(1) CHECK YOURSELF. Cat Rambo’s social media advice. Thread starts here.
(2) HUGO MIA. Foz Meadows’ 2019 Best Fan Writer Hugo has suffered a misadventure in delivery.
(3) KEEPING HUGO. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson, in “On Renaming Awards”, tries to preempt an anticipated effort to take Hugo Gernsback’s name off of the Worldcon’s award.
…And now the other side of that coin is revealed. Prior to and immediately following the Best New Writer award name change, some have suggested that the Hugo Award name be changed as well. After all, Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Science Fiction Achievement Awards were renamed, had bad paying practices; there are historical complaints from H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack Williamson and Donald Wollheim to name those who are known.
He took on airs and presented himself as sophisticated and superior and it may even be that he used his low word rates to help maintain a lavish lifestyle.
On the other hand, he didn’t reject female authors out of hand (encouraged them in editorials, actually). He himself was Jewish, so it is unlikely that antisemitic thoughts were expressed and as for people of color, though I’ve no evidence, circumstantial evidence suggests that he would have encouraged them as well as he consistently operated in a manner that was designed to grow and spread interest in the genre. If he had recognized that there was a new market to exploit, he’d have jumped right in. His motivation was to grow awareness and acceptance of the genre. How he felt about other social issues remains largely a mystery (but given that he also published Sexology, a magazine devoted to human sexuality in a manner that was extremely provocative and progressive in its time, suggests that the man was more progressive leaning than not).
(4) SHARING AND PRESERVING WORLDCON. Claire Rousseau retweeted a call to stream, record, and caption all of Worldcon and considered how to marshal the resources necessary to do it. Thread starts here.
(5) DOXXING. At The Mary Sue, Anthony Gramuglia interviews some people who have been targeted — “Alt-Right Fandom Circles Have Been Attacking and Doxxing People for Disagreeing With Them”.
The alt-right has taken root in fandom. Like any parasitic plant, once it takes hold, it attempts to strangle the life out of everything around it, drain them of energy until they perish. There are factions on the internet—be they GamerGate, the Sad/Rabid Puppies, ComicsGate, #IStandWithVic/Weeb Wars—who wish to fight a culture war against what they see as a liberal agenda to dominate media.
There are a multitude of individuals who have spoken against these alt-right groups.
And these individuals have been targeted in ways that put their personal safety in jeopardy.
In writing this article, I reached out to several individuals I knew had personally been targeted. In doing so, I talked to online media critic Kaylyn Saucedo (more famously, MarzGurl), artist Tim Doyle, comic writer Kwanza Osajyefo, and cosplayer/comic writer Renfamous about their experiences with online harassment. What they told me needs to be heard.
Trigger warning: The following article contains detailed accounts of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, threats of violence and sexual assault, racism, and a lot of harassment. Screenshots of harassment will be provided to supplement the information provided.
(6) SEE YOU AT THE FAIR. The poster for the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair is pretty interesting. The event happens September 7-8, 2019.
(7) MASSIVE HARRYHAUSEN EXHIBIT IN SCOTLAND. “Ray Harryhausen’s Most Iconic Creatures Have Been Restored for an Exhibit Next Year” — Bloody Disgusting has photos. The exhibit will kick off on May 23, 2020
The late Ray Harryhausen is the man most synonymous with stop-motion animation and for good reason. Harryhausen’s contributions to films like It Came from Beneath the Sea, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans immortalized him as a legend, his work paid tribute to by everyone from Chuck Russell in Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors to Sam Raimi in Army of Darkness. Next year, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art pays tribute to the stop-motion master with Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema.
Reported by Creative Boom, it’ll be “the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of Harryhausen’s work ever seen,” including materials both previously unseen and newly restored.
(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
- August 28, 1991 — First e-mail sent from space. Using a Mac Portable aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the first e-mail from space is sent to Earth. Two astronauts on the spacecraft, James Adamson and Shannon Lucid, wrote, “Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!” The message was transmitted to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 28, 1749 — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I once saw a production of his Faust in the Seattle Cathedral some decades back where Faust came up the central aisle standing regally on a cart in his blood red robes dragged along slowly by four actors dressed as demons. Very fascinating. (Died 1832.)
- Born August 28, 1833 — Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet. English artist and designer associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Although the ISFDB says his artwork graces a mere dozen or so covers of genre books, I’m willing to bet that it’s a lot more than that. The 1996 Signet UK of Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow’s Black Thorn, White Rose anthology uses his artwork, as does the 1990 Random House publication of A.S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance. (Died 1898.)
- Born August 28, 1873 — Sheridan Le Fanu. One of the most well-known Irish ghost story writers of the Victorian Era. M. R. James said that he was “absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories”. Three of his best-known works are “Carmilla”, “The House by the Churchyard” and “Uncle Silas”. If you’re interested in sampling his fiction, iBooks has a lot of his ghost stories for free. (Died 1914.)
- Born August 28, 1896 — Morris Ankrum. Numerous appearances in the Fifties as he appeared in Rocketship X-M as Dr. Ralph Fleming, as a Martian leader in Flight to Mars, in Red Planet Mars playing the United States Secretary of Defense, in Invaders From Mars playing a United States Army general, and as yet another Army general in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. (Died 1964.)
- Born August 28, 1916 — Jack Vance. I think I prefer his Dying Earth works more than anything else he did, though the Lyonesse Trilogy is damn fine too. And did you know he wrote three mystery novels as Ellery Queen? Well he did. And his autobiography, This Is Me, Jack Vance!, won the Hugo Award, Best Related Book. (Died 2013.)
- Born August 28, 1917 — Jack Kirby. Responsible for a goodly part of modern comics from Captain America and the X-Men to Challengers of the Unknown and the New Gods. I’m very much looking forward to the New Gods film being worked on now. (Died 1994.)
- Born August 28, 1925 — Arkady Natanovich Strugatsky. The Strugatsky brothers were well known Russian SF writers who were Guests of Honour at Conspiracy ’87, the Worldcon that was held in Brighton, England. Their best-known novel in the West, Piknik na obochine, has been translated into English as Roadside Picnic. It is available in digital form with a foreword by Le Guin. (Died 1991.)
- Born August 28, 1948 — Vonda McIntyre. I’ve read a number of her works including Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun which are all phenomenal. The latter was based on a short story of hers done as a faux encyclopaedia article “The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea”, that was illustrated by Le Guin. Neat. (Died 2019.)
- Born August 28, 1965 — Amanda Tapping, 54. She’s best known for portraying Samantha Carter on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. She also starred as Helen Magnus on Sanctuary which I never managed to see. Anyone see it? She was in The Void which also starred Adrian Paul and Malcolm McDowell.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Pearls Before Swine gets a good laugh from a writerly pun.
(11) KIDNEY DONOR SOUGHT. Longtime Phoenix fan Shane Shellenbarger is on dialysis and needs a kidney transplant. His wife has set up some webpages to help spread the word and widen the search for a donor. Filer Bruce Arthurs adds, “Shane’s a good guy and could use a break.” Learn more about Shane at the Kidney for Shane website.
Shane needs a kidney! He has been on dialysis and on the recipient list for over 650 days. The average length on the list is 2 to 5 years, usually waiting for an unfortunate tragedy leading to a cadaver organ. Many of his friends as well as his wife have tried to donate, but have not qualified for one reason or another. So, we need to spread the request far and wide!
(12) HIGH SCHOOL QUIZZICAL. “Debate Club: The 5 best schools in sci-fi and fantasy”. See the verdict at SYFY Wire. My choice was #1 – that never happens!
It’s that time again: Millions of folks are heading back to school, carrying with them varying degrees of excitement and dread. A new school year is filled with unknowns, which can sure be anxiety-inducing, so it’s no surprise that when movies feature characters hitting the books, it might stir up some old feelings of dread for audiences.
In this week’s Debate Club, we celebrate cinema’s most memorable schools and academies. (It killed us, but we decided not to include the boot camp in Starship Troopers since it’s technically not a school.) All five of our picks are way more exciting than your boring old trig class.
(13) CALL FOR JUDGES. Red rover, red rover, send a name for Mars 2020 right over! NASA is recruiting help from students nationwide to find a name for its next Mars rover mission. Starting Tuesday, K-12 students in U.S. public, private and home schools can enter Future Engineers’ “Name the Rover Challenge” to pick a name for a Mars Rover to be launched next year. One grand prize winner will name the rover and be invited to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA is seeking volunteers to help judge the thousands of contest entries anticipated to pour in from around the country. U.S. residents over 18 years old who are interested in offering approximately five hours of their time to review submissions should register to be a judge at: https://www.futureengineers.org/registration/judge/nametherover
Here’s the writeup for participating students:
If you are a K-12 student in the United States, your challenge is to name NASA’s next Mars rover. Submit your rover name and a short essay (maximum 150 words) to explain the reasons for your selected name. Be sure to review the RULES for all challenge details and entry requirements, including the privacy requirement of NO PERSONAL NAMES in your submission so that your entry may be posted in the public gallery. The Mars 2020 rover will seek signs of past microbial life, collect surface samples as the first leg of a potential Mars Sample Return campaign, and test technologies to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere to prepare for future human missions. More background information about the Mars 2020 mission is provided in the education resources section below.
(14) AVOIDING THE LAST RESORT. James Davis Nicoll, in “SFF Works in Which Violence Is Not the Solution” at Tor Books, takes delight in beginning his list with a work that plays against type – the Niven/Pournelle novel Mote in God’s Eye.
Indeed, the violent solution is so expected that readers can be surprised by a plot that avoids it… Consider the venerable The Mote in God’s Eye. (So old that we don’t need to avoid spoilers, right?)
(15) POLL CATS. According to Psychology Today, “Dog Ownership Predicts Voting Behavior—Cats Do Not”. A shockingly unexpected fact about SJW credentials!
Now when we turn to the effect of cat ownership we find that it has virtually zero predictive value when it comes to national voting trends. For those states where the percentage of cat ownership is highest, the average election results were 52.5% in favor of the Republican candidate over the 4 elections tabulated. This clearly does not represent a meaningful bias in voting behavior. When we look at those states where the percentage of cat ownership is lowest we get a similar indication that there is no predictive value of feline ownership, with an average of 60% voting Democratic. Neither of these results is different enough from the expected chance effect of 50% to be statistically significant.
(16) SHORTS ATTENTION SPAN. NPR: “These Experimental Shorts Are An ‘Exosuit’ That Boosts Endurance On The Trail”. These shorts are made for walkin’…
Say the word “exosuit” and superheroes come to mind — somebody like Tony Stark from Marvel Comics, whose fancy suit enables him to become Iron Man.
But scientists at Harvard University have been developing an actual exosuit — a wearable machine that they say can improve a mere mortal’s strength and stamina. This new prototype is novel because it improves a wearer’s performance while walking and running — just one example of progress in what’s become a surging field.
This suit looks kind of like bike shorts, with some wires and small machines around the waist and cables down the legs. When it’s turned on, a person expends less energy while moving.
(17) ANOTHER SMALL STEP. “‘Starhopper’: SpaceX engine testbed makes minute-long jump” — includes video.
The American rocket company SpaceX conducted a successful flight of its “Starhopper” testbed on Tuesday.
The vehicle lifted 150m into the air, moved sideways and then gently put itself back down onto the ground.
Starhopper is part of an effort to develop a new engine that will burn liquid methane in contrast to the kerosene in the firm’s current engines.
This motor, known as the Raptor, will power SpaceX’s next-generation Starship and Superheavy rockets.
Tuesday’s one-minute test, which took place at Boca Chica in Texas, was the second hop for the vehicle after a modest 18m jump in July.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensing had previously limited activity to no more than 25m above the ground.
(18) POSH ACCENT? I say there — “BBC to launch digital voice assistant”.
The BBC is planning to launch a digital voice assistant next year, the corporation has announced.
It will not be a hardware device in its own right but is being designed to work on all smart speakers, TVs and mobiles.
The plan is to activate it with the wake-word Beeb, although this is “a working title”, a spokesman said.
BBC staff around the UK are being invited to record their voices to help train the programme to recognise different accents.
Analyst Ben Wood, from CCS Insight, was among those who have expressed surprise at the news.
(19) ANOTHER RECORD. This one doesn’t disappear after adjusting for inflation: “Avengers: Endgame breaks digital download record”.
Avengers: Endgame has become the UK’s fastest-selling digital download film of all time.
The Marvel movie debuted at the top of the official film chart on Wednesday with the highest-ever opening week of digital download sales.
In July, the finale of the super-hero film series became the highest-grossing film of all time at the box-office.
Now it’s racked up 335,400 downloads in its first week – smashing the previous record held by Bohemian Rhapsody.
The Queen biopic entered the history books in February with 265,000 downloads in its first week.
Endgame’s prequel Avengers: Infinity War is the third fastest-selling download, having claimed almost 253,000 downloads in its first seven days.
In this week’s film chart, fellow Avenger Captain Marvel also sits in sixth place
(20) INSTANT MASTERPIECE. Camestros Felapton in comments:
Picture a clause in a strange constitution
With fantasy prizes for make-believe guys
Some one amends it
The motion goes slowly
A clause about mustard in pies
[dum, dum, dum, dum]
Throwing mustard pies at Worldcon
Throwing mustard pies at Worldcon
Throwing mustard pies at Worldcon
[Thanks to Steve Davidson, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, mirotherion, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Avilyn.]
(20) Belated applause!
9) Obligatory link to video of Jack Vance playing ukulele and kazoo at age 96.
(And he’s somewhere near the very tippy-top of my list of favorite authors.)
I received a shipment of ducklings this morning, which in turn led me to wonder: why don’t we ever see ducks as characters in sff? We’ve had cats, dogs, horses, goats, chickens, snakes, fish, and so on ad infinitum involved in one or another noticeable way in “our” stories — but what about ducks??
Can anyone think of any?
Does Duck Dodgers count?
Surely there’s Howard the Duck…?
I suspect that this book https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Asimovs-Science-Fiction-Magazine/dp/0152842098 has a duck in it.
@Contrarius, there are duck-like alien fowl in Diana Wynne Jones’s Deep Secret. They even do something interesting.
(Tried to post this before but got an error message, so apologies if it shows up twice.)
@Contrarius: Howard the Duck (who is an Avenger now).
@Contrarius: Joseph Manzione’s excellent story Candle in a Cosmic Wind from 1987 (appeared in Dozois’ Fifth Annual Best SF) features duck-like aliens.
12) Hogwarts? Students are regularly injured during normal lessons, various monsters wander through and then the whole place is besieged with students enlisted to fight in a war. Not a place with good ratings on Greatschools I think.
Some of Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck stories fall into SFF — everything from interplanetary travel to actual sorceresses.
@Contrarius: Randall Garrett’s “Look Out! Duck!” tells of a shipload of ducks bred for high gravity; the load starts as mostly eggs, but one of the live-for-an-examplar birds fritzes the refrigerators, requiring the crew to hatch, feed, clean up after, and track thousands of flyers in 1.5G. There’s also Colin Kapp’s Patterns of Chaos, in which there’s a persistent noise of ducks whenever something critical is about to happen; the story ends with the discovery that the troublesome aliens have devolved to non-sentient forms that IIRC look and act like ducks.
@PhilRM: that is indeed an excellent story and the memory has been haunting me for years; I’d forgotten the title/author long ago. Thanks!
5) “No one was ever insulted into agreement.” –Arthur C. Brooks
Thanks all — especially Lenore and Phil, and especially especially Chip, and bonus points for Andrew’s cover pic! I’m going to be all elitist and snooty and not count cartoons, even if Howard is an Avenger now, ’cause I’m just prejudiced that way. Although I had to Google “Duck Dodgers”, and that looks pretty funny, so you never know. 😉
I will have to look up the stories y’all mentioned and read them to the baby duckies here at bedtime!
@Patrick Morris Miller: You’re welcome! That story haunts me also; off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember the title or the exact name of the author, but I knew it was in the 4th or 5th of Dozois’ annual anthologies (where I read it, thirty-one years ago) so it only took me a couple of minutes to find it – I recognized the title immediately.
Amazingly, according to ISFDB, it was his first published story, and he only wrote three more, the last in 2001.
You guys are SUCH bad influences.
First I had to go to Amazon to look at the fifth Best anthology. Then I saw it had lots of cool authors in it, so I bought it. So then I had to look at the most recent anthology, #35. Which, it turns out, has a story by Indra Das — whom, as it happens, I was just looking for new books by yesterday or the day before, ’cause I really liked The Devourers. So I had to buy that too!
Yeah, I’m a soft touch. And probably soft in the head.
@Contrarius: You guys are SUCH bad influences.
Why, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me all day!
Davidson overlooked Hugo Gernsback’s racism….
In addition to what Davidson said, can someone explain why the Hugos are still named after someone who wrote a column about a device that turned black people’s skin white to avoid friction?
If we’re going to slay the beast of racism, Hugo Gernsback is problematic as well.
The House by the Churchyard is still standing, in Chapelizod, just outside Dublin. We were staying in the area for Worldcon, And happened across it.
@bookworm1398: I’m reminded of the Ofsted Report on Hogwarts.
The Runequest RPG has ducks as playable characters.
Count me as another huge Jack Vance fan, except…I’m not actually that fond of the Dying Earth. The concept was great, the wordsmithery was great, but the stories themselves just didn’t really work for me. Eight deadly words.
My favorite of his is probably the Cadwal Chronicles (Araminta Station, Ecce and Old Earth, and Throy). And, more generally, his various stories of the Gaean Reach and the Oikumene. Which, fortunately, constitute the overwhelming majority of his work so there’s plenty to love! 🙂
(And with all due respect to Catherynne M. Valente, my favorite novel named Space Opera remains Vance’s. Though hers is a very close second.)
3) To be brutally honest, I think the Hugo Award in itself has got to be a way bigger thing than Gernsback as a person. (No offense intended to Gernsback – at least I know who he was, which is more than I can say for Oscar.)
Oh, and count me as another fan of Jack Vance – I liked the “Demon Princes” series, though if I had to pick out his best work… probably Lyonesse.
Oh, yeah, and as to SF ducks – check out Cordwainer Smith’s “From Gustible’s Planet”
(5) I’d be obliged if anyone who knows about Comicsgate could comment on the accuracy of the article. It seems significant that many commenters are screaming, “both sides” or “no, you’re doxxing people”, which sounds like many defenses of Gamergate and puppies. Similarly, articles on toxic masculinity seem to call forth people who have never heard of adjectives and those on racism, people who have no dictionaries.
I know that there are allegations of doxxing BETWEEN Comicsgaters
The doxxing they are talking about in the comment section is when a user got a rape threat and made public who had sent the rape threat.
(4) IIRC, Worldcon 75 in Helsinki was recorded extensively — probably not everything or even close, but, quite a lot.
I didn’t see anything recorded in Dublin, except the Hugos and the WSFS meetings.
Is there a norm? How widely does this vary? Worldcons 75 and 77 are the only conventions of this scope that I’m familiar with. Our Israeli ICons do something similar to ’75 — record a lot of the “major” events, and keep them available.
(I’d never realized Gernsback was Jewish!
But then, neither had I realized C.S. Lewis was Irish. You learn something every day.)
I got to learn that Spider-Man and Captain America were irish. I guess that depends on if you go by nationality or heritage.
@Standback: I can’t speak to the typical Worldcon, but at my first Worldcon (Bucconeer 1998) recorded almost all panels and had them for sale (I bought over a dozen tapes).
@ Hampus: And that is (one of, and probably the major) the reason(s) why there’s playable ducks in Drakar & Demoner.
9) I’ve seen Sanctuary and quite liked it on the first view-through. On the second view-through, I noticed that season 1 is a lot shakier than the remaining seasons, but couldn’t, quite, convince myself to skip to Season 2. So I re-watched all of Babylon 5 instead and am now working my way through Eureka.
Isn’t Gernsback the guy who recommended genetic engineering to turn black people white?
15) Rural areas tend to vote R more than urban areas. It’s more difficult to keep a dog in a city than the country.
Cats are easier to have in an apartment.
Anything I missed?
Pixel Scroll in the skyyyyy, I can file twice as hiiiiiigh…. (but we don’t have to take Mike’s word for it).
Also, after spending the past week and a half babysitting 12 chickens, I feel like there’s great potential for chickens in sci fi. Chickens on space ships, chicken-like beings on alien planets. Cleaning robots that behave like chickens what with the flocking over any time they think you’re going to throw them a beetle and the roosting in trees when they don’t want to go to bed wait what.
@Becca: There are chickens in Bujold’s books (in both Ethan of Athos and Cryoburn). Also there’s a Niven story with chickens in free fall (“Spirals”).
RuneQuest’s main setting Glorantha has a long and somewhat controversial relationship with ducks. No one really seems to know how they became part of the world and many RPGers stay away from Glorantha specifically because of the ducks (in a way that seems very Sad Puppy-ish). But they are a beloved part of Glorantha, perhaps because D&Ders dislike them. In current Glorantha continuity, the Lunar Empire is blaming the ducks for a revolt and have bounties on their heads.
There are ducklike attackers in Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass
I can definitely see the case that Steve Rodgers is of Irish ancestry, but Peter Parker? Most commentaries seem to think he’s Jewish.
Parker is an English surname meaning “keeper of the park.” Of course, his mom might have been Jewish.
@Becca, you want chickens in SF? I give you the filksong An Asteroid Named Rest Stop by Julia Ecklar and Leslie Fish.
The methodology is sloppy and unreliable at best. No real data on how actual dog owners or actual cat owners vote.
The number of dogs owned and the percentage of households owning dogs has risen steadily over the last couple of decades, even as the percentage of the population living in urban areas while the percentage living in rural areas has fallen. This does not support the idea that people are less likely to keep dogs in the city.
It’s harder to keep a big, high-energy dog in the city. However, there are small dogs, and there are lower-energy dogs. And there are hobbies and businesses built around people with higher-energy dogs, large or small. Urban areas are crawling with businesses catering to dog owners. That’s certainly not because dogs are uncommon in urban areas.
I live in a tiny studio apartment in a thickly settled urban area. With my dog. Who weighs nine pounds, is pee pad trained, and who, when we go out, pees and poops on mulch if it’s available, and if she has to do it on pavement, knows not to do it in the middle of the sidewalk.
I suspect about half the active Filers have cats bigger than my dog, who would be more stressed by living in my tiny studio than my dog is. Certainly I don’t have room for the cat furniture I used to have when I had more space and had cats. They’d be bored out of their minds and have far less opportunity to do natural cat things like climb or hide.
So, let’s just acknowledge that this is not one of Stanley Coren’s more insightful and informative pieces.
Good on you for chicken sitting.
Add in that I’m convinced they’d eat us if they were large enough. And as is, I’ve got one hen that has the dog completely intimidated and has ambushed the dog at least once that I’ve seen.
@Contrarius: those Dozois Best SF annuals, especially the ones up through the mid-to-late 90s, coincident with the peak of his amazing run as editor of Asimov’s, really transformed my idea of what SF could be.
Camestros and Hampus, thanks, I appreciate it!
I have no ducks to offer, but Yoon Ha Lee has posted on his DW a small cartoon involving geese .
Reading: I finished Elizabeth Bear’s Red-Stained Wings (Lotus Kingdoms #2), which was excellent, and started Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s Blue Labyrinth (Pendergast #something or other), which will be considerably less excellent but I’ll be inhaling it like a giant, messy plate of sports-bar nachos.