I chatted to Patrick Hester recently for the SF Signal podcast, which is now online. We talk about steampunk, cover art, Going to the Moon, The Apex Book of World SF and lots of other stuff. Warning: quite a lot of bitching about steampunk follows!
And, for no particular reason, a picture – it’s funny because it’s true!
Photo’s from a pad thai place in Vientiane’s Talat Sao, or Morning Market
Jesus and the Eightfold Path is reviewed in Abyss & Apex:
What happens when Lavie Tidhar, an Israeli and Jewish author, visits the story of Jesus with Zen koans and a Kung-fu movie sensibility? What happens is a romp.
Another reviewer called this book, Kick-A** for the Lord, and I’d have to agree. Jesus and the Eightfold path is a mash-up of the story of Christ and martial arts movies. The Monkey King becomes one of the Three Wise Men. Each chapter starts with a familiar Biblical quote from the Christmas and Easter stories, and sort of goes downhill from there – but in a good way. It is fitting that the cover looks like a seventies Kung Fu movie poster, and it all leads up to The Big Fight Scene where the Chosen One throws the money changers out of the Jewish temple. Everything after that is simply the denouement.
Add a star if you’re a fan of martial arts movies, and add another one (believe it or not) if you’re a Christian. As Gardner Dozois remarked, it’s great fun.
And I joined the Skiffy and Fanty show to talk about Osama, global terrorism, opium and a bunch of other stuff – you can listen to it here.
Glad to say my latest story to be up at Escape Pod is The Insurance Agent, first published in Interzone. It is read by Christian Brady.
The bar was packed and everyone was watching the Nixon-Reagan match. The fighters were reflected off the bar’s grainy wood countertop and the tables’ gleaming surfaces and seemed to melt as they flickered down the legs of the scattered chairs. The bar was called the Godhead, which had a lot to do with why I was there. It was a bit of an unfair fight as Reagan was young, pre-presidency, circa-World War Two, while Nixon was heavy-set, older: people were exchanging odds and betting with the bar’s internal gaming system and the general opinion seemed to be that though Reagan was in better shape Nixon was meaner.
I wasn’t there for the match.
The Godhead was on Pulau Sepanggar, one of the satellite islands off Borneo, hence nominally under Malaysian federal authority but in practice in a free zone that had stronger ties to the Brunei Sultanate. It was a convenient place to meet, providing easy access to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and, of course, Singapore, which resented the island’s role as a growing business centre yet found it useful at the same time.
She wore a smart business suit and a smart communication system that looked like what it was, which was a custom-made gold bracelet on her left arm. She wore smart shades and I was taking a bet that she wasn’t watching the fight. She was drinking a generic Cola but there was nothing generic about her. I slid into a chair beside her and waited for her shades to turn transparent and notice me.
‘Drink, Mr. Turner?’
I liked the name Turner. It was Anglo-Saxon generic, a mid-level executive’s name, white as beige. ‘Call me James,’ I said. I liked James too. You could tell what a James Turner did just by hearing his name. The rest of me was tailor-made for the name, had been for some time: I had the kind of tan that suggested I had been East for just long enough to have acquired it, black hair that was short but not too short and had a decent but not overly-expensive cut, pale blue eyes behind shades that cost a lot of money to look like a knock-off.
There was a suggestion of a smile in the corners of her mouth and she said, ‘I don’t think I will.’
‘Mr. Turner, then,’ I said. ‘One name’s good as another.’ – continue reading, or listen in audio!
I had a chance to chat to John and Patrick of the Functional Nerds podcast recently, and episode 41 is now online.
We chat about Angry Robot Books, The Bookman, Tel Aviv, Israel, South Africa, Jewish vampires, Transylvania, golems, the World SF Blog, Charles A. Tan, anthologies, Apex Books, Western v Eastern cultural perceptions, poker, Casino Royale, James Bond & Twitter.
Yeah, poker! Anyway, check it out – it’s about 50 minutes of me rambling on…
The day was cold and bright like a Nazi scientist. The night was different, haunted by invisible moans and the taste of ash rising from the crematorium. It filled the huts and choked men in their sleep, making them call out aloud.
Elias cherished the few moments before his emaciated body fell into exhausted sleep. As he lay against his fellow prisoners, five of them crammed into the tiny space, his mind took flight from the camp, like a bird rising on damp, hot air, as elusive as freedom.
To make Antipasto di Melanzane you must first fry the eggplant in a good lug of olive oil. Slice the dark, round vegetable (as dark as the night around the camp) into thick slices and again, into long, thin slivers. Fry in batches and remove with a perforated spoon. Forget, as you are doing that, the corpses collected from the showers, the blood around their nails where they struggled and tried to dig their way against the stone walls. Instead, peel and crush a clove of garlic. Add it to the oil and smell its frying, savour the way it leaves a promise of its taste on your tongue. Add three peeled, chopped tomatoes, a little water, and let it simmer. Imagine that, and perhaps you could sleep, lean back against Menachem, who was Polish, feel David’s weight resting against your chest (he was from Hungary, and worked in the extraction of gold teeth). Perhaps he could sleep. His body craved sleep the way, once, it needed cigarettes. – listen to the story.
My latest audio story is “Set Down This”, read by Elan Ressel on Pseudopod. Check it out (did I say political?)
On my brother’s computer, a video file shows an American fighter plane pinpointing a group of men in Iraq.
‘Do it?’ the pilot says.
‘Ten seconds to impact.’
Where the men have been there is a huge explosion, and black smoke covers the grainy grey streets. ‘Dude,’ the pilot says.
I have no faces and no names to put to the men. The black smoke must have contained the atoms of their flesh, their bones (though bones are hardy), vaporized sweat, burnt eyebrows and pubic hair and nose hair (unless they used a trimmer, as I do), in short, the atoms of their being. Later, I think, one could find, lying in the street, a tooth or two, the end of a finger that had somehow survived, fragments of bone, a legless shoe. These men are nothing to me. They are pixels on a screen, a peer-shared digital file uploaded from sources unknown, provenance suspect, whose only note of authenticity is that young pilot’s voice when the smoke rises and he says, quietly – ‘Dude.’
It began, the way these things usually begin, with a Proposal.
This is Vanuatu. A Y-shaped archipelago of islands somewhere in the nowhere, South Pacific Ocean, home to Michener’s mythical Bali Rai, coconut plantations, coconut crabs, a few World War II downed planes, a sunken troop-carrier, volcanoes and coral reefs: its Internet domain suffix is .vu, its capital is the distant Port Vila, described by residents and visitors alike as a slightly dodgy Australian resort town, and known by the wider electronic world primarily for not having certain kinds of laws which make placing off-shore servers there profitable. There is a foreign volunteer for every thousand people on the islands, making Vanuatu the most volunteer-intensive country in the world. Welcome to Vanuatu! AusAid, Peace Corps, VSO, VSA, CUSO, JICA; EU, the Australian High Commission, the Alliance française, the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Japanese, only the Arabs and the Israelis have so far forsaken Vanuatu – what is the nature of your project? What benefit does it have to the community? What is the amount of community buy-in? Please specify expected outcome and sustainability. How much do you need? What sort of materials?
It began, the way things in Sola usually begin, if they are to begin at all, in the Market House.
My story “The Secret Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is now live as a podcast at Escape Pod, read by Stephen Eley.
It was afternoon, after school has ended for the day. Sash has been working in the hydroponics gardens, helping the adults with the delicate work of picking the buds. It was flowering time, and the ganja plants were at the end of their cycle.
It was then, with her hands sticky with resin and her skin tingling pleasantly from the work and the heat, with Mama Kingston’s deep, melodious voice saying ‘a good harvest, child, a good harvest’ with a throaty chuckle, when Sash felt about herself the presence of Jah in everything she did and was profoundly happy: it was then that Sash discovered, for the first time, the existence of the Secret. - click to listen to the story!