Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Consulting Editor


When Every Song Reminds You of a Dead Universe
by Karl Johanson

Side Effects of Yeah- Yeah Pills
by A.J. Kirby

A Breederax for Dalia
by Janett L. Grady

by Byron Barton

One of Our Starships Is Missing
by Terry Savage

Help Desk
by Robert J. Mendenhall

Toca la Guitarra
by Wayne Helge

How to Travel Through Time & Space
by Allen Quintana

by Kevin Gordon


Bracing for a Brave New World
by Hunter Liguore

Sizing Things Up
by Eric M. Jones





Comic Strips



Perihelion Reviews

Cat’s Cradle Time Yarns

PHYSICS AND FELINE MAGIC come together in this feel-good anthology of fiction for cat lovers. The selections range from science fiction to fantasy, shades of steam punk and charming bedtime stories. The science fiction is disappointing compared to two of the non-science fiction entries.The quality of the prose ranges from amateur to sophisticated, with Erin Lale’s “Long Time I Hunt” stealing the show.

“Night Prowlers” by Tony Thorne opens this collection with two cats who aren’t the only ones using the kitty door. A “cat burglar” who’d be at home in a steam punk novel appears, but to say more would ruin the surprise. The prose is not cats cradlewhat I’d expect from someone who’s published prolifically, but considering that Create Space and Smashwords are about the same as self publishing, my expectations may be too high. This story felt ... short. I realize it’s not a novel, but even flash fiction can make every word count to build suspense and atmosphere.

My favorite of the science fiction offerings is “Locard’s Tale” by Candy Korman. I, too, am owned by a Maine Coon, and I’ve been obsessed with forensics since age 16, when I read a book about hairs, fibers and DNA to solve crimes. I love Jeremy, who is “hypnotized” with a single look from a half-drowned cat, and his wife’s lament that she’d never worried about another woman, only to have a cat put a spell on her husband. The crime-solving angle is interesting, and so is the science fiction aspect, which again I cannot describe without giving away the surprise ending, but Locard, the survivor, spell-caster and shedding machine, and the derivation of his name, hooked me long before the “whodunit” and how a single hair came to answer that question.

Second to last in the anthology, “The 13th Time” is a more daring foray into science fiction than some of the other selections. Again, plot spoilers prevent me from giving many details about this Trick-or-Treat tale by Carol Sumilas Boshears, in which an annual Halloween visitor turns out to be a science fiction surprise. Not much seems to be at stake here, aside from hints that the 13th annual visit may be the last. There’s an upside to the bad news, which wasn’t terribly distressing to me in the first place because I really didn’t feel the love for these characters, charming as the mysterious Zelan may be. Why not? Too much “tell” versus “show” here, and the clunky feel of high school writing kept me from feeling engaged in the story. I expect a higher quality of writing from an author with a B.A. in psychology.

Drifting from science fiction to fantasy, Don Nelson’s “The Sleepy Cat’s Treasure Hunt” is a pleasant dream of a tale, reminding me of happy childhood days gazing rapturously at my Little Golden Book, “Captain Kitty.” Nelson’s story features a cat sailor and his crew dodging the cannon balls of Pirate Dogs in the land of Grey and Pink. It’s sheer fun and escapism.

Russian author Lara Biyuts will charm cat lovers with “Tomcat’s True Story.” Her descriptions of cat behavior ring true. The prose could use some polishing, but the disappearance of King Basil, the rise of King Innkentius, aka Ken, and the cleverness of Barrwick make this a memorable tale.

Monica Brinkman’s “Punky” is a simple tale of a shelter cat finding a home with a human mommy. The prose is a little clumsy, the story predictable but sweet.

Now we get to the good stuff, which isn’t really science fiction, but fantasy is not many removes from science fiction, right? Erin Lale’s “Long Time I Hunt” showcases a beautiful, lyrical narrative, rich with history and meaning, evoking the tone of Creation stories and folklore from other cultures. Her more-than-a-cat is unforgettable. (“I am watching”—never again will I feel the gaze of a cat without remembering Lale’s cat of all cats) Her physics and theology are never clumsy or obvious but woven like silken threads into a tapestry of vivid images that show, rather than tell, the story of a cat-god and how he evolves with his human subjects over the centuries. If all the stories in this anthology were this sophisticated and well written, I’d five-star the whole book. Instead, some authors state the obvious, as if the audience were children who need to be spoon-fed.

Lale’s story opens with a great cat in spirit form, awaiting embodiment as a flesh and blood animal. The tone is elegant, the point of view seamless. A sun-gold Mountain Lion tells us, “Humans delight me. I love your cleverness ... Pottery, made from earth and fire, still seems more amazing to me than earth-metal and fire of your rockets blazing pillars through the sky.” Generations come and go. “Favors the human asked of me; favors I bestowed.” New people overtake the land; old ways change; the Mountain Lion is torn and becomes the Lynx. Fewer people call on him. “It is the words, the expectations of the humans that give shape to those of us who leave that realm for this one when the humans call.” In time, the Lynx is reduced to a bobcat, who cannot follow the human who wears his tooth, not across the vast ocean, where “strange metal birds fly overhead and men run from them like ducklings from the eagle.” Space doesn’t permit me to keep talking about Lale’s story, but the final form of the Great Cat is very satisfying. No spoiler from me.

Erin Lale’s writing sets the standard that other writers might learn from. I would read more of her fiction, whatever the subject matter.

In all, this anthology was a pleasant escape for me on a dreary winter day, and some of the stories are so good, it may not matter in the least whether you like cats or not. (Cat’s Cradle Time Yarns, edited by Erin Lale, Published by Time Yarns Universe.) 3 stars—Carol Kean


Chasing Ice

THE MULTIPLE AWARD WINNING documentary, “Chasing Ice” explores a topic so massive that many people cannot realistically grasp its significance. It is, after all, much easier to stick one’s head in the sand and deny its existence. Noted photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) team have attempted to get those people to pull their heads out and to explain to the rest of us just what is happening to our world, using facts and hauntingly beautiful imagery. Difficult subjects are always easier to understand when they involve pretty pictures. “Chasing Ice” artfully uses the imagery of our planet’s disappearing glaciers like a velvet sledgehammer to drive that reality home.

Balog’s filmic poem to the devastation that we are undeniably heading into is directed and produced by Jeff Orlowski, and beautifully edited by Davis Coombe. The film first reminds us of the storms that have flooded Texas and the Gulf waters, events all the more poignchasing iceant after the devastations of Katrina and “superstorm” Sandy. Articles in recent years in magazines like “Scientific American” have regularly pointed out that although we may not see increases in the numbers of storms, we will surely see a rise in their size and power. These destructive weather patterns are not going away and we will be paying attention to them whether we want to believe in them or not. Melting glaciers are a major element in those changes.

Still, this film is not so much about climate change as it is about one man’s life and career exploring what is happening to our ice fields and sharing that information with the world. It’s about the effect this journey has had on James Balog, on his family, on those in his crew and their efforts to chase down these disappearing glaciers over a period of years, in mind numbing temperatures and through severe weather. Yet amidst all those frozen ice fields we feel a heartfelt warmth and at times, some refreshingly honest humor. All the while carrying us to a fearful, underlying message.

Ice is beautiful. Balog discovered this back in 2005, and through the eyes of such an artist, ice is magnificent. While in Iceland on a National Geographic assignment about climate change, he became fascinated by the ice and intimately aware of the speed at which those glaciers were leaving us. We have all heard about the ice melting but to see it in a film such as this with your own eyes is really another thing altogether. It is so much more poignant. With painstaking care and a driving passion, we see the jaw-clenching risks the team took to capture these videos and the devastation they felt when technology failed them and time was lost.

At one point in the film the EIS team travels to where thousands of Icelandic glacial ice core samples are stored. Extrapolating data from the cores, we are shown a graph charting the course of CO2, a major greenhouse gas, over hundreds of thousands of years. Glaciologists use these layered core samples to track, year by year, air quality and give us a carbon history of the planet. Glaciers trap carbon in the form of soot from such things as forest fires, and more recently from manmade wastes such as car exhausts, factories, jet fuel exhaust, and on and on.

When the film presented the chart I actually heard gasps from the audience. Maintaining steady cyclical levels, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere rises framatically starting from the industrial revolution up to present. Records from the Antarctic aren’t any better. Disturbing projections for the future show that at these rates things can only get worse if we don’t do something about them. From this point on the film only got more interesting.

If I have to criticize the film on any one point that would have to be for lack of even mentioning the southern Antarctic ice fields. In a joint study published in November 2012 by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they have shown how, though the ice is melting in the Arctic, it seems to be relocating around some parts of the Antarctic. They have also shown that the Antarctic is actually growing slightly. These changes appear to be due to wind patterns and yes, due to climate change.

What “Chasing Ice,” James Balog, and his EIS team have done is to bring awareness of this situation painfully and beautifully into focus. They lay it out in full context and in terms that we can all appreciate, capturing some amazing, first time ever events in HD video clarity. The last ten minutes of this film are not to be missed.

At the conclusion of the nearly packed Seattle premiere that I attended, after the titles ended, after the images faded to black and the appropriately beautiful, original song, “Before My Time,” written by J. Ralph, sung by Scarlett Johansson, with the brilliant Joshua Bell accompanying on violin, the audience paused a moment in humbled silence. Then the theater erupted in applause. You could feel the emotional wave passing through the theater and not for the first time that evening. I have to admit that I was a little stunned by the film. I think everyone was. That, I believe, is the firmest testament I can offer to the quality and impact of this film. It deserves, at last count, its 23 awards. After 75 minutes of being taken to what seemed like a tragic, magical world it was, in the end, all real. We will have to bring the magic into play now, ourselves.

If I really need to say any more than I already have, it would have to be simply this: see this film. (Directed by Jeff Orlowski. Produced by Submarine Deluxe. Rated PG-13.) 5 stars—J.Z. Murdock

Weapon Brown: Blockhead’s War

IT’S A DYSTOPIAN FUTURE, Charlie Brown. In what has to be the most inventive science fiction parody of its genre, visionary comic book artist Jason Yungbluth presents a post-nuclear-holocaust populated by reimagined versions of all your favorite (and maybe not so favorite) comic strip characters. At the center of this Sunday Funnies gone mad scenario is an adult, beefed-up, out for blood and revenge Charlie Brown of “Peanuts” fame, half-cyborg, going under the nickname of Chuck “Weapon” Brown.

The “Weapon Brown: Blockhead’s War” saga begin on April 7, 2008, and has run almost steadily, twice a week, since that time, on Yungbluth’s What Is Deep Fried website, accumulating an impressive following of dedicated fans. The story has been reprinted in, so far, six comic books, with a seventh due on March 1st that wraps up the epic tale. According to Yungbluth, he hopes to eventually publish the complete story in a single graphic novel.

For those who missed any or all of the tale, the complete Weapon Brown saga is going to be rerun on a daily basis.

Weapon Brown was first introduced in Yungbluth’s “Deep Fried” comic book. The original arc, “A Peanut Scorned,” tracked Weapon Brown and his dog Snoop as they crossed the ravaged landscape of post-World War IV Eweapon brownarth looking for Chuck’s kidnapped girlfriend. Along the way they encounter gritty adult versions of the entire “Peanuts” cast. At story’s end, Weapon Brown and Snoop are on the road again, heading for parts unknown.

Explains Yungbluth of the latest adventure: “Weapon Brown has returned to bounty hunting and scrapes out a living earning the only things of value his world has to offer: electricity and famine rations. When his latest quarry turns out to be carrying something valuable, something that could save what’s left of humanity from extinction, Chuck ultimately finds himself throwing in his lot with a tribe of refugees that guard a secret coveted by his creators, the evil Syndicate.”

Nearly every comic strip icon is revisioned, adapted, and cast in an all-new, often surprising, role—from Beetle Bailey, to Popeye, to Little Orphan Annie, to The Pointy Haired Boss from “Dilbert.” Probably the only thing keeping Yungbluth out of the courts for massive copyright infringement is that the work is clearly, and hilariously, a parody of the first order. It is also some of the best science fiction adventure I have read in a very long time.

Adds Yungbluth: “After I had exploited all the Charlie Brown jokes I could in the original one-shot, pitting Weapon Brown against every other comic strip in existence was an obvious next step. I guess since I’ve always wanted to be both a comic book and a comic strip artist, this was my way of having my cake and eating it, too.”

The artwork, in gorgeous black-and-white, is amazingly detailed. The characters are all immediately recognizable despite the fact that they have been seriously upgraded to a level of realism on a par with the best work from any DC or Marvel comic. For example, Snoop now looks like a real dog but he still does the famous “Snoopy dance” after vanquishing one of his arch enemies. Clever touches like these from the mind of Yungbluth have the reader savoring every page. The artist’s sense of composition is almost cinematic. Many installments of the series are one very large page with a single scene that soars with depth and detail.

If any criticism can be made of the comic, at times there is so much detail, so much going on that it is a bit overwhelming. Yungbluth gets carried away, but penning two installments per week over nearly half a decade, one can be excused for one’s excesses. Presumably, Yungbluth will have enough time away from the strip before he compiles it into a graphic novel to make some judicious tweaks. Until then, get the comic books. (Written and drawn by Jason Yungbluth. Published on What Is Deep Fried. Rated R.four stars—Sam Bellotto Jr.

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