Saturday, June 30, 2007

Incoming Books: Week of 6/30

Saturday is my slowest day for traffic (hey, it's the day I spend the least amount of time on the 'Net, too), so I'm going to try to remember to stick these record-keeping posts on Saturdays, since I suspect they're mostly of interest to the man typing them.

I made a trip into the city this week, to have a late lunch with my brother at the Shake Shack and to hit the comics shop, so the haul this week is entirely comical:
  • a whole pile of things for the boys, including four comics they get now and three digest-sized collections they'll get at various later dates
  • Fox Bunny Funny, a wordless trade paperback from Andy Hartzell, whose work I'm sure I've seen before. I just read it, and I'll have to think about it, and maybe figure out what else Hartzell has done.
  • Grendel Archives by Matt Wagner, a collection of the long-out-of-print early Grendel comics. I expect it to be more "interesting" than "good," but it's a nice little hardcover at a reasonable price, so I'll be happy with it either way.
  • Fables, Vol. 9: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and others
  • The Pulse, Vol. 1 by Bendis and others, because Midtown Comics had a whole shelf of them for half-price, and because I'm vaguely interested in what Bendis did with Jessica Jones after Alias ended.
  • Apollo's Song by Osamu Tezuka, because I've read two volumes of Buddha and just finished Ode to Kirihito (which is...something I'll have to think about for a bit before I can be coherent on the subject), and because Vertical does such great packages for his books.
Those are all comics, as I said, so I should have them all finished by this time next week -- my ultimate aim is to eliminate one or more of the three big stacks of books next to my computer desk. (I've already lopped a good two feet off of the top of one of them, this month.)

Blog No Longer in Exile

Two days of my posts have now gone up at ComicMix, that gig appears to be pretty solid now.

So I'm now going to change the date on my far-future Blog in Exile post, and shut down the vast Blog in Exile machinery (I had to wait until after dark to do it, actually; some of the components heat up a lot in the summer sun) and stow it away safely.

I don't expect any more posts with the "Blog in Exile" tag here; if you just wanted them, point your browser (or feedreader) to ComicMix, where I expect to continue for as long as they'll have me.

Antick Musings proper will revert back to being my random thoughts on odd topics (often book- or movie-related, though not always), as God intended. (Which reminds me that I have two movies and five books to catch up on...)

Blog in Exile: The Scoop

I posted an Introduction to "Blog in Exile" when I started it, but I think a very quick explanation up here at the end of time may also be helpful, since my traffic is picking up.

Hello. This is the personal blog of Andrew Wheeler, and it consists of lots of different things. The list of topics are to the left, under my profile. The topic names are phrased a bit whimsically, but I think are basically understandable.

If you're here for the long lists of science fictional links, they're all under the "Blog in Exile" topic. Books I've just read are in Books Read, and my Book-A-Day Project from late 2006 is also lurking in the archives. I'll leave you to discover other things, as and if you want to.

Comments are welcome, as long as they're not spam and are either vaguely related to the topic of the post or entertaining.

Welcome to Antick Musings; I hope you enjoy it.

Leading By Example

I don't seem to have many wanna-be writers reading this blog (unlike the blogs of most editors/writers/agents), possibly because I don't really give writing advice. (The one thing I do say, to paraphrase Calvin Trillin on parenting, is "Try to write one that doesn't suck.")

But, just in case they are out there, lurking, I'd like to present myself as an object lesson. It's OK, I'm a positive one. (I think.)

One thing you would-be writers hear incessantly from the folks who do give advice (Miss Snark of dear memory, Writer Beware, Paperback Writer, and so on) is that you need to present yourself in public in a professional manner. The corollary is that you must also realize when you are in public, and in particular, to remember that Internet posts (viz: this one) are public acts.

So: in the same way that it's best for a would-be writer not to complain about rejection letters, to obsess over potential agents, and to fulminate at the idiocies of publishing in public, it's also best for someone actively seeking work in publishing in a different capacity (again, viz: me) to similarly be reticent and keep private matters private.

My advice to any beginning writers reading this is: let yourselves be guided by my example. I haven't posted about what I've been doing, and I won't until I can say "on day X, I'll begin at Company Y as their new Z." Solid, obvious milestones -- a novel completed, acceptance by an agent or publisher, movie deals complete with swimming-pools full of money -- are to be publicized and celebrated. But steps, and particularly setbacks, along the way, should remain private.

Oh, and while you're at it, the picture of you on MySpace toting the beer bong and wearing that outfit really should disappear as well...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fantagraphics, Ellison Settle Their Differences

The details seem to be secret -- and I have trouble actually believing it -- but GalleyCat reports on an e-mail received from Fantagraphics (and a notice on an unspecified, unlinked Harlan Ellison website) that says the two parties have reached an agreement. Presumably, this ends Ellison's suit against Fantagraphics.

The details are said to be secret for now, which seems to imply that the publication of the Fantagraphics book that occasioned the original suit will go forward.

Harlan Ellison and Gary Groth puttting aside their differences and agreeing to something...this must be a sign of the apocalypse, right?

Quotes of the Week

"I wear the flag of a county that never existed and the uniform of its glorious army, spreading forth the dominion of the invincible empire of me. Doctor Impossible." (p.90)

"Splendid, but the place smells like they always do -- sweat and ozone and disinfectant, hospital smells. The ability to stretch your limbs or secrete acids can wreak havoc on the human metabolism. There's a fine line between a superpower and a chronic medical condition." (p.142)

"They could come after me, I guess, but it doesn't matter -- I'm good at escapes. Maybe into the sewers, like the old days. It doesn't matter. You keep going. You keep trying to take over the world." (p.159)

"I often wonder what Einstein would have done in my position. At Peterson, I kept an Einstein poster in my room, the ones that says 'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' Einstein was smart, maybe even as smart as Laserator, but he played it too safe. Then again, nobody ever threw a grappling hook at Einstein.

"I like to think he would have enjoyed my work, if he could have seen it. But no one sees anything I do, not until it's hovering over Chicago." (p.254)

"When your laboratory explodes, lacing your body with a super-charged elixir, what do you do? You don't just lie there. You crawl out of the rubble, hideously scarred, and swear vengeance on the world. You keep going. You keep trying to take over the world." (p.280)

- Doctor Impossible, from Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

Thursday, June 28, 2007

You Should See What the Hayes Code Says About Me...

Hey, I think I'm getting to a meme before everyone else for once -- I got this from Yes But No But Yes:

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Second Thoughts, some days later:

So Antick Musings is rated R for the following reasons:
  • dead (4x)
  • dick (2x)
  • death (1x)
But that other blog that I used to do is rated PG for these reasons:
  • death (4x)
  • dead (2x)
  • dick (1x)
Does that mean that "dead" is twice as bad as "death?" Or that more than one dick means the kiddies must stay out? (Or, cynical Mr. Hornswoggler asks, does this generator pick a random rating and then justify itself equally randomly?)

Just Read: Lucky Lulu by John Stanley and Irving Tripp

From various freebie shelves over the past year or two at my former employer, I picked up four Little Lulu collections. Since I'm trying to read through all of my accumulated comical books right now (and, after that, the rest of the stack they're on next to my desk), I figured I should read them as well.

Lucky Lulu had the lowest number on the spine (number 9), so I read it first. I'm not entirely sure what to think, so I'll hit at least one more of these before coming out with any definitive opinion. But this feels awfully outdated to me; it's not only nothing like my kids' current childhoods, but it's nothing like my childhood (physically or emotionally). The stories are pleasant enough, and vaguely amusing, but I don't feel much connection to them. I'll say more once I've read April Fools, volume 11...

Just Read: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

If mice had their own pseudo-medieval civilization in a forest somewhere (I have no idea where this is supposed to take place, and human life doesn't enter into the story at all), Mouse Guard would be a documentary. As far as I know, they don't, so it isn't.

The plot tropes here are pretty well-worn in the fantasy field -- I won't list them all for you, but you'll recognize them when you see them, starting with the young hothead cop guard and moving on to the Secret Betrayer and other fun stuff. But having them all enacted by mice makes them all fresher. And even if the plot isn't breaking any new ground, it's told well and moves at a good speed.

The real star here is Petersen's art, which is detailed and expressive and tells the story very well. (I do have to deduct points, though, for his difficult-to-read, all-caps lettering style; I hope he'll tinker with that for future stories.)

So it's fun, it's adventurous, and it's a comic with both of those things but without people with their underwear on the outside (or any people at all, for that matter). That's all positive in my book, so I recommend it to anyone looking fora good sword-slinging mouse tale.

Just Read: The Trouble With Girls (Volume 1)

I've written about this series once or twice before -- the short version is that I read it and liked it when it was originally published (from 1989 through the mid-90s, on a shoestring the whole time, apparently), and it was even one of The Wife's favorite comics, back when she was making more of an effort to read them. (She quite likes broad, winking, pseudo-sexist humor, and Trouble With Girls is full of that.)

In case you've never heard of the series, Lester Girls (who bears a striking resemblance to Clark Kent) is one of the world's top spies, billionaires, and womanizers..all pretty much against his will, since all he wants is to settle down with a boring job, a plain wife, and a house with a picket fence in a drab suburb. His best friend is Apache Dick, only slightly less adept at the spying and womanizing than Les. His nemesis is the Lizard Lady, a quintessential femme fatale and Yellow Peril in the Dragon Lady mode (though more frequently naked and/or murderous). Oh, and ace reporter Maxi Scoops is doggedly on his trail, wanting to get the big scoop on the international man of mystery.

It's all so far over the top that it's hard to see the top from here, but it's also exceptionally entertaining. The concept is deeply satirical, but also inevitably sexist (that's the point, you see), so I would warn any members of the Secret Feminist Comics Cabal to stay far away. Luckily, the SFCC seems to only care about Marvel and DC cover art at the moment, so we should be safe.

It's written by Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones and penciled by Tim Hamilton, usually inked by Dave Garcia. This volume collects the first seven issues of the original series, which is the place to start. (The series went somewhat downhill later on, especially in the spin-off mini-series, though the re-launch in color was strong for a while. Any single joke, no matter how good, can only go on so long.)

I'm ComicMixing, Baby!

Remember how I used to do another blog, for a corporate entity that I shall not here name? Well, it looks like I'll be doing basically the same thing, as part of a group blog called ComicMix.

My first post -- an article on Paizo Publishing's new Planet Stories imprint -- is already up, and I think the kind of things I've been doing here as "Blog in Exile" will start appearing there soon. "Soon" meaning: a) I actually do some posts and get them into the ComicMix system, and 2) the Secret ComicMix Overlords don't suddenly have a fit of good sense and decide they don't want me after all.

ComicMix has been posting articles by plenty of people whose work I've respected and liked for years (like John Ostrander and Dennis O'Neil), so I'm thrilled to be a part of it. As you might guess from the name, ComicMix's central focus is on comics, but they seem to be pretty broad-church in their interests. (After all, we're all geeks together, right?)

So my posting here may become more erratic or less voluminous, and the "Blog in Exile" stuff will probably stop (I'll post again once I'm sure it's going up over there). On the other hand, I feel like I keep saying "I'm afraid I'll post less" every month or so here, and yet I keep posting more. We'll have to see what actually happens.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Just Read: Aya by Abouet & Oubrerie

This is a very lightweight sex comedy (if the characters were white, I'd have been sure I saw it in the mid-80s); the only thing that makes it notable is that it's set in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in the late '70s, in the middle of a period of peace and economic growth there. It is nice to see a story from Africa (the writer, Abouet, is from the Ivory Coast herself, though she's a few years younger than the main characters of this story) that's not about war, famine, genocide, or other horrible things, but I'm afraid this story itself isn't all that impressive.

Three teenage girls are friends, and they have various (not all that interesting, or new, or well-imagined) adventures with love and sex. The title character is our ostensible viewpoint character, but her perspective doesn't really frame the story, and using her as the occasional narrator just moves the focus of the story away from the other two women -- the ones who are actually doing things. A comedy about young people has to convince us that the characters are real, specific people -- not just types -- and Aya never did that for me. The young women are pretty well rounded (except Aya herself, who seems to be more a projection of the writer than a real character), but the men are nearly all caricatures, though not broad enough to be funny (or to make it feel like their caricaturization was deliberate).

The dialogue is passable, though a bit flat, but the art is nice -- it's a little stylized and rubbery to give some energy to a mostly talky story. Abouet may yet do important work in comics, but this isn't it. I might take a look at her next graphic novel, if it comes around to the States. But I think that I'm more interested in seeing Oubrerie's art, next time, on a better story.

Just Read: The Mighty Skullboy Army by Jacob Chabot

I thought Chabot's "Mighty Skullboy Army" strip was the best thing in the 2004 Dark Horse compilation (of strips from their website) Strip Search, so I was happy to see him get his own book (even if it did take three years). Come to think of it, Skullboy got the cover of Strip Search, so he was probably the DH favorite to begin with.

Skullboy is this kid who runs an evil corporation but also is stuck in elementary school (because, as I said, he's a kid). He also, as his name implies, looks like a skull for no obvious reason. His army consists of Unit 1, a blue robot who seems to have come from a '50s toy shelf, and Unit 2, a talking, supposedly super-intelligent monkey. As is traditional for humorous strips like this, Skullboy's plans never work out, but they always fail in an amusing manner.

This is a nice all-ages comic; I haven't decided yet if I'll keep it for myself or pass it on to my kids, but it could go either way. It's also only $9.95, which is really cheap for a trade paperback, so you might as well buy it, next time you're in a comics shop -- assuming you do like humor about world-conquering villains and their unhelpful henchmen.

(Final Note, part one: these strips all seem to be dated 2002 or 2003, so I wonder if Chabot has moved on from this character. I also wonder why it took this long to collect them.)

(Final Note, part B: I think that cover above is a preliminary one; the book I have in front of me has the title in a different font, no red border (though there is a thin blue-and-grey border on the left side), Chabot's name at the lower right, and no skulls.)

Blog in Exile: Podcasts & Similar Frivolities, 6/27

The 24th installment of Adventures in SciFi Publishing features an interview with the dashing and suave Tobias S. Buckell, talking about his new novel Ragamuffin. Also in the lineup: Pyr editor-in-chief Lou Anders on what new writers need to succeed, and more.

Blog in Exile: Random News & Links for 6/27

The Oregon Literary Review has a long section on Manly Wade Wellman, with two interviews (with David Drake and Night Shade Books' Jeremy Lassen), two Wellman stories, and more. [via Locus Online]

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House may just be the only library in the world to straddle an international border -- half of it is in the US, and half in Canada. [via Reading Copy]

Jeff VanderMeer reports for the Amazon Blog about this past weekend's American Library Association conference.

John Scalzi has had four of his best and most fannish Whatever posts translated into Japanese so that local Hugo voters from this year's Worldcon (Nippon 2007) can read his Best Fan Writer-nominated work in their native language.

Jeff Somers (author of The Electric Church) shows us the horror that is compulsory blogging.

Blog in Exile: Douglas Hill, 1935-2007

SF Scope reports that Canadian-born, British-resident SF writer Douglas Hill has died after being hit by a car in London. (SF Scope has an extensive bibliography of Hill's works at that link; Hill also has a page at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and a Wikipedia entry.)

Blog in Exile: Reviews for 6/27

Fantasy Book Critic reviews Neal Asher's Hilldiggers.

SciFi Weekly reviews Sheri S. Tepper's The Margarets.

SF Signal reviews Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad.

Strange Horizons reviews Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms.

Book Fetish reviews Dawn Thompson's Blood Moon.

Library Journal's 6/15 issue has a long round-up of SF/Fantasy books, including titles by Catherine Asaro, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias S. Buckell, Laura Anne Gilman, Susan Palwick, and many more. [thanks to superagent Joshua Bilmes for passing on the link]

CA Reviews covers Yasmine Galenorn's Changeling.

Kids Lit reviews Derek Landy's middle-grades fantasy novel Skullduggery Pleasant.

Powell's Book Blog has the Esquire review of Haruki Murakami's After Dark.

Wistful Writings reviews Tobias S. Buckell's Ragamuffin. [via the author]

David Louis Edelman continues his journey through the books of Middle-earth with a look at J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers. (Originally published a few weeks back, but seems to have been at least slightly edited.)

Lenin's Tomb reviews Ken MacLeod's The Execution Channel.

Gwenda Bond liked Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, Matt Russ's Bad Monkeys, and Kelley Eskridge's Dangerous Space.

Monsters and Critics reviews Julie Kenner's Demons Are Forever.

Marianne Plumridge reviews The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature edited by Philip Martin.

Blog in Exile: Interviews for 6/27

SciFi Wire chats with Paizo Publishing's Eric Mona about their new "Planet Stories" line, which will reprint classic adventure stories of SF and fantasy.

Pink Raygun interviews James A. Owen, author of Here, There Be Dragons.

John Scalzi interviews Robert J. Sawyer, author of Rollback, at the Ficlets blog.

My Day

I keep feeling as if I'm not getting anything done, and if you know anything about me, you'll have realized that "getting things done" is my monomania; I have a burning need to be productive and useful all the damn time. So I've been trying to figure out how I've been spending my time recently.

First of all, the boys got out of school last Thursday. Before that, they both went to school (which meant I walked them down) for the 8:35 bell. Then Thing 2 got out of half-day kindergarten at 11:20 and Thing 1 got out of school at 3:05. (That's at least twenty minutes for each pickup, plus time for Thing 2 to play on the playground with his friends on sunny days -- on average, another twenty minutes.) Now they're in camp from 9 to 12 (except for days like today, when it's supposed to be 96 degrees, so we kept them home), which means only two drop-off/pick-up slots, but it involves driving, which means it takes longer.

Thing 2 is growing again, so he's eating every half-hour while he's home. And Thing 1 (roughly four and a half feet tall and over 100 pounds at age nine) is no slouch, either. So between apples (sliced and peeled), bananas (peeled), canned pineapples (opened and slopped into a bowl), dry cereal, grapes (washed), cucumbers (sliced and peeled), fruit snacks, granola bars, "unhealthy snacks," PB&J sandwiches (crunchy and cut into squares for Thing 1, creamy and cut into triangles for Thing 2), microwave pizza, juice boxes, water and juice cups, and other random foodstuffs, that's another forty-five minutes a day.

(Add in bowl-wrangling and clean-up time for another twenty minutes or so. You wouldn't believe how many bowls two boys can go through in one day.)

It's been hot, so they want to swim in the pool most afternoons, and I can't work here at the computer (deep in the basement), while my two boys are outside in the backyard splashing in the inflatable pool and potentially downing. So I have to take whatever I have on paper (usually a book to read), and go watch them for an hour or so every day.

So that's a solid three and a half hours knocked out of the potential working hours of the day, even before we get into the car and run errands. (Such as this morning, when we had to drop The Wife off at work and go shopping at the A&P.)

I just wish somebody would give me a job and get me back into a nice calm office. I can't take much more of this rest and relaxation...

Readercon Ho!

After some dithering (mostly about the cost), I finally decided that I will attend Readercon this year. (It'll be my first time, actually.) And I just realized that it's starting in just over a week.

I hope to see many folks there, and maybe even meet some new people. If you read Antick Musings, and you're at Readercon, say hello if you get a chance. (It'll also be your chance to complain about whatever I'm doing wrong -- I know fandom, so I'm sure everyone has at least one thing they loathe about Antick Musings.)

But the real reason I'm posting now is because I need a ride. My car -- the fabled "dark car," which saw me up to the most recent Boskone and Philcon and through about a year of mostly weekend use -- is on its last legs, and our previous plans to buy a new car have been put on hold by recent events. Mass transit to the Readercon hotel looks to be not only expensive (Amtrak) but also convoluted and long (train to commuter train to bus to sled dogs to funicular railway, and then ask, I think).

So I'd rather find another way of getting there, if I can. Is there anyone within the sound of my voice traveling from the New York area (preferably New Jersey, but I'm not fussy -- I can get into the city easily), with an extra seat available in their car? I'm pretty good company, if I do say so myself.

I'd prefer to go up on Friday and come back on Sunday, but I've got a hotel reservation for Thursday night, so I can go up then, if that's when you're traveling.

Serious inquiries only, please, to acwheele at optonline dot net. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Just Read: The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

Some writers speak for more than themselves, by some insight or quirk able to put into words the unspoken feelings of a whole class or society. Tom Perrotta is one of the best of them: his books, from the early stories in Bad Haircut up to his new novel The Abstinence Teacher, have charted the inner lives of the generation that grew up in the American suburbs of the 1970s. Perhaps I find his books that much more impressive because this is my generation, my life -- because his characters speak in the voices that I know from my friends, my neighbors, and my own head. Perhaps I'm even closer to his works because their different suburbias all have the flavor of New Jersey, where I grew up myself. But even if you're not of my generation, even if you've never been to "Joisy," I can still tell you that Perrotta speaks true, that his people are completely real, wonderfully flawed, conflicted and torn by their own feelings and desires. And you'll recognize those people -- you might not always agree with them, or think that they're doing the right thing, but you will know that they are utterly true to life.

Perrotta's books have all been about how life takes people by surprise; his characters are always getting blind-sided by unexpected events in the lives they'd thought they figured out how to deal with. (And, similarly, his novels always end at the moment when the viewpoint characters would most like time to stop -- the point when they have no idea what will happen next, and want to grab onto that second and hold it forever.)

I'm talking about Perrotta in general, instead of The Abstinence Teacher in particular, because Abstinence won't be published until October, and it's not right to give away too much of a book that far ahead of time. I can say that, like Little Children, his last novel, it focuses on two viewpoint characters. (In fact, this time, there aren't any secondary characters we see the world through, which I missed a bit -- Little Children is one of those books that tries to embrace a whole world, to encompass everything in itself, and it nearly succeeded at that impossible aim.)

The "Abstinence Teacher" of the title is Ruth Ramsey, human sexuality teacher at the local high school -- divorced and raising two growing daughters, trying to come to terms with a manipulated scandal from the year before that saddled her with an unpleasant, retrograde curriculum that she doesn't believe in at all. She's a lot like Sarah from Little Children, but a bit older and more settled, a woman who is finding all of the former purposes in her life (husband, children, work) leaving her behind.

The other viewpoint character is the coach of Ruth's younger daughter's soccer team, Tim Mason, a bundle of contradictions struggling to remake his life. He was a rock musician and now is a mortgage broker; he was a drug addict and now is sober; he was a cynic and now has found a personal savior in Jesus. In fact, he's one of the stalwarts of the evangelical storefront church that tried to hound Ruth out of her job the year before. Again, he has things in common with previous Perrotta heroes, like Jim McAllister from Election or Dave Raymond from The Wishbones -- he'd like to just glide through life, continuing on his path (whichever one that is), but obstacles just keep popping up in his way, forcing him to make decisions and deal with the consequences of his own actions. Like most of us, Tim is afraid that he's not as strong as he needs to be. He's also divorced (and remarried), with a daughter on the soccer team and a complicated relationship with his own ex to mirror Ruth's.

The plot of The Abstinence Teacher pivots on what happens at one soccer game, and that's as much as I can say. This is a novel deeply about people and how they connect or fail to connect with each other. And I think it's one of the best books of the year.

Blog in Exile: Stuff to Read for Free, 6/26

The Millions pointed me to an early, short, Haruki Murakami novel, Pinball, 1973, available online as a PDF in an English translation by Alfred Birnbaum.

Blog in Exile: Interviews for 6/26

SciFi Wire talks to Liz Williams about her new novel Precious Dragon.

SFF World interviews David Bilsborough, whose first novel The Wanderer's Tale has just been published.

SFF World also talks to Ian McDonald, most recently author of Brasyl.

Geekerati recently interviewed Susan Palwick, author of Shelter, and the full audio file is available here (it's on top of the list right now, but might have moved down if you get to this post in some future epoch).

Blog in Exile: Reviews for 6/26

The Agony Column is happy to see Bertram of Butter Cross by Jeffrey E. Barlough.

SFF World reviews Adam Roberts's Clarke-nominated novel Gradisil.

SF Signal really liked The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks.

Strange Horizons reviews Alastair Reynolds's The Prefect.

Blogcritics reviews the YA novel Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

SciFi Chick thinks James Maxey's Bitterwood is one of the best books she's read this year.

Chad Orzel liked Tobias S. Buckell's Ragamuffin.

Claire Light (of Seeslight) was annoyed by a lot of things in Laurie J. Marks's Earth Logic, and yet is already reading the next book in the series. (The Ruffles theory of literature: you wish it was better for you, but you just can't stop consuming them...)

Blog in Exile: Random Links & Stuff for 6/26

Are the male fans of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series all irredeemable sexist pigs? Certainly not. But The Hathor Legacy has run across more than a few who are -- and Pat's Fantasy Hotlist tries to make the case for the more grown-up fans.

Jive Magazine explains the loathing that is at the heart of Star Wars fandom. [via SF Signal]

David Louis Edelman has written a long post about what books could be best used to lure literary readers into the backwaters of the skiffy swamp.

Justine Larbalestier thinks about "the F-bomb" (and why Americans feel compelled to call it that, instead of just saying the word).

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. replies to Matthew Cheney's post yesterday about the literary establishment, pointing out that there doesn't need to be a conspiracy to defame SF if most of the people in the literary world already share the view that our stuff is crappy and beneath notice to begin with.

SF Scope's Ian Randall Strock appeared on the Hour of the Wolf radio program this week -- and you can hear it here, if you want to.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blog in Exile: Reviews for 6/25

Salon's final summer reading list includes mystery and science fictional titles, including Leonie Swann's Three Bags Full (which is both, more or less), Ian McDonald's Brasyl, and Sheri S. Tepper's The Margarets.

Reading the Leaves reviews Patrick Rothfuss's first novel, The Name of the Wind.

The (Salem, Oregon) Statesman-Journal reviews a number of books (most non-SF) by regional authors (their region), starting with Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky and including Steven Erikson's Midnight Tides.

Thus Spake Zuska reviews a non-fictional book that might be of interest to SFnal people, Women in Science: Meeting Career Challenges edited by Angela Pattatuchi.

Sacbee (perhaps the Sacramento Bee when it's at home?) reviews Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind.

Fantasy Book Critic reviews both halves of Lois McMaster Bujold's new novel The Sharing Knife. (And I seem to remember that some smart publishing operation put that book back into one, if I could only remember who that was...)

Fantasy Book Critic also reviews Jennifer Roberson's Deepwood.

Neth Space reviews Ian McDonald's Brasyl.

OF Blog of the Fallen reviews Richard Morgan's Thirteen.

OF Blog of the Fallen also reviews Alan Campbell's Scar Night.

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist covers Robin Hobb's Renegade's Magic.

SciFi Weekly reviews Ken MacLeod's The Execution Channel.

SF Scope reviews Douglas Adams's The Salmon of Doubt.

In The New York Times Book Review, Dave Itzkoff reviews the Library of America edition of Philip K. Dick's work, Four Novels of the 1960s.

SF Signal reviews Jim Butcher's Dead Beat.

SF Signal reviews Matthew Jarpe's Radio Fallout.

SF Signal reviews Robert Conroy's 1945.

SFX covers the London opening of the Lord of the Rings musical.

Strange Horizons reviews The Future Is Queer, edited by Richard Labonte and Lawrence Schimel.

Blogcritics reviews Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves.

Blogcritics also reviews Gaiman's new YA collection, M Is For Magic.

Book Fetish reviews Jim C. Hines's Goblin Hero.

Book Fetish also reviews a book entitled On Writing Horror, written by the Horror Writers Association and edited by Mort Castle.

Bookgasm reviews Austin Grossman's superhero novel Soon I Will Be Invincible.

Publishers Weekly's fiction reviews this week include Terry Brooks's The Elves of Cintra, Matthew Jarpe's Radio Freefall, and Bentley Little's The Vanishing.

Farah Mendelsohn has reviewed two YA novels recently:
Abigail Nussbaum has a long review of all of the novels on this year's Arthur C. Clarke shortlist over at Infinity Plus.

Tom Easton's "Reference Library" column from the September Analog is now available online; it contains reviews of Ken MacLeod's The Execution Channel, Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky, Sandra McDonald's The Outback Stars, and many more.

BestSF reviews Hartwell & Cramer's Year's Best SF 12.

David Soyka reviews a bunch of recent short fiction at Black Gate.

This week on Don D'Amassa's Science Fiction reviews page: Karen Traviss's Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice, Alastair Reynolds's The Prefect, and more.

D'Amassa's Fantasy page has new reviews of P.C. Cast's Divine by Blood, Gene Wolfe's Pirate Freedom, and more.

And D'Amassa's Horror page has also been updated, with new reviews including Petru Popescu's Birth of the Pack.

Tangent Online reviews the May issue of Analog.

Tangent also reviews issues #4 to 7 of Hub.

Bookgasm reviews Susan Hubbard's The Society of S.

Blog in Exile: Magazine Round-Up, 6/25

SF Scope reports that Electric Velocipede's recent subscription drive was successful, and that EV will continue.

The Internet Review of Science Fiction is in the middle of a redesign, and plans to relaunch in August -- but it has some short fiction reviews by Lois Tilton to keep interest alive.

Strange Horizons was updated today as usual, with a story by Ruth Nestvold, a column from Matthew Cheney, and more.

Subterranean Magazine has just posted the second part of Elizabeth Bear's story "Suicide Jack and the One-Eyed King," and an entire new Gene Wolfe story -- all for free.

Analog has posted the Table of Contents for their September issue -- it will contain stories by both Dave Creek and Uncle River (which must be deliberate), as well as Howard V. Hendrix and E. Mark Mitchell.

Blog in Exile: Interviews for 6/25

Phantastik-Couch interviews the prolific German fantasy writer Kai Meyer. (The interview is in English, though I'm not sure if any of Mr. Meyer's work is available in this language yet.)

Biology in Science Fiction interviews Canadian SF writer Nina Munteanu.

The Norwich Evening News profiles Roderick Gordon, co-author of Tunnels, a book originally self-published (as The Highfield Mole) and which is now being described (by its acquiring editor) as "the new Harry Potter."

Moviehole interviews Neil Gaiman, mostly about the upcoming movie adaptation of his novel Stardust.

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist hosts a round-robin interview with David Anthony Durham, author of Acacia.

SciFi Wire talks to Shelley Jackson about her James Tiptree Award-winning novel Half-Life.

SciFi Wire previously chatted with Richard Morgan about his novel Thirteen.

USA Today profiles Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible. [via SF Signal]

Your Mom's Basement interviews Richard Morgan, author of the new novel Thirteen. [via Locus Online]

Jeff VanderMeer of The Amazon Blog talks to Jay Lake about his new novel Mainspring (and publishes Lake's working sketch of his clockwork solar system).

Infinity Plus interviews Eric Brown, author of Helix.

Emma Bull answers more questions about her new novel Tombstone.

Shaken & Stirred interviews Ysabeau Wilce, author of Flora Segunda.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast interviews Holly Black, author of Ironside.

HipWriterMama interviews Justine Larbalestier, author of Magic's Child.

Jonathan McCalmont interviews Matt Bielby, editor of the UK slick media magazine Death Ray.

McCalmont also has recently interviewed Charles Stross, whose upcoming novel is Halting State (which is pretty damn good, believe you me).

John Scalzi, at the Ficlets blog, interviews Allen Steele, author of Spindrift.

Blog in Exile: Convention-al Wisdom for 6/25

This past weekend saw ApolloCon 2007 splash down in Houston, and the Student Operated Press was there.

Also covering ApolloCon, in much greater detail, was SF Signal, which had separate posts for each day: Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

(No Fear of the Future was also at ApolloCon, but the promised post-con follow-up hasn't appeared yet as I type this.)

The Saratogian previews this fall's World Fantasy Convention, which will be held in their fair city, Saratoga Springs (come for the horses, stay for the waters).

Lou Anders has noticed that OmegaCon is planning to start (in his previously convention-benighted part of the South-East) with their first convention next spring, and he urges all local SF/F writers to get in touch with them.

Blog in Exile: Hooray for Hollywood on 6/25

The Edinburgh Evening News reports that Philip Kerr's YA novel Children of the Lamp has been option for a movie (for giant piles of money, assumes the Evening News) by Stephen Spielberg's Dreamworks production company.

Blog in Exile: On Scalpel Magazine

Short form: Scalpel Magazine, an on-line reviewzine devoted to SF, seems to be dead, mere weeks after it launched.

Co-editor Jonathan McCalmont first talked about the problems, and then resigned. (He also explained the whole history in more detail at his own blog.)

Neth Space thinks it's dead.

Nick Mamatas, who started a deathwatch before the magazine even began, told us so.

The other co-editor of Scalpel, Gabe Chouinard (on whom most of the problems are being blamed) is incommunicado. (Jeff VanderMeer, on the other hand, is out there warning people not to trust Chouinard.)

Blog in Exile remains above the fray, as it must, but will continue to bring you updates on the situation as they happen.

Blog in Exile: Podcasts & Suchlike, 6/25

Cory Doctorow is podcasting his reading of Bruce Sterling's 1992 non-fiction book The Hacker Crackdown; the first part is now available.

Former SFWA President Paul Levinson has podcast an interview he did with fellow Former SFWA President Robert J. Sawyer.

Blog in Exile: Random News & Links for 6/25

Free Geekery lists the ways you could turn yourself into a cyborg (the bleeding-edge-tech, kewl kind -- he doesn't include mundane things like my mother-in-law's new knee, or any prostheses, actually).

There is now a video game based on the classic 1964 Arkady & Boris Strugatski novel Hard to Be a God.

Wil McCarthy's new column in SciFi Weekly is all about robots, from Asimov to Michael Bay.

Locus Online lists new books that they've seen in mid-June, including Tobias S. Buckell's Ragamuffin, Ken MacLeod's The Execution Channel, Susan Palwick's Shelter, and more.

Reuters reports that a hacker calling itself "Gabriel" claims to have stolen the text of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and to have posted "spoilers" online for the end of that book.

The New York Times explains how to get rid of books. [via Blog of a Bookslut]

Salon explains the PGW bankruptcy (and its effect on smaller publishers) for the layman.

Will Shetterly drops the Outline Rules on the table.

Jeff VanderMeer has posted his Locus article "My European Summer" (about how he spent last summer) on his spiffy new blog.

How about curling up and reading inside your bookcase?

And, lastly for today, Matthew Cheney is sick and tired of hearing SF types whine about how the "literary establishment" keeps stealing our lunch money and beating us up at the bus stop. Tell 'em, Matt.

Blog in Exile: Pullman Receives "Carnegie of Carnegies"

Philip Pullman's novel Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in the US) has been named the best children's book of the past 70 years, in a world-wide poll of readers. Northern Lights was competing against the other 69 Carnegie Medal winners (including Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Richard Adams's Watership Down, and Alan Garner's The Owl Service), and received 40 percent of the votes.

Blog in Exile: Rondo Hatton Awards Announced

I'll bet you didn't know that there was an award named for acromegalic actor Rondo Hatton -- I know I didn't. But it turns out that there is, and that nearly 1,500 people voted for it this year.

The awards, as one might expect, are mostly for film & TV horror, but there's also a Best Book category (won this year by Kerry Gamill & J. David Spurlock's Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos), and a Writer of the Year (won this year by Tim Lucas). You can follow the link above for the full list -- the big award appears to be Best Movie, which was won by Pan's Labyrinth.

I'm indebted to the Greater Richmond area (Indiana) Palladium-Item for tipping me off to the existence of this award.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Just Read: Crying Freeman by Koike & Ikegami

This is written by Kazuo Koike, whose historical samurai stories (primarily Lone Wolf and Cub, but also Samurai Executioner and Path of the Assassin) I've liked, and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami, who also did Mai the Psychic Girl (and probably lots of other things I'm not familiar with).

It's a modern-day crime story, and I expected to like it -- I've been vaguely thinking about trying it for years now, and I finally got the first volume and read it.

Sadly, I found it generic and not all that special -- yes, there's quite a lot of hard-R sex and crunchy violence, but it's really just a reluctant-gangster story, without anything particularly interesting. (Blah blah inadvertently discover secret gangster plan, blah blah brainwashed to be a super-assassin -- you know the drill.)

Ikegami does ridiculously detailed and photo-realistic backgrounds, and his minor characters have a lot of interesting faces, but his "attractive" characters seem to only have two faces (one for men and one for women), which can make telling people apart somewhat of a challenge. It's not such a big deal when the story is interesting, but, in this case, it's just the last straw. I might poke through later volumes in a store if I get a chance (though I probably won't -- the sex means that this series is shrinkwrapped).

Just Read: Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka

Since I finished Kapilavastu (and before starting to type this), I've also read book 2, The Four Encounters. I'll try to concentrate on Kapilavastu, but I might wander a bit forward.

The first thing you notice is Tezuka's style -- backgrounds are often carefully rendered with near-photographic detail, but most of the people, and many of the animals, are drawn in a very simple, pseudo-animation style. (As a rough rule, the smaller or younger a being is, the more likely he is to be drawn as if he wandered over from the background of Bambi.) This can be distracting, as can the fact that the women are generally depicted as topless (which is probably historically accurate, but it still means lots and lots of identical cartoony breasts on some pages), and some of the younger boys are completely naked (with very cartoony genitalia showing off and on). The art style knocked me out of the story several times before I got used to it, but, eventually, I did get used to it. (Though, I have to admit, if I was reading this unflopped, in the original Japanese right-to-left orientation, that might just have been too much strangeness to work through at once.)

The next thing you notice, though it might take some time to sink in, is that the Buddha (Siddhartha) doesn't actually appear in this book; he hasn't been born yet when it ends. (I guess if you're doing an eight-volume series about somebody's life -- and that's what Tezuka's Buddha is -- you've got plenty of time, and don't need to jump into anything.) In fact, most of the people in this book are dead by the end or don't appear at all in the second book (The Four Encounters). Kapilavastu is mostly the story of what happened to other people before Siddhartha was born, though one of the major characters here does return to play an important role in Four Encounters.

There's less philosophy and religion in this book than I expected from a life of the Buddha; it's mostly an adventure story involving lower-caste people, with an emphasis on their hardships. I haven't read any of Tezuka's long works before this -- I think I've seen shorter stories in manga compliations, but that's it -- so I can't speak to the claim that this was his masterwork. But it was done near the end of his life, and it clearly shows an expert storyteller in command of the elements of his story. I'm certainly interested in continuing, though I expect the series will have to take a turn into sedentary philosophy from politics and war at some point...

Blog in Exile: Roger Elwood, 1943-2007

Locus Online reports that noted '70s anthologist and Christian novelist Roger Elwood died on February 2nd of this year. Elwood was also the founding editor of Laser Books and, in more recent years, worked in the evangelical Christian market. He had been living in Norfolk City, Virginia.

His Wikipedia entry has not yet been updated. Also available online is Teresa Nielsen Hayden's version of his Wikipedia entry (containing more extensive information on his anthology activities) and a Making Light comment thread in part about Elwood.

Edit: Fixed birth date (from 1933 to 1943), on the preponderance of the evidence and the request of family (see comment, below).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Just Read: Jack of Fables Vol. 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape by various

The (Nearly) Great Escape collects the first "arc" of a spin-off of Bill Willingham's Fables series, featuring the adventures of the guy who was "Jack" in every single fairy tale and fable. (Fables being the story of lots of fabular -- fabulous? -- characters in the modern-day world.)

This book is written by Willingham and Matthew Sturges; there's no specific explanation as to how much Willingham contributes (big author/small author spin-offs often imply that the big author has done little more than read the book in question), but the tone, dialogue, and themes are pretty similar to the main book, so Willingham is either strongly involved or Sturges is on the same wavelength enough so that it doesn't matter.

In this story, Jack -- having been kicked out of Hollywood by his former friends of Fabletown and told to make himself incredibly scarce -- runs afoul of a previously unknown player in the supernatural-creature game, who has some unspecified reason for wanting to depower Fables (which he does by incarcerating them until they're forgotten, basically -- this is the old "magical power comes from worshippers" idea, with a slight twist). Jack's just coming off three blockbuster movies about his exploits, so he's about as strong and tough as a Fable can get (and arrogant and self-centered as ditto, but he was that way to begin with), and not an easy man to cage. From the title -- and the fact that a long-running "break out of magical prison" series would probably be redundant and boring -- you can guess, more or less, how it ends.

Jack is more than a bit of a jerk, so I'm not sure how long I'll be able to stand him; if Willingham and Sturges keep his adventures more light-hearted than this one, that will be better. (He's the kind of character who can't support too much drama or seriousness; he needs to glide through life without too much trouble.) I'll be back for the second volume, but I'm not yet convinced that I'll stick around for good. The main series is the serious one, with a large continuing cast, a secret history, and geopolitical parallels. Jack of Fables needs to be something distinctive -- nimble, light, and quick-moving, I'd say -- if it wants to carve its own niche.

Everybody (Itzkoff's Back)

So my favorite SF/F reviewer in The New York Times has resurfaced, with a full-page look at the new Library of America book of Philip K. Dick's work, Four Novels of the 1960s, in the June 24th issue of the Book Review. Itzkoff clearly knows Dick's work well, and thus, this time, he's actually doing what he was hired to do -- being an expert on this esoteric "science fiction" stuff and explaining it to the general readership of the NYTBR in a way that they can take seriously.

I do find it interesting that the line-up of Four Novels of the 1960s is nearly identical to that of a book I edited for a Special Fabulous Book Club some years back -- Counterfeit Unrealities -- with the replacement of my A Scanner Darkly with The Man in the High Castle (Since the aforementioned publishing operation already had High Castle in print at that point in another edition.) Amusingly, Itzkoff doesn't like Ubik in this book, and wishes it was replaced with Scanner Darkly, even though that is a novel from the 1970s and would ruin the title.

I'm not complaining about Itzkoff's content this time; he doesn't say anything I strongly disagree with. Spending an entire page on an expensive, mostly library-aimed LoA volume, on the other hand, is not the way I wish he was spending his time. Since this month alone sees the publication of Liz Williams's Precious Dragon, Jay Lake's Mainspring, Tobias S. Buckell's Ragamuffin, and Dozois & Strahan's The New Space Opera (among many other things), I have to see the focus on Dick as a preference for safely dead (and even more safely canonical) SF writers rather than the quirky live ones about whom he would have to have an original opinion. And I really don't see the purpose to having a SF columnist who reviews one book every other month at best; it's almost better to be completely ignored than that.