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fifty years on
one giant step waiting

-- Ann K. Schwader

lone witness
Collins in the capsule
for us all

-- Ann K. Schwader

Alien IIIAlien III by William Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another engrossing theater of the mind from Audible, though probably best for Alien series loyalists or obsessives (guilty as charged). This full-cast dramatization of a never-filmed William Gibson script offers a solid couple of hours of dark adventure, though with a Cold War twist that made it feel slightly dated to this listener.

Of course, it was written in 1987.

If you've been enjoying other Audible offerings from this universe, you already know what's in this package -- and you'll probably enjoy the heck out of it, though I found it a bit short for a full credit purchase. I got it as a monthly free item, & felt a long holiday weekend drive fly by.

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Less Than HumanLess Than Human by Gary Raisor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Weird Western meets vampirism meets the X-Files? Yes, with a side order of 1990s splatterpunk to keep things interesting. This may be one of the most unusual vampire novels I've ever read, though the vampire concept has to be stretched to describe what goes on in this one. Some familiarity with Mesoamerican mythology helps, too.

Beautifully but brutally written, Less Than Human combines a thriller plot (think Longmire without Longmire ) with the very real question of humans meeting the utterly inhuman. Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. And, just possibly, some of the good (or less bad?) people can overcome the worst of it, at a high price.

Fans of hard-edged or extreme horror will probably find this a five-star read. I stepped out of my comfort zone -- a well-received group read for Literary Darkness -- & ran into one of my Rather Not Read Abouts (maiming) more than once. If this is you, approach with caution.

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The 2019 Rhysling Anthology: The best science fiction, fantasy & horror poetry of 2018 selected by the Science Fiction Poetry AssociationThe 2019 Rhysling Anthology: The best science fiction, fantasy & horror poetry of 2018 selected by the Science Fiction Poetry Association by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I have poems in this volume, in both short & long form categories.]

Originally intended as a voting tool for members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, the annual Rhysling Anthology has become a well-produced celebration of the previous year in speculative poetry. As such, not everything in the book is likely to appeal to any one reader's tastes.

This year's selections seemed to run a bit more to actual SF and fantasy (less horror, though that was also well represented) and away from the "slipstream" trend of some previous years. Formal verse, as usual, was underrepresented. However, more of the long form poems were either formal or at least clearly structured this year -- a decided improvement, in my view.

194 pp., perfect bound trade paperback with original art color cover. Highly recommended for those interested in the current state of speculative poetry, or SF/F/H readers of any stripe looking to expand their horizons.

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Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary ShelleyRomantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't comment on the scholarship of this one -- I listened on Audible & had no access to any notes the book may have offered. However, I finished it feeling much more informed about the lives of two remarkable women I've been meaning to learn more about for years. My exposure to Wollstonecraft's writing was limited to (portions of!) A Vindication of the Rights of Women back in college, & I've read nothing of Mary Shelley's beyond Frankenstein. Bad, bad recovering English major . . .

This double biography is lively -- maybe a bit sensational, but fully justified by the facts -- & entertaining, and Susan Lyons offers a satisfyingly plummy narrative voice. Anyone hoping to retain a good opinion of either Shelley (the poet) or Byron might want to look elsewhere, however. Like her mother before her, Mary Shelley had enough trouble with both men & money to supply material for a couple of country albums! There is also the very real question of women living free lives before reliable birth control, & Gordon's work doesn't whitewash those details either. Nor does she make her subjects into feminist saints who never made bad life decisions or wronged another woman. They were highly gifted, but very human, people.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in women's literary history, or British lit in general.

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My Goodreads review: Dracul

Posted on 2019.06.10 at 16:51
Tags: , , ,
DraculDracul by Dacre Stoker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[I was supplied with a NetGalley copy of this book for award voting purposes, and in exchange for an honest review. ]

Despite being marketed as a prequel to Dracula, this novel feels less prequel than "secret history." Bram Stoker, members of his family, and several other real (or possibly real) characters are the focus of an intricately plotted classic horror adventure. Though it ends with a fairly traditional hunt-down of the Big Bad (no spoilers as to how this version ends!), there are enough unusual bits of vampire lore and associated legends to keep even a seasoned reader turning or clicking the pages.

The Authors' Note and Acknowledgements chapters are not to be skipped. In fact, I almost wish I'd read them first, as they explain the research and thought processes behind this nearly-nonfiction entertainment.

I hesitated long and hard between four and five stars for this one, but finally chose four (for most readers) due to a framing device which broke up my attention on the story in progress until it was finally concluded in the last portions of the novel. Readers with more patience, or simply a faster reading pace, may not be troubled.

Recommended for fans of classic vampire horror, Gothic novels, or dark "secret history." Probably essential for those primarily interested in Bram Stoker himself.

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30 years ago . . .

Posted on 2019.06.04 at 15:08
Tags: ,
the silence
after the tanks
one voice

-- Ann K. Schwader



My Goodreads review: The House Next Door

Posted on 2019.05.13 at 17:02
Tags: , ,
The House Next DoorThe House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a deeply creepy & well-written haunted house tale that suffers slightly from being dated. The book originally appeared in 1978, & it is very much of its time. People Magazine is still a new, sensational publication; cocktails are less a trendy art form than a way of life, and social mores are much different. This last item is particularly important to the story, though disclosing much more would be a spoiler.

Set in an affluent Atlanta suburb, this novel achieves a Southern Gothic feel without most of the traditional trappings. I don't recall ever reading about a (brand spanking new) house being haunted in quite this way. A lot depends upon whether or not you find the first-person POV character sympathetic, however. I had no problem with her, but some members of my reading group did.

One caveat: Bad Things do happen to pets in this one. Not in graphic detail or often, but late enough that I'd already been hooked by the plot.

Recommended for: ghost story enthusiasts looking for something different, & fans of contemporary slow burn horror.

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It's the last day of National Poetry Month already. Great sadness.

Since May is a busy, busy month for a lot of us, I'll end the month with some haiku websites to sample in the weeks to come. No matter how busy you are, surely there's time for a three-line poem! (Or two. Or three. Haiku are a bit like literary potato chips, once you discover how tasty they are.)

The Heron's Nest


(Fully on-line haiku journal, with 12 pages plus Editors' Choices to explore.)

Autumn Moon Haiku Journal


(Another fully on-line journal, though not paginated. I just discovered this one myself.)



(One new haiku a day, on this site or in your Inbox.)



("A daily haiku or micro-poem," on this site or in your Inbox.)

Modern Haiku


(A print haiku journal, but with fairly extensive online sample pages. Includes essays.)



(The print journal of the Haiku Society of America, with extensive online sample pages. Includes essays.)

The Haiku Foundation


(Fascinating site with Per Diem daily haiku & many articles, plus whole older collections of haiku available on-line.)

[Truth in blogging: aside from Autumn Moon, I've had work in all of these publications at some point.]

National Poetry Month is already winding down -- but there's still time to get a nice big dose of speculative poetry, free!

Eye to the Telescope #32, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association's online journal, is up now at


Edited by Lisa Timpf, this Sports & Games issue offers a wide variety of approaches to the theme, from formal verse to haibun to haiku and beyond.

Here's the ToC:

The Briar Witch • Colleen Anderson
The Ashes, 3150 A.D. • PS Cottier
2074 Hall of Fame Game • David E. Cowen
ground-breaking • D. A. Xiaolin Spires
Death Spiral, Korolev Crater • Ann K. Schwader
“Saturn’s rings” • Stewart C. Baker
drag strip drag • Francine P. Lewis
bulletins from the First Intragalactic Peace Games (2443) • Brittany Hause
A Game of Astral Pool • Marge Simon
“stardust” • LeRoy Gorman
Blood and Dominoes • F. J. Bergmann
The Arbiter • John C. Mannone
The Commandant of Mars • Mary Soon Lee
Ten-Card Tarot, Pentacles Wild • F. J. Bergmann
Lost Palace, Lighted Tracks • Oliver Smith
The Third Shoe • David C. Kopaska-Merkel & Ann K. Schwader
Noughts and Double Crosses • Andrew J. Wilson
Hide and Seek on Colony Twelve • Juleigh Howard-Hobson
Coliseum Reborn • Herb Kauderer
Games Wizards Play • Jennifer Crow
The Trophy Room • Andrew J. Wilson
Galactus Sends Regrets to the Earth • David E. Cowen

Truth in blogging: yes, 1.5 of the poems in this issue are by Yours Truly.

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