Nascence: 17 Stories that Failed and What They Taught Me

Nascence: 17 Stories that failed and what they taught me

By: Tobias Buckell

When most authors have a story that failed, they bury it somewhere deep in a drawer or closet somewhere.  What they most assuredly don’t do, is bring it out into the daylight and publish it for everybody to read.  Thank goodness Buckell isn’t one of those authors.  Nascence is an incredible journey through 17 of Buckell’s short stories that failed.  For each story in the collection he gives a short foreward explaining what it is that he was trying to do, and how the story failed.

What I found most interesting, is that for several of the stories, he has a second and third attempt at the same story and we can easily see how Buckell’s writing improved from one to the next as well as how the story evolved along with it.  It’s not often that we, as readers and authors, get that kind of view into the progress of an idea.  I won’t comment on the writing itself here, as Buckell does plenty of that (sometimes a bit too critically, in my opinion) in the collection, itself.

If you’re a fan of Buckell, you won’t be disappointed by this venture into his older works and the evolution of some of the elements that appear in the Xenowealth series.  If you’re an author, I think this belongs on the digital bookshelf right along-side the “how-to-write” books you’ve already got.  It’s a rare peek behind the curtains of short story creation and author evolution.

Pick it up from Buckell’s online store, or at Amazon.

Crystal Rain

Crystal Rain

By: Tobias S. Buckell

When I first heard about this book, by a Caribbean born author who now lives in Ohio, I was a bit skeptical.  I mean, come on.  A sci-fi book with flying ships, and characters that talk in a Caribbean accent?  Sounds a bit funky to me.  However, it was Buckell himself that won me over and made me decide to at least give it a try.  Buckell is one of those authors who has embraced the 21st century, ditched the typewriter, and has a blog (tobiasbuckell.com) and even a twitter (@tobiasbuckell) account.  Not only that, but neither of them is merely there for presence sake.  The guy is approachable.  And, in my opinion, a pretty good guy.

So, as I mentioned, the book is about a bunch of characters that talk in a Caribbean accent.  Well, that and a bit more.  They all happen to be descendants of Caribbean settlers who settled the little island on the planet that they are on.  Unlike some books I’ve read that start off in new worlds, Buckell found a great pace for releasing the information to the reader.  He doesn’t info-dump all the back-story on you all at once, but instead lets it trickle in little by little, making sure you have just what you need to make everything make sense.

The story itself is a bit more shallow than some of the books I’ve read recently.  By that, I mean that there aren’t more than a couple of sub-plots going at once (or at all).  Depending on your point of view, that could be a good or bad thing.  I, personally, don’t mind.  I can read either way, but a book with only a few sub-plots makes for pretty easy reading.  You can easily slip into the story and enjoy it, rather than having to sometimes flip back to find a key bit of info that you missed that suddenly became important.

Overall, the book is well written, the characters are well played, and the world is fleshed out to a deep enough degree that it becomes real within the story.  It’s original, and has flavors within it that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. And it’s those flavors that make it a very readable book.

New Voices in Science Fiction 2003

New Voices in Science Fiction

Edited by: Mike Resnick

For a very long time, compilations such as this book were a fad.  There were so many of them that the quality of any one was highly debatable.  Usually, you got one good story and about 20 average ones (or worse).  Luckily, that fad has faded, or I got lucky.  Of course, I did take a peek at the list of authors that were included, and there were one or two (like Cory Doctorow, Kage Baker, Kay Kenyon, and Tobias Buckell to name a few) that I knew by name if not by work.  There’s 20 total stories in the compilation.  Like me, I’m sure that you’ll recognize a few of the names, and there will be several that you haven’t heard of.

A few highlights.  “Chicken Brain” by Janis Ian was by far the most complicated to read.  The writing is mostly dialogue.  And that in what is, I believe, a Caribbean dialect.  I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never been that far south.  That being said, once get used to reading the dialect, the story itself takes you on a quick trip with a twist ending that (to me at least) isn’t glaringly obvious.  “The Faithful” by Kage Baker was a wonderful story.  Just enough detail without giving away the ending.  (In case you can’t tell, I like good endings)  “Messenger” by Mark M. Stafford is a very powerful story set in Auschwitz.  It’s not at all what you expect when you think of the setting, however.  It holds a very strong message.  “1-800-WICKED1” by Lisa Mantchev is a nice take on fairy tales that reminds me of Jim Hines’ Princess Series.  “Insubordination” by Susan R. Mathews was also a very pleasant story.  It reminds me a bit of a twist on Asimovs three laws except with slaves rather than robots.  It’s a very clever story of manipulation of set rules. And “Custer’s Angel” by Adrienne Gormley had a very unique take on a somewhat old theme.  Time travel without the travel.

I can’t say that I was completely disappointed by any of the stories, although I did find a few to be on the lower end of the “average” spectrum.  If you’re looking for a few good stories to introduce a few new authors, take a look at this and other compilations.  It’s a good way to get a taste of a writer without the commitment of a full novel.