OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.
PULP LITERATURE MAGAZINE issue #22, Spring 2019.
“Good books for the price of a beer!”
Publisher: Jennifer Landels. Managing Editor: Melanie Anastasiou. Acquisitions Editor: Jessica Fabrizius. Story Editor: Daniel Cowper. Poetry Editors: Emily Osbourne & Amanda Bidnall. Cover Artist: Herman Lau. In-House Illustrator: Mel Anastasiou.
The Pope of Chimps – by Robert Silverberg.
Fifty chimps live in a scientific research centre devoted to understanding Chimpanzee intelligence through the mechanism of teaching them sign language. Until now the concept that humans can die has been kept from them. The truth strikes the chimps like a bolt-of-lightning revelation. What non-human intelligence makes of this is unexpected, to say the least.
An extraordinary tale from A SFWA Science Fiction Grand Master. His description of chimp behaviour rings true if only because a friend of his had a pet chimp and consequently the subtle nuances of chimp behaviour are familiar to him. I had always viewed teaching apes sign language as a kind of stunt, limited in what it could discover. Leave it to a Grand Master to suggest teaching multiple generations of chimps would lead them to teach each other to the point of evolving both signs and concepts separately from human instruction. Monkey see, monkey do? More like ape see, ape think, ape bugger things up every bit as much as humans do. We have about as much chance of convincing them to save themselves from their own mistakes as we do ourselves. Fascinating story. Not least because it is a hypothetical glimpse of how chimps may actually think, or will someday. I be impressed.
The Extra – by Mel Anastasiou
May 7, 1934, Hollywood: A woman tidies up the body of a man recently shot dead. Nine days earlier, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tom boyish but engaged Francesca (Frankie) is with her friend Connie waiting in the pouring rain outside the Dominion Theatre on Granville street, along with dozens of other hopefuls, to audition for legendary Hollywood Director King Samson. Hollywood beckons.
Pulp Literature Magazine is what the name implies, a venue for more than just speculative fiction as it includes any genre associated with the pulp lit tradition. Here we have the first six chapters of what is evidently crime/mystery fiction. The style is plain and breezy, concentrating on character and situation, with plenty of humorous touches. What makes it particularly interesting is the matter-of-fact portrayal of 1930s attitudes and behaviour, with the promise of enjoyable Hollywood tidbits to come. So far I’d say this is an example of seemingly effortless integration of historical research devoid of expository lumps. It strikes me as an enjoyable romp reminiscent of the best of heroine-centred crime/mystery B movies of the era. Definitely sparks my interest. I look forward to reading more.
The Nix’s Wife – by Kathryn Yelinek
Lady Signe is married to Strommerik, a water spirit who plays his violin seductively well. Raised by the Faerie Queen to never lure maidens or children to their deaths in running water, he has even given up spending time by the river, such is his love for Signe. But then a woman is found drowned, and Strommerik is immediately arrested for her murder.
I have never heard of the Nix, a type of water sprite found in Germanic/Northern European mythology. They are strikingly handsome and make great lovers, but more often than not it is fatal to be attracted to them. Lady Signe’s effort to prove her husband’s innocence goes against contemporary common sense and wisdom, to put it mildly. Not easy marrying into fey folk. All sorts of complications to consider. Being so different from run-of-the-mill cliché fantasy, I found this story fascinating. More fairy tale than D&D encounter, so to speak. Closer to the “reality” of genuine myth and, within the context, credible and convincing.
Spin Doctor – by Susan Pieters
A patient’s first session with a literal spin doctor, which is to say a doctor who specialises in curing the spin people put on facts they obsess over.
This is a very cute concept. Original, I suspect. It is a great opportunity for satire, and Susan makes full use of it. CEO’s, business practices, office gossip habits, insecurities, psychiatry, personality traits, all are lampooned. And yet, the solution offered by the doctor makes perfect sense, and could well be THE solution to myriad problems. Entertaining AND profound. Amazing trick to pull off in only seven pages. Quite enjoyed it.
Snapshots – Leo X Robertson
A twenty-five year old man, on the verge of getting married, regrets the amount of time he spends in a hologram room with four younger versions of himself and his deceased father.
This is really about the inevitable misunderstandings, lost opportunities, false pretenses and regrets everyone experiences as we grow up. An interesting opportunity to re-examine our previous selves and decide which ones we prefer and which we are ashamed of. It is astonishing we manage to grow up at all, if we ever do. Despite the stark finality of this story, it is really cause for hope and pride. What a variety we contain with ourselves, each and every one of us.
Late Night Fun Facts on the No. 65 – by JTF King
A young paralegal walks to work every morning to save money, but always takes the bus home for safety reasons. To enhance her chances of getting home alive she is quite strategic in her choice of seats.
A vignette with emphasis on expecting the unexpected. Point well taken, but I’m not sure how literal the reader’s take on the story is meant to be. Maybe I’m just dense, but I find myself unable to decide. Odd thing is, I’ve experienced similar bus rides more than once. Maybe that is what is so unsettling. Don’t find it far-fetched at all. A bit creepy, this.
Girls Who Dance in the Flames – by Cheryl Wollner
Constance has been stained and ruined by her exposure to the world outside her town. Now she’s back, and a younger, crazier childhood friend intends to help her get revenge.
Pulp Literature holds four fiction contests a year: two for flash fiction, one for poetry, and one called “The Raven Short Story Contest” of which this story is the latest winner. It is a dark revenge fantasy, though not quite horror since it describes intent rather than what has not yet taken place. The imagery is surreal, visceral, and emotional, exhibiting the logic of heartfelt madness. It rings true though, given how often dreams and expectations can be perverted by experience. Ultimately it is not so much horrifying, despite the striking imagery, as simply rather sad. A bit too intense for me.
Allaigna’s Song: Aria – by JM Landels
Fourteen year-old Allaigna, whose music is literally magic, accompanied by her mentor Morran Rhoan, leaves the stronghold of the Sage Clan as an escort to her blood oath sister kian, daughter of the clan leader. Meanwhile Allaigna’s father attempts to scry her state of well-being, with limited success.
This is literally midway through Landels’ fantasy novel being serialized in the magazine. Not having seen most of the previous installments, the profusion of names, references to past events and suspicions concerning motives and appearances is somewhat confusing to me. It is in fact the second novel in a trilogy, the first, “Allaigna’s Song: Overture” having already been serialized and then published as a stand-alone novel. The trilogy has a novel structure, each chapter consisting of a verse representing the main character’s viewpoint and a chorus representing her father’s perspective (and possibly that of other character’s as well). Suffice to say the writing is complex and intricate, and very much involved in ongoing revelations. Allaigna seems quite paranoid, but apparently has every reason to be. This sort of fantasy is not to my personal taste (very little fantasy is, actually), but I suspect the treatment would be of great appeal, would be quite addictive in fact, to fans of the genre. Landels weaves a good tapestry, as it were, full of subtlety and emotion.
Interview with Robert Silverberg.
Cry – (Poem) by David Ly
Tantrum – (Poem) by Heather Christle
Snowshoeing – (Poem) by Mary Willis
The Endless Drop – (Graphic Art) by Matthew Nielsen and Minna Hakkola
I won’t comment on the above as they are rather short, except to say that they are all worth reading.
Spanning the gamut of what Pulp Literature used to be, it can be argued that the magazine contains something for everyone. In truth it is much more than that. Much of what constituted pulp literature back in the day was formulaic hack work, though good enough to entertain the expectations of readers who were just looking for a bit of escapist fun. The contents of Pulp Literature magazine are typically of much higher quality, both original and well written, such as to delight the discerning reader. The magazine is not so much a deliberate revival of a past art form as a further evolution of the basic concept. A literary interpretation if you will, but done without losing sight of the goal of having fun. It is quite the high wire act, yet the editors accomplish it with considerable skill and panache. Though my tastes are narrower than the range of material presented I find myself reading everything between the covers. It is indeed a good book for the price of a beer
Check it out at: < Pulp Literature Magazine #22 >
TYPHOON TIME – by Ron S. Friedman
Published by WordFire Press, Monument, Colorado, USA, in 2018.
Billionaire Holocaust Survivor Eric Sobel, utilizing an ex-Soviet Typhoon Class Nuclear submarine, leads an expedition through a wormhole back to the year 1938 in order to prevent WW II from ever taking place.
I have a small personal connection with this novel. A portion of it was critiqued at a novel workshop I moderated at VCON 39 in 2014. David Weber, our author GoH, was one of the participants. Evidently David was so impressed he asked to read the entire manuscript in 2015 and generously gave Ron further feedback and encouragement.
On a different occasion Robert J. Sawyer did much the same. In fact he wrote a blurb at the beginning of the book which reads: “Ron S. Friedman explodes on the scene with a stunning debut. If Tom Clancy wrote science fiction, this is the novel he’d have written; if Larry Niven wrote military fiction he’d be proud to call this book his own.”
Bit of an understatement. I read a recent Tom Clancy novel while taking the Ferry across the Salish Sea to attend the Creative Ink Festival in Burnaby. Clancy came up with the plot; someone else did the actual writing. I found it formulaic and dull, essentially giving his readers more of what they want, I suspect. The only Tom Clancy novel I’ve ever read. I think it will be the last. Frankly, I think Typhoon Time is way better.
First of all, it has a huge cast of characters. One set consists of historical figures to advance the plot. Here are just a few of them: Albert Einstein, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Colonel Batista, Meyer Lansky, and Karl Donitz. The other set are a dozen or so members of the expedition, each with their own motives, agendas, conflicting emotions, crippling doubts (some more than others), and varying degrees of flexibility and adaptability.
The central character, the one the reader is most likely to empathise with, is the historian Martin Richter who is “invited” to join the expedition because he is an expert on 1930s politics and events. He is also, for powerful personal reasons, an avowed pacifist who happens to be deeply terrified by guns. Not, perhaps, the ideal choice to advise people how to use nuclear weapons if their use appears inevitable.
Eric Sobel, nothing if not a crusading fanatic, is the man behind the central impossible premise (Isaac Asimov said every SF plot is allowed one impossible thing). Oh, not the travel back in time through the wormhole. Given that Robert J. Sawyer, an expert on many sciences, helped bring the book to fruition, I automatically assume the “bafflegab” surrounding this particular wormhole concept is more or less reasonable and authentic given the latest theories on the subject.
No, I refer to the idea that the introduction of super duper advanced technology would guarantee that Sobel could manipulate world leaders and events to bring about his desired goal. Of course not. The novel is far too realistic to fall for that. What happens instead is that world leaders and assorted other unscrupulous types immediately start scheming how best to take advantage of this miraculous technology to further their own twisted goals. Very quickly Sobel has some very fierce competition and is hard pressed to impose his agenda.
Is what happens realistic? The Tom Clancy novel I read was realistic, full of details about weapons, orders of battle, special ops training techniques and other fun stuff specifically designed to make grognard’s hearts beat faster, but to me it was deadly dull and mere padding till the next brutal assassination occurred; it felt like a book whose contents slowed down the plot and I found myself skipping pages to get to the action.
Typhoon Time, on the other hand, is a roller coaster ride where the clever and sometimes diabolical plans of the multiple characters are constantly getting in each others way and forcing everyone to adapt to changing circumstances or risk being left behind or worse. Nothing goes according to plan, ever, which is why the plans are constantly changing, the characters scrambling to get control of events, and the readers running alongside trying to keep up. The pace is frenetic, frantic, and exhilarating. Loads of fun.
But is the plot credible? It’s a “What if?” scenario. Who can say? I think Freidman has hit upon the correct “formula” the premise requires. He doesn’t overload you with detail. To those who know history at all, he throws just enough info at you to set up a familiar sense of place, then knocks you sideways with a paradigm shift and then, just when you’re beginning to recover, hits you again. You’re constantly off balance trying to figure out what will happen next. Nothing predictable whatsoever. Friedman puts the “action” and the “adventure” back into “action/adventure.” (I know, sounds like a stupid thing to say, but think about it. Isn’t that what you want in a book like this?)
Typhoon Time is an entertaining, fast-paced page turner with a fun cast of characters. I had a heck of a good time reading it. You will, too.
You can order the book here: < Typhoon Time >
The following is the Author’s Bio included in the book:
RON S. FRIEDMAN is a Calgary Herald #1 bestselling author whose short stories have appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and in other magazines and anthologies. His story “Game Not Over” was a Best Short Fiction finalist in the 2016 Aurora Awards, Canada’s premier science fiction and fantasy awards. Ron co-edited three anthologies, and he received ten honorable mentions in Writers of the Future contests. Most of these stories can be found in his Escape Velocity short stories collection.
Ron calls Calgary his home. He is a senior analyst in the telecommunication industry with dual citizenship, Israeli and Canadian. Ron came from a family of Holocaust survivors. He served in the Israeli Air Force as an intelligence NCO. Part of the fiction was inspired by the experiences of his grandfather during WWII.