Monday, March 03, 2014

Mini Review 2 - The Martian War, Red Planet Blues, Old Mars

It seems Mars has been getting a lot of attention over the past year or so. Every time I turn around, it's as though there's a new media headline from the Mars Rover or Curiosity robots, or updates about candidate selections for the much-hyped Mars One Project reality show/possible-colonization-attempt. Then there are the books.

Mars has been a staple of science fiction since the beginning, and, while there are occasional years that are dry spells where you don't see much on the shelves, it feels like there was a burst of stories focussing on the red planet recently. Or, at least, there were a bunch that caught my attention.

For that reason, I've decided to dedicate this edition of the Mini Review to a trio of books that I went through last year, starring Mars: Kevin J. Anderson's The Martian War, Robert J. Sawyer's Red Planet Blues, and the Old Mars anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

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What if author H. G. Wells didn't completely invent The War of the Worlds as a work of fiction? Imagine a young Wells and a gang of real historical figures like Percival Lowell, along with fictional characters come to life - such as Dr. Moreau - racing against time and through space to thwart the Martian menace before it's too late for Earth.

That's the basis for Kevin J. Anderson's The Martian War, a rollicking mash-up that's reminiscent of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - volume 2, without the dark overtones to the characters or plot; the explicitly, visceral brutality; or the gritty feel to the setting. Instead, Anderson just gives us a fun adventure that a reader can jog through fairly quickly without feeling unsettled - like a walk through an amusement park funhouse, rather than Moore & O'Neill's tour of a morgue.

You may remember the War of the Worlds - Global Dispatches anthology that Anderson edited back in '96, and, if so, The Martian War certainly makes a good companion piece to it, or, at least, a sort of solo retake on the idea that has a similar feel.

It's not a book I'll be rereading on a regular basis, but it's certainly worth keeping and I'll revisit it someday. And, it's a book that I'd recommend buying if you're looking for a quick read to take on a plane flight.

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I really wanted to like Robert J. Sawyer's Red Planet Blues. I enjoy most of Sawyer's fare, including the novella "Identity Theft" that forms the basis of this book, but unfortunately, drawing it out into a longer form just didn't seem to work.

The noir-style story follows Alex Lomax, a private detective on a Mars colony where the only real industry left is fossil-hunting, and the population is a mix of those searching for the elusive motherlode of long-lost Martian life, and those trying to make money off of them - one way or another. Those with enough money get themselves uploaded into nearly impervious robot bodies, or buy flights home, while those who don't try to get their share any way they can. Lomax finds himself caught in a mystery involving the discovery of the biggest and best fossil bed in history, and dealing with people who are willing to kill to get their hands on it.

Problem is, as hard as the novel tried, it just wasn't as gripping as it wanted to be, and didn't have any real depth. Remember that line from The Lord of the Rings where Bilbo, having possessed the One Ring for too long, says he feels like butter that's been spread thin over too much bread? That's what Red Planet Blues felt like. And, no matter how many new twists and turns Sawyer tried to jam into it, the story just didn't get any more substantial - I never escaped the feeling that it just should have ended a lot sooner. I didn't really care about Lomax - he had the trappings of a classic gumshoe character, but there was no real depth to him or reason to care that he came out on top, instead of one of the secondary characters who occasionally throw their support behind him. It was like he was more of a caricature than a character. And even some of the supporting cast members weren't as believable as they needed to be... a big-time player on the fossil-dealing scene who's said to have connections with bad people, but who goes into a dangerous situation in the desert without bringing some hired muscle for support? I don't think so.

In the end, I think it would have been a better book if Sawyer had just started from scratch. Rather than trying to inflate an existing novella, he could have used his considerable talents to write an entirely new story with a different character in this setting. As it stands, the story that he has (re)written for us is one that I didn't hate, but, unfortunately, it's one that I can't recommend either.

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Old Mars. Of the three books in this Mini Review, this is the one I liked the most. Liked? No. Loved.

This herd of stories that George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois managed to corral is just bursting hugely with so much energy and wild imagination that it needs its own soundtrack, and I'm not talking some safe, run-of-the-mill soundtrack from most films these days; I'm talking about something massive and intricate and brain-slapping, like the operatic tidal wave Basil Poledouris threw at us for the original Conan the Barbarian, or James Horner's raucous aural assault from Krull (as terrible as the movie was, you have to admit, the soundtrack kicked ass). But I digress. Old Mars is one fucking great collection.

These are stories in the vein of Wells, Burroughs, Brackett, Bradbury, Wollheim, Lewis, and others from the good old days of SF when the science was still sketchy and Mars and the rest of the universe were wide open to possibilities; where authors could share imaginations of ancient civilizations in the dust just one planet over. This is a collection of stories where, because the editors have given the writers and the readers permission to ignore the hard science of today, there is unbridled energy and a boundless potential for wonder.

And you needn't look any farther than Martin's introductory essay to find an expression of that wonder that SF used to have, and the deep longing for a return to it that's felt by so many of us. Hell, Martin's intro is so good, it deserves to be published and honoured on its own - one of the reasons why I nominated it for the "Best Related Work" Hugo this year.

The book pulls together stories from a range of talented authors, including Matthew Hughes, Ian McDonald, Allen M. Steele, Mike Resnick, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Michael Moorcock, and others, and nearly every one of them is really, really good. In fact, the only one of the bunch that I could have done without was Joe R. Lansdale's "King of the Cheap Romance", which felt like an overly-long and poorly-executed young adult piece. I think the collection would have been much stronger if it would have instead had a story like Camille Alexa's beautiful and heart-rending "Seeds of the Lotus" from Ace Jordyn, Calvin D. Jim, and Renee Bennett's Shanghai Steam anthology (which I would also highly recommend).

Go out and buy this book. If you can still get it in hardcover, it's worth every penny. If you've gotta take a softcover or e-book version instead, that's fine too. Just buy it, read it, and treasure it - treasure it the way you would if you managed to catch a half-understood glimpse of a Martian in the shadow of a ruined wall mostly buried by sand in some forgotten corner of the red planet.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Good Night to The Red Knight

I hate to give up on a book.

It means I've wasted time reading a few chapters or however many pages of something that wasn't interesting, entertaining or educational, when I could have been reading something else.

It means I've wasted money that could have been spent on something else.

It means that because I haven't finished it, I can't even add it to my What the bookworm just ate list.

And - sometimes, anyway - it leaves me with the nagging worry that if I'd persevered just a little longer, I would have got to the part in the story that would make it all worth while.

Only sometimes, though. Usually, it's pretty clear after a couple of chapters whether there's any hope for the thing, and, if a book hasn't been able to engage me by then, it's unlikely it ever will, and regret fizzles pretty quickly.

Miles Cameron's The Red Knight - Book 1 of the Traitor Son Cycle is just such a book.

On the surface, it had elements that should have worked: knights and mercenaries, deaths at the hands (or claws) of nasty critters, a land on the edge of a threatening magical wilderness, and dragons - my favourite mythical creature of all! - or, at least, their stunted cousins the wyverns. And it's written by a Canadian, and I like to support local authors when I can.

Unfortunately, The Red Knight was just too boring for me to be bothered finishing. After two chapters and 50-odd pages, nothing really happens except lengthy descriptions of clothing and armor, and a whole catalogue of characters exchanging typical and utterly forgettable dialogue. Sure, there's a brief bit about a bear-baiting session that goes wrong, and a subsequent tussle with the beast, but that's about it.

Even the opening scene, with the titular Red Knight's cursory investigation into a slaughter at a farm, is detached to the point of being offhand and blase. Sure, we're dealing with a character who's a sellsword with no real emotional involvement in what's happened to the victims, but if the author can't imbue the description of a killing ground with palpable menace and horror, then something's wrong. Ultimately, it's a scene where nothing much happens except mercenaries kind of looking around at stuff. But there's a huge difference between just looking and thinking about something that happened a while ago, and actually showing us the action as it happens. This rather passive passage is really not a great way to set the pace of a novel, much less an entire series.

This especially bodes ill when you consider the sheer size of this monster door-stopper of a book. If it can't engage the reader in the opening scene - a setting of violence - how can it possibly sustain interest throughout the rest of its bloated length (or its sequels). Consider other long books that launched heavy-weight series: the prologue of George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones kicks off immediately with urgency and a sense of men being hunted - even though they're only sitting around a campfire - as one of the rangers from the Night's Watch tries to get the rest of his band to abandon the wilderness for their fort - a prologue that ends with the rangers ambushed and fighting a losing battle against the White Walkers and their undead soldiers. Then there's the prologue to Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World: Lews Therin, having just killed everyone around him, blows the shit out of the top of the Dragonmount. Action. Big stakes. Characters who you're immediately drawn to. Stuff actually happening that compels the reader to keep reading. The Red Knight? Not so much.

So, The Red Knight will be chucked in my "to donate" box, unfinished and, ultimately, unremembered. Pity.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Nominations for the 2014 Hugos

Ask any crowd of fanboys what they think about awards that are given for books/TV/movies/whatever, and you're liable to get at least a dozen answers about whether a trophy is useful to consider as a recommendation when buying a book or comic, or when deciding which show or flick to watch; or about the merits or flaws of judging or voting systems; what a year's win says about fans and fan culture; whether a work that's singled-out as a year's best will actually stand the test of time and become canon; or whether we should even have them.

For my part, in general, I like the idea of a community recognizing the top achievements of writers, artists and others in a given year. Sure, there can be flaws in selection systems, and yeah, it's not uncommon for people to be of the opinion that more deserving works have been overlooked, but no system is perfect, and, at the end of the day, I think we, as a community, should take every opportunity we can to applaud creative people who've done terrific work, and, along with reviews and recommendations, awards are a good way of doing that.

So, as part of my preparations for this summer's trip to the UK for Loncon3/Worldcon72, today I sent in my nominations for this year's Hugo Awards. While I certainly can't claim to have read or watched everything that was released in 2013, of those SF works that I have consumed, the ones I've nominated are ones that I feel strongly about.

Here are my nominations (in no particular order within their categories):

Best Novel:
  • Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson
  • River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Son of Destruction by Kit Reed
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest
If I had to bet, I'd guess that given his world-wide stature, the intense buzz, and the effect of this year's reading/signing tour, Gaiman's probably got the inside track (at least of these books, but possibly compared to the entire genre's output last year as well). With good reason - TOATEOTL is one hell of a good read. But so are the others I've suggested for consideration. I've previously talked about how much I loved River of Stars and Son of Destruction here on the blog, and tweeted about Fiddlehead and Burning Paradise, both excellent reads as well. As much as I'd be happy if Gaiman makes it to the final ballot and wins, I think I'd be happier if one of the others secures a win without the benefit of a media juggernaut.


Best Novella:
Didn't nominate anything for this one. I don't read as many mags as I should, and, as far as short story anthologies go, I read for the enjoyment of the stories, not to sit there and do a word count. Sure, I could probably look up eligibility lists online, but that's really more effort than I want to go through. If I like a shorter work, I'll nominate it for the Short Story category and let the judges sort out whether it belongs in one of the longer-form categories or not.


Best Novelette:
Same as above.


Best Short Story:
This category is unfair - especially in a year when I've read a bunch of anthologies, in addition to whatever magazines I've picked up - because there are always so many good short stories out there. Five seems too few to nominate! Anyway, here goes:
  • "Nocturne" by E. L. Chen, from Masked Mosaic - Canadian Super Stories
  • "The Secret History of the Intrepids" by D. K. Latta, from Masked Mosaic - Canadian Super Stories
  • "The Creep" by Michael S. Chong, from Masked Mosaic - Canadian Super Stories
  • "The Queen of the Night's Aria" by Ian McDonald, from Old Mars
  • "The Ugly Duckling" by Matthew Hughes, from Old Mars

Best Related Work:
Just one nomination in this category, because this intro/essay was so truly exceptional, it's in a class by itself, in my opinion:
  • "Introduction: Red Planet Blues" by George R. R. Martin, from Old Mars

Best Graphic Story:
  • Kill Shakespeare volume 3 - The Tide of Blood by Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery, and Andy Belanger
  • Nemo - Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):
There was a lot of garbage on the big screen this year, and I'll be immensely disappointed if that enormous shitpile Star Trek - Into Darkness gets any love; same with the lame ducks Man of Steel and Iron Man 3. But there were a quartet of films that I found pretty entertaining that are worth of the Hugo nod:
  • This Is The End
  • The World's End
  • Pacific Rim
  • The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):
As usual with TV, there's a lot that flickers briefly on the radar, but, though entertaining, is ultimately forgettable. Here are some exceptions - stories that really stayed with me, especially because they were so very good:
  • An Adventure in Space and Time
  • Doctor Who - The Day of the Doctor
  • Game of Thrones - And Now His Watch Is Ended
  • Game of Thrones - The Rains of Castermere

Best Editor (Short Form):
  • Claude Lalumiere (for Masked Mosaic - Canadian Super Stories)
  • George R. R. Martin (for Old Mars)
  • Gardner Dozois (for Old Mars)

Best Editor (Long Form):
Sadly, I've gotta confess, I don't give the editors of novels nearly as much credit as they deserve. I've always just concentrated on the writers, so I can't really nominate anyone here.


Best Professional Artist:
  • Andy Belanger for Kill Shakespeare

Best Semiprozine:
Unfortunately, I just haven't read enough semiprozines this year to make any nominations.


Best Fanzine:
I would have nominated SF Signal in a heartbeat for this one, because, for years, it's been the number one go-to destination for all things related to speculative fiction. However, "the bagel overlord" and his gang have decided to abstain from consideration this year, in order to allow others to have a shot at the award - a truly classy move which makes SF Signal even more cool. But, the upshot is that I don't really have any other fanzine sites that I'd like to nominate, because I just haven't made enough time over the past year to read more of them. Big oversight on my part, I know, because the geek-o-verse is populated with a lot of interesting folks running their own cool sites, but time's at a premium, so, here we are.


Best Fancast:
  • The Three Hoarsemen (Sure, they're only got a couple of episodes under their belts, but Fred Kiesche, Jeff Patterson, and John Stevens are just so damn entertaining and knowledgable that they deserve this award. So much so, that I'm deliberately not going to nominate SF Signal's flagship podcast, the SF Signal Podcast - which is also pretty enjoyable - just to give the newcomers a better shot. Strategic nominating, people! Strategic nominating!)
  • Caustic Soda (They don't always talk about SF-related things, but when they do, they do it well. Sodajerks of the world, unite!)

Best Fan Writer:
When I've got time to read fan articles, as good as many of them are, I don't think I follow any one individual closely enough to really nominate one over the others, so I'm taking a pass on filling-in any names in this category.


Best Fan Artist:
Similar to the above excuse. I've seen stuff I've liked, but nothing specifically new to 2013 that's flat-out arrested me and stopped me in my tracks - probably because I simply haven't seen enough. Takin' a pass on this one too.


John W. Campbell Award:
I hate to admit it, but with the reading I've had time to do in the past year, I don't know of any new authors whose names have stuck with me. It's likely that I've read some, and it's likely their stuff has been good, but nothing that's floored me enough to make me remember this far down the road that there was a work by a newbie that I just had to nominate, so I'm goin' for a threefer, and taking yet another pass.

So those are my nominations for the 2014 Hugos. Hopefully some will make it to the final ballot.

If you're going to Loncon 3 this year, Sasquon next year, or if you were at Lone Star Con 3 last year, then you're eligible to nominate your favourites for the Hugos. Can't make the cons, but still want to interfere in the course of Hugo history? Get a supporting membership and then get your nomination in!

Good luck to everyone who's nominated by anyone! And, thanks to all the authors and artists who put stuff out there in 2013, making SF a more interesting place!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Reunited

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope you enjoyed the recent holiday season, whether you celebrated specific holidays or not.

For me, it was a great holiday season, especially for indulging my passion for speculative fiction. First: an early gift exchange with my wife (ahead of our trip back east to visit my folks), where she gave me a big stack of books, including new stuff from the likes of Claude Lalumiere and Peter Watts. Second: while prowling around in an antique store in the village of Almonte, Ontario, I found a first British edition (hardcover) of The Silmarillion. Third (and perhaps most important of all): I was finally reunited with the last stray remnants of my hoard.

If you're a book collector like I am, it's an old story you're probably familiar with: I began amassing my SF book and comic collection as a teen, but when it came time to leave for my second round of post-secondary studies in another province, I had to leave most of my babies behind. In the years that followed, I moved several times, following career opportunities; meanwhile, my parents moved as well, carrying the abandoned (Is "abandoned" even the right word? It seems far too negative and harsh a term for a decision that, while necessary, was so very reluctant.) portion of my collection even farther away. More time passed, and I continued to cultivate my book collection, but I always missed the ones that were still most of the way across the country with my folks. Every now and again, I'd go home for some holiday or other, or they'd come out for business or a visit, and I'd have a chance to recover a couple of the missing books (As many as I could stuff into my suitcase on the return trip if I was doing the travelling. Only one or two if it my folks agreed to play mule.), gladly welcoming them back into the fold.

But I always knew that there were still some missing. I just knew they were buried somewhere in the depths of my parents' basement, at risk of the old man tossing them into the donation pile if I didn't get them back soon. Always bugging me by their absence on my bookshelves - holes in the ranks of the titles, books missing singly or entire series not where they should be. What was worse, Dad - right up until this recent Christmas when I unearthed the evidence - always maintained that there were no books left, that he'd brought out all there were, and that there were no boxes left. But I knew he was wrong. One look at my shelves was proof of that. But more than that, it was that sense of the lack of completeness to the hoard, right down to exactly which items weren't there. It was like being Smaug in Tolkien's The Hobbit, when Bilbo steals a two-handled cup from the treasure pile. The dragon wakes up and instantly knows damn well knows that something's been taken from the collection. In fact, he knows exactly what's missing, and he's pretty pissed about it. Like that. Except, you know, I didn't fly around incinerating the outside of a mountain in my frustration. Not that I wouldn't have, mind you. It's just, you know, the absence of an ability to fly or breathe fire.

This Christmas though, was going to put an end to the years of longing for my missing treasures. This Christmas, we went to Ottawa to spend the holidays with my parents, and I was determined to stage a clandestine recovery of the last books that would have rivaled Indy's unearthing of the golden idol at the beginning of Raiders - if he hand't lost it to Belloq and the blowdart gang. After a lot of back-breaking shifting of boxes, I finally got to the bottom of the pile and found it [insert heavenly choir-sounding synth music and sfx-inserted golden glow] - the last box of books! Finally, I was reunited with Red Dwarf - Last Human, Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire books, missing installments from Jordan's Wheel of Time, a bunch of Asimov and Clarke books I hadn't seen in years, as well as a couple of favourites from my childhood. From there, it was a matter of finding room for the dozen or so hardcovers in our luggage (after the obligatory gloating to Dad about finding a stash he'd claimed didn't exist), packing and repacking each bag so they wouldn't be over the airline weight restrictions (because paying the overweight bag penalty fee would suck), and getting them home.

And I've gotta tell ya, it feels pretty good to finally have the hoard complete again. A Merry Christmas, indeed.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Finding a Dim, but Notable Star in the TV Christmas Special Sky: George and the Star

The other day when my wife and I were putting up our Christmas tree, we discovered the lights on the star weren't working anymore, sending us out on a hunt through three or four different stores to find the perfect star to replace it - or, at least a replacement that wasn't cheesy or too pricy.

Fitting, because the incident put me in mind of a scifi-ish TV holiday special about a search for a tree-topper that I really enjoyed as a kid back in the 80's: George and the Star (alternatively known as George and the Christmas Star).

This Canadian production didn't air that often (I can only remember seeing it once), then pretty much disappeared forever, so you probably won't see it in many lists of the greatest holiday specials of all time. But, for the few of us who did catch it, it made an impression.

The story is about a guy named George (obviously), who lives alone with his cat in a big house. One night, as he's decorating his Christmas tree, George decides he needs a new star for it (no, his old one wasn't broken like mine, it was a paper cutout and our understated hero just wanted something a little more flashy). He goes outside with his telescope, spots a little star glowing in the depths of the night sky, and decides he has to have it for his tree. Using a collection of odds and ends from his house, he builds a starship and heads off on his quest. Along the way, he befriends a robot named Ralph, an astronaut named Barbara, and runs into a troupe of robotic Mounties - er, space rangers (wearing Stetsons, blue serge instead of red, and cruising around in a giant horse-like spaceship). He also runs afoul of space pirates, and, if that wasn't enough, space bikers, before eventually finding his star. And let's not forget the cookie-cutter inspirational songs from Paul Anka.

Over the years, I've looked for it on the off chance that it might have come out on videotape or DVD, but no such luck - or, at least, I didn't have the luck to come across it when it was released. Finally though, I managed to track it down on Youtube, where someone out on the 'net has shown the Christmas spirit and put it up to share with everyone.

So grab your star-salvaging permit, and reserve a bed on the motel moon, it's time to watch George and the Christmas Star.


Monday, November 25, 2013

It's a Dog's Life

Is anyone else waiting for the other shoe to drop?

The death of Brian Griffin on Sunday night's episode of Family Guy seems to have ignited a fair amount of discussion about whether this is the right plot move or not, whether it's an act of desperation to draw in viewers, the sign of a long-running show possibly entering its death spiral, or just a mean trick on fans. Then there are the strong opinion's about Brian's replacement, Vito Vinnie.

What struck me the most about the episode, though, was the sense that this was a setup for something... I wasn't upset at Brian's death (despite his being one of my two favourite characters on the show), or the implications for the show or what the writers/producers may or may not be up to. Rather, I felt a detached sense of waiting, because the whole story had something familiar to it.

By familiar, I don't mean that I thought the writers were ripping anyone off - let's face it, too many primary characters have been killed on too many shows over the years (Henry Blake in M.A.S.H., Marcus in Babylon 5, Fry in Futurama - though he always bounces back) to make a sudden and arbitrary death in any way proprietary - rather, by familiar I mean that the entire episode arc had the feeling of a familiar refrain within the specific Family Guy style: the unrelated aside. The entire episode felt like one of Peter's references to ridiculous past incidents that are obligatory for each episode - "This is just like that time when I [insert your favourite bizarre or inappropriate reference]" - and now it's as though, we, the audience, are waiting for the characters to jump out of the aside, to revert back to the actual story in progress. The whole thing felt very meta in that respect. And maybe that's the point, and we just have to wait for Macfarlane and co. to decide that, having set the joke up adequately, it's time to get to the punchline.

What made the whole thing weird was that this sudden bit of genuine heart, of plain-served drama, is something that Family Guy doesn't do often, and doesn't necessarily do well. Sure, this is a series that'll serve up a bloodbath in any episode, or deliberately confront the audience with something uncomfortable and just plain wrong, but these incidents are always so over-the-top ridiculous or, though we may not want to admit it, funny, that they're in keeping with show's usual feel. In that way, Family Guy is like Southpark, even if it's main characters don't get slaughtered in every episode like poor Kenny was for so long (humiliated, yes, but rarely killed). But you'd probably be hard-pressed to remember one of Family Guy's genuinely dramatic moments. The only one that comes to mind for me is the season 8 episode "Brian & Stewie" where the boys get locked in a bank vault and Brian admits he keeps a gun in case he gets to a point where he feels the need to kill himself. This indicates that Family Guy's dramatic moments/scenes/episodes aren't done well enough, or the structure of the emotions the show evokes in general isn't varied or subtle enough to allow those dramatic moments to have any impact. This is unlike Futurama, which is equally wacky, but is not so obsessed with shrilly mocking things to extreme, and so is able to allow the audience to feel legitimate sadness, and to have that sadness feel like it has a legitimate place within a Futurama storyline. Think of the end of "Jurassic Bark" or "Luck of the Fryish" -  both deeply moving conclusions to funny episodes in a funny series, and endings that were meaningful to the audience because the writers know how to vary the tone, to let the audience know that they won't be made to feel stupid for feeling anything other than cruel amusement when the characters are put in painful situations. Because Family Guy episodes focus on playing just one note, the audience doesn't know how to react when the show changes its tone and tries to be serious.

If it's actually trying to be serious, that is. And again, with that vague meta feeling to the whole episode, I'm not sure that it is. I wouldn't put it past this crew to take us for a ride for a few episodes, then spring an 80s-style "it was all just a dream" reveal on us. We'll have to wait and see if there's another shoe that they'll drop for Brian to fetch, or if it's just a dog's life.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Anybody Remember This Story?

A little over a week ago, I was thinking about science fiction during our preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. As you do. I was pulling the turkey out of the oven, and I suddenly flashed back to a story that I haven't read in more than 25 years:

It was a short story - probably not more than a page or two - about a mother getting ready for a holiday meal. Lots of hustle and bustle of family throughout the house as she worked to set the dining table and get the baby into his high chair. Amidst all of this, she was thinking about how great it was to have the modern convenience of an  instant feast in a pill: a large turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, side dishes, etc, all on plates, and all compacted down into one small tablet the size of an allergy capsule. All she had to do was add a drop of water, and in a minute the capsule would expand into the whole huge feast, all of it piping hot and ready to eat. She puts the pill onto the dining table, then gets distracted by something. When she turns back to the table, she realizes the capsule's gone missing, looks around, and, horrified, sees the baby (having leaned out of his high chair across the table) has popped the pill into his mouth. End of story.

Not the best SF piece ever, but it's one that's stuck with me over the years, and I think of it when the bird is ready to put on the serving platter and bring to our table.

What's bugging me though is that I can't remember the title of the story or the author's name.

Can anyone help jog my memory? Do you know what this story was called, and who wrote it?