Monday, February 28, 2011

Grail

Monday, February 28, 2011 1
Over at Tor.com, Liz Bourke has a review of Elizabeth Bear's Grail.  Since I haven't been able to wrap my head around what I want to say about the book, Bourke's review will have to do.

I will say that I highly recommend the Jacob's ladder trilogy.  Start with Dust

Friday, February 25, 2011

Personal Post is Personal

Friday, February 25, 2011 9
Years ago, after floundering without a focus for this blog, I set a couple of ground rules for what this blog would be about and what sort of content I would allow myself to post. This was never written out, but it was what occurred in my head to give the blog a particular shape and flavor.

First: This would be about books and stories and storytellers. Genre didn’t matter, though I have particular interests that I choose to write about more often than others. I just wanted to focus on the cool stuff folks were writing, fiction (and nonfiction) that got me excited.

Second: No contests.

Third: No blatant promotion unless it was something I was already excited about or could self-justify why I should promote a particular book or event. Press releases were few and far between and were only posted when I really wanted to amplify the signal. If you wanted to take the position that any blogging is promotion, I can’t argue the point, but I would say that most blogging is done for personal reasons and I talk up the folks who excite me as a reader. You’ve likely noticed particular writers who get mentioned far more often here than others, sometimes years before there is a hint of a novel on the horizon. There’s a reason for that and it isn’t because any of them asked me to.

Fourth: Nothing personal. This is a book blog. It’s not about my life. It’s about the stuff I like to read. I’ve done personal journaling over the years in other places and that’s fine, but this wasn’t the place for that. Also, I just don't like talking about myself.


So why this?


Seven months ago, back in July, I enlisted in the Air Force Reserve. Since then I’ve been either waiting to find out what jobs were available, waiting to receive a ship date to leave for Basic Training, or waiting to actually leave for BMT. The key word here is “waiting”. Unless I do something really stupid and get hit by a car, in three days the waiting will be over and I’ll leave for BMT and then Tech School where I’ll train to be a Med Tech.

What this means for you is that for two months I will have next to no contact with the outside world and for the five months after that I’ll be studying my butt off trying to wrap myself around the medical stuff, getting my EMT-B certification, and generally being busy. Any reading time I have will be study time. I’m rather excited about the opportunity. Turning 32 while in BMT, I’ll be one of the older recruits there (Active Duty has a 27yr age limit, Reserve is 35) and will have to work just a little bit harder to keep up with the youthful energy I’ve grown out of. That’s fine. Grandpa here can keep up with the kids.

This would normally be about the time I would announce that the blog is going on hiatus and all four of my readers will be lamenting the demise of the blog. That’s what normally happens, right? Blogger says he is taking a break and then never comes back. Well, I’m going Reserve, not Active Duty, so once my training is done I’ll be back home doing the traditional Reserve duty and will have pretty much the same amount of personal time as I do now to haphazardly blog.

But! I have a treat!

While I am going on hiatus, this blog is not. A number of awesome people have graciously agreed to contribute some of their time and guest blog for me while I’m away. There’s no set schedule for this, but considering how infrequently I’ve been posting, I can’t say that I have room to judge. Plus, busy people are busy and I appreciate the assistance.

Here then are you erstwhile bloggers:

Kelly Barnhill: Kelly is the author of the forthcoming YA novel The Mostly True Story of Jack and a bunch of really cool stories, most recently “The Taxidermist's Other Wife”. Oh, and she's super duper awesome.

Jennifer Pelland: Jennifer is the author of some kick ass short fiction, twice nominated for a Nebula Award (“Captive Girl” and “Ghosts of New York”). Her short story collection Unwelcome Bodies was published in 2008 and her debut novel, Machine, is due out in 2011. I am terribly excited to read it.

John Picacio: Artist Extraordinaire. John has been nominated for a number of Hugo Awards and has won a World Fantasy Award. You may have seen some of his work.

Codename V: You don't know her, but she is awesomesauce.

Alison McGhee: Alison writes wonderful books. I cannot recommend Rainlight or All Rivers Flow to the Sea highly enough. She'll break your heart with the turn of a word. Alison is a # 1 New York Times best selling author and her novel Shadow Baby was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.


Yes, this blog is now exponentially cooler than it was yesterday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2010 Nebula Award Nominees

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 1
Via Jennifer Pelland

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2010 Nebula Awards.


(some of the story links may only be available for the next couple of months, this is just something that happens with the awards.  get them while they are hot)

Short Story
Arvies”, by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed, Aug 2010)
How Interesting: A Tiny Man”, by Harlan Ellison (Realms of Fantasy, Feb 2010)
Ponies”, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com, Jan 17, 2010)
I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno”, by Vylar Kaftan (Lightspeed, June 2010)
The Green Book”, by Amal El-Mohtar (Apex Magazine, Nov 2010)
Ghosts of New York”, by Jennifer Pelland (Dark Faith)
“Conditional Love”, by Felicity Shoulders (Asimov’s, Jan 2010)

Novelette
“Map of Seventeen”, by Christopher Barzak (The Beastly Bride)
The Jaguar House, in Shadow”, by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, July 2010)
The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost and Oludara”, by Christopher Kastensmidt (Realms of Fantasy, Apr 2010)
“Plus or Minus”, by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, Dec 2010)
“Pishaach”, by Shweta Narayan (The Beastly Bride)
The Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made”, by Eric James Stone (Analog, Sept 2010)
“Stone Wall Truth”, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Asimov’s, Feb 2010)


Novella
The Alchemist, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Audible, Subterranean)
“Iron Shoes”, by J. Kathleen Cheney (Alembical 2)
The Lifecycle of Software Objects, by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
“The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s, Sept 2010)
Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance”, by Paul Park (F&SF, Jan / Feb 2010)
The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window”, by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010)


Novel
The Native Star, by M. K. Hobson (Spectra)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor) (review)
Echo, by Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)
Blackout / All Clear, by Connie Willis (Spectra)


The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Performance
Despicable Me, Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud (directors), Ken Daurio & Cinco Paul (screenplay), Sergio Pablos (story) (Illumination Entertainment)
Doctor Who: ‘‘Vincent and the Doctor’’, Richard Curtis (writer), Jonny Campbell (director)
How to Train Your Dragon, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders (directors), William Davies, Dean DeBlois, & Chris Sanders (screenplay) (DreamWorks Animation)
Inception, Christopher Nolan (director), Christopher Nolan (screenplay) (Warner)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright (director), Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright (screenplay) (Universal)
Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich (director), Michael Arndt (screenplay), John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, & Lee Unkrich (story) (Pixar/Disney)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction
Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
White Cat, by Holly Black (McElderry)
Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press)
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch (Amulet)
The Boy from Ilysies, by Pearl North (Tor Teen)
I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett (Gollancz, Harper)
A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse)


Congratulations to all the nominees!


I would like to take this moment to offer up extra congrats to Jennifer Pelland, Rachel Swirsky, Aliette de Bodard, and Mary Robinette Kowal. I’ve been following Jennifer, Rachel, and Mary’s work for years and it’s awesome to see these nominations. This marks Pelland’s second Nebula nomination (previously, “Captive Girl”), Rachel’s second (“A Memory of Wind”), and Mary’s first (her story “Evil Robot Monkey” was nominated for a Hugo, and she is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer). I’ve only recently come to discover Aliette, but her novel Servant of the Underworld was quite excellent. I’m glad to see each of them pick up nominations this year.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

a collection of new books

Sunday, February 20, 2011 5
I've been on a book buying spree lately and have brought in a host of new books to the welcoming embrace of my bookshelves.  Yes, I really do buy books, too.  This post was just long overdue.  I should really have updated sooner.  I think I've forgotten some stuff that I purchased a couple months ago. 

New
The Alchemist, by Paolo Bacigalupi
The White City, by Elizabeth Bear
The Executioness, by Tobias Buckell
The Strange Case of the Dead Bird on the Night Stand, by Emma Bull and Kyle Cassidy
Dread Island, by Joe R. Lansdale
A Companion to Wolves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
Bloodshot, by Cherie Priest
Holiday, by M. Rickert
Ventriloquism, by Catherynne M. Valente (also, here)
Secret Life, by Jeff VanderMeer
Precious Dragon, by Liz Williams


Used
A Shadow in Summer, by Daniel Abraham
The Gypsy, by Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill, by Steven Brust
Solitaire, by Kelley Eskridge
The Blue Place, by Nicola Griffith
The Golden Key, by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott
Natural History, by Justina Robson
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis

Sunday, February 13, 2011 0
I still have this bias against the traditional sort of superhero comics. I read X-Men as a kid, but I'm just having a difficult time mustering interest as an adult in those titles. Even iconic stuff like Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which really is very good, is a tough sell. The more the focus is on the superhero stuff, the less engaged I am.

Somewhere there must have been a list of awesome graphic novels that included a book titled Alias, though I can't imagine where*. I assumed it was a book focusing on a private investigator named Jessica Jones, and hey, that's enough. I'm inclined to like that sort of thing.

But when you don't really know anything about the book or about the writer, you'll often be surprised.

See, Alias was published under the MAX imprint of Marvel comics, which means that 1) Alias is set in the larger Marvel Universe of superheroes, and 2) writer Brian Michael Bendis is free to say “fuck” as often as he likes. Both of which are ultimately besides the point.

So yes, Alias does feature a private investigator named Jessica Jones who happened to once be a superhero named Jewel who was once in the Avengers. The 28 issues of the run feature characters like Captain America, Ms Marvel, Ant Man, J. Jonah Jameson, Daredevil, and a full cast cameo of the Avengers, but the story here is all Jessica Jones.

While there are four story arcs running across the 28 collected issues, the first three of which are investigations Jones takes on, but the real story is Jessica herself. Bendis's handling of Jessica's backstory is masterful and he dishes it out bit by bit, always serving the story while building a character. Jones is more than a frustrated investigator troubled by personal demons, though she is that. She is more than a superhero who walked away, though that is the core of her early identity in the series.

Why Alias works for me is that the focus is tight on character. This doesn't have to be a book with superheroes, but it happens to be. The writing of Brian Michael Bendis carries the day.

This is good stuff.

Bendis has done a good deal of work in the greater Marvel Universe, but I'm impressed enough that I'm willing to check out some of his other work. First up, naturally, will be The Pulse, which moves Jessica Jones from the MAX imprint to Marvel. Bendis has kicked ass with Jones, so why not read more of it?



*two hours later, I figured it out.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

on libraries

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 1

Libraries really are wonderful. They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.

-Jo Walton, Among Others, pg 59

Also,

Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Eclipse Four Table of Contents!

Friday, February 04, 2011 3
Jonathan Strahan has posted the table of contents for the forthcoming (and hotly anticipated around these parts) Eclipse Four. 

Introduction, Jonathan Strahan
“Slow as a Bullet”, Andy Duncan
“Tidal Forces”, Caitlin R. Kiernan
“The Beancounter’s Cat”, Damien Broderick
“Story Kit”, Kij Johnson
“The Man in Grey”, Michael Swanwick
“Old Habits”, Nalo Hopkinson
“The Vicar of Mars”, Gwyneth Jones
“Fields of Gold”, Rachel Swirsky
“Thought Experiment”, Eileen Gunn
“The Double of My Double Is Not My Double”, Jeffrey Ford
“Nine Muses”, Emma Bull
“Dying Young”, Peter M Ball
“The Panda Coin”, Jo Walton
“Tourists”, James Patrick Kelly

Exciting book is exciting.   As has been since the first book, Eclipse is a must read series.
 
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