September 2012

Higher Cause by John Hunt

This review is part of a series covering each installment of the serialized novel Higher Cause, written by John Hunt and published by Laissez Faire Books. To catch up, start with the announcement, the book’s link-rich table of contents, and the first review.

Higher Cause by John Hunt

We have finished the first half of Higher Cause with this, the 11th installment. We get three chapters this time, each dealing with different places and different characters. The action is well under way, so any break we get from here on out will be, one suspects, something of a cliff hanger.

The first chapter picks up where we left off last time, with Jeff and Petur dealing with the attack on the OTEC. As Jeff feared, there was more to come. Indeed, what transpires is perhaps the most harrowing part of the entire ordeal with the saboteurs and assassins. By the time it is over, it seems like a draw between the two sides, and we know that they will butt heads again, most likely multiple times, after they have licked their respective wounds.

The second chapter is perhaps the best thing John Hunt has yet given us. We return to Mexico, to the former drug family now involved in political revolution. We might discuss its placement in the book, because it is largely an establishing chapter and this is the very middle of the novel, but what it gives us is engrossing.

We have a father and a son. The other son is now deceased, as we saw earlier, and the living son has schemes. The dynamic between the two is good, and then we are treated to a scene of the son pursuing a lust-interest who works in the father’s home but who resists the son’s advances. This also adds flavor to the mix, tells us a little more about the son as we discover his motives and his attitude about the whole thing. As if this were not enough, a final twist is added at the end, and that is the best part of all.

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Higher Cause by John Hunt

This review is part of a series covering each installment of the serialized novel Higher Cause, written by John Hunt and published by Laissez Faire Books. To catch up, start with the announcement, the book’s link-rich table of contents, and the first review.

Higher Cause by John Hunt

As we near the midway point of the 22 installments of Higher Cause, we get the first major action set piece. The long-awaited OTEC arrives at The Island, and once again a deadly sabotage is attempted. By the end of the second of two chapters, it is clear that there is more soon to come. We are left with perhaps the biggest cliffhanger yet.

This was an excellent time to pull a scene like this. A lot of different pieces have been put into place and the main storyline is underway. It raises the stakes and gives us a long chapter from multiple viewpoints. If it were a movie, this section would probably feature in the trailer. The key, of course, will be to get a couple more such chapters in and increase the thrills and tension each time.

The pacing was spot on this week. We can feel a lit fuse burning to its end; a sense of foreboding laces the early segments. The picture of what is going to happen comes into sharper and sharper focus, and then the thrills start. It is a strong addition to the story so far.

There continue to be opportunities for improvement. One would be to do a little less explaining. There are times when a line of dialogue is explained when the thrust is obvious from the context and the wording. Other times a character’s actions or reactions are explained when it is not necessary; the reader understands what is going on and why.

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Podcast RSS Logo

I listen to a number of podcasts on books and writing in the science fiction and fantasy genre. I find them interesting and valuable as a fan, as the editor of Prometheus Unbound, and as an aspiring author myself. I think you will as well, so I’ve created a curated list of my favorites and what I’m listening to now. Do you listen to any of these? Are there any I haven’t listed that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments.

General SF&F Book Podcasts

These are mostly general science fiction and fantasy podcasts about books, although movies and tv shows do come up on some of them as well. If you’re interested in the craft and business of writing, it would be worthwhile to subscribe to these not only to keep up with the state of the field but also because they often feature authors, editors, publishers, and agents as interviewees or guests.

The SF Signal Podcast — The Hugo-nominated podcast of the indispensable Hugo-winning SF Signal website. Hosted by Patrick Hester. The schedule is one interview episode and one discussion episode per week. The podcast features a wide range of interviewees, guests, and panelists, including a core group of regulars, from the science fiction, fantasy, and horror community. I haven’t listened to the new, separate Crossing the Gulf podcast hosted by Karen Burnham (a NASA engineer) and Karen Lord yet.

Adventures in Scifi Publishing — Hosted by Shaun Farrell, Moses Siregar (The Black God’s War), and Brent Bowen. A long-running podcast featuring discussion and interviews with the biggest and hottest names in the genre community as well as newer authors. The experienced hosts are self-published or aspiring authors themselves. Update: Founder Shaun Farrell has had to step down from hosting AISFP, but he relinquished the reins to new host Tim Ward so the show will go on.

The Coode Street Podcast — A rather informal and, as they say, rambly conversation between editor Jonathan Strahan (Life on Mars) and academic and reviewer Gary K. Wolfe (Evaporating Genres). There is the occasional guest, but mostly it’s just the two hosts. You can learn a lot about the current state of the genre, and especially its rich history, from these widely read veterans.

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Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Get Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman for free!

We’ve got another book giveaway for you.

I’m pleased to announce that we’re working with libertarian science fiction author J. Neil Schulman to give away copies of his classic dystopian novel Alongside Night.

Written over three decades ago, this Prometheus Hall of Fame Award–winning novel is a thriller set in an America facing economic collapse, a growing totalitarian police-surveillance state, and agorist counter-economic resistance. And now it is being adapted into a film starring Kevin Sorbo as Dr. Martin Vreeland.

We’ll be giving away the ebook in epub format for the rest of September, until 12:00am EST on October 1, 2012.

One lucky winner will also receive a signed paperback copy of Alongside Night.

For more information, click on the link below:

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The Naked Writer Project: The Dragon Lords by Silvia Hartmann

The Naked Writer Project: The Dragon Lords by Silvia Hartmann

Apropos to my recent post on Google Docs, novelist Silvia Hartmann is embarking on a brave new experiment using Google’s office suite. She’s letting anyone and everyone watch her write a new fantasy novel in a public Google document. You can watch every word — every single character — appear on the screen as she types or just check on her progress whenever you please. It’s almost like being able to look over her shoulder as she writes the first draft.

It takes a great deal of courage to publish even a completed and edited novel. Even more to serialize a novel on your website or blog every week as you write it. How much courage does it take to let people watch your every keystroke while you write the first draft?

Established authors could sell access to this kind of inside look at how the sausage is made. But that might not be the best way to make use of this new opportunity. Even established authors, but especially new ones, could use this “naked writing” as a new way to connect with fans and gain publicity. No need to go for the direct sale. Foster a deeper connection with fans and attract more of them, then you might make more money from your writing in the long run.

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Space Taxi
Space Taxi
NASA-Certified Space Taxi

It sure seems like that’s what NASA is doing. NASA has to do something in order to maintain its relevance as the space age dawns in the era of commercial space flight. NASA is still running scientific-exploratory missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system, but even this role will be soon be overtaken by private enterprises like Planetary Resources.

From Space.com comes news that NASA has launched a private space taxi certification program. The program will consist of a two-stage “process aimed at ensuring commercial passenger spaceships currently under development will meet the agency’s safety standards, schedule and mission requirements.” Yay, NASA’s record of safety, timeliness, and priorities with minimal bureaucratic waste leaves me reassured.

Budget cuts no doubt have something to do with the certification program as well. “NASA expects to award multiple firms a Certification Products Contract (CPC), each of which will run for 15 months and be worth up to $10 million.” Restrict competition, rake in the dough, ensure the continuation of your own jobs, and retain control of the space industry — all in the name of safety, science, human progress, and protecting taxpayer “investments.”

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Higher Cause by John Hunt

This review is part of a series covering each installment of the serialized novel Higher Cause, written by John Hunt and published by Laissez Faire Books. To catch up, start with the announcement, the book’s link-rich table of contents, and the first review.

Higher Cause by John Hunt

This week’s installment has good movement to it. We get three chapters, all of which follow a thread of plot, but from three different perspectives. There are a couple of moments that tantalize us, and we are left with the promise of trouble to come. A good continuation to the story, leaving the reader eager for next Wednesday.

The first chapter is told from Jeff’s perspective. He gets the news that he is cleared to work for The Island, and for Petur specifically. Given Jeff’s background and the forces arrayed against this tropical Galt’s Gulch, there is all kinds of potential there.

Sophia finally lets Jeff in on the details of her work, which is interesting, but best of all, Jeff catches a glimpse of someone we have probably seen before. Someone Petur has seen before, but who has never been identified. A woman of mystery. Further developments await in the following chapters.

Sophia is the point-of-view chapter in the second chapter, and she meets an attractive woman who, we suppose, is the one who has turned up, briefly, before. At this point it is difficult to say whether she is trustworthy or not. She wants to work on The Island, but does not want to get her job the easy way, which would be a guarantee for her. Her approach is curious, her reasons unclear, and it is far from certain whether she is trustworthy or not. My caution alarm is still going off.

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