Book Review: Nebula Award Stories Six Edited by Clifford D. Simak

Reading this book fascinated me on several levels. First of all, it’s an old Pocket Book edition that retailed when it came out in 1972 for 95 cents. I bought it in excellent condition at a science fiction convention for one dollar. It’s a slim volume that fits comfortably in the inside pocket of my jacket; they don’t make them like that anymore.

Additionally, the book brought a great feeling of nostalgia. I was nineteen years old when it came out and just beginning to explore the many wonders of science fiction and fantasy and basking in the realization that my life’s work was to be a writer. The following year I would attend the 1973 Clarion West Writer’s Workshop after having just turned twenty. I’m sure I read this book back then; I devoured all the Nebula Awards volumes I could find at the local library.

All the stories in the book are at least entertaining and at most masterful. It’s not what I would consider one of the best Nebula volumes, but it has some good material. Theodore Sturgeon’s “Slow Sculpture” is a very carefully written, nuanced piece of work.

In the early 1970s, the New Wave, epitomized by the works of Roger Zelazny, Samuel Delany, Harlan Ellison, Ursula Le Guin, and others, was pounding furiously on traditional science fiction’s shores. The groundbreaking anthology Dangerous Visions edited by Harland Ellison had recently been published. The field was split between traditionalists who abhorred the new freedoms in subject matter, style, and sexual explicitness and new voices who celebrated the opportunities for openness of artistic expression. This volume, I think, leans towards the traditional after a New Wave sweep of the Nebulas the year before. “Slow Sculpture” and “Ill Met in Lankhmar” by Fritz Leiber, a fantasy novella, the two winners, represent traditional approaches to storytelling.

This year was the first and only year that no award was given in the short story category. Three short stories are presented in this volume, and any one of them might have won. In fact, the toastmaster Isaac Asimov mistakenly announced that Gene Wolfe won the award. I have always felt that not giving out an award that year was a shameful mistake. The award is given to the best story of the year, not the best story as compared with other years. One of the writers who were nominated should have won it. I have since read many Nebula Award winning stories, and a number of them were inferior to the stories that were nominated but did not win in 1970. I can’t help but think that there were some elements of the New Wave struggle involved in the decision. Stories from Damon Knight’s anthologies Orbit 6 and Orbit 7 dominated the short fiction nominations that year; in fact, six out of the seven short story nominees were from Orbit. Was the voting of “no award” a reaction to the predominance of New Wave selections? Who knows now, almost five decades later? Suffice it to say that I hope that Nebula voters never again make the same mistake of voting “no award” in any categories and thus disappointing the nominated authors.

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A Second Look: America Redux: Impressions of the United States After Thirty-Five Years Abroad

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A memoir of my culture shock after living for many years overseas. Here’s the back cover copy:

 In 1976 John Walters left the United States in search of adventure and literary inspiration. He lived for many years in India, Bangladesh, Italy, and Greece. He married and had five sons. Finally, faced with the economic catastrophe in Greece and the lack of opportunities for his sons, he returned to the land of his birth. Without home, without job, without resources, he confronted his own country as if for the first time.

 This is a memoir of someone who, late in life, was forced to leave everything behind and start fresh in what for him had become a new land. It will appeal to those who are confronted with major life changes in these troubled economic times; to those who, though they may desire rest and retirement, must continue toiling to make ends meet; for those who desire insight into the vast, multifaceted culture of the United States from a fresh perspective, unencumbered by familiarity.

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Book Review: The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson

I came across this book while browsing a shelf of materials about the Pacific Northwest or by Pacific Northwest writers and filmmakers. I’m almost always up for interesting books on writing, although I had not heard of Charles Johnson. It turns out he’s an important African-American writer. He won the National Book Award in 1990 for his novel Middle Passage, and for over thirty years he taught creative writing at the University of Washington.

The Way of the Writer is an informal book. It’s divided into short sections that read as if they are assembled blog posts. In fact, as I read, I sometimes thought of another collection of essays I read recently, No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin, which is in fact a series of accumulated blogs.

Johnson’s book is not a how-to for writers. Although there is practical advice scattered throughout, most of it takes the form of a memoir as he briefly touches on the many types of creative work he has done during his decades-long career, including novels, short stories, essays, scripts, and cartoons. He also describes his life as a teacher and some of his teaching techniques.

Most of the book is in the very conversational tone of an experienced, acclaimed writer reminiscing about a long and successful career. Every writer’s journey is different, and Johnson’s is fascinating. He began as a professional cartoonist for various newspapers and magazines and from there got into journalism and novel writing. He alludes numerous times to his mentor John Gardner, who was one of his first writing teachers and helped him achieve his first sales and his agent. Another topic he comes back to over and over is the value of rewriting, of going through multiple drafts before considering a literary work finished. I know from having read many book and articles on writing that this is a controversial topic, but Johnson falls definitively into the rewrite camp. As an example, he mentions throwing away 3,000 imperfect pages while composing the 250-page Middle Passage.

In the last few chapters, Johnson delves into subjects such as Buddhism, existentialism, and other philosophical topics which are not directly on the subject of writing, except to the extent that the philosophies of writers shape their individual works. This part of the book is not as easy a read as the rest, partly because it veers away from the general discussion of the writing life, and also because it touches on philosophical arguments that require more space to elucidate than is given within the context of this book. I suppose another reason that I felt my attention wandering is that I have little interest in existentialism as expounded by writers such as Sartre, as my own worldview differs so radically from theirs. All in all, though, I found this book a pleasant journey into the life and thoughts of an important writer that I am glad to have discovered.

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Book Review: Best American Short Stories of the Century Edited by John Updike and Katrina Kenison

I picked this book up at a library sale. It was published in 1999 and represents the opinions of the two editors on which stories are the best from the yearly volumes of The Best American Short Stories from 1915 until 1999. Updike added other restrictions, as he explains in his introduction; among them is the stipulation that he would only include stories with North American characters that take place in the United States or Canada. I’m not sure why he insisted on Americans only, but I am sure that the restrictions on source material and content make it impossible for this book to really contain the best of the century. What about all the non-American authors? What about all the stories that take place elsewhere in the world by American writers? Anyway, it is what it is, and even within those self-imposed boundaries, great fiction was undoubtedly produced in the twentieth century. My question as I read most of the stories in this volume, however, was: where is it?

In short, I found most of the selections in this book to be tedious and boring – the type of stories you find as obligatory reads in high school literature classes. I hesitate to make such a negative statement and assessment. I admire many of the writers whose works are herein represented. Furthermore, I usually refrain from writing negative comments in my reviews. In the past, I have skipped writing reviews rather than trash a book. Here I make an exception because of several lessons we can draw from the material.

As I mentioned, I have read numerous stories from many of the writers in this volume, and I know that they are for the most part capable of much better work. For instance, instead of choosing “The Killers” by Ernest Hemingway, which seems the constant go-to favorite for anthologists, it would have been more compelling and exciting to include “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” a wonderful reflection on the writer’s life. Isaac Bashevis Singer’s story “The Key” is okay, but “Gimpel the Fool” is much more entertaining and fun. Apart from the mystery story “A Jury of Her Peers” from way back in 1917, Updike includes no short stories that could be called genre material at all: no other mysteries and no science fiction, fantasy or magic realism. This excludes some of the finest short fiction produced anywhere ever. In fact, even now, it is genre fiction that is keeping the short story alive and thriving. Many of the best literary magazines routinely include science fiction and fantasy, and many of the middle-tier literary magazines are failing. This is in part, I think, due to their practice of charging authors reading fees before they will even consider their work, effectively stifling voices that cannot afford to pay editors for a chance to be heard. I write about this at length in the essay The Egregious Practice of Charging Reading Fees, which first appeared on the website of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and is now available on this blog.

Once I start reading, I almost never skip over parts of a book or set it down without finishing it. Sad to say, I couldn’t finish this book. First I found myself skipping stories after a page or two of inaction, but I kept on through hundreds more pages, giving each story a try. There were a few noticeable shining lights – brilliant flashes in the midst of mediocrity – but at about six hundred out of eight hundred pages, I finally gave up and moved on to something else. And I love short stories. I go out of my way to seek out short story collections. I guess the editors’ tastes simply didn’t jibe with mine.

I read a similar volume a couple of years ago: 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories Edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor. I wrote a series of three reviews about that volume, which you can find here, here, and here. In reading back over those reviews, I notice that in the first part, I raise several of the objections that I have also brought up here about the boredom, the similarity to obligatory school assignments, and the editors not selecting the best of the writers’ work. Unlike The Best American Short Stories of the Century, 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories ends exceedingly strong. Part of the reason may be that the volume carries on fifteen more years until 2015, but I think that the main reason is that it has much more diversity in it. The later sections of the book have stories by immigrant and ethnic writers such as Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Jamaica Kincaid. Additionally, it even contains a wonderful science fiction tale by George Saunders. In other words, it ventures into important territories that Updike’s volume completely ignores.

In conclusion, I have to say that I cannot recommend this book. Even the yearly Best American Short Stories volumes offer much more diversity, excitement, and fun. For a few years now I’ve been reading these as they appear in midyear, and they tend to have a good mix of exotic settings, science fiction, and fantasy as well as stories set on American soil and entrenched in American culture. It’s up to you, and it’s all a matter of taste, but if I were you, I would look elsewhere for my short story reading material.

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“Escape Strategies” in Aftermath: Explorations of Loss and Grief

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Radix Media has recently held book launches on the east and west coasts for its anthology Aftermath: Explorations of Loss and Grief, which contains my short story “Escape Strategies.” It’s a beautifully designed book containing short stories, memoirs, comics, illustrations, and photographs that touch on various heartfelt emotional themes. My story is partly autobiographical, based on an ongoing tragedy that has affected our family.

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Book Review: Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick

Because the vast empire of the Soviet Union is dead and gone, it’s hard sometimes to remember how pervasive, influential, and terrifying it once was. I grew up during the Cold War, when the ongoing struggle between communism and capitalism as exemplified by Russia and the United States was a fact of life. It screamed at us through novels and films such as the James Bond series, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, and many other works. Not only that, but it hit the young men of my generation in a personal way through the war in Vietnam and the draft, which had been interpreted to us by those who promoted the war as one more arena in the continuing battle against communism. We saw people like Khrushchev and Brezhnev on the news, and they seemed like ambassadors from another planet. The truth was, though, that these public figures were rulers in a land in which the common people, supposedly in the name of reform but actually to keep the ruling elite in power and privilege, were being enslaved, tortured, and murdered.

Remnick’s book focuses on the last days of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev and the nonviolent revolution that brought about the end of the union, the independence of the various satellite republics, and the democratization of Russia. Its main arc begins around 1985 when Gorbachev initiated perestroika, which means restructuring, and glasnost, which means openness, to bring to light aspects of Soviet history that had been long hidden such as Stalin’s purges of millions of citizens through execution or exile to labor camps. This aroused the ire of right-wing factions of the communist party who were staunch supporters of Stalin and the one-party system of absolute rule. It turned out that most of these people worked to retain the existing system not because they gave a damn what happened to the workers that it was all supposedly for, but rather because they wanted to retain their opulent lifestyles, their luxurious offices, their holiday villas, their private limousines and planes, and other perks that the top men received. Remnick details the fine line that Gorbachev walked, especially in the beginning, to open up the country but at the same time pacify the reactionaries.

As perestroika and glasnost became more prevalent, liberal factions of the media in the country reacted and made brave steps to get the truth out to the common people. Miners and other groups of workers went on strike to protest their squalid work and living situations. The situation escalated until satellite republics broke away from the union and Boris Yeltsin became Russia’s first elected president. Hard liners in the Kremlin, the KGB, and the military attempted one final coup out of desperation; when it failed, Russia and the rest of the countries in the erstwhile Soviet Union had truly become changed lands.

All of this may sound like tedious and boring history, but Remnick brings it to life so that it reads like a fictional political thriller. Remnick, who at the time worked as a reporter for the Washington Post, arrived in Moscow in 1988 with his wife, lived through these tumultuous events, interviewed all the major players, and traveled throughout the country to get perspectives from isolated areas. He earned my respect when he describes that, during a visit to a coal mining region in Siberia, he strapped on equipment and lights and went deep into a dangerous mineshaft so he could see firsthand the horrendous conditions under which the miners worked. I got acute claustrophobia just reading about it.

This book was first published in the early 1990s and won a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. It deserved the prize. It’s meticulously researched, full of firsthand information, and very well written. One might suppose that it is irrelevant to our present era, but it isn’t. In fact, as I read it, I had a sense of immediacy and a feeling that governments are volatile entities and things can change fast in national and international politics. Before Gorbachev initiated the changes that brought about the fall of the communist party, the Soviet Union was bankrupt and many of its people were suffering and starving, but very few would have thought it possible that in a few short years, Russia would change on such a massive scale. This book is a great read and highly recommended.

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Book Review: Past Master by R.A. Lafferty

Rafael Aloysius Lafferty, who wrote under the name R.A. Lafferty, was an inescapable presence in the 1960s and 1970s in the science fiction field. It seemed that just about every best of the year or awards anthology I picked up back then had a short story by him in it. He was a writer’s writer; he received praise and acknowledgement as one of the field’s top talents from writers much better known that he was. Now, who recognizes the name anymore? Diehard fans from the era, sure, but his reputation has not been as enduring as others. Perhaps one reason is that his work was so quirky that none of it was ever adapted to film or TV.

I read many of his short stories back then, and some of the classics such as “Narrow Valley” and “Nine Hundred Grandmothers” I have read several times. I never read any of his novels, though, until now. Not for lack of trying. I remember once I asked a Native American friend what books about Native Americans he would recommend, and one title that came up was Okla Hannali by R.A. Lafferty. I tried to find a copy, and then generally searched for some of Lafferty’s other work, short story collections in particular, and I discovered to my chagrin that whatever was available was ridiculously overpriced – and that included not only rare first editions but also new volumes. After he had died, someone had got hold of the rights and priced them out of bounds for most readers. And so they remained for many years; I know, because I would check from time to time. I just perused Amazon’s listings, in fact, and very few of his books are available new, and most of the short story collections that it’s possible to buy new are still heart-attack-inducingly expensive. Most of his work is out of print, and these works are very pricey as well. For instance, the book I am reviewing now, Past Master, is only available used for over forty dollars.

And thus we come to the refreshing wonders of used book vendors. During my recent sojourn at the science fiction convention Norwescon 2018, I was able to obtain a clean, excellent used copy of Past Master for the price of one dollar.

Past Master is Lafferty’s first novel, and it was a finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It’s a short novel by modern standards, as were many of the finest novels back then. Sometimes I think that modern novels have become bloated with words, with publishers’ marketing departments and readers thinking that the bigger the book, the better it is – but nothing could be further from the truth. When the standard for novels was around fifty to seventy thousand words, they were lean and rich, with not a word misplaced. Now, there often seems to be a lot of padding to get them up to a couple hundred thousand words.

To me, Past Master seems to be a Lafferty short story that ran amok, that maybe started as a shorter work but burst its bounds to accommodate all the wild ideas. It deals with a planet called Astrobe, where society has supposedly been perfected and everyone has health and wealth and everything that they need. The only glitch is that millions of its citizens abandon this ideal society to live in slum cities full of disease and poverty, and the rulers of the planet cannot figure out why. In desperation they send someone back in space and time to Old Earth to collect Thomas More, who they recognize as an expert on utopias, just before he is to be beheaded by the king of England. Their plan is to set More up as president with the title of Past Master, hoping that he can cure the ills that are causing the mass exodus from the perfect world.

I don’t want to give away what this all leads to, because you should really find a copy of this great book for yourself and discover the joys therein. R.A. Lafferty is a master of the absurd, and it can only be hoped that more of his works become available at affordable prices so modern readers can appreciate his singular genius.

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The Egregious Practice of Charging Reading Fees

(This article first appeared on the website of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America on March 26, 2018.)

I am a hybrid author, which means that I self-publish books and also publish short stories in traditional venues. Last night I was engaged in what I call marketing. Several of my stories had come back unsold from magazines and anthologies, and rather than having them sit around, I wanted to send them back out to other possible markets. Most, although not all, of what I write is science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, surrealism, and other types of otherworldly or genre fiction, and so I mainly market to genre publications. However, more and more literature of the fantastic also finds its way into literary and mainstream magazines, so I send stories to those publications as well. Last night I thought: There are a lot of literary magazines out there. Why not do a search and find more literary markets for my work? So I did. And as a result I encountered dismay and frustration. Why? The horrendous and creativity-killing practice of reading fees.

The best magazines do not charge reading fees; they don’t have to. People pay to buy individual copies or subscribe to the magazines because they have quality content. These include the genre magazines as well, such as science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. But middle-level literary magazines, faced with declining readership and financial difficulties, hit on the solution of obtaining their financing from writers instead of readers. When a writer sends a story to an editor or publisher, it’s like an audition. The editor evaluates the piece of writing to determine if it’s a good fit for the magazine. There are many reasons for rejection. Often it’s a lack of writing competence, but it can also be that the story doesn’t fit the theme of the magazine or anthology or the editor just bought a story with a similar idea from someone else. The writer shrugs and sends the story elsewhere. It’s a professional exchange. Making writers pay to submit their stories, though, is nothing less than a scam. It reminds me of Steve Martin in the movie Bowfinger gleefully taking checks from aspiring actresses who want to audition for his film, all the while knowing he has no intention of hiring them.

The sad state of affairs in the field of literary magazines is that a high percentage now charge reading fees. The amounts range from two dollars to five dollars or more, but the average is three dollars. They justify it in all sorts of ways. Some, to avoid the stigma of charging reading fees, call it a handling fee or a software fee. Evidently they haven’t heard that many email services are free. Some, even as they ask it of writers, say outright: This is not a reading fee. Yeah, right. As if calling it by another name makes it all better. Several sites explain that if you were to send the manuscripts by mail you would have to spend at least that much in postage, so send that postage money to them instead. Most modern magazines and anthologies are getting away from postal submissions anyway, both as a money saver and to protect the environment, so that argument doesn’t make any sense.

Unfortunately, some of the magazines I most respected and used to submit to have succumbed to this practice, and as a result, I have had to take them off my list of honest, viable markets. It’s become a trend, and a very unfortunate one. I wonder if they have ever considered alternatives to their gouging of writers. I would prefer that they slightly drop their payments for accepted stories if they can’t afford them. Or have they ever heard of crowdfunding, which is being used successfully by more and more editors of genre anthologies?

Charging reading fees also has a much more sinister effect on magazines and anthologies, but one that editors and publishers would never notice firsthand. It cuts off writers that can’t afford the fees. That would include poverty-stricken artists from the inner city, the disenfranchised, and single parents like myself who spend a large portion of their income on rent and bills. Between novels I write a lot of short stories, and sometimes I have as many as thirty to forty out to market at the same time. There’s no way I could afford to pay reading fees for all those submissions. I hearken back to when I was a young writer who set off on the road to encounter new experiences. I was homeless for years back then and often had no money in my pocket. Why should I not have had the opportunity to submit my work for publication? Do these editors and publishers who finance their magazines through reading fees really want to hear only the voices of the elite? Perhaps that’s why science fiction, fantasy, and other genre works are the most vital, diverse, lively, and attractive forms of fiction out there nowadays, because they welcome submissions from all types of people without charging elitist reading fees to cull out the disadvantaged.

I am reminded of one of my favorite rags-to-riches literary stories: that of Jack London, who returned from the Klondike brimming with ideas and fought to have his stories published despite countless rejections. Can you imagine if he would have had to pay for all those submissions? He never would have had a chance. The publishers who charge reading fees might point out that in those days he had to pay for postage. Sure he did, and it almost killed his literary ambitions because much of the time he couldn’t afford it and had to sacrifice decent clothes and food to be able to send out his work. Why close and lock your gates to struggling writers and demand money payments as the price of admission to the literary world? Some of the world’s greatest writers have produced masterpieces while grappling with extreme financial distress, but why make it harder on writers to achieve their dreams rather than easier? Editors and publishers should be in writers’ corners, encouraging them and helping them make it, not setting up fiscal barriers to oppose them. No wonder these magazines are failing. They attempt to stifle some of the voices who might have the most to say by charging admission to speak in their forums. Thank God for the genre magazines and anthologies as well as the best of the mainstream and literary publications, not to mention self-publishing venues, that have maintained their integrity by making submissions free to all writers.

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Book Review: Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis

I don’t know how many people remember Nikos Kazantzakis nowadays. He’s known mainly for two novels that became acclaimed and controversial movies: Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ. When I was a young man obsessed with becoming a writer, I read Zorba the Greek more than once. It was a germinal book for me. I identified with the withdrawn, cautious, timid writer who had to be lured out of his shell by the robust, tempestuous Zorba. I wanted to step out and live life so I could write about it, but it took a lot of effort to get me started. I read The Last Temptation of Christ too, but it didn’t make the same strong impression on me. I couldn’t figure what the fuss was all about. Maybe it was because I was already so fed up with the church at that point.

I hadn’t thought about Kazantzakis in decades, and then Report to Greco popped up on a table at a Seattle Public Library used book sale and I grabbed it on a whim. It’s purportedly his autobiography, but in reality it’s only his autobiography in the way that Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and the Rosy Crucifixion trilogy are the autobiographical works of Henry Miller. In other words, kind of but not really. In fact, Henry Miller immediately came to mind as I began to read. Both Miller and Kazantzakis write from the gut and from the emotions. Both use extremely flamboyant and flowery language. Both are blunt in their honesty, and both suddenly go off on intellectual tangents, describing dreams, visions, and other emotional intricacies without warning. Their styles are similar, but there’s one big difference between them: Miller reacts to poverty and hard times with joy, dancing, and sexual liberality. Kazantzakis reacts with angst, despair, and celibacy. Personally, I’ll take Miller any day. I simply couldn’t understand what Kazantzakis was up to sometimes, and why he reacted the way he did.

The book begins with Kazantzakis’s childhood in Crete, goes through his teen years, his studies, and his travels on the Greek mainland and in Italy, Jerusalem, Mount Sinai, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Moscow. His main concern is his spiritual odyssey, though, not the countries he is visiting. First he has a long love/hate relationship with the God Jehovah of the Old Testament and with Jesus. When he goes to Paris, he has a torrid infatuation with Nietzsche; he speaks about his discovery of the man’s philosophy as if he has fallen in love and is having an affair. He goes on and on, page after page, describing his feelings and sensations upon abandoning Christ and taking up Nietzsche. To be honest, this got extremely boring after awhile. I kept reading because I wanted to find out if he would eventually describe his beginnings as a writer. And he does, sort of, at the very end of the book when he recounts meeting the character who inspired Zorba. In Vienna, he leaps from Nietzsche to Buddha. In Berlin, he leaps from Buddha to Lenin. Again, it’s hard to understand his frame of mind in embracing Lenin’s dogmas so thoroughly, even though he spends many pages attempting to describe his reasoning. In the end, after numerous adventures, he returns to Crete, holes up alone in a cottage by the sea, and writes.

I don’t quite know how to react to this book. At one point, Kazantzakis is telling anecdotes of his encounters with common people that are so touching they move me to tears. At other points, he goes off into philosophical rants that are irrelevant and annoying. When I took up the book, I supposed that Kazantzakis was like Zorba, full of life and zest and enthusiasm, but as I read I realized that he was actually like the writer who meets Zorba: fearful and isolated and insecure. He writes a lot about fear, especially when he describes himself as a youth, but also on into adulthood. Only the translator does not merely use the word “fear.” The word “terror” comes up over and over, as if practically everything in life terrified Kazantzakis.

The translation, by the way, is a good one as far as I can tell. To really know for sure I’d have to compare it with the original Greek, but I’m not capable of that. I think that Kazantzakis’s mind and spirit come across as he intended.

As I said, I can’t really decide if I should recommend this book or not. It would be a much stronger read if the passages on Nietzsche and Lenin were omitted, but then of course it wouldn’t be complete in describing the writer’s individual journey. In the end, it is what it is, and all I can say is that parts are sublime and parts are very slow. It’s a mixed bag.

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“Dark Mirrors” in Alien Invasion: Short Stories

Alein Invasion cover

I’m pleased to announce that one of my personal favorites among my short stories, “Dark Mirrors,” has just been reprinted in a hardcover anthology with a beautiful embossed cover called Alien Invasion: Short Stories. It’s part of the impressive Gothic Fantasy series by Flametree Publishing, although this particular volume leans heavily towards science fiction rather than fantasy. The book features a mix of classic and contemporary writers. Once again, because the listing is alphabetical, I find myself sandwiched in between literary greats, in this case Voltaire and H.G. Wells.

Here’s the blurb for “Dark Mirrors”:

The people of Earth are losing a war with aliens that they themselves provoked.  Every able-bodied person is being called up to fight, even prisoners; those who refuse are threatened with dismemberment to provide spare parts for wounded soldiers.  A battle-hardened general enters a prison to recruit a woman who refuses to fight, but who may have a most unusual special ability that can turn the tide of the war.

You can also find “Dark Mirrors” as the title story in my collection Dark Mirrors: Dystopian Tales.

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