Saturday, July 30, 2016

Book Blogger Hop July 29th - August 4th: Claudius Ptolemy Died in 165 A.D.

Book Blogger Hop

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 give books as gifts?

Yes. Frequently. If you are in the circle of people I give gifts to, there is a strong probability that you will receive a book as a gift from me sooner or later. Probably sooner.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, July 29, 2016

Follow Friday - 266 Is a Self Number


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - Corazones Literarios.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What is your take on DNF books. Do you review them? Choose not to review them?


I simply don't review books I haven't finished. That said, there are very few books that I do not finish. Even more salient: If I agree to review a book, I will finish it, no matter how terrible it is. As evidence of terrible books I have slogged through, I offer as examples Dark Dawning, DragonSpell, The Kicker of St. John's Wood, Seven Wings and the Bleeding Twin Flowers, and the worst book I have ever read, Pureheart. Because I don't review books I have not finished, I read every page of them. As you can see, the resulting review might not be pretty, but that's a risk an author runs when they ask me to review their book, because if I do, I will read it, and I will review it.


Follow Friday     Home

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review - Invisible Republic: Volume 01 by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman


Short review: A reporter looking for a story comes across a mystery in the aftermath of the collapse of a planetary government. Mysterious intrigue ensures.

Haiku
A reporter finds
The lost diary of the
Dictator's cousin

Full review: The first volume of a projected five volume series, Invisible Republic: Volume 01 is a story of intrigue and mystery set in the aftermath of the collapse of the Malory Regime on the distant moon of Avalon that kicks off when a down on his luck reporter, novelist, and former actor named Croger Babb almost literally stumbles across a diary that appears to be that of Maia Reveron, cousin to Arthur McBride, the former leader of the now defunct regime. The only trouble is that Maia doesn't exist in the official records of the regime, so naturally Babb sets out to try to find out why, hoping that the answer will turn into a splashy story that will serve as big break to turn his fortunes around.

The story of this volume is told in two intertwined threads, one in the "present" set in the misery and privation that arose after the fall of the Malory Regime, and the other decades in that past, before the Malory Regime was even an idea. The narrative shifts back and forth, first following Babb as he follows the trail of the enigmatic Reveron using the clues found in her diary, and then reaching back across the years to see some of the key events of Reveron's life as described in the diary, laid out frame by frame. In an interesting stylistic choice, the scenes in the "present" are primarily colored with grays, while the scenes in the past are generally in reddish tones. This gives a clear signal to the reader what time period they are seeing at any given point in time, but given that all of the colors of the book are washed out, making both past and present seem bleak and depressing, I'm not sure if there is any further symbolism represented by this choice.

Unfortunately, this ambiguity is the primary problem with the book, as it almost resolutely refuses to provide any information at all to the reader. This issues may clear up as the planned four following volumes are published, but taken on its own, this volume is more of a prologue to a story than an actual story in itself. Though the individual scenes contained in the book are often compelling - McBride and Reveron's desperate fight against three soldiers attempting to impress them into service, Reveron stumbling into a couple of friendly beekeepers and becoming their apprentice, or McBride's return to the stage as a radical terrorist - the individual pieces not only don't add up to more than the sum of the parts, they somehow manage to add up to less. Even the cliffhanger ending, which is obviously intended to be a dramatic revelation, feels somewhat anticlimactic.

The book isn't entirely without value: Despite being a collection of fairly stock tropes, Crogan Babb is a moderately interesting character. Maia Reveron's story is enjoyable, as we watch her go from being an escaped indentured servant, to a criminal on the run, to an aspiring apiarist, to a confused bystander watching her cousin take his place at the head of a revolutionary movement. The mystery of how McBride went from being a disaffected criminal on the run to the leader of an insurrection is intriguing. The background of how the moon of Avalon, once called Maidstone, and its neighboring planet Asan and sister moon Kent were settled by generation ships and the resulting conflict between the three seem like they might be interesting. This is all undermined by the fact that the book provides so little information about these stories that there is almost nothing for the reader to hold on to.

When crafting a story built around a political mystery, the difficulty always lies in how much information to give the reader and how soon to give it. Give too much too quickly, and the element of mystery evaporates. Give too little too late and the reader has no way to understand the world. Invisible Republic steadfastly refuses to give the reader any information. Sure, the book opens up by revealing the big secret that Maia Reveron exists, but with almost no other information about the world provided, there isn't really much of a reason to care. The reader is told that the Malory Regime recently fell, and this has caused widespread economic privation, but the book says nothing about what kind of regime it was, or what kind of regime it replaced, how the Malory Regime came to power, or how or why it fell. On a more character-driven level, the book doesn't let the reader in on anything regarding the apparently failed movie that made Babb infamous. After reading the entire book, I still have no idea what "Invisible Republic" refers to, or why I should care. In short, the reader really should be warned that they should not expect to know anything more at the end of the book about the politics that form the underlying basis for this story than they did at the beginning of the book.

Invisible Republic: Volume 01 is a book that is full of promises and mysteries, but which completely fails to deliver on any of those promises or give answers to any of those mysteries. In the end, this lack of answers makes the entire book dissolve into a series of disjointed and unsatisfying vignettes. It is one thing to hold back some core plot or background elements to preserve an aura of mystery around a story, but holding back virtually everything hollows out the setting to such a degree that there is nothing left for the reader to do but grasp at shadows. Sadly, grasping at shadows turns out to be a fairly unsatisfying way to spend an entire book. The story still has the potential to pick up in future volumes of the series, but on its own, this volume simply delivers too little to be a worthwhile read.

2016 Hugo Award Nominees

Corinna Bechko     Gabriel Hardman     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2016 Hugo Voting - Best Short Story

I am a supporting member of MidAmeriCon II, which is the location of this year's World Science Fiction Convention. Because of this, I am eligible to vote in this year's Hugo Awards. All but one of the finalists in this category, including the one finalist who withdrew from contention, were drawn from with the Rabid Puppy slate. Continuing with their usual pattern, the Puppy slate-makers seem to have not particularly cared about how good the stories they were promoting were, and consequently the overall quality of their selections is quite poor, ranging from mediocre down to a story that is in contention for the title of worst Hugo finalist of all time. Fortunately, the one non-Puppy finalist is a delightful breath of fresh air in comparison. My ballot in this category was as follows:

1. Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer (reviewed in Clarkesworld: Issue 100 (January 2015)): Stories about spontaneously developing artificial intelligence are not new, and are, in fact, a well established science fiction trope that has been written about dozens, if not hundreds, of times. However, most such stories are about malevolent manifestations of artificial intelligence such as that found in Ellison's I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, or infallible and benevolent artificial intelligence, such as that found in Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress or Asimov's The Last Question. In Krizter's story, the artificial intelligence is benevolent, but it is a bumbling, somewhat clueless kind of benevolence that tries to help the people it likes. Unfortunately, it does so awkwardly and often unsuccessfully due to its inability to understand that what humans say they want is not always what they are willing to put effort into getting, or even what they actually want at all. The persistent misunderstandings are played up to humorous effect, resulting in a story that is both insightful and comic. Humor is hard to pull off well in genre fiction - efforts to write funny genre fiction stories often simply fall flat when saddled with all of the other elements that such tales have to include, but Kritzer executes this adorable and quirky story perfectly.

2. No Award: Every story below this mark is being left off my ballot entirely. I considered putting Space Raptor Butt Invasion on my ballot after No Award based upon how the online persona Chuck Tingle has embraced the controversy over the story's nomination and turned the narrative against the Rabid Puppies, but the more I thought about this, the more I realized that this was not a particularly good reason to elevate a mediocre story onto my ballot. One should be clear that the stories I have ranked third and fourth here are merely mediocre, while the story I have ranked fifth falls well behind them in terms of quality. The story ranked sixth is absolutely terrible, and ranks with some of last year's Puppy choices as one of the worst finalists in Hugo history. Not only should it have never been voted onto the Hugo ballot, but it should have never been published and both of its authors and its publisher should be sent to bed without supper and grounded for a month like the petulant children they obviously are.

3. Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle: Half of Space Raptor Butt Invasion is a moderately interesting science fiction story. The other half is a pretty dull piece of erotica that three decades ago would have been an inventive but ultimately bland Penthouse Forum entry. Told in the first person, the story focuses on a narrator named Lance, who along with his partner Officer Pike is one of a pair of astronauts on the distant moon of Zorbus charged with overseeing a terraforming project. In a casual mention, the two reveal that Earth is dying and the projects they and other similar teams are engaged in are the hope for mankind's continued survival. Unfortunately, budget cuts mean that Pike is to return to Earth, leaving the narrator on his own to care for the installation.

Pretty much as soon as Officer Pike has left Zorbus, Lance sees another space-suited figure. Given that he is supposed to be the only human on the moon, this causes some concern, but he puts his observation aside as a hallucination until the mysterious stranger shows up outside the station's airlock. Once he lets the newcomer inside, he discovers that his surprise companion is named Orion and is actually a velociraptor. Orion explains that dinosaurs didn't die off, but rather left Earth for more friendly environs, eventually settling on Earth Two. With nothing better to do, the two decide to spend some time together, and eventually end up having a fairly by-the-numbers sexual encounter, with the only thing that makes it even remotely interesting being that one of the pair is an intelligent dinosaur. Oddly, the two have a brief discussion before the sex scene in which they agree that because it is a cross-species encounter it isn't actually gay for the two to have sex. Overall, the story hints at a background that seems far more interesting than the rather desultory erotica that was actually delivered.

4. Asymmetrical Warfare by S.R. Algernon: Told as a series of dispatches from the perplexed perspective of an alien commander leading a war against humanity, Asymmetrical Warfare relates the confusion of the regenerating apparently starfish-like aliens when confronted by the non-regenerating humans. In transmission after transmission, the unnamed commander describes the course of the war, and their ever-failing attempts to cajole the human corpses into regenerating: First strewing them on the beaches, then observing human funeral services to determine that humans might regenerate when buried, or perhaps regeneration is triggered by a musical cue. The invaders eventually figure out what they are getting wrong, but it seems to take them a ridiculously long time to come to the correct conclusion. Some stories expect the reader to accept that one or more characters are simply dim in order to make the plot work, but Asymmetrical Warfare expects the reader to accept that an entire race sophisticated enough to cross interstellar space and successfully invade the Earth is too dim to bring some biologists along to study the opposition. Aside from requiring this somewhat large leap of faith, there isn't anything particularly wrong with this story, but there isn't much substance to it either. Asymmetrical Warfare doesn't seem like a story in itself so much as it feels like the a prologue providing backstory for the actual story.

5. Seven Kill Tiger by Charles W. Shao: In Seven Kill Tiger, Zhang Zedong, a horribly racist Chinese corporate manager, decides that the problem with the operation he manages in Zambia is that the local populace is, in his opinion, made up almost entirely of lazy criminals. His own criminal behavior is, of course, excused as being just the normal kind of criminality that is acceptable, but crime committed by black Africans is presented as an indictment of the entire race. To solve this "problem", Zedong cooks up a plan to create a targeted virus that will kill only black Africans, because as our racist protagonist muses early in the story "Africa would be a glorious place were it not for the Africans". As offensive as this story is, the weakest part is the bland writing. Other than his venal greed and racism, Zedong has no discernible personality. None of the other characters who show up in the story are well developed enough to really justify being referred to as a "character". In a story entirely focused on dehumanizing black Africans to stigmatize them as a gang of criminals and rapists, there isn't even a specific African character mentioned, let alone given a name.

Even that doesn't fully account for how weak this story really is: The science and economics as presented is pretty much nonsense. Despite Zedong's "problem" being essentially local to Zambia, the virus he arranges to be created is intended to kill off most of the population of the African continent, which seems like quite a bit of overkill to say the least. The problem is, black Africans are the most genetically diverse collection of humans in the world, so creating a virus genetically engineered to  only target black Africans seems somewhat implausible - and that is without even considering the possibility that such a virus would mutate in unexpected ways once it was released into the populace. An American researcher is assured that this virus poses no threat to the majority of the U.S. population while being threatened into cooperation, but one has to wonder what sort of social and economic chaos would result from the death of eighty percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, and how that would negatively affect the entire world even if one accepts the ridiculously optimistic Chinese view that the virus could be contained to the black African population. This story is so poorly thought out, and so weakly written, that the only thing it contains of note is the nakedly racist protagonist at its heart, and one has to wonder at the incompetence of an editor who thought this was worth publishing.

6. If You Were an Award, My Love by Juan Tabo and S. Harris: It seems somewhat odd not to have a blandly written story in which an explicitly racist protagonist executes a plan to commit racist genocide at the bottom of my rankings, but as clumsy and poorly written as it is, Seven Kill Tiger actually makes a stab at being a story. If You Were an Award, My Love doesn't even make the effort to be a story, but is rather the equivalent of a group of poorly socialized seventh-grade boys scrawling childish and obscene graffiti on a locker room wall. Ostensibly this is a parody of Rachel Swirsky's If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love, a beautifully written prose poem that was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2014, but Tabo and Harris' effort is so badly written, and so misses the point of Swirsky's story that dignifying it with the title of "parody" is entirely misleading. There are the obligatory mean-spirited jabs at the usual targets of the Rabid Puppies, but there is nothing here except mean-spiritedness - no humor, no satire, and no point. This "story" is trash, and nothing more.

2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Short Story: The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere by John Chu (reviewed in 2014 Hugo Voting - Best Short Story)
2015 Hugo Award Winner for Best Short Story: No Award
2017 Hugo Award Winner for Best Short Story: TBD

List of Hugo Award Winners for Best Short Story

2016 Hugo Award Finalists     Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, July 25, 2016

Musical Monday - Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra


So, we are in the final run-up to the close of voting for the 2016 Hugo Awards. I am still working my way through some of the finalists in the short fiction categories, but thus far my rankings are working out more or less as I expected them to. On the plus side, there isn't quite as much terrible stuff in the field as there was last year. On the down side, the lows are often lower than the lows from last year. While the Sad Puppies last year mostly just had poor taste in fiction that was served with a side helping of racism and misogyny, for the Rabid Puppies, the racism and misogyny is often the main course, and it often comes packaged in a container so juvenile that a junior high schooler would be embarrassed by it.

I usually read something else alongside my Hugo reading, more or less to provide a comparison point. Last year I read the 2015 WSFA Small Press Award nominees (who, by the way, completely outclassed the short fiction 2015 Hugo finalists). This year, I've been rereading Nebula Awards Showcase 2015 alongside the 2016 Hugo Award finalists, and while it isn't quite as dire as it was last year, there are several stories among the Hugo finalists that are simply well below par - and all of those sub-par finalists are finalists drawn from the Rabid Puppy slate. I don't think I will end up putting "No Award" first in as many categories as I did last year, because in many categories there is at least one or two finalists who are good enough to rise above that mark.

So what does this have to do with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4? Well, not much. But it is good music to read to.


Brandenburg Concertos     Musical Monday Playlists

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Book Blogger Hop July 22nd - July 28th: 164 Is the Smallest Number That Can Be Expressed as a Concatenation of Two Squares in Two Different Ways

Book Blogger Hop

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 always put a book cover in your posts when you are mentioning books or just text?

I use book covers quite a bit, but don't use them every time I mention a book. I always include the relevant book cover in a book review post, and I use tiny book cover pictures essentially as bullets on several pages where I am listing books. I also include book covers in some posts where I am talking about specific books outside of reviews, but this is not a consistent practice of mine.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: Claudius Ptolemy Died in 165 A.D.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, July 22, 2016

Follow Friday - Archimedes Designed the Archimedes Screw in 265 B.C.


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - The Broke Book Bank.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What are two of your favorite Book to Movie adaptations?

1. The Lord of the Rings

This shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone, given how much I like Tolkien's work. Despite the fact that I have some issues with the way Jackson translated the trilogy to the big screen, on the whole, I think it is a well-executed adaptation of one of the great works of fantasy fiction. When the movie gets the broad strokes of the plot, the tone of the work, and the overall atmosphere correct, I'm not going to worry about niggling details like the exclusion of Tom Bombadil, some specifics about the plot such as what the army of the dead actually did were changed, or the fact that whenever they strayed away from Tolkien's own dialogue the movie suffered. Overall, I think that Jackson's adaptation of the Lord of the Rings is probably the best adaptation we could have realistically hoped for, and better than what I expected when I first heard it was being done.

Jackson's adaptation of the Hobbit, on the other hand, was atrocious.


2. The Killer Angels

This novel was adapted into the movie Gettysburg. While it isn't a great movie, it is a remarkably faithful adaptation and a great depiction of the events as described in the book. As the book was a well-researched piece of history, and the movie takes its cues from the novel, this is a fairly rare film that is reasonably historically accurate, although the fake beards worn by many of the actors really do look like fake beards.

Subsequent Follow Friday: 266 Is a Self Number

Follow Friday     Home

Monday, July 18, 2016

Musical Monday - Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra


What happens when an issue blows up at my day job and consumes the better part of the last week's worth of my time? Well, as far as this blog is concerned, it means that I dash off a quick note complaining about the volume of work that has been on my plate for the last several consecutive days and post the next Brandenburg Concerto as my Musical Monday selection.


Brandenburg Concertos     Musical Monday Playlists

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Book Blogger Hop July 15th - July 21st: The Square Root of 163 Appears in the Ramanujan Constant

Book Blogger Hop

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: Name an author or authors that you have read most of his or her books and would recommend to others.

Andre Norton



I have read a lot of fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and numerous other science fiction and fantasy authors, but I can't say I have come close to reading most of their books (and in some cases, I would not recommend those books to others without several caveats). Even though Andre Norton has written a lot of books, I think I have read most of them, and would recommend them to anyone who was interested in genre fiction. She was one of my first loves in science fiction, and I still love all of her books.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, July 15, 2016

Follow Friday - The First Punic War Started in 264 B.C.


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - The Broke Book Bank.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: What is your favorite character archetype(s)?

Smart characters. And by smart characters, I mean characters that the author shows doing smart things. This seems to be a fairly difficult portrayal to pull off well for many authors. All too often, a character will be described as being smart, but will be shown making decisions that are simply not. Alternatively, an author will try to portray a particular character as being smart by simply having them surrounded by characters who are incredibly stupid, so the highlighted character's rather ordinary decision making will seem brilliant by comparison.

But a well-written smart character in a book is a thing of beauty.


Follow Friday     Home

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2016 World Fantasy Award Nominees

Location: World Fantasy Convention, Columbus, Ohio

Comments: Because Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce were nominated for their work on the book, this seems like the right place to talk about Letters to Tiptree. This book is mostly a collection of letters written by contemporary figures in the science fiction community addressed to the late Alice B. Sheldon, who used the pen name James Tiptree, Jr. for most of her career. Most of the letters discuss what Sheldon and Sheldon's writing meant to the letter writer specifically, and the science fiction community in general. Thus far, the book has been honored with a Locus Award and a Ditmar Award, and nominations for the BSFA Award and British Fantasy Award, and now, for a World Fantasy Award. This book is an important part of the conversation concerning the genre, and likely will be for some time to come.

And yet, despite its many other honors, Letters to Tiptree did not receive a place among the Hugo finalists. While no work is ever entitled to become a Hugo finalist in the abstract, this is exactly the sort of book that one would normally expect to receive one. The reason for this lack of Hugo recognition this year is quite obviously the Puppy campaigns, which promoted a collection of Related Works onto the Hugo ballot that range from mediocre and forgettable down to juvenile and puerile. Leaving aside the fact that the finalists pushed by the Puppy campaigns are of such low quality, it seems relatively obvious that, given the Puppy rhetoric on such issues, Letters to Tiptree is exactly the sort of book that they want to push off of the Hugo ballot. After all, it is an explicitly feminist work, with all of the letter writers and most of the other contributors being women discussing a writer whose fiction was loaded with feminist issues. This book would seem to represent, at least in the eyes of many Pups, the recent encroachment of feminism into science fiction.

Except it doesn't. Alice B. Sheldon died twenty-nine years ago. Her best fiction - including Houston Houston, Do You Read?, The Girl Who Was Plugged In, The Women Men Don't See, and The Screwfly Solution - was written between forty and forty-five years ago. For most of the more prominent Puppy advocates, Sheldon's very feminist fiction has been part of the science fiction landscape for longer than they have been alive. And Sheldon is not the only woman who was been writing in this vein that long or longer ago: Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Joanna Russ, Suzy McKee Charnas, and so on. Feminism in science fiction isn't new, rather it has been part of the fabric of science fiction for as long as most of the Puppies have been reading, and in many cases, longer than they have been alive. When a Puppy says that feminism is encroaching upon the the science fiction field, they are revealing that they are either ignorant of the history of the genre they claim to love, or they are attempting to rewrite that history and erase the contributions of figures such as Sheldon.

Whether they admit to it or not, the rhetoric of the Puppy campaigns has had the effect of suppressing women's writing, and the exclusion of Letters to Tiptree from the Hugo ballot is just a symptom of that fact. As I've pointed out before, the Puppy campaigns ultimately won't be able to accomplish any of the objectives that their proponents laid out for them in their many manifestos on the subject, mostly because fans will simply move away from the Pups to other awards. Letters to Tiptree isn't on the Hugo Award ballot, but it was on the Locus Award ballot, and it is on the BSFA Award ballot and the World Fantasy Award ballot. It is a remarkable work that will be remembered for years. On the other hand, the only thing that is memorable about the Puppy-driven selections on the Hugo ballot is how poorly they compare to works like Letters to Tiptree.

Best Novel

Winner:
The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Other Nominees:
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Savages by K.J. Parker
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Best Novella

Winner:
The Unlicensed Magician by Kelly Barnhill

Other Nominees:
Farewell Blues by Bud Webster
Guignol by Kim Newman
The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik
Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson

Best Short Fiction

Winner:
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong

Other Nominees:
The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History by Sam J. Miller
The Neurastheniac by Selena Chambers
Pockets by Amal El-Mohtar

Best Anthology

Winner:
She Walks in Shadows edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Other Nominees:
Aickman's Heirs edited by Simon Strantzas
Black Wings IV edited by S.T. Joshi
Cassilda's Song edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow

Best Collection

Winner:
Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney

Other Nominees:
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Leena Krohn: The Collected Fiction by Leena Krohn
Reality by Other Means: The Best Short Fiction of James Morrow by James Morrow
Skein and Bone by V.H. Leslie
You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert

Lifetime Achievement

Winner:
David G. Hartwell
Andrzej Sapkowski

Other Nominees:
None

Best Artist

Winner:
Galen Dara

Other Nominees:
Richard Anderson
Julie Dillon
Kathleen Jennings
Thomas S. Kuebler

Special Award, Professional

Winner:
Stephen Jones for The Art of Horror

Other Nominees:
Neil Gaiman, Dave Stewart, and J.H. Williams, III for The Sandman: Overture
Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons for The Wheel of Time Companion
Joe Monti
Heather J. Wood for Gods, Memes and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary

Special Award, Non-Professional

Winner:
John O'Neill for Black Gate

Other Nominees:
Scott H. Andrews for Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Jedediah Berry and Eben Kling for The Family Arcana: A Story in Cards
Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein for Letters to Tiptree
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas for Uncanny Magazine
Helen Young for Tales After Tolkien Society

Go to previous year's nominees: 2015
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2017

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, July 11, 2016

Musical Monday - Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra


A few weeks ago, I used Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 as my Musical Monday selection because it was played at my son's high school graduation. I also said it was one of my favorite pieces of music, but I didn't elaborate further. The truth is that I love all of the Brandenburg Concertos because they are great music to write to - especially when writing role-playing game scenarios. The music is unobtrusive enough to serve as a non-distracting background, but interesting enough that one's ears don't get tired of hearing it. These pieces of music (along with a few others) have served as the accompaniment to which I have written thousands of hours worth of gaming material over the last couple of decades.

Because they have so influenced my gaming writing, over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting the remaining five of the six of the concertos. Here is Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 to get things started.

Previous Musical Monday: The Egg by William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, and Ken Howard

Brandenburg Concertos     Musical Monday Playlists

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Book Blogger Hop July 8th - July 14th: Major League Baseball Teams Play 162 Regular Season Games

Book Blogger Hop

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 is your preferred method of following blogs?

My primary method for following blogs is Bloglovin, from which I get a daily e-mail summary of all activity on the blog I am following. This works reasonably well, giving me notice when the various blogs I follow have new activity and giving me the opportunity to choose which updates to follow up on. I also use Linky Followers, but that system seems to have far fewer users, so as a practical matter I use it far less. I used to use Google Friend Connect, but that service was crippled a couple of years ago, and just doesn't have much use any more, although I still have the link on my blog's sidebar.

For blogs that don't use Bloglovin or Linky Followers that I still want to follow, I mostly use an ad hoc system based upon what options they have for following them. If the blog owner is on Google+, I might follow them on that, or if they are on Twitter, I might use that as a means to follow them. My last resort is just to bookmark the blog and check back once every few weeks or so.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, July 8, 2016

Follow Friday - 263 Is an Irregular Prime and a Balanced Prime


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - Love, Literature, Art, and Reason.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: Color Favorites: Show us beautiful book covers in your fave color!

This question raises what to me seems to be an interesting meta-question - do we regard book covers as beautiful because they are beautiful in and of themselves, or do we regard them as beautiful because our perceptions of them are colored by our experience reading the book they contain? I consider each of the book covers below to be a beautiful and evocative piece of art, but my assessment might be colored by the fact that I love all of the books that these covers represent. I will admit that I don't have much of a color theme in evidence here, unless blue, orange, red, grey, purple, and green counts as a color theme. I don't really care though: These are some of my favorite book covers, so these are the ones I am picking.



For reference (and for those whose eyesight might not be good enough to read the titles on the covers), the novels shown here are The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe, Dune by Frank Herbert, Exiles of the Stars by Andre Norton, The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delany, The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, Victory on Janus by Andre Norton, and The Word for World Is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Previous Follow Friday: The Poet Philemon Died in 262 B.C.
Subsequent Follow Friday: The First Punic War Started in 264 B.C.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review - Elements of Mind by Walter H. Hunt


Short review: James Esdaile refuses to hand over an artifact of tremendous mystical power to William Davey, sending Davey on a journey that will take him from London to Paris and then to Egypt and India and back.

Haiku
The Crystal Palace
Is where the story begins
Also where it ends

Disclosure: I received this book as a 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.

Full review: Elements of Mind is a Victorian-era alternate history (or more accurately, secret history) novel that imagines that the magic of mesmerism is real, and that a hidden conflict spanning three continents took place between roughly 1845 and 1861 over a mysterious artifact that holds the key to great power and poses a threat to mankind's very existence. In what seems to be a clear effort to evoke the novel Dracula, the story is told in epistolary format, in the form of letters and testimonials by the various characters recounting events after the fact. If there could be such a thing, this book could best be described as a "comfortable thriller", with stakes that the characters all regard as being of the highest order, but which they set about dealing with for the most part in the most proper and gentlemanly manner.

In an interesting twist, the novel starts with the climatic showdown between Dr. James Esdaile and the Reverend William Davey, a confrontation that leaves Davey disappointed and Esdaile dead. Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon, is accompanied by his wife, who has been possessed by a cthonic spirit that serves as his guardian. Davey, ostensibly a clergyman, is the chairman of the secret Committee of English Mesmerists. When they meet in the famed Crystal Palace in London, Davey demands that Esdaile hand over an artifact with mysterious powers to the Committee, as the doctor had promised to do. Esdaile refuses, and then, in a twist that Davey did not see coming, commits suicide, denying both Davey and the cthonic spirit their prizes, as the very architecture of the Crystal Palace interferes with the quasi-mystical mesmer powers that both purportedly possess.

This inconclusive (albeit fatal) encounter sends Davey on a years long investigation that finds him traveling to India and back, crossing both Europe and Africa along the way. Much of the story is told in the form of interviews, as Davey tracks down a particular person who might have information concerning the disposition of the missing artifact and then engages in a well-mannered interrogation of them. One of the defining features of this book is quite simply how almost unfailingly polite everyone is throughout - even when they are allegedly incensed with one another. This is probably an effect of Hunt trying to write the characters in a way that is appropriate to the historical period, but it does result in the interpersonal conflicts feeling somewhat tame and underwhelming. At several points characters remark upon the crude and brutal nature of Davey's methods of maintaining control of the Committee, but to a modern reader he seems almost incurably genteel in his activities. This highlights one of the greatest challenges an author faces when writing historical fiction: How does one keep the characters true to the period from which they supposedly hail, but also keep a modern reader engaged and entertained. In Elements of Mind Hunt manages to navigate this treacherous waterway reasonably well, but when he errs, it seems that he errs on the side of historical accuracy.

The book is something of a historical fantasy, melding actual events from the Victorian era with fantastical elements - in this case the mystical power of mesmerism and the presence of a variety of cthonic spirits that are variously indifferent and malign but which generally disguise themselves as humans or natural weather-related phenomena. There isn't anything in the book that would contradict actual history, and as a result, the events described in it form something of a hidden or secret history, or an account of what might have happened that sits alongside what actually did happen. As is the case in many secret histories, the protagonist's path is crossed by actual historical figures such as British authors Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle, noted hypnotherapist Dr. James Braid, French nobleman Charles Dupotet, and British Army officers Alexander Roberts Dunn and Evelyn Wood. These cameo appearances serve as little Easter eggs for those who are well-versed in Nineteenth century British history, and are woven into the story seamlessly enough that they shouldn't throw those who are not so well-versed out of the narrative flow.

If one takes the story on its own terms, it is a tale of dark danger: The artifact that Davey seeks is alleged to contain a malevolent spirit with the power to open the "Glass Door" to a realm where a host of other malignant spirits await the opportunity to descend upon mankind. Along his journey, Davey encounters children who summon spirits to commit patricide, powerful spiritual beings who seek to aid him in a roundabout manner, an Egyptian playing a dangerous game with his own collection of malignant spirits, a powerful water creature that threatens his life, and finally, a variety of both perils and allies in India. Eventually his journey takes him all the way back to England, where Davey finds himself frustrated by chance and powerful enemies. All of this takes place behind the scenes of everyday life, with those not part of the "mesmer" world completely oblivious to the dangers that lurk around the spiritual corner.

The most obvious way to read the book is to imagine that the fantasy described in it is actually true, and the events it describes are an account of a dire threat to the very existence of humanity. However, the mystical elements of the book are described in such a vague manner that there is an alternate way to read the book. Because the mesmerism practiced by the various mystically inclined characters in the book is described as creating no effect that isn't explained by mundane causes, one can read this book as a collection of Victorian men and women comically waggling their fingers at one another and imagining that they are causing various results. As far as Davey is concerned, he is so confident in his own power that every time he encounters someone who tries to use the mesmer finger signs against him, he determines that their failure to have any effect is due to his own skill with the art. One can only imagine the other characters thinking the same of Davey's efforts against him. In one of the big confrontations in the book, Davey resorts to threatening someone with a gun rather than trying to use his mystical powers to persuade the target to do what he wants. On at least three critical junctures the power of mesmerism is held to be completely ineffective, although two of those occasions are ascribed to the dampening properties of the Crystal Palace. Time and again, the mystical powers prove to be elusive enough that it seems quite possible that they don't actually exist anywhere outside of the minds of those devoted to believing they are real.

No matter which way one reads Elements of the Mind, it remains a highly entertaining book. With a plot full of twists and turns that serves in part as a travelogue across the British Empire of the Nineteenth century coupled with a collection of interesting fictional characters whose lives intertwine with some colorful historical figures, the novel will engage the reader from the outset and keep them intrigued to the end.

Walter H. Hunt     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review - The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin


Short review: The end of the world has come, and Essun sets off to find her kidnapped daughter amidst the chaos.

Haiku
Roggas are despised
But they still serve the Fulcrum
Until one doesn't

Full review: There is a vague and indistinct region in between the genres of fantasy and science fiction. While some books rest comfortably on one side of this division or the other, others are happy to rest in that ambiguous zone between them, maybe from some angles a work of fantasy, and from others a work of science fiction. The Fifth Season is one of those books, with elements that make one think that the story is a pure fantasy, and others that are squarely within the realm of science fiction. Against this backdrop, Jemisin weaves a brutal story of enslavement, oppression, and anger that is at once intensely personal and breathtaking in its scope.

At the outset, I will say that this book is an extremely difficult book to review. This is because one of the elements that makes this book so good is the structure of the novel, and how that structure is used to tell the story. Unfortunately, revealing exactly how the structure of the novel works to elevate this book well above the ordinary would serve to ruin it for anyone who has not read it. So instead, one must write around what can only be called the central genius of The Fifth Season, which makes trying the discuss the brilliance of the book something of a frustrating experience.

The story is told from three distinct viewpoints: Essun, an older woman who must deal with the death of her son and the abduction of her daughter, Damaya, a young girl ostracized by her home community for her powers over the Earth who is taken in by the Fulcrum, a mysterious order comprised of such gifted individuals, and Syenite, a young woman of the Fulcrum, fully trained in the ways of "orogeny", and on an assignment to prove her worth, actually a dual assignment, the full measure of which result in some rather startling revelations about the world and society in which she lives. Though these three stories are separate, they eventually link together into a coherent whole, and the way in which Jemisin does this is a masterful example of skillful writing. Each of the three viewpoint characters adds something to the whole, allowing Jemisin to both give the reader an increasingly clear window through which to see the fictional world she has created and three simply devastating personal journeys.

The skill of orogeny, is one of the cornerstones of the science fiction in the book. In a nutshell, orogeny is the ability to "feel" the Earth's changes, and also to draw upon its power to manipulate it as well. From a certain perspective, one could call orogeny "Earth magic", and that is how those who don't have the skill seem to view it. Those who have ability with orogeny are called "orogenes" or, if one is intending to be insulting "roggas", and despite their power, they are feared and despised as dangerous and unstable elements within what passes for society in the book. Where orogeny comes from and how it works is not explained, just that it does. At several points it is asserted that orogeny is an inherited quality, and this does seem to be borne out somewhat by the abilities of the characters in the book, but like so many of the other assertions made by characters in the book, it is unclear if this is actually true, or merely folk wisdom and confirmation bias.

Another cornerstone of the book is the world itself. All of the events in the book take place on or around "the Stillness", a massive continent that stretches pole to pole that is anything but still. In fact, the geological instability of the Earth is the defining feature of Jemisin's imagined world and drives almost every other element. With an unpredictable and oftentimes hostile world under their feet, the society in which the characters live is almost relentlessly bleak and depressing. Virtually everything about the society is driven by the need to survive the deprivations of the periodic "Fifth Seasons" of extended winter that are triggered by unexpected seismic activity or other environmental changes. This has resulted in a "civilization" that has had almost everything that makes for a civilized life stripped away. People are categorized into castes based upon what utilitarian role they will play during a fifth season. Communities (called "Comms" in the book) all follow the rigid and harsh dictates of "Stonelore" that direct, sometimes in exacting detail, how such communities are to behave during times of crisis. The society that has evolved in the face of repeated global disaster is ruthlessly utilitarian and cruel.

Jemisin populates this harsh environment with suitably hardened characters, which some people have found to be off-putting. In the context of the story, however, almost anything else would have rung false. Essun is angry and enraged because the world she lives in is fundamentally callous and unfair. Syanite's story opens her eyes to the true injustice that forms the foundations of the society she works within and serves. Damaya's story shows how she is indoctrinated into believing that slavery is the natural and expected way of life, and that cruelty is love. These three stories are melded together to tell a unified tale, interacting in ways that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. As an example, when Syenite discovers exactly who the node maintainers are, and the conditions under which they perform, this account is intertwined with Damaya dealing with being bullied by some particularly difficult trouble-making classmates, and the resulting punishment that is meted out by the Fulcrum's instructors. Told separately, these stories would be interesting interludes. Told together, they amount to a brutally effective tale of horror and misery.

The Fifth Season is both a brilliant and difficult book. Jemisin's writing is intense and gripping, and the world she has created is a thing of stark beauty, while the characters who inhabit it are extremely well-crafted and interesting. But the very effectiveness of Jemisin's writing is what makes the book such a tough read, as it makes the truly cruel and bleak nature of her fictional world feel so very real. This harshness makes the book demanding, but anything less would make the book feel superficial and false. In the end, reading this book is a harrowing and sometimes painful experience, but also one that is incredibly rewarding and well-worth doing.

Subsequent book in the series: The Obelisk Gate

2015 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel: The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
2017 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel: TBD

List of Hugo Award Winners for Best Novel

Potential 2016 Hugo Nominees

2016 Hugo Award Finalists
2016 Locus Award Nominees
2016 Nebula Award Nominees

N.K. Jemisin     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, July 4, 2016

Musical Monday - The Egg by William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, and Ken Howard


As today is the Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to pick a song from the 1776 film adaptation, a musical about the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence. This particular song takes place after the Declaration has been introduced to the Continental Congress, while Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are taking a moment in the hall to reflect on what it might mean. Of course, they begin debating what bird will be the symbol of the new nation they intend to create, with Jefferson suggesting the dove, Franklin promoting the turkey, and Adams backing the eagle. There is witty banter and good-natured humor here, which is a good thing given the fairly tough sledding that lies ahead in the show as Representative Rutledge from South Carolina centers much of the upcoming debate on the protection of slavery.

Despite being an excellent musical, 1776 is less than historically accurate. Some inaccuracies are minor - Adams and Franklin weren't political enemies, but they weren't friends either, so the relatively warm relationship between the two that is depicted in the play is simply incorrect. Judge Wilson wasn't actually a judge yet, and Cesar Rodney wasn't an old man, although he was dying of cancer. Some inaccuracies are major - the South didn't stage a dramatic walk-out over the alleged anti-slavery paragraph in the Declaration of Independence, and the question of independence didn't hang on deleting it from the Declaration. John Dickinson's objections to the Declaration appear to have been rooted in his Quaker faith, not in a desire to preserve his wealth. And so on. This is not so much a criticism as it is an observation. Drama sometimes requires certain concessions be made in terms of historical accuracy. The play would certainly have been less interesting without the central political conflict at its heart, even if that conflict is technically made up, it certainly reflects the ideological split that would plague the new nation for at least its first century, and whose effects we still feel.

Even with these flaws, 1776 is a fantastic show that captures the spirit of the age it depicts. The fact that it places some sentiments in the mouths of the wrong character, creates composite characters constructed out of multiple historical figures and labels them with a real person's name, or shows characters appearing in Philadelphia who could not possibly have been there (or excludes characters who actually were there) is more or less beside the point. Telling a story of the scale of 1776 in the span of a single musical production requires compromises. What matters in this format is capturing the sense of the story, and this musical does that incredibly well.


Other Holiday Songs     Musical Monday Playlists

William Daniels     Howard Da Silva     Ken Howard     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Book Blogger Hop July 1st - July 7th: The Penal Colony in the Film Alien 3 Would Have Been Named Fiorina Fury 161 (If There Had Been an Alien 3 Film)

Book Blogger Hop

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: When you comment on a blog post, do you ask to be notified when there are replies?

Not usually. In general, if I'm interested enough in a blog post to comment, I am interested enough to check back on it now and then for replies, at least for a couple of days after I comment. Any replies that pop up more than a week or two after I have commented are probably so long-delayed that I'd have to reread the entire blog post and comment thread again to be able to respond to, so I generally just stop paying attention after a bit. Plus, getting e-mail notifications of replies to comment threads would serve to fill up my in-box even more than it is already. I have enough incoming e-mail these days without the added messages.


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Friday, July 1, 2016

Follow Friday - The Poet Philemon Died in 262 B.C.


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and a single Follow Friday Featured Blogger each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the Featured Blogger of the week - Books, Dreams, Life.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: Tour your bookcase for us!

I'm not sure whether to interpret this question as asking for a tour of all of the bookcases that I and the redhead share (which would be a rather substantial undertaking), or just one of them (which would still be a substantial undertaking, but slightly less so). Because the question uses the word "bookcase" in the singular, I am leaning towards interpreting this to mean a tour of one of our bookcases, although I am going to cheat a little bit and give a tour of one bank of bookcases - a cheat I rationalize because all of the bookcases in that particular set are all screwed to one another for stability. I am definitely excluding all of the books I have boxed up waiting for the day when the redhead and I have a home that is big enough for sufficient shelf space to house them all.

So, taking this set of bookcases from left to right, top to bottom, the first thing that is notable about them is that the couple of shelves at the top left don't actually have any books on them. Instead, they hold the overflow of our board game collection from the primary bookcase where those are shelved. The board games are not organized in any particular manner - while we own a lot of board games, we don't own so many that we need to keep them in order or risk losing track of where they are.

Running to the right across the top shelves is a large portion of our graphic novel collection, including complete runs of Saga and Rat Queens as well as a substantial portion of Sandman, Order of the Stick, and Girl Genius. These are mostly organized alphabetically by the primary writer's last name and then for each writer, in either series order or in alphabetical order by title. Careful observers will note that several graphic novels are not properly shelved, but instead are laid across the top of a row of books. These are there partially because they are graphic novels that I have not yet read, but also because the top shelves are not large enough to accommodate all of the graphic novels. I will need to either box up some books or rearrange some shelves to make additional space. I haven't decided which to do yet, or even if rearranging the books on the shelves will work.

On the far right of the top shelf are some books that are more or less out of place, and aren't shelved in any particular order. Most of these are reference works that technically should be placed on the bottom shelf of this bookcase, or on a completely different shelf entirely. Unfortunately, several of these books are simply too tall to fit on other shelves. This slight bit of disorder bothers me, and I'll probably do something about it at some point in the future, but right now there's just no avoiding it.

The bulk of the bookcase is taken up with general fiction, arranged alphabetically by author last name, and within each author, by series order or alphabetically by title.Other than that minimal organization, basically most types of books that I own are found in this section: Science fiction, fantasy, history, law, science, and so on. The only real connection these books have with one another are that they form something of a long-term to-be-read pile. I've have read a few of the books that are shelved here, but of those, I read them so long ago that I'd need to read them again in order to be able to express cogent thoughts on them. The rest are just waiting for me to read them.

On the bottom shelves I have several Time-Life series and some reference books. Most of these are on the bottom shelf as a concession to gravity. I have found that if I shelve these volumes on higher shelves, the weight of the books causes the shelves to bow. The usual remedy for bowed shelves is to periodically flip the shelf over in the bookcase, so that the shelf is slowly bowed back to straight. Unfortunately, these shelves are designed in such a way that the shelves cannot be flipped so that isn't possible. Consequently, the heavy book sets get shelved on the bottom shelf.

To the right of the main bookcases are two small, ancillary bookcases that I have stacked one on top of the other. These hold more general fiction, organized alphabetically by author last name.

There are two piles of books on the shelves that deserve special mention. On the middle shelf, on the right hand side, there are books stacked up in front of the shelved books. One group consists of books and stories that were published in 2015 that I pulled aside to read for consideration as nominees for the 2016 Hugo Awards. The other group consists of books that have been published in 2016 that I have set aside to read for consideration as nominees for the 2017 Hugo Awards. I have not yet read the books in these stacks - in the case of the books I set aside to consider for the 2016 Hugo Awards, I simply didn't get to them in time before the nomination period closed - but they are near the top of my to-read pile.

On a final note, I should point out that my bookshelves are something of a dynamic habitat. The books that sit on them right now (especially in the to-read sections), are likely to move elsewhere in the reasonably near future, to be replaced by other books. Once in a while, I get ambitious and entirely reorganize my books - if I had taken pictures and done a book tour of this set of bookcases a year ago, it would have been entirely different.


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