Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Red, Green and Blue

About a month ago I decided to take a small break from the classics and tackle Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy instead. Over all it was an interesting experience. I enjoyed the hard approach to science fiction, and the fact that the science part of the equation is pretty much up to date was a nice change of pace from the ’50s take on the future I had been dealing with lately (the books were published between 1993 and 1996). As many have said before me, reading this series comes as close to going to Mars as most of us are likely to get, in fact at times it is a little too detailed for my liking.

The books chronicle the colonization and terraforming of Mars (Red refers to the original surface, Green refers to the appearance of plants and Blue to the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface) as viewed by the original colonists and some of their descendants, and to say that the author has done his homework in that regard would be putting it mildly. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books, though I have some problems with the third one. So what went wrong? Continue reading Red, Green and Blue

Crash and Burn

Yesterday I finished reading J.G. Ballard’s Crash. This is technically transgressive fiction, so the fact that the author goes out of his way to shock, disgust and horrify doesn’t really come as much of a shock. The problem is that I wasn’t so much shocked, disgusted and horrified as I was bored.

Yes, I realize that the book is almost thirty years old by now (it was first published in 1973), and the amount of violence and gore we are exposed to on a daily basis has increased to such an extent since then that it may well have served to lessen its effectiveness, but as far as I am concerned that is not the real problem. No, that problem goes back to something far simpler than that: call me old-fashioned, but there are some things I expect of a novel in terms of plot and character development, and it is in that regard that this book fails to deliver.

Does this mean that the idea lacks merit? Nowhere near it. In fact I realize that within its style –one I freely admit is not my favorite– the book is well written. My problem has to do with its length. As far as I am concerned, the idea is an interesting one, and Crash could have been a truly fascinating short story, twenty or maybe even fifty pages long… only it isn’t. It is a 224 pages novel that seems to drag on forever.

I spent one and a half afternoons reading this thing, and as far as I am concerned I would like a refund for one of them, the other half I would consider well spent.

Let’s tell the future

While in the midst of a classic SF binge the other day I wound up reading Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the book deals, among other things, with the impact on Earth of the arrival of a protective alien species, known simply as ‘the Overlords’, that essentially reshapes human society.

As is the case with most visions of the future dating back more than fifty years (the book was first published in 1953) this one obviously gets quite a few things wrong… but I was amazed by how many details it actually gets right. Things like the advent of effective contraception and DNA testing, the ease of modern surveillance and the impact of our media saturated culture on our lives (to say nothing of our waistlines)… only we have managed to do it ourselves, no alien Overlords required at all. Continue reading Let’s tell the future

Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind (excerpt)

Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind
A wish, a child, a betrayal, a death… and the barriers begin to crumble (click on the image to purchase).

Title: Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind
Author: Clea Saal
Genre: Fantasy/Pseudo Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Page count: 372 pages
Price: $17.95

Chapter 1: Wish upon a Star

The night was more than a little chilly as Sylvia made her way home after a long day at work. Her day had been particularly unremarkable and, seeing how all of her days were, almost by definition, quite unremarkable, that was saying something. She got up every morning at exactly the same time, got dressed, had a cup of coffee and two slices of toast for breakfast as she listened to the day’s forecast, went to work and then, after eight very long and boring hours, she went home, always walking the same streets and seeing the same people at exactly the same time. Continue reading Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind (excerpt)

Soulless (excerpt)

No sex, no aliens, just a chilling possibility… because the end has already begun (click on the image to purchase).

Title: Soulless
Author: Clea Saal
Genre: Philosophical Horror
Format: Paperback
Page count: 252 pages
ISBN: 978-1475260359
Price: $13.95

Chapter 1

He woke up, covered in sweat, but the dream, the nightmare, kept calling him back. His father was there before he knew it, holding him, comforting him as if he were afraid. Continue reading Soulless (excerpt)

Laira (excerpt)

X or Y? Utopia or dystopia? In a world in which death has become a thing of the past the answer may well depend on X or Y (click on the image to purchase).

Title: Laira
Author: Clea Saal
Genre: Science Fiction/Novella
Format: Paperback
Page count: 118


Laira 4 was overwhelmed when the 5 was placed in her arms for the first time. She had seen babies before, of course, but the mere notion that something so tiny could actually be a human being had always amazed her. She was reassured by the presence of the others, all five of them were together, as they were meant to be. It had been almost thirteen years since they had had a 5. Granted, there would be one only for a few years, but that didn’t really matter. Continue reading Laira (excerpt)

Six months

Six months ago today I lost my friend of almost fourteen years. Yes, he was ‘just a cat’ and I should be over it by now, yadda-yadda-yadda… Well, I’m not. I still miss the little critter, so you get stuck with a bunch of photos (don’t worry, I don’t intend to make a habit of this).

At play
At play
An afternoon nap
An afternoon nap
Like cats and dogs
Like cats and dogs
Into the distance
Into the distance

Will someone read them?

Here I am, waiting for my books’ proofs, itching to hold them in my hands for the first time and see what they look like.

I remember when they were nothing but vague ideas in the back of my mind. I also remember seeing them take a more concrete form and grow up to be files… and now they are going to come to occupy a space in the physical world. It’s a big step, and yet I wonder if they are really ready. Continue reading Will someone read them?

Virtual Bookworm or CreateSpace?

For well over ten years I have been maintaining a comparison of Print On Demand (POD) publishers. In those years the number of choices has expanded, new publishers have come along, while others have gone out of business, leaving quite a few authors in the lurch in the process. Through the years my first choice has remained constant: Virtual Bookworm… and yet when the time came for me to release my latest books I decided to go a different route, why? Continue reading Virtual Bookworm or CreateSpace?

Rethinking the site and hard choices

After thinking it over for a while I have  finally decided to move the guide to POD to the ‘Old Stuff’ section, even though it is one of the site’s best known features. No, that does not mean I am going to abandon it, but it does mean it will no longer be a focal point, and while the comparison itself will still be updated, it is time I faced the fact that the articles in that section are looking hopelessly dated. Other than that, stay tuned!

Talking to myself

And here we go, after fighting it long and hard I finally got around to setting up a blog to share some of the ideas that are rattling in my brain. This is my first post, one that is unlikely to be read, but hey, we all have to start somewhere!

As for other forms of social media, I will probably be joining Twitter in the near future, but that is the extent of it (I am a fairly private person so, no matter what happens, I’m not going to talk your ear off with constant updates).