Books | Inhuman Swill | William Shunn

After the July republication of Cast a Cold Eye (the spooky novella I co-authored in 2009 with Derryl Murphy), I’ve been inspired to continue our stroll down Memory Lane with a rare little number from 2007.

That was the year John Klima’s Spilt Milk Press brought out a chapbook of six of my stories under the title An Alternate History of the 21st Century. This little collection of near-future science fiction included four reprinted short stories and two original novelettes.

One of those original stories, “Objective Impermeability in a Closed System,” went on to be reprinted in Hartwell & Cramer’s Year's Best SF 13. The other, “Not of This Fold,” has only ever appeared in the chapbook, but was still called out favorably in my entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

That little book also included whimsical illustrations by Mattias Adolfsson and a very kind introduction by Cory Doctorow (which, though not included in new edition, happens to be available to read at Boing Boing.)

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The Bone Clocks: A Novel by David Mitchell
This post about The Bone Clocks contains mild spoilers.

When grappling with works of genre fiction, most mainstream literary critics can be counted on to demonstrate a peculiar tone-deafness. Take the case of The New Yorker's James Woods, who calls David Mitchell's new novel The Bone Clocks "weightless," "empty," and "demented." So "frictionless" does Wood find it, in fact, that it prompts him to call into question the soundness of such earlier Mitchell works as Cloud Atlas.

Upon reflection, I have to admit that The Bone Clocks is probably my least favorite of Mitchell's novels (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet being the only one I haven't yet read). But I found it for the most part extremely engaging, even thrilling, and I dispute Wood's contention that "the realism—the human activity—is relatively unimportant" when stacked up against the novel's science-fictional premise.

The Bone Clocks is built, like much of Mitchell's work, around a structural conceit that passes the duty of first-person narrator, like a baton in a relay race, to a new point-of-view character every hundred pages or so. Each of the book's six sections becomes, in essence, a novella of its own, conveying the overall narrative from its intensely realistic beginnings with a runaway teenager in 1984 to its apocalyptic, post-oil conclusion in 2043.

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Full chapbook cover

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An Alternate History of the 21st Century
Mattias Adolfsson has posted his full original cover art for my upcoming chapbook in his blog:

Great stuff! And John Klima has some nice things to say about both the art and the chapbook itself over at his blog.

The chapbook should be coming in about a month's time. Don't forget to pre-order your copy for just five bucks.

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Cast in cold type

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I've sold a book! Well, half a book, anyway. A dark fantasy novella, to be precise.

According to my records, it was over four years ago that Derryl Murphy dropped me a note that said:

I've had this idea rattling around in the back of my head for few months now, but the starts have been all false, and a little voice has been telling me for a while now that I should contact you. You interested in doing a short story together? It involves photography and spirituality, sorta, which might make for a nice blend between us.

I had never collaborated, except for one quite short story almost a decade before, so I had some reservations but decided to give it a try anyway.

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