks at War; the July, 1957, issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (which has the remarkable “The Doe and the Gantlet” by Pat Stadler); and Wings ofthe Weird and Wonderful by Captain Eric Brown (a uniquely experienced test pilot). Other than cold calls from medical companies, how is turning 65 changing you? As best I can tell, turning 65 isn’t changing me at all. My brain works (or at least I hope it will resume working when I shake off the exhaustion of writing a 155,000-word novel) and I’m physically in better shape than I was before I started doing really heavy yard work a few years ago. I don’t mean I’m not old, but I’m still functional. What’s next for Alphena, Varus, and Carce? The threat (not the opponent, exactly) in Out ofthe Waters is Typhon. I got the notion when I read Nonnos’ evocative description ofthe monster coming out ofthe sea and ravaging Asia Minor. (Nonnos was a 5th century ad Egyptian epic poet.) I hope people like the book. I had fun writing it. Heck, I almost always have fun writing. Sure, it’s work—but it’s work that I love. ■

THE LEGIONS OF FIRE by David Drake Tor Books

for Baen Books, which has been the leader in electronic marketing of SF. I try not to think about stuff that I don’t understand and can’t change, which certainly includes the future of publishing. I will say that trusting the people I work with has proven as good a strategy in publishing as it was with the Blackhorse in Cambodia. (I would not be surprised to learn that Joe Haldeman has a different opinion of the situation. We are shaped by our personal experiences.)


When: Thursday, November 11 , 7 PM

Where: Barnes & Noble Booksellers Address: 5400 New Hope Commons, Durham, NC 27707 What: Reading, signing, and discussion Who: Kij Johnson, Richard Dansky, Melinda Thielbar, Mur Lafferty, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Natania Barron, Davey Beauchamp, Ken Campbell, Warren Schultz, R.E. VanNewkirk, Dan Campbell, Joe Giddings Why: To foster a local sense of speculative-fiction community. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Gamers, Bizarro, we welcome it all! Questions? Jaym Gates at dragoninkhouse@gmail.com



Happenings aims to keep track of publications by writers of speculative fiction in the greater Raleigh-Durham area, along with events of local interest.

AUGUST 3 Mark L. Van Name’s novel Children No More (Jon & Lobo series, Baen)

is published—author proceeds donated to Falling Whistles, a child-soldier rehabilitation charity. 5-8 The North American Science Fiction Convention comes to Raleigh as ReConStruction at the Raleigh Convention Center; there, Mary Robinette Kowal launches her debut novel Shades of Milk and Honey. 6 Lewis Shiner has new definitive editions of his novels Frontera and Glimpses published (Subterranean Press). 24 Peak Publishing publishes The First Line, an anthology of original short stories from local young writers. 28 John Claude Bemis launches The Wolf Tree (The Clockwork Dark series, Random House) in historic downtown Hillsborough. 30 M. David Blake and David Vogel have stories published in the anthology Stupefying Stories (Rampant Loon Press, ed. Bruce Bethke). 31 Kelly Gay’s The Darkest Edge of Dawn (Pocket) is published. 31 Eric Gregory has his story “Chain of Hearts” published in the anthology The Blackness Within (Apex Book Company, ed. Gill Ainsworth).

SEPTEMBER 1 Natania Barron’s story “The Monastery of the Seven Hands” published in Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian SF (Dark Quest, ed. Jason Sizemore) 1 Michael Jasper’s contemporary fantasy webcomic In Maps & Legends

(art by Niki Smith) re-launches online and in various electronic formats. 7 David Drake’s What Distant Deeps (Lt. Leary series, Baen) is published. 7 Quail Ridge Books hosts bestselling epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson for a reading and signing of his new novel The Way of Kings. 7 C.D. Covington has her story “U8: Alexanderplatz (1 989)” published in the anthology Retro Spec (Raven Electric Ink, ed. Karen Romanko). 8 Barron and Jaym Gates announced as the new editors of Crossed Genres, a monthly magazine of science fiction and fantasy. 1 0 The Gates co-edited anthology Rigor Amortis is published. 12 McIntyre's Books hosts Warren Rochelle for his new novel The Called. 13 John Kessel’s story “Iteration” is published in Strange Horizons. 21 The Gothic Bookshop hosts William Gibson for a local stop on his tour promoting his new novel Zero History. 22 Barron announces that her novel Pilgrim of the Sky has signed with publisher Candlemark & Gleam for publication in August 2011 . 28 Eric Gregory announced as an associate fiction editor at The Raleigh Review, a flash fiction online zine with a yearly print issue. 30 Jason Erik Lundberg’s story “The Time Traveler’s Son” published in The Immersion Book of SF (Immersion Press, ed. Carmela Rafala).


N I N G S OCTOBER 1 Kij Johnson has her story “Names For Water” published in Asimov's

November/December 201 0 double issue. 1 Barron has her story “The Wakened Image” published in Weird Tales #356, the “Uncanny Beauty” issue. 1 Joseph Giddings has his short story “The Duel” published in the Golden Vision Magazine October/November/December issue. 6 Stephen Messer announced that he has signed a 2-book deal with Random House Books for Young Readers for Colossus. 1 9 Alex Wilson’s comic “The Whores in Trinidad Need Witnessing To” to be published in Outlaw Territory, Volume 2 (Image Comics). 21 Quail Ridge Books to host F. Paul Rilson for a reading and signing of his upcoming novel Fatal Error. 22-24 Capclave 201 0 in Rockville, Maryland. 22 Quail Ridge Books to host Scott Westerfeld for a reading of Behemoth. 22 Drake, Kessel, and Van Name to attend the Cary Library 50th birthday gala celebration to talk about their books and the impact of public libraries. 23 Flyleaf Books to host John Amen for a Pedestal Magazine event. 26 Van Name to read and discuss Children No More at The Regulator. 28-31 World Fantasy Convention 36 in Columbus, Ohio.

NOVEMBER 1 Kessel’s short story “The Closet” to be published in F&SF. 11 Gates hosts what can only be described as a North Carolina speculative

fiction authorpalooza at B&N of Durham, New Hope Commons. (See p. 35.) 12 Clay & Susan Griffith to hold a launch party for their upcoming book The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire (Pyr) at Quail Ridge Books. 13-14 NC Comicon to be held at the Morrisville Outlet Mall . 1 6 Cate Tiernan to read and sign her new young adult novel Immortal Beloved at The Regulator Bookshop.

DECEMBER 1 Orson Scott Card to read and discuss his new novel Pathfinder (Simon & Schuster, 23 November) at Quail Ridge Books. 1 Jeremy Whitley (story, “A Crisis of Purpose”) and Jason Strutz (cover art) to be published in the anthology No More Heroes (The Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy, ed. Wayne Goodchild and Bill Tucker).

Editor’s Pick: If you have not heard Van Name read from and talk about his book Children No More and the cause (Falling Whistles) behind it, get to The Regulator on 26 October.






FEATURE—JOE HALDEMAN RALEIGH — It is Friday August 6 after a long day in the Dealer Room at the North American Science Fiction Convention. I am standing in a room on the third floor of the downtown Raleigh Marriott, watching Mary Robinette Kowal pose for photos in full Regency garb, welcoming guests to the launch party for her first novel, Shades ofMilk and Honey. Hors d’œuvre are arranged beautifully on one side of the room. At the other, an underage bookseller is frantically trying to keep pace with the crush of buyers, knuckle-busting carbon copies amidst a competing throng headed for the assortment of mini cheesecakes. There is a wine list. Gardner Dozois is sitting in a corner of the room in a plush armchair, entertaining petitioners like one of speculative fiction’s own Godfathers. David G. Hartwell is making the rounds, soaking in the congratulations due a Tor senior editor at a wonderfully appointed Tor book launch. But, almost imperceptibly, something changes in the room as a couple enters. The man is of slightly less than medium height and medium build, his well-trimmed beard is still black at the moustache and soul patch but silver along his (rather strong) jawline. The crowd parts, subtly and perhaps subconsciously as if breathing, as he makes his way to investigate the cheesecakes and back towards the center of the room. Suddenly I am face to face with Joe Haldeman and have nothing, absolutely nothing, to say. So I say what comes first to my mind now, always, when I think of this 67-year-old Grand Master of science fiction: “Is it true that you write by quill and ink on papyrus, by lantern light?” The photograph which led to my question is from Kyle Cassidy’s “Where I Write” project, but none of the other pictures from the project capture my imagination like Haldeman’s. The truth, Mr. Haldeman tells me—even were he to tell me to call him Joe, I do not think I could manage it—is that it is only a slightly more mundane fountain pen, not an ostrich quill or anything so exotic. The lantern, though, is part of the truth of the man. In a world of authors letting us know by Twitter how many thousands of words they have managed to type on a particular day, Haldeman is writing 300 words, longhand, into his notebook. “They then have to be the right words,” he tells me, knowingly, his wizened eyes twinkling ever so slightly. And then he is gone, swallowed back into the mix of fans and authors (who are also fans) who deserve his time far more than someone who has only read one of his books and dreamt about the rest, guided by a single photograph. &

In 1967 two very important things happened to Haldeman: He received a bachelor of science degree in astronomy from the University of Maryland and he was drafted into the


Army, serving as a combat engineer in Vietnam. Returning home with a Purple Heart, Haldeman turned to writing, penning a short novel War Year and entering the MFA program at the University of Iowa. His thesis there, forged in no small part from his own experiences, turned into The Forever War, first serialized in the pages of Analog and then released as a novel which would go on to win the Nebula and Hugo awards. Even in its “definitive” 1997 Avon edition the book weighs in well below the heft of today’s 120,000-word epics. That 75,000 words is closer to the right length for a novel is something on which Haldeman and I happily agree when he comes by the Dealer Room as the convention nears its end. He also tells me, to my utter shock and disbelief, that he enjoyed my interview with John Kessel in Bull Spec #2. “Thanks,” I manage, clumsily and dumbly. Recovering, I ask, “What else are you reading these days?” Though it is nearly the last thing I expected, he answers, “Have you heard of the Dexter books?” And so began a half-hour discussion on craft and writing, beginning with the fact that sometimes it is a good thing to be trapped on a plane with only one thing to read. “I might have stopped reading Dexter, because it really did seem like garbage at first,” Haldeman recalled, “but as I was on a plane for the next 3 hours, I kept reading. Then I realized the brilliance of the author was not in presenting this story as well as he could, but in allowing the mind of a sociopath to narrate the story.” Craft is something Haldeman has to spare—he teaches writing at MIT and has a shelf full of awards—and it is something he enjoys talking about. He patiently listens while I relate my favorite bit of craftlore from the past year, that being Jeff VanderMeer’s translating a film technique from Black Hawk Down into his novel Finch. “But,” I admit, “the boldest thing I’ve tried myself is in medias res.” Here for a moment I note the time that Haldeman, a handful of months removed from being hospitalized with severe pancreatitis, has been standing across the table from me. I briefly consider offering him a chair before remembering that he was the one among us who had bicycled across the United States and, more importantly, before realizing that he seems comfortable, energetic, even passionate about having a quiet moment to talk at length with someone, anyone, about reading and writing. It is a passion he carries not only to his students at MIT, but to workshops around the country. And more than passion, he brings his wit and sense of humor. “I’d brought an acoustic guitar to the workshop,” recalls Dario Ciriello, editor and publisher at Panverse Publishing, and a former student of Haldeman’s at Clarion West 2002. “Joe saw it hanging around in the student lounge and for the


GREASING THE PAN by Paul T. Riddell Fantastic Books, 2009 Review by Jeff VanderMeer, originally published at Omnivoracious

Paul T. Riddell’s Greasing the Pan collects over one hundred articles, essays, polemics, and reviews connected to the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Written in the 1990s and early 2000s, these pieces constitute an alternative history of genre, and thus are extremely valuable to anyone interested in a different point of view. What do I mean by a different point of view? Riddell constantly tests and pokes at various assumptions common to the field—about the value of awards, of conventions, and much else. In that Riddell’s an absurdist, he resembles Hunter S. Thompson, although with a more limited subject matter. At times, he goes too far, his enthusiasm and his passion making his conclusions suspect. But that said, there’s so much food for thought here for any fan of genre fiction. To give you an idea of how much of a gadfly Riddell seemed at the time, here are a few titles of his essays: “A Bestiary of


Fan Boys,” “Why Science Fiction Needs a Respite from Costume Competitions,” “Tina Brown to Take Over Editorship of Asimov’s [SF Magazine],” “Conventions and Other Forms of Vocational Suicide,” “and “Bruce Sterling Fitted with Self-Promotion Inhibitor.” At times, his confrontational approach backfired, in the sense that the heat generated tended to override measured discussion of a particular issue. But there’s much to admire in the fact that very few other writers were willing to take on the sacred cows of genre. And, too, there’re great essays on science in here, including “Anarchy and Palaeontology,” “The Problems with Cloning Dinosaurs,” and “A Study of Theropod Dinosaur Psychology and Social Habits Using Unorthodox Sources.” The almost 500 pages of text showcase a lively and inquisitive mind, one equipped with a strong sense of what’s fair and what’s unfair, and able to see the bitter humor in all kinds of genre-related craziness. It’s often in tone like reading an unholy combination of Harlan Ellison and Joe Bob Briggs. For those not familiar with the SF/fantasy subculture, that subculture can be a quagmire of special interests, eccentricity, and spirited argument—much like a dysfunctional family. Most of the time, this family, in the final analysis, loves its members, but Riddell often got the short end of the stick in this regard. Too many people didn’t understand that his full frontal assaults came out of a love for everything connected to genre, and an inability to quietly stand by while witnessing stupidity. Considering that Paul T. Riddell often credits me with part of his decision to leave the world of writing about science fiction and fantasy, it may seem ironic that I’m featuring his collected nonfiction here. But the fact is, as much as I might’ve disagreed with Riddell on certain topics, I’ve always respected his willingness to put himself on the line to discuss things that other writers were too cowardly to take on. The always entertaining Greasing the Pan, then, is a great way for SF/fantasy fans to get another view of the field. (Also check out his companion volume, The Savage Pen ofOnan.) &

Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn: “WHY?”

Why did you start writing genre fiction? What were the stories that intrigued you and made you take notice of science fiction and fantasy to begin with? Well, that’s a funny tale. I graduated from high school just after the release of the first Macintosh, and my high school library was full of science fiction anthologies and collections. Most of them were the justly derided Roger Elwood gibberish, but they still kept me looking for further work

BULL SPEC—ISSUE #3 cessary ban on sci-fi and what they term “genre fiction” in the core creative writing courses. While it irritated me at the time, I understand that sometimes sci-fi is a little more difficult to critique objectively. I do think it’s good practice to make students learn to write fiction before they learn to write science fiction. When you’re creating a world, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia. I think the same goes for comics

Jason, what illustrators are you “reading” right now? What makes their work stand out to you? Some of my favorites are Tommy Lee Edwards, James Jean, Drew Struzan, Peter Kuper, Phil Hale, Rick Berry, Ralph Steadman. I’m a big fan of a mixed media approach.


What stories are you enjoying right now? Comic books, regular books, games, shows, whatever. Well, Lost and Y: The Last Man are over, but I’m looking forward to The Walking Dead show. I was impressed with Red Moon by David McAdoo, online comic Sin Titulo, Fables. Netflix is always showing me new things in the background as I work. Chew, DMZ, Air (which is dead now, sigh), Scalped, The Stuffof Legend, Fables, Treme, Dexter, Justified. I really loved Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This fall… well, I'm looking forward to seeing The Tempest with Helen Mirren and Monsters, which looks awesome from the early hype.



Are you going to be involved in the upcoming NC Comicon? Yes sir! We were at the first one earlier this year and it was incredible. The encouragement we got from Ultimate Comics, other creators, and especially everyone who came out and supported the event was fantastic. We look forward to seeing everyone again in November as well as everyone who couldn’t make it out last time.


Also, Jason does the graphic design for the show, so he at least better be there.

How do you elevator pitch The Order ofDagonet to someone who might be interested in reading it? The magical faerie forces of England return and the only people who can stop them are the Knights of England. Unfortunately, knights these days are rock stars, authors, and actors. In short, our world is in the hands of the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Gaiman, and Ian McKellan.


Any other things you’d like to talk about? When’s issue #4 coming? I am working on an ongoing series with our friend Luis Franco called Princeless. I have a short story which will be appearing in the anthology No More Heroes, which Jason did the cover for. I am also getting ready to start a one-shot story with our friend and webcomic creator Gabriel Dunston of Pit ofDespair [pod-comic.com]. Issue 4 of Dagonet will be out for the NC Comicon. Between Dagonet, graphic design jobs, illustration jobs, and a day job, my time is pretty tight. I’m picking up more illustration jobs, like this issue’s cover, and hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me here soon. Jeremy and I have some designs on a Dagonet related webcomic, as well as some short stories, and a in-progress children’s book. My books and comics can be found at Ultimate Comics and Chapel Hill Comics, and you can check out my website, at [StrutzIllustration.com], for news, my ABC books, prints, shirts, and comics, or to commission custom art. Also, we (Firetower) and myself in particular are always looking for more artists to work with. If you know anybody who's looking for a collaborator, feel free to point them our direction. ■




SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal Tor Books

REVIEWS magic itself feels just as refined and essential to the story of Jane Ellsworth and her family as the costuming and the manners of the time. It is not unrestrained magic. It is civilized magic. And I believe Ms. Austen would have approved. Along with the magic, however, Kowal provides a healthy infusion of wildness, brought mostly to the forefront by the character of Mr. Vincent. Mr. Vincent is an artist of magic who, like Jane, manipulates the ether to create living illusions to entertain and inspire. But he is unkempt, moody, and mysterious. His lack of manners and general detachment from the stuffy Austenian landscape bring a much-needed sense of the unpredictable. Ultimately, the book is satisfying, clever, and romantic, in every way a seasoned reader of Austen would desire, while providing enough new, magical material to warrant a second reading. Kowal’s debut is a memorable, exciting entrant into the world of speculative fiction that never loses sight of its Regency pedigree. &

Having had years of fantasy and science fiction reading under my belt before encountering Jane Austen, I always found something lacking. While I appreciated the dynamics of Ms. Austen’s characters and her talent for understated humor tempered with romance, it seemed to me that the Bennetts and their ilk could use a little shaking up, a little wildness, a little unpredictability in their lives. Thankfully, Mary Robinette Kowal thought so, too. And she wrote Shades ofMilk and Honey. Kowal’s book takes the best of what makes Austen so addictive—that aforementioned characterization, humor, and romance—and folds it in with magic, or “glamour” as it’s called in the book. The result is a delightful read, quickpaced and pitch-perfect. The story centers around the Ellsworth family, whose eldest daughter Jane is talented in the ways of this “drawing room” magic and approaching spinsterhood. Pulling “folds” out of the ether, Jane entertains guests by playing piano and adding visual magic to the music, as well as painting portraits out of paint and these illusory folds. Her younger sister Melody is, in the Austen tradition, more lovely and flirty. But, of course, both girls are jealous of one another. Part Sense and Sensibility and part Pride and Prejudice, the family’s relationship with the nearby gentry centers around balls and manners and influence and public perception. And magic, of course. But for those who worry that magic would feel too out of place in Regency England, there is no need. Kowal’s capable hands mold the story along with the magic, so that the



Review by Natania Barron

Review by Richard Dansky

At its heart, Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House is a story about old-fashioned things. True love, loyalty, a boy’s own adventure, treasure hunts and that old time religion—they’re all in there, swirled up in a confection of aggressive and exotic modernity. Don’t look carefully, and you might miss them, distracted by the glittering allure of a future Istanbul filled with nanotech and economic skullduggery, terrorists and venture capitalists, genetic engineering and recombinant shapeshifting robots that are a

BULL SPEC—ISSUE #3 On the whole, however, that’s not much to complain about. The Dervish House is simultaneously a love letter to a city that just might be someday, and a paean to things ancient and honorable. Never heavy-handed, always light on its feet as it skips from narrative to narrative and voice to voice, it manages to weave in impressive amounts of exposition and a double handful of major characters without slowing down or moralizing. Its characters remain distinct, their ultimate fates certain and true, and the book itself is a marvelous, enthralling read. &


lonely boy’s eyes and ears on the world. But don’t be fooled—underneath the seductive vision of a megalopolis on the Bosphorus is a new manifestation of classic tropes, expertly handled and remade for this too-plausible future. Standing at the center of the book’s narrative web is the eponymous structure, a former home for a religious order now chopped up into apartments that house many of the novel’s protagonists. An aging professor of suspect political loyalties nursing a long-broken heart, a boy with a rare medical condition that keeps him largely shut away from the world, a young woman desperate to make her mark in business before being dragged back to her roots by the relentless pressures of family, a dealer in rare antiques engaged on a search for a legendary artifact even as her husband plays an arbitrage game for multi-billion dollar stakes, a survivor of a terrorist attack with a horrifying past, suddenly gifted with miraculous visions—all of these lives pass through and around the building, and initially, at least, proximity seems to be the only thing binding them together. As various incidents set them spiraling off in different directions, it seems like a metaphor for the giant, sprawling city itself, simultaneously home to modern concerns and ancient mysteries, obsessed with a Champions League soccer match on one end and whispering word of a man who sees djinn at the other. What McDonald seems to be getting at, however, is that no matter how disparate their approaches, desires, or stories are, all of these—from the aging Greek professor coming to grips with the choices he made decades ago, to the woman whose purely secular search for one of the city’s great lost treasures leads her to moments of sublime religious beauty—are of the city, and the city is all of them. And so the storylines weave themselves back together in unexpected and elegant ways, culminating in an intensely satisfying series of small conclusions. If there is a criticism to be made of the book—and that’s a big if, as McDonald’s characterization remains as striking as ever and his prose as elegant—it’s that the threats that emerge over the latter third of the book don’t quite carry enough heft to compete with the personal travails of the characters. The moral struggle of rogue trader Adnan with the possibility of murdering a friend is more interesting and powerful than the deal that may necessitate such a drastic act; the efforts of the self-styled Boy Detective to rescue a kidnapped neighbor in defiance of warnings and his own fragile health carries more weight than the terrorist plot that caused accidental holy man Necdet to be snatched in the first place. The big threats fall a little flat, not least because they’re somewhat hastily introduced, and they end up serving more as a rationale for tying off the characters’ narratives than as an impetus for their actions.

Review by Richard Dansky

For centuries, literary scholars have been baffled by an enduring question: What would Alexandre Dumas’ Dungeons and Dragons campaign have looked like? Well, perhaps not, but those curious for the answer will find it in Pierre Pevel’s The Cardinal’s Blades, a swashbuckling slice of dragon-laden high adventure that occupies the middle ground between Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books and Steven Brust’s novels of The Phoenix Guards. The premise, if not the plot, is simple: In a Europe that’s positively infested with dragons, half-dragons, semi-dragons and mere humans tainted with a disease caused by dragons, Cardinal Richelieu reassembles a crack unit of swordsmen to take on a dangerous secret mission. Once the most feared weapon in the cardinal’s arsenal, the so-called “Cardinal’s Blades” were betrayed, disgraced, and disbanded. But when Richelieu offers the opportunity to reunite them—with a little sweetener on top—Captain La Fargue of the Blades





by Natania Barron


and on rocks. Wind blowing. Sand sifting, swirling, making rivers of dust across the flat, red, rocks. Those smooth, hot rocks I made. The wind, that’s Cass. Right now, she’s mad with me for making so many rocks. But it’s what I do. It’s all I do. I can’t help it. So Cass makes wind; wind like daggers and chisels, wind that breaks down my rocks, hollows them out— turns the stone to sand. Sometimes we make lovely things. Sculptures, rock-faces. But we always end up angry at each other, when one part doesn’t come out right, and we tear it down. I don’t tell Cass this, but every time one of our sculptures fall, I love it. I love it like I love her. Just the same way, I think. I can’t break her, though, even if I tried. I’m the builder, and she’s the breaker. It’s what we do. It’s all we do. We can’t help it.



translated into French by Gio Clairval


able sur les rochers. Le vent souffle. Sable aussi fin que talc, tourbillonnant, formant des rivières de poussière à travers les plats rochers rouges. Les rochers lisses que j’ai fabriqués. Le vent, c’est elle, Cass. A présent elle m’en veut d’avoir fait autant de rochers. Mais c’est tout ce que je sais faire. Tout ce que je fais. Je ne peux pas m’en empêcher. Alors Cass fabrique du vent, un vent de dagues et de scalpels, un vent qui brise mes rochers, qui les creuse, qui transforme la pierre en sable. Quelques fois, nous fabriquons de jolies choses. Sculptures, visages-rochers. Mais nous nous fâchons toujours l’une avec l’autre quand un détail est raté et nous devons détruire nos créations. Je ne le dis pas à Cass, mais chaque fois que l’une de nos sculptures s’écroule, j’adore, j’adore comme je l’adore, elle. De la même manière, je crois. Je ne peux pas la briser, elle. J’ai bon essayer; je suis celle qui fabrique, et elle détruit. C’est tout ce que nous savons faire. Tout ce que nous faisons. Nous ne pouvons pas nous en empêcher.



translated into Spanish by Itzel Leaf


rena en rocas. El viento soplando. La arena cirniendose, girando, haciendo ríos de polvo en las rocas planas y rojas. Estas rocas lisas, calientes que hice. El viento, esa es Cass. Ahora ella está enojada conmigo por hacer tantas rocas. Pero eso es lo que hago. Es todo lo que hago. No lo puedo evitar. Así que Cass hace el viento; viento como dagas y cinceles, el viento que rompe mis rocas y las ahueca—convierte la piedra en arena. A veces hacemos cosas encantadoras. Esculturas, caras en las rocas. Pero siempre terminamos enojados el uno con el otro, cuando una parte no sale de una sola vez, y la deshacemos. No le digo a Cass esto, pero cada vez que una escultura se cae, me encanta. Me encanta tanto como la amo a ella. De esa misma manera, yo pienso. No la puedo romper, aunque lo intentase. Yo soy el constructor y ella es la rompedora. Es lo que hacemos. Es todo lo que hacemos. No lo podemos evitar.

What is This? Bull Spec contributors Natania Barron and Paul Celmer were each asked to write a piece of flash fiction for the 21 July WUNC The State of Things show on speculative fiction. The stories are a perfect fit for a return to offering a trilingual feature, and while you can visit [wunc.org] and search the archives for “Bull Spec” to listen to the show, here you can read the stories in their original English, translated into Spanish by Itzel Leaf, and translated into French by Gio Clairval. Enjoy!


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Bull Spec #3 - Sample  

24 pages from Bull Spec #3, the "Autumn 2010" issue, October-November-December. The full issue is 64 pages and available both in print and a...

Bull Spec #3 - Sample  

24 pages from Bull Spec #3, the "Autumn 2010" issue, October-November-December. The full issue is 64 pages and available both in print and a...

Profile for montsamu