8/25/2016

Review - TUTT AND MR. TUTT, by Arthur Train

Early Bird Books puts out a daily email to promote various discounted ebooks, always including a link to a free ebook of an old work that's fallen into public domain. Sometimes these look interesting and I'll give them a shot.

TUTT AND MR. TUTT, originally published in 1919, was one such. Arthur C. Train was a lawyer who wrote on the side in the first half of the 20th century. His "Tutt and Mr. Tutt" stories, about two NYC lawyers, ran for years in the Saturday Evening Post, were collected into a number of volumes, and were apparently immensely popular in their time. Nearly a century later, I'd never heard of Train or his characters.

So...

First, there's some racist language in the stories that might be off-putting, with references to "Chinks" and "niggers". I'll give that a pass for work written a century ago (historical mores, blah blah blah), but it was still jarring to encounter.

Second, the two Tutts don't just defend innocent people from being wrongly convicted, they work to see guilty people set free. Murderers both hot-blooded and cold-blooded end up walking the streets again. When one of the Tutts is maneuvered into a position where he's threatened with blackmail, he ends up paying off the blackmailer; the blackmailer strolls off with no consequences and I was left sitting there with my jaw dropped, thinking "No! That's not how you end a story!".

I worked in several law offices for about a year decades ago, so I recognize that "dubious morality" is an occupational hazard of the legal profession. But I don't want to see that in the fiction I read. I want protagonists, even if flawed, to be people I can respect or at least understand. ("Hey, Bruce, what about all those Parker crime novels by Westlake you enjoy so much? Whaddabout those, huh, huh?" "Shut up.")

I couldn't like or enjoy either Tutt. I found their behavior and standards off-putting and repellent. I read the first three of the seven stories in this collection; by that point I just didn't want to spend any more time in the characters' company.

Third and finally... wow, the writing style here is very heavily in a "Tell, Don't Show" manner, with long, long sentences and passages about the characters, about what's happening in the story, rather than showing by dialogue and action.

So, for me at least, this once-popular book wasn't able to inspire any appeal or a desire to read past the first few stories. In the near-century since its publication, society has changed, writing styles have changed, and I'm clearly not the same as the people who read and enjoyed these stories when they first appeared. C'est la litterature.

8/21/2016

Review - The Girl At The End Of The World

THE GIRL AT THE END OF THE WORLD, by Richard Levesque.  Amazon (ebook & print),  Barnes & Noble (print only).

Originally published in 2013, I got it as part of the 2016 Immerse Or Die offer from Storybundle.

Post-apocalyptic (plague variety), sole (almost) survivor story, with a YA narrator. Scarlett Fisher is a 15 year old in Los Angeles when a fast-spreading fungal plague leaves her seeming to be the last person alive in LA, or possibly the world. Not quite, it turns out, but other survivors have their own agendas, ones that threaten Scarlett’s own life and freedom.

That’s a fairly standard storyline, but Levesque is very good at presenting Scarlett’s viewpoint and reactions, and depicting the plague’s swift progress and then the breakdown of society’s infrastructure and systems. Scarlett’s presented as a determined character, but not a super-capable one. When she tries to teach herself to use a bow and arrow, her skill only progresses from awful to mediocre. She makes mistakes, with consequences. She has crying jags, but eventually picks up and soldiers on.

I read it in one sitting. Been quite a while since I’ve done that with any book.
 

8/16/2016

Getting Back In Print

Received word that my short story, "Beks and the Second Note" has been scheduled for the December 2016 issue of ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, on sale 11/15/16. As actual pub date gets closer, I will post reminders.

"Beks and the Second Note" will be my first story to appear in a mystery-specific publication, though several of my previous credits fall into the mystery genre. "The Rest of the Story" was my presentation of the Good Samaritan parable as a detective story set in first-century Judea. And my Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Clues" (well, duh) was very much a mystery story.

This will be my first publication since 2006, when "Labyrinth's Heart" appeared in the Scalzi-edited issue of SUBTERRANEAN. Then I stopped writing fiction (because Reasons) until the end of 2012. Being off-work for over half a year from that first shoulder replacement let me get a running start back into fiction writing, and I've been able to keep it up even after returning to work. I call writing my "fourth job", because the first three jobs -- the bill-paying day-job, being a caregiver, and getting enough sleep to cope with those first two -- take priority. I still manage to get a handful of short stories, and an occasional novelette or novella, done each year. There are about a half-dozen out on submission right now, and some others that still need a copyedit or revisions before I send them out.

8/14/2016

Review - THE SCARLET CRANE by J.E. Hopkins



THE SCARLET CRANE, J.E. Hopkins. Available at Amazon. Current promotional price: free; usually 0.99.

There are certain expectations for genre books. The definitions of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and their differences, have been the subject of discussion and argument for decades. My personal version of that argument is "Science Fiction deals with the consequences of social and technological change; Fantasy deals with the presence of the miraculous."

Another popular genre is the Thriller. Thrillers are novels of action, of constant forward momentum. Here's a diagram from Thriller writer Matt Rees showing basic plot points for a Thriller novel: Plot A Thriller.

THE SCARLET CRANE takes a very, very interesting fantastical premise and tries to map it onto a Thriller framework. It doesn't quite succeed. I felt the (fairly standard) thriller elements overshadowed the (underdeveloped) fantasy element.

That fantasy element is a doozy, though. In the world of THE SCARLET CRANE, the beginning of puberty also brings a one-month long period known as Transition. During that month, your eyes turn lavender. And... IF you perform the appropriate ceremony/invocation/prayer properly... and IF your invocation/prayer/wish has "uniqueness", if it's something that has never quite been wished for in quite the same way before by anyone else... then your prayer, your wish, might be granted. You can perform magic. You can perform miracles, from something small and inconsequential to literally rewriting the past.

BUT... here's the catch... if that invocation ISN'T properly performed... if that wish DOESN'T have that ill-defined quality of "uniqueness"... then you die. Stone cold freakin' dead, instantly. And that death, almost invariably, is what results from trying to invoke Transition magic. Successful Invocations are rarities.

What are the consequences of such a world? Hopkins shows us some. Knowledge of the Invocation ceremony is kept widely suppressed, especially from young people. (But it's also findable, with some effort, on the Internet or from other sources.) Parents go to extremes to prevent children from attempting Transition magic during that lavender-eyed month, including constant surveillance or even sedating their children during those weeks. There are government agencies devoted to dealing with Transition issues.

That's okay, so far as it goes. But I couldn't help feeling there should have been much bigger consequences to the existence of Transition magic. If Transition has existed for centuries or millenia, it would have had major, major, effects on history and society. How was the proper form of the Invocation originally discovered? How differently would religion have developed in a world where everyone has the potential to be a miracle-worker, but if your first attempt isn't pitch-perfect a fickle murderous God will strike you dead? Wouldn't there be entire libraries filled with the writings of theologians, philosophers, alchemists, scientists, all trying to understand the reason for Transition's existence and how it works? Or, conversely, wouldn't those few who invoked magic successfully and tried to pass on their experience be decried as witches and warlocks (which, essentially, they'd be) and burned or drowned to protect future generations? What of the adult miracle-workers throughout history (Oh, hi, Jesus!); what's up with those guys?

But the action of THE SCARLET CRANE takes place in a world almost brick-by-brick identical to our own. There's very little deep background or history to show Transition's long-term effects on society or history. Looking at the book as fantasy or science fiction, I found that disappointing. There are some hints that further books in the series (there are several) might go a little deeper into Transition's history, or show the wider effects of successful Transition magic.

Viewed a a Thriller novel, it's mostly successful. John Benoit and Stony Hill are US agents for an agency missioned with not only trying to protect kids from trying to use mostly-fatal Transition magic, but preventing kids from being manipulated by malign adults or government into Invoking magic hostile to US (or world) interests. The action moves right along, bam, bam, bam, leading to a final battle at a secret Chinese base where experiments with kidnapped children are making progress in controlling and weaponizing Transition magic. (Kids still die, but fewer of them, and Transition magic is successfully invoked more often.)

But... the relentless action, the constant forward momentum of the plot, also seemed to leave little room for much character development. John Benoit's distinguishing characteristics are carrying a cane (mostly for show, and for the concealed stiletto inside it), and that he's still an active agent at age 70. (I haven't seen a senior citizen action hero this spry since Manning Coles' Tommy Hambledon was still shinnying up drainpipes in his 80's.) I would have liked some understanding or background of what continues to motivate Benoit to do dangerous field work at an age when most agents would be driving a desk or have retired.

So, overall, pretty successful as a Thriller, with some reservations. As SF or Fantasy, some bigger reservations. The predominant Thriller plot and pacing makes Transition magic a MacGuffin for much of the book. ("MacGuffin" -- the object around which the plot revolves, but as to what that object specifically is the audience doesn't care -- attributed to Alfred Hitchcock.) Benoit and Hill's race toward the final chapter might have as easily involved a stolen nuclear bomb or plans for the Death Star, rather than the kidnapped children and secret base; Transition magic isn't an essential element of their quest.

But like I said, that whole concept of Transition is a doozy of an idea, with some great potential. I hope Hopkins develops that potential in further books. I'll almost certainly read the second book in the series, THE SAFFRON FALCON.

8/10/2016

A Catch-Up Post

So, over two months since writing the last post here.

Why? Various reasons. Overall, life has been leaving me in a bit of a funk since the beginning of the year. Shall we make a list?

1) My mother's death in January. Not unexpected; she was 88, and had been in declining health for several years. But our relationship was never completely comfortable, with some old issues going back to childhood that were never discussed and never resolved. And now they never will be. Doesn't stop me from thoughts or regrets, even now.

2) The Arm. My right arm, which has never been fully pain-free or as easy to use or as strong as it was before the joint replacement surgery in 2012, got worse again. Updated x-rays showed the prosthetic joint was shifting and starting to work loose from the surgical cement used in 2012. I had revision surgery on July 21st, replacing the original prosthetic with a different type (a "reverse shoulder arthroscopy", using a cup-and-ball joint instead of the standard ball-and-cup joint and working primarily from the deltoid muscle instead of the rotator cuff). Still in a sling 24/7 right now (my left-handed typing is getting fairly decent), with another three weeks before starting physical therapy to get strength back and maximize range of motion. Still won't be normal, but might get 75% use of the arm back, which would be better than I'd been doing.

3) The Smash-Up. On April 27th, in the middle of that period of trying to get paperwork and x-rays and pre-testing done before the new arm surgery, Some Asshole decided to make an abrupt left turn across traffic lanes without checking for oncoming traffic. My car got T-boned hard enough to spin me 180 degrees and leave me facing south in a north-bound lane. The frame damage to my Outlander resulted in it's being declared a total loss by my insurance company, which in turn meant several weeks of having to deal with paperwork and many hours online and at car dealerships trying to find a suitable replacement. (We ended up with a 2015 Nissan Versa Note, smaller and with less cargo capacity than the Outlander. Because it was a former rental car and because it had some minor hail damage, it was kinda sorta affordable; it still cost $2500 more than the insurance reimbursement. It's a nice enough car, but something I'd ordinarily have considered as a secondary vehicle, not our primary vehicle.) And I had to deal with all that while also dealing with medical consequences of the crash; getting flung around by the collision aggravated the right arm's problems, so I needed more painkillers and was even less able to use the arm for weeks afterward. I've turned the case over to an attorney to try and get compensation for that, and for the unexpected financial costs. I really, really, really don't want to end up having to carry additional debt for a couple of years; if I do, my plan to be debt-free and able to fully retire when I turn 66 in a couple years might have to be pushed back. That thought, it's probably needless to say, doesn't make me happy.

4) Trump. Ghaaaaack.... Can't look away from the trainwreck. Back during the Bush administration, I spent way, way too many hours online, horrified and jaw-dropped at what was happening to America. Trump is worse. Why do I do that to myself? Because I hope that someday, eventually, please God, I'll find that webpage I've been looking for, hoping for, the one that says HI BRUCE. YES, IT'S ALL BEEN A JOKE ON YOU. THE ENTIRE INTERNET, TELEVISION, RADIO, NEWSPAPERS, EVERYONE, EVEN YOUR OWN FRIENDS AND FAMILY, HAVE BEEN PUNKING YOU. FOR YEARS. IT'S ALL BEEN FAKE, ALL BEEN LIES. TRUMP ISN'T RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. HE'S NOT EVEN A BILLIONAIRE. HE LOST HIS MONEY YEARS AGO AND WORKS AT A STARBUCKS NOW. AS A JANITOR. YOU'VE BEEN TRUMAN-SHOWED. PRETTY DAMN FUNNY, HUH? SINCERELY, ASTON KUCHER. And I'll say, "Oh, thank God."

Those have been the Big Bads this year. It's not all been doom and gloom, though.

I've continued to write fiction, and have gotten several short stories completed and out on submissions.

I haven't been completely inactive online. I've been making occasional tweets, and responding to others', on Twitter. The Twitter limit of 140 characters has been more achievable for me recently than the time or energy for 140 or 1400 words here. (Twitter is weird. Most posts get 40 or 50 impressions. But sometimes one will take off and gets hundreds or even thousands of views, not always for any clear reason.)

I've got a long list of books read and audiobooks listened to since February. I'll try to get some reviews written for forthcoming posts here. So, yeah, I'm hoping to write more here again.

That's probably enough words for now.

6/06/2016

A Story For Today

Back in 1974, I was serving my enlistment in the US Army. I spent most of my three year enlistment (two-and-a-half years) stationed at Fort Lee, VA, most of it working as company clerk for a transportation unit (that means truck drivers). Our company was in the middle of our annual field training exercises, where we spent a week out in the woods living in tents, getting meals from a mobile kitchen-on-wheels, standing guard duty in foxholes, and coming under a mock night attack by training personnel. (How did our unit do with the mock attack? Well, not quite this bad....)

The CO, other officers, First Sergeant, and clerks were set up in a command tent. Oops, no, wait, we were missing someone. Just before the field exercises, our First Sergeant had been transferred out to a different base. A new First Sergeant had been assigned, but there was a gap of several days between the start of the field exercises and the designated arrival date.

So it was several days into field exercises when First Sergeant Pietrowski arrived out in the field to join our company. He walked into the command tent, reported for duty, and handed over a folder containing his orders and personnel file.

The personnel file was ordinarily something that would have stayed behind at the company office, but First Sergeant Pietrowski had reported in at Fort Lee, found out the company was already out on field exercises, had paused only long enough to change into fatigues, pack essentials, and drive out to the boonies where field exercises were being held at a smaller Army camp.

And when he reported in, everyone in the command tent sort of gave each other side glances, like "This is our new First Sergeant?"

Because First Sergeant Pietrowski was old. He was ancient. He was a geezer. Maybe a geezer and a half. He had a beaked nose, more hair in his ears than the rest of his head, liver spots to make a Dalmation cry with envy, and about a googol of wrinkles and veins. He was probably only in his 60's, but he looked eighty. No, ninety. No, actually...

...well, I grew up in the 1960's reading lots of comics, so my first thought was that he looked just like General Immortus, the centuries-old villain who fought the Doom Patrol on multiple occasions.

General Immortus
Really. If someone had been trying to make a Doom Patrol movie in 1974, and had seen First Sergeant Pietrowski having a Coke at Schwab's Drug Store, they'd have offered him the Immortus role on the spot.

After the initial paperwork to register him with the company, First Sergeant Pietrowski said that between driving his family across the country to Fort Lee, then rushing to get out to the field exercises, he was feeling pretty worn out. If there wasn't anything that needed immediate attention, he could really use a nap.

(More side glances.)

So the First Sergeant laid down on a cot at one side of the command tent and....

After a few moments, one of the company lieutenants asked quietly, "Is he... still breathing?"

Yes-s-s-s-s, but lying on his back, hands folded neatly on his chest, and lying very, very still, the First Sergeant did indeed seem to be doing a great imitation of a corpse.

One of our young lieutenants stood up, picked up First Sergeant Pietrowski's folder, and went over to stand behind the cot where the old man lay. "Friends and family of the dear departed," he said softly, "We are gathered here to pay our last respects to First Sergeant Charles Pietrowski..."

This was disrespectful, and maybe a little mean. But it was really hard for everyone awake in that tent to try and not smile or let a small laugh escape their lips.

...and the lieutenant flipped open the folder, which held the First Sergeant's service records...

...and the lieutenant stopped speaking, and his eyes got wide, and he said "Oh," in a small voice. And then he said, "He took part in the Normandy landings on D-Day." And everyone in the tent went quiet. And the young lieutenant, whose rosy young cheeks had suddenly grown rosier, closed the folder, and stepped away from the cot, and put the folder back on the desk.

And no one in that company, officer or enlisted, ever showed disrespect to First Sergeant Pietrowski ever again.

(Who turned out to be a damn fine First Sergeant, and a damn fine man, despite age and appearance.)

(D-Day, June 6, 1944.)

5/27/2016

Dunkirk

"The Withdrawal From Dunkirk, June 1940" by Charles Ernest Cundall


On 27 May 1940, the Dunkirk Evacuation began. British, French and Belgian forces had been surrounded and cut off by approaching German armies, in the area of Dunkirk in northern France. A combination of British and French warships, aided by hundreds of conscripted or volunteered civilian vessels, were able to evacuate over 300,000 troops to Britain over the course of eight days, from May 27th to June 4th, despite heavy bombing and strafing by German Luftwaffe planes.

Despite the heavy material losses (thousands of guns and vehicles, and over a half million tons of ammo, fuel, and supplies), the rescue of the majority of the British Expeditionary Force provided a major propaganda victory for the British, encouraging public support for the continuing fight against Germany's Nazi regime. The rescued forces also provided a core of trained and experienced men who were able to train new soldiers in the build-up to the eventual return to active combat against German forces.

The "Miracle at Dunkirk"has also provided inspiration for artistic and literary work since the event of 1940. The best known example of "Dunkirk Literature" is Paul Gallico's novella "The Snow Goose", published in 1941, and going up at least to Ian McEwan's 2001 novel ATONEMENT.

The 2014 anthology IN THE COMPANY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: STORIES INSPIRED BY THE HOLMES CANON (edited by Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger) includes "Dunkirk" by John Lescroart, presenting an aged Sherlock Homes (operating under his alternate identity of "Sigerson") joining one of the civilian vessels assisting in the Dunkirk evacuation. (Very good story, by the way, even without the Holmes connection.)

Filmmaker Chris Nolan recently began production on Dunkirk, a film scheduled for 2017 release.


5/17/2016

Arizona Dust Storm -- Moving Fast

Out on the interstate highways, especially I-10, Arizona dust storms can spring up fast, going from this...


...to this...


...in just a few minutes.

This particular storm was aggravated by moving across a freshly plowed field.

(Photos via Arizona Department of Public Safety. Somebody at DPS knows how to shoot... pictures.)

4/29/2016

Our Poor Outlander




The verdict is in: Totaled. The driver who T-boned me Wednesday afternoon hit hard enough to spin the car 180°; I ended up facing south in a north-bound lane. I am not happy.

4/21/2016

Bandersnatch Arrives

It's nice when I win a Goodreads Giveaway and it comes with an extra flourish.

Awww, and it's not even my birthday.

And this is what I won, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer, illustratedby James A. Owen. And some bonus goodies:


Bandersnatch has been getting very good buzz in other reviews, so I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks, Diana!

4/14/2016

A Stark Comparison -- the Parker Novels





I’ve been listening to audiobooks of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels (written as Richard Stark), extremely hard-boiled crime novels with the sociopathic career criminal Parker as protagonist, and had a minor revelation.
Except for the eponymous Parker, everyone — EVERYONE — in the series is expendable. Backs are stabbed (sometimes literally), crosses doubled and tripled, loyalties abandoned without hesitation, lives taken without a second’s hesitation or regret. Forgiveness and mercy are for chumps, and chumps are the most expendable of all. Betrayal and death can come at any moment.
And the thought struck me: “Oh, this is like Game of Thrones, if GoT was set in the 1960’s criminal underworld, and people like Roose Bolton, Walder Frey, and Ilyn Payne were the primary characters.”
So, hey, if you’re tired of waiting for the next book in ASOIAF, the Parker novels might fill in the gap while you wait.
(Surely it's just a coincidence that prominent characters in ASOIAF are named Stark?)

4/02/2016

Tigerishka, from THE WANDERER

There`s been some discussion over at File 770 about Fritz Leiber's 1965 Hugo-winning novel THE WANDERER, which features an alien catgirl, Tigerishka, among the characters. Tigerishka has tended to be poorly portrayed on the book's various covers over the years. Back in 1981, at the World Fantasy Con, Hilde and I came across sculptor Dale Enzenbacher's bronze statuette of Tigerishka, which we thought blew away other portrayals, so much so we bought the statuette. Here you go:

3/29/2016

Not Dead, Just Not Blogging Lately

It's been over two months since the last post here. I've been a little distracted, and a little depressed, by recent things. Primary among them my mother's death in January, and learning about the same time that the shoulder surgery in 2012 -- of which I've written so many posts -- will need to be redone in the fairly near future.

I'm not deeply depressed, just feeling sad and rather frustrated, along with a dose of Thoreau's "quiet desperation". I've started about a half-dozen posts for UF, but haven't felt able to write them with enough focus or conclusion to hit the "Publish" button. I've been able to do some degree of shorter stuff, such as occasional comments on other people's blogs like Mike Glyer's File 770, and I've been posting links on Twitter to occasional interesting stuff or leaving occasional brief replies to others' tweets (140 characters; yeah, that's about right for me right now). I still spend too much time on the Internet, but it's been in a more passive, rather than active role.

I expect I'll get back into a normal swing of things eventually. Besides finally writing this post, I've continued to work on some fiction (and even completed a short -- 1100 words -- story that's already been to several markets). I need to set aside some time to do some revisions and edits on other stories that are "completed", but not polished to the point where I feel okay to start submitting them to markets.

AND... I finally (it's been a couple of years) got the planters in the front courtyard cleaned up and replanted, the two smaller planters with a variety of flowering bulbs and the larger front planter with tomatoes, eggplant, patty pan squash, watermelon and basil. Some photos:

garden planter
first tomato setting
squash blossoms
And that's what I've been doing lately.



2/17/2016

Recent Reading & Listening, Jan 2016

Gonna try to keep a running log of books read and audiobooks listened to this year.



Don't You Know There's A War On?, Richard R. Lingerman, Putnam, 1970. Some of the fiction I've been writing lately is set in mid-20th Century, including one story set specifically in Home Front America during WWII. This is a useful overview of that period when America geared up for full-scale war, including mention not only of the extraordinary accomplishments, but of the effects on American society and behavior.

The Fifth Heart, Dan Simmons, Blackstone audiobook (narr. David Pittu), 2015. Every writer, it seems, wants to take a crack at writing in the Sherlock Holmes genre at least once. In The Fifth Heart, Simmons' twist is pairing Holmes with hyper-literary writer Henry ("Turn of the Screw") James. The unlikely pairing takes the two into the top levels of 1893 Washington DC society to investigate the 1885 death of Clover Adams, and to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair to stop a Presidential assassination plot. Parts of this novel are a lot of fun (the section where Henry James performs a devastating literary critique on the Holmes tale "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" is a special hoot), but considered as a whole I kept feeling that Simmons didn't have a firm hand on the narrative. There are points where Holmes feels less like Holmes, and more like Batman, James Bond, or The Shadow. So, a great read in parts, but the sum of those parts ends up being less than the story as a whole.

Maplecroft, Cherie Priest, Roc, 2014.  I'm not generally a fan of Lovecraftian fiction. I've read a good chunk of Lovecraft's original work, once, and haven't felt an urge to re-read it. I've read some other assorted Lovecraftian work, usually short stories, and again it's been a read-once. The tropes get repetitive and tiresome after a while. Cherie Priest manages to freshen up those tropes by mashing up Lovecraftian elements with the real-life Lizzie Borden, famous accused murderess. Priest's version of Lizzie killed her father and stepmother because they were changing into... something non-human, and continues to encounter and battle other Lovecraftian creatures that the Falls River community has become a focal point for. Priest manages to overcome my ennui about Lovecraft stories, and produces a genuinely creepy and gripping adventure. (Would I re-read it someday? Umm, probably not, but I enjoyed the book more than I expected.)


 Captain Blood, Rafael Sabatini. Blackstone audiobook, 2004 (narr. Simon Vance). Sabatini is one of the classic writers of historical fiction, reinvigorating the genre in the 1920's with the publication of Scaramouche. Captain Blood is another of his most highly regarded novels, telling the tale of Doctor Peter Blood, wrongly convicted of treason during the Monmouth Rebellion and sold into slavery in the Caribbean colonies. Escaping slavery, Blood becomes a pirate. Many adventures ensue, with broadsides and boarding parties, cutlasses and cudgels, and more swashes buckled than you can count. Eventually Blood regains his honor and takes revenge on the brutal man who had been Blood's master during Blood's time as a slave. Classic adventure narrative; I was surprised to find the novel had originally been a series of short stories in magazines; the novel fix-up reads smoothly without any jarring breaks. Simon Vance's audiobook narration is a bit on the bland side, particularly noticeable when Blood's Irish-accented dialogue never seems to waver in emotional tone.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson, Tor, 2015. Oh, this was a good one. A rebellion-against-the-conquerors fantasy is made memorable by the depth and complexity Dickinson imbues into the story.  Dickinson gives clear and understandable depictions not only of the military battles and maneuvers involved, but also of the background plotting, scheming, double-crossing, backstabbing (sometimes literal) and betrayals that are a constant threat and danger among all involved. Everyone has their own agenda, that agenda isn't always the public one, and in the end no one can be trusted. The titular hero (for flexible values of "hero") Baru Cormorant, a political appointee from the expansionist Empire of Masks to the distant conquered land of Aurdwynn, but herself a native of another conquered land, has her loyalty to the Empire come under question and flees, eventually rising to form an alliance between Aurdwynn's dukedoms in a rebellion to drive the Empire from their lands and shores. Baru's decisions in pursuit of that alliance are hard and sometimes brutal ones, where the pursuit of a goal can override loyalty or even love. A very, very impressive first novel.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary, Susan Elia MacNeal, Random House Audio, 2012 (narr. Wanda McCaddon). This is the first novel in the Maggie Hope series of mystery/thrillers set in WWII England. In 1940, with Churchill only recently made Prime Minister and England under threat of invasion by Germany, Maggie Hope, seriously overqualified young woman with high degrees of math and language skills, lands a position as a typist in the Prime Minister's office. This places her in position to play a part in discovering and foiling a plot by German agents and IRA extremists to make a multi-pronged attack on British institutions. I have a fondness for Home Front stories (see the first review at the top of this post), so I wanted to like this one a lot. I liked it, but not a lot. It shows some typical problems for a first novel. There's an outrageous coincidence driving a large part of the plot, the attitudes shown towards homosexuality are closer to current-day than they would be in the 1940's, and the cast of characters is a bit large to easily keep track of. But you also get some great historical details and tidbits (the bit about German agents hiding Morse code in newspaper fashion advertisements is true), and good descriptions of what it was like living under imminent threat and experiencing the bombing raids of the London Blitz. At the end of the novel, Maggie's skills have been recognized and she's being recruited into the MI-5 intelligence agency; I rather felt like this first novel's main purpose was setting things up to achieve that goal, and liked this one enough I'm probably going to read or listen to further books in the series.



Besides full books and audiobooks, I regularly read or listen to short fiction in various venues, both print and podcast. But that's usually about 40-50 stories a month, so I'm keeping this book log to actual full-length books for now, unless something at shorter length is very impressive or memorable.

12/31/2015

Seeing The Force Awakens -- with never-before-mentioned spoilers!

Hilde and Tabbi and I went to a late (10:30 PM) showing of The Force Awakens last night. The other half-dozen people in the theater were, I guess, the other six people in the world who hadn't seen in yet either.

By the way, THANK YOU, INTERNET! for actually keeping yourself sufficiently spoiler-free long enough for me to be surprised by some of the things in the movie.

(And... not surprised. As others have mentioned, it shares a lot of the look and feel and overall story-arc of 1977's original Star Wars. Well done, but there were moments I felt like I was watching a remake, rather than a sequel. I won't be surprised if it's nominated for a Hugo, but I'd be surprised if it won; 2015's had a bumper crop of good science fiction in movies and television, enough that there'll probably be loud cries of dismay about the works inevitably left off the final ballot.)

I've decided to go ahead and post a few spoilers about the film. Bonus spoilers, that I haven't seen anyone else post about yet. But I'll put them below a cut:


12/16/2015

My Bit To Solve The Cat Photo Shortage On The Internet


Caught Tyr in a good light that shows his blue eyes to advantage:


It's A BLTaffle Day

Bacon, Lettuce* and Tomato... with waffles.



Pretty darn good, actually.


*Full Disclosure: that's actually spinach standing-in for the usual lettuce.

12/07/2015

Ugly Inapplicable

The recent decision to cease using Gahan Wilson's statuette of H.P. Lovecraft as the official World Fantasy Award trophy has engendered a lot of comment and conversation online, both pro and con.

The arguments favoring that change include the charge that Lovecraft was a racist, and his visage is no longer appropriate for a trophy given to increasing numbers of minority/female/non-heterosexual writers in a literary genre that also increasingly includes minority/female/non-heterosexual protagonists and characters.

Lovecraft was, yes, a racist. That racism was expressed both blatantly in his correspondence and more covertly in his fiction. (Lovecraft's stories seep ichorously with "fear of the other".). Some argue against the change on the grounds that he deserves the honor for his still-influential fiction, and his personal beliefs and attitudes should be irrelevant. Plus, the argument sometimes continues, his racism began to lose some of its virulence later in Lovecraft's life. He died at only age 46; might he not have eventually become a (relatively) non-racist person if he had lived a full lifespan and continued to modify his beliefs and attitudes?

Pro-change arguments also include the charge that Lovecraft should never have been the face of the World Fantasy Award in the first place. Lovecraft's fiction is, with only a few exceptions, firmly in the horror genre. It's the World Fantasy Award, the argument goes, and Horror is only a subset of fantasy's breadth and possibilities. (Some also argue that Horror is effectively a separate genre from Fantasy.)

The argument continues, sometimes in calm and reasonable voices, sometimes in, um, un-calm, un-reasonable voices.

But none of the arguments I've mentioned above are why I'm writing this post. I'm generally in favor of replacing the WFA trophy with something different; I like the suggestion of making it a figure of a chimera. I tend to fall into the camp that thinks Lovecraft was probably a poor and too-narrow representative of the wide fantasy field in the first place. I also think whatever suitability Lovecraft might have had as the face of the World Fantasy Award has passed; the social and political baggage he carries has grown heavier as years have passed, as society and the world has changed.

But I'm writing this to complain about one other argument that people have been making.

They say the Lovecraft statuette should be discarded because "It's ugly."

Well! Besides the fact that it's kinda (a lot) rude to call someone or their artistic representation "ugly", I'd argue that it's just plain not true in this case.

The WFA statuette was designed by Gahan Wilson. Gahan Fucking Wilson, for God's sake!

Gahan Wilson doesn't do Pretty. Gahan Wilson doesn't do Normal.

What Gahan Wilson does is Grotesque.

"Ugly" is a value judgment. "Grotesque" is a style statement.

When Gahan Wilson draws or sculpts a face, it's going to be bulgy and lumpy, exaggerated and twisted. Lips sag, jaws jut, and don't even think about the teeth. Here's a sample of Wilson's line art:


Pretty Grotesque, eh?

But for those of us who do like or love Wilson's work, the Lovecraft statuette isn't "ugly". It's exactly what one would expect from Gahan Wilson. Exaggerated. Off-kilter. Cartoonish. (Oh, hey, what's Gahan Wilson best known for? Being a cartoonist.) 

Here's one of numerous realistic renditions of Lovecraft by other artists. This one's by Lee Joyner:



I have to say that, except for the tentacular base, that's... kinda boring. He looks like he could be a college professor, or a church deacon. The artist has made Lovecraft look... normal.

Y'know what? I actually like the WFA Lovecraft statuette, even if I don't think it's the best choice for an award trophy. I think its off-kilter, unrealistic, unorthodox appearance captures the essence of Lovecraft's own off-kilter, unorthodox mind and personality.

(I should probably mention that I have, at times, described the WFA statuette as "a gruesome little mutant spud, harvested from a potato field planted above an old Indian graveyard located far too closely downwind of former nuclear test sites". But I mean that in an affectionate way, not to denigrate the work.)

Maybe Gahan Wilson's style doesn't appeal to you. Maybe the entire Grotesque style of art doesn't appeal to you.  Maybe you don't love it. Maybe you don't even like it, no, not a little bit. Maybe it leaves you cold.

Fine. You're entitled to say any of that.

Just don't call it ugly.

Because that word is rude. And ugly.




12/03/2015

Musical Faunch -- Upcoming MIM Concerts

Phoenix is home to the Musical Instrument Museum, displaying hundreds of global instruments on exhibit. They also have the MIM Music Theater, featuring ongoing series of musical performances and concerts, with a wide variety of styles and musicians. The latest listing of upcoming performances contains even more I'd like to see than usual:

The Klezmatics, December 22nd.
Ladysmith Black Mazambo, January 16th.
Caravan of Thieves, February 4th.
Steep Canyon Rangers, March 7th.
Lunasa with Tim O'Brien, March 15th.
Hanggai, March 31st.
Chick Corea and Bela Fleck, April 24th.
Dick Dale, May 7th.

These are just the ones I'd like to see. The full listing of upcoming performances is here, and additional artists are frequently added.

I will probably only make it to one or two of the concerts, though. Some overlap with work nights, and lack of time or tight finances (tickets range from $28.50 for Caravan of Thieves, to $68.50 for Corea and Fleck, higher for premium seating) have tended to be issues with past concerts I've wanted to attend.

But here are some YouTube videos of the ones I'd like to see. Enjoy.
























12/01/2015

My Semi-Nano Month

While I'm not inclined to try to do the full Nanowrimo thing -- write 50,000 words during the month of November -- I took the opportunity this year to see if I could manage to write more frequently. My fiction writing has generally been one night per week, with word counts ranging from a low of about 150 words to a high of about 2,000, with about four to six hours time involved.

For November, I tried to set aside a half-hour per day. Didn't completely succeed at that -- weekends, when I work two 12-hour shifts at the day job, were especially difficult -- but I managed to get in 19 writing sessions, getting nearly 9,000 words written. I had started with about 1,000 words previously written on a story, and completed the first draft of "The Return of Dodge Tombstone, Outlaw-At-Large", with a day left to spare in November, at about 9,700 words total.

My general impression of that first draft is that it's noticeably rougher written than the work I've done in the once-a-week writing sessions. For the weekly sessions, I've usually been thinking about the story for the intervening days, so when I actually get words on paper, they're pretty well thought out and clean. (Bumper sticker version: "Write your second drafts first.") The daily-session stuff will need a greater amount of editing and revision.

The story itself is a straight Western, rather pulp-magazine-ish in flavor and feel. (Well, kinda straight; I always try to put some kind of twist or difference or weird shit into my stories.) Since the markets for short Western fiction are rather thin on the ground, I have no idea when or if it will ever see publication. Perhaps appropriately, certainly ironically, I may have shot myself in the foot by writing a Western story.

11/26/2015

Thanksgiving

Hansel Monday is the older Scottish version of England's Boxing Day. But I came across this poem by William Seath, large chunks of which seemed just as suitable for a Thanksgiving celebration. Hope you enjoy it.

The Villager's  Hansel Monday [excerpt]

"Dreary is the forest moaning
Neath dark Winter's angry blast,
But our festive board is groaning
With its load of rich repast.
Here now welcome friends surround us
Laughing gaily, chatting free;
Happy bairnies play around us
Dancing in their childish glee.
Away dull Care and gloomy Sadness
From the happy social throng;
Let us all amid our gladness,
Trip the dance and raise the song.

"Let us drink in boundless measure
From the bowl of pure Delight;
Let the lamp of sinless Pleasure
Light the gloom of Sorrow's night;
Tighten up the bands that bind us
To our friends while we are here,
For to-morrow's sun may find us
Slumb'ring on the silent bier.
Away dull Care and gloomy Sadness
From the happy, social throng
Let us all, amid our gladness,
Trip the dance and raise the song."  
from Rhymes and Lyrics, by William Seath, 1897.


11/12/2015

I've Been Busy

That's my explanation for the paucity of recent posts, and I'm sticking to it.

No, really, I've been doing stuff. Some worth doing, some not.

I've been trying to catch up on some of the stuff on my To-Do List. When the number of items on your TDL is getting close to the number of books in your TBR pile, that's... not good. So I've been whittling back on some of the items that have been gathering dust on the TDL for too long. I've made a dent.

Of course, a TDL is an active, living thing that, like the Incredible Hulk, get larger and meaner when you're not paying attention. Which inspired this:

Feel free to copy and print off for your own use.

- - - - -

Also had more medical appointments than has been usual for a while. And things. And other things. ("Round up the usual excuses!")

- - - - -

Hilde and I went to the annual TusCon convention in Tucson the last weekend in October. Discovered I'm continuing to get older. (How does that keep happening?!) Packing, travelling, atttending, re-packing, travelling, and unpacking was more wearying and energy-depleting than I'd expected.

It didn't help that trying to sleep Friday night/Saturday morning turned out to be craptastic for both of us. For Hilde because in trying to get to bed in an unusual place, some of the sleeping medication she takes got spaced by both of us, and didn't realize that was the cause until hours of tossing and turning later. I had trouble because 1) I'd taken one of my anti-drowsy meds before the drive down from Phoenix, and it hadn't completely washed out of my system, and 2) I discovered from the program book that one of the Old Guard in Tucson fandom has passed away last April. (That kinda drove in how out-of-the-loop Hilde and I have gotten over the years; once upon a time, we'd have heard about it almost immediately. The local fannish newszine, Connotations, shut down a while back, and I haven't found a suitable replacement; it would almost certainly have carried the news to us faster.)

The deceased person played a pretty important role in The Worldcon That Must Not Be Named. (People get upset when I tell some of the many unpleasant truths about those times.) She was not one of the major initiators of the fanpolitics of that convention, which were brutal, ugly and stupid; she was one of the people who did their job, and got genuinely Screwed Over by a group of those major initiators as her reward. Even after nearly four decades, memories of that Worldcon are upsetting enough I had a hard time getting more than a few hours sleep that night at TusCon. (At least I didn't have actual nightmares about TWTMNBN like I used to.)

(I may write more about this later. Probably not a good idea, but I might anyway.)

At any rate, by the time Hilde and I finally got to sleep Saturday morning, we didn't wake up until mid-afternoon, then several more hours to eat, wash, dress, etc., so it was about five o'clock when we finally got out of our room. Effectively, we'd missed almost an entire day of TusCon. Since we had to leave early Sunday afternoon (I had to get back to Phoenix for one of my 12-hour shifts at work that night), we had a pretty minimal convention. But we met with old friend Curt Stubbs and had dinner with him, and touched base with some of the other long-time attendees at TusCon. It's a convention we always enjoy; I wish we'd been able to spend more actual time at the convention, instead of just at the hotel.

(I was also glad to hear TusCon will be moving to a new hotel next year. The current hotel's been the site for about fifteen years, but predates the Americans with Disabilities Act; several of the meeting rooms used for TusCon's panels and other functions are only accessible via a long steep staircase in the lobby; kind of a problem for a wheelchair-user like Hilde. We were told the new hotel next year will be fully accessible. Yay!)

- - - - -

One of the other things taking up a bit of time has been trying to spend more time on my fiction writing. I decided to do a kind "Semi-Nano" this November. Rather than trying to reach that 50,000 word goal of a traditional Nanowrimo, I'm just trying to move from my weekly/occasional writing sessions to a short-but-daily session of about 30 minutes. Succeeding fairly well so far, except for the weekends when I'm working those 12-hour shifts (eat, sleep, work; not much else is possible on those days); I try to make up for that lack with longer sessions on Fridays and Mondays. Averaging about 300-400 words per half-hour session, which adds up to about double the wordcount I'd been producing before. I'll have to see if I can continue the practice into December and beyond.

- - - - -

I've been meaning to do more book reviews here. Stay tuned.

Our Headless Cat, and other recent photos


Sethra, our Headless Cat
"But what she really wanted to be was a Tribble."


Basil flowers


Night shot - Mexican Bird of Paradise
(this literally required both hands and
a flashlight to photograph)

10/21/2015

Get Yer Manly Man Card Here! Free!

Elsewhere on the Internet, an author who's old enough he should know better has been opining about how a man has to EARN a "man card".

Well, that's absurd, since most "man cards" are self-awarded. And through the miracle of modern technology, it's simple to design and print a card you can carry around in your wallet like a desiccated condom:




You're welcome.

(Lest anyone point out that standard business card dimensions are 3½x2 inches, it should go without saying that these are Manly Man Inches, not your old-fashioned, outdated, unreliable Inch Inches.)


9/23/2015

AZSF Reading & Drinking Event

Local fan Lee Whiteside and AZSF.org, in conjunction with the Poisoned Pen bookstore, recently organized the first in hopefully a series of events modeled on the KGB Bar writers/readings in NYC and the similar Noir At The Bar events that have been organized in a number of cities. Featured writers give readings and talks at a suitable drinking/dining establishment, adding an extra measure of socialization to the author readings that usually take place at conventions.

Last night's event, held at The Sip, a coffee/beer place in Scottsdale. Readings were given by a trio of New Mexico writers; Jane Lindskold (ARTEMIS INVADED), Vic Milan (THE DINOSAUR LORDS), and Melinda Snodgrass (THE EDGE OF DAWN).

Looked to be about twenty people in attendance, which isn't bad for the first time out. I'm looking forward to future sessions. (Updates and details for future events will be available on the AZSF Blog.)

Jane Lindskold
Vic Milan
Melinda Snodgrass


9/17/2015

The Pumpkin Spice Must Flo-- Wait, What?

I like the flavor of "Pumpkin Spice". I look forward to fall, when a variety of products come out with pumpkin spice flavor. Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin shakes, pumpkin applesauce, even the Pumpkin Spice M&Ms that seem to have aroused so much dread and loathing on Twitter.

But I have my limits. There are some things that, goddamit, pumpkin spice flavoring just should not be associated with. And this, I think, is the least suitable of all:


My experience with eating kale, in any form, has been, let us say, underwhelming. I don't want to see perfectly fine cinnamon and nutmeg ruined by adding it to kale chips.

Recommended: GRRM's TUF VOYAGING, in ebook for $2.99

George R.R. Martin has been one of my favorite authors for a long, long time, and one of my favorite among his books is TUF VOYAGING, science fiction about an eccentric cat-loving character who comes into possession of the last remaining seedship of Earth's Ecological Engineering Corps, giving him... well, some pretty awesome power as he travels from planet to planet. Which he doesn't use to declare himself Emperor or some other familiar plot twist you might expect.

The ebook version of TUF VOYAGING, normally 11.99, is available for the bargain price of @2.99 until September 26th from Amazon, B&N, and other ebook retailers.

I will, however, temper my recommendation with a creeb about the cover Bantam put on this 2013 edition. I can understand why someone at Bantam might have thought, "Hey, let's do the cover for this in the same style as George's Song of Ice and Fire books. That will get us extra sales." But I don't understand why no one said, "That idea kinda sucks." The free-floating spacesuit helmet on the new Bantam cover is dreadfully generic for a book that stands out for being non-generic and confounding expectations, and the... thing... behind the helmet looks like a random spatter pattern unless you zoom the image up to actual printed book size, when you can finally tell its made of silhouettes of animals and spaceships.

I thought the cover from an earlier printed edition (Baen, 1987), actually showing Haviland Tuf himself, was much better:


If you do a Google Images search on "Tuf Voyaging", you'll also get to see covers for a lot of other editions, domestic and foreign, almost all of which picture Tuf and are better than the Bantam cover. I especially liked this one, from a Spanish edition:


But regardless of which cover you prefer, it's a damn good book, and $2.99 is a great bargain.

9/10/2015

Story Sale! Whoo-Hoo!

Received an email yesterday from Linda Landrigan, editor at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, saying she wanted to publish "Beks and the Second Note", a short story I'd submitted there.

That put a grin on my face. This is my first sale since starting to write and submit fiction again at the end of 2012.

Sometimes submitting stories to markets feels like yanking on the cord of an old rusty lawnmower. After a while, it starts to feel like that engine is never going to start, no matter how many times you pull on that rope. So, yay, I feel validated. (Yes, I can still write stuff people want to pay me for!)

In the meantime, back to work; I need to send some of my other stories back out again, do edit-and-polish on several first drafts written earlier this year, and finish the last few pages of the current WiP. (Making a sale really helps with motivation, somehow.)

(fireworks photo from Flickr Commons)

9/08/2015

Another SF/F Cookbook: Apocalypse Weird: The Last Meal

The recent SFWA Cookbook has been getting a lot of attention, but it was far from the first science-fiction or fantasy themed cookbook. Here's another, that came out at the end of August.

Apocalypse Weird: The Last Meal is the latest brainchild from the people bringing out a shared-worlds series of books called Apocalypse Weird that currently stands at about a dozen volumes. Short version: All The Disasters Happen At Once. (Well, sort of; the over-arcing storyline for the project, explained at somewhat greater length here, isn't that simple.)

The Last Meal looks to provide not only a decent selection of ways to eat well (without eating your neighbors) in the wake of an apocalypse, but also includes some poetry, short fiction, and new clues to the AW master plan. From the sample pages I read, I was especially intrigued by the piece on making Mesquite Coffee; there are zillions of mesquite trees locally, with their seed pods usually just ending up as ground trash, so I may give this an actual tryout. (The Mesquite Coffee piece has also been published separately as a blog post on the AW website.)

8/19/2015

Sex and Chocolate, Together Again -- REALLY Together Again -- For The First Time!

It's Amazing what shows up on Goodreads giveaways pages sometimes:



This collection of shorter pieces in the "Candy Man Delivery" series has  a pretty simple premise: The hot muscular guys the female leads become involved with are literally made from chocolate.

I have absolutely no idea if these stories are well-written or not, but as "high-concept" goes, sexy guys made from chocolate is sheer genius. Hat tip to Graylin Rane (who also writes as Graylin Fox).

8/17/2015

Karen Memory: Ripping Yarn or Message Fiction?

(originally written as a comment posted to Mike Glyer's File 770):

I’m curious if any of the Puppies [Sad Puppies, the group who claimed to have gamed this year's Hugo Awards nominations process because they just want to see good old fashioned entertainment winning awards instead of that artsy-fartsy literary and/or Commie/Marxist/Liberal/Degenerate stuff]  have read or commented on Elizabeth Bear’s KAREN MEMORY.
I bring that up because if you want a “ripping yarn”, Bear delivers in spades. Daring rescues, gunfights, airships, escapes from burning buildings, everything you could want in an adventure story. When I finished the book, my first thought was “Damn, that was a fun read!”
It was only my second thought that “Oh, and most of the cast of characters is GLBT.”
I’d suggest KAREN MEMORY as a litmus test for the people who say they just want entertaining stories. If that’s the case, Bear’s novel should make them happy.
But if you say you want entertaining stories, but your first and primary reaction to KAREN MEMORY is “Gay characters! This is message fiction!“, then I’d like to politely suggest that maybe the problem isn’t with what the author wrote, maybe the problem isn’t with what the publisher published, maybe the problem isn’t with the actual story. Maybe the problem is with you.
- - - - -
Jim Henley posted a later comment on File 770 I thought drew some insightful distinctions between message and non-message story-telling, with a compare-and-contrast between Larry Niven's "The Jigsaw Man" and John Chu's "Water That Falls On You From Nowhere".

(The comment threads on File 770 can sometimes get harsh or unpleasant when they get into the politics and personalities of people involved in this year's Hugo controversy. Less so than a few months ago; I think Outrage Fatigue is settling in, plus many of the most unpleasant commenters there have flounced off over time. There's been a lot more interesting discussion and commentary about books and reading.)

8/13/2015

My Brush With Flame, err, Fame


The other morning I stopped for gas at a station on the corner of a strip mall. Gassed up and started out of the mall's parking lot, when suddenly a pickup truck trailing black smoke zoomed into the entrance and past me, with a police car following closely behind. I figured, Hah, someone's getting a ticket for for a really smoky exhaust. Then I looked in my rearview mirror, and saw there were actual flames starting to leap up from the bed of the pickup truck, and growing.

I turned onto the street, went down to the next mall entrance, and turned back in, stopped, and got out my cell phone and turned on the camera. By now the pickup had stopped, the driver had jumped out and run back towards the police car, and the entire cargo bed was filled with bright flames. I held up my phone, went for a shot and realized my hands were shaking. Took a deep breath, went for a second better shot, then put the phone away and left, figuring the fire department was probably enroute and not wanting to get in their way.

On the way home, I thought about what a great pic the scene had been, and even thought about how I might send it to some of the local news stations and papers.

Then I got home and actually checked out the photos.

Apparently I hadn't pressed the shutter icon hard enough on the second, better, shot and that second shot had never actually been taken at all.

And the first shot... what I actually ended up with was an extreme close-up of my fingertip.

Damn. One of the superheroes I always wanted to be while growing up was Spider-Man. And it turns out not only that I'm never going to be Spider-Man, I'm not even going to be Peter goddamned Parker.


8/03/2015

A Literary Meme-Thingie


This, a list of "books literally all white men own", from The Toast, was going around a while ago. Finally got around to it myself.

Bold those you own. Italicize those you have read. Strikeout those you've never heard of would have to be paid to read. Bonus points if you're not a white male.

1. Shogun, James Clavell
2. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
3. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
4. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

5. A collection of John Lennon’s drawings.
6. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
7. The first two volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin

8. God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens
9. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
10. I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Tucker Max
11. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
12. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Oliver Sacks
13. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
14. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
15. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
16. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

17. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
18. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
19. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
20. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
21. The Stand, Stephen King
22. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
23. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
24. Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom
25. It’s Not About the Bike, Lance Armstrong
26. Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson

27. Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth
28. Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand
29. John Adams, David McCullough
30. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow
31. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis
32. America: The Book, Jon Stewart

33. The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman
34. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
35. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
36. Exodus, Leon Uris (if Jewish)
37. Trinity, Leon Uris (if Irish-American)
38. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
39. Marley & Me, John Grogan

40. Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt
41. The Rainmaker, John Grisham
42. Patriot Games, Tom Clancy
43. Dragon, Clive Cussler
44. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
45. The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone
46. The 9/11 Commission Report
47. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John le Carre
48. Rising Sun, Michael Crichton
49. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
50. Airport, Arthur Hailey
51. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki
52. Burr, Gore Vidal
53. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
54. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan 
55. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
56. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
57. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
58. Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter

59. The World According to Garp, John Irving
60. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
61. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass

62. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
63. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
64. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
65. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

66. Beowulf, the Seamus Heaney translation
67. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
68. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
69. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
70. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
71. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
72. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

73. House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski
74. The Call of the Wild, Jack London

75. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon 
76. I, Claudius, Robert Graves 
77. The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote
78. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
79. Life, Keith Richards

I didn't feel comfortable using the strikeout feature because it uses one attribute for two different categories (unaware of/aware of but don't want to read). That latter part (don't want to read) could also be further subdivided into "public discussion has left me with a negative impression towards reading this" and "ehh, it might be interesting to read, but if I never get around to it, that's okay too".

There are also several books on this list (The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Airport) that I've "read", but only in old Readers Digest Condensed Books versions. I'm not sure if that counts.