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I realized today that I think I've barely read any new novels this year --China Mieville's The City and The City, Lightbreaker, by Mark Teppo, and The Steel Remains, by Richard K Morgan.

I have read a metric butt ton of short stories, however, and quite a bit of non-fiction as well. Oh yeah, and novels by friends in my writing groups--which is awesome because it's like reading a regular book, but if something bugs you, you actually get to scribble in the manuscript and tell the author!

But being at World Fantasy reminded me yet again of how many friends I have whose books I've never read (or whose books I've started and never finished because I get distracted easily nowadays, rather than any actual quality issues.)
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Was massacred today by the free book box. Even though I'm all, "no more books!" I still have a few exceptions. One of which, at the moment, is awesome short story collections. It looks like some sf fan dumped his collection, and I was there to gather the spoils. I got a bunch of ghost story collections full of old, old writers (Rudyard Kipling, Bram Stoker, etc.) One is, "Ghouls" and focuses on classic monster movie inspirations. I didn't even know Freaks started out as a short story. Vincent Price does the forward, and Christopher Lee the afterword. It's got an ad for True cigarettes in the middle.
Also:
"The Conan Swordbook," a series of essays on heroic fantasy by L. Sprague DeCamp. Someone went overboard with the tracking in that one--the letters overlap each other!

"Approaching Oblivion", by Harlan Ellison (which, now that I look at it, is the one and only Ellison collection I've already read. Dangit. I got it from the library right before my first ever convention, when I figured I should probably read something by the guest of honor that wasn't Babylon 5. I have memories of sitting in the food court of Bellevue Square reading about Yiddish aliens.)

"Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction" by Brian Aldiss. The cover is set in a beautiful, not-quite-classic-computer font. It's from 1973.

And my favorite: A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Vol. 2. Forgive me for leaving behind Vol. 1, it didn't have Alfred Bester in it, and wouldn't fit in my bag. The sometime owner, John H. Fredrickson, wrote in the table of contents his opinion of each story. All the authors I recognized (Clarke, Heinlein, Poul Anderson) received a "No!" The Stars My Destination" got an underlined "no." Don't know if that's better or worse than getting an exclamation point.

The latter story is what I'm debating curling up with in bed. On the one hand, I really want to read it, on the other hand, the book owner also had a dog, and every turn of the page wafts hair into the room. I probably should take it into work and use the air blower on it.
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All right, I'll add my 2 cents to the John Wright brouhaha. And if you don't know what that is, your brain is better off. I'm not going to address his rant itself, just talk about his books, because everyone's all, "I'm never going to buy his books!" Well I've read them, so you don't have to.
His books are the ones I mentioned way back here. Somewhere I've got a half-written review of his books, but I can't find it right now, so what I say may be disorganized. Minor spoilers ahead.

When I started reading the Orphans of Chaos trilogy, I loved them. LOVED them. To begin with, the concept is fascinating. Basically, there's different races (humanity being one) with different operational paradigms. Each of the five main characters, teenagers all alone in an English orphanage, belong to one of these races. It's got Greek gods, ceremonial magic, wacky multi-dimensional beings and more, all in one place! All the races relate to each other, and each one overpowers another, just like rock, paper, scissors. This also provides for marvelous D/s potential, and when I got the book, based on what I'd heard, I expected it to be a very kinky, erotic-oriented book. I was sort of right.

Now me, I usually keep my vast amounts of kink to myself. When I realize I've slipped some into my writing, it sort of feels like I've just shown my underpants to people. I'm actually torn when it comes to seeing the topic in non-erotica. (If it is erotica, than you can get away with anything, and I won't care about the social implications. Objectify away!) Sometimes, it's nicely done, other times, I feel like I'm being flashed. Where's the line between keeping our tendencies private and giving the practice healthy exposure? (I suppose the answer is the same as any sex in books--does it serve the story? In Orphans of Chaos' case, I'd say, no.) Anyway, I'm rambling. Point is, Orphans of Chaos is full of D/s that I don't think he fully appreciates the implications of. Having read his rant, I definitely think he's not aware his pervy undies are showing.

Aside from the whole, "does he think women should actually be treated like that?" question which nagged me throughout, there's the complete dismissal of the Irish. Bear with me, I'll get back to that.

One of the problems the book has is that when the five main characters are together, their relationships shine, and everything is awesome. When they're one on one, the relationships are a little more neglected. This wasn't the case at the start of the series, but somewhere along the way, that changed. The narrator, Amelia, pines for Victor, the eldest of their gang. They have a nice first scene together, but after that, there's only her pining for this incredibly boring guy. These are one pov books, and I wish it could be otherwise, because everyone else is neglected. Victor represents rational materialism--magic doesn't work on him, because, duh, magic doesn't exist. Not in his paradigm. He could be interesting if we were allowed into his head. Forming the third corner of a love triangle is Colin. He's not actually Irish, but he's formed his identity around Celtic/Irish conceits. He's emotional, sensual, irrational and energetic. He's the one whose relationship with Amelia is actually handled in some depth. He's the only one outside of Amelia whose personal story I actually feel. The power dynamic between Colin and Amelia is explored (his race tops her race) but not the one between her and Victor (her race tops his. It's mentioned only once that she can shut down his life functions like a light switch.) And at the end, even though he never seriously exploited his power over her, Colin's love for Amelia is dismissed in an instant. Even the bad guy gets more understanding and consideration than poor Colin. Colin was bit of a dick, but not so much that he deserves to be shoved aside without even an, "I'm sorry this can't work out."
It was only at the very end, after Colin's sudden status as non-entity, that I wondered, "Does this have anything to do with England's racism against the Irish?" A racism, which, by the way, boggles me* a little because I live in a land that romanticizes the Irish.

Wright's far-rightness only comes out a few times, and usually in half-joking but still creepy ways. (Paraphrasing: "What if I used to someone awful, like a murderer, or someone who didn't like Margaret Thatcher?")

Anyway, that's the stuff I remember about the books, and if not for those serious concerns I had, they'd totally be among my favoritist favorite books ever.

*Even though my Irish-descended great-aunt was forcibly sterilized by a racist surgeon!

Con Crud

Feb. 17th, 2009 08:08 am
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Yesterday, mid-morning, my throat started to tickle. When I left to clean the day job, I started feeling weaker and weaker. By the time I got home, I felt like I'd been hit by a 2x4. Didn't sleep well, undoubtedly exacerbated by the fact that the only thing I had to suck on were the sugary sweets from Finland left by [livejournal.com profile] renatus last summer. No fever last night, but my throat was pretty miserable. This morning, for the first time in years, I had an honest-to-goodness fever of 100.9. So I'm calling in sick for only the second time in the 3 or 4 years I've been at Towner.

But hey, I get to finally dig in and really read. I finished Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains, about which I will squee later, and am flying through the Better off Undead anthology.
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I thought I was reading the first book of the Illuminatus! Trilogy. I was excited about it, and telling everyone about the awesome opening. I'm actually only vaguely familiar with the series, but I thought it was more modern. The thing I read was in 1770 Naples. I figured the next book took place closer to the present. So I finish it, go to look up the name of the next book, and realize I've read this instead of this.

Well, it was an awesome book, anyway.
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I've been reading "Travelling by Mongolian Horse" by Bekhjargal Bayarsaikhan. (An actual Mongolian!!)
I want to own this book so bad. Amazon, of course, doesn't have it, but Abebooks does, for 65$.

When I actually looked for books on Mongolia at the university's library, most of what I found were either histories or written in Russian, Chinese or Mongolian. It wasn't until I looked for books on horsemanship that I found this, packed full of cultural info without all the number-packed dryness of an anthropological study.

It's filled with rough drawings and usually-bizarre cartoons. One is a line drawing of three tourists and a Mongolian in the summer. Number one is someone from a hot climate, like Malaysia. He's got on a big hat with earflaps and a heavy shirt. There's someone from a warm climate, like Mayami, dressed in long sleeves. Someone from a cool climate, like Europe, has on shorts and a t-shirt. And then there's the Mongolian, in a wife-beater and big Mongolian boots.

The translation is highly erratic, often varying spelling in the same sentence, ("raicing and racing") "The mare will soon give a burth." "the stones jumped from the horses hoofs fly like wipons,the land in front becomes unvisible, and the dust reaches the sky!" But though occasionally rambling, it's still understandable.

It also shows how to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, on the morin khuur (horse-headed fiddle). And, it has the lyrics for one of their songs:
"I love horse" [word in Cyrillic] I e e e e e eyy yy yy yy a aaa aaa aa aa aa aa aa lo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oo ve ee ee ee ee ee ee ee ee ee eee ho oo oo oo oo oo oo oo rrrr rr rr rr rr rr se ee ee ee ee ee ee ee aa aa aa aa uu uu uu uu uu uu yy yy yy yy yy yy"

Keffy sang it for us, in probably a very realistic fashion. (semi-tangent: A Tuvan throat-singing group is coming to the Mount Baker Theatre. I think I might splurge and go. OMG OMG.)

The author is clearly an imaginative, funny guy, and I'm in love with his weird, weird, incredibly informative book.

Nano Prep

Oct. 5th, 2008 09:44 am
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Books which I am currently reading en masse:
(Feel free to add suggestions)

Heaven and Hell --Emmanuel Swedenborg
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell --William Blake
(And now I realize I should get The Great Divorce , by CS Lewis)

The Western Lands -- William Burroughs (I had to go buy this one, because the library copy smells like a moldy tent)
Naked Lunch --William Burroughs

Dhalgren --Samuel Delany

Diary of a Genius --Salvador Dalí
50 Secrets of Master Craftsmanship --Salvador Dalí
Selected Poems of Lorca and Jimenez
Poems of Saint John of the Cross

Alchemical texts from here.

Some book on the Mongols

I also got The Book of Thoth and a book of Thelemic rituals, and though I didn't get them specifically for Nano-inspiration, I'm sure they'll be helpful.

And I'm still reading Space Magic , David Levine's short story collection. I read one story every morning, since madness and mysticism isn't a good thing to pummel myself with right before a long stressful day at work.
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Blind Eye books is giving away a copy of their anthology, Tangle. [livejournal.com profile] csinman has two illustrations in it. EDIT, [livejournal.com profile] csinman has two promotional illustrations available on behalf of the book.)
Go sign up!

My weakness

Mar. 6th, 2008 09:24 pm
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I was walking home when I passed the library. The great red "Book Sale" sign of doom was out front. Oh, no! I wasn't going to go in, I told myself as I felt for my wallet. Fortunately, I didn't have any cash, so I couldn't buy anything. But then I opened my treacherous wallet and found six dollars. But hey, I have willpower, and they only have crappy books at the book sale. I wouldn't buy any books I felt wishy-washy about. Six awesome and heavy books later, I'm home.

In other news, Nine Inch Nails rocks. I hear they've already made 750,000 dollars off their Creative Commons album. I downloaded the 9 song free sample, and will undoubtedly shell out the five dollars for the other 27. It makes great, low-key writing music.

Ooh, I'm especially liking 6 Ghosts I.
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Must babble about books! I found a bunch of crap pulp novels in the free box yesterday. One of them is a Micro-Adventure, which [livejournal.com profile] kaerfel, bereft of anything to do last night, ended up "developing Stockholm Syndrome with". If my dad had known about those things when I was a kid, I would have had them. He was always trying to get me to learn Basic. And it wasn't that I didn't want to, that I thought it the fabulous thing ever, and was excited by the little five line programs I could write. I just never... got it. Sorry, Dad, I'll never be as geeky as you.

PS first snow. Just a dusting, but we're predicted to get 3-8 in. (Although I love the snow, our hill and lack of insulation makes me dread it)
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Apparently my family is doing $1 Christmas presents. So I just got back from the Goodwill with a bunch of cheap paperbacks. Some are good (really old copy of Fahrenheit 451, Harry Potter and the Philosphers (not Sorcerers) Stone) others are silly (Choose Your Own Adventures!) And, I got The Female Man, by Joanna Russ, for myself. Holy Crap. I just grabbed it to make sure I got her name right, and inside it's stamped, "Please return to Women's Studies Library... University of Washington." and above that is scrawled, "Gift of Joanna Russ, 3/78"
Dude?
I think I'm going to have to e-mail UW.
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Last night, I finished The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, by Tim Pratt. It's as if my entire writing group wrote a book together. (Oh no! A book set in Santa Cruz! ;-P )

The Mad PC Corrector got to my library copy. (They use a pencil to change things like "huntsman" to "huntsperson") I was worried, since, hello, "Rangergirl." But they seemed to give up after a few chapters.

In other news, I feel like I have a small sea urchin in the back of my throat.

I also just went back and looked at some old dramatic posts from an old dramatic acquaintance. Every time I read it, I get furious, but I do it compulsively. It's a shameful, shameful pleasure. Shameful because I worry I am sometimes like him.

Sometimes, I feel bad for making fun of the guy, but then I go look at that stuff. (This is the "When you said no, I thought you were just being a woman!" guy). Maybe he's changed over the last two years, but the grotesque defenses he had set up to defend his enormous ego were pretty strong back then, I can't imagine what it would take to tear them down.
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Spent this morning having a conversation with Keffy by typing something up and having our computers speak function say it for us.

Spent last night with [livejournal.com profile] kehrli and [livejournal.com profile] kaerfel reading the first few paragraphs of all the novels lying around, and deciding which ones would make us keep reading.

And today, I finished The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. It's a good and unnerving book about isolation. As the author says, it's anti-war, but not anti-soldier.
The portrayal of homosexuality confused me, since I wasn't sure if it was meant to be derogatory or satirical. (Eventually everyone becomes gay for the sake of population control.) As I read it, I got the impression that Haldeman just didn't understand gays very well, like most people probably didn't back then (early 70s).

The character made me think he might have a similar worldview as my dad, and in fact, a lot of his descriptions of encountering gays in the military sound the same as my dad's. There's a sort of bewilderment at the whole phenomenon. Not hostility, just an uncomfortable WTF?

So of course I had to search the internet, and found this interview with Haldeman and he sounds like a pretty darn cool guy.
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Last night I went to Wilson Library to hang out in their basement and hopefully get some writing done. I got distracted by the great wall o' F+SF magazines going back to 1951. So i read a bunch of awesome yet anachronistic stories (loads of them were set 1990-2005). One (written by a woman) featured a housewife (in 1997) battling a kitchen full of gadgets. I read the first short story Philip K Dick published. (November 1952) They were excited about him even then.

So now I'm on a classic Sf kick, and if I finish The Forever War before Nano, will probably tear through The Martian Chronicles or something.
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And in other news, I've successfully turned my dad onto John Scalzi. This is exciting for many reasons. Mainly that I successfully predicted my father's tastes and got him something cool for his birthday (usually I get him smoked salmon, and he's happy with that). I think this might be my new game-- figuring out books that both me and my dad will like. Stuff I know he likes:

a) clearcut good guys/bad guys. My dad likes escapist stuff that's not like the real world.
b) Heinlein and golden age science fiction
c) adventure
d) Alan Dean Foster (seriously, he owns like every single one of Foster's books. I grew up never knowing Foster was best known for writing in other people's worlds)

Any suggestions for new authors to try out would be appreciated.

But most importantly...

I have found a point of intersection between my world and my dad's. I wish I was more into science fiction like he is, so I can talk to him about his favorite writers. When I told him Lois McMaster Bujold was the GOH at the first Norwescon I attended, he perked up, "really?" But I didn't get to see her there. Yet, when I squee over seeing Charles DeLint, my dad's all, "Who?"

I know that all I need to do to impress my dad is be myself and do what I love, but hey, I want to impress him someday by introducing him to his favorite authors.

So the list of books I've given my dad, all of which he liked:

Old Man's War - John Scalzi

Rocket Science -- Jay Lake

A Wrinkle in TIme - Madeline L'Engle (The guy's 67 years old. I forget that even YA books that were classics before I was born were missed by him.)

The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman (Afterwards, he went right out about bought the rest of the series. Now I don't have to buy them!)

I think I gave him The White Mountains, but I don't remember. I think I've been giving him mostly classic YA because I'm never sure where his squick level lies with sex and stuff.

Oh yeah, and he read A Storm of Swords and Foucault's Pendulum because he knew how much I loved them. His main reaction was, "wow, they're long."

Anyway, that's enough of me being happy about bonding with my father.
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I just finished The Scar, by China Miéville. I think I like it even better than Perdido Street Station. Maybe because the prose is a little less verbose (he only used "vertiginous" and "salubrious" once each!) Maybe because it's about political manipulations. Maybe just because it's got a vampire. :-)
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These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise what you started but couldn’t finish, and strike through what you couldn’t stand. [I'm also going to add, books I started but didn't finish, not because I couldn't, but simply because I'm easily distracted, or am taking my time with them.]

Read more... )
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I went to Village Books to pick up birthday presents for [livejournal.com profile] hawkdancer and my dad. I got Toby Bishop/[livejournal.com profile] lmarley's Airs Beneath the Moon for Jess, and for my dad, John Scalzi's Old Man's War. I started Old Man's War at the bus stop, and on the third page, it made me want to cry. Now, if you know me, that's a damn hard thing to do. Third page!

The clerk got realy excited at my buying the Scalzi book. "I was just telling someone about that! Do you know if he has any other books we could order? I'm trying to bulk up our science fiction section." Well, I think they had all of them, but mentioned that I was hoping to get Alan Dean Foster's latest book. Apparently, Foster is best-known for his media tie-ins, but I grew up with just the opposite impression, since my dad owns like everything the guy's written, except the tie-ins. (Splinter of the Mind's Eye being the exception. My first Star Wars book. :-)
He asked me the title, and I struggled to remember. "Salmagunda?" something like that. I said that if they had the latest issue of Asimov's, I could find out, since I'd just read the review there.
This also got the guy excited. "I told them they should get the Foundation series!" Well, no, that's not what I was talking about. He ended up writing down the names of the three magazines I told him -- Asimov's, Analog and F+SF. I probably should have mentioned others, but I suspect half the ones I did would be online ones, since I can never keep them straight. :-(

So perhaps I have done my small part in enriching the SF section of Village Books. It is small, but they do a good job stocking local authors. And, they've got a nice big shelf dedicated to new authors.
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I just finished Carnival, by Elizabeth Bear. As I was reading it, I got the sneaking suspicion that [spoilery thing] was going to happen, because it always happens in books like this. This pisses me off. Anyway, [spoilery thing] didn't happen, and lo! angels sang. Then I went and looked at what she had to say about her book (because I always read reviews after I read a book), and all I can say is God bless you, Elizabeth Bear, I now have utter faith in you.

Mainspring

Jul. 7th, 2007 08:59 am
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Just finished Mainspring, by Jay Lake. It's being held to very high expectations, so forgive me if I'm harsh. :-) It also made me think a lot about my own work (like all good books, which make me want to understand how they work)

Overall, I'll say that while I enjoyed his other book, Rocket Science, more, I respected this one more.

About a hundred pages from the end, I had a head-smacking realization. Gene Wolfe! That explains everything that bugs me about Mainspring. I know Lake loves Wolfe; he said his favorite book is the one Gene Wolfe book I've read so far (Shadow of the Torturer, which I <3 ), and I had similar problems with that book. Namely, awesome world, hard to connect to character. Of course, [livejournal.com profile] jaylake does some things better-- I liked Arellya way better than the coma girl whose name I can't remember. So, Jay Lake, if you wanted to write something similar to Wolfe, I think you've succeeded. :-)

Spoiler-ish behind the cut )

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