Aethernet Magazine and Shadow Unit: two things worth charging your e-whatsit for

Aethernet Magazine has re-vivified the serial story. A serial, I learned from reading Issue 1, gives you bits of a story in every issue, a-la Chuckie Dickens.

Let me tell you: the cliffhanger, the tenterhooks, this business of leaving off at the really exciting bit and making me wait until the next issue? It totally works.

The thing is, it surprised me. I’m pretty cynical, so I went into a magazine of serialized fiction thinking “o sure, I understand how this works, so you won’t catch me up in an emotional froo-ha-ha, waiting with bated breath for the next issue.”

Crap. That’s crap. I actually had to
wake up Hubs to tell him about this amazing story and I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! …he was not impressed, sleepily not understanding why Juliet McKenna was mailing cereal to me.

I’ve read a *lot* of McKenna, so her writing style is familiar to me, but what she’s done with this story completely blindsided me. The story starts out in the idyllic Not-Backwater-England which is totally typical McKenna–she does this so well: “settle down and be cozy in this calm little story about a wee village with thatched huts and a butcher,” and then kablammo

Heh-heh. Try it!

Though I bought the magazine for the McKenna, of course, I’m reading the others now. The Adrian Tchaikovsky is interesting so far, very D&D magic systems style characters. And spiders.

“Penthos, what’s a word for something that’s all over covered in spiders?” (from Mirkwood Blues by Adrian Tchaikovsky)


The second thing of interest I wanted to share is Shadow Unit, a shared world collection of novellas edited by Emma Bull and Elizabeth Bear.

They’re up to issue 14 now.

It’s urban fantasy in D.C., set up as though the writers were writing for a hit TV series.

…more later, I want to get back to these spiders…

Mass Effect

I know… Mass Effect is an ancient game (2007). But I’m playing it and loving the detail on these planets.

I wanted to mention this video game in relation to Stainless Steel Droppings’ Science Fiction Experience that was running a while back.

First, a tiny bit about the game. This game world surprised me. The Hubs has been playing these games (there are three in the series) since they’ve been released. But they’ve just been one of “Duncan’s video games”. My video game background is obviously a lot slower, and I thought there would be a few folks more my speed who might appreciate a quick intro to the Mass Effect universe.

If he’d have said to me ages ago, oh, this game is much like the 1986 StarFlight for the Radio Shack Tandy, I’d have been all over Mass Effect in a much more timely manner.


There’s a first person shooter aspect to the game, but “casual” level renders that down to a minor inconvenience, allowing me to get to the good bits, namely, the story, the aliens, the planets.

So, on to the planets and the Science Fiction experience.

In the story, you are tasked with duties that take you to other planets. Your character, Shepard, and his/her team must explore these planets in order to uncover sinister truths, deep galactic past, and cool stuff like crashed probes.


The art of the game stunned me. They’ve gone and mapped all these worlds, given every one of them unique astrophysical characteristics. Paula, I’m thinking you’d have fun reading these descriptions. Heh!


And the aliens rock. They’re ugly, weird, short, huge, gas-breathers, or maybe even possess ethereal beauty.

As if the extensively mapped, fully explorable planets plus the detailed background and interactions of the alien races weren’t enough, the story is immersive, asking me to make decisions that will affect the outcome of the rest of the game. The story is *expansive* and just doesn’t quit.

Anyway, I found myself totally immersed in the experience of the fiction of science, something I haven’t really found outside a select few space opera books. I guess we kind of become numbed to the sense of awe that science fiction can bring when we fixate on it, but playing this game, and especially playing with the beautiful galaxy maps, looking at the stars twinkling behind these fictional planetary systems, triggered for me that science fiction wonder: …what if…? …what’s out there? …how would life develop under those planetary and ecological conditions?

In 1986, we were holding down the arrow keys to maneuver an 8-bit space rover against a 16-color backdrop, knowing, dreaming, that there must be extra-solar planets out there. In 2007, the graphics and sound are exponentially better, and we had identified a few exoplanets, the first confirmed 12 years prior in 1995.

Now, we’ve been able to determine that there are more than 100 billion planets in the Milky Way.
And at least one is earth-like and a candidate for extra-solar life.


Hoppin’ for Nalo Hopkinson

Where is Nalo Hopkinson in my reader-satisfaction world? I felt as good after finishing Brown Girl in the Ring and The New Moon’s Arms as I did after finishing Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks and after finishing all three of the Julie Czerneda’s Species Imperative series in rapid succession.

It has been a *long time* since I’ve actually been satisfied by a read. This was delicious and perfect and exactly enough. I didn’t need any more or less, and I am closing the book happy. Nalo Hopkinson is the storyteller I’ve been longing for. It was the weirdest reading experience I’ve ever had, and true for both books. I finish, and then I don’t really feel the need to read anything else for a while. WEIRD, huh?

Odd reading behavior for me, but I started The New Moon’s Arms at midnight and finished it at 4:45 am. I usually sip lightly at my books, but this one I consumed whole hog.

There were some attributes to Hopkinson’s writing style true to both books that I really enjoyed.

The first is dialect. I love that Hopkinson includes dialect and doesn’t try to dumb down or explain the lingo as we go along in the story. It’s rather a sink-or-swim, and it’s delicious. We’re creatures of language, and it doesn’t take long before I’m thinking in these new grammatical ways, just from reading,

“It looks like she tear ducts get leave behind when she jook out she eyes, Ti-Jean thought.”


“Eshu, is we here tonight: me, Gros-Jeanne, and me grand-daughter Ti-Jeane, and her Baby-father, Tony.”

But the dialect is not here just for flavouring or authenticity. The patois changes according to whom the character is addressing, who is taking part in the conversation, and what the conversation is about. While Gros-Jeanne, the grandmother who is pretty much stuck in her flavor of English, Tony can formal-up and relax his English to suit his surroundings.

The other writing attribute that did me in for Hopkinson is her characterization. Her people are neither good nor bad, but just folks doing their just folks thing, likeable people who sometimes do unlikeable things, or make dumb mistakes, or bust out with a stupid thing she shouldn’t have said, or are pig-headed on an issue. Just…like…me. (*koff*) But the thing with Hopkinson, is that she lets us know *why* this character made this dumb mistake, or is stubborn on this one issue but otherwise level-headed and progressive. There’s a reason behind everything here, and every character in the story has a part to play in the plot.

from iphone 2012 169

Hopkinson had me doing the involuntary Cheese Chip Deadlift. I realized I had eaten half a bag of the stupid things without realizing what I was doing while reading Brown Girl. Now that’s good writing, hey?

Now, for a brief description of these two books that I’ve read and enjoyed.

Brown Girl in the Ring is a post-apocalyptic style tale, about a gal stuck in inner Toronto after the economy has collapsed and most people have left. It’s difficult to get out of the city, cars are rare, etc, and someone is preying on people for their organs. Ti-Jeanne is young, a new mom, trying to dump her boyfriend and her feelings for him, and living with her grandmother who is the local healer and a Voudoun priestess. Ti-Jeanne has inherited some of these powers, too, it seems, and she doesn’t quite know what to do about them.

The New Moon’s Arms starts with a funeral. One of the attendees loses her undies mid-mourn, and it just kind of goes from there. Calamity is 50-something, and if I’m not at least a little like her when I’m that age, please just push me off the roof. She has an ability to find lost things, or things just sort of manifest to her…including a washed up sea-people child and an entire cashew orchard. Calamity just rolls with the bizarre, though, and keeps on with her life: falling in love, pissing people off, and trying to figure out what’s up with this kid suddenly in her life. There’s a lot of family history, of course, including a seal skin that she and her daughter find on a dare when exploring the mysteriously-manifested cashew orchard. New Word: freezerversity.

I dunno if you’ll like Nalo Hopkinson. But if you like non-stop story, rich and full characters with punkitude and not-always-benificent-magic set in a world likely different than anything you’ve read or visited, you might fall in love with Hopkinson like I did. I plan to read everything she has written and then on to everything she recommends.

Her next book coming out (mid-March) is Sister Mine, and it’s already on pre-order for me with The Book Loft. No, you can’t borrow it. Is MINE! Get your own, punk.

P.s. When you get to reading Hopkinson, be advised that however the e-editions came about, they did a real scan and chop job. They are mostly OK, but some instances of the text being out of order. Advise finding paper copies.


New Words: Pice

“So I have been to a holy man, who taught me what I must do. Then with my few pice I have taken a bus into the country to dig for herbs…”
Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


pice (plural pice or pices)

A small copper coin of the East Indies, worth less than a cent.
(British India) An Alternative spelling of paisa.

Wikipedia tells me more: a href=””>

New Words: Rani

“The Rani did not live like other Indian princes. Instead of teetar-hunts, she endowed scholarships. Instead of hotel scandals, she had politics. And so the rumours began.”

from Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

ra⋅ni /’rɑ:ni:/


  1. (the feminine of raja) a Hindu princess or the wife of a raja
    syn: ranee

ORIGIN: From Hindustani रानी / رانی < Sanskrit राज्ञी (queen, princess).
Wait. What the hell’s a “teetar”?

…Ah. An internet search reveals that a teetar is a partridge. There are loads of you tube videos if you’re interested in that.


Kindred, Octavia Butler.

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle, very early set my threshold for “scary” in a story. The Ultimate Nothing, mind control, compliant uniformity… yah, scary stuff to toss around in one’s head at any age. Every other book I’ve read since reading that at ten years old or so ranks a “meh” on the scary scale.

Kindred is Wrinkle in Time kind of scary, but grown up.

We become callused to the ideas that frighten us as we are growing, thoughts like trying to work out How does nothing actually exist?, and What’s the point of loving if we all die anyway? At some point we give up thinking about these things in exchange for moving on into the day-to-day bullshit of adult-hood. Kindred made me question my understanding of what it means to be an adult and realize that we don’t stop changing, even if we ignore that change.

The other thing I really like about this novel is that it is a fantabulous example of the way in which science fiction can serve humanity. What a perfect and beautiful thought experiment is Kindred.

The over-simplified premise is that a woman mysteriously gets snapped back in time to meet up with an ancestor. He’s an idiot and always nearly getting himself killed, and she figures out pretty quick that her purpose is to keep him alive long enough to…well, you know, continue on the line that will eventually bear herself into the world.

Only thing is she doesn’t know when she’ll get called back, how long she’ll get stuck back in that time, or how much danger she’s really in. If she dies in the past, does she die in the future, too?

The scary bits begin when she realizes that death would be preferable to the life she’s expected to lead while in the past. And the super scary part is when she realizes that she’s become pretty much OK with the social conditions of that past time.

Sitting here sweet and happy in the future, it’s easy to be grateful for my human rights, list them off like ingredients on the nutrition information panel. It’s easy to imagine that, if born in another time, I would be totally intolerant of my doomed lack of education, my subjugation to others, etc. But you know what? Probably not. I would likely be a completely and unrecognizeably different person. My morals, values, rights and beliefs would be alien to the person I am now.

And then (like that’s not enough for one book) there’s the discussion about how much we change our persons in order to survive, whatever that word means for our current environment. Do we learn to become meek in the presence of an over-bearing boss? Do we learn to become careless and unprepared in the presence of luck and fortune? Do we learn to become unkind and ungrateful when surrounded by bitterness? Do we learn to sever our creativity in exchange for earning a living?

That’s pretty scary.

Kindred, Octavia Butler.

Dracula – The Original Bad-Ass Vampire

An Estimated 33 lbs. of Kitties Enjoying Dracula

Dracula was a YOBC selection from last year, and I finally got around to it. When it first went on the list, I had my doubts about how good it would be.

It was great. I can now see why this classic has survived the ages. The characters are real people – ladies, gents, and monsters. There are no sparklers, day-walkers, huggable vampires in this novel. As the tension builds, the reader gents a true feeling that souls are at stake. The ending was very satisfactory.

And from this book, I have expanded my repertoire in the kitchen. In the earliest chapters, Jonathan Harker is traveling from England to Transylvania and he samples the local food at all the inns he stays at. I chose these three dishes mentioned: paprika hendl, impletata, and mamalgia.

Paprika hendle: paprika chicken cooked in a tomato sauce with sour cream.

Impletata: Sausage-mix stuffed eggplant.

Mamalgia: I went with the sausage-stuffed polenta balls recipe. It can also just be a morning porridge (think southern grits).

Katermelon’s Crime Books List

Katermelon is Darkcargo’s resident Crime, Spy and Thriller aficionado. She shares this list with us. 

Jehosephat. Found this today while looking for something else; I think I have my reading list for life! I’ve read many of these titles, heard of most of them, and am excited about the ones I haven’t heard of. Oh boy, my TBR pile just reached the ceiling!! Bliss!!