Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Movie Log: The Lonely Guy

I've been inadvertently working backwards through Steve Martin's romantic comedies (with L.A. Story back in the winter, then Roxanne a few weeks ago), so I decided to try this one, from 1984. I saw it Friday night, I think.

You've probably never heard of it, because it's very early-80s and it's very forgettable. It's loosely based on a humor book by Bruce Jay Friedman, and it's never as funny as it should be. Martin is a youngish greeting-card writer (carefully established early on, then forgotten for most of the movie, and never actually important) who gets kicked out by his philandering girlfriend and thus becomes a "lonely guy," one who cannot find any love or companionship. He does find Charles Grodin, looking much older in this movie than I've ever seen him in the twenty years since, as a total nebbish who befriends Martin and teaches him the ways of the lonely guy. (You're smiling now, because you're thinking of at least three or four funny ways that could go -- but, unfortunately, the movie didn't think of any of them.)

Martin is too poised and confident in himself to really pull off the "lonely guy" thing -- he never seems sad or alone, just a bit confused as to where his life should go. All in all, it's a minor movie that's most interesting as a look at Manhattan in that era.

Oh, and I did have one thought while watching this movie, which I'll try to put into words without becoming utterly sexist. The love interest for Martin's character is the noted stage actress Judith Ivey. It may be partially a 1980s thing, with her unattractive clothes and her big frizzy hair, but when she turned up, I thought "she's not attractive enough to be our female lead." Oh, she's pretty enough for a normal human being -- she just didn't look like the female lead in a romantic comedy. And I wonder if that was semi-deliberate (a holdover from the 1970s era of actors and actresses who looked more like real people), or a failed attempt at glamorizing her, or just that she was the decent actress they could afford.

See -- it still sounds sexist. Damn.

This is My Brain. This is My Brain on the Internet.

Yet another quiz; I have no shame. This one I saw via Deanna Hoak. Once again we learn that I really don't like people, which is not a surprise. The interesting part is that 17% of people are even more misanthropic than I am.

Your brain: 40% interpersonal, 60% visual, 160% verbal, and 140% mathematical!
Congratulations on being 400% smart! Actually, on my test, everyone is. The above score breaks down what kind of thinking you most enjoy doing. A score above 100% means you use that kind of thinking more than average, and a score below 100% means you use it less. It says nothing about how good you are at any one, just how interested you are in each, relatively. A substantial difference in scores between two people means, conclusively, that they are different kinds of thinkers.

Matching Summary: Each of us has different tastes. Still, I offer the following advice, which I think is obvious:

  1. Don't date someone if your interpersonal percentages differ by more than 80%.
  2. Don't be friends with someone if your verbal percentages differ by more than 100%.
  3. Don't have sex with someone if their math percentage is over 200%.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 17% on interpersonal

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 13% on visual

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 94% on verbal

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 54% on mathematical
Link: The 4-Variable IQ Test written by chriscoyne on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Today's WFA Reading: 5/30

I cam back from a trip to Great Wolf Lodge with the family (about which more later, maybe) to find one package here and one slicker on my door saying that DHL tried to deliver something. I also ran out to the Post Office to pick up something that needed a signature (and has been there almost a week). On top of that, another package came in on Saturday that I neglected to mention. So I now have:
  • A year's worth of a small-press criticalzine
  • a second copy of a novella-in-book-form
  • an anthology that looks very familiar but which I couldn't find in my stacks during a quick search
  • and a couple of other photocopied stories.
And the official deadline is Thursday, which means I'm nearly at the end; I think I'm going to miss getting all this mail. The unruly piles of books all over the place -- not so much.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What Does An Antick Musing Look Like?

SF Signal pointed me at a website that graphs other websites, so I had to see what Antick Musings looked like. And here it is.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Quote of the Week

I missed this yesterday, so I'll pick a fairly appropriate one for this week -- since I'll be walking in a Memorial Day parade with Thing 1's Cub Scout Pack tomorrow...

"We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by."
-- Will Rogers

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Wayback Ma-Meme

I haven't done a silly quiz for at least a week, so, when I saw this one at Keith R.A. DeCandido's place, I had to try it for myself:

THEN: May 1996
NOW: May 2006

1) How old were you?
THEN: 26
NOW: 36

2) Where did you work?
THEN: Doubleday Direct, Inc.
NOW: Doubleday Entertainment, LLC
Which is the same company, more or less.

3) Where did you live?
THEN: a house in Pompton Lakes, NJ
NOW: the same house in Pompton Lakes, only now with a finished second floor and a big added-on dining room

4) How was your hair style?
THEN: too long too much of the time, and probably approaching mullet-dom on occasion; full beard
NOW: short and spiky; goatee and mustache

5) Did you wear contacts?
NOW: No.

6) Did you wear glasses?
THEN: Yes.
NOW: Yes.

7) Who was your best friend?
THEN: The Wife
NOW: The Wife, Thing 1, Thing 2

8) Who were your pets?
THEN: None.
NOW: Harriman and Carriman the hamsters; Nicky and Bicky the fish

9) Who was your partner/romantic interest?
THEN: The Wife
NOW: The Wife

11) Who was your celebrity crush?
THEN: Let's see -- I used to say that Helen Hunt was my second wife, Helena Bonham-Carter my third, and Tanya Donelly my fourth.
NOW: Jenny Lewis, I guess

12) Who was your regular-person crush?
THEN: that would be telling; it was a co-worker whom I think still works in some capacity in publishing
NOW: I'm interviewing for the position right now

13) How many piercings did you have?
THEN: None
NOW: Zero to the infinite power.

14) How many tattoos did you have?
THEN: Just the one forced on me by the Zulu during the Boer Wars.
NOW: No more and no less.

15) What was your favorite band/singer?
THEN: Elvis Costello
NOW: They Might Be Giants

16) Had you smoked a cigarette?
THEN: Nope. Cigars, yes. Pipes, yes. But not the little buggers.
NOW: No.

17) Had you gotten drunk?
THEN: Oh God yes. Probably not recently, though.
NOW: Even less recently.

18) Looking back at your decade-ago self, are you where you thought you would be in 2006?
I was sure I would have gotten out of the SFBC by now, but I did think I'd have a better title and still be acquiring and selling SF/F books -- so I was half-right.

20 Worst Agents Redux

It's a form of immortality, I suppose: the 20 Worst Agents List (as identified by the SFWA's Writer Beware) now has its own website.

Oh, and I think I'm also supposed to say this: Barbara Bauer. (Pardon me.)

Emphatic Reporting

Reading my paper this morning, my eye was stopped by the caption on the photo accompanying this story. The online site has a longer, more detailed caption, but here's what my local paper wrote:

The only surviving member of a family of eight ravaged by bird flu being fed by his wife Thursday.

Now, what I want to know is: does his wife not count as a member of his family, or is she a zombie? If the bird flu turns its victims into zombies, I think we'd all like to know. (Especially if they have nursing skills.)

Movie Log: Kronk's New Groove

By all rights, I shouldn't claim to have watched this movie. Yes, I was in a room where it was playing, and I was facing towards the TV, but the boys were noisy and in front of me, and I was both eating dinner and poking around on my computer, so Kronk didn't get much of my attention. That was also on Tuesday night, so I'm not getting to talk about it as quickly as I wished.

This is the Disney obligatory straight-to-video sequel, this time of The Emperor's New Groove, and it's very episodic. The ex-evil henchman from Emperor is now running a restaurant, but his stern father is coming to visit, and so Kronk quickly tries to build the kind of life he thinks his father expects. (And of course it all goes comically wrong. And of course there are Important Life Lessons along the way. And of course there's a gigantic explosion of cheese.) Except for the animation, which was quite good, and the fact that all of the original actors have returned, this is all very TV-level. It's not bad, but it's 75 minutes of professional but unspectacular Extruded Disney Product.

But it is funny, the colors are vibrant, the voice acting is top-notch, the dialogue is snappy, and, as I said, it has near-feature-quality animation. It's certainly not for anyone who didn't see and like New Groove (which is, on the other hand, probably the best recent Disney animated film), but it's a pleasant and enjoyable sequel.

From the extras on the DVD, though, I learn that there will be a spin-off TV show, called The Emperor's New School, in which the (ex?) Emperor has to go to high school for some utterly stupid sitcom reason, and finds both a cute girl to crush over and that his nemesis is now the headmistress of the school and dedicated to seeing him flunk out. That looks absolutely horrible, and even David Spade (the voice of the Emperor, who I had thought would do anything for money) is not involved. Run away. Run far away.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Interview With Mo Willems

He's one of my boys' favorite authors (right up there with Captain Underpants's Dav Pilkey, and that's saying something), and I love his stuff as well. The Pigeon books get most of the love, and they are a lot of fun, but Knuffle Bunny is simply wonderful.

How wonderful?

Aggle Flaggle Klabble!
Wumpy Flappy!

See, you don't know what that means, because you haven't read Knuffle Bunny. And that's sad. (Hm, could you buy it from the SFBC, if you wanted to?...{searches}...why yes! you can -- Knuffle Bunny.)

Anyway, there's a nice interview with Mo Willems (who I missed meeting when he visited my office a few months ago -- something I'm still bitter about), up at Drawn! The Illustration Blog. Even if you don't have kids, read it. If you do have kids, read it and then buy his books. If a lot of people buy Knuffle Bunny from the SFBC it will confuse a bunch of my bosses, and that will be fun.

Reading Into the Past: Week of 5/21

This week I'm looking at the books I read this week eleven years ago, in 1995:
  • G.B. Trudeau, Washed-Out Bridges and Other Disasters (5/14)
    The then-current Doonesbury collection, featuring a parody of The Bridges of Madison County (the book that everyone in the world has now forgotten about -- and, just you wait, Dan Brown, that may be your fate in another ten years). Doonesbury is often funnier in retrospect than it is at the time (since one concentrates on the pain of the ox-goring rather than the humor when it's new), so I bet this would be very funny right about now.
  • Donald E. Westlake, Bank Shot (5/15)
    One of the early "Dortmunder" caper novels, which I was devouring at the time. This is probably the best short one (Drowned Hopes is the best long one), and features schlubby crook John Dortmunder and his pals trying to steal a bank. Yes, that's right: not rob a bank, steal a bank.
  • S.J. Perelman, The Last Laugh (5/16)
    The final collection by a master of the comic essay; I don't recall, precisely, what was in this book, but it wasn't quite as good as his prime material. It's not shabby stuff by any means, but no one should start reading Perelman here -- dig up The Most of S.J. Perelman instead.
  • Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One (5/16)
    Probably my favorite Evelyn Waugh book, and one I should find time to re-read (it's very short, so I might even be able to do it). It's nasty and funny, and all about funerals. If you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for?
  • Parke Godwin, The Tower of Beowulf (5/21)
    A retelling of Beowulf, I assume, but I can't dredge up any independent memory of this myself.
My excuse for running late this week is that my boss Ellen Asher just came back from vacation yesterday, so I'm going to say that I was very busy on Monday and Tuesday getting everything ready for her return. (Yup. I'm going to say that.) Yesterday really was busy, with a lot of "when did this happen?" conversations.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Today's WFA Reading: 5/24

One book today and one that I missed mentioning on Monday: an anthology and a collection.

And the deadline fast approaches; everything is supposed to reach the judges by 6/1. Pretty soon, I won't have these little snippets to rely on to post every day or three; I'll actually have to think up something to say.

The Most Clueless Fanficcer

Tobias Buckell got this disclaimer from Lee Goldberg, who got it in an e-mail, but it was written by some personage calling itself Shadow-of-the-Wolf. Read and weep:
The characters of Lucrezia, Alain, Lotte, David, Clarisse, Kaira, Mikhail, Candice/Lady Helen, Gifford, Jaques, Ansley, Gregori, Ayslin, Raggs, Chip, Selena, and Nate © Shadow-of-the-Wolf (That's me folks. WARNING! Steal these characters and I'll sue you for all you're worth. It took me a long time to think up these characters and I'll not have them taken away from me)

Byron Stratford © Lydia Joyce. (I read her novel The Veil of Night and fell in love with the character. I'm simply borrowing him, I have no intention of making any money off of him. It's all just for fun. He just reminded me of Erik so I decided to make them best friends.)

Erik, Christine, Raoul, Madame Giry, etc. ©Gaston Leroux, Susan Kay, and Andrew Lloyd Webber for each of their versions (and I thank them all for their inspiration), but all credit for The Phantom of the Opera goes to Gaston Leroux for the original novel.

Hey! The Street Found Its Own Use for My Stuff!

I've been meaning to ask here -- since I think there are some folks out there more knowledgeable than I am about these things -- how I would go about copying or syndicating this blog onto LiveJournal. (I've been especially thinking about it since last week, when I actually signed up on LJ so I can comment as myself over there.)

Well, to my surprise, I just discovered that Antick Musings already is syndicated on LiveJournal. This might possibly be a useful piece of information to any of you who use LJ. (I guess this means there might be people "friending" me that I don't know about.)

Similarly, there's a LJ feed for the SFBC blog.

Once again, we have a lesson in modern connectivity: if it's up on the 'Net, it can be anywhere and seen by anyone.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Oh! Those Durham Girls!

Noted without further comment:

Police in Durham, in the north-east of England, raided a home after receiving reports of a sex-slavery ring headquartered there. No arrests have been made, since the group appears to be completely consentual, and is part of a splinter "Kaotian" faction of a world-wide "Gorean" movement based on the fantasy novels of John Norman.

Yes, this did hit the news on Thursday, but I was saving it for a slow blogging patch. And, besides, I needed some time to think up a good headline.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why I'm Worried About Cars

Like most right-thinking movie-goers with kids, I'm a big fan of Pixar. They've had an unbroken streak of excellent family movies from Toy Story to The Incredibles, with the possible exception of A Bug's Life, which is merely pretty good. They really seem to get it: they make good movies about real characters, tell interesting and non-cliched stories, and cast those movies with actors rather than movie stars.

But their upcoming movie, Cars, has got me worried. Oh, yes, I know John Lassetter, the Savior of Animation and Disney's Great Hope, directed it himself (and it's his first movie since the magnificent Toy Story 2), but there are some things nagging at me:
  • First of all, it's a retelling of Doc Hollywood with racecars. Racecars are fine, but using such an obvious plot hook is worrying.
  • The trailer, frankly, is bland Hollywood pap. Oh, look! Racecars going fast! Gosh! A funny redneck tow truck!
  • The main character is named Lightning McQueen. Now, I'm sure "Lightning" sounds fast, and "McQueen" evokes the great Steve, but "Lightning McQueen" as a name immediately brings to mind "Butterfly McQueen," which is not what the movie-makers want.
  • All of the billboards have "Paul Newman" and "Owen Wilson" large above the movie title -- and the iron rule of animated movies is that promoting famous names means the movie stinks.
I hope I'm wrong, and the movie looks like it will be gorgeous (and I'm sure it will be pleasant and watchable), but I am worried.

Greg Costikyan Gets Spam!

But it's not the kind he wants. Check out his selection of other-worldly spam that he'd actually like to see.

The Moment I've Been Waiting For Is Here!

The SFBC blog is up and running. There's not much there yet, since I only started typing anything for it on Friday.

All of my general announcements (deaths, awards, fires, floods and acts of Ghod) will now be posted over there instead of here, unless I'm planning to say something personal about it. (And then the personal stuff will be here.)

To reiterate: this is my personal blog; it's completely unofficial. Nothing I say here means anything besides my own personal views. The other place is official, and I hope I can drag more members of the SFBC team to post there so I don't have to do it all myself.

The new SFBC blog is still a baby; the design will be tweaked quite a bit in coming weeks, I expect, and we want to get a blogroll in there as well. But, for now, it's up and it works -- and it's part of a family of bookclub blogs, which is nicely collegial.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Movie Log: Nanny McPhee, Shopgirl, The Producers, Keeping Up With the Steins, Over the Hedge

I'm getting behind again...

The Wife and I saw Nanny McPhee a week ago Thursday. As revealed on previous episodes of Antick Musings, we have two sons, aged eight and five. Because of that, we see a lot of kids' movies, but the odd thing is that the ones we want to see are often movies that the boys won't like or appreciate (or that we're not sure if they will). So she and I have seen a batch of kids' movies without them over the past six months or so (mostly British, as we're horrible Anglophiles): Millions (which is wonderful, moving and a Real Movie for audiences who aren't eight years old), Five Children and It (which I liked somewhat better than the book, but then I hated the book), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which was awfully slow, and the kids don't really do much of anything), A Series of Unfortunate Events (in the theater, even: and I liked it quite a bit), and now Nanny McPhee.

Nanny McPhee is a bit generic as a kid's movie (magical person comes into the lives of damaged family, heals them, and moves on), but the performances are all good, and the kids are amazingly rotten at the beginning. I suspect it's a bit more of a girls' movie than a boys' movie, and my guys probably wouldn't like it the way I did.

Shopgirl we saw last weekend; it has a lot of the pieces of an excellent movie, but it doesn't handle them as well as it should. The main characters -- Claire Daines as a young woman who doesn't know where her life is going, Jason Schwartzman as the young man who is utterly clueless when he meets her, and Steve Martin as the charming but emotionally controlled older man she has an obviously-doomed relationship with -- are all interesting, and well-acted. But Martin, for whatever reason, also stuck himself in as a narrator for a few passages of windy piffle that over-explain the movie's themes; they wouldn't be so bad, though, if it was anyone else but Steve Martin (who is a character in the movie, remember, and whose voice is distinctive) reading them to explain everything to us. And I really wanted to see more of the guitarist of the band Schwartzman's character goes out on the road with -- a lot, lately, I'm watching a movie and thinking, "No, I want to turn this movie off and switch to that guy's movie," but I never get my wish.

The Producers tires to do everything the 1968 classic did, plus musical numbers. Unfortunately, the musical stuff looks very stagey, and Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, fine actors though they may be, can't help but continually remind us that they are not Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Lane comes off a bit better than Broderick, since he's doing a slightly different schtick than Mostel did, but they both have a lot of the same lines and don't manage to make them their own. It's a pleasant piece of entertainment, but it can't touch the original.

Last night we bundled the kids off to separate grandmothers, so we could have a night out. Unfortunately, the movie I most wanted to see (Thank You for Smoking) was looked at askance by The Wife and wasn't playing anywhere nearby, either. Friends With Money was similarly kiboshed, and also isn't looking as good as I'd hoped, anyway. So we ended up going to see Keeping Up With the Steins with an audience of mostly older people who I suspect were also mostly Jewish (we went to the Clairidge in Montclair, where we've consistently been the youngest people in the room for about fifteen years now). One woman directly behind me began the movie by laughing very loudly at nearly every line of dialogue or Yiddish word, but, thankfully, she settled down.

The movie itself? Eh. All of the reviews are exactly right: it starts off looking like a biting satire, and then turns into a mushy afterschool special. Mush straight along wouldn't have been too bad, but mush after hopes for something more bracing is disappointing. Again, there were two alternative movies I would have loved to have seen instead: firstly, the Jeremy Piven-Larry Miller movie, about two agents and their seemingly-friendly relationship (this, of course, would have been the satire I was promised). The other probably would have turned to mush as well, but I still would have liked to have seen a movie focused on the four young people: Daryl Sabara as the boy being bar mitzvah-ed, his father's rival's son (who seems to be his best friend) and the two girls they're interested in.

There must be some curse on indie comedies with the name "Stein" in them: Kissing Jessica Stein also started off well (a few years back) and fell apart at the end.

And then today, for complicated getting-the-kids-back-from-grandparents reasons of scheduling and promises, we all saw Over the Hedge with my wife's mother. It has a "celebrity" voice cast, which is generally a very bad sign for an animated movie, and it also has a heartwarming message about family, but it manages to keep itself from becoming completely stupid. But the songs are horribly intrusive, and it's never as funny as I hoped it would be. The CGI animals are wonderfully emotive and believable, but the humans fall smack into the Uncanny Valley and look very weird. If you have kids who want to see it, go -- you'll enjoy it enough. But it's not a movie they or you will remember long afterwards; it's not a Finding Nemo, not even an Ice Age.

Now, tomorrow night we'll probably watch Kronk's New Groove, which was supposed to have gotten here for Boys' Movie Saturday yesterday, but will probably be in tomorrow's mail...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Short, Unhelpful, Derogatory Definition of Horror

We all know that science fiction is "stories about engineers," and fantasy is "stories about secretly royal teenagers," but I haven't known of a similarly sweeping, mostly untrue generalization about horror.

And, damn it, I needed one.

After some unpleasant reading lately, and a little (very little) thought, I've come up with one: horror is "stories about assholes."

Most of the time in a horror story, the main character is an asshole. Quite often, everyone in a horror story is. And the thing-a-ma-bob doing the hacking and slashing is guaranteed to be assholish by its story function.

So, there you have it. I hope it's just as useful as similar pronouncements by people who don't like the things they're complaining about have been down through the ages.

What I Was Reading in Early September 2004

This is turning into a busy day, and I doubt I'll get a chance to really blog. So I'll drag something down from the attic instead: this was originally posted to rec.arts.sf.written 9/10/04, and it sort-of made sense in context:

Just finished: Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames. Way off topic here, but it's a humorous novel about a young alcoholic writer and his valet Jeeves. There's a major Chekhov Gun that remains not only unfired but resolutely ignored by the narrative right up to the end, which annoyed me a bit. It was pleasant, but I think it will get recycled back to the store where I bought it.

Before that: Once More, With Footnotes by Terry Pratchett. His collected short fiction, and as much non-fiction as could be dug up and/or as was needed to fill this up to book-length. Very much a small press item, in the best of senses. I have a real fondness for fiction writers' occasional non-fiction, and I don't know why. It's a book for Major Fans, but a very nice book for those who qualify.

Before even that: The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle. I had a good excuse to read it over Worldcon, and enjoyed it a lot (my original intention was to skim most of it, actually -- I'd read The Gripping Hand when that was published and wasn't particularly impressed). I've been boring people ever since with my crackpot theory that this is the ur-Military SF novel, with its spit-and-polish space navy, jump-point tactics, random unlikely Empire of Man, and so on. I am now convinced Jim Baen has a copy of this in his desk, heavily marked up.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Spam Tide Is Rising

And I've given in, just a bit: I just activated word verification for comments on this blog.

The last straw was when about 65 nearly-identical little spamlets pelted me last night at around 8. I decided, then and there, that going in and killing them one by one was no longer worth the time.

So I hope no one finds word verification too annoying -- on the other hand, I don't get a lot of comments in the first place, so it won't bug anyone very often.

Quote of the Week

"Public opinion is a compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, and newspaper paragraphs."
-- Sir Robert Peel

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Today's WFA Reading: 5/18

Today three packages arrived: two from Wildside/Prime (adding to the one I got the other day) and all of the fantasy from Asimov's (as what must have been a very labor-intensive pile of pages yanked out of last year's magazines).

Yesterday I got Nova Scotia, which is a really handsome book -- well-designed, with fancy French flaps and everything. I've read a couple of the stories from it in various Year's Bests, and they've all been good so far -- but they've all also been SF so far, so we'll see how much fantasy is in there.

Strange Visitors From Another Language

While looking at my Site Meter statistics this morning (hey -- it beats working!), I noticed that at least one person recently read this page in Spanish translation.

The translated page doesn't look all that bad, but I do wonder how wonky my tortured sentence structure gets when shoved by a machine into an alien tongue.

CBS Awards Update

There is an official web announcement of the winners of the Carl Brandon Society Awards, with commentary by the judges.

I note with glee that my colleague Alaya Dawn Johnson is among those on the shortlist.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Incoming Books: 17 May and Thenabouts

A number of books have wandered home with me over the past week or so, either because I found them on one of the giveaway shelves at the office (since other people send their books to us trying to get us to do something with them, we get piles of books shuffled off to giveaways regularly), or because one club or another is selling them, so I could scrounge a copy.

This doesn't include a somewhat smaller pile of kids' books I passed on to Thing 1 the other day, either; it's just what's next to the computer right now and that I hope to read someday myself.
  • Millions by Cottrell Boyce
    source of the excellent 2005 movie, which I might blog about if I get to it
  • The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinrod
    A book of interesting words and phrases from various languages.
  • The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
    Everyone I know who's read this says that it's hilarious.
  • Little Lulu Vol. 9: Lucky Lulu by John Stanley and Irving Tripp
    I've never read Lulu, but I'm willing to try -- especially since it was free.
  • Rough Crossings by Simon Schama
    A major book by a great historian -- only thing is, I have his last four books piled up next to the computer unread already...
  • The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly
    A history of unwritten and destroyed books through the ages.
  • Reporting by David Remnick
    A book of reportage by the New Yorker editor -- but you probably guessed that already.
  • The Contract with God Trilogy by Will Eisner
    I have never read Eisner, and it was either this or The Spirit -- this, I got free (such a deal!)
  • Our National Parks by Ansel Adams
    It was free, and it'll have pretty pictures. That was about the extent of my thinking.
  • The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher
    Looks like a David Macaulay book for adults, and should be interesting

Carl Brandon Society Awards

I saw this on Tobias Buckell's blog; there's probably an official announcement or website somewhere else as well.

The inaugural Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award, for a work of speculative fiction created by a person of color, went to Walter Mosely for his young adult novel 47.

And the similarly inaugural Carl Brandon Society Kindred Award, which honors a work of speculative fiction dealing with race and ethnicity by any writer, went to Susan Vaught for her young adult novel Stormwitch.

Each will receive $1,000 and a trophy at a ceremony on Sunday, May 28 at 8:45 p.m. at WisCon 30 in Madison, Wisconsin. The awards are given by the Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing the profile, quality and quantity of speculative fiction by and about people of color.

Congratulations to the winners (and to the CBS for getting their award program off the ground so quickly), and a happy WisCon to everyone who is going.

2005 Tiptree Longlist Is Published

Unlike most awards, the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award does not publish a list of nominees beforehand. Instead, something like this comes out after the award has been given, I guess so that writers can only find out that they lost too late to worry about winning. (And, presumably, for fans of the Tiptree to be pointed at stories they might want to read.)

I note that there is both a "short list" and a "long list," which is very odd to publish after the fact. It makes the long list stories look like also-rans, which I don't think is the intention. (Although, to be blunt, they are also-rans, since they didn't make the short list.)

I'll also note that there's a bit of a hoo-hah over at Elizabeth Bear's blog about one of the nominees, a web-published unfinished bit of slash fanfic. (Hornswoggler gazes over his glasses in dismay at the thought.)

Jonathan Carroll in a Pushcart

Again, seen via Locus Online:

"Home on the Range," Jonathan Carroll's story from Conjunctions 44: An Anatomy of Roads, has won a Pushcart Prize, and will be reprinted in the annual Pushcart Prize anthology.

Arthur Porges, 1915-2006

Locus Online reports that the noted SF/Fantasy short fiction writer Arthur Porges died on Friday, May 12th. His most recent collection was The Mirror and Other Strange Reflections in 2002.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 5/14

I must have pulled out old D&D dice or something, because I'm rolling high this month. Tonight I got a 14, which means I'll list the books I read this week in 1992, and see how much I can remember of them:
  • Piers Anthony & Robert E. Margroff, Dragon's Gold (5/8)
    See far below.
  • Jacques Tardi & Benjamin Legrand, Roach Killer (5/8)
    Some kind of Euro-comics thing that I really don't remember. Isn't Tardi famous? Oh, well...
  • Tom Mason, editor, Teen Angst: A Treasury of '50s Romance (5/8)
    More comics, and something I've utterly forgotten. I also can't remember why on earth I'd want to read this.
  • Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (5/9)
    Official Wielding of Fanboy Credentials: this wasn't the first time I read it. Boy, wasn't it great when Frank Miller was good? I miss those days.
  • Piers Anthony & Robert E. Margroff, Serpent's Silver (5/9)
  • Piers Anthony & Robert E. Margroff, Chimaera's Copper (5/9)
  • Piers Anthony & Robert E. Margroff, Orc's Opal (5/9)
  • Piers Anthony & Robert E. Margroff, Mouvar's Magic (5/10)
    I don't know if there's anything I could say that would adequately convey the feelings this series of books engendered in me. The depth of feeling -- it came right from the pit of my stomach -- was truly amazing. I could barely contain the upwelling. And to continue on in that vein for five whole books was an amazing, nearly unbelievable tribute to the consistency of the authors' vision. No -- I really can't put those feelings into words.
  • Tim Powers, The Stress of Her Regard (5/10)
    A wonderful palate-cleanser. I never liked the Romantic poets much, so I enjoyed what Powers did to them here; those who are big fans of Shelley will probably enjoy this book less than I did. But it's a wonderful, dark trip through history, the way no one does as well as Powers. And it's still one of my favorites of his books.
  • Chris Foss, Diary of a Spaceperson (5/10)
    One of the fake-non-fiction art books that used to be around a lot but seem to have died out. (And that's a shame, since I always liked that kind of thing.) This one is, as you might guess, the diary of a nubile young woman who wandered through space, often against her will. To appreciate the art you have to remember that Foss, at the time of this book, was best known for two things: paintings of rusty old spaceships and pencil drawings of naked girls. This book combines both of his strengths, and it almost makes sense.
  • Gardner Dozois, Geodesic Dreams: The Best Short Fiction (5/14)
    Yet another book I'm stunned to realize that I read. I'm sure it was great -- Gardner is as good a writer as he is an editor -- but I had completely forgotten it.
  • Andre Bernard, Rotten Rejections (5/14)
    A fun little piece of literary marginalia, with lots of nasty things various publishing people said about books that went on to become famous and successful. Suitable for reading late at night, by the fire of a hundred burning rejection slips.
This week I got through this before lunch on Tuesday -- maybe I am improving. (Or maybe it's a fluke; we'll see next week.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

We Have a Winner!

Ran correctly guessed the identity of the Burned Book as...


Earth Abides by George R. Stewart!

Ran, if you're reading this and not the comment thread, e-mail me at andrew dot wheeler at doubledayent dot com to claim your prizes. (Though I'm not sure how you'll be able to prove you are yourself.)

Thanks to everyone who played, and watch for another Antick Musings Contest...well, sometime, maybe.

Today's WFA Reading: 5/15

I'd thought the big flood was over, but I was wrong; it looks like, with the 6/1 deadline for submissions looming, I'll be seeing another big surge of stuff.

Today brought seven packages, not including one still waiting at the post office from Saturday that requires a signature. It adds up to at least ten books and a magazine to read for various fiction categories, a package of art (some of it in book form), and another pile of books and journals for Special Award: Non-Professional (which, by the way, no one has been able to define all that clearly).

I estimate, right now, that I should be reading at least four books a day to get through everything by my voting deadline...

More Fabulous Prizes!

And here are the things I have in the office that anyone who wins the much-more-elusive-than-I'd-imagined Burned Book Contest can choose from:
  • Off the Main Sequence: The Other Science Fiction Stories of Robert A. Heinlein, edited by me
  • Best Short Novels: 2005 edited by Jonathan Strahan
  • Down These Dark Spaceways edited by Mike Resnick
  • The Fair Folk edited by Marvin Kaye
  • Quantico by Greg Bear, in its spiffy new SFBC edition
  • Between Worlds edited by Robert Silverberg
  • Black Seas of Infinity: The Best of H. P. Lovecraft edited by some hack named Wheeler
  • and Modern Greats of Science Fiction: Nine Novellas of Distinction, the retitled ibooks edition of Best Short Novels: 2004 edited by Jonathan Strahan
The contest will not end at five o'clock today -- I'm not sure why I gave a deadline anyway, since I want someone to win -- but will continue until everyone gives up or someone guesses correctly.

The winner will get his or her choice of any five of the books mentioned in this post and in Your Fabulous Selection of Prizes!, along with a SFBC baseball cap (if you want one) and maybe a SFBC shoulder bag, if I can find where they got to.

This contest is void where prohibited by law or custom, and is absolutely free to enter. All entries become the property of Blogger, I bet, since I know I didn't read the Terms of Service all that closely, and I'm sure they got something past me. They might even get my firstborn son, for all I know. Anyway, this is an exhibition, not a competition: please, no wagering. The Judge (and that would be me) will not have to make any decision, since the winner will get a question of fact (to whit: what singed book is currently sitting inside an envelope on my shelf right now) correct.

Hey! Come to think of it, the winner can also get the actual Burned Book itself, if she or he is so strange as to want it.

Books That Are Not the Burned Book

At the moment, I'm up to 61 comments on Angry Customers, with the identity of the Burned Book still a mystery.

So maybe it's time for a recap of all the books that we now know are not correct. I've included authors where I thought they might not be blindingly obvious:
Ender's Game
Starship Troopers
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Dragonriders of Pern
Fahrenheit 451
any of Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Darkover" books
The Infinity Link by Jeffrey A. Carver
The Earthsea Trilogy
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Mote in God's Eye
The Puppet Masters
Little Fuzzy
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Nine Princes in Amber
Lord of Light
The Stars My Destination
All My Sins Remembered
A Canticle for Leibowitz
The Martian Chronicles
Day of the Triffids
More Than Human
Childhood's End
The Time Machine
The Inheritors by William Golding
The Anubis Gates
The Female Man
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Flowers for Algernon
A Case of Conscience
Mission of Gravity
The Fifth Head of Cerberus
Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny
The Midwich Cuckoos
The Dispossessed
The Sirens of Titan
The Space Merchants
The Crystal World
The End of Eternity
The Birth of the People's Republic of America by John Calvin Bachelor
Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Pavane by Keith Roberts

Again, what we know about this book:
  • A SFBC member bought it from the club 20-25 years ago, but did not read it then.
  • Recently said member tried to read this book, and found it "a disgrace to science fiction."
  • Said member then burned the book around the edges, and sent it to me.
  • Oh, and the member also said "[m]ost of the people in the book are the exact opposite of people in most science fiction stories."
  • It's a pretty famous SF book.
  • It is notably older than 20-25 years.
  • It is not as world-famous as Dune.
  • The book is listed in David Pringle's Science Fiction: 100 Best Novels
  • The book is the author's only major SF novel, though he (another hint) wrote other things.
Please note, given that last hint, that both A Canticle for Leibowitz and Norstrilia have already been guessed. (As has 1984.)

Other Books Read in April

I seem to have forgotten to do my month-end round-up this month. Oops.

Well, let's dive into it now, with the usual caveats: it's only books I finished, and I might not mention things I don't want to talk about (for WFA or SFBC reasons) or just can't talk about (for legal, SFBC reasons).
  • Caitlin R. Kiernan, To Charles Fort, With Love
  • Holly Phillips, In the Palace of Love
  • Maureen F. McHugh, Mothers and Other Monsters
  • Luis Royo, Subversive Beauty
    Yes, it's Goth-cheesecake art, but Royo does it pretty well. And I sell about a billion of his books in the SFBC.
  • Joe Hill, 20th Century Ghosts
  • The Dark Art of Tony Mauro
    I think this is finally the last of a big stack of SQP books I had dragged home to look at. They're all pretty same-y, no matter who the artist is. And they really make me appreciate what Royo does well.
  • Matt Wagner and various artists, Grendel: Red, White, and Black
    The second of the collections of sidebar stories about the first Grendel, Hunter Rose. I hope Wagner doesn't do this again (with White, Red, and Black, I guess it would be), since Hunter really isn't that interesting a character, and we already know what happens to him. So just seeing him slaughter a whole bunch of more-or-less innocent people -- even when told in snazzy ways in little eight-page stories -- gets wearying.
  • Tim Powers, Three Days to Never
    The novel we've been waiting for since Declare in 2000; damn I wish he was a faster writer. This one is about Albert Einstein's secret family, and his even more secret other discovery. It's more-or-less contemporary (set in the 1980s), which I tend to think of as unusual for Powers, though he's written a number of contemporary books before (including one of his best, Last Call). It's publishing August 8th; everybody go out and get it then.
  • Javier Grillo-Marxuach & Les McClaine, The Middleman: The Trade Paperback Imperative
    The collection of a fun comics series about a yet another super-secret dude who has to regularly save the world from hideous creatures that the rest of the world would rather not know about. It doesn't take itself too seriously, doesn't betray its origins as a screenplay too badly, and is nicely drawn. It's also quite cheap for a trade paperback, so it's worth checking out if you enjoy comics that underwear pervert fans swear are completely different, even though it's about a person in a distinctive costume and with special abilities saving the world by punching and shooting things. I must say that I don't get the distinction myself.
  • Bret Easton Ellis, Lunar Park
  • Gail Carson Levine, Fairest
    A very very girly YA fantasy that wasn't to my taste. More than that I probably shouldn't say.
  • Chris Ware, ACME Novelty Library #16
    I managed not to slit my wrists after reading it, which is an accomplishment. Actually, the backup story isn't quite as bleak and depressing as Ware usually is, though it's certainly not happy. But "Rusty Brown" more than makes up for that.
  • Alan Moore & Gene Ha, Top 10: The Forty-Niners
    It's not as interesting as the regular Top 10 series was, and I have to assume it's been award-fodder for its Serious And Unflinching Depiction of Real Issues. It all felt a bit rushed and the world didn't have the texture I expect from a Moore story. All in all, somewhat of a disappointment.
  • Grant Morrison and various artists, Seven Soldiers of Victory, Vol. 1
    Parts of this are quite good -- I particularly enjoyed Klarion the Witch Boy -- and parts of it make very little sense and don't seem to tell anything like a coherent story. (I'm looking at you, Shining Knight.) I may just be way out of touch with "mainstream" comics, since I found Morrison's Justice League to be similarly distancing a few years back -- it seemed to leap from event to event without any continuity of action (or even simple panel-to-panel continuity). I might continue on with the rest of the series, but I haven't decided yet. For a supposedly major story by a good writer, there's not a lot here.
  • Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima, Samurai Executioner, Vol. 9: Facing Life and Death
    I think I've said all I can say about this excellent series (and Koike/Kojima's superior Lone Wolf and Cub) in past months.
  • Steven Erikson, House of Chains
    The fourth book of the "Malazan Book of the Fallen," for which I have an inexplicable fondness. These books form possibly the biggest epic fantasy series in existence -- or even imaginable. You have to train on other epic fantasy, and get bored with it, to move up to Erikson, so he's probably not for everyone. But he does tell a fascinatingly gnarly story.
  • Steven Erikson, The Devil Delivered
    A novella that is completely unrelated to the Malazan world (it's near-future, and could even be SF).
  • Paul Grobman, Vital Statistics
    A random collection of facts and figures about all sorts of things, which served as a bathroom book for its time, and has now moved on.
  • Jeffrey Ford, The Girl in the Glass
    Hey, I actually read a book that won an Edgar! And I read it a couple of days before it won, too! Who'd'a thunk it? I liked the book, too: it's an excellent historical mystery, set in 1930s Long Island, and has some neat con-man details in it. I missed Ford's last novel, and now I think I'll have to go back and pick it up.
  • Dan Slott and various artists, She-Hulk, Vol. 1: Single Green Female
    A light-hearted comic series about the female green goliath, which focuses much more than past series had on her legal career. The artist who drew the first couple of issues (and who seems to have returned for at least part of the second trade paperback), Juan Bobillo, draws exceptionally cute women (and not nearly as out-of-proportion as is usual for underwear pervert comics). His Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk's human alter ego) is particularly sweet: small and mousy with a very expressive face. I hope he sticks around for a long time; he's a wonderful artist for this kind of thing, and his light touch is so rare in Marvel-land.
  • Patricia A. McKillip, Od Magic
  • Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett, Queen & Country: Declassified, Vol. 2
    Gritty spy action set in the recent past (unlike the main series, which occurs in the present day). I'm afraid I don't remember what happens in this one at all.
  • Drew Karpyshyn, Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction
    There's not much I can say about this, but I am impressed to see that Lucasfilm is making an effort to hire writers whose names sound like they come out of the Star Wars universe.
Looks like I was really busy last month, which is good: I have a lot of books to get read.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Is the Map the Territory?

Claire Light today posted an interesting map of Speculative Fiction, along with some commentary.

She uses the term "mimetic fiction" to refer to all that other stuff, which immediately makes me like her argument more. (It's a term I like to use myself, in part because -- as Claire points out -- it yokes together a whole bunch of disparate genres like Western and bildungsroman, romance and kitchen-sink drama.)

However, I do think any flat map will somewhat misinterpret the territory, and I have some mild complaints about this one. Putting Spec Fic in the middle is a nice trick for pedagogical purposes, but I don't think a bull's-eye is the right shape to begin with. (On a more minor point, I'll add that Alternate History can be Fantasy as easily as it can be SF -- and, as practiced under the name "counterfactual" by historians, can also be even more like non-fiction.)

I generally prefer to pull out two or three axes (not binary choices, but continua along which a work can fall) at a time -- there are probably at least a dozen that could interestingly sub-divide the world of literature -- and use those to present any particular case, while being clear that any such interpretation is a very simplified view.

Some of those possible axes include:
  • Fiction vs. Non-fiction
    Question for Discussion: Place the work of James Frey, and modern "memoirs" in general, on this axis.
  • Prose vs. Poetry
    Not always either/or as well; many of Shakespeare's plays contain both. And some kinds of poetry are more prose-y than others (and vice versa).
  • Mimesis vs. Speculation
  • Plausible vs. Impossible
    This incorporates the SF/Fantasy dichotomy, but can be expanded -- satire often ranges far out into the realms of the impossible, as does metafiction.
  • Literary vs. Popular
  • Comedy vs. Tragedy
  • Historical vs. Contemporary
    If there was a single word that encompassed past and future history, I'd use it here -- the world-building and estrangement of historical fiction can be closely related to the same skills in SF. I do intend to include both in "historical."
  • Romance vs. Nihilism
Obviously, trying to construct a map using all of those axes would be impossible for a merely human intelligence. That's why I think any discussions of genres tends to pull out a couple of those distinctions (or similar continua) to focus on. But, at the same time, realizing that any of those views simplifies things -- and that looking at another axis simultaneously, or afterward, can cast interesting lights on old conflicts -- will, I hope, keep us fall from just falling into the same old literary-conversation ruts.

So, thanks, Claire, for making me think about this yet again, and inciting me to try to define what I really think about the subject.

Why People Become Editors

Ellen Datlow was one of the many people taking pictures at the Nebula Awards last weekend, and she managed to capture me (along with my boss, Ellen Asher). I should note that this picture is from the Friday night reception; I'm not so uncouth as to wear my SFBC T-shirt to the actual Nebula Banquet.

And, from this picture, I think you can tell why both of us are on the book end of the entertainment industry, where twisted smiles and general scruffiness are the order of the day. (And this is exactly why I generally don't smile for pictures -- my right eye always seems to close when I do.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Star Wars Personality Test

Running through the blogroll, I saw that Keith R.A. DeCandido was Han Solo, so I took the same test and found

You are Lando Calrissian

Lando Calrissian
Emperor Palpatine
Count Dooku
Boba Fett
Darth Maul
Qui-Gon Jinn
Darth Vader
Jabba the Hutt
Mace Windu
Tall, dark, and handsome.
Not much seems to bother you.
Maybe because you're so smooth.
You truly belong with us here in the clouds.

(This list displays the top 10 results out of a possible 21 characters)
Click here to take the Star Wars Personality Test

Hm. I'm apparently really close to the not-so-nice side of Lando, to judge from the other folks on that list.

Reading Into the Past: Week of 5/7

This week I rolled a 15, which takes me back to 1991 and the very earliest days of my reading notebook. (I might not have mentioned this before, but I started keeping a reading notebook at the beginning of December 1990, since I'd lost my job at Gale Research when they closed their New York office and I wanted some kind of not-being-a-bum metric to focus on. I then started at the SFBC on April 15, 1991, and kept up the notebook out of inertia.)

This is so far back that I hadn't moved to my normal system, in which I listed books read by date. Back then, I was keeping track by week, and adding up the number of pages each week. (I quit doing that in September of that year, probably because I finally realized that counting book pages, magazine pages and manuscript pages all equally was completely asinine.)

So, instead of my normal list, I have two lists, since I don't know what books I read on which dates. First is Week Ending 5/4/91:
  • P.M. Griffin, Seakeep (in Storms of Victory) 216pp
    I'd read the first short novel, by someone else, in that book the week before. This was one of the odder side "Witch World" projects, and I vaguely recall the other short novel in this book (Port of Dead Ships) as being better. Looking at my notebook again: well, perhaps this is because Port was actually by Andre Norton, who has a certain advantage in this area.
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch, editor, The Best of Pulphouse 377pp
    This is a great collection, and a book I feel very fondly towards, since it was the first book I ever bought professionally for the SFBC. I'd only been at the club for about six weeks, and Ellen Asher (SFBC Editor-in-Chief) was on one of her twice-yearly, completely incommunicado vacations in the UK. Some kind of budget problem reared its head, and every club in our group suddenly had to have more new books every cycle -- starting with the cycle we just finished. So I (as the greener-than-green neophyte editorial assistant) had to find two books to buy within a week. (I should say that I had the advice and help of Moshe Feder, ex-SFBC assistant and, at that time, editor of the Military Book Club.) To make matters even more difficult, the cycle in question was the twice-annual "Collector's Issue," which consisted entirely of classics. Well, I'd recently read and enjoyed this book, so I bought it. And, for the other slot, I indulged myself and brought back The Best of Fritz Leiber, which we still had under contract. (I figured Ellen would be more likely to be happy if I only spent the company's money on one book while she was away instead of two.)
  • Steven Brust, The Phoenix Guard 353pp
    First of the Khaavren romances. I read it, loved it, and realized there was no way in hell I could sell it in the SFBC -- particularly since we hadn't done any of the Vlad Taltos books at that point. I could just see how we'd sell it: "Hey, kids! You know that fantasy series about an assassin that you only vaguely know about and we've never offered? Well, this book is loosely related to that, works much better if you already know the world, and is written in a fake-19th century style! Wait -- where are you all going?!"
  • Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (end) 616pp
    It's a good book, but I still don't agree with Jonathan Lethem that it should have won the Nebula (or that any of the things that he thought would have followed had any chance of actually happening, for that matter).
  • Various Periodicals 562pp
    See? I didn't even list what I read. That's a lot of pages, so it was probably at least five or six magazines. But I have no idea what they were. I'm pretty sure I was reading National Review, Movieline, Comics Buyer's Guide, Skeptical Inquirer, Playboy (strictly for the articles, of course), and Spy then, and I might still have been reading National Lampoon (if it hadn't died by that point). But there probably were others that I've forgotten.
  • Joan Vinge, The Summer Queen (begin) 130pp
    This was the single most horrible manuscript I've ever had to deal with. (And that's about all that remains in memory: how unpleasant, physically, this was to read.) What I had was a huge stack of paper (800 pages, copied double-sided -- which I hated in those days), printed lightly, with massive numbers of editorial notes, queries and emendations. For a year or so afterwards, I had nightmares about reading The Summer Queen...
That was a relatively light week (my third at the SFBC), at only 322 pages a day -- the week before I'd done 575 pages a day and my first week I read six books for the club (though I should admit that two of those were novellas-as-books). The next week was a bit busier...

Week Ending 5/11/91:
  • Montalban, The Angst-Ridden Executive 229pp
    A mystery by a Mexican writer whose name I found on a list of good stuff somewhere. I must not have liked it much, because I never read another one of his books.
  • Joseph Hansen, Skinflick 194pp
    This is one of a series of mystery novels featuring Dave Brandstetter, who was interesting for two reasons: he was an insurance investigator (so he actually had a good reason to be poking around the lives of dead people), and he was gay (and this series started in the '70s, when that was a big deal). They're the kind of old-fashioned hard-boiled mysteries I read a lot of in those days and still love: short, to the point, and focused tightly on the actual case, without long digressions about the detective's supporting cast's love lives and other extraneous junk. I haven't read Hansen in probably a decade or more -- the last novel in the series, A Country for Old Men, was published in 1990, and Skinflick might actually have been the last of the early novels I tracked down -- but I liked them all very well at the time, and thought of him as one of the better writers in that area.
  • Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, Superman Archives, Volume I 272pp
    The first few months of Superman stories from Action Comics, back in the day when he could only outrun a locomotive, jump a quarter of a mile, and withstand anything short of a bursting shell. Sure, inflation can be a bitch, but I'd rather have the kind Clark had.
  • Robert B. Parker, Looking for Rachel Wallace 219pp
    A middle Spencer novel. I've written about them before, and I will admit that the current novels can be a bit airy, but Parker has put together an incredible string of excellent novels in this series.
  • Wayne Douglas Barlowe, Expedition 192pp
    A skiffy art book that should be better known; it seems to have fallen completely off the face of the planet. Barlowe, of course, is of Guide to Extraterrestrials fame. This is a higher-concept book; it purports to be the record of the first interstellar trip to an alien biosphere, sometime in the twenty-mumble century. Barlowe is the official trip artist, and the book contains his sketches and full paintings of the various creatures of this planet, along with his trip journal and other ruminations. It's a really wonderful SFnal idea, done with great style and energy, and in a better world would be one of the minor classics of the field.
  • Sue Grafton, "A" Is For Alibi 215pp
    I think I started reading this series because the then-editor of the Mystery Guild, Maryann Eckels (whom I realize I haven't seen in nearly ten years) pushed them on me and told me I had to read them. I don't think I ever thanked her for that: thanks, Maryann.
  • Bill Pronzini, Dragonfire 196pp
    Another mystery, from the "Nameless Detective" series. Yes, the series was a bit gimmicky (the detective's name was never revealed), but the '70s and '80s books were all good tough hardboiled stuff. They got a bit mushier in the '90s, and I eventually stopped reading them, but the first couple of decades of this series is great stuff in the old mold.
  • Joan Vinge, The Summer Queen (end) 1280pp
    Oh, god, please just make it stop.
  • Hearn, Bad August 243pp
    Yet another mystery. I think this was another author I was trying out and didn't keep up with. (I suspect this in part because, in these early days, I didn't list author's first names, and I now have no idea what Mr. Hearn's parents named him.)
  • Marcia Muller, The Shape of Dread 282pp
    One of the Sharon McCone mystery series: yet another one that I liked better back in the day before half of the book was about Sharon's home life and the dating misadventures of her sidekicks.
  • Various Periodicals 377pp
    What I said before, except I seem to have read less of it this week.
  • William F. Nolan and Martin H. Greenberg, editors, The Bradbury Chronicles (start) 270pp
    One of a flurry of feschrift anthologies of this era: this one had a bunch of mostly minor stories that were supposedly inspired by Ray Bradbury's work. I don't remember it at all.
And that week came out to 567 pages a day.

I'm now a couple of days later with this than I was last week, and am dangerously close to the next time I'll do this. I hope I don't end up combining weeks next time, or I could have a thousand-line post...

Your Fabulous Selection of Prizes!

The First Antick Musings Contest (see immediately below; particularly the comments) continues at a frantic pace, with sixteen worthy titles having been guessed but, sadly, all incorrectly.

I'll have to look around some more to see if I have anything that isn't a book-shaped object that could be part of the prize, but here are the promised selection of ARCs, from which the winner can choose some number I haven't decided on yet:
  • Starwater Strains by Gene Wolfe
  • Eternity and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard
  • It's Superman! by Tom De Haven
  • A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
  • The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl by Tim Pratt
  • The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle
  • The House of Storms by Ian R. MacLeod
  • Vellum (US edition) by Hal Duncan
And there are about the same number of fabulous SFBC editions that can also be included in the lucky winner's prize.

Please keep guessing; I've got one more major clue that I'll trot out sometime tomorrow evening if no one has guessed correctly by then.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Angry Customers

I just opened a package that contained a typewritten note and a half-burned book.

The letter reads:

I am returning a book which I purchased from you about 20 or 25 years ago. I am now returning it. I don't expect a refund for it after all this time. I'm only returning to let you know that I hate the book. a disgrace to science fiction. Most of the people in the book are the exact opposite of people in most science fiction stories. It shouldn't be classified as science fiction. It should be classified as fantasy or adventure instead. Maybe it should be classified as childrens literature. If it's still included in the Book Club selections, I suggest that you remove it.

You probably notice that the book is in a damaged and charred condition. That's because I tried to burn it before mailing to you. It might be a good idea for most science fictions who have the book to do the same, assuming that they feel the same way I do about it.

OK, it's time for the very first Antick Musings Contest! Guess which book got this person so incensed, and win something cool. (I'm still figuring out what, exactly, the prize will be, but I can include a selection of SFBC original anthologies, like Between Worlds and The Fair Folk; books I edited like Off the Main Sequence by Heinlein and Black Seas of Infinity by Lovecraft; and whatever I have on my random stack of discarded galleys and whatnot at home. I think I have a numbered bound galley of Knife of Dreams, if anyone wants that.)

Your clues:
  • The book in question was sold by the SFBC.
  • The book is at least 20 years old.
  • I believe that most SF readers would not agree with this person's assessment of this book.
The prize: at least a couple of books, and I'll probably let the lucky winner choose the specifics.

The deadline is five o'clock (Eastern Daylight Time) Monday. I may post more clues if no one is close. C'mon, folks, I want to give stuff away, so start guessing!

Quote of the Week

"No man ever became extremely wicked all at once."
-- Juvenal

Movie Log: Roxanne, Arsenic and Old Lace

I'm catching up on movies I missed the first time (or can't remember if I ever saw to begin with). I spent the last decade seeing only about one movie a month, so I missed a lot -- and I mostly saw really bad movies in college, so there's a lot of ground to cover there as well.

Roxanne I saw last Thursday; I got it from Netflix because I'd seen L.A. Story a month or so back and loved it. Roxanne is another Steve Martin romantic comedy (actually, I think those two are the only Steve Martin romantic comedies), and it's more formulaic and less quirky than L.A. Story. It's still smart and engaging, even to a viewer like me who tends to like the idea of a romantic comedy more often than I like the actual execution of the idea. And we do sort-of see Daryl Hannah naked for five minutes or so, which makes any movie much better.

Arsenic and Old Lace is also very funny, and I probably saw at least parts of it at one time. (I think we did a workshop version of the play in some drama class or group I was in, way back in the dawn of time. I'm pretty sure I was Jonathan.) The movie is very stagey and set-bound, but I usually enjoy that -- and it's a beautiful set, too. It is weird to see Raymond Massey reacting to all of the Boris Karloff jokes; those much have worked much better on stage, with Karloff in the same part. By today's standards, it's not that black of a comedy, especially since no one dies in the course of the movie's action, but Cary Grant is great (as is the rest of the cast), and it still holds up very well.

And by the time I get home today we'll have two movies there, so I'll probably watch Shopgirl and Nanny McPhee over the weekend. (And, if that isn't the first time those two movies were mentioned in the same sentence, I'll eat my hat.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Today's WFA Reading: 5/11

Two slim packages today: one with a small book (maybe a novella, maybe a novel) and one with a chapbook that must be a short story.

It's nice to have a day when the incoming stuff could all be read that night. (Not that this goes to the head of the queue by any means -- I have Systems for these things.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This Week's WFA Reading: 5/10ish

Two things have come in this week, and I've been to lazy to mention them separately: one anthology (sent in by one of the contributors) and one very nice-looking reference work.

O, Glorious Day!

We are now a two-minivan family. It doesn't get any more suburban than that.

Even better, The Wife took Thing 1 and his best friend to Cub Scouts this evening, after dropping Thing 2 and I off at the local school for his kindergarten orientation. (She had thought it wouldn't be a problem bringing him -- even though it's not an orientation for the kids -- but she turned out to be somewhat mistaken.)

Jay Lake's Teddy Bear Gun

A week ago, Jay Lake asked commentors on his LiveJournal to write the first sentence of a possible story, using the phrase "teddy bear gun," in response to a news story about an actual teddy bear gun -- which naturally came from Japan.

He got a lot of responses (including one from me, below), and now is running a poll to decide which one is best. It would be rude to urge you to go vote for me, but go vote for something; there are a lot of good choices there.
There comes a time in every PLUSHIE agent's life when he's tempted -- sorely tempted -- to eat his teddy bear gun. But Heironymous Ermintrude never thought it would happen to his partner at noon in the middle of the Salt Lake City Denny's.
In case you're interested, PLUSHIE is the Policing League Under Secret Highest Injunction Extraordinary.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Thought for the Day

My two sons are eight and five. The only context they've ever heard the word "boss" -- and the way they invariably use it themselves -- is to describe the big monster at the end of a videogame level.

Names, Damned Names, and Statistics

Yet another meme: I saw that Kevin J. Maroney was doing this, and it looked like fun.

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet and current street name)
(I've never actually had a pet that was mine, not that I can remember. My kid brother had a cat, and the boys have two hamsters and two fish now, but I've never felt the need to have an animal on call. Still, Lincoln is a plausible Emo-ish one-name rock star.)

2. YOUR MOVIE STAR NAME: (grandfather/grandmother on your dad's side, your favorite candy)
Everett Jelly Bean
(Doesn't work at all.)

3. YOUR "FLY GIRL/GUY" NAME: (first initial of first name, first two or three letters of your last name)
(Another non-starter; I think this only works if the first name starts with a consonant.)

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite animal, favorite color)
Kangaroo Black
(Do most people have a "favorite animal" that they can think up quickly? I didn't.)

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born)
Colin Albany
(That one works.)

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (first 3 letters of your last name, last 3 letters of mother's maiden name, first 3 letters of your pet's name)
Whetis Har
("Har" is for "Harriman," the first-named of the current pets.)

7. JEDI NAME: (middle name spelled backwards, your mom's maiden name spelled backwards)
Niloc Retals
(I used her mom's maiden name, just to foil identity thieves with way too much time on their hands.)

8. PORN STAR NAME: (middle name, street you grew up on)
Colin Hillcrest
(Bom Chicka Bo-Bom.)

9. SUPERHERO NAME: ("The", your favorite color, the automobile you drive)
The Black Windstar
(Hm. A white guy can't use the color "black," or any synonyms thereof, in his superhero name. And "Windstar" leads to all sorts of bad jokes.)

Free Burn!

James Patrick Kelly is giving away his excellent short novel (or long novella: you choose) Burn, via his website. If you're too high-minded to take it for free, it can be found as a cute 'lil separate book, and also as the final story in the upcoming annual Dozois doorstop.

However you find it, you really should read it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Limber Children Can Be Frightening

The whole family decamped, once I got home from work today, to check out what we thought would be our new minivan. (A silver 2006 Honda Odyssey LX, with only a roof rack added -- we wanted the best, but we also wanted it cheap and without frills.) The Wife and I had gone to the dealer last week and decided definitively that the more common light tan interior fabric would not mix well with two young (and messy) boys. So Our Guy Joe at Mahwah Honda tracked down an Odyssey with the darker interior, and we all went out to see it.

Thing 1 was very impressed by the flip-out cup holder on his chair, by the second rear slider, and, most importantly, by the CD player. (Our current minivan, soon to be my minivan, is a 1998 Ford Windstar with a rather more plebian sound system.) Thing 2 was fond of the fold-flat rear seats. We didn't even demonstrate how the two chairs in the second row can either be stuck together or moved apart -- though I expect, with two boys, we'll be swapping between those two options pretty regularly.

We took a short test drive, without even a dealer plate. (Is this legal? I wondered but didn't say.) The Wife was happy. I was happy. Thing 2 tried to fit himself into the under-floor storage, he was so happy. Thing 1 burbled on and on about the car and the game he was playing on his Nintendo DS interchangeably, and without anyone being able to understand a word of it.

We came back to the dealership, ready to sign all of the many papers. To keep the boys out of our hair, we stuck them in the backseat of the full-size car sitting in the showroom (probably an Accord, I guess, unless Honda has a car bigger than that). Thing 1 continued to play the DS as we signed. I kept seeing Thing 2's feet out of the corner of my eye, but I thought he was just standing on his head, as he is wont to do.

But no. This car, as we discovered when we retrieved the boys a few minutes later, has a fold-down panel in the middle of the backseat, to allow skis to slide comfortably into the trunk. And Thing 2, as he told us with glee, could climb into the trunk through it. He proceeded to demonstrate to us, and we pretended to be happy. I won't say that the boy could fit absolutely anywhere, but my mental list of places in which he definitely would not fit is getting very slim.

So we left in our old car -- The Wife will get a cashier's check in the next day or two and, probably with her mother in tow, pick up the brand new Hornswoggler-mobile to bring it home. And we will then suddenly have become that most dreaded of things in suburbia: a two-minivan family.

So if you see a car that looks like this (with a roof rack, but with less-fancy wheels) on the streets of North Jersey in about a week, sporting temporary plates, give a wave -- it's probably my wife, late for some boyish appointment or other.

And if you need to buy a car in North Jersey anytime soon, our advice is to go to Mahwah. We bought our Windstar in 2000 at Mahwah Ford, and this Honda from a completely unrelated dealership just down the road. Both places were very pleasant and hassle-free. Must be something in the location, I guess.

Blurbing The Lies of Locke Lamora

I was going to stick this into the Nebula post, but I forgot about it then.

When I was chatting with the Night Shade Boys (and doesn't that sound like a fantasy story someone like Howard Waldrop should write?), we got to talking about books we had recently read, and Scott Lynch's amazingly cool debut novel came up. This isn't exactly what I said then, but it's what I would have said, if I was better at saying things extemporaneously. And nobody has actually asked me to blurb this book, but what the hell.
The Lies of Lock Lamora doesn't just kick ass, it kicks all kinds of ass -- it tracks down all of the ass's friends, and kicks them as well. This is the kind of book that makes you happy just to be alive and the owner of the eyeballs reading such an excellent fantasy caper novel. And when I heard that Lynch's next novel will be about pirates, I got even more excited: Lynch is exactly the sort of writer who should be writing pirate stories. I completely and utterly approve.

Incoming Books: 7-8 May

I didn't manage to buy any books at the Nebulas (which is odd, for me), but I did keep a couple of things from the giveaway bag, and two other books have come home with me from work (where I found them on the freebie shelves). So here's more stuff I really shouldn't read for a while:
  • Mom's Cancer by Brian Fies
  • Two for the Road by Jane & Michael Stern
  • City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer
    I think I have a bound galley of this around here somewhere, but now I have a real book to replace that with.
  • Fledgling by Octavia Butler

Today's WFA Reading: 5/6

Two novels came in while I was away, from two separate publishers. One of them looks really interesting, though possibly grinding some axes. The other...well, it's best just not to say.

Nebula Quick Takes

I never managed to blog about World Fantasy, so I'm going to try to jot down some quick Nebula impressions as I have time today, and then post this -- rather than trying to polish it up into something sleek and shiny.

The Flight Out
Ellen Asher and I ended up taking the same flight by semi-accident; we both wanted to get there Friday afternoon, and there aren't that many flights to Phoenix that time of day. I didn't see anyone else from the skiffy world on the plane, which was a bit odd; there's usually a small-scale floating pre- and post-convention gathering, especially when these things are held in smaller cities. But we were alone.

The flight was uneventful; the movie was Big Momma's House 2, which kept my eyes firmly on my book.

Friday Night
The hotel (the Tempe Mission Palms) was absolutely wonderful, with spacious rooms on four floors surrounding a gorgeous courtyard. The lobby was large and airy, full of lots of big, comfy chairs and couches to spend time in.

I checked into the hotel and got my Nebula badge, and then met the first of several club members (Josh, or something like that), who mildly took me to task for not including "The Whisperer in Darkness" in Black Seas of Infinity, the Lovecraft collection I edited a few years back. In defending myself, I first mixed that story up with "The Lurker on the Threshold," and then wasn't quite sure why I left "Whisperer" out. Perhaps I was holding it, along with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, for the second volume I still hope to do someday.

I also, then and later, ran into a number of people who mentioned reading and enjoying this blog -- and thanks for doing so. I shall continue to strive to please.

Ellen and I were wandering around more-or-less together, and independently decided we were starving, so we were going to go looking for the hotel's restaurant when we ran into Ginjer Buchanan (ace Ace editor and one of the most engaging conversationalists in SF). She was chatting with author Rebecca Lickiss and her husband, but Ginjer had dinner reservations, much later, with someone else. So the Lickisses joined us for a very nice dinner at the unfortunately named My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, where we all remarked on how much of a college town Tempe was, pondered its elevation (later determined to be 1105 feet) and marveled at the call of a very loud bird in a nearby tree.

After a little downtime in my room (yet more reading), I wandered down to the Dark Horse/Tor reception. Oddly, there didn't seem to be anyone from either Dark Horse or Tor actually at the reception, but we were all happy with them for paying for it. It turned into the first of the weekend's several Harlan Ellison roasts, with Joe Haldeman, Ginjer, Toastmaster Connie Willis, and others saying amusing but probably not legally-actionable things about our newest Grand Master. And the nosh was very good.

Saturday daytime
I wandered off into the city looking for used books or other interesting shopping -- or perhaps a nice park to sit down and read in. Instead, I found the one used-book store closed for the day and that a giant beach volleyball tournament had taken over the nearby park. And even "a dry heat" is pretty damn hot. So I wandered back to the hotel, and spent most of the day reading.

In between, I did get to the "State of the ibooks Bankruptcy" discussion, because I'm a sucker for those things. Richard Curtis laid out the state of play, and what bankruptcy law means. There was some harrumphing from sections of the audience about the bankruptcy clause in standard contracts, which some saw as a fraud perpetrated by publishers (though I'd always thought that clause was demanded mostly by authors and agents, even though -- as Richard pointed out -- it is completely unenforceable, since federal bankruptcy law has precedence over any contract provisions). All of the solutions proposed, to my mind, would not work, mostly because any contract terms would not help.

Nebula Banquet
The evening started with a reception on the patio surrounding the pool, up on the second floor of the hotel. Some people seemed to have trouble finding it, and I heard that others were held back by vicious bridesmaids from the wedding going on simultaneously in the courtyard. (And it was a gorgeous place to have a wedding, I must admit.) Still, there was a good crowd, and I chatted with Charles Brown and others before we all wandered downstairs to the actual banquet.

The food was actually pretty good, though the tables were very crowded. There was no outside speaker, as there hasn't been for the past several years. (There was an odd melancholy tone when people talked about the great bad Nebula speakers of the past -- I don't think anyone really wanted to be trapped in a banquet hall listening to a horrible speech, but it certainly makes a much better story afterward.) Connie Willis, as Toastmaster, ran the proceedings quickly, and only intermittently let things turn into an unofficial roast of Harlan.

I've posted the winners earlier. They were all very happy and enthusiastic, and most of them were present, which is always preferable.

Harlan's speech was fairly short but very rambling, and didn't kill the way it really could have. He can't seem to get out of the habit of always attacking his audience, though he did manage to stop short of quitting SFWA or rejecting the honor. (And I'm only half-kidding there.) If he'd done a bit more preparation, it could have been a great speech, but spending five minutes on how Steve McQueen saved his life did not endear him to the audience.

After the Banquet, most folks (including me) adjourned to the hospitality suite (and attached pool patio) for the after-party. I ran into the Night Shade Guys (Jason and Jeremy) there, who I had been unsuccessfully looking for all day. And there was some more good food.

I got up at a very early hour (but, then, I usually do these days -- have two small boys will train you to do that), and schlepped off to the airport to head home. I did run into Sheila Williams there (and her current associate editor, Brian something-or-other), and we chatted a bit before we had to board the cattle car. As usual, Harlan dominated the conversation, even when he was nowhere nearby.

The flight was only slightly late, and I had the same car-service driver who picked me up after World Fantasy last year (when I got in at about one A.M., six or more hours late). So we commiserated about that, and talked kid stuff (Pennsylvania theme parks, mostly) all the way to Pompton Lakes.