Saturday, December 16, 2017

Book Blogger Hop December 15th - December 21st: 233 Is a Fibonacci Prime

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Which book(s) would you like Santa to bring you this year?

The top book I am looking forward to getting is Persepolis Rising, the seventh book in James S.A. Corey's Expanse series. I would also be quite happy to get a copy of Cat Valente's Space Opera. I would also like to get the last three books in Maurice Druon's Accursed Kings series, although the last one isn't due to be translated into English until next year, so I guess I'd like the fifth and sixth books in the series.

There are a pile of graphic novels I'd like to get from Santa. The third volume of Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, the third volume of Paper Girls, volume four of Sex Criminals, some more volumes of The Wicked + the Divine, and a bunch of others.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Review - Paper Girls, Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Short review: Three of the four paper girls find themselves in 2016 where Erin Teng meets two versions of herself. They have to figure out when to go to in order to find the missing fourth paper girl.

An old Erin Teng
Also a cloned Erin Teng
Erin must choose one

Full review: Paper Girls 2 starts literally seconds after Paper Girls 1 ended carrying our adolescent heroines deeper into a confusing time travel story that has them meet alternate versions of themselves, learn things about their own future, try to puzzle out how time travel works on the fly, and figure out which side in what appears to be an intergenerational war they should align with. In this volume, Erin, MacKenzie, and Tiffany spend most of their time trying to figure out what happened to fellow paper girl KJ, and along the way find themselves forced to decide between two different versions of Erin from the future while running from giant-sized microbial monsters and the religious zealots from a future timeline who seem dead set on capturing the three girls for some unknown purpose. The story is inventive, beautifully drawn and colored, and full of characters that seem both approachable and heroic, and yet the whole remains just as baffling at the end of this volume as it did at the end of the first. Paper Girls is a story full of motion and action that, thus far, seems to be intentionally mystifying.

When writers try to tell stories involving central characters facing unknown foes who have unknown goals, they face the difficult task of keeping the reader engaged while also keeping the forces arrayed against the heroes mysterious and enigmatic. In Paper Girls, the four titular heroines are confronted with not one, but two time traveling factions, both of which thus far seem either unwilling or unable to explain who they are and what they are up to, and the end result is that there is really no way for the reader to get a handle on what either side wants, or even have any real idea of what is at stake in the conflict. This sort of hiding the ball storytelling can work, but at this point Vaughan is two volumes into the story and the reader pretty much has as little information about the two warring factions now as they had when they were first introduced in part one. To a certain extent, the reader can be pulled into the story due to the fact that the four youthful paper girls at the heart of the story are trying to survive amidst the chaos that swirls about them and navigate their way home, but that can only carry the narrative for so long. Without some information about who the large scale antagonists are and what they want, the story risks devolving into just a series of chase scenes punctuated by unexpected and unexplained things happening in the interstitial spaces between them.

Despite the annoyingly vague nature of the threats looming around them, the three paper girls at the core of this story are interesting enough as characters and are place in interesting enough situations to carry the book. There are two different alternate versions of Erin Teng in this volume - one from 2016 where Erin, MacKenzie, and Tiffany time-traveled to, and another from some presumably fat-future time sent back ostensibly to try to help the trio get to where they need to go. The 2016 Erin Teng is a grown woman, but one who is underemployed, single, and generally unhappy with her life. The interaction between the preteen Teng and the adult Teng fuels much of the story, as the adult Teng simultaneously wallows in regret and tries to put on a brave face for her younger iteration - with a lot of the tension arising as the older Teng tries to actually be an adult authority figure to the three younger girls. The far-future Teng is enigmatic through her entire appearance in the book even though she expresses herself in pretty much the most straightforward and direct manner one could every time she interacts with anyone else. As she is apparently from one of the two warring factions, she is fairly circumspect at actually passing on useful information, although it is revealed that she is a clone and that time travel somehow can be miscalibrated in such a way as to cause microscopic creatures to grow to Godzilla-like size. Much of the tension in the story revolves around a cryptic message that is presumably from the missing K.J., as the three papergirls trapped in 2016 must figure out who to trust and what course of action to take.

One of the more interesting subplots in the book involves MacKenzie, who separates from Erin Teng and older Erin Teng with Tiffany and sets out to find her own older self. When she arrives at her familiar childhood home, she is informed by the current residents that the previous occupants's daughter died from leukemia as a teenager. This, somewhat naturally, sets MacKenzie back a bit, as she assumes that this means she only has a few years to live. She cites back to the time-travelling teenagers of the first volume who said that no matter what twists and turns time-travel takes you on, when you reach your end, that's your end. The interesting thing about this subplot is that there are several assumptions in MacKenzie's line of thought that are not necessarily true: The time-travelers may not have been giving accurate information, either intentionally or inadvertently, there may have been another set of occupants in the house between 1988 and 2016, so the "daughter" referenced may not be MacKenzie, and so on. In the face of these various ambiguities, MacKenzie's certainty seems out of place, and for better or for worse the story telegraphs that MacKenzie's conclusions are almost certainly going to be shown to be incorrect.

As with the first volume, Paper Girls, Volume 2 is a visually stunning book. The artwork is quite good, but what really sets it apart from the pack is the coloring by Matt Wilson. While the color scheme is a bit more diverse than the CYMK palette used in the first volume, perhaps to reflect the fact that most of the action takes place in 2016 rather than 1988, the range of colors used is still fairly restricted, and this paradoxically makes the entire volume feel vibrant and lush.

At this point, Paper Girls is a flawed but still intriguing and ultimately promising series. The characters at the center of the story are all engaging, and their direct adventures are all exciting and interesting, but the seemingly intentional lack of explanation of the larger context in which their story is taking place is starting to become a drag on the ability of the story to hold a reader's interest. I remain hopeful that future volumes will rectify this situation, but unless Vaughan becomes a little less stingy with the background details and starts to fill in the larger canvas, this series runs the risk of devolving into nothing more than a series of disjointed-feeling chase scenes. The good parts of Paper Girls are very good, often borderline brilliant, and make the book worth reading, with the only caveat being that there seem to still be some missing colors in the painting.

Previous book in the series: Paper Girls, Volume 1

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Musical Monday - Christmas Canon Rock by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Pachelbel's Canon in D wasn't a Christmas song. Well, okay, that's not technically completely accurate, since no one really knows why Canon in D was originally written, especially as it fell into obscurity for centuries and was only really rediscovered by the general public in the late 1960s. So it may have been written as a Christmas song, but we don't really know and have no evidence that would actually support that conclusion.

But the Trans-Siberian Orchestra got hold of the song, added some lyrics and some amplifiers and turned out this version of the song and probably cemented it in people's heads as a Christmas song forevermore. Although it used to be used for a lot of weddings and funerals, now it is holiday music, which seems odd. Repurposing non-holiday music as holiday music seems to happen every now and then - relatively recently the song My Favorite Things became a "Christmas song", an association it didn't have for its first fortyish years of existence.

I have to question the need to do this sort of annexation of non-Christmas songs by the Christmas season. I mean, we already have a lot of Christmas songs that were specifically written as such, and more are produced every year (although many, such as Last Christmas, are terrible). Does the ever-growing octopus of Christmas need to engulf non-Christmas songs as well?

Previous Musical Monday: There Won't Be No Country Music by C.W. McCall

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Book Blogger Hop December 8th - December 14th: Heracias Became the First Bishop of Alexandria to Use the Title "Pope" in 232 A.D.

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: If you celebrate Christmas, do you feel the need to stop reading anything but Christmas-themed romances as the holiday season starts?

No. I don't usually do a whole lot of themed holiday-related reading. Most years I am in the middle of an annual reading crunch as I try to get through as many of the year's science fiction and fantasy works before the deadline to nominate for the Hugo Awards arrives.

On a side note, I'm not doing the whole Hugo-nominating and voting thing this year. The arrival of the future star captain four months ago made me dice to take this year off from Hugo voting, mostly because I don't have the kind of time that I would need to really do it right, but I'll be getting back into it next time around.

But even though I'm not immersed in trying to consume as much Hugo-eligible material as possible, I'm still not going to be doing much Holiday-theme reading this year. I have a few books I go back to, such as Letters from Father Christmas, which I mentioned last week, and Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, but my holiday reading list is quite limited. Most of the entertainment that I associate with the holiday season consists of movies and television programs - White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and so on and so forth. In my head music and color are so a part and parcel of the season that visual media is always going to dominate.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: 233 Is a Fibonacci Prime

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Friday, December 8, 2017

1989 Hugo Longlist

The 1989 Hugo Longlist is the result of the work of a dedicated fan (who has, the last time I checked, asked to remain anonymous) going through the pages of decades-old fanzines and digging up posts from Usenet news groups and compiling the resulting data into a usable form. This is a form of fannish archaeology that makes things like the Hugo Longlist Project possible, and fondom is forever indebted to the people who do these sorts of tedious and thankless tasks for no reason other than a desire to contribute to the sum total of knowledge regarding fannish history.

In most cases, the Longlist reveals facts about history beyond just the names of the people and works that had just missed making it onto the list of finalists. The deep dive into the data that resulted in the longlist also revealed a couple of works that would have made it onto the list of finalists if they had not been disqualified. In the Best Related Work category, Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time received enough votes to qualify for the final ballot, but was either declared ineligible or withdrawn. In the fanzine category, Aboriginal SF received enough votes to be a finalist, but was ineligible as it did not publish any issues in 1988. Finally, both Elizabeth Moon and Daniel Keys Moran received sufficient votes to be Campbell Finalists, but were both ineligible as they had their first professional publication in 1986 and 1982, respectively. These facts were omitted from the official published Hugo data until they were unearthed by diligent fan research.

A larger revelation contained in the overall shape of the information provided in the longlist is simply how difficult many fans seem to have found determining eligibility in the pre-internet era. Most of the non-fiction categories had at least one ineligible nominee show up either on the longlist or the list of finalists. The prevalence of ineligible nominees is especially notable in the Campbell Award, where there were not only two ineligible authors would received sufficient votes that they would have been finalists otherwise, but three more ineligible authors on the longlist. The salient detail to be drawn from this data is that prior to the internet making the details of publishing transparent to a wider spectrum of the public interested in such things, Hugo voters seem to have spent a fair amount of time figuratively groping in the dark over eligibility issues.

Best Novel

Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh [winner]
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Guardsman by P.J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton [nomination deleted]
Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling
Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson
Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card

Longlisted Nominees:
Alternities by Michael P. Kube-McDowell
Deserted Cities of the Heart by Lewis Shiner
Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey
The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson
Hellspark by Janet Kagan
Ivory by Mike Resnick
Orphan of Creation by Roger MacBride Allen
The Paladin by C.J. Cherryh
Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Best Novella

The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians by Bradley Denton
Journals of the Plague Years by Norman Spinrad
The Last of the Winnebagos by Connie Willis [winner]
The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter by Lucius Shepard
Surfacing by Walter Jon Williams

Longlisted Nominees:
Backward Turn Backward by James Tiptree, Jr.
The Blabber by Vernor Vinge
The Color of Neanderthal Eyes by James Tiptree, Jr.
The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
Fatal Statistics by Pauline Ashwell
The Flies of Memory by Ian Watson
Nomans Land by Lucius Shepard
The Skin Trade by George R.R. Martin
Trapping Run by Harry Turtledove
Waiting for the Olympians by Frederik Pohl
We Are for the Dark by Robert Silverberg
Wires by F. Paul Wilson

Best Novelette

Do Ya, Do Ya, Wanna Dance? by Howard Waldrop
The Function of Dream Sleep by Harlan Ellison
Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus by Neal Barrett, Jr.
Peaches for Mad Molly by Steven Gould
Schrödinger's Kitten by George Alec Effinger [winner]

Longlisted Nominees
The Earth Doth Like a Snake Renew by James Tiptree, Jr.
Glacier by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Lunatics by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Hob by Judith Moffett
Sanctuary by James White
Two by Pat Cadigan

Best Short Story

The Fort Moxie Branch by Jack McDevitt
The Giving Plague by David Brin
Our Neural Chernobyl by Bruce Sterling
Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick [winner]
Ripples in the Dirac Sea by Geoffrey A. Landis
Stable Strategies for Middle Management by Eileen Gunn

Longlisted Nominees
Eidolons by Harlan Ellison
Mrs. Shummel Exits a Winner by John Kessel
On a Phantom Tide by William F. Wu
Slow, Slow Burn by George Alec Effinger

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work

A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists by Robert Weinberg
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen W. Hawking [unclear whether this was ineligible or withdrawn]
First Maitz by Don Maitz
The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1957-1965 by Samuel R. Delany [winner]
The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edited by James E. Gunn
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror: 1987 by Charles N. Brown and William G. Contento

Longlisted Nominees:
Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller [ineligible]
Bio of an Ogre: The Autobiography of Piers Anthony by Piers Anthony
Imagination: The Art & Technique of David A. Cherry by David A. Cherry [ineligible]
The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution by Dougal Dixon
Strokes: Essays and Reviews 1966-1986 by John Clute
Women of Vision: Essays by Women Writing Science Fiction by Denise Du Pont

Best Dramatic Presentation

Alien Nation
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Lair of the White Worm
The Lady in White
The Land Before Time
Nolacon II Gripe Session [ineligible]
Star Trek - The Next Generation: Elementary, Dear Data
They Live

Best Professional Editor

Gardner Dozois [winner]
Edward L. Ferman
David G. Hartwell
Charles C. Ryan
Stanley Schmidt

Longlisted Nominees:
Lou Aronica
Jim Baen
Ellen Datlow
George R.R. Martin
Beth Meacham
Shawna McCarthy
Elizabeth "Betsy" Mitchell
Price, ? (it is unclear whether this is Patrick Lucien Price of Amazing Stories or Robert M. Price of Crypt of Cthulhu)
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Brian Thomsen

Best Professional Artist

Thomas Canty
David A. Cherry
Bob Eggleton
Todd Cameron Hamilton [nomination deleted]
Don Maitz
Michael Whelan [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Janet Aulisio
Jim Burns
Vincent Di Fate
Phil Foglio
James Gurney
Tom Kidd
Carl Lundgren
David B. Mattingly
J.K. Potter
Barclay Shaw

Best Semi-Prozine

Aboriginal SF edited by Charles C. Ryan [ineligible]
Interzone edited by David Pringle and Simon Ounsley
Locus edited by Charles N. Brown [winner]
The New York Review of Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Susan Palwick, and Kathryn Cramer
Science Fiction Chronicle edited by Andrew I. Porter
Thrust edited by D. Douglas Fratz

Longlisted Nominees:
Argos: Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine edited by Ross Emry [ineligible]
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [placed in the fanzine category]
Horror Show edited by David B. Silva
New Pathways Into Science Fiction And Fantasy edited by Michael G. Adkisson
Pulphouse edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch [ineligible]
Science Fiction Eye edited by by Stephen P. Brown and Dan Steffan
Weird Tales edited by George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer, and John Gregory Betancourt

Best Fanzine

File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [winner]
FOSFAX edited by Timothy Lane
Lan's Lantern edited by George "Lan" Laskowski
Niekas edited by Edmund R. Meskys, Mike Bastraw, and Anne Braude
OtherRealms edited by Chuq Von Rospach

Longlisted Nominees:
Delineator edited by Alan White
Jane's Fighting SMOFs edited by Jane Dennis and Scott Dennis
Nova Express edited by Lawrence Person
Pirate Jenny edited by Pat Mueller [ineligible]
Pulp edited by Avedon Carol, Rob Hansen, John Harvey and Vincent Clarke
Pulsar! edited by Arlan Andrews
Science Fiction Randomly edited by Hawk and Steve Antczak
Texas SF Enquirer edited by Pat Mueller
Trap Door edited by Robert Lichtman
YHOS edited by Art Widner

Best Fan Writer

Avedon Carol
Mike Glyer
Arthur D. Hlavaty
Dave Langford [winner]
Guy H. Lillian, III
Chuq Von Rospach

Longlisted Nominees:
T.L. Bohman
Richard Brandt
Jeanne Gomoll
Andrew Hooper
Susan Landerman
George Laskowski
Joseph T. Major
Pat Mueller
Leslie Turek [ineligible]
Harry Warner, Jr.
Owen Whiteoak

Best Fan Artist

Brad W. Foster [winner]
Teddy Harvia
Merle Insinga
Stu Shiffman
Taral Wayne
Diana Gallagher Wu [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Steve Fox
Alexis Gilliland
Jeanne Gomoll
Jon “Lang” Langford
Joe Mayhew
Ingrid Neilson
Diana Harlan Stein
Arthur Thomson (aka ATom)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

P.J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton
Christopher Hinz
Elizabeth Moon [ineligible]
Daniel Keys Moran [ineligible]
Melanie Rawn
Michaela Roessner [winner]
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
William Sanders
Delia Sherman

Longlisted Nominees:
Andrea I. Alton
Richard Kadrey [ineligible]
Ian McDonald [ineligible]
Loren J. McGregor
Rebecca Ore [ineligible]
Matt Ruff
Mary Stanton

Go to previous year's longlist: 1984
Go to subsequent year's longlist: 2001

Go to 1989 Hugo Finalists and Winners

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Musical Monday - There Won't Be No Country Music by C.W. McCall

I think about my paternal grandfather a lot these days.

When he was young, fresh out of college, having returned from serving in World War II and gotten married, he moved to Montana. This was long before I was born, before even my father was born, but I've seen pictures of him and my grandmother there. He fell in love with Montana, fell in love with the American West, a love that stayed with him for the rest of his life. I still have some of the Charlie Russell prints that his house was decorated with. He loved the wild open spaces. He loved the natural beauty of the unspoiled places of the world. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from camping trips I went on with him in the Rocky Mountains or the Shenandoah, fishing in cold streams or hiking just to see what there was to see.

My grandfather was a fairly conservative man. He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, went to college after he returned, worked as a civilian for a while, and then reentered the service for the Korean War. He was one of the pilots who was in Florida ready to fly over Cuba as part of an anticipated invasion during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he flew during Vietnam. All of my memories of him were of him as an Air Force officer or a retired Air Force officer. I have it on good authority that he wasn't real fond of John F. Kennedy, and voted for conservative politicians on a regular basis. Anyone who would think of him as a bleeding heart liberal is simply dead wrong. He simply came from a generation in which conservative thought wasn't incompatible with preserving some part of the country as unspoiled wilderness to be passed on to later generations.

My grandfather is long gone now, and to be perfectly honest, I'm glad for his sake that he didn't live long enough to see the conservative movement in the U.S. turn into what it has turned into now. I'm glad he isn't around to see the GOP set about dismantling the protections that were put in place to preserve the American West that he loved - that were put into place to preserve the wild and free places all over the country. The rapacious political cabal that has seized control of our government is trading away our descendants' inheritance for some transitory commercial gain, and that is an intergenerational crime of epic proportions. Once these places are mined and exploited, what made them a source of wonder is probably never coming back. I'm glad he was spared the realization that while he was able to share these places with his grandchildren, the way things are going, I will never be able to share them with mine.

I miss him every day. And yet I'm glad he didn't live to see what is happening now.

Previous Musical Monday: O Holy Night by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Previous Musical Monday: Christmas Canon Rock by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Book Blogger Hop December 1st - December 7th: Radium-231 has a Half-Life of Just Over a Minute and a Half

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What is your favourite Christmas-themed read?

My favorite Christmas-themed read is J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas. Like most children, Tolkien's children wrote letters to Father Christmas (or as most Americans would know the character, Santa Claus). The only difference for Tolkien's children is that Father Christmas wrote back, sending letters complete with stories about what he had been up to during the year, color illustrations, and a cast of characters that included a somewhat clumsy polar bear and evil elves. Letters from Father Christmas is a compilation that includes all of the letters, as well as commentary putting them into context. The letters are funny, beautiful, and touching. The whole book amounts to an extended love letter from a father to his children using a figure of modern folklore as the focus. I read it every year.

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