(from M.Christian's Technorotica)
This is just plain wonderful: check out this kick-ass review of my sf/f/h collection, Love Without Gun Control by the very-great Terrance Aldon Shaw on the book's amazon page.
Btw, Love Without Gun Control is currently FREE for a limited time!
Is there any style or genre that M. Christian can’t (or won’t) write in?
After reading this very fine short story collection from one of today’s
most prolific professionals, I’m leaning heavily towards “no”. The ‘m’
in M. Christian seems to stand for “multi-faceted”, or possibly
“mega-multi-tasker”. The guy certainly is versatile, as well as daring,
imaginative, often funny, and seldom—if ever—unentertaining, one of
those writers who seems to be everywhere at once, though if he has, in
fact, cracked the saintly secret of bi-location, he’s not talking.
get a broad sense of Christian’s incredible range in “Love Without Gun
Control”, the author’s 2009 self-compiled and –published collection of
short fiction, most of which originally appeared in genre anthologies,
now-defunct niche-specific literary magazines and long-since cached or
dead-linked websites. These fourteen stories run a dizzying—and
impressive—gamut of mood and style, each with its own carefully measured
ratio of light to shadow, buoyancy to seriousness, horror to humor, and
hope to despair.
Christian has clearly learned from, and
distilled the essence of the best examples of twentieth-century American
fiction, everything from Ray Bradbury and Jack Kerouac to Cormac
McCarthy and Stephen King. He does not shy away from his influences, but
has wisely allowed them to sing through him as he delves the deep,
sometimes silly recesses of the American psyche. The title story is a
broad, campy social satire in addition to being a pitch-perfect sendup
of old Western movies and TV shows, while “Wanderlust” and “Orphans” pay
dark homage to the uniquely American mythos of “the road”—think
Steinbeck’s musings on Route 66 in “The Grapes of Wrath”, or the arid,
windswept, dread-haunted vistas of Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger” and
In “Needle Taste”, Christian shows that he is no
less adept at horror of the decidedly psychological variety.
Techno-thriller melds seamlessly with High Fantasy in “The Rich Man’s
Ghost”; political satire meets The Zombie Apocalypse in “Buried with the
Dead”, while knotty existential drama and the classic Post-Apocalyptic
narrative come together in “1,000”, and “Nothing So Dangerous”, a story
of love and betrayal in a time of revolution. Perhaps my favorite
stories in this collection are the beautiful, elegiac, Bradbury-esque
“Some Assembly Required,” a narrative at once clever and poignant, and
the brilliantly breezy “Constantine in Love”:
“It was called The
Love Shack, and it sold all kinds of obvious things: candy, flowers,
poetry books, jewelry, balloons, perfume, lingerie, and many other
sweet, frilly, and heart-shaped items. It stood alone, bracketed by two
vacant lots. Its busiest days were just before Valentine’s and
Christmas. It was described by many newspapers and tourist guides as “. .
. the place to go when love is on your mind.”
The night was dark, the place was closed. The streets were quiet.
the Love Shack exploded—with a fantastic shower of fragmented
chotchkes, and flaming brick-a-brack, it went from a shop dedicated to
amore to a skyrocket of saccharine merchandise. Flaming unmentionables
drifted down to land in smoking heaps in the middle of the street, lava
flows of melted and burning chocolate crawled out for the front door,
teddy bears burned like napalm victims, and cubic zirconia mixed with
cheap window glass—both showering down the empty, smoldering hole that
used to be the store . . .”
I do have a few complaints as well.
In several of these stories, I found myself wishing for a stronger
editorial hand. The text needs a good, personally-detached copyedit.
Several otherwise excellent stories (“Hush, Hush”; “1,000”; “Friday”)
are simply too long to effectively maintain the emotional impact for
which the author aims. I found them overly repetitive and rather dull,
with the narrative lines collapsing into nebulous incoherency. After
all, the “short” in short fiction should be a clue to the essence of the
form; all unnecessary baggage and ballast summarily jettisoned to
achieve an economy of language, and, with it, maximum expression.
Christian is an established and well-respected editor in his own right,
but no matter how skillful or perceptive an author may be as an editor
of other people’s work, when it comes to self-editing, even the best and
brightest have their blind spots.
Still, there’s far more to
like and admire in this collection than to kvetch about or pan. Readers
will be well-rewarded for what is, in the end, a ridiculously modest
price of admission.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
As part of my wonderful Welcome To Weirdsville sale, here's a fan-favorite piece from the book. Enjoy!
Things That Shouldn't - But Still Do - Go Boom!
There are rules about such things ... or so we think. After all, apples don't fall up, lions don't have feathers, and lakes don't explode.
Sure enough, Macintoshes don't fall skyward, and panthera leo doesn't have beautiful plumage.
But if you happened to be living in Cameroon you'd know all too well that lakes can, and do, explode.
Take for example the Lake Nyos in the Northwest Province of Cameroon. Part of the inactive Oku volcano chain, it's an extremely deep, extremely high and, most importantly, very calm, very still, lake.
But it hasn't always been so calm or still. In 1986 something very weird happened to Lake Nyos, a weirdness that unfortunately killed 3,500 head of livestock ... and 1,700 people.
No jokes this time. No clumsy 50's horror movie metaphors. What happened to the people in the three villages near that lake isn't funny. Most of them luckily died in the sleep, but the 4,000 others who escaped the region suffered from sores, repertory problems and even paralysis.
All because Lake Nyos exploded.
Before the why, here's some more: what happened to the villages of Cha, Nyos, and Subum that time isn't unique. The same thing happened to lake Monoun, also in Cameroon, in 1984. That time 37 people died, again not very pleasantly. What does sound like a scene from some only horror flick is the story of a truck that had been driving near the scene. Mysteriously, the truck's engine died, and then so did the ten people who got out: suffocating within minutes of stepping down. Only two people of the dozen survived, all because they happened to be sitting on top of the truck.
The technical term for what happened to Lake Nyos and Monoun is a limnic eruption. To get one you need a few basic elements: one, a very deep volcanic lake; two, said lake has to be over a slow source of volcanic gas; and three, it has to be very, very still.
What happens is that volcanic gas, mostly carbon dioxide but nasty carbon monoxide as well, super saturates the lake. A clumsy way of thinking about it is a can of soda: shake it up like crazy and the fluid in the can, held back by pressure, doesn't do anything.
But pull the top, or in the case of Nyos and Monoun, a small landslide or low magnitude earthquake, and all that trapped gas rushes out in an immense explosion. That's bad enough, as there are even some theories suggesting that the subsequent lake-tsunami from the gassy blast has wiped out still more villages, but what's worse is that those gasses trapped in the lake water are absolutely deadly.
Heavier than air, the carbon dioxide flows down from the mountain lake, suffocating anything and anyone in it's path – which explains how those two lucky passengers managed to escape: they were simply above the toxic cloud.
Fortunately scientists and engineers are working on ways to stop limnic blasts. Controlled taping of the gasses, bubbling pipes to keep the water from becoming super saturated, it's beginning to look like they might be able to keep what happened to the 1700 people of Nyos from happening again.
But what keeps other scientists awake at night is that there are more than likely lots of other lakes ready to explode, the question being ... when?
Okay, so lakes can explode. But fruit doesn't drop to the sky and feline African predators aren't born with fluffy down, and frogs don't pop ... right?
Not if you happened to live in Germany a few years ago: for awhile there toads were doing just that. And we're not talking a few here and there. Over 1,000 frogs were found burst and blasted in a lake that was soon stuck with the pleasant name "the death pool."
Theories flew like parts of an exploding frog: a virus? A crazy who had a thing for dynamite and toads? A detonating mass suicide? What the hell (bang) was going (boom) on (kablam)?
The cops checked out the area and the local nut-houses but there wasn't anyone with that very weird and very specific MO. Scientists check out the exploded remains but found no suspicious viruses, parasites, or bacteria.
They one veterinarian came up with the most likely answer: crows.
As anyone who has ever watched a crow knows they do not fit the label bird brain. Extremely clever and resourceful, crows are not only fast learners but they study, and learn from, other crows. What Frank Mutschmann, one clever vet, hypothesized was that it was happening was the meeting of smart crows and a frog's natural defenses – plus the allure of livers.
Wanting that tasty part of the toads, the crows had learned how to neatly extract it from their prey with a quick stab of their very sharp bills. In response, the toads did what they always go: puff themselves up. The problem – for the amphibians that is – is that because they now had a hole where their livers were that defense then became an explosive problem. Weasels might not literally go pop in that old kid's song but that seems to be just what was happening to that lake of German toads in 2005.
But that still doesn't change that Pipins don't fall up, and lions don't have tails like a peacock's, right? And what about ants? They don't explode, do they?
But they do. Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to present camponotus saundersi. Native to Malaysia, this average looking ant has a unique structure giving it an even more unique behavior when threatened.
Running the length of its little body are two mandibular glands full of toxins. That's bad enough, as any critter that decides to try a bite will get a mouthful of foul-tasting, maybe even deadly, venom, but what sets this ant aside from others is what happens when it gets pushed into a corner.
By clamping down on a special set of muscles these ants can commit violent and, yes, explosive suicide: taking out any nearby threat with a hail of nasty poisons. It's certainly a dramatic way to go but you can bet anything threatening it's colony will get a shock it won't soon forget.
Sure apples do not fall up and lions don't have feathers – but what with exploding lakes, bursting toads, and suicide-bombing ants it you might want to check that your grandmother's homemade pie doesn't float away or that lions aren't about to swoop down from the sky and carry you off.