Category Archives: Fiction

Celestial Attic Podcast – June 8, 2018


512celestialatticThis weekend is packed full of geeky greatness, so much so that the calendar ate the show. Whether you are parading the circle, enjoying the AHA Fest, fighting with the SCA in the Northern Oaken War Maneuvers, or going to Sci Fi Valley Con in Altoona or Comicon in Columbus, this weekend is a Cleveland Geek’s dream.

Northern Oaken War Maneuvers

The AHA Festival

Parade the Circle

Sci Fi Valley Con

Comicon Columbus

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Free Interactive Fiction Workshop!


Remember infocom? Remember the babel fish? I remember that *%^$#@ babel fish… If you, too, want to craft its like or work on more ambitious narratives for branching games of all sorts, then the Free Workshop Panel: Interactive Fiction at the Maelstorm Collaborative Arts/Theater Ninjas, Saturday, May 26 from 11 am to 1 pm is the place for you.


They say:

Dive into the twisting maze of interactive fiction design with this free workshop panel. We will discuss popular tools for writing Interactive Fiction, strategies for planning for branch narratives & multiple endings, and tips to avoid common pitfalls (aka how to not make your players/readers hate you)! Whether you are a coder, a writer, or a player who doesn’t want to be eaten by a grue, you’ll learn more about this fun and innovative genre that is more relevant than ever.

Panelists: Marie Vibbert, Mike Substelny, Steven Swiniarski
Moderator: Jeremy Paul

It’s FREE but, please RSVP for a free ticket at

Hope to see you there!

All workshops at Maelstrom Collaborative Arts are free or offered on a sliding scale, and donations are always accepted and appreciated to help keep our Monthly Workshop Series strong. Upcoming topics include Intro to Illustration (June), Contact Improv (July) and Immersive Performance (September).


In the Attic – Ursula K. LeGuin: Hainish Novels & Stories

leguin1Ursula K. LeGuin: Hainish Novels & Stories from Library of America is a slipcased, two volume set collecting LeGuin’s Hainish fiction along with a number of relevant essays and introductions. It includes the Nebula and Hugo winning The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed along with 32 additional novels, short stories, essays and introductions. Editor Brian Attebery previously worked with LeGuin and Karen Joy Fowler editing the Norton Anthology of Science Fiction. Working on this set must have been a delight, something akin to reuniting the worlds of the Ekumen themselves.

LeGuin-Hainish1The stories are notionally a collection of tales about the peoples of the world Hain, which colonized the stars and forgot that fact, only to spend a great deal of effort rediscovering it. But that makes it sound more coherent than it is. LeGuin’s Hainish stories do not occupy an intentional shared universe, but rather a repurposed one, a casual one, tightly interwoven here and vaguely notional over there. She muddled timelines, forgot things, changed things and reinvented things. It is one of the reason’s LeGuin herself rejects “The Hainish Cycle” for the collected title of these works. A cycle implies intent and deliberate connection which she just did not have. The works were also published over her career from just starting out through celebrated and accomplished, as such, they represent the author at different levels of accomplishment and stages of her own life. This diversity in timeframes and publications has made gathering them together something of a quest. Between 1964 and 2002, you would need to track down nine novels from five publishers and 13 stories published in 13 separate publications The collections, Worlds of Exile and Illusion, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, and The Birthday of the World  could help you carve the task down to just nine volumes.

LeGuin-Hainish2The Hainish books are thematically and stylistically diverse as well. Reading them straight through will not take you on anything approaching a coherent journey. In addition to dealing with the many stories she told within the shared worlds of the Ekumen, you also get to play hopscotch from adventure yarn to anarchist utopia and points beyond. But that has always been true of these stories. You found them, you read them, because you wanted to go on those journeys and having read one, you trusted LeGuin to take you on another. So in that sense, this set has made it easier.

The two volumes of Ursula K. LeGuin: Hainish Novels & Stories has made the journey easier in another way. Attebery has selected the essays and original introductions in the appendices of the two volumes with an eye toward the preservation of LeGuin’s ideas and motives as the author saw them at the time. In the additional introductions and essays by LeGuin, she affirms this choice eschewing revisionism for relevance and rediscovering for herself her own assumptions and intentions. With the final two introductions dated November and December 2016, they speak not just with authorial authority, but with no small measure of finality.

Above all, as the final essay, “On Not Reading Science Fiction,” affirms, these particular “stories about ideas” are not just stories about ideas. Science fiction is so often viewed, judged and sometimes even created, around this residual pulp aesthetic. These stories can and should be enjoyed as literature, for their playfulness, for their verisimilitude and for their humanism, even when she has to make it an alien concern for us to explore it. The series has lowly beginnings, starting as one short story in Amazing Stories and two un-agented publications as Ace Doubles, an imprint so near to pulp fiction as to be occasionally indistinguishable. The entire field grew up and into her work, maturing as she wrote. If, as LeGuin points out, the language of science fiction moved on from quaint notions and dry language, then LeGuin is one of the greats that helped it get there. Thus by nestling the works and the ideas in additional material so snugly in one place, this two-volume set is both the journey and the road taken.



You can find the introductions to volume one here and volume two here.

Ursula K. LeGuin: Hainish Novels & Stories from Library of America tables of contents:

Vol. I

Rocannon’s World (1966, Fomalhaut II)
Planet Of Exile (1966, Werel)
City Of Illusions (1967, Terra)
The Left Hand Of Darkness (1969, Gethen)
The Dispossessed (1974, Anarres | Urras)
“Winter’s King” (1975, Gethen)
“Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” (1971, World 4470)
“The Day Before the Revolution” (1974, Urras)
“Coming of Age in Karhide” (1995, Gethen)
Introduction to Rocannon’s World (1977)
Introduction to Planet of Exile (1978)
Introduction to City of Illusions (1978)
Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness (1976)
“A Response, by Ansible, from Tau Ceti” (2005)
“Is Gender Necessary?” Redux (1987)
“Winter’s King” (1969 version)

Vol. II

The Word For World Is Forest (1972, Athshe)
“The Shobies’ Story” (1990, M-60-340-nolo)
“Dancing To Ganam” (1993, Ganam)
“Another Story Or A Fisherman Of The Inland Sea” (1994, O)
“Unchosen Love” (1994, O)
“Mountain Ways” (1996, O)
“The Matter Of Seggri” (1994, Seggri)
“Solitude” (1994, Eleven-Soro)
Story Suite: Five Ways To Forgiveness
“Betrayals” (1994, Yeowe)
“Forgiveness Day” (1994, Werel)
“A Man Of The People” (1995, Yeowe)
“A Woman’s Liberation” (1995, Werel)
“Old Music And The Slave Women” (1999, Werel)
Notes on Werel and Yeowe
The Telling (2000, Aka)
Introduction to The Word for World Is Forest (1977)
“On Not Reading Science Fiction” (1994)


April 20, 1866


The day began peacefully enough:

By April 20 we had risen to an average level of 1,500 meters. The nearest land was the island group of the Bahamas, scattered like a batch of cobblestones over the surface of the water. There high underwater cliffs reared up, straight walls made of craggy chunks arranged like big stone foundations, among which there gaped black caves so deep our electric rays couldn’t light them to the far ends.

These rocks were hung with huge weeds, immense sea tangle, gigantic fucus—a genuine trellis of water plants fit for a world of giants.

In discussing these colossal plants, Conseil, Ned, and I were naturally led into mentioning the sea’s gigantic animals. The former were obviously meant to feed the latter. However, through the windows of our almost motionless Nautilus, I could see nothing among these long filaments other than the chief articulates of the division Brachyura: long-legged spider crabs, violet crabs, and sponge crabs unique to the waters of the Caribbean.

It was about eleven o’clock when Ned Land drew my attention to a fearsome commotion out in this huge seaweed.

“Well,” I said, “these are real devilfish caverns, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of those monsters hereabouts.”

“What!” Conseil put in. “Squid, ordinary squid from the class Cephalopoda?”

“No,” I said, “devilfish of large dimensions. But friend Land is no doubt mistaken, because I don’t see a thing.”


Later, the monster struck:

All at once the Nautilus stopped. A jolt made it tremble through its entire framework.

“Did we strike bottom?” I asked.

“In any event we’re already clear,” the Canadian replied, “because we’re afloat.”

The Nautilus was certainly afloat, but it was no longer in motion. The blades of its propeller weren’t churning the waves. A minute passed. Followed by his chief officer, Captain Nemo entered the lounge.

I hadn’t seen him for a good while. He looked gloomy to me. Without speaking to us, without even seeing us perhaps, he went to the panel, stared at the devilfish, and said a few words to his chief officer.

The latter went out. Soon the panels closed. The ceiling lit up.

I went over to the captain.

“An unusual assortment of devilfish,” I told him, as carefree as a collector in front of an aquarium.

“Correct, Mr. Naturalist,” he answered me, “and we’re going to fight them at close quarters.”

I gaped at the captain. I thought my hearing had gone bad.

“At close quarters?” I repeated.

“Yes, sir. Our propeller is jammed. I think the horn-covered mandibles of one of these squid are entangled in the blades. That’s why we aren’t moving.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Rise to the surface and slaughter the vermin.”

“A difficult undertaking.”

“Correct. Our electric bullets are ineffective against such soft flesh, where they don’t meet enough resistance to go off. But we’ll attack the beasts with axes.”

“And harpoons, sir,” the Canadian said, “if you don’t turn down my help.”

“I accept it, Mr. Land.”

“We’ll go with you,” I said. And we followed Captain Nemo, heading to the central companionway.

There some ten men were standing by for the assault, armed with boarding axes. Conseil and I picked up two more axes. Ned Land seized a harpoon.

By then the Nautilus had returned to the surface of the waves. Stationed on the top steps, one of the seamen undid the bolts of the hatch. But he had scarcely unscrewed the nuts when the hatch flew up with tremendous violence, obviously pulled open by the suckers on a devilfish’s arm.

Instantly one of those long arms glided like a snake into the opening, and twenty others were quivering above. With a sweep of the ax, Captain Nemo chopped off this fearsome tentacle, which slid writhing down the steps.

Just as we were crowding each other to reach the platform, two more arms lashed the air, swooped on the seaman stationed in front of Captain Nemo, and carried the fellow away with irresistible violence.

Captain Nemo gave a shout and leaped outside. We rushed after him.

What a scene! Seized by the tentacle and glued to its suckers, the unfortunate man was swinging in the air at the mercy of this enormous appendage. He gasped, he choked, he yelled: “Help! Help!” These words,pronounced in French, left me deeply stunned! So I had a fellow countryman on board, perhaps several! I’ll hear his harrowing plea the rest of my life!

The poor fellow was done for. Who could tear him from such a powerful grip? Even so, Captain Nemo rushed at the devilfish and with a sweep of the ax hewed one more of its arms. His chief officer struggled furiously with other monsters crawling up the Nautilus’s sides. The crew battled with flailing axes. The Canadian, Conseil, and I sank our weapons into these fleshy masses. An intense, musky odor filled the air. It was horrible.

For an instant I thought the poor man entwined by the devilfish might be torn loose from its powerful suction. Seven arms out of eight had been chopped off. Brandishing its victim like a feather, one lone tentacle was writhing in the air. But just as Captain Nemo and his chief officer rushed at it, the animal shot off a spout of blackish liquid, secreted by a pouch located in its abdomen. It blinded us. When this cloud had dispersed, the squid was gone, and so was my poor fellow countryman!

What rage then drove us against these monsters! We lost all self-control. Ten or twelve devilfish had overrun the Nautilus’s platform and sides. We piled helter-skelter into the thick of these sawed-off snakes, which darted over the platform amid waves of blood and sepia ink. It seemed as if these viscous tentacles grew back like the many heads of Hydra. At every thrust Ned Land’s harpoon would plunge into a squid’s sea-green eye and burst it. But my daring companion was suddenly toppled by the tentacles of a monster he could not avoid.

Oh, my heart nearly exploded with excitement and horror! The squid’s fearsome beak was wide open over Ned Land. The poor man was about to be cut in half. I ran to his rescue. But Captain Nemo got there first. His ax disappeared between the two enormous mandibles, and the Canadian, miraculously saved, stood and plunged his harpoon all the way into the devilfish’s triple heart.

“Tit for tat,” Captain Nemo told the Canadian. “I owed it to myself!”

Ned bowed without answering him.

This struggle had lasted a quarter of an hour. Defeated, mutilated, battered to death, the monsters finally yielded to us and disappeared beneath the waves.

Red with blood, motionless by the beacon, Captain Nemo stared at the sea that had swallowed one of his companions, and large tears streamed from his eyes.

From Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, available at