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Celia Marsh
Posted on Monday, April 12, 2004 - 11:32 am:   

Because 107 messages are just too many! Thought I should open a new one before this week's story goes up.
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ellen
Posted on Monday, April 12, 2004 - 02:40 pm:   

Thank you. I was thinking of creating a new one and you beat me to it
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ellen
Posted on Monday, April 12, 2004 - 02:40 pm:   

Actually, I think/hope you'll find the Emshwiller as intriguing as I did.
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Monday, April 12, 2004 - 03:31 pm:   

Ellen, you should throw some kind of party when we get to "SCIFICTION 25." I'll bring the beer!
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ellen
Posted on Monday, April 12, 2004 - 07:41 pm:   

From your mouth to NBC-Universal's ear. We should last so long....if we do, I'll bring the single malt!
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chance
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 08:55 am:   

woof.

love the Emshwiller story this week. When I got to the end I had to go back and read it all over again.
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 09:44 am:   

So what do YOU think the earthdwellers were? I didn't know until Carol told me....
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 10:27 am:   

The burrow-dwelling, teeth-clacking, and acorn-trading makes me think of highly intelligent squirrels.
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Christopher Barzak
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 01:20 pm:   

Hey Ellen, I have no clue what the earthdwellers are, although yeah, the acorns and teeth clacking sound like squirrels, which would be weird, but kind of cool. But I think they can work on a variety of levels. Carol leaves a lot out of her stories, as usual, which leaves room for the reader's imagination to enter the story. I love that.

The story reminded me of another of hers where a flying person is caught by an earth-dwelling species, "Looking Down", which is in her collection, The Start of the End of It All.

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JeremyT
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 02:36 pm:   

I think they're prairie dogs. Dunno why. What a great story though. Email me and tell me what they really are, will you Ellen?

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T Andrews
Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 04:35 pm:   

I got the feeling that the earth-dwellers weren't to be found in our world at all...at times like Neanderthals, then like brownies, or as Jeremy said, prairie dogs. I was equally mystified with the flyers. It was a bit confusing with what I perceived to be inconsistencies in the physical scale of the creatures. I appreciate the appeal of mystery, but I would have liked more details so I could care more about them. Maybe more backstory for the pov character.
The story seems like a fable or a creation tale. ('and this is how the ostrich lost its ability to fly' crossed my mind at one point).
The story tantalizes in lots of ways; the class structure of the flying creatures, for example and the importance of the dancing to both the flyers and the chatterers. It left me wanting to know more of that world. I couldn't shake the feeling that the story is allegorical and that I'm just too dense to 'get it'right off the bat.

But this is just my highly subjective experience with the piece! It was visually striking; though the players were mysterious, I had no problem envisioning my own facsimilies. I enjoyed the story, and look at all the pecking at the keyboard it inspired in me! Always the sign of a compelling tale...
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 08:22 am:   

I just assumed the earth dwellers were humans.

JK
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Christopher Barzak
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 10:14 am:   

Shall we start a betting pool?

Come on, Ellen! What are they? ;-)
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Ellen
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 11:52 am:   

Ok. I tell you. (I hadn't known)

SPOILER












Meerkats.

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Ellen
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 11:54 am:   

Chris,
I published "Looking Down" too. In OMNI, in 1990.
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 11:56 am:   

Does VanderMeer know this?

JK
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Kate S.
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 12:38 pm:   

Why would meerkats eat acorns? I thought that they were insectivorous... and native to Kalahari desert, which is somewhat lacking in acorns.
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Christopher Barzak
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 12:47 pm:   

Hahahahaha. Carol is so funny.

Now I can't keep from thinking of meerkats putting feathers behind their ears. heheh.
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rick bowes
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 01:27 pm:   

Proving once again that it isn't what you put into a story that's important, it's what you leave out.
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chance
Posted on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 04:36 am:   

drat. chris has infected me with that image.

hee hee.
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Ellen
Posted on Sunday, April 18, 2004 - 02:04 am:   

I am over the moon over the fact that Jeff Ford won the novelette Nebula and Karen Joy Fowler won the short story Nebula tonight!!
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Deborah
Posted on Sunday, April 18, 2004 - 10:35 am:   

And well you should be, Ellen! That's terrific (and not to mention that one of my fav SCIFICTION stories of last year (Ray's) was up, too). Congrats!

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JeremyT
Posted on Sunday, April 18, 2004 - 06:20 pm:   

Congratulations, SCIFICTION! Who knew Dave Truesdale's dislike of something had such power! Just kidding-- I loved both those stories. I'm glad to see them win.

Do the higher-ups at Scifi.com notice these awards, Ellen?
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Ellen
Posted on Sunday, April 18, 2004 - 06:40 pm:   

Thanks Deb and Jeremy. I think Craig Engler (who was running around like a crazy loon and whispering to me "you rock"!! ) will let them know. I don't know if they CARE but they should.
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John Klima
Posted on Monday, April 19, 2004 - 06:33 am:   

THat is absolutely awesome Ellen. Congratulations.

JK
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Minz
Posted on Monday, April 19, 2004 - 12:45 pm:   

That's absolutely fabulous, Ellen. And well deserved.

Of course, you'll need to start publishing novels on SCIFICTION, or you'll never be able to truly complete your sweep. Just Kidding. (We don't need the competition!)
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ellen
Posted on Monday, April 19, 2004 - 06:50 pm:   

Thanks two Johns :-)

Who has time?
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Monday, April 19, 2004 - 09:51 pm:   

Congrats again!

You must be getting sick and tired of all these accolades. :-)
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ellen
Posted on Monday, April 19, 2004 - 10:30 pm:   

No way Chris. Keep em coming
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Richard Parks
Posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - 06:58 am:   

Congratulations, Ellen.
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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - 09:01 am:   

Thanks Richard.
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E Thomas
Posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - 10:00 pm:   

Oh, I'm not too late then? Congrats on getting recognition for the fact that SCIFICTION publishes excellent stories. :-)
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ellen
Posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - 10:15 pm:   

Thanks E.Thomas!
:-)
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 01:40 pm:   

Nice to see a Marc Laidlaw story this week; it's been way too long since I've read anything by him. I have a huge fear of flies, so that ending really creeped the hell outta me (which is a good thing.)

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 03:53 pm:   

There was a terrific horror story by Marc in By Moonlight Only called "Cell Phone" that I've taken for YBFH#17.
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Marc Laidlaw
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 04:56 pm:   

Hey, Ellen, this is Marc. It was "Cell Call" (hee, I made sure Jim Frenkel got a correct manuscript) and thanks very much. It's fun to be selling you stuff again!

Thanks for the comment on "Flight Risk," Chris. As for getting creeped out by the ending...gee, it was supposed to be uplifting. I guess I'd better give up on trying to portray "the triumph of the human spirit in times of adversity" and fall back on my usual motto: clowns are scary.

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Chris Dodson
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 05:29 pm:   

Well, my reaction probably wasn't the standard one because of my "irrational fear of flies" thing. But hey, I'll take a scary clown story over a "triumph of the human spirit" deal any day! :-)

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris

P.S. Just kidding. It was a great story. ;-D
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 06:53 pm:   

oops. Sorry Marc--"Cell Call"--yes.

Please Nooooo clowns--I hate 'em.
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 07:59 pm:   

I just put a clown picture over in my topic. It's under the "Fun with photoshop!" thread.

BTW, I loved Marc's story. There was a poignancy to it that grabbed me from the get go. The tension in this story was amazing. I've always enjoyed Marc's fiction, and it was great to see more stuff from him.

JK
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 08:06 pm:   

Gee, John. Thanks for the warning. I think I'll go check it out :-)
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 05:49 am:   

Glad it wasn't too frightening. I forgot to congratulate you in person the other night about the Nebula sweep! And from what I've read this year, I don't see any reason for that trend to not continue. On to the Hugos!!!

JK
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ellen
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 06:43 am:   

John. Thank you so much. It was exciting! (almost as much for me as for the writers, I think).

We shall see....
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 01:04 pm:   

Flight Risk by Marc Laidlaw

Laidlaw appears to be one of those authors who handles many of the components of story writing quite effectively.

Laidlaw opens well, in my opinion, drawing the reader into the story from the very first sentence.
They brought Foster to the boy by a route of back alleys and parking garages, shifting him from car to car several times, until eventually, although he'd thought he knew the city very well, he found himself uncertain of his whereabouts.
How could anyone not read the story after that opening? We have to know what happens next! Even the structure of the sentence is great, with all the commas giving a sense of constant turning and pausing as Foster is shuffled around.

Laidlaw establishes a strong and consistent tone in “Flight Risk,” foreshadowing the dark nature of the tale with lines like, “There was just enough warmth in the air to carry a threat of the sourness and rot waiting beneath the ice.”

Amid voices “thick with menace,” forlorn and abandoned buildings, grime, and rusted playground equipment that “put the tang of cold metal in [Foster’s] mouth,” Laidlaw expertly builds tension and mystery. Who is the mysterious boy? What could the abductors want with him? Even worse, what will the lad’s final fate be? Great stuff! Laidlaw avoids open threat and violence, instead allowing our own imaginations to supply possible horrors.

I did not realize until about halfway through the story how very appropriate the title was to the tale. I did not catch on until the playground scene. I thought that was a clever choice of title, although it does not seem to have the foreboding tone of the rest of the story.

Foster’s study of the colony of flies in the dead bird filled me with a fascinated revulsion (if such a thing can be said to exist), further foreshadowing death and fear. More tension and believable dialog continue to build tension until a well-arranged climax.

I appreciated the ending, since it seemed unlikely to me from the beginning that the doctor would be allowed to leave alive, and especially after the playground incident. I felt it was consistent with the dark tone to imply the final punishment to come, and while an amateur writer might have been tempted to save the doctor, Laidlaw does not flinch from delivering a bit of harshness to balance the bit of victory.

As an aside, since I always like to dig for a meaning in a short story, if I had to guess at Laidlaw’s theme, I might say that he was trying to showcase the parental instinct. Even though the doctor was not a biological parent, I would make a guess that the theme was related to the notion that a parent is likely to sacrifice the parent’s own life for their child, or something similar. Also, there seemed to me to be an undertone that indicated the doctor was paying for his own past sins by making a final sacrifice.

With a strong open, strong finish, consistent tone, and a narrative filled with plenty of good dialog and eyeball kicks, Laidlaw delivers a successful story in “Flight Risk.”
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Marc Laidlaw
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 03:56 pm:   

Mike,

You're a careful reader. It sounds as if I'd stacked any more cups on the pile, it all would have fallen over.

Maybe I'm more naive than Dr. Foster, but I actually thought he'd come out of it okay. I'm glad I didn't stick around to find out if I was wrong.

My greatest sense of accomplishment in this story is the fact that Ellen only wanted two little changes. That was a first for me. Most of my Omni stories went through numerous drafts based on her comments. The difference now is that I try to do all those drafts before showing her anything. Not sure that would have made a difference in the early days, though; her guidance was invaluable. I first tried to write this story when Omni was still extant, by the way...never quite managed to make it what I wanted it to be until just now. Maybe one reason is that I wasn't a parent back then...except of stories, that is.

For sheer grace of execution, and indelible lessons in story craftsmanship, you cannot beat the exemplary tales in THE AVRAM DAVIDSON TREASURY which I am reading right now.

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ellen
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 05:01 pm:   

Mike,
Thanks again for the careful reading.

Marc. Awww. See? You've got a tiny me sitting on your shoulder now. But seriously, the story was very "clean."

I'm glad you think the doc will come out ok. I'd like to think so although there's no reason to believe that except our eternal optimism :-)
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Marc Laidlaw
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 05:20 pm:   

Didn't Bill Gibson used to say it got so he could hear your comments before you made them? I don't exactly anymore; I've internalized all that; but there was a time when I was definitely doing that.

The most influential editors for me, for short stories, were Ellen, who worked with me for lotsa years; and Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey only bought one story from me, but a single suggestion he made has served me well over the years...it's as if he reached over and changed the positioning of my fingers slightly, and I was able to self-correct and play markedly better from then on. (And by better I mean, closer to what I was imagining.)

For books, well, Gordon Van Gelder is untouchable. I still get bummed thinking that Gordon won't be editing my next book, if I were ever to write such a thing.

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ellen
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 10:29 pm:   

Marc,
I'll never forget working with you on "400 Boys." You rewrote it one time too many (if I remember correctly) and I think I told you to go back to one version earlier. That was the first of yours I worked with you on and it was a toughie.

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MarcL
Posted on Friday, April 23, 2004 - 11:39 pm:   

Heh, yes, I broke that story. That was scary and taught me a good lesson: stop winding before you hear a "CRACK!" The earliest drafts were unpublishable as-is, but I loved them better...sorta bled that thing dry rewriting it so many times. Interesting talking to Eileen Gunn at the Clarion West party the other night. "400 Boys" had a large part of its genesis in the surreal-art-collage-bandname posters she and various cohorts used to post all over the telephone poles in Eugene. Not a complete correlation, since our time there didn't quite overlap, but close enough to have drunk from the same pool of feverish wordlust. I would walk across town reading band names off those stapled-up flyers and get this buzz of words going, and then rush back to my typer and try to capture that energy in a story...the gang names came directly out of that. The draft I wrote in that state was really my favorite of them all, and probably the first one you saw. The hopelessly broken draft was too clever for its own good: I started replacing "and" with "+"...crap like that. Typographical trickery was not exactly the final polish it needed. So yes, we went back to the penultimate draft.
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T Andrews
Posted on Sunday, April 25, 2004 - 09:31 am:   

I just read "Flight Risk" and absolutely loved it!
Very 'uplifting', indeed!
What a hero the doc was...beautiful. Thanks to writer and editor!
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Lavie
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 02:56 pm:   

Is this the right place to post this?

I thought "Elvis in the Attic" was fantastic. I don't usually read stories online, but this one grabbed me with the title and kept me to the end. I enjoyed this one a lot.

:-)
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 02:59 pm:   

Lavie,
Sure is.
Glad you enjoyed it--what made you read it if you don't usually read stories online?
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Mkingsley
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 03:31 pm:   

"Elvis in the Attic" is definitely a contender for the Darrell Award (http://darrellawards.org), given out annually at MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN.
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 04:04 pm:   

Ha! Great story! SF/F humor generally leaves me cold, but that one actually had me laughing out loud in a couple of places. I'm looking forward to seeing more stuff from Morrison.

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 06:25 pm:   

Glad everyone's liking it. I usually hate sf humor but this one had such a bittersweet deft touch that it moved me to buy it.
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Marsha Sisolak
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 08:06 pm:   

Yay, for Cathy/chance! I'm thrilled you bought that one, Ellen. It's my favorite of all of hers I've had the privilege to read and crit. It's wonderful to see it up on SciFi.com.

(BTW, Kathy Goonan introduced us at Torcon--she was one of my Clarion instructors last summer. And I wouldn't have gone to Clarion if it hadn't been for chance's nagging. So it's a nice circular path there.)
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 09:19 pm:   

I've emailed her to see if she'll come by to bask in the praise :-)

Hi Marsha.
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Tribeless
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 10:08 pm:   

ellen wrote: "I usually hate sf humor"

Tribeless looks at the story just submitted ... comical element ... comical element ... cheap funny ...

mutter mutter :-)

But looking forward to reading Elvis in the Attic - the author's website is great to.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - 10:19 pm:   

Cute story. Ellen, you reprinted Norman Spinrad's "Carcinoma Angels" awhile back, did you read his story, "It's a Bird! It's a Plane!" which is about a Superman infestation?

This story reminded me a lot of that one.
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Celia
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 07:43 am:   

She's off frolicking at a novel workshop (Blue Heaven) with limited internet, so she may not be able to come by until this weekend or later. Or she may show up just to prove me wrong. :-)
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 09:02 am:   

Tribeless, if you go through the stories I've published I'm sure there are more humorous ones than "Elvis in the Attic" so don't despair.

Simon,I'm not familiar with that one. Where are some of the places it's been published so I can try to track it down?

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Simon Owens
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 10:13 am:   

Ellen, I read it in his collection, The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde (Doubleday), which I just happened to pick out of one of those big church book sales. It's probably out of print.

The acknowledgements say that it was first published in a magazine called *Gent* in 1967.

If you need me to I can either photocopy the story or just send the whole collection your way.
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Simon Owens
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 10:17 am:   

Oh, and he also wrote a story called "Technicality" that I absolutely loved. It's one of the best (and most humorous) alien-invasion stories I've ever read.

It was first published in either 1963, 1964, or '66 in Analog.

And no, I'm not that old, those were the dates given in his acknowledgements page :-P
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 09:36 am:   

Chris Dodson and Ellen,

Thanks for your encouragement in regards to the Tangent Online discussion we had a while back. My first review is now available to non-members at http://www.tangentonline.com/reviews/magazine.php3?review=986
While I am still not getting to review SCIFICTION at Tangent, reviewing some of the other stuff out there is really helping me appreciate Ellen's care in picking shorts to publish. Good golly, Batman, but there is some bad stuff out there...
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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 10:56 am:   

"Ellen, I read it in his collection, The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde"

You can also find it in Norman Spinrad's excellent collection 'The Star-Spangled Future'.

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Chris Dodson
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 02:45 pm:   

Very cool, Mike! I'm looking forward to seeing more of your stuff up there!

Sorry they stuck you with ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE, though. :-)

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris
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ellen
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 01:29 pm:   

Congratulations Mike. I'll check it out asap. Keep pushing to review us--I think you get what I'm doing more than many reviewers.

Simon & Bruce--I only have Norman's most recent collection from 5 Star.
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chance
Posted on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 - 08:54 am:   

Sorry it's taken me so long stop by, but I've been at a novel retreat for the past week on Kelley's Island in Lake Erie. (With almost no internet access - how did we get along without it?)

Thanks so much for the kind words everyone --I'm really glad you all enjoyed it. (Though I am glad that I didn't know Ellen hates SF humor before I sent it, or I probably would have been too chicken to submit it.)

This story was partly inspired by Severna Park's "The Cure for Everything" and the idea that you can only help people in the way that they want to be helped, so I was particularly happy that it'll be in the archives alongside her story.
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Chris Dodson, Native Tennessean
Posted on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - 05:37 am:   

Re: Christopher Rowe's "The Voluntary State"



SPOILER WARNING






Damn, what a trip that was! I need to re-read the story a couple of times before I make any in-depth comments, but I will say this: I loved how all the wonky surrealism ended up having a scientific rationale. This story reads like something that might be written by the secret love child of Kelly Link and Gene Wolfe.

It's one of those "Don't blink or you'll miss something" stories, so I'm planning to re-read it later today and will post more thoughts after that.

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris
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JeremyT
Posted on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - 03:01 pm:   

Holy crap! Christopher Rowe, move to the head of the class. That story was almost better than sex.

BioPunk? Or not. Can't even tell, and I don't care.
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - 03:11 pm:   

Now that's what I like to hear :-)
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - 06:12 pm:   

"That story was almost better than sex."

I wouldn't go THAT far . . . :-)

I just can't get over the sheer verve and imagination of the story. It was a great reminder of why I started reading SF in the first place.
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JeremyT
Posted on Thursday, May 06, 2004 - 07:53 am:   

I stand by my statement-- it was the only way I could think then to express how much I enjoyed reading that story. It was like a little mini-golden age all over again for me. Stories like that remind me why I love to read science fiction. Why I want to write it, too.

This story is that rare bird for me that works both as a finely crafted story and as a packet of hyper-cool, cutting edge ideas so far out there that you can only come at it sideways. You look at it in the face and its almost incomprehensible. It's a story made of little boxes stacked in a pleasing shape, and each little box has something even more interesting inside of it, much like the feather math. I'm still thinking about this, a day later, which is rare for me. I'm still opening boxes and digging around.

I should say, bioengineered/cyberpunkish futures is my favorite sub-genre. My bachelors is in biology, and I've always loved that kind of thing. Space never interested me nearly as much as the infinite possibilities of inner space and DNA. So in a way, the story falls into my own personal SF porn catagory.

I'm going to have to go in search of more of Christopher's work now.
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Thursday, May 06, 2004 - 04:06 pm:   

From now on I'm using this story as a reference point for all the people who try to argue that there are no new ideas in SF, and I'm doubly impressed by the high quality of the line-by-line craftsmanship. If this doesn't make it into the award ballots and Year's Best collections, there is no justice.

I'm going in search of more Christopher Rowe stuff, too.

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris
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chance
Posted on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 08:34 am:   

Love "Un Bel Di" this week. Very disturbing - I still have the willies.
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ellen
Posted on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 08:43 am:   

Cathy, glad you enjoyed it. I don't know if you realize it's a take on Madame Butterfly. My producer didn't really get it--(not that it's MB but the horror of it)not sure why.
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Neile Graham
Posted on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 10:59 am:   

If you're looking for more Christopher Rowe (and why wouldn't you be after reading that story) he has a chapbook, _Bittersweet Creek_, available through Small Beer Press: http://www.lcrw.net/smallbeer/chapbooks/christopherrowe.htm
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chance
Posted on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 11:14 am:   

I didn't get the Madame Butterfly reference, but now that you say it it seems obvious.

Re: Christopher Rowe - He was also a featured author Ideomancer (http://www.ideomancer.com/ft/Rowe/Rowe.htm) a while back. An interview and several stories are posted there
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Christopher Rowe
Posted on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 02:56 pm:   

Thanks so much for the kind words about The Voluntary State, Jeremy T and Chris Dodson; and thanks for pointing out other places to look for my stories, Neile and Chance.

I actually maintain an online bibliography that has links to those stories of mine that are available on the internet, as well as pointers to the various books and magazines that everything has appeared in, online or not. Standard bibliography stuff, I guess.

Jeremy and Chris, if you've already been digging then you may have already figured out that this story represents a new direction for me, one I'm exploring further in this novel I'm starting. While I hope anyone interested in this story will check out all of my stories (ahem), I think that previous stories that are most "like" this one--and you'll see how broadly I'm using that word--are "Seared Scallops and Steamed Green Beans" and "The Force Acting on the Displaced Body," and maybe some of the UnCommonwealth short shorts, all linked off that page up there.

And I guess if anybody has any questions about the story under discussion I'll try to answer them. Again, thanks for reading.
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Justina Robson
Posted on Saturday, May 08, 2004 - 01:33 pm:   

I just read Christopher Rowe's story and, well, anyone who reads his chapbook will know I'm already a fan but I have to go along with Jeremy and Chris - it reminded me of why I love SF and actually why I love reading full stop. So much juicy concept goodness, so much squiffy allusion on the bio-backbrain scale and so much clean emotion in so few beautifully measured phrases...mmmn. Again, again!

It gave me a real seething-with-writerly-envy feeling just for a second, so much so that my envy fell over into love a second later. I hope that novel doesn't take too long to make an appearance.
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Iron James
Posted on Saturday, May 08, 2004 - 05:53 pm:   

Tastes vary, or course, The Voluntary State is just the type of story and writing that almost made me stop reading science fiction completely.

This in no way makes it a bad story or bad writing, but this is just the kind of thing I never, ever want to read again. I don't mean this as an insult, just that it's about as far away from the kind of science fiction, and the kind of writing, that I personally enjoy reading as it's possible to get.

But you can't please everyone, and it's silly to even try.
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Richard Butner
Posted on Sunday, May 09, 2004 - 07:24 am:   

Yes, "de gustibus non disputandum est" goes without saying, it slides underneath all of the praise and all of the criticism of any story or painting or whatever. But I'm curious, *what* type of story? *What* type of writing? If not enjoyable, *why*? Could you be more specific?
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chance
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 03:35 am:   

"Family Bed" is really creepy. (And I so could see the media eating something like that up like they do in the story, which made it double creepy.) Loved it.

From her bio it sounded like she made a novel out of "The Last Big Sin" - do you know if that is correct, Ellen?
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

Hi Cathy,
Yes, although I don't know if "The Last Big Sin" is an actual piece of the new novel. I'll ask her.
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KitReed
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 10:26 am:   

So yeah, Ellen, Cathy, Last Big Sin isn't actually a *piece* of the new novel so much as the nucleus, ie the starting point. Around this time I realized body image was the new religion here in the U.S. of
A. The Last Big Sin told the novel what it was going to be about, but then *all of The Last Big Sin* part had to be rewritten top to bottom to make it work as part of the novel, which begins with the Abercrombie twins and their anorexic sister, includes, eating championships, the fat landscape (Jumbo Jigglers, etc. plus Solutions, about which... well, maybe you don't want to know).

But it sure provided the spine and set the tone.
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chance
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 10:54 am:   

Sounds wonderful - I really enjoyed "The Last Big Sin" - every time I see one of those commercials for the McDonalds "healthy" adult happy meals or a beer commercial that proclaims "Atkins friendly," I think of it.
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KitReed
Posted on Friday, May 14, 2004 - 07:58 am:   

I kind of like it :-) def. check it out!
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, May 20, 2004 - 07:54 pm:   

Late May/June line-up. I've just had to push the novella back by a week.
May 26
The Best Christmas Ever by James Patrick Kelly 5200

June 2
Gliders Though They Be by Carol Emshwiller 4200
The Girl Had Guts by Theodore Sturgeon--8600

June 9
Shadow Twin by Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin & Daniel Abraham—25,300 pt 1

June 16
Shadow Twin by Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin & Daniel Abraham—25,300 pt 2
Slow Tuesday Night by R. A. Lafferty 2600

June 23
Shadow Twin by Gardner Dozois, George R.R. Martin & Daniel Abraham—25,300 pt 3

June 30
Holiday

July 7
Leviathan Wept by Daniel Abraham 8500

and new stories bought by Walter Jon Williams, Laird Barron, Susan Palwick, and Ilsa J. Bick.
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chance
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2004 - 03:05 am:   

ooooo i've been waiting for Jim's Christmas story ever since clarion
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2004 - 04:24 am:   

I'm pretty excited about that Dozois/Martin/Abraham novella. They're three of my favorite writers, so it's cool to see a collaboration by them.

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2004 - 08:19 am:   

I'm a little behind on my reading, but I just wanted to say that I thought that Kit Reed's "Family Bed" was one of the more effective and disturbing stories I've read for a long time. Good stuff.
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ellen
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2004 - 09:08 pm:   

Hi Patrick. Glad you like it. Did the lack of quotation marks bother you? Just wondering.
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ellen
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2004 - 09:14 pm:   

Cathy, I first heard Jim read the story at KGB and told him I wanted to read it as a submission. Loved it when he read it, loved it when I bought it, loved it in the final line edit.

The Dozois/Martin/Abraham novella was meant to begin the 2nd but because of time constraints and the upcoming holiday weekend it had to be pushed back a week. It'll be in three parts.
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chance
Posted on Saturday, May 22, 2004 - 08:54 am:   

I found the dashes a bit distracting initially. (It seemed like for a while every book I picked up by a British author was using them for no apparent purpose.) But here I thought they helped add to the feeling of claustrophobia, so by the end I found them quite effective.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Saturday, May 22, 2004 - 12:19 pm:   

The lack of quotation marks wasn't an issue per se. Once or twice I stumbled over whether something was said or not. Only enough to have to reread the sentence, though, not enough to distract me from the story. I agree with chance that they helped with the atmosphere of the story.
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, May 22, 2004 - 01:47 pm:   

Good. That was the intention of the author and I had no problem with them. But our copy editor queried it at the time.
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JeremyT
Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 11:02 am:   

Just finished Jim's latest. Now _I_ need a drink. Those "last people on Earth" stories always depress the heck out of me. It was a good one though.

When I saw you had a story with Christmas in the title coming up in May, I was confused, but after having read it, it all makes sense now.


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Ellen
Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 08:42 pm:   

Jeremy,
I already had a Xmas story scheduled last December and didn't want two in one month. I figured people might like a change in spring/summer.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 08:31 pm:   

Ellen,

I got your letter today. Thank you very much for your response and your suggestion. Also, thank you for asking why I haven’t been critiquing lately. You made me feel missed! ;-)

To answer your question: I haven’t been as active on the Nightshade BB for the last three weeks because of college finals, review deadlines for Tangent, and (most shallowly) hitting the gym more so I can look good in swim trunks over the summer. (I also work full-time; not all my hours are spent studying, reading short fiction, and trying to become Adonis.)

For everyone else,

After reading and critting around ten shorts in the last week for Tangent, plus some shorts on Critters.com, I am gagging at the thought of what Kelly Link and Ellen go through EVERY SINGLE DAY! How do you two maintain your passion for editing when you have to paw though so many short stories? And I was reading PUBLISHED stories for the most part, which I imagine were better than what was left on the slush pile, although they fell far short of what gets published on SCIFICTION (no schmoozing intended or implied, since anyone who has been reading around the short fiction markets lately is probably in agreement with me on this.) I’m not trying to put down the other markets, but I’ll admit that for a long time I read nothing but Asimov’s, SCIFICTION, and Realms of Fantasy. Now that my Tangent editor, Chris Markwyn, has had me review “Absolute Magnitude” and “Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine,” I am almost afraid to read my own “Analog” and “Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction” subscriptions, which were purchased last month, but have not yet arrived. Please, someone, reassure me and tell me they will be good. Please…please...please…

So anyway, while my reading/critting nerves are shaken and tired (they haven’t had a steady workout like some of you editor types), I will try to put up some thoughts on the last few weeks of SCIFICTION, starting with the most recent stories. (Although with my recent reading/critting experience, I see everything is WELL under control here, and my peanut gallery feedback is MOST definitely not needed.)

*The Best Christmas Ever – James Patrick Kelly

What grabbed me about this story was how JPK had me suspending disbelief even though he dared to name the momma biop Aunty Em. C’mon, how gutsy is that! No way would I have tried that. But JPK got me around paragraph 12 or 13, when he wrote, “Taking care of the man had changed the biops. They were all so much more emotional than they had been when they were first budded.” That is when the story became real for me. Once I can see the human side of a short fiction piece, and I can feel the emotions of the characters, I become very interested in a story. I loved how JPK continued to work the biops’ emotions, especially the jealously of the girlfriend. And the Walmart encounter with Mrs. Marelli was gut-wrenching. The climax for me was here:
“The girlfriend sank to her knees, rested her head on the coffee table, and began to cry. Only biops didn't cry, or at least no biop that Aunty Em had ever heard of. The man glanced around the room for an answer. The pals looked at their shoes and said nothing. "Jingle Bell Rock" tinkled on the music box. Aunty Em felt something swell inside of her and climb her throat until she thought she might burst. If this was what the man felt all the time, it was no wonder he was tempted to drink himself into insensibility.”
By that point in the tale, I had written off humanity. Al and Marelli were goners anyway. The real future was in the biops, and I wanted to see – I needed to see, that they would carry on some part of humanity. To see the evolution of the biop girlfriend and the epiphany of Auntie Em was more powerful to me than anything that happened with Bertie.
‘Nuff said on that one.

*Paul’s Treehouse – Gene Wolfe

This one opens confidence. In “How to Open Without a Bang,” available here (http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/dec97/keegan3.htm ), Alex Keegan writes:
It's the confident whisper, the self-assured promise I look for, the paragraph which quietly says, "I don't need bells and whistles. Listen, listen."
Wolfe does exactly that. He writes:
It was the day after the governor called out the National Guard, but Morris did not think of it that way; it was the morning after the second night Paul had spent in the tree, and Morris brushed his teeth with Scotch after he looked into Paul's bedroom and saw the unrumpled bed. And it was hot; though not in the house, which was air-conditioned.
OK. Here’s a guy who tells me the National Guard was called out, then says nothing more about it, because he wants to talk about unmade beds and air-conditioning. Well, not really. Wolfe wants us to see the effects of collapsing society without focusing on the sensational. He wants it to hit home. And it does. Right from the beginning.
‘Nuff said on that one.

*The First Commandment – Gregory Benford

Benford’s story didn’t hit me as hard as many others here on SCIFICTION have. Sure, I liked it. I even thought parts of it were chilling, like the creepy fanatic Mr. Abrahams. Ugh. Scripture-quoting fiendish bad guys give the willies every single time. But the ending did not bring me any revelations, nor did I see any of the characters undergo any transformative epiphanies. Not even a tiny bit. And I tend to feel the most powerful stories (at least for me) are the ones where the characters experience what Flannery O’Connor called the moment of grace (although I do not necessarily approve of her religious lessons, I think O’Connor kicked butt as a writer). For me the moment of grace is just some change that the character undergoes. And through that character, I, the reader, can experience that change in some way. I did not feel that here, and so all the other writing in the tale, as good as it is, is not memorable to me. It is the difference between a likeable story and a great story. In case you are wondering, my favorite SCIFICTION example of a great story is still Kij Johnson’s “River of Bees.”

*Family Bed – Kit Reed

I found the lack of traditional punctuation slightly confusing, but soon realized that the style of the story required such strange punctuation. It just wouldn’t have been the same without the weirdness. I mean, the whole weird concept really needed a weird writing trick like the dashes to set it all off. That said, my earlier comments about needing to see change in the characters still stand, for me, at least. Sarah seemed to know that something was rotten in the state of Denmark from the beginning, so I did not see her eventual rebellion as a true change. And any hidden messages like: “Over-sheltering/over-protecting your young is really just a way of killing them” did not quite ring true for this story. It was just soooo odd that I had a hard time drawing meaning from it. Again, the writing was fine, but the meat was not there for me.

*The Voluntary State – Christopher Rowe

Weirdness times a million! No, times a billion! I read on the BB that at least one or two brave souls dared to admit they did not like it. In fact, one guy said that this type of story almost drove him away from SF altogether. Well, I liked it enough to finish it. There were some really cool parts, like the Commodores:
They were tangled giants of rust, alike in their towering height and in the oily bathyspheres encasing the scant meat of them deep in their torsos, but otherwise each a different silhouette of sensor suites and blades, each with a different complement of articulated limbs or wings or wheels.
Super cool. I also enjoyed some of the symbolism, although I thought some parts were just plain silly. C’mon. The car was soooo cheesy to me. And the bundle bugs. But I admire Rowe for his imagination, and I appreciate his underlying messages about freedom, tyranny, and the blurry lines that can confuse the two.

*Un Bel Di – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

I thought this story was amazingly good, but it also disturbed me too much to write about it. I’m not sure that will make sense to you all. I just reviewed a story for Andromeda that bothered me similarly. It was a lurid interpretation of the Pied Piper of Hamlyn complete with child molestation and vampirism. Ugh. But the writing was amazing. It is hard to compliment the writing without seeming to praise the sensationalism of the themes about child molestation. So I just kept quiet about Un Bel Di, and I will continue to do so, except to say that I thought it was amazing.

*Elvis in the Attic – Catherine M. Morrison

Tangent has an interesting take on this story. The reviewer, published author Eugie Foster, writes here (http://www.tangentonline.com/reviews/magazine.php3?review=1001) that the plight of Kenny's Elvis can be compared to that of any misplaced wildlife. I hadn’t thought of that. But I did feel that the story succeeded in being quirky, funny, and moving at the same time, which, in my opinion, is almost impossible to do. I am still imagining a forlorn Elvis tied to a doorknob with a bit of string, mumbling his old tunes while I try to decide what to do with him. And this is weeks after reading the story. A job well done by Morrison.

*The Dandelion Girl – Robert F. Young

Let me just proclaim to the world, or at least the BB, that I loved “The Dandelion Girl.” This story reminded me of a romantic old Hollywood flick, complete with guilt, true love, and a dreamlike quality that made me very happy that Mark and Julie ended up with the best of both worlds. I think Young accomplished this in part with his use of incredible imagery. Eyeball kicks abound in “The Dandelion Girl.”
Perhaps it was because of the way she was standing there in the afternoon sun, her dandelion-hued hair dancing in the wind; perhaps it was because of the way her old-fashioned white dress was swirling around her long and slender legs.
Or
…now the woods lay behind and far below him, burning gently with the first pale fires of fall…
Or
Her eyes were blue, he saw when he came up to her—as blue as the sky that framed her slender silhouette. Her face was oval and young and soft and sweet. It evoked a déjŕ vu so poignant that he had to resist an impulse to reach out and touch her wind-kissed cheek; and even though his hand did not leave his side, he felt his fingertips tingle.
And that is only in the first few paragraphs. Young writes achingly, and so I read him that way, and I think that is why this story was so powerful for me.

There, I believe that catches me up. Sorry to be such a lurker, and sorry for the overlong post!
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chance
Posted on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 09:40 am:   

Mike -

Thanks so much for your nice comments about my story (the Elvis one) - it totally made my day. I found the Tangent interpretation interesting, too - certainly nothing I had intended.

Your reviews have definitely been missed - the newsgroup is much less lively without your weekly posts.
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Ellen
Posted on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 11:13 am:   

Mike,
Thanks for catching up. I love your reviews (even when you're not wild about the stories you're reviewing on SCIFICTION).
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Chris Dodson
Posted on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 12:05 pm:   

I'll throw my voice into the chorus of "Welcome back, Mike!"'s. I'm not exaggerating when I say your short fiction critiques are some of the most insightful I've ever seen.

I am almost afraid to read my own “Analog” and “Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction” subscriptions, which were purchased last month, but have not yet arrived. Please, someone, reassure me and tell me they will be good.

Well, F&SF is good; Analog is . . . erm . . . decent, I guess. Every issue usually has one good story, but there are also a couple of stories per issue that make me throw it across the room in disgust. YMMV, though, depending on how high your tolerance is for right-leaning SF.

Chris Dodson
Journal: The Passion of the Chris
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 04:15 pm:   

Catherine, Ellen, and Chris:
Thanks for your kind words! I am busily reading the new SCIFICTION posts ("Gliders" and "Guts"), and hopefully we can get some lively discussion going about them.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 05:37 pm:   

For a minute there I thought Ellen was running Chuck Palahniuk's "Guts"...phew...I came across a reading of that on mp3 and still haven't managed to listen to the whole thing.
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JJA
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 06:14 pm:   

Marc,

Do you have a URL where you came across that story?
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Marc
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 07:01 pm:   

...there was a link on www.boingboing.net a long time ago. I'll poke around.
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Marc
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 07:13 pm:   

JJA, go here:

http://boingboing.net/2004_01_01_archive.html

Search for "barf" and you'll find the little blog entry about "Guts."

Try the third link in the red-highlighted UPDATE text. It seems to be a working link.
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Marc
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 07:15 pm:   

"Guts" also appeared in a recent issue of Playboy if you want to read it; there's info about that at the various Palahniuk fan sites. Personally, I think I'm going to have to go for the text version so that I can control the rate of input. As a listener, I feel totally at ChuckP's mercy. I am a huge fan of LULLABY and DIARY, but...this was very hard to take...although of course hilarious as well... I admit I'm squeamish.
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Marc
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 07:16 pm:   

Sorry to go so far off topic. Feel free to start a Chuck P thread in whatever forum people feel is appropriate.
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ellen
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 08:22 pm:   

I got the Playboy it's in but haven't read it yet.I'm certainly curious as to just how disgusting it is. More disgusting than Ed Lee? I find that difficult to believe.
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JJA
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 05:16 am:   

Marc,

Thanks! I was able to download it. Haven't listened to it yet, so I can't comment on the gross factor.
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Marc
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 07:41 am:   

I saw CP on Letterman and he characterized the story as just a bunch of really amazingly cool, supposedly true anecdotes people had told him. It's not just the grossness though...it's the casual, deadpan humor with which he conveys it. You know what's coming, but there are still surprises.
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Mike Bailey
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 05:50 pm:   

Started SCIFICTION 7 thread....

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