?

Log in

Jonathan Woodward's Journal
 
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends]

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

[ << Previous 20 ]
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?
Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
11:53 am
After All, I Don't Keep My Money In My Mattress
Engaging with the Cloud is requiring more thought than I expected.

E.g., Microsoft has a manual on the topic of inclusivity, designing for disability, that sort of thing. It's useful, and something I may find myself referring to in the future.

Do I download a copy of the manual, or do I simply bookmark the page where I can get it? The page might (will) vanish, and thus the manual might vanish. Am I cool with that? To what degree do I need to be able to access everything I ever had an interest it, as opposed to becoming more comfortable with the notion of ephemerality? I relatively recently got my bookmarks synching across all devices, thankgawd.

(To what extent am I comfortable with teaching my work computer that "ephemerality" is a word, without doing so for all my devices? Or is Google synching my spellcheck dictionary? Do I even know?)

If I download a copy, where do I keep it? My default "permanent digital storage" is my desktop computer's hard drive, at home -- a drive that I can't access unless I'm sitting at my desk at home, which requires climbing one or two flights of stairs, and (in the summer) sweltering heat. Should I make that disk remotely accessible? What about security? Should I store the manual in my Dropbox instead, in the cloud? Should I store *everything* in the cloud, and basically relegate my desktop to playing old games?

What percentage of my hundreds and hundreds of photos should be on Flickr?

What do I do about all the photos in my LJ archives, which were perfectly organized until LJ disallowed nesting galleries?

I have hundreds of pictures of the stuff I sold on eBay back when I was an underemployed eBay retailer. Yeah, looking at it makes me nostalgic, but why am I keeping those files?

Which all kinda gets back to: How comfortable am I with embracing the idea that not everything needs to be accessible to me forever? To what extent am I a digital hoarder? Is that actually bad, given how cheap storage space is these days?
Wednesday, June 1st, 2016
9:15 pm
Books: Assassins, Dragons, Bricks, And More

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

These fantasy novels were, I believe, recommended to me by my boss. I got halfway into the first volume, and promptly ordered the next two, 'cause OMG. A six-year-old boy learns he's the bastard son of the heir to the throne. The only safe role he can play in life is to be a King's Man: an agent of the throne or, more bluntly, an assassin. Court politics and tragedy ensue for the next 1500 pages. Gripping, interesting worldbuilding, recommended. (Individual titles are Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest.)

Dragon's Winter and Dragon's Treasure by Elizabeth A. Lynn

I enjoyed rereading Lynn's Tornor trilogy recently, so I dug up a couple more of her fantasies. (I accidentally read them in the wrong order.) They are set in a fantasy world where some people are shapeshifters, able to turn into wolves, hawks, or dragons. The dragon-blooded protagonist of these books is a local king, who must deal with bandits and betrayal. They're quite good, but they are obviously the first two books of a trilogy, and Lynn has said she's unlikely to write the third, darnit. I may keep the first, as it's a good novel in itself, but the second may go into the giveaway bin.

A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel by L'Engle, Larson

A perfectly good adaptation of the classic novel, though I'd like if it had been in full color. The adaptor makes good use of the medium.

The Emerald Key by Daigle and Sternberg

For some reason it took me a long time to get through this steampunk horror novel. Our heroine is Ember Quatermain (daughter of AQ), who must deal with necromantic mysteries and dissolute charmers. While there's a lot in the premise to like, I never felt really engaged.

The Kobold Guide To Worldbuilding, edited by Janna Silverstein

A dry but solid guide to RPG fantasy worldbuilding though, again, it didn't really engage me.

Memories Of The Future by Wil Wheaton

Wheaton reminisces about the first half of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is a lot of fun, and Wheaton waxes and wanes from fondly nostalgic to vituperative (regarding the very bad episodes). He and I are of an age, and I find his perspective very familiar. I hope for sequels.

A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman

A functional history of Lego, with just enough intriguing little secrets revealed.
Wednesday, May 25th, 2016
9:58 pm
Game Design, Age 4
My daughter and I are playing The Map Game. (A description of which may be found earlier in this journal.)

[Earlier we established that I make the rules for the monsters, and she makes the rules for her characters.]

Me: You defeat the fire elemental, and find a magic staff with a yellow gem... It shoots fire!
Roo: ...Can we decide together how the magic stuff works?
Me: Well, sure. It shoots fire, and it does something you decide.
Roo: It shoots fire, and [she takes a sandwich token out of her bin] it can shoot sandwiches!
Me: Sure!

[So, naturally, I engineer a situation in which she encounters a hungry catfolk.]

Roo: I will give her [pulls a fish token out] this fish.
Me: [whisper] You also have a staff that shoots sandwiches. I'm not telling you what to do, I'm just reminding you.
Roo: But she's not sure if it will shoot fire or sandwiches.
Me: Hmm?
Roo: She has to [puts hands together] to hope for it to work.
Me: She has to pray? [Her current character is in fact represented by a Seelah the Paladin mini.]
Roo: Yeah!
Me: Okay, maybe we could roll dice for that? [We use Fate dice.]
Roo: Yeah, she rolls the dice, and if there are pluses or minuses, it shoots something.
Me: How do we decide what it shoots?
Roo: ...If there are pluses, it shoots sandwiches, and if there are minuses, it shoots fire.
Me: And if there's both, it shoots sandwiches?
Roo: If there are both, it shoots both, daddy.
Me: [abashed] Okay.
Roo: [She rolls plus, plus, blank, blank.] I got pluses!
Me: [as the catfolk] Oh, thank you! I was so hungry!

...So, my daughter is pretty good at game design.
Saturday, April 30th, 2016
5:57 pm
Books: Nine, Mostly Comics

Dehliah Dirk And The King's Shilling

Volume two in this series, in which Dirk deals with fame, family, infamy, and choosing between reputation and friendship. They step back a bit from the fantastic elements of the first volume, here, but that doesn't stop the adventure.

All-New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant by Remender, Immonen

Sam Wilson is currently Captain America, and Marvel has not been shy in dealing with people's reactions to a black Cap. Racists (conscious and un) abound. This volume, however, particularly deals with one likely racist, Steve Englehart. When Sam Wilson was first introduced, he was as much of a paragon as any superhero; a brave, kind, social worker. In the mid-70s, Steve Englehart wrote a Cap story in which it was revealed that Sam was actually a former crook, "Snap" Wilson, reformed into a good man by the Red Skull's cosmic cube. Over the course of the next four decades, the Snap persona got retconned away in bits and pieces by an assortment of less-racist writers, and in this volume, it is made clear once and for all that "Snap" was the actual creation of the Skull. Sam is and always has been a good man, not a crook. He reflects, "'Snap' Wilson does haunt me. Not because it was ever true -- but because they expected me to believe it. That it was so damned obvious to them that's what I should have been. That they chose that story -- and for all the reasons they chose it."
In story, he's talking about the Red Skull and his minions, but this is actually a message about the misguided men (Englehart among them) who decided that the "real" story of Sam Wilson was that, as a black man, he wasn't allowed to be a saint, he had to be a thug.

Swords Of Sorrow by Gail Simone and many more

"Swords" is a massive crossover event featuring Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, Vampirella, Jungle Girl, the modern Kato, Lady Zorro, Miss Fury, and a bunch of other characters Dynamite Entertainment currently has the rights to. A mysterious hero called the Traveller must gather heroes from across the universes to fight the Prince Of All Universes, and his allies, including Mistress Hel, Purgatori, and Chastity. This volume has the strengths and weaknesses typical of such crossovers (vagueness of motive, obligatory hero fights, irrelevant side stories), but the character interactions are fun, and often insightful. Of the dozen or so artists, all are talented, and some are even not overly cheesecakey.

Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology, edited by Sfé R. Monster

While not every story in this anthology is a winner, on balance it's a keeper. Recommended.

The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Interesting deconstructrionist take on Snow White & Sleeping Beauty, with lovely illustrations. Plus, twist ending!

Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic

I confess the greatest weakness of this volume is that it's too short. The multiverse has ended, and Doctor Doom has built a new Earth from the shards left behind. He rules over it with a fist as benevolent as he can manage, but everything is warped by his obsessions. A motley collection of heroes from the previous universes come to his world, and scrape together a revolution. There are lots of very clever bits, such as "I am Groot!" and "The title's not honorary." Though, I gotta say, I wonder if the cover was intended to be so blatant an homage to Crisis On Infinite Earths.

How To Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando

This is primarily a guide to artistic techniques, not advice on worldbuilding. Within those bounds, it's excellent at what it does, with lots of advice on the best ways to represent mountains, rivers, seas, cities, and ruins; and how to draw decorative borders, heraldic details, and the like. If you're looking to create a prop for your roleplaying campaign, or a map to go in the opening pages of your fantasy novel, this is the book to get.

Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley

I confess I was expecting Savage Worlds to be something other than, basically, a lighter form of GURPS, but it fills that niche well. Given my background, I'll use GURPS instead, but that's not a vote against it.

Spacewreck: Ghostships And Derelicts Of Space by Stewart Cowley

In the 1970s, Spacecraft: 2000-2100 AD fired my young mind, and is one of the forces that set the course of my life. It was the first volume of the Terran Trade Authority series, and with my acquisition of Spacewreck, 40 years later, I now have the complete set. Few of the books have been as good as Spacecraft, but I imagine a portion of that is rose-colored nostalgia. This volume does have a weakness, in that many of the wrecks are "unknown kind of ship, wrecked in unknown manner". Seriously, a wreck can be dramatic without being mysterious. Still, there are story nuggets here to spark the brains of kids both 7 and 47.
Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
4:42 pm
The Map Game
My daughter is young enough that reading and addition are still emerging skills. Nevertheless, I wanted to experiment with playing role-playing games with her. We've had some success, and she's named this game...

The Map Game


What you need for The Map Game:
  • The room tiles from Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin Quest. The advantage these have over other maps you can get for RPGs, is that the rooms come pre-filled with content such as altars, beds, goo, books, etc. It provides an instant environment which the player can tell stories about.
  • (You will also need the door/hallway link pieces from Munchkin Quest.)
  • Fate Dice. My daughter can read numbers, but not routinely add them. If I want to vary the power levels of her character over the course of a game, we can't do it in a way that involves addition. One could increase or decrease the size of the die, but Fate dice are simpler. If her PC grows in power, you just give her another die. In normal play, we only count the plus sides, and ignore the minus sides.
  • Minis of some sort. We use mostly Pathfinder pre-painted plastic minis, but there are a bajillion choices, including HeroClix figures and Lego minifigs.
  • Treasure and props. I mostly draw from Lego minifigure accessories, which are quite varied, and allow for the synergy mechanic I'll discuss later.
  • Health points for her PC. I use Lego studs, but glass beads would also work.

Setup

I allow her to pick out 15-16 rooms, and arrange them in a rectangle. Put the Entrance at one end, and encourage her to pick a "goal" room to put at the other end. (She usually picks the room with the comfy bed.) Connect everything with links. Attempt to manage the wall links and locked-door links so that they don't block all movement.
She has a bin in front of her where she can keep her treasure and health points. I started her with a club and 10 health points. She gets to preserver her treasure from game to game. She picks a figure to be her PC, and starts her in the Entrance.

Gameplay

She chooses which rooms to move to. Moving through a locked door requires a key. Most rooms contain a creature. Encounters vary:
  • "Hah hah hah, I'm going to eat you up!"
  • "You must pay one silver piece to pass!"
  • "Welcome to my shop, would you like to buy anything?"
  • "I am so lonely, I am going to keep you forever! (Unless you promise to find me a pet.)"
  • "I make potions! If you need a healing potion, I can tell you what ingredients you'll need to bring me." (Which always includes a banana.)
  • "You're my long-lost sister!"
  • Etc. I try to include as many non-violent options as possible.

Treasure

Treasure includes:
  • New weapons.
    • A sword adds a die over the club.
    • A magic sword adds another die.
    • A trident allows you to divide your dice between multiple target.
    • A ranged weapon lets you get in the first shot.
  • Shields. A shield protects you from one point of damage.
  • Silver and gold coins. The exchange rate is 1:3.
  • Keys.
  • Potion ingredients. (Especially bananas.)
  • Ready-made potions, including healing and polymorph potions.
  • Crystals, wands, etc.
I am going to try in the future to make it easier to physically combine treasures, since Roo invented that mechanic as a way to make things with new powers.

Combat

She rolls her dice, I roll a number of dice I deem appropriate for the challenge level and monster. Pluses the monster rolls come off her health points (modified for having a shield). Pluses she rolls might defeat the monster outright, or I might subtract one die from the monster per plus.

Further details coming...
Sunday, January 3rd, 2016
11:05 am
Books Read, 2015
Designers & Dragons: A History Of The Roleplaying Game Industry in four volumes, by Shannon Appelcline
The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume One
Oceanic by Greg Egan
The Courageous Princess v1-3, by Rod Espinosa
Raygun Chronicles, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Valor's Trial and The Truth Of Valor by Tanya Huff
Star Wars: Outbound Flight, Scoundrels, Allegiance, Choices Of One, and Survivor's Quest by Timothy Zahn
The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
Shock: Social Science Fiction by Joshua A.C. Newman
Jack Kirby: A Personal Look by Jeremy Kirby
Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke
Pathfinder Tales: Skinwalkers by Wendy N. Wagner
Beyond The Shadows by Brent Weeks
Earthsea 4, 5, and 6 by Ursula K. LeGuin
Engineering Infinity and Edge Of Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan
Star Wars: Rogue Planet by Greg Bear
Web Of The Witch World by Andre Norton
Sing The Four Quarters by Tany Huff
Requiem, edited by Yoji Kondo
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
Eternity's Wheel by Gaiman, Reaves, and Reaves
The Worlds Of Clifford Simak
Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
The Atumnlands Volume 1, by Busiek & Dewey
The Multiversity by Grant Morrison and many artists
Chainmail Bikini by divers hands
Lumberjanes v1 and v2 by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters, and Allen
Little Robot by Ben Hatke
Princess Ugg v1 and v2 by Naifeh, Wuginigh
S.H.I.E.L.D. by Waid, et al
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Nicholas St. North And The Battle Of The Nightmare King by William Joyce & Laura Geringer
The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty
The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson
The Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole
From Here To Timbuktu by Milton Davis
How About Never — Is Never Good For You? by Bob Mankoff
The Infinite Loop by Colinet, Charretier
The Green Leopard Plague by Walter Jon Williams
Embassytown by China Miéville
The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
The Sandman: Overture by Gaiman, Williams, Stewart
The Chronicles Of Tornor by Elizabeth A. Lynn
Almuric by Robert E. Howard
Starfarers by Poul Anderson
A Second Chance At Eden by Peter F. Hamilton
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Secret History Of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

The raw count there is 68. I'm counting the listed comics TPBs as full books, but there are also many comics (and other titles) I didn't review or record, so let's call it a round 70, which is comparable to recent years.
Friday, January 1st, 2016
4:19 pm
Books: More Deck

Almuric by Robert E. Howard

I wanted to read this thanks to its presence in The Immortals Of Science Fiction. Whilst it has some interesting set-pieces, it's typical Howard fare.

Starfarers by Poul Anderson

In a universe where STL travel has reached a high level of efficiency, a crew of explorers set out on a 10,000 year journey to the only known signs of alien life. Meanwhile, we get glimpses into the changes happening to Earth civilization back home. This is more a book of jumbled ideas than a novel, but some of the ideas are interesting. It's also a demonstration of how the Singularity is so difficult to write about, that even good authors will avoid it at large cost. (There's no singularity here; technology when they get back home hasn't changed much.)

A Second Chance At Eden by Peter F. Hamilton

A collection of (mostly "clever twist") stories set in Hamilton's Confederation universe. Recommended.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

A short novel about a ship full of soldiers and prisoners that gets cast far away from their civilization, and must build a new one from people who hate each other. Recommended.

The Martian by Andy Weir

What, I need to review this? I nearly skipped work rather than put it down. Highly recommended.

The Secret History Of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

This is a fascinating history of Wonder Woman, William Marston, early 20th century feminism, and (importantly) early 20th century feminist SF, a topic I was direly ignorant of before. Indeed, I suspect many SF fans are ignorant of the history of feminist SF prior to, say, James Tiptree, which has colored the field much for the worse. I have more to say on this topic, but not the time right now.
2:27 pm
Books: Clearing The Decks
Quick reviews of the final books read in 2015:

The Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole

I read this largely for its relevance to the gothic genre (and thus to SF, fantasy, and a lot of other genre fiction). I can't say I much enjoyed it, but it was illuminating, and the feeling of brushing up against things large and dark and angry was well done.

From Here To Timbuktu by Milton Davis

An entertaining AU pulp novel with POC protagonists, though it suffers from a few plot flaws. (Like, a trip by zeppelin from Atlanta to London, by way of New York, that apparently only takes a few hours.) Recommended.

How About Never — Is Never Good For You? by Bob Mankoff

By the cartoon editor of the New Yorker, this is both an autobiography and a discussion of the business of cartoons. Recommended.

The Infinite Loop by Colinet, Charretier

This is a graphic novel about Time Police, which I originally though had an incidental lesbian romance. Actually, it's intensely about gay rights, and erasure of gays, using erasing things from time as metaphor and literal threat. Recommended.

The Green Leopard Plague by Walter Jon Williams

A fine collection of short stories. Recommended.

Embassytown by China Miéville

A novel about the difficult of translating an alien language, and the problems that arise when you dramatically alter people to fit that need. I didn't quite enjoy it like I have some of his earlier works, but there are some worthy questions in there.

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

Banks' final SF novel. Towards the end, there's some discussion about how the events of the novel will be recorded as "just another incident the Culture's ships got involved in, and patted themselves on the back about", and indeed it felt to me very much like "just another Culture novel". The final revelations are not revelatory, nor do they change much of anything, and the big event of the book, a civilization Subliming into the next level of existence, is not really explored. Mildly recommended.

The Sandman: Overture by Gaiman, Williams, Stewart

This graphic novel both fills in the cracks and questions about the Sandman, and opens up whole new realms to explore. It's mostly a prequel to the original comic, involving what Dream was up to before he got captured. Apart from an annoying fridging, very recommended.

The Chronicles Of Tornor by Elizabeth A. Lynn

I was not old enough to appreciate this series when I first read it 30 years ago. It is an interesting fantasy world where homosexuality and other forms of queerness are incidental (which was almost unprecedented in 1980). The three novels are set generations apart, and are interesting snapshots of an evolving society, particularly its relationship to psi powers and a certain form of combat. Recommended.
Thursday, December 17th, 2015
7:37 pm
Books: Princes & Inquisitors

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

This is a lovely cyberpunk-ish post-apocalypse novel set in Palmares Tres, a Brazilian arcology in a world recovering from global warming and a plague that killed almost all men. Our heroes are young artists (in a world where "young" means "under 30", since people can live for centuries) who get caught up in the local politics where kings are media celebrities who get ceremonially executed after a year. There's a lot in here about generational conflict and where true power comes from, and it does not shy away from issues of race. Recommended.

Nicholas St. North And The Battle Of The Nightmare King by William Joyce & Laura Geringer

This is the first book in the series which inspired the movie Rise Of The Guardians, but it doesn't quite hit the same notes as the movie does. Mildly recommended.

The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty

A fascinating study of Judaism and social class in an alternate late-19th-century New York. Our young hero discovers he has magical ability in a city where magic is strictly regulated, and promptly gets drafted into the NYPD inquisitor's office. The novel is a tour of New York's social strata and history as our hapless hero gets bounced around from one crime scene to the next, until he finally develops a bit of a spine. First in a series, recommended.

The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson

A novel of toxic masculinity in a tryannical future. The universe is slowly being colonized by slower-than-light ships equipped with instantaneous teleporters. (So a ship which has been traveling for 1000 years can cycle its crew back to Earth whenever.) Earth rules over its colonies tightly and harshly, and all of our heroes are damaged by this. They get sent out to a ship on the frontier, and then things start going wrong... Of its era, and seems to be caught between the horror of men warped by patriarchy, and an inability to imagine alternatives, even in the face of scientific wonders, the stars, and beyond. Not especially recommended.
Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
11:36 am
Arisia Schedule 2016
My current panel schedule looks like this:

Saturday, 7pm: Does The Real World Belong In Games? 'Our panelists will discuss whether "fun" is necessarily opposed to "social commentary", and games that have successfully combined the two. Can we use "it's just a game" to avoid discussing the extreme violence in games or the ongoing questions about how women and minorities are treated in the industry?' (Moderating.)

Sunday 1pm: Building A Polyamorous Home

Sunday 5:30pm: Why Do We Cheat? 'Cheating happens. We break our promises, we play with people and things we've promised we won't, we eat things we know we've agreed not to, we booty-call exes we swore never to speak to again. Is it inevitable human frailty?' (Moderating.)

Sunday 8:30pm: Worldbuilding For Games (Moderating.)

I'm currently also scheduled for a Friday 5:30pm panel, but since that is explicitly outside the availability times I set, I'm going to have to bow out.
Friday, November 6th, 2015
9:21 pm
Books: Some Comics

Chainmail Bikini by divers hands

A nice Kickstart'd anthology of stories about girl gamers, by girl gamers, many of whom had to deal with heinous sexism. Worth a read for anyone in the gaming industry, especially in this day and age where misogyny is practically institutionalized in the industry. Recommended, though there's some predictable variation in quality.

Lumberjanes v1 and v2 by Stevenson, Ellis, Watters, and Allen

Girls go to camp. Girls make friends. Weird girls make weird friends. Weird girls have weird adventures when three-eyed foxes and secret caves start popping up. And does Miss Crumpet know more than she's telling? You betcha! A fun story about campers defeating evil through cleverness, friendship, and the occasional fist to the snoot, recommended.

Little Robot by Ben Hatke

A little girl finds a little robot, who has just escaped from the factory. They become friends, but then someone comes looking for their lost property... I picked this up because I like any story about technologically inclined little girls, but it may be a while before I let Roo read it. Our heroine's parents are absent or direly neglectful, and she makes some fairly awful decisions along the road to friendship. Still, recommended.

Princess Ugg v1 and v2 by Naifeh, Wuginigh

Another entry in the current rich crop of deconstructive princess comics, our heroine here, Ulga, is a princess of a pseudo-Norse civilization, living high in the mountains and fighting debilitating wars with the giants. They decide they need to learn "diplomacy", and send her to Princess School to learn it. Since Ulga is short, broad, fiercely strong, lethal with an axe, but unfamiliar with reading and indoor plumbing, there's a bit of a culture clash. She eventually gains the respect of most of the other princesses, but her roommate is a Bitcherella who is slower to warm. And then a big conspiracy pops up, and the princesses need to save their kingdoms... Recommended.

S.H.I.E.L.D. by Waid, et al

This is an attempt to create a team something like the TV show's team within the Marvel Comics Universe. Coulson leads, May, Fitz, and Simmons are introduced, and the writing is as snappy as the show, but the plots are very different. Coulson's Captain America fanboyness is here translated into fanboyness for all supers, and his value to SHIELD is thus that he always knows who's the perfect super for a given job. We thus get fun team-ups and big fights that the show couldn't afford. Waid is ever-reliable (though his characters tend to speechify), and this is recommended.
[ << Previous 20 ]
WPage   About LiveJournal.com