Monday, June 18, 2018

Musical Monday - Atomic by Blondie


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: March 1, 1980 through March 8, 1980.

Atomic was the first Blondie song to reach number one in the 1980s, but it certainly wasn't the last. Blondie started its existence as a punk band, which is probably why they were always more popular in the U.K. than in the U.S., but by the time the 1980s rolled around the band's sound had morphed into the weird amalgamation of new wave and disco that you can hear in Atomic.

This song is very much a Blondie song, with an added ethereal-sounding element to it coupled with a Johnny Rivers style Secret Agent Man riff and lyrics that are almost meaningless. The video has a faux futuristic theme to it, with Blondie performing in an outfit that looks to be at least partially made from a garbage bag. Nothing about this song or this video actually makes much sense, but that's more or less what I expect from Blondie, as the band always seemed to have something of an anarchistic streak running through their music, albeit an anarchistic streak that came with a danceable beat.

Previous Musical Monday: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
Subsequent Musical Monday: Longer by Dan Fogelberg

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Together We Are Beautiful by Fern Kinney

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Blondie     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Book Blogger Hop June 15th - June 21st: 259 Is the Country Code for Zanzibar, Someone Call John Brunner


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: You have just won a $100.00 Visa gift card. Will you spend the entire amount on a rare collector's edition you have always wanted, or buy several newly-published books? Explain your choice.

Given that there are no rare collector's editions of any books that I have always wanted, I'm going to have to go with the second option. There are always new books coming out that I want to buy, so I would have no trouble at all finding books to use the gift care for. In fact, I can think of several books off of the top of my head that I would like to get: Space Opera by Cat Valente, The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey, Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee, New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, and Amberlough by Laura Elena Donnelly, just to name a few. Just getting those books would probably easily push me over $100.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: Nanjing University Was Founded in 258 A.D.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, June 11, 2018

Musical Monday - Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: February 23, 1980 through March 15, 1980.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: February 23, 1980 through March 8, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Sometimes greatness occurs quickly and from odd sources. Freddie Mercury reportedly wrote this song in about ten minutes and credits the fact that he is not a very good guitar player for it being as good as it is. In other words, because he is a crappy guitarist, Mercury wrote a better song. Given that I am a far crappier guitarist than Mercury was, I suppose that everyone should be expecting my hit record soon.

The Game was the first (and for a long time only) Queen album I owned. I had it on cassette tape, which seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. I played that cassette until the tape stretched and Freddie Mercury's voice on Play the Game sounded decidedly off-key, and to be perfectly honest, Crazy Little Thing Called Love is probably my least favorite song on the the album. The only song that competes with it for the bottom spot is Don't Try Suicide, a song that was way too blatantly didactic to be all that good. Apropos of pretty much nothing, when I was in high school, I made a mix tape to listen to on my Walkman while I was warming up before races, and Rock It (Prime Jive) was on that cassette, but this song wasn't.

Even though this was one of the band's biggest hits (as one of only two Queen songs that reached #1 on the Billboard charts), this song just feels out of place to me, and doesn't really sound like it should be a Queen song. The fact that this was one of their most commercially successful songs instead of something like Somebody to Love, or We Will Rock You, or Bohemian Rhapsody, or Radio Ga Ga just seems wrong. It is a perfectly serviceable song - even the worst Queen songs are pretty good songs - but it is just a rockabilly Elvis tribute, and that shouldn't have turned out to be one of the milestones in the career of a band as good as Queen.

Previous Musical Monday: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson
Subsequent Musical Monday: Atomic by Blondie

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) by Pink Floyd

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Longer by Dan Fogelberg

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Queen     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Book Blogger Hop June 8th - June 14th: Nanjing University Was Founded in 258 A.D.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What author have you read the most in the past two years?

So, "the past two years" would extend back to June 2016, which is kind of tricky since I usually track my books read by year. As near as I can tell, the author I have read the most is James S.A. Corey. I have read six of their books in the last two years, all of which were part of their Expanse series. Those books are:


The author I have read the second most in the last two years is Kelly Sue DeConnick. I have read five books by her in the last two years. Two of them are Captain Marvel volumes, and two are from her Pretty Deadly series. The fifth book is from the Bitch Planet series. Here are the five books:


I have also read four books by two different authors. I read four volumes by G. Willow Wilson, and four more by John Bellairs. Here are the books by Wilson, all of which are from the Ms. Marvel series:


And here are the books by Bellairs. Three are from his Johnny Dixon series, and the fourth is from his Lewis Barnavelt series:



Book Blogger Hop     Home

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review - The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts


Short review: Sunday and the rest of the crew of the Eriophora are organizing a revolt against the A.I. that runs the ship. The only problem is that each crew member is only awake for a few days out of every millenia and the A.I. literally controls aspect of their starship.

Disclosure: I received this book as an Advance Review Copy. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Haiku
Asleep and adrift
Through millenia in space
Now they must revolt

Full review: Sunday is a member of the starship Eriophora, and has been for millions upon millions of years. Traveling at relativistic speeds, spending most of her time in suspended animation, Sunday and her fellow crew members are called upon by the ship's AI., nicknamed "the Chimp", whenever it faces a problem that requires human creativity to solve. Despite being "the Chimp", the ship's computer essentially runs everything on Eiophora, so when it turns out that it is an an amoral and inhuman overseer that regards the human crew as nothing more than mission assets to be discarded when their cost outweighs their utility, fomenting a revolt proves to be somewhat difficult.

The story of The Freeze-Frame Revolution starts off by establishing the "normal" that Sunday lives within. The Eriophora is a massive ship carved from rock surrounding a black hole that has been flung around the Milky Way on a mission to build gates, presumably to pave the way for other travelers to follow. The ship is mostly run by an A.i. dubbed the Chimp, which pilots the ship and builds gates on its own most of the time, but once in a while it confronts a problem that its extensive programming is ill-equipped to handle. For such situations, the Eriophora has a crew, who spend years on end in suspended animation and are thawed out once in a great while to troubleshoot. The exact number of crew is never stated, but they clearly number in the thousands, with only a handful being active at any given point in time, brought out of hibernation in groups that are determined at the whim of the Chimp. When the novel opens, the Eriophora has been traveling for the equivalent of sixty-six million years (although given relativistic effects, there is a serious question about what that actually means), and has made at least one complete circuit of the Milky Way.

On the surface, The Freeze-Frame Revolution is about a revolt, or more accurately, a conspiracy to stage a revolt. Sunday and her friend Lian are frequent work partners and occasional sex partners, so when Lian starts expressing doubts about their mission in general and the Chimp specifically, Sunday is forced to examine her own thoughts on the matter. When Lian dies in what is written off as an accident and Sunday makes a rather horrifying discovery concerning roughly three thousand crew members who were "deprecated" by the Chim, Sunday finds herself drawn into a long and secretive conspiracy in which crew members communicate with one another across thousands of years by hiding messages in songs, artwork, and other secret communiques. The trouble the conspirators face is that not only does the Chimp have cameras and monitoring devices throughout the Eriophora, it can literally look through their eyes using implants that all of the crew members carry within themselves. Thus, the conspirators must not only communicate secretly, they must do so in a manner that hides their communications even when they are reading them.

The difficulties the conspirators face are further compounded by the fact that the Chimp essentially resides throughout the entire ship, and can move itself from place to place at a whim. This means that not only do they have to figure out a way to topple a nigh-omnipresent A.I., they have to find a way to do this when it is vulnerable and more quickly than it can react. This, as one might expect, proves to be a difficult prospect. The story runs through some twists and turns, but the real depth of the book comes from the oddities and unanswered questions. The Chimp is an inhuman creature, without emotion or feeling, and in some cases without memory or even an understanding of what it has done in the past or what it is doing in the present. For all of the characterization that it is presented with in the story, and all of the emotion that Sunday invests it with from her end, time and again the story reminds the reader that the Chimp is merely an A.I. and only as good (or as evil) as its long-dead programmers made it.

Much of the book is framed as a conflict between humans on the one hand, and an inhuman A.I. on the other, but Watts' includes background details that call that assessment into question. The crew are ostensibly human, but as the details of their childhood and training come to light, one starts to question that categorization. Though never explicitly stated, the details that are peppered throughout the story suggest that the crew members were specially selected for the mission, and were quite possibly engineered specifically for it. There are strong hints that they were trained, conditioned, and physically modified in ways that seem to have stripped at least some of their humanity away. The end result is that one has to wonder if they can fairly be characterized as human any more, or if they are, as the Chimp views them, merely components of the Eriophora to be evaluated solely on the basis of their usefulness to the mission.

But questions about the humanity of the crew only serve to raise questions about the continuing humanity of those who were left behind. At the time the story opens, the Eriophora has been travelling for sixty-six million "Earth" years, enough time for the Tyrannosaurus Rex to evolve into a chicken and longer than the time it took for humans to evolve from shrew-like creatures. Given that length of time, and the fact that the Chimp apparently hasn't heard from "Mission Control" for millions of subjective years, one has to question whether there is anyone left "back home" to benefit from the mission. Further, in light of this realization, the infrequent mysterious "monsters" that burst from freshly completed gates take on a potentially different character: Could they be the descendants of humanity desperately trying to communicate with the Eriophora and trying to get the ship to stop its now counterproductive mission?

The fact that the Eriophora has lost contact with humanity gives the entire story a kind of unmoored, dream-like quality, and also serves as a metaphor for the lack of humanity that seems to run through both sides of the conflict in the book. What makes The Freeze-Frame Revolution so good, like so much other good science fiction, is that the story is filled with questions that eat at the reader long after they have finished the book. For example, one is left wondering what the crew of the Eriophora plan to do once they throw off the yoke of the Chimp - even if they could get off the ship, which seems unlikely, they seem to have no skills other than those needed to aid the ship in its mission. Will they simply continue to travel the galaxy building gates until they die, just without the Chimp being around? It is fairly apparent that keeping all (or even a substantial part) of the crew awake all the time would rapidly deplete the ship's resources, so who gets to decide who is awake and who sleeps, and how the crew is rotated (if they are rotated at all). The ship has a vast archive of stored information, and finding space for this enormous volume of data is a significant plot point in the story, but one is left wondering what the point of keeping the archive is. The archive can't be sent "back" for anyone to use, and no one aboard the ship seems to use it for anything in particular. One crew member hopes that the mission will last long enough that he can watch the ongoing heat death of the Universe, but he seems to be motivated by nothing but idle curiosity. It seems that the ultimate point of The Freeze-Frame Revolution is that there is no point to human life. That idle curiosity is all that we have to motivate us, and that may have to be enough. That the only purpose human life has is to make one's own choices and there is no further goal than that. Watts seems resolutely determined not to offer any easy answers, and that is part of what makes this book brilliant.

In the final analysis, The Freeze-Frame Revolution is a multilayered story that has a set-up that seems to be little more than a conspiracy to revolt set in a hard science setting, but which reveals deeper questions about the nature of the characters that inhabit the story and the nature of humanity in general. Watts presents a dystopia that, even if the protagonists succeed, will only be slightly less dystopian, and forces the reader to confront the ways in which this dystopian vision so closely mirrors the world we currently live in. This is a book that is full of big ideas, intricate conspiracies, and countless thorny questions that will stick with you long after you have turned the last page.

Peter Watts     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

2018 Campbell Award Nominees

Location: Campbell Conference Awards Banquet at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Comments: As usual, the set of Campbell Award nominees heads in a different direction than most of the other major genre fiction awards, with fairly minimal overlap between this award and its various competitors. This is something that is interesting in itself, but is also something that I see as being emblematic of the healthy nature of genre fiction as a whole. Every year there are far more top quality books published than can win (or even be nominated for) awards, so having an award that marches to a slightly different beat helps highlight more of those books.

There is also some irony in this list. I've only read one of the nominees, and it strikes me as a book that John W. Campbell would have absolutely hated. I've been reliably informed that most of the other books on the list share this characteristic. I find this to be very amusing.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Second Place:
TBD

Third Place:
TBD

Finalists:
After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun
Austral by Paul McAuley
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
The Genius Plague by David Walton
The Moon and the Other by John Kessel
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad
The Rift by Nina Allan
The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown

Go to previous year's nominees: 2017
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2019

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, June 4, 2018

Musical Monday - Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: February 16, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

This has got to be one of the smoothest songs ever written, sung by one of the smoothest singers of all time. When Smokey Robinson released this single, he already had a twenty year recording career. He had sung more than two dozen hits that reached the top twenty on the charts. He had been the producer of numerous albums, and had written a pile of songs for other artists that had also reached to the top echelons of the charts.

I point all of this out, because I suspect that most people now don't remember this version of his song, but are rather familiar with the cover version put out by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow in 2000 as part of the soundtrack for the movie Duets. I advance this notion because almost everyone I played this song for over the last couple weeks as I got ready for this Musical Monday said some variation of "Hey, its that song that Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow sang!" when they heard it.

And that's really kind of a travesty because, in my opinion, Smokey Robinson is one of the most important figures in music in the last half century or so. He had fairly substantial hand in shaping what modern music is, whether as a singer, songwriter, music producer, or record executive, and the idea that his legacy is basically that he was covered by Paltrow for a movie that almost no one went to see seems almost to ridiculous to be real.

Previous Musical Monday: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers
Subsequent Musical Monday: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Smokey Robinson     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Book Blogger Hop June 1st - June 7th : There Is a Pac Man Themed Restaurant in Illinois Named "Level 257"


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What do you think your blog says about you?

I think it says that I am a person who reads a lot of science fiction and fantasy. On the other hand, I think it also says that I am a person who will read pretty much anything.

Furthermore, I think it says that I'm kind of quirky as "book bloggers" go. Not that there is anything wrong with book bloggers as a group, but other than our shared love of books, I'm just not a very good representative example, a fact that I am reminded of frequently by the many memes, blog questions, and other blog activities that get passed around.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: Nanjing University Was Founded in 258 A.D.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review - The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang


Short review: Rin is a poor war orphan who aspires to attend an elite military academy to avoid an unwelcome arranged marriage. She succeeds, but that just means that things get worse from there.

Haiku
If you learn to serve
The gods that just means you serve
An alien will

Full review: The Poppy War is R.F. Kuang's debut novel, and it is a magnificent debut. Set in a thinly disguised fantasy version of China (called Nikara in the novel) the story follows Rin as she goes from being an impoverished and despised war orphan to being a powerful and despised war leader. Along the way, Rin faces obstacles stemming from her poverty and social standing, overcoming them with a dogged single-mindedness that draws the reader in and conceals the fact that Rin is, ultimately, really a frightening and in many ways unpleasant person. The true brilliance of this book is that Kuang guides the reader along Rin's path in such a skillful manner, making every step seem so perfectly reasonable that one doesn't realize how terrible the destination is until it is imminent and inevitable.

The story follows Rin, who is a war orphan of the last conflict between Nikara and the Murgen Federation who has been taken in by the Fang family, not out of the goodness of the Fang's hearts, but rather because families with fewer than a certain number of children were required by law to take in war orphans. As the Fangs clearly didn't really want to take in a war orphan, they provide for Rin, but require her to work in their rather crooked business and take the first opportunity they can to try to arrange a marriage for her that will work to their benefit. To escape the unwanted marriage, Rin hatches a desperate plan: She will study for an take the nationwide examination that grants admission to the various academies that prepare entrants for prestigious jobs as teachers, bureaucrats, and military officers. Rin attacks the task (and every other obstacle that she comes across in the story) with a single-minded determination that serves as one of the dominant character traits for the character throughout the novel, and this trait is both Rin's greatest strength, and what makes her dangerous to everyone around her.

It is readily apparent that Kuang has drawn heavily on Chinese history and mythology to build her fantasy world: Even with my relatively moderate knowledge of Chinese history and legends, I recognized several elements of The Poppy War as having been adapted therefrom. One should not come away thinking that this is a weakness of the novel, but rather that these serve as little Easter Eggs that enhance the story for those who can spot them. I think it is reasonably likely that I missed some, but there ones that I did notice were pretty obvious: The Murgen Federation stands in for the Japanese, Hesperia takes the role of Europeans complete with Hesperian trading enclaves and meddling in Nikaran politics, and the Hinterlands are the steppes of Asia from whence the Mongol-analogous Hinterlanders hail. This borrowing of Chinese history and folklore to serve as a framework to build a fantasy world is similar to the manner in which most Eurocentric fantasy uses European history and folklore to build a fantasy world. This makes the book feel simultaneously comfortable and approachable while being notably different in tone and focus.

For the most part, the story is the story of Rin's coming of age, as she grows from a child into an adult, and the reader discovers the world she inhabits as she does. As she takes each step of her journey, Rin seems convinced that if she can just overcome the obstacles right in front of her, she will have smooth sailing thereafter. The trouble is that Rin doesn't know what lies beyond the next metaphorical hill because so much information about the society she lives in - both its history and its current structure - has been obscured, either by being intentionally hidden or lost to the vagaries of time. "Forgetting", whether as the result of official policy to occlude the truth, or just because the historical record gets misty with age, has a price, and in The Poppy War the full extent of that price is driven home time again to Rin specifically, and Nikara in general.

Throughout the story, layer upon layer of falsehood is peeled back as Rin progresses first through her studies and then through the ranks of the Nikaran military. Much of Nikaran history and culture is based upon false information, large portions of which are intentionally spread by the ruling class in an effort to avoid facing inconvenient truths that would threaten their position, but when a real threat emerges in the form of an aggressive Murgen Federation, this policy of disinformation serves to hinder Nikaran efforts to fend off the foreign threat. Through the story, it becomes clear that Nikaran isolationism, insularity, and love of secrecy has served the nation poorly. One of the dominant themes that runs through this book is that while disinformation may appear to create stability for a time, it is only the illusion of stability, and when the veneer comes off everything is so much worse than it would have been has the Nikaran nation simply faced its history head on, sins and all. The truly masterful part of this book is that all of this sneaks up on the reader, just as it sneaks up on Rin and her peers. Because the world is presented through Rin's eyes, and thus Nikaran eyes, the built in assumptions of a Nikaran are baked into the presented viewpoint, and consequently, when the deceptions inherent in that world view are stripped away, it is an appropriately jarring experience.

If this book has a weakness, it is that Kuang is clearly a believer in Chekov's Gun. If something odd or unusual appears in an early chapter, it is almost certain that it will be of crucial importance later in the story. From the mystery of the fate of the island of Speer and the Speerlies, to the oddities of Master Jiang, to the enigmatic and superlatively talented upperclassman Altan, pretty much every curiosity that pops into the narrative turns out to be significant in some manner. As weaknesses go, this one is pretty minor, but this writing technique is used so often in the book that it is noticeable. One should also note that this is the first book in what is planned to be a trilogy, so while it does have a reasonably satisfying conclusion, there are significant loose ends left hanging at the close of the story. I feel I should also point out (as some have touted it as such), that despite its youthful protagonist and cast of characters, this is decidedly not a Young Adult book, and anyone looking for such a book should steer clear of this one. That is not to say this is not an excellent book, merely to emphasize that it isn't a Young Adult book.

The Poppy War is, quite simply, an excellent novel. Rin is not exactly a "likable" protagonist, but she is a protagonist that one will root for, even as she follows an increasingly dark and dangerous path. Kuang's Nikara is a brilliantly executed fantasy world, that is so full of color, intrigue, contradictions, and three-dimensional characters that it almost feels real. In Kuang's hands, Nikara is a place that feels both familiar and fresh at the same time, with a story that is cruel and harsh and yet is also fanciful and imaginative at the same time. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, as it tackles some rather grim and gritty topics, but it is a book that is well-worth reading.

R.F. Kuang     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, May 28, 2018

Musical Monday - Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: February 9, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: February 16, 1980 through February 23, 1980

First, I'd like to note the moderate irony in the fact that Coward of the County, a country song, reigned at the top of the U.K. charts for longer than it did on either of the U.S. charts.

Second, I'm going to point out that the story contained within Coward of the County is an example of fridging a woman. Like most ballads, the story is relatively simple and straightforward, with a relatively modest cast of characters, but it still manages to find a way to use a woman's trauma to give the male protagonist character development. Look at the story from Tommy's perspective:
1. While on his deathbed, Tommy's father tells Tommy not to fight.
2. Tommy doesn't fight, getting a reputation for being "yellow".
3. Tommy falls in love with Becky.
4. Becky is raped by the Gatlin brothers.
5. Tommy beats up the Gatlin brothers in a fit of righteous rage.
6. Tommy apologizes to his dead father and explains that he had to fight this time.
Now look at the story from Becky's perspective:
1. Becky falls in love with Tommy.
2. Becky gets raped.
That's it. That's her role in the story. To be the hero's girlfriend and get gang-raped. Not only is Becky's role in the story exclusively to act as a motivation for Tommy's character development, she doesn't even get to participate in the resolution of her own story (such as it is): That's left up to Tommy. The "solution" to her rape is for Tommy to get into a fight with the guys who did it, which apparently assuages the trauma of rape for Becky.

One could say that the story isn't about Becky, it's about Tommy, so her minimal involvement is just a natural consequence of that fact, but that is exactly why the "women in fridges" trope is so problematic. Becky, in this story, isn't really a character, but is rather a plot device, little more than a glorified prop. Because so few stories feature women in central roles, the stories of women like Becky are simply never told. The net result is that women become ancillary figures in fiction, who only serve as aids to telling the stories of the "important" men that inhabit the primary place in them.

Subsequent Musical Monday: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson

Previous #1 on the UK Chart: The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by the Special A.K.A. featuring Rico
Subsequent #1 on the Cast Box Top 100: Atomic by Blondie

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Kenny Rogers     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, May 27, 2018

2018 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

Location: Mythcon 49 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Comments: Once again in 2018, the incredibly narrow focus of some of the categories in the Mythopoeic Award is readily apparent. Although the Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies category is nominally about scholarship concerning all of the Inklings, in practice it is mostly about honoring books about Tolkien. Sure, there is occasionally a book about C.S. Lewis or Charles Williams, but by and large the books nominated have been about Tolkien. This year is no different, with four of the five nominees in the category being exclusively about Tolkien or his work, and the fifth being about Tolkien in conjunction with a couple of the other Inklings (including Owen Barfield). There is nothing wrong with having an award with this narrow of a focus: My only objection is that name of the award makes it seem to have a broader range than it actually does in practice.

Best Adult Fantasy Literature

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Snow City by G.A. Kathryns

Best Children's Fantasy Literature

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Frogkisser by Garth Nix
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold
Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley

Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Beren and Luthien edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Inklings and King Arthur: J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain by Sørina Higgins
There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale: More Essays on Tolkien by Verlyn Flieger
Tolkien, Self, and Other: This Queer Creature by Jane Chance
Tolkien’s Theology of Beauty: Majesty, Splendor, and Transcendence in Middle-Earth by Lisa Coutras

Myth and Fantasy Studies

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy: Idealization, Identity, Ideology by Dimitra Fimi
Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction by Michael Levy and Farah Mendelsohn
Genres of Doubt: Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Victorian Crisis of Faith by Elizabeth M. Sanders
Otherworlds: Fantasy and History in Medieval Literature by Aisling Byrne
The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds edited by Mark J.P. Wolf

Go to previous year's nominees: 2017
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2019

Book Award Reviews     Home

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Book Blogger Hop May 25th - May 31st: The 256th Level in Pac Man Is the Unplayable "Split-Screen" Level


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you remember the first book you read by yourself?

There are two ways that one can interpret this question. The first is that it is asking if you have a memory of the first book of any kind that you read, including children's picture books, which is asking for a really old memory for most people. The second is to interpret the question as asking for one's memories of the first novel (or to use the term younger readers tend to use , one's first "chapter book"), which also calls for a fairly old memory, but one that is more recent (and more likely to be remembered).

If one interprets the question in the first manner, I have to say that I have no idea. I can make some educated guesses, but they are just guesses, as I would have been four or five at the time, and memories from when I was that young are a bit hazy. The first book I read by myself may have been Richard Margolis' Wish Again Big Bear, or possibly Gene Zion's Harry the Dirty Dog, or even Judith Kerr's Mog the Forgetful Cat. Or it might have been none of those book. I remember reading them, but my first book may have been something else entirely. Perhaps the first book I read was a Dr. Seuss book like Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now or One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The point is that I don't really know. All I can really remember are the books I had available to me at the time that I loved.

If one interprets the question in the second way, I am still uncertain as to the answer, but the list of candidates is smaller. The most likely answer is Carol Brink's Pink Motel, because I distinctly remember reading that book when I was in the third grade. The other candidates are Hetty Burlingame Beatty's Blitz, Henry Winterfeld's Castaways in Lilliput, and Mary Nash's Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians, but I am reasonably sure I read those books later, although I could be wrong.

These sorts of assessments are difficult to make at this point due to the fact that once I started reading, I began reading a lot. My parents had a complete set of the Children's Companion Library and I started at one end and worked my way through them all. I started reading pretty much everything I could get my hands on, and by the time I was in fourth grade I was reading the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I was a regular at my school library, checking out book after book and tearing through all of them - I particularly remember reading Edward Oakeshott's A Knight and His . . . series of books, as well as a lot of historical fiction set in the Roman or Medieval eras. I also discovered Andre Norton at about this time (albeit after I had read Samuel R. Delany's Nova) and read through any of her books that I could get my hands on. The net result of this flurry of reading is that there are a lot of books jumbled together in my memories and trying to figure out which one I read first is kind of a fool's errand.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, May 21, 2018

Musical Monday - Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: February 16, 1980.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: February 2, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Most soft rock, at least soft rock from the 1970s and early 1980s, is about sex. I say this because I saw someone make a nostalgic comment about this song remarking about how music used to be "innocent and sweet". Except that this song is almost certainly about sex - that is the "that" that Tennille is saying she wants done to her one more time. It doesn't explicitly say this, but in the context of the song, it seems pretty obvious to me.

This seems to me to be akin to how suburban America took the Starland Vocal Band song Afternoon Delight to heart without really noticing (or if they noticed, carefully avoiding mentioning) the fact that it is about getting a little nookie in the middle of the day. I think that by making the music easy on the ears, songwriters were often able to make the lyrics kind of racy without causing consternation among the denizens of Middle America. In short, by being nonthreatening, soft rock could sneak some stuff in without the audience noticing.

Previous Musical Monday: The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by the Special A.K.A. featuring Rico
Subsequent Musical Monday: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Rock With You by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Rock With You by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Cast Box Top 100: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Captain and Tennille     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Book Blogger Hop May 18th - May 24th: Rome Won the Battle of Adis and Lost the Battle of Tunis in 255 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What were your worst movies based off of books?

So many of the books I love have been adapted into mediocre to miserable movies that, for the most part, I have given up on expecting a good movie adaptation of books that I like.

For example, Dune was adapted into a movie in the early 1980s. I love Frank Herbert's novel Dune, but the movie is simply not very good. The movie also mangles the story, throwing ray guns into a story that explicitly didn't have them, and wasting time with pointless scenes involving "folding space". The movie is a bloated monstrosity with hilariously miscast actors struggling through scenes involving whispers and voiceovers. As far as filmed versions go, I prefer the miniseries that aired on the SciFi channel, although that has a lot of issues as well, mostly stemming from the limited budget it was provided.

Another movie that fails to measure up to the book is the adaptation of Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, which is a good (although often controversial) book that was made into a hamfisted, slapdash movie. Everything about the movie is half-assed, from the costuming, to the special effects, to the acting, to the incredibly poorly written script. The movie wasn't originally written as an adaptation of the book, and Veerhoven didn't bother to read more than a chapter or two after securing the rights to the name. This sort of lazy approach is apparent throughout the entire film.

The worst film adaptation of a story that I can recall is actually an adaptation of a work of short fiction: Issac Asimov's Nightfall, The story is a classic of science fiction involving a planet with six suns that almost never experiences night. In the story, night does fall for the first time in a thousand years, and the inhabitants do not deal with the darkness very well. The movie keeps the outlines of this premise, but mangles it into a low budget mush involving crystal swords, lots of wind chimes, and an entirely unneeded love triangle.

Those are just the offenders that sprang to mind first. Even as I wrote this out, I thought of several terrible film adaptations of books I like: Peter Jackson's version of The Hobbit, the adaptation of Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising, the adaptation of Lloyd Alexander's Black Cauldron, and so on and so forth. There are just so many bad movie adaptations of good books that I sometimes wonder why movie studios bother trying to adapt books at all.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, May 14, 2018

Musical Monday - The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by The Special A.K.A. featuring Rico


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: February 2, 1980 through February 9, 1980.

Too Much Too Young is the first song in the 1980s Project that I never actually heard in the 1980s. To be blunt, I never heard this song until a few days ago when I tracked it down for this project. I have to say that I'm not particularly enamored of this song. Maybe I heard it too late. Maybe if I had been 16 in 1980 and heard it then, the high energy, exuberance, and anger contained in the song would have been more appealing. As it is, however, the song seems to me to be barely tolerable chaos.

The interesting thing about this song is that it is not actually the "single" that reached number one on the U.K. charts. What actually reached number one was a five song EP that included Too Much Too Young as well as Guns of Navarone and a medley of Long Shot Kick De Bucket, The Liquidator, and Skinhead Moonstomp. Shortly after this EP reached the top spot on the U.K. charts, the eligibility rules for determining what is and is not a "single" were changed so that another five song EP could never claim the top spot.

Previous Musical Monday: Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders
Subsequent Musical Monday: Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille

Previous #1 on the UK Chart: Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders
Subsequent #1 on the UK Chart: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

The Special A.K.A.     Rico     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home