It's 2001, So Where's My Talking Computer? -

The Library Vault #14

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It's 2001, So Where's My Talking Computer?

By Denise Dumars     January 05, 2001

Returned by Anubis for Insufficient Postage

Well, they removed one of my least-vital organs (no, not my heart; that went years ago) and returned me from the Land of the Dead (now called the Land of the Ventilator) to torture you all for another year. It's 2001: Where's my flying car? My robot housekeeper? My Heuristic ALgorithm computer? My Pan Am Space Clipper roundtrip to the Moon? My enigmatic monolith with a width, length, height ratio of 1:4:9? Is it just me, or is the future terribly disappointing?

Anyway, we have lots of publishing news. Those Canadians are at it again: the new Sunburst Award will be given for the best Canadian SF, fantasy, and horror. It will come with a prize of a grand in Canadian dollars ($659 realI mean Americandollars). Some heavy-duty names in the genre will form the jury, including John Clute and Phyllis Gotlieb.

Stealth Pressabout which I talked last time and which is publishing folks like Peter Atkins, F. Paul Wilson et alis offering a free newsletter. Stop by and sign up. Paula Guran's other project, DarkEcho Horror (, goes monthly later this month. Another great free newsletter for writers, Inscriptions, just put out their Links of the Year for writers (, and for us necrophiles they also have a site listing all the writers who died in 2000 (

Hey, wait a minute, what's this? I thought Harlan Ellison hates the Internet! Now I read that 'Deeper than the Darkness,' his story of a bum with psi powers that the military wants to exploit, is available for less than $1 (how much less?) from Weird.

Writer Gerard Houarner, the man with the hardest name to spell in horror, has a new site where you can keep up to date on his publishing news: He wrote the previously-mentioned collection I Love You and There Is Nothing You Can Do About It and the hilarious chapbook Dead Cat Bounce. He's fiction editor of Space and Time magazine and will have a horror novel out from Leisure this year.

Barry Hoffman will give away free copies of his horror novel Born Bad as part of an anti-censorship demonstration at the University of Pennsylvania on Jan. 16 from 11-noon. If you recall, Hoffman was originally to have been granted a signing at the UPENN bookstore and another on-campus venue but both events were cancelled because the school felt the book contained too much 'sensitive material,' referring to depictions of student suicides. Never mind the fact that it also describes many support groups available on campus to prevent such tragedies. Students cannot buy the book on campus, so Hoffman is giving them away. How cool is that?

Go, Bob, Go!

Speaking of censorship....This one rates its own section. Seems a man bought a paperback book in a Kroger chain store somewhere on the east coast around Christmas. When he took it home and read it, he felt it was full of porn and blasphemy. So he went back to Kroger and complained. Not only did they take the book back; they also removed it from shelves throughout their chainan estimated 40,000 books. The book, if you hadn't guessed by now, is Robert Devereaux's Santa Steps Out, which I recommended last time. Hopefully all the free publicity from this incident will give the book a big boost in sales--nothing like being Banned in Boston to do wonders for your literary reputation. Go, Bob, go!

Fiction Foray

OK, it's time for our first fiction foray of the new millennium. Let's start with an SF novel with a New Year's connection. Joe Haldeman's The Coming is not the sequel to Santa Steps Out, but rather is about a 21st century astronomy prof, Aurora Bell (descended of Art Bell, perhaps?) who appears to receive a First Contact transmission saying the aliens will be here by New Year's Day. She's not sure if it's for real, but if it's a hoax, who's doing it? Earth is in total chaos; nuclear war to be exact, so I guess it all comes to a head at some point, so to speak.

Blowing away the horror competition yet again is Dean Koontz, with his latest novel From the Corner of His Eye. It's about Bartholomew Lampion, born with remarkable eyes that he loses and then regains again (don't ask). I'm thinking St. Lucy with her eyes on a plate; not sure if that's the image he intended. Lampion has a sworn enemysomeone who sounds lifted from a Peter Straub noveland there's a girl born of a vicious rape (possibly some anti-abortion propaganda here) who is linked to them both. Sigh. My editor will probably make me review this.

Mimi's Ghost by Tim Parks sounds like a literary gothic. His character Morris can't get over Mimimaybe he shoulda thought of that before he kidnapped and killed her. When he visits her grave on the Day of the Dead, the photo of her on the headstone winks at him, and a series of supernatural visitations begins between the two. Set in Italy as are most of Parks' works, this sounds weird and cool.

Ben Bova's not normally one of my faves, but his new novel, Jupiter looks promising. Called 'a novel of a planet stranger than we can imagine,' the book takes place on an Earth taken over by the puritanical New Morality party. The send a young astrophysicist to Jupiter to find out, I guess, if there's anyone there who wants a tacky statue of Santa kneeling in prayer before the baby Jesus. Anyway, the dude finds himself on a planet with liquid hydrogen, dark seas ten times larger than Earth, and planet-sized cyclones that blow for centuries. But what he also finds there will set the theocrats on their ears. Could be fun.

Yay! Rosemary Edghill has something new out. I mentioned her wonderful trilogy of Bast mysteries previously. Now's she's co-written, with Mercedes Lackey, the fantasy novel Beyond World's End. 'This is your soul on drugs,' says the dust jacket. Seems the Sidhe are up to no good as they and the drug pushers come up with something new and very nasty. It's up to bard and magician Eric Banyon, along with his pals, a hottie elfen half-breed and a gargoyle, to foil the bad guys. This is the fourth book in a series I hadn't heard of yet (my reputation still stands), but is the first in the series co-written with Edghill. For more info on the works of Rosemary Edghill, see

New Nonfiction

When he was six years old, Robert Drewe moved with his family to an isolated area of Perth, Australia. It had a great reputation for serenity, solitude, and the friendliness of its people. Then a man he knew killed a boy he knewand randomly killed eight strangers. The Shark Net is a compelling true-crime account of how those murders affected the suburban dream and made Drewe's childhood a nightmare. The writing in this is excellent, and it's highly recommended for those who enjoy true-crime stories.

Wendy Northcutt, inventor of the Darwin Awards ( has a book out of these allegedly true stories of people who removed themselves from the gene pool by dying in incredibly stupid ways. My favorite account is probably that of the absent-minded terrorist who opened the letter bomb he had sent when it was returned to him for insufficient postage. Kaboom. Coming in a close second is the story called the 'Maine Chainsaw Romance.' Seems a guy and a gal were having an Internet romance, but when he showed up at her place, she spurned him. So, he goes to his car and gets a chainsaw from the trunk, then cuts his own throat with it on her front lawn to prove his love to her. I can't imagine a more romantic gesture...

Now for something a little more scholarly. Mark Jaffe's The Gilded Dinosaur is about the fossil war between E. D. Cope and O. C. Marsh and the rise of American science. These guys lived in the second half of the 19th centurycalled the Gilded Ageand discovered more dinosaurs than anyone. But their personalities clashed; egos got in the way, and they quibbled frantically about what the fossil record had to say about evolution. The two paleontologists fought and dug up bones throughout the Wild West, meeting along the way many famous people, including Custer, Sitting Bull, and Buffalo Bill. Not to mention the fact that most eminent scientists of the day were in their social circle. Looks like a great chronicle of science, Western history, and of course, dinosaurs.

What Are You Looking At?

As Ferris Beuhler would say, why are you still here? This is the end of the column for this week. Go out and buy some books. Shoo, already.


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