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July 03, 2008


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When the third book comes, I'm finishing a Sawyer trilogy, even though years ago I said I wouldn't read any more of his. We did the first for the bookgroup and even though the worldbuilding and physics were crap, the story was interesting. The library had the second book so I ordered the third from Abebooks. If I'd read the second first, I wouldn't have ordered the third. The second was all lecturing (that I agreed with, but I don't like 40 pages of lecturing in my fiction). I have hope the third will at least have some interesting bits because I plan to start it since I bought it. I'll pass it on to anyone in the bookgroup who also read the second (I know others meant to) and want the third. At least I bought it from Abebooks.

This was the first book of Sawyer's I've read. I suppose I would try another if it was put in front of me or was a Hugo nominee, but his failures in Rollback do not incline me to go out looking for more of his work.

I haven't read the novel, but I get the sense from your description of it that this story should really have been a novella. Am I off the mark?

I'm not sure what it should have been, but perhaps two separate novellas? The alien-contact stuff alone is pretty cool and would've made a nifty novella in and of itself. The rollback concept is likewise interesting and would have done well with a more interesting protagonist and more focus on Sarah. Maybe these are two great tastes that just don't taste great together?

If I were Schmidt or Hartwell I would have been savage with the red pen on the product placement and pop-culture references, though. For me, they're an ongoing irritant. For a younger reader, they might well be a real barrier, in the way that my younger friends look politely befuddled and soon change the subject when I go on about Classic Trek. I didn't even mention the Lost in Space references, which to me are pretty much gobbledy-gook and mainly made me wonder how creaky Sawyer himself was. It's a problem with being so specific with the years; I think the book is going to feel weirdly dated in the future. And it really wasn't necessary to the story to be so specifically dated.

I just looked him up in ISFDB, and he's five years younger than I am, so he can't be too creaky.

He's eight years older than me, so not creaky in the literal sense. But Lost in Space feels like a generational marker for people some years older than that. Interesting, since it's roughly the same vintage as Classic Trek, which feels like "my" era, even though I was too young to watch it new. Maybe it's because it didn't hold up as well or last in reruns the way Trek did, so the demographic slice is narrower and older?

Unless the story is set in the era where those references would have meant something to those who lived then, I prefer that writers abstain from making those references - at least if they're likely to become incomprehensible to future readers. (And I never watched Seinfeld.)

And there is the danger of dating the story, like when the movie Contact had Bill Clinton appear as the President.

The only reason I knew Bill Clinton appeared in Contact is that Sawyer mentioned it in his discussion of the movie's flaws in Rollback. I plan to evict this annoying little snippet of information from my brain as quickly as possible to make room for something more interesting, like collar-starching technique.

The best way to starch a collar is to have a form to lay it out on.

Did ST-TNG use collar-starching on its cast?

I had really bad luck starching the collar in question. I am tempted to solve this problem by interfacing the collar.

If it doesn't show, no reason you shouldn't!

Well...it does and it doesn't. It's the shirt collar, which is mostly covered by cravat (which also needs starching) and waistcoat collar. But it does show at the tips. The downside of making it permanently stiff is that I would love the ability to appear en déshabillé with the cravat dangling loose, collar open, throat visible, etc., and that is a bit more problematic if I build the interfacing into the collar itself.

What about using collar points -- the metal ones are time-accurate. And light interfacing might work, too.

Dunno, but I have to do something - every time I watch the video, the floppy collar makes me INSANE.

Even though it's dark, I see your point. What about using really stiff interfacing -- like what's used for couch skirts -- and making it removable? It's stiff enough to stand up by itself, and if you include tiny snaps or velcro at the bottom inside, you could pull the interfacing when you wanted to look casual.

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