- The End of an Era: Locus Magazine Is Moving October 8, 2015Locus is moving out of the Oakland hills and into San Leandro. If you've ever visited the house where they had their headquarters (or even if you haven't) you should check out these staged photographs from the realtor, with their weird retro-sixties furniture and some really ugly-ass chairs.When Charles Brown lived there the house was very different. The living room had wide, comfortable Morris chairs, art from nearly every major sf artist on the walls and shelves, and a battalion of Hugo rockets over the fireplace. The bedrooms had been turned into offices, and the bathroom was a postage station. The basement had been carved back into the hillside to house the massive book collection, with rolling shelves like the ones libraries use. (The books I remember most were a first edition of The Lord of the Rings and some autographed Heinleins.) Charles was a first-rate cook, and the house always smelled like a combination of books and the delicious meal he had just prepared.We used to talk long into the night about science fiction. (Another thing he had was an excellent selection of drinks.) He loved to explain things and give advice, some of which was even good. And there were parties when guests came to town, or for holidays, or just for the hell of it.It was weird to visit after he'd died. He used to joke that he wanted to be stuffed and put in a corner so he could continue to oversee everything, and in fact his presence was still felt -- some people said they could almost see him.And now they're moving. Will Charles's spirit go with them? I guess we'll find out.
- Ad for Ace Doubles, 1953 October 6, 2015
- Short Reviews of Books of Interest: Europe in Autumn, by Dave Hutchinson October 4, 2015Europe in Autumn has a terrific premise. Flu has ravaged Europe, killing between twenty and forty million people, and most countries have broken up into smaller pieces, polities or duchies or city-states. There is even a country located in four buildings of an apartment complex, which shrinks to two buildings when half of it secedes and goes to war with the other half. Also, there's a train line that runs straight through Europe, from Lisbon to Chukotka in eastern Siberia.A courier system has sprung up to take people and things across borders, and a man named Rudi is recruited to join it. He completes his trial mission easily enough -- it consists of going to another country and bringing back the message "Fifty-seven" -- but after that he runs into difficulties. He's arrested on his next mission, and even worse things happen to him on some of the others. At this point I began to wonder if the tag-line on the cover -- "No border can hold him" -- was somehow meant ironically.Then he's double-crossed, and he turns against the couriers. Suddenly he becomes super-efficient, stealing funds, recruiting others to help him, and, yes, slipping through borders undetected.I liked a lot of this book, and disliked almost as much, which is a weird feeling to come away with. I liked that most of it took place in Eastern Europe -- Rudi is Estonian, working in Poland, initially -- and away from the more usual settings. I liked the tours through various countries, which seemed realistic if a bit ultra-violent, and I liked the train across Europe. I liked the author's voice, which delights in pointing out the Kafkaesque absurdities of the system, and I liked the family of mapmakers at the end.But I never got a strong sense of Rudi, or of any of the other characters, and there are only two women in the entire book, one for Rudi and one for his brother.* And I'm still unsure as to how much Rudi screwed up and how much was part of a conspiracy against him, or why there was a conspiracy to begin with. There's a sequel, of course, so more will probably be made clear later.* Whoops -- forgot about the woman who trains Rudi as a chef, Pani Stasia. Okay, three women.
- Short Reviews of Books of Interest: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie October 2, 2015So I've been reading more science fiction and fantasy lately. I blame Mike Glyer's File770, which I started reading to keep up with events around the Hugo Awards, and which has turned into, among other things, a place to recommend novels and short stories, especially those eligible for the Hugo this year. So… have a review. Have a few of them. Here's the first one.I liked Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights to begin with. It has Rushdie's idiosyncratic writing, funny, thoughtful, sometimes profound, along with his seemingly effortless way of integrating magic within the real world. A philosopher in Al Andulus, Ibn Rushd (or Averroes), takes up with a jinnia, a female jinn, named Dunia, and together they have dozens of children. Descendants of these children scatter all over the world, all of them with traces of their ancestor's magic. (The New Yorker ran the first chapter, about Ibn Rushd and the jinnia, as a short story, and I was delighted to learn that the narrative continued from there, because The New Yorker version had absolutely no plot, just set-up. I'd been starting to think that The New Yorker has no idea what a story is, and this just confirmed it for me. Of course thousands of their subscribers, not to mention critics and professors all over the world, would disagree with me. I'm okay with that.)After this the novel shifts to the present, or a little after. The doors between our world and Peristan, where the jinni live, reopen, and a storm awakens powers within Dunia's children. Then other jinni, Dunia's enemies, slip between the two worlds.And here's where the novel lost me. It turns simplistic, a war between good and evil, with Dunia's children fighting Dunia's enemies. (I was about to say that it's comic-book-like, but there are any number of comic books more complex and nuanced than this.) And despite the fact that the world is being destroyed by these battles, Rushdie never shows us any of the ordinary people affected, just those with powers. It all seems to be happening at one remove, a sanitized version of the end of the world.
- New Review at the B&NR October 1, 2015Here's a little survey of SF featuring "dirty jobs."http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/tomorrows-dirty-jobs
- New Review at LOCUS ONLINE September 26, 2015Rushdie, fantasy writer:http://www.locusmag.com/Reviews/2015/09/paul-di-filippo-reviews-salman-rushdie/