Count to Infinity

Finished COUNT TO INFINITY the other day. I didn’t think Wright was going to be able to pull off any cathartic ending. But he did! For all the info dumps and the super technicality of the whole thing (the hard science fictional nature of the material) he managed to pull off an emotionally satisfying (albeit too brief, imho) ending.

If you like far out hard science fiction, you can now read this whole series. I read it and it was good!


Graves, Balls and Crosses

Finished Lafferty’s The Elliptical Grave on Tuesday. The whole focus of the book seems to even come at you elliptically – and at the last minute. It wasn’t until the final two chapters that it all came together. Before that I slogged through it for three weeks.

Because I thought there was nothing behind the curtain. Oh, there was something behind the curtain alright. A bet. That was what was behind that curtain. A bet of ultimate consequences.

This is one of those Lafferty books that I find slightly annoying in that, although I will want to reread it anyway, I have to reread it because I am sure I missed 99% of the fruit’s juice. He can throw so much indirection and misdirection at you (to say nothing of the constant word play) it is like coming into a joke at the punchline. You thought you were in a joke or a jest but only opaquely – and then the drum snap and the crowd laughter. Hold on! Back to the beginning.

If Lafferty were instructed to write the plain fact that a cat is on a mat, he’d entertain us for 40 pages and we still wouldn’t have a simple fact, but a multiplicity… a multiplicity that may involve a cat (a feline of some sort at least) and some derivative form of dorsal support. But the cat would have died and resurrected, or simply continued to decompose, or assumed a chair at the Institute for Impure Science and the mat would be constructed by St. Joseph himself (bonus points to whomever can guess the Lafferty reference there).

But once I got the hook. What a story! His stories are like the Spanish Inquisition – no one expects it!

Now to the balls and the crosses.

I was talking to suspected android/writing machine author (or time traveller, or possessor of the 48 hour day) John C. Wright the other day (actually he was talking, me and a few others were listening) about religion in science fiction (talk about an untapped field) and he mentioned G.K. Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross.

Few authors will get a pass to the front of the line. G.K. Chesterton is one of the few. I already own and am a HUGE fan of his books Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, and I love his Father Brown stories. So when I heard mention this book about a duel (and one supposes debate) between a fledging secular atheist at the dawn of the 20th century and a Christian (I suppose a stand-in for Chesterton himself although I haven’t got that far yet) well, how can one resist that?

Think of it though. That was a new creature (pretty new, anyway) in 1905. Fresh and full of vigor, and full of utopian answers that were yet to kill millions upon millions of people. Although the French had the news.

Over a century before he and his brethren whittled down the edifice of Western Civilization enough where we can start to see the prayer mats our grandchildren will be kneeling – or bleeding – upon.

This should be a fascinating read.

Song of Kali


I’ve loved some Dan Simmons ever since his Hyperion series. I was about to read Drood, also by Simmons, but after barely finishing Leckie’s Titanic disappointment, and Wright’s super-dense 4th installment of his Eschaton series, I needed a break. So I thought a good horror story would be in good order.

And in good order it is! I am only 65 pages through it (and in one day which is warp speed reading for me) but damn if this isn’t good. I mean really good. He will have had to really let out a cosmic fart to screw this up. I’ll post something about it when I am done reading it.

Wright’s book, Architect of Aeons, tried my patience a little. It was mainly info dump through dialogue. I hope he has enough of a set up now that the last two books are mainly action. There is just too much referenced by the characters of times, peoples and ages and all done up quasi-medeival (which is not a problem of itself) that after awhile you glaze over and think, “I’m I supposed to keep this terabyte info dump in my head? Do I need it to follow along?” I did come into this book in a foul fiction mood after Leckie’s cosmic fart of a series, so that is a factor.

I needed a straight ass story. I got it. I certainly recommend the first 65 pages so far!

A Tale of Two Skeletal Reviews

SPOILERS (…sort of…)


Recently I finished reading Anne Leckie’s Ancillary series. It was one of the biggest letdowns I have ever encountered in science fiction. Scratch that – the biggest.

Imagine it is 1977 and you have just seen the first Star Wars movie. And you go to see the second movie. Except you are not in our timeline. No, you are in the shrinking universe timeline where science fiction writers reduce the scale of subsequent stories in a series. They can start as wide as they want, but the rule (or expectation) is you have to whittle it down and reduce the scope and locale of the original story.

This would require some significant rewrite to follow the rules of this mundane timeline.

So imagine Han, Leia, Chewbacca & Co (and Luke, we can’t have more than one locale, that might give the impression of SPACE, so forget the Jedi training and all that, he’ll do a couple of things but nothing associated with the abilities teased in the original), arrive at Cloud City Bespin at the end of the first Star Wars movie. Let’s say that they destroyed the Death Star, but there is, in its place, the Empire’s Armada advancing towards them. So they bail to Lando’s mining operation.

Darth Vader is not there yet. He’ll show up near the end of the third movie, not get hurt and remain in power. We don’t want a definite ending structure here.

So, they all arrive at Bespin. But, it appears Lando is not such a good administrator – not such a “nice” guy to the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the poor of the Cloud City. So, the entire rest of the second movie is spent on discussions (over tea, everyone loves tea) about the poor conditions in some substation of the city. There will be some mild unrest and a few tears. Someone will die, but someone we really don’t know, but one of our main characters will go into mourning over it “because” and we will spend time in tea and discussion.

There is, at the periphery, a possible threat by a third party, a mysterious and deadly race, that never materializes, not in the second film nor in the third. Although a quirky representative from this mysterious race does show up to drink tea, make odd comments, and enjoy the food of your race. His – her? role is merely to prove that you can’t expect a weapon that he made and gave to you to actually work on him when you turn on him. Probably the only thing that makes sense after two thirds of a story that grounds, as if by design, to a complete slumbering halt.

Now it does happen that Darth Vader has some responsibility for the conditions of the poor on Bespin (there is no wider conflict by the time you are in the third film in this timeline). There is a stand off where Vader is set to whoop everyone’s ass and the good guys are in a pickle. But Vader tries to use his lightsaber on the mysterious race guy that manufactures them, it has no effect because the mysterious alien race are the only ones not stupid, the good guys manage to get out of their pickle, and Vader agrees to not be such a dick to the poor on Bespin.

Roll credits.

Remember everything that was in the original Star Wars is there, the Galactic Empire, the Rebellion, the Force, Luke’s powers, the vastness of the conflict, the might and oppression of the Empire. All of it – ignored for some six hundred pages about crappy administration on some tiny speck of a space station orbiting some planet in some far off portion of a galaxy.

Now you know the experience of reading the Ancillary series by Anne Leckie.

The first book promised so much. I am not exaggerating when I say the second and third books are tea and crumpets and civil administration on some insignificant space station. A galactic tyrant was supposed to go down. That was the promise delivered in the first book. That not delivered on, and the scope delivered in the first book was reversed as far as can be done in science fiction in subsequent installments.

I haven’t been this disappointed since Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. And that thing stunk!

Luckily, after this mundane journey, I knew I had an author up my sleeve that would not disappoint. An author that is the exact opposite of what I described above. John C. Wright, and the book was (is – I still have 120 pages to go) The Architect of Aeons – the fourth installment to his Eschaton series – I think that is the name for the series. If not, I deem it so!


It can be said that Mr. Wright goes not only in the opposite direction of Leckie, but sometimes a tad too far. Meaning he stretches the scope each installment so far that a little too much of this book is info-dump. But, otoh, to be fair, his series is so out there, so far reaching, if he had to show all of this in action, it would require twenty, thick, volumes.

And it is really so dense that reading it with the publishing gaps (and I had to wait some months on top of that) makes it somewhat hard to hold on to all the details from book to book. Luckily in those info-dumps you get a pretty good recap.

I believe Mr. Wright’s series, if I remember him saying aright, is supposed to go to the heat death of the universe, the end of time. That is a place he has taken his readers before. He is one of the few modern science fiction authors who can.

But the point is this. He knows the pattern of how a science fiction (and really any multi- part work) tale is supposed to progress. The scope doesn’t have to go to the end of time, it doesn’t have to stretch for thousands of light-years in distance. But whatever you start with, it cannot shrink. You cannot promise galactic war, and end up talking about ventilation on some sub-section on some remote space station.

And you have to have an ending. You can have an ambiguous ending. But no ending is not an ending. Leckie actually had her first person protagonist narrate on the last page that there were no endings. Well that’s great if there are two or three books still coming. However, even if there were, I wouldn’t be reading them. If I want a bunch of women (I’m pretty sure they were all women, or men with excess estrogen in their blood) drinking tea and gossiping about who likes who and other such dull trivia on relationships, I can read Jane Eyre or something from England where they sit around with their fancy umbrellas – you know that boring shit they’re always showing on PBS! My wife love those things, I don’t get it.

In fact if that is what you are going to do, it would be better to not be in a science fiction setting because that just gets in the way. I shouldn’t have to take the extra time to here some technicality about your ship or your command hierarchy or other minuet of science fictioning if it is not integral to the story. If 90 plus percent of your story can take place at the Winsdore residence at Debynshire (and you really do have all the elements necessary there) keep it there.

Back to Mr. Wright. Another thing you want to do is to expand and deny the expectations of the reader. I am not giving anything away here, but this installment in particular is all about slashing away what you thought you knew and then expanding the story. It is, actually, veil lifting. It is all a skillful magician’s trick. “Here, look at this, this is what this is… No! it is this!”

Countless times in Aeons I have said, “holy crap!” to some revelation, to something I thought was one way, but I was as blind as the character Mr. Wright blindfolded.

And I laughed. I didn’t laugh once in Ancillary. Not once.

Thank goodness there are still men (men, LeGuin and Willis are still around, right?) out there that know how to write science fiction! That reminds me, what the hell is Vernor Vinge doing these days?

Reading 2016

I can’t just study all day so, when I am not studying, I will be doing one of my other favorite things, reading! So here is a partial list of what I’ve got pegged for 2016.

First up is John C. Wright’s The Architect of Aeons.


Which is exactly what I needed after Anne Leckie’s disappointing Ancillary series. The first installment was really good and promised quite large story. Then decided to whittle it down and focus on a smaller scale in the second book. And then stayed on that smaller scale for the third installment and then purposely left no ending. Her character states it at the end.

Get this set-up from the first book. A galactic empire is ran by a ruthless tyrant who possesses thousands of bodies. This tyrant one day commits an action so heinous it causes a rift between parts of her – one side is ashamed of herself, the other rationalizes the action’s expedience. The two sides start maneuvering against each other. Now much as the tyrant has many instances of herself, so the ships of her fleets and its crews are all the same person (except for the human elements). There is no distinction between the ship-mind and the minds of the crew, they are all the same person. They serve the human captain, in fact they usually form attachments to their captains.

One day this set up leads the tyrant to demand one such ship/humanoid to shoot her captain dead. The fragment then shoots the instance of the tyrant in the head and goes rogue. This causes another instance of the tyrant on the ship to blow the ship up. One fragment of the ship escapes torn from all her other selves, and her captain who she had to execute.

She vows revenge. Now that is a pretty good set-up, right? Thousands of instances of the tyrant at war with herself and with a rogue ship-fragment vowing to bring her down. If you are a science fiction fan, you want to read that series!

But what if in the next book this ship fragment was sent (by the “good” part of the tyrant) to an outpost where she spent time drinking tea and helping the poor and out of this outpost? What if the story never left this outpost? What if the ship fragment never killed another instance of the tyrant? Rip off! And I left out a bunch of other stuff that was unresolved.

The whole gender neutrality thing? Meh? If they weren’t all girls, the author gave me no indication they weren’t. It was like the female cast of Jane Eyre in SPACE!! Let’s have tea, do you think so and so likes so and so? Ack, give me LeGuin any day, please.

Also the book was pretty humorless. So it was with great pleasure that I picked up Wright’s Aeons. Not only is most of what he writes outlandish, I’m usually laughing right off the bat.

Then in no particular order is: Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.



Nope haven’t read it. I’ve read quite a few of his other works, this one never grabbed me.

A Borrowed Man: by Gene Wolfe It’s Gene Wolfe, nuff said, right?


Nod by Adrian Barnes


I decided to give this one a chance because I am pretty familiar with lack of sleep and its effects and it seemed to have a Stephen King vibe to it. I bought it despite the author interview at the back of the book where he sounds like a college freshman retard, “the corporations man, we need a revolution man…” Shut the fuck up if you want to think and speak with your anus, write me some cool stuff and I will pay you, don’t expect me to pay attention to your late adolescent drivel. On the other hand, he’s Canadian (Canadian science fiction usually has the “Corporation” as the bad guy) so what can you do?

China Mieville: The Scar



I have heard of Mieville for a number of years. So a couple of months ago in the bookstore I open up this book to the first page, read the first couple of sentences and bought it on style alone. This is also a man who thinks and talks from his anus outside his field. But I really don’t care as long as you deliver the product I’m paying for. He would hate that kind of capitalistic libertarian style thinking. Apparently he’s a socialist. Apparently he missed twentieth century history class…

China Mieville: three moments of an explosion  Bought this also on the strength of the sample I read from The Scar. Style can be a rare thing to enjoy. And I mean style of a kind where you just like the way they use words. I have this with R.A. Lafferty. I can read a story of his and not tell you what it was about it or its plot, but man, was it great to read!

Then I decided to go outside my usual stomping grounds.

3 by Flannery O’Connor


Which was cheaper than any of the works singly. I have a certain love for Catholic writers. I haven’t read one I didn’t like. Seems to be a rather dark writer, southern and devoutly religious. Who wouldn’t like that combination in a writer?

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons:


This is supposed to be one of the best, most frightening horror novels of the twentieth century. And it is written by Dan Simmons. I think I’m going to read this before Drood. Drood seems a chore while being a delight… or it could just be a chore, I haven’t read it yet.

Father Brown Crime Stories by G.K. Chesterton:


Remember what I said about Catholic writers? He’s one of my favs. Funny I just started watching this series from PBS last week and then I ran across this.

And there should be another Lafferty collection coming out this year as well!

And Then a Bomb Went Off…

Also a recommendation at the bottom…

I was lamenting the utter lack of anything real happening in the second book of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series yesterday – look below ya, son. Reading this morning of two characters sitting on a bench discussing something (very Star Wars prequel-like) while another person left a steam room a little way away from them. One of the characters that was seated proceeds to approach the steam room (I think it was a steam room) when a bomb goes off…

Now in real life that is never good news. In a novel that has seen almost no action in some 260 pages? Hurray! Science fiction isn’t some boring French lit where people sit at bus stops pondering the meaningless of an existence that they’ve demanded have no meaning. No, this is science fiction, boys and girls. No, it doesn’t have to be pulp with nothing but endless action and damsels being pulled from danger. But it has to have action. You gotta move it along. Unless you are going very deep, philosophically into some dense metaphysics or something, I’d say there better be some action at least every 40 pages.

There are tons of “literature” out there, garbage dump proportions where nothing ever happens and people discuss their feelings or impressions. My wife attempts to read these things every once in a while, usually on the recommendation of a friend, and usually never makes it past the first hundred pages. I would think it is just as much a factor that the sense of life in those works are absolutely abysmal as well as the fact that nothing happens.

A bomb went off. Hopefully that will keep them from standing around in endless discussion for a while.


Centipede Press is a small publisher in Colorado that is publishing all of R.A. Lafferty’s short material (sorry, boys, no news on the long works. But, I swear to God I will read the Elliptical Grave before I step into mine!).

They tend mainly to horror, the quirky, and Weird (weird as genre). The link above is to their Authors page. If you are into science fiction, fantasy or horror, you will recognize more than just a few names on their roster. They even have Salvador Dali!

One writer I’ve wanted to check out for a time is Anne Herbert (she also has to be the cutest damned thing to ever pick up a pen…) . Her book, Children of the Black Sabbath, is said to be one of the best horror novels ever written (and not just by Centipede!).

She is said to have a very unique voice. That is a rare treasure in James Patterson’s ALL BOOKS SHOULD BE WRITTEN TO SELL 45 TRILLION COPIES era.

As a lover of horror, she had me at the title. There is William Hope Hodgson, author of the The Night Land which inspired one of my science fiction favs, John C. Wright, to pen Awake in the Night Land.

C.L. Moore, one of the first female writers of science fiction. The list goes on and on.

A lot of these author’s works you can find at the book store cheaper (Lafferty is one of the exceptions, it’s Centipede or rummaging through a slew of old books and magazines). But these are special books. You can go get a copy of Tim Power’s The Anubis Gates anywhere, but you won’t find an super cool copy like Centipede’s. Who wouldn’t want Theodore Sturgeon’s Some of Your Blood?

What about Gene Wolfe’s mega-masterpiece Book of the New Sun series? Don’t try it, they’re sold out – hopefully just for now. Talk about an infinitely re-readable book. Talk about a man that can hide the beams. They’ve got the work Bob Eggleton – great art work.

They have one of my top favorite science fiction writers, Fredric Brown. What they have here is his lesser known (if you’re a science fiction fan, if you’re a mystery fan, his science fiction is probably less know to you) mystery works.

Anyway, if you like your literature a little to the left, and maybe down a ways to that creepy little shop whose only entrance is at the end of a dark alley, Centipede press has got you covered, perhaps in sores, on that note.

New Releases

Since I am unable to read fiction at the moment, see post below, (and it is freaking killing me!!!) I thought I would at least give a heads up on a couple of releases that I find noteworthy.

First up is John C. Wright’s new installment to his ‘Count to the Eschaton’ Sequence. It is the fourth book, so if you haven’t read any of them, this is not the place to start. I haven’t read it so I can’t specifically recommend it, but I can go on his excellent prior material and recommend this.


Next up is one I commented on in January, but it bares repeating. There is not even a review of it on Amazon yet! And that is the latest volume of Lafferty Short stories, The Man with the Aura.


I really, really really wish I could dig into this RIGHT NOW!

And last but not least is a sort of Lafferty Fanzine called Feast of Laughter, apparently they are on volume two. I will certainly be picking these two up. I can’t say that I recommend it (although two of the authors I know to be quite knowledgeable of all things Lafferty) because I just discovered it. But if you are a fan of Lafferty (and ya better be, friend) this should be at the least a curiosity. I’m certainly interested.

FOL 2 front cover

Editing Done

I finished my editing for the upcoming issue of Sci Phi Journal (might be out by Christmas, I’ll post). I basically did a third of the editing (a little less if you count the flash fiction, but I threw in the editor’s From the Editor (that’s not me) and an author’s bio for good measure).

Here are Sci Phi’s past issues. There are only two so far, three is on its way. Buy it! I want to keep doing this. I’d be in dog heaven if I could get paid for it. Also the first two issues sport John C. Wright as contributor. That’s worth the price of admission right there.

It was good fun. I like seeing the polished, final result. I hope I didn’t miss anything… I did a last minute final check before it goes to the editor for finalization. I like solving a problem like “is the double space after sentences still used?” “workout is a word but is worksout? Better go research it”

Language changes all the time.

And I love spending two hours scouring over the Chicago Manual of Style for a nuance in punctuation.

Until the next issue, if I’m asked back, I going to be busy doing some writing of my own.

“© 2015 Sci Phi Publications
Cover Art by Cat Leonard
Ebook Design by Jason Rennie
Edited by Jason Rennie, Robert J. Wigard and Peter Sean Bradley”

Excerpt From: Jason Rennie. “Sci Phi Journal #3.” iBooks.

See? That’s me name on the 4th line, 3rd name.

Good Science Fiction Sites

Let’s first say that it ain’t the big sites. Unless you are interested in what is happening… right now… No! you missed it… right…wait…NOW! No! You missed it again. Myself I like the past stuff better than the current stuff. I have three current authors I read: John C. Wright and Vernor Vinge (Vinge certainly doesn’t write enough) and Gene Wolfe.

There is just too much great stuff to gamble on the present and reading the tastes of current authors at SF Signal gives me no indication I would enjoy their works. Perhaps that is not fair, but as a consumer I merely have to choose, I don’t have to be fair.

Anywho the first up is the site of author John C. Wright. He does a lot of other topics other than science fiction (and will have opinions that are bound to piss some people off, but that’s your problem) but the man knows his stuff. I can’t even begin to enumerate the authors he opened me up to over the last several years: David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus, C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy to name but a few. I even got turned onto Lafferty because he mentioned the outlandishness of Past Master and I thought the title cool enough to look up. Hence a love affair commenced and the rest is history (between I and Lafferty, not I and Wright although I am to be counted as a fan of his works as well). Best to search his site by keywords; his subjects can vary wildly.

Next up is a site devoted almost exclusively to science fiction literature, particularly New Wave science fiction of the 60’s and 70’s, by a Mr. Joachim Boaz called Science Fiction and Suspect Ruminations. This is a great site. This guy digs up the most arcane, forgotten books and does pretty in-depth reviews of them. He has turned me onto some real gems. One such was Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop (also known as Starship); one of the best constructed books I’ve ever read. Some of what he digs up I’ve never heard up, and sometimes the author I’ve never known about either.

The third site is a specialized site for fans of R.A. Lafferty called The Ants of God are Queer Fish (it is a Lafferty reference and unfortunately not one I fully get as I have never got my hands on the story referenced). But if a Lafferty story or novel leaves you scratching your head (and that will happen) Mr. Petersen should be able to help you out. This is for the initiated, if you have never read Lafferty then not much is going to make sense on the site. There is also a FaceBook page for Lafferty fans started by the same author of The Ants of God are Queer Fish. I myself don’t have a FaceBook account as I don’t want unwanted communications from ghosts of the past. But… there you go.

If all you’ve been exposed to as a science fiction is the latest Star Wars tie-in books or the latest whoever it is, give these sites a look – and spread your wings!