Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category


It’s been a while since we’ve posted one of these, so this’ll be a bit longer than usual. Given these dark times and the need for comic relief, we’re mostly featuring Funny Internet Crap this time around. We’ve found some choice items so, as always, hang onto your hats and enjoy.

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  • Deadstate is always good for a few laughs amidst the political and religious horrors it tends to cover. Our current favorite story is “University psychiatrist: Saying Trump is mentally ill is a ‘terrible insult to the mentally ill.'”
  • Rudy Rucker’s Juicy Ghost is a  “a political sci-fi story,” that the standard sci-fi magazines thought was too hot to handle. (Rucker is a very well established sci-fi author — normally the mags would gobble up any short story he submitted.) So, because none of the magazines would publish it, Rucker put it up in its entirety on his own blog. It’s short, but highly enjoyable.
  • Everyone loves a good prank, and for some fun examples see this story about Jeff Wysaski’s “obvious plants.” They good, but not as good as the following fake poster plastered all over Santa Cruz a couple of years ago:

  • And everyone loves to indulge in schadenfreude (feeling joy at another’s misfortune). And it’d be hard to top the amount of pure joy one feels when viewing this video taken inside a restaurant in China by a live-streamer who filmed herself trying to eat a live octopus. By far the best thing about this is that she did everything from planning this animal-abuse atrocity to attempting to execute it herself. Bon appetit!
  • Speaking of animals and sheer nuttiness all wrapped up in a conspiracy theory, check out this story about the Birds Aren’t Real campaign. (Yes, birds have all been replaced by surveillance drones.)
  • If you think most modern pop music utterly sucks, you’re right. For an entertaining exposition on just how and why so much of it does, check out Axis of Awesome’s “How to Write a Love Song.”
  • And what better to finish with than what might be the funniest short video ever posted on Youtube dealing with fishing, rednecks, and beer. You’ve gotta love this guy.

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


(The Quanderhorn Xperimentations, by Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall. London: Gallancz, 2019, 16.99 pounds, 464 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

(First, a cautionary note: Don’t expect an overly discerning review; I read this book in the wee hours of several mornings while in a semi-zombified state due to ongoing insomnia. Those not blessed with that affliction can achieve a similar state through ingestion of too many IPAs, through smoking copious amounts of Humboldt Paralysis Weed or, preferably, through combining the two approaches.)

When I saw this book, I said to myself, “Self, ya gotta read this thing!” There were two immediate attractions: the name of the book, an obvious reference to the early Quatermass sci-fi films (derived from the BBC TV series), the first of which (1955) is titled The Quartermass Xperiment; and the name of one of the co-authors, Rob Grant, co-creator with Doug Naylor of what is, hands down, the funniest sci-fi comedy series ever produced, Red Dwarf. (If you’ve never seen it, the first six series are gems, as is series 8.)

The promo copy on the back cover of The Quanderhorn Xperimentations gives a good indication of its contents: “Adapted backwards from the future from the Radio 4 series before it was made.” In other words, the book’s interior — I hesitate to call it a novel — consists primarily of absurdist humor.

In this it somewhat resembles Red Dwarf, as it does in other respects: it treats some similar sci-fi tropes (e.g., time travel, polymorphic life forms); has frequent one-liners; running gags; character-based and oftentimes crude humor; and uses humorous organizational names and their consequent acronyms. (My favorite from Red Dwarf is the Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society — you can work that one out for yourselves.) One other similarity is that Quanderhorn lifts at least one joke — concerning the disposal of human remains — almost word for word from Red Dwarf (S1E1); there might be others, but I didn’t spot them.

Quanderhorn Xperimentations does, however, differ significantly from Red Dwarf in four ways: the characters in Red Dwarf are much stronger; the Red Dwarf episodes are much more coherent than any portion, let alone the whole, of Quanderhorn; as a result of those two things it’s almost always possible to suspend disbelief while viewing Red Dwarf, no matter how funny or how absurd the situation, and it’s simply not possible to do that with The Quanderhorn Xperimentations; and a lot of the humor in Red Dwarf is quite witty, something largely lacking in Quanderhorn.

As for the differences between Quanderhorn Xperimentations and the Quatermass films, there are several, the primary ones being: the Quatermass films were straight-up sci-fi, while The Quanderhorn Xperimentations is a work of absurdist humor with a sci-fi background; the Quatermass films featured a superhero-like primary character, Bernard Quatermass, who was both brilliant and ethical, while the corresponding character in The Quanderhorn Xperimentations, Darius Quanderhorn, is a callous, narcissistic evil genius.

Still, while The Quanderhorn Xperimentations falls short of both Red Dwarf and the Quatermass films, there’s enough humor in it to make it worth reading if you’re in the mood for an exceedingly light, undemanding read.

Recommended for Red Dwarf aficionados, fans of absurdist humor, insomniacs, zombies, and those who like to read after quaffing too many IPAs and inhaling the combustion products of burning Paralysis Weed.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). His latest book is the compilation Godless: 150 Years of Disbelief, published by PM Press, and when the insomnia let’s up and he’s relatively coherent, Zeke is working on the sequel to Free Radicals, an unrelated sci-fi novel, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, and an anarchist compilation for PM.

Free Radicals front cover

 

 


Here, at minimum, are the posts that we’ll put up over the next month or so:

  • A review of Neal Stephenson’s masterful, very thought-provoking new near-future sci-fi novel Fall, or Dodge in Hell, that’s in many ways is reminiscent of his near-future political thriller Reamde;
  • Quite possibly one or two other sci-fi book reviews (we tend to review only books that we love or those that particularly irritate us);
  • A long look at the reasons why the USA has ended up with a grotesque authoritarian as president, and who and what’s to blame;
  • Excerpts from both of our upcoming nonfiction titles, Death Wins All Wars: A Memoir of Draft Resistance in the 1960s, by Daniel Holland (September 2019), and The Great Evil: Christianity, The Bible, and the Native American Genocide, by Chris Mato Nunpa (October 2019);
  • A long look at economic inequality in the USA, and how those who do useful work are systematically screwed;
  • A good-sized excerpt from Zeke Teflon’s sci-fi sequel to Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia;
  • Anything else we find both funny and/or insightful (preferably both).

Stay tuned.


“You stand at the threshold of the Temple of Mota, Lord of Lords . . .

“He could not recall such a god, but it did not matter. These sallow creatures had a thousand strange gods. Three things only do slaves require, food, work, and their gods, and of the three, their gods must never be touched, else they grow troublesome. So said the Precepts for Ruling.”

–Robert Heinlein, The Day After Tomorrow (1949)

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Amusingly, “mota” is border Spanish for marijuana.

The quote itself is quite reminiscent of Edward Gibbon’s comment in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

“The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.”

 


Our newest title, Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Rodolfo Montes de Oca, is now available. It should be of major interest to those interested in anarchist history and also to those interested in the history of Venezuela. Both Venezuelan Anarchism and our previous Venezuela title, Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, by Rafael Uzcátegui, provide essential background information for anyone who wants to understand the current political situation in that tortured land. Daniel Baret, author of Los sediciosos despertares de la Anarquia (Anarchy’s Seditious Awakenings) has this to say of the book:

“Rodolfo Montes de Oca has unearthed an unknown history. He shows the arc of Venezuelan anarchism from its most distant antecedents to the contemporary. It’s an ambitious examination that can only be compared to Frank Fernández’s Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement.”

We just sent the files to the printer for advance review copies of our September title, Death Wins All Wars, Daniel Holland’s memoir of draft resistance, organizing, and protest during the Viet Nam war.

R.M. Ryan, the author of There’s a Man with a Gun Over There, says this of the book: “Daniel Holland’s memoir of his days as a draft resister in the late 1960s offers a step-by-step account of ordinary bravery in the face of unconscionable lies by the US government. Men like Holland faced prison sentences as the price of their resistance. Filled with an improbable combination of sweetness, good humor, and fear, Holland’s story reads like a letter from the front lines of the anti-war movement.”

Paul Krassner, legendary Yippee activist and editor of The Realist, has this to say: “The absurdity of today’s political and ideological world demands Resistance. The way Daniel Holland responded to the absurdity of the Sixties may well provide a guidepost. Travel with him now to the past and see what the future may bring.”

We’re currently at work on our other Fall book, Chris Mato Nunpa’s The Great Evil: Christianity, the Bible, and the Native American Genocide. This book pulls back the veils on a nearly unknown and shocking chapter in American history. We’ll be sending off the files for advance copies within the month, and we’ll release the book in September. This will be the last book we’ll release this year. (Once that book is out, health permitting, I hope to begin regularly posting here once again in the usual areas: politics, religion, atheism, music, humor, sci-fi book reviews, and anything else that seems of interest.)

Next year, we’ll release T.C. Weber’s Zero Day Rising, the final book in T.C.’s well crafted political sci-fi/near-future thriller “Sleep State Interrupt” trilogy, plus, just possibly the as-yet-untitled sequel to one of our other sci-fi titles, Zeke Teflon’s Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, and a nonfiction book, 24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, a greatly expanded version of my e-book 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. (Free html version of 20 Reasons here.)

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Radicalized, by Cory Doctorow front cover(Radicalized, by Cory Doctorow. Tor-Forge, 2019, 304 pp., $26.99)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

Radicalized consists of three novellas and one longish short story — all described as “tales” on the dust jacket, probably in part to avoid quibbles over terminology. It’s highly entertaining and provides a good example of science fiction at its best: it shows just how relevant, how useful science fiction can be. It stands in stark contrast to the escapist, often scientifically illiterate space operas, big-dumb-object stories, coming-of-age tales, superhero juvenilia, and medievalist court-intrigue/sword-and-sorcery dreck that dominate the sci-fi field.

Radicalized‘s four near-future stories deal in turn with the inhumane treatment of immigrants in the U.S.; potential nightmare scenarios due to the ever-spreading Internet of Things (which Boing Boing, Doctorow’s site, refers to as the Internet of Shit); systemic racism as seen through the eyes of a very familiar superhero (here dubbed “The American Eagle”); healthcare nightmares endemic to our for-profit healthcare system (and a possible radical response to those nightmares); and an entitled, arrogant member of the super-rich who intends to ride out social breakdown in a fortified compound.

All four stories are well plotted, feature believable, sympathetic characters (but for the mega-rich jerk in the final tale, who’s all too believable, but not at all sympathetic), Doctorow gets the science right, and there’s more on-the-nose social and political commentary in this slim volume than there is in a dozen average sci-fi novels combined.

Highly recommended.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). He just finished translating Rodolfo Montes de Oca’s Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, is currently working on the sequel to Free Radicals, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals front cover


(The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders. Tor, 2019, $26.99, 366 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

(Warning: mild spoilers follow.)

I wanted and expected to like this book, due to its author. A couple of years ago I read in an anthology one of her short stories, which I thought was both inventive and funny. More importantly, I admired her work editing the io9 sci-fi site; while she was editor there was always something worth reading: news about upcoming sci-fi novels, well written pieces on science by the likes of Annalee Newitz and George Dvorsky, plus occasional insightful social commentary.

Of course, most of the material on the site was awful, junk on superheroes and manga and the like, but there was enough meat to make the site worth perusing frequently. Now that Anders has left, the site features 100% dreck.

So, I had fairly high expectations when I opened this book, among them that Anders would have a lot to say politically and socially, that the story would be well crafted, and that there would be at least some humor in it.

Those expectations crashed and burned. This is one of the most ineptly written novels I’ve ever read. Contrary to expectations, Anders has nothing to say politically or socially. Nothing. And as far as craft? OMG.

She had a very promising social/political set-up (rigidly authoritarian city vs. a totally “free” city), and she totally wasted that opportunity. Instead of exploring the ways a free society could be organized (anywhere from anarcho-capitalist to anarcho-communist), she chose to do no exploration whatsoever, just (badly) describing it as boss-run. It would be hard to come up with a more meager description of an alternative economic/political system.

Beyond that, the action sequences are poorly written, often difficult to follow and awkward. At one point, during a pirate attack, two of the protagonists take two-thirds of a page for a heart-to-heart melodramatic talk about their feelings.

Even beyond that, Anders does nothing to bring her supposed horrors to life. Nothing. For instance, the homicidal “bison,” who play a key role, have mono-filament mouths and are big. And that’s it. No description beyond that.

As well, there are altogether too many coincidences and unexplained events.

Add to that that the two alternating p.o.v. characters, Sophie and “Mouth,” are entirely duochromatic (Sophie — hopelessly naive and romantic — and “Mouth” — hopeless, longing, and angry.) That’s it.

There’s also a weird lesbian tension throughout the book that’s never resolved and in the end is quite irritating. Who cares? But please stop hinting around and just fucking do it. Please.

As well, the physical world is ineptly described. At one point, a “typhoon” passes in moments, and a “sea” is supposedly “fished out,” apparently by fisherfolk in small boats.

You get the idea. It seems as if Anders just slapped this book down on the page, didn’t bother to revise the first draft, and Tor didn’t bother to edit it.

Very much not recommended.