Cover art for the 1968 edition of “First Lensman”
I’ve been reading the legendary E.E. “Doc” Smith‘s Lensman series recently. After Triplanetary (1948 – originally published as a serial in 1934), which really wasn’t about the Lensmen, but did introduce a few key characters, came First Lensman (1950) which still gave off more of a 1930s flavor.
While readers get their first real glimpse into the lives and power of the Lensmen, the tale reveals itself as terribly dated. The “good guys” are very “North American” centric, women don’t have minds compatible with interacting with the lens, and our guys are scrupulously honest and forthright.
As with “Triplanetary,” I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of scene changes and figure out where I was in the story from one point to the next.
Along with the purely space opera aspects, there were heavy political overtones, no doubt reflecting Smith’s actual viewpoints.
Image captured from Amazon
Over 50 years ago, when all the other guys in Junior High were reading E.E. “Doc” Smith‘s Lensmen series, I was reading his Skylark series, and loving it. I tried re-reading Skylark of Space, the first novel in the series, several years ago, going so far as to buy a paperback copy. It was tough to swallow because it was originally written in the 1930s (the stories were originally serialized in the ’30s and then published in novel form in the 1940s – they had a resurgence in the 1960s and became incredibly popular with teenage males), and comes across as extremely dated. I didn’t notice it when I first read the book, but then I was only 14 at the time.
I’ve owned a copy of Triplanetary, the first in the “Lensmen” series, for years, but every time I tried to read it, I never got past the first few pages. I think it was our hero and heroine enjoying a ballroom dance aboard a spaceliner that put me off. Very 1930s.
Cover art for John Scalzi’s 2017 novel “The Collapsing Empire”
I recently downloaded a free copy of John Scalzi’s novel The Collapsing Empire from TOR.com. It was part of a promotion of the third novel in this series The Last Emperox being published later this month (as I write this).
Scalzi comes with a rather stellar reputation and background, having won two Hugos and been nominated for other awards, but the proof of an author is in the writing, not the rep (as least as far as I’m concerned), so I thought I’d give him a whirl.
But first, the kudos I gleaned from Amazon:
“John Scalzi is the most entertaining, accessible writer working in SF today.” —Joe Hill, author of The Fireman
“Fans of Game of Thrones and Dune will enjoy this bawdy, brutal, and brilliant political adventure” —Booklist on The Collapsing Empire
Screen capture from the Sol planetary anthology promotional video
As with the Mars planetary anthology, the Sol planetary anthology now has its own promotional video.
“Sol” features my science fiction short story “The Pleiades Dilemma,” the tale of an interstellar interloper into our solar system that not only seems piloted, but is on a direct course for our Sun. The question is, will this probe save humanity or destroy it?
Cover image for Neal Asher’s novel “War Factory”
Disclosure: My short story “Joey” appears in the Zombie Pirate Publishing science fiction anthology World War Four. It also features Neal Asher’s novelette Monitor Logan.
Neal Asher’s War Factory is the sequel to his novel Dark Intelligence and the second in his “Transformations” trilogy.
We continue to follow the travails of a plethora of characters, human, Prador, AI, and other, all orchestrated by the dark AI Penny Royal, who has mysterious motivations for manipulating lives and even entire regimes.
Asher remains a top author in the crafting of space operas, interweaving a large cast of players on his interstellar stage, this time upping the game. Penny Royal leads herself, the assassin droid Riss, and Thorvald Spear on a journey to rediscover their beginnings, which for the mechanized members, is a massive space station. “Room 101” was a sapient intelligence who felt a maternal instinct toward her martial creations, and who, when on the verge of destruction, did the unthinkable.
Cover art for Richard Paolinelli’s novel “Escaping Infinity”
I’ve wanted to read and review one of Richard Paolinelli’s novels for quite some time now, since I previously reviewed his short story The Last Hunt which was featured in last year’s Superversive Press anthology To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity. I finally got my opportunity with Escaping Infinity, a 2017 Dragon Award Finalist.
As I got into Paolinelli’s book, I found it had some similarities to Australian SciFi writer Matt Reilly’s 2000 novel Contest. In both books, an innocent couple is thrown into a highly unlikely environment where they must solve a series of challenges in order to survive. In Reilly’s case, it was the location was the main branch of the New York City Public Library, and in Paolinelli’s novel, it’s a seemingly five-star hotel located in the middle of the Arizona desert, miles away from where any such structure has a right to be.
Peter and his friend and co-worker Charlie are driving to Phoenix for a business trip and become lost. Running out of gas and miles from nowhere, they come across an incredibly futuristic and opulent hotel called “Infinity.” Once inside, they realize the hotel and casino can provide a virtually unlimited supply of pleasures and experiences, enough to keep them there for a lifetime, which seems to be the idea.
Cover art for Neal Asher’s 2015 novel “Dark Intelligence.”
Disclosure: My short story “Joey” will be published in the upcoming Zombie Pirate Publishing anthology World War Four which also features the novelette “Monitor Logan” by best-selling author Neal Asher. Watch for the anthology on Amazon starting March 1, 2019.
I must admit that prior to being informed of the above, I had never heard of Asher or his works, though scanning his published novels, I was certainly impressed. Since we’d be “sharing” the inside of an anthology, I felt I should get to know his writing a bit better, and so selected Dark Intelligence: Transformation Book One (2015) as my introductory novel.
There was a superficial resemblance to Alastair Reynolds’ 2008 collection of short stories (all set in the same universe) Galactic North, particularly in the area of “medical atrocities,” but other than that, they’ve both described unique universes.
The novel is an ensemble piece, however the main protagonist, and the only one who speaks in first person, is a man called Thorvald Spear, who was killed in a war a century before by the rogue AI Penny Royal, or so it seems. Spear is revived with a strong desire to revenge himself on the supremely powerful Penny Royal, but as he continues to pursue her, he becomes uncertain if some, or any of his memories are truly his rather than images implanted by the AI in order to manipulate him.
© Dale Rogerson
The flowing water was marginally warmer than the frigid air, but Lance dressed for the weather and felt comfortable crouching down on a flat rock near the falls. At his feet patiently sat the urn. When he first met Tamara a decade ago, he never thought she liked the cold and the mountains so much. He was used to snow, being raised as a “flatlander,” but he’d have a hard time getting used to the altitude.
Pouring out the open clay container, her ashes rained into the stream like tears. “I wish I would have told you I loved you.”
I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.
Yesterday, I wrote the opening to a wee Space Opera called The Girl He Left Behind, which was my response to a completely different writing challenge. You can’t tell because of the brevity of this piece, but this is the aftermath of winning an interstellar war, with Lance being one of the few survivors. He takes the ashes of one of his fellow soldiers, a woman he always thought was just a friend, but who had fallen in love with him, back to her homeworld, the only one to have not been destroyed.
War isn’t kind, even to the victors.
To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.
– Kelogsloops @ Instagram
Twenty-five-year-old Lance Andrew Cain immersed himself in Miranda’s psychedelic beauty, his love’s long, white mane sensuously lifting and waving in a thermal updraft, while globules of incandescent plasma rose with her, surrounding her, isolating the both of them from the ravages of the Lorav Nebula, and cold space beyond.
He raised his hands, as from each fingertip, a monarch butterfly, wings painted in the hues of precious gems, soared away from him, dancing around her alabaster form, her full, pendulous breasts, kissing the crimson that shaded her eyes, her cheeks, her lips. He was in an ecstasy of longing, and unfulfilled, his spirit remained suspended between paradise and mundane.
Then the officer saw the twin white chevrons on the sleeve of his royal blue jacket and remembered, and remembering thus, his darling’s vision froze, stuttered momentarily, and then vanished back into digital oblivion. Once again the Lieutenant JG in the service of the Fifth Legion of Garissann, aboard the space cruiser “The Dread of Issac,” was alone.
Image: JPL NASA
From the Flight Log of Freighter Pilot Camdon Rod
Not only am I a moron, I think I’m going out of my mind.
For the record, my name is Camdon Rod and I’m the owner/operator of the jump freighter Ginger’s Regret. Ginger, the woman the freighter is named for, is here too. Well, sort of. Over fifty years ago, a hyperjump accident destroyed her flesh and blood body, but the rest of her stayed here. She’s the ship’s personality. Sometimes, she can become a woman for a while. Convenient since we’re in love with each other.
Sometime ago, I accepted a deal to work for a group of hyperspace beings, illegally hauling cargo for them. I had no choice. They could kill Ginger if I didn’t.
After that, I had to agree to work for the terrorist organization Spire for the same reasons.
I can’t believe I was stupid enough not to see the connection right away. Either Spire is run by these beings, or behind the scenes, they’re manipulating the people who do run Spire.