Inhuman Swill : Page 72
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Short takes

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A big cookie lies pulverized in a tight accretion disc in the bus lane of Madison Avenue. Two black (soot-stained?) pigeons peck away at the unbelievable bonanza. Peck peck hop peck.

Cars are coming. A gray sedan bears down. Fly, pigeons! Get out of the way! Pigeons, why can't you hear my telepathic command! CAR!

Black wheels chew up the meters. With an annoyed flutter the pigoens hop aside at the last possible instant, wings a finger's width from rubber mayhem.

Hop hop peck peck peck.

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'The Outback Stars' by Sandra McDonald
Strangely, I first met Lt. Jodenny Scott and Sgt. Terry Myell in Sandra McDonald's second novel, which I read in part last year at Blue Heaven. I say "strangely" because the first novel, The Outback Stars, was only published a couple of weeks ago. But I loved the characters enough from the partial second manuscript that I couldn't wait to go back and find out what happened to them earlier.

I got my chance a couple of months ago with an advance reader's copy of The Outback Stars, and I was not disappointed. Lt. Scott and Sgt. Myell serve in Team Space, a future starfaring naval corps whose ships are more than just military vessels. The ships ferry huge container modules—some bearing cargo, others luxury passenger accomodations, others prison populations—up and down the Alcharinga, a sort of spacetime manifold that permits hyperspatial travel. The Alcharinga was built by a vanished race and offers access to seven planets that seem to have been set up expressly for human habitation, but no one knows why. Team Space doesn't seem to want to look this gift horse too hard in the mouth.

Jodenny Scott is a heroic but haunted young lieutenant, one of the few to survive the destruction of the vessel Yangtze as it entered the Alcharinga. Her new assignment aboard the Aral Sea is to take its troubled and inefficient Underway Stores division and turn it around, but she is barely recovered herself from months of intensive therapy. One of her sergeants, Terry Myell, is just as unhappy, having muddled through a false rape allegation but emerged with at best few friends amongst his crewmates and at worst some deadly enemies. And just when Jodenny and Terry start suspecting that some ominous conspiracy is afoot in Underway Stores, they unexpectedly get caught up in the mystery of the builders of the Alcharinga....

A novel that puts the minutiae of naval procedure front and center may not sound like a gripping read, but dammit it is. Sandra McDonald (blogging nearby as [info]sandramcdonald) is a former naval officer herself, and obviously knows this world inside and out. We get to know our two protagonists by observing the way they conduct their inhumanly busy careers and navigate obstacles that range from trivial to lethal, and startlingly come to care about them very deeply in the process. These two broken but good and competent people play their cards very close to their vests, and it doesn't take long for us to start rooting for them to give in to their obvious mutual attraction. But at the same time we're terrified that when they do they will run spectacularly and destructively afoul of Team Space's fraternization regs.

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Tell them Seth sent you

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A delightful Times article about New York City's speakeasies:

One person who probably did not patronize the place was William M. Bennett, who in 1929 ran in the Republican mayoral primary as a dry candidate. One of his campaign promises was that he would close a speakeasy that sat "in the shadow of Police Headquarters"—very possibly Onieal's predecessor—along with what he estimated were 100,000 speakeasies in the city.

His threat did not go over well. He lost the nomination to a wet candidate named Fiorello H. La Guardia, 62,894 to 17,100. Which might explain why your flight to New York will not be landing in Bennett Airport, and why you can have a drink at the bar upon arrival.  [full article]

Why are we moving again? Oh, yeah, Prohibition is over.

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Splendor in the grass

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Splendor in the grass
[info]ellapup had only a small part in the "First of May" project, but this is how she spent her first of May.

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Rush Vapor Trails shirt
I almost forgot to show you what I wore today for record shopping:

And yes, I'm wearing it for work, and yes, I'll wear it to the NYRSF reading tonight.

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Snakes & Arrows
I just barely put the album on, but holy shit, I'm flipping through the Snakes & Arrows booklet and there are not one, not two, but three instrumentals. Good God, it's a Rush lover's fantasy.

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ShunnCast #45

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Epidode #45 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads the third and concluding part of his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella "Inclination." Plus, special violence, sex, profanity and music episode!

See also [info]shunncast.

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Joe Murphy Memorial Fund
Joe Murphy, podcaster and XM Radio personality, passed away April 1 from the rare cancer leiomyosarcoma, which attacks the smooth muscles of the body.

Joe's favorite song was Jonathan Coulton's "First of May," so to raise awareness of his disease and raise funds for his family, a group of podcasters spearheaded by the estimable Paul Fischer and the heroic Phil Rossi have recorded a benefit version of "First of May":

"First of May (Joe Murphy Mix)" Written by Jonathan Coulton Recorded by The P-Cast Allstars 6:03     7.38 Mb     160kbps
Ella and I each have a small part. See if you can spot us!

And please, if you can, donate to the Joe Murphy Memorial Fund.

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YYZ hero


Some of you here—and you know who you are—will share my enthusiasm and anxiety about this coming Tuesday's release of the new Rush album, Snakes & Arrows. The first single, "Far Cry," didn't blow me away, but the fragment of "Spindrift" now available at the Rush site sounds different from anything they've done, so my hopes are high.

Anyway, for those of you I'm talking to—and you definitely know who you are—here's some "YYZ"/Guitar Hero 2 action for you:

Be sure to watch all the way to the end.

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Ella the Wonder Dog saves the day again, this time warning the Invisible Hounds of Hell away from Astoria before they can instantiate a doorway into our dimension.

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