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For those of you who somehow missed out on the ultimate Twitter experience yesterday

February 27th, 2015

I know some of you are not on Twitter.

And some of you might have been busy with more important things yesterday . . . if you can imagine anything more important, which I know is problematic . . . and thus missed out.

So for all of you:

The Great Llama Chase, encapsulated for you by Buzzfeed. Link via The Book Smugglers.

And

The white-and-gold or blue-and-black dress phenomenon.

Here is the original photo:

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Here is the adjusted picture from the linked article:

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And here is the dress as, apparently, it really is:

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For the record, I see the dress in the top picture as white and gold. I see ALL THREE of the adjusted pictures as white and gold. The last picture shows a dress that is clearly blue and black.

Much hilarity on Twitter, as you can imagine. Also much puzzlement in the real world, as two people can be standing right there looking at the same picture and see it completely differently. Also, apparently some people experienced a color change, shifting from Team White-and-Gold to Team Blue-and-Black as they came back to the same exact picture.

You see what you might miss out on if you don’t hover over social media all day? It’s frightening, really, the possibility that you might be the last person in the world to hear about the dress.

Which is definitely white and gold.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 27th, 2015

Balloons are magical

February 26th, 2015

I’m busy busy busy, and in between business I am re-reading AKH’s Bones of the Fair because I was just in the mood, so no time right this minute to write a post on The Five Best and Five Worst Fantasy Cities to Live In, though that was tempting as soon as I thought of it.

Instead, for the moment, let me share with you a few pictures I have accumulated and have not found a reason to post:

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balloons

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There’s just something about balloons, especially with light and cliffs. Don’t tell me about updrafts and all that stuff. They are plainly magical.

Incidentally, balloon rides are evidently a Thing in Cappadocia, Turkey. Which would be a seriously cool place to visit someday. If I ever do make it to Turkey, I will definitely be up for a balloon ride.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 26th, 2015

Actually quite a few notable March releases –

February 25th, 2015

Well, well, people keep sending me links and notes about upcoming titles for March, and there are more must-buys on the list than I expected.

Not only do we have The Voyage of the Basilisk, Shadow Scale, and Pyramids of London, we also have:

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein.

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AND we also have Jinx’s Fire by Sage Blackwood.

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About time. I’m worried about Simon, who was caught in a pretty nasty trap at the end of the last book.

Also, Dead Heat, the latest installment in Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, is out in March.

Not only that, but Vision in Silver is coming out from Anne Bishop. That’s the third book in her enormously catchy “Others” series. I’m dying to read it, despite the worldbuilding implausibility, and not every author can make me just look away from implausibility and enjoy the story.

I should write a post about that sometime because now that I think about it, I can think of other authors who are like that for me and I think I can see at least some of what they’re doing successfully that makes their books work for me.

Okay, and while I’m at it, let me add that Tracker, the 16th Foreigner novel, is supposed to be coming out in early April, so there’s that, too.

This is why I never bother to declare a moratorium on buying new books while I whittle down my various TBR piles. There’s just no hope of any such moratorium sticking for more than a week or two.

Anybody else got a March release they’re really looking forward to?

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 25th, 2015

Sometimes we should be less confident about our predictions

February 24th, 2015

This is really funny:

THE EXECUTIVE COMPUTER
By Erik Sandberg-Diment
Published: December 8, 1985
The New York Times

Note the date. Then check out the prediction:

The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so. … the real future of the laptop computer will remain in the specialized niche markets. Because no matter how inexpensive the machines become, and no matter how sophisticated their software, I still can’t imagine the average user taking one along when going fishing.

Ah, how certain we sometimes are that we know what’s on the way up or the way down! I especially like the mention of how people would rather read the newspaper. The newspaper! Remember those? They were those paper things that got ink all over your fingers as you spread their pages out over the entire table trying to find the second half of the story you were reading. So inconvenient, in so many ways!

Remind me not to make public predictions about, oh, future trends in YA genre fiction or whatever.

But if I do, I hope I’ll remember to look back in thirty years and see whether I got anything wrong or was totally, totally off base.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 24th, 2015

Oh, check out this coming release!

February 24th, 2015

How very handy that I just read The Tropic of Serpents! Because look here:

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Tor.com lists this for a March release.

Okay, cool stuff here: See that title? From the title ALONE I would know that this is going to be a riff on Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle. But I also knew that because of how Lady Trent refers to the next installment in the second volume of her memoir.

I have a copy of the Voyage of the Beagle downstairs, along with the Origin of Species and all my other stuff by Darwin and other important figures in early evolutionary thought. I’m definitely going to bring The Voyage of the Beagle upstairs and review it before reading The Voyage of the Basilisk. One of the things I admire most about this series is how Brennan captures the flavor of the early naturalists’ explorations and writing. I want to be able to really appreciate how she plays with real history in this third book of her series.

Once again Tor’s put out a great cover. Look, do you see that we have four quite distinct taxonomic groups represented? The cover artist wasn’t going just for “Big Famous Marine Animals”. This is a cephalopod mollusk, a chondrichthyes “fish” — sharks are only “fish” by tradition, really — a mammal, and a sea serpent. Very, very nice choices if you want to cover a huge evolutionary spectrum and still pick animals anybody would recognize. That is so cool.

Hardly any of the other March releases catch my eye — if you happen to click through, is there any author or series there you’re particularly looking forward to? — but there is one other title I noticed:

Shadow Scale, Hartman’s sequel to Seraphina, is also coming out in March.

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I read the first book just last year, so I’m in a good position to read the sequel now without having to review.

Also! Estara reminds me, AKH’s newest title, Pyramids of London, is coming out just at the tag end of February, so we’ll count this as a March release:

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Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 24th, 2015

What do you think of these 15 obsolete words?

February 22nd, 2015

Laura Moss writes that we should be resurrecting these 15 obsolete words.

First, I don’t think “slugabed” is really obsolete. I’m sure I’ve seen it, and maybe even used it myself. It definitely sounds familiar.

Second, is “younker” to mean young person really obsolete? Or is it regional? I kind of had the impression it was rural / southern / regional somehow, and perhaps somewhat old-fashioned, but not actually obsolete.

Third . . . I must admit that I am not familiar with any of the other words on that list. I’m not sure I believe in them. Have any of you ever heard any of them used? Were they ever really in common usage? Actually, I don’t like most of them very much and I’m pretty much okay with letting them slip away into the past, if they were ever in general use in the first place.

Except “Cockalorum.” I must admit, I like that one.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 22nd, 2015

Nominating for the Hugos Part II

February 22nd, 2015

Or is that “Nominating for the Hugos Part III? Or IV? Because it’s come up now and then for a while, I know.

Nevertheless, with just a couple weeks to go, here’s my updated list(s):

Novels:

1. The Goblin Emperor, obviously.

2. A Darkling Sea

3. Ancillary Sword, maybe

4. The Tropic of Serpents, maybe

5. Cuckoo Song, maybe. I haven’t read it yet (it hasn’t arrived yet, but you all sound so enthusiastic).

Definitely not:

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. This one just did not grab me, though I can’t put my finger on why not. That’s why I stopped in the middle to read other things. I will think about it and see if I can figure out why I didn’t find this title more engaging.

Update: I’ve finished it, and while I’m not going to nominate it, I am going to get the sequel when it comes out.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. This one absolutely did grab me. I read it fast and enjoyed it very much. But.

(a) The plot is extremely predictable. Almost from the first, I was all: Well, it’ll either wind up this way or that way. From the early middle, I was almost entirely certain where it was going. The moment those sporangia were discovered, in the late middle, there was no doubt left at all. By that time, I had also correctly predicted the role every single major character was going to play and who was going to live and die. I still enjoyed the book very much, because for me it’s all about the journey, not the end. But, well, yeah, that degree of predictability is a definite flaw.

(b) I liked how Carey handled the Sergeant. Sergeant Parks started off as a caricature of The Jackbooted Military Man, but that’s not how he wound up. But in *general*, the characters were quite stereotyped. The Caring Teacher. The Mad Vivisectionist. Mind you, they were well-drawn stereotypes, but still.

(c) Good Lord, isn’t it possible to have a whole book where there’s an important female character and an important male character and NOT have them fall into bed together? Carey laid some groundwork for that moment, but it was fundamentally unbelievable and also unnecessary. NOTE: Martha Wells pulled this off in City of Bones That’s almost the only case I can think of where an author did not force her protagonists into a sexual encounter just because one was a guy and one was a woman, no matter how unsuited to each other they might be. Can anybody else think of a story when an author declined to go there?

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. I made it through, oh, maybe four pages, and that was it for me. I simply cannot bear to read about physics instructors being tortured and humiliated because they taught evil capitalist Einsteinian physics. No matter what awards this is nominated for or how good it is, I am not going to be able to read this book.

The Bees by Laline Paull. I read about half the sample and . . . I could not perceive the characters as bees. I tried. I really did. But I just kept thinking, This is not how bees are. This is not how bees act. Bees don’t think like this. Bees don’t think. Bees don’t have more than a handful of neurons to rub together. They’re baking pastries? This is ridiculous.

So that was it for me.

Defenders by Will McIntosh. I’ve read about 25% of this book and, though I liked the beginning, I’m having a hard time going on with it. The first pov protagonist gets killed and we switch to someone else and that is jarring, or it was for me. Then we skip back and forth in time a good bit. When the Defenders are actually in battle, we don’t get close to that — we are held at a distance, watching from the perspective of distant observers. This, combined with a clear idea of where the plot is going — partly my fault; I shouldn’t have read all those reviews first — drains this early conflict of excitement and tension. Also, I thoroughly dislike one of the main pov protagonists. He seems both stupid and ineffectual and I can’t see why Any. Other. Person. Wouldn’t work as well as him at what he’s supposed to do (communicate with the alien). It appears to be able to talk to anybody it likes. What exactly makes this particular guy so special that he gets to be a high-level advisor? Has he ever actually offered useful advice? I don’t know if he’s going to improve, but at this point, I’m not interested enough to really care.

I still might try:

The Girl on the Road
Station Eleven
Lagoon

I probably will not try:

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. If it is not really fantasy, but more a straight historical, then it’s out as far as I’m concerned.
Boy, Snow, Bird.
The Book of Strange New Things

Novellas:

“Trading Rosemary” by Octavia Cade. I will probably put this on the ballot, though it was too slow for me (that’s saying something, since I usually like a slow pace) and though I seriously disliked the pov character. Despite that, it’s clearly a good novella.

“Dream Houses” by Genevieve Valentine. I probably will NOT put this on the ballot. I disliked it *too* much, though anybody can see it’s also a good novella. A horribly claustrophobic story.

“Island in a Sea of Stars” by Kevin J Anderson. I haven’t read it yet.

“Where the Trains Turn” by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen. I haven’t read it yet.

Novelettes:

“The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys. I haven’t read it yet. (I haven’t read a single novelette yet.) But it is accessible via tor.com, so I will.

Then there’s set of novelettes that don’t seem to be available online, which I probably won’t read:

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra.

“Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart

“Marielena” by Nina Allen

“Steppin’ Razor” by Maurice Broaddus.

But I will also at least try to find any of the novelettes that are up for the Nebula, which I’m listing below. Tor.com has another of those, and I think some of the others may be available. Here’s that set again, though I’m not going to take the time to google each one and see if it’s easily available:

“Sleep Walking Now and Then,” Richard Bowes

“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill

“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson. I already had this on my list, but since it’s not available online, I am very unlikely to read it prior to the close of the nominations. I’d kind of like to see it on the Hugo ballot, though, because I would like to read it.

“The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado

“We Are the Cloud,” Sam J. Miller

“The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson

Short stories:. A good handful of these are available online, though I haven’t searched for them all yet (links to some are in the previous post, as you no doubt rememeber). I will try to make time to read all the ones that are easy to get to.

“Mad Maudlin” by Marie Brennan. Definitely at the top of the ballot. An excellent story.

“How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad. I liked it a lot. I may very well nominate it. Clever and touching, and I like the ending, which is not the horrible dark ending so popular in SFF stories today. Incidentally, this is a Message story where the author kept the Message in the background enough that, though noticeable, it didn’t come across as unbearably preachy. Authors who are determined to make the Message more important than the story should take a look at this to see how to manage both. Then they should back the Message off just a little bit more, imo. Still, not a bad job.

“Never the Same” by Polenth Blake. I may nominate this one.

“When It Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster. I may nominate this one.

“Five Stages of Grief After the Alien Invasion” by Caroline Yoachim. Cleverly put together, but not really my thing.

“Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer” by Megan Grey. I liked it, but I wouldn’t say it’s brilliant.

“Totaled” by Kary English. This turns out to be available on Amazon, so I read it. It’s a good, straightforward story, with, I warn you, echoes of “Flowers for Algernon.”

“On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli. It’s just okay for me.

“The Queen of the Tyrant Lizards” by John C Wright. Definitely not, though it’s well written.

“Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet. Haven’t read it.

“A Single Samurai” by Steve Diamond. Haven’t read it.

“The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard. Haven’t read it.

The Earth and Everything Under by K.M. Ferebee. Okay, I’ve read this one, and I liked it a lot. It’s a creepy ghost story, but it handles the ghost thing in a unique way. It’s poetic, almost magical realism. And I particularly liked how Ferebee handled the subplot with the sheriff. I’m definitely nominating this one.

“We Are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller. Haven’t read it.

“Hold Back the Waters” by Virginia M. Mohlere. After Linda and Craig commented about this one, I had to read it! It’s a very good story, though to me it felt a bit unfinished because there was no resolution at all for the relationship between Annabeth and Jasper. Still, I’m happy to move this one onto my nomination ballot. It’ll be different having a set of short stories I’m really rooting for — this is the first year I’ve read any short stories.

“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” by Matthew Kressel. Haven’t read it.

“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by Usman T. Malik. Haven’t read it.

“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide” by Sarah Pinsker. Haven’t read it.

“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon. Haven’t read it.

“The Fisher Queen” by Alyssa Wong. Haven’t read it.

I know that a couple of you are definitely nominating, too. Let me know what you think of shorter works, if you read them! Or if you find any that you are mad to get on the ballot, please let me know and I’ll prioritize them.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 22nd, 2015

Writers as barbarian conquerers

February 21st, 2015

This post by Marie Bilodeau at Black Gate is entertaining:

Writing a novel re-envisioned as barbarian conquest —

This is where you plunge in and WRITE! KILL! DESTROY! Your armies are in place. Your knights are totally rocking it! Your archers are shooting those little wooden arrows like they can’t run out AND THEY DON’T BECAUSE IT’S YOUR BOOK!

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My favorite bit is this one:

Don’t trust the distractions. Off in the distance, there will be other Fortresses of Manuscript, with large open doors and inviting fields of green. There may be enticing scantily clad people on top, dancing their cultic dances with colorful veils and shiny ribbons. There will be candy and chocolate. And flowers. The other fortresses will show you some leg and make promises of success.

That is so true! In an entirely overdone metaphorical way. Thanks to commenter Robert for pointing this post out to me.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 21st, 2015

Ah, and here are the Nebula nominees –

February 20th, 2015

Tor.com has just drawn my attention to the SFWA announcement of the Nebula nominees for 2015. Let’s take a look!

Best Novel
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

THERE, GOOD. Glad to see The Goblin Emperor is on the ballot.

Okay, looking at the rest of this, I can see I may want to prioritize The Three-Body Problem, just to see whether I like it — I expect it’s impressive, but that’s not the same thing as liking it. But I would vote for an impressive work I didn’t personally like if I thought it was the best book on the ballot. Speaking of impressive books that I hated, I really disliked Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch a few years ago, so there’s no way I’m touching Annihilation unless I hear something that makes me really willing to take a chance on it. Okay, and Jack McDevitt’s books just don’t appeal to me that much, though I know lots of people love his work. I’ve never read anything by Charles Gannon, but I see this is a second book in this series. Looks like gung-ho alien invasion SF. Here’s a review from Goodreads that makes me think maybe I ought to put the first book on my wishlist. In fact, I think I will do that right now before it slips my mind.

Best Novella

We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
“The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
“The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)
Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
“Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)

Hey, you know what, I actually have “Calendrical Regression” . . . somewhere around here . . . I think. Sure sounds very familiar anyway.

Best Novelette

“Sleep Walking Now and Then,” Richard Bowes (Tor.com 7/9/14)
“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
“The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado (Granta #129)
“We Are the Cloud,” Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed 9/14)
“The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com 4/2/14)

Best Short Story

“The Breath of War,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/6/14)
“When It Ends, He Catches Her,” Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14)
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld 5/14)
“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Sarah Pinsker (F&SF 3-4/14)
“Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
“The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (F&SF 5/14)

And for this shorter fiction, I guess we can all agree on the single best title, at least. Right? Right?

All together now:

“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”

Or is that just me?

Anyway, more short work to possibly check out quick before Hugo nominations close. I’m not taking time to look for links right now, but I expect some of them are available online.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 20th, 2015

Reading with Depression

February 20th, 2015

A must-read post at Book Riot, on the experience of reading — and, I presume, life — while clinically depressed vs after effectively treating the depression.

Someone told me that there comes a grieving period when depression/anti-anxiety medication and/or therapy and/or other treatment starts to really work. It’s not grieving about losing who you are; it’s about how much you denied your past self. About how you didn’t give yourself the chance to function but listened to those painful messages your mind fed you.

I find that very believable. And very sad. If there is one thing I want in the (very) near future, it is to see a stake driven through the heart of the idea that clinical depression is a personal failing and that those affected should tough it out. I don’t think anything else could improve the quality of life for the coming century so much as a really effective treatment for clinical depression (and other emotional dysfunctions).

Thanks to Maureen for the link.

Posted in: Blog by Rachel on February 20th, 2015