Shineanthology’s Weblog

An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

Archive for April, 2010

SHINE reviews, part 2: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Things are moving so fast in the day job and with SHINE (I hope to announce where you can get DRM-free E-versions of the anthology soon, thanks to the people of Solaris Books working very hard on this behind the scenes), meaning I’m struggling to keep up.

Here’s a catch-up with some of the earlier reviews out there (I know: there are more recent reviews: I will post about those in a few days, otherwise this post will just burst out of its seams…;-). Cue to Ennio Morricone:

The Good:

For an anthology with a very tight remit — optimistic near-future science fiction — there is a huge variety in the stories themselves. It occurs to me that this book is the perfect introduction to SF for readers who wouldn’t normally venture into the genre.

Outreach again! Make no mistake: if SHINE becomes one of the gateway drugs to lure innocent readers into SF, then I’m all the happier for it.

  • Sumit Paul-Choudhury at New Scientist proclaimed: ‘The near future looks brighter than ever‘, and while — like every other reviewer — he didn’t like certain stories (and interestingly this differs very much from reviewer to reviewer), in the end his thumbs are up:

But it would be difficult — some might say doubly impossible — for every entry in an anthology as ambitious as Shine to appeal to every reader. It is to de Vries’ credit that all but the most hard-hearted of sci-fi readers should find their own brand of optimism represented somewhere among Shine‘s array of bright futures.

  • While Val (not his real name) at Val’s Random Comments admits that ‘I am by no means optimistic about the (near) future’, it does seem that SHINE won him over (even if only temporarily):

The diversity of the stories and the consistently high quality of this collection is testament to his passion for this project. Where some themed anthologies struggle to collect enough stories that fit the scope of the anthology well enough, Shine manages to make one statement out this diversity. It does not propose solutions to the world’s problems but it does offer hope that we’ll be able to climb out on that handbasket after all. A shining example of what positive thinking can achieve.

  • Jonathan Cowie at Concantenation took the trouble to write a lengthy review where he touches upon almost every aspect of the anthology (he told me at the SHINE launch party at Adyssey that it took him a full day to write it: it shows, and thanks). In the end, he’s quite positive about it:

More than enough tales to keep you satisfied. As I indicated, this is not a perfect collection (few are) but it did set itself very ambitious goals. Yet there are enough sufficiently good tales, if not outright hits, to say that this anthology does in its way markedly stand out from the crowd, and so serious SF readers will want to keep an eye out for it.

The Bad:

  • Well, the worst mention so far — on a good place, at that — isn’t that bad: Neville Hawcock of the Financial Times initially proclaims it (in his very short review) a ‘mixed result‘, and takes me to task for the intro- and outro tweets (“the tweets appended to each story are toe-curling”). But he also mentions the stories (which are considerably longer than the tweets) that he enjoyed:

But there are some strong stories: “Overhead”, Jason Stoddard’s sketch of a moon colony, is the best; Holly Phillips’s “Summer Ice”, set in a greener future metropolis, and Kay Kenyon’s “Castoff World”, also satisfy.

For any value of ‘bad’, I’ll take it.

The Ugly:

  • To be frank, Liviu Suciu’s review at Fantasy Book Critic isn’t actually bad (he rates SHINE a B+), and as any reviewer he’s totally entitled to his opinion and taste. The ‘ugly’ part I’m referring to is in an assumption he makes right in his first paragraph:

“Shine” is an anthology that comes with a lot of hype and an introduction that is utterly misleading — or maybe it’s me and Mr. de Vries having quite different definitions of the terms *sf* and *optimistic* — since what Shine is about is mostly *mundane near future sf* extrapolated from current headlines, or sometimes even yesterday’s headlines like carbon trading — and by optimistic, Mr. de Vries means something that to me is almost Utopian considering what human history teaches us [more…]

I have no problem with Liviu Suciu having a totally different view of *optimistic*: each to his own. However, I am *not* limiting the *definition* of SF to that of the near future: no, the theme of this particular anthology is — as clearly written above the huge “SHINE” letters on the cover — ‘an anthology of near-future optimistic SF’. Also, in  the introduction I write:

This was not an easy task, or as Jason Stoddard had it: ‘There’s nothing like taking on two kinds of impossible’

Impossible part 1 is getting SF authors to write an optimistic story. Impossible part 2 is getting them to write about the near future, which is immensely hard to do right, as well.

That Liviu Suciu doesn’t like near-future SF is also totally up to his taste and preferences. But at no point did I state that SF should be limited to *mundane near future SF*: that’s a bit like saying that Ellen Datlow, with her recent anthology Tails of Wonder, is limiting all of the genre to just stories about cats, or that John Joseph Adams, with The Living Dead (1 or 2) is limiting horror to just zombies.

Having said that, his verdict can be summarised as:

This being said, “Shine” starts with a bang with six stories that I enjoyed a lot and could not stop reading, but after that it became very hit and miss for me though several stories from the second part are quite touching but without the sf-nal intensity of the first ones.

More reviews (plenty more reviews) to be linked to soon. Stay tuned!

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SHINE excerpt: “Sustainable Development”

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While most story excerpts from the Shine anthology have appeared already at DayBreak Magazine, I decided to post them here, as well (after all, this *is* the Shine website). This is the fifth one: “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles:

Normally, selling peanuts in Boubara is a job mothers send their children to do in the marché. As the spider heads up the steps into the bar, I try the usual way of calling a child—crooking my fingers at the robot. “Tsst! Petit! Viens ici!

The robot approaches me. Someone has left a carefully scrawled sign on the tray, “10 CFA par tas—10 Francs per pile.” Village prices. I pull out a 50 CFA coin for all five tas and toss it onto the tray.

The robot tilts the tray forward until the tas begin to slip. It probably has a weight measurement control inside that calculates the coin.

Prenez tous, grand merci—Take everything, thank you,” it says in a flat, metallic voice. I scoop up the tas and dump them on the dusty cement of the bar. After I empty the tray, the robot hurries off through the empty marché.

Talk about tech dumping. Who got the bright idea to dump intelligent robots in a small African village? My predecessor, that’s who. He got them to help the men grow cash crops. Scooping up my peanuts, I stand and follow it.

Excerpt from “Sustainable Development” by Paula R. Stiles. Copyright © 2010 by Paula R. Stiles.

Picture credits:

Possessing a quixotic fondness for difficult careers, Paula R Stiles has driven ambulances, taught fish farming for the Peace Corps in West Africa and earned a Scottish PhD in medieval history, studying Templars and non-Christians in Spain. She has also sold fiction to Strange Horizons, Writers of the Future, Jim Baen’s Universe, Futures, @outshine and other markets. She is Editor in Chief of the Lovecraft/Mythos ‘zine Innsmouth Free Press. You can find her at: http://www.geocities.com/rpcv.geo/other.html or on Twitter (@thesnowleopard).

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with her at SF Signal.

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Review Quotes:

Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles brought a huge smile to my face; in her future vision it is still the women who do all the hard work!

Catherine Hughes;

Sustainable Development by Paula R Stiles had me smiling. Very tongue-in-cheek and very clever, Stiles plays with stereotypes in a small, impoverished, African village where the men are seen never to be doing any of the hard work, but the women are constantly working and seemingly working themselves into the ground. It’s a very small story, but again it’s well edited and cleverly written, so that the final scene makes you smile that slow steady smile of happiness.

SF Revu;

Paula R. Stiles’ Sustainable Development envisions robots in unlikely roles in West Africa.

Explorations: the Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy Blog;

A short and funny story with a twist about African women using considerable ingenuity to help with their backbreaking work.

Fantasy Book Critic;

Sustainable Development by Paula Stiles is a charming short tale of ‘appropriate’ technology in a less-developed nation.

Concatenation;

Sustainable Development by Paula Stiles, about robots taking over the “women’s work” of a West African village, is rather too much of a happily-ever-after story, especially given the social dislocations that often accompany sudden technological changes.

SciFi Wire;

An interactive map of SHINE story locations:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!

Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!

India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

The Week in Tweet, Week 45

Inside of me, is a man that I knew
Who could rattle these chains — who could shake these cages
Inside of you, is a dream that I see
And the echoes of @outshine are calling…

Monday November 2:

[Quote for the Monday] “If necessity is the mother of invention, then resourcefulness is the father.”

[Source] Beulah Louise Henry / U.S. inventor / Feminine Ingenuity (Anne L. MacDonald).

Tuesday November 3:

Third album from this Motor City two/three piece pushes post-metal to new limits of subtlety, depth and scale. Listen with the lights off.

[#SoundBytes] GENEVA by Russian Circles –http://www.russiancircles.net/ / Suicide Squeeze Records –http://www.suicidesqueeze.net/.

Wednesday November 4:

The immigrants come, weary, uncertain of their welcome
people make room for them
the immigrants’ culture infuses their own with new spice.

[Bio] Daniel Ausema’s a stay-at-home dad whose stories and poems have appeared in many places. Find him athttp://danielausema.blogspot.com/.

Thursday November 5:

Absolute truth or BS, you’ve got to wonder what kind of bet Milly Jovovich lost that made her accept the lead role in this godawful mess.

[#Spitballs] The Fourth Kind / Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi /http://www.thefourthkind.net/.

Friday November 6:

[Quote for the Friday] “A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy and nothing can stop him.”

[Source] Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008) / Russian novelist / Cancer Ward.

Saturday November 7:

It was spring and his basement was drying up. Last night, just two feet of water on the floor. A man can’t even stay wet in his own home…

[Bio] Marlo Dianne is a writer/artist of more than fifty published works. This wondergeek is found @http://www.forbiddendragon.blogspot.com.

Sunday November 8:

Fast, violent, and blessed with a great voice cast, this is still a rather rote SF take on movies about corrupt cops and the plucky rookie.

[#ShineComics Extra] GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT by Alan Burnett (script), Lauren Montgomery (dir.); Warner Premiere, 2009, $19.98/$24.98.

SHINE sighted in the Wild, part 2

More SHINE sightings in the wilds of the wide world and teh intarwebs:

At Suvudu by Matt Staggs: ‘Does the Future Shine? Or Is It Wasted?‘;

Dylan Fox had initial misgivings, but changed his mind, see his post ‘Many Little Green Shoots‘;

Short mention at Futurismic, where Paul Graham Raven notes that the tireless Charles A. Tan has interviewed all the SHINE authors, hence:

SF Signal interviews by Charles A. Tan (in alphabetical order by author’s last name: I’ll update it with links when the interviews go live):

At Coilhouse Magazine, in an article called ‘All Tomorrows Sovereign Bleak‘, David Forbes mentions SHINE as an antidote against the predominant bleakness of the (current) Sci-Fi landscape. To quote:

In 1967, sci-fi needed a designated anthology to finally be dangerous, edgy and bleak. As I write this, the SHINE anthology (which you should buy), has hit the stores. It is designated specifically for optimistic sci-fi.

Compare to the remark I made at John Scalzi’s “The Big Idea” feature:

And I find it highly ironic that the first ‘dangerous visions’ of the 21st Century—that is, fiction going against the current grain—are upbeat stories.

Slightly related: SF Signal finds out via io9 that h+ magazine had an article on ‘5 positive science fiction novels to enjoy while waiting for the singularity‘ (written by Jason stoddard), which was in the free Spring 2009 issue over a year ago. But hey, the more news about upbeat SF, the better…;-).

On a personal note, I was happy to see SHINE available in the American Book Center in The Hague.

John Lampard at Disassociated mentions ‘A More Positive and Realistic Science Fiction Future‘;

As an aside (which is topical, read further), I’m shamelessly supporting Patrick Farley’s Electric Sheep (via BoingBoing), even though I don’t know it yet: purely on the basis of the awesomeness of Don’t Look Back (a Dicebox Aside comic).

Pledge Your Allegiance (Suicidal! Suicidal! Suicidal!)…;-)

SHINE excerpt: “Summer Ice”

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While most story excerpts from the Shine anthology have appeared already at DayBreak Magazine, I decided to post them here, as well (after all, this *is* the Shine website). This is the fourth one: “Summer Ice” by Holly Phillips:

The art school can’t afford to pay her much. The people who run the place are her hosts as much as her employers, the work space they give her counts as half her salary. She has no complaints about the room, tall, plaster-walled, oak-floored, with three double-hung windows looking north and east up a crooked street, but her tools look meager in all this space. She feels meager herself, unable to supply the quantity of life the room demands. Create! the bare walls command. Perform! She carries the delicate lattice of yesterday’s images like a hollow egg into the studio, hopeful, but cannot decide where to put it down. Paper, canvas, clay, all inert, doors that deny her entry. She paces, she roams the halls. Other people teach to the sound of industry and laughter. She teaches her students as if she were teaching herself how to draw, making every mistake before stumbling on the correct method. Unsure whether she is doing something necessary or cowardly, or even dangerous to her discipline, she leaves the building early and walks on grass and yellow poppies ten blocks to her other job.

During the years of awkward transition from continental wealth to continental poverty, the city’s parks were abandoned to flourish or die. Now, paradoxically, as the citizens sow green across the cityscape these pockets of wilderness are being reclaimed. Lush lawns have been shoved aside by boisterous crowds of wild oats and junipers and laurels and manzanita and poison oak and madrone and odorous eucalyptus trees shedding strips of bark and long ribbon leaves that crumble into fragrant dirt. No one expects the lawns to return. The city does not have the water to spare. But there are paths to carve, playgrounds and skateboard parks and benches to uncover, throughways and resting places for a citizenry traveling by bike and foot. It’s useful work, and Manon mostly enjoys it, although in this heat it is a masochistic pleasure. The crew she is assigned to has been working together for more than a year, and though they are friendly people she finds it difficult to enter into their unity. The fact that she only works with them part-time does not make it easier.

Today they are cleaving a route through the wiry tangle of brush that fills the southwest corner of the park. Bare muscular branches weave themselves into a latticework like an unsprung basket, an organic form that contains space yet has no room for storage. Electric saws powered by the portable solar generator buzz like wasps against dead and living wood. Thick yellow sunlight filters through and is caught and stirred by dust. Birds and small creatures flurry away from the falling trees. A jay chooses Manon to harangue as she wrestles with a pair of long-handled shears. Blisters start up on her hands, sweat sheets her skin without washing away debris, and her eye is captured again and again by the woven depths of the thicket, the repeated woven depths hot with sun and busy with life, the antithesis of the cold layered ice of yesterday. She drifts into the working space that eluded her in the studio, and has to be called repeatedly before she stops to join the others on their break.

Edgar says, “Do you ever get the feeling like they’re just growing in again behind your back? Like you’re going to turn around and there’s going to be no trail, no nothing, and you could go on cutting forever without getting out?”

“We have been cutting forever,” Anita says.

“Like the prince who has to cut through the rose thorns before he can get to the sleeping princess,” Gary says.

“That’s our problem,” Anita says. “We’ll never get through if we have no prince.”

“You’re right,” Gary says. “All the other guys that tried got stuck and left their bones hanging on the thorns.”

“Man, that’s going to be me, I know it.” Edgar tips his canteen, all the way up, empty. “Well, come on, the truck’s going to be here in an hour, we might as well make sure it drives away full…”

The cut branches the crew has hauled to the curbside lace together like the growing chaos squared, all their leaves still a living green. As the other three drag themselves to their feet, Manon says, “Do you think anyone would mind if I took a few branches home?”

Her crewmates glance at each other and shrug.

“They’re just going to city compost,” Edgar says.

Manon thanks him. They go back to work in the heavy heat of late afternoon.

Excerpt from “Summer Ice” by Holly Phillips, originally appeared in The Palace of Repose. Copyright © 2005 by Holly Phillips.

Picture credits:

Holly Phillips is the award-winning author of In the Palace of Repose and The Engine’s Child. She lives on a large island off the west coast of Canada, and is hard at work on her next novel.

Also, check out the exclusive interview Charles A. Tan did with her at SF Signal.

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Review quotes:

Summer Ice by Holly Phillips is at once evocative and dreamy and maybe a bit sad — we follow the main character with the beautiful name of Manon, as she tries to come to grips with a new life in a new city. But this new city in turn is struggling to cope with the effects of climate change. It’s a beautifully uplifting story in which Manon realises that she’s not the outsider she feels herself to be, and that being part of a community is not too different from being part of a family.

SF Revu;

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the contemplative Summer Ice by Holly Phillips, a well-written and quiet story that could have been published in a leading literary journal if there weren’t just a mild hint of global warming in the background.

SciFi Wire;

After the 3 very sfnal stories above, here is a tale of a painter that inspires a renewal in a run-down city. The main strength of Summer Ice is its great style and the story also works beautifully as a change of pace from the fast and furious of the previous three.

Fantasy Book Critic;

An interactive Google Map of story locations from the SHINE anthology:

US:Buy SHINE at Amazon.com! Buy SHINE at Barnes & Noble! Buy SHINE at Borders!Buy SHINE at Powell's Books!

UK:Buy SHINE at Amazon UK! Buy SHINE at WH Smith!Buy SHINE at Waterstone's! Buy SHINE at the Book Depository!

Independents:Buy SHINE at the IndieBound!Buy SHINE at Books-A-Million!Order SHINE via Goodreads!

Canada:Buy SHINE at Amazon Canada!

Germany:Buy SHINE at Amazon Deutschland!

India: Order SHINE at Flipkart!

The Week in Tweet, Week 44

@outshine slowly rises in the night
The people softly lit by restless moonlight
And as the jackal preys upon the Netherworld
You can hear as she surprises and sings … RISE!

Monday October 26:

[Quote for the Monday] “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”

[Source] Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) / British naturalist and writer.

Tuesday October 27:

Desert rock’s most reliable practitioners show no signs of weathering away. Fuzzy riffs, sleazy solos, weird lyrics – what more d’you want?

[#SoundBytes] SIGNS OF INFINITE POWER by Fu Manchu – http://www.fu-manchu.com/ / Century Media – http://www.centurymedia.com/.

Wednesday October 28:

dry earth holds wee tracks
lightly they imprint the earth
quail, raccoon, skunk, thrush

[Bio] Jodi: I don’t know who she is except lost in her thoughts and found in her writing.

Thursday October 29:

With its lovely camera work, misogyny, pretension and gruesome torture, this may be the first real horror film. But who wants to watch it?

[#Spitballs] Antichrist / Directed by Lars von Trier / http://bit.ly/kENGz.

Friday October 30:

[Quote for the Friday] “Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination.”

[Source] Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) / German philosopher / Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics.

Saturday October 31:

The climbing guide could tell Harper’s arm was flagging. The whisper at camp was: could he pull it off and grow a good one by morning?

[Bio] @jeremylewit enjoys the conceit that his focus problem is early-onset time travel. http://jeremylewit.blogspot.com/.

Sunday November 1:

David ties up the long-running story with as much tell as show, and a disappointing resolution for mysterious, fascinating Layla Miller.

[#ShineComics] X-FACTOR #50 by Peter David (script) and Valentine De Landro (art); Marvel, 2009, $3.99.

SHINE Reviews, part 1: The Bold and the Beautiful

When thinking about a title for this post, I was thinking along the lines of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, but I haven’t seen an ugly review (yet). Then I thought “The Bold and the Beautiful” works better this time around. Anyway, the first reviews of SHINE have been put online, and here they are (at least, the ones I’m aware of, so far. Do feel free to point me towards others!):

The Bold:

  • Bibliophile Stalker Charles A. Tan boldly assumes that my own story “Transcendence Express” is, more or less, the template or the ‘perfect example’ for a SHINE story. I would like to emphasize that this was not my intention: as an editor I know that an author is too close to her/his own story to judge it objectively, so taking my own story as the ‘mother copy’ for SHINE would be folly. I’ve put up several posts explaining what I was looking for (not to mention a few crazy story ideas), and none of them mentions my on story, very deliberately. Having gotten that off my chest, Charles gives an honest assessment of the anthology, coloured — like that of any reviewer — by his own viewpoints. He calls it a ‘mixed success’, where ‘the good stuff outweighs the bad’.
  • Nihilistic Kid Nick Mamatas — the boldest reviewer at SciFi Wire — boldly proclaims: ‘Sick of the Apocalypse? Check out 16 futures worth living in!’ He takes me to task for being too obtrusively present (while noting that my intros can be easily skipped), he takes some of the stories to task for too much naïveté, and while praising Mari Ness’s story remarks that it has ‘an uninspired little fart of a title: “Twittering in Space” (the actual title is “Twittering the Stars”). But all in all he is positive: “Overall, Shine is utterly worth reading”.
  • Maurizio Del Santo of Fantascienza (warning: Italian language review) is, like Charles and Nick — if the Babelfish translation is any help — both praising and critical, while some of his remarks seem to echo some of Nick’s;

The Beautiful:

That’s why Shine is such a significant – dare I say, historic – anthology. And with a rich diversity of settings and thematic speculation, this is a collection most science fiction fans will undoubtedly embrace.

  • Liz de Jager — who admits to not being a core SF fan — on SFRevu takes the time and trouble to discuss each and every story. She only dislikes two (a score I’m very happy to take), and concludes with:

I’m not the biggest SF fan in the world, but I’ll happily promote this to others who, like me, feel the same way. Here are authors with stories and characters I could relate to. But then, I suspect hardened SF readers out there will devour this with gusto. Jetse de Vries has done a truly remarkable job putting Shine together and I’d like to be signed up to read any follow-up anthology because this one has genuinely broken down some preconceived ideas I’ve had about the genre.

Outreach, people: one of the (many) things I’m aiming for with SHINE is to reach an as wide audience as possible, and it is encouraging that both a very well-read SF reviewer and one whose main preferences lie outside SF both enjoyed SHINE.

STOP PRESSES: Damien G. Walter at the Guardian Booksblog just posted an article on ‘The Bright Side of Science Fiction‘, where SHINE gets mentioned in a long paragraph. A bit too short to be an actual review, but it does tie in with the outreach I mentioned above, to quote:

But if we are to have some some influence over how that change unfolds, isn’t it important that our stories, whether they be in the news, on television screens or in the pages of science fiction novels, fully explore the optimistic possibilities that technology represents?

Amen to that!