October 24th, 2002

The Thursday Morning "Yaaaaawn, it's wake up time" Review: Once Upon A Galaxy

Themed anthologies can be good, but more often than not, they're bad. It's not generally the fault of the editor, it's more that the theme chosen for the anthology is too weak to inspire good writing. You've seen them all now: "Alternate Napoleons On Mars In Tutus", "Oktoberfest Beer Drinkers In The Sea Of Time", "Wombat! Wombat! Wombat!". You might think that Wil McCarthy's Once Upon A Galaxy would suffer from the same flaw, but a solid central theme and a team of good writers lift it above the swamp of its myriad competitors. And McCarthy's theme? Those old, old classics, the stories that fed our childhood imaginations: fairy tales.

McCarthy's thesis is clear. In his introduction he states "Fairy tales are among our most formative influences, adding a visceral heft and sting to the purely verbal warnings of authority. But fairy tales, without exception, hinge on a supernatural occurrence. And in a way, this seemed to undermine their authority, to relegate them to some other universe where things like that could really happen."And so he takes the fairy tale and thrusts it into the heart of science fiction. You might recognise some of the stories, while others are new or are retellings of stories hidden in the margins of Grimm or Perreault. With stories based on "The Emperor's New Clothes", "The Sleeping Beauty", among others, there's a mix that ranges from the hardest of hard SF to stories that skirt the edge of fantasy - and very little in the way of weak material. Yes, there are stories you might not enjoy, but they all maintain a high standard of technical excellence

With a roster of writers including Gregory Benford (whose retelling of "Goldilocks" is a wonderful work) and Paul di Fillipo, this is one anthology worth adding to your collection, alog with Peter Crowther's Mars Probes and Moon Shots. Enjoy.
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An interesting approach to web application development...

...write them in Smalltalk, using templates and event callbacks and use Seaside as your appserver. The "key value" approach to template/component interaction used here is interesting, and gives your web applications an interesting level of abstraction.

And if you find this interesting, download Squeak (a multiple-platform, open source Smalltalk-80 development environment) and have a play with Seaside.

(Thanks, Piers)
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