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June 23, 2009


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Actually, while I rated "Evil Robot Monkey" higher than you did, I pretty much felt the same way you did. It's just that I liked the nugget of the story it could have been more than I liked the actual stories by Resnick and Johnson.

Among the novelettes... I did think you would have problems with "Pride and Prometheus". Being ignorant of much of the reality of the era, I was able to focus on the story of a person who is so lonely. As for Resnick, his stuff leaves me cold. The only reason I included it on my final ballot was that I didn't dislike it, unlike "Raygun", which pushed my do-not-like buttons. Back to Kessel's story, I think you should put an ad offering to help people not screw up when a tale involves dance and/or the Regency Era.

In the novella category, I guess I was quite harsh with my own voting. "The Tear" did feel like the outline for a novel, but it passed the test. What test? I was unable to finish the nominees I didn't list, or I skimmed. I never felt like doing that for McDonald's story so on my final ballot it went. As for the story by Rosenbaum & Doctorow, it triggered my flashy-writing sensor extremely high.

Finally, "Truth" is The Winner for me. You can imagine what it was like to read that story last year when Dubya was still in the Oval Office and messing up the world every chance he could.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who is not a Resnick fan. His stories the last few years....just, yuck.

I read "26 Monkeys" aloud at Storyreading tonight and it was VERY well-received by the audience of twenty-somethings here.

Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for 26 Monkeys.

Regarding Resnick... I like the column that he and Barry Mazberg publish in the SFWA Bulletin, but I can't say that I seek their fiction. There are writers who just don't do 'it' for a person. The worst is when we come across a writer that we can tell is great and yet we can't feel it. For me, that would be Kim Stanley Robinson. I once heard him read a story of his and it was hilarious, but the words alone don't have it. Not for me anyway.

Af for the fiction published this year... Asimov’s issue of June 2009 has Sandra McDonald's The Monsters of Morgan Island. I talk about it here. I'll probably put it on the ballot next year.

Some years ago Resnick published a series of stories in Asimov's that were about an African-like space colony for blacks. They were awful and I kept reading them, hoping they'd get better, but they didn't. I don't remember if they came out later in an anthology or stitched into a novel.

*Adds Resnick to her mental list of people to not read*

Thank you all for the warning!

Marilee... That sounds like Kirinyaga. If so, the stories were indeed published in book form and this review I've found on Amazon sure doesn't have me inclined to rush and get my own copy.

Koriba, a well-educated man, is determined to reinstate the ancient customs and strict laws of his Kikuyu ancestors and invites others to join him in a new society named for their sacred mountain. As the mundumugu-witch doctor-Koriba faces numerous challenges to the utopian society's survival. He must deny a brilliant young woman an education because it is not the ancient way of his people. (...) Young adults will love this provocative tale that examines the need for an orderly society, the rights of the individual, and the siren's lure of knowledge.

The Siren's lure knowledge?
Educated women, a danger to Society?

Is that really in the stories, or was that the reviewer (who may be a woman) projecting?

Speaking as someone who is only a decade past the "young adult" reading category, I have to say that I would have been seeing red over any book where a woman was denied an education due to her culture. Still would, in fact. Not sure why the reviewer is so convinced that young adults would love it.

Now if the book was from the POV of the young woman, and she found a way to subvert society and get her education anyway, I'd be all over that.

That review sounds like it's originally from Library Journal (I recognize the style). If so, the last line about young adults loving it was tacked on to the end by a different reviewer. I'm not sure that makes a difference to your point, however.

I haven't actually read Kirinyaga, so I don't know if this is unfair criticism, but...isn't interesting how the rights of the individual that must be sacrificed to the needs of an "orderly society" always turn out to be the rights of the women?

Done to men, things are abusive violations of human rights. Done to women, they're "local tradition" or "traditional cultural practices." FEH.

Is the McDonald work a serialized novel, as your italics seem to imply, or a shorter work?

Mary Aileen... That review I excerpted indeed is from the Library Journal. Come to think of it, that last bit doesn't seem to match the rest of the story. I haven't read the story though and I was curious to know Marilee's opinion since she had read it.

Susan... Interesting indeed, that bit about how the needs of an "orderly society" means sorry young lady but we can't have your little head exposed to dangerous ideas. Like I've said before, I haven't read Kirinyaga so I don't know if the review is an accurate depiction of the book, or one skewed by the reviewer to fit his/her agenda. It may well be that the story exposes the unfairness of education withheld from a woman. I don't know.

As for orderly societies... I like it when people confuse rigidity with stability. A human body in motion has plenty of chances to collapse and yet it IS stable. A society that has no room for its misfits isn't a strong society, and certainly isn't one I'd want to live in.

AJ... Not sure why the reviewer is so convinced that young adults would love it.

That may be saying more about the reviewer than about anything else.

Susan... Oops. I should have referred to it as McDonald's "The Monsters of Morgan Island". I keep forgetting the typographical convention of the double quotes that indicate something is a short story. Sorry about that.

As for orderly societies... I like it when people confuse rigidity with stability. A human body in motion has plenty of chances to collapse and yet it IS stable.

In one of John M. Ford's novels, there is an alien race whose language includes these words: komerex, "the structure that grows", and khesterex, "the structure that dies". Consider a tree: while it grows, it lives; when it stops growing, there's still a tree there, but it's a dead thing. In a key scene of the novel, one of the aliens explains that they also consider the concept to apply to societies - a society that has ceased to grow and change is dead, even if the body is still twitching.

(Mind you, it turns out that the aliens' present government have a sadly concrete view of the concept, and interpret "the Empire must continue to grow" as a mandate for physical expansion calling for the invasion and subjugation of their neighbours. Nobody's perfect.)

Yes, Kirinyaga is the book! And it certainly wasn't written for young adults. That's a fairly accurate description, though, and the stories were just awful.

Marilee... You mean that the stories really do propose that educated girls ARE a danger to Society's stability? Ooooookay. I don't know if Resnick really believes that, or if he was doing some role-playing. You know, they admonish readers not to assume that a story reflects the beliefs of the author. If so, I suppose that Jerry Pournelle in reality is a leftie Democrat. No matter what, that's a strong disincentive to spend my yogurt money on Resnick's fiction.

No matter what, that's a strong disincentive to spend my yogurt money on Resnick's fiction.

I feel I have to ask - is that the money you intended to spend on yogurt, money you make from selling yogurt, or perhaps a central asian currency that's backed by yogurt?

No, Neil, I don't have a girlfriend named Yogurt I intend to spend money on.


I have six containers of strawberry and vanilla yogurt in the fridge. Three of each, to be precise.

I have 3 containers of vanilla. (Or maybe two. I think i scarfed one up yesterday.) I'd prefer something a bit more tart, like lemon, but the store carries only vanilla and plain.

I hate the texture of yogurt.

But yes, he tries to make the real-time blacks fit into the old-time African culture, part of which is the women are animals bit.

Marilee... Did you ever read far enough into the stories to find what happened to that young woman? Any subversion of Authority? I'd like to think that it is a mental exercise on the part of Resnick and not something he believes, but maybe I'm deluding myself. And why do that kind of role-playing in a YA, of all places? It's not as if kids need to be shown this crap in a favorable light.

I loathe yogurt on its own. I use it as the base for fruit smoothies.

Marilee stated that it definitely was not YA. I'm almost more disturbed by the reviewer's editor tacking the YA recommendation on than I am by the content of the book. I'm not even a professional reviewer, and I'd be pretty mad if my editor was tacking things onto my reviews -- although I suppose that may be part of her agreement with the publication in question.

I don't know how School Library Journal (source of that review) works, but speaking as a reviewer for Publisher's Weekly, which publishes similar short reviews, I can tell you that my editor often rewrites heavily and adds or deletes material based on the extra notes I send along with my review.

AJ... Oops about the 'YA' goofup. I had not had much sleep the night before when I wrote that. Didn't last night either. Am I glad THAT's almost over.

Back to yogurt in a Yugo thread... I obviously like it a lot, especially the low-fat stuff. Mind you, if I could eat as much as ice cream as I ingest yogurt, and this without fear for the damage it'd do to my boyish waistline, I'd switch to ice cream.

Library Journal (not School...) reviews of adult books with potential YA appeal* are also seen by a YA reviewer/editor, who may add a recommendation at the end. In context, it's pretty clearly not part of the original review.

*which may just mean young characters

I was going by Amazon's cite, which is "School Library Journal."

I doubt any of us have enough yogurt to back a currency*, unless someone reveals they have a herd of several hundred yak in their back garden.

I had an interesting thought about the denying education - if it were a necessary sacrifice, whoever made the sacrifice, however willing, would by definition have to be uninformed about the choice, being uneducated. But it doesn't sound like what's going on here.

* Or indeed all of us together attempting to form a central yogurt bank, issuing notes which presumably read "I promise to pay the bearer on demand one container of yogurt"

Mary Aileen... which may just mean young characters

I first read that as 'which may just mean MEAN young characters' until I remembered that young people aren't naturally mean and... and... I must be going into yogurt withdrawal.

I used to love yogurt, but now it triggers my gag reflex. Much like the idea of young women being denied the right to an education.

Serge, if you get a chance to hit a Trader Joe's, you totally should, because their yogurt selection makes me regret my inability to eat it.

Neil, I think my corgis would be very happy if I had a herd of yak in my backyard, but my neighbors would be somewhat less pleased.

Serge, I read all the stories in Asimov's. She doesn't go anywhere. I don't think it's Resnick's personal beliefs, I think he's trying to show how real-time people can't go back to their "roots."

Marilee... So, this whole exchange was based on our perception of the book thru a reviewer's filter, and said filter may itself have been modified by a third party with its own filter.

That being said, the story's setting sounds quite unpleasant even though Resnick's statement that you can't go "back" is one I agree with.

Susan: Oh, okay. Upthread someone said it was LJ, and I didn't doublecheck. Oops. Ignore I said everything about it being two reviewers, then

Serge, I don't think he said you can't go back. That's my interpretation of why he wrote it.

In one of John M. Ford's novels, there is an alien race whose language includes these words: komerex, "the structure that grows", and khesterex, "the structure that dies"

From Annwn's "Black Eye, Yellow Eye" (lyrics by the late Leigh Ann Hussey):

Move and live
Be still and die

Incidentally, I have someone's copy of Galactic Empires, which I turned out not to need because the story was available in the Hugo e-package. To whom should I mail this book? Serge? Marilee?

That's mine:

Marilee J. Layman
9468 Scarlet Oak Dr.
Manassas, VA 20110-5658


And coincidentally, Chaz Orzel opines on Mike Resnick's Hugo nominees today (with comments) and James Nicoll passes it on.

Thanks for the pointer, Marilee. I went and visited James' LJ to comment.

In spite of my earlier comments, I wouldn't call Resnick's stories dreck. Just because something doesn't do 'it' for me, that doesn't make it bad. It may not be what I consider worthy of a Hugo nomination, not when fantasy writer MK Hobson winds up being ignored, but there were enough other people who felt otherwise.

I just finished reading Ted Chiang's "Seventy-two Letters". It's a story from 2000 reprinted in Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's anthology Steampunk. I don't think it ever won a Hugo, but, if it had been nominated this year, I'd have voted for it.

Next in that Steampunk anthology, Michael Chabon's "The Martian Agent". The background is interesting. The American Revolution failed, and it's now 1876 and a family is on the run after a failed attempt by George Armstrong Custer at a Second Revolution. There are steam-powered tanks, and airships too, and the suggestion that space exploration is due to happen in a few decades, thus the story's title. Unfortunately, it's not much of a story - more like the condensed prologue of a novel. Chiang has been a rewarding experience every time I've read him, which has decided me to find his story collections. Meanwhile, the first thing I've ever read by Chabon (no, I didn't read last year's Hugo-winning novel) leaves me feeling annoyed, which is better than feeling indifferent.

The latest from my reading the VanderMeer anthology Steampunk... I'm only halfway thru Paul di Filippo's "Victoria", but so far we have a genetically engineered newt taking the place of young Queen Victoria while a scientist is looking for the missing Royal. And did I mention the uranium-powered locomotive that goes ka-boom?

Yes, I'm loving it.

I'll have to pick up that anthology the next time I go on a book-buying binge.

Just yesterday I finished reading Mainspring a steampunk novel by Jay Lake. Actually, it's kind of a misnomer to say steampunk, because I don't think anything in it was actually powered by steam, but there's airships and clockwork in a very alternate Victorian era.

AJ... I bought Lake's book because the premise sounds quite interesting, if a bit off the wall, what with our solar system literally being a clockwork universe, a gigantic orrery. Or is that an inaccurate description of the setting? It's on my to-read pile - which seems unable to get smaller.

It's a very accurate description, which is why I said it was very alternate :)

AJ... Extremely alternate, in fact. By the way, the Di Filippo story was one of the three tales that made up his 1997 book The Steampunk Trilogy. It's on my list of titles I'll be looking for in the worldcon's dealer room, along with any book by Ted Chiang, the other author of this anthology that I like the most so far in this anthology.

The revived Realms of Fantasy finally showed up in my mailbox today. Yay!

I'll have to look for Di Filippo, too.

Not a book, but this YouTube video shows an awesome steampunk automata!

[Edit: live link added by the roving Link Fairy!]

AJ... Neat! I also liked the one of the bird inside its gilded cage.

Galactic Empires is on its way back to you!


AJ... If you want the VanderMeer anthology Steampunk, it's yours.

So, AJ... Interested in that VanderMeer anthology?

Oh yes, sorry. I forgot to respond! I would like to read it, thank you, so I'll send you an e-mail with my addy :)


AJ... No problem. My address is sergeunderscoreLJatcomcastdotnet.

Serge, I see you're about to take off for Canada, so I'll wait and have you send it after you get home :) I'm halfway through a wordy 600+ page book right now, and I have the next Jay Lake book to read (Casement, I think), so I wouldn't be getting to it until then anyway.

And by Casement I mean Escapement.

Okedoke, AJ.

Escapement... That's the sequel to Lake's Main Spring, right? Me, I'm about to read the fiction in the revived Realms of Fantasy. After that, while on my trip, I'll be reading a biography of Tesla. Then the 2 latest issues of Asimov's.

Serge, that's the one! It looks pretty good, but first I have to finish Devices and Desires by KJ Parker, which is taking a long time because it's... I don't know, dense doesn't feel like the right word, but something like that. Involved, maybe? Not a brisk read, but really engrossing. I need to write a quick review of Mainspring for Collector Times Online, then read a chapter or two before bed.

You'll have to let us know how the new Realms is. And I hope you enjoy the Tesla biography! It's nice to see him getting more attention -- I wonder if steampunk has much to do with that, or if it's a coincidence?

Should I warn you that KJ Parker writes tragedies? I remember (and found) this from an interview with her:

Do you believe in happy endings?

Only in the way I believe in New Guinea; it exists, but it doesn't affect me much.

I might use the words complex and opaque to describe her writing, but I'm not sure that's right either.

Neil... Ouch.

AJ... I have little doubt that steampunk has something to do with the renewed attention Tesla is getting. For me, it began with this image. It's nice to see that Ada Lovelace is also getting more recognition because of steampunk. Have you seen the online comics called "Lovelace and Babbage"? I had bought a biography of her a few years ago, but it sems to have disappeared. Maybe I lent it to somebody. Interestingly, back then, it was the only book about her. Now there are quite a few.

Serge, we were just learning Ada when I had to retire on disability. The language never became very popular.

Marilee... I've heard of that computer language, but never came across it anywhere. I know it was named after Lovelace, aka the Byronic Woman, but that's all I know about it.

Neil, given how the book is shaping up, I'd actually be disappointed if it had a forced happy ending. There's a lot of potential for tragedy lurking in every corner!

You're right, complex and opaque don't quite describe it, either. It's not like she's using words I don't know, or like I have to re-read things to "get" them, or that I spend a lot of time thinking over each line or anything -- but it still takes forever to read. I spent an hour reading this afternoon, since I won't have time to read tonight, and in that time I only got through one chapter.

Serge, I've not seen the "Lovelace and Babbage" comics. Do you have a link, or shall I Google?

However, Kate Beaton did do a silly strip about Tesla, which can be purchased as a poster-print:

AJ... Here is a link to Sydney Padua's "Lovelace & Babbage".

AJ... Thanks for the link. Meanwhile, the people working at the comics store I go to once a week told me that they couldn't get "Five Fists of Science" because it's out of print. I really want that comic-book about Tesla & Twain fighting against the lovecraftian forces of Edison & Marconi. There is Alibris, yes. First, I'll take a look in the worldcon's dealer room next week.

AJ... Email your real-world address to me and I'll send the anthology "Steampunk".

As for "five fists of science"... My wife found it on Alibris, but she had to pay thru the nose and beyond the back of the head for it. I'm even more looking forward to my birthday now.

By the way, I highly recommend Margaret Cheney's biography of Tesla.

Awesome, Serge, I'll drop you a note right away :) Thanks for the recommendation on the Tesla bio, too. I'll have to pick it up, since it's something both Chris and I would read. He's still on his non-fiction kick. Last time we went to B&N, he bought a book on math.

AJ... I warn you that the last part of Tesla's life is not a happy one, and that you might want something handy to cheer you up afterward. There is plenty of awesome stuff though. At the age of 19, he suggested erecting giant scaffolds around the equator, then linking their summits to form a giant ring that, once the scaffolds had been taken down, could be used to quickly go from one point of the Earth to another. And that was in 1875.

The anthology is on its way, AJ.

Susan... During the Hugo ceremonies, you made a comment about their seeming to have been more female nominees and/or winners this year. Did you figure out whether or not this was the case?

Thank you Serge! It may end up accompanying on my trip to NY the week after next :D

AJ... Going to NY and, if I remember correctly what your hubby said about wishing for more free time, you'll probably be leaving him behind. Terrible, absolutely terrible.

*pokes her head up from sleepwalking through her first week home*

NY? When is this?

Serge, actually, he's leaving me behind! He's going to NY tomorrow, spending a week with his Dad in Jersey, and then going to his Mom's place, where I will meet him and spend a week. I didn't want to have to kennel the dogs for over two weeks, and he refused to consider anything less than 2 weeks in NY, so this was the only reasonable compromise.

It will be a working vacation for him, however. His Dad never takes time off when we visit (that's a rant you don't want to get me started on...) so he'll probably put in almost a full day's work each day that he's with his Dad, and then probably put in a little work at night while we're with his Mom.

Susan, I will be in NY from Sunday the 23rd (arriving in the evening) until Sunday the 30th (leaving in the AM). I definitely have plans for Saturday the 29th, and I'm not sure what other days the MIL has jam-packed with plans. I'd still love to try to meet for lunch or something, so if there's a day that's good for you, let me know and I'll see if I can work something out :)

AJ... that's a rant you don't want to get me started on

C'mon. You know you wanna. Meanwhile, the time I spent at my mom was a vacation of the kind I haven't had in a long time. Vey little driving around. Just sitting and mostly reading. I didn't mind too much. Besides, my mom so seldom sees me, it didn't seem right for me to spend time away. I must say that there were occasions when I got bored with the TV channels available on her cable lineup. Quebec TV-watching makes normal American TV look like Masterpiece Theater. OK, I exagerate a bit. I'm glad I had plenty of reading material though.

AJ: I'm in the area, too, of course, but it sounds as if I'm going to be tied up with work every day you have free. Drat.

Serge, I'd feel very impolite cluttering Susan's blog with rants about my in-laws.

I don't mind some downtime when I'm on vacation, in fact, I do like a little time to relax and read, and a lot of time to catch up with the people I'm visiting. However, spending the entire time cooped up in a house/condo/whatever while my host works, for the entire time I visit, despite the fact that said host had months of advance notice of our visit and I'm visiting with the hosts only son chaps my hide a bit (oh wait, I am ranting). I like to be able to get out of the house. We don't have to do anything fancy or expensive, just see some local sites, do a little shopping, eat someplace unique to the area, anything other than sit around all day reading or browsing the web. If I wanted to do that, I would stay home.

Mary Aileen, I'm so sorry to hear that you're tied up with work! :( It's very unfortunate that I couldn't have more weekend time this trip -- I will try to arrange things differently next year. This year is all kinds of crazy.

Hmm, the lack of weekend time makes it hard for me. After all this vacationing I can't really take more time off from my day job this month. Any chance you could come up here one day/evening? It's a 1.6-hour train ride from Manhattan. Where in NY will you be? I would love to meet you!

AJ... It sounds like your in-laws are... ah... very driven people. I hope you can go visit Susan.

AJ: I do sometimes have a weekday off, but not that particular week. (The joys of a public service job.) Ah, well.

Have a good trip. I trust your in-laws have air conditioning.

Mary Aileen... Hopefully we'll meet again at some con.

Serge: That would be good. Are you planning on going to ReConStruction (Raleigh NASFiC 2010)? I just bought my membership.

Susan and Mary Aileen,

The lack of weekend time is really difficult all around, unfortunately I had to work with the dates Chris had already chosen. Next year I'm going to try to work things out in a more sensible, time-efficient manner.

The original plan was that I'd sneak off to meet you guys while we were stranded/bored at his Dad's house, but then I decided to skip the entire Dad visit.

If you're 1.6 hours from Manhattan, that may end up being a *very* long train ride for me -- I'm going to be in Westbury in LI. I think it takes an hour or more to get to Manhattan from there :(


Mary Aileen... NASFiC in 2010? I usually limited myself to cons I can drive to, unless I could combine the cost of the flight with another activity, like visiting my mom when I attended Anticipation. But I'm probably going to throw out that self-imposed rule. In other words, unless my finances take a drastic downturn, I'll most likely go. By the way, I've already got my membership for Reno in 2011.

AJ: if you'll be in Westbury, that's only about half an hour from me. How do your evenings look? Or I'm off Wednesday morning; just have to get to work by 1:00.

Serge: I, too, have a rule about only going to cons I can drive to, unless I have another reason to visit the area. In Denver, I was sharing a room, which pretty well offset the cost of the airfare. But I'm getting to really hate plane travel. So Reno is likely out for me. I can just about drive to Raleigh from here (it's about 10 hours); I'm considering it, but may wind up flying anyway.

Mary Aileen... Well, let's hope for the best.

Long Island is pretty distant for me, yes, unless it's convenient to take the ferry, which is probably too complex. But maybe you can meet Mary Aileen. (I have helpfully put her photo up on Rixo People for reference!)

On the Chabon story:
it's not much of a story - more like the condensed prologue of a novel.

Funny, I felt similarly about his novel, except that it was remarkably un-condensed. But it felt like it stopped just as it was about to get really interesting.

In spite of my earlier comments, I wouldn't call Resnick's stories dreck

I think I might. And Chad Orzel agrees with me.

Susan... It's just that 'dreck' is such a harsh word. Pedestrian? Yes. Actually, I pretty much agree with Orzel. I don't understand how that Resnick story wound up on the final ballot when there is much superior stuff out there. I recently finished reading another of his robot stories in a recent Asimov's, and it feels incredibly retro. You have a factory that's run by humanoid robots, one of which the human watchman gets to philosophize about friendship and stuff. You have AIs that successfully navigate their environment, but people still get their news from printer papers. It could have been written by Isaac Asimov himself in the 1940s.

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