Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Edward M. Lerner

For thirty years, Edward M. Lerner toiled in the vineyards of high tech. Then, suitably intoxicated, he began writing science fiction full-time. He writes both near-future, Earth-based techno-thrillers (like Fools’ Experiments and Small Miracles) and -- as with his latest novel, InterstellarNet: Origins -- more traditional spacefaring adventures.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Immersed as I am daily in science fiction, I take a break -- when I can -- with reading that is neither science nor fiction. Recently, that’s meant Eyewitness to History, edited by John Carey.

Carey has selected eyewitness accounts from around the world and spanning more than two millennia. He opens with Thucydides describing plague in Athens (430 BC) amid the Peloponnesian War and ends with James Fenton’s account of the (1986) ouster of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. What these accounts – more than 250 of them – share is vivid, first-hand narrative.

Eyewitness to History is a book to be sampled and savored, not read cover to cover. In part that’s because so much of history reflects man’s inhumanity to man. To proceed from one atrocity to the next would be too much. Trust me: you won’t soon forget the report by Bartolom√© de Las Casas, a Dominican missionary, on the atrocities of the conquistadors. But even amid horror, some of the incidents are uplifting, testaments to the endurance and spirit of man. In the latter category comes the eight-year ordeal of British sailor Miles Philips, castaway in sixteenth-century Mexico, at the hands of (among others) the Inquisition. Then there’s: Dinner with Attila the Hun. The Peasant Revolt in England. The Sepoy Rebellion. The Liberation of Dachau. And lots, lots more...

Jumping about the book, sampling according to time, or place, or whimsy, I can’t escape that I am a SF author. At a minimum, Eyewitness to History offers color for any number of time-travel and alternate-history stories. But beyond that, the book offers 250-plus lessons in vibrantly conveying time and place. Reading them is valuable experience for any kind of writing.
Learn more about the author and his work at his website Edward M. Lerner, perpetrator of science fiction and techno-thrillers, and blog SF and Nonsense.

The Page 99 Test: Small Miracles.

The Page 69 Test: Fools’ Experiments.

-- Marshal Zeringue