Why be Responsible when you can do Top Speed Tests?

I love top-speed shootouts. I love the fact that road cars exist capable of doing double (and in many places triple) the speed limit. I’m glad there are people who actually put these cars through their paces on deserted stretches of actual public roads.

Yes, I know it isn’t socially responsible and that, in the eyes of the law and many citizens, these people are criminals. Not only do I not care, I applaud the persons out there doing that. Society has way too many limitations on freedom and fun. Sometimes you just have to floor that accelerator and feel the grin spread.

Of course, Road & Track can’t do it on a public road, but I still love the fact that they took three cars which most people can’t buy and a good segment of the population disapproves of (especially the Countach, which is designed that way on purpose, to offend those who hate the rich AND those who hate speeders) and let them show what they can do. Great stuff!

Better still… the both Ferraris (Testarossa and GTO) outran the L-car.

Life is to be enjoyed and celebrated. If society creates laws that keep you from doing that (even when you’re not hurting anyone), then those laws should be broken every single time. And these cars show an intent to enjoy life despite the raised eyebrows of those who have given up on pleasure and now get their kicks ensuring that no one else can have a good time.

Anyway, this issue needed that bit of sociopathic fun to even itself out, as it’s one of those mostly road-car issues. Competition offseason means that the racing fix is only really present in the Salon (a Lister Knobbly!!) and the 1985 F1 season roundup (a season that began promising and ended in a dirge).

Despite that, and like all the top-speed shootout issues, this one is memorable.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest novel is an SF thriller entitled splinter. This fast-paced adventure delves deeply into the mysteries of what, exactly constitutes life and consciousness… and the fears surrounding the question. You can check it out here.

What? ANOTHER Car Magazine?

Yeah, guilty as charged. There are so many good car magazines out there that they can sometimes overwhelm my resistance when standing in front of bookstore newsstands. They are just that good.

Vintage Motorsport is a delightful mag that I only buy occasionally but which lands right in my wheelhouse: old cars and race cars.

Unlike Motorsport, the venerable and original, VM is much more focused on the American scene. As such, there are differences, and it has a much more grassroots feel (motorsport is beautifully designed, international-style, to within an inch of its life).

While I’m not really a Perry fan or a fan of the cars that run in Nascar (I like the racing, but the cars are cookie cutter, especially the modern ones), the cover story about a barn-find racer that turned out to be a significant piece of history is wonderful.

Other good articles include the Salon (I need to check if VM is doing this every issue – when R&T stopped doing Salons I really missed them), the BMW 2002 road car article and a feature about racing Corvettes. But the best article has to be the one about the Stutz Garage. So cool that the factory is being preserved.

So yeah, I may be an incurable addict.

Gustavo Bondoni’s latest novel is a science fiction thriller entitled Splinter. It’s a fast-paced book that asks hard questions about where the limits of life and consciousness actually lie. You can check it out here.

An Overdose of America’s Sports Car

By now, we all know (or should know) that the Corvette is America’s sports car. Out since the fifties, it has evolved from the original gutless boulevardier through the muscle years to the current iteration as a mid-engined exotic.

February 1986, kind of marked the midpoint of that evolution, but that’s not why Road & Track placed a huge Corvette section and cover article in the mag. They did it because the Corvette was a popular car which would help sell magazines on newsstands.

It’s always a good choice when you have a lot of space dedicated to a socially non-conscious vehicle such as this one. You get well away from the boring.

But though this issue was certainly dominated by the Corvette, it was by no means an exclusive. Another interesting car was the Salon about the Triumph Dolomite, an alfa 8C 2300 clone which, as difficult as it might be to believe, is actually prettier than the legendary original. Wonderful car, if ultimately unsuccessful.

Competition was well covered, with the definition of the 1985 F1 championship (which started strong but then petered out) and the SCCA Runoffs (there weren’t memorable, but the article was penned by Peter Egan, so it was worth reading anyway!).

A solid issue.

Gustavo Bondoni’s latest novel is Splinter, a science fiction thriller that explores the nature of humanity and the limits of what it might mean to be alive in the future. You can have a look at it here.

Frozen Orbit: a Compelling SF Thriller

The best thing about that huge box of Baen books I won is that the books inside were chosen by Baen, so they included lots of things that I probably wouldn’t have selected if left to my own devices. While yes, some of these books have not become my favorites, others are definite keepers.

Frozen Orbit, by Patrick Chiles, is a keeper.

This is a wonderfully mysterious hard SF thriller which keeps you reading to find out what the hell is happening out on the edge of the solar system while describing a plausible way to get there, not once, but twice.

The sense of dark foreboding creates the same sensations that you get when watching a deliberately-paced space movie. You get a sense of traveling through space, the tedium, but also the tension of knowing that death is held back by the thinnest of metal bulkheads.

The buildup was so strong, in fact, that I’d say it’s the best part of the book. The mystery’s reveal and the ending was not as strong as I’d hoped (possibly because the philosophical questions that get asked here are more relevant to those of a religious bent), but I still liked the overall book. I’d happily recommend this one, and will be on the lookout for more of Chiles’ work.

Gustavo Bondoni’s latest novel is a science fiction adventure entitled Splinter. Sequel to 2017’s Outside, this page-turner attempts to identify the limits between man and machine. You can check it out here.

The Showdown… well, not quite.

And there they were, gloriously juxtaposed–counterposed, even–on the cover of the June 1985 issue of Road & Track. The two supercars that defined the decade: the brand-new, brash and bestraked Ferrari Testarossa and the ever more potent incumbent, the Lamborghini Countach.

What more could an auto enthusiast possibly want?

Well, a head-to-head comparison, of course. But that wasn’t what this issue was about. The editors had to conform themselves with one first test and one first (mostly uninstrumented) drive, on different continents, in different venues, in different conditions. The great question, which was best, would have to await an answer.

Judging by the online arguments still happening, it’s still unanswered. This is as it should be. Ferraris and Lambos of the 80s variety are not things that can be logically argued. They must be felt, and as such, there can never be a correct answer.

So maybe it’s better they weren’t compared?

Nah.

Other things in the issue were a teardown of the 55 mph speed limit, including the utter destruction of the silly myth that speed kills.

On a more positive note (nothing about the 55 mph speed limit was ever positive, not even criticism of it. Like Prohibition it is a black mark on the history of American legislation.) there were reports on the 24 Hours of Daytona and the Paris Dakar Rally (the real one, not the emasculated version we have today).

There’s also a very nice Aston Martin Salon.

A good issue, even if the cover overpromises.

Gustavo Bondoni’s latest book is a science fiction adventure thriller that not only entertains, but also explores difficult questions about where the limits of life and consciousness lie. You can check it out here.

In which if Happens Again

Remember a couple of months ago when I landed in the middle of the Honor Harrington universe on the 28th book with no previous grounding? Well, I did it again.

Apparently there’s something called the Liaden Universe, written by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and I received the 22nd book in the series (Accepting the Lance) as part of my Baen Contest prize. The cover looks amazing, so I thought I would like this one.

And… I did, but not immediately. Therein lies a tale, so here goes.

I started reading this one in DC airport on my way back from WorldCon and found it hard. Like Gene Wolfe level hard. I had no clue who the characters were, why they had multiple personalities, and why they all talked funny. Expecting the kind of read you can breeze through in an airport, I realized I needed to pay attention. Uh-oh.

Having very little choice (I was in the middle of a 48 hour adventure in which flights got canceled due to mechanical issues, my new itinerary sent me to cities I wasn’t planning to visit and in which I got to sleep at a hotel paid for by the airline), I kept reading.

The story, as I slowly began to understand who everyone was and why they acted the way they did, coalesced into a fun interplanetary adventure. It was a much quicker and more enjoyable read, to me, than the Harrington, even though it was much harder at first.

I can’t really tell you much of what else has happened so far in the series, except to say that this book seems to tie quite a few plotlines together in a satisfying way.

I would recommend starting at book one, of course, but this one seems to be really, really worthwhile.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest book is called Splinter. It’s a far-future thriller which explores the limits between man and machine, and you can check it out here.

Swoopy Saabs

Saab cars are one of those marques which is sorely missed. During their existence, Saab was a consistently quirky albeit effective and high-quality purveyor of individualism. And like most expressions of true individualism, it pretty much died with the 21st century.

(Someday, I’ll do an extremely angry/whiny post about how true individuality is gone while the marching morons pretend to be different by customizing the background of their social media or tinting their hair green in exactly the same way as everyone else does. Even tattoos are pretty much ho-hum nowadays. When did humanity become so flat and boring?)

Anyhow, I was delighted to see a fully functional Saab concept car accelerating down a Swedish runway with a Viggen jet in the background on the May 1985 issue. Nostalgia for Saab, the Cold War and the eighties in general can hit at the most unexpected times.

But magazines from the eighties were so much more than just their cover stories, evocative though those might be. This one is 230 pages of content (and ads, of course–another thing I need to do someday is dedicate a post to old cigarette ads, so cool), and includes a couple of memorable highlights.

There was a road test of a Citroen 2CV which, even in the 80s did not exactly represent the state of automotive art. There’s an insightful article on how women drivers were discriminated against in order to keep society fixed in its 19th century paradigms. And, last but certainly not least, John Buffum, America’s greatest ever rally driver, describes what it was like to do a European Rally season (with some Euro and some world-level events).

A solid issue, and one whose cover relly sets it apart.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest book is a science fiction novel entitled Splinter, a fast-moving thriller which attempts to answer the truly vexed question of what it means to be human. You can check it out here.

Too Small a Sample Size

In 2021, Mercedes Lackey was named SFWA Grand Master. I was utterly shocked, as so many writers with much more influence were ignored for various reasons (if Orson Scott Card, for example, is not so honored in his lifetime, the honor and credibility of SFWA will be forever tarnished by their insistence on putting politics before genre).

None of that, however, is Lackey’s fault. She might have been a political choice (her work with gender, unsurprisingly, is cited as one of the points that pushed her over the hump) but that shouldn’t reflect badly on an impressive career that spans decades. I might not agree with the selection, but she is an amazing writer whose career deserves to be celebrated. So I’m happy for her.

But I’m not as familiar with her work as I should be (I read widely in the genre, but had never felt she was one of the critical figures, someone I had to make an effort to seek out), so I set out to address that.

In that vein, I was delighted to see that my big pile of Baen books included The Waters and the Wild, by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill. I moved if up the list and have now read it.

My results?

Inconclusive.

There are a few issues keeping me from giving more decisive verdict. The first is that, as a collaboration, it’s tough to tell how much was actually written by Lackey. The second point is that it’s a young adult book aimed at teenage girls. And I’m not as much in touch with my inner teenage girl as perhaps I should be…

So what can I say?

Well, with the caveat that I’m not the target (a teenage girl might feel very differently), I’ll say this isn’t a great book. I found it a bit of a slog and one of the villains, who should have had a showdown moment was slapped down in a bit of literal deus machina (well, fae machina, but who’s counting?). Another character was given a redemption arc which was subsequently minimized… To say the ending was a bit unsatisfying and head-scratching would probably sum it up best.

On the plus side, once the action got going, the authors did a wonderful job in the climactic battle scenes, the one part of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

So there’s skill here, and I’ll need to look up more Lackey to see what else she offers, and whether the good or the bad are the norm. After all, a Grand Master deserves a real opportunity.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest novel is a thriller in the golden age mold, but with well-drawn characters and modern writing. It explores the boundaries of humanity, as well as the different ways humans cope with the unknown. It’s called Splinter, and you can check it out here.

The Final Contributor Copy

Volume 10 of Write Ahead the Future Looms isn’t the last one I contributed to but, due to the vicissitudes of the Argentine postal service, it is the last one I have. It contains my story “Phantom Endgame”.

Instead of rehashing all the good stuff about this mag, I’d rather take the occasion to talk about what it was to write a series of shorts.

First the hard part. Each of the episodes has to be a story in and of itself so that readers can enjoy a self-contained tale. But, at the same time, it has to move the overall story arc along. It’s a little more complex than just building a standalone story or writing a novel chapter.

On the other hand, it can also be a lot more fun than writing unrelated shorts. My main characters for this series, Sked and Akane are tough, resourceful, slightly sociopathic and very dangerous. The world they live in is complex, futuristic and populated by antagonists worthy of them. Plus, I’ve found that a cyberpunk world gets better the more you learn about it. It’s a complex place that you have to learn as you go along.

A year or two from now, when I clear the decks of other projects, I will likely write a few more and complete the story arc, prior to shopping it to publishers.

I just hope readers love these as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Gustavo Bondoni’s latest novel is entitled Splinter. In it, he not only creates a fast-paced thriller, but also asks the question about what it really means to be human. You can buy it here.

Number 9 is Alive

Most of you will recognize the title as a slightly bastardized version of a line from the 1980’s film Short Circuit, but it’s reasonably fitting as, despite its family-friendly nature, Short Circuit actually is a Cyberpunk film. Or at least it asks many of the same questions as Cyberpunk does: where is the limit between sentience and just very smart computers? What does it mean to be human?

Some answers–and even more questions–are available in Write Ahead The Future Looms Volume 9.

This one contains my story “Unseen Assault”, and a number of other stories by ├╝ber-talented writers. The interesting thing is that each and every one of these takes on the questions listed above… and does it differently. Best of all, despite working on the bleeding edge of technology, each of these is firmly grounded in the most human of emotions.

Personal favorite in this volume is “A Modern Supersoldier’s Alchemical Reference” by Alexandra Munck. Great tale, gut-wrenchingly told.

As always, the mag is also visually interesting. I’m going to miss this one going forward.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest novel also addresses the questions above. It’s called Splinter, and it’s a science fiction adventure that will both entertain and challenge. You can check it out here.