DEquinox

Abyss & Apex #78 is up

Just in time for the last bit of National Poetry Month, the 78th issue of Hugo-nominated Abyss & Apex is up! There are nine poems in this quarterly issue, & I'm very happy to report that one of them -- "Red Waking" -- is mine.

Find the current issue here: https://www.abyssapexzine.com/

"Red Waking" (a sonnet of Mars, volcanoes, & Pompeii paranoia) is here: https://www.abyssapexzine.com/2021/04/red-waking/
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My Goodreads review: Powerful Women of the Medieval World

Powerful Women of the Medieval WorldPowerful Women of the Medieval World by Dorsey Armstrong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This short ( 10 lectures) series was entertaining & highly informative throughout, though somewhat lacking in non-Western subjects. Dr. Armstrong does include one lecture on the Mongol queens, though, & it's one of the liveliest of the series. Otherwise, at least a few of the women discussed will be somewhat familiar to anyone with a major interest in women's history. There's a good mix of political, literary, & religious subjects, however; & a lot of solid content in each 30 minute lecture.

Dr. Armstrong is a witty & enthusiastic speaker, & I found myself wishing this course were at least twice as long as it is. Since it's available free to Audible members, I'd recommend it to anyone else missing Women's History Month already.



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My Goodreads review: The Scorpion's Tail

The Scorpion's Tail (Nora Kelly #2)The Scorpion's Tail by Douglas Preston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This second entry in the Nora Kelly (& also Corrie Swanson, please!) offshoot series continues to deliver what their readers come for: fast-paced Southwestern adventure with archaeological detail & two very likable & competent female leads. Preston & Child know how to fine-tune a thriller to the last detail, tucking in all the loose ends. If some of the plot points are a little -- or more than a little -- over the top, experienced fans aren't much fussed. Solid quiet realism is not what these authors are known for.

That said, I still reached the end of this adventure (way too late at night) wondering whether to give it three or four stars out of five. I finally went with four, because I love New Mexico & anything to do with the archaeology there. However, the ending of this one wound up quite abruptly, & with (even) more than the usual amount of deus ex machina. Without committing spoiler, I was annoyed that Nora & Corrie weren't allowed to do more & figure out more for themselves. I didn't mind Pendergast's eventual appearance -- I'd have been disappointed if he hadn't shown up -- but he did more than I was expecting.

I'll definitely continue reading this series, so long as it retains its Southwestern focus. I'm just hoping to be less aware of the formula behind the craftsmanship next time.



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My Goodreads review: Powerful Women Who Ruled the Ancient World

Powerful Women Who Ruled the Ancient WorldPowerful Women Who Ruled the Ancient World by Kara Cooney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This short (12 lectures) Audible Great Courses offering was actually even more interesting -- & less conventionally feminist -- than I'd expected. Cooney, an Egyptologist, devotes two lectures each to Hatshepsut & Cleopatra VII, plus two each to Greece & Rome. This still allows a little scope for ancient China (one lecture, featuring a dowager empress I do not recommend learning about while eating . . . she made Game of Thrones look like kindergarten), Biblical women, Boudica, & ancient Mesopotamia.

Rather than simply narrating the fascinating lives of these women, Cooney does an excellent job of explaining how they achieved power, what limits were placed upon this (none of them ruled or otherwise held power without a man somewhere in the picture), & what those around them gained from their elevated status. This makes the course nearly as much ancient political science as women's studies -- and, possibly, of interest to a wider audience.

This course is being offered as an "Audible Plus" selection, free with membership. As such, it's well worth the time investment for anyone looking to wind up Women's History Month with some solid academic information.



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My Goodreads review: Camelot 3000

Camelot 3000Camelot 3000 by Mike W. Barr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I first read this 12-issue series back in college, when a friend loaned me the actual separate issues. I was impressed by it then, & I'm still impressed today by its audacity of imagination. I'm not a regular reader of graphic novels, but anything that combines the prophesied return of Arthur with far-future alien invasion will get (& probably hold) my attention pretty quickly.

I took a while getting through this one, because I was savoring the artwork along with the sheer weirdness of the narrative. There is also much truly Arthurian flavor to this, with detailed references to some of the more obscure stories.

New readers should know that this series is somewhat dated. It came out in the mid-1980s, & imposes the flavor of that time onto the year 3000. The president of the US is a Reaganesque gunslinger, the Soviet Union is still very much alive, & nothing much has changed with either Communist China or Africa. Certain plot twists (no spoilers!) which were pretty radical at the time now seem quite tame, and the overall treatment of the female characters leaves a good bit to be desired by current standards.

That said, I'd still recommend this series to lovers of the Arthurian legend, & particularly to those who are also SF fans.







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My Goodreads review: A Thousand Ships

A Thousand ShipsA Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Women's viewpoints seem to be everywhere lately in classical mythology and related fiction (think The Silence of the Girls or Circe), but I'm still glad I made time for this one. Rather than telling the story of one woman/goddess, Haynes moves through the Trojan War & its aftermath through the viewpoints of many women -- Greek and Trojan, mortal & immortal. Although this approach is occasionally disorienting, it adds depth to the familiar plotline while making the most of the author's research. The returning voice of the muse of epic poetry creates a useful but unobtrusive frame.

The novel itself feels less lyrical / emotional than some I've read in this subgenre, but this tone makes the events no less chilling. Haynes' choice of multiple viewpoints allows the examination of some events through more than one woman's eyes. Penelope's voice in letters to her long-absent husband also helps to keep the overall narrative on track, as the faithful but frustrated Penelope hears of Odysseus only from the random songs of bards visiting her court.

The author's own narration might push this one from 4.5 to 5 stars, but perhaps that's only because I'm a sucker for classical /mythological material delivered in a no-nonsense academic British accent. However that extra half-star manifested itself, I'd strongly recommend enjoying this one on audio.



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My Goodreads review: Dead Lies Dreaming

Dead Lies Dreaming (The Laundry Files, #10)Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


J.M Barrie meets H.P. Lovecraft in this decidedly strange -- but fascinating -- offshoot of Stross's Laundry Files series. Set after the appearance of the New Management (i.e., the stars have turned right & Nyarlathotep is Prime Minister), it features none of Stross's familiar intelligence officers. Instead, the reader is treated to an increasingly dark & creepy book hunt with several competing groups in the chase. The Lost Boys this time around are a diverse found-family of transhumans, Wendy is an equally transhuman former cop, and the eldritch complications come thick & fast as the novel progresses.

Dedicated readers of the Laundry Files will probably find this item to be marvelous fun. Although the opening chapters struck me as a little scattered, all the plot-strings wove themselves together eventually, and the final pursuit was as action-packed as I could have hoped for. However, the level of background detail pretty much demands that readers be completely caught up on previous Laundry adventures.

Recommended for: Laundry fans willing to step outside Stross's intelligence world, into the deep weirdness of London under the New Management.



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