2019 - A Year In Quilts

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Posted on : 12/31/2019 08:44:00 PM | By : Dann

I began the year working on a quilt for my mom that is supposed to look a bit like a stained glass window.  The technique is really pretty simple.  I was about 60% through that process when the start of my quilting year got turned around.

One of our nephews and his girlfriend announced that they were expecting in the spring.  So the stained glass quilt got put aside in favor of the "old reliable"; log cabin.  Shortly after beginning that quilt, I had a colleague at work announce their pending arrival.

So I was two quilts behind before the end of February.  The quilt for our nephew's son, Jayce, was done in the early spring.  Just in time for our youngest son and another nephew to announce that they (and their girlfriends, natch) were expecting as well.

So I'm three quilts behind headed into summer.  The quilt for my colleague's daughter-to-be was finished barely in time for her arrival.  This was a new (to me) pattern that had a very modern look that is supposed to evoke the Death Star from Star Wars.  I'll probably try it again in the future.

Then things got a little busy.  My dad ended up passing in July.  So the quilt for our other nephew's daughter, Charlotte, ended up being finished a little after she was born.  Better late than never.  But the summer was pretty busy.  Another log cabin completed.

Heading into September, I figured I had a pretty good handle on the schedule.  One more baby quilt for our youngest son to make and then mom could have her quilt completed by Christmas.

And then, surprise!  Our oldest son and his girlfriend called us early.....I mean EARLY...one morning to let us know we were about to become grandparents for the first time.  In September.  Not December.

She had a pregnancy that was so secret that she didn't even know about it until about 12 hours before Emma was delivered.  While we were tickled pink with her arrival, that added an unexpected quilt to my year.  What's a guy to do but get some new fabric and get on with it.  Which I did.  Three log cabin quilts this year alone!

And then it was back to the quilt for our youngest son's daughter, Ella.  It was done in the nick of time.  I finally had a chance to work some fabric that I had been eyeing at the fabric store for a few years.  I think this fourth log cabin of the year turned out nicely.

But that left my mom's quilt as an incomplete for 2019.  It's a little closer to being done now and should be completed by mid-February at the very latest.

A Quilt for Ella

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Posted on : 12/31/2019 08:14:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

So short story long, back in the spring, our youngest and his girlfriend announced that they were also having a baby. This was to have been our first grandchild.

If you've read about Miss Emma's quilt, then you know how that expectation worked out.

We spent some time looking at fabrics.  Two of them, pink and purple squares, were ones that I had seen before and had been wanting to try in a quilt.  They posed a bit of a challenge due to the tiny square pattern in the material.  It is quite difficult to cut perfectly parallel successive strips of material from a 40" wide section of fabric.  I ended up cutting 2 1/2" wide x 20" long strips.  Most of the cuts pretty well match the pattern of the squares.

In the end, I was pleased with the result.  And as with Emma's quilt, the backing material for Ella's quilt was a plushy fabric that didn't bunch (much) when sewed.

Miss Ella's Quilt - Finished

Miss Ella's Quilt - Detail


Miss Ella - Her Own Self
We think she's a keeper


Papa Josh and Miss Ella
Catching a little shut eye.

A Quilt for Emma

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Posted on : 12/31/2019 04:28:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

So here we are late in 2019.  You may have picked up on the suggestion under Charlotte's quilt entry that there was another quilt in the works.

This.....is not that quilt.

So late in September, we received an early morning call from our oldest.  His girlfriend was in labor.  He didn't know she was pregnant.  She didn't know she was pregnant!  There's a longer story there, but the doctors and nurses went to great lengths to express to us that this situation was not as unusual as you might think.

We received another call a couple hours later.  It was still a long way before our alarms were set to go off.  She was dilated to 3.  Off to the hospital we went!  About 6 or 7 hours later, our first grandchild, Emma came into the world.  She was a little early.  The doctors thought that she was at about 34 weeks when she was born.  Her first day was a little rough.  But she was out of the neonatal unit and safe at home a week later. 

She's pretty tough...like her old man.  Her mom, too, for what it's worth.

The only problem is that when I went to sleep the previous night, I had not planned on any extra quilts for 2019.  And now I was planning on another quilt for 2019!

I opted for another pink/grey combination.  It turned out pretty well.

The backs of quilts are always a bit of a challenge for me.  It's hard to come up with something that is visually interesting while also being easy enough to sew.  This time around I opted for a pink/grey synthetic fabric that felt a little plushy.  The fibers weren't crazy long, but they are long enough to be soft to the touch.

My beloved bride thinks I should use soft materials as they will be in contact with the baby's skin.  I think the backing material worked pretty well this time around.  I might have to keep looking at that fabric for future baby quilts.


Miss Emma's Quilt - Finished


Miss Emma's Quilt - Back


Miss Emma - her own self.  Almost 3 months old.
We're still tickled pink to have her in our lives.

A Quilt for Charlotte

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Posted on : 12/31/2019 04:04:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

A different nephew and his girlfriend also ended up having a baby this year.  We found out about this in the spring.  I had completed one quilt, had a second one in the works, and now a third (or more) racked up in rapid succession.

I wasn't sure what to do for Charlotte.  But knowing that a little girl was coming and knowing that I still had some special fabric left in the stash pile, I just dove in and put together fabrics that I had available.  You may recognize one or two fabrics as being in prior quilts.

I really hate working with flannel.  It isn't dimensionally stable.  You can cut a 2 1/2" wide strip and end up pushing and pulling it so that it ends up being 1/8" on either side.  A continuing set of 1/8" errors is really a pain in the backside when you are piecing the larger squares together.

The "special fabric" was the white flannel with the tiny red roses.  My mother-in-law had purchased a whole bunch of that material with the intent of making nightgowns for two of her granddaughters when they were in the 4 to 6-year-old range.  Both are in their 20s today.  Neither of them got a nightgown.

Mom is gone now.  She is greatly missed.  Now I have/had the material.  As this would be another of her great-grandchildren, I thought it would be a good use.


Charlotte's Quilt - Finished


Charlotte's Quilt - Detail

A Quilt for Chloe

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Posted on : 12/31/2019 03:50:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

Immediately after finishing Jayce's quilt, I started to work on one for Miss Chloe.  A friend at work was working to produce Chloe, so I thought it would be OK to produce something to keep her warm once she got here.  Chloe and her momma made it through safe and sound.

Instead of doing another log cabin quilt, I took a stab at a little different pattern.  This one is supposed to be inspired by the Death Star from Star Wars.

Is there another Death Star outside of Star Wars?

I picked up the pattern in a quilting magazine because it has a really cool modern art feel to it.  I think it turned out OK.


Chloe's Quilt - Pre-Quilting



Chloe's Quilt - Detail


Chloe's Quilt - Finished

The partial circles were a bit of trouble.  I had to learn/re-learn some things to make them come out correctly.  But this was a fun pattern.  I expect that I will try it again in the future.

A Quilt for Jayce

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Posted on : 12/31/2019 03:34:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

One of our nephews and his girlfriend had Jayce much earlier this year.  So I put aside my then (now current) quilting to begin working on one for Jayce.  His mom was interested in an animal theme for Jayce.  The result is below.


Jayce's Quilt



Jayce's Quilt - Single Panel

I think it worked out pretty well.  He's a pretty cute bugger, too!

Review: The Court of Broken Knives

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Posted on : 12/31/2019 03:24:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

The Court of Broken Knives The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been meaning to give this book by Anna Smith Spark a try for a long time. Several grimdark oriented groups have raved about it. And Anna is a sparkling addition to some of those groups. But now I have to separate the work from the author.

This is a 4-star review of this book. In reality, I think it is more of a 3.5-star book. The world-building was interesting. There were cultural clashes between characters that suggested some decidedly different bases for their respective nations/cities.

Spoilers lie ahead...

One protagonist appears to be descended from some sort of deity-like person that once ravaged the world. All their ancestors wanted to do was to kill. By the end, those qualities are apparent in abundance in the protagonist. God-kings do not fall far from their proverbial trees.

The other protagonist was chosen at random to be a high priestess who committed ritual human sacrifice on a regular basis because her religion says that such sacrifices are needed so that humans can still be born, live, and die. If she were to stop, then no one would be born and no one would die. There isn't any evidence to support that faith within the text. However, it does seem that she possesses some extra-human abilities as a result.

They come together and fall in love. He passionately. She reluctantly. He sees no flaws in her. She sees many in him. But in the end, two beautiful but scarred people must be in love.


With her love as the motivation, he moves to reclaim his position within his family. This turns out poorly for pretty much everyone near him. He has the ability to instill a sort of blind bloodlust that causes people to kill whoever happens to be nearby if an enemy isn't more available. The blood....it flows.

While it has been a few years, this book reads a lot like Michael Moorcock's Elric stories. That is meant as a strong compliment.

While I had a pretty good idea about what makes the various characters special by the end of the book, it ended with me wondering if I really cared enough about their success or failure to want to continue the series. I never found a positive perspective to root for. There weren't any gems covered in grimdark grime. It was just blood, blood, blood and death, death, death. [read it to get the reference]

A second issue is that we spend a lot of time inside the character's heads; looking longingly at someone or plotting their next move. I am less attracted to spending pages upon pages on internal monologues.

There are several large and small scale political intrigues that unfold along the way. There is a broad range of characters with a diverse set of conflicting interests. The author adroitly manages all of those competing plot lines.

Fans of the grimdark subgenre should definitely give this book a try. It may connect better with you. Most of the elements of a fantastic read are there. And the series may unfold in a way that is more enjoyable than this single entry permits.

I probably won't find out for myself anytime soon.

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Review: A Little Hatred

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Posted on : 12/19/2019 09:33:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

A Little Hatred A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a solid 5-star review.

Joe Abercrombie returns to his First Law world with the next generation of characters. As usual, this is a tour de force of fantasy that manages to present several POV characters in various situations; ranging from political intrigue to the hack-and-slash of combat.

Added into the plot this time are class elements unfolding within the context of a developing technologically driving industrial movement. Lives are inexorably altered as changing technology alters the basis of power; lifting some while others find their traditional existence to no longer be viable.

All of the subplots are told through the actions of a broad range of multi-motivated characters. Joe is a master of the grimdark subgenre requirement of creating characters that are neither purely good nor purely evil. They simply have motivations that are, at times, at cross purposes. When you are enthusiastically cheering for a character on one page and lustily cursing them a few pages later, then you know that you are in the grip of a masterful author.

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Review: The Forever War

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Posted on : 12/19/2019 09:33:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

The Forever War The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review.

How might time delays influence the fighting of interstellar war? That is the overlying context of this story as the protagonists continually survive (barely) armed conflict with a poorly understood enemy. They hobble back home and by dint of survival end up promoted and in charge of the next armed contact with the enemy.

The relativity of time due to light speed travels means that there are thousands (tens of thousands!) of years for technology and battle doctrine to develop between battles while the combatants are traveling to and from the points of combat. The conflict ends up being a series of engagements leap-frogging through time.

Until they come home one day to find that peace had been declared. It is implied that the entire conflict may have begun in error; the enemy was poorly understood and they equally misunderstood humanity.

As might be expected of an author with a military service history, the book gets the relationships in the military just right; both the personal and doctrinal aspects. The subtextual message emphasizing the importance of understanding others is also handled deftly.

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Review: The Last Wish

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Posted on : 12/19/2019 09:32:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The Last Wish The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a weak 4-star review.

This is the first in the series and is really more of a collection of short/medium length stories. The writing was solid. The characters were engaging. However, it is, at best, a fractured narrative.

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Hugo 2020 - Nomination Pool

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Posted on : 12/19/2019 09:32:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

My personal "short list" of works to be nominated in 2020

Novel -
Mark Lawrence - Holy Sister
Damien Black - Pilgrim's Storm Brooding??
Joe Abercrombie - A Little Hatred
Martin L. Shoemaker - The Last Dance

Series -
Mark Lawrence - Book of the Ancestor
Mark Lawrence - Impossible Times
Damien Black - Broken Stone Chronicle
Dave Duncan - King's Blades

Semi-Prozine -
Cirsova

Editor Short -
P. Alexander - Cirsova
Adrian Collins - Grimdark Magazine

Fancast -
SinCast by Cinema Sins
The Disney Story Origins Podcast
The Horror Show with Brian Keene

Fan Writer -
Colleen McMahon - Wandering Through The Public Domain Series - hosted by File770

Long Format
Witcher Season 1
Carnival Row Season 1
The Mandalorian Season 1
[Per the rules, you can nominate works of shorter than 90 minutes in the short format category; i.e. single episodes of longer series.  Alternatively, you can nominate an entire season under the long format category.  Both series told larger story arcs across their respective series.  Both are worthy of consideration against more traditional movies that will be nominated in the long format category.]

Review: Blood Heir

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Posted on : 11/29/2019 05:03:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Blood Heir Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a 3-star "did not finish" review. My experience with this book is a huge mixed bag.

ARCs of this book led to a social media firestorm that bullied the author into withdrawing the book so that it could be fixed. Apparently, her expression of slavery as viewed through her inherited cultural traditions/narrative did not support a US-centric view of slavery. I'm not sure if the book was changed/edited from the ARC version.

The general hook for the book was good enough for me to want to read it even though YA oriented works aren't my primary (or even secondary) interest. Bought the book. Made it roughly halfway through.

The author did a fantastic job of creating a unique fantasy world with reasonably consistent rules for the fantasy elements. She also did a good job of developing characters that are compelling and interesting. I hung in there for a while just based on the main characters.

Unfortunately, the story was devolving into "wish fulfillment" territory. The final straw for me was when the one protagonist began to adjust his behaviors simply because the other protagonist was....something. Strong? Moral? Pretty? There certainly isn't a justification for the apparent change in his behavior other than "isn't she special".

A backward look at the narrative revealed several things that happened just because it served the narrative rather than because the characters had skillfully/cleverly managed an obstacle.

I think there is a lot in this book that make it worth reading....if all the reader is looking for is a light read that doesn't require a lot of deep thought.

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Review: Thank You for My Service

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Posted on : 11/13/2019 01:58:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Thank You for My Service Thank You for My Service by Mat Best
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let's be clear. I hate Mat Best. Were it not for the wholesome existence of James Mattis, Mat would have laid destruction to the planet years ago.

In this case, he cost me 3 nights of sleep as I just couldn't put his book down.

More seriously, Mat could have written all sort of books. He could have continued his public persona. He could have told a bunch of bloody war stories. He could have made himself to be a larger than life hero.

Instead, his book tells the tale of almost everyone that has ever served in the US military. We do what we do to help the team win. We try to be better people every day. And we try to make our corner of the world a little better.

Mat just has a modestly larger corner than the rest of us.

Want to hear about the blood-n-guts of war? The book has some of that. Want to hear about harsh training? That as well. Want to hear about honest and earnest patriotism? In there. How about the challenges of leaving the service and finding a new purpose for life? That, too.

Most importantly, Mat describes how the average servicemember just wants to serve honorably and make the world a better place. And he does it while making you smile.

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Review: Pilgrim's Storm Brooding: A Sweeping Dark Fantasy Epic

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Posted on : 11/13/2019 01:57:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Pilgrim's Storm Brooding: A Sweeping Dark Fantasy Epic Pilgrim's Storm Brooding: A Sweeping Dark Fantasy Epic by Damien Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review. That is a good description of my experience.

Damien is back at the top of his form with the third installment in this series. The plot continues as various faiths that have spent centuries in conflict now find themselves either ready to commence all-0ut war or to work together to fight off the larger impending evil.

This installment does a couple of things very well. One is that there is less focus on rape. My biggest criticism of the second installment is the blase attitude towards rape. The second is that Damien has done an excellent job of recalling past events without bogging down the current narrative progress.

This is a fun read that is worth your time....and money!!

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Review: For Steam And Country

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Posted on : 11/13/2019 01:56:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

For Steam And Country For Steam And Country by Jon Del Arroz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review. It just wasn't good enough to get to 3-stars.

This is a steampunk that includes a lot of stereotypical twirling of mustaches. The steampunk aspects were presumed. The dialog wasn't bad. It just wasn't good enough to get me into the characters.

On the positive side, there weren't many grammar/spelling errors in the few chapters that I managed to choke down. The other positive is that I got the book during a time when it was free. So all I lost was some time.

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Review: Darkness on the Edge of Town

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Posted on : 8/12/2019 09:07:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Darkness on the Edge of Town Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a 3-Star review. That's a good description of my experience.

Residents of a town discover that a dark curtain has descended on their town. The curtain blocks out the sun, moon, and stars. No one that enters the curtain ever returns. Those that enter it can be heard screaming in agony...for a time.

Faced with living for some unknown time confined with their neighbors, the town quickly...and in my opinion a little bit inexplicably....becomes self-destructive. It is suggested that the force behind the curtain is telepathically encouraging the self-destruction. The book doesn't provide enough context for each individual to know if that force is planting an new seed of destruction or encouraging something that was already there. As a group of humans, it seems like it was something already there. But we never get to meet most of the characters before the curtain came down, so it is impossible to know how they have fundamentally changed after it came down.

This is sort of a cross between Lord of the Flies and Stephen King's Beneath the Dome. In fact, this book was published a few months after Beneath the Dome.

I was halfway through the book before I had enough interest to want to finish it. I'm a huge fan of the author's podcast and wanted to give his books a try.

There were very few reasons to have any emotion for or against any of the characters. They have little history upon which to base an emotional connection.

There isn't any real building of suspense. The dark curtain falls. Things become steadily, progressively worse. There really aren't any huge surprises once we get to the worst condition. The violence borders on being mundane because it is expected.

While I'm sure that I'll be reading more of the author's work, I have no desire to revisit this book.


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Some Final Thoughts on the 2019 Hugo Awards

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Posted on : 8/04/2019 10:30:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

My ballot for this year's Hugo Awards went in before the end of July.  I ended up only voting in the Novel category.  My ballot was:

  1. Spinning Silver
  2. Trail of Lightning
  3. Record of a Spaceborn Few
  4. No award
  5. The Calculating Stars
  6. Revenant Gun
  7. Space Opera

It was really close on The Calculating Stars, but I thought she took a shortcut that undermined her larger message.

I didn't vote in any other categories for a couple of reasons.  In order:

  1. My dad spent this year dying from cancer.  I was his primary support.
  2. See #1
  3. See #1
  4. See #1
  5. See #1
  6. See #1
  7. See #1
  8. See #1
  9. The narrow range of repeat nominees
  10. The seemingly outsized influence of review sites/publishers
So the biggest issue was that I didn't have as much time this year to spend on reading/listening to the nominated works and then reviewing them.  That aside, there are a couple of issues that compromise my enthusiasm for the process.

I typically focus the Novel, Fancast, and Graphic Novel categories.  Depending on time, I might wander into the art and short story categories.  But those first three are the ones that I care about more than the rest.  I think I have a reasonable base of experience with works in that category and thus can offer a reasonably informed opinion regarding what might or might not be worthy of recognition.

The last couple of years have witnessed a significant narrowing in the range of works considered for nomination.

For example, four of the works in the Graphic Novel category come from properties that have nominated in past years.  Black Panther, Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga are all repeat nominees; in some cases, multiple repeat nominees.

To be blunt, I have never been impressed with the storytelling or art associated with Saga.  I was disinterested in reading this year's nominated volume based on my underwhelming experiences in year's past.  Ironically, the guy that writes Saga also writes Paper Girls.  I think Paper Girls is generally a property that is worthy of attention.  For what it is worth, I thought Frank Cho's "Skybourne" and "Redlands" by Jordie Bellaire & Vanesa Del Rey were worth consideration.  I would put either of them above Saga.

In the Novel category, "Record of a Spaceborn Few" and "Revenant Gun" also come from series that have been nominated several times.  I am concerned that nominations of each installment in a series represent a trend that will ultimately narrow the range of works considered within the category.  All of the novels in N.K. Jemisin's "Broken Earth" series were nominated and won in the novel category. I put all three novels above "no award" on those ballots (and put at least one in first place) as those were incredibly good books.  So I'm not arguing against series-based work ever being on the novel ballot or that multiple entries in a series shouldn't be eligible in the novel category in multiple years.  I am suggesting that a portion of the nominating readers may be focused on such a narrow band of works that they might be excluding other works that are more worthy of consideration and ultimately nomination to the shortlist.

Had I read it in time for nominations this year, Mark Lawrence's "Grey Sister" would surely have been on my ballot.  I hope that the capstone of that trilogy, "Holy Sister" will be read by enough nominators that it will make next year's ballot.  Grey Sister was head and shoulders above the works that I put below "no award" this year.

In the Fancast category, the Coode Street Podcast, Fangirl Happy Hour, and Galactic Suburbia are repeat nominees.  Coode Street and Galactic Suburbia have their positive moments.  I've heard enough of Fangirl Happy Hour to know that they aren't all that impressive.  I gave a quick listen to the first episode of Be The Serpent.  It was the first episode and not bad by that standard.  I hope they've gotten better.  By comparison, all of my nominees in this category have a lengthy history of exemplary work in the genre.

I think the fact that there are so many repeat properties suggests that an unhealthy number of nominators are not looking very seriously at a broader range of titles.  Lela Buis has suggested that identity politics may be one factor that motivates a narrowing of the properties considered for nomination.  A few years ago, K. Tempest Bradford suggested the idea of not bothering to read works by straight white men for a while.

And of course, there is a habitual suggestion that self-published works are not generally worthy of larger consideration.  This year's SPFBO winner, Orconomics, is a tour-de-force that was originally published in 2014.   I would compare it favorably to The Goblin Emperor; a book that has grown on me since I read it.  Either book was better than that year's winner in my opinion.

The point is that if nominators were sampling a broader range of works, then we should see fewer repeat nominees from the series.

A related factor is that review sites may not be as broad in their coverage of the genre.  As a result, readers that look to review sites for references to quality work may not encounter quality works that are not reviewed because those authors or their publishing houses may not enjoy an appropriate "reputation" among reviewers.

One example that should be receiving more attention is Adrian Collins.  He is the editor of Grimdark Magazine and the GdM anthologies.  His work is outstanding.  Many of the included works are also worthy of wider recognition.

A second, admittedly lesser example would be Cirsova magazine.  I read issue #1 a while back.  It presented middling to decent fiction.  The works in the most recent issue were better.  It is definitely a publication that I would suggest that readers try to see if it presents works that they appreciate.  It has a bit of a retro feel to it while also leaving open the possibility of encountering works that translate that retro aesthetic into something that expands upon modern sensibilities.

Neither GdM or Cirsova appears to be on the radar of active readers that nominate for the Hugos.

While I certainly lacked time to engage with the Hugo nominees in a more substantive way this year, I also found that I had less motivation to make that effort.  The narrow range of nominations was less interesting.  With the recent unpleasantness neatly tucked out of the way, I hope that the Hugos do not suffer in the long run from a nomination field that based on an artificially limited scope of interest.



Review: Fighting to Survive

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Posted on : 8/04/2019 07:29:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Fighting to Survive Fighting to Survive by Rhiannon Frater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a weak 4-star review.

Fighting to Survive tells the story of a group of survivors from the prototypical zombie apocalypse. They start out living elbow to elbow in a reinforced/walled construction yard with zombies on all sides. Eventually, they expand out into the surrounding area.

The zombies are a problem. But in some ways, human politics is a larger challenge.

And in some ways, the purposeful cruelties of other humans living in the area pose the largest challenges of all.

The cast of characters includes a broad spectrum of individuals each bringing their own unique talents and perspectives to performing the myriad tasks needed to help humanity survive and hopefully to let human civilization begin to thrive.

Difficult challenges will face our merry band of survivors. Some of their solutions are not what most people would endorse. They happen anyway.

A mysterious Vigilante is in the compound occasionally tossing someone over the walls to the waiting zombies. The victim being someone that had demonstrated a purposeful lack of concern for their fellow survivors. Exactly who the Vigilante is an ongoing question.

This was a solid 4-star read right until the last 5-10 chapters. At that point, the author took a wonderfully inclusive narrative and infused it with latent racism and misandry.

A very enjoyable read. Easy to see why it was picked up from being self-published by a major publishing house. Just a couple of rough edges that could have been smoothed out with a little editorial discretion.

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Review: Heroing

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Posted on : 8/02/2019 07:28:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Heroing Heroing by Dafydd ab Hugh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a 1-star, Dorothy Parker review. That is an accurate assessment of my experience.

Five chapters. That's all it took. And as it was a physical book, the opportunity to evaluate its aerodynamic capabilities was not to be denied. The gouge in the drywall will need to be fixed.

It appears that this is the first book written by the author. It showed.

In five chapters, there was no character development. Why was she there? Why did she want to go adventuring/fighting? What personality quirks endeared her to the reader.....or made her interestingly repellant.

Nothing.

Within the story of the book, the heroine was broke and out of work. Within the text, it is demonstrated that she isn't very good at "heroing". At least, she doesn't demonstrate any special capacity for it.

There is a bit of misogyny expressed by other characters that seems to suggest that what she lacks is an opportunity rather than lacking in the ability.

It was about that time that I found the author's statement at the back of the book. Apparently, this book was an attempt to illustrate the "patriarchy". The book accomplishes that task poorly by using a character that is ill-prepared for any opportunity that might come her way.

The primary sins of this book are that it fails to present interesting characters and places an unsubtle polemic objective before the task of telling a good story. I read several other books both immediately before and immediately after that subtly and effectively did a better job of discussing issues surrounding equality than this awful load of offal.

Heroing might have reached the rare achievement of being a book that will go in the dustbin instead of to a used book store or a Little Free Library.

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The Biological Differences Between Men and Women

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Posted on : 7/10/2019 04:02:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I ran across this item that is posted on Reddit.  The graph is from a large scale study of the American public.  The data illustrates the relative strength between men and women in the US.

The Reddit entry, with the study data and description, are here.

Click to embiggen

This was a part of Megan McArdle's longer discussion about the pay of the US Women's National Soccer Team relative to the USMNT.  The thread extends for quite a while, and she makes some great points.




Mostly I'm just saving this for future reference.  The folks in Reddit's Data is Beautiful do an outstanding job of presenting complex information in a manner that is easy for almost everyone to understand.


Review: Revenant Gun

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Posted on : 6/28/2019 03:40:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Revenant Gun Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a solid 3-star, DNF review.

I was reading this book for the 2019 Hugo Awards.

This book is a fantasy novel dressed up as MilSF. While there are military related elements involved (as in some sort of space navy), there isn't really much about actual military service. And the "sci-fi" elements involve physics/reality being shaped by local beliefs/customs. That is more fantasy than anything else.

While it is reasonably well written, I just didn't care about any of the characters in the story. I didn't care who won. I didn't care who lost. Whatever the outcome, it was bound to be trouble for everyone else.

The combination of the faux-MilSF story coupled with characters that were not engaging caused me to put this book aside. I have a lengthy TBR pile and need not waste time with something as disinteresting as this was for me.

For the record, this is going in 5th position on my ballot. Definitely below "no award" as it is not up to the standards of past winners.


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Review: Grunt Life

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Posted on : 6/28/2019 01:29:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Grunt Life Grunt Life by Weston Ochse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a solid 3-star review.

I heard about the book via an author panel that was rebroadcast on The Horror Show with Brian Keene Podcast. Weston's perspective as a fellow vet sounded interesting.

The premise of the book is that a shadowy organization is assembling vets to fight a pending alien invasion of earth. All of the vets are troubled to the point of attempting suicide. PTSD is very common. Guilt over the deaths of others (combat, non-combat accidents, etc.) is almost universal.

The shadowy organization "saves" the vets from suicide, provides a cover story (faked suicides being common), and then takes the vets to a facility where they work through their issues. Or they don't.

Those that survive the process are built back up into combat teams. The invasion comes and this private military is deployed.

What the author gets right is the relationships between vets; also the relationship between the vets and those they serve. Those conversations really get to the meat of how vets relate to one another and the rest of the world. The other feature that the author handles very well is PTSD and survivor guilt.

What holds this book back are the lengthy internal monologues, using a single POV when there are so many interesting characters present, devolving into gun porn - military formation porn - and overuse of military jargon, and lastly moralizing about corporate/military vendor profits.

At some point, the detailed description of which type/model weapon is strapped to what piece of armor in which specific configuration is just boring detail that gets in the way of the story being told. People with lots of trigger experience might enjoy seeing the MP5 called an MP5 on successive pages.

The same thing applies to unit configuration/designations.

In terms of interpersonal relationships, internal motivations, and a good sci-fi premise, this book has a lot to offer. It also carries some baggage that can get in the way of the story.

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Review: Spinning Silver

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Posted on : 6/07/2019 06:31:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Spinning Silver Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ms. Novik is a fabulous and inventive author.

This could have been just another re-telling of an old faery tale with some sort of modern twist. And to be fair, there are lots of points in the story where you feel like you are revisiting an old faery tale; Rumplestiltskin being the first obvious one.

But those old tales are the bones of the story. Ms. Novik arranges those bones in a way so that when wrapped with the rhetorical meat of the tale, her story is something completely unique.

She utilizes several different POV characters. Most of the story is told through the eyes of about half a dozen characters with another half dozen (or so) that fill in along the way.

There are several characters that act as antagonists along the way. Yet they have their own perspectives in which their actions are revealed as defensible even if they aren't pleasant. Most antagonists get a shot at redemption; most are successful in unique ways.

I read this book as part of preparing for voting for the Hugo Awards (2019). This book will be in first place on my ballot.

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ETA - This is a 5 star review...not 0 stars!!

Review: Trail of Lightning

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Posted on : 4/23/2019 04:08:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Trail of Lightning Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review. I read this book as part of the 2019 Hugo Awards for the best novel category.

Trail of Lightning offers a unique take on post-apocalyptic tales. The big "what if" is what if the world ends and the gods of the indigenous peoples of the US (and presumably elsewhere) return. How do those people use their folklore to reconnect their gods and their tribal powers? What if that folklore represented what those people could actually do in the years before the Americas were colonized?

The author appears to have done her homework on representing tribal perspectives in a way that seems respectful and authentic.

One facet of her story that rings true is how power is used with an eye towards benefitting the tribal leadership structure rather than serving the broader tribal membership.

The larger narrative was about a tribal monster hunter....ahem....hunting monsters. They had been created by someone with access to a lot of power. She has to chase down the identity of the one creating the monsters. She occasionally runs into gods (demi-gods?) who have their own agenda. And eventually, she has to discover how she had been used (and abused) as a pawn in a larger game.

This book sucked me in and would not let me go. When I start ignoring the world around me in favor of a book, I know I've found a book with a very well told story. This is precisely such a book.


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Review: The Flipside

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Posted on : 4/16/2019 03:01:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The Flipside The Flipside by Jake Bible
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great execution of a fantastic premise. Time travel has burbled up in select locations around the world. If you are in that location at the right time, then you will "flip" back to the age of dinosaurs. Dinos in the same locations "flip" forwards in time to join us.

And while this phenomenon provided interesting research and sightseeing opportunities, what happens when it stops working as predicted? What happens when you get stuck in the past with a bunch of hungry dinos and no idea when reinforcements will arrive?

What if the phenomenon stopped working because someone has found a way to control it to their advantage.

A nice range of characters invested in their own survival. Lots of interesting back stories.

Just a nicely told tale. This is an author to watch in the future.

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On A Monodirectional Discussion

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Posted on : 4/15/2019 08:19:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

I was a part of a discussion in an online forum recently.  This was a forum oriented on the SF/F genre.  Conversations can and will run beyond that topic.  Most active participants in that forum tend to lean at least a little to the left.   I am frequently the lone [libertarian/conservative voice. -ed.]

Another participant tossed out a reference to the Koch brothers for their political contributions.  I responded with a reference to George Soros and his political contributions.

The response [to my response -ed] was to implicate that offering George Soros' name was in some way racist or was treading on racist ground.  My conversational partner went on to indicate that they had said that the statement was racist, not that I was racist.

The difference between those two is, in my opinion, diaphanous at best.  From my perspective, the suggestion that a given comment is racist is nearly the same as indicting the commenter racist.

I am not a racist.  There was nothing in my comment to suggest otherwise.  The factual observation that George Soros donates to left-wing causes is not racist in any way.  I objected to the allegation and indicated that I would appreciate a retraction.

A few days later and a robotic Israeli spaceship lander crashed while attempting to land on the moon.  Another individual in the same forum made a "joke" about the moon participating in the BDS movement.  The response from the active participants to this patently racist reference?

Crickets.

I'm not naming the forum nor the participants as a dog pile isn't really what is needed.

The ability to criticize one's ideological compatriots when the cross the line of civility is.

Review: Space Opera

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Posted on : 4/14/2019 10:34:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , , , , ,

Space Opera Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star, DNF, Dorothy Parker review. That is a thoroughly accurate representation of my experience.

Minor spoilers ahead. Nothing that will ruin the plot as this one flew across the room in the fifth chapter.

Read as a part of evaluating the finalists for the 2019 Hugo award for "Best Novel". Selected as my first novel this year at random.

John Scalzi blurbed the book as:

"As if Ziggy Stardust went on a blind date with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then they got smashed and sang karaoke all night long. Cat Valente is mad and brilliant and no one else would have even thought of this, much less pulled it off."

Surprisingly, I've not bothered to read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But I've read lots of other humorous and/or off-beat works. They can be fun.

And I enjoy listening to David Bowie along with a lot of other musical oddities. So again, this sounds like it could be fun.

I was already more motivated to write about this book rather than reading it by chapter 3. The first two chapters were filled with the message that humanity is not the sole sentient species in the universe. The other species think their expression of sentience is the gold standard of sentient life. Everyone else is "meat".

And some gratuitous slagging of Enrico Fermi.

Lots of extended exposition that does a lot of "telling" and not very much "showing".

The story does not improve when we begin to meet our erstwhile protagonists in chapter 3. They are rock stars of mediocre wattage that over-imbibe in various mind-altering substances and glam rock style makeup. The lead singer seems inspired by the pastiche of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. But those two were wholly likable. Little work is done to create a connection between the reader and the protagonists.

Chapter 4 is filled with the "wacky" efforts of one of the afore-mentioned sentient aliens (an Esca) to communicate with every inhabitant of planet earth....at the same time.

Essentially, the major sentient life-forms have decided that humanity is sufficiently advanced to be invited to a galactic sing-off where humanity isn't expected to win and will be thoroughly obliterated if they don't manage to be sufficiently entertaining. You see, these major sentient species had an ugly war in the past. And they decided a dance/sing-off was a better method for resolving difference? Put a pin in that for a minute.

The book blurbs suggested that this book was funny. And there were a few amusing moments. Nothing nearly as amusing as the works of Robert and Lynn Aspirin or Piers Anthony.

In chapter 4 there is a passage where the Esca is using familiar mental images (parents, a friendly waitress) to break the news to all of humanity that their collective lives are on the line.

Perhaps because, no matter their luck in life, they knew in their bones that at least they were better than the kid who brought them their steak medium, not medium-rare, and so could cling to the idea that humans were still the ones being served with a smile, the ones who were always right, the ones with a place at the table, not a place at the dishwasher, for a few precious minutes longer.


Hogwash. Most people appreciate waitstaff because we have had that sort of crappy job. We sympathize with the person that has a crap job and still does their best at it...just like we did.

Later on the Esca is defending the intergalactic sing-off with:

We have a responsibility to those who were here already when that chap with fangs and fur turned up pretending to be civilized.


Is the author actively supporting immigration restrictions, colonialism, and mass slaughter of aboriginal peoples?

By the time I made it to chapter 5, I'd had enough. The text heaps derision on the idea of the individual; at one point the Esca indicates that they had a "problem with libertarians", but they eventually pulled it out.

The entire history of the science fiction and fantasy genre is filled with authors illustrating the efforts of individuals to struggle against and hopefully break the efforts of the collective to make the collective's definitions of "acceptable" to be the only acceptable standard for every individual's behavior. If there is a sub-text to the sf/f genre, it is one of extolling the individual above the desires of the collective.

This novel didn't go into the Dorothy Parker bin because of all those nitpicks. The nitpicking was an indication of a book that contained serious flaws. Extensive exposition, protagonists with few features to base a connection, the humor was barely there, and other general editing flaws (i.e. we are told that the Esca refer to themselves as a "choir" only to have a later self-reference be to "the Esca". The editor was either absent or ignored in this book.

Back to that "pin".  The book does have the nut of a good idea worth exploring.  How do we treat less advanced civilizations?  Should we intrude on peoples that do not have a desire for our level of technology and force them to demonstrate an ability to be "civilized" according to our tastes?  It is [Is it] legitimate to shield ourselves from civilizations that might pose a lethal threat?  Interesting ideas coupled with a less than stellar execution.






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Hugo 2019 - Novel Category

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Posted on : 4/09/2019 01:15:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The nominees are:

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)
My reading is done.  My reviews are not complete.  But this is where things sit right now.
Award position
Review forthcoming.  It's going to be hard to knock this one out of first place on my ballot.
A great piece of work that engages the reader and tells a unique tale immersed in the world of indigenous peoples.  The long version....
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers
Review forthcoming.  This one was "on the bubble" for a long time.  Good characters with a compelling message overcame massive plot holes.

No Award
  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Initial thoughts - didn't we read Seveneves within the last year or two?  And then there was Lucifer's Hammer from many years ago.  This seems sort of derivative and certainly less inclusive.  A full review is forthcoming.

After a great deal of thought, I ended up putting this novel below "No Award".  Primarily because of one huge plot hole.

Along with everything else, the protagonist experienced anxiety attacks when under pressure.  Specifically, she had trouble when she was appearing in front of an audience.  In much smaller groups or when not in front of the media and/or cameras, she was supposedly OK.  As a result, she ends up taking a prescribed medication for those specific circumstances.

This is presented as a probable disqualifier for putting her in space.  And probably for good reason.  Astronauts that don't deal well with stress are potential risks when thousands of miles away from the Earth.

In her specific case, the conditions of her anxiety probably would not have been an issue.  But rather than have a discussion about when her specific condition might be an issue, the book just waves it off as anyone on anti-anxiety medications is just the same as everyone else that doesn't need such medications.

It was a short cut around a longer conversation.  In my opinion, it cheapened her larger achievements and undercut the larger narrative of her superior capabilities.

I had similar misgivings last year when reading the Prometheus Award-winning The Powers of the Earth.

In this case, Ms. Kowal would have been better served by either having that fuller discussion or just omitting one additional complication to the narrative that involves marginalized individuals.
Essentially, this is a fantasy novel that is camouflaged as MilSF.  The SF portion contains little actual SF.  The Mil portion doesn't match my expectations for MilFic of any type.  

I didn't finish this novel because I really didn't care who won.  No one had expressed a convincing case for what a new world would be under their leadership.  A slightly longer version....
The short version is that it was long on exposition, short on humor, and appeared to lack useful input from an editor.  The long version....

Review: Dancing in the Dust

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Posted on : 4/04/2019 11:09:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Dancing in the Dust Dancing in the Dust by Gwendolyn Pendraig
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a 1-star, DNF review. Worthy of Dorothy Parker's best.

Utter wish-fulfillment fantasy. The protagonist has magical abilities to see, hear, move fast, and is super strong. Hyper-accurate with kill shots. Gets to kill the people...all the people. Or more accurately, all the men.

The sheer ridiculousness of the hyper-capable protagonist, the drifting plot, and the threadbare misandry caused me to lose interest.

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Hugo 2019 Announcement

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Posted on : 4/02/2019 05:04:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

The Dublin2019 team has announced the finalists for the 2019 Hugos.  I am...unsure.

One the one hand, I have yet to dive into works by Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Valente, or Rebecca Roanhorse.  I've read quite a few good things about Ms. Roanhorse's "Trail of Lightning".

In the graphic story category, I'm looking forward to returning to Monstress and Paper Girls.

In the fancasting category, Be the Serpent sounds like it might be good.

On the other hand...and that's the hand that everyone hates.

The novel nominees from Becky Chambers and Yoon Ha Lee are from their respective series that have already had entries nominated under the best novel category.  At least one of those past nominated works failed to clear the "no award" bar on my ballot(s).  Maybe these books will be better, but past history would suggest otherwise.

In the graphic story category, Saga is nominated, again.  I've yet to be impressed by that series.  Curiously, the writer, Brian K. Vaughan, is also the writer of Paper Girls.  So he has two entries in this category; one that piques my interest and one that, most decidedly, does not.

The cover art for Abbott does not inspire much confidence.  It reminds me of Bitch Planet from last year.  I would love to forget that Bitch Planet exists.  But never trust a book by its cover still applies.  We shall see.

And in the fancasting category, perennial nominees The Coode Street Podcast, Fangirl Happy Hour, and Galactic Suburbia are back....again.  At least listening to only one of those three has a history of being an actively unpleasant experience for me.  The others have been good, but not great experiences.

From my perspective, the problem remains one of habit.  Many nominees are entries in series that have been previously nominated.  They benefit from the exposure of those prior nominations.  It seems to me that once an author gets nominated, they have a leg up on getting subsequent entries in a series nominated.  Once they join the ranks of nominees, they stand a better chance of getting the attention of influential reviewers for future works.

And let's be honest.  Reviewers have a finite amount of time and space.  How many worthy books get ignored in favor of known authors?  How many periodicals (i.e. Grimdark Magazine) remain unread while a select group of "worthy" periodicals receive the greater share of attention?

Perhaps increasing the number of people nominating works will improve the range of nominees.  One can always hope.

Review: Gideon Falls Vol. 1: The Black Barn

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Posted on : 3/29/2019 03:27:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Gideon Falls Vol. 1: The Black Barn Gideon Falls Vol. 1: The Black Barn by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A first-rate start to the series. Lots of flawed characters that want to be redeemed. Excellent artwork. Sub-plots and incompletely revealed characters that will certainly lead to interesting arcs in the future.

Definitely one to follow in the future.

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Review: Infinite Dark Vol. 1

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Posted on : 3/29/2019 03:24:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Infinite Dark Vol. 1 Infinite Dark Vol. 1 by Ryan Cady
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise sounded interesting. A last outpost of humanity. "Something is out there." A steep Lovecraftian vibe.

And while the artwork was pretty good, the execution of the text just wasn't there. Got to the end of the book and just didn't feel like there was any connection to any of the characters.

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Review: Paths of Destruction (The Awakening #2)

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Posted on : 3/25/2019 09:38:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Paths of Destruction (The Awakened #2)Paths of Destruction by Jason Tesar
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I loved book 1 of this series. Gave it a solid 4 star review.

Four chapters in. I am bored to tears and looking for my RE Howard Conan collection.

None of the characters inspire interest. They reek of cardboard.

Book 1 was really very good. If you haven't read it, then please do.

But save your money for something worthwhile and don't go any further. I wish I had.


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451-1984/Author

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Posted on : 2/01/2019 02:50:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Inspired by Amélie Wen Zhao and in honor of a book that no one else will read. See also this and this.


451-1984/Author
by Dann Todd


Hey!

Author, Author, what did you do?
Can't read your book, no one should want to
You lack sophistication and craft and more
Your book will never be in a book store

Author, I got your number
Gonna make it stick once more
Author, here comes your number

451-1984
451-1984
451-1984
451-1984

Author, Author, I'll burn the galley
You don't know me, but you make me unhappy
I'll call you out, 'cause you've got some nerve
Your little novel has made me disturbed.

Author, I got your number
Gonna make it stick once more
Author, here comes your number

451-1984
451-1984
451-1984
451-1984

I shame you, (I shame you), I shame you
I shame you for offenses perceived
I shame you, (I shame you), I shame you
I'll shame you, until I feel relieved

Hey, Author, I got your number
Gonna make it stick once more
Author, I'll shame your opus

451-1984
451-1984
451-1984
451-1984

Author, Author, what did you do?
451-1984
I am offended just by looking at you
451-1984

451-1984
451-1984
451-1984
451-1984


Offered with apologies to Alex Call, Jim Keller, and Tommy Tutone.  And with deepest thanks to Messers Ray Bradbury and George Orwell.  Their works were never intended to be "how to" manuals.

Authors and Social Media

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Posted on : 1/31/2019 05:00:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

I had an interaction with an author a short while back via social media.

The author is an indie author.  They had put out something that was unrelated to their works.  It was something political.

The item considered a comparison between a socialist/communist dictator to Che Guevara as being positive towards the dictator.  I pointed out that Che Guevara murdered a whole ton of people.

The author responded by calling me a "crypto-fascist" and attempted to get a dogpile going in my direction.  No dogpile resulted.  The author also went into "whataboutism" mode by pointing out that the US government had killed a bunch of people in the 20th century.  (He is right on that count.  More context below.)  The author was either unwilling or unable to engage in a civil discussion about Che Guevara's history of malign actions against the people of Cuba.

I lamented the fact that our modern age offers enough access that we can learn all sorts of things about authors that most readers would never have known.  Nothing I offered was insulting.  The author asked me not to respond any further and I honored that request.

Some other person (also an author....I think)  came along with a response that was more pointed than mine.  That individual made some mildly insulting remarks towards the author while also questioning whether Che is worthy of laudatory comments.

And that was largely the exchange.

You may note that I haven't named the author, their books, the social network, or the socialist/communist dictator.

That is because, this incident aside, I like this author and I enjoy their books.  They only have two books out right not, but they are both great.  The third book in the trilogy is due out later this year.  I can't wait.

And I do not want anyone harassing the author.  Again, this incident aside, I like this author and I enjoy their work.

But I do want to talk about the author's ultimate response which was a couple of blog posts.  One was about indicating that they were stepping back from social media.  The other was lamenting the emotional drain that being in near constant contact with one's readers/fans has on an author.

Ironically, the first one was titled to give the impression that a discussion of that social media platform in particular.  No such discussion was forthcoming.

I'm sure that the constant contact with fans and the perceived need to continually create new engagement is emotionally draining. 

Everyone has to figure out how much social media they can take without harming their own well being.  

One helpful approach is to be well grounded in one's postings.  Kind words for Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, or Adolph Hitler (number 4 on the mass murdering dictator list) are going to invite a pretty significant reaction.  While Fidel Castro (and by extension Che Guevara) didn't have the same raw numbers in terms of people murdered, the percentage of the population that was murdered was certainly closer to that for the people that suffered under history's "big four" murdering dictators than to a true democracy.

The table below comes from the Power Kills website that is maintained by the University of Hawaii.  That website presents the research data of the now deceased Professor Emeritus R.J. Rummel.  Professor Rummel researched the number of civilians killed by government action; military combatants excluded.  I have extracted a few lines of data from the professor's database.


My point?  Cuba under Castro was a bloody mess.  His regime murdered at least tens of thousands of Cubans for the crime of dissenting from his communist regime.  We aren't talking about violent dissent.  We are talking about people that were insufficiently supportive by cutting corners on rationed goods or who participated in black markets for staples that most Americans purchase at a local grocery store.  And gays.  Castro murdered (and imprisoned) lots of gay folks for the "crime" of being gay.

Cuba under Castro was a far more bloody mess than it was under Batista.  That is almost always the case when comparing a non-socialist/communist government with the socialist/communist government that replaces it.

In fact, the Cuban government killed far more Cubans (domestic deaths) than Americans that were killed by the American government (again domestic deaths).  The US is clearly a much larger nation, yet the government killed far, far fewer people.  In an apples-to-apples comparison, the Cuban government was far more murderous (0.807% of the population vs. 0.016% in the US).

Looking at democratic governments, including the US, in comparison with totalitarian and communist regimes (kinda the same thing, IMHO), democratic governments are far less likely to start killing their own people.  Democratic governments, including the US, are far less likely to run around killing civilians in other nations as well.

We should all be decent to one another online.  Don't reach for invective and insults too quickly.

And don't offer praise for people that are undermining the human condition on a massive scale.  You will get called on it.

Edit - 6 September 2019

I've had limited exchanges with the author after the events above.  Mostly I've just "liked" and re-posted their promotional posts.  The third entry in their series dropped this summer. 

I'm about halfway through it and the author's performance remains excellent.  I said so in the same forum where we had that more heated exchange.

The author apologized for their behavior, acknowledged that I had responded to their behavior civilly, and thanked me for my support despite their self-described unacceptable behavior.  Supporting the work of someone with whom one has other disagreements was in some measure remarkable to this author.

For my part, I apologized for offering an opinion where it was not expected.

Neither one of us apologized for our opinions.  It wasn't required.

Again, I'm not calling out the author by name as that wouldn't be helpful.  But I do think it is helpful to note that given a bit of time and introspection, they came to regret the manner of their response.

I try to be a work-in-progress.  I think this author is trying as well.

2019 Hugo Nominations

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Posted on : 1/15/2019 10:40:00 AM | By : Dann

Hugo season has come again and with it comes nominations from participants.  Members of Worldcon 2018 held in San Jose last summer are eligible to nominate works for consideration at this year's Worldcon 2019 being held in Dublin, Ireland.  (as opposed to Dublin, Nebraska - thanks Cinema Sins)

You can also sign up to be a member of Worldcon 2019 and nominate works for consideration.  A supporting membership only costs €40.  Generally ....but not always... finalists offer copies (or at least samples) of their nominated works to members.  And of course, members of Worldcon also get to vote next summer when the finalists are announced in April/May.

As I didn't read any books that were published in 2018, I couldn't properly nominate in that category.  I did nominate the works below.  There might be one or two additions, but this is pretty much my nominations for this year.

Short Story:

Hither and Yon by Stephen S Power
Published at dailysciencefiction.com

For Your Own Good by Rebekah Mabry
Published at dailysciencefiction.com

Graphic Story:

Skybourne by Frank Cho and Marcio Menyz
Boom Studios - publisher

Redlands Vol. 1 by Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa Del Rey
Image Comics - publisher

[I might have nominated the new graphic novel series Die, but only one issue came out in 2018.  I expect that Volume 1 will come out in 2019.  It is well worth your time.]

Editor Short:

Adrian Collins - His anthology Evil is a Matter of Perspective was fabulous.

Fancast:

  • SinCast by Cinema Sins - https://cinemasins.com/sincast
The guys at Cinema Sins are serious cinephiles.  Their SinCast is devoted to a serious review of movies.  All (or almost all) of the hosts have worked in movie theaters as projectionists, managers, etc.  So they had a chance early in their lives to watch a lot of movies.  VHS, DVD, and Bluray have made that love of movies easier to pursue.  The guys are very genre friendly when it comes to being open to accepting genre films as being worthy of recognition.
  • The Disney Story Origins Podcast -http://www.disneystoryoriginspodcast.com/
The DSO Podcast is the love project of author Paul J. Hale.  Paul breaks down the original stories that form the basis for Disney's animated movies.  He compares the original text with the Disney-fied tale.  He is not critical of Disneyfication.  Paul's objective is a better understanding and illumination of the original material that was eventually used as the basis for Disney movies.  His podcasts demonstrate a breadth and depth of research that is unsurpassed.
  • The Post Atomic Horror - https://postatomichorror.wordpress.com/
The Post Atomic Horror podcast is the most accomplished Star Trek podcast in existence.  They have reviewed every televised episode of Star Trek from all of the various iterations.  They have reviewed all of the movies.  They have reviewed the games.  They have seen it all.  

Each episode features a somewhat farcical summary of the episode in question followed by a more serious discussion of the events that transpired.  Their personal knowledge aside, they also access a variety of resources (in print and online) to provide a deeper understanding of the franchise. 
  • The Horror Show with Brian Keene - http://thehorrorshowbk.projectentertainment.libsynpro.com/
The Horror Show is a tour de force within the horror sub-genre.  The hosts cover a broad range of issues and perspectives.  They provide probing interviews of authors with a range of experiences.  They report on industry news across the gamut including copyright infringement, scams, and harassment.
  • The Grim Tidings Podcast - https://thegrimtidingspodcast.com/
The Grim Tidings focuses on the "grimdark" subgenre.  They interview authors, publishers, and agents in the field.  Interviews with authors routinely include "games" designed to provoke spontaneous creativity.  (i.e. rolling up a D&D character based on the author's novel(s).  Sadly GTP has ended.  But their work last year was among their best.  This is a hidden gem of a podcast that is worthy of consideration.  Co-host Philip Overby may be coming out with a new podcast in the coming months.

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It is my hope that my nominations will increase the diversity of finalists.  It would be nice to see some new faces end up as finalists.  In recent years, there has been a trend towards repeat nominations for creators.  The graphic novel category has had a few "frequent flyers".  The fancasting category has become downright repetitive.  The novel category has also become somewhat repetitive favoring series entries from more known authors.

It is useful to keep in mind that there are lots of different methods for discovering new and interesting works.  If a category becomes too repetitive, then it is probably missing out on a fresh perspective within the genre.