Bull Spec #7, Spring 2012
Gearafes Angi Shearstone Additional Cover Design Jeremy Zerfoss
Fiction 2 he Gearafe Who Didn’t Tick D. K. hompson Illustrated by Angi Shearstone 6 Complications of the Flesh Jason Erik Lundberg Illustrated by Jason Strutz 10 Inseperables’ War Stephanie Ricker Illustrated by Jason Strutz 12 Fish Eyes Natania Barron Illustrated by Brigid Ashwood 14 Friday Nite at the A&W J. P. Trostle Illustrated by Gabriel Dunston 16 When Dreams Wake Jason K. Chapman Illustrated by Indrapramit Das
Poetry 20 he Fall Queen Alexandra Seidel; One Hundred Years in the Wood Daniel A. Rabuzzi; Increments Lemuel Harik; A Fembot’s Quantum Love Deborah Walker; Night Patrol Athena Andreadis; Laurels Mari Ness 22 Letting Go Damon Shaw 23 he Year of Disasters Soia Samatar
50 X-Minus One = Article by Peter Wood Illustrated by Gabriel Dunston 52 Happenings 54 Reviews he Clockwork Rocket Greg Egan by Paul Kincaid; he Goblin Corps Ari Marmell by Joseph Giddings; he Postmortal Drew Magary by J. P. Wickwire; he Rift Walker Clay and Susan Griith by Natania Barron; Briarpatch Tim Pratt by Dustin Monk; Mr. Fox Helen Oyeyemi by Larry Nolen; Osama Lavie Tidhar by Paul Kincaid; he Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and Context Cory Doctorow by Nick Mamatas 60 Editorial = Are you listening? by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn
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Staf Editor and Publisher Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Poetry Editor Dan Campbell Reviews Editor Alex Ward Art Director Gabriel Dunston
24 he Long Lives of Heroes (part 3 of 4) Jeremy Whitley and Jason Strutz
Interviews and Features
28 Into the Hinterlands David Drake and John Lambshead = Interview by Jeremy L. C. Jones; Essays by Toni Weisskopf, Mark L. Van Name, and John Lambshead 34 In Deep Vernor Vinge = Review and Interview by Paul Kincaid 38 he Magister Trilogy C. S. Friedman = Review and Interview by Dan Campbell 40 Circle Tide Rebecca K. Rowe = Review and Interview by C. D. Covington 42 Panverse hree Dario Ciriello = Review and Interview by Rich Horton 44 he Urban Uncanny Lauren Beukes = Interview by Preston Grassmann 46 Experience is the Only Kind of Story J. M. McDermott = Essay by John H. Stevens
ISSN 2152-5234 is published by Bull Spec / PO Box 13146 / Durham, NC 27709 / United States and is copyright © 2012 CC-BY-NCND-3.0 Bull Spec and 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 CC-BY-SA-2.0 license. Bleeding Cowboys font used by permission. Printed by Publishers Press in Shepherdsville, KY, USA
he Gearafe Who Didn’t Tick by D. K. hompson For Claire
NNABELLE HATED BEING ALONE, ESPECIALLY AT bedtime when there was no noise at all, and certainly no ticking from the other gearafes. Keys protruded from each of the gearafes’ necks, unwinding to keep the gears inside them going. Annabelle had one as well, but no matter how much her mother and father turned it the key never unwound, and her gears did not spin like the others. When she was with her parents their ticking hid her silence. But when alone, the quiet was sufocating. he darkness at bedtime made it worse, because that’s when she heard the voices. Incoherent whispers, sometimes laughter. She never saw where they came from in the darkness, never understood what they were saying, but she heard them and nobody else did. One night when she cried out her parents came as they usually did, to drive away the voices with their ticking, and nuzzle Annabelle until she stopped crying. hey explained that they would all leave for a nice adventure to the spaceship ruins in the morning, and wouldn’t it be fun to climb the smooth steel hulls and dangle upside down from her magnetic hooves, or explore the maze of corridors and lashing lights with her high beams? “But it will be dark by the time we get there!” cried Annabelle. “And no matter what time of day it is, it’s always darker than night inside.” “I know, dear,” said her mother, “but we need to ind more oil.” She gently turned Annabelle’s key even though it never unwound. Something about the sensation made Annabelle feel safe and secure despite the news. “All the other children are going,” Annabelle’s father added. “You can play with them on the way, or in the ruins. You’ll never be alone.” “I want us to stay here, at our house,” Annabelle said. “Or you could stay here by yourself,” her father said. Which only made Annabelle cry more. She realized that no matter how much she sobbed she would have to go, because she certainly did not want to stay by herself, but she cried a little more anyway, until inally her parents left. hen Annabelle lay in the dark, sniling and tapping her magnetic hooves together to create an artiicial rhythm that would keep the voices away. he voices always came back when her parents went away. Exhausted, she inally clicked herself to asleep. When she woke the next day and they began their journey, Annabelle stayed between her parents, mesmerized by the way their dark spinning gears spiraled, and trying to mimic their ticking sound. At irst she tried to stomp her hooves in time with the rhythm, but that made her tired very quickly. Next, she tried clicking her tongue to match the clockwork-like ticking, which she found much less exhausting. “Stop doing that with your tongue,” said Vincent, another gearafe calf who’d trotted up beside her. “Let’s ight a duel instead!” He whipped his neck at her before she could protest. Annabelle leaned away from him and missed the blow, then swung her own neck at Vincent, bashing him where his shoulder and neck came together. He spun down across the rust-colored gravel. “Ouch,” Vincent said, but laughed as he got back to his hooves. “Let’s try that again.” he two of them sprang around the adults, lashing their necks at each other and laughing when either one connected. hey dueled, 4
they found other gearafe calves and played games of synchronized lick with their high beams. he journey was fun, and Annabelle forgot about the dark and the whispers until the sun had set, and the gearafes inally arrived at the spaceship ruins in the valley below. One of the moons hung high overhead, her light only now given the opportunity to shine. he other two moons crested the horizon, illuminating the outline of the spaceship ruins, painting its thrusters like spires against the night sky. Several gearafes who’d scouted ahead for the party milled about the ruins, their long necks so tiny in contrast to the jagged alien mountain cutting into the stars. It was quiet, except for the ticking of the gearafes. Fear came back to Annabelle as if someone had lipped a switch on again. But her parents trotted up beside her, and nudged her down the path after the rest of the gearafe children. When they came to the ship’s hatch, Annabelle’s parents ducked their long, elegant necks beneath the ship’s door frame. Vincent, still beside her, jumped - trying to graze the dull metal with the top of his head. Annabelle followed them all inside, licked on her high beams, and let them wash over the grease-stained walls and a ceiling riddled with holes and curling wires twisting high above their heads. Alien instrumentation and processors covered the walls, grated iron pathways twisted and connected from the doorways scattered across the many levels of the chamber, leading to other passages and tunnels inside the ruined spaceship. he gearafe adults moved forward, avoiding the jagged pieces of metal and frayed cables hanging like entrails from above. Annabelle tried to keep from being stepped on by her parents while at the same time staying as close underfoot as possible. A light lickered at one of the doorways on the other side of the chamber. Smoke twirled out of the corridor, creating a haze in the room. he smell of sulfur made Annabelle cough. Something scratched against the metal, and the light burned bright until a slender shadowy creature slunk out of the tunnel’s edge. Annabelle’s parents stifened and stomped their feet. heir hooves sparked on the cold steel. he rest of the herd stopped as the gearafes corralled the children, keeping them safe in the middle. Unfortunately, they couldn’t see what was happening. Vincent tried jumping again, attempting to catch a glimpse over the adults’ bodies. But Annabelle folded her legs beneath her, and inched forward. She twisted her neck so she could see between her parents long legs. A smoldering coalyote faced the herd. His long and narrow cast-iron snout dripped with lames. he smoke rose from his body, making the air around him shiver, as if it shook with terror of him. When the coalyote opened his mouth and asked for something to drink, Annabelle could see the coal burning in his belly. Ticking from the other gearafes echoed through the domed hall. Annabelle clicked her tongue, trying to sound just like them. “We’ve traveled all day, coalyote,” said Annabelle’s father, who was not the herd’s leader, but who was also unafraid to speak up. “No jokes or riddles tonight. We’re tired and would just as soon not stomp you out like a ire’s sparks if you tried to play one on us.” he coalyote looked up at Annabelle’s father, his small, lump-like
Bull Spec #7 eyes burning red. Although his mouth didn’t seem to change, his grin looked very wicked. But Annabelle’s father stomped once more, causing her to jump, and the coalyote to lower his head. He walked around the herd, toward the spaceship’s door. Satisied he was leaving, the adult gearafes moved forward, avoiding the jagged pieces of metal and frayed cables hanging like entrails from above. hey spread out to the edges of the chamber, placed their front magnetic hooves against the walls, climbed onto them, and scaled them. Some of the gearafes, mostly adults, headed to the very top, while some of the children broke into groups to explore the doors lining the walls. “Come along Annabelle,” said her father. Annabelle followed, mounting the steel hull, and began to climb after them. But after a few paces she slowed and glanced back down at the ground. he coalyote had not left. Instead he had curled up on the loor, looking very sad. As Annabelle watched him, she realized he wasn’t making any noise either. And although she was still afraid, for a moment, she was just a little more curious. Across the hull, Vincent and another gearafe were swatting at each other with their necks, their hooves slipping across the metal as they put their weight behind their thrusts. Annabelle looked up at her parents, who by then had reached the ceiling and were walking upside down across it. “Can I explore one of these other rooms with Vincent and the others?” she asked. Her parents glanced at each other, surprised expressions on their face. Her father started to shake his head, but his mother stomped her hoof on the ceiling and whispered something to him. Finally, Annabelle’s father relented, and her mother smiled down at her. “Of course, dear. Just stay with the herd. You know how to ind us.” She click-clacked into the tunnel Vincent had disappeared into, and waited until she was sure her parents and the other gearafes disappeared beyond the ceiling. When she could only hear the echoes of magnetic hooves, and the ticking had faded, Annabelle climbed halfway down the wall. She didn’t want to be on the ground with the coalyote because they were dangerous so she unhitched one of the canteens from her bandolier and dropped it at the coalyote’s paws. he coalyote stared at her for several moments, his eyes warm with ire, and Annabelle realized with some disappointment that she had been wrong: she could hear the ire crackling in his belly. “You could at least say, ‘thank you,’” Annabelle told him. he coalyote still did not say anything. Instead, he tore of the head of the canteen with his teeth and began guzzling the cool black oil. he ire inside him grew. “Is your stomach always on ire?” asked Annabelle, who had never seen a coalyote before.
He nodded. “I bet you never get scared of the dark. You can always see around you.” he coalyote smiled and Annabelle shivered. “Why don’t you tick like the other gearafes?” he asked. Annabelle hadn’t realized she’d stopped clicking her tongue. She looked away from the coalyote, up at the spot her parents had disappeared, embarrassed. “I don’t know. I’ve always been that way, since I was born.” “How lovely,” said the coalyote. “If I were as quiet as you, the dark would never hear me coming. But because of my belly, it always knows where I am.” Annabelle had never thought about it like that before. “Why would the dark be scared of me?” she asked. “he dark is like everything else,” the coalyote said. “It gets scared of things it doesn’t understand or can’t see, just like you. he dark cannot see very well at all, that’s why it makes it so hard for the rest of us to see.” “Does it ever talk?” Annabelle asked. She’d only asked her parents this once before. hey’d told her she was being silly, but she’d never stopped wondering if anyone else had heard it. “Perhaps,” said the coalyote. “hough it’s never spoken to me.” “Sometimes I think it talks to me.” “How very interesting. And what does it say?” the coalyte asked. “I don’t know,” Annabelle said. “Have you ever tried asking what it wants?” Annabelle thought about that for a while. “No,” she said. “I suppose I’m always too scared.” “Perhaps it has something to tell you,” the coalyote said. “Or something for you to see. It may want to share its treasures with you. Such magniicent treasures it hides.” “Like what?” “he greatest treasures you can imagine. Something that will cure fear. Tell me, have you ever gone through there?” the coalyote asked, nodding at the door he’d been guarding. “it leads to the bottom levels of the spaceship ruins.” “Nobody goes down there. It’s dark and scary.” “Exactly,” said the coalyote. “he dark is as scared of you as you are of it.” “I don’t think I want it to be scared of me,” said Annabelle. “Well, then, you’d better tell it that, hadn’t you? Next time you speak with it, of course.” he coalyote howled again, making Annabelle’s legs wobble. She realized he was laughing at her. hen the coalyote turned and crept away, his metallic claws scratching against the loor as he skirted the crates and gouges spread across the steel landscape. It was only after 5
Complications of the Flesh by Jason Erik Lundberg
Illustration by Jason Strutz
Bull Spec #7 “FASTER, ANG MOH,” MOZ HISSED IN MY EAR, BARELY audible over the buzz of the e-bike’s overclocked engine. Moz’s knifepoint in my right side, kidney-high, was insistent, and I loored the ebike past dangerous levels, its engine a high whine. We sped through the housing blocks of Abdullah Crescent deep in Negeri Ciravseu, on the left bank of Tinhau’s Tehtarik River, weaving between the concrete pylons of void decks, slaloming around the carefully manicured public spaces, careful to avoid spindly palm trees and errant elderly residents. We’d probably already lost the polis who’d tried to raid our e-bike meet-up, but better to be safe. My visa was six months out-of-date and Moz had a shoulder bag full of designer drugs he didn’t really want to ditch—as well as a decade-long trail of drug-running and loan-sharking. Impressive considering Tinhau’s extreme punishments for both crimes. he e-bike I drove wasn’t mine; I don’t know where Moz had found it, stole it most likely, but it was certainly street-illegal, engine the capacity and power of a motobike’s, with enough seat room for two, Moz occupying the bitch seat, but only because he’d never bothered to learn how to drive one himself. A few minutes later, Moz tapped my left shoulder and shouted, “here lah,” pointing up ahead to a multi-storey carpark. I swerved past a family of speckled grey cats with pale blue eyes, zipped past the carpark’s pay-gate, and squeezed us through the opening between the tip of the gate and the concrete wall. We spiraled up past three levels sparsely occupied by Merces and Beamers and Minis onto the empty, moonlit roof deck. Moz’s girlfriend Savita stood at the far end, dressed in a white blouse and tight dark slacks more appropriate to someone working in a doctor’s oice than to a gangster’s girlfriend. As we pulled up, I could immediately sense tension from Savita’s pose, one arm around her back and gripping the other at the elbow. She wore her big Bollywood sunglasses, which she only used on those rare occasions when Moz smacked her around. I cut the engine, the absence of noise sudden and sharp. Moz got of as I put the kickstand down, the knife gone from my side; he pulled the shoulder bag over his head and handed it to Savita, who took it without a word. hen he turned, eyes aglare, and said, “You got something to say me, ang moh?” “About what, Moz?” I tried to keep the quaver out of my voice. He was short, but made up for it with fury and intensity. Moz stepped around me, slowly, predatory. I knew better than to face him, but also if there was nothing I could do against his anger, I wanted to be staring at Savita—even if she wouldn’t meet my gaze. He stood at my back, and I couldn’t see him at all anymore. I tensed, waiting. “I think you know about what,” Moz whispered. “Ang moh so smart, think he fuck my Savi and I not ind out? Ah? You shit-smoking cuntweasel?” When the blow came, it was almost a relief. he back of my head exploded in pain, and I blacked out before I hit the concrete carpark roof. We sit here, you and I, together in this cell, unknowing, unaware. I watch your jerky movements, the twitches of thousands of misiring neurons. I do not remember you, and from your blank look I can see that the feeling is mutual. I do know that I loved you, even if your identity is gone, like mine. he dry cake they feed us, delivered once a day through a wall tube, crumbles like ash, tasteless, void of nutritional value. Water drips somewhere, but I cannot locate its source I am thirsty, my lips cracked, my skin parchment. I know nothing other than this cell, and you.
Why do they, whoever “they” are, keep us here? Flashes of secrets important to the opposition, the rebels, linger in my hippocampus, though there is nothing I can grab on to, vaporous and ephemeral in the eye of my mind. Whatever procedure they used to delete my memories seems to have overloaded your poor brain, and you can only communicate in grunts, reversed down the evolutionary chain to your simian ancestors. You were beautiful once, that much is obvious, your dark skin now dulled by continuous lack of sunlight, and your movements become more erratic every day. No one has visited us for three days, after the incident with that one who tried to touch you; the other guards had to drag you of of him after you bit away his right ear and most of his cheek lesh. Perhaps they have forgotten about us, now that they know everything we know. Or have just decided to let us starve to death. Maybe our side attacked, and is unaware we are here. Or you were actually the interrogator, and I fought back. Or maybe the reverse is true. It’s impossible to know. he air grows thin. I have lost all hope of being released from this place. Either I will starve, or you will kill me in ignorant rage. I hope it happens quickly. he one thing I hang on to is the knowledge—perhaps false, perhaps true— Shivering, I opened my eyes from the strange dream. I was bound to a chair in a drab bedroom, my wrists constrained with what felt like plastic zipcufs. Was I still dreaming? he aircon unit high up on the wall was cranked full blast, the hiss masking any background sounds. he square white loor tiles were cold under my bare feet. Not much light in the room, but with the window behind me, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. he room was sparse: a simple single slat bed, a fold-out table, and a small bookshelf with titles I couldn’t quite make out. Concrete walls, so a gahmen lat then, probably still in the Abdullah Crescent housing estate. Moz wouldn’t have been able to move me very far. he door was, naturally, closed. Whose lat was this? he room was small enough to be a child’s, and I had the sudden vision of a future with a baby crib in one corner and a playpen in the other. For a little Eurasian girl, half-white, half-Indian, beautiful, dimpled. Where the hell was this coming from? Had I really been deluding myself so badly with Savita? I’d known it wasn’t love, nowhere close to love, just physical infatuation. She was just so classy and so sexy all at once, an intoxicating combination and she knew it. Curvy like most Indian women I knew, and she kept herself in great shape. I smiled at the remembered conversation in bed, where she’d boasted she could crush peanuts with her ass cheeks; I’d never thought to take her up on her braggadocio. As if my thoughts had summoned her, Savita opened the door and stepped inside. A quick glance past her revealed compact luorescents burning cool in the next room: still nighttime then. Or else I’d been unconscious for an entire day. Savita closed the door. At least she’d taken of the ridiculous shades. “How’d he ind out?” I asked and coughed, my throat dry. “I don’t know,” Savita said, her voice soft, hushed. “Not from me. But he does have a way of sniing things out.” “So what do we do?” “I don’t know.” She glanced quickly at the door, as if expecting Moz to burst in at any moment. “I’ve never seen him this angry.” “hen get me loose.” I wiggled my arms, feeling the zipcufs tighten and dig into my wrists. “We can run. We’ll go to Malaya or hailand.” She shook her head, her loose dark hair swishing in front of her face; in the dim light of the room, I couldn’t tell whether her eye was 9
Inseparables’ War by Stephanie Ricker
HE INCESSANT RATTLE OF MACHINE GUNS CUTS through the tall grass outside another nameless village in Vietnam, and he still can’t taste anything around the red dust. he package of rations in his hands proclaiming itself to be turkey sure tastes like grit to him. He catches himself starting to wish he was back home, squelches the thought with the ease of habit. his is an imperfect solution, but it’s better than being separated. he day the draft notice came for Bobby, John was sitting on the porch reading a book, his weak leg stretched out on a stool. Bobby kicked up a fuss, swore he wouldn’t go, and plunked down on the porch steps with a huf. hey sat there all afternoon. Both boys were typically quiet, except around each other. But that day they didn’t even talk to one another much. Both were thinking of the rattle of machine guns, the tall grass of Vietnam, and the taste of red dust. hey thought about being apart for the irst time. heir mother stopped, midway through watering the plants, and watched the twins from the screen door. Bobby always took things hard, but nothing bothered John, not even as a child. When kids teased him about his leg, he just smiled. Bobby was the one who would become enraged over the insult, getting into ights while trying to protect John. He thought of himself as John’s guardian, even though his mother often thought that he relied more on John than he realized. John was always there to make him laugh and forget, the bufer between Bobby and the things that were too much for him to handle. “If not for my leg, we would both be going,” John said, showing a rare, feverish restlessness and anger at his handicap. “I want to go with you.” “If we could go together, this would all be better,” Bobby inally agreed, after a long silence. He didn’t speak again that evening, and his mother found herself worrying about him as she hadn’t since he was a boy. John didn’t say much either, but he wore the slight frown that meant he was deep in thought.
on their calmness at the separation. “Oh, we won’t really be separated,” John said. His mother looked puzzled, but before she could say anything more, Bobby came into the kitchen with a clatter, dumping his suitcase near the door and joining the others on the porch. “You forgot socks,” John said mildly. “No, he didn’t,” his mother corrected. “I saw him put them in the suitcase.” Bobby frowned. “No, he’s right. I took the socks out to rearrange and forgot to put them back in.” He went back inside to get them from his room. “How did you know?” his mother asked John. “You were out here the whole time.” John shrugged. “He knew he took them out, he just forgot. I know what Bobby knows.” He laughed lightly, but there was a half-serious tone in his voice that his mother didn’t catch. Just then, Bobby called her from the kitchen. “Mom, come take a look at the ceiling in here,” he said as
To their mother’s surprise, the twins’ dark mood quickly lightened, and the weeks preceding Bobby’s departure were normal ones. he boys spent every waking moment together, but that was hardly unusual. On his last night home, Bobby laughed and joked with John on the porch as he always did, enjoying the coolness brought on by a sudden evening rainstorm before going to his room to pack. heir mother was quite relieved, and a little confused; she had been dreading the coming day, fearful of how the boys might take it. After helping Bobby with a few items, she ventured to comment to John
Illustration by Jason Strutz
she came inside. John stayed outside, watching the rain. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” he heard Bobby ask his mother from in the house. Bobby pointed to a rapidly spreading dark spot on the kitchen ceiling. “I can,” John murmured, looking out at the falling rain but seeing something else. Neither Bobby nor his mother heard him, as they hunted for a pot to catch the drops from the leaking roof. Early the next morning, Bobby left for basic training. hree months later, he was deployed to war-ravaged Vietnam. His letters came infrequently enough during training, then even more so after he left the country.
“I worry about him. You’re not there to watch out for him anymore,” their mother told John. “I wish I knew how he was doing right now.” John didn’t look at her. He had a slight frown on his face as he stared straight ahead into space. “Doing ine,” he told his mother. With a sigh, he blinked and inally faced her. “He’s doing ine,” he said, and smiled. Some things are harder to take than others. On a nerve-wracking march through the bush (and whose brilliant idea had that been, a night march?), the jungle is so black, each soldier keeps a hand on the pack of the man in front of him. When they were younger, John always asked to have the door to their room open a little to let in the light from the kitchen. John didn’t mind the dark, but he knew Bobby did. Sitting on his porch, an unread book open on his lap, John can just make out Bobby’s hand clutching the pack strap of the soldier in front of him. Instead of cooking smells from the kitchen, John has the wet, heavy stench of the jungle in his nostrils. Stumbling on the knotted roots of trees he doesn’t know the names for, Bobby looks past the porch railing at their Kentucky neighborhood. Instead of the low-level, constant fear, punctuated by spikes of panic, he feels safe in the arc of lamplight coming from the open door to the house. When the march is inally over, they slip back into themselves. John feels the tinge of Bobby’s panic, every time, and he knows he’ll have to return to protect him. He never leaves him alone in Vietnam for too long. Rattle of machine guns and the taste of red dust. John sits on the whitewashed porch, his bad leg, twisted since birth, outstretched on a stool in front of him, his mind in Vietnam. Bobby crouches in a hastily-dug foxhole in the tall grasses of Vietnam, his mind in Kentucky. Brothers can’t be separated. As long as they are together, everything is somehow better: this is the right way of things.
Stephanie Ricker is from Cary, NC. Her previous publications include an honors thesis on Tolkien, mythology, and naming in the 2009 issue of Explorations: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity for the State of North Carolina. In 2008, her short stories, “Life of the Effervescent” and “Sharps,” won irst and third place, respectively, in The Lyricist, Campbell University’s annual literary publication. She was nominated for and accepted the position of editor for The Lyricist the following year, and that issue won irst place in the 2009 American Scholastic Press Association Contest.
Friday Nite at the A&W by J. P. Trostle
Illustration by Gabriel Dunston
F COURSE EVERYONE GOES TO THE A&W AFTER the game. he cars lit about the neon-ringed hub loating a quarter mile above town, waiting for a bay to open, or just cruising in a loose orbit with their bubble tops retracted and the quadraphon blasting. Eventually Nick docks and pops the trunk, where you are crammed in with your father’s old jetpack. You had to beg your dad to borrow it for tonight, and then beg Nick for a lift after you forgot to fuel up after school, even though it meant riding in the trunk because he was on some sort of double-date. “A hover license is a responsibility, son,” you can hear your father saying. You thank Nick as you climb out, maneuvering over the tailins and mindful of the drop below. “Don’t scratch the chrome,” he replies. You go to say something else, but Nick turns to toss his arm over his girlfriend’s shoulder and place an order with the hopbot. Negotiating the crowded platform, you scan for Nadia. Nadia, Nadia, Nadia. You inally asked her out yesterday, to meet you here after the game. he hub has a few coveted neoprene tables studding the walkway. hat’s where you see her — kissing Max over a root 16
beer loat with two straws. Your stomach turns to neutronium. Later, you “accidentally” run into her getting napkins. She says Max asked her to go steady right after you asked her out. “I should have told you sooner,” she apologizes. You nod awkwardly. Nick is long gone. You remember seeing the king and queen of the atomic prom take of in their matching anti-grav belts, and the hub emptied out as word of a party spread. You stand on the edge of the platform, and sigh. You peel your mylar sleeve back from your 2-Way. You try and keep it covered because it’s not a real Dick Tracy, just the cheaper Sears & Roebuck. A familiar face appears on the screen. “Hey dad, I’m at the A&W, any chance you can pick me up?”
J. P. Trostle is a graphic artist (and occasional writer) for the Independent Weekly in Durham, NC. He also designs books and board games, which means he is one of those people who doesn’t believe print is dead. He has a keen fascination with paleofuturism, and enjoys sports—but only ictional ones like Rollerball.
When Dreams Wake by Jason K. Chapman
Illustration by Indrapramit Das
Bull Spec #7
ARAH WASN’T SURE WHEN HER PAST HAD FADED. Yesterday was as sharp as honed steel, as were the days before that, but her memories of life before coming to care for him were pufs of smoke silhouetted against a blazing sunrise. She knew that she had not always been in this place, that he had brought her here from somewhere else, but now seemed so bright and alive that then was lost in its glare. She knew that proper skies were blue, but the knowledge was overshadowed by the rose blush beauty that hung above her. She knew that nighttime skies were scattered with stars, but the one here, with its bright clots and long, twisted rivers of light, illed her with awe. She wasn’t sure she would go back, if given the choice, but she hadn’t been given the choice. She was here for him. He was twice her size and looked as if he’d been carved from a single block of blue-tinted marble shot through with veins of amethyst. He never left the cloud of pulsing silver light that was his bed. Sarah gave him his medicine when he directed her to and brought him other things when he asked for them, but mostly they just talked. He had never told her his name. here was no need. In this room, with its cut crystal walls and invisible ceiling that blocked the rain and denied the wind despite its seeming nothingness, a name would be superluous. here was Sarah and there was him. “Why bring me here?” Sarah asked him once, early on while everything still held the novelty of freshly-drawn pictures of an impossible world. “Wouldn’t your own people be better to help you with this illness?” he alien’s voice was crunchy, like shule steps on a grit-strewn road. “his disease frightens us. It fevers the mind. Destroys our control. We strand the alicted alone, where they can do no harm.” “It sounds cruel.” Sarah stepped close, reaching for the alien’s hand. Her skin tingled, matching the pulse of the bed, and she drew back. “Is there no cure?” “he disease is cruelty itself.” His hand luttered the smile he seemed too weak to show. “We can cure ourselves, but only when we’re well.” “I don’t understand.” “No,” he said. He often ended conversations that way, dismissing her with the wave of a single word. She wasn’t ready to give up, though. “Don’t you miss your own kind?” “We make friends when we need them.” He smiled at her and closed his eyes. He fell asleep then, the smile fading slowly away. While he slept, she explored the conines of her crystal palace prison. It had facets, rather than rooms. hey appeared at odd angles, as if becoming rooms only after she had decided to enter. Everywhere she went, even up or down, the ceiling that wasn’t there revealed the sky above. As far as she could tell, the two of them occupied the heart of an endless gem. She asked him about it once. It was still early in her stay, when the alien seemed more bright and alive. he disease hadn’t yet begun to destroy him. “Did your people build all of this just for you?” She traced a inger along the wall. Rainbows rippled in its wake. “Or was it already here?” “Your question has no meaning.” She shrugged and folded her arms tightly in front of her. “Neither does your answer.” He smiled at her, sitting up in the glowing bed. “I see I’ve made you curious.” “I think I’ve always been curious.” “Yes, of course. It is your nature.” He grew unsteady, then, as if
dazed. He slid back down into the bed’s frenetic glow. “Some of my people believe that challenging the mind helps stem the growth of this illness. Curiosity is good.” Nothing she found in her explorations sated her curiosity, though. Mostly, everything simply raised more questions. here were practical places, like the pantry, where hundreds of foods for which she had no name were stored. heir lavors were vaguely familiar, rumors of echoes of memories, but little more. One room she called the library, where the walls were covered in colorful gems that sang to her as she touched them. But the words meant nothing to her. Some rooms were given over entirely to a single object. In one of these she found a crystal globe within a globe within a globe that seemed to repeat inside forever. Each globe held images of places and beings, but the outer ones obscured the inner. It was as if each layer had to be destroyed to fully appreciate the one within. “I think I’m lonely,” Sarah told the alien once, after a long walk that ended, as they all did, with a sudden turn that brought her back to his room. She still had so much trouble remembering what had come before. Her memories were made up of half-formed thoughts and pencil sketches. Details teased her from behind the smudges that obscured them. “Was it always so?” “Poor Sarah.” He waved his hand toward the vial of medicine that rested on the bedside table. “I forget how hard this must be for you. I never properly prepared you for it. Forgive me.” She poured the precise three drops of the medicine into a goblet of water that she knew was only there because she had reached for it. he medicine eased his fever and let him sleep. Each time the vial was empty, she would tell him. hen he would tell her it wasn’t, and it would be full again. When he was too weak to drink it himself, like this time, she would sufer the groping worm tingle of the bed and hold his head so that he could drink. His skin was soft and smooth and icy. When he inished drinking, he laid his head back and showed her a feeble smile. “I found you on a mighty ship,” he said, “sailing between the stars and exploring worlds undreamed of. A brave people. Adventurers. Seekers of knowledge.” Memories sprang into her mind. hey were fresh and clear, undimmed by time’s haze. here was the city where she grew up on a world far away. Snapshots of a happy childhood. here was the great love she’d had as a young woman, just out of college; a love that had burned so brightly that the passion had exhausted its fuel in just a few iery years, leaving nothing but scorch mark memories and cold ash. here was the ship. Happy times with caring friends. he worlds they’d seen. Years of memories to explore. “Where did we come from?” He breathed deeply and shook his head. “A watery world with lush vegetation. Green, beneath a yellow sun far out on the edge of the galaxy.” Yes. Blue skies and a scattering of stars. “Earth,” she said. He nodded slowly. “Please, now. I must rest.” “We’re a kind and wonderful people, aren’t we? Is that why you chose me to take care of you?” His eyes were closed tightly, brow furrowed. “Please.” “But I must know.” “Later.” “But—” “Horrors!” He lashed out at her with the word. “Cruel, bitter people!” Terrifying visions illed her mind. Starving cries washed away by fat gales of laughter. Blood-soaked bits of violence cutting friends 19
Letting Go by Damon Shaw In an unprecedented phase-shift On the third of January, Gravity turned to Love. En una revolución radical, El día tres de enero, La gravedad cambió en Amor.
he Earth’s crust kissed the soles of your feet For the last time, and breathed, “You don’t have to stay, you know…” La corteza de la Tierra besó tus pies Por última vez y alentó —No hay que quedarse, sabes… he sea rose in ropy pillars To settle into the crooked arms of the moon, Not through force of Law, But pure attraction. El mar se elevó en columnas viscosas Y se acurrucó en los brazos retorcidos de la luna, No por fuerza de Ley, Sino atracción pura. Tears rolled up my brow. hey soaked the roots of my hair, irst warm, then chill. hey hung trembling, snagged on split ends, hen rose into the joy-torn sky. Lágrimas subían por mi frente. Me empaparon las raíces del cabello, caliente, después frío. Colgaron, temblando, enganchadas en las puntas abiertas, Y subieron al cielo desgarrado.
La Traductora: Cristina Pereiro, doctora en biología (Vigo, 1950). Obra publicada: Omaggio alla poesía spagnola. (Forestiera. Gallo & Calzati EDITORI, Bologna, 2004).
Black holes unclenched their hearts. hey blossomed like daisies. Aeons-old secrets stained the sky in white and gold. Agujeros negros alojaron sus corazones, Florecieron como margaritas. Secretos ancestrales mancharon el cielo de blanco y oro.
The Poet: Damon Shaw has stories in Flash Fiction Online and AE, amongst others, with forthcoming stories in Anywhere But Earth, The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, and Daily Science Fiction. He wrote this poem for his partner, Angel, who passed away this January. The Spanish translation is his own, with assistance from poet Cris Pereiro.
I let them go To you. Las dejo ir Por ti.
Into the Hinterlands with David Drake and John Lambshead Interview by Jeremy L. C. Jones Into the Hinterlands by David Drake and John Lambshead opens with three friends pedalling fragile, FTL bicycles called frames through the multi-colored, partly hallucinatory Continuum, a dimension in space that permits interstellar travel. One of the men is at home on the edge of civilization, one struggles to keep up, and the third, Allen Allenson, is clearly the leader. Indeed, Into the Hinterlands and future instalments in the Citizens series, center on Allenson, who is modelled after a young George Washington, and his growth as a leader. here is all the complex, inter-locking plot, multi-layered characters, historical under-pinnings, combat, and brutal realism for which Drake is known, plus the scientiic rigor, British wit, and good old-fashioned sense of wonder for which Lambshead is known since the publication of Lucy’s Blade. It is the blending of these two not-as-diferent-as-you’d-think voices that makes Into the Hinterlands such a pleasure to read. A research scientist in marine biodiversity who has written nearly a hundred scientiic papers, John Lambshead recently retired from a position at the Natural History Museum in London and holds a Visiting Chair in Oceanography at Southampton University. He 30
designs computer and tabletop games (including the Hammer’s Slammers Miniature Game), and writes books on military history. London’s Evening Standard called him one of “London’s top 100 ‘unknown thinkers’”. hough a lifelong reader of speculative iction, Lambshead didn’t try his hand at writing fantasy or science iction until David Drake introduced him to Jim Baen of Baen Books. As Lambshead explains in an interview with Toni Weisskopf for baen.com, Lambshead and Baen discussed human evolution and shared an enthusiasm for Bufy the Vampire Slayer. Baen repeatedly encouraged Lambshead to write iction. With some help from Drake on planning a novel, Lambshead eventually wrote Lucy’s Blade, a science-fantasy similar to Hinterlands in terms of characterization and intelligent humor. In Hinterlands, Lambshead stretches Drake in new directions and Drake seems utterly delighted by it. Lambshead also softens Drake in entirely positive ways without losing the edges most readers seek in Drake’s iction. Surely, Into the Hinterlands is not as grim as Redliners, Drake’s examination of what society does with combat veterans after they are no longer “of use” to society, neither is Hinterlands full of rainbows and roses. hough Drake is a veteran collaborator, Drake has not collaborated with a scientist before and the result is his irst novel with elements of Hard SF. Whether writing alone or with S. M. Stirling, Eric Flint, or John Lambshead, David Drake tells the truths many of us try to ignore. He writes as though his life depends on it, because it does. In many ways, reading Drake’s iction produces a similar efect as reading Flannery O’Connor. A deep mystery rests at the core of each story. While O’Connor ilters the world through Catholicism, Drake ilters the world through his experiences in combat (and a classical education). hose who have been there (in combat) feel a kindred spirit in Drake. hose who have not been there are ofered an opportunity to approach that dark mystery. Ultimately, both O’Connor and Drake write with a slant vision of the world that is truer than mere realism. Drafted while attending Duke University’s Law School, Drake served in the ield with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (he rode with the Blackhorse). Upon returning to the World, Drake inished law school, but it was neither jurisprudence nor the practise of law that saved his life in the dark decade following his service. It was iction writing. Drake had read speculative iction since his childhood in Iowa and he’d written a number of short stories before serving in the Army. Upon his return, he grappled with his experiences in Vietnam by reading history and writing speculative iction. “he greatest single inluence on my life was the Vietnam War,” writes Drake. “I wish that weren’t true, but it is.” Drake’s irst novel, Dragon Lord, captures all the wits and steel ethos of the best Sword & Sorcery in the mode of Robert E. Howard, but it is his irst collection of stories, Hammer’s Slammers, featuring the now iconic mercenary tank regiment of the same name that unleashed the voice for which Drake is known and admired. In the decades since his service in Vietnam, Drake has written space opera (such as his ongoing RCN Series), epic fantasy (such as his Lord of the Isles series and the recent he Books of the Elements series), and a staggering variety of science iction, fantasy, and horror alone. he only sub-genre missing from Drake’s extensive bibliography, it seems, is Hard SF. Until now.
Bull Spec #7 Like so much else in Drake and Lambshead’s careers, the story of Into the Hinterlands begins with Jim Baen.
JL he essential sidekick, cf. Dr Watson, Captain Hastings, Robin, Tonto, and so on. You use conversation between the two to advance the plot and characterisations – show don’t tell. he sidekick acts as a mirror to relect the character of the principal. DD John developed him into a real character with a real personality, as I’d directed but much better than I had dreamed. hough of civilized background, Hawthorn lourishes in the wilderness—a softer but very similar version of the Mountain Men who came out of the Eastern cities but met the Crows and Blackfeet on their own terms in the Sierras. JL Hawthorn is a functioning sociopath, or perhaps merely has an Antisocial Personality Disorder. He has little conscience or empathy, and is charming, impulsive, irresponsible, promiscuous, and rootless. Hawthorn needs Allenson more than Allenson needs him. Allenson provides a structure and goal in his life that Hawthorn is incapable of providing for himself.
he dedication of Into the Hinterlands credits Jim Baen with the idea for the novel. here’s got to be a story behind that! And in what other ways has Jim Baen been an inspiration and friend to you? DD Jim and I were friends from shortly after we met in 1974 to his death in 2006. (His ashes are scattered around a tree in the grove beside my house.) Our friendship was always more important than our business association, and we were very important to one another’s business life also. JL I became friends with Jim Baen via David Drake. David and I got to know each other when I wrote the rules for the Hammer’s Slammers Miniature Game. My relationship with Jim was connected to my professional life as a British Museum of Natural History research scientist in evolution, ecology and biodiversity. Jim had a strong interest in evolution, especially of the human species, and we got chatting on that subject. he thing about Jim Baen was that, although he had received little formal education, he was very bright and read extensively. DD Jim liked to use books to teach readers. hus he had me outline two series using Belisarius as exemplar of from “Inextricable Disengagement: The War Games of David Drake” the indirect approach (rather than by Barry N. Malzberg the technique of General Haig, et al, The Complete Hammer’s Slammers: Volume 3 by David Drake lining troops up and walking them into enemy machineguns). JL Jim discovered I had been a computer game planner in my youth How are you and Allenson similar? Dissimilar? Is there a diferand I had dabbled with writing radio plays. He encouraged me to ent character that you see more of yourself in? attempt iction writing. DD I started to say that I’m not very much like Allenson, more’s the DD When Jim learned enough about George Washington to appity. I then realized that in an important fashion, I am. Allenson is preciate Washington’s importance, he wanted books to display that prone to volcanic anger, which he is at great pains to control to the importance to general readers. He was talking to Eric Flint about point that most of those around him are unaware of the capacity. a book using Washington also; I suspect Eric’s got an outstanding hat—which was in the outline, but John did a wonderful job of contract on one still bringing it out—is indeed a similarity. JL We are not at all alike in key ways. Allenson is a leader-type. He How closely does Into the Hinterlands follow George Washingtakes and gives orders. I have no leadership qualities whatsoever and, ton’s young life? equally, I am near impossible to manage. He is a doer and I am a DD Very closely. thinker. Knowledge is only of value to Allenson if he can see some JL he novel is a dramatisation of Washington’s life rather than a practical application. I am fascinated by how the universe works. biography, but the intention is to faithfully capture the character, Understanding is an end in itself as far as I am concerned. Allenson life, and times of George Washington. has time for people and inds them interesting. I don’t, particularly. DD he main diference is that I wanted a inal battle rather than We are alike in one way. he British Civil Service put me through the strategy of maneuver by the professionals (which the real Washa Belbin Team Inventory, which is a sort of practical personality proington opposed, to be honest) which led to the French abandoning iling for building teams. To no one’s surprise except mine, I was the post before the British arrived. revealed to be a “shaper”, and so is Allenson. JL Deviation mostly involved omitting people or events where they added nothing new to our interpretation or adding people and Shaper: dynamic team-member who loves a challenge and scenes where they were useful to show something about Washington thrives on pressure. his member possesses the drive and couror the situation in which he operated. Hawthorn is the most obvious age required to overcome obstacles. (Wikipedia) addition. He was necessary for dramatic purposes. Shapers tend to have a clear idea where they are going and a great In what ways was Hawthorn necessary? deal of drive to push their policies through, often blind to the impact DD I put Hawthorn into the plot because Allenson needs somebody on those around them. Margaret hatcher was a “shaper”. to talk to and interact with—a sidekick.
“David Drake has through furious refusal to compromise,
from refusal to special plead, taken us into the bowels and apparatus of wartime as has no science iction writer; he is the inheritor of the cold lare of military iction’s history and his rile sight, his shot pattern is exact. Exact and exacting; a freezing, burning, incontestable body of work.”
In Deep: An Interview with Vernor Vinge
as the new space opera was the concept of the Zones of hought embedded within it: the cosmos is divided into shifting zones which set natural limits on the speed of travel and implicitly on the speed of thought. It was a concept that Vinge would explore further in A Deepness in the Sky (1999), set some 30,000 years before A Fire Upon he Deep (Vinge likes to play with big numbers, huge spans of time and space). he ideas implicit within these two novels clearly had a great attraction to both Vinge and his readers, but it is only now that he has returned to the setting a third time, with he Children of the Sky. It begins just two years after the events of A Fire Upon he Deep, barely an eye-blink on the sort of scale that Vinge usually likes to work, yet it is an unexpected sequel to such a wide-ranging novel, never once moving of planet. I began by asking whether, when he wrote A Fire Upon he Deep, he had thought of it as a novel that might spawn sequels. Probably, but in general, I don’t have an organized view of sequels. I usually think, “Oh sequels would be nice”, but without the steely resolve to ensure that they get written. How, then, did you come to write a sequel to A Fire Upon he Deep so long after the original? Partly because of an unsuccessful attempt at such a sequel. Around the turn of the century, I made a serious attempt to expand my novella, “he Blabber”, into a novel. his would have qualiied as sequel to A Fire Upon he Deep (but set much later than he Children of the Sky). I wrote twenty to forty thousand words, but it was not going well. In retrospect—especially considering how diicult it was to write he Children of the Sky—I should not have given up so easily. I hope I can do something with the piece in the future.
he Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge Tor Books, October 2011
And why the delay? Partly distraction by other things: very legitimately, my day job (teaching at San Diego State University)! However, I retired from that job in 2000. And there were several other writing projects, mainly short stories, but one novel, Rainbows End.
Interview by Paul Kincaid It is nearly 20 years since Vernor Vinge published A Fire Upon he Deep. It was his third novel. he Peace War and Marooned in Realtime had already marked him out as a hard sf writer worthy of serious attention, but it was A Fire Upon he Deep that really made a mark on the ield, winning that year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel. It was a complex, richly imagined, fast moving novel that shifted focus between spectacular space battles and irst contact with an alien race, the Tines, where personality and intelligence lie within the pack rather than the individual. Most signiicantly, what earned this novel recognition as one of the key works of what would become known 36
Already, our discussion had raised a number of issues I wanted to pursue further, and I would come back to the diiculty in writing Children later, but irst of all I wanted to talk more about “he Blabber”. First published in 1988 (so it actually precedes A Fire Upon he Deep) and included in Vinge’s Collected Stories, it is a beautifully constructed story that is clearly set within the universe of the Zones of hought. But I don’t remember it as being in any way a sequel to Fire, so I wanted to ind out where he’d been planning to take the story. “he Blabber” takes places several thousand years after Fire and Children. In “he Blabber”, galactic distances and the passage of time
Bull Spec #7 have muted the turmoil caused by Blight and Countermeasure. Apparently, there had been an interstellar confrontation between the Tines and the Blight—and the Tines had sufered devastating defeat, with resulting histories demonizing them. (So it looks like there’s at least one novel-content of stuf between he Children of the Sky and “he Blabber”.) In “he Blabber”, the character called Ravna Bergsndot is more than a descendent but less than a perfect mind-copy of the original Ravna. She obviously cares a lot for Hamid—who has some similarities to at least one romantic interest Ravna had had. (If one looks at “he Blabber” closely, there are other “almost continuing” characters.) My 2000 attempt at expanding this to novel length used “he Blabber” as the irst few chapters, then follows these characters and the Blabber’s new Pack into the High Beyond. heir probable goal is to mend the damage of the past catastrophes. Why was it diicult to expand into a novel? Actually, most of my novels feel undoable as I struggle along with the writing process. In this case, I succumbed to the temptation to jump ship. I think this was because there were lots of other things to do, and I believed that a change of pace might do all my projects some good. I igured I could come back to Twice Stolen (a working title of the Blabber-based novel) at some later time. So how did the abortive attempt to write “he Blabber”, or I suppose I should say Twice Stolen, turn into he Children of the Sky? Particularly when, as you say, one was set considerably later than the other. hey were really entirely diferent projects. I had always had fun with the Tines and igured that writing more about them would be both doable and interesting.
I think I got these details right, often with intriguing solutions, but for a while the plot was a mineield for me. At one point during our discussion I asked if he was a slow writer, to which Vinge simply answered “Yes.” But that was so emphatic that I had to pursue the issue further. Without wanting to turn this into a Paris Review type interview, I still found it fascinating to ask what made him a slow writer. Did he take a long time to develop an idea, for instance? My idea development speed may be about average, but inally starting to write (or restarting the process) can be slow. Some writers complain about long-lasting writer’s blocks. By that terminology, I’ve had a writer’s block for 67 years. Once under way, I reliably do 1500 words of rough draft per day. I may rewrite more than some professionals, but I haven’t been able to make comparisons. (I notice from my ile names that the draft count can get up to 9, but I think those are really just minor revisions, or redrafts addressing some particular issue.) In that case, when do you consider a book is done? I normally have a list of concrete problems. When those have been solved (or determined to be unsolvable), I’m done. I’m fortunate that—except for certain egregious blunders – I’m quite fond of most of my stories. Given all that, therefore, are we in for a long wait before Twice Stolen, or indeed the novel that may come between he Children of the Sky and it? Alas, I think there will be a long wait. I’m currently trying to decide on the topic of my next novel and—so far—near future ideas are ascendant.
Returning to the point that Children was diicult to write, I had to ask: in what way? Is that because you relish the change of Was it more diicult than his novels usually pace? are? I look forward to it, but sometimes I wonWhen the draft gets over one hundred thouder if that’s not just thinking that the grass A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge sand words, writer gratiication is too delayed. is greener on the other side of the fence. Tor Books, April 1995 For a long time, I tried to limit the size of the novel by having only one viewpoint character. Many ine Or do you ind the demands of writing far future and near future novels are written from a single viewpoint. In the 1980s, I myare not that diferent? self wrote a novel (Marooned in Realtime) that had essentially a In most cases, near future has a lot of additional constraints. here is single viewpoint character. he strategy seemed to be working the danger that the work will read like a popular science magazine. with this project—but in much the same way that some surgiMore than ever, there is the danger that the work will be seriously cal interventions work to control obesity. Giving up on the single dated (and perhaps laughably wrong), by the time it goes into print viewpoint strategy was very frustrating, but inally I had to do it. (or even before!). In writing he Children of the Sky there was the added diiculty On the other hand, if the author gets things right, the near future that I had several contending players each with his/her own motive, story can make more of an impression on the world. allegiance, knowledge—and the story action often changed these factors. hus I was constantly ighting inconsistency brushires. It But a novel as far future as he Children of the Sky still resonates can be especially irritating to write a great action scene or a hundred with the world in which it was written. I asked, for example, pages of adventure—and then realize that one of your characters about an economic theme that I detected running through the would never play the role shown because that character had necessarbook. It seems to include representatives of feudal, planned and ily been exposed to some secret about another character. In the end dictatorial societies, with a capitalist model winning out in the 37
Experience is the Only Kind of Story: he Fiction of J. M. McDermott Article by John H. Stevens
“he point of all this is to say that in writing a world, the experience of that world is tied not to the size and shape of stones, hills, but to the experience of them.” — J. M. McDermott
unease and irritation. I couldn’t see where the story was going and I found that the combination of short sections and ruptured narrative made it diicult to follow the story that was being laid out before me. I eventually took a deep breath and put the book down. I sat for a few minutes and tried to igure out what was exasperating me. I was briely tempted to put the book aside and come back to it later, but there was something lingering at the edge of my thoughts that I could not pin down, and I needed to understand it. So I went back into the book, stuck with it, and inished it over the course of several days. When I inished the book, I did not know how to feel about it. When I wrote my review of the book, I was still dealing with that:
“J. M. McDermott’s Last Dragon starts of by making you worried. After the irst several pages you wonder if you have entered into a metaictional puzzle, some sort of stereotypically-postmodern labyrinth that wants you to feel lost, worried, and perplexed.”
Last Dragon by J.M. McDermott Apex Publications, January 2011
y irst memory of reading J. M. McDermott’s iction is of being about 40 pages into Last Dragon and getting ready to put it down. I had come to the novel knowing very little about it, having heard it recommended highly and seeing it on Amazon’s Top Ten Science Fiction and Fantasy list of 2008. I knew that it was secondary-world fantasy but little else, and did not know what to expect from it. I began reading the brief chapters, headings and margins crawling with images of ants, and after several chapters I felt some 48
his is not, however, what the book is about, and is not what McDermott’s iction focuses on, either in short or long form. While sometimes enigmatic, looping, convoluted, eerie, and tenebrous, McDermott’s writing is mature, abrasive, audacious, and sobering in both its themes and expressions. Sometimes it is labyrinthine, like Last Dragon or stories such as “Charybdis and Scylla” (from his recent short story collection Women & Monsters), but McDermott’s work is not about obfuscation or trickery, and while it is designed to unsettle and sometimes irritate the reader, this is done in the service of both entertaining the reader (odd as that may sound) and provoking her to think about how we narrate and experience our lives. J. M. McDermott has, in less than a decade, published four novels, several dozen short stories, and poetry, with Last Dragon being his best-known work. He is an energetic writer who has garnered praise for the powerful mix of insight and complexity of his iction. As Jef VanderMeer put it in his review of Last Dragon, “[a] rare kind of clarity inhabits McDermott’s prose.” When I asked Apex Publications publisher Jason Sizemore about McDermott’s work, he wrote, “I’m fascinated and entertained by Joe’s work because he brings a unique style to two distinct areas of writing: narrative and voice. His novels aren’t linear. hey’re broken into pieces with a purpose that when read coalesce into something identiiable (epic fantasy, urban horror, and so on). Furthermore, he gives his characters a memorable voice, yet they remain detached (to a small degree) from the proceedings. he writing is such that you empathize with the characters, but as a reader, you are given an unbiased position to watch the story unfold.” his kind of praise appears in many reviews of McDermott’s work, even as others seem confused by his style and focus. On the Green Man Review blog, the reviewer’s conclusion was that “Last
Bull Spec #7 Dragon is so disjointed as to appear to have been dismembered.” ful ends, and magic is a means to power, and so mephitic that it Other reviewers had a similar reaction to my own: in his Strange corrupts the bodies of the descendents of magical creatures such Horizons review, Michael Levy ended his laudatory review with the as demons and they become vessels for spreading that corruption. observation that “[e]arly in Last Dragon, I found myself often conContagion is a problem of living in many of McDermott’s stofused, even loundering. If I hadn’t been assigned to review the book, ries, through disease, magic, or even assumptions and ideas. In fact, I might not have inished it. But I’m very glad I did.” his quality experiences are often iltered through the taint of what is passed to also emerges from McDermott’s other work: a feeling of bewildera person, whether it is a heady thing such as love or destiny, or the ment, of dislocation and discord, a jarring of the reader’s perspeceveryday happenstance of contact that changes how a character sees tive. Regardless of a given work’s length, there is (almost) always themselves, or how others see them. Addiction to behavior is as powa brief instance of shock as you begin to read a piece of McDererful as any narcotic or spell and overwhelms people just as wholly. mott’s iction, and you often wonder where the story is going. his he struggle to normalize, ameliorate, or at least learn to live with is the irst clue to the power and depth that his writing contains. contagion and addiction is a diiculty that alicts everyone in these here are, to me, three primary elements that make McDermott’s stories. he many alictions that life passes on to them blights how iction both noteworthy and satpeople apprehend and tell their isfying: an exegesis of the processown stories and see the world ing of experience, of the inherent around them. problems of life; a constant, unZhan’s wandering autobioglinching unraveling of the laws raphy in Last Dragon is the best and unfairness of one’s place in example of this, as she struggles the world; and a devastating comnot only with memory but with mand not just of detail but of an the present, as she tries incomeconomy of words that makes pletely to understand her life. his stories and worlds exceed She is not just befuddled by age, the edict of making a tale “come but by habit and the encrustaalive.” Rather, McDermott chaltion of her story with the dried lenges the reader’s idea of lived exblood of sacriice and the pus of perience, of memory, and of how untended emotional wounds. we look at our lives as they unfold Zhan tries to not just make sense and how we make sense of them of her life, but alter it, and pull later. While it is easy to classify into it people and moments that McDermott’s writing as “diiwill give her comfort, even as she cult”, it is precisely the diiculties torments herself over failures and it creates that draw the reader in losses. She is addicted to the telland make his stories inhabit your ing of her story, and corrupted mind. As a reviewer for the blog by it. he struggle here is not to “he Spiral” put it: “[t]he only remember, but to break out of thing diicult about it is that evthe web of memory and escape ery sentence, every word, carries the rapacious predations of the weight.” he diiculty of making actual and the just-so, to shake sense of life, in many forms, is of memory and ind a place of the struggle within his stories and respite from it. But Zhan is too their telling, and the reader must entwined with her past, too destruggle along with the characters. pendent on telling it and mistelhe kinds of struggles that ling it, and she is trapped by it. underlie McDermott’s iction McDermott’s stories unfold are not arcane, even if they do not as webs, not as complacently take place in worlds that are inprogressive plots, but as accumufected with magic and/or very lations, torn away from comfortWhen We Were Executioners by J.M. McDermott diferent than our own. I use able rituals and expectations of Night Shade Books, February 2012 “infected” quite intentionally, benarration (with the exception of cause magic is rarely a wondrous, life-airming power in his worlds. “Death Mask and Eulogy” which has a remarkably standard thirdhose who use magic seem to only abuse it, whether they are creatperson point of view) so that the reader must scrutinize not just the ing monstrosities like Lord Sabachthani’s guardians in Never Knew story but their own process of reading. he reader has to continually Another, corpse-hunting wizards in “Death Mask and Eulogy”, or ask why a moment is being described, what the purpose of a statethe ensorcelling of a young woman in “Korey”. Magic imprisons ment or observation is. Why does he choose to tell us what he tells ghosts into powerlines and disrupts life in “Io”, and even Rachel us? Why do the narrators? We scramble like the ants that cover the Nolander’s pragmatic use of Senta koans in the Dogsland books pages of Last Dragon to decide what morsels are worth the efort has the implication of misuse, of not understanding what magic is. of collecting and digesting; McDermott grants the reader some auPower in these stories is frequently appropriated for petty or awtonomy even as he carefully decides what she should know. 49
A Million COULD-BE Years on A Thousand MAY-BE Worlds by Peter Wood
ld time radio did better science iction over ifty years ago than television and movies can even manage today. I irst got hooked on old time radio via mail order cassette tapes when I was a kid. My dad and I loved to sit quietly and play tapes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar (1949-62). My dad was obsessed with The Shadow and often tossed out the show’s catch phrases like “The tree of crime bears bitter fruit”. In the early 80s the Tampa Tribune actually still ran radio listings with the radio programming for the week. Many radio stations ran 1940s and 50s radio dramas to cater to retirees. Along with those classic rebroadcasts, I listened to the irst run CBS Radio Mystery Theater (1974-1982) which often ran science iction stories. These few remaining shows barely hinted at the wealth of radio programming before television. In the 1940s radio dabbled in science iction. Anthology programs like Suspense (1940-1962) Escape (1947-1954), and The Lux Radio Theater (which from 1934 to 1955 did hour long versions of movies with the real casts) occasionally did science iction. Dimension X (1950-1951) was the irst exclusively science iction program. It ran for ifteen episodes before NBC remade it as X Minus One in 1955. X Minus One aired 126 episodes until 1958. It was a perfect storm for launching a science iction anthology. Radio was running scared and many radio programs (such as Dragnet and Gunsmoke) simply gave up and transitioned to television. The pulp science iction magazines were in full swing. Radio needed a gimmick to compete with television’s juggernaut. X Minus One was a last ditch effort to regain listen52
ers. Television shows like Captain Video with their laughable special effects and juvenile stories couldn’t compete with the theater of the mind. NBC teamed up with Astounding and Galaxy magazines to offer adult stories from contemporary writers still familiar to today’s science iction fans. The program adapted stories from Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, and William Tenn, among others. The episodes dealt with serious subjects in a mature manner. Each program began with a mock rocket launch: “Countdown for blastoff… X minus ive, four, three, two, X minus one… Fire! [Rocket launch sfx.] From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future; adventures in which you’ll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds. The National Broadcasting Company in cooperation with Street and Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction, presents… X Minus One.”
Then for the next thirty minutes the story sucked you in.
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Sadly a great many classic radio shows have been lost. The networks often performed radio shows live and did not record the episodes. Listeners at home sometimes recorded shows on primitive disc recorders at 78 rpm collecting just ive minutes at a time. Home taping could be prohibitively expensive until the late 1940s. Then came the development of wire recorders that could capture complete programs. Finally, just in time for X Minus One, the technology improved and listeners could afford to record over an hour of program-
ming easily on reel to reel tape. I also suspect that science iction fans were maybe a bit more technology savvy than other radio listeners and had the equipment to record the shows. X Minus One is readily available on the web. For a list of all the programs with brief plot summaries, check out [www.otrsite.com] and click on the “vintage radio logs” link to see a list of over 500 old time radio program logs including X Minus One. My favorite site for streaming any old time radio program is [www.archive.org]. Type in “X Minus One” in the search option and you will quickly be led to the program. You can listen to them online or download the programs for free. So, what should you listen to? Good question. I think most of the programs are good. Occasional misires were often written in house by staff writers. The best programs tend to be adaptations of short stories from the pulps.
colony appoints an oficial criminal to impress visiting Earth dignitaries in this satire. 6. “A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber (3/28/56). Maybe my favorite episode. A family survives on a frozen barren Earth orbiting a dark star far from the sun. 7. “The Defenders” by Philip K. Dick (5/22/56). Survivors of an endless nuclear war with the Russians receive a message from surface robots. Later became the novel The Penultimate Truth. 8. “The Last Martian” by Fredric Brown (8/7/56). A reporter investigates a man in a bar who claims to be a Martian. 9. “Discovery of Morniel Mathaway” by William Tenn (4/17/57). Future historian time travels to past to meet the most famous artist in history with comic results. 10. “Target One” by Frederik Pohl (12/26/57). Scientist time travels back before the atomic war.
Here are ten episodes to get you started:
Picking just these episodes was really hard, because I love almost all of them. But check out the show for yourself. Close your eyes and travel back in time for a glimpse of how the future used to be.
1. “Knock” by Fredric Brown (5/22/55). The last man on Earth hears a knock on his door. 2. “Child’s Play” by William Tenn (10/20/55). Chilling tale of a man who accidentally receives a package from the future. 3. “To the Future” by Ray Bradbury (12/14/55). A husband and wife claim to be time travelers. 4. “Time and Time Again” by H. Beam Piper (1/11/56). The mind of a soldier in a future nuclear war is transported into the past. 5. “Skulking Permit” by Robert Sheckley (2/15/56). Utopian Earth
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Pete Wood is an attorney who lives in Raleigh with his wife. His lifelong love of science iction began with the original Star Trek, the short stories of Ray Bradbury, and, of course, old time radio. His short story “Future Imperfect” recently appeared in Ray Gun Revival, and he is proud to be back in Bull Spec, after his short story “Almost a Good Day to Go Outside” appeared in issue #1. Charles Stegall, a retired WPTF radio engineer, provided additional technical information for the article.
H A P P E JANUARY 5 Raleigh’s Tir Na Nog Irish Pub hosted the release party for local author J. L. Hilton’s debut novel Stellarnet Rebel. 6 Flyleaf Books hosted Marissa Meyer for a reading and signing of her debut novel Cinder, a retelling of Cinderella with cyborgs and New Beijing. 13-15 New local sf convention IllogiCon in Raleigh with literary guest of honor Joe Haldeman and panelists John Kessel, Kij Johnson, Jim Minz, Tony Daniel, J. M. McDermott, Richard Dansky, and more. 28 B&N of New Hope Commons in Durham hosted the book release party for local author Natania Barron’s December 2011 debut novel Pilgrim of the Sky. 28 Quail Ridge Books hosted Durham author Cate Tiernan for a reading and signing of her new YA novel Darkness Falls. 31 Flyleaf Books hosted Drew Magary for a reading and signing of his debut “pre-apocalyptic” novel he Postmortal. Magary visited he Regulator Bookshop on February 1.
FEBRUARY 7 Quail Ridge Books hosted Greensboro author Orson Scott Card for a reading and signing of his new novel, Shadows in Flight. 10 Launch party for Hillsborough author James Maxey’s new novel Greatshadow at Quail Ridge Books. he irst in a new series; the second book, Hush, is due out in June. 15 NCSU hosted award-winning sf author Karen Joy Fowler for a reading in its Owens-Walters Reading Series.
MARCH 2-4 StellarCon in High Point with literary guest of honor Patrick Rothfuss and dozens of local and regional panelists. 4 Quail Ridge Books hosted Lauren Oliver for a reading and signing of her new dystopian YA novel Pandemonium, sequel to 2011’s Delirium. 54
N I N G S 8 Quail Ridge Books hosted local author Tony Daniel for a reading and signing of his new novel Guardian of Night. 28 he Regulator Bookshop hosted local author Joyce Allen for a reading of her new young adult novel, hose Who Hold the hreads.
APRIL 15 Launch party for BULL SPEC #7 at Durham’s Sci-Fi Genre Comics & Games as part of NC Speculative Fiction Night with David Drake, Natania Barron, J.L. Hilton, and more, as well as being part of the NC Science Festival which runs statewide April 13-19.
MAY 8 FIGHT THE ANTI-LGBT AMENDMENT IN NC by educating yourself and others about this discriminatory legislation. VOTE AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT ON MAY 8, 2012. More info: [equalitync.org/amendment] 17-20 Nebula Awards Weekend in Arlington, VA. Nominees include Raleigh author Kij Johnson for her novella “he Man Who Bridged the Mist”.
JUNE 1-3 ConCarolinas in Charlotte with writer guest of honor Jack McDevitt. 16 Maker Faire: North Carolina at the NC State Fairgrounds. 21-24 ConTemporal in Chapel Hill with literary guest of honor Cherie Priest and comic book guests of honor Studio Foglio.
AUGUST 5 Second annual Bull Spec summer speculative iction festival, with Ann and Jef VanderMeer, Tobias S. Buckell, Karin Lowachee, and Will Hindmarch. Last year was a veritable Cabinet of Curiosities. his year, it is getting Weird... And one more thing: he Raleigh Browncoats present their annual charity screening of Serenity in late August. See you out and about! 55
he Clockwork Rocket: Orthogonal, Volume 1 by Greg Egan Night Shade Books, June 2011
he Clockwork Rocket Review by Paul Kincaid Some years ago, I began a review with the punning but not entirely facetious question: how hard is sf? What followed was concerned mostly with the nature of hard sf, but the question applies equally to the readability of the sub-genre. It seems, sometimes, that there are writers who forget that ‘sf ’ contains the word iction, or at least who believe that the iction is there only to qualify the science: if they throw in some ictional science they don’t need to bother with the other qualities of iction. A case in point is Greg Egan’s latest novel. he irst thing to be said about this book is that there is no point of contact with our world at all: the biology is diferent, the geology is diferent, the social structure is diferent; even the laws of physics are diferent. Most of us, who are experienced science iction readers, would have no diiculty taking such diferences on board (and this is not a book you would ever consider putting in front of someone who did not read the genre), but why should we? If nothing in the book relates to us, what are we expected to get out of it at the end? A whole series of thought experiments with no objective. It is easy to imagine the process: Egan might begin by asking himself what it would be like to live in a world where the diferent colours of light travel at diferent speeds. We can recognise this as his starting point, since the novel is crowded with graphs and diagrams to illustrate precisely this situation. Indeed, large parts of the novel read like a textbook in alternative physics, the author regularly stopping the story dead in its tracks to jab a inger at the recalcitrant reader and insist: you have to understand this point. his would matter less if the story was more compelling, unfortunately the more I read, the less I believed. Let us take the example of Yalda, our heroine. She is a member 56
of a race that has no clear or ixed shape; she is able to extend or retract new limbs at will, raise or lower her centre of gravity. Yet this malleability of form does not extend to sexual characteristics; she is female. he females of this species give birth by splitting into four, generally two males and two females who will then be raised by the father until they are old enough to pair of in their own right. So birth literally equals death, a fact that has a profound efect upon the social structure of this world; at least, it does whenever Egan remembers it. he trouble is, although Egan stacks the decks comprehensively against women (not only do they die in childbirth, but they actually seem to have little or no control over when this happens), he still gives us a number of strong women, including the heroine, who seem able to achieve much in the face of little of no sexual discrimination. I just don’t believe that a society in which the biology so noticeably conspires against women would, in sociological terms, be edging towards the sort of anti-discriminatory structure that we still can’t quite take for granted. But then, there are lots of other things, large and small, that I don’t quite believe. hese people write by manipulating their own form so that characters appear upon their body. hey have developed a form of paper and a form of ink that allows them to take one or two impressions from a person’s chest, but they seem to have developed no way of making multiple copies or publishing such writings widely. Yet this is a people that will, during the course of the book, invent a rocketship and launch it on a voyage intended to last generations. hough to be honest, I’m surprised they ever got this far, since the rocket (actually a mountain detached wholesale from the planet) is powered by two naturally occurring and abundant minerals that explode whenever they are brought together. It seems that the whole planet might simply blow up at any moment (as Egan acknowledges, since the biggest worry when the rocket takes of is that it will cause a chain reaction that destroys the world). his is not analogous to atomic power on Earth, since such an explosion would not need advanced scientiic manipulation or even any human intervention. Indeed, the plot gets started when shards of light suddenly appear in the sky. his is diferent from the way light normally operates in this universe, and we realise it is from a universe orthogonal to Yalda’s. And the light blows up other planets, so if one of these shards were to hit the world it might easily destroy it. Now this is a relatively sophisticated society, but the science is still fairly rudimentary, they have never, for example, sent anyone of planet. But Yalda is a typical Egan genius who not only perceives the threat but devises the most baroque response. hey will build a rocket, set out at near light speed, after a certain time they will turn it round and return to the planet. Time dilation will mean that very little time has passed on the planet, but the journey will be long enough that the travels aboard the rocket will have had time to create an entirely new science to deal with the threat. here are moments, particularly during the creation of the rocket and in the early part of its voyage, when Egan builds up a head of steam and, balderdash though it might be, the story still grips you. But then, of course, he stops the story to give you another lecture on the science. It’s a bravura display of creating a whole imaginary science from nothing, but if you’re not caught up in the intellectual excitement of the thought experiments you do ind yourself asking: why?
Bull Spec #7 the quest and in the opposition to it, as even Joe begins to realize. He is, we might recognize, one of those igures from ancient myth condemned to follow a particular course of action at the whim of something beyond his comprehension. Along the way the quest becomes personal, as such quests have a tendency to do, and he begins to get inklings of who the people are who disappear from his world, and what the world is that he is sometimes able to glimpse. But it is only as the quest ends, in the inevitable anti-climax of meeting Mike Longshott (this was, to my mind, one weakness in an otherwise excellent novel; I think the story might have been stronger if there had been no Longshott), that we begin to understand the deeper and more troubling question of who Joe is, and the choice he must make or, perhaps more accurately, fail to make. In the end, like so many other post-9/11 ictions, Osama is a story of aftermath—perhaps there really is no other way of telling the story of the world ours has become. But en route the novel shows some of the ways that the events resonate with our creative imaginations, our sense that deep down the world really does follow the paths laid down by our most haunting myths. It is a novel that unfolds, that becomes bigger the further we go into it, which is why I suspect it will haunt the memory.
he Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and
Reviews by Nick Mamatas: “Hardware/Software”
Cory Doctorow, in his two new books he Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and Context, explores his twin fascinations of nostalgia and futurism more deeply than ever before. Fascinating separately, the books should be read together for a fuller picture of Doctorow’s aesthetic project. he Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow is a short novel (with a speech and interview appended) centered around EPCOT Center’s he Carousel of Progress. Even in a post-singularity world, there’s an affection for old hardware. Young immortal Jimmy loves his battle
mecha, his robot dogs, and his cell phone. Dad loves the Carousel of Progress and even liberated it from the ruins of Florida. He also lies a Harrier jet and has collected several million steel-belted radial tires. Clearly, he’s the coolest Dad ever. But the ideology of treehuggerism is nigh-hegemonic, and soon enough terrorists show up and blow everything to hell. Jimmy wanders a radically diferent North America for a while, everything changing but his body. Even his brain is too “plastic” to allow for a developing maturity, until his old friend Lacey Treehugger shows up, now in her thirties and surprisingly sexually obliging toward a man in the body of a pre-teen. here are also lots and lots of pre-teens who look just like Jimmy around. In the end, everything turns out great and nightmarish simultaneously, as one might expect in a world where the only reason someone does anything is because—as a self-declared shaman explains to Jimmy—“someone thought it would be cool.” Would you want to be stuck on a Disney ride sponsored by General Electric forever? Well, don’t examine your daily life too closely, as you might be distressed to ind that it is already too late! he Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow is SF about SF—its childish preoccupation with hardware, its retrofutures that drag on the genre like he Carousel of Progress tied to an escape zeppelin, and the immature demands for “positive” futures and happy endings. Ah, but happy endings for whom? Context suggests a happy ending for everyone! his collection of essays deals primarily with Doctorow’s fascination with software, and the legal and political apparatuses that seek to turn ideas into property. he liberatory possibilities of the Internet are being hamstrung by corporate interests, political elites, and even the seemingly natural operations of mass culture. Doctorow champions “bespoke computing experiences” (e.g., his own BoingBoing) versus corporate searches and app selections, prefers downloading to streaming, and is an implacable enemy of Digital Rights Management schemes. Some of the pieces—one on how to keep one’s email inbox empty especially—are slight, but most are compelling and extremely wellargued. Speciic policy suggestions are more often provocative than practical, but I can’t help but pump my ist in agreement with this one: “I think we should permanently cut of the internet access of any company that sends out three erroneous copyright notices.” Doctorow’s suggestion neatly turns the table on a transnational corporate-backed initiative to throw anyone “thrice accused” (not convicted!) of copyright infringement of the Internet. We’re approaching a future where mechanical reproduction will be superseded by instantaneous ininite distribution. Yet our legal, political, and even individual mental structures are based around trading corn for iron, or planting a lag on some patch of dirt and calling it ours. For the last decade Doctorow’s work has poked at the edges of what will surely be a transformative issue for humankind and even for human nature, but with two slim volumes released simultaneously he had inally gotten his hands on the core of the problem— we must cut loose from the old-fashioned corporate propaganda Carousel of Progress, and make our own techno-utopian futures.
End of Reviews
Are you listening? A
s an avid audiobook listener with less time to sit down and read than I’d like, I’ve bemoaned again and again the lack of audio editions for books by local authors. Well, apparently somebody out there is listening, as 2011 saw a bumper crop of audiobooks, and 2012 continues that trend. Greensboro’s Orson Scott Card started a new fantasy series, Mithermages, with he Lost Gate in early January 2011, with an Ender-esque protagonist, Danny North. As he has done for Card’s Ender’s Game series, narrator Stefan Rudnicki takes the lead narration, with Card’s daughter Emily Janice Card narrating a secondary storyline. he same narration team voiced an adaptation of the September father-daughter graphic novel collaboration, Laddertop. he elder Card has a busy year in audio in 2012, starting with Shadows in Flight which arrived in mid January, and continuing with new audiobooks for Hamlet’s Father, as well as new audiobooks for Earth Unaware (the irst of his First Formic Wars books), and the second book in his Pathinder series, Ruins. Hertford, NC author David Niall Wilson’s he Orfyreus Wheel followed in mid-January 2011—the irst of a dozen audiobooks in 2011 year alone. (Wilson being the founder of audiobooks publisher Crossroads Press certainly has nothing to do with this volume!) Already, 2012 has seen four more audiobooks from Wilson, with more on the way. Charlotte author Gail Z. Martin’s late January 2011 return to the world of her Chronicles of the Necromancer series, he Sworn, saw both a change of book publisher (from Solaris to Orbit) and audiobook publisher (from Audible Frontiers to Tantor Audio), with new narrator Kirby Heyborne taking over for Peter Ganim. he new team concluded the new storyline in February 2012 with he Dread. February 2011 saw new audiobooks for two Durham authors. he irst was Blackstone Audio’s production of David Halperin’s Journal of a UFO Investigator, with a wonderfully delicate narration by Sean Runnette. he second was Book of Shadows, the irst installment of Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series, with the next four volumes following through mid-May last year. Tiernan’s latest in her Immortal Beloved series, Darkness Falls, was published to begin 2012. March 2011 saw the release of what would become my favorite new audiobook of last year, Raleigh author Lewis Shiner’s 1994 World Fantasy Award winning Glimpses, narrated by Rudnicki for Skyboat Media. As a contributor to the George R. R. Martin Wild Cards series, Shiner also had stories in the Brilliance Audio productions of the irst two volumes, which came out in late 2011. In late April, Rudnicki (I’m seeing a pattern here…) became the voice of Pittsboro author David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series, with 4 audiobooks comprising 6 of the main Hammer’s stories. South Carolina author T. C. McCarthy’s debut novel Germline, beginning he Subterrene War with a story of an embedded journalist and a costly future war over resources in Kazakhstan and its surrounds, was released in July. Voiced by Donald Corren for
Blackstone Audio, the series continues March 1 with Exogene, read by Bahni Turpin. Hillsborough author John Claude Bemis concluded his Clockwork Dark trilogy with August’s he White City, with narrator John H. Mayer providing a constant voice to the cast of characters from beginning to end of the series. Pittsboro author Jenna Black began a new series, Nikki Glass, with Dark Descendent in April 2011. Narrated by Sophie Eastlake for Tantor Audio, the audiobook arrived on December 30. In addition to the titles already mentioned, 2012 got of to a fast start with audiobooks from two local debut authors. J. L. Hilton’s Stellarnet Rebel was read by Gayle Hendrix for Carina Press, while Natania Barron is wrapping up narration on her own debut, Pilgrim of the Sky, for Candlemark & Gleam. At closer to the other end of the experience spectrum, Tony Daniel’s Guardian of Night was by Victor Bevine for Audible Frontiers, out in early February concurrently with the print edition from Baen. If Bevine’s name is familiar, he’s also the voice of Pittsboro author David Drake’s Lt. Leary series, which continues in April with he Road of Danger. Also coming soon are Audible Frontiers productions of the entire Jon & Lobo series from Raleigh author Mark L. Van Name, up to and including Children No More and his forthcoming No Going Back in May. Lastly, one of the more-anticipated audiobooks this year is a James Marsters (yes, Spike from Bufy the Vampire Slayer) narration of Raleigh authors Clay and Susan Griith’s he Greyfriar, the irst book in their Vampire Empire series. Coming from Charlotte-based Buzzy Multimedia, book two, he Rift Walker, is also on the menu for audiophiles later this year. Now that I’ve used this space for my own selish interests, I do have some other remarks as once again Bull Spec turns the pages on another year. hanks (again!) to great support for our Kickstarter campaign, we’ve been reading a lot of stories for a third year of Bull Spec, and incoming iction editors Natania Barron and Eric Gregory have made their irst selection: “he Long Haul” by Ken Liu. I also want to thank Sarah Rogers, J. M. McDermott, and Brenda Kalt, who have been tireless in their work as slush readers for the irst open reading period in quite a while. Other changes are coming, not the least being two which have already occurred: Alex Ward edited much of the non-iction in this issue, and is our shiny new reviews editor. Helping him (and all contributors to the issue) shine is new art director Gabriel Dunston, who while handling page layout throughout the issue also provided a great 2-page illustration for Peter Wood’s essay on X-Minus One and the illustration for J. P. Trostle’s story “Friday Nite at the A&W”. Welcome aboard, Alex and Gabriel! Lastly, a big, big welcome back to Melinda hielbar, reprising not just her role as advertising manager, but taking on full managing editor responsibilities. As this issue comes a full quarter late, I’m hopeful that we can get back on track in 2012.
Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Publisher, Bull Spec 62