dinsdag 30 september 2008

Review: Seeds of Change edited by John Joseph Adams

This is a long overdue review of Seeds of Change edited by John Joseph Adams.

After a lengthy interval, I’ve finally found the time to sit down and write a review of Seeds of Change. There are nine stories in this themed collection addressing issues of racism, political revolution, medical experimentation, prejudice and the environment.

Ted Komatska’s “N-Words” starts off this anthology. Set in a future time when experiments have resulted in the successful cloning of Neanderthals, humankind discovers itself giving way to old prejudices as it rebels against the perceived advantage of the cloned Neanderthals. I couldn’t help thinking of Nancy Kress’s “Beggars in Spain” while I was reading this.

In “The Future by Degrees” by Jay Lake, Grover works as a sales development person for Quantum Thermal Systems. His job is to present prototypes to potential investors. Grover’s current project is a device that is capable of storing 18,000,000 joules of heat. Grover doesn’t realize just how controversial the project is until an attempt is made on his life. Lake provides us with a gritty tale involving spionage, conspiracy, and an interesting mix of characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Drinking Problem” by K. D. Wentworth. When Joe goes to his regular bar and purchases a beer, the bar owner presents him with The Smart Bottle. The Smart Bottle is an environment-friendly project established by the government, and every citizen is bonded to the bottle for life by means of DNA imprintment. Joe tries everything in his power to get rid of the bottle, but he’s unsuccessful. When he takes the bottle home, his wife Terri is at first irritated by the presence of the bottle. The Smart Bottle is more than a bottle, as the story progresses, it evolves into something more than just a bottle. I think “Drinking Problem” is the longest story in this collection, but it’s so engaging and so entertaining, you’ll hardly notice the length until you check the page numbers.

I should really like “Endosymbiont” by Blake Charlton. After all, I come from a family rich in doctors, and my mother is a cancer survivor. If for that reason alone, I truly felt I should be able to immerse myself into Charlton’s tale. Stephanie wakes up in a hospital feeling quite ill as a result of the chemo. In the room she occupies she finds some neo toys which she hacks into. One of them, a snake, curls around, eats its own tail and vanishes with a pop. A little later, Stephanie discovers a glass snake in her pocket with the words carconella rudii imprinted on its belly. Stephanie assumes it’s a message from her mother, and this is how she learns that her mind has been uploaded into a concinnity neuroprocessor.

The concept behind this story is quite interesting, but it didn’t really do very much for me, and it was hard for me to feel any true empathy with the characters in the story.

“A Dance Called Armageddon” by Ken MacLeod is quite visual with loads of captivating lines and genuine accent. The UK and the US are engaged in the mother of all battles with Russia. MacLeod provides us with a main character who is so genuine, it’s impossible not to like him.

In “Arties Aren’t Stupid” by Jeremiah Tolbert, the future world is populated by different types of make. There are the Brainiacs, the Arties, the Elderfolk, the Tin Men, the Thicknecks and the Council who rules over them all. Mona is an Artie, and it is she who introduces us to this strange futuristic world devoid of plants and animals and where art or making is forbidden. When Niles, the leader of the Arties comes home with a device that is capable of making more than drawings, the world Mona and the Arties inhabits is changed.

I enjoyed this story very much and loved how Tolbert describes the process of making and the urge that pushes Arties to create. Beautiful.

In “Faceless in Gethsemane” by Mark Budz our narrator’s sister, Keeley has chosen to become face blind. Budz provides us with an insightful and moving tale that doesn’t feel at all preachy. I had a lump in my throat by the time I finished reading it.

In “Spider the Artist” by Medi Okorafor-Mbachu, a pipeline runs close by Eme’s house. This pipeline carries fuel all over Nigeria, and is a constant target for men in the village who siphon fuel off the pipeline. When the government sets in zombies (spiderlike robot creatures) to guard the pipeline, the stealing goes down.

Eme, our main protagonist, is a musician married to a man who beats her up. To escape his abuse, she often goes behind the house where she sits close to the pipeline and plays on her guitar. On one of the evenings, a zombie comes up to her, and listens to her music. I found myself quite engrossed in this tale of an unlikely friendship between a human and musically inclined killer-robot.

Okorafor-Mbachu weaves a spell-binding tale illustrating how perceived differences can be bridged and new alliances can be made.

“Resistance” by Tobias Buckell is the last story in this collection. It’s quite an insightful look into what happens to societies when people fail to take responsibility for their own decisions. It’s a strong story to end the collection with and leaves the reader with excellent food for thought as the protagonist in this tale sinks back and “waits for the dark to take him in its freeing embrace.”

Overall, Seeds of Change exceeded my expectations. I found it to be quite an engaging read, and while not all of the stories appealed to me, I think the majority of it will appeal to readers everywhere.

woensdag 24 september 2008

55 years

Grandma and Grandpa Loenen celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary today. We're off to visit them on our bikes. The sun's just come out...and Sam's awake.

dinsdag 23 september 2008

Joel's plans for the future

I'm in some weird shopping/windowshopping phase. I can't seem to keep from browsing online shops and thinking up lists of things I would like to buy. In fact, the only reason I haven't headed out to the shops is because my eldest son did not feel in the mood to go shopping with me. So, I had to stay home even if Tuesday is a non-piano lesson day.

In the long run, I'm thankful he didn't want to go. I think I might have ended up buying lots of things that I would later regret. It must be hormones or something. because for some reason I've been having attacks of these huge buying impulses.

It's quite possible though that this buying urge stems from me not losing weight as fast as I would like to. I have to keep reminding myself that weight will not fly off in one-click.


During our nephew's wedding reception ( Friday evening), eldest son and I sneaked out while the rest of the gang were going wild on the dance floor. He said he had something important to tell me and so we went out and had ourselves a nice walk and a surprising chat in which he divulged his plans for the future.

Joel: I know what I want to do when I'm done with school.

Me: What's that? (I'm prepared for the train engineer or conductor answer)

Joel: I want to put up a publishing company. I'll publish magazines for all different ages and each magazine will be accompanied by a book.

Me: Sounds like a good idea. You'll have to attract good writers though.

Joel: That's why I want you to be my foremost writer.

Me: Say that again.

Joel: I think you're stories are really good and I want to publish all of them.

Me: Uh---yeah...wow...gee... (I never saw that coming)

Joel: And you'll have to write more stories because we have to cater to kids under three years old as well as kids from three to six, seven to twelve, twelve to sixteen and sixteen and above.

Me: That's a lot.

Joel: I know what we'll call the entire publication.

Me: What?

Joel: We'll call it Metropole three.

Me: Why?

Joel: I like how that sounds...

If fate doesn't intervene and change his mind...expect Metropole three to launch some twenty or so years from now.

maandag 22 september 2008

Finished work on a new story. I'll be taking it down the editting road this week and plan to send it out to market next week.

September has turned out to be quite an expensive month for us. We had a wedding in the family and several birthday celebrations, which meant money spent on gifts and wedding accoutrements. Added to this, I splurged and visited a luxurious hair stylist. It was sinfully expensive, but well worth the visit as I bought a shampoo that seems to have solved my eternal struggle with stressed hair and dandruff. Look, Ma! Clean scalp!

Thankfully, we're still in the blue. Our tax return came in and I could heave a huge sigh of relief. Still, I do intend to keep a watchful eye on the budget this October.

Total extra expenses for the month of September(beyond our planned budget): three hundred euros. I'm spelling it out because it seems less sinful when spelled out than when written in numbers. lol.

October is coming up fast. My youngest brother will be visiting us for a few days (alas only five days) and we're planning a day trip to Amsterdam and quick trips to Haarlem and Gouda. I'm creating a fresh new budget for October and for the pasalubongs he'll be taking back with him. I do have bags full of baby clothes. Funny how the Dutchies seem not to want secondhand stuff from me...they love giving it to me (and I love receiving it, because toddler stuff is almost never on sale) but if I ask who wants something hand-me-down, no one raises their right hand.

On the exercise side: I've been walking everyday for the past couple of weeks, and I can feel my tummy shrinking. Today, I turned on the telly at 9 a.m. and did stretches and warm-ups with this program called "Nederland in Beweging" (translated: Netherlands in Action or better yet: Netherlanders Move It).

Alternate Girl: Working on a new segment for the Alternate Girl hay(na)ku. I love how characters just seem to jump out of walls and bridges confronting me with their story within this story.

I am also working on my first ever review for The Fix. My thanks to Marshall Payne for recommending me and encouraging me to join the review team. Marshall's a great guy who writes stuff that will twist your head off in a good way. I like how his work incorporates a sense of humor that I feel is essential in the sf&f genre.

In my own observation of the genre field, I've sometimes sensed a certain hostility towards what's seen as literary work, while on the other hand, there's also a strong desire to be viewed as literarily solid. It seems to be a desire to belong while still remaining outside of. I wonder how come certain works of speculative nature will be shut out by the literary powers-that-be whereas other work will be considered revolutionary and cutting edge.

Having said that, I'll be the first to admit that I'd like to be resistant to labelling. I mean, while I enjoy writing speculative fiction, I think I wouldn't be where I was as a writer of fiction if not for the influence poetry and journalism had on me. Whether we like it or not, I think poetry, arts, music and story writing are all relatives of each other and I like to see how great writers will engage in all of these disciplines because engaging all these will stretch you. I suppose what I'm saying here is that it's a good thing to go beyond traditional form, to make a break with traditional storytelling, to experiment and jump off a cliff even if it means no one will like what you're doing or that what you're doing is the least commercially viable product.

Being truthful and true to your art and to your story and to what the muse demands is more important than commercial viability in my books.

Anyway, I'm reading this new publication from The British Fantasy Society. I have this to say, I like how these Brits pick out their fiction :)

donderdag 11 september 2008


Catching up on my blogreading, I visited The Chatelaine's blog, and I had to smile reading the line "there are keys to everything..."

It seems quite apt reading that now, and I have to share about how each time I hit a block or come out of a period of non-writing, the first thing I do is write hay(na)ku. I wrote about this on my lj and talked about how some of the best stories I've ever written have worked out after doing some hay(na)ku on the stories.

I was reflecting on how writing in hay(na)ku (as I am experiencing it with Alternate Girl) brings me to a certain place where I can touch the heart of the story.

On Haruah some of the editors talk about how writers/poets used to make use of hallucinatory drugs to produce their work. I have to confess that each time I show my husband a hay(na)ku that I've used to solve a problem in my stories he tells me the hay(na)ku sounds just like I've been taking a hallucinatory drug of some sort (how would he know that?). I don't really care that it's so, the thing is, the hay(na)ku has become an essential part of my writing life. Other writers may have their outlines and their detailed character pages and index cards... I have the hay(na)ku.

It's my key and my drug of choice :)

woensdag 10 september 2008

Have posted a new Alternate Girl episode over at chiepublication.

Looks like I'm riding out of the slump I was in.


Things I have been doing lately:

1. Cleaning the house
2. Shopping
3. Cleaning out closets
4. Shopping
5. Organizing bedrooms
6. Shopping
7. Tackling the laundry mountain

If you look at this list, it's quite easy to think that I am turning into a shopaholic. And I would be one if it wasn't for this picky voice inside my head that somehow includes a visual of something other than the thing I'm holding in my hand. Since I've cleaned out my closet, I've discovered a lot of items in there that I bought on the spur of the moment, mainly because someone prompted me to buy it because it fit in with their idea of a perfect buy. The result was me having yet another thing in my closet that I wore probably only once or twice because I wasn't convinced that the item was really me.

A good rule of thumb that I've decided to put into effect after cleaning out my closet is that if the item I'm holding isn't something I'm 100% convinced about, then I'd better not take it. Knowing me, I'm likely to wear only the clothes I really liked as compared to clothes I liked 50% but bought anyway because someone else was there.

Trimming down my closets has also made me understand why quality is more important than price, and shopping ( or rather windowshopping ) has made me understand that it's important to do your research before you head out to the shops.

With technology at hand, it's easy to research style and price before you head out to the shops.

The Perfect Jeans

After years of frustrated searching, I have finally found and bought my own pair of perfect jeans. Because of the way I'm built, the low-waisted jeans just don't fit me. I mean, they do fit, but I don't understand how anyone can be comfortable wearing a pair of jeans that slides down to reveal your butt crack everytime you need to crouch down for something. So, I am truly thankful that the low-waisted jeans have been replaced by sensible fairly waisted jeans (not highwaist). Mine are waisted around the stomach, they don't slide down and they are in dark, dark blue with a little flare at the bottom to even out the hips I inherited from my grandmother.

I was lucky enough to find this pair of perfect jeans on a day when the shop that was selling them had put up an extra 10 euro discount on the jeans. Which makes this buy all the sweeter.

Joel's Bedroom

We've finally minimalized the clutter in Joel's bedroom and he has floorspace. We bought this secondhand bed off Marktplaats only to discover that it was missing a metal bar that holds the entire thing in the middle, and were lucky enough that we could still get it from IKEA for the sweet price of seven euro.

Because Joel's room is done in Railway style with the colors of the National Railway on it, the look is a bit industrial. At Ikea we managed to get a couple of open shelves in metal. The shelves were pretty cheap and I assembled them all by myself.

We've been engaged in a lot of home improvements and I'm hoping that before the year ends I'll be able to say the attic has been done.

I am making lists...lists and lists and lists and lists...