Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Mind Meld at SF Signal

Image from Arthur's Bookshelf.

I was asked to participate in a recent Mind Meld over at the science fiction blog SF Signal. The question was “What book did you last read that you would recommend to a friend.” I love the answers — it’s always great hearing what other readers are enjoying. In keeping with my recent Steampunk reading (though I don’t know if source materials can be steampunk, at least the first time around…), here’s part of mine:

Currently I’m formulating some ideas about a character who writes Victorian science fiction, so the last book I read is one I’ve read before and totally love: The Huge Hunter, or The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward Sylvester Ellis. It is one of the first examples of the boy inventor genre, a genre that John Clute (well after the fact) called the “Edisonade,” although the main character of The Huge Hunter is actually not a boy — he’s a little person…

Read the rest at SF Signal.



The Panama Laugh is…a Best-Seller!

Borderlands Books at 866 Valencia Street in San Francisco was my neighborhood bookstore for bazillions of years. It’s one of the largest science fiction-fantasy bookstores in the world (possibly the largest at this point, I’m not 100% sure).

The location is gorgeous, gorgeously-appointed, luxurious, low-key, and most importantly packed with great books. The staff is gracious, chill and knowledgeable about the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and often about associated genres like noir.

And my novel The Panama Laugh is on the Borderlands Books trade paper best-sellers list for September, according to the Borderlands Books newsletter and Hellnotes.com.

It’s wedged between William Gibson’s Zero History and Max Brooks’s World War Z…two of my favorite writers.

In fact, when I was writing the scene in the middle of Part II of The Panama Laugh with the busted shipping containers, I had some of World War Z‘s amazing subtexts about of globalization in mind.

I’m reading at Borderlands on October 15 as part of Litquake’s Litcrawl, with Ray Garton, Richard Kadrey and Naamen Tilahuh, by the way. Litcrawl readings are some of the funnest I’ve ever been to. So come see us, hear some zombie fiction and argue with me over whether “funnest” is a word.

'Grabs You By the Throat and Punches You in the Face From Beginning to End'

W00t! YA author and clinical laboratory scientist Kelly Swails gave my novel The Panama Laugh a very positive review over at her Live Journal.

In it, she says, in part, “The Panama Laugh by Thomas S. Roche grabs you by the throat and punches you in the face from beginning to end, and I mean that in a good way.”

And did I mention she said this? “There is a lot to like here. The voice is perfect, as are the characters. The pacing doesn’t give you much breathing room, which I liked.” Read more here, and THANKS!

I like getting praised — who doesn’t? But if someone hates a piece of fiction I wrote, I feel like I should thank them for that, too…at least they took the time to read it, which is more than I can say for some people who hate on my nonfiction articles.

Regardless, thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read The Panama Laugh, and thanks to Ms. Swails for the great review. I’m sort of extra-stoked because Swails’ bio says she is a clinical laboratory scientist by profession, which must mean that however egregiously wrong the science is in The Panama Laugh, there’s at least one scientist my fake-science wasn’t boneheaded enough to piss off!

I put a fair amount of work into figuring the logistics, but science speculation is not one of my strong points. Though I’ve read and loved science fiction my whole life, including quite a bit of hard science fiction, I’ve always felt like more of a crime and horror writer. I take forays into being a fantasist, but bona-fide SF has always been a stretch for me

I was awful proud of myself that The Panama Laugh technically crossed that line.

And I’m awful proud that people seem to be enjoying it.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and review the book!

Video: Roger Zelazny Reads Two Stories


The great science fiction writer Roger Zelazny was an amazing reader. A few years ago, with some effort, I tracked down an audio cassette of him doing a wonderful reading of his novel The Courts of Chaos, the last of the first Amber series and about the only cassette in that series I could get my hands on at the time.

My most vivid memories of him reading, however, come more from Dark Carnival in the late 1980s, where a photo of me with him was taken, and I seem to recall that at my family members’ insistence (several are Zelazny fans, and were in attendance) I gave him a copy of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine with my first professionally published fantasy story, “The Beast With Blood-Red Eyes,” which was rather intentionally Zelaznyesque. (Incidentally, it was a gift I would not have been given had I not been pushed into it, something I considered sort of pompous and self-aggrandizing, in the presence of a dude like the Zman. But my family has always been far more supportive of me than I am of myself.)

I’m confident he made much more of an impression on me than I did on him. I also saw him at the World Fantasy Convention in New Orleans in 1994, alongside some friends of his who were distant acquaintances of mine (now, sadly, I forget who). He was very graci0us when told that I admired his work and he was a huge influence on my writing. He smiled and shook my hand. He died of colorectal cancer about seven or eight months later. His was the one hand in science fiction I really wanted to shake.

But it was his voice, and his fiercely otherworldly presence, that I remember most vividly. Many a grizzled, expressive, hard-assed, brilliant and slightly terrifying character I’ve written has been based on my having heard Zelazny speak in person at those two events and several others in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He’s a writer I miss almost every day.

In the above hour-long clip, he reads two stories at the 4th Street Fantasy Convention in 1986. The clip comes to me via Facebook from his son Trent Zelazny, who I’m told is also a kick-ass writer and a big fan of hard-boiled noir fiction, with (last I counted) two well-received books to his credit.

[Night Bazaar] Three Views of the Apocalypse

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with the topic of what writers influenced me.Yes, yes, I know that’s why I get paid the big bucks. I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

In the interest of not spending the next six months writing a whole book about it the way Henry Miller and Colin Wilson did, or spending another 4 hours writing another 6,000 words about 10 or 12 writers — the way I just did, oops — I’m going to pick three writers I’ve enjoyed very much, who are connected in strange ways, and talk about them: Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock and J.G. Ballard. They’re all dudes; sorry. I swear I’m not a sexist pig, but for the first twenty years of my life, my bookshelf was a bit of a sausage fest.

Incidentally, none of these writers is what would call the biggest writing influence on me in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. That dubious honor goes to Roger Zelazny. But given what I’ve been writing lately, Ballard, Howard and Moorcock give me a lot to sink my teeth into.


The Pleasures and Terrors of Short Fiction Submissions

Thomas S. RocheWhen I first started submitting my work for publication about twenty-five years ago, I’d already read enough about the process of becoming a writer that I expected a very tough road. I was also thoroughly confident that I was a genius, and this would guarantee my success if I just worked my ass off. I therefore became a fiction factory. I sat down and wrote 3-5 short stories a week, and submitted each and every one of them for publication. I virtually never wrote anything I didn’t finish, and I never tried to write longer works. I stuck with weird fiction — fantasy and science fiction with macabre and New Wave overtones — because that was what I read.


Music for Music Nerds: The Chapman Stick

Yes, that’s Nick Beggs from Kajagoogoo, playing the Chapman Stick. Huh!?!? on many levels. Creative Commons photo by Jackie Kever.

Never heard of the Chapman Stick? You’re not alone. You could spend your whole life playing Armenian hammered dulcimer, Swedish twelve-string baritone ukelele and death-klezmer diddley bow, and still scratch your head when you look at the Chapman Stick.

You would, however, see none other than Patrick Stewart himself playing one in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, though the scene was cut out of the theatrical release and can be viewed only in the extended version.

…Invented in the 1970s by a jazz guitarist named Emmett Chapman, “The Stick,” as it’s often called, developed from Chapman’s guitar-playing technique of “Free Hands,” which involves smacking the strings of a guitar at the frets in a way that looks, to my eyes, like what the metal boys like to call a “hammer-on.” If you compare the two videos above, you’ll note that Captain Picard is fretting the thing in more of a traditional guitar technique — assuming you have the faintest idea what I’m talking about in the first place, or even give a damn.