Monday, October 8, 2012

Read Just Lately

I have not made it through my regularly scheduled book reading as of this last month-too much work on polishing a pair of novella's Gods in Darkness and The Mad Song but I did read a good number of short stories.

I started out doing my sci-fi research with The Cold Equations, by Tom Goodwin.

The foreword and afterword in the collection of Goodwins other tales extolled the virtues of his story and why many believe it to be the best sci-fi short story ever written.

If that is truly the case, no wonder I lean so far to the fantasy aisle.

It is a good story, but it lacks a certain amount of wonderment, awe, and  even terror. It does not have any of those. It is just what the title says, Cold Equations. This is not a story that I think I will ever read again for enjoyment. It does have something to say about the nature of the universe. It does give a twist on what you expect (spoiler* you do expect a rescue of sorts) and you don't get that rescue.

But best sci-fi story ever? please

Conan and the Witch-Queen of Acheron, by Don Kraar, Gary Kwapisz and Art Nichols

Has the dubious honor of being just about the worst Conan comic I have read yet. Its a shame because I like that title and thusly expect something more out of a Conan story. I actually ordered this from Alibris quite awhile ago, just so I could read/have a copy and when I finally get around to it, we have a story that makes Conan the Destroyer seem deep and well thought out. At no time did the lead character really act like himself and the logic in the story was weak. Early on Conan fights off half the town guard in some idiotic standoff because he paid a tavern girl with Acheron gold.
Then is quickly felled with the old hit from behind trick=lame.
Of course he must go on a quest to show some stupid petty ass king where he found the Acheronian gold.
This all could not be more unlike Conan. Also I can forgive a bad story sometimes with great art-we don't get that either, pretty sub-par art throughout. Any given Savage Sword of Conan has better art and a better story.

The Doom that Came to Sarnath, by H. P. Lovecraft

This is a collection of older Lovecraft tales, many that somewhat predate the usual mythos, and as such are generally regarded as not quite as good.
It does however have some gems, this is where Nyarlathotep dwells and The Nameless City and his Houdini ghost written piece Imprisoned with the Pharaohs.

While perhaps not as good as later tales, this still contained many that I did enjoy and that Lovecraft ambiance is throughout, Some tales like The Other Gods actually struck me as very unlike Lovecraft, but I think it has to do with their being written before he truly found his voice.

The Science Fiction Century, edited by David G.Hartwell

Considering that this is a massive tome (that I have read some stories in) with stories by all the greats of 20th century sci-fi, I doubt there could have been much editing at all in comparison to just sheer selection. I'll bet this has to be the single biggest volume of short stories I own. Many of them I had already read from other collections, but some like Frank Belnap Long's The Hounds of Tindalos were a first.
It was an interesting story that at least hints at horror, wonder, mystery, and terror as opposed to Cold Equations but it did leave me wishing for a little more of something, if anything I would have greatly enjoyed the tale continuing.
Many other writers such as Bradbury and H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis and Poul Anderson will be readily familiar in the collection and those are some tales that I skipped as I skimmed this collection. But this is a comprehensive collection. No doubt I will be returning again soon.

The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells, by Ben Bova

I have owned this book for months having found it in a thrift store and I had not intent of moving it into the TBR pile, but I pulled it out when a friend on facebook said he had been hunting for a Ben Bova writing book and he would pay handsomely for it.

It turned out to be the wrong Bova book, but since I was working on a sci-fi tale I read it. It does have a lot of tips but many are outdated or I had already learned (hard way or not) I did like that it broke up what could be a certain sterility by having some of Bova's tales intermingled as examples of what works-and while I found them somewhat interesting, it isn't going to make me run out and buy more of Bova's work either.

Seems that for me, a lot of the advice was just too late and that's on me not Bova, it probably would be a great book for a writer just starting out.

I am also reading my fellow Space Eldritch contributors tales and it is going to be a great collection-coming October 29th.


Paul R. McNamee said...

Well, The Cold Equations has a nice cover, there.

I think The Doom that Came to Sarnath might have been the first Lovecraft I ever read (listed in the back of the D&D Basic Rules, IIRC.) It wasn't the HPL we'd know later, but it was enough to hook me in.

David J. West said...

Very true Paul, the stories contained are not what would gain Lovecraft his immortality, but then again the first batch of stories of any writer rarely attain that.