Slip, sliding away….

As a first reader for the online speculative fiction publisher Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, I am privileged to read many amazing stories that writers have submitted. We were working through a reading period this past month and one story in particular really resonated with me. (Unfortunately, I cannot talk more about the work – if it is published in a future issue, I’ll update this post and let you know how you can find it).  The story was slotted by the writer into the “slipstream” genre and I got to thinking that I wasn’t aware of the origin of this term.  A quick jaunt on Google revealed that Bruce Sterling, a prolific American SF author and a creator of cyberpunk, coined the word a couple of decades ago. (A personal recommendation for anyone who hasn’t read Sterling’s work: scour around for a copy of The Difference Engine, a steampunk novel that he co-authored with William Gibson and published in 1990). Basically, slipstream stories blur the lines between mainstream (literary) fiction and science fiction, bringing elements of SF into genres of writing that are usually determinedly and decidedly un-SF. (Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is oft-touted as one of the more famous and commonly read examples). I uncovered a document Sterling wrote in 1998, discussing the not-yet-fully-accepted term and its meaning, but the real gem of the missive is the end, where he lists a fairly significant number of what he considered “slipstream” works to that time. Take a look at a copy of the list here.

These are books which SF readers recommend to friends: “This isn’t SF, but it sure ain’t mainstream and I think you might like it, okay?”

~Bruce Sterling, Slipstream (essay)

Do you have any more to add, over two decades later? Goodreads has put up a list of what it considers Popular Slipstream, found here.  One of my favourites on this list is Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane…and I’d argue that more novels by Douglas Coupland belong here, in addition to Girlfriend in a Coma. Have you read any of these slipstream works?

Floral notes: June.

And without further ado…wait, there was ado?

Harvest time is now virtually over for this early season crop, but a few weeks ago, my hubby and I headed out to Edgar Farms (near the town of Innisfail in central Alberta) for their annual Asparagus Festival.  The celebration is held over three weekends in May and June, and features a farm tour, lots of yummy food, and artisans selling their locally-made wares.  The star of the show is, of course, asparagus, which isn’t cultivated very much as a commercial crop here in the province – the family-run Edgar Farms is one of the only producers that I am aware of.  Interpretive signs near the asparagus fields offer fun facts about this fascinating perennial veggie,  tips to successfully grow it, and a history of the farm and its owners. (You can also take a guided wagon tour if you’d rather not walk the property; we chose to walk because I always find you see more if you’re on foot).  One of the highlights of the festival is the opportunity to go out into the asparagus fields to break a spear fresh out of the soil and pop it in your mouth.  And, of  course, all the freshly-harvested asparagus you can bring home from the marketplace…YUM! It’s going to be difficult to wait another whole year for such a delicacy!

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Purple cultivars of asparagus taste a bit sweeter than green ones, and wow! that colour!  Spectacular! (Just like many purple bean cultivars, purple asparagus spears turn green when you cook them, and actually, if you slice open a raw spear, the interior is green).

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A man with more literary awards than you can shake a stick at (as well as a little bauble called the Order of Canada!), renowned Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer was recently in Calgary acting as the visiting writer-in-residence at the Calgary Public Library.  My hubby and I managed to squish in Mr. Sawyer’s highly entertaining lecture “Why Everyone Should Read Science Fiction” on June 2.  In addition to defending his position on Star Trek’s superiority over Star Wars (I’d say the room was divided on that one!), we were treated to an educational and fascinating discussion of the history of science fiction writing  and its focus on social issues.

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Speaking of science fiction, I’ve published writer Geoff Hart’s flash fiction work “Fly Fishing” over at Paper Butterfly.  It’s a story you’ll fall for hook, line, and sinker…guaranteed. Head over there and enjoy!♥

 

 

 

 

Really cool places to get short stories.

If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that I LOOOOOVE all forms of short stories.  I publish flash fiction by many amazing authors over at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, and I occasionally write short stories myself.  (If there were more than 24 hours in a day, I’d write quite a few more!). But I have an especially soft spot for reading short stories…and I particularly adore science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  The more eclectic and inventive, the better!

If you love short stories as much as I do (especially speculative fiction), give these sites a try!  I am a first reader for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, a longtime print subscriber to On Spec (which is based out of Edmonton, in my home province of Alberta), and I’ve had my work published in Polar Borealis and 365 Tomorrows.  Sites such as Daily Science Fiction are fun because you can have them send you one story each day – a treat to go with your morning coffee!  (Every Day Fiction is another source of daily stories, as their publishing schedule permits – and they publish all genres, not just speculative fiction).

On Spec (Canadian; print and digital editions available for a subscription fee)

Polar Borealis (Canadian; online only, free to read but donations welcomed)

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores (must pay to subscribe, but they always have a free sample story up on the website to enjoy; a new feature are the podcasts, which you can listen to for free!)

365 Tomorrows (free to read!)

The Martian Magazine (free to read; The Martian publishes drabbles (fiction of 100 words or less) so you can gobble down several of these in one sitting)

Daily Science Fiction (free; if you give them your email address, they’ll gift you with a new story five days a week!)

Every Day Fiction (free; subscribe by email. New stories are published frequently)

Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction (of course I have to include this one!  Free to read!) – right now, I’m featuring a hilarious gem by Gregg Chamberlain, “Poetic Licence.”

Do you read short stories?  Do you subscribe to any short story magazines, or do you prefer book-form anthologies or collections (one author or multiple)?  Please share any recommendations you may have – it doesn’t matter where in the world you live!  

Book review: Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer.

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Red Planet Blues – Robert J. Sawyer (2013, Viking, Toronto)

Life in the Martian city of New Klondike is a bit akin to the wild west, gritty and shady (albeit with some serious tech).  When exiled private eye Alex Lomax is called upon to work a case of a missing man who has recently undergone a body transfer, he is quickly embroiled in a complicated mystery involving fossilized treasure, a secret diary, and the long-buried facts behind a historical planetary landing.  When people truly aren’t who they appear to be and the body count begins to mount, Lomax has to use all of his street smarts, charm, and brute force to save his own skin and solve the case.  This is crafty science fiction noir with a generous side of humour and a few deft, creative turns.  The occasionally annoying first-person narrative may rankle some readers, and Lomax’ sexist opinions are a turn off (remember, however, that this is an homage to classic noir, where that type of attitude prevailed), but the actual storytelling is entertaining and the pacing is appropriately speedy.  A fun book to kick back with in the lawn chair this summer.

 

Book review: Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.

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James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge – Zoo (2012, Little, Brown and Company, New York)

All of the animals on the planet Earth have suddenly and inexplicably turned into bloodthirsty monsters out for human flesh in this fast, furrious (see what I did there?), and frequently gratuitously gory read from James Patterson.  This is actually the first Patterson book I’ve read (he has about a trillion titles so I don’t know how I managed to miss him so far) and I admit, I chose it because the plotline reminded me of something Michael Crichton would have come up with.  The story is largely formulaic, which I anticipated: we have our wisecracking, slightly irritating (first person) narrator-hero, Jackson Oz, a young biologist possessing a simultaneous lack of credibility and insight no one else seems to possess…that is, until he rescues beautiful ecologist Chloe Tousignant in Africa and the two band together to try to warn mankind.  When things go very, very sideways, it’s up to Oz to try to save the world.  The conclusion might be disappointing to some, but offers an interesting commentary on our high-tech society.  Zoo is an easy, quick read and reasonably entertaining, as long as your expectations are not too high.

There is, of course, a television show based on this book, and no, I haven’t had a chance to watch any episodes yet.  (If you have and you enjoy it – or if you can’t stand it! – let me know in the comments).

Book review: The Dinosaur Hunter by Homer Hickam.

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Homer Hickam – The Dinosaur Hunter (Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2010)

What looks like just another busy summer wrangling cattle at the Square C Ranch for former-homicide-cop-turned-cowboy Mike Wire becomes decidedly more bloody and interesting when a paleontologist and his team discover that the ranch is the site of a cache of dinosaur bones – and someone is willing to kill to get at the extremely valuable fossils.  Sounds like a fascinating read, right? – I was totally sold on the promising combination of murder mystery and dinosaur bones.  And, indeed, the paleontology was the best – and strongest – part of the book.  Unfortunately, Mike’s character grated on me; old enough to have participated in the decimation of two marriages, he spends most of the book alternately chasing after every woman who enters his periphery and pouting when they don’t return his advances (or expansively congratulating himself when they do). His shenanigans seriously cut into the time where he could be solving the case, which you’d expect an ex-police officer to tackle with a bit more aplomb. Furthermore, his cheeky wink-wink first person narrative only solidifies his immaturity and damages his credibility with the reader – at some (very early) point, it’s easy just to stop caring about Mike and his sassy thoughts. (And how many times do we have to be reminded that he’s a vegetarian living on a cattle ranch?).  Most of the other characters are poorly-drawn caricatures and stereotypes (especially the poor women!), and don’t get me started with the whole Russian mob angle.  There is, however, some interesting stuff here with the discussion of land rights and the struggles faced by ranchers in Montana, and the controversy of the recovery and preservation of dinosaur fossils for historical value or to sell for big bucks.  Although this book proved a disappointment (for me), I’ll give Hickam another chance and try some of his YA SF novels when I have a spot for them in the TBR pile.

Book review: The Harvest by Chuck Wendig.

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Chuck Wendig – The Harvest (Book Three of The Heartland Trilogy) (2015, Skyscape)

Broken, battered, and full of fury and fight, the gang’s (mostly) all here, as Cael McAvoy and his friends struggle to survive and marshal forces against their crushing Empyrean overlords in a twisted world driven by the commodity of genetically-engineered corn.  Complications plague them: divided loyalties and politics, love triangles (quadrangles? “Squares” doesn’t have quite the same ring), infection and mutation from the same strain of Blight that affects the corn crops, killer androids, and, oh yeah, a group of seriously frightening female assassins. As in Under the Empyrean Sky and Blightborn,  the other books in the trilogy, Wendig’s world-building is staggering in scope and crazy-inventive, and he doesn’t pull any stylistic punches…he shoves the reader from edge to edge and keeps the action dialed up quite a few notches above what you think you can possibly stand.  It’s a fantastic ride and a fitting finale to this dark, creative trilogy.