Monday, April 07, 2014
2014 So Far

(as of 4/7/14 8:37am)
(I'll come back and add some commentary later)

2 Novels

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Hang Wire by Adam Christopher

2 Novellas

"In Her Eyes" by Seth Chambers (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"The Lightness of the Movement" by Pat MacEwan (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)

18 Novelettes

"The Museum of Error" by Oliver Buckram (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)

"Apprentice" by Jon DeCles (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"A Fierce, Calming Presence" by Jordan Jeffers (Analog April 2014)
"Declaration" by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov's March 2014)
"The Man Who Hanged Three Times" by C. C. Finlay (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"The Via Panisperna Boys in ‘Operation Harmony’" by Claudio Chillemi and Paul Di Filippo (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"Schools of Clay" by Derek Kunsken (Asimov's February 2014)
"The Long Happy Death of Oxford Brown" by Jason K. Chapman (Asimov's February 2014)
"The Face in the Window" by Brian McClellan (BCS 140)

"The New Cambrian" by Andy Stewart (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"Out of the Deep" by Albert E. Cowdrey (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"Wine" by Yoon Ha Lee (Clarkesworld 88)
"Walking Gear" by Sean Monaghan (Asimov's March 2014)
"All the Pretty Little Mermaids" by Cat Rambo (Asimov's March 2014)
"Draft 31" by Michael Libling (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"The Year of Silent Birds" by Siobhan Carroll (BCS 138)

"Steppin' Razor" by Maurice Broaddus (Asimov's February 2014)
"Sweetwater Notion and the Hallelujah Kid" by K.C. Ball (BCS 139)

41 Shorts

"Whaliens" by Lavie Tidhar (Analog April 2014)
"A Struggle Between Rivals Ends Surprisingly" by Oliver Buckram (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide" by Sarah Pinsker (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)

"The Clockwork Soldier" by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld 88)
"The Plantimal" by Ken Liu & Mike Resnick (Asimov's March 2014)
"For All of Us Down Here" by Alex Irvine (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"Ball and Chain" by Maggie Shen King (Asimov's February 2014)
"Pollution" by Don Webb (Analog April 2014)
"In the Dying Light, We Saw a Shape" by Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed January 2014)
"Salamander Patterns" by Anaea Lay (Lightspeed January 2014)
"His Elbow, Unkissed: A Kaslo Chronicles Tale" by Matthew Hughes (Lightspeed January 2014)
"The Thing About Shapes To Come" by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed January 2014)
"Collar" by Leo Vladimirsky (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"Enginesong" by Nathaniel Lee (BCS 138)

"The Story-Teller" by Bruce Jay Friedman (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"Grave of the Fireflies" by Cheng Jingbo (Clarkesworld 88)
"Ask Citizen Etiquette" by Marissa Lingen (Asimov's February 2014)
"Drink in a Small Town" by Peter Wood (Asimov's March 2014)
"Solomon's Little Sister" by Jay O'Connell (Asimov's March 2014)
"The Redemption of Kip Banjeree" by Genevieve Williams (Asimov's March 2014)
"Through Portal" by Dominica Phetteplace (Asimov's March 2014)
"The Oracle at Boca Raton" by Eric Baylis (Analog April 2014)
"Wind Reaper" by Jon Hakes (Analog April 2014)
"It's Not "The Lady or the Tiger?", It's "Which Tiger?"" by Ian Randal Strock (Analog April 2014)
"Tortoiseshell Cats Are Not Refundable" by Cat Rambo (Clarkesworld 89)
"The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul" by Natalia Theodoridou (Clarkesworld 89)
"And Wash Out the Tides of War" by An Owomoyela (Clarkesworld 89)
"Draft 31" by Michael Libling (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"Hark, the Wicked Witches Sing" by Ron Goulart (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"Albion Upon the Rock" by Daniel Marcus (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"The Uncertain Past" by Ted White (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"Butterscotch" by D.M. Armstrong (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"Atonement" by Alec Austin (BCS 140)

"The Lion Wedding" by Moira Crone (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"We Don't Mean To Be" by Robert Reed (F&SF Jan/Feb 2014)
"Last Day at the Ice Man Café" by M. Bennardo (Asimov's February 2014)
"The Transdimensional Horsemaster Rabbis of Mpumalanga Province" by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov's February 2014)
"Byzantine History 101" by Albert E. Cowdrey (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"I Said I Was Sorry Didn't I" by Gordon Eklund (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"Our Vegetable Love" by Rob Chilson (F&SF Mar/Apr 2014)
"Evensong, Having Been Answered" by Dean Wells (BCS 139)

Mags Read

Analog Science Fiction and Fact
April 2014

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
February 2014, March 2014

Beneath Ceaseless Skies
#138, #139, #140

Clarkesworld Magazine
Issue 88, Issue 89

Lightspeed Magazine
January 2014

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
January/February 2014, March/April 2014

Posted by trawlerman at 5:37 AM (0) comments
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I haven't blogged about any movies since the Wolf tussle. I have faithfully tracked all of my viewing on Letterboxd and even went Pro over there.

For some reason, today, I've felt the blogging itch.

Here's a recap of what I've watched so far in 2014.


The Wolf of Wall Street
Magnificent Obsession
The Pride and the Passion

I was reading a lot in January. The few movies that I did catch up with were all disappointing. I've already gone on at length about Wolf. Sirk's melodrama made me want to puke. The Pride and the Passion is a big bloated mess of a prestige picture. By the end of January, I was ready to give up on all motion pictures (how's that for melodramatic).


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Your Sister's Sister

Watching this string of recent movies didn't do much to re-awaken my dormant cinephilia. Mitty was refreshing in its commitment to cheesy good will, but it's not that great of a film. Your Sister's Sister is all of the Sirkian circus without Sirk's compositional sense. And Her had less to say about relationships than that other classic about a computer woman, John Hughes' classic Weird Science. That's not really me giving either film a compliment. Meh.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein
Captain Phillips
Minority Report

Meet Frankenstein is exactly what I needed to watch to keep me from movie despair. The gags hit every time and the pacing is fantastic. It's so easy to love. Then came another couple of duds. Captain Phillips is saved by Hanks' performance, but I never felt any of the tension. Maybe this is my fault. As for Minority Report, it is laughably bad in places, especially the way that it all ties together in the end. The chase that takes up the middle is tedious. The visual style of the film is oppressively ugly. This blockbuster is not for me.

High Sierra
Bicycle Thieves
The Machine That Kills Bad People
Umberto D.

Remembering how good it felt to watch Meet Frankenstein, I returned to the classics. I could watch Bogart and Lupino all day long. I was a bit nervous about re-watching Bicycle Thieves because I was afraid that it wouldn't hold up. It doesn't need my approval, but it has it. The film has lost none of its quiet power. Machine That Kills Bad People was a pleasant surprise to me. I had never even heard of it before. Rossellini is one of the most interesting directors in the history of cinema. His later TV work is probably him at his best and all of his films prior to those historical dramas feel like him stretching his talents in different directions, trying to settle on a style. Machine That Kills is a fable with stagy bookends. The high artifice of it all is a direct opposite of his earlier realist films. I think that he finds the best balance in Flowers of Francis, but this meeting of the stage and realism is also clearly where he goes toward with his later films. I need to watch more Rossellini. Umberto D.? Well, it's good, but I'm not a big fan. Between Umberto, Ikiru, and The Last Laugh, one would be safe in assuming that I have no tolerance for old men rejected by their societies. Luckily, I can redeem myself by saying that I really liked The Browning Version and that Make Way for Tomorrow is one of the truly great films that I adore.


The Monuments Men

Serenity works as a science fiction film (and less so as a western, though that was a huge part of the TV feel) but what is always really impressive about Whedon is his timing, both comic and tragic. The man doesn't miss a beat. Monuments Men, on the other hand, plods along and does its historical duty. I can imagine it playing extremely well in history classrooms across the country. As such, it does its job well. I won't knock the film too much. It is what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything else.

The Color Wheel
What is Cinema?

I wrote that The Color Wheel reminded me of Alverson's The Comedy and so it does. Wheel skirts the line between offense and irony. It does not pander to its audience nor does it seek its approval, but it is constantly engaging. It alternates between being clever and being honest and sometimes it's hard to know the difference. As the story of two vulnerable siblings making their way (or not) in the world, it is delightfully uneven. Vishnavetsky, one of my favorite critics even when he's wrong, gets it very right in his review of this film. Read his review. But first watch the film.

What is Cinema? provided a lovely night out with my bride. So far, it's been my favorite cinematic experience of the year.

Robot & Frank
Women Reply: Our Bodies, Our Sex

Robot & Frank should have been a big blockbuster. It's a superior Hollywood product.
Women Reply is a "cine-tract" by Varda in response to a television network asking for responses to the question, "What is a woman?" It's an interesting piece because it plays today as very conservative (“To be a woman is to be born in a female body” is something that is no longer taken for granted) in its response to the prevalent misogyny and "patriarchal" power systems of its day. I think that it's a very strong rebuke to films like Wolf of Wall Street, for instance. I don't think that it perfectly achieves its aims (partly because of its brevity), but it is an interesting provocation.

Taxi Tangle
A Night to Remember

Another great night out at Binghamton Classic Films. A Night to Remember is no Thin Man, but it is more than enjoyable in its adherence to the Thin Man husband/wife comedy/crime formula.

The Browning Version
The Kid Brother
A Talking Picture
The Musketeers of Pig Alley
Arrival of a Train

And I've about tired myself out with this blog post already.

The Browning Version earns its sad triumph. The Kid Brother provides plenty of laughs. A Talking Picture is the best film I've seen all year, though I can see others despising it. Stripped is a good enough doc. Forst is piece of dung. The Musketeers of Pig Alley has that one great alleyway shot. Arrival of a Train demonstrates all of the power of cinema in one brief shot.

What's coming out soon? Let's go see a movie together.

Posted by trawlerman at 10:35 AM (1) comments
Consider this post a quick apology to Brandon for never responding to his "from arguing to discussing" post.

You asked serious questions that deserve serious answers. I wasn't feeling up to the task of responding because I knew it would take a lot of work on my part. I chose the lazy path of not responding. More than that, the sort of conversation we were heading into is something that I feel totally comfortable talking about. But that's just it, talking. Preferably over a beer and a bowl of Frog Morton. Face to face. Blogging is a different beast and way more prone to misunderstandings. So, I'm letting all of your objections go, unless of course we have that face to face convo some day.

Briefly, though, I'm linking to an article that you can read or not read. Whatever. It does not at all even begin to answer all of your questions, but it might give you a new perspective on Psalm 137, which of course you're still free to find despicable. I actually think this one is pretty easy. The conquest of Canaan, which you also object to, is what would take a longer time to respond to as it involves a fair amount of theological and literary assumptions. But, yeah, the bottom line is that I think killing Amalekites and others AT THAT TIME was a great thing and you think that it was an atrocious genocide. Buy me a beer and we can get into a fistfight.

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the Rock!

(Now I'm going to work on a movie post. I'll get it up in the next few hours.)
Posted by trawlerman at 9:22 AM (0) comments
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Top Ten Kids Games
(My favorite games to play with the girls)

1) Lord of the Rings
2) Zooloretto
3) Giro Galoppo
4) Dixit
5) Gulo Gulo
6) Castles and Knights
7) Mago Magino
8) Bears!
9) Go Nuts!
10) Guess Who?
Posted by trawlerman at 4:41 PM (1) comments
In Praise of Play

"It is not only possible to say a great deal in praise of play; it is really possible to say the highest things in praise of it. It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. To be at last in such secure innocence that one can juggle with the universe and the stars, to be so good that one can treat everything as a joke — that may be, perhaps, the real end and final holiday of souls. When we are really holy we may regard the Universe as a lark."
-G.K. Chesterton

I have always loved board games. 

I've forgotten large chunks of my childhood but I clearly remember playing bad TV franchise games (and a hundred other games), all with my sister.

I played Heroquest (and our homemade variants) tirelessly with my best friend. 

And I remember Payday with my grandmother on rainy days. 

I remember trying and failing to teach wargames to my mother.

I remember my dad teaching us card games.

I remember Uno with PopPop. Epic games of Trivial Pursuit late into the night were a huge part of every Florida vacation.

I hardly remember my parents' friends from my youth but I remember the guy who taught me Can't Stop the night our family went to his house. 

I remember solitaire restaurant games and Pass the Pigs. 

I remember countless games of Stratego.

I remember chess clubs and study halls consumed by chess. 

I remember reading so many RPG guides and never actually getting around to any role-playing. 

I remember the awestruck feeling of looking through my first starter deck of Magic: The Gathering in 1993 and the early days of figuring it out with friends.

I remember Groo: The Card Game and Fuzzy Heroes with a basement full of toys. 

I remember games of "Mafia" in college better than I remember most of my classes.

I remember the night in 2002 that a good friend introduced me to Settlers of Catan and re-awakened me to good games.

My obsession peaked in 2006 when I joined a local group in Buffalo. I was introduced to new Euro games every week.

I started attending longer weekend events.

In 2008, I was invited to and attended The Gathering of Friends. I had achieved board game royalty status.

Since then, it's been largely a story of gaming in decline.

I found a good local group in Binghamton, hosted by a gracious friend at his house, but that group fizzled out and that friend mostly plays RPGs now. I created a couple of characters but could never get myself motivated enough to show up to any sessions.

To be honest, though, my tastes were always different than the dominant "Ameritrash" tastes of the house and it was often a struggle to get something I truly wanted to play to the table. At least there were always two-player abstracts to play with Ben.

There's a great game store in Vestal with game nights, but I didn't feel welcome the few nights I went when the store was first opened (a few years ago now) and I often got stuck playing crappy games. I've heard that things have changed, but I haven't been there in a long while.

Then, CR5FC was on the scene and slowly became my replacement hobby. I love movies and it was always easy to love Brandon and love movies together. I can't imagine a universe in which the two of us met each other and didn't instantly form a two-man film club.

CR5FC has always been a joy. Even so, it's never given me that feeling of focus and peace that concentrating on a game has done. I hesitate to say it, but I think that, for me, tabletop games are a more fulfilling art form than cinema.

(Brandon's head just exploded)

Watching a movie is not (or at least ought not be) a passive endeavor, but there is undeniably a more passive element to it. Games are more like plays in this regard than films are. The ruleset and components are the script and stage. Reading the rules and examining bits is like reading a play. Watching someone else play the game is like watching a play. Depending on the game and on the players, this can be very satisfying. Playing the game, though, is like acting in the play. There is a quality inherent in the game itself, like a printed script, but it really becomes alive when the right players "perform" the game. I'm not very good at "acting." I am quite good at "playing." 

It's a shame that gamers are often given a negative stereotype as socially awkward and maladjusted. In my experience, this is the furthest thing from the truth. Board games are always collaborative even when they are at their most competitive. Accordingly, the people playing them, no matter what personal quirks they have, are most often warm and gracious and ready to include others. And those "quirks" often don't seem all that quirky now that the geeks have won and everyone pays attention to Comic-Con and watches The Big Bang Theory. (I could get into a rant here about how pop sci-fi has won out at the expense of intelligent literary sf but that's a rabbit trail and probably no one is reading this post, so what's the use?)

It's worth noting that the current state of games and gaming owes its existence to the Industrial Revolution at least as much as film does. In the past, the only games that got played and passed on were ones that could be easily hand made and had minimal pieces. So, chess and checkers and go and eventually all of the various card games. With cheap mass production, the modern game became possible and a previously unavailable wealth of creative possibilities exploded into the world. What was possible in these new games was slowly worked out throughout the 20th century and especially in the past 30-40 years (and really ramped up in the last 20). We are now currently living in a "Golden Age" of gaming. Sturgeon's Law still applies, but that's as true of films and everything else as it is of gaming.

Also worth explaining to non-gamers is that games are the products of auteurs. Games have the personalities of their designers. I'm a big fan of Wolfgang Kramer and Martin Wallace. I'm not a fan of others.

And big game companies today tend to have a "house style" similar to the way that movie studios did in the 30s-50s, with an accompanying stable of talent.

As a side note, I think that there is (maybe a lot of) overlap between board and video games, but it is a huge mistake to treat the two as identical.

I want to start playing more games again.

So, I don't know. I guess this is just a moment of looking back and an attempt to re-orient my board game interests. And also an excuse to make lists.

So, here are some lists...

Since 2006, I've logged 1,043 plays of 353 unique games! Below are my favorites from the years 1999-2008. Some years, I could have listed 10-15 games. One year, there were only three games that I thought were worthy. I settled on a Top Five as a decent compromise number that would work for every year. I chose the years '99 through '08 because I thought that these years best represented the new boom of the Euro game. Recent years have seen the dominance of deck-builders and the resurgence of big thematic games.

I've played most of the big Euro titles from these years. I like playing Euros but my lists also reflect my preference for "weuros" and abstracts and block wargames. The following is not my attempt at listing the "best" or "most important." They're just personal favorites.

Top 5 Board Games 1999-2008


1) Tikal
2) Lost Cities
3) Zertz
4) Mordred
5) Elk Fest


1) Bladder
2) Java
3) Way Out West
4) Carcassonne
5) Wizard Kings


1) Hive
2) Dvonn
3) TransAmerica
(2001 is a really weak year. I do own Wilderness War and Wyatt Earp but I haven't played either one. I think they'd make it on this list)


1) Hammer of the Scots
2) Age of Steam
3) Mexica
4) Trias
5) Bang!


1) Lord of the Rings (children's Knizia adventure game)
2) Hey! That's My Fish!
3) Yinsh
4) Battleball
5) 10 Days in Europe


1) Heroscape
2) The Downfall of Pompeii
3) Friedrich
4) Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga
5) Sunken City


1) Twilight Struggle
2) Antike
3) Target Arnhem: Across Six Bridges
4) Siam
5) Descent: Journeys in the Dark


1) Bananagrams
2) Terra Nova
3) Storm Over Stalingrad
4) Combat Commander: Europe
5) Commands and Colors: Ancients


1) Agricola
2) Age of Empires III
3) 1960: The Making of the President
4) Zooloretto
5) Tzaar


1) Unhappy King Charles!
2) Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear!
3) 2 de Mayo
4) Cornerstone
5) Tinner's Trail

Top 20 Essential Games (Excluding Chess and Go)

Hammer of the Scots
Tigris & Euphrates
Magic: The Gathering
(These Top 5 are truly my favorite games.)

-The rest are roughly in order of preference but could be swapped around and there are at least a dozen other games that could get swapped in-

Twilight Struggle
Way Out West
Age of Steam
Barbarian Prince
Terra Nova
The Downfall of Pompeii
Unhappy King Charles!
Lost Cities

That's it. The next post here should be a response to Brandon and some rambling about the movies I've watched recently.

Posted by trawlerman at 9:26 AM (0) comments
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
sf/f/h books 2014

I always pay attention to new science fiction and fantasy (and to a lesser extent, horror) releases each year. The "speculative fiction" genre umbrella is the literary place I call home. This year, I'm going to attempt to not only keep up with the news but actually READ as many new titles as I can. I've had a good start in January, keeping up with most of the short fiction periodicals, but I haven't started any 2014 novels yet. I'm currently in the middle of Gunn's Transcendental (from last year) and Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (from longer ago). Once I finish those two, I'm planning on dedicating most of my non-Libripox non-Simak reading to 2014 titles. Of course, I'll be happy if Ben agrees to a few 2014 sf titles for future Libripox picks.

Here's a list of what I'd like to read:

Short Fiction

I'd like to keep up with (in the order that I prefer them): The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Subterranean Magazine, Clarkesworld, Asimov's, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed, and Analog. I'm not too impressed by the fiction in Strange Horizons and I haven't yet tried Apex. But all those I've just listed are the major mags. I'll have a post soon about a few of my favorite stories so far.

There are also several upcoming anthologies that look promising:

Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois
The Book of Silverberg edited by William Schafer and Gardner Dozois
Lovecraft's Monsters edited by Ellen Datlow
Reach for Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan
Strahan's next "Fearsome" antho
Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

(I'm also looking forward to the new KJ Parker collection, the next NESFA Anderson reprints, and whatever Centipede Lafferty titles we get, but none of those qualify as new 2014 releases.)


Hang Wire by Adam Christopher (out today!)
Wolves by Simon Ings
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (and the two that follow it)
Afterparty by Daryl Gregory
Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea by Adam Roberts
Bete by Adam Roberts
My Real Children by Jo Walton
Lock In by John Scalzi (I dislike Scalzi, but everyone reads him so I guess I have to)
The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell (maybe)
Descent by Ken MacLeod
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Pilgrims by Will Elliott
Beautiful Blood by Lucius Shepard (maybe this is releasing this year?)
War Dogs by Greg Bear (also not much info about this one)

(I'm most excited about Subterranean Press's limited edition of Drawing of the Dark, one of Tim Powers' best novels, but that also doesn't count as a new release)

And a few other books that I'm keeping an eye on. And probably a whole lot that I haven't even heard of yet. I don't know if I'll actually get around to reading many of these, but I'm going to try! I'm hoping to start Hang Wire soon and then Annihilation. Not sure what I'll read after that.
Posted by trawlerman at 1:37 PM (0) comments
2013 Music - Part One

I listened to a lot of contemporary music in 2013. Most of this was due to me discovering Spotify. I used Spotify Premium free off and on for four months and I liked it enough to pay for the service for two more months. I'm a bit sad that I'm letting the service expire tomorrow. I'm sure I'll be back.

I'm convinced that the best music of the year was not recorded. It was performed in someone's living room or backyard. It was sung by toddlers and grandmas. You probably heard it in your house. I know I heard it in mine.

Maybe even some of the best of the year was sung by frog-throated men like me, off-key celebrations of Mad Maudlin, moonshine, and mercy. Every time I open my own mouth to croak out a song, it means more than all the commercial music rolling down the spotify stream. I learned of Pete Seeger's death today. That's one lesson that I learned from him, that the only way you own music is by singing it yourself.

Even so, I do love me some pop music. Indie music. Folk. Country. Punk. Prog. Hiphop. Whatnot. I'm a pop culture creature.

This Spotify playlist is not a list of my favorite songs of the year. It's not what I think the best songs of the year are. It's a rough sketch, a representative sample, of what my year in music was like. The first two songs aren't from 2013 (and the last track isn't even close), but the rest of the songs were all released in 2013. I could qualify this list a thousand ways, mentioning that some of the artists on the list aren't even acts that I like and that others are folks that I've listened to over and over again and don't think I can exhaust my appreciation for. But I won't tell you which are which. I could grumble about Bandcamp artists that I couldn't add to a Spotify playlist. I could tell you that I listened to certain albums dozens of times but now can't hardly stand to listen to them. And on and on. Whatever. I like this playlist. It sounds like 2013 to me. I hope you like it, too.

Posted by trawlerman at 11:42 AM (0) comments
Thursday, January 16, 2014
SF Academy

As he guessed, I am happy to know that Jeff will be taking a Science Fiction class.

Here's the reading list for his class:

H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
Isaac Asimov, I Robot
Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Greg Bear, Blood Music
Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Vernor Vinge, Rainbow's End
Paulo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl
China Mieville, The City and The City
Philip K. Dick, Dr. Bloodmoney
Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Ben Bova, Mars

Of that list, I've fully read two titles. So much for my sf cred. It just went down the automated waste receptacle. Oh well. That won't stop me from commenting on the above titles.

The two I've read are War of the Worlds and Red Mars. You've probably heard Welles' radio adaption of War. If not, stop reading this now and give it a listen. I don't remember much of the book itself besides thinking as a child that Welles was telling an incredible story in the most boring way possible. I don't know if that is fair or not. I should re-read it as an adult.

I read Red Mars when it first came out in paperback, either late 1993 or mid-1994, I guess. 20 years ago! It was the first really "hard" science fiction book that I ever read ("hard sf" being sf that stresses detailed scientific realism). The science in it is serious and it convinced me that terraforming Mars would be completely crazy and also completely possible. I liked it enough to read Green Mars the following year. I never did read Blue Mars.

We has always interested me. I couldn't find a copy back in the dark ages when I had to rely on finding copies of books in physical stores.

I've read a handful of Asimov's robot stories but I haven't read any of his collections. I'm pretty sure that I, Robot is just a collection of some of the Astounding stories, right?

Growing up, I knew Le Guin as the Earthsea author. At the time, I didn't realize that she was a critical darling and mostly known for The Dispossessed and Left Hand of Darkness. I've never really liked any of the short fiction I've read by her and never tried any of the novels.

I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of Bear's Blood Music. I recently read Bear's original novelette that the novel was expanded from. I thought that it worked incredibly well at that length. It's definitely science fiction but its impact is the impact of horror. I can't imagine how Bear expands it out to novel length without sacrificing its succinct gut punch.

Gibson's Neuromancer is the one on the list that I'm most ashamed to have never read. I grew up in the midst of the cyberpunk "movement" but I was only dimly aware that it was going on. My experience of the genre was largely one of discovering older writers like Heinlein and Sturgeon and Silverberg while my contemporary reading often skewed more toward the (epic) fantastic.

Vinge is a writer I only know by reputation. I'm pretty sure that his work was relatively early in jumping on the singularity bandwagon.

I like Bacigalupi. I've only read a couple of his stories as they were published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (or maybe Asimov's) throughout the Aughts (I think they're all collected in Pump Six now). His stories are dark and depressing and truly relevant. He's one of the few writers I'm aware of who has thought through some of our insane contemporary agri-biz practices and tried to show how much worse things could get if we continue down the same road. Paul di Fillippo just wrote a funny/loving parody of Bacigalupi in the most recent F&SF....

I've heard nothing but good things about China Mieville. And I haven't read any of his books.

Dr. Bloodmoney is a strange Dick choice. I haven't read it, though, so I don't know. Maybe it fits in well with the rest of the choices. I remember seeing it mentioned somewhere else recently, too. Maybe it's lesser Dick that is finally getting its moment. I'll definitely check it out, maybe this year.

I avoided the Yu when it came out because it looked too cute.

I've read some of Bova's Analog columns in a collection a while back but I haven't read any of his fiction. I think that Mars is his most recent, right?

Overall, it looks like a decent list of books. I'd want to take this class!

That said, I do wonder what the stated goals of the class are. The above titles are a decent representative sample of novels treating various major issues (alien invasion, artificial intelligence, ecology, microbiology gone awry, massive terraforming, etc). This isn't a survey course because most of these titles are from the last 30 years. I don't know if the above titles will be supplemented with any short fiction. I sure hope so. Science fiction is at its best in short form. Science fiction, more than almost any other genre or area of literature, has kept alive the novella and the novellette as vibrant and necessary forms of lit.

I might try coming up with my own alternative "master's level" sf course. It would be highly idiosyncratic and not at all better than the above list.

I do hope, Jeff, that you'll get me a copy of the syllabus. Besides short fiction, I'm curious to see if there will be any assigned non-fiction readings. And I'm curious about what sort of papers will be required.

Somewhat related, I've been seriously considering buying a "supporting membership" to next year's WorldCon. It's a silly thing, but I've wanted to vote for the Hugos since I was 10 or so. I've already started off this year by reading about ten stories from places like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies,, and Subterranean (and I'll get to Strange Horizons and Asimov's soon and maybe even Analog though it may be a lost cause). I'm going to try to keep up with 2014 fiction and cast my small vote next year. I'm pretty sure that my little vote will mean next to nothing. Still, I plan on enjoying keeping records and making a ballot. Maybe this enthusiasm won't last. Maybe it's all just mad rambling and crazy thinking brought on by the nearness of a new year. I like to think that this will be the year that I wreck the Hugo.
Posted by trawlerman at 3:21 PM (0) comments
Friday, January 10, 2014
Hear the Word

(I wrote this last week and forgot to post it. I'm planning on responding to Brandon soon but not today)

One of my yearly reading goals is to read the entire Bible through from cover to cover. That's in addition to studying certain books (of the Bible) more in-depth. This is something I enjoy doing. And it is without a doubt the most important and rewarding reading I do all year.

Last year, I failed to read the entire Bible, but I spent a lot of time in certain books.

The year before, I read through almost twice.

Years before that were dark ages of trying and failing. With some success. More failures.

This year, I've decided that my goal is to read through the Bible four times (!) before the year is over.

Read should be "read."

Because, really, a lot of that "reading" will be listening.

Audio technology is great in this regard, especially considering that the Bible was written to be read aloud (in community) and HEARD. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

In the past, I've listened to Alexander Scourby (just picture him as a noir villain while listening) read the KJV.

Yesterday, I was thrilled to find a FREE audio version of the ESV available for download. So far, the reader is excellent. And, of course, the translation is excellent, my favorite modern translation. At the site, you need to sign up for an e-mail newsletter to get the download but the email newsletter is easy to cancel after you've signed up.

It's available as both mp3 and m4b.

Free ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible
Posted by trawlerman at 4:06 AM (0) comments
Thursday, January 09, 2014
Enough WoWS

Copying and pasting...

"As to the WOLF conversation coming to a close (because you basically said “I don’t care how you respond to everything I wrote because you will be wrong”),"

If I did, then I apologize. I'm trying to balance wanting to respond and not wanting to lose another day's thought to WoWS.

"I think the film, as well as countless others, is forcing you to compromise something within your conscience. I wouldn’t be a good friend if I tried to twist your arm in order to change your mind."

That's just it, though. Consciences aren't sacred. They can be badly malformed. Someone's "conscience" can tell him that holding live dogs over a roast pit is fine entertainment. That man's conscience is wrong. 

So if you think I'm wrong in anything, you should try to change me. I admit that that is my goal in all of these posts. I want to understand where you're coming from but I'm also convinced that you're wrong this time. I want you to change. Though of course I'll still respect you if you remain stubbornly wrong. :)

"You used my wife in an example straight from the film to bait me in a sensationalist attempt to prove a point."

Guilty. Sorry. :(

"Then you say that I can’t argue that actors know what they are doing and have come to a certain conclusion about the very nature of their profession, one that happens to be at odds with your religious views. Your point is that in this version of pretending that they have somehow crossed over into reality. I’m not necessarily disagreeing. However, I don’t buy your use of that lady-of-the-night term, at least not in my own set of values."

You are okay with all forms of extramarital consensual sexual acts between adults. Aren't you also okay with all forms of prostitution? It is, after all, a consensual sex act between adults.

I understand that I'm being deliberately provocative in applying the term to actors/actresses but I don't think that I'm technically incorrect given standard definitions of that term.

"you never even bothered responding to my version of the same bait and switch. I’m sure you have some excuse to get out of that one."

Are you referring to the cattle prod? If so, I'm planning a response. I actually share a lot of your concerns about treatment of animals. If I appear insensitive, just slap me around a little and I'll apologize. I didn't address it immediately because I realized that the whole animal thing is a bit of a rabbit trail that I regret bringing up.

"We are both guilty, though I daresay that we each enjoy arguing more. This is fine. This is fun. Let’s argue about something else real soon."


"Where I think the discussion ultimately ends is that I don’t wish for you to change your mind about these things. It’s your conviction and I respect that."

As I said above, if you really believe something, you should want to change my mind. I hope you're not upset that I'm trying to change your mind. If you are upset about it, just wait, I'll try to change that about you. ;)

"I was going to talk about the scriptures and all of its “edifying” stories but I’ll spare you."

I am all for slaughtering Amalekites.

Related, and for what it's worth, I think that my own use of crass language to make a point is biblically justified. Ezekiel does not hesitate to describe how Israel acts like a whore longing after the emissions of giant donkey genitalia. Yes, edifying. Because I think that what I mean by edifying isn't the "precious moments" image that you might think I mean. 

But, yeah, if the Bible were adapted as a film, it'd be NC-17. The thing is that we weren't given a film. We were given a most dangerous book of books. There is a difference between describing something in a certain way and physically acting it out in another way.

When the Bible gives us something like the incestual rape of drunken Lot by his two daughters, we're not subjected to a play-by-play. Sin is there in all of its reality. It is not covered up. But it's all in the HOW of the telling, which is exactly where Scorsese slips.

I want my personal story to be constantly shaped and re-shaped by the story (stories) of the Bible. Its story is my life.

Posted by trawlerman at 7:10 AM (0) comments
Standard Definition of Prostitute

a person, typically a woman, who engages in sexual activity for payment.

By agreeing that you'd be upset if your wife engaged in WoWS behavior, you have conceded my point that the "simulated" activity on display in WoWS is real sexual activity. I don't care if you try to get out of this by declaring a different standard of behavior for actors. That's a cheat. Thus, objectively, according to the standard definition of prostitute, I think that it's entirely fair for me to refer to the actresses in the film as prostitutes, women who have engaged in sexual activity for payment.

I might respond more later. I'm probably done. I'm already exhausted by all of this conversation. I don't like that WoWS forces me to be crass in order to interact with its own crassness. You're right that my example was not at all classy, it was obscene. But how else does one interact with the obscenity of WoWS if one does not translate its obscenity into familiar terms to make its blatant moral failures more real to someone such as yourself who loves the film? By loving WoWS, you are loving the thrill of each display of perversity. Or what? You are loving being "uncomfortable" by such diplays?

One thing I'd like to respond to is the "double standard." Everything I've said about WoWS applies to other films. The thing is that other films have this content to such a lesser extent that it's easier (not necessarily correct) to forgive or overlook this content while looking at the whole and saying what is good about the whole. In WoWS, this behavior (almost) constitutes the whole and becomes overbearing, something that, for better or worse, must be reckoned with in the forefront of all conversation about the film.
Posted by trawlerman at 3:37 AM (0) comments