Pixel Scroll 9/3/17 The Alpha Ralpha Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

(1) WESTEROS IN FERMENT. John King Tarpinian found these vintage wines languishing on the shelf at Pier One Imports.

(2) THE BEST WINE YET. You’ll find the rest of Ted Gioia’s essay on Dandelion Wine at Conceptual Fiction.

These efforts reached their culmination in Bradbury’s ambitions for a big “Waukegan novel,” which he sent to his publisher at the end of 1956.   Years later, the writer’s wife Maggie would mention that Dandelion Wine was Bradbury’s favorite among his books—although the author himself was more coy.  “They are all my children.  You can’t pick favorites when it comes to children.”   But if you have any doubts about how closely Bradbury identifies with this work you need merely look at is protagonist Douglas Spaulding, whose very name makes clear that he is the author’s alter ego:  Bradbury’s middle name is Douglas, and his great-grandmother’s maiden name was Spaulding.   Here in Green Town, Illinois—the stand-in for Waukegan—we follow in this boy’s path during the summer of 1928.

(3) HOPS TO IT. Woodbridge, Virginia’s Heroic Ale Works has all of their beers branded as superhero characters.  They brewed Escape Velocity Ale for the Escape Velocity convention sponsored by the Museum fo Science Fiction, which was held in Washington between September 1-3. See all the beer labels at the link.

You’ve tasted the beers, now get to know the stories behind the characters in the brand new, original ‘Heroic Aleworks Presents’ comics created by the owners of Heroic Aleworks, featuring artwork by talented artists from around the world.

(4) DEL TORO. Deadline, in “Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘The Shape Of Water’ Shines Bright In Lido Embrace – Venice”, says the director’s new SFF movie received an enthusiastic response at an Italian festival:

Guillermo del Toro gave the Venice Film Festival press corps a giant hug this morning, while also tugging — hard — at heartstrings. The press is hugging back. The filmmaker’s lyrical period fairy tale The Shape Of Water was met with sustained applause (and a fair amount of tears) as the lights rose in the Sala Darsena earlier today. Reviews that have followed are glowing, and this afternoon’s press conference was slightly delayed when reporters wouldn’t stop hooting and hollering as the filmmaker and his cast took their spots on the dais.

(5) THE SHARKE BITES. Megan AM summarized her experience as a Shadow Clarke juror in “SFatigued”. A good friend sent me the link, asking for my help in identifying who she’s talking about here. Thanks, pal!

In my mind, it was the American commentary that became the strangest and most unexpected turn of events. Suddenly, people from different corners of the USian SF blogosphere–people who admitted they never cared about or even paid attention to the Clarke Award before–suddenly had a lot to say and feel about open criticism aimed at what is becoming a corporatized award process– it appearing to be an industry award, rather than the critical award it was originally intended to be– all things they knew nothing about and took no time to comprehend. These people had a lot to say, not because they cared about the Clarke, but because… they could sense that some Sharke criticism might be aimed at their faves. And rightly so.

These people had a lot to say because they are not stupid. They are intelligent people who know exactly why something that should have nothing to do with them might feel a little bit threatening: They know their faves are not actually amazing, that they are actually inherently problematic, superficial, simplistic, dumbed down, and NOT award worthy. They know it because it is just that apparent. (And hardly worth the word count the Sharke jury spent on those books). They did not want to face it. Because they need it to feel safe. (And I get that. I really do. This is, after all, an important social sphere for many people.)

But the USian defensiveness was palpable. The stale, conservative watering hole for Hollywood Tonight-style SF news updates chronicled the Sharke process while its commenters huffed and puffed and said, “not gonna even waste my breaf on it” (but still did). Massively successful workshop authors who don’t seem to read much more than other massively successful workshop authors unloaded words about how readers like me will never appreciate the art of their simplicity (and then back-patted each other for how comforting and original they all are). (Comforting AND original! In the same sentence!) The young, white, feminist LGBTQ contingent–MY PEOPLE, goddammit–missed the big picture, as usual, because they benefit from the back-scratching, because they’re afraid to demand more of publishers and writers (because they’re afraid to demand more of themselves).

(6) SF IN POLAND. Marcin Klak, the Fandom Rover, in his Polcon report, tells who won the Janusz A. Zajdel Award:

Janusz A. Zajdel Award

The ceremony of this most prestigious Polish SF award was very simple this year. It did not include any artistic performances and was in fact just an announcement of the winners. Still, as each year, it was a very important part of the con. The results are as follows:

Best Novel

Krzysztof Piskorski — Czterdziesci i cztery (Forty and four)

Best Short Story

Lukasz Orbitowski and Michal Cetnarowski — Wywiad z Boruta (Interview with Boruta devil)

(7) FUR AND FEATHERS OVERRATED? The Guardian reports an Interesting study on the use of anthropomorphic animals in children’s books — “Children’s books with humans have greater moral impact than animals, study finds”.

Forget the morals that millennia of children have learned from the Hare and the Tortoise and the Fox and the Crow: Aesop would have had a greater effect with his fables if he’d put the stories into the mouths of human characters, at least according to new research from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

In the Canadian study, researchers read one of three stories to almost 100 children between four and six years old: Mary Packard’s Little Raccoon Learns to Share, in which anthropomorphic animals learn that sharing makes you feel good; a version of the story in which the animal illustrations were replaced with human characters; or a control book about seeds.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Pet Rock Day

Launched in the 1970s by advertising executive Gary Dahl, the pet rock was an antithesis to those living pets in need of regular care. It did, however, come with a mean “attack” mode. For a mere $3.95 people could adopt their very own rock, supplied on a bed of hay in an well-ventilated box. Like all things, pet rocks are more expensive these days, but you could always catch a wild one for free – just remember that undomesticated rocks may be more difficult to handle.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 3, 1976 — Viking 2 lander touched down on Mars at Utopia Planitia.

(10) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian found today’s Close To Home is a moving experience.

(11) DRAGON CON ART SHOW. The Daily Dragon tells us the winners of the “2017 Dragon Con Art Show Awards”.

(12) WONDER OF THE WORLD. The Daily Dragon also covered “Life, Lust, and Laughs with John Barrowman”.

From his sparkling, shining star–filled entrance to his final innuendo, John Barrowman had the 7PM capacity crowd in the Hilton Grand Ballroom alternately in stitches and in awe. No one was safe from his star power.  His costume designers from Elhoffer Design were the first to feel his special brand of love, being unwittingly pulled on stage to celebrate his Wonder Woman outfit, complete with sparkling cape, tiara, and booty shorts. Their designs for Barrowman never cease to shock and amaze.

(13) DRAGON AWARDS CLIPPINGS. Here are miscellaneous reports and reactions to today’s Dragon Awards announcement.

More than 8,000 fans cast ballots for Dragon Award winners among 88 properties in 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming and tabletop gaming.  Winners were announced on Sept. 3 at Dragon Con, which runs September 1 to September 4, 2017 in Atlanta.

In all seriousness, congrats to Cory Doctorow on his win for “Walkaway”. The sequel to “A Place Outside The Wild” — “A Place Called Hope” — should be out in six weeks or so, and then I’ll be starting work on the follow-up to “Fade”, “Night’s Black Agents.”

Congratulations to the administrators of the Dragon Awards. In just two short years, you have ascended to the pinnacle and I feel you’ve only just got started. There may not be one of those incredible Dragon Awards sitting on my mantle (yet) but I am honored and humbled by the fact that I am, and will always be, a Dragon Award Finalist.

If I was the Dragon Award organisers I’d be happy with the results. Mainly safe choices that avoided rewarding poor behaviour.

First, I’d like to congratulate all of the nominees for the Dragon Awards. I had friends, both from cyberspace and meatspace, on the ballot. I’m sorry they didn’t win.

And now, I have a confession to make.

I didn’t vote this year. I didn’t vote for the Gemmells either.  Before anyone starts screaming about hypocrisy and double standards, I had a very good reason for not voting.

I didn’t read any of the nominees.

I’m not going to vote on a ballot when I haven’t read at least some of the titles under consideration.

  • John Scalzi had this to say:

  • Annalee Flower Horne condemned the proceedings out of hand, as did Lady Business’ Renay, and D. Franklin.

  • Here are assorted other tweets:

(14) KAYLON IN COSTUME. At ScreenRant, “Mark Jackson Says The Orville Is For ‘Disgruntled Star Trek Fans’”.

Seth McFarlane’s new TV show The Orville is about to hit TV screens with a stellar cast including Scott Grimes, Victor Garber, Adrianne Palicki and British actor Mark Jackson. …

So how did you film your scenes? Did you pull an Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit?

No it was me in that suit, and Seth specifically wanted that. When he was doing the Ted films, he was there giving the lines and he wanted that for this show too. I have never done anything like that before, it brings its own challenges, but to get it right you have to be in the suit and match what they’re doing. What was nice about the show is that it has a retro feel, which kind of harks back to the original Star Trek with the colors and innocence. I think Isaac is classic but not like C-3PO, even though at first I thought maybe he could be like that. He’s very fluid, he’s an efficient machine rather than being rigid.

How is Seth to work with? Is it anything like you have experienced before?

He has a real respect for acting and the craft of acting, he’s a man of many talent who is very supportive. It’s very funny when you meet such a comedic genius because you think they’re going to be really funny all the time, and then you feel like you have to be funny too, and it escalates into this shit show of funniness, but he’s not like that. He’s very bright, which can be quite intimidating, and knows exactly what he wants for the show, so is good at articulating that. We actually had a wrap party a few days ago at Seth’s house up in Beverly Hills, which is obviously fantastic, but the man knows how to throw parties. He turned his entire garden, I think he’s renovating at the moment so he could, into a spaceship bar, it was extraordinary. All of the waiting staff were done up like aliens in full prosethetics and there was a full ice sculpture of a spaceship as you walked in. That was very Hollywood, I feel.

(15) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. She’s back — “Record-breaking U.S. astronaut and crew back on Earth”.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and two crewmates made a parachute touchdown in Kazakhstan on Saturday, capping a career-total 665 days in orbit, a U.S. record.

Whitson, 57, ended an extended stay of more than nine months aboard the International Space Station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

”I feel great,” the biochemist said during an inflight interview on Monday. “I love working up here. It’s one of the most gratifying jobs I’ve ever had.”

During her third mission aboard the station, Whitson spent much of her time on experiments, including studies of cancerous lung tissue and bone cells. She also completed four spacewalks, adding to her six previous outings, to set a record for the most time spent spacewalking by a woman.

(16) NO WONDER. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a biopic about the creator of the comic and his marital relationship. In theaters October 13.

Details the unconventional life of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist and inventor who helped invent the modern lie detector test and created Wonder Woman in 1941. Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth, a psychologist and inventor in her own right, and Olive Byrne, a former student who became an academic. This relationship was key to the creation of Wonder Woman, as Elizabeth and Olive’s feminist ideals were ingrained in the character from her creation. Marston died of skin cancer in 1947, but Elizabeth and Olive remained a couple and raised their and Marston’s children together. The film is said to focus on how Marston dealt with the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman’s creation.

 

(17) GET OUT OF JAIL FLEE. Infinity Chamber will be released September 15.

A man trapped in an automated prison must outsmart a computer in order to escape and try and find his way back to the outside world that may already be wiped out

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, JJ, David Langford, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

106 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/3/17 The Alpha Ralpha Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

  1. Hampus Eckerman on September 4, 2017 at 7:08 am said:
    I have one of those; it’s not as comfortable to sit on as it should be, IMO, but it will do. (It’s also not as lightweight as it should be, for someone who’s going to have to carry it for any length of time.)

  2. I liked reading the Sharkes’ critiques. I get the British/American novelist thing (as someone who is always submitting thankless nominations for Adrian Tchaikovsky). But the way the Sharkes trashed Becky Chambers partially inspired me to submit a knee-jerk-reaction best-novel-Hugo vote for it. In retrospect, I agree that Chambers’ science wasn’t the greatest, and I probably would have liked her book less if I hadn’t felt like I was helping to defend it from an unfair dogpiling.

  3. Ugh. So, what are my options for sharing DRM-having ebooks with my family? I use a Kobo ereader, Mr Dr likes to read on his smartphone (one of the rare Windows phones actually in use), the Young Person uses her laptop. The books are mostly bought on kobo.com.

    Is this the best method for getting epub files I can share with the fam? Or can they automagically share my .acsm s?

    You’d think that here in 2068 this problem would have been solved, BUT NO.

  4. While I’d quite like Chambers science to be less shonky it’s not really the main thrust of the books and I’m not too concerned about it; the interest for me lies in the social science.
    If you write hard SF and foreground the science, that’s when I expect you to be getting it right.

    @Charon D

    Tchaikovsky will get there one day. I still regret not having read Children of Time in its publication year so I could have made a thankless nomination for it too.

  5. Mark on September 4, 2017 at 9:35 am said:
    It’s the Obok plugin for Calibre. I use it; it’s stayed in through three updates of Calibre.
    I back up my Calibre library to a thumbdrive.
    (I’m seriously considering editing all the from-KOBO epubs – there are typos and whatnot that need fixing, and KOBO’s code is a mess.)

  6. @PJ —

    It’s the Obok plugin for Calibre.

    Is this significantly different from deDRM? I’ve used that for years.

    (I’m seriously considering editing all the from-KOBO epubs – there are typos and whatnot that need fixing, and KOBO’s code is a mess.)

    I gave up on KOBO. Too much hassle, too many errors with downloading and such. But it was sooooooooooo nice a few years ago when they had a **90%** off sale. I bought bazillions of books. 🙂

  7. @P J Evans

    I believe the main “Apprentice Alf” deDRM plugin effectively covers the obok one for kobo as well as kindle et al. I’m primarily kindle though, I just get the occasional kobo book when they’re tempting me with a voucher, and then I have to go read the instructions again, so I’ll defer to the experience of more regular kobo users.

  8. I liked the Sharke stuff and thought the ill-feeling that seemed to develop around it was unfortunate and unnecessary. (I also mainly agreed with several of them about A Closed and Common Orbit.)

  9. @5–I only vaguely remember the Shadow Clarke jury thing(s) probably because I read enough to think-“Oh, entitled British progressives with condescending buzzwords” and moved on. Or it could be that I’m conflating back then with this one. I did go check out her pages and some of her reviews are quite good; fun to read and entertaining. “Stand on Zanzibar”, for one. Some aren’t. Seriously? Constantly referring to “Bob” Heinlein just makes you sound petty.

    “They know their faves are not actually amazing, that they are actually inherently problematic, superficial, simplistic, dumbed down, and NOT award worthy” In other words, how DARE they like something like this.

    And my favorite part–The young, white, feminist LGBTQ contingent–MY PEOPLE, goddammit–missed the big picture, as usual, because they benefit from the back-scratching, because they’re afraid to demand more of publishers and writers (because they’re afraid to demand more of themselves).
    Bless her heart.

  10. Hampus and P J, thanks for the further thoughts on portable chairs. Yeah, I would like it to be simultaneously light and easy to carry, able to put in my pack when not needed, easy to set up and take down, and sturdy enough for my weight. I am not sure I can get all of those!

    JJ, I hope you feel better soon.

  11. Oh Jack Glass. I probably like to talk about it (him?) to get it out of my system.
    I really looked forward to the book from what I heard about it. I do like well done Whodunnit, even if I dont rteally read “Thriller” – so a SF-Whodunnit seems perfect. And then I read it.
    Mmh, I still think about the first part and I still cant decide what to think really. Yes, its gross, but is it just gross or is it also very clever? I havent made up my mind about that.
    I did like the second part – I found the solution quite clever and also some of the turns and the worldbuilding, although Jacks role was a bit far-fetched I found.
    I really disliked the third part, which had a solution that was far from satisfying (and felt like cheating) and I think Roberts botched the ending.
    In total I still gave 4 out of 5, but I felt the book was a huge letdown and had so much potential. It was such a letdown I havent read anything from Roberts since (which probably is a bit unfair, but there are so many interesting books, I like to read that I have to cut down somewhere…)

    BTW Im not American, but I havent really got into Priest so far (Prestige 4/5 and I forgot the other title Ive read which was 3/5). Fan of Simon Morden and Bob Shaw though….

    Shadow Clarke: I like some reviews and found other condescending. Overall a good read (nobody forced me to read them). I found some of the critism here a bit over the top.

  12. A few years ago, I found a cane stool from the 1936 World’s Fair in Chicago. It’s very small, light, easy to carry and doesn’t creak even a little when I sit on it. I’d like to think technology would have greatly improved since then.

    @Mark – I’m sure we could all list authors we think are objectively great who are doing much worse than they “deserve”.

    There are so many, but my local-ish offering is Harry Connolly. He writes really well and hasn’t had a book contract in years. He’s not old, so there’s a chance lightening will strike, but.

    JJ, I hope you feel better soon.

    The Shadow Clarkes, I don’t know. Some of the discussion was interesting and well reasoned, some of it just made them sound like prats. I get being passionate about the difference between award-worthy and well liked, but I can’t think of anyone whose judgment about what is and isn’t great could be presented as definitive or, really, anything but subjective and open to criticism and disagreement.

  13. So, all in all, this was kind of dipping my toe in the water. I was at the convention pretty sporadically, and a lot of the experience was figuring out what a Worldcon is.

    As somebody said back at LonCon, it’s “spending a week with several thousands of your closest friends”

  14. Lenore Jones / jonesnori on September 4, 2017 at 10:40 am said:
    It does have a strap so you can put it over your shoulder. (I got mine for a bring-your-own-chair occasion at the train station – there was one person at the city that didn’t want people to sit on the large rocks at the station, and wanted the chairs and tables removed from both inside and outside the building. Yeah, unpopular with actual commuters, who liked to show up a bit early, and then the train might be late or cancelled, and what are you going to do, stand outside in the rain?)

  15. @Cheryl S

    Connolly – I loved A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark and it deserved to be much more widely read. UF with a crotchety old pacifist trying to solve the problems? Much more interesting than some of the cookie cutter UF out there.

  16. @3: great labels; I wonder how the beer is? (I’m a small-time fan of craft brewing, and have noticed some brewers seem to be more into marketing than brewing.)

    @5: Props, can we have a mirror for Megan?
    I got a bit of left-wing vibe to the Sharks — which is fascinating because they were pushing the right-wing meme of “These are Good Works and Good For You, not like the trash you enjoy” that turns off a lot of people who might enjoy mundane reading if they weren’t being forcefed the Great Works”. I’d point her to Bogle’s Bloody Rotten Audience, but I don’t know whether she writes fiction or just criticizes it. I wonder whether there was really so little reaction to them in the UK (and whether she truly doesn’t realize how international Filers are), or whether this is just more reflexive you’re-the-elephant-in-the-room hackle-raising (which I remember very well from the first Brighton Worldcon — does every generation reinvent this?)

    @16: a docudrama cutdown of (AFAICT) one person’s view-from-decades-away of a massively-unconventional-for-the-time relationship. I wonder how much fact will be left in it; the trailer certainly seems to be going for drama.

    @Allan Lloyd: I’d find your arguments more convincing if you weren’t whitewashing the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude in a lot of their analysis — or if you’d even gotten all their names right. (It’s Maureen Kincaid Speller.)
    Later: IIRC, Priest was public about his low opinion of the film of The Prestige Given that, why should people who liked the movie think they’d like the author’s work? FWIW, I’ve liked some Priest, including this novel, but gave up on recent work; I think no movie, not even Rashomon, could handle his version of the unreliable narrator, but the movie took what strengths it could from the book and IIRC added one or two of its own.
    And your slamming of criticism of the Sharkes as “group-think” makes me wonder whether you actually read the comments, rather than the Sharkes’ discussions thereof; Filers, like most fen, are about as group-thinking as cats. Why trust a secondary source when you have the primary?

    @Harold Osler: I’ve been reading in bits and pieces and wondering whether anyone was going to call Megan out for thinking that LGBTQ should all have fallen into line behind the Sharkes — who may not have used language specifically offensive to those groups but were sufficiently rude sufficiently often (about both books and the people who disagreed with them) to drive away people of all natures.

  17. On transatlantic stuff, though only vaguely related. Just finished “Strange Practice” by Vivian Shaw, slight tendency for the characters to be the American view of British, and the odd inconsistency that threw me out now and again. Two that stuck in my mind are if you still get a newspaper delivered in London (or the rest of the country for that matter) and have to open your front door to collect it, you’ll be down the newsagents later that day suggesting the lazy little paper boy is replaced with someone who will make the deliveries properly, and there’s no such thing as a Red Cross blood drive here, that’s all handled by the NHS Blood & Transplant Service.

    Had the same trouble with the Ian Tregillis Bitterseed trilogy, the English/British setting is so nearly right that the wrong bits are disruptive to the reading.

  18. Anthony on September 4, 2017 at 12:37 pm said:

    Had the same trouble with the Ian Tregillis Bitterseed trilogy, the English/British setting is so nearly right that the wrong bits are disruptive to the reading.

    I didn’t notice the wrong bits, and I assumed initially Tregillis was British (which is maybe why I didn’t notice the wrong bits)

  19. Heather Rose, thanks, I will!

    P J, I am leaning toward a cane stool with a strap. There is a bewildering variety, though!

  20. Oh, the Shadow Clarke people are all Christopher Priest fans? That makes a lot of sense, both on their tastes and their manner of presentation/general pretentious fightiness.

  21. If you found the first section of JACK GLASS disturbing, you might be a little thin-skinned.

    [rimshot]

    I’ll be here all week, folks. Try the veal.
    – – – – –
    Personal observation: When one turns 65, there’s nothing like working a 12-hour shift to feel every one of those years.
    – – – – –
    Lemme throw out a thought I’ve been pondering recently, about the dichotomy between “fun/popular” books and “good/literary” books.

    In the former category I tend to place a lot of space opera, military SF, pulp, and Extruded Fantasy Product. Heavy on plot and action, light on characterization, and a lot of reliance on standard tropes and plot devices.

    Action, thrills, adventure, all those can be good things, and I enjoy me some good ol’ escapist fiction now and again. But I also tend to want more from what I usually read, So I’ve been thinking about what the big difference might be between “fun” books and what I consider “good” books.

    I think the main difference might be that those “fun” thrillers and adventures depict a lot of physical risk and damage. But while “good” books might contain Things Blowing Up Real Good too, what kicks them into that “good” classification in my mind is that they include emotional risk and damage as well, increasing the stakes and readers’ involvement in the books..

    Some “good” examples, with both action and emotions, come to mind: Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY books, Joe Haldeman’s FOREVER WAR, Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, and Addison’s THE GOBLIN EMPEROR. Strong plots with big emotional risks and jeopardy as well. Characters grow and change as a result.

    (In a more general sense, this might be why romance books have been the most popular genre for years. Even when done in a Written-By-Numbers fashion, romance stories always have a strong emotional core.)

    Whereas, in “fun” stories, action stories, adventure fiction, pulp, the emphasis is almost exclusively on the physical events and dangers. Those external situations and dangers are dealt with, but there’s little to no sense of major characters going thru an emotional arc too. Any emotional struggle or growth is very light or non-existent.

    (Going out on a bit of a limb here, maybe that’s why such books seem to have a higher appeal for people who express strong reservations and resistance to emotional challenges or changes to their own beliefs or feelings. They enjoy stories with steady-state characters who don’t change or grow emotionally, because they fear change and growth in their own lives and feelings.)

    I may be wildly overgeneralizing here.

  22. I remember when Paul Kincaid was writing serious literary critical reviews of fanzines. His stated agenda was simple and logical: There are literary standards and they can be applied to fan writing. It did not go over well with many of the fan writers whose work was criticized. But Paul’s reviews were thoughtful and interesting, even when I didn’t agree with the literary standards being applied.

  23. @Anthony

    I’m afraid I found Strange Practice a bit meh. However, there are certain elements of typical UF that tend to put me off and it tripped a couple of them, so other people’s mileage may vary quite a bit.

  24. @Camestros: One of the things from the Tregillis books I remember is someone trying to work out where they are (wartime so all roadsigns removed) by ramming postboxes with a car and looking at addresses. Post boxes of the time tended to be cast-iron cylinders on a concrete plinth if they weren’t built into a wall so your car might last two rammings before becoming undriveable, and I think the character was looking at return addresses on the outside of envelopes which doesn’t happen.

  25. @Cheryl S. and Mark: I found the title, A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark, and Mark’s thumbnail description to be so fascinating that I bopped over to amazon, and found the kindle version for sale for 3.99 so am trying it! Thanks for the rec!

    @Allan: a bit late, but I cannot resist.

    I am willing to believe that Priest’s work is not wildly popular in the US (I saw The Prestige, wasn’t impressed despite actors whose work I enjoy, but didn’t even realize then there was a book): I don’t think I’ve heard of Priest before this post, but then there are a gazillion books out there, and many authors I’ve never heard of.

    If you think Priest should be more popular, posting some mini-spoiler free reviews where you talk about how great they are might well get some of us reading him. I read ALOT of books based on F770 comments–see the comment above where I bought a book based on a title and a single-sentence by a filer!

    What I am NOT willing to accept as a valid interpretation is that the reason Priest is not popular is: that he is a very English writer and maybe that is why he is not popular in America. His work is full of English references which perhaps don’t travel well.

    I LOLed out loud! Not just because I, personally, enjoy a lot of English and other British writers (growing up in Idaho, in the 1960s, I was a total Anglophile because of being desperate to be somewhere, anywhere, that wasn’t small town Idaho), but because I can point to English authors whose work (I consider) has English references who are incredibly popular and provide proof of it if need be (instead of a personal opinion that plays into negative stereotypes of “Americans” as I think your explanation did): the first two that pop to mind are J. R. R. Tolkien (I can give you peer-reviewed articles on the reception and popularity of his work in the U.S. if you like) and J. K. Rowling, and that isn’t even touching on all the others that JJ mentioned.

    Granted, one rather stupid American publisher had the same insulting stereotype of Americans that you apparently do, changing the title of Rowling’s first novel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because us dumb Americans wouldn’t be able to understand the Philosopher’s stone allusion.

    And that isn’t even touching on the Anglophilia that is such a part of some parts of U.S. culture (for an example of an obsessive fandom look at the fandom for the British royals):
    https://www.anglotopia.net/anglophilia/lost-in-the-pond-why-are-there-so-many-american-anglophiles/

    So, no, saying he’s an English author who writes about English culture or whatever and that’s why he’s not popular just doesn’t fly as an explanation. There could be many reasons including publishing and marketing problems or restrictions (I still remember how long it took for Pratchett’s work to show up here, and I heard people on F770 who are for crying out loud in England lamenting how some US authors’ work is not available there).

    Sheesh.

  26. I will fifth the recommendation for A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark, which I obtained from my library and read based purely on Filer recommendations. It’s a fast read, and a really enjoyable one.

    I haven’t read any of his other work, but would welcome Filer recommendations on what would be another standout work of his to try.

  27. Literally the only thing I know about Christopher Priest is his outrageous rant about the Clarke shortlist in 2012. HAVE WE LIVED AND FOUGHT IN VAIN!? and comparing Charlie Stross to a puppy that wets the carpet (this was prior to the sad puppies). Otherwise I mostly get him mixed up with that American Steampunk author who is also C. Priest and who I also mostly haven’t read.

  28. On Christopher Priest, I’m willing to believe his work doesn’t translate well, but that doesn’t seem to be a likely explanation given how much of the traditional canon is English. Growing up, librarians were always shoving things like Trollope and Austen at me, entirely overlooking how little relevance 18th and 19th century English classics would have to someone from a blue collar family in Northern California in the 20th century.

    I’ve only read a few pieces of Priest’s shorter fiction and never had any desire to see what else is available. There are a lot of writers who elicit the same response (and a lot that make me want to read more).

    @robinareid, yay! I’m so glad Mark’s description persuaded you to try A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Event. I really loved that short novel and I keep hoping Connolly will write more in that setting. It’s my favorite so far of all he’s written.

    I confess The Great Way, his epic fantasy, is sitting unread on a shelf with GRRM’s last SoIaF book, two doorstops by Guy Gavriel Kay, and the dome one by Stephen King, all also unread, because I currently view books of more than 600 pages with despair.

  29. Okay, I just bought the Connolly for Mt Tsundoku. Short helps! Tomes intimidate me, too, these days.

    And I ordered a folding chair to try out (Travelchair Slacker). It’s not expensive, so if it doesn’t work I’m not out much. Thanks for the recommendations, everyone!

  30. Thanks for the kind words, all. I’m one of those people who never gets “just a little bit sick”; if I come down with a virus, it usually knocks me back for days. I ended up staying home from work today.

    It’s very frustrating when you feel so lousy that you can’t sleep, but you can’t really concentrate well on reading a book, either. 😐

  31. *gasp* Cherie Priest is ABSOLUTELY fantastic: and not just steampunk (alternate history of Civil War that is not the typical military sf crap) plus zombies (but not the typical zombies either–although as I recall Charlie Stross had a bit of a meltdown about doing her inaccurate or unscientific zombies that made me and other fans snicker because, really? Reminded me of a student telling me earnestly that ‘real vampires don’t shine’). (ETA: http://www.cheriepriest.com/2010/10/27/a-zombie-lament/).

    Highly recommended:

    http://www.cheriepriest.com/

    Good lord, I’m behind on her stuff!

    I think I picked up the first of the Clockwork Century novels because of Stross’ rant:

    https://us.macmillan.com/boneshaker/cheriepriest/9780765318411

    (Should I note here that I am generally anti-zombie person, esp. visual media–there are only a few novels about zombies I like, and I usually love them–Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series, and Priest’s Clockwork Century).

  32. @robinareid – I think I picked up the first of the Clockwork Century novels because of Stross’ rant…

    I’m looking for something new to read. I think I have that Clockwork Century novel in the basement, and probably for the same reason, but I’m not sure I’m up for zombies today.

    @James David Nicoll – I thought the Great Way came out as three volumes?

    Unless you backed the Kickstarter. Then you got 905 pages of a hardcover with pretty endpapers and a note from Harry. I may just have to buy the individual volumes.

    I’ve had an unproductive day, unless reading counts. If it does, I’ve read Scalzi’s The Dispatcher (meh, it was fine but I’m not sure what got it so many five star reviews on Amazon) and K. B. Wagers’ After the Crown (even more than I was hoping for and I’m really looking forward to book three). Unless I decide I can cope with zombies, I think my next read is Final Girls from Mira Grant.

  33. I’ve read Scalzi’s The Dispatcher (meh, it was fine but I’m not sure what got it so many five star reviews on Amazon)

    It came out in audio first, and Zachary Quinto was the narrator.

    EDIT: I find it funny that Christopher Priest was mixed up with Cherie Priest, given that there’s another Christopher Priest (an American comics writer from Queens). That proved a delightful confusion during our book club meeting for “The Inverted World.”

    Also, enormous books usually get a pass from me if they’re omnibus volumes–I have a nice copy of Jemisin’s “The Inheritance Trilogy” and it felt just like reading 3 books (and a novella) back to back, instead of reading 1000+ pages.

  34. robinareid: Cherie Priest is ABSOLUTELY fantastic… I think I picked up the first of the Clockwork Century novels because of Stross’ rant

    Being not at all a fan of zombies, I only read Boneshaker because it was a Hugo finalist (and Nebula finalist, and Locus SF winner) in 2010 — and I was mightily impressed.

    I read Jacaranda as part of my Novella reading for the 2016 Hugos, and thought it was very good (it was in my top 10 for that category). I haven’t gotten to her other works yet, but definitely want to do so at some point.

    I really — and quite unexpectedly, based on my personal tastes — enjoy The Laundry Files books, and I’ve pretty much loved all of Stross’ science fiction. And I’ve had some nice conversations with him at Worldcons; I really like him as a person. But the choices of works by other authors about which he’s railed on various occasions utterly mystify me; I almost always disagree with him.

  35. Re Harry Connolly

    The Twenty Palaces books are very good but much more brutal then A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark and since they sold like they came with a free dose of Ebola there is no ending to the story.

    The setting of the books is more then a bit Lovecraftian in that reality is a small safe place made out of tissue paper in a sea of beings that would love to get in and step up to the buffet or just destroy everything because it obstructs their view of Venus. Also a big part of Circle of Enemies revolves around something very familiar if you are up on your Lovecraft.

    However the writing is very strong and does a good job of asking the question “Can the ends really justify the means”. And how much you can rely on necessity to guide your actions.

  36. 5) triggered a nearly vanished memory of the old days when White Wolf Games decided to turn White Wolf Magazine into Inphobia, a life-style magazine for gamers. Well, more of Chris McCubbin’s reaction when the magazine folded almost immediately:

    So all you long-time Inphobia naysayers can pat yourselves on the back. You took an innovative and financially successful magazine, and whined it to death. Aren’t you proud.

    Inphobia was a magazine that started out with something to say. When the people who most needed to hear what it was saying shouted it down and covered their ears, it’s not surprising that the publishers packed it in, and that they gave up on the whole magazine publishing hassle at the same time.

    You told White Wolf, “we want the same old tired, boring gaming trivia we’ve always had, or we want nothing.” So now you get nothing. Enjoy it.

    In my store, sales of the magazine fell to two copies a month and only because I always read one of everything to keep up.

  37. Alas I read Boneshaker and mostly came away bored. I seem to remember liking the mother character and heartily wishing the son would be eaten by a zombie. (Replace zombie with cyborg, and you have my Sarah Conner Chronicles viewing experience as well.) The Seattle setting was neat though.

  38. @JJ: I hope you feel better soon.

    @Lenore Jones: I really appreciated the live captioning at MidAmericon. Between my hearing aids and the captioning, I had no problem with either the Hugo ceremony or the Business Meeting. I’m glad Worldcon 75 also had live captioning, and I hope future Worldcons continue to offer the service. I’m sure it’s not cheap, but it’s really, really helpful.

  39. Chip Hitchcock:

    I got a bit of left-wing vibe to the Sharks — which is fascinating because they were pushing the right-wing meme of “These are Good Works and Good For You, not like the trash you enjoy”

    This is a meme that is far from exclusive to the right-wing; from what I’ve seen of progressive and left-wing movements they have been just as likely to use this as well.

  40. @JJ
    Get well soon.

    @Doctor Science

    Ugh. So, what are my options for sharing DRM-having ebooks with my family? I use a Kobo ereader, Mr Dr likes to read on his smartphone (one of the rare Windows phones actually in use), the Young Person uses her laptop. The books are mostly bought on kobo.com.

    I’m also one of the few Windows Phone users (there are actually quite a few of us in Germany) and there is a Kobo app for Windows Phone. No idea if it synchs with your account, since I don’t use my phone to read e-books.

  41. @Linda S, we can thank the response to the puppies for Sasquan having the spare change to do that. And it was so helpful to so many there that it seems to have immediately become an ancient and honorable tradition. At least, I hope so!

  42. Bruce Arthurs:
    “Lemme throw out a thought I’ve been pondering recently, about the dichotomy between “fun/popular” books and “good/literary” books.”

    Interesting thoughts Bruce, but I can’t help thinking that it is not always a clear-cut dichotomy. For example, I think that writers like Terry Pratchett & Iain M. Banks are able to write stories that tick both the “fun” *and* “literary” boxes. Granted that sort of writer is uncommon, but they do (did?) exist)

    Add me to the list of readers who enjoyed & recommend Cherie Priest’s “Boneshaker”.

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