Shineanthology’s Weblog

An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

Archive for November, 2009


The rules: I’ll keep it short and sweet.

  1. Everyone from around the world is allowed (and invited!) to enter. However:
  2. Since the top ten prizes are alcoholic drinks, I will ask confirmation of the top ten winners that they are of drinking age in their country of residence. Without that confirmation by email I will not send out the prize, and let number 11 (or 12, or 13, etc.) be the lucky one;
  3. Enter the SHINE competiton by sending your answers (example: 1-A, author Jane Doe; 2-B, author Joe Sixpack; etc.) to . Please put “SHINE COMPETITION” in the header: this makes my life much easier.
  4. Accompany this entry with your postal mail address: an *actual* address. Sorry for families: only one entry per postal mail address. This is to prevent one person from entering multiple times. I will send the prize to the address of the winning entry, and if that is a non-existent postal address, then the next one in line will get the prize;
  5. Entrant with the most correct answers wins: if more than one person has the most correct answers, then the first one (by date of the email) wins. Number 1 gets first choice of the main prizes;
  6. Then the one with the second most correct answers (or who came in later than number 1 while having the same number of answers correct) will have the second choice of the main prizes;
  7. And so forth down the line until all ten main prizes have been selected.
  8. The competition will run from November 30 until December 15: it will close to entries at December 16 midnight, Dutch time. All entries coming after that will be discarded unread;
  9. Winners, together with the answers of the competition, will be announced on Friday December 18;
  10. The editor, the authors and the people working for Solaris Books (in short: anybody with knowledge and access to at least one of the original stories) is excempt from this competition;
  11. I am the judge, jury and executor of the competition, and my judgment is final.

That’s it: good luck!


Today, Monday November 30, I will start the official Shine Competition. The actual rules will be posted in a separate post, and the actual competition, as well.

But to whet your appetite, let’s start with what you actually can win! Well, I’ve decided that the winners get a choice. It works like this: the top twenty will all get either an ‘Optimism’ T-shirt (I’m contacting Compass Box about availability, especially re. different sizes) or a ‘Shine’ T-shirt, which I’ll produce myself on CaféPress; and — of course — a copy of the Shine anthology.

However, those finishing in the top ten, get to select the main prizes, as follows: number 1 gets first choice, number 2 second choice, etcetera until number ten just gets what the others left over.

So, without further ado, here are the main prizes:


Frapin Cigar Blend: the perfect digestif after a heavy Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. A “ Grande Champagne, Premier Grand Cru du Cognac”, which is admittedly a mouthful, but wait until you have an actual mouth ful of this liquor of the gods! Cognacs are — with only some very rare exceptions — blends, and this blend has its separate constituents aged on new French oak casks (a French speciality) for at least 15 to 20 years. Resulting in a tannin-rich, yet surprisingly smooth cognac, with overtones of vanilla, dried fruits, honey, fine herbs and old port. I give this to my brother (who doesn’t like whisky) for our regular Sunday meals, and such a bottle never lasts long!


Highland Park 21 years old: A superb whisky that’s both complex and smooth. Like with the Springbank 18 year old (see below), it has a legendary predecessor: the Bicentenary. It’s been over ten years since I tasted the Bicentenary, so it’s hard to make a comparison. This Highland Park 21 year old is very smooth while having a surprising depth. On the one side you have the signature Highland Park toffee, fudge and dark chocolate, while on the other side you have a heathery smoke, nutmeg and ginger. It’s mellow, yet firm like a loving mother who knows what’s best for you. Kidding aside, a whisky that’s both silk and steel.

Springbank 18 years old: this is one of the most highly anticipated whiskies of 2009. The first Springbank to be following on the footsteps of the legendary 21 year old of a decade ago (I bought those 21 year old Springbanks for 96 guilders — about €40 — at the time. Now it’s become a collector’s item and goes for €400). And they’ve only bottled 7800 of this one, which are going fast. I’ve managed to get one, so grab this opportunity! It’s hard to say how it compares with its legendary predecessor (it’s been over ten years since I tasted that one), but this Springbank 18 years old is everything a whisky should be: smooth & sharp; rich & oily; depth & balance; oranges & pepper; tannins & caramel; cacao & honey: a perplexing paradox of yins & yans zig-zagging through the complete whisky range (I better stop while I’m still ahead…;-).

Read the rest of this entry »

The Week in Tweet, Week 34

And the trumpets of Jericho, still @outshine remains…

Monday August 17:

[Quote for the Monday] “Nevertheless, I remain firmly convinced that not only is being overly conscious a disease, but so is being conscious at all.”

[Source] Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 – 1881) / Russian novelist / Notes from the Underground.

Tuesday August 18:

Fuzzily stoned like the Stooges and wading hip-deep in the Mudhoney; you’ve heard it all before, sure, but you loved it that time, too.

[#SoundBytes] CONTACT HIGH by You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons— Function Records—

Wednesday August 19: pleased to proclaim: ads on cyber cash so successful taxes repealed; find new product placement opportunities on virtual bills!

[Bio] Crass, evil marketer by day, Jason Stoddard still sees the beautiful roadsigns of tomorrow. .

Thursday August 20:

If you plan to see one lesbian, vegan, undead baby, gross-out that comments on spineless liberals, try this one…but seriously, don’t bother.

[#Spitballs] Grace / Directed by Paul Solet / .

Friday August 21:

[Quote for the Friday] “The Gracehoper was always jigging ajog, hoppy on akkant of his joyicity.”

[Source] James Joyce (1882 – 1941) / Irish writer / Finnegans Wake.

Saturday August 22:

Men gathered at the new distillery. Smiling, they filled their glasses. Sunlight glinted through the windows as Earth hung low in the sky.

[Bio] William Wood lives in an old farmhouse in the Blue Ridge Mountains with an understanding family. He often writes instead of sleeping.

Sunday August 23:

An expert condensation of the text, combined with interesting art, and thus a compelling read. Still chillingly prescient decades on.

[#ShineComics] RAY BRADBURY’S FARENHEIT 451: THE AUTHORIZED ADAPTATION by Tim Hamilton; Hill And Wang, 2009, $30 .

Sealife Game

Yesterday I visited my brother and his wife and his two kids (my nephews). They had been to the Sinterklaas party at my brother’s office, and had gotten a present. This was a DVD board game called “Sealife“.  So we played it.

I was amazed: not only does it teach kids a lot about life in the sea (particularly in a coral reef), it also raises awareness of how pollution, overfishing and climate change affect, well, sea life (and that of a coral reef in particular). I was also amazed that my oldest nephew Boris (6: he’ll turn 7 on December 4) got so many questions right, and has already a fairly good understanding of concepts like pollution and eco-tourism.

Now one can wonder if this is a subtle form of indoctrination (even if the ‘eco-friendly’ question were few and far between: most were trivia questions about life in the sea itself), or a good education counter-balance. Yes, I’m saying counter-balance because my nephews have a gameboy where the play nintendo games, too. So they’re also playing games where they hit, smash or otherwise destroy opponents in order to attain a certain goal and get to the next level. The phrase: “I still have 8 lives” is a common one. So they’re exposed to ‘violent’ games, as well.

Which made me wonder: which game has more influence on their thinking and (emotional/intellectual) development? I don’t really know, and have to make a wild guess. I think it hinges on two important factors: education and sense of reality.

1. Education.

With which I mean education at large, not just the education they get at school. Kids receive a continuous education from the environment: their parents, their family, their friends, their school. But also TV and the internet are a growing part of that environment. In Holland we have this thing called ‘jeugdjournaal‘ (‘youth journal’, or better: news for young kids), where important news items are told in a way young kids can understand, mixed with news of particular interest for kids (and it’s got a website, and can be friended on Hyves — the Dutch version of FaceBook — and followed on Twitter: they don’t miss a beat). It’s great, and I know it’s watched and followed by a large number of adults, as well.

Then there are these educational games they do at school: when I showed my mother, my brother, his wife and my two nephews around in the Training Centre where I work, my oldest nephew immediately understood how to use a smartboard, got on the internet, and played ‘het poepspel‘ (the poop game): a game where kinds need to fits pipes between a house and the sewer before the resident of the house is finished on the toilet. If they fail the whole screen is literally full of shit (young kids love that), and if they succeed the grey water is succesfully transported to the sewer. It succesfully combines a young kid’s fascination with poop into a game that shows why we have sewers. I certainly wish we had such a game in my youth.

2. Sense of Reality.

I suspect that there is a qualitative difference in how those kids see and experience a DVD board game such as Sealife or a nintendo game on a gameboy. I think they know that when they’re playing on a gameboy and their avatars jump to immense heights, perform impossible feats, and die 8 times to live again, then they realise, deep inside, that it’s not real.

On the other hand, when they see footage from Jacques Cousteau of coral reefs where these reefs are bleaching, blackened by disease or otherwise suffering, then they realise that this is real.

So I do think there is hope: it is our duty, as the older generation, to educate our kids so that they will become smarter than us (and I mean ‘kids’ and ‘generation’ in the broadest sense). One of my fondest wishes is than when my nephews become adults, they do things better and smarter than me. Then we — as the ‘older’ generation — have succeeded.

Another question is that of, for lack of a better word, indoctrination. By implicitly pointing out the things that threaten sea life in general (climate change, pollution, overfishing), is Sealife brainwashing kids? Maybe, but personally I think it’s a good counterbalance against the senseless violence in many computer games or TV series: those indoctrinate, as well.

I think the kids will be alright, if we teach them well.

The Week in Tweet, Week 33

I’d rather gaze at the dust on my pillow than look into that immaculate @outshine

Monday August 10:

[Quote for the Monday] “Our nature is an illimitable space through which the intelligence moves without coming to an end.”

[Source] Wallace Stevens (1879 – 1955) / U.S. poet.

Tuesday August 11:

Immensely energetic techo-metal, complex yet controlled, full of emotional impact: 3rd and very accomplished album from Dutch supertalents.

[#SoundBytes] Silhouettes by Textures — / Listenable Records —… (2008).

Wednesday August 12:

The Lunarcade! For shiny full-moon quarters you remote-drive lunar rovers. Can you master 1.28 second delay? Tag lunar ore, get high score.

[Bio] Chris Willrich is a writer and children’s librarian, and lives with his family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thursday August 13:

Alien apartheid, cat food-pushing Nigerian gangsters, and a South African corporate wimp with a claw for a hand—best scifi movie this year.

[#Spitballs] District 9 / Directed by Neill Blomkamp /

Friday August 14:

[Quote for the Friday] “Good humor is a philosophic state of mind; it seems to say to Nature that we take her no more seriously than she takes us.”

[Source] Ernest Renan (1823 – 1892) / French philosopher, philologist and historian / Feuilles détachées.

Saturday August 15:

I was in Cleveland the day the net woke up. We reasoned, threatened, finally begged, but could not stop it from worshipping us.

[Bio] @jonrock writes from Michigan. He fears Rickrolling and Nannerpus will anger the awakened net.

Sunday August 16:

A bandaged stranger causes unrest in a small fishing town, and is befriended by a restless teen in a solid GN inspired by THE INVISIBLE MAN.

[#ShineComics] THE NOBODY by Jeff Lemire (story and art); Vertigo, 2009, $19.99.

Kindred Spirits, part 9

In all the kerfuffle I haven’t failed to notice Terry Bison’s interview with Kim Stanley Robinson (regular visitors know I’ve quoted the man several times on this site already). Io9 summarised it as “Dystopian Fiction Is For Slackers“, and while I mostly agree — while acknowledging that there are great dystopias, I think the form itself has become too much of an easy writing mode and a cliché — I think it oversimplifies matters.

As Kim Stanley Robinson said on the New Scientist website earlier this year, science fiction tends to see the pessimism/optimism duality too much as an either/or phenomenon, while in real life things are much more complex: they’re a mix of upbeat and downbeat, with indifference, incomprehensibility and interconnectedness thrown in for good measure, and also strongly subjective; that is dependent on and coloured by one’s personal experience, mindset and perspective.

And indeed, while he calls it ‘utopia’, what he means is not a full-on, happy clappy Pollyanna:

So, the writing of utopia comes down to figuring out ways of talking about just these issues in an interesting way; how tenuous it would be, how fragile, how much a tightrope walk and a work in progress.

This, BTW, describes the majority of the stories in both the Shine anthology and DayBreak Magazine. One clear example that you can already read is David D. Levine’s “horrorhouse“, that perfectly demonstrates ‘how tenuous, fragile’ such a ‘utopia’ (I prefer to call it a ‘better future’, meaning there’s always room for improvement, with ‘utopia’ as the ideal that can never quite be reached) is: both a ‘tightrope walk’ and always a ‘work in progress’.

Finally, I take note that if people thought that I overstated my case with the “Why I Can’t Write a Near-Future, Optimistic SF Story: the Excuses” piece (which keeps consistently getting several dozens of hits each day), well, Kim Stanley Robinson doesn’t exactly pull his punches, either:

The political attacks are interesting to parse. “Utopia would be boring because there would be no conflicts, history would stop, there would be no great art, no drama, no magnificence.” This is always said by white people with a full belly. My feeling is that if they were hungry and sick and living in a cardboard shack they would be more willing to give utopia a try.

Amen to that.

(Or, as I said: “And indeed, that’s what most dystopias are: a comfort zone for unambitious writers”.)

While some do see the opportunities in utopias (and watch this space come March 19, 2010), others immediately feel the need to defend dystopias. As if these, like climate change, need defending.

Anyway, one small blessing has already occurred: new e-zine Bull Spec — whose first short is by Terry Bisson, indeed who did the ‘utopia’ interview: coincidence? — already changed their guidelines to include utopias on the theme:

“utopias are hard, and important, because we need to imagine what it might be like if we did things well enough to say to our kids, we did our best, this is about as good as it was when it was handed to us, take care of it and do better. Some kind of narrative vision of what we’re trying for as a civilization.”

(Which is a straight quote from the Galileo Dreams interview.) So one more market — keep track: such markets are thin on the ground — where to send an optimistic story (when they re-open on February 1 next year).

Apropos David D. Levine’s “horrorhouse“, another interesting ‘coincidence’: a few days ago New Scientist put an article called “How reputation could save the Earth“, where the influence of maintaining a good reputation is wielded to extract good (eco-friendly) behaviour:

If information about each of our environmental footprints was made public, concern for maintaining a good reputation could impact behaviour. Would you want your neighbours, friends, or colleagues to think of you as a free rider, harming the environment while benefiting from the restraint of others?

Compare this to the EcoBadge in David’s story, which was published 17 days before the New Scientist article, demonstrating that near-future SF can both be trend-setting and not age immediately.

The Week in Tweet, Week 32

Lovers in the tower: the moon and sun divided, @outshine smiles…

Monday August 3:

[Quote for the Monday] “Democracy is the superior form of government, because it is based on a respect for man as a reasonable being.”

[Source] John F. Kennedy (1917 — 1963) / 35th President of US (1961 — 1963) / Why England Slept.

Tuesday August 4:

A bottom-heavy zooo where songs w/o 6-string guitars convince as much as animal pictures instead of lyrics: dark, groovy, disturbing, gritty.

[#SoundBytes] Heavy Zooo by Beehoover / / Exile on Mainstream Records: http://www.mainstreamrecord… .

Wednesday August 5:

The moon rises, white and full. I stand by the red tomatoes on top of our home and wave. Mom promised to look down.

[Bio] Brenda is a futurist, writer, and tech geek from the Pacific Northwest in the USA.

Thursday August 6:

Paint faces on paper plates, sail them about, make explosive sounds—that’s better special FX than in this movie, and much more entertaining.

[#Spitballs] GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra / Directed by Stephen Sommers /….

Friday August 7:

[Quote for the Friday] “Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, a good cigar, a good woman—or a bad woman; it depends how much happiness you can handle.”

[Source] George Burns (1896 – 1996) / U.S. comedian and actor / Interview on NBC television.

Saturday August 8:

Professor Jim Burns, retired head of immortalRwe, turned to his teary wife at his hospital bedside, “I should have spent more time at work.”

[Bio] @meika loofs samorzewski no longer writes for humans and lives in Tasmaniahttp://meika.loofs-samorzew… .

Sunday August 9:

At first glance another capes comic, then a cop thriller…and really a story of a superhero breaking under the onset of PTSD. Interesting.

[#ShineComics] ABSOLUTION #1 by Christos Gage (script) and Roberto Viacava (art); Avatar, 2009, $3.99.

Kindred Spirits, part 8

More news from World Fantasy hopefully soon (after I’ve caught up, and we had a great DayBreak Magazine reading), but first two news tidbits that fall under the ‘kindred spirits’ category:

This, together with the tireless Charles A. Tan winning one of the inaugural Last Drink Bird Head Awards (the one for International Activism), marks a movement towards more openness to non-Anglophone SF & fantasy (list of winners on Ecstatic Days, with an unexpected picture).


Last Monday I spoke with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman about the Interstitial Arts Foundation and Interfictions 2 (among other things), and Ellen mentioned that they had made a concerted effort to include more international writers, which I welcome and applaud.

Apropos Charles A. Tan: he has interviewed me for the Apex Book of World SF, and the good people of SF Signal have put it up on their site. Check it out!

Apex Book of World SF

While you’re at it, also check out the interviews with Melanie Fazi, Aliette de Bodard, Guy Hasson, and more to come! And keep an eye of the World SF News Blog.

And buy a copy of the Apex Book of World SF , of course.

Also, to coincide with that release, Apex Magazine has a special World SF issue this November, guest-edited by Lavie Tidhar.

A torrent of world SF happenings this late October/early November. I hope it’s the beginning of a truly internationally-oriented SF community.

The Week in Tweet, Week 31

Out of the great nothing, @outshine came without fail…

Monday July 27:

[Quote for the Monday] “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

[Source] John F. Kennedy (1917 — 1963) / 35th President of US (1961 — 1963) / Inaugural address, January 20, 1961.

Tuesday July 28:

Ambitious and complex progressive metal début; too ambitious for the UK, maybe, but Europe will love it. A creative journey at every level.

[#SoundBytes] Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilio by ENOCHIAN THEORY / / Anomalousz Music Recordings – .

Wednesday July 29:

The surgeon embeds artificial nerves in her prosthetic hand. She can feel a handshake, a fire burning, the color of rain.

[Bio] Carma has been reading/writing science fiction & fantasy for (mumble, mumble) years. Her writing group’s website: .

Thursday July 30:

Paul Giamatti stores his chickpea-shaped soul and later learns it was mislaid or stolen. Less Kaufman than Woody Allen. Funny but uneven.

[#Spitballs] Cold Souls / Directed by Sophie Bartes /

Friday July 31:

[Quote for the Friday] “Well I know that, wey I figure seh, maybe things get worse for the better?”

[Source] Bob Marley (1945 – 1981) / Jamaican musician, singer, and songwriter.

Saturday August 1:

The cybercat on metal paws stalks cyber-savvy prey. The übermouse’s EMP, though, lets it slip away. A better mouse: the lab’s cause célèbre.

[Bio] Cliff Winnig (@winnig) writes and plays sitar. He has stories in the Cinema Spec & Footprints anthologies.

Sunday August 2:

Five issues of increasingly bloody , incoherent and pointless mayhem that concludes in a Xanatos Pileup meant to set up an Ultimate reboot.

[#ShineComics] ULTIMATUM #1-#5 by Jeph Loeb (script) and David Finch and Danny Miki (art); Marvel, 2009, $3.99 each.