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As previously reported, science magazine Nature has been running a regular series of short science fiction stories in its pages. Typically these stories are short (about 1,000 words or a single page of the magazine) one idea pieces based around a particular scientific conceit. They have also been only accessible to paid subscribers (which only seems unreasonable).

I happened to check their website today and found that the latest two stories are accessible, and was delighted to see that one of them was by Charles Stross. His story, MAXO signals, is one of the better very short pieces I’ve read all year. Recognising the limitations of the format, Stross doesn’t attempt to build character or unwind plot, rather he chooses an apparently universal characteristic and lets it play out until the reader either smiles or groans (or both). To tell anymore about the story would be to remove any point in reading it. Suffice it to say, it’s well worth clicking on the link.

Stross seems to be making something of a habit of getting published in science magazines. He also has a short story, “Remade”, in the September issue of Australian science magazine Cosmos. The story isn’t online so you’ll either have to buy the issue, or wait for a new story collection. I haven’t read the story yet, but will report later.

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Reality denies the morality of glibness. Turned on the ipod this morning, and put it on shuffle. As I opened the Times-Picayune news page to see if there was any relief to the unremitting news about New Orleans, it began to play the Eels track ‘Hey Man, Now We’re Really Living”. I had to turn it off. Thousands may be dead, says one headline. Looting on Tchoupitoulas Avenue says another. So, I turn off the music, cast my mind back to hot, clear sunny days in 1993 sitting at the Cafe du Monde, sipping cafe au laite, and try to see how things can get better. Donate if you can. Do anything. And believe. Things are bad, and they will get worse it seems, but this is the Big Easy. It’s one of those strange, magical places in the world, and things will get better.

American antidote

Buy this book, and read it!Earlier this year I received a galley of Bradley Denton’s latest novel, Laughin’ Boy. It’s a dark, dark, bitingly funny novel that at least one of my reviewers found too bleak to finish. To me it a was breath of fresh air, a delight from start to finish, and a joy to see in print after so many years without a new Denton novel. Looking back at the year so far, if Geoff Ryman’s Air was my favorite novel of 2004, then Laughin’ Boy is my favorite of 2005 so far. It’s a flat-out essential read.

With that in mind, I’d like to point your attention to Dorman Shindler’s subtly titled interview with Denton, Bradley Denton opens his big fat mouth about media excess, political correctness and the craft of writing over at scifi.com, which addresses everything you might want to know, except when we can see the next book. If that piques your interest, you might also want to read John Clute’s review of the novel (also at scifi.com), where he describes it as ‘one of the funniest novels of the past decade’.

There is one thing you should know, though, if you’d like to read the adventures of Porno Girl, the Racist Ranger, and Laughin’ Boy. The estimable Subterranean Press, who are to be applauded for publishing the novel, only produced 750 copies. According to their website, the book was already out of print before publication. Check with the publisher first to see if you can get a copy, then get on to your favorite reseller. You need this one. Oh, and any publisher outside the US: if you’re reading this note, you should seriously consider picking up the o/s rights for this novel. It’s the antidote for Bush’s America that I believe the rest of the world is ready to take.