Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books That Stick With You


Back at the beginning of April, I got an e-mail from a friend (former college classmate, occasional drinking buddy, constant book recommendation swapper, co-blogger), Steve Hart. He "tagged" me with a meme, challenging me to pick Fifteen Big Ones.

Let me tell you, this was a difficult one to work on. Not the re-reading old friends. Not the riffling (mentally and physically) through the book collection. But the limitations. "Fifteen books!" he said, "Keep it to fifteen, or I'll tell everybody about the time in college when..."

Threats. Lots of threats.

I tried and I tried. I've come up with fifteen...but there are runner-ups. I just can't help it, sometimes I strongly associate one book with two or three or more other books. So, I've got my big fifteen, but I've got the others that go with them as well.

Edwin A. Abbott: Flatland (annotated edition, introduction and notes by Ian Stewart, Perseus, 2002) (tie in Travis S. Taylor and Lewis Carroll).

The link above will lead you to an online version of the book, if you have never encountered it, I recommend it strongly. Why do I mark this as an essential? Well, before I read this book, I hated mathematics. This was due to a series of classes that did nothing to interest me, plus being caught in a couple of changes in the way mathematics was taught.

I can't recall where I came across Flatland, but it was a pretty amazing read. A door opened up: how to look at not only one and two dimensional objects, but how to look beyond the third dimension. Pretty soon I was having fun in geometry and even read some basic books on things like tesseracts.

Alas, the love of mathematics that started in middle school and expanded into high school was squashed pretty firmly during college when I was exposed to the dreaded lecture hall and the dreaded teaching assistant. While I have done reading, on and off, since then, I sometimes wonder what might have been.

Poul Anderson: The Enemy Stars (Lippincott, 1958) (tie in Clifford D. Simak, Spider Robinson).

I first read this in the mid-1960's when I discovered Poul Anderson courtesy of a couple of battered Ace edition paperbacks and a battered SFBC copy of this volume. The paperbacks were a couple of general collections plus one entry in Anderson's long future history, specifically Trader to the Stars, several stories about his roguish Nicolas Van Rijn.

Thinking that The Enemy Stars was going to be something similar, I opened it only to find a gut-wrenching tale of survival in a dying starship. Later, I came across the original story; if anything, the impact was greater even though the story was shorter. Anderson added some fluff to the original core to make it novel-length. Both versions are good, the original just a tad better because the impact of what happens is greater.

J.D. Bernal: The World, The Flesh and The Devil (Indiana University Press, 1969) (infuences on Arthur C. Clarke, Olaf Stapledon, Gerard K. O'Neill, George Zebrowski).

This is a very, very slim book. I've linked to one online version, above; it'll take you a day, at most to read it.

Slim is deceptive though: the impact that this book has had on me is vast. And not just me: look at the names I list above.

Bernal deals with very grand themes in his book, how the limitations of our planetary resources, our bodies, etc., hold back humanity and some of the things that the future might bring to break those bonds. You can see the influences that this book had on many generations of scientists and science fiction writers. Gerard K. O'Neill's space settlements including a "construction shack" that was called a Bernal Sphere. Olaf Stapledon mentions Bernal and his book in the introduction to his classic work of science fiction, The Star Maker (the friendly link will bring you to downloadable and online versions of this book). Arthur C. Clarke, George Zebrowski and others show signs of having read the book, given their cosmic visions and grand scale stories.

Mark Bowden: Blackhawk Down: A Story of Modern War (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999) (tie in Coyle, Drake, Haldeman)

Arthur C. Clarke: 2001: A Space Odyssey (NAL, 1968) Connections: The Planet Strappers, also Simak, Stapledon, Sagan, Zebrowski.

Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs): Mission of Gravity (found in The Essential Hal Clement, Volume III: Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton, NESFA Press, 2000)

Justus Dahinden: Urban Structures of the Future (Praeger, 1972)

Raymond Z. Gallun: The Planet Strappers (Pyramid, 1961)

Rudyard Kipling: Barrack Room Ballads & Departmental Ditties (Grosset & Dunlap, 1920)

Fritz Leiber: Ill Met in Lankhmar (White Wolf Publishing, 1995) (Swords and Deviltry and Swords Against Death)

Walter M. Miller, Jr.: A Canticle for Leibowitz (review here) ().

Patrick O'Brian: Master & Commander (the whole series, for all love!) (W.W. Norton, 1970)

Leslie Peltier: Starlit Nights (Harper & Row, 1965; Sky Publishing Corporation, 1999)

Carl Sagan: The Cosmic Connection (Anchor Books, 1973)

Michael Shaara: The Killer Angels (Random House, 1974). Roll in Blackhawk Down, Charles MacDonald. Forever War.

E.E. "Doc" Smith: Spacehounds of the IPC (Fantasy Press, 1949; Pyramid, 1973) (tie in Ringo and Taylor, Chalker, Vinge)

Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (Gollancz, 1999) (tie in Bernal and Clarke, Zebrowski, Cordwainer Smith)

Freeman Dyson

Dyson Sphere


Jack L. Chalker: Midnight at the Well of Souls (Del Rey, 1977), Web of the Chozen (Del Rey, 1978)

Harold Coyle: Team Yankee (Presidio Press, 1987)

Michael Crichton: Eaters of the Dead (Bantam, 1977)

Samuel R. Delany: Nova (Bantam, 1975; Vintage, 2002)

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes (preferably annotated) (general list of works)

David Drake: Rolling Hot (Baen, 1989), Paying the Piper (Baen, 2002)

Harlan Ellison: Deathbird Stories (Collier, 1990)

Richard P. Feynman: Six Easy Pieces--Essentials of Physics Explained by its Most Brilliant Teacher (Helix Books, 1995)
Six Not So Easy Pieces: Einstein's Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time (Helix Books, 1997)
Feynman's Lost Lecture: The Motion of Planets Around the Sun (W.W. Norton, 1996)

William Gibson: Burning Chrome (Ace, 1987) Neuromancer (Ace, 1986), Count Zero (Ace, 1987), Mona Lisa Overdrive (Bantam-Spectra, 1989)

Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (Thomas Dunn Books, 2009)

Frank Herbert: The Dragon in the Sea (Doubleday, 1956); Under Pressure (Ballantine, 1976)

Thor Heyerdahl: Kon-Tiki (Rand McNally & Co., 1950)

Charles B. MacDonald: Company Commander (Bantam, 1982); A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge (Bantam, 1985)

R.A. MacAvoy: Tea with the Black Dragon (Bantam, 1983)

John McPhee: Annals of the Former World (Farrar, Staus & Giroux, 1998)

Gerard K. O'Neill: The High Frontier (Morrow, 1976)

Frederik Pohl: The Heechee Series: Gateway (St. Martin's Press, 1977), Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (Del Rey, 1980), Heechee Rendezvous (Del Rey, 1984), Annals of the Heechee (Del Rey, 1987), The Gateway Trip (Del Rey, 1990)

Tim Powers: The Annubis Gates (Ace, 1983)

Steven Pressfield: Gates of Fire (Bantam, 1999)

John Ringo: Into the Looking Glass (Baen Books, 2005)

Spider Robinson: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon (Ace, 1977), Time Traveler's Strictly Cash (Ace, 1981), Callahan's Secret (Berkley, 1986)

Clifford D. Simak: City (Old Earth Books 2004), The Goblin Reservation (PUtnam, 1968)

Cordwainer Smith (Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger): The Rediscovery of Mankind (NESFA Press, 1994) and Norstrilia (NESFA Press, 1994)

Travis S. Taylor: Warp Speed (Baen Books, 2004)

Unknown: The Psalms (commentary by Kathleen Norris) (Riverhead Books, 1997)

Jack Vance: The Compleat Dying Earth (SFBC, 1998)

John Varley: The Ophiuchi Hotline (The Dial Press, 1977)

Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep (Tor, 1992), A Deepness in the Sky (Tor, 1999)

Jack Williamson: The Legion of Space (Fantasy Press, 1947)

George Zebrowski: Macro-Life (Haper & Row, 1979)

Roger Zelazny: Doorways in the Sand (Harper, 1976)
Zeppelins Ho!

George Mann; The Affinity Bridge (Tor Books; 2009; ISBN 978-0-7653-2320-0; cover by Viktor Koen).

Steampunk is all the rage these days. H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and even Arthur Conan Doyle are being folded into the sub-genre. William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and others migrated from cyberpunk to dabble. There are multiple steampunk-themed games, books and even webcomics (this one being the best).

I've encountered George Mann before as an anthologist. The Affinity Bridge is the start of a series, featuring two characters that share some distant ties to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (especially as shown in the steampunked reooting of that venerable series of tales). Maurice Newbury plays the role of Sherlock Holmes with his assistant Veronica Hobbes stepping into the role of Dr. Watson (but more the role from the original tales or the television series that featured Jeremy Brett as Holmes and David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as Watson; in other words, not the incompetent sidekick that Nigel Bruce played again the Holmes as depicted by Basil Rathbone).

After an excellent opening in which a British military unit in the wilds is destroyed by...zombies (zombies and zeppelins, oh my!), we move to London where an airship is involved in a tragic accident, killing all on board. The airship was piloted by a clockwork automaton, one of many that have inserted themselves into many walks of life. Toss in a ghostly policeman, more zombies, mysterious deaths and dismemberment...

A fun read and I'm glad to find a new author. I'll pick up the later installments, when they are published; there was some weakness in the book (for example, some "science" being more "fantasy"), but it kept me going later and later each night until I finished it. Zeppelins ho!
The Mystery of de Lint

Charles de Lint; The Mystery of Grace (Tor Books; 2009; ISBN 978-0-7653-1756-8; cover by John Jude Palencar).

Charles de Lint; The Wild Wood (Tor Books; 2001; ISBN 0-765-30381-7; cover by John Jude Palencar).

Charles de Lint is an author that I've seen in bookstores, I've read and heard interviews with, but was somebody that I had never read. I can't really pin a reason...a large pile of unread books plus another author, a ongoing series that I was not sure where to start with, the fact that fantasy does not interest me as much as science fiction...all of these played into the lack of purchase and reading.

However, earlier this year The Mystery of Grace appeared on the shelves of the local big box. The cover (fantastic artwork by John Jude Palencar) interested me, I picked up the book and read the blurbs. Since it appeared to be a standalone, and not part of his loose Newford series, I decided to give it a chance.

And then went back to the store a day or so later and bought every single title by this author that I could find.

Now that is a strong endorsement. This is not a perfect book, I have some quibbles, but it was a darned fine read. The story revolves around Grace, a woman with extensive tattoos, grease under her fingernails from working at the local body and fender shop and a nagging addiction to cigarettes that kills coincidence.

After she dies, she wakes up in what appears to be the town she lived in. There are even people there, of sorts. Some appear alive, some appear to be in a comatose state. Those that appear to be alive, however, vary by era. Some are from the time when Grace died, some from the past. When she explores the town, she finds a couple of strange dead zones, including part of one building and a mysterious fog that surrounds the town.

Complications (as if "life" were not complicated enough) arise when she finds that once a year she can cross the bridge back into our reality. While there, she meets a man and makes a strong enough impression on him that he then tries to solve the mystery of where she has gone to when he wakes up the morning after they meet and finds her gone.

He makes an impression on her as well and she waits for the calendar to turn around again to the day when she can again cross that bridge only to make a sad discovery.

The mystery deepens around the dead zones. Grace makes a few probes and attacks and eventually brings everything to a head...if there is any weakness to the book, it is in the final confrontation with the power that has created this shade, things were built to a certain level and the author did not deliver.

But...still a very, very, very satisfying read and as can be seen by my subsequent purchases, I was impressed enough with the book to want more. Highly recommended.

After reading The Mystery of Grace, I then picked up The Wild Wood. About the only similarity between the two are that both have strong female characters and both might be termed "fantasy" or "horror" or even that much-touted "magical realism". The book revolves around Eithinie, a painter that has gone to a cabin in the wilds of Canada to try and get her creativity back. While there she makes contact with a primal force that is connected with her childhood. A much shorter read than The Mystery of Grace, I enjoyed it almost as much. Also highly recommended.
Fun With Daniel and Adele

David Drake; Some Golden Harbor (Baen Books; 2006; ISBN 978-1-4165-2080-1; cover by Stephen Hickman).

David Drake; When the Tide Rises (Baen Books; 2008; ISBN 978-1-4165-5527-8; cover by Stephen Hickman).

David Drake; In the Stormy Red Sky (Baen Books; 2009; ISBN 978-1-4165-9159-7; cover by Stephen Hickman).

Readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of the works of Patrick O'Brian (just search on that term within this blog for a hint). I'm also a big fan of genre writer David Drake. I first came across him as an author about a futuristic mercenary unit equipped with tanks. Who doesn't love tanks, especially a tanker?

When I started reading more and more books published by Baen Books, I started picking up more books by David Drake, moving beyond the core of Hammer's Slammers. This eventually led me to the tales inspired by Patrick O'Brian. Game, set and match!

In Some Golden Harbor (shouldn't that be "Harbour"?), Daniel Leary and Communications Officer (and spy) Adele Mundy get involved with an invasion of Dunbar's World. Leary is is commanding his beloved Princess Cecile, but she is a private yacht...not a naval vessel.

When the Tide Rises has Daniel and Adele off in the Bagarian Cluster and trying to help a rebellion against the enemies of the Republic of Cinnabar.

In the Stormy Red Sky pits the pair against a senator from Cinnabar who hinders as much as helps, god kings, massive enemy bases and a slave world. It also features...Commander Fred Kiesche of the RCN!

"Sir?" said Midshipman Barrett. "What if the other captains, the real captains, object when they learn what happened? I, well . . . Commander Kiesche of the Arcona is bound to feel insulted when he learns that I was pretending to be him."

Adele's lip curled. Barrett's comment was based on a number of unstated assumptions, not least being that he and Commander Kiesche would survive the coming action. The reality of a space battle was that lives could vanish as quickly and utterly as the specks of light which indicated ships on a Plot-Position Indicator.

"The answer to your question, Midshipman . . . ," Daniel said. He didn't raise his voice, and his tone was mild. "Is that Commander Kiesche is an RCN officer who accepts and obeys the orders of his superiors. You've raised a more serious question, however."

* * *

"Sir . . . ?" said Barrett. His forehead gleamed with sweat, but he kept his voice steady. "I notice you show the Arcona failing to arrive off Cacique. With the computer from the Lykewake and Commander Kiesche as Astrogator, her extractions have been within thirty seconds of the Milton's and within two thousand miles at both legs of this voyage. Sir."

"I stand corrected, Barrett," Daniel said. By the end of the short sentence, his slight smile had spread much wider. "I'd been thinking of the cruiser's problems under Alliance command, but you're quite right: Fred Kiesche doesn't need a naval-grade computer to thread a ship through the Matrix. My uncle Stacey trained him, you know."

Adele wasn't an astrogator, but all she was being asked to do here was to move data. Well, constructively she was being asked to do that though Daniel hadn't used the words; he might not realize that she could correct the . . . error was too strong a word. That she could modify the choice he'd made when he created the examples.

How can I not like a book that I appear in?

But seriously...these are good books, I enjoyed each (personal appearance or no) a great deal. Drake is well-versed in history and many of his books come out of relatively obscure (to your average reader) places or times and are spun off into interesting directions. Then you have the universe the stories are set in, he continues to build upon the framework of the first book. Finally, there are Daniel and Adele. As with Patrick O'Brian's Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin, the stories are as much the adventure as the friendship of the main characters.
Step Away from the Tub of Happiness

Howard Tayler: The Tub of Happiness (Tayler Corporation; 2007; ISBN 978-0-9779074-0-3; cover by Howard Tayler); The Teraport Wars (Tayler Corporation; 2008; 978-0-9779074-1-0; cover by Howard Tayler); Under New Management (Tayler Corporation; 2006; 0-9779074-2-2; cover by Howard Tayler); The Blackness Between (Tayler Corporation; 2006; 0-9779074-3-0; cover by Howard Tayler); The Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance (Tayler Corporation; 2009; 978-0-9779074-4-1; cover by Howard Tayler).

I've been struggling on how to review this strip for a while since buying the books earlier in the year (I had been reading it online for a while, the publication of the most recent volume, The Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance, spurred me into buying the whole set.

How to review something that has been going on as long as this...published seven days a week...365 days a year...argggggghhhh..

O.K., start here. Then go here. Then go to the archives and start reading.

Done? Amazing stuff, isn't it?

Three to five or so panels a day, seven days a week, each individual strip ending in a joke. All working towards a storyline and even an arc that stretches across years. Not every story is a winner, not every joke makes you laugh. But the guy keeps it up, day after day after day.


Tayler was nominated for a Hugo this past year and lost to the folks behind Girl Genius. Pretty good company to be in! I'm sure he'll get a Hugo this year or soon after, the stuff is that good.

One interview with Howard Tayler. Another interview with Howard Tayler.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back to the Moon

Footprints on a Secret Moon; David Senechal (PublishAmerica; 2006; ISBN 1-4242-4735-2; cover by David Senechal).

Some time ago, I picked up this book via Amazon. It is by David Senechal and seems to be ultra-small press, vanity press or self-published.

The premise from the blurbs seemed interesting. A guy cobbles together a lunar vehicle, using, among other things, a Gemini capsule that never flew (remember the Robert Altman movie Countdown, based on a the book Project Pilgrim by Hank Searles and based on a real proposal if Apollo did not pan out?).

However...the book is turning out to require possibly one suspension of disbelief too many.

Now, I can suspend my disbelief easily the bigger the concepts or the grander the scale. "Doc" Smith with hurtling planets? No problem. But the closer to get to "real tech", the harder time I have.

So far, we've had in the book:

A Gemini capsule gets stolen from a museum...

A guy manages to buy quite a bit of second-hand space gear from a variety of sources, mostly financed by his job as an aircraft mechanic. Eventually he goes to the owner of a news network (probably based on Fox) for money, but he gets pretty far on his own.

Among the things he acquires is a rocket engine that can be throttled, sort of like the one used on the LM. He gets this at least semi-legit, but the cost is high but he does it.

He gets a half-dozen folks, ranging from another aircraft mechanic to a ex-Boeing engineer who built that engine, to help him.

In order to get back home he plans to salvage fuel from one of the LM's...

SOMEHOW...he monkeys with the manifest of the space shuttle payload and gets his vehicle—with him in it—loaded into the payload bay of a space shuttle at pretty much the last minute—at the pad! The shuttle launches (with all that extra weight), but when it is realized that the mystery "satellite" is not a military payload that they were "told" (via e-mail, no follow-up, no verification!), the shuttle ejects it in case it is a bomb or some such.

So, not being on the course he originally planned...our hero fires up his laptop, uses his souped up GPS to determine where he is, shoots some stars, plots a new course, and heads for the Moon.

Our Hero goes to the Moon. Part of his plan is to zero in on one of the Apollo landing sites, take pictures, and salvage fuel from the LM. He uses the laser reflectors left by the Apollo missions to zero in on the landing site.

He touches down.

There ain't no LM. There's a "Surveyor Mark II" with a laser reflector on it. The Apollo missions were all faked. It's a BIG LIE, get it? A lie that involved those that loaded the Surveyor into the compartment where the LM was supposed to be, that involved all those astronauts, all those pad technicians, all those mission control folks at Kennedy and Johnson Space Center, all those wives and children of those astronauts who did not fly, all those...well, you get the idea.

A Big Lie that was perpetuated by NASA year after year, that somehow (after that) allowed them to build the shuttle, fly unmanned missions to Mars and the other planets, participate in the Mir program, start on the ISS...a Big Lie administration after administration went along with even though they could have blown the lid off what the opposition did. A Big Lie that no newspaper or television reporter ever uncovered. Urgh.

Anyway, he gets some fuel from the Surveyor. Enough to partly get home, but on a skewed orbit.

Russia, having learned that they were not beaten to the Moon, decides to help on this private mission and therefore share the glory. So they prep, crew, fuel and launch a under 24 hours, to rescue Our Hero.

Things go wrong (more) and one of the Russians dies. They are off course, so the Soyuz has to do a water landing.

They are saved, our hero has one moon rock and a soggy space suit. The people rejoice.

Sigh. I want my day back.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Honking Big Book of Ellison

Harlan Ellison (edited by Terry Dowling with Richard Delap and Gil Lamont); The Essential Ellison: A Fifty Year Retrospective (Revised and Expanded) (Morpheus International; 2001; ISBN 978-1-883398-60-6; cover artist not indicated).

Fifty years of Ellison. This is one big honking book. If there ever was a book that ought to be an eBook...this is it!

Due to the bulk, I suspect this will spill into 2010, unless I find a burst of reading time. The early stories are amusing, but can be skipped over. The book hits highlights with Ellison's introductory remarks and the Worlds of Terror section onwards. And anybody who ever wonders why science fiction on television generally sucks needs to read the funny and horrifying Somehow, I Don't Think We're in Kansas, Toto.

And more. There is much much more. Be prepared to have your soul hurt, in multiple occasions.

Made up of: Front cover interior introduction (Terry Dowling); Prolegemenon: Millennial Musings; Introduction: Sublime Rebel (Terry Dowling); Lagniappe (Terry Dowling); Beginnings (Terry Dowling); The Sword of Parmagon; The Gloconda; The Wilder One; The Saga of Machine Gun Joe; Introduction to Glowworm; Glowworm; Life Hutch; S.R.O.; Worlds of Terror (Terry Dowling); Lonelyahe; Punky and the Yale Men; A Prayer for No One's Enemy; Pulling Hard Time; Worlds of Love (Terry Dowling); In Lonely Lands; The Time of the Eye; Grail; That New Old-Time Religion (Terry Dowling); I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream; Corpse; The Whimper of Whipped Dogs; A Stab of Merriment (Terry Dowling); The Voice in the Garden; Erotophobia; Mom; Ecowareness; The Outpost Undiscovered by Tourists; Dept. of "What Was the Question?" Dept.; Dept. of "Trivial Pursuit" Dept.; Prince Myshkin, and Hold the Relish; Trouble With Women (Terry Dowling); The Very Last Day of a Good Woman; Valerie: A True Memoir; The Other Eye of Polyphemus; All the Birds Come Home to Roost; To the Mattresses With Mean Demons (Terry Dowling); The Tombs: An Excerpt from Memos from Purgatory; "Our Little Miss"; A Love Song for Jerry Falwell; Telltale Tics and Tremors; True Love: Groping for the Holy Grail; Adrift Just Off the Isles of Langerhans: Latitude 38 degrees 53' N, Longitude 77 degrees 00' W; The Function of Dream Sleep; Rococo Technology (Terry Dowling); The Sky is Burning; The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World; Along the Scenic Route; The Song the Zombie Sang (with Robert Silverberg); Knox; With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole; Heart's Blood (Terry Dowling); From Alabama, with Hate; My Father; My Mother; Tired Old Man; Gopher in the Gilly; Strange Wine; Nights & Days in Good Old Hollyweird (Terry Dowling); The Resurgence of Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie; Flintlock: An Unproduced Teleplay; The Man on the Mushroom; Somehow, I Don't Think We're in Kansas, Toto; Face-Down in Gloria Swanson's Swimming Pool; Petards & Hangins (Terry Dowling); Soldier; The Night of Delicate Terrors; Shattered Like a Glass Goblin; At the Mouse Circus; Shadows from the Past (Terry Dowling); Free With This Box!; Final Shtick; One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty; Jeffty Is Five; Contracts on the Soul (Terry Dowling); Daniel White for the Greater Good; Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine; Alive and Well on a Friendless voyage; The Classics (Terry Dowling); "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman; Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes; A Boy and His Dog; The Deathbird; Paladin of the Lost Hour; Soft Monkey; Mefisto in Onyx; Process (Terry Dowling); Where I Shall Dwell in the Next World; The Museum on Cyclops Avenue; Objects of Desire in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear; Man on Spikes; Introduction to "Tired Old Man"; The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore; Dark Liberation (Terry Dowling); The Thick Red Moment; The Man Who Was Heavily Into Revenge; Driving in the Spikes; An Edge in My Voice, Installment 55; The Streets, Installment 1; Xenogenesis; Afterword.

Counts as 32 entries in the 2009 Year in Shorts.

FTC Disclaimer: Purchased with 100% of my own funds. Take that, Big Brother!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL (Apparently Now an Ongoing Series)

Following up on this posting, I've started listening to several more podcasts. Of course, each comes with a copious backlog of shows, so between all the new shows and the backlogs...I've got a lot to listen to!

I've mentioned this before, and now it has been renewed for 2010: 365 Days of Astronomy. One show per day, roughly ten minutes in length, covering different aspects of astronomy ranging from space telescopes to amateurs to the universe to one asteroid and everything in between.

A Life Well Wasted: A relatively new podcast, but one that has very nice production levels. This one reminds me of a NPR show such as Radio Lab or Studio 360. Covering mostly videogames, many amusing stories such as a man who bought 36 pinball machines in one day or another person who taught himself to program by going from a book on videogames in one aisle of K-Mart to a Commodore 64 in another aisle of K-Mart. Very good stuff.

Adventures in SciFi Publishing (AISFP): Hosted by the ever-enthusiastic Shaun Farrell, with assists by Sam Wynns and Tim Akers, the show has been kind of sporadic of late (lots of "Real Life") but has a nice backlog of 87 episodes to listen to. Wide variety in topics and guests (tag team shows with John Ringo and David Weber, extensive coverage of both Clarion and Writers of the Future, authors who have worked with the internet to build an audience and more), good production, and of course...Shaun, Sam and Tim.

The Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas: Some of the same folks I've heard at other shows get together and discuss science fiction, for them, "more obscure" science fiction. Topics alternate between television/movies and books, subjects have included Glen Cook, Roger Zelazny, Tron, The Hidden, RoboCop and much more.

Spider Robinson: Spider on the Web is a sporadic podcast (more Real Life issues here), but wide-ranging in subject matter. Spider covers music, reads stories, talks about space and much more.

Voices of Babylon: Growing out of a series of linked voicemails appearing in Babylon Podcast, Voices of Babylon brings us an ongoing series of stories called The Three-Edged Sword. Fan fiction set in the Babylon 5 universe, done as radio. Cool!

Shows I've started listening to, but haven't heard enough to really talk about yet (so far, so good in what I've heard...): The Dragon Page; Escape Pod; PodCastle; PodCulture; Pseudopod; Slice of SciFi; What the Cast?; The Sword and Laser. As I get into these shows, I'll come back and talk about them.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Eight Things

Robert J. Sawyer talks about eight things new writers need to know.

John Barber (writing at The Space Review) re-explores the concepts of macrolife.

Addendum: Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski on the subject. Gary Westfahl on the subject. Some interesting Saturn V variants that Dandridge Cole was involved in (among others). David Darling on the subject. Space Settlement FAQ. Colonizing Mars vs. colonizing free space using a Stanford Torus.

Issue 269 is up!

Science Masterclass. A sleuth identifies the instant poison used for a fiendish crime: '...CO2 gas. Carbon dioxide, you know.' [...] 'Are you sure?' 'Positive! As both you gentlemen know, it is a violent and fatal poison. When inhaled in any quantity, as for example from a vial, it produces a spasm of the glottis and immediate death.' (George Allan England, 'Ping-Pong', in Best Detective Stories, 1930) [MP]
Stay on Target (a.k.a., Fred's Reading Report: November 2009)

Thirty-one days have far can we go?

For the year-to-date, though:

Shorts? 581 short works read to date!

Longs? 259 long works read to date!

Progress marches on. Better living through chemistry. Or something.