Deal Me In, Week 49 ~ “I’m in Marsport Without Hilda”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“I’m in Marsport Without Hilda” by Isaac Asimov

Card picked: Eight of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries

Thoughts: In the introduction to “I’m in Marsport…”, Asimov relates being called out by an editor for never including love scenes (or “naughty motifs”) in his stories because the editor believed that Asimov couldn’t write them. Asimov took this as a challenge and wrote this “science-fiction love story.” Asimov was pleased with it and considered it a success. I can’t tell if he’s serious…

Max, a James Bond type (Asimov’s words in the intro), finds himself on a layover in Marsport…for once without his wife Hilda. He wastes no time setting up a date with Flora.

Flora and a body that had been made up out out of heaping handfuls of all that as soft and fragrant and firm; Flora and a low-gravity room and a way about her that made it seem like free fall through a warm, breathable ocean of champagne-flavored meringue—

Uh, yeah. Other than these qualities Flora seems to be an air-headed money-grubber.

Max’s “date” is interrupted before it begins by a matter of galactic significance. Three planetary bigwigs are landing at Marsport. One of them is smuggling a shipment of altered Spaceoline. Spaceoline is a drug that makes space travel possible by countering the space sickness that affects many travelers. While non-addictive, it does leave its users in a relaxed, brain-addled state. The altered form is highly addictive. Of course, one cannot go around accusing planetary bigwigs of wrong-doing. Max needs proof before he can search any of them. He deduces that the smuggler would not risk being impaired by regular Spaceoline. This isn’t as helpful as Max hopes because the smuggler is instead going to pretend to be impaired.

How can Max suss the true smuggler? The solution revolves around a bawdy story about Flora, which thankfully is not related. But can he do it before Flora makes another “date” for the evening? And will his wife find out about Flora (because making up for the delay will be pricey)?

If I could go back in time, I’d advise Asimov to not worry about…ahem…romance. “Stick to robots, Isaac,” I’d say. “They’re your forte.”

Review ~ The War of the Worlds

Cover via Goodreads

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

One of the most famous science-fiction stories ever written, The War of the Worlds helped launch the entire genre by exploiting the concept of interplanetary travel.

First published in 1898, the novel terrified readers of the Victorian era with its account of an invasion of hostile creatures from Mars who moved across the English landscape in bizarre metal transports, using deadly heat rays to destroy buildings and annihilate all life in their path. Its power to stir the imagination was made abundantly clear when Orson Welles adapted the story for a radio drama on Halloween night in 1938 and created a national panic. (via Goodreads)

I started reading The War of the Worlds over Thanksgiving through a service that sends out bite-sized chunks of classic novels…and then I downloaded the full novel because I wanted second helpings. As is usual for novels in 1898, the story moves along quite slowly. A goodly amount of it involves our narrator describing the landscape, which doesn’t seem like it should be that interesting. But the writing is really good and often pretty funny. Wells pulled me along.

When reading classic science fiction, you never know what you’re going to get. If the story has had any popularity at all, expectations are often shaped by adaptations. I saw the 1953 movie as a kid. I don’t remember much other than the glowing green and black ships with their heat ray atop a long crooked neck. I was also rather fond of the 1988 TV series which is a sort of sequel to that movie with a dash of The Thing thrown in.

What I found most interesting were the bits that I don’t normally associate with The War of the Worlds:

  • Wells refers to the “older worlds of space” and the Martians have a tentacled form that will, after Lovecraft, come to be strongly associated with cosmic horror.
  • Chemical warfare was in its infancy in 1898. The Martian’s use of black gas is more devastating than the fanciful heat ray. The Hague Declaration of 1899 would prohibit the use of poison or poisoned weapons.
  • The red weeds that take over the areas around the Martian crash sites were a totally unexpected and a really vivid detail.

All in all, I found The War of the Worlds to be a good read. H. G. Wells is going on my “need to read more” list.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle ebook, public domain, originally published 1898.
Acquired: 11/24/2016, Amazon
Genre: science fiction

Deal Me In, Week 32 ~ “The Singing Bell”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Singing Bell” by Isaac Asimov

Card picked: Ace of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries

Thoughts: This being the first story in an anthology that I’ve owned for a few years, I might have read “The Singing Bell” before. I know I’ve read several of the subsequent Davenport/Dr. Urth stories and Asimov’s style doesn’t vary that much. If anything, the tone of this story was certainly familiar.

“The Singing Bell” starts with the crime from the perpetrator’s point of view. We see all the preparations taken by Louis Peyton. Peyton is sure that he’ll get away with the theft of singing bells from the Moon and the murder of his partner because he has the perfect alibi. Or rather non-alibi. Peyton spends every August sealed away in his bungalow in Colorado. Unless Det. Davenport can prove he was on the Moon, he’s good as gold. (Apparently, travel to the Moon is regulated on par with popping to the QT on a Friday night for snacks.) Furthermore, while law enforcement has an uber lie-detector, the psychoprobe, it legally can only be used to confirm near certain suspicions.

All of this leads Davenport to seek the advice of preeminent extraterrestrialist Wendell Urth to find a way to confirm that Peyton was off Earth. Which Urth, of course, does. Any guesses how one might deduce that a man has been off-world for at least a week?

Is This Your Card?

#24in48 ~ Update 4 & Wrap Up

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For some reason, the 24 in 48 never goes well for me. Time-wise, I only read for 12 hours, but I did finish all 24 stories that I had chosen!

My top five from the weekend:

  1. “Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho
  2. “Multo” by Samuel Marzioli
  3. “All Souls Proceed” by KJ Kabza
  4. “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon
  5. “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky

The top two are by authors I was completely unfamiliar with!

Continue reading “#24in48 ~ Update 4 & Wrap Up”

#24in48 ~ Update #2

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My List
Update #1

12 stories
6:18 hours

At about noon yesterday, a was slammed by a combination of cramps and an RA flare-up. I struggled through story #11 and called it day reading-wise. So, once again, I’m not going to make it to 24 hours of reading. But I still have a few good hours left in me as long as I stay clear-headed. I’ll probably forego further updates until Tuesday.

7 – “Cassandra” by Ken Liu
Genre: speculative fiction, superhero
Quote: “Wouldn’t it be better,” I plead, “to kill the man long before he got on the plane rather than having to rescue the plane as it plunges toward the ground?”
Comment: What if the difference between a superhero and a supervillain is *when* they decide to take action.

8 – “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky
Genre:
Quote: I would astonish everyone assembled, the biologists and the paleontologists and the geneticists, the reporters and the rubberneckers and the music aficionados, all those people who—–deceived by the helix-and-fossil trappings of cloned dinosaurs––believed that they lived in a science fictional world when really they lived in a world of magic where anything was possible.
Comment: This story has been a firebrand in the Sad Puppies/SJW debate. And…I sort of agree with the Puppies. WAIT! That doesn’t mean that this isn’t an excellent story. It’s one that’s going to stick with me. I won’t say a lot about it because it’s short and the link is right up there. It literally took me 6 minutes to read it, so check it out. But it’s also not really science fiction or fantasy. It’s sort of an extended literary prose poem. If you’re going to give awards for genre, give awards to genre… (And I won’t get into the ghetto-ization that genre causes and why giving a genre award probably doesn’t lead to wider readership…)

9 – “The Shell of Sense” by Olivia Howard Dunbar
Genre: horror, sort of
Quote: Then, for this was my first experience of the shadow-folded transition, the odd alteration of my emotions bewildered me.
Comment: Once I thought about writing a story about a ghost left watching as everyone else’s live continues. I would have been 100 year too late to the concept. Lovely prose.

10 – “The Priory Church” by James Collins
Genre: horror
Quote: (brain fog set in…)
Comment: Really enjoyed how different the voice of pompous Peverell was in comparison to the frame story.

11 – “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette de Bodard
Genre: science fiction
Quote: Mem-implants always went from parent to child. They were a family’s riches and fortune; the continued advice of the ancestors, dispensed from beyond the grave.
Comment: But what is your parent is an important scientist? And you’re…not. Would those memories be wasted?

12 – “Listen” by Karin Tidbeck
Genre: science fiction
Quote: In the moment they spoke, they were completely understandable. But as soon as they fell silent, any memory of what they had said disappeared.
Comment: Both of the stories on my list from Tor.com have music as a part of them. Also an interesting synergy between this story and “Candy Girl.” Both have characters who wish desperately (and foolishly?) to integrate into another culture.

#24in48 ~ Update 1

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My Plan

6 stories
3:08 hours

My stories have been relatively short thus far.

1 – “Multo” by Samuel Marzioli
Genre: horror
Quote: The past is never gone, only forgotten.
Comment: “Multo” begins with the above quote, a salawikain, a Tagalog proverb. The narrator of this story is contacted by his old neighbor who asks, do you remember the multo—the ghost? The narrator certainly does. This was my first story of the readathon, which I read at 10pm. Ever think there might be something in the shadows, the “idling dark” as Marzioli puts it, that causes you to maybe leave a dark room a little faster than is reasonable for an adult? Ever have sleep paralysis? All of that with a supernatural tinge.

2 – “Osiana” by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Genre: fantasy
Quote: Her choices were to be taller than the post, or be turned out to some guard company to be shagged to death.
Comment: Osiana has a novel solution to being short. This warrior woman doesn’t let it get in her way.

3 – “Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard
Genre: horror
Quote: They say the pigeons are the souls of the Blassenvilles, let out of hell at sunset.
Comment: I don’t think I’ve really read any Robert E. Howard. I was a little worried, when I realized that this story takes place in the South and involves characters from the West Indies that it might be wincingly racist, as some of Howards contemporaries can be *cough*Lovecraft*cough*. It wasn’t. I was fairly surprised by this haunted house story.

4 – “All Souls Proceed” by KJ Kabza
Genre: magical realism? sure
Quote: Hello, I say to the bike, but of course bikes don’t talk. It rolls on past me, stiffly, in non-acknowledgment.
Comment: This is just a beautiful gem of flash fiction. I won’t say much. Just go read it.

5 – “Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar
Genre: science fiction
Quote: For the past is a world one cannot return to, and the future is a world none has seen. (Kind of an interesting contrast to the quote from “Multo.”)
Comment: In the near future, people are paying for the privilege of taking a one-way trip to Mars, everyone in their own “jalopy”—what a great use of a word for tiny, questionable space crafts. Some of these travelers, like Mei with bone cancer, won’t make it to Mars, but maybe its a better future than can be hoped for.

6 – “Candy Girl” by Chikodili Emelumadu
Genre: I’m going to go with magical realism again. Contemporary fantasy? I don’t know…
Quote: “That foolish man,” Ozulu says. “Does he not know the gods are tricky?”
Comment: Gini has been cursed by Paul, her ex and an ingratiating douche. She’s becoming the thing he likes most: chocolate.

Deal Me In, Week 22 ~ “Pate de Foie Gras”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Pate de Foie Gras” by Isaac Asimov

Card picked: Five of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries

Thoughts:

I couldn’t tell you my real name if I wanted to, and, under the circumstances, I don’t want to. … I was not the first person to have the honor of meeting The Goose.

Instead of going for a whodunit in “Pate de Foie Gras,” Asimov presents a scientific mystery in the guise of a shadowy, cloak and dagger fantasy. But if this story were an episode of The X-Files, it wouldn’t be one of those super serious arch stories. It would be “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” humorous and meta in its telling.

Our unnamed scientist, in the employ of the Department of Agriculture, visits a farmer who has been very interested in rearing geese. Or rather, a goose. A goose with the rather interesting knack for laying golden eggs.

Asimov is probably at his best when he’s not being too serious and when the story involves chemistry and biochemistry. These were the sciences that were his forte. They have also aged better than his extrapolations about computers and space exploration. Overall, “Pate de Foie Gras” is a fun, science fiction story.