Saturday, May 13, 2006

Series 2, Episode 02: The Patron Saint of Plagues (review)

Book Review

The Patron Saint of Plagues by Barth Anderson [Read extract]
   —Publication by Bantam Spectra, April 2006
He stood and looked across Nissevalle Valley. The greenhouses had been emptied of sprouts, and fields were planted and primed for summer storms and sun. For nearly two decades, farms from Alberta to Chihuahua had battled seasonal vCaMV outbreaks for meager yields. Gold mold was known to sweep through whole regions in a single season, like a slow-motion prairie fire. But it had never come to Nissevalle. This quop was poised for another very profitable year, and losing shares now would be a disaster. Spinach rippled with passes of May breeze, and so did the corn, low and fluttering. Field hands in hats like Stark's weaved through the young crops as tillers dogged behind, maneuvering through the tomatoes on preprogrammed weeding missions. The idyllic haze of Nissevalle Farm suddenly looked like so much rot.

"Jesus," he whispered. "It really here."

After eighteen years away from this farm, Henry David Stark was still getting himself apace with death's routine visits here. It was one thing to behold it in a hot zone, or an anonymous hospital, but another entirely to see death pass between the paddocks and hay barns of his childhood. Yesterday morning in the creamery, loud with lowing and meowing and the mechanical gasp of milkers, a heavy-headed cow swung her face away from bright headlights shooting suddenly through the dawn's fog and stepped backwards with a stomping hoof, catching a small kitten unawares. Stark had cried out, trying to scare the cat from danger. But blink. Gone. Then, last night in the goat barn, Stark watched as three kids, slick with blood, slid out of their nanny's body, but without so much as a kick, or even a breath. Stark was surprised how such small passings troubled him, after what he'd seen in, say, China's Borna outbreak. But he'd left the CDC's Special Pathogens Unit to take charge of its Surveillance and Response Central Command two years ago, in order to distance himself from death's rhythms. In bringing the Central Command (that is, himself) to the co-op farm last January, it was inevitable that he'd synchronize himself with death--yet again.

(Full text review here.)

Music by Cargo Cult

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Publicist Guidelines

(with apologies to John Scalzi)

Are you interested in sending me a book to review for Lies and Little Deaths? I've recently received some submissions from authors hoping to spread the news about their just- or soon-to-be-published books, and though these authors are people I've gotten to know either in person or through the blogosphere, my reviews have been even-handed and fair.

So if you are an author or publicist who wants to send me something to review, here's what you should know before we go any further:

1. Lies and Little Deaths is a podcast produced by me, Jason Erik Lundberg, in which I read short stories aloud, review books, and talk about things that get my goat. Though the podcast has been stripped down, previous episodes have included discussions of literature, fantastic fiction, writing, politics, films, music and social issues. Stats indicate that the podcast has on average about a hundred listeners.

2. I reserve the right to talk about whatever the hell I want. Though I no longer audioblog on the show, I may bring that feature back sometime if something really bugs me. That said, I do not claim to be an ultimate authority on anything. I talk about what interests me, but often may not have all the information. That's where you come in. Comments are enabled on the LLD blog page so that we can open a discussion. If you think I'm full of shit, you are entirely welcome to tell me so, though you'd better back yourself up with evidence. Ad hominem attacks are not welcome here.

3. Also, I reserve the right to review whatever books I want. These typically include those that are stacked in my long reading queue, but this could also include books that you may want to send me. However, if I don't like the book, I may not finish it; I go through a lot of books, and don't have time to read something I don't enjoy on some level. So if you send your book and I don't like it, rather than waste time and energy saying why I don't like it, I will simply not review it. To save yourself the trouble of possibly wasting money on production and postage, it's best to query me first if you think your book is something I might like. Take a look at what I've already reviewed to get an idea of my literary tastes.

4. The best way to get ahold of me is through email, at I try to respond to email as quickly as I can, but I also teach college English, as well as writing novels, so my time is limited. If I haven't gotten back to you in a week, feel free to follow up with me. However, if I tell you "no thanks," no amount of pleading or cajoling will get me to change my mind.

5. I read fairly widely in both literature and fantastic fiction, but the books that get my attention typically have a surreal or magical bent. I'm not as interested in hard science fiction, high fantasy, splatterpunk, or books where nothing really happens, though I know of exceptions to all of these that I'm willing to look at because of exceptional style or original content. I also read graphic novels and YA fiction. If you're unsure where your book fits into this, query me first.

6. Thus far, I have not conducted any interviews on the podcast. That may change in the future, but right now, I just don't have the time.

7. If you have something cool and I decide to review it, it may take a while before I get to it. Like I said, my time is precious, and there are a lot of books that I want to read. However, I may at least mention it at LundBlog in the meantime. Again, no guarantees, but if I dig the vibe of your work, I'll try to at least get the word out.

8. Any other questions? Query me.