bluegargantua: (default)
Hey,

[livejournal.com profile] beah and I are doing another ad hoc book club for May. This month, we're going to check out Sex with Shakespeare by JIllian Keenan. The author discusses her fascination with Shakespeare and being spanked. It's gotten pretty good advance reviews and a quick skim through the kindle sample seems promising.

If you want to play along, just snag a copy of the book either at Amazon or your favorite local bookseller and read it over the month of May. At the end, we can talk about it.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (default)
Hey,

For those of you playing along with the ad hoc book club thing, I just finished up _The Discreet Hero_ this morning. I'd be happy to talk with you about it when you finish up. I'll actually post a review a bit later on.

Again, I read a bit faster than average so if you're still wading through, no worries.

later
Tom

Game on!

Dec. 8th, 2015 10:44 am
bluegargantua: (default)
Hey,

If you're interested in being part of the ad hoc reading group [livejournal.com profile] beah and I are doing. Today is the official start day. We're reading The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa. Feel free to grab a copy and read along. Again, this is pretty loose, if you finish up by the new year, that's fine, but hopefully it'll be a fun read and you'll have something literary to chat about at holiday parties.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
While we mourn the passing of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Damn kids and their Internet-connected pants! In MY day you had to know how to spell what you were looking for or you'd find something else and that'd set you off on a journey of discovery. Like TV Tropes but useful!
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
...the book Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed by Carl Zimmer. Page after page of scientific tattoos covering every arena of knowledge. There's some really beautiful stuff in there.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
...the book Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed by Carl Zimmer. Page after page of scientific tattoos covering every arena of knowledge. There's some really beautiful stuff in there.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

Continuing to work my way through volume 1 of the autobiography of Mark Twain. Lots of amusing anecdotes, but the following is particularly fun.

Mr. Twain is the best speller in his household, but has some difficulties with spatial geometries (which is odd considering his years as a steamboat pilot). His house in Hartford CT has a long driveway and a round cul-de-sac of sorts allowing carriages to turn about. Looks a bit like so:

-----------o
h

So the driveway is the dashed lines, the roundabout is the "o" and the "h" is his house. Mr. Twain is being driven back to his house. He sits on the right side of the driver. They go past the house and as they approach the roundabout, the driver is about to go to the right (go counter-clockwise about the roundabout). Mr. Twain is concerned about this. He realizes that if they continue on, then when they come back, Mr. Twain will exit the carriage opposite the house instead of right at the door. Therefore, the driver should go to left (go clockwise around the roundabout) so that he will wind up exiting the carriage at his door (he will exit on the side of the driveway with the house).

The driver laughs and happily obliges him knowing, as you probably do, that it really doesn't matter, Mr. Twain is going to have to walk across the driveway to reach his door when he gets out. But this strikes Mr. Twain's mental blind spot and he has the driver go out of the driveway, turn around and try it two more times before he gives up. He accepts that he winds up on the wrong side every time but has no idea how it occurs.

He could be putting the reader on and yet it's a mental failing that seems just plausible enough that I believe it. If he is joking, he's proving his mastery of his craft once again.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

Continuing to work my way through volume 1 of the autobiography of Mark Twain. Lots of amusing anecdotes, but the following is particularly fun.

Mr. Twain is the best speller in his household, but has some difficulties with spatial geometries (which is odd considering his years as a steamboat pilot). His house in Hartford CT has a long driveway and a round cul-de-sac of sorts allowing carriages to turn about. Looks a bit like so:

-----------o
h

So the driveway is the dashed lines, the roundabout is the "o" and the "h" is his house. Mr. Twain is being driven back to his house. He sits on the right side of the driver. They go past the house and as they approach the roundabout, the driver is about to go to the right (go counter-clockwise about the roundabout). Mr. Twain is concerned about this. He realizes that if they continue on, then when they come back, Mr. Twain will exit the carriage opposite the house instead of right at the door. Therefore, the driver should go to left (go clockwise around the roundabout) so that he will wind up exiting the carriage at his door (he will exit on the side of the driveway with the house).

The driver laughs and happily obliges him knowing, as you probably do, that it really doesn't matter, Mr. Twain is going to have to walk across the driveway to reach his door when he gets out. But this strikes Mr. Twain's mental blind spot and he has the driver go out of the driveway, turn around and try it two more times before he gives up. He accepts that he winds up on the wrong side every time but has no idea how it occurs.

He could be putting the reader on and yet it's a mental failing that seems just plausible enough that I believe it. If he is joking, he's proving his mastery of his craft once again.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So Sci-Fi and Fantasy often suffers from "genre ghetto" where the category gets dismissed as "trivial" or "light fluffy reading". It's not "serious" enough or it's "all the same". When there's really a lot of very interesting stuff that comes out in the genre that makes for very good reading.

In my head the conversations run like this:

"Oh, sci-fi. It's all just like Star Trek or Star Wars or whatever."
"Well, there's actually some really good stuff like [insert good stuff here*]."

Or

"Oh, fantasy. It's all Lord of the Rings or Conan or whatever."
"Not all of it, you might be surprised with [insert stuff here**] -- they're really good."

And then there are the times when sci-fi/fantasy break out into "literature" and people bend over backwards to deny it's genre roots (and most authors of these books giggle at the contortions).

That's not to say there isn't a lot of dross on the shelves, but there's some really good stuff in there too. But I've been wondering lately if there's other types of genre fiction that might be suffering from the same misunderstanding and if I was a devoted fan of them, could I turn around and answer the critics. Specifically, I'm wondering about:


  • Romances
  • Mysteries
  • Westerns


And there are probably others, but those (along with SF/F) are the big classifications I see in bookstores. I feel like it might be very hard for Romance or Mystery novels to break their molds because their genre is heavily focused on their plots (people falling in love, a mystery solved) whereas SF/F can have any sort of plot, it's all the trappings (spaceships, elves, etc.) that consign it to the genre bin. But that could easily be my own myopia talking. And that's the point of this post. What kinds of responses would genre fans give for:

"Oh, Romances. It's all Jane Austen or Harlequin Bodice-Rippers where people spend 150 pages inventing reasons not to be together."

"Oh, Mysteries. It's all quirky investigators and their little clockwork puzzles or hard-boiled detectives punching things until a solution falls out."

"Oh, Westerns. It's all gun fights and bad guys and sex with dance hall girls."

What's hiding in other genre ghettos?
Tom

* How about Anathem, Courship Rites, and Blindsight (oh and Dhalgren if I'm feeling mean)?

** Trial of Flowers, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Little, Big.
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So Sci-Fi and Fantasy often suffers from "genre ghetto" where the category gets dismissed as "trivial" or "light fluffy reading". It's not "serious" enough or it's "all the same". When there's really a lot of very interesting stuff that comes out in the genre that makes for very good reading.

In my head the conversations run like this:

"Oh, sci-fi. It's all just like Star Trek or Star Wars or whatever."
"Well, there's actually some really good stuff like [insert good stuff here*]."

Or

"Oh, fantasy. It's all Lord of the Rings or Conan or whatever."
"Not all of it, you might be surprised with [insert stuff here**] -- they're really good."

And then there are the times when sci-fi/fantasy break out into "literature" and people bend over backwards to deny it's genre roots (and most authors of these books giggle at the contortions).

That's not to say there isn't a lot of dross on the shelves, but there's some really good stuff in there too. But I've been wondering lately if there's other types of genre fiction that might be suffering from the same misunderstanding and if I was a devoted fan of them, could I turn around and answer the critics. Specifically, I'm wondering about:


  • Romances
  • Mysteries
  • Westerns


And there are probably others, but those (along with SF/F) are the big classifications I see in bookstores. I feel like it might be very hard for Romance or Mystery novels to break their molds because their genre is heavily focused on their plots (people falling in love, a mystery solved) whereas SF/F can have any sort of plot, it's all the trappings (spaceships, elves, etc.) that consign it to the genre bin. But that could easily be my own myopia talking. And that's the point of this post. What kinds of responses would genre fans give for:

"Oh, Romances. It's all Jane Austen or Harlequin Bodice-Rippers where people spend 150 pages inventing reasons not to be together."

"Oh, Mysteries. It's all quirky investigators and their little clockwork puzzles or hard-boiled detectives punching things until a solution falls out."

"Oh, Westerns. It's all gun fights and bad guys and sex with dance hall girls."

What's hiding in other genre ghettos?
Tom

* How about Anathem, Courship Rites, and Blindsight (oh and Dhalgren if I'm feeling mean)?

** Trial of Flowers, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Little, Big.
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So, as all good bleeding heart liberal hippies do, I'm listening to NPR and they're talking to Phil Collins about his new album where he covers Motown hits of the 60's. And hey, it's Phil Collins faithfully reproducing the Motown sound except he's the one singing so...ok.

Anyway, at the end, they mention that Mr. Collins appears to have one of the largest collections of Alamo memorabilia in the world. Yeah, the Alamo of Texas where Davy Crockett croaked it. Collins has a ton of stuff from the battle. He mentioned that it's become his passion and that he's writing a book due out next year.

I can't tell you how much I want to read that book. It's of only minor interest that it's Phil Collin's whose a major Alamo geek, I just want to read about someone obsessed with the idea of collecting Alamo artifacts.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So, as all good bleeding heart liberal hippies do, I'm listening to NPR and they're talking to Phil Collins about his new album where he covers Motown hits of the 60's. And hey, it's Phil Collins faithfully reproducing the Motown sound except he's the one singing so...ok.

Anyway, at the end, they mention that Mr. Collins appears to have one of the largest collections of Alamo memorabilia in the world. Yeah, the Alamo of Texas where Davy Crockett croaked it. Collins has a ton of stuff from the battle. He mentioned that it's become his passion and that he's writing a book due out next year.

I can't tell you how much I want to read that book. It's of only minor interest that it's Phil Collin's whose a major Alamo geek, I just want to read about someone obsessed with the idea of collecting Alamo artifacts.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

IO9.com has a lengthy and fascinating excerpt from Cordelia Fine's new book Delusions of Gender. A book where she reviews the popular literature about the differences between the brains of men and women and finds that what gets written doesn't tend to square up much with the studies they cite.

It seems relevant to the interests of some of my readers.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

IO9.com has a lengthy and fascinating excerpt from Cordelia Fine's new book Delusions of Gender. A book where she reviews the popular literature about the differences between the brains of men and women and finds that what gets written doesn't tend to square up much with the studies they cite.

It seems relevant to the interests of some of my readers.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So I read about 45 books or so this year. Not too bad considering that two of them were from the Malazan Empire series and thus over 800+ pages in length.

My top 3 Books for the Year:

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.

Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams.

Gentlemen of the Road: An Adventure by Michael Chabon.

But there was a lot of good stuff this year. Hot on their heels were Matter, The Stars My Destination and Pirate Sun.

In the non-fiction category, the only thing that really stood out was Bloody Confused: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer.

So if you're bumming around for something to read, give those a shot.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So I read about 45 books or so this year. Not too bad considering that two of them were from the Malazan Empire series and thus over 800+ pages in length.

My top 3 Books for the Year:

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.

Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams.

Gentlemen of the Road: An Adventure by Michael Chabon.

But there was a lot of good stuff this year. Hot on their heels were Matter, The Stars My Destination and Pirate Sun.

In the non-fiction category, the only thing that really stood out was Bloody Confused: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer.

So if you're bumming around for something to read, give those a shot.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

So this nice lady, Marie Brennan, is an author and she's written (among other things) this book called Midnight Never Come, which is a sort of Elizabethan historical fantasy novel.

Here's the blurb:

"England flourishes under the hand of its Queen Elizabeth, last and most powerful of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts a great shadow. For in hidden catacombs beneath London, a second Queen holds court—Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, a dark mirror to the glory above… A breathtaking novel of intrigue and betrayal set in Elizabethan England; Midnight Never Come seamlessly weaves together history and the fantastic to dazzling effect…"

Not really my sort of thing, but there have even been some pretty positive reviews about it. And so, in a in a recent interview she was asked:


Q: So when and how did the idea for “Midnight Never Come” first come about, how long have you been working on it, and how much has it evolved from its original conception?

Marie: Actually, it started as a role-playing game.

I'm entirely serious. In 2006 I ran a game I called “Memento,” because it was structured much like the Guy Pearce movie of that name; we went through six hundred and fifty years of English history backward. The game system we were using, Changeling: The Dreaming, focuses on faerie souls who reincarnate in mortal bodies, and “Memento” was structured around a group of changelings who were remembering a series of previous lives.

The Elizabethan segment of the game (which was also called “Midnight Never Come”) ended up having this really complex backstory and consequences, so that, although it wasn't the central plot, it stretched from 1350 to 2006. And after the game was done, it wouldn't leave my mind. So I filed off the Changeling-specific serial numbers, cut the Invidiana part of the story loose from the metaplot of “Memento,” and set about turning the skeleton that remained into a novel.


um...oh man. Is it going to be bad because I'm jealous that someone turned their Changeling game into a novel? Or is it going to be bad because gaming fiction is almost always bad? Well, if someone else has a taste for it they might find the trivia useful.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hi,

So this nice lady, Marie Brennan, is an author and she's written (among other things) this book called Midnight Never Come, which is a sort of Elizabethan historical fantasy novel.

Here's the blurb:

"England flourishes under the hand of its Queen Elizabeth, last and most powerful of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts a great shadow. For in hidden catacombs beneath London, a second Queen holds court—Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, a dark mirror to the glory above… A breathtaking novel of intrigue and betrayal set in Elizabethan England; Midnight Never Come seamlessly weaves together history and the fantastic to dazzling effect…"

Not really my sort of thing, but there have even been some pretty positive reviews about it. And so, in a in a recent interview she was asked:


Q: So when and how did the idea for “Midnight Never Come” first come about, how long have you been working on it, and how much has it evolved from its original conception?

Marie: Actually, it started as a role-playing game.

I'm entirely serious. In 2006 I ran a game I called “Memento,” because it was structured much like the Guy Pearce movie of that name; we went through six hundred and fifty years of English history backward. The game system we were using, Changeling: The Dreaming, focuses on faerie souls who reincarnate in mortal bodies, and “Memento” was structured around a group of changelings who were remembering a series of previous lives.

The Elizabethan segment of the game (which was also called “Midnight Never Come”) ended up having this really complex backstory and consequences, so that, although it wasn't the central plot, it stretched from 1350 to 2006. And after the game was done, it wouldn't leave my mind. So I filed off the Changeling-specific serial numbers, cut the Invidiana part of the story loose from the metaplot of “Memento,” and set about turning the skeleton that remained into a novel.


um...oh man. Is it going to be bad because I'm jealous that someone turned their Changeling game into a novel? Or is it going to be bad because gaming fiction is almost always bad? Well, if someone else has a taste for it they might find the trivia useful.

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So what did I read this year?

The full list, behind the cut )

So, let's get to the heart of it. What was my "Best of" for 2007?

I'd say my Top Three Fiction Picks are:

1. Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder -- a planet-sized "balloon" holds a zero-gee universe inside of it. People have rocket-propelled swashbuckling adventures. Great fun.
2. Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder -- more fun in zero-gee (this time, on a large cylinder habitat where tiny countries jostle for prominence).
3. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch -- the rousing, pirate-infested sequel to last year's Lies of Locke Lamora.

Honorable mentions go to Permanence by Karl Schroeder, Saturn Returns by Sean Williams and the Revelation Space books (Revelation Space, Chasm City, and Redemption Ark) by Alastair Reynolds.

Non-Fiction was less impressive this year so there's only two:

1. Untapped by John Ghazvinian - How Africa's oil wealth is bringing nothing but ruin and despair to the people who live there.
2. Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness -- How is it that we're doing what we're doing right now?

So those are my picks for 2007 -- give 'em a shot.

What did you enjoy reading this year?

later
Tom
bluegargantua: (Default)
Hey,

So what did I read this year?

The full list, behind the cut )

So, let's get to the heart of it. What was my "Best of" for 2007?

I'd say my Top Three Fiction Picks are:

1. Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder -- a planet-sized "balloon" holds a zero-gee universe inside of it. People have rocket-propelled swashbuckling adventures. Great fun.
2. Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder -- more fun in zero-gee (this time, on a large cylinder habitat where tiny countries jostle for prominence).
3. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch -- the rousing, pirate-infested sequel to last year's Lies of Locke Lamora.

Honorable mentions go to Permanence by Karl Schroeder, Saturn Returns by Sean Williams and the Revelation Space books (Revelation Space, Chasm City, and Redemption Ark) by Alastair Reynolds.

Non-Fiction was less impressive this year so there's only two:

1. Untapped by John Ghazvinian - How Africa's oil wealth is bringing nothing but ruin and despair to the people who live there.
2. Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness -- How is it that we're doing what we're doing right now?

So those are my picks for 2007 -- give 'em a shot.

What did you enjoy reading this year?

later
Tom

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