Pixel Scroll 4/27/17 The Pixel You Scroll, The Filer You Get

(1) MORE CORE. This time James Davis Nicoll lists “Twenty Core Military Speculative Fiction Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

Is there any overlap between your list and James’s?

(2) ENVELOPE PLEASE. Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has a winner — The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. The results were based on scores given by the reviewers at 10 different blogs.

All in all The Grey Bastards is a runaway winner and I must commend it to your attention.

2nd placed Path of Flames by Phil Tucker was favourite with three blogs and I’ve read it and can see why!

3rd placed Paternus by Dyrk Ashton was favourite with one blog.

All of these books were someone’s choice for finalist and they all scored 7+ with two or more bloggers, so check them out. You never know what will hit a chord with you.

Huge thanks to all ten bloggers/teams for their very considerable efforts and to Katharine of Ventureadlaxre for stepping in to fill a gap. The bloggers are the stars of this show so be sure to keep checking them out now we’re done.

Our most generous scorer this year was Fantasy-Faction, taking the crown from Bibliotropic last year. The Elitist Book Reviews remain the harshest scorer, though they were slightly kinder this year.

(3) FILE 770 TODAY, PBS TOMORROW! Masterpiece Theatre is broadcasting King Charles III  on May 14 with Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles. (Martin Morse Wooster reviewed the stage play here last month.)

(4) WORLD MAKER. Larry Correia provides a very interesting and expansive answer to a fan favorite question in “Ask Correia 18: World Building”.

Always Be Asking

Since I usually start with a basic plot idea, the first thing I do is think about what does my world need to have/allow for me to write this? Some are pretty obvious. Monster Hunter is our world but supernatural stuff exists in secret. Others ideas require something more complicated. For Son of the Black Sword I needed to figure out a world with brutal caste systems, where the low born are basically property.

Take those must haves, and then ask yourself if that’s how things have to work here, what else would change? Always be asking yourself how are those required things going to affect other things?  This doesn’t just make your setting stronger, but it supplies you with tons of great new story ideas.

Besides creative questioning, his other subtopics are: The Rule of Cool, Using Cultural Analogs, Nuts and Bolts, You Need To Know Everything but the Reader Doesn’t, How Much is too Much? and Have Fun.

(5) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. That’s why Trump’s election wrecked an author’s plans — ‘Sci-Fi Writer William Gibson Reimagines the World After the 2016 Election”.

But last fall, Mr. Gibson’s predictive abilities failed him. Like so many others, he never imagined that Donald J. Trump would prevail in the 2016 election. On Nov. 9, he woke up feeling as if he were living in an alternate reality. “It was a really weird and powerful sensation,” he said.

Most people who were stunned by the outcome managed to shake off the surreal feeling. But being a science fiction writer, Mr. Gibson, 69, decided to explore it.

The result is “Agency,” Mr. Gibson’s next novel, which Berkley will publish in January. The story unfolds in two timelines: San Francisco in 2017, in an alternate time track where Hillary Clinton won the election and Mr. Trump’s political ambitions were thwarted, and London in the 22nd century, after decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity. In the present-day San Francisco setting, a shadowy start-up hires a young woman named Verity to test a new product: a “cross-platform personal avatar” that was developed by the military as a form of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, characters in the distant future are interfering with the events unfolding in 2017, through technological time travel that allows them to send digital communications to the past….

… “Every imaginary future ever written is about the time it was written in,” he said. “People talk about science fiction’s predictive possibilities, but that’s a byproduct. It’s all really about now.”

(6) REASONS TO BELIEVE. The Vulture interviews the evangelist of American Gods – the author: “The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman”.

Pony sushi?

Pony. Because Iceland, what it actually has a lot of, is ponies. And then I walk into the downtown tourist office, now closed, and they had a fantastic tabletop diorama basically showing the voyages of Leif Erikson. You start out in Iceland, you nip over to Greenland, you go down the coast in Newfoundland and have a little thing where you build your huts, and so forth. I looked at it and I thought, Y’know, I wonder if they brought their gods with them. And then I thought, I wonder if they left their gods behind when they came home. And it was like, all of a sudden, all of the things that I’d been thinking about, all of the things that had been circling my head about immigration, about America, about the House on the Rock, and this weird American thing where … In other places in the world, they might look at a fantastic cliff and go, “Ah, here we are in touch with the numinous! We will build a temple or we will build a shrine!” In America, you get a replica of the second-largest block of cheese in the world circa 1963. And people still go to visit it! As if it were a shrine! I wanted to put that in. And it was all there. I wrote an email to my agent and my editor saying, “This is the book,” and ending with, “The working title is going to be American Gods, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something better.”

(7) WHATEVER IT IS, IT’S EXPENSIVE. Carl Slaughter asks, “OK, one of you science geeks explain to me, what exactly is laser based energy transmission?” — “LaserMotive raises $1.5 million to boost innovations in laser power transmission”.

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering.  LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

(8) LORD OF THE (SATURNIAN) RINGS. NPR and BBC on Cassini’s successful pass (“shields up!”) inside the rings:

“Cassini Spacecraft Re-Establishes Contact After ‘Dive’ Between Saturn And Its Rings”.

NASA said Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn’s cloud tops and about 200 miles from the innermost edge of Saturn’s rings. Project scientists believe ring particles in the gap are no bigger than smoke particles and were confident they would not pose a threat to the spacecraft.

“Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive”

The probe executed the daredevil manoeuvre on Wednesday – the first of 22 plunges planned over the next five months – while out of radio contact.

And the day before, a Google doodle showed Saturn “ready for its closeup”: “Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and its Rings!”

By plunging into this fascinating frontier, Cassini will help scientists learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn’s rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant’s interior. And of course there will be breathtaking additions to Cassini’s already stunning photo gallery. Cassini recently revealed some secrets of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus — including conditions friendly to life!  Who knows what marvels this hardy explorer will uncover in the final chapter of its mission?

(9) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Two long-time sff editors and SFWAns have become editors of an Eastern Maryland publication — “Peter Heck and Jane Jewell Named Chestertown Spy Co-Managing Editors”.

The Community Newspaper Project, the parent nonprofit organization of the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, has announced the appointment of Peter Heck and Jane Jewell as co-managing editors of the Chestertown Spy, effective immediately.

While Peter has been best known locally for his many years as a reporter for the Kent County News, he has also written over 100 book reviews for such publications as the Kirkus Review and Newsday, as well as spending two years as editor at Berkley Publications. A native of Chestertown, with degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Heck also has written ten novels, two of which were genre best sellers.  He is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and banjo.

Jane, Peter’s wife, also comes to the Spy with a distinguished background in writing, editing, and photography. Since moving to Chestertown, Jane worked at Washington College in the computer department, then as the executive director of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She also has contributed photos to the Kent County News. Jane currently serves on the board of the National Music Festival and has been active as a coach with the Character Counts! program in the Kent County Public Schools.

(10) BIG DATA IS WATCHING. Tracking whether a driver was texting: “‘Textalyzer’ Aims To Curb Distracted Driving, But What About Privacy?”

If you’re one of the many who text, read email or view Facebook on your phone while driving, be warned: Police in your community may soon have a tool for catching you red-handed.

The new “textalyzer” technology is modeled after the Breathalyzer, and would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road.

Lawmakers in New York and a handful of other cities and states are considering allowing police to use the device to crack into phones because, they say, too many people get away with texting and driving and causing crashes.

(11) A FACE IN THE CROWD. Using face-recognition software at a soccer match: “Police to use facial recognition at Champions League final”.

Police in Wales plan to use facial recognition on fans during the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June, according to a government contract posted online.

Faces will be scanned at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff’s central railway station.

They can then be matched against 500,000 “custody images” stored by local police forces.

South Wales Police confirmed the pilot and said it was a “unique opportunity”.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment with the link: “It will be interesting to see how many false positives they fess up to and how many known troublemakers they miss; I have the impression that FR software is not ready for prime time.”

(12) ANOTHER COMMENT ON ODYSSEY CON. Bill Bodden also dropped off Odyssey Con programming, as he notes in “Timing Is Everything”.

Monica’s resignation as a guest went down on Monday. By the end of the week, all three Guests of Honor had withdrawn from the convention, and the harasser was no longer part of the convention committee. I myself tendered my withdrawal as attendee and panelist on Tuesday April 11, when it became clear that vocal members and friends of the Odyssey Con committee had taken it upon themselves, in a campaign of damage control, to try to spin the discussion to make Monica look bad. To my mind, Monica pulled out from an untenable situation, and while I’m deeply sorry it had to happen at all, I absolutely support her decision. I apologize in the unlikely event that anyone was coming to Odyssey Con specifically to see me.

Just the week before he’d gone 15 rounds with misogynistic trolls in “What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?”

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. Here’s the LINK so you can read it.

The outcry was immediate and vitriolic. I refuse to link to any of the trolls involved, but cries of discrimination against white men were on all the major gaming discussion boards, some gamers even suggesting that Green Ronin was destroying their company, alienating their fan base by committing such a heinous act against men….

Maybe those men who say they don’t behave that way really don’t, but I’ll bet they also don’t stand up — or even notice it — when other men do. Know how I know that? Because I had an experience over the last few years that proved to me how blind I was to this sort of thing. An individual was labeled harasser by a number of women, and I had a difficult time believing it was true because this person was a friend of mine in one of the circles with which I sometime engage, and I’d never seen him behaving that way. However, now being aware that it was an issue, the next time I saw him interacting with others, the harassment of women was clear, and obvious. It opened my eyes.

(13) FLYING FINISH. With the official Clarke Award shortlist coming out next week, the Shadow Clarke jury is pouring on the speed. Perhaps that explains their reluctance to break for a new paragraph?

Just over a third of the way through Christopher Priest’s The Gradual, the modernist composer, Alessandro Sussken, is told by Generalissima Flauuran, the dictator of the totalitarian Glaund Republic, that she wants him to compose a full orchestral piece celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Republic but ‘we do not want irony, subversion, subtlety, cryptic statements, cross references, allusions, knowing asides, quotations, hidden meanings.’ Instead, the stipulated requirements include a minimum of four movements, three major instrumental soloists, four operatic soloists, a mixed chorus of over three hundred voices, a sequence of peasant celebration, a triumphal march and ‘cannon effects in the climax’. It’s difficult not to see this – especially in the context of shadow Clarke discussions concerning the relationship between SF and the ambiguity of the modern condition – as a commentary on the ironies of being a writer torn between desiring the possibilities that the genre opens up for interrogating the limits of consensus reality while hating the conformist demand to meet certain expectations that it also embodies. It is as though Gollancz had said to Priest, ‘We’ll leave you alone to write your weird stories of alienation and separation, as long as you knock out a mass-market, three-act space opera with a world-weary hero, feisty heroine and cynical robot as the three main characters, and include alien sex, a heist sequence and a climactic space battle.’ Would Priest indignantly decline or take the money and run as Sussken does? The answer, based on the evidence of The Gradual, is not as obvious as one might think.

Time travel TV shows can be broadly divided into two categories based on whether they’re about conserving history or changing it. On the one hand, Legends of Tomorrow or Timeless are about characters from our present preserving the status quo of our past, no matter how many historical atrocities must be committed to make that happen. On the other hand, 12 Monkeys or Travelers are (generally better) shows about characters from our future attempting to change the status quo of their past: our present is the error they’re setting out to change. The first category is big on costumes and cliché historical settings. The second is usually about future dystopias that must be prevented by taking action in our present: depending on budget, we may see more or less of the future dystopia itself, which features its own set of clichés….

All historical fiction is alternate historical fiction, to a greater or lesser extent.

The setting is always other than it was; necessarily so, because we can only access the past through the imperfect lens of the present.   Our 21st century way of knowing the world may be intimately connected to the experiences of human beings one hundred, five hundred, even two thousand years ago, but it is also paradigmatically alien.  When we imagine, interpret and co-opt those experiences to tell stories we do so in the spirit of conjecture.  Which is not to say that historical fiction cannot strive for factual veracity, only that it can never be completely achieved. Speculation creeps in – in some cases more than others – and because of that historical fiction shares some essential qualities with science fiction: the will to imagine otherwise; the displacement of human experience in time; and the estrangement of the reader from the contemporary familiar.  The great historical fiction writers of the last century – Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, Hilary Mantel – wrote (and write, in the last case, we hope and pray) with the ferocious enquiry that I also associate with great SF.  For which reason I have few qualms about the eligibility of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad – a book that harvests and reaps influences from both genres – for a science fiction award. I would have equally few about its eligibility for a historical fiction prize….

Before I get on with the review – feel free to skip ahead to the subheading at any point in what follows – I should note that my participation in this Clarke Award shadow jury has not progressed in the manner I anticipated. First an industry-standard biannual workplace restructuring took an unexpected detour into poorly-executed dystopian satire during March and, second, an unexpected family bereavement has wiped out the first half of April. I had anticipated being pretty much through reviewing my six titles by this stage and to be on the verge of subjecting unwitting readers to my own idiosyncratic analysis considering the wider issues of contemporary SF and the state of the novel today. However, as I still have four novels to write about, I have no choice but to try and weave any hot takes I might have gathered from the process in with the narrative analysis and close reading of the text in question. The time-honoured way of doing this for academics is to riff off the work of other academics and, therefore, I am going to consider a couple of points from fellow jurors.

(14) EMOTION PICTURES. In her latest column for Amazing Stories, Petréa Mitchell reviews installments of eight animé series: “Anime roundup 4/27/2017: The Strong Survive”.

The Eccentric Family 2 #2-3 – The magician Temmaya was a friend of the people who ate Yasabur?’s father, until he fell out of favor with Benten and/or her colleague Jur?jin. He’s also stolen something that belongs to the Nidaime. And to complicate things further, Benten’s back and doesn’t seem to be getting along with the Nidaime either. The old bit of tanuki wisdom about not getting involved in the affairs of tengu is sounding very wise about now; although none of them is strictly a tengu, three humans with serious magical powers having an argument looks bad enough for the supernatural society of Kyoto. Unfortunately, Yasabur? is already too entangled to extricate himself….

Everything about this show is still top-notch. Kyoto feels like a living, complicated city, practically a character itself among the complicated individuals populating it, from Temmaya to Yasabur?’s grandmother the venerated sage. This is going to be a real treat.

(15) STREET ARTISTS. It’s a paradox — “In Hollywood, superheroes and villains delight crowds – and sleep on the streets”. The Guardian tells why.

In a parking lot off Hollywood Boulevard, Christopher Dennis recently changed into a Superman outfit, complete with a muscle suit and calf-high red boots. He headed out through the crowds, a habit he was resuming after a forced absence.

“You look like you’ve come out of the movie screen, man!” said a parking attendant.

“Man, you’re back!” said a street vendor selling imitation flowers.

Many people who frequent the boulevard – not least the other superhero impersonators, who pose for tourists for tips – know the reason Dennis was gone. For about seven months he was homeless, and lived in a tent and under tarps in different places in the city.

Among the characters showboating in front of the Chinese Theater and parading in their regalia along the Walk of Fame, his situation is not unprecedented. There is a Darth Vader who has spent nights sleeping on the sidewalk with a costume in a backpack, and a Joker whose survival strategy sometimes involved trying to stay awake when it was dark out….

(16) E-TICKET RIDE. A little bonus for the tourists on Tuesday – not an imitator, but the real guy — “Johnny Depp Appears as Captain Jack Sparrow on Pirates of the Caribbean Ride in Disneyland”

It’s not the rum, Disneyland visitors — that was Johnny Depp in the flesh!

Riders on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, got a special surprise on Wednesday night: Depp transformed back into Captain Jack Sparrow and greeted those who visited the inspiration behind the film franchise.


[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

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143 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/27/17 The Pixel You Scroll, The Filer You Get

  1. (5) I treasure my copy of Alternate Presidents (ed. Mike Resnick, no surprise there) which is a collection of stories based on the premise that “the other guy” won each US Presidential election, all the way up to Dukakis in 1988. I learned so much about US political history from that book (as a UK citizen) even though it’s ostensibly all fiction…

    I remember that one. I read a few of the stories, I think, in a library copy of that (including “Dukakis and the Aliens” by Sheckley). Resnick also edited an anthology called “Alternate Kennedys.”

  2. I’m among those who laughed at Iphinome’s joke.

    Have added things to my list.

    Heat, sun, exhaustion, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, but you may have heard I read a really good anthology recently.

  3. Thanks for the tip on the Aaranovitch short story, I just listened to it with glee. I’m not much for listening to books – I’m too distractable – but I absolutely love that narrator.

    Holdbrook-Smith is also excellent as Genly Ai in a BBC adaptation of the Left Hand of Darkness. I believe it’s available on Audible…

  4. It occurred to me that there’s a bit of a serious point lurking behind James Nicoll’s title, there…. If you were to re-title it Twenty Core (subgenre) Speculative Fiction Books that Only a True Fan Would Have on their Bookshelves, it might be a bit more apt. That way, we’d be talking about the stuff that a “true” fan – who knows the genre, and has read widely within it – would be picking out, rather than the staid old classic texts that everybody’s heard of.

    (Mind you, I do think that “The Battle of Candle Arc” is kind of maybe a bit short for a novel.)

    (Oh, and count me as another one who picked up the Exciting Tales of Futuristic Logistics, just on the basis that it sounded intriguing.)

  5. “The Cattle of Ban de l’Arc” is even shorter, seeing as it doesn’t exist yet (Shuos Jedao goes on a cattle raid).

  6. Damn you, James Davis Nicoll and Mark Lawrence.

    Hugo reading.

    Death’s End: Does somebody have a spare Kindle I might borrow to throw against the wall? Very likely rank 6 on my ballot, unless I decide to put it on 7.

    All the Birds in the Sky: The only book I won’t reread due to subject matter, so this is from memory. The magic-science love story never came together for me. The pacing didn’t quite work – disaster and resolution occurred too abruptly. I can see why other people enjoyed this so much though.

    Next: Chambers (both volumes), then Lee and Palmer.

    BTW, Dragon Awards nominations are open.

  7. CHip Hitchcock:

    @JDN: was recommending The King’s Peace without The King’s Name (first chunk of the story) intended to be even more provocative? Walton was kind enough to steer me away from reading the latter until the former had come out; ISTM that your listing is a bit like replacing the Dickson with Return of the King.

    You have that exactly reversed: The King’s Peace is the first half.

  8. @GiantPanda – Death’s End: Does somebody have a spare Kindle I might borrow to throw against the wall? Very likely rank 6 on my ballot, unless I decide to put it on 7.

    Glad to know there is a fellow sufferer out there, because, yes, I’m just that bitter about this book. I didn’t finish the first one, didn’t read the second one, and the third is now at hate-read status. The leaden prose, the lifeless characters, the social commentary that is as well integrated as lumps in cake batter, these are not things that I like and the ideas, the only real strength of the book, aren’t enough.

    And, yeah, I have a mostly broken but still functional spare Kindle that you may have after I throw it once or twice.

  9. GiantPanda: Death’s End: Does somebody have a spare Kindle I might borrow to throw against the wall? Very likely rank 6 on my ballot, unless I decide to put it on 7.

    I forced myself to finish the first one, despite the flat characterization and the meandering plot. Couldn’t force myself to read the second one. Haven’t forced myself to read the third one yet, but I at least have to try, as it’s a Hugo Finalist. Will report back with the results.

    GiantPanda: All the Birds in the Sky: The only book I won’t reread due to subject matter, so this is from memory. The magic-science love story never came together for me. The pacing didn’t quite work – disaster and resolution occurred too abruptly. I can see why other people enjoyed this so much though.

    I forced myself to read 60 pages of this cutesy treacle before DNFing. I’m going to give it another go, as it’s a Hugo Finalist. Will report back with the results.

  10. Okay, now I’m wanting to read the thrilling tale of inventory tracking. My library’s copy is “STAFF ASSESS” which usually means it’s damaged beyond repair, or being de-accessioned due to lack of checkouts. But as the Kindle versions are still pretty pricey right now, I’ll put it on List Tsundoku and get to it later on. (Yes, I now have two separate mountains of books: one on my Kindle, and one on my TBR list. I call them the Tsundoku Ranges, and I go skiing on them in winter.)

  11. Add me to the list waiting to read the thrilling tale of inventory tracking. Who knew there was a market for SFF plots based on inventory tracking?

  12. I’m in the same boat with All the Birds in the Sky. It had all the subtlety of what YA-haters imagine a YA novel to be. Some interesting concepts, but not a book I’d ever re-read. Reminded me a bit of the Magicians series – the characters were just as unlovable and hipsterish, but the book was all together less well-executed.

    Hugo reading-wise, I finished Rosemary and Rue last night. I’m willing to give the series two more chances, since I’ve heard it gets a lot better at book three, but this one… it was fun at times and very obvious all the time, and had way too many fade to black moments (saw that phrase on goodreads), and the ending was on the one hand tacked on, but on the other hand barely tacked on at all. I can imagine the series gets better, but it needs to get a lot better to even approach Hugo-worthy. Campbell-worthy back when it was written, absolutely, which gives me hope.

    I also read The Jewel and Her Lapidary. I started out vaguely irritated at it and ended up liking it quite a bit. It’s currently second on my ballot, just under The Tomato Thief, and I doubt I’ll re-jigger my votes in that category.

    Just started on Too Like the Lightning, because there’s been so much drama about it here in the past few days. I’m less than a chapter in and cautiously optimistic.

  13. @Mark (Kitteh), @msb, & @Andrew Hickey: There’s also a short story at Aaronovitch’s blog, FYI, which I’m literally in the middle of reading (I’m easily distracted).

    @Mark: Yes, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does all the audiobooks in the series. He’s a really good match for the character and the series, IMHO. I’d probably enjoy listening to him read the phone book. 😉

    @Contrarius: I only buy audiobooks where I like the sample enough that I’m fairly confident I’ll enjoy the narration. I’ve regretted one or two purchases that were marginal, but those were re-reads, which don’t really count (they can’t make me think less of a book I liked enough to reread in audio). I’m pretty careful about new-to-me books those were usually re-reads, so I’m confident judging the book by listening as well as by reading – but YMMV. As I recall, you mostly listen to books, right? Do you find yourself unhappy with the narration a lot/sometimes/rarely? A bad narrator could put me off a book, I suppose, or it may just move me to pick it up in print or ebook (no idea – hasn’t happened yet).

    @jrlawrence: So it is! I’m not really into heavily-abridged dramati[s/z]ations, but I listened to the sample out of curiosity (didn’t hear Holdbrook-Smith in the sample; he’s not credited at Audible – it’s one or two names and “cast”).

  14. @Various re. Yoon Ha Lee: Thanks to whoever (Gregg Hullender?) recommended reading “The Battle of Candle Arc” as an intro to Ninefox Gambit. Reading it, I feel it supports someone else’s comment (or something I read elsewhere?) that it may be better to read the book versus listen to it. I was kinda confused at first before settling in (combination of unexplained pseudo-tech terms, unusual-to-me names, and things I wasn’t sure were names or pseudo-tech terms, heh). I’m sure I missed a connection at the end to something early on, but it was a pretty good story overall. For me, it would’ve read better if it had been straight fantasy, instead of fantasy with SF trappings, though. Maybe the book will be like that, or maybe I’ll just accept this calendrical stuff as pseudo-SF and it’ll stop tugging at the edge of my reading. Anyway, I feel prepared to read “Ninefox” now, yay! 😉

    @Inventory Trackers: One of my other half’s old fantasy computer games was, as I called it, “the inventory game.” You got a lot of stuff, but could only carry so much of it. He spent a lot of time shifting things around in inventory, travelling, dumping stuff, going back to get the rest, going past the dump point, dropping things and going back to get the rest, etc. Like a game of inventory leap-frog! All to get the stuff back to town and sell it to buy the good stuff, of course.

  15. Best Thrilling Inventory story of all time ‘Allamagoosa’, by Eric Frank Russell. Though I also have a soft spot for ‘Study in Still Life’, mostly for the first line….

    Enjoyed ‘The Outback Stars’ too. Must get back to Hugo Reading. Have loaded the Kindle.

    (and Thanks to OGH for finding my suggestion suitable)

  16. I have only read three on the list. On my bookshelves you can find Ensign Flandry, Master Sgt. Yeager, Fleet Captain Breq, Commador Grimes, and Bill The Galactic Hero. Hmmmm, maybe I’m doing MilSF wrong.
    Re “thrilling tales of inventory tracking” added to the TBR list. And a Space Traders list sounds great, I have wanted to be a Free Trader on the Solar Queen since I was twelve.

  17. @Kendall —

    As I recall, you mostly listen to books, right? Do you find yourself unhappy with the narration a lot/sometimes/rarely? A bad narrator could put me off a book, I suppose, or it may just move me to pick it up in print or ebook (no idea – hasn’t happened yet).

    Correct — I listen to almost all the sff that I “read”. And I find a suspiciously strong correlation between liking a book and liking the narrator — for example the Aaronovitch books, or the Vorkosigan books, or the Dresden books, since this started out with a comment about a series. For me there’s rarely a major discrepancy between loving a book and loving its narrator, which makes me suspicious of my ability to objectively evaluate each one independently.

    @Bruce —

    Any of those things might bear very directly on the reader’s comprehension and interpretation, and are absolutely outside the writer’s control , along with, oh, the quality of the reader’s eyesight and if they’re using any corrective devices they should….

    I see your point, but I think adding the narrator into the equation is different. No matter what your mood, eyesight, or whatever, reading a book is still a two-person conversation between you and the author. But with an audiobook, the conversation automatically involves the input of three people.

    There’s never been a move to bar them from nominating and voting, or even to restrict or footnote their participation.

    Oh, I’m not talking about doing any of that — just “cogitating”, as folks in my family tend to say.

  18. @Andrew M: I was responding to your latest comment as of my post. I don’t know why the link blew up; it was working when I tested it, but now it flashes on the comment it was cut/pasted from (Soon Lee on April 27, 2017 at 10:53 pm), then jumps up a screen or so.

    @PhilRM: So JDN’s list is misadvertised as well as nosetweaking? Verry interesting….

    @Lenora Rose: I’m doing just great today, aren’t I? Must be the evil effect of getting enough sleep two nights in a row….

    @Hampus: de gustibus — “So it goes” seems a very thin reason to like a book, even if it irritates certain conservative authors.

  19. @Chip Hitchcock: I have found “So it goes” is right up there with “Let me help” and “What the fuck” and “Bless your heart” and “I love you” as incredibly meaningful three-word phrases. In the case of the first two, the source gives them extra power.

  20. @Chip Hitchcock

    Well it depends on what his goals actually are. My read is he’s trying to point out there’s a lot of good work by authors from marginalized groups that doesn’t get attention but is well worth checking out. Does including less than novel length works really undermine that? Though why Candle Arc instead of Nine Fox? Who knows?

  21. @Stoic —

    Though why Candle Arc instead of Nine Fox? Who knows?

    That one’s because he already used Ninefox in a previous list, and he isn’t repeating books.

  22. Chip Hitchcock:

    @Andrew M: I was responding to your latest comment as of my post. I don’t know why the link blew up; it was working when I tested it, but now it flashes on the comment it was cut/pasted from (Soon Lee on April 27, 2017 at 10:53 pm), then jumps up a screen or so.

    OK, but that’s the comment I was responding to, so clearly I already knew it was there.

  23. @Chip Hitchcock:

    I’d certainly pick The Forever War over any Dickson; not only is Haldeman one of the few capable writers to know what they’re talking about (others I can think of are Moon and Kornbluth (does guerrilla resistance qualify as MilSF?)), but Dickson’s heros make the average Mary Sue look like a fumbling wallflower.

    I think Pohl and Kornbluth’s “The Quaker Cannon” is one of the great MilSF stories. MilSF really was better before it became a genre.

    I agree with you about Haldeman’s The Forever War over any Dickson I’ve read (haven’t read ’em all), but I was quite serious about swapping in Soldier, Ask Not as the right Dickson. I hear you about the supercompetence of his heroes (and at least some of his villains), but that one and the short story “Warrior” are a cut above the rest of his Dorsai stories. (Okay, and I think Young Bleys. I’d like to re-read that one.) A copy of The Final Encyclopedia dropped into my hands recently. It’s got many virtues and I see why I loved it so (and still do), but wow! The parts that the Suck Fairy visited in my absence really suck.

  24. @Stoic Cynic: including works of varying length isn’t the issue; I’m wondering whether he’s playing another level of game by calling them all “books”, or just being careless.

    @John A. Arkansawyer: It’s been so long since I was willing to touch Dickson that I’m not sure I’ve ever read Soldier, Ask Not; Wikipedia’s plot summary reminds me only that Dickson had IMO excessive faith in faith. (At least one friend has claimed that the Friendlies, rather than the Dorsai, were originally supposed to be the heroes; I never thought to ask when he was around, but I have a low opinion of his theories (as far as I can figure them out) concerning splinter cultures — especially “faith” holders.) I acknowledge that the earlier works don’t go as wildly into his bizarre theories as his later ones (in which he’s like a number of authors, from (e.g.) Shaw to Heinlein); OTOH, a parent got hold of Necromancer (from about the same period as Soldier) and said it read like a small man trying to convince himself he was a big man.

  25. @Chip Hitchcock: Necromancer is the one I have around and haven’t felt like finishing. I was also very disappointed in The Chantry Guild when it came around. I would like to see how the story ends, though, and I hope the final volume gets written by someone.

    The Friendlies are something I like about the books. I don’t find them entirely believable or desirable, but I do find them sympathetic. Making that happen for quarrelsome, violent religious fundamentalists is just about impossible for me, but Dickson managed it, though YMMV. (It helps that we don’t see them doing things I associate with fundamentalism. For instance, they appear to have egalitarian binary gender relations.) Soldier, Ask Not does the best job of that, and also has an actual tragic aspect. I get the general outline of the Splinter Cultures and, again, don’t find it believable, but do find it lets Dickson tell an interesting story.

  26. I remember having read The Outback Stars when it came out – my records* show Tax Day 2008 – but that’s literally all I remember about it. I didn’t even know it had sequels until I looked it up today on Goodreads, because I knew I remembered the name and had thought about reading it, but didn’t quite recall doing so. If the paperback weren’t in storage, and if there weren’t so many other books clawing for my attention, perhaps I’d give it another look and think about picking up the sequels.

    * What? Doesn’t everybody keep electronic records going back a decade on what they read and when they finished them? Someday, I really should migrate the 2008-2011 data into Goodreads… you know, not long after I raze Mount Tsundoku and its still-to-be-bought outposts. Next week, perhaps. 😀

  27. * What? Doesn’t everybody keep electronic records going back a decade on what they read and when they finished them

    I’ve got records going back to January 1984, originally on paper, but now backed up electronically. The other day I needed to look at the records to recall the last time I went to the UK (I remembered that I’d read Flynn’s In the Country of the Blind on the flight).

  28. @Andrew:

    I actually used to have paper records going back further, but I don’t know where they are. I think I got the idea to keep track after reading three of the Target Doctor Who novelizations in an afternoon, and for a few years I did so by scribbling on calendars (monthly wall and daily desk). When I got a decent database app for my Palm PDA, it only made sense to go digital, expand the scope to include video content, and log the duration (minutes/pages).

    I start a new file every year, and there’s some interesting data mining available through the various reports I can run on them. Goodreads is kind of a partial backup source, but since it’s public, it’s not as complete – I don’t share certain types of reading on public platforms, especially given the increased tendency of employers to review social media profiles.

  29. @Rev Bob —

    Goodreads is kind of a partial backup source, but since it’s public, it’s not as complete – I don’t share certain types of reading on public platforms, especially given the increased tendency of employers to review social media profiles.

    I keep two independent Goodreads accounts — one for romance reading, and one for everything-else reading. Neither is associated with my real name. (Anyone is welcome to look me and my sff reading up on GR under my WordPress user name, Contrarius.) I rarely use my real name on any “social”-type media because of the risk of harrassment. No, it wouldn’t be impossible for potential harrassers to find out who I am IRL — but I see no reason to make it easy for them.

  30. Kind of late to come back to this, but… turns out a major plot point in The Outback Stars is a man whose life is ruined by a false accusation of rape, and it’s bothering me rather. Consider this a content warning?

  31. @Rev Bob: I just have a spreadsheet of start and stop times for reading books, so I don’t have as much data for mining; I had some pre-1984 paper records but I lost them, so I only have continuity from 1984 forward.

  32. @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: “Wrecking me.” – But in a good way, right? Right??? (Seriously: I’m never sure what people mean by wrecking me, since I’ve seen it used various ways. Methinks. Perhaps.)

    @Mark (Kitteh): My other half & I just urged a couple we know (SFF fans, gamers, readers of Jim Butcher) to pick up the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series! I just realized we forgot to mention the author name; I will e-mail.

    ETA: No, I’m not obsessed with the series. I just like it a lot. 🙂

  33. I used to work at a copy shop, so I made a big book of waste paper (printed on one side but unusable) and bound it with a metal spiral and vinyl covers, and have used that as my book reading records since 1999. In recent years I’ve posted my books read to my LiveJournal (going forward, I suppose it’ll be to Dreamwidth) at the end of the year.

    This year I’m rather behind my usual pace, because I’ve been spending a lot of time that I might have been reading, instead playing a game called FTL. I blame Andrew Plotkin.

  34. @DAvid FTL,: Ah yes, a galactic exploration game that’s really a Rogue-like game. Frustrating, and strangely fun.

  35. Added adventures in inventory management to the TBR list, but was slightly put off by the warning about the false rape claim plot point. It may not be a priority.

    Started reading All the Birds in the Sky, gave up about 80 pages in: not quite 8 deadly words, but not caring enough to stay to see whether they get what I rather hope is coming to them. I seem to have aged out of whatever tolerance I used to have for adolescent angst, and the plotting and world building both felt flat. The prose was adequate

  36. Kendall on April 29, 2017 at 9:09 pm said:

    @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: “Wrecking me.” – But in a good way, right? Right??? (Seriously: I’m never sure what people mean by wrecking me, since I’ve seen it used various ways. Methinks. Perhaps.)

    Belated response: “Wrecking me” in the sense of “Affecting me emotionally, strongly and unexpectedly, by dealing very well and realistically with something I honestly didn’t think was going to be dealt with at all.” In the sense also of “I did not expect to be crying over these books, much less in Chapter 1 of Book 2, and about this.”

    So, yes, very much in a good way!

  37. @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: I was pretty sure you meant it like that, but I appreciate the reply and explanation. 🙂

    And I suspect I know the part you mean. Aaronovitch is a very good writer, IMHO!

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