Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse

Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse is available as an eBook. Here is a list of the places you can buy it. Besides great stories, another reason the buy this book is that a portion of the proceeds goes to the Author C. Clarke Award.

I bought Pandemonium because it has stories by two of my "must read" South African authors, Lauren Beukes and S.L. Grey. That's technically three authors since S.L. Grey is actually the writing team of Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg.

The editors did a superb job selecting the eighteen stories for this collection. It has an excellent balance of styles and themes and there isn't a single selection that I didn't enjoy. You'll find a wide range of interpretations of the Apocalypse including: environmental, collapse of social order, quantum mechanics, unknown forces, alien invasion, and, of course, religious themes.

The anthology has a thoughtful organization with a lead story by David Bryher, The Architect of Hell. A light fun read to get us started. The anchor story is Sophia McDougall's "Not the End of the World" which left me both sad and hopeful. The last sentence is the prefect end to the collection.  In between are humor (a demon decides that the apocalypse isn't necessary), serious (a night watchman in an art museum thinks he knows how to keep the forces of chaos appeased, and a mix. One, Sadak In Search of The Waters of Oblivion, left me gutted (but not in a torture porn horror way).

To get yourself in the proper mood, I recommend that you look at the artwork of 19th Century painter, John Martin. Google has a nice gallery of his paintings here.

Since this is a blog that focuses on Africa, I'm going the highlight the four stories by South African authors. Being that these are short stories I'm going to be stingy with details but trust me, they are all excellent.

OMG GTFO by S.L. Grey
Sarah and Louis examine the important question "What role will social media play in the Apocalypse?" You'll get a taste of their sharp social commentary. The perverse twist at the end is why I love these guys.

Their first novel is The Mall and if you like intelligent horror you need to read it. Here is where you can buy it. Sarah is from Cape Town and Louis works out of Johannesberg.

Chislehurst Messiah by Lauren Beukes
Golddigger/slimy bastard Simon Thomas watches the disintegration of society through Youtube videos and develops an inflated view of his role in the new world order. The story could be subtitled "The Chavs Shall Inherit the Earth." Don't know what a chav is? Wikipedia can help. Also look at the Vickie Pollard episodes in BBC's Little Britain.

Lauren's book Zoo City recently won the 2011Author C. Clarke award. It is a terrific blending of the hardboiled detective and the phantasmagorical. She is based in Cape Town.

The Immaculate Particle by Charlie Human
In Charlie's Cape Town, something called the Dissolve has isolated the city and is cutting chunks out of it. A man is desperate to find his daughter even if it means striking at the heart of cult religion that arose from the Dissolve. This story is rich in detail and promise and could be expanded into a novel. Hint, hint.

Charlie is a writer from Cape Town. The first story of his I read was "Dance Dance Revolution" on the World SF Blog. It is an unusual take on special forces operations.

Postapocalypse by Sam Wilson
Sam's contribution falls into the "Yikes! how do we know what is real?" category. It takes a quantum mechanics look at how perception and thought might change reality. Scary stuff.

Sam is in the Cape Town area. The bio says that he "...once ran a web-based service where he would scream people's messages off the top of Table Mountain."


Monday, November 14, 2011

Crime Fiction and the 'Metaphysics of Disorder' by Jonathan Amid

A review and analysis of Counting the Coffins by Diale Tlholwe and The Lazarus Effect by H.J. Glakai. If you have an eReader that can handle Adobe DRM protected books then Counting the Coffins and The Lazarus Effect are available and affordable from kalahari.net where I purchased them.

Jonathan Amid review is in this post on The Stellenbosch Literary Project web site. As you might imagine from the title, Amid's review is academic in its approach, complete with Works Cited at the end. Since I wander around academic circles myself, I found Amid's analysis quite interesting. I've read Tlholwe's first book, Ancient Rites, and Glakai's The Lazarus Effect, and have Counting the Coffins queued up on my ereader. Amid has given me much to think about and I'll probably re-read these books with his review in mind.

An unexpected consequence came out of my reading this review. Amid includes Sifiso Mzobe among a list of "English authors." Since Mzobe is a Black South African author this confused me and I asked about it in a comment. This is an excellent example how a simple word can have a vastly different connotation based on the culture of the readers. One person responded
In my personal experience as an Afrikaans South African who grew up being educated in the English language, I’ve found that English-speaking South Africans, or South Africans of English descent, tend to correct one when one calls them “English”, since they are actually “English-speaking South Africans”. 
So, when a South African talks of “English” writing, they are very often referring to writing by an author who writes in English, even if English is not their first language, and even though they are not natives or descendants of the country known as England.
 Amazing, isn't it, how easily misunderstanding can arise.

I did take exception when Amid disparaged the thrillers of Roger Smith and Mike Nicol, two authors I admire. He wrote

Tlhowle's writing is refreshing, unlike the predictably hard-boiled approach in Nicol's Revenge trilogy or the works of roger Smith. Rather than adopt the ultra-violent, no-holds-barred thriller character of these texts, Tlhowle chooses to write a limited yet memorable number of high impact set pieces in which the skill of the writing, instead of violent content grabs the reader.
 My feeling is that the style has to fit the content. Given the aspect of South African culture that these authors focus on, the violent thriller is the necessary framework. Tlhowle writes an entirely different book.

Read the article and my comment and let me know if you agree or disagree. I admin to a bias in this matter and might have had an overly sensitive reaction.

In any case, I commend Jonathan Amid for such a detailed analysis of these books and home his review generates interest. If Counting the Coffins is as good as Ancient Rites I know I will enjoy it and Golakai has give us a great new figure in South African Crime fiction in the female protagonist, Voinjama Johnson.