My story, "Taking Care" will be appearing.
The issue is said to be going to printers in about 3 weeks, so will be out sometime in Sept. Yay. More details to follow
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When I read on Jim Van Pelt's - jimvanpelt - blog that he was offering AUP copies of his collection, "The Radio Magician and Other Stories", I was ecstatic that I happened along soon enough to score myself a copy. I'd read the short story "The Radio Magician" in Realms of Fantasy's February 2009 issue, loved it, and knew I wanted to read more of Jim's stories. I wasn't disappointed. One thing I liked about this collection was the diversity of the nineteen stories. None came in a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter mold. Most were Science Fiction, and while I personally prefer Fantasy stories, I find Jim's stories well to my liking. I like SF stories that rely on "magical" happenings and events--a touch of fantasy, if you will.
Nineteen stories that will keep you entertained and give the reader plenty to think about. Most stories raise an ethical question of some kind, without offering answers or solutions. The characters are thoughtfully developed, and I truly cared about each and every one of them, which I think speaks of the author's ability to make each one seem real. It's a hard line to walk to keep a character sympathetic without coming across too heavy. I highly recommend this collection. Nineteen great stories that give a great diversity of reading experiences, all thoughtful and thought-provoking. Rather than list each and every story, I think I'll just list some of my favorites.
"The Radio Magician" is why I wanted to read this collection in the first place. I read this story in Realms of Fantasy, and it charmed me beyond measure. It's a heart-warming story about a boy's fear for his own future and how he finds the bravery to move forward despite it. I can't say enough good things about this story. It sucked me in and kept me entranced and desperate for good things to come for our little hero.
"Where Did You Come From? Where Did You Go?" - Olivia knew she was going to have a bad day, but she couldn't have imagined a substitute teacher who might or might no be certifiable. Thought provoking story about choices and free will. Would you destroy evil if it meant you also destroyed something good at the same time? What would you choose? No judgments were given here, just offering up possibilities.
"Different Worlds" - Jenny's dad is hurt. Jenny, only 10 years old, tries to make it through alien-patrolled streets across town to the hospital with the help of her dog, Robbie. A story of a little girl's courage and love; devotion between girl and dog; and a question of the ethics of keeping pets and our responsibility towards them. I liked Jenny a lot. This was a well done character study.
"The Small Astral Object Genius" - Dustin has a PeekaBoo device. Does it really vanish and travel to distant galaxies, taking pictures and searching for alien worlds? Dustin's mom and dad peek in on him now and then, but they are distracted by their marriage woes and leave him on his own to listen to the silence in the house. This story speaks to that little spark within each of us that wants to discover the next big thing, that wants to make the world--and our own lives--a better place. Are we alone in the universe and in our own homes?
"Tiny Voices" - A story about new life and impending death, inanimate objects made to "live" with sentient chips. Because they have a voice, does that mean they're alive? And is a person without a voice dead?
"Echoing" - Laird is trying to get home for Christmas, but his semitruck is lost in a snowstorm. Commander Tremaine wakes from a long sleep to find his spaceship off course, hurtling through the stars. Brianna is lost in a full house, closed into her father's study, a half bottle of pills already in her stomach, while the Christmas party goes on in the other room. What if each one were connected somehow and could save the others? Hurtling through the stars, traveling across time and the universe, seeing glimpses of other lives, and how it all comes together in the end.
"Ice Cream Man" - Keegan drives an ice cream truck through the shambles of neighborhoods, serving ice cream to adults who bring him scavenged goods in exchange for ammo for protection against the mutoid monsters. Everyone wonders how Keegan can make ice cream without cows or electricity, and where he gets all the ammo. This post apocalyptic story raises the question of who the real monsters are, and judging on appearances.
"The Last Age Should Know Your Heart" - Marvell wakes from sleep mode with only six minutes to do what he can on the aging power grid before he has to power down again. But he wants to see Three Andrea. He recites poetry, long stored in his memory banks. This was bittersweet, a tale about the end of the world, devices left in place and now without purpose. Who would have thought even an aging work drone can have a heart?
I guess by now you're getting the impression that it's hard for me to pick a favorite. I could have easily listed seven or more other stories. I liked them all, and that's not just empty words to entice you into buying the book. As I read through my comments on each story to pick which ones to post about, I realized that it was hard to leave any of them out. But if I related the plot of each and every story here, you'd not have reason to run over to Amazon and purchase Jim's book. And I wouldn't want to do that. So I've resorted to just a small sampling and encourage you to see the rest for yourself. You won't regret it.
Please visit his website here: James Van Pelt
Amazon listing here: Radio Magician and Other Stories
Here's a short sampling of the rest of the stories.
"One Day" - Redmond wakes up from coldsleep to find his brother Grant's sleep pod empty and still warm. So proceeds a cat and mouse chase, brothers at odds, but in the end, can they destroy each other? Or have they already?
"Where and When" - Jake and Martin activate Brownson's time device and travel back in time--only to find themselves aboard the ill-fated zeppelin, the Hindenburg. They escape with only seconds to spare. In their next time jump, they find themselves on Martinique, two minutes before the volcano explodes.
"Lashwanda at the End" The planet Papaver is trying to kill the human explorers. It's already stolen their water.
"The Light of a Thousand Suns" - A security mall cop notices a trailer out in the back lot with a few people lined up outside. Was it there earlier? What he discovers inside is disturbing, to say the least. This story gave me a chill with its message.
"Of Late I Dreamed Of Venus" - Elizabeth plans to remake Venus into a new and improved Earth. In trying to seek perfection and control, she finds nothing is ever perfect and only when one loses control can one find true beauty.
"One Day in the Middle of the Night" - A brother wakes from coldsleep to find his brother's sleep pod is empty, but still warm. so proceeds a cat and mouse chase, and brothers at odds.
"The Inn at Mount Either" A inn at the hub of alternate realities, where long hallways can take you someplace else. So what happens when one becomes lost somewhere else?
"Sacrifice" Jermone and Cynda are chose for the ritual, but Cynda has doubts about the gods, and whether the old abandoned rusty buildings are truly the homes of the gods.
"The Boy Behind the Gate" A father searches for his kidnapped son in old abandoned mines. Two stories, two times, collide here in a heartbreaking story.
"Origin of the Species" Romulus's father tells him everyone is descended from mythological creatures which explains a lot about why his dad disappears on full moons, and why Smells are particularly enticing to Romulus--especially Fay's. This tale doesn't take the normal route, and is poignant and sweet.
"Saturn Ring Blues" Ring racing in a buglighter, Virgil wants Elinor, but she's focused on racing. How far will he go trying to rescue her from a mishap?
"How Music Begins" A busload of high school band students is captured by aliens. How they band (pun intended by me) together and keep order, even after so many years, this is a sweet tale and I really enjoyed this one. It was another of my favorites