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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Jonathan Woodward's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
11:33 am
Recommendations Sought: Butler's Best
Octavia Butler's best work?
Tuesday, February 7th, 2017
8:40 pm
Books Read, 2016
Dehliah Dirk And The King's Shilling
All-New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant by Remender, Immonen
Swords Of Sorrow by Gail Simone and many more
Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, edited by Sfé R. Monster
The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic
How To Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando
Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley
Spacewreck: Ghostships And Derelicts Of Space by Stewart Cowley
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Dragon's Winter and Dragon's Treasure by Elizabeth A. Lynn (2 books)
A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel by L'Engle, Larson
The Emerald Key by Daigle and Sternberg
The Kobold Guide To Worldbuilding, edited by Janna Silverstein
Memories Of The Future by Wil Wheaton
A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman
The Burning City by Niven & Pournelle
Detour To Otherness by Kuttner & Moore
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Existence by David Brin
Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes
Gentleman Jole And The Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb (3 books)
Bitch Planet by Deconnic & De Landro
Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson
The Compleat Enchanter by deCamp and Pratt
Under The Green Star by Lin Carter
The Gates Of Creation by Philip José Farmer
The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague deCamp
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Rise Of The Robotariat: Tales From The Front Lines by Jule Pattison-Gordon
The Art Of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
The Victorian Bookshelf: An Introduction To 61 Essential Novels by Jess Nevins
Off The Main Sequence by Robert A. Heinlein
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
Star Wars: Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber
The Watcher In The Shadows by Chris Moriarty
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg
Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka
Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart
The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves
Unbound by Jim C. Hines
The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton
Snuff by Terry Pratchett
The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
The Buried Life by Carrie Patel
Hoka by Anderson and Dickson
It's Superman by Tom De Haven
The End Of All Things by John Scalzi
Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)
Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin
Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell
The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys
Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

The raw count is 68. Rounding down a bit for comics and books unfinished, that's comparable with last year. (I'd forgotten how fast I tore through six Robin Hobb books. Better order the next trilogy or two...)
9:50 am
Books, Finishing Up 2016

Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949)

It's been long enough since I read this anthology that I don't specifically remember any of the stories.

Science Fiction Adventures In Dimension, edited by Groff Conklin

Ditto.

Deep Space by Eric Frank Russell

Ditto, tho' this is a collection. (Abridged from the original collection.)

The Falling Torch by Algis Budrys

Nominally about freeing an occupied Earth, actually about Budrys' father and occupied Lithuania. Contains a lot of political philosophy, some minor action, and a complete unwillingness to deal with the multi-year journey from Alpha Centauri to Earth. (The story is explicit about it taking years, but skips over it like it was a week or so.)

Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey

A re-read. Some good stories, some whose sexual politics have slid into "completely creepy" over the decades.
6:37 am
Books, More 2016

The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

Interesting post-apocalyptic murder mystery-slash-political drama, vaguely steampunky. Recommended.

Hoka by Anderson and Dickson

On its face, cute retellings of stories and history using sentient alien teddy bears as main characters. On a moment's reflection, it's about the destruction of local culture by colonists, and even uses the phrase "Earthman's burden", while trying to make it look cute. And the very first female character is introduced breast-first, which counts for at least two strikes with me, by itself. Yech.

It's Superman by Tom De Haven

Aggressively Depression-era retelling of Superman's origin. Different enough from the thousand other retellings to be interesting, and entertaining in its own right. Recommended.

The End Of All Things by John Scalzi

A climax, and probably conclusion, to the Old Man's War universe, with humanity tracking down plots and perfidy in an attempt to survive. Nth in a series, recommended.
Monday, February 6th, 2017
8:20 pm
Books, Still Deck-Clearing
I remain terribly behind on reviews, so brevity is the soul of gettin' it done.

The Burning Realm by Michael Reaves

Sequel to The Shattered World, an imaginative not-derivative-of-Tolkien fantasy. Recommended.

Unbound by Jim C. Hines

The secret that magic comes from books is out, and it's causing oodles of problems. Third in a series, recommended, not least (nor most) for including polyamory.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton

I get a bit tired of Hamilton's tendency to include crypto-fantasy in the middle of his space operas, but the creepy reveal towards the end of this one makes up for a lot. Set in a multibook universe, recommended.

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Far from the best Discworld novel, but I was entertained.

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Steampunky first in a series of (possibly post-apocalyptic) fantasy, with nicely detailed airship battle tactics. Recommended.
Friday, February 3rd, 2017
1:23 pm
Groundhog Day, For Your Consideration
Consider, a retelling of Groundhog Day, in which our hapless protagonist, A) has a modern cell phone, which B) is affected the same way he is. (E.g., if he takes a photo on one day, it's still there the next.)

Speculate.
Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
9:02 pm
Books: Clearing The 2016 Deck

Tales From Super-Science Fiction, edited by Robert Silverberg

Super-Science Fiction was one of the pulpiest of the pulps, and ran for 18 issues in the mid-1950s. Silverberg was a regular contributor, and was tapped to edit this collection. Many of the stories are fun, and many are mortifying. My rose-colored glasses and fondness for undersized hardcovers keeps it on my shelf.

Legend Of The Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka

First in a long-running series of space operas (adapted into a long-running anime series, allegedly due for American release), this is a satisfying start to an epic of gray vs. grey battles, with some reasonably believable tactics (that aren't just wet navy tactics in space).

Ombria In Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

An intriguing fantasy of palace politics, and the borderland between reality and myth. Memory, wax, and charcoal mix and merge.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A young girl is admitted to the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy, but it means giving up her family and dealing with the pervasive racism of the world outside. Then she is touched by the war... Well-deserving of its Hugo.

The Ballad Of Black Tom byVictor LaValle

"The Horror At Red Hook" is one of Lovecraft's most racist stories, and that's a high bar. This is the story told from the other side, addressing and deconstructing the racism from the POV of the protagonist, a black entertainer who gets hired by the sort of fools who invite the attention of elder gods... Recommended.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Second in her Broken Earth trilogy, this volume is not quite as strong as the first, but it's certainly still good. The world is falling apart, and our protagonists are trying to hold together the last fraying bits of civilization, while also learning their real capabilities in the shards of their broken families. Entirely recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Heaven knows I tend to collect things, and letting go is a skill I'm slowly learning. A lot of the advice in this book is quite good, some is a touch twee, and I'm not yet able to apply it all, but it's still good stuff.

The Jewels Of Paradise by Donna Leon

This novel drifted into our house by chance, and I gave it a shot. It's nominally about a historian doing some research on a classical composer, so as to clear up an issue of inheritance. The pace is slow, and little of actual interest happens. A lot of the book is a rather fetishistic depiction of Venice, in an "Oh god, how could I possibly live in Paris or London after having lived in Venice?" way. Not recommended unless you have a specific interest in the topic.

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, v2 by William H. Patterson, Jr.

At the end of the first volume, I still kind of liked Heinlein. By the end of this one, I wanted to shake him. As a military man myself, I think I've identified how he went wrong. Military training involves a lot of, basically, brainwashing. In particular, being told that because of your service you are set apart from civilians. They need your protection; while you are polite to them, you are their betters. Heinlein was a naval officer, which is all that to the Nth degree. His plan was to be the captain of a ship, and a captain of a ship at sea is as close to God as you get in terms of autocratic authority and power (in the eyes of naval officers, at least). Then, of course, he got sick, got kicked out of the Navy, and spent the rest of his life with a sort of stunted superiority complex. (His utter disdain for "getting a real job" is clear through both volumes.) Because he was both very smart and very talented, this was not always a problem, but I don't recall any point where he ever admitted to error without blatant reality smacking him in the face, and his willingness to accept propaganda from the US military led him astray an awful lot. He simply didn't have a mechanism for accepting constructive criticism, and he judged others (especially foreigners) by how well they served him. There's also a frequent refrain, regarding his more pedagogical books, that their tendency to be misunderstood was always failures of the students. Well, no, if the common factor in all these failures is the teacher...

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

The first volume of The Expanse, and a rousing adventure it is. A Solar System full of tension is pushed into war by assorted machinations and an awful little McGuffin. Our heroes are flawed nobodies thrust into prominence, and some handle it better than others. The TV series is quite faithful, and I recommend both formats.

Hellboy In Hell by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart

We've long known Hellboy was the son of a devil, and here he finishes his strange journey past death into something resembling peace. I had the privilege of co-authoring the Hellboy RPG, and thus have a lot of fondness for Red. I'm going to miss him.
Friday, January 27th, 2017
10:11 am
Rabbit Hole Day Unobserved
Today is Rabbit Hole Day, in which one would normally make a post from a strange alternate world you might live in.

Unfortunately, the most obvious alternate world cuts way too deep.
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017
1:34 pm
New Year: Somewhat Non-Optional Resolution
I'm going to be eating better in 2017.

This is not entirely optional. I was recently diagnosed as diabetic (type II), and thus my long-term health is extremely dependent on keeping my blood sugar down. Fortunately, I was apparently on the right track even before my diagnosis, having dropped some weight over the past year through nowt but paying more attention to my food. I've lost more weight since the diagnosis, and am now approaching new-pants-and-belt territory, and firmly a resident of haven't-worn-these-jeans-in-years land.

I'm being very conscious of carbs, and avoiding sweets, and as of today my glucose numbers have been green for two solid weeks. Giving those things up has not been easy (I could totally murder some french fries), but it also hasn't been as hard as I feared. I can keep this up.

Diabetes is genetic, so while my bad habits certainly brought my condition to the fore, it was there all along. I'm posting about it publicly out of a desire to de-stigmatize the condition.

Here's to a new year, with new challenges, and may we rise to meet them.
9:54 am
Tuesday, December 27th, 2016
6:59 pm
Arisia Schedule
My Arisia schedule, as recently revised:
  • Saturday 10am: Building Healthy Gaming Communities. (Panelists will discuss how the gaming community can encourage participation, growth, and respectful debate.)
  • Saturday 11:30am: RPGs Old Enough To Run For Congress. (Nostalgia and history panel.)
  • Saturday 7pm: Another Look At the Bad Old Days. (A lot of SF has aged very badly. Moderating.)
  • Saturday 8:30pm: The Games That Made Us. (Is there a game that changed everything, that inspired or connected with you in an unexpected way? Moderating.)
That's gonna be a busy, and interesting, Saturday.
Monday, November 28th, 2016
9:46 am
Monday, November 21st, 2016
12:08 pm
Reactionless Drive
So, even NASA agrees that the EM drive appears to work, and maybe violates conservation of momentum. If so, space travel is going to get revolutionized. If you don't need fuel, only a powerplant, travel between planets and stars is going to be radically easier.
9:17 am
Lego Ms. Marvel & Other Delights
Among other things, we'll be seeing an official Ms. Marvel minifig in 2017, which is, to my knowledge, the first identifiably Muslim minifig.

Pics Here

(Her comic is pretty awesome.)
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
6:19 am
Be Safe
I'm horrified.

I love you all.

Be safe.
Sunday, September 18th, 2016
9:02 am
Books: Various

Rise Of The Robotariat: Tales From The Front Lines by Jule Pattison-Gordon

A slim collection of stories about the slow rise of consciousness, and rebellion, in our faithful robot servants. Connected to a game. Recommended.

The Art Of Language Invention by David J. Peterson

By the creator of Dothraki, Shiväisith, and other languages, this book covers the sounds we make, the ways we make and change words, how languages evolve, and writing systems, in detail and with worked examples. I found it fascinating, particularly in how it illuminated my own personal conlang interests (I seem to be much more interested in prefxies and suffixes than in, for example, sounds). Highly recommended.

The Victorian Bookshelf: An Introduction To 61 Essential Novels by Jess Nevins

Lovely guide to what is and isn't worth reading in 19th century literature. It's a bit repetitive, since the reviews were clearly not originally written to be read one after another, but they are insightful, clear, and not afraid to describe faults as well as strengths. Recommended.

Off The Main Sequence by Robert A. Heinlein

There were a handful of Heinlein stories in here I hadn't read before, but it's been sitting on my to-be-reviewed shelf long enough that I don't recall the details. Heinlein remains a problematic fave.

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

A "Laundry Files" novel, in this one we swtich POV from Bob Howard to his wife, Mo O'Brien, who in this novel is put in charge of dealing with the outbreak of people with (what one might call) dark sorcerous gifts — but it's better to frame the narrative as "superpowers". When Stross writes a novel about people intentionally creative a narrative as a way to control magic, it's best to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Recommended.

Star Wars: Red Harvest by Joe Schreiber

Prequel to Death Troopers, this novel is about the origins of the zombie plague in the Star Wars universe. It suffers from none of our best-know characters being on-stage, but it's still grim, grisly, and fun. (It also suffers from a lack of first causes. It sometimes seems like, no matter how far back you go, everything worth learning in the Star Wars universe is based on earlier teachings, unto the dawn of time. People in this universe don't do science, they do library research.) Still, recommended, if you're into zombies.

The Watcher In The Shadows by Chris Moriarty

Sequel to The Inquisitor's Apprentice, about turn-of-last-century magic amongst the immigrants in New York City. Like its predecessor, this novel does not shy away from the issues of the era, and the third act is marked by labor protests and Pinkerton violence. Recommended.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Another perfectly nice collection of stories, though it's been sitting on the review shelf long enough that the only one I recall is "Truth Is A Cave", which is creepy, and resonates with me qua father. Gaiman gets a little blithe with the need for real trigger warnings in the introduction; I suspect his poetics got ahead of his empathy for a minute.
Monday, September 12th, 2016
12:16 pm
Winnowing The Shelves
My RPG shelves are packed full, so I spent some time winnowing this weekend.
  • I kept Alternity: Dark Matter, as it continues to be a lovingly detailed "X-Files-ish" setting.
  • But I decrufted Alternity: Tangents. It's a fine little book about alternate-universe gaming, but I also own Torg, Champions In 3-D, and GURPS Infinite Worlds, two of which are in systems I'm a hundred times more likely to play than Alternity (since I no longer own the Alternity core books anyway), and all of which cover the ground nicely.
  • I own both Champions 4e and Hero 5e, and was seriously thinking about ditching 5e. Its improvements on 4e are incremental, and the Champions book commits to being about superheroes, which is the only thing I'd use Champions/Hero for anyway. Then I flipped through Hero 5e, and was reminded of what an excellent job they did with the organization and presentation, with bajillions of informative sidebars, worked examples, and such. So, I kept it (as a role model for my own writing, if nowt else).
  • I faced a similar dilemma with my copy of FUDGE, since I own several Fate books. I eventually decided that there was no reason I would ever choose FUDGE over Fate, and decrufted it.
  • I did keep "Another Fine Mess", however, since it's a delightful adventure, trivial to adapt, and takes up negligible shelf-inches.
  • I seriously considered decrufting all my Exalted 1e books (core book, Sidereals, Dragon-Blooded, Autocthonians), but I flipped through a few of them, and started smiling (not just at the baroque skill organization, either). Hard to imagine I'd ever play Exalted, but if they make me smile, they can stay.
  • And the last thing I decrufted was Rogue Trader, the recent Warhammer 40,000 RPG. I like "trading" campaigns, but Rogue Trader has a weird hodge-podge system, some fundamentally flawed assumptions about play mode, and the moody art alone couldn't save it. (The one thing I did like about its system, the grid-style character creation life-path, I can remember without keeping the book.)
All the decrufted books have gone onto my giveaway shelf, for those who visit my home.
Saturday, September 10th, 2016
4:05 pm
Books: Appendix N And Friends
"Appendix N" is the list of books that inspired Gary Gygax in the creation of D&D.

Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson

In an alternate 20th century, a witch and a werewolf meet during wartime, get married, have a kid, and do all the things normal people do, like battle elementals and succubi. An interesting treatment of magic grounded in quasi-scientific principles, while also being a mild social satire, especially of mid-20th century college life.

The Compleat Enchanter by deCamp and Pratt

A psychologist figures out the rules for interworld travel, and how to do magic once there, and gets variously transported to Germanic myth, The Faerie Queen and Orlando Furioso. Therein, maiden-rescuing and occasional racist stereotypes abound.

Under The Green Star by Lin Carter

A gentleman from our world learns how to cast his spirit free of the flesh, and travels to a far-distant planet, where he occupies a local, mighty-thewed body, and proceeds to have adventures very much in the Conan-John Carter mold. This 1970s novel is a conscious attempt to write in the style of the 1930s, and the results are sometimes lovely, sometimes risible.

The Gates Of Creation by Philip José Farmer

Second in the World Of Tiers series, in which a man from our world passes through into a newtwork of universes forged and linked by petty gods. In this volume, he's stuck with his rotten demigod siblings, and together they have to solve a deadly multi-world maze. Interesting setpieces, but (ironically) tepid worldbuilding.

The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague deCamp

A reluctant adventurer must first escape his own execution, before he can travel among assorted fantasy kingdoms at the beck and call of a wizard who's trying to make his way to a magic-user's convention. A brief stop in 20th century America livens up the early chapters, and once again establishes that Appendix N fantasy had a very tough time letting go of our world.

The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

An alien spaceship lands in medieval England, and is siezed by the locals, who proceed to wreak interstellar havoc through luck and guile. Interesting science fantasy, though it can be very hard to suspend your disbelief.
1:42 pm
Books: Women

Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes

An interesting, if brief, history of the invention of spread-spectrum technology, and the role Hedy Lamarr played in it. Reasonably insightful and fun.

Gentleman Jole And The Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

I found this to be one of the duller novels in the Vorkosigan Saga. It's mostly about setting up a happy ending for Cordelia, and elaborating on the romantic life she and her late husband led. There's some minor social conflict, and a brief action scene, but not a lot actually happens. The Vorkosigan Saga moves all over the genre map, and it's fine for it to move into territory uninteresting to me, so others may like it better.

The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Her second trilogy in this world, this is another epic work, revolving around ships, traders, and pirates, where any of the above may not be quite what they seem. Unlike the first Fitz trilogy, this one has many different POV characters, all of them tragic to one degree or another. Most of the plot revolves around one particular trader family, whose ship, made of wizardwood, acquires sentience just in time for everything to go horribly wrong. Gripping, rending, recommended.

Bitch Planet by Deconnic & De Landro

The first volume in a comics series, this is an SF dystopia where social conformity, especially for women, is rigidly enforced. "Bad" women are sent to a prison planet, where the only way to improve their lot is in a game that is de facto gladiatorial combat. Dark and satricial, but don't be fooled: All of the issues presented here are embedded in today's society. Not for the meek, but recommended.
11:27 am
Books: Started But Not Finished

The Burning City by Niven & Pournelle

I didn't get far into this book before it became obvious it was a social allegory for something (and a "this pretty awful bunch of people are meant to represent some American minority" sort of allegory), so I checked the Wikipedia article, and decided to give it a pass.

Detour To Otherness by Kuttner & Moore

It's a perfectly nice omnibus collection of stories, some of which I quite like, but there are enough that have dated badly that I only made it about 2/3rds through. The highlight for me was "Nothing But Gingerbread Left", in which the Nazis are defeated by memetics.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I admire her craft, here, but spending a novel's worth of time with people this unpleasant was simply not gonna happen.

Existence by David Brin

It has been long enough since I set this down, that I don't remember precisely what turned me off, but I seem to recall that the intro chapters spent too much time wallowing in people being partisan and dumb? Or somesuch?
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