Merry Christmas everyone.Â I’ve heard that us non-Christians are supposed to prefer “Happy Holidays” but find the whole issue extremely silly.Â I like the kid in the manger story, the guy in the red suit, the music.Â As I was doing my morning run these last few weeks I’ve been air whistling “Silent Night” or “Come All Ye Faithful.”Â It’s my favorite winter solstice celebration.Â Days are shortâ€”be generous and happy.Â Happy holidays?Â Give me a break.
Publishers Weekly December 21, 2009
Tails of Wonder and Imagination Edited by Ellen Datlow. Night Shade (www.nightshadebooks.com), $15.95 paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-59780-170-6
Few things alarm the experienced reader more than the prospect of a science fiction, fantasy, or mystery book that involvesâ€”or worse, fetishizesâ€”cats. This reprint anthology is the exception, an assortment of 40 stories by authors who are for the most part willing to take cats on their own ground. Datlow avoids the trap of a too-narrow premise: though there appears to be a slight bias toward horror, the stories are various within that field, from Jack Ketchum’s ghost story â€œReturnsâ€� to Michaela Roessner’s highly scientific â€œMieze Corrects an Incomplete Representation of Realityâ€� and Edward Bryant’s brilliantly repellent â€œBean Bag Cat.â€� Other tales are amusing, like Lawrence Block’s â€œThe Burglar Takes a Cat,â€� or gently sentimental, like Dennis Danvers’s â€œHealing Benjamin.â€� This is that rarity of rarities: an anthology of cat stories worth reading. (Feb.)
I’ve met Peter Straub at ICFA and heard him read a few times from work in progress.Â He’s a very nice man and a terrific writer, so I thought I’d try one of his books even though I don’t usually read horror.Â I loved this novel for the writing, the characters, the interesting and unusual plot, the clever narrative strategies, and its humane and intelligent themes.Â Straub is a true master.Â Let this be a lesson to me.Â If I had ten bucks for every time I’ve told someone on a plane when asked “I’m a science fiction writer” to receive the answer “I don’t like science fiction,” I could buy a round trip ticket to San Francisco.Â My own “I don’t like horror fiction” has kept me away from a terrific writer.Â Truth is there’s something in every genre I’ve ever read to admire and enjoy, and all genres produce disappointing predictable work more often than not.Â I can’t wait to read more of Straub’s work, even though “I don’t like horror.”
As I watch the last few episodes of Dollhouse, and V and FlashForward go on a lengthy hiatus probably headed toward cancellation, I can’t help lamenting the good/bad state of sf on TV.Â While most recent sf films are shallow special effects monstrosities, TV sf has been working toward increasing sophistication.Â One of the best was the predictably canceled Terminator series.Â All of them achieve a depth of characterization and sf complexity by having an ongoing plot instead of some little weirdness conveniently resolved in 45 minutes or so (minus commercials).Â The problem with the more sophisticated approach, of course, is that it becomes increasingly difficult to acquire new viewers.Â No new viewers = cancellation.Â Perhaps, once that more and more viewers consume their TV via the web this might not be such a problem.Â If you watch on Hulu, you can pick up a series like Lost from the beginning and ride it on through to the end at any time.Â From what I’ve seen so far, V probably deserves to die, but no series with a continuous plot line can thrive being absent for months at a time.Â Reality crap, dozens of CSI and Law & Order clones make it but bore me to tears.Â Good sf appears, then is gone.Â Sigh.