Crystal Rain is Out!

Congratulations to Tobias Buckell, whose debut science fiction tome Crystal Rain is officially out today. The inside is as groovy as the cover art (look! Parrots!), but you don’t have to take my word for it, as Toby’s got the first third of the book up for you to check out for yourself.

Toby’s been writing short science fiction for some time now — indeed, he co-wrote a piece I’m publishing in the Spring 2006 edition of Subterranean magazine — but as most authors will tell you, the day your first book or novel comes out is like your birthday come early. Enjoy it, Toby.

Also, Toby, some of us will be ’round about 7pm to pick you up for your “published novelist” initation ceremony. Now, I know you told us that you bruise easily, but we have ways to keep from leaving marks. Well, mostly. There’s not much you can do hide the branding, I suppose. But then, that’s why we brand you… well, where we do. And you can certainly handle sleeping standing up for a week or two, right? Right. And you have memorized that list of Brazilian state capitols? Excellent. And you’ve practiced your hand grip on that goat we lent you? Perfect. I need that goat back, by the way.

So, anyway, 7 o’clock! Be sure to wear something we can hose down afterward.


Free-Speech Jackassery Built Right Here in the US!

Update, 1:18pm: D’oh! This story is way stale — my fault for not checking the date. Please hold your free-expression outrage for a fresher target. Thank you.

Lest anyone think it’s just those wacky Muslim fundamentalists who have a hard time grasping the basic concept of free speech:

Saying the nation’s symbol “deserves more respect than the protest message of some liberal hippie,” a Missouri state lawmaker has introduced a bill legalizing the use of force to stop someone from desecrating the American flag.

Republican Rep. Sam Gaskill, a former fighter pilot in Vietnam, defended his bill yesterday, insisting the measure would prevent the defilement of an important symbol rather than promote violence.

“You should be able to take hold of the flag and take it off the ground and rescue it,” Gaskill said. “If the guy doesn’t want to let go of it or he swings back then the person ought to fight back.”

I guess I’m confused about the part where making it legal to beat the crap out of someone burning the US flag isn’t, in fact, totally abridging the flag-burner’s 1st Amendment rights, because if a bunch of good ol’ boys is busy stomping your ass, you’re not exactly going to be able to make your point. Mind you, in one sense this bill is entirely unnecessary because I’m pretty sure burning a flag in protest anywhere in Missouri will get your ass stomped anyway. It’s just now your stompees won’t have to perform 30 hours of community service afterward.

I’m not terribly concerned about this one becoming law, since there are no doubt legislators in Missouri who remember about that whole US Constitution thing, even if Mr. Gaskill apparently couldn’t pick it out of a lineup. Nevertheless, on the off chance it passed, what would be really amusing would be to burn one of the Not-Quite-American-Flags noted here in front of Mr. Gaskill and then, after he’s assaulted you, reveal that’s it not actually an American flag, and then sue his ass for lots and lots of damages! Bwa ha ha ha ha hah! Where’s your flag now, Mr. Gaskill?


Iranian Free Expression, Such As It Is

In the “Totally Not Surprising” category:

A prominent Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide against Jews as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

A newspaper in Iran — run by allies of that country’s Jew-hating current president — printing cartoons that might possibly be anti-Jew? Who thought we would ever see that day?

Christ, this is boring already. Speaking in my capacity as Official Spokesman for The West®, I think Iranian newspapers — particularly ones run by pals of the current president of Iran — should go ahead and run any sort of dumbass Holocaust cartoons they want to. Indeed, I celebrate the right of Iranian newspapers to run whatever the hell they want. This is, alas, more than can be said about the Iranian government, whose grip on the press in that country is so total that the 2005 Reporters Without Borders Annual World Press Freedom Index has Iran listed 163rd in a field of 167 (a field in which Denmark, incidentally, ranked number one).

One can hope that when the allies of Iran’s president are enjoying their refreshing little taste of “free expression,” they might consider asking their pal for a little more genuine freedom of the press while they’re at it. But, you know. I’m not exactly holding my breath for that one. Because then the people who run the paper probably wouldn’t remain pals of the president of Iran. And we all know how problematic that can be. But in my capacity as Official Spokesman for The West®, I certainly hope they give it a try.

And of course I certainly hope someone who actually is a spokesman for The West® remembers to ask Iran when it plans to give its newspapers the ability to run actual news, as well as Jew-hating cartoons. Let’s see if that makes it into the Iranian newspapers, particularly the ones owned by the allies of the president. I wouldn’t be holding my breath for that, but I’m already busy not holding my breath for something else. So I invite you not to hold your breath for that in my stead.


Another Review, and a Link, Oh, and Another Link

First the link: The online cartoon Unshelved has an amusing cartoon about Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps. Yay! Comics celebrating literacy!

Second, another review of The Ghost Brigades, from Bookslut, which finds the book good, not great:

While The Ghost Brigades falls short in exploring its underlying philosophical and ethical themes, it delivers on its promise of solid science fiction entertainment with a leavening of serious issues. It is more of a riff on existing themes than an original composition, but it provides an action-driven plot that is grounded in very human characters. I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read, and a heartening example of an author taking on a more ambitious novel than his prevous ones and becoming a better novelist in the process. The Ghost Brigades may not make a lasting impression, but it’s a fun read.

This review also drives home the point that different people like different things — the reviewer here calls the first chapter “clunky,” which is the same chapter the reviewer in the SFRevu review in the last entry calls “brilliant.” Is it clunky? Is it brilliant? Is it brilliantly clunky? Is it a dessert topping and a floor wax? Guess you’ll have to find out for yourself.

And for fun, here’s another link: Chris Roberson’s Paragaea. It’s a site pimping Roberson’s upcoming whiz-bang book Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, but what makes it extra super mega ultra fun is that it features an entire prequel novel for free. And there’s nothing better than free! That’s why they call it “free!”

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