Short Fiction Review: ‘Ramesses on the Frontier’ & ‘Bit-U-Men’

October 25th  saw the publishing of what I believe to be something of a unique work in our modern times. Namely, an anthology of Mummy Stories!! New Mummy Stories!! And some old ones too if you’re in to that sort of thing. Yup, Jurassic London (who I didn’t even know about until this) published Book of the Dead and a companion anthology called Unearthedwhich ‘resurrects’ some old mummy stories written by authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Louisa May Alcott!

Needless to say, I was very excited to get my paws on some of the stories inside these two epic tomes. My mind was racing with possibilities. Some of what I came up with can be found over at the Amazing Stories Blog, but of course I couldn’t keep everything under a reasonable post length so a lot got omitted. A lot! But, I’m not here to dazzle you all with my brilliant imagination, I’m here to write about books (and really anything else that pops into my brain, but books lately).

I’m also incredibly frugal. I think it comes with the territory. The more I write about books, the more I realize how time consuming it is to write about books. So, as not to waste both time and money on this somewhat risky, albeit exciting adventure, I decided to first search out and find some samples of the work for which I was contemplating a purchase. Also, I was able to link to two different stories from the website. What I found was . . . Well just keep reading.

Cover!!

Cover!!

Ramesses on the Frontier by Paul Cornell

This was the first story I read. It was posted on Tor’s website and advertised in their newsletter (indeed the news letter is how I found out about all of this). I didn’t have time to read the story immediately but had to postpone reading until a later date. As I had mentioned earlier, my mind was filling up with expectation. Mummies resurrecting,  collecting organs, turning into giant sand storms! I was absolutely giddy.

Unfortunately, upon sitting down to finally read Ramesses on the Frontier I found that my dreams of giant sand storms and ruthless pharaohs had been smashed to pieces like Canopic jars unable to stand the test of time (thankfully I still have all of my organs). What I received instead, was a POV ride along of some mummy trekking across America in an attempt to reach the afterlife. And not once did he turn into a giant sand storm.

All joking aside, I understand that Ancient Egypt has a rich history and there are likely endless possibilities to the stories you can tell. I suppose part of my negativity is that I didn’t get the one I was imagining (aka sand storms). I think the other part is that I really couldn’t understand what was going on within the story. Let me explain. In Ramesses on the Frontier we are (as mentioned earlier) POV Ramesses, waking up after something like 3,000 years of being a box of bandages. Somewhat humorously, he believes the world to exist as he knew it in ancient times. As he discovers modernity, he looks to ancient devices to describe new marvels of which he is not familiar. For instance, he describes what I assume are cell phones, as ‘spell jars’. He is pleased upon gazing into his ‘spell jar’ that all of the spells he cast before dying are still active. I assume he’s using apps? And that somehow these apps are to his liking? (I hope I’m not just missing the boat entirely and this is obviously something else) I guess what I’m feeling is a disconnect between what the author is trying to portray and what is actually written on the page. Like somehow Ancient Egypt is foreign to me (because it actually is) though through point-of-view it’s supposed to be my home, and the modern world is still foreign to me, as well as poor Ramesses. Obviously I need to just go watch Brendan Fraser scream at some mummies.

Bit-U-Men by Maria Davhana Headly

No sand storms in this one either, but I feel like I can write much more positively about this story than the other. Mostly because I enjoyed it more.

Other Cover!!

Other Cover!!

In order to understand what’s going on in this story, you have to understand something very important about history. Well, maybe it isn’t ‘very important’ to general history but . . . what you need to know is that back in the early 1900’s, people were chopping up mummies and making them in to all kinds of things. Ink, medicine, aphrodisiacs, the list goes on. In this story, they’re cutting up mummies (well only one) and making candy. Crazy right?! But also really cool.

There weren’t any narrative hiccups in this story to get bogged down in, which was a blessing after reading the last story. Everything seemed clearly written, and the parts that were supposed to be mysterious were well articulated and not in the least bit confusing. Just mysterious. This story also seems to cover a great deal of time in a relatively short amount of words. Lots of themes crammed in there too but they don’t seem to crowd. Just a pleasant story. Typically, this is where I’d delve into the details of the plot or characterization but I think it’s better if you read the story for yourself. It can be found here at Light Speed Magazine.

Conclusion

In all, I’m still super excited to finally purchase Book of the Dead, and likely it’s companion Unearthed. Despite the anthology’s seemingly rocky start, I feel that there are enough other stories contained within that I will be able to find at least a few that I enjoy. Maybe I’ll get some giant sandstorms afterall!

Laters!

Author Spotlight: Bobby Wilson, JD

Hey all. This week we’re doing an ‘author spotlight’. Basically, our author, Bobby Wilson is doing a blog tour to promote his new title Bobby’s Trials . Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get him on the site but WorldWind Virtual Book Tours has provided me with some info to post on the author’s behalf. I’ll start with the bio. Enjoy!


AUTHOR BIO

Here he is. Bobby himself!

Here he is. Bobby himself!

Bobby was born in San Francisco, CA, on September 3rd, 1944, to a waitress mother and mysterious father.  His younger years were years of endless relocation until his mother and younger sister, Judy, ended their sojourn in Hugo, Oklahoma, the area of his mother’s upbringing, Indian country in Southeastern Oklahoma.

Intent on a military career, Bobby enlisted in the National Guard while beginning his high school senior year.  His plans for the future were suddenly cut short when he was jailed and criminally charged with his family’s deaths.

After his release from jail, Bobby had to rebuild his life from scratch and worked his way through the University of Texas and Texas Tech School of Law, all the while supporting a wife and daughter.

Bobby graduated from Law School in 1973 having already passed the State Bar exam.  He was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980.

He soon established himself as a fearless trial lawyer in the State of Texas, unafraid to take on the establishment or its leaders in civil and criminal litigation.  He made enemies in the legal profession, but his clients worshiped him.

In the early 1990’s Bobby quit the law business to become a professor of law.  He moved to Arizona and became certified to teach law and political science and was named Outstanding Business Faculty Instructor at Rio Salado College in 1999.

In 2001 he was retained by the disgraced Arthur Anderson and Company to write an Ethics guide for their employees in Arizona.

Bobby continues to write and teach law and paralegal courses for colleges in Arizona. Currently, Bobby is busy writing a series of books under his “Bobby Trials” banner as well as Murder Mysteries/Legal Thrillers. Bobby is married and currently living in Arizona.


Not gonna lie. I’m impressed. Here’s the synopsis!


SYNOPSIS:

A real-life, true crime, memoir about the incredible story of a poor teenage Oklahoma farm boy who was charged with murdering his mother and sister in cold blood, then burning down the family home in a supposed attempt to cover up his crimes and his ten-year battle in court to clear his name.

In the early morning hours of June 19, 1963, just four days before he was to leave for basic training, Bobby Wilson was awakened by his mother.

She held a loaded gun to his head and had a crazy, yet familiar, look in her eyes. Alongside his sister, Bobby had suffered her rants for years, but tonight was different. Bobby knew without a doubt that the demons that his mother had struggled with for years had their sights on him.

He realizes he has nowhere to turn and nowhere to run, but he has no idea that the nightmare has just begun. It is a nightmare that changes the course of his life. It is a nightmare that will ultimately take Bobby ten years to wake up from.


Oh man. I’m intrigued. Here’s  an excerpt from the book itself! Enjoy! (I think I’m getting a little happy with these Horizontal Line Rules)


EXCERPT:

Butch was barking like crazy and trying to lick my face. Every dog within a mile was barking. I looked around and could see dawn was breaking and our house was blazing, totally in flames, and so was my pickup parked nearby. It was a surreal scene.

Cover!

Cover!

Suddenly with a loud crash, our brick chimney collapsed onto the top of the burning house, causing the entire structure to become a roaring fire pit.

The neighbor helped me to my feet, and I leaned on a fence post for support. I was shaking badly and confused about everything. I was not sure if I was just having a terrible nightmare and I would soon wake up. I don’t remember how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I was here.

Fire trucks and ambulances arrived, and I was taken away to the hospital where I was treated for smoke inhalation, cuts, and burns on my face and back. The doctor told the deputy sheriff that I was in shock and very confused. The deputy offered to drive me back home, and he questioned me about what happened.

I told him I really did not know what had happened. He told me matter-of-factly that my mother and sister were dead and their bodies had been removed from the fire debris and were being taken to Oklahoma City for autopsies. He watched me closely for a reaction. There was none. The deputy could have just as well told me it was Thursday morning, June 19, 1963, and my response would have been the same: nothing. I was totally numb and confused. One thing I did remember that would bother me for years was a very strange odor in my nostrils that I could not identify, and my clothes still reeked of that unknown odor.


Well that concludes our ‘Author Spotlight’. Hope you enjoyed all that you read. Of course links to actually purchase the book can be found below:

Amazon Kindle
Paperback (again Amazon)
If Barnes and Noble is more your fancy
And lastly, for that one guy who uses Kobo

Might not be a bad idea to check out the publisher’s page as well. Apache’s website is here. The author’s own website is here. Oh and the schedule for the rest of the tours can be found here. I don’t recommend going to any of the other stuff marked ‘spotlight’ because it’ll probably be the same as the stuff you’ve just seen. All the other stuff, I’d assume is original material though so . . have at it!

Now go home, give your mother a big kiss, and pray that when you next wake up, she’s not pointing a gun at you. Also, that exact scenario is why I never grew dreadlocks. True story.

Laters.

Banner!!

Banner!!

Short Fiction Review: Mountain Dead

Truth be told, I’m a little surprised by the fact that I haven’t yet reviewed a piece from Apex Publications on this blog. From what I can tell, they are deeply immersed in the realm of Speculative Fiction. They publish Horror, Sci Fi, and Fantasy but also any mix and mash of those genres that make a great story. Their blog posts are insightful, timely and relevant to my tastes and interests. And of course their twitter account is updated frequently  with useful insights about specials and promotions as well as a good dose of seemingly unrelated banter which is often quite amusing. Also zombies.

Cover!

Cover!

I first heard about Mountain Dead, a short (4 stories), short fiction anthology released as a supplement (sounds almost scholarly) to a much larger anthology (20 stories) called Appalachian Undead.  I saw the ad in the newsletter some time ago (maybe July?) and proceeded to read some post on the blog about zombies. I’m a sucker for anything zombies, but as I mentioned before, these posts were well written and insightful. Tipped me off to the whole Haitian zombie trope which I ended up researching a little further on my own and to great satisfaction. Then?

Sadly nothing. Sort of fell off my radar although I continued to follow their twitter feed, blogs, and other projects (looking at you War Stories Anthology). Then, Halloween came and with it, a free copy of Mountain Dead! Also, a good many kicks in the rear for not having ordered it sooner. So without further ado, please allow me an attempt at redemption for not reviewing an Apex short sooner . . . by reviewing the four shorts of Mountain Dead here.

The First Short: Deep Underground (Sara M. Harvey)

Alright. Here we go. The first of four. At this point, I don’t really know what to expect. I know that I’m expecting zombies, but that is pretty much it. Also, the zombies on the cover are playing banjos and violins respectively, so that’s a clue to . . . something? I’m not sure. So I start reading Deep Underground by Sara M. Harvey and . . . ?

I’m liking it!

The story starts explaining this little ‘oops’ that happened with the preacher’s daughter and goes on to tell of these two families that, for all intents and purposes, started a town. Now the town is named after one of the families and not the other, so obviously there is some conflict there, but you don’t realize just how deep the conflict (and the symbolism) is until the story approaches the end. I won’t say what happens because I want you to read it; however, I will say what I think my favorite part of this story was. I really believe that this story gets the reader set up for what these stories are supposed to be like. It sets up the small-town feel. The feeling that you’ve known all these characters since the day you were born (even though you’re just meeting them) because you grew up together. It makes it all so much more horrifying to see little Johnny climb from his grave and take a bite out of little Susie when you can ‘remember’ going to both of their christenings. That’s the type of feeling you get while reading Deep Underground. It’s hard to do, but here, it seems easy.

The Next Short: Unto the Lord A New Song (Geoffrey Girard)

For me, Unto the Lord A New Song, provides a different feeling from the first short piece, but an equally relevant one. There is a certain desensitization in this story that seems frankly appalling (although I’m sure it’s meant to). I’ve read a few zombie stories (both short fiction and novels) that are ‘post-outbreak’ (or I suppose post-‘apocalypse’) and therefore don’t focus too much on what caused this frightening turn of events, or how people are responding to it. These stories skip over all that and place you in the aftermath. You’ve survived the initial onslaught but how you continue to do so is up to you.

These are fun stories because the author gets to let his imagination run wild and think of new and inventive ways for his survivors to dispatch zombies, rebuild etc. Some authors also use this setting to invent new challenges for the survivors to face and overcome, or perhaps tragically fail to overcome. In the case of of Unto the Lord A New Song, I feel the author uses the ‘post-outbreak’ setting to demonstrate just how strange things will be after a zombie apocalypse . . . as in let’s tie vacuum tubes to a zombie’s vocal chords and make em sing during the next sermon strange. Yea. I think the horror here comes from the fact that people will have been forced to accept so much after an event like a zombie apocalypse that they won’t think twice (and they don’t in the story) about hiking all day to see a horrifying spectacle like this and when they do, they’ll see the work of God in it and call it Church. Not sure if that’s where the author was going with this story, but that’s where I went with it and it was definitely an eye opener. Well played sir, well played.

Another good looking anthology from Apex

Another good looking anthology from Apex

The Short After That: Let Me Come In (Lesley Conner)

I can’t profess to have any sort of deep analysis on any moral or thematic issues at play in Lesley Conner’s Let Me Come In. It’s not that I don’t think they are there, they might be. It’s just that I was having too much fun to look. Let Me Come In is something of a re-imagining of the Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs fairy tale that we are all familiar with. I won’t say more except that I really enjoyed this piece. Very clever. Probably my favorite of the four. A must read.

The FINAL Short: And It’ll Haunt Me (For Long Days to Come)  K. Allen Wood

 This final short was another hard hitter. Very good. Very enjoyable. You’re put across the table from a suspected criminal as he goes to make his confession. He weaves his tale like a spider’s web and you can’t help but become hopelessly engaged in what he has to say. Is what he says real? Could these horrible things really have happened? He seems to believe it himself.

I go on about Denny (the convict) like he wrote the story.  I think that is a tribute to the author’s subtlety. You don’t notice the author’s presence. You’re Jack (the detective) and Denny is telling you a story. It’s that simple. I liked that a lot about the story. Some things I read these days feel like the words are just barely holding back the author’s ‘message’, which is so overpowering that you don’t even want to hear it. This short doesn’t seem to bother with any of that. Just a good story.

No I do not like your hat! Goodbye. Goodbye.

Apologies for the P.D. Eastmen reference in that last header but I couldn’t think of a clever way to end the review section and the post without an abrupt pause so . . . that is what you get. Also, definitely thought that was from Dr. Suess, but apparently it’s Eastmen (so glad I looked it up). Anyway, Mountain Dead appears to still be free on Amazon so definitely give it a look if you liked any of what you’ve just read. Until next week.

Goodbye . . .

Goodbye . . .

Short Fiction: Sometimes it’s good to get “Literary”

True story. Sometimes you need something heavy to think about. If you’re in that sort of vein, I recommend William Faulkner’s The Bear. There’s a lot to swallow. Probably more than one blog post can suffice to say but . . . I want to talk about it anyway. I found The Bear in a summer English class, about two years ago. We were reading all sorts of ‘Literary’ books and stories. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E. Dubois, some poetry by Frost, and something by Joseph Conrad though I don’t think it was Heart of Darkness. I read that when I was younger and wished I’d had a professor there to help explain it to me. Still do.

Now, two years later I found myself thumbing (well I guess scrolling) through its pages a second time. I was taught in class that it was about ‘Modernity’ with a capital M. I find myself searching for meaning in that word even as the young boy hunts for Old Ben in the woods of the great . . . wherever. I still haven’t found him. I’ve crossed paths with ‘Modernity’, recognized its trail and ran its woods a thousand times but I don’t seem to be any closer to bringing home the kill.

As I read it this time, one passage really stuck in my mind:

“There was an old bear, fierce and ruthless, not merely just to stay alive, but with the fierce pride of liberty and freedom, proud enough of liberty and freedom to see it threatened without fear or even alarm; nay, who at times even seemed deliberately to put that freedom and liberty in jeopardy in order to savor them, to remind his old strong bones and flesh to keep supple and quick to defend and preserve them.”

Now read that passage again and take a shot every time you see the words ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’. Am I right?

All joking aside, I feel that this quote is in a lot of ways ineffable. I imagine the wilderness this bear must live in. It’s complete and utter disregard for rules or regulation (civilization?) because there aren’t any in sight. A time before the land was developed, sectioned off, built up and disastrously torn down. Before modern conveniences like roads and computers, Twitter or Facebook, cell phones and television.

It also says something to me about competition. The Bear is “playing the game” to its fullest potential. At war with those who would try to capture its independence and limit its fulfillment. I think this exists in the world we live in today with all of the modern convenience mentioned before (note that I’m not trying to argue any sort of lifestyle in which we give up these conveniences; I love them). To me, those boundaries seem like a new wilderness through which the bear must run and through which men will hunt and attempt to capture him.

I also find the hunters in this story interesting too, because in my mind they are the same as the Bear. The reason they hunt is to push the same boundaries and fulfill the same need as their target. To push themselves to life’s limit so that they may better appreciate that life and those limits. To give them motivation to reach and succeed at new challenges. It’s just the same as that which they hunt. It seems to me a very American mentality. Good thing the 4th’s tomorrow.

There is definitely more to this story. Of course there is more meaning in this story than can be properly expressed with another hundred posts of this quality, but I think this short was included in a larger work by Faulkner called Go Down, Moses. I seem to remember them capturing the Bear and a rather sad eulogy to follow. I also seem to remember another story which made me think that I was no less a man if I poured water into my whiskey . . .

I think I’ll be talking more about Faulkner in the weeks to come. Until next time . . .

Old Ben? Maybe?

Old Ben? Maybe?

This Week’s Short Fiction Review! Paladins of Shannara: Allanon’s Quest

I seem to be on a fantasy thing lately. If it has swords and magic then I’m game. I want to read it. I would say that I’ve read a lot of fantasy in my reading career and I keep coming back for more. Spend enough time in a genre and you start to know the major authors whether or not you’ve read them. But given the nature of Fantasy literature, it seems difficult to be well versed in the plethora of authors this genre has simply because it isn’t easy (for me at least) to hop between series, worlds, magic systems etc. Also, some of the volumes can be quite lengthy so if you’re going to try an author for the first time, you probably aren’t going to bother unless you get a pretty huge recommendation from someone you know and trust, that has similar tastes in reading as you do.

Oooh Cover

Oooh Cover

This is not why I picked up Paladins of Shannara: Allanon’s Quest. To be honest, I can’t give you a particularly good reason as to why I went ahead and jumped into Shannara at all. I think I’ve just seen the name Terry Brooks (and by association Shannara as well) around for many years and figured I should take a gander at the work. It’s funny though, now that I write this post, I realize that this isn’t my first exposure to Terry Brooks at all. I read his adaptation of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace when I was a younger (it came out in ’99 so that would make me exactly nine when I read it). I remember loving that book (I should probably read it again), so I suppose my expectations of Terry Brooks should have been pretty high.

But they weren’t. I had read a few reviews of Paladins and wasn’t expecting much. It turns out, Allanon’s Quest is the first in a series of shorts, set in the world of Shannara (the others being The Weapon Master’s Choice and The Black Irix). I’m told that long time fans of the series will recognize characters and gain a better understanding of the events happening in Shannara’s history (I’m also told these shorts contradict some of the other Shannara Novels but I don’t know this for a fact). For a newbie though, it was a good way to kill an hour or so.

It’s pretty classic stuff. There’s a prophecy, a sword (the sword which I’m assuming The Sword of Shannara Trilogy is all about), and an evil warlock bent on harming Shannara in anyway possible. Of course lineage is important and is the call to action for our formidable druid, Allanon. He must seek out the last remaining descendent of some king and protect him from harm until it is time for him to take up the sword and defeat the Warlock. Granted, this was only a short story, so all of these things don’t come to pass in the 30-40 pages which make up Allanon’s Quest. Really, all that happens is Allanon drinks at an Inn, interrogates an old man, is nearly killed by a Skull Bearer, and finally discovers that the lead he was pursuing was not meant to bear fruit but there is still another chance to succeed with a young boy named Shea who the warlock has not discovered yet. I’d say it was a pretty good appetizer and I’ll probably pursue the whole course later. Maybe I’ll take a few more samples before I dive in to Shannara full though. After all, there are still two more shorts that I can read to get my feet wet.

In all, as I said before, it was a good way to kill an hour, and if you are not familiar with Shannara at all (like I wasn’t) I think it could be a useful introduction to the world without having to commit to reading a full novel. I had heard some complaints about Terry’s writing style. Complaints that said that he was getting lazy and really only writing these shorts to feed the commercial side of what is now Shannara as a business. I didn’t feel that the writing was lazy or overly “commercial”. He has a good command of language and doesn’t dwell on unnecessary details. This seems important to me in a genre that is prone to over description. Perhaps his other work is better but Allanon’s Quest is good enough.

Lastly,  I really wished there had been more description of the Skull Bearers. These guys seemed curious and made me wish I had read more of the series so I could have had a  better picture of what these creatures were actually like. I suppose that was my only complaint.

I’d say if you’re into fantasy, take a look at this one. It’s only a dollar. Anyway, until next time . . .

Me Learning GIFs and Kobi being cute!

Hey all! So it’s Wednesday which means that it is again time to ooh and ahh at my super cute puppy. First off, this site is titled Alligators and Aneurysms so it only makes sense that Kobi should have a little alligator side kick. I mean . . . they let me pick out a toy for him, what else could have happened. So here he is with his new friend Al:

Hi Al!

Hi Al!

And now onto the important stuff. I have been trying to capture the little monster on video for some time now. At first, I was just saving everything as .wmv files but as it turns out, you can’t add those to your pages unless you pay WordPress $60 for some add-on. That’s $60 dollars I don’t have nor would I spend. So . . . last week I was in a crunch and posted a video on youtube, but I didn’t feel satisfied. I’ve been on the internet before (I know, hard to believe right?) and keep seeing all of these pictures that move around.

Forever . . .

They just keep going and going and going, on and on, forever! Which is what I wanted. I’ve learned that these are called animated GIF files and that you can make them using . . . Photoshop (oh dear).

This program is even more expensive than the silly WordPress add-on. I was supposed to be able to download a copy through my affiliation with the University of Maryland but I tried and the software package wasn’t working. I was crestfallen. How will I ever create GIFs?! I went online and none of the video-GIF converters seemed to work the way I wanted them to (not to mention I’m pretty sure I downloaded every virus on the internet).

But Lo and Behold! Photoshop randomly started working. I recently updated windows so now I’m wondering if that had something to do with it. I’m also really starting to feel kind of bad for the people working (very hard I might add . . . well at least medium hard) over a OIT which I harassed for the better part of a week. Sorry guys. Anyway, it’s finally here. My glorious GIF! Enjoy.

Aww . . .

Apparently you have to click on the picture. Still getting the hang of this I guess

You should probably go ahead and watch that for a few hours. I’m trying to do a Friday post this week so make sure you’re done by then. Bye now.

Strike two for Ray Bradbury!

Hey all. This week’s short fiction post is about Ray Bradbury’s short story The Emissary. I suppose it might be necessary to explain how or why I even know about this story, and decided to post about it. So here’s the skinny on that:

– Recently I’ve received a few mentions on my twitter account from a particular author who writes zombie fiction (check out Devan Sagliani. He’s awesome.  You can read a review of his book, The Rising Dead, which I wrote here). He’s been using the hashtag #FF to get the word out about different twitter handles and he’s mentioned me two weeks in a row (like I said he’s awesome). He usually just tweets out a list of handles he thinks people should follow; usually they have some relevance to horror or zombie fiction. I’ve been following most of them and getting super excited about zombies all over again.

– So, last weekend I go to Barnes & Noble and drop $50 on zombie books and anthologies (Psh. Who says bricks-and-mortar stores are dead?). I didn’t even feel remotely bad about it even though I definitely can’t afford to be doing that often. Nor did I look through the table of contents for the anthologies. Just dropped the cash and left.

– Now I’ve been slowly eating through some of the stories (Braaaiiiinnnssss!!) and I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to see Bradbury’s name in the lineup. Certain authors I had no trouble digesting. Stephen King, Max Brooks . . . even Neil Gaiman wasn’t too much of a stretch, but Ray Bradbury? Really?

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

This is the Bradbury I know:

A sort of nerdy looking science fiction writer. We had to read Fahrenheit 451 in high school. While I didn’t think the novel was incredibly engaging, he seemed to be a good writer and it was cool that he predicted ear-buds or whatever.  I remember learning that he was born in the 20’s (1920 to be exact) and attributed what I thought to be an overly ‘literary’ aspect of his writing to the fact that he was from a different time. And while Science Fiction is probably one of my favorite genres of fiction, I wasn’t attracted to his writing. I thought it seemed dull and a little boring.

Imagine my surprise . . .

What I didn’t know (which I now do thanks to Wikipedia), was that Bradbury actually got his start writing horror. Apparently, he was a pretty voracious reader and while H.G Wells, and Jules Verne, seem to fit as influences for his work in science fiction, I was surprised to learn of his fascination with Edgar Allen Poe (I keep seeing Poe’s name in the zombie anthologies also). Bradbury actually tried to imitate Poe in a lot of his writing until he turned 18, at which point I guess he had developed the style he has come to be known for.

My thoughts on The Emissary:

Sorry Bradbury. This might be strike two. I’ll explain. The Emissary, much like Fahrenheit 451, was certainly well written. There is a way in which I feel Bradbury’s writing feels simple even though I know it isn’t. Like he’s delivering the scenes in their most basic elements. A bunch of individual units which can only be understood in any larger context after it has already been read. It’s like you sense the story instead of read it. It’s quite impressive. Certainly poetic to say the least. However, I felt like it simply wasn’t what I was hoping for. Like it kept building and building and then simply forgot to do the big reveal. Also, and this is likely the fault of the anthology’s editor not Bradbury’s, it didn’t feel like there were any zombies in it. At least not the way we are used to. It is suggested that the boy’s favorite visitor comes back to visit “from the other side” so to speak, but it just doesn’t feel like a zombie at all. Not the way we know them now. I guess my earlier assessment still holds. Bradbury and his work is simply . . . from another time.

That’s all for today guys. Hopefully next week my review won’t be such a downer. Laters!

Short [non]fiction: The Shores of Tripoli

Shores of TripoliEvery week for the last month, I’ve been posting reviews of short fiction titles which I’ve read and thought were cool, interesting, or somehow noteworthy. This week I’m going to break the mold and post about a Kindle Single called The Shores of Tripoli written by Marc Herman (don’t worry I’ll post more fiction next Monday and pictures of Kobi on Wednesday!!). This is not a work of short fiction. If anything it might be considered a work of long-form journalism. Anyway, I got hooked on to this after reading a post on Tools of Change for Publishing in which Marc Herman narrates his experience with the Kindle Single Program. After reading the interview I though it might be nice to read the work and see if I thought this type of thing was going to change the way we get news or something equally as lofty. I’ll start by telling you what happens and maybe get all “meta” at the end.

What happens:

From what I can tell, it looks like this guy, Marc Herman, spent six weeks over in Libya and Tunisia while Qaddafi* soldiers where fighting the rebellion which would eventually succeed in overthrowing the Qaddafi regime.libya

*Side Note: Everywhere I’ve looked on the internet spells this name as ‘Gaddafi’. In Shores of Tripoli it is consistently spelled the way you see above. Not sure what to make of this as I haven’t been following this situation hardly at all. Maybe this is a common mix up and both spellings are accepted but I’m not really sure.

Apparently, he ’embedded’ himself within the rebel soldiers (so cool!) and tells the story from their point of view. He starts with a pretty jarring account of a young family who believes it is safe to take to the roads only to find that it isn’t. They are stopped at a check point and it is discovered that they sympathize with the rebel cause. They are immediately fired upon and the family’s father, Abdelhamid Almrayed, must drive the family to safety.

Herman goes on to tell of how Haithem Masud Hamed, witnessed videos of the events at Benghazi on websites like Youtube, and was encouraged to perform his own demonstration in Nalut. Haithem then joins the revolution and becomes a soldier. As Herman reports, Haithem must watch his good friend die in an attack on a water tower. At this point, Haithem wants to quit the revolution but there is no turning back.

Herman closes with a scene from the funeral for two members of the Almrayed family.

My thoughts:

Herman is a good writer. He can build the scenes and describe the events in a way which puts you inside the events. It is my general opinion that real life does not often share the sense of narrative logic that can be found in works of fiction, but Herman does a good job of reporting the events in a way which almost attempts that logic. He also drops in little bits and pieces about the types of weapons Qaddfi’s men are using, or the lack of a restaurant scene in Nalut because of a legal ban on alcohol. This specificity adds to the literary aspect of Herman’s work, and helps to give meaning to the events being reported.

That being said, I don’t know that I would recommend this piece unless you have been following the events in Libya and Tunisia very closely. Sadly, I had not and was often confused as to what was going on. I believe there is some play with the timeline to get the events of the Libyan revolution to sit neatly in the framework of the Almrayed family’s tragic story but I am not sure.

Kindle Singles and long-form journalism?

“If they are not paying attention, it doesn’t mean they don’t want the story or can’t handle the story. It means the way we’re telling it isn’t very interesting or useful or fulfilling.” — Marc Herman, A war story, a Kindle Single, and hope for long-form journalism

And this song was my only reference to Tunisia

And this song was my only reference to Tunisia

I won’t be relying on this medium to keep up-to-date on current events, but I don’t think  that is the point of this type publication. As Marc seems to be saying in the quote above, it is a way to present the information to readers that will engage their attention. I will admit that I knew almost nothing about the Libyan Revolution, Qaddafi, or Benghazi until I read this piece. I don’t know a ton about it now, but my interest is piqued.

And long-form journalism isn’t anything new, but  I could see how journalists would be discouraged from writing pieces like this in the past. It takes a long time to do the research (weeks or even months), and it takes up a lot of space in the publication so publishers might not be inclined to publish this type of material. However, it seems that it is quite popular. If freelancers can publish this type of work easily through the Kindle Single program, then it seems like there could finally be a supply to appease the demand. I suppose that is a good thing if individual journalists are willing to take the risk.

That’s all for now guys. Hurry back on Wednesday for more Kobi pics 🙂

Because I’m Shameless

Hi all! So I sort of posted about this on Sunday in my Christos Voskrese!!! post, but I got a new puppy this weekend, and am super excited about it. So now I’m just gonna share a few photos of the little guy to help anybody reading get through their Wednesday. Enjoy!

So you already saw this one. This is Kobi:

2013-05-05 11.20.03

Kobi chewing on my finger (he’s still teething):

2013-05-05 16.32.06

“Was I not supposed to eat your finger?”

2013-05-05 16.31.40

Planning his great escape!

2013-05-08 08.09.46

He thinks he’s hiding but I found him:

2013-05-06 10.30.54

With mom again:

2013-05-08 08.56.40

I don’t even know what to say about this one:

2013-05-08 08.58.02

Anyway, that’s all for now. Be sure to come back next Wednesday, I’ll try to have some more photos up. Oh and come by on Mondays too for my short fiction reviews. See ya soon!