The Editor’s Rant: Issue #11

by Michael D. Pederson


Lately, I’ve been noticing a recurring theme in my weekends. I seem to spend most weekends surrounded by gamers. Lots of guys (many on the heavy side) and a few women (more every year); several of them will hardly leave the room all weekend and quite a few forget to acquaint themselves with soap. Now, I know what you’re thinking—plenty of ink has already been spilled describing the habits of the American Role-Player—but they’re not the gamers that I’m talking about here.

I’m a poker player. I’ve been a fanatic about the game since the early Nineties so it’s interesting to see the new boom in the poker world. One of the things that I keep noticing is the similarities between poker players and Fandom. This really hit home for me this summer while Cate and I were on an Alaskan poker cruise. At the beginning of the week-long cruise it was obvious that most of the people there already knew each other. Many of them either played at the same local casino or knew each other from previous cruises or major tournaments that they had played in. Substitute “local science fiction club” for “casino” and “convention” for “tournament” and we could just as easily be talking about Fandom. The organizers of the cruise reminded me of some the best con committees that I’ve worked with; they were friendly, well organized, and loved talking about past events. The dealers seemed to fill the role that I (and other programming guests) usually take at cons—the professional that was there to work but who also wanted to have as much fun as possible.

By the end of the week we had made several new friends and a little money. I have been noticing the surface similarities between poker rooms and gaming rooms for a while now but at week’s end I was absolutely floored to discover how deep the similarities ran. The poker world is as much of a community as Fandom is.

Right now, poker is enjoying its highest popularity ever. Television shows like The World Poker Tour, Celebrity Poker, and The World Series of Poker have broadened the horizons of poker in ways that old-time players never thought possible. The main event ($10,000 buy-in) in The World Series of Poker has gone from 512 entrants in 2000 to a staggering 2,576 entrants this year. That’s an over 500% increase in four years and it’s directly attributable to television.

Which brings me back to science fiction. Or, more specifically, SciFi. As in the SciFi Channel. If poker players aren’t that different from Fandom and television can grow the poker field by such a large amount then why can’t we experience a similar growth spurt in Fandom? Would a letter writing campaign be successful in bringing science fiction back to the SciFi Channel? I, for one, would love to see con reports on television. They used to run them back when the network was still young. As much as I hate reality television I would even be happy to see a convention-based reality show. Or why not bring back the science fiction interview show that they used to run?

I’m greedy. I want both of my hobbies to be big. Write the SciFi Channel and let them know what you want to see.


Con Review: Balticon 38

Balticon38by James R. Stratton


Balticon 38
May 28-31, 2004
Baltimore, Maryland

Balticon is the annual convention of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS), and this last Memorial Day weekend marked its 38th year. Balticon is considered a large regional convention with attendance in the range of 1500 to 2000 members each year. The Writer Guest of Honor this year was Lois McMaster Bujold, the Artist GoH was David Seeley and the Musician GoH was Heather Alexander. This year’s convention marked a turning point for the con organizers. Until a few years ago, Balticon was a three-day con held over Easter weekend. In 2001, BSFS opted to move the convention to Memorial Day weekend and added a fourth day of programming on the Monday holiday. After suffering some growing pains, I’m happy to report that BSFS has made the transition to the expanded schedule successfully.

My son and I arrived at the Wyndham Inner Harbor Hotel midafternoon on Friday. Check-in was quick and painless. My son, a gamer, was off to the computer room as soon as we were settled, and he split his time between the computer room and the main game room, with the odd side trip into the anime room. Over the weekend he participated in competitions on the networked computers for Unreal Tournament and 1942, and tournaments in the game room for Mage Knights and Hero Clix. My interests are focused on writing, often leading to several schedule conflicts. I started off with a panel on research and writing, with Ms. Bujold, Josepha Sherman and Bud Sparhawk offering some lively discussion. At 6:00 I joined your own merry Nth Degree crew at a meet and greet panel, at the same time passing on panels on what to do once you’ve completed your first novel and a reading by Scott Edelman. This was common for me throughout the weekend, and I won’t dwell on it here. At 7:00 I caught part of a panel on mythology in genre fiction and then headed to the video room for a special showing of the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Saturday is the main day for the convention traditionally, and it started off early for me with the Writer’s Workshop at 9:00. This workshop, moderated by writer Steve Lubs, is not your typical read and critique workshop. Steve runs this as a teaching workshop, and this year he focused on humor in genre fiction. Sadly, this was less well attended than in previous years with only myself and two other attendees joining Steve. Still, we had three hours of discussion and exercises that I look forward to each year. I met a friend from the Baltimore area for lunch and we made the rounds of the Dealer’s Room and Art Show afterwards. The Art Show was in especially good form with a whole section devoted to David Seeley’s work as well as dozens of other artists. My favorite is Moifa, whose Chinese-style brushwork is always impressive. I first saw her work at Philcon several years ago, and have watched as her sparse water colors have become much sought after. The rest of the day was spent catching panels like Dueling Easels (two artists compete to create a painting based on a selected writer’s work), watching anime and shopping in the Dealer’s Room.

After dinner my son and I got in line for the Masquerade. Balticon is considered one of the prime regional costume competitions. As usual, it was hosted by Marty Gear with roughly twenty entrants. My favorite was actually a practical joke on Marty, who presides over these competitions in the guise of a vampire. When he announced competitor No. 8, the tech crew cut in over the PA.

“Marty, where does a vampire stay when he visits New York City?”

“I don’t know,” Marty replied.

“Why at the Vampire State Building of course!” they said and out walked a gentleman dressed in a ten foot high model of the Empire State Building with large bloody fangs. I was amazed to see Marty manage to blush through white pancake makeup.

The Masquerade is also the time for the Reading Is Fundamental charity auction, an annual event for BSFS. The auction allows BSFS to buy books for middle school children at area schools. Many of these children have never owned a book, but BSFS is able to give away two or three per student with the proceeds of this auction. This year was extremely successful. In addition to the normal array of autographed books and other genre-related items, BSFS received a limited-edition Hirschfeld lithograph of the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew donated by Brent Spiner. Bidding was lively and it sold for over $1000.

My son headed back to the gaming rooms and I headed to the room parties. These rooms parties are put on by various groups like the Japanese bid committee for the 2007 Worldcon, and are always wonderful opportunities to meet your fellow fans. I’m happy to report that the Nth Degree room party was the most popular this year, offering various concoctions in glow-in-the-dark cups that were a huge hit. This party was especially fun for me. I have met most of this merry crew at other cons, but was able to spend time with their illustrator, J. Andrew World, for the first time. If you’ve admired the artwork of the magazine, you’ve admired his work. I stayed late. The drinks were enlightening, the company congenial, and a good time was had by all.

In past years, Sunday was when the con would lose steam. Things would wrap up by midafternoon, with the art show closing at 1:00 and the dealers closing shop by 2:00 or 3:00. This year, BSFS made a special effort to extend the programming and other attractions, with great success.

My day started at 10:00 with a Kaffeeklatsch with author Bud Sparhawk followed by another at 11:00 with Keith DeCandido. I grabbed a quick bite and headed to the art show to put in my bids on some jewelry (for my wife and daughter), and one small Chinese watercolor by Moifa that I had to have. I won all my bids and picked up these items after 2:00, then headed over to the voice auction to watch the bidding on the more hotly contested items. I even bid on a few myself and picked up some small items at very reasonable prices.

After an excellent dinner at the Harbor Lights restaurant at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, my son and I attended the First Annual Balticon Sunday Night Film Festival, featuring eight short films by amateur producers. The competition was judged by the audience, and played to a packed house. As you might expect, the films ranged from truly awful to surprisingly good. My favorite was a film on how George Lucas made a deal with the Devil for the success of his Star Wars movies (Fall of a Saga) which won first place. The festival concluded with a special showing of The Return Of The King. I saw this in the theater, but that was nowhere near as enjoyable as watching the movie in a room full of active and vocal fans who were enjoying every nuance as much as I was.

Monday was the final day of the con, and I started it off with a panel on the differences between authors and editors in judging the quality of fiction, moderated by Nth Degree’s own Mike Pederson. The discussion was lively, even if we did have trouble getting into the room initially. My son and I made one more sweep of the Dealer’s Room, and were shocked to see most of the dealers still present and happy to dicker over prices on this last day. We then hit the Art Room for a special showing of genre related artwork on display from a local collector.

As you can see, there was hardly a slow moment for me throughout the entire weekend. I credit this to BSFS working hard to ensure the added day of the convention was worth while. Understand, the above description glosses over several completely separate tracks of activities that were running throughout the weekend, like Regency dancing, art-related panels, panels for costumers, filk music concerts and a Live Action Role Playing (LARP) competition. In addition, BSFS provided a separate track of children’s programming for the young fans. Needless to say, there was more going on here than any half-dozen people could have followed. I left with regret, and look forward to returning next year. See you there!


Con Review: BayCon 2004

by Chris Garcia


BayCon 2004
May 28-31, 2004
San Jose, California

As always, Baycon has proven to be a highlight for Bay Area science fiction fandom. Even with FanimeCon drawing nearly 5000 attendees less than three miles away, Baycon still managed to bring more than 2200 attendees together for panels, parties and madcap hijinks.

This year’s guests were a varied bunch, featuring Writer Guest of Honor Michael Swanwick, Artist Guest Jael, Fan Guest Elayne Pelz, Toastmaster Esther Friesner, special guests Mark Ryan (Swordmaster for King Arthur) and Chase Masterson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as well about 100 program participants from around the US. The Meet the Guests event featured several hundred folks schmoozing, Esther presenting each participant with a brief hula dance, and a terrible lightbulb joke from Swanwick. The event was followed by a charity casino which drew a strong crowd as it does every year.

The panels themselves crossed more boundaries than ever before, featuring many panelists who had not yet appeared at West Coast conventions. Some fan favorites included the Chicks in Chainmail readings featuring authors including Kevin Andrew Murphy and Lee Martindale; the Armored Combat Shows; $5, a Dead Fish, and a Time Machine which led to many curious alternate history gem-lets; and Dr. Destructo who took apart all sorts of modern contraptions for the delight of children of all ages. The Masquerade was heavily attended and allowed 30+ fans to show off some amazing costumes. Trailer Park showed off the previews of some great films coming to theatres in the near future and gave out tons of movie schwag.

This year’s panels had more breadth than any other. Baycon attracts more techie fans per square inch than any Con on Earth, and folks like Hugh Daniels, Annalee Newitz, Tom Galloway, Adrienne Gromley, and Chris DiBona made for fine discussions on everything from PDAs to privacy, PGP to piracy. Authors like Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, Howard Hendrix, Jonathan Fresmire and Irene Radford spoke on a variety of panels including film, television and writing. History panels featuring wells of knowledge like Ben Yalow and Brad Lyau were exceptional, as were writing panels by folks like Lori White, Ken Wharton and Ashley Grayson. Panel attendance as a whole was way up from previous years, on par with the attendance found at the larger East Coast cons.

Of course, a Con would not be complete without CONsumption of drinks and parties. This year’s party floor featured the League of Evil Genius inducting another batch of villains into their Hall of Fame while the bubbly flowed. Screamworks presented both a sanctioned dance and a fine party room. Many of the bids and seated Wester- and Worldcons held delightful parties as well.

The DoubleTree Hotel, which has housed all 22 BayCons, will host BayCon ’05 on Memorial Day weekend, with Writer Guest of Honor Robert J. Sawyer, Fan Guests Kevin Roche and Andrew Trembley, and Toastmaster Christopher J. Garcia.


Con Review: ConCarolinas 2004

ConCarolinas2004by Michael D. Pederson


ConCarolinas 2004
June 4-6, 2004
Charlotte, North Carolina

Held one week after a very exhausting (in a good way) Balticon and a five-hour drive away, ConCarolinas could very easily have been a total letdown. But noooooo… They had to go and throw a darned good convention. Bastards!

First off, let me say that North Carolina has some of the best organized fan groups on the East Coast—The Klingon Assault Group (KAG), Starfleet, the SCA, the Stargate SG11 Costuming Group, Star Wars Fanworks, the Carolina Scapers, the 501st Stormtroopers Carolina Garrison, and a boatload of pirates were among the many groups represented there. Attendance was high enough that there were concerns as to whether or not the hotel would be able to accommodate everyone (it did). The fantastic turnout was probably due to the booking of Alan Dean Foster as the Guest of Honor. I’m sure that having Artist GoH Joe Corroney (Marvel, DC, and Lucasfilm are just part of his resumé) and Fan GoH Michael D. Pederson didn’t hurt either. Yep, that’s right. My first GoH! How exciting!! I need more exclamation marks!!!

One of the things that impressed me most about the con (aside from the incredibly personal face-to-face attention from the staff) was the programming schedule. They really went out off their way to do more than just the standard fare. Cool stuff included: family game night, a Star Wars radio drama, a kid’s scavenger hunt, rocket building, Shakespeare in Fantasy and Horror, How to Get into Film, and the First Annual ConCarolinas Film Premiere where I got to see Fall of a Saga, which I had missed at Balticon. My favorite moment though came when the Philosophy panel re-convened in the bar to sing Monty Python’s “Philosophy Song.”

After spending a great weekend hanging out with old friends, making some new ones, and partying with pirates the drive home didn’t seem quite so long.


Here are some photos of the convention, courtesy of Peggy Cobb Gregory…


Con Review: ConnectiCon 2004

ConnectiCon2004by Rob Balder


July 16-18, 2004
West Hartford, Connecticut

Awareness of webcomics at science fiction, comics, and gaming cons has been growing steadily over the last five years or so. At first, a webcomics guest was considered a novelty. Before long, most conventions had at least one. Soon, major creators started showing up as Guests of Honor, right beside authors and actors and industry leaders. But ConnectiCon is the first science fiction convention to make webcomics its biggest attraction, and has achieved a little bit of history because of it. Prior to ConnectiCon 2004, Katsucon 2004 had probably boasted the largest single webcomics panel in history, with its fifteen people representing eleven comics. At ConnectiCon’s “mega” panel, fully thirty webcomics creators were present. And although the con boasted many other cool people from stage, screen, print comics, anime, books, gaming, filking and more, the artists and writers of some of the world’s top webcomics were in the center ring. There were too many webcomics names to list, but notables included Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance, Tim Buckley of Ctrl-Alt-Delete, Matt Boyd and Ian McConville of Mac Hall, and Brian Clevinger of 8-Bit Theatre. The rest of the field was also very strong. Nearly every title represented had web traffic in the top five percent of comics, including my comic PartiallyClips.

ConnectiCon was held at the University of Hartford, which has to go down in the minus column. There were a number of problems with the physical facilities, including a spontaneous revolt by the exhibitors in Artists’ Alley. They simply picked up their tables and moved en masse into the registration area to get out of the suffocating room they were assigned. This was the second year for ConnectiCon, and they attempted an extremely ambitious 24-hour-a-day programming schedule which was a little rocky. So it was a college con, in its sophomore year, that majored in webcomics. But it also declared a minor in anime. The screening room was open 24 hours and screened over 125 titles, including such strange non-anime notables as The Snorks and The Star Wars Holiday Special. There were also game rooms set up with the latest systems, hooked up to video projectors and played on enormous screens (one way the campus setting was a GOOD thing). For programming, there was a great deal of gaming and media-related fare to choose from. Bob May, the voice of the original Lost in Space robot was there, as was Peter Mayhew, aka Chewbacca. There were a number of musical and filk concerts, too. Piano Squall (a guy who had worked out classical style arrangements to video game and anime themes) was a treat, as were Dementia/filkers Sudden Death and Worm Quartet. I even did a couple of numbers from my upcoming filk CD before introducing Worm Quartet.

I also have to reserve some general praise for the staff. Matt Daigle the Con Chair worked his ass off all year, and hardly slept at the con. And the staff really did everything they could for the guests. All-in-all, ConnectiCon was an event with a whole lot of character, a fun time and a unique experience among cons. It will be interesting to see what they do with it next year, as it is scheduled to run opposite San Diego Comic-Con. Stay tuned.


Con Review: San Diego Comic Con 2004

SDCCby Rob Balder


San Diego Comic-Con
July 22-25
San Diego, CA

I’m hoping to say something about San Diego Comic-Con other than how big it was, but consider this: there were more people there than there are words in this magazine. If you exclude Dragon*Con, there were more exhibitors there than at all of the 50+ cons Nth Degree will go to this year, combined. The map of the exhibitors’ hall resembled the Titanic in more than one important respect (see map below). It was enormous, exciting, iconic, expensive, and full of celebrities. So let me just say it was the biggest con ever and let that part go. The important way in which it did not resemble the Titanic was that it got to where it was going, smoothly and professionally. Several industries took this con extremely seriously. The movie industry, for example, made major announcements and promotions there, including Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the title announcement for Star Wars: Episode III (Revenge of the Sith. Ack.) The Star Wars pavilion was vast enough to include a full scale X-wing fighter. Elsewhere, there was a display of movie-used costumes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy (those ones you probably drooled over on the DVD extra segments). Dreamworks had a monstrous Shrek display. Major names in publishing, television, toys, collectibles and gaming were present in force, as well. Capcom, Bandai, Nickelodeon, Legos and Bionicles… seriously, name someone and they probably had a booth. But this is a comics convention, and the biggest one there is. So damn near every celebrity and imprint in comicdom was present. From Dark Horse and Marvel down to those independent comics operations who are in a desperate arms race to come up with the most goofy-assed name. I’ll give that award to Mad Yak Press this year, but there were so many contenders: Lost in the Dark Press, Planet Named Desire, Sourdirt Comics, Salt Peter Press, Optophage Press, Electric Spaghetti Comics, The Greater Apes… For most who came as attendees, this was the biggest and best chance to shake hands with their idols, and to tell Mr. Joe Comics-star how much they enjoyed his work. By the third day of the con, though, you could pretty much expect Mr. Joe Comics-star to say “yeah thanks,” then yawn and ask his assistant what they’re doing about lunch. This con is exhausting for everybody. The scale, the sensory overload, the geek-mung generated by 40,000 people in the same enclosed area, the lines and the lugging of things… all of these wear you down, as an exhibitor or as an attendee. A day at SDCC probably costs you two days off your life. But you know what? It’s just cool enough to be worth it. Next year in SD!



Con Review: Trinoc*CoN 2004

TrinocCon2004by Michael D. Pederson


Trinoc*CoN 2004
July 23-25, 2004
Durham, North Carolina

Here’s a con that’s hard to classify. Trinoc*CoN runs the largest gaming room that I have ever seen at a small con but they aren’t a gaming convention. This gives them some wonderful opportunities. Lots of gamers pumps up the attendance, which means more cashflow for the con, so what you end up with is a 500 person con that only has half of that number participating in programming events. This means that Trinoc always has the feel of a very small intimate con yet they still manage to fill their room block and can afford to bring good guests in. This year they had Sharon Lee and Steve Miller as their Literary GoHs and Jael as Art GoH plus the usual assortment of other great pros and semi-pros. For me the highlight of this con is always its superb Literary Track. I was scheduled for five panels this year and we had a fine turnout and lively discussion at all of them. Another unusual feature of Trinoc this year was the attendees themselves. I saw very few of the regulars from other North Carolina cons (Stellarcon and ConCarolinas) that I attend. Instead I saw lots of friends from New York, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine, Georgia, and Texas. Like I said, it’s a tough con to categorize but I always have a good time there.


Con Review: FantaSci 3

by Tee Morris


FantaSci 3
July 24, 2004
Chesapeake, Virginia

I first paid a visit to the Chesapeake Public Library when traveling with Tony Ruggiero and Walter H. Hunt during the Semper SciFi Tour. Along with it being an impressive building with terrific facilities—the staff headed by Jim Blanton—the three of us were given a warm reception by those attending the panel discussion. We enjoyed the evening immensely, and that was when Jim began to tell me about FantaSci 3. Tony had already volunteered me for the day-long event, but as it was so close to my wife’s projected (note, I say, projected) delivery date, I could only give a tentative “Well, let’s see how things go.” As first pregnancies go, my baby daughter showed up far earlier than the doctors and the sonograms indicated. Along with the arrival of a healthy baby girl, I could also celebrate the fact that I was not going to miss out on this one-day event held in Chesapeake, Virginia.

As many of you read in my review of Clovercon 2003 [Nth Degree #10], I am not a stranger to small cons. Provided they are done right, small conventions can be just as rewarding and as fun as the bigger weekends like Balticon, Arisia, or Philcon. Clovercon was not one of these small conventions done right. FantaSci 3, however, was a one-day event that I would love to see extended into two.

Jim Blanton is the first con chair that seemed to be enjoying every minute of running from Point A to Point B, checking to make sure that the guests were happy and the program panels were running on time. His enthusiasm was contagious, even to me! Instead of a con staff looking as if they would cut you down with a lightsabre, Jim and his staff of two were having as much fun as the attendees, and those attendees were making the most of this one-day celebration of science fiction, fantasy, and fandom. The turnout was very impressive (if not slightly unsettling to the rest of the library’s staff) for FantaSci—a collection of anime fans, dealers with hard-to-find comic books or CCG extension packs, and local Star Wars enthusiasts displaying prop reproductions, detailed models, and costumes galore. (And yes, even the Scapers made a showing with a booth promoting the upcoming Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars!) I shared a table with author Tony Ruggiero, and we spent the afternoon meeting, greeting, and enjoying the company of FantaSci. Now don’t let FantaSci fool you—they are only in their third year but they did have a terrific special guest show up for the morning, and no, I’m not referring to their local hero, Tony Ruggiero or me, the new proud papa. No, I refer to the master of late night macabre, the scientist who knows no shame when he shows the best of the worst B-grade horror movies. I speak of none other than Dr. Madblood.

If you’re not in the Southeastern Virginia area, you probably have no clue of whom I’m talking about. Before I knew Elvira and long before I watched Joel achieve orbit in the Satellite of Love, I had to get the rabbit ears on my television just right to pick up the fuzzy signal from Norfolk. Dr. Madblood was the first “late night-comedy-creature feature” I had ever seen on television, and there was something a bit nostalgic and a little reassuring to know that he was still on the air and doing his thing. (With the direction of programming the SciFi Channel has taken, I’m surprised Dr. Madblood and his gang haven’t pitched their show to them.) His crew were putting their full support behind FantaSci, getting the word out on the air about this one-day convention.

I only had one panel, immediately following Tony’s one panel, and then we hosted a Writers’ Workshop as a finale to FantaSci, and the only feedback that reached us was positive. At the end of the day, we made certain to let Jim know how much we enjoyed ourselves and that FantaSci is destined for bigger and better things than just a one-day event. Jim would love nothing more than to see his brainchild grow, but that would require a growth in attendance and (no offense intended to Tony or myself) “established” names in the genre. While small press authors have no issues with selling their works out of their suitcases, some larger press authors may turn their noses up to that. It would be their loss because FantaSci was time well spent, and I am already counting the days until next year for FantaSci 4.


Book Review: Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword

BillibubBaddingsby Michael D. Pederson


Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword
Tee Morris
Dragon Moon Press, 288 pp.

The author describes this book as “The Lord of the Rings meets Mickey Spillane.” Cynics will say that Glen Cook has already mined that concept about as deep as it can go with his Garrett P.I. stories but Morris has struck on a rich vein here. A magical mission to protect his homeland of Acryonis sends the dwarven warrior Billibub Baddings and nine magic artifacts through a Portal of Oblivion and into our world. Billi ends up in Chicago in the late 1920s and the magic items are scattered across the globe. A­fter acclimating to life in the Windy City, Billi sets up shop as a private investigator. When the inevitable beautiful dame hires him to investigate the death of her mobster boyfriend, Billi discovers that every gangster in the city is searching for The Singing Sword. The sword doesn’t really sing but it is one of the magic doodads from Acryonis and, in the wrong hands, could bring about Really Bad Things. Will Billi beat Capone and Moran to the sword? Well, of course he will but there are enough clever twists along the way to keep you turning the pages. Morris cleverly plays the clichés of fantasy, detective, and gangster stories off of each other in a carefully plotted, subtly witty, action-packed thriller. I haven’t enjoyed a cross-genre detective story this much since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. And with nine magic items on the loose you can bet that there will be plenty of sequels; Billi discovers in this volume that the Nazis have one of the artifacts so you just know that he’ll eventually end up fighting Sauron… er, uh… I mean Hitler.


Book Review: Children of Morpheus

ChildrenOfMorpheusby Michael D. Pederson


Children of Morpheus: A Collection of Poetry and Short Fiction
Danielle Ackley-McPhail with illustrations by Ruth Lampi
Lite Circle Books, 60 pp.

This collection of short stories and poetry covers such light-hearted topics as cancer, death, and 9/11. Fans of somber fantasy (and I know there are a lot of them out there) are gonna love this one. Ms. Ackley-McPhail seems to favor a somewhat flowery style of writing that tends to balance the darker themes. In my opinion, Ackley-McPhail’s narrative technique works best in her poetry—conveying a high degree of emotion in a short space—although her retelling of Celtic mythology in “Birth of the Tuatha de Danaan” is a particularly strong marriage of content to form. The addition of Lampi’s illustrations provides a light, ethereal innocence that blends well with Ackley-McPhail’s voice.