Monday, August 21, 2017

Musical Monday - Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler


I know, everyone is using this song to commemorate the solar eclipse, but it isn't going to happen again in the United States until 2024, so I'm not at all sorry to jump on and do it too. Besides, this version of the song comes packaged with a video that features the tenth Doctor and his ill-fated romance with Rose.

Previous Musical Monday: Roly Poly Baby by Doris Day and Perry Blackwell

Bonnie Tyler     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Book Blogger Hop August 18th - August 24th: According to Ken Burns, There Are 216 Stitches on a Baseball


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: When you enter an unfamiliar house or apartment for the first time, do you feel disappointed if you don't see any bookshelves, or books on the coffee table?

I have to admit that I judge people based upon how many books they have in their homes. If someone has no books in their home, then I seriously have to question whether I can be friends with them. I consider books to be so essential that if someone doesn't have any, then I really don't think I could possibly have anything in common with them. I simply cannot comprehend how someone could live in a house devoid of books.

I also judge people based upon what kind of books they have, but that's another story for another time.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 Hugo Award Longlist

Over the last couple of years, the various Puppy factions have packed the lists of Hugo finalists with works and people who were mediocre to miserable in quality, which meant that the longlisted nominees were often a far superior collection of books, stories, editors, magazines, writers, and artists. This year, with a handful of exceptions that all came from the Rabid Puppy slate, this wasn't the case - even though the longlisted nominees are, by and large, a strong group, the set of finalists it, taken as a whole, generally even better.

This was the first year in which the E Pluribus Hugo voting system for nominations was implemented, and it seems to have worked as well as one could possibly hope to expect. The change in the voting rules, coupled with their waning ability to whip their adherents into a frenzy after being shellacked in the voting in 2015 and 2016, resulted in the Sad Puppies kind of slinking away after not even putting a token effort into putting together a voting slate. The Rabid Puppies continued their Quixotic quest, but changed tactics, putting forward only one or two candidates in each category in order to try to get someone on the ballot via "bullet voting", and that seems to have had mixed results. They managed to get eleven finalists on the ballot, while five more appear on the longlist. They could have had five more finalists, but Rabid Puppy leader Theodore Beale is apparently really terrible at understanding the eligibility rules, so those five potential finalists were all disqualified as ineligible. The Rabid Puppies were able to get no more than one finalist per category.

As usual, the Rabid Puppy offerings included the worst crap on either the finalist ballot or the longlist, ranging from the intentionally insulting nomination of Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex to the usual array of self-promotion of Castalia House's dreadful products. One thing that is interesting to note is that Beale didn't even try to offer lip service to his previous alliance with the Sad Puppies and their favorite publisher Baen Books. Instead, he simply promoted his own business at every possible opportunity save for the one intentional "joke" nominee and a handful of "hostage" nominees - which are essentially slated nominees with widespread credibility. The idea seems to be a kind of Xanatos Gambit to get "worthy" works on the ballot in order to "trap" the Hugo voters into either voting against something they like or handing Beale a "win" by voting for a "hostage" to win. Like all of Beale's plots, this one is based upon his having no understanding of how normal people behave, and has been a complete failure thus far.

On a side note, one claim that is sometimes made is that because the Puppy slates on occasion include items that have some merit, one should be okay with those finalists because "they likely would have made it onto the ballot even without Puppy support". I've always been suspicious of those claims, in large part because in every year there are so many more good works in every category than there are spaces on the ballot. The notion that any work "probably would have been a finalist anyway" seems to vastly overstate the chances that anything has of getting onto the list of Hugo finalists. This year, the works that had merit on the Rabid Puppy slate were the "hostages", specifically This Census-Taker by China Miéville, The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie by Ralph McQuarrie, Deadpool, and Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter. The McQuarrie book didn't make the finalists, so we can set it aside.

Based upon a review of the items that made the list of finalists that only Rabid Puppies would likely vote for (a list that includes Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by a T-Rex, An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity, An Unimaginable Light, P. Alexander, Theodore Beale, Jeffro Johnson, and Castalia House Blog), there appear to have been between 70 and 90 people voting as Rabid Puppies. if we deduct that amount from the totals garnered by the "hostages", we can get a rough estimate of whether or not these works would have reached the list of finalists without Rabid Puppy assistance. We can't be exact, because the E Pluribus Hugo voting system means that to do so we would need to be able to look at the individual nominating ballots to get an accurate count, but we can make an educated guess. To be conservative, we'll drop seventy votes from each finalist.
  • Deducting seventy votes from This Census-Taker by China Miéville drops it behind The Dispatcher by John Scalzi which would replace it on the ballot.
  • Removing seventy votes from the total garnered by The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman puts it well behind Writing Women Characters by Kate Elliott, which would knock it off the ballot.
  • Pulling seventy votes out of Deadpool's total still puts it ahead of Kubo and the Two Strings and it would stay on the ballot.
  • Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter was removed from the ballot due to the rule that prevents a single series from having more than two finalists in a category and the producers of Game of Thrones elected to have this one taken off. If one removes seventy votes from this episode's total, it would still have been ahead of Splendor and Misery, which means the producers of Game of Thrones would have still had to make a decision as to which two episodes of the show should remain on the ballot.
So that's a fifty percent "would have made it anyway" rate, which doesn't seem all that great to me. Having these nominees on the ballot isn't terrible, and absent the spamming of the other shitty Castalia House products onto the list of finalists having a group push for these "hostage" works to be on the ballot wouldn't be an issue. There is no doubt though, that even when it comes to the "hostages" the Puppies warp the ballot. That they warp the ballot in an inoffensive way doesn't mean that it is warped any less than when they do it to put crap onto the list. That said, with the Sad Puppies looking like they are an entirely spent force, and the Rabid Puppies increasingly looking like they are heading that way, this is probably not an issue that we will need to really worry about much in the future.

Best Novel

Finalists:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin [winner]
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Longlisted Nominees:
Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo
An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity by J. Mulrooney [rabid puppy pick]
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
Infomocracy by Malka Older

Best Novella

Finalists:
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
This Census-Taker by China Miéville [rabid puppy pick]
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Longlisted Nominees:
Chimera Gu Shi by S. Qiouyi Lu and Ken Liu
Cold Forged Flame by Marie Brennan
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
Hammers On Bone by Cassandra Khaw
The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville
The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
Penric's Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold
Runtime by S.B. Divya
The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar

Best Novelette

Finalists:
Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex by Stix Hiscock [rabid puppy pick]
The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon [winner]
Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Longlisted Nominees
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories by Jason Sanford
A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark
Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine
Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee
Kid Dark against the Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill
The Visitor From Taured by Ian R. Macleod

Best Short Story

Finalists:
The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar [winner]
That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn
An Unimaginable Light by John C. Wright [rabid puppy pick]

Longlisted Nominees
Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard
Razorback by Ursula Vernon
Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo
A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard
The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle
Terminal by Lavie Tidhar
Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller
We Have A Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You? by Rebecca Ann Jordan
Welcome to the Medical Clinic . . . by Caroline M. Yoachim
Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands by Seanan McGuire

Best Related Work

Finalists:
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman [rabid puppy pick]
The Women of Harry Potter posts by Sarah Gailey
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Archive of Our Own by the Organization for Transformative Works
Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer
#BlackSpecFic by Brian J. White, et al
Making Conversation by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Octavia E. Butler by Gerry Canavan
Speculative Blackness by André M. Carrington
Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie by Ralph McQuarrie [rabid puppy pick]
THEN: Fandom in the UK, 1930-1980 by Rob Hansen
The Tingled Puppies by Chuck Tingle
Writing Women Characters by Kate Elliott

Best Graphic Story

Finalists:
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze
Monstress, Volume One: Awakening written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda [winner]
Paper Girls, Volume 1 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Saga, Volume 6 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

Longlisted Nominees:
Clean Room, Vol. 1: Immaculate Conception by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt
Descender, Vol. 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Injection, Volume 2 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire
Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out of Time by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Shannon Watters
Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk
Oglaf (Bodil Bodilson) by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne
Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe! by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
The Wicked and the Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen and Matthew Wilson

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

Finalists:
Arrival [winner]
Deadpool [rabid puppy pick]
Ghostbusters
Hidden Figures
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Stranger Things, Season One

Longlisted Nominees:
10 Cloverfield Lane
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
The Expanse, Season 1
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
Star Trek: Beyond
Westworld, Season 1
Zootopia

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Finalists:
Black Mirror: San Junipero
Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes [winner]
Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards
Game of Thrones: The Door
Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter [no more than two finalists may come from the same series, rabid puppy pick]
Splendor & Misery (album) by Clipping

Longlisted Nominees:
The Expanse: Salvage
Luke Cage: Manifest
Person of Interest: Return 0
Stranger Things: Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
Stranger Things: Chapter Seven: The Bathtub
Stranger Things: Chapter Eight: The Upside Down
Steven Universe: The Answer
Westworld: The Bicameral Mind
Westworld: The Original

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

Finalists:
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow [winner]
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Longlisted Nominees:
P. Alexander [rabid puppy pick]
Sana Amanat
Scott H. Andrews
C.C. Finlay
Lee Harris
Toni Jerrman
Mur Lafferty
Lynne M. Thomas
Ann VanderMeer
Trevor Quachri

Best Professional Editor: Long Form

Finalists:
Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick, racist sexist homophobic dipshit]
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky [winner]
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Longlisted Nominees:
Anne Lesley Groell
Jane Johnson
Beth Meacham
Joe Monti
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Jonathan Oliver
Bella Pagan
Marco Palmieri
Toni Weisskopf
Betsy Wollheim

Best Professional Artist

Finalists:
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon [winner]
JiHun Lee [ineligible, rabid puppy pick]
Chris McGrath
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Tomek Radziewicz [ineligible, rabid puppy pick]
Sana Takeda

Longlisted Nominees:
Tommy Arnold
Rovina Cai
Donato Giancola
Michael Komarck
Todd Lockwood
Reiko Murakami
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Fiona Staples

Best Semi-Prozine

Finalists:
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine edited by P. Alexander [rabid puppy pick]
GigaNotoSaurus edited by Rashida J. Smith
Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams [ineligible]
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke
Daily Science Fiction edited by Elektra Hammond: Elektra Hammond, Sarah Overall, and Brian Whit
Escape Pod edited by Mur Lafferty and Al Stuart
Fireside Fiction edited by Brian White
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Mothership Zeta edited by Editor Mur Lafferty, Sunil Patel, and Karen Bovenmyer.
PodCastle edited by Graeme Dunlop and Rachael K. Jones
Shimmer edited by E. Catherine Tobler, Nicola Belte, Sophie Wereley, Joy Marchand, Suzan Palumbo, Josh Storey, Lindsay Thomas, and Laura Blackwell
Tähtivaeltaja edited by Toni Jerrman

Best Fanzine

Finalists:
Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [declined nomination]
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
Lady Business edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan [winner]
nerds of a feather, flock together edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
Rocket Stack Rank edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
SF Bluestocking edited by Bridget McKinney

Longlisted Nominees:
Ansible edited by David Langford
Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
Chunga edited by by Andy Hooper, Randy Byers, and Carl Juarez
Galactic Journey edited by Janice Marcus
James Nicoll Reviews edited by James Nicoll
Quick Sip Reviews by Charles Payseur
Women Write About Comics edited by Megan Purdy
Young People Read Old SFF edited by James Davis Nicoll

Best Fan Writer

Finalists:
Mike Glyer
Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]
Natalie Luhrs
Foz Meadows
Abigail Nussbaum [winner]
Chuck Tingle

Longlisted Nominees:
Cora Buhlert
Alexandra Erin
Camestros Felapton
Sarah Gailey
Crystal Huff
Morgan (Castalia House) [rabid puppy pick]
James Nicoll
Mark Oshiro
Charles Payseur
O. Westin

Best Fan Artist

Finalists:
Ninni Aalto
Alex Garner [rabid puppy pick, ineligible]
Elizabeth Leggett [winner]
Vesa Lehtimäki
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles
Mansik Yang [rabid puppy pick, ineligible]

Longlisted Nominees:
Liz Argall
Galen Dara
Lauren Dawson aka Iguanamouth
Ariela Housman
Megan Lara
Richard Man
Simon Stålenhag
Kathryn M. Weaver

Best Fancast

Finalists:
The Coode Street Podcast presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
Ditch Diggers presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Fangirl Happy Hour presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
Galactic Suburbia presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
The Rageaholic presented by RazörFist [rabid puppy pick]
Tea and Jeopardy presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Down and Safe presented by Michael Damien Thomas, L.M. Myles, Scott Lynch, and Amal El-Mohtar
Fansplaining presented by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minke
Midnight in Karachi presented by Mahvesh Murad
The Skiffy and Fanty Show presented by Shaun Duke, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, Mike Underwood, David Annandale, Rachael Acks, Trish Matson, and Jen Zink
StarShipSofa presented by Tony C Smith
Storyological presented by E.G. Cosh and Chris Kammerud
Superversive SF presented by Dawn Witzke [rabid puppy pick]
Sword and Laser presented by Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont
Vaginal Fantasy presented by Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton, and Kiala Kazebee
Verity! presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best Series

Finalists:
The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (first volume in the series: Leviathan Wakes)
October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Peter Grant/Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (first volume in the series: His Majesty's Dragon)
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Arts of Dark and Light by Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick]
Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh
The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Newsflesh by Mira Grant
Remembrance of Earth's Past by Cixin Liu (first volume in the series The Three-Body Problem)
Thessaly by Jo Walton
World of the Five Gods by Lois McMaster Bujold
Young Wizards by Diane Duane

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Finalists:
Sarah Gailey
J. Mulrooney [rabid puppy pick]
Malka Older
Ada Palmer [winner]
Laurie Penny
Kelly Robson

Longlisted Nominees:
Charlotte Ashley
Scott Hawkins
Cassandra Khaw
Sarah Kuhn
Arkady Martine
Sylvain Neuvel
Sunil Patel
Natasha Pulley
Tade Thompson
K.B. Wagers

Go to previous year's longlist: 2016
Go to subsequent year's longlist: 2018

Go to 2017 Hugo Finalists and Winners

Hugo Longlist Project     Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, August 14, 2017

Musical Monday - Roly Poly Baby by Doris Day and Perry Blackwell


A lot happened this past week. The Hugo Award winners were announced. Fascists descended upon my alma mater and among the many atrocious things they did, they killed a young woman. The President of the United States twice threatened to start a nuclear war. I have a lot of thoughts on these events, and I'll be writing about many of them in the near future, but I've been mostly preoccupied with my brand new roly-poly baby.

Previous Musical Monday: Jackie Blue by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Subsequent Musical Monday: Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler

Doris Day     Perry Blackwell     Musical Monday     Home

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Event - Sophia Rey Tiberius Pound, August 8th, 2017

I've been a bit preoccupied the last week or so, awaiting the arrival of a new person in my life. She was supposed to get here on August 7th, but it turns out she's kind of a stubborn little girl, and she didn't make her debut appearance until August 8th. It was worth the wait. You might call be biased, but from my perspective, she's perfectly adorable in every possible way.

Her impending arrival was somewhat unexpected and derailed all of our plans for this year and the next few years. Not that we didn't want a child - we did, but our trek to get here was a little bit circuitous and seems to have defied some fairly daunting odds. We decided to try for a child a couple of years ago, and went through the usual rounds of efforts, eventually consulting a fertility specialist. It turned out that we had some issues: I'm kind of old, and the redhead had some unexpected medical issues and our fertility doctor assured us that these combined to make it virtually impossible for us to conceive without medical assistance. We ended up going through a fairly common array of increasingly potent medical procedures intended to help the process along until we came to the point where we had said we would accept that it wasn't going to happen and move on with our lives. We were disappointed, but we weren't going to beat our heads against the wall endlessly.

Fast forward several months later, to the day before Christmas Eve 2016 and an incredulous redhead holding a positive pregnancy test indicating that we had managed to pull off what the doctor had said was essentially impossible. We had planned on maybe going to Worldcon in Helsinki this year. As you can probably guess, we aren't there. If we hadn't gone to Worldcon, we may have gone to Gen Con. We aren't going to be there either. We had planned on doing a lot of other things this year, and we haven't done them or won't be doing them because the million-to-one shot baby now exists. Sophia ruined almost all of our plans, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

As one can see from the picture, she's already contemplating taking over the world, which should only be expected from a little girl named for a character from a Diana Wynne Jones novel, a character from Star Wars, and a character from Star Trek. Yes, the redhead and I are just that nerdy: She probably has no chance of ever being anything even remotely resembling cool, but we'll see what happens when she gets a little older. I'm planning on calling her Jim. I'm sure that if the eleventh Doctor were here to speak baby, she would tell us that she has an entirely different name for herself, but since he isn't, we're just going to go with the names we picked out. Given the long odds against her existing at all, I'm pretty sure she's going to end up curing cancer or exploring Mars or something like that.

Right now mother and daughter are still in the hospital waiting the usual amount of time before they are discharged on Friday. Then our world will really change. Don't be surprised if I start reviewing the occasional book about Henry Huggins or Paddington Bear in the near future.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Blogger Hop August 4th - August 10th: 215 Is the Dewey Decimal Classification for Science and Religion


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you ever go "way back" to when you first started blogging and look at your old review posts? Do you see any differences from then to now?

I have just under a hundred reviews that I wrote before I started blogging that I have never posted. Sometimes I dive back into them and pull up a review to post - my intent is to eventually have all of that backlog posted. The trouble is that I'm not particularly happy about a lot of those reviews and often need to do a lot of revisions to them, mostly because when I started writing reviews I didn't go as in-depth in my analysis as I do now. In the specific case of reviews of collections or anthologies of short fiction, I usually didn't discuss the individual stories within the compilation the way I prefer to do now, so when I post those older reviews, I need to make really quite substantial revisions.

I would like to think that after having written somewhere between six and seven hundred reviews over the last several years of various things (mostly books, but some movies and television programs), that I have gotten better at it. At the very least, I review things differently than I used to, and when I go to post one of my older reviews, I generally feel the need to bring them into line with my current way of writing. This often requires rereading (or rewatching) the material being reviewed, which is why the process takes time.

That said, I don't often go back and revise the reviews that I have posted on the blog. I figure that once something is out in the public eye, going back to redo it is kind of cheating. I will make corrections if I notice a grammatical error or spelling mistake, or if there is some sort of factual error in the text, but I won't change the analysis and opinion portions. If one starts tinkering with old stuff, then one can quickly fall into the trap of never getting anything new done. That way lies madness, as the example of George Lucas with his constant tinkering with the original Star Wars trilogy teaches us. I don't want to be the George Lucas of reviewers, so I refuse to go down that path.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, July 31, 2017

Musical Monday - Jackie Blue by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils


Here is another "name" song, this one is what pops into my head when I see a woman I know who is named Jackie. There's nothing about the song other than the name that applies to her, but as I have said before, the name associations in my head are so strong that they seem to override almost every other consideration.

On an entirely unrelated note, this is the second song in a row that features the word "blue", which makes me wonder how common songs with "blue" in the title are in the last several decades of music music. There are, of course, the two songs I have featured here - Crystal Blue Persuasion and Jackie Blue - but off the top of my head I can also think of Blue Suede Shoes, recorded by a number of artists but most famously by Elvis, Blue Velvet, recorded by Bobby Vinton, Blueberry Hill, recorded by Fats Domino, and Blue Guitar, recorded by the Moody Blues. Bobby Vinton seems to have made a habit of recording songs with the word "blue" in the title: In addition to Blue Velvet, he also recorded Mr. Blue, Blue on Blue, Blue Moon, I Am Blue, and Blue, Blue Day, and a whole pile of others. Thinking about it, it is entirely possible that a decent portion of the songs recorded with the word "blue" in the title are because of Bobby Vinton's career.

Is the word "blue" particularly prevalent in the history of contemporary pop music? I don't know for sure, and I don't really have the inclination to do the research that would provide an answer one way or another, but it does seem like it is true.

Previous Musical Monday: Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells
Subsequent Musical Monday: Roly Poly Baby by Doris Day and Perry Blackwell

Ozark Mountain Daredevils     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Blogger Hop July 28th - August 3rd: According to Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, a Normal Human Skeleton Has 214 Bones


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you read tie-in novels to movies or television series? If so, which ones?

I don't read tie-in novels all that often, although I own quite a few. I have read some, but the odd thing is that the ones that stick out in my memory the best are the ones where I read the tie-in book before I saw the movie. I read the novelization of Alien before I even knew that a movie existed. I read the novelization of Dragonslayer before I saw the movie. Part of the reason for this is that during the early 1980s, I was living in Africa, and it was far easier to get books to read than it was to be able to go see movies. Essentially, if a movie wasn't in the theatres during the relatively short time frame that I was in the United States each year, I didn't see it until much later, when videotapes (and later, DVDs) became commonplace.

The other somewhat odd thing about the relatively small handful of novelizations that I have read is that I have enjoyed them more than I enjoyed the movies. Alien, as a novel, was scarier than it ever was as a movie. Dragonslayer, as a novel, was more mythic in feel than it was on screen. I don't know if this would hold true if I read more movie novelizations, but in my experience thus far, movie novelizations have all been better than the movies they were tied in to.


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Friday, July 28, 2017

Review - Ms. Marvel: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, and Mirka Andolfo


Short review: This book has a story that feels a lot like Minority Report, except that it has Kamala Khan instead of Tom Cruise, and the plot isn't very good. On the other hand, everything but the plot in this book is excellent.

Haiku
First, a science fair
Then, some predictive justice
Last, stand on your own

Full review: Marvel doesn't really seem to have a particularly strong track record when it comes to "events" in which super-heroes turn against other super-heroes. The original Civil War event was a giant mess and pretty much a terrible story. The current Secret Empire event with Captain America leading a version of Hydra to impose a fascist order upon the United States has gone over about as well as a lead balloon. At its most overarching level, Civil War II was almost as poorly thought out and poorly executed as either of those two events, with an unconvincing attempt to make two morally unequal sides to a debate morally equal just to have the joy of seeing various costumed heroes punch one another. Despite the lack of structural integrity for the overall event, some of the individual story lines in the Civil War II series were actually quite good. Ms. Marvel, in the capable hands of G. Willow Wilson, is one of the good stories.

The volume opens on what is simultaneously a completely mundane and extremely exotic note: A science competition between teams from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut with a year's supply of duct tape at stake, and representatives from a myriad of technically oriented institutions of higher-learning in attendance. Naturally, Kamala is on New Jersey's team, which is headed up by her best friend Bruno, but in a twist it turns out that the New York team's secret weapon is none other than Miles Morales. There is some humor resulting from the fact that Kamala knows Morales' secret identity but he does not know hers, but for the most part the competition goes on about as one would expect a science competition between high schoolers who can produce improbable superscience projects with equipment they have on hand in their classroom laboratories would go. The New Jersey team produces the "Skyshark", the New York team responds with the "Re-Aktron", and then Bruno ups the ante with the "FusionMaster 2000", and then everything goes wrong, ending the event, causing Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, and Nova to all show up for the rescue operation, and the precognitive Inhuman Ulysses to intone some ominous lines in what amounts to a voice-over.

The book then shifts in both time and place to India during the period following the 1947 partition that formed the countries of present-day India and Pakistan, with Kamala's grandparents among those Muslims living in what has become Hindu-dominated India among those affected. Much of the story in this volume revolves around Kamala making hard decisions, and these background sequences about her personal and family history, like others that are scattered throughout the book, give context to her decisions - essentially showing how Kamala came to be a Pakastani immigrant living in Jersey City, and and in the process showing how she came by the values that inform her choices. There is a certain basic expectation that super-heroes will fight on the side of "right", but often the question of what "right" means to a particular character is left unexplored, or is poorly defined. Wilson lays out what it means for Kamala (and in a sense, for the other Khans), highlighting their familiarity with being the oppressed and the outsider. In a telling scene, Kamala's father offers to pay the school fees of a boy he doesn't know upon learning that the boy has been displaced from his home and his grandparents are struggling to take care of him. He knows how it feels to be the person on the outside, and so he does what he can to alleviate the pain that causes when others find themselves in that position. This identification with those on the bottom of the social order is clearly at the core of Kamala's idea of what "right" means, and this notion has serious consequences in the story when it comes into conflict with Kamala's other notions about who to idolize and look up to.

In short order, Captain Marvel calls Ms. Marvel up to her space station to get the main plot of the book started, and it revolves around the Inhuman Ulysses. It turns out that Ulysses can predict the future, and Captain Marvel wants to use this ability to apprehend criminals before they commit a crime. If you think this sounds a bit like the set-up for the movie Minority Report, the book agrees with you, and even lampshades it with what amounts to as direct a reference as one could make without actually saying the name of the movie. If it seems like one would expect that this plan would go wrong based on that precedent, one would be correct, but Kamala is so star-struck by a request from her idol that she agrees to head up the pilot program for this idea. Not only that, Danvers gets together a group of assistants to help Kamala, which means, as Kamala says, that she now has sidekicks. This is pretty much the set-up that Kamala dreamed of: Trusted by her idol, given a special assignment, and with her own team to lead to boot. And, if there is anything that is consistent in the Ms/ Marvel series, it is that when Kamala gets everything she ever dreamed about, the reality is much less satisfying than her dreams. In fact, the reality almost always turns out to go horribly wrong.

To make a brief digression, given the history between Kamala and Danvers, this decision by Danvers to ask Kamala to lead this pilot program seems just a bit odd. On the one hand, the two start the story with something of a mentor-apprentice bond, with Kamala idolizing Danvers and seeking to emulate her, while Danvers has mostly been there to provide guidance and advice when Ms. marvel needed it. On the other hand, Kamala is a teenager, and has been portrayed as being pretty much as irresponsible and incapable as most teenagers actually are. After all, the last time Danvers interacted with Kamala was when Kamala called in Captain Marvel to prevent Jersey City from being overwhelmed by an army of clones created when Kamala and Bruno messed around with some Asgardian technology Loki left behind when the world was ending. Further, Kamala had created the clones because she was overwhelmed and unable to keep pace with her responsibilities. Given this background, it seems strange that Captain Marvel would decide that this awkward and well-meaning, but naive and entirely too busy teenager would be a good choice for this additional delicate responsibility. The fact that Danvers would hand off the job of running this program to someone like Ms. Marvel without detailed guidance and close supervision really makes one call into question Captain Marvel's leadership skills and judgment. One almost suspects that this story line was forced into the Ms. Marvel series by someone managing the overall Civil War II event, because everything about it feels forced. The character development is, as always, excellent, but every time the actual Civil War II event intrudes, the story kind of falls down a little bit.

At first, at least, the "predictive justice" system seems to work reasonably well: The crew is told that Hijinks, the leader of a band of Canadian anarchist ninjas, is due to steal an experimental tank and drive it around Jersey City until its automatic self-destruct sequence goes off, causing an explosion in the heart of the city and killing innocent bystanders. With the heads up from Ulysses, Khan and her sidekicks are able to apprehend Hijinks before the tank self-destructs. And this is where the book kind of falls down a bit, because everyone involved - both Hijinks and Kamala and her crew - all immediately start talking about the incident as if nothing illegal had been done. Hijinks maintains that he shouldn't be held because he hasn't actually committed a crime, and Kamala and her crew talk about the fact that they are holding him extralegally because he can't be charged with a crime. The only problem is that Hijinks quite clearly did commit a crime. He stole a secret experimental piece of military machinery and then drove around an urban area in that vehicle. There are probably a couple dozen criminal violations contained in that action, and the most obvious one is theft, which is a crime. Not understanding what is and is not legal seems to be a common thread running through both iterations of the Civil War events, as witnessed in the original Civil War event when Agent Hill attempted to arrest Captain America for refusing to help enforce a law that had not even been enacted by Congress yet. I don't expect that comic book writers will know every nuance of the law - I would not expect, for example, a writer to know that willful violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act are potentially prosecutable as criminal offenses, but I at least expect a writer to know that theft is a crime. The fact that none of the characters seem to know that Hijinks has actually committed a crime kind of undercuts the story at this point, which is in large part about the limits of an idea like "predictive justice". Essentially, the prime question posed by this story is whether it is just to detain someone because you have an at least somewhat reliable means of predicting that they will commit a crime, and having the first example be a character who has already committed a crime simply waters down the resulting conundrum. At least it does for the reader, because the characters seem not to realize that theft is a crime, making the reader think that they are all too stupid to be entrusted with any kind of law enforcement, let alone something as potentially fraught with moral hazards as predictive justice.

The story does get around to making its point, with Ms. Marvel and her crew apprehending people who have not yet committed a crime, but who Ulysses has predicted will commit a crime in the very near future. Everything seems to be going swimmingly, when Kamala is confronted with apprehending someone she knows, and her sidekicks prove to be more than a little bit overzealous in carrying out their part in the process. Things spiral out of control and people close to Kamala are first alienated from her by the "predictive justice" program with an especially brutal line where one of her classmates pronounces that none of them are friends, but are rather background characters. Eventually the fallout from the pilot program claims Kamala's closest friend, and she finally gives voice to her growing misgivings, arranging a demonstration for Captain Marvel of the limits of "predictive justice". This first leads to a confrontation with the most ardent of her own sidekicks, nicknamed "Basic Becky" in the story, and then with Carol Danvers herself. The problem with "predictive justice" is that it takes someone who has not committed a crime and treats them as if they have, and since Danvers outright states that they are operating extralegally, doing that is a crime in and of itself. As Kamala states, they may have stopped those crimes from happening, but they have just created a new collection of victims in the process. Kamala identifies with the people who are being oppressed, while Danvers can only see that the statistics show that crime in Jersey City is down. The notion that in the process people's civil liberties were stripped away and their rights were infringed seems to be an unimportant detail to her. No matter the ideological reason for the split, the key element here is that this represents an important break for Kamala, a part of her coming of age story, and it is pretty much done with beautiful poignancy.

Unfortunately, once again the absolute mess than Marvel writers make of legal issues crops up again when Captain Marvel shuts Ms. Marvel's project down and orders that "Basic Becky" be court martialed. There are a couple of problems with this sequence, most notably that since "Basic Becky" is not in the military, she can't be court-martialed, and second, when the civilian cops show up to arrest her, they take her in for kidnapping. But if "Basic Becky" is guilty of kidnapping, then so are Kamala, all the other members of her gang of sidekicks, and even Carol Danvers. In point of fact, they would not only be guilty of kidnapping, they would be guilty of a criminal conspiracy to commit kidnapping. One might argue that Captain Marvel is operating under some colorable authority (despite the fact that she had earlier said they were operating extralegally), but if so, then "Basic Becky" cannot be charged with kidnapping as she was acting under the rubric of Danver's authority. One thing that neither Kamala or Stark see fit to point out is that Danvers also created a new collection of criminals, namely Danvers, Kamala, and all of their eager helpers, and this omission seems rather glaring. These issues don't make the split between Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel any less dramatic, or the rift between Kamala and Bruno any less tragic, but the clumsy way they are handled does detract from an otherwise magnificent story.

The story has something of an epilogue, with Kamala taking a journey to visit her relatives in Pakistan as a means of getting away from her troubles in Jersey City and dealing with her mixed feelings about being on the opposite side of a dispute from Captain Marvel. The story has used the passing down of a set of wedding bangles as a connecting device, and now Kamala returns to the place where this sort of jewelry has meaning. Having shed the artificiality of the Civil War II event and returned to focusing on Kamala's struggles with being a teenager who must balance being a super-hero with all of the other usual responsibilities that come with growing up, the book almost immediately returns to the usual level excellence for this series. The first resalization Kamala has is that even though she has never felt that she fits in fully as an American, she also doesn't fit into Pakistan any more. She has been irretrievably changed by her experiences, just like the wedding bangles have been altered during their travels. Despite her plan to shed the Ms. Marvel persona for the duration of her visit to Pakistan, local gangs running water extortion rackets spur her to action, but since she doesn't know the local situation, she kind of messes up. She is more or less called off by local super-hero Laal Kanjeer ("the Red Dagger"), who essentially tells her to stay out of things unless she knows what she is doing. To a certain extent, this assuages Kamala's guilty conscience and leads to her second realization by highlighting that even though Captain Marvel is Captain Marvel, she directed the "predictive justice" project literally from a space station and really didn't understand the conditions on the ground in Jersey City like Kamala did. In short, Kamala is actually growing up and beginning to see that she has to chart her own course and pilot her own path.

Ms. Marvel: Civil War II demonstrates that even when handed the thankless task of writing a story in a poorly-conceived and badly executed continuity-wide "event", a skilled writer can salvage a pretty good book out of the larger mess. G. Willow Wilson is a skilled writer, and although this volume kind of falls apart whenever the overarching Civil War II story takes center stage, the elements related to Kamala's character and that of those around her are masterfully presented. The Ms. Marvel series has always been at its best when it focuses on Kamala's relationship with her family, her faith, her heritage, her friends, and her super-hero identity, and this volume is no exception. Despite the fact that the Civil War II elements of the plot are mostly not all that good, the portion of the story that is about Kamala grappling with all of the relationships in her life and trying to decide who it is she actually wants to be is so magnificently done that the overall end result is a superior book.

Previous book in the series: Ms. Marvel: Super Famous

G. Willow Wilson     Takeshi Miyazawa     Adrian Alphona     Mirka Andolfo

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 World Fantasy Award Nominees

Location: World Fantasy Convention, San Antonio, Texas

Comments: One thing about the 2017 World Fantasy Award nominees that seems notable is just how much they cross-over with the Hugo finalists. Despite the two awards really only sharing three categories, they share one Best Novel in common, four Best Novellas in common, and two Best Short Fiction stories in common. That's seven out of fifteen World Fantasy Award nominees in those categories that are also Hugo finalists. In addition, there were a total of three (well, technically two) nominees in the other categories who were also Hugo finalists. It isn't uncommon for there to be some cross-over between the two awards, but this year there seems to have been more than usual. I'm not sure what that means, but it is an interesting element of both awards this year.

This is also the first year at which the new World Fantasy Award statuette designed by Vincent Villafranca will be handed out during the award ceremony. The winners from last year also received the new statue, which replaced Gahan Wilson's bust of H.P. Lovecraft as the official award, but as the competition to determine the new version had not yet completed when the 2016 ceremony was held, the received certificates at the ceremony and their statuettes at a later date. This change has been needed for a while - Lovecraft is a polarizing figure in genre fiction, and no matter how much one might love his contributions, there is no question that there were a substantial number of winners and potential winners who felt anything but honored when presented with an award that was a statue of his face. In addition, having the award be a representation of Lovecraft always seemed to be a bit strange from a thematic perspective. Sure, he was a prominent figure in genre fiction history, but he represented a very specific corner of genre fiction, and was not a particularly good fit for an award that was supposed to be about the broad range of everything that could be considered fantasy fiction. Further, he always seemed like more of a science fiction author to me, mostly because his "fantasy" consisted of unintelligible and unimaginably old space aliens. In any event, the Lovecraft-statue era is over, and the World Fantasy Award is moving on, and I can't say anything else other than this seems to be a good development.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Roadsouls by Betsy James
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North


Best Novella

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
Bloodybones by Paul F. Olson
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Best Short Fiction

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Das Steingeschöpf by G.V. Anderson
The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me by Rachael K. Jones
Little Widow by Maria Dahvana Headley
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

Best Anthology

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 edited by Karen Joy Fowler and John Joseph Adams
Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow
Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike Allen
Dreaming in the Dark edited by Jack Dann
The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

Best Collection

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
A Natural History of Hell by Jeffrey Ford
On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories by Tina Connolly
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie
Vacui Magia by L.S. Johnson

Lifetime Achievement

Winner:
Terry Brooks
Marina Warner

Other Nominees:
None

Best Artist

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Greg Bridges
Julie Dillon
Paul Lewin
Jeffrey Alan Love
Victor Ngai

Special Award, Professional

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
L. Timmel Duchamp
C.C. Finlay
Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn
Kelly Link
Joe Monti

Special Award, Non-Professional

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Scott H. Andrews
Neile Graham
Malcom R. Phifer and Michael C. Phifer
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Brian White

Go to previous year's nominees: 2016
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2018

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Musical Monday - Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells


Continuing the theme of "songs that spring into my mind when people with a certain name", here is Tommy James singing (or more accurately, sloppily lip synching) his hit Crystal Blue Persuasion. There is a name in there, but it isn't really used as a name in this song. In any event, this is the song I associate mentally with one of the people I know, so it goes on the playlist in my head whenever I see them.

On an entirely different note, to me this video is pretty hilarious. Tommy James gives absolutely no fucks whatsoever about trying to match the recording. Near then end, he simply gives up completely. In addition, this video was allegedly made in 1971, after James had left his band and gone solo, but the recording James is lip synching to is fairly obviously the studio recording made in 1969 by the entire band.

Previous Musical Monday: Amanda by Boston
Subsequent Musical Monday: Jackie Blue by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Tommy James and the Shondells     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Blogger Hop July 21st - July 27th: 21.3.60 Is a Record Company Founded by Henry Rollins


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Have you ever read a book or books you would consider 'toxic' because of the effect it(they) had on you? If so, which one(s)?

This is an interesting question, in large part because I have written before about how studies done in the field of behavioural economics suggest that most people not only do not know how their preferences are formed, but that we cannot escape the influences that shape our thinking. In other words, if a book was actually toxic to your thinking, you may not notice because to the extent it influenced you, its effects would be woven into your preferences without you really consciously knowing it was happening.

I suppose one could interpret this question in a more banal manner as asking whether one had read a book that they found expressed toxic views. That is easy to answer: I have. Books like PureHeart, Dark Dawning, and even Oath of Fealty express a vision of life that I find to be completely repugnant (plus, the first two of those examples were really terribly written as well). They didn't really seem to change my way of thinking much, other than to solidify my already existing views, but they were books that expressed positions that I find fundamentally abhorrent.

On the other hand, one could interpret the question as one asking whether one had ever read a book that changed one's way of thinking in a toxic manner. That is, for reasons I pointed out earlier, probably an almost impossible question to answer unless one had changed one's mind at a later date. If you are still operating under the influence of a toxic work of literature, then you will be unlikely to notice that you are subject to that influence, or unlikely to be able to to perceive it as toxic. If one was under a toxic influence at one point, and subsequently had a change of heart and rejected such a line of thought, then one might be able to see the pernicious influence for what it was. The answer to this questions is: Not that I recall. Like I said, I have read some books that expressed fairly toxic positions, but in most of those cases, my opinions on the subjects were already well-formed enough that I wasn't swayed by them. That said, if there was some book in my past that put this sort of view into my head (and there very well may be), I don't know, and may not even be capable of knowing.


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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Random Thought - Four Dollars Worth of Books

This post is going to be a little bit of gloating, a little bit of an explanation, and a whole lot of love. What you see in the picture to the right is four dollars worth of books. Or at least, it is the number of books that the redhead and I recently purchased for four dollars at a library book sale.

I have written on this blog before about my love for library book sales, so it should come as no surprise that last Friday the redhead and I took a short trip to a nearby sale following up on an advertisement on the website Book Sale Finder. We knew we were going on a day when they were having a bag sale, so we brought a little cash and were prepared to spend an hour or two going through their selection and figuring out which books we already had and which ones we didn't (I have a tendency to buy books that I already own if I don't take a spreadsheet with me when I go book shopping). In my experience, one can expect to pay something on the order of five to ten dollars per bag of books, but when I walked up to the table the volunteers had set up, they were almost apologetic when they told me that they were charging one dollar per bag.

People sometimes ask me how one acquires a collection of thousands of books - the collection the redhead and I have amassed is just over eleven thousand books - and this sort of luck is a part of it. But it isn't really luck, because this sort of thing happens when one goes to book sales on a regular basis. Most of the time you show up, you buy reasonably cheap books, and you walk away having spent some reasonable amount of money for a reasonable number of books. Other times you get there and you just happen to be in the right place at the right time. I have had this happen before, when a library book sale had science fiction and fantasy paperbacks in flat fruit boxes and was selling them at a dollar a box. That time I bought everything they had and left with something like 1,200 books for around thirty-five dollars.

I wasn't quite so willing to buy out this library book sale's stock, and they didn't have that many books to begin with, but once I knew how little they cost, I became far less selective than I normally am. They had about seven flat fruit boxes of paperbacks and a smattering of hardcover. I ended up buying about half of their mass market paperbacks and a handful of their hardbacks and trade paperbacks. I am pretty certain that I unintentionally bought some duplicates of books I already have. I know that I bought duplicate copies of a few books I already owned, but in those cases the copy for sale was in better condition than the one I owned already. For example, I know I have a copy of John Varley's Ophiuchi Hotline, but my copy is beat all the hell and the cover is close to falling off. So I got a new copy that is in good condition. Similarly, my copies of Dune Messiah and Heretics of Dune are both pretty mangled. I got new copies of those as well. I bought one book twice at the sale, but that's the risk one runs in these situations. In the end, I wound up coming away from the sale with one-hundred and sixty-six books for my four dollars.

I figure that even if half of the books are unintentional duplicates (which seems reasonably likely), I'll end up coming out ahead. After all, the cost per book was in the two and a half cent range, so even if half are books I don't need that will only push the total up to something like five cents a book, and that seems like a pretty good deal to me. The most important thing about most of these books isn't that they were inexpensive. No, a lot of them are books that I probably would have bypassed on most days. Instead, I have a pile of books that I can now read and maybe find new storytellers and new stories that I might have missed otherwise. Some of the books are by authors who are unfamiliar to me, but are good enough at their craft that they have apparently managed to have several of their books published. Other books are parts of one or another extended multi-author series that I have never read. Others are books by authors that I know well, but I haven't read that particular title of theirs. And so on. The real point here is that there is a lot of new material for me to read in these boxes, and I am quite looking forward to it.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Musical Monday - Amanda by Boston


Continuing with songs that are associated in my mind with specific people that I know., here is Amanda by Boston. There isn't really much to this other than the fact that I know a woman named Amanda, and whenever I see her, this song simply pops into my head unbidden. I still don't really know how common this quirk of mine where certain people are associated with songs based on their names actually is, or what it might signify, but it seems at least moderately interesting to me.

This song is actually kind of interesting, mostly because of the band that produced it and its position with respect to that band's overall oeuvre. Boston was one of the most successful bands of the 1970s, with their debut album Boston sporting numerous hits that still receive heavy airplay on "classic rock" stations, and a follow-up album Don't Look Back that was even more successful, with its own set of hit songs. Amanda, however, was on the band's third album, titled Third Stage, that wasn't released until 1986, ten years after Boston came out, at a time when Boston was more or less considered to be almost passe. And the odd thing is that Amanda became the band's most successful hit record - and as far as I can tell is the only single they recorded to ever reach number one on the Billboard Top 100. If you ask a typical music fan to list the most notable songs by Boston, they will probably reel off names like More Than a Feeling, Peace of Mind, Don't Look Back, Feelin' Satisfied, or even Rock and Roll Band, Party, or The Man I'll Never Be long before they even think of Amanda. All of those other songs have stayed in people's minds with much more tenacity than the song that was seemingly the most loved when it was released.

As a band, Boston seems to be plagued with a lot of odd misconceptions like this. I have had numerous people confidently assert to me that even though the band's debut album was a wildly successful album, they were never able to really build on that success, and every album after the first was a flop. The trouble with this narrative is that Boston's debut album topped out at number three on the album charts, while Don't Look Back and Third Stage both reached number one (although, to be fair, Boston had more staying power than either of the following two albums). Sure, the band never again had an album that sold as many as the seventeen million copies that Boston did, but calling an album that sold seven million copied (as Don't Look Back did) and another that sold four million copies (as Third Stage did) complete failures seems to be a bit harsh. It has, however, apparently taken root in the public consciousness that Boston was a one-album wonder, which seems decidedly unfair to the band, but is something that is unlikely to change.

Previous Musical Monday: Angie by The Rolling Stones
Subsequent Musical Monday: Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells

Boston     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Book Blogger Hop July 14th - July 20th: Archimedes Was Killed During the Sack of Syracuse in 212 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What is your go-to drink and/or snack while reading?

I don't really know that I have a specific drink or snack that I associate with reading. Most of my reading is done basically when I am not committed to doing something else, so I spend a lot of time reading on the bus, or while waiting for something, or in between other things, or just on a Saturday afternoon because I don't have anything that keeps me from it.

I suppose my "go-to" drink for reading would be Diet Mountain Dew, but that's only because that is pretty much my go-to drink for everything. For a snack, I don't know, something on crackers maybe? I'm fond of peanut butter on crackers, and I've found a pimiento cheese brand that is flavored with bacon that makes for a good cracker spread. Maybe peanuts, because those are easy to eat with one hand.

Most of the time, however, I'm not really in a position to have a particular drink or snack when I am reading, so I'll probably just end up with whatever happens to be on hand if I'm feeling peckish.


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