Science Fiction | Inhuman Swill | William Shunn
Inhuman Swill : Science Fiction : Page 13
            

'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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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!

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=45

See also [info]shunncast.

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Raise your hand if you're planning to attend Nebula Awards Weekend in New York next month.

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Habitable planet for man?

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The headline of this Malaysian Sun story is rather optimistic, but the discovery of the most Earthlike extrasolar planet yet is definitely exciting.

A nice perspective on extrasolar planets is offered in this 2004 New York Times essay by Dennis Overbye, written on the occasion of the discovery of what was then the smallest yet detected.

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ShunnCast #44

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Epidode #44 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads the second of three parts of his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella "Inclination."

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=44

See also [info]shunncast.

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Easing on down The Road

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Paul Witcover of [info]theinferior4 somehow scoops everyone on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer win for The Road.

A bigger Pulitzer stunner, though, is that Ray Bradbury gets a special citation for "his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy." As Paul says, it's almost like reading a Pulitzer report from a parallel universe.

Elsewhere online, Wikipedia had this to say about the 2007 Pulitzers:

The Pulitzer Prizes for 2007 were announced on an otherwise unremarkable day in April. Winners included some people at the L.A. Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other rags nationwide. Notably, the New York Times won only a single prize, leading to a sense of despair in the newsroom, accompanied by resentment at Columbia's board of trustees. Times staffers could only take comfort in the fact that the Washington Post got stiffed entirely.
Check it out fast, because this gem surely won't last there for long. (I took a screen shot.)
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Aurally inclined

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The complete text of "Inclination" is now available in three downloadable audio files, read by the author, at:

http://www.shunn.net/inclination/

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ShunnCast #43

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Epidode #43 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads the first of three parts of his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella "Inclination."

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=43

See also [info]shunncast.

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RIP Kurt Vonnegut

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And sadly, the first thing I learned clicking over to the "Print" section of Sci Fi Wire was that Kurt Vonnegut has died. Whether you think he was a science fiction writer or not, he was one of the greats and will be missed.

So it goes.

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Interview on the wire

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Today over at Sci Fi Wire, the news service of the Sci Fi Channel, I am interviewed by John Joseph Adams (a/k/a [info]slushgod) about my Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella "Inclination."

Lots of other nominees have been interviewed over the past couple of weeks in the "Print" section of Sci Fi Wire. Read 'em all!

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