Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review - Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

Short review: The Royal Charter Energy company has a claim on the mineral rights to New Terra. Unfortunately, colonists from Ganymede have gotten there first, and Holden finds himself sent to try to resolve the dispute.

An alien world
Two competing colonies
A deadly mixture

Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. 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: Cibola Burn is the fourth book in the Expanse series, and as such it depicts the next step in the extended story that has been threaded through the books: The first attempt to colonize one of the new planets made accessible by the ring gates that resulted from the alien protomolecule's actions in the first three books. Or rather, this book is about two competing efforts to colonize one of the new planets, because if anything has been made clear in the previous books, when the denizens of Corey's universe have been faced with inscrutable alien technology, they make sure to bring their petty human conflicts with them when they try to deal with it. Consequently, when presented with more than thirteen hundred new solar systems to explore, humanity almost immediately falls to fighting over a single one.

The central conflict in the story revolves around the competing claims for the planet known as either New Terra or Illus, depending upon who one asks. The Royal Charter Energy company has been granted the right to exploit the mineral resources of the planet, and has sent the ship Edward Israel with a complement of scientists, engineers, and other workers with the aim of studying the alien ecosystem, setting up a permanent settlement, and beginning mining operations. This plan is complicated by the fact that a group of refugees mostly from Ganymede and other parts of the belt arrived some years before the Edward Israel on the Barbapiccola and set up shop themselves, mining the abundant lithium ore to be found on the planet and loading it into their ship with the intent of investing the profits from the sale of the ore back into their embryonic colony and securing a better future for themselves. These competing claims set the two groups on a collusion course, with explosive and deadly results.

The book follows the established pattern of rotating between a number of viewpoint characters, each providing a window into the events of the story from their unique perspective. As in the previous books in the series, Holden is one of the viewpoint characters, and to the extent that there is a protagonist in the story, Holden holds that place in the narrative. The other viewpoint characters feature two characters who also appeared in previous books, and one new face. The first returning character is Havelock, who was last seen as Miller's partner on Ceres, and who is now the deputy chief of security on the Edward Israel who mostly just wants to do his job and get paid. The other returning character is Basia, last seen fleeing Ganymede as a refugee during the events of Abaddon's Gate, and now settled on New Terra (known to the squatter settlement as Illus), and determined to make a home there for himself and what remains of his family. The new viewpoint character is Elvi, a scientist from the Edward Israel who spends much of the book on the ground trying to do the job she came to do while everything goes to hell around her. A few of the chapters are told from the perspective of "the Investigator", which is more or less what is left of Miller's personality after he was absorbed by the alien protomolecule. This choice of viewpoint characters has both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, seeing the return of familiar faces is somewhat comforting, and allows the authors to essentially update the reader on what has happened to Havelock since he was last seen in Leviathan Wakes and Basia since he was last seen in Abaddon's Gate. On the other hand, their serendipitous presence in a book set light-years away from Earth makes the world of The Expanse seem, well, not very expansive.

The plot kicks off when the Edward Israel arrives in orbit around New Terra/Illus and the squatter colony sets explosives on the shuttle landing pad, intentionally destroying the pad and unintentionally destroying an incoming shuttle that arrived earlier than they thought it would. Upon learning of the tragedy, Chrisjen Avasarala and Fred Johnson agree to jointly appoint a mediator to attempt to negotiate some sort of compromise between the two factions on New Terra/Illus. For somewhat underhanded reasons, they agree upon Holden as their choice of mediator, and he and the crew of the Rocinante are dispatched to try to resolve the situation. The fact that Holden is completely unqualified for the job is readily apparent, but he is technically an Earther who had worked with the OPA, although he is not currently in Johnson's employ, which makes him both a politically palatable and expedient choice. Although the conflict isn't explicitly one pitting Belters against Earthers, the squatter colonists are pretty much all refugees from Ganymede, and the Royal Charter Energy company's mandate comes from the U.N., which is more or less the government of Earth, so despite the lack of formality, the conflict plays out like one between the interests of the inner and outer planets.

Even though Holden is supposed to be a neutral mediator, the representatives from Royal Charter Energy almost immediately start treating him as hostile - or at least Murtry, the head of Royal Charter Energy's security does. Murtry regards the Royal Charter Energy claim to the planet as inviolate, and treats Holden like an unwelcome interloper who is just getting in the way of his efforts to remove the squatter colonists by any means necessary. One oddity is that when Holden asserts that Murtry is overstepping his legal authority, Murtry responds that they should "wait until there are post offices", a reference to the Old West before civilization arrived to impose law and order. The only problem with this stance is that Royal Charter Energy's superior claim to Illus/New Terra is based entirely upon the rule of law, so by making this argument, Murtry is essentially undercutting his own employer's position and nullifying the authority he claims to have. Strangely, no one ever points out that Murtry's entire claim to legitimacy relies entirely upon the rule of law that he disdains, which seems like something of a plot hole. The situation escalates with some back and forth with the one constant being that Murtry pushes the violence to ever increasingly new heights, almost driving Holden and his crew to side with the squatters as a result of Murtry's intransigence and unreasonableness.

In any event, the human squabbles are quickly overtaken by larger issues, as the entire planet more or less begins to turn against both the squatters, the Royal Charter Energy people, and Holden's crew. Two of the long-running themes in the Expanse are that humanity is ill-equipped to deal with inscrutable alien technology, and that even in the face of alien technology-caused Armageddon, humans will continue to squabble among themselves for petty gains even while the world burns around them. These themes take front and center in this volume, as first a worldwide disaster threatens to wipe out everyone on the surface of the planet, and then a change to the laws of physics places everyone in orbit in mortal danger as well. As if that isn't enough, the local flora and fauna unexpectedly turn out to be the source of still further lethal problems. To a certain extent, these disasters cause the humans to rally together for mutual survival, but all too soon the cracks start showing through and before too long they are all at their throats again, which, given the way the books in this series have gone thus far, seems almost inevitable. What is most interesting here is the extreme, almost insane, loyalty shown by Murtry towards his employers during these disasters, as he plots to secure Royal Charter energy's claims to the planet even if doing so means that he and all of his crew on the surface of the planet will certainly die in the process, which is a level of commitment that seems pretty intense for a man who is essentially a hired mercenary.

There are only two real weakness of the book. The first is that as the danger ramps up, the story starts to become a bit predictable. Each of the various conundrums facing both the colonists on the surface and the crews in space are confronted and dealt with, one by one. The ghost of Miller enlists Holden to try to figure out what has gone wrong with the alien machines that make up Illus/New Terra, and this investigation prompts the inevitable confrontation between Holden and Murtry with the expected deadly results. The second is that Murtry is almost cartoonishly over-the-top evil, as are a few of his followers, and the ridiculousness of these characters gets to be a little hard to take seriously at times. In some cases, the plot only moves forward because Murtry (or one of Murtry's minions) does something villainous that is almost as pointless as it is ludicrous. The action all wraps up with a rather satisfying conclusion, a fact that somewhat paradoxically causes Avasarala no end of heartache.

With Cibola Burn, the Expanse series both pushes forward and turns inward. On the one hand, the story turns somewhat back on itself, bringing back characters who we have seen before to provide supporting appearances in somewhat unlikely places. On the other hand, the larger story, having started with humanity confined to our Solar System in Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War, expanded to a mysterious "between" space in Abaddon's Gate, now moves to distant star systems as people begin colonizing alien worlds while bringing all of their usual baggage with them, with the expected unfortunate results. This is, to my mind, the brilliance of the Expanse: No matter how far humans get from our home, no matter what wonders we find, or dangers we face, we are still merely human and still subject to the same frailties, failings, and prejudices that we have always had, but some people still keep trying to be better nonetheless.

Previous book in the series: Abaddon's Gate
Subsequent book in the series: Nemesis Games

2015 Locus Award Nominees

James S.A. Corey     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, August 28, 2017

Musical Monday - The Universe by the Doubleclicks

So, the redhead and I went to see the Doubleclicks in concert this past Sunday. It was Jim's first concert ever. She slept through most of it, but from someone her age that is pretty high praise. They were double-billed with Danielle Ate the Sandwich, which is relevant here because this song is a cover of one of Danielle Ate the Sandwich's songs.

There are so many songs that, even though they are probably really about a romantic relationship, actually work out just as well with respect to having a child. The lyric in this song "I've got all I need right here" is one that really resonates with me right now whenever I have the littlest starship captain and the redhead with me. Given that Jim more or less had such long odds against her very existence, "The Universe is big and wide, and when you least expect it, she provides" seems to be the perfect description of the events that got her to me. Sometimes the Universe works in your favor. Not often, but sometimes.

Previous Musical Monday: Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
Subsequent Musical Monday: Heaven by Warrant

The Doubleclicks     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Blogger Hop August 25th - August 31st: 217 Is the Sum of All of the Factors of 100

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: Have you ever read a book written in a foreign language you might be fluent in, and then read the same book in English?

I have only ever read three books in a language other than English. They are Rhinocéros by Eugene Ionesco, Les Jeux Sont Faits by Jean-Paul Sartre, and L'Etranger by Albert Camus, all of which I read in high school when I was much better at reading French than I am now. I have never read any of these books in English.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting

As a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association, I may vote on the WSFA Small Press Award. Although the stories are presented to members of WSFA anonymously, with the intent being that all of the members vote based solely on the text of the story, as uninfluenced by the identities of the authors as possible. Unfortunately, as one of the stories was nominated for a Hugo Award this year (which seems to be a pattern for the nominees for this award), I went into the voting already knowing who had written it. Nine stories were nominated this year, and as usual with the WSFA Small Press Award nominees, the overall level of quality for the field as a whole was quite high, making voting fairly difficult. Most of these stories are quite good, even the stories I ranked sixth or seventh are still pretty good stories, I just thought that the ones in the higher slots were simply better. My rankings of the stories are as follows:

1. Radio Silence by Walter H. Hunt: This is a story about the world not ending. Two scientists working at the Solar Observatory notice the Sun giving off an unusual burst of neutrinos normally associated with stars that are just about to turn nova, and then a countervailing change to the cosmic background radiation that seemingly stops the Sun from self-destructing. Their subsequent inquiries lead them to identify an unusual pattern of stellar activity and a strange anomaly in the asteroid belt, which leads to an expedition that has some fairly unexpected results. Radio Silence has the feel of a classic science mystery from the Golden Age of science fiction, and packs an investigation, a space voyage, an alien encounter, and a revelation concerning the nature of stars all within the length of a work of short fiction. In the hands of many authors, having as much going on in a story as takes place in this one would make the resulting narrative seem uncomfortably crowded, but this story manages to include all of this and feel almost roomy. The only weakness in the story is that the starship captain is something of a caricature of a military officer and has an almost entirely unexplained and out of character change of heart that seems pretty serendipitous. Other than that one element, Radio Silence is a well-written science fiction story with a good old-fashioned science mystery at its core.

2. The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon: As I mentioned earlier, I went into the voting already knowing the identity of the author of one of the stories. This is that story. Not only had this story been nominated for the Hugo Award (among other honors), it is also pretty much a direct sequel to Vernon's 2015 WSFA Small Press Award winning story Jackalope Wives. Grandma Harken returns in this tale featuring tomato sandwiches, enchanted thieves, a train god, and an evil sorcerer and is just as cranky, irascible, and ultimately kind-hearted as she was before. Even though I knew who wrote this story, and even though it is set in the same fictional world that Jackalope Wives was set in, I don't think that the familiarity particularly helped the story much, as I was continually mentally comparing this story with its predecessor, and to be honest, this story is not quite as good as Grandma Harken's first adventure. That isn't to say that this is anything less than an excellent story, it just doesn't have the almost mythic feel that Jackalope Wives had. This story feels like a constructed fantasy story, with the little stitches that hold it together poking through at times. Even though this is the longest story among the nominees, it feels rushed in places, as if Vernon felt the need to pack all of the background mythology into too few pages to hold it and denouement feels like it was cut a bit short. Some stories manage to be good, while at the same time feeling like they should have been expended into a longer format. This is one of those stories.

3. The Mytilenian Delay by Neil James Hudson: Even though they are a staple of science fiction stories, interstellar empires are really quite silly. In any story that confines itself to our understanding of physics, the vast distances between the stars coupled with the relative slowness of communications and travel make such an empire not only impractical, but entirely implausible. Alternatively, authors that want to feature such governments include some hand-waving magic technology to overcome the practical limitations of reality. In The Mytilenian Delay, the author takes the inherent contradictions in a vast star-spanning empire and plays with them, carrying them to a potentially deadly but decidedly absurdist conclusion. In the hypothetical empire, individual star systems annexed by the empire are forced to have a device placed into their planet that can be used to destroy the entire world if that planet rebels. In the story, a starship captain has been given the order to destroy a rebellious planet, and spends the entire story waiting for the Myletenian Delay to elapse, which will mark the point of no return after which the order cannot be countermanded. The fact that, so far as anyone knows, this is the first time this order has been given yields a bit of tension and uncertainty to the process, which the characters stoke into a raging bonfire of doubt by the end of the convoluted twists and turns of the plot.

4. Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee: This story, itself an unlikely blend of magical fantasy and hard-edged science fiction, tells the tale of an unlikely alliance between a murderous magical fox and a deserter from a civil war who drives a "cataphract" high-tech war machine. Told from the point of view of Baekdo, a mischievous and utterly selfish fox, the story follows as the creature attempts to complete the final step to becoming fully human - killing his one-hundredth human victim. The fox's efforts are complicated by the fact that the human world around him has descended into the chaos of war and his control over the form-changing magic that allows him to shift between fox and human shape is slipping. Intending to kill the driver of the disabled machine, Baekdo finds himself at a disadvantage when the pilot turns out to be more capable then he thought, and the two enter into an uneasy accord secured by an oath on the blood of the tiger-sages that soon has them battling their way out of the city to what they hope is freedom using both technical skills and magical invocations to get them through the various dangers that interpose themselves in their way. Things don't go as planned, and the two find themselves in desperate straits with no good solutions. There is a bit of a twist at the end, an ominous and ambiguous finale, and just enough mythic background to tie everything together in a fairly satisfying manner. The only real flaw in the story is that most of the details concerning human culture are essentially hand-waved, although given that the story is told from the perspective of a magical fox, this is somewhat understandable. Like The Tomato Thief, this story probably could have been better if it had been expanded into a longer format so as to more fully flesh out the mythology and the setting, but it is still an interesting and engaging tale.

5. A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard: While I knew for certain that Ursula Vernon had written The Tomato Thief, I merely suspected that Aliette de Bodard had written A Salvaging of Ghosts, mostly because thematically it fits so very neatly into her ongoing Xuya series of stories. A story of loss, regret, and coming to terms with grief, this tale features Thuy, a diver who works in the dangerous places in deep space salvaging gems from shipwrecks. Except it turns out that the gems are actually the remains of the human crews of the ships compressed into tiny crystals and one of the sets of tiny crystals that is out there belongs to Thuy's dead daughter Kim Anh (which makes the practice of dissolving gems into rice wine and drinking them a form of ritualistic cannibalism that is creepy and weird and never commented upon by anyone). The story has an ethereal, almost underwater feel throughout, as Thuy tries to grapple with both the loss of her child and the stirred up memories of the almost as tragic story of the death of her own parents. Thuy's despondency is somewhat out of step with her fellow divers, who all seem to display a fatalistic attitude concerning their deadly profession. Somewhat predictably, Thuy goes on an almost foolhardy dive, and somewhat unexpectedly she finds something there she did not anticipate. Unfortunately, after setting the stage so beautifully, the story seems to almost rush through the payoff, as if trying to wrap everything up as quickly as possible although this is a minor flaw on an otherwise beautiful story.

6. Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left by Fran Wilde: This is a lovely little magical realist tale involving people who turn into plants when they dream. It is beautifully written, with the language giving each of the loosely connected vignettes that make it up an almost dreamlike feel as the story flows languorously from one vividly painted scene to the next. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the phenomenon is world-wide, with some embracing the change and others desperately doing everything they can to stave off sleep. The tale eventually circles back to the initial protagonist in the final paragraphs, showing a last lingering look at a world that has transformed into a verdant wilderness. The frustrating thing about this story is that just about sums everything up. No reason is given for the change, and there is no real conflict or character development. People start turning into trees and bushes, and they keep turning into trees and bushes until in the end everyone has transformed. To a certain extent this feels almost like a prose poem, but even taking it in that form, there just doesn't seem to be enough in the way of character or plot despite the exquisite writing.

7. Vengeance Sewn with Fey Cord by Christine Lucas: This is an almost by-the-numbers fantasy story of revenge, with the only real twist being that the central character plotting the bloody demise of the evil monarch is a seamstress. There is nothing really wrong with the story, but there isn't a whole lot that makes it stand out either. The evil Queen Thelda is a pretty standard issue evil queen with a fairly standard issue evil Lord Commander who pops up into the story a number of times. At the outset of the story Saya, the vengeance-seeking seamstress, informs the reader that she is going to secure her revenge by making a suit constructed from stitched-together animal parts and fueled by fairy magic and then she proceeds to do so. There is even a prophecy provided to guide her in the suit's construction. As far as vengeance-seeking goes, "sewing a terrifying magical animal suit" is moderately original, but given that Saya explains what she is doing in the early going, the actual execution of the rest of the story feels fairly predictable.

8. The Witch's Knives by Margaret Ronald: The shortest of the stories nominated, The Witch's Knives is a fairy-tale inspired piece about love, curses, abuse, and knives. Told from the perspective of Leah, a woman married to a man under a Beauty and the Beast-like curse, the story itself details the final scene in Leah's months-long odyssey to track down the witch responsible for her husband's malady. When she confronts the witch, Leah is convinced that she must only show her love for her husband and the witch will relent, but the conversation doesn't go the way she was expecting, and by the end it turns out that what Leah thought she wanted wasn't actually what she wanted at all. The story uses the curse as a metaphor for an abusive spouse, or at least an incompatible spouse, and the knives in the title feature as a metaphor for letting go of unhealthy relationships. The story's themes are presented alternatively either in much too heavy-handed a manner or much too opaquely, and despite being so brief, the whole never really quite comes together in a satisfying manner.

9. Jupiter or Bust by Brad R. Torgersen: Most of the nominees for the WSFA Small Press award were quite good, with most of the exceptions being stories that one can see what the author was trying to do, even if they weren't able to pull it off in the end. This story, on the other hand, can only be described as lazy and sloppy. The idea behind the story seems to have been an updated version of Robert A. Heinlein's story The Man Who Sold the Moon, only this time the goal of the commercial venture featured in the story is Jupiter rather than the Moon. The story can be broadly divided into two parts. The first part is essentially a meeting, told in excruciating detail. Actually, much of this section isn't even the meeting, it is just the preparations for the meeting, as Debra Galston, the inventor of a revolutionary new thruster, is set to meet with a pointlessly mysterious potential benefactor. After a midnight telephone call that begins with an entire paragraph describing someone picking up a telephone, the story lurches into detailing just how many seats there are in the conference room and the arrangement of the pads of yellow paper and pens on the table. At one point Galston inquires as to whether she might ask who she is meeting with and is met with a smirk and a "you may ask" in response. The big reveal is that the benefactor is a Ted Turner analogue who wants to finance Galston's new space ship with a reality television show. This is kind of an interesting idea, but it is presented in the middle of so much pointless fluff that it almost gets lost. The second part of the story is the construction and launch of the Jupiter-bound ship. This part comes complete with the requisite number of jabs at NASA and ESA, but the real let-down here is that the science in this somewhat hard-science story is so sloppy: As an example, at one point a basic high-school level error crops up in the text in a description of the effects of constant thrust. These sorts of signs of simply sloppy work crop up at a number of points in the story, and give the feel that the writer just didn't care enough to check. This is where the comparison to The Man Who Sold the Moon really hurts this story, because no matter what other flaws one might think Heinlein had as a writer, he would never have mailed in the details of a story like that. The mission turns out to be a failure, which is something of an interesting twist, although it fails due to a pretty basic engineering oversight and by the time I got to that part of the story all of my interest had already been dissolved away by the author's apparent indifference. There is a good story to be had with the idea of the commercial exploration of space, but this isn't it.

2016 WSFA Small Press Award Winner: Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker (reviewed in 2016 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
2018 WSFA Small Press Award Winner: The Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer (reviewed in 2018 Small Press Award Voting)

List of WSFA Small Press Award Winners

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

2017 WSFA Small Press Award Nominees     Book Award Reviews     Home

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 WSFA Small Press Award Nominees

Location: CapClave in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Comments: Just like last year, there are nine WSFA Small Press Award nominees. Just like last year, the overall field of nominees is quite strong, with numerous stories deserving of the honor. On the other hand, 2017 is the first year out of the last couple of years in which the WSFA Small Press Award nominees were not, when taken as a group, better than short fiction Hugo Award finalists taken as a group. This isn't because the WSFA Small Press Award nominees became any worse, but rather because the Hugo Finalists this year were a lot better than they were in 2015 and 2016. There was one cross-over between this set of nominees and the list of Hugo finalist - The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon - and there is more than one other story on this list that would not have looked at all out of place as Hugo Finalists.

As usual for the WSFA Small Press Award, there are several outstanding nominees in the mix, a couple of pretty good ones, and a few that make me scratch my head and wonder why they made the list. Overall, this is a pretty good group of stories with a couple of real gems in the front, an impressive peloton just on their heels, and only a few laggards dragging along in the back.

WSFA Small Press Award
(My Votes)

The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)

Other Nominees:
Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Jupiter or Bust by Brad R. Torgersen (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
The Mytilenian Delay by Neil James Hudson (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left by Fran Wilde (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Radio Silence by Walter H. Hunt (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Vengeance Sewn With a Fey Cord by Christine Lucas (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
The Witch’s Knives by Margaret Ronald (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)

Go to previous year's nominees: 2016
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2018

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, August 21, 2017

Musical Monday - Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: October 1, 1983 through October 22, 1983.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: October 8, 1983 through October 29, 1983.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: March 12, 1983 through March 19, 1983.

I know, everyone is using this song to commemorate the solar eclipse, but it isn't going to happen again in the United States until 2024, so I'm not at all sorry to jump on and do it too. Besides, this version of the song comes packaged with a video that features the tenth Doctor and his ill-fated romance with Rose.

Previous Musical Monday: Roly Poly Baby by Doris Day and Perry Blackwell
Subsequent Musical Monday: The Universe by The Doubleclicks

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Tell Her About It by Billy Joel
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Is There Something I Should Know? by Duran Duran

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

Bonnie Tyler     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Book Blogger Hop August 18th - August 24th: According to Ken Burns, There Are 216 Stitches on a Baseball

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 enter an unfamiliar house or apartment for the first time, do you feel disappointed if you don't see any bookshelves, or books on the coffee table?

I have to admit that I judge people based upon how many books they have in their homes. If someone has no books in their home, then I seriously have to question whether I can be friends with them. I consider books to be so essential that if someone doesn't have any, then I really don't think I could possibly have anything in common with them. I simply cannot comprehend how someone could live in a house devoid of books.

I also judge people based upon what kind of books they have, but that's another story for another time.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: 217 Is the Sum of All of the Factors of 100

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 Hugo Award Longlist

Over the last couple of years, the various Puppy factions have packed the lists of Hugo finalists with works and people who were mediocre to miserable in quality, which meant that the longlisted nominees were often a far superior collection of books, stories, editors, magazines, writers, and artists. This year, with a handful of exceptions that all came from the Rabid Puppy slate, this wasn't the case - even though the longlisted nominees are, by and large, a strong group, the set of finalists it, taken as a whole, generally even better.

This was the first year in which the E Pluribus Hugo voting system for nominations was implemented, and it seems to have worked as well as one could possibly hope to expect. The change in the voting rules, coupled with their waning ability to whip their adherents into a frenzy after being shellacked in the voting in 2015 and 2016, resulted in the Sad Puppies kind of slinking away after not even putting a token effort into putting together a voting slate. The Rabid Puppies continued their Quixotic quest, but changed tactics, putting forward only one or two candidates in each category in order to try to get someone on the ballot via "bullet voting", and that seems to have had mixed results. They managed to get eleven finalists on the ballot, while five more appear on the longlist. They could have had five more finalists, but Rabid Puppy leader Theodore Beale is apparently really terrible at understanding the eligibility rules, so those five potential finalists were all disqualified as ineligible. The Rabid Puppies were able to get no more than one finalist per category.

As usual, the Rabid Puppy offerings included the worst crap on either the finalist ballot or the longlist, ranging from the intentionally insulting nomination of Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex to the usual array of self-promotion of Castalia House's dreadful products. One thing that is interesting to note is that Beale didn't even try to offer lip service to his previous alliance with the Sad Puppies and their favorite publisher Baen Books. Instead, he simply promoted his own business at every possible opportunity save for the one intentional "joke" nominee and a handful of "hostage" nominees - which are essentially slated nominees with widespread credibility. The idea seems to be a kind of Xanatos Gambit to get "worthy" works on the ballot in order to "trap" the Hugo voters into either voting against something they like or handing Beale a "win" by voting for a "hostage" to win. Like all of Beale's plots, this one is based upon his having no understanding of how normal people behave, and has been a complete failure thus far.

On a side note, one claim that is sometimes made is that because the Puppy slates on occasion include items that have some merit, one should be okay with those finalists because "they likely would have made it onto the ballot even without Puppy support". I've always been suspicious of those claims, in large part because in every year there are so many more good works in every category than there are spaces on the ballot. The notion that any work "probably would have been a finalist anyway" seems to vastly overstate the chances that anything has of getting onto the list of Hugo finalists. This year, the works that had merit on the Rabid Puppy slate were the "hostages", specifically This Census-Taker by China Miéville, The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie by Ralph McQuarrie, Deadpool, and Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter. The McQuarrie book didn't make the finalists, so we can set it aside.

Based upon a review of the items that made the list of finalists that only Rabid Puppies would likely vote for (a list that includes Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by a T-Rex, An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity, An Unimaginable Light, P. Alexander, Theodore Beale, Jeffro Johnson, and Castalia House Blog), there appear to have been between 70 and 90 people voting as Rabid Puppies. if we deduct that amount from the totals garnered by the "hostages", we can get a rough estimate of whether or not these works would have reached the list of finalists without Rabid Puppy assistance. We can't be exact, because the E Pluribus Hugo voting system means that to do so we would need to be able to look at the individual nominating ballots to get an accurate count, but we can make an educated guess. To be conservative, we'll drop seventy votes from each finalist.
  • Deducting seventy votes from This Census-Taker by China Miéville drops it behind The Dispatcher by John Scalzi which would replace it on the ballot.
  • Removing seventy votes from the total garnered by The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman puts it well behind Writing Women Characters by Kate Elliott, which would knock it off the ballot.
  • Pulling seventy votes out of Deadpool's total still puts it ahead of Kubo and the Two Strings and it would stay on the ballot.
  • Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter was removed from the ballot due to the rule that prevents a single series from having more than two finalists in a category and the producers of Game of Thrones elected to have this one taken off. If one removes seventy votes from this episode's total, it would still have been ahead of Splendor and Misery, which means the producers of Game of Thrones would have still had to make a decision as to which two episodes of the show should remain on the ballot.
So that's a fifty percent "would have made it anyway" rate, which doesn't seem all that great to me. Having these nominees on the ballot isn't terrible, and absent the spamming of the other shitty Castalia House products onto the list of finalists having a group push for these "hostage" works to be on the ballot wouldn't be an issue. There is no doubt though, that even when it comes to the "hostages" the Puppies warp the ballot. That they warp the ballot in an inoffensive way doesn't mean that it is warped any less than when they do it to put crap onto the list. That said, with the Sad Puppies looking like they are an entirely spent force, and the Rabid Puppies increasingly looking like they are heading that way, this is probably not an issue that we will need to really worry about much in the future.

Best Novel

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin [winner]
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Longlisted Nominees:
Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo
An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity by J. Mulrooney [rabid puppy pick]
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
Infomocracy by Malka Older

Best Novella

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
This Census-Taker by China Miéville [rabid puppy pick]
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Longlisted Nominees:
Chimera Gu Shi by S. Qiouyi Lu and Ken Liu
Cold Forged Flame by Marie Brennan
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
Hammers On Bone by Cassandra Khaw
The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville
The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
Penric's Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold
Runtime by S.B. Divya
The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar

Best Novelette

Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex by Stix Hiscock [rabid puppy pick]
The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting) [winner]
Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Longlisted Nominees
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories by Jason Sanford
A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark
Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine
Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee
Kid Dark against the Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill
The Visitor From Taured by Ian R. Macleod

Best Short Story

The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar [winner]
That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn
An Unimaginable Light by John C. Wright [rabid puppy pick]

Longlisted Nominees
Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard
Razorback by Ursula Vernon
Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo
A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard
The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle
Terminal by Lavie Tidhar
Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller
We Have A Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You? by Rebecca Ann Jordan
Welcome to the Medical Clinic . . . by Caroline M. Yoachim
Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands by Seanan McGuire

Best Related Work

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman [rabid puppy pick]
The Women of Harry Potter posts by Sarah Gailey
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Archive of Our Own by the Organization for Transformative Works
Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer
#BlackSpecFic by Brian J. White, et al
Making Conversation by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Octavia E. Butler by Gerry Canavan
Speculative Blackness by André M. Carrington
Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie by Ralph McQuarrie [rabid puppy pick]
THEN: Fandom in the UK, 1930-1980 by Rob Hansen
The Tingled Puppies by Chuck Tingle
Writing Women Characters by Kate Elliott

Best Graphic Story

Monstress, Volume One: Awakening written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda [winner]
Saga, Volume 6 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

Longlisted Nominees:
Clean Room, Vol. 1: Immaculate Conception by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt
Descender, Vol. 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Injection, Volume 2 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire
Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out of Time by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Shannon Watters
Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk
Oglaf (Bodil Bodilson) by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne
Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe! by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
The Wicked and the Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen and Matthew Wilson

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

Arrival [winner]
Deadpool [rabid puppy pick]
Hidden Figures
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Stranger Things, Season One

Longlisted Nominees:
10 Cloverfield Lane
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
The Expanse, Season 1
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Kubo and the Two Strings
Star Trek: Beyond
Westworld, Season 1

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Black Mirror: San Junipero
Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes [winner]
Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards
Game of Thrones: The Door
Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter [no more than two finalists may come from the same series, rabid puppy pick]
Splendor & Misery (album) by Clipping

Longlisted Nominees:
The Expanse: Salvage
Luke Cage: Manifest
Person of Interest: Return 0
Stranger Things: Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
Stranger Things: Chapter Seven: The Bathtub
Stranger Things: Chapter Eight: The Upside Down
Steven Universe: The Answer
Westworld: The Bicameral Mind
Westworld: The Original

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow [winner]
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Longlisted Nominees:
P. Alexander [rabid puppy pick]
Sana Amanat
Scott H. Andrews
C.C. Finlay
Lee Harris
Toni Jerrman
Mur Lafferty
Lynne M. Thomas
Ann VanderMeer
Trevor Quachri

Best Professional Editor: Long Form

Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick, racist sexist homophobic dipshit]
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky [winner]
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Longlisted Nominees:
Anne Lesley Groell
Jane Johnson
Beth Meacham
Joe Monti
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Jonathan Oliver
Bella Pagan
Marco Palmieri
Toni Weisskopf
Betsy Wollheim

Best Professional Artist

Galen Dara
Julie Dillon [winner]
JiHun Lee [ineligible, rabid puppy pick]
Chris McGrath
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Tomek Radziewicz [ineligible, rabid puppy pick]
Sana Takeda

Longlisted Nominees:
Tommy Arnold
Rovina Cai
Donato Giancola
Michael Komarck
Todd Lockwood
Reiko Murakami
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Fiona Staples

Best Semi-Prozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine edited by P. Alexander [rabid puppy pick]
GigaNotoSaurus edited by Rashida J. Smith
Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams [ineligible]
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke
Daily Science Fiction edited by Elektra Hammond: Elektra Hammond, Sarah Overall, and Brian Whit
Escape Pod edited by Mur Lafferty and Al Stuart
Fireside Fiction edited by Brian White
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Mothership Zeta edited by Editor Mur Lafferty, Sunil Patel, and Karen Bovenmyer.
PodCastle edited by Graeme Dunlop and Rachael K. Jones
Shimmer edited by E. Catherine Tobler, Nicola Belte, Sophie Wereley, Joy Marchand, Suzan Palumbo, Josh Storey, Lindsay Thomas, and Laura Blackwell
Tähtivaeltaja edited by Toni Jerrman

Best Fanzine

Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [declined nomination]
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
Lady Business edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan [winner]
nerds of a feather, flock together edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
Rocket Stack Rank edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
SF Bluestocking edited by Bridget McKinney

Longlisted Nominees:
Ansible edited by David Langford
Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
Chunga edited by by Andy Hooper, Randy Byers, and Carl Juarez
Galactic Journey edited by Janice Marcus
James Nicoll Reviews edited by James Nicoll
Quick Sip Reviews by Charles Payseur
Women Write About Comics edited by Megan Purdy
Young People Read Old SFF edited by James Davis Nicoll

Best Fan Writer

Mike Glyer
Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]
Natalie Luhrs
Foz Meadows
Abigail Nussbaum [winner]
Chuck Tingle

Longlisted Nominees:
Cora Buhlert
Alexandra Erin
Camestros Felapton
Sarah Gailey
Crystal Huff
Morgan (Castalia House) [rabid puppy pick]
James Nicoll
Mark Oshiro
Charles Payseur
O. Westin

Best Fan Artist

Ninni Aalto
Alex Garner [rabid puppy pick, ineligible]
Elizabeth Leggett [winner]
Vesa Lehtimäki
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles
Mansik Yang [rabid puppy pick, ineligible]

Longlisted Nominees:
Liz Argall
Galen Dara
Lauren Dawson aka Iguanamouth
Ariela Housman
Megan Lara
Richard Man
Simon Stålenhag
Kathryn M. Weaver

Best Fancast

The Coode Street Podcast presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
Ditch Diggers presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Fangirl Happy Hour presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
Galactic Suburbia presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
The Rageaholic presented by RazörFist [rabid puppy pick]
Tea and Jeopardy presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Down and Safe presented by Michael Damien Thomas, L.M. Myles, Scott Lynch, and Amal El-Mohtar
Fansplaining presented by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minke
Midnight in Karachi presented by Mahvesh Murad
The Skiffy and Fanty Show presented by Shaun Duke, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, Mike Underwood, David Annandale, Rachael Acks, Trish Matson, and Jen Zink
StarShipSofa presented by Tony C Smith
Storyological presented by E.G. Cosh and Chris Kammerud
Superversive SF presented by Dawn Witzke [rabid puppy pick]
Sword and Laser presented by Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont
Vaginal Fantasy presented by Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton, and Kiala Kazebee
Verity! presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best Series

The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (first volume in the series: Leviathan Wakes)
October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Peter Grant/Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (first volume in the series: His Majesty's Dragon)
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Arts of Dark and Light by Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick]
Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh
The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Newsflesh by Mira Grant
Remembrance of Earth's Past by Cixin Liu (first volume in the series The Three-Body Problem)
Thessaly by Jo Walton
World of the Five Gods by Lois McMaster Bujold
Young Wizards by Diane Duane

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Sarah Gailey
J. Mulrooney [rabid puppy pick]
Malka Older
Ada Palmer [winner]
Laurie Penny
Kelly Robson

Longlisted Nominees:
Charlotte Ashley
Scott Hawkins
Cassandra Khaw
Sarah Kuhn
Arkady Martine
Sylvain Neuvel
Sunil Patel
Natasha Pulley
Tade Thompson
K.B. Wagers

Go to previous year's longlist: 2016
Go to subsequent year's longlist: 2018

Go to 2017 Hugo Finalists and Winners

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Musical Monday - Roly Poly Baby by Doris Day and Perry Blackwell

A lot happened this past week. The Hugo Award winners were announced. Fascists descended upon my alma mater and among the many atrocious things they did, they killed a young woman. The President of the United States twice threatened to start a nuclear war. I have a lot of thoughts on these events, and I'll be writing about many of them in the near future, but I've been mostly preoccupied with my brand new roly-poly baby.

Previous Musical Monday: Jackie Blue by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Subsequent Musical Monday: Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Event - Sophia Rey Tiberius Pound, August 8th, 2017

I've been a bit preoccupied the last week or so, awaiting the arrival of a new person in my life. She was supposed to get here on August 7th, but it turns out she's kind of a stubborn little girl, and she didn't make her debut appearance until August 8th. It was worth the wait. You might call be biased, but from my perspective, she's perfectly adorable in every possible way.

Her impending arrival was somewhat unexpected and derailed all of our plans for this year and the next few years. Not that we didn't want a child - we did, but our trek to get here was a little bit circuitous and seems to have defied some fairly daunting odds. We decided to try for a child a couple of years ago, and went through the usual rounds of efforts, eventually consulting a fertility specialist. It turned out that we had some issues: I'm kind of old, and the redhead had some unexpected medical issues and our fertility doctor assured us that these combined to make it virtually impossible for us to conceive without medical assistance. We ended up going through a fairly common array of increasingly potent medical procedures intended to help the process along until we came to the point where we had said we would accept that it wasn't going to happen and move on with our lives. We were disappointed, but we weren't going to beat our heads against the wall endlessly.

Fast forward several months later, to the day before Christmas Eve 2016 and an incredulous redhead holding a positive pregnancy test indicating that we had managed to pull off what the doctor had said was essentially impossible. We had planned on maybe going to Worldcon in Helsinki this year. As you can probably guess, we aren't there. If we hadn't gone to Worldcon, we may have gone to Gen Con. We aren't going to be there either. We had planned on doing a lot of other things this year, and we haven't done them or won't be doing them because the million-to-one shot baby now exists. Sophia ruined almost all of our plans, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

As one can see from the picture, she's already contemplating taking over the world, which should only be expected from a little girl named for a character from a Diana Wynne Jones novel, a character from Star Wars, and a character from Star Trek. Yes, the redhead and I are just that nerdy: She probably has no chance of ever being anything even remotely resembling cool, but we'll see what happens when she gets a little older. I'm planning on calling her Jim. I'm sure that if the eleventh Doctor were here to speak baby, she would tell us that she has an entirely different name for herself, but since he isn't, we're just going to go with the names we picked out. Given the long odds against her existing at all, I'm pretty sure she's going to end up curing cancer or exploring Mars or something like that.

Right now mother and daughter are still in the hospital waiting the usual amount of time before they are discharged on Friday. Then our world will really change. Don't be surprised if I start reviewing the occasional book about Henry Huggins or Paddington Bear in the near future.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Blogger Hop August 4th - August 10th: 215 Is the Dewey Decimal Classification for Science and Religion

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 ever go "way back" to when you first started blogging and look at your old review posts? Do you see any differences from then to now?

I have just under a hundred reviews that I wrote before I started blogging that I have never posted. Sometimes I dive back into them and pull up a review to post - my intent is to eventually have all of that backlog posted. The trouble is that I'm not particularly happy about a lot of those reviews and often need to do a lot of revisions to them, mostly because when I started writing reviews I didn't go as in-depth in my analysis as I do now. In the specific case of reviews of collections or anthologies of short fiction, I usually didn't discuss the individual stories within the compilation the way I prefer to do now, so when I post those older reviews, I need to make really quite substantial revisions.

I would like to think that after having written somewhere between six and seven hundred reviews over the last several years of various things (mostly books, but some movies and television programs), that I have gotten better at it. At the very least, I review things differently than I used to, and when I go to post one of my older reviews, I generally feel the need to bring them into line with my current way of writing. This often requires rereading (or rewatching) the material being reviewed, which is why the process takes time.

That said, I don't often go back and revise the reviews that I have posted on the blog. I figure that once something is out in the public eye, going back to redo it is kind of cheating. I will make corrections if I notice a grammatical error or spelling mistake, or if there is some sort of factual error in the text, but I won't change the analysis and opinion portions. If one starts tinkering with old stuff, then one can quickly fall into the trap of never getting anything new done. That way lies madness, as the example of George Lucas with his constant tinkering with the original Star Wars trilogy teaches us. I don't want to be the George Lucas of reviewers, so I refuse to go down that path.

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