Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Space Jockey (Science Fiction Short Stories)
Tara Maya, editor, multiple authors
Fiction 315 pages (estimated for Kindle)
Misque Press. 2013
As the title implies, each of these stories involves piloting a spacecraft. However, there the similarity ends. One craft is barely large enough to support a crew of two while several others have remote pilots. Just as the book supplies spacecraft in a diverse variety, it does the same with story plots.
Many of the stories deal with warfare, and some deal with military versus non-violent solutions. One such is Tara Maya's "Food, Peace, Power". In this story, two determined men, a military leader and a civilian pacifist engage in a contest of will and wits. You can't read this story without respecting both men, their differing viewpoints and their conflict resolution styles.
Philip K. Dick's "Mr. Spaceship" takes a different view of warfare. His protagonist views war as a bad habit acquired by humanity and never out grown. His solution involves a radical approach and a fresh start.
In her story, "Semper Audacia", M. Pax presents warfare at its grittiest. Leda is the lone survivor of her brigade and now her people depend on her to save their civilization. There's no room for hesitation or error, however Leda has ghosts her fallen companions' ghosts to guide her. Are the ghosts real or has Leda gone mad? This story packs action and suspense into a tight container.
Another strong female protagonist can be found in Ethan Rodgers' "Farsider". This tough pilot makes the best of her exile on Titan and finds comfort where she can.
Other stories in this collection address artificial Intelligence, quantum physics, quests to explore deep space, and the loss of one's humanity. There's quite a range of topics packed into one collection.
Friday, July 12, 2013
My chief criterion was that it be a complete translation, which ruled out a number of translations intended for children. Since it also had to be accessible, I decided to use Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translation.
Another criterion was that it had to be cheap. The Arabian Nights Entertainments is available from Project Gutenberg, however each volume of the work is a separate download. I then found a reasonably priced Quench edition that collects the work in a single volume. It’s a decent, low priced edition, however it is not sold on Amazon. One drawback to this edition, however, is that to read Burton’s footnotes readers must navigate to the back of each volume. A better edition would have roundtrip hyperlinks between the text and the footnotes.
Eureka! An edition sold through Google Play does contain roundtrip hyperlinks. It also contains a short biography of Burton. Although, the MobileReference translation also has several shortcomings, it is the best I’ve found. One shortcoming is that it is not available for Kindle. I can live with this; it looks fine when viewed on Adobe Digital Editions and on Android devices. The other shortcoming is that its design prohibits copying text. Most readers won’t care about this, but if they do, they can readily copy text from various internet sources.
Monday, July 01, 2013
Nonfiction 22 pages
Amazon Digital Services. 2013
I've read a number of books on self-publishing eBooks. Some were free; others I paid for. Just about every one of these eBooks offers clever marketing tricks. Some tricks seem to work. Others seem impractical or unethical. This book isn’t packed with tips. Its chief virtue is its discussion of how downloadable MP3s changed the music industry and how eBooks will change the publishing industry.
In previous years if you wanted to record and sell your music, or write and sell your book, you had to hook up with a record company or book publisher. These acted as gatekeepers and ensured that only those titles with presumed commercial potential were available to consumers.
That has changed. Musicians and authors are now able to self-publish their work with a minimum of equipment and cost. Enter the long tail. When publishing involved high production costs and inventories, it made sense to promote the most popular titles—those with sales represented by the peak of a statistical curve. But, when traditional costs no longer count, sales at the tail of the curve increase. The tail becomes longer as more sales occur in fringe, rather than, mainstream, segments of the market.
This is great news for online vendors. With minimal inventory cost they can profit as much from the sale of fringe products as from mainstream ones. But can the self-publishers profit as well? Chapman wonders what the future will bring for self-publishers. If you buy this eBook, do so for its discussion of traditions, recent trends, and the long tail, not for marketing tips.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
Traveling west from Denver along Highway Six (also known as 6th Avenue), you’ll pass the Jefferson County courthouse. Not far beyond, 19th Street will take you into downtown Golden.
But don’t go there just yet, because 6th and 19th is a very interesting intersection. If you take a left here, 19th will put you on Lookout Mountain Road (also known as Lariat Loop Road). If you’ve always wanted to drive your own roller coaster, this is the road for you. On the other hand, Gringo, there are easier ways to get into the mountains.
But, you came to look at dinosaur tracks, so take a right, rather than a left, on 19th Street. Turn right once more on Jones Road, just before the car dealership. Triceratops Trail begins parallel to 6th Avenue and looks down upon Fossil Trace Golf Course.
It’s a short trail, about half a mile, steep in spots, but not too steep. The deep trenches along the trail once contained clay before it was quarried. What remains is sandstone—sandstone containing impressions of triceratops traffic and ancient plant life. These impressions are known as trace fossils. Fossils of bones or other body parts are called body fossils. In addition to triceratops footprints, fossils of palm fronds and animal tracks can be seen.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Hermann Hesse (Denver Lindley translator)
Fiction 99 pages
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972
Although seven of these eight stories were originally published in a volume titled, “Fairy Tales”, you’ll find no fairies in them. Magic, to be sure—but no fairies.
The first story in the collection, “Augustus”, is similar to Oscar Wilde’s story, “The Selfish Giant”. The heroes of both stories set themselves apart from their fellow men, and ultimately find redemption. However Wilde’s fairy tale is one that children can appreciate, while Hesse’s is clearly suitable for more mature readers. In Wilde’s story, redemption comes for a living giant, but for Augustus, it comes at the moment of death. In many of these stories, achieving harmony with one’s fellows and one’s self can only be achieved through forgetfulness (“Strange News from Another Star”) or through death (several of the stories).
Overall, the theme of the collection is man’s struggle to achieve a harmonious relationship with others of his kind, with the universe surrounding him, and with the self within him. By self, I mean that archetypical structure to which psychiatrist, C. G. Jung, referred. Hesse published this story collection, as well as his novel, “Demian” in 1919 This was the same year in which Jung first wrote about archetypes. It’s probably no coincidence that before Hesse’s two works were published in 1919, he had recently finished his Jungian psychotherapy. Whether through intention or coincidence, Hesse’s writing often illustrates Jungian principals.
These stories are well told and their allegories readily understood. Of all the stories, I only one failed to please me—I saw no point in, “A Dream Sequence.”
The best story in the collection, “Iris”, is the story of a boy for whom flowers are doors into true reality. “Each phenomenon on earth is an allegory, and each allegory is an open gate through which the soul, if it is ready, can pass into the interior of the world where you and I and day and night are all one.”
As Anselm, the boy, matures, flowers and nature lose their magic for him. He falls in love, but his love leaves him with a quest. For the remainder of his life, he follows that quest. Finally, the gate opens for him, “It was Iris into whose heart he entered, and it was the sword lily in his mother’s garden into whose blue chalice he softly strode, and as he silently drew close to the golden twilight all memory and all knowledge were suddenly at his command …”
If you've never read Hesse, and like short fiction, this collection is a good place to start.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
They really know their geology at the Colorado School of Mines. And a tour of the Geology Museum proves it. Its two floors house a magnificent collection of mineral specimens, including a cluster of amethyst crystals, a clear quartz crystal, a topaz and an opal—each as big as your head. There are specimens of silver, copper, lead and gold ores as well, including one specimen of gold wire in matrix.
The view from the upstairs window looks out upon the Front Range. Watch the video to learn about its geological features. Alternatively, learn more about geology first hand by hiking the geological trail directly behind the museum. The trail features some of the fossils for which this area is known.
The ground floor of the museum features a model uranium mine, which includes a display of florescent minerals. There is also an exhibit on radioactivity, a collection of specimens found locally on Golden’s South Table Mountain, and a gift shop. Collectors will appreciate the gift shop’s variety of mineral specimens.
Visit the museum between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or on Sunday between 1:00 pm and 4:00 p.m.
View Larger Map
Friday, May 17, 2013
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
In the past when I've given away free Kindle eBooks, I only received a handful of downloads from countries other than the U.S.A. But, this time is different. This time I've had an unexpected surge in volume from the Amazon's German website.
Although my promotion for Graphics Essentials for Small Offices ends at midnight, I'll be giving away copies of Orphan's Gold on Thursday, April 25, 2013. I wonder if that title will do well in Germany.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Ports of Call
Fiction 300 pages
Fiction 204 pages
Myron Tany longs to visit other worlds. When the opportunity arrives at last, he readily agrees to captain his great-aunt’s space yacht. When she strands him on Dimmick, he demonstrates the resourcefulness typical of Jack Vance heroes—he joins the crew of a space freighter.
Now Myron begins the series of minor adventures that fill out Ports of Call and its sequel Lurulu. While some Vance stories are filled with adventure and danger, others are closer to a P. G. Wodehouse’s comedy of manners. This story is one of those.
Although Myron Tany is the central character, the books are not entirely about his doings. Their episodes also involve the ship’s crew members and its passengers. In the end, two themes emerge: 1) lurulu, an undefinable state of self-realization and contentment, and 2) the friendship of the freighter’s four crew members.
When Vance wrote these stories, he was well into his older years and had already lost his eyesight. The two books are uniquely Vance, however their characters are not the plucky heroes of earlier Vance novels. Myron is unexciting and conventional, yet displays enough wanderlust to join a ship’s crew. The other crewmembers are neither dashing nor daring, except perhaps Fay Schwatzendale, who compensates for his good looks with his cautious and skeptical manner.
Vance, himself, spent time on freighters. And while his freighters plied the seas, rather than the stars, Vance experienced his share of distant customs and vistas. He lived and wrote abroad with his wife during various periods. Some of the exotic customs which make their way into Vance’s fiction may be parodies of customs he encountered abroad. In his autobiography, Vance describes of a port in Chile where the strict enforcement of laws parallels their enforcement on one of Lurulu’s worlds. In many of his novels, Vance tells the story through a single perspective. Here he employs the perspectives of multiple characters of varying ages. These are books to be sipped rather than gulped.
The two women who play important parts in these books include Myron’s great aunt and the captain’s mother. Aunt Hester is depicted as vindictive and vain, while the captain’s mother is frivolous, vain, and senile. Both refuse to let go of their youth, and one wonders if they may have been modeled after some of Vance’s contemporary female acquaintances. Another elderly character, Moncrief, is a showman who manages to muster enough of youth’s second wind to hold his troupe together. Unlike the captain’s mother, or Aunt Hestor, Moncrief demonstrates the possibility of aging with dignity.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
David Loeff (pronounced Lef) is an author and graphic designer. His freelance services include conversion of manuscripts into eBooks, photo retouching, book design, etc.
Dave worked domestically in the sewn goods industry, before he became a buyer in Taiwan. He subsequently worked as a mental health clinician, technical writer, computer technician, and graphic designer.In addition to fiction, Dave writes about graphics, travel, and other topics. His website is http://truthandtalltales.com.