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March 01, 2009

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Ellis has been experimenting with comic formats; being 48 pages Aetheric Mechanics can sit on the shelves with the collections and graphic novels, but still be cheap enough to take a chance on while having a complete story in it.

It's unlikely to have a direct sequel; it's published under the Apparat label, which began as a fictional comics line from a history where pulp stories mutated into comics without becoming almost exclusively superhero comics. It's now Ellis' non-SF genre fiction line; it's previously had the original Apparat Singles Group, a 48 page story about the battle of Crecy (reviewed by my under my ridiculous pseudonym here) and I've just realised that in all the excitement I seem to have missed the release of Frankenstein's Womb which could be interesting.

I think that 'Sax Raker' comes from Sax Rohmer, creator of Fu Manchu, but I wouldn't swear to it.

The art wasn't quite my cup of tea. Being in B&W, its thin-line style made for a texture-less look, but it wasn't insurmountable.

Would it be worthy of a Hugo? I nominated it, and briefly thought of listing it in the novella category, so my own answer obviously is yes. Frankly, if Ellis, or Stephen Baxter or Rudy Rucker had taken that exact same script and written it as a prose story, it'd be a serious contender.

Serge,
I figured I was missing a lot of references, since I'm not an expert on whatever one calls that era of fiction.

It's Hugo-worthiness is a moot point for me now, but I agree that as a prose story it might well be a contender. I'm actually not convinced it's not eligible as a prose-only story of some length or other (I'm not counting the words to figure it out). I know this has come up as an issue before w/r/t the Hugos, but I can't remember the details or outcome.

Sounds very good, I'll have to head over to the comic shop and look for it.

Did I say non-SF up there? I meant non-superhero.

Another source for Sax Raker might be Sexton Blake, another early 20th century fictional detective.

While I'm at it, I liked the importance of tea to Raker (and it's insignificance to the plot) and how we get a hint of how aggravating it would be to actually live or work with Sherlock Holmes. Frankly, the final tale in the Sherlock Holmes canon ought to have ended with Watson strangling Holmes after an especially self-congratulatory conclusion to a case.

I've not followed comics closely but if I had been eligible to nominate I would have on the grounds that it is a strong enough example of an SF "Graphic Story" that I wouldn't feel embarassed to see it win.

Neil... it is a strong enough example of an SF "Graphic Story" that I wouldn't feel embarassed to see it win

I know what you mean. I love SF movies and TV shows, but I approach them differently from written SF, even when conceived by the same people. I think there have been times when I haven't had to turn on the filter, but I can't remember them off-hand, aside from the subject of today's thread.

Neil,
Holmes and his one-upsmanship, yeah. Aggravating as hell. I suspect I have a tendency to the same thing in the dance field, and try to suppress it. It's intellectual dicksizing; very entertaining to read about, but much less so to experience.

If I'd read AM in time I might have nominated it. I feel stupid for not squeezing it in; February has just been from hell for me, and I totally forgot it was waiting. It not being a normal category, I just didn't think about Graphic Story. My bad. If it makes the ballot I will feel positive about voting for it. And I'll be very curious to see what level of nominations that category gets, since it's a test run for whether there will be a permanent category.

Neil,
I like the idea of Archery Comics! Archery was always one of those sports that was impractical for me, alas, and I don't think I'll be taking it up at this late date. But I have a lot of friends who did a lot of archery in an SCA context and were quite skilled. That was mostly target-shooting, though, rather than combat archery.

Holmes being smug for solving one crime would be fine, as he has proved he is a great detective. Having to follow Holmes around for 20 years and watching him congratulate himself on being The Great Detective after every case: annoying.

As for archery comics, after Crecy I'm not sure there's much more to say about the Longbow in history. I will note that there's more swearing and xenophobia on the first page of Crecy than in all of Aetheric Mechanics; having been warned, the first page can be seen down the bottom of this review.

Why was archery impractical for you, Susan? Nowhere to practice without the risk of harm to people or property?

I really should get back to archery. I've got a nice wood recurve bow that I haven't used in over 15 years.

Serge:
I could not draw a bow in proper position before 12/07.

Oh. Right.

Wow, Crecy looks good! Too bad it can't be used as a history text in schools. I'll have to get a copy of that too. Thanks for the pointer, Neil.

Just the cover would be enough to make some people have a fit. Some of the stuff inside...

Thanks indeed for the recommendation, Neil. It'll make for some interesting reading.

Say, did I lend my copy of "Aetheric Mechanics" to one of you? If not, then it's probably buried somewhere in my work room. (I wonder whatever happened to that biography of Ada Lovelace.)

Not I! I bought my own.

I still can't believe it didn't make it to the final list of the Hugo's graphic-story category. I guess people were more likely to know about Whedon's ho-hum Firefly comic-book. (Remember that I loved the show, but the comic-book? Not so much.)

As for my copy of it, I have no idea what I did with it, but, well, I'll simply buy it again at the local comics store. I'm sure they won't mind.

Not me, either.

All I have is your Steampunk anthology, some of which I read in the shade of a beautiful old tree at the Planting Fields Arboretum in NY. Pretty much the perfect reading spot, in fact. If I lived in NY, I would spend every day I could there (which would get expensive, since they charge admission).

AJ... So, Your vacation trip wasn't the bleh time you had feared? Glad to hear it!

It turns out that Aetheric Mechanics was indeed hidden in my work room, and in a rather obvious spot, come to think of it.

Yesterday, my wife gave me the steampunk graphic novel The Five Fists of Science. I'm looking forward to reading this story, where Nikola Tesla & Mark Twain fight Edison & Marconi, who appear to have allied themselves with lovecraftian forces.

If there had been a Hugo for graphic stories 3 years ago...
If I had been in a position to nominate...
If I had been in a position to vote...

I'd have nominated "Strange Girl". It was an 18-issue story set after the Rapture, about a young woman making her way across America, hoping to reach the last Gate to Heaven before demons and wingnuts catch up with her.

Serge, I wasn't worried about this vacation. They're only bad when I have to spend half my time with the workaholic father-in-law. My mother-in-law is much more inclined to make our visits fun, with trips into NYC and to the Ren Faire and to nice places on Long Island, like the aforementioned Arboretum, where we had a picnic followed by the reading time, then some walking/hiking around the grounds.

Five Fists of Science sounds like some awesome reading.

Serge,
It would have been eligible in its word-count fiction category, whatever that might have been. Novella?

Susan... I expect that the Hugo committee would still have tossed out such nominees, considering how little they tend to think outside of the proverbial box.

Serge,
No, really, they wouldn't have; the word-count thing was discussed repeatedly and was not controversial. They don't tend to do that even when a nominee is clearly ineligible. Obvious examples: the moon landing as a dramatic presentation (!!); Locus in the last decade-plus as a "semi" prozine. Hugo administrators are supposed to administer, not override the voters. Personally, I think a little more attention to eligibility would be nice.

And one of Neil Gaiman's Sandman books got nominated in Best Related Book, so clearly a graphic novel could have gone in that category. The theory behind the current new category is that there are now so many graphic novels published that they deserve to have a separate category carved out for them, and that "related book" (now "work") is a catch-all whereas graphic novels are notable for a specific combination of words and art. I am pretty agnostic on the topic, myself.

And in case anyone's thinking of bringing up the famous incident when Sandman #19 won an award for Best Short Fiction and the adjudicators said "Never again" - that wasn't the Hugos, that was the World Fantasy Awards.

Susan... I stand corrected. Regarding graphic novels finally being recognized as deserving a separate category, it is indeed about time. Locus's Charlie Brown didn't exactly help hasten that: every time he even bothered bringing up their existence in his editorials, his attitude was 'not interested'. I wonder if the magazine will change its policy, now that he's departed. (I hold no grudge against Brown. Heck, he was nice to my wife when her agent introduced her to him at her first worldcon as a professional.)

Paul A... I think I remember reading about that. Does anybody remember the mid-1980s when Howard Chaykin's comic-book American Flagg wound up as a nominee for the Nebulas, of all things? (Chaykin is a prick, but I didn't know that then.)

Gaiman didn't actually win a Hugo with the Sandman thing, but it was definitely a nominee (quick google-about) in 2000. This was the "Best Related Book" category which replaced "Best Related Non-Fiction Book" and has now been replaced by "Best Related Work."

I have no strong opinion about whether there are enough quality graphic novels around to make up a respectable Hugo category. This year, there were 212 nominating ballots offering 496 nominations which boiled down to 165 different works. 13 nominations are all that were needed to make the ballot. For comparison:

DP-Long form:
Ballots 436; Nomination 1143; Unique 127; 43 to make ballot

Novel:
Ballots 639; Nominations: 1990; Unique: 335; 54 to make ballot

Semi-Prozine:
Ballots 283; Nominations: 663; Uniques 60; 55 to make ballot

Fanzine:
Ballots: 257; Nominations: 626; Unique: 132; 30 to make ballot

I think in Graphic I'm most unhappy with the idea that only 13 nominations were needed to make the ballot - that's pretty pitiful, especially when compared to the relatively low-distribution and obscure Semi-Prozines and Fanzines. I'm not sure whether that represents a huge quantity published (so that hardly anyone has read the same stuff) or such a flat quality curve that there are very few standouts and after the first couple of nominations it's pretty much a crap-shoot among the mediocre. The nomination distributions suggests that:

Girl Genius Volume 8: 65
The Body Politic: 32
Girl Genius Volume 7: 18 (ineligible)
Y: The Last Man Vol. 10: 17
Welcome to the Jungle: 16
Fables: War and Pieces: 13
Better Days: 13

Look at the dropoff after the first two - 65, 32, 18 (for something ineligible), 17, 16, 13, 13. That suggests to me either lack of commonality in reading or lack of really strong nominees.

But this is why it's in as a category for only a couple of years and then must be re-ratified. And people will be looking at this stuff, believe me.

The numbers were that low in the graphic-story category? I wonder. Are most of the nominees those that were released in one single physical book? If a monthly comic-book has had a really neat story arc, but didn't have a book reprinting the serialized-format original, the story may fall below the radar of most people. The category is new. Maybe voters are still in the process of shifting their mental gears.

Well, you can look over the nominees here. I don't know most of them, so I can't tell.

I do note, with guilt, that Aetheric Mechanics got twelve nominations, which means if I'd read it and nominated it before the deadline...aarrgh.

(That would have meant a seven-nominee ballot with a three-way tie for fifth place!)

Some of the titles I've never read, but, yes, I should have nominated Grant Morrison's "Superman" story. I had nominated "Dan Dare", but it didn't make it.

Hmmm... P Craig Russell's comic-book adaptation of Gaiman's "Sandman" novelle about the Japanese fox woman will be eligible next year.

It should have been great, but graphic novel "The Five Fists of Science" was very disappointing. JP Morgan, Edison and Marconi are dealing with lovecraftian horrors, but most of the plot really is about Tesla & Mark Twain's efforts to force peace onto 1900's Earth thru an "Architects of Fear" ploy. Muddy storytelling. Muddy art.

I hope "Atomic Robo" will turn out to be more successful.

Chris has read some of Atomic Robo on-line and he liked it. At the very least, the artwork is not muddy. Very clean lines and clear colors.

AJ... I like the art too, for those same reasons. I had never heard about Atomic Robo until this year's worldcon, when someone did a presentation based on the character. (Click HERE for a photo.) I recently got around to googling about Robo and, as a result, ordered a copy of the reprint's first trade paperback at the nearby comics store a few days ago. If I decide that it IS my cup of coffee, then I'll acquire the remaining stories.

Serge, that is one sweet Atomic Robo costume!

Chris and I learned about it because he reads Nuklear Power, a comic full of humor about the original Final Fantasy games.

Oh, and going back to the subject of disappointing reading material, I'm working my way through "The Strain" by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Despite the fact that the cover has lots of praise for how great and scary it is, I'm over 100 pages in (after three days of reading) and it's boring and the writing borders on amateur.

AJ... Still at it after 100 pages that bored you? You have more patience than I.

Serge, I very rarely leave a book unfinished... but this one is really tempting me to put it down and move on to something better. I'm very glad I didn't buy it -- My MIL gave it to me when she was done with it.

AJ... Life is so short. There are so many books.

I know, I know! I have two more books waiting to be read, and more out that I want to buy... I just keep hoping that this one will suddenly get better.

When discussing it with Chris, I pegged one of my issues with it. The main protagonist is so vanilla good. No vices, no flaws, no dark past. I do prefer likable heroes, but they need to feel realistic.

AJ... I just keep hoping that this one will suddenly get better

There was a discussion on that subject elsewhere not long ago, and Bill Higgins (aka Bill Heterodyne) mentionned that Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow drastically improved after the first 200 pages. I'm not sure how often that happens.

Meanwhile, I'm rather surprised that a story associated with del Toro would have the main characters without any darkness in them. That being said, my favorite ice cream flavors are lime and strawberry, but not together.

I read a still-unbought novel draft for a friend and my main comment was that he should eliminate the first 200 pages, since the story really didn't kick into gear until after that.

In your experience, Susan, how often does a novel get better? I've been lucky these last 10 years, as far as novels are concerned. One of the last times this happened to me, the problem wasn't that the beginning could have been cut out, but that it established a premise I couldn't buy - that someone who was born on an isolated planet after his parents crashed there could, after his rescue when he's become a teenager, adapt to Civilization's schools fairly well and that he could master advanced mathematics easily. If the writer had established that the kid was a genius, I'd have stuck with it, but she didn't, so I didn't.

AJ... In case you're interested, before he struck out on his own with HellBoy, Mike Mignola did a one-shot Batman story, a late 19th Century version involving Jack the Ripper. If I still have it, and if you're interested, let me know.

This summer another Ellis one-shot 48 page comic, Frankenstein's Womb, was released. I might describe it as a meditation on science, alchemy, Mary Shelley, the future, and of course Frankenstein, but I might best say that it's not what you think it is from the cover.

I'm not sure whether it's brilliant or self-indulgent (or both) of Ellis, but hopefully this much notice will let interested parties look it out before the nomination deadline.

(Ellis occasionaly describes himself as an SF author working (mostly) in comics, so I'd have been interested in what he'd have said if Aetheric Mechanics had made the ballot. It would probably have been obscene though.)

Thanks for the recommendation, Neil.

I started reading a new fantasy novel today, and early on I got the sense it wouldn't be my cup of coffee. Maybe it was the writing style, or the overall Voice of the author. Still, I persisted for about 30 pages. On Monday I'll be leaving to spend the week in the Bay Area, to meet my new boss for the first time. Hopefully, our meeting in person instead of thru the wonder of telecommuting will make me decide that I can trust him. But I digress. I felt that I should bring with me a book (or two) that will give me some pleasure, any pleasure, and this one wouldn't be it. So it's gone in my give-away-to-the-local-SF-club pile. Tomorrow, after I'm done with planting next year's batch of flowers for my wife, I'll try Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle. If THAT doesn't work out, I'll be taking Peter O'Donnell's I, Lucifer along.

So, what was the novel that didn't work for you?

I'm on the road this weekend (Boston and NYC) and just finished a quick reread of O'Donnell's Dragon's Claw and am working on Kelley Armstrong's Living with the Dead. Light reading only while on the road!

I thought Lord Valentine's Castle quite good, but that was twentyish years ago. I don't think I've reread it in about that long. I, Lucifer is one of the more skiffy of the O'Donnells, with ESP being a big factor along with the usual wacko villains. It's the one Gaiman wanted to turn into a movie script. One just has to get past the winceworthy gay stereotype early on. (It has nothing on Dragon's Claw, though, where one of the main villains is the ultimate stereotypical campy queen.) At least in I, Lucifer it's a redshirt.

Susan... It was Yvivat jvgu Tubfgf, by Xnev Fcreevat, which DAW published in March of this year.

As for Silverberg... I read Man in the Labyrinth and The Glass Tower, back in my college days. (That'd be circa 1973, before the birth of Disco.) He's one of those writers that I know are critically acclaimed, and I can see why, but I've never been able to feel it. I thought I'd try again, and see if it'll click this time.

If not, yes, there's O'Donnell's book. I remember your warning me about the gay character. I guess that was to be expected from books of that era. Interestingly, in Sabertooth, he has Modesty shrug off the people who think she might be a lesbian. I guess that's the old double standard about which form of homosexuality is OK with heterosexual men.

Well, I know I'll enjoy the book, provided I make certain concessions.

Yay! I've been going thru my shelves of unread books, to see which ones I can donate to the local SF club, and what did I find? That biography of Ada Lovelace that I thought was lost.

Serge,
You don't have to rot13 a book's title just 'cause you didn't enjoy reading it. Authors shouldn't autogoogle unless they can take it.

Modesty's attitude toward lesbianism is also problematic -- basically considers it bad but isn't insecure about it because she knows she's straight. And O'Donnell has written at least one lesbian villain who's just as much a stereotype as his campy gay men.

Susan... I know I didn't have to rot13 the title or the author, but I felt more comfortable doing it that way, especially since I had met the author at the worldcon and I liked her. It's just one of my idiosyncrasies.

As for recommending that authors shouldn't autogoogle if they can't take it... I couldn't agree more. I'm married to a writer. She never autogoogles, but sometimes she couldn't help herself and check on Amazon's reviews of her books. It didn't matter if there were many positives comments, all it took was one negative person. She eventually figured it was better to stay away.

Serge, thank you for the offer but I'm not too big on Batman comics :)

I almost put The Strain down for good on Wednesday evening, when something stupid, predictable and crass happened, but then I realized that if I didn't finish it, I couldn't review it for Collector Times, so I'm working my way through a little bit every night before bed. I'm hoping to finish it within the next week or so, so I can take something more enjoyable on my trip to Tahoe.

AJ... No problem. I only made the offer because of the quasi-steampunk feel of the story. I'm not that big on DC comics myself, except for Superman when it was written by Kurt Busiek, or by Grant Morrison, and Green Arrow when Kevin Smith wrote it. Meanwhile, I'm at page 67 of Lord Valentine's Castle and am enjoying it so far. Not sure why it's 'clicking' now. It just occurred to me that those other novels had been translations into French. Maybe that had something to do with my earlier reactions.

Susan: I have something to look forward to, then (for appropriate values of "look forward to") - I, Lucifer and Dragon's Claw are the two I haven't read yet.

Have Modesty often dipped her toes into SF's waters after I, Lucifer, or was it an anomaly?

Off topic... I'm in the San Francisco area, where the rest of my group resides. For technical reasons, we can't navigate anywhere outside of my employer's intranet, and this only in the new building where the team has moved. If you don't see me much around the blogosphere this week, that's why.

Serge,
There's ESP of various sorts in several of the books -- one of the recurring characters in the series is a dowser who doesn't just do the standard "hold the rods and find water thing" but can also locate people by looking at a map and holding an object belonging to a person. Her power is at the center of one book's plot and peripherally useful in another. And Modesty herself has a sort of built-in GPS -- she can think for a few minutes and figure out her location within a few miles anywhere in the world. It's not SF, exactly, but it skates along the edge.

Paul,
There's only one left that I haven't got, and am pretty sure (but not 100%) that I have never read, either: Dead Man's Handle. I am not rushing to find it, since I don't really want it all to come to an end. After that book I'm left with just the comic strip collections, which I do not find nearly as satisfying. I realize O'Donnell is entitled to retire (he's in his 80s at least) and I approve of him not farming out the characters to another writer, since his style really is distinctive, but I wish he could have squeezed out a few more novels. I have a stack of his romance novels (written under a pseudonym) but they just aren't as magical for me.

I'm not sure I can think of any Modesty Blaise stories that are outright SF. There's one with a vampire, but he turns out to be a fraud; ditto the time traveller in "The Girl from the Future". There are, as Susan has said, scattered instances of unambiguously genuine ESP, but I'm not sure O'Donnell considers those to be SF; I suspect that his worldview includes ESP as a thing that actually happens.

Is something SF (or fantasy) when it's real?

On a topic sort-of related to steampunk... Is there still such a thing as the Goth scene? I asked because there was a new cop show on last night called "The Forgotten", about a group of private citizens, led by ex-cop Christian Slater, who help find (thru old-fashioned footwork) who this or that dead person was. It was ok, but just that, because more than once I found myself asking why nobody looked into this or that. Anyway, last night's case was about a 19-year-old girl who'd run away from home a couple of years before and who'd been a lot into Goth. I kept wondering about the validity of that. I'm waiting for the day when a plot revolves around those crazy steampunk kids.

Speaking of spies and ESP... Anybody else ever seen or heard of late-Sixties British series "The Champions"?

Susan: whereas I adored his pseudonymous romance novels (not realizing until very recently that they were by him) but didn't much care for the one Modesty Blaise book I read. It was okay, and I wouldn't rule out reading more at some point, but I'm not rushing out to find the rest.

Serge, the Goth scene is still very much alive and well. Though some Goths have crossed over to steampunk, there are still quite a few who are still 100% Goth.

I consider myself to be semi-Goth. I listen to a lot of Gothic music, enjoy some Gothic fiction, and like to dress Goth sometimes, but I don't dress Goth every day, because there are other styles I enjoy just as much (steampunk, earth mother, tribal belly dancer, and normal every day pants and tees).

There's also a very active Gothic belly dance community. They take American Tribal Style moves and perform to Goth music, wearing dark and oftentimes elaborate costumes. There's a heavy emphasis on slow movements, isolations, and even some pop and locking.

For further proof of the continuing health of the Goth movement, you can visit one of my favorite websites, Gothic Charm School. The site's "headmistress" advises Goths on manners, fashion, and how to deal with disapproving parents, teasing peers, and other problems.

http://www.gothic-charm-school.com/

I have a feeling it will be some time until steampunks show up in mainstream crime shows, if ever. Many mainstream people are aware of steampunk as a style of jewelry and maybe clothing. However, not all of them are aware of steampunk as a subculture.

More importantly, being steampunk doesn't have the stigma that being Goth does. Yes, it's strange, but it's not "dark and spooky" so it's less likely to be considered a bad thing for teens to be involved in. It's very easy for narrow-minded idiots to draw a correlation that wearing black and liking bats/skeletons/ravens means that you're a devil-worshiper or suicidal. Wearing brown and tinkering with brass gadgets will probably just get you labeled as a weirdo.

That's assuming, of course, that no TV screenwriters ever get their hands on Steampunk Magazine and get freaked out by the heavy Anarchist leanings and the how-to about Victorian-era drugs...

For a moment I thought I had seen the Champions, but found I'd confused it with the Persuaders. From the wikipedia page I suspect I saw one or more episodes of The Champions on one or other cycle of repeats, but I can't honestly be sure.

Hmm. I think this may be worse than useless.

There is a still a Goth scene - a friend of mine* who is part of it runs an occasional horror party night, which may or may not be part of it depending on who you ask.

* Who holds the distinction of having been both thrown out of his University GothSoc for smiling too much, then being elected president.

Neil... I can just see the scene in Law & Order where the Guilty ex-Goth breaks down in the court room and confesses to killing all of the group's other Goths because they threw her out for excessive smiling.

"Yes, I did it, I did it, and I'm glad I did it! Hahahahahah!!!"

AJ... being steampunk doesn't have the stigma that being Goth does. Yes, it's strange, but it's not "dark and spooky"

I think there was an srticle about Steampunk in Weird Tales wher ethey basically said the same thing. It's kind of hard to get worried about a kid who likes to carry too many pocket watches.

I watched the forgotten, too, and it's only getting one more try. It was not only very predictable, but the dead girl did a lot of narrating. I hate that. On the other hand, I really liked The Good Wife and will try NCIS: Los Angeles at least a few more times.

Neil... I remember "The Persuaders", with Tony Curtis & Roger Moore. Growing up in Canada, I had access to many British TV series. I rather liked the one about the Viking family. Regarding "The Champions", there are quite a few clips on YouTube. Ah, Alexandra Bastedo... Be still, my heart.

I assume no one is expecting me to have anything to contribute to the discussion of TV shows. :) Y'all go right ahead, though.

Darn. To think I was just about to ask Susan if she had ever seen Roger Moore's "Ivanhoe" TV series...

:-)

Neil, they kicked him out for smiling too much? Ugh. That sort of stuff is why I never made an effort to actually be part of any sort of Goth culture. I'm sure there are lots of lovely Goths out there, but the too-serious sorts ruin the fun. It's also the same reason why I'm not in the SCA, but that's beside the point.

I remember reading a news article about the people that The Forgotten is based on, and also the ones Rescue Ink is about, too. Both interesting groups, but I don't think I'll watch either show when they hit DVD.

I just finished Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle. Well, sort of finished. I liked the first half of it quite a bit, even though I couldn't believe in the world of Majipoor. At some point though, I became restless and started skimming across a page, then acoss many pages, then outright skipping. Maybe it was the utopianism of Majipoor, but I think it's because the first half was about someone being welcome into a family while the rest was about his discovering who he really was and his working to regain the Throne. Oh well.

And I just finished The Strain. Oh joy, oh ecstasy! To finally be free of such poor writing. My goodness I hated that book.

Going to take Clockwork Heart to Tahoe with me. It looks fluffy and perhaps romance-y. Even if it's bad, it will be a nice change from bad, not-scary "horror."

I read Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War last night and enjoyed it. How could it be otherwise, with lines like this?

"Leg stealin' fascist jerks!"

"Automobiles have been the best melee weapons to use against giant monsters since the '50s. It's science fact."

I've been reading Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne, and likewise enjoying the dialogue. I particularly like the interactions between the Fightin' Scientists on their way to (and frequently continuing through) the big action sequences.

"It shot us out of the sky with a deathray!"
"It probably focuses sunlight through a series of mirrors and lenses."
"No way it can be that powerful."
"It's sound in theory. Solar deathray design was my doctorate thesis."

Alas, Paul, Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne is out of print. Hopefully they'll soon reprint it, because $99 for the only available copies seems a bit pricey. I must say though that, after reading Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War, I am sorely tempted to bite the bullet.

"So you're building a big dumb bomb to show everyone who the greatest scientist blah, blah, blah."

"No, that would be the pathetic work of an egomaniac. My bomb will kill everyone in the world. I was robbed of my place in History, so Humanity will be robbed of its Future."

"I am really going to enjoy stopping you."

Susan, I just finished The Life of the World to Come, which is the fifth Company book from Kage Baker, and the cool kids in 2337 were listening to "late twenty-third-century neobaroque fusion, which was competely out of period but accommodated swing steps perfectly."

Steampunk writer GD Falksen has story "The Strange Case of Mr. Salad Monday" up at Tor.com. I haven't read it yet, but I've liked his stuff before.

I'll have to read Falksen's story this week... Tonight I have to write a scene for the last chapter of a Round Robin (never again!), and practice my snake arms.

Earlier this week I started trying to read Stephen Hunt's The Court of Air and after a day and a half I gave up. His book reads like a watered-down Perdido Street Station, stripped of most of the dark, gritty dystopia that drew me into that book, and stuffed with teeth-grittingly bad rip-offs of real life religions. And the characters constantly refer to each other by name. Constantly! Frequently by full name.

If my brain had been operating when I picked up said book, I would have realized it was by the same author of another book (loose sequel I think) that I opted not to buy because the cover informed me that the protagonist was searching for the lost city of Camlantis. Seriously. If you're going to have an Atlantis analog in your story, at least do me the favor of trying to conceal with a name that doesn't rhyme with Atlantis.

(I'm practicing to be old and curmudgeonly... how'm I doing?)

AJ... I'm practicing to be old and curmudgeonly... how'm I doing?

We're way ahead of you, what with all those years of practice we've had, but you're doing fine. Don't forget to stand in front of your house to practice the waving of a cane at the kids going by.

The latest issue of Realms of Fantasy arrived today. Woot! And whoever said that short fiction is dead should remind all those writers to stop indulging literary necrophilia.

The only canes in this house have swords hidden inside them... I wonder if that makes it illegal to wave them at kids?

AJ... The kids might think a sword cane is cool. Their parents? Probably not as much.

Although I agree with AJ's description of The Court of the Air I quite liked it as a pulp adventure with all sorts of odd stuff jammed in without really worrying about if they make sense.

For example, after the revolution in the country next door, the government there is described as Communitarianism and they have executed all the nobility. It looks like a mashed-up version of a Marxist French Revolution, but when they turn up on page it turns out to have taken a very weird left turn into... well, weirdness.

Also, to prevent the king of Jackals from ever taking up arms against parliament and the people again, they amputate his arms when he succeeds to the throne.

Also, Camlantis is believed to be like Atlantis (it's a place of super-science and peace and magic unicorns and so forth). Inevitably there's a twist. Frankly, I would have just named it Atlantis and have readers impose their own preconceptions on it, but I'm not Stephen Hunt.

Stephen Hunt also runs a long-lived and much read SF webzine-thing called SF Crowsnest.

Neil... Do you also agree with AJ that she's doing a good job as a curmudgeon? As for Camlantis, are its unicorns pastel, like Catherine Asaro's?

Speaking of pastel unicorns, my latest evil plan is to make a stuffed unicorn out of the beautiful lavender fur fabric that I acquired a while back. I think I'll make the horn and hooves out of sparkly silver fabric.

Mary Aileen... My eyes! My eyes!

Serge: That reminds me, blue eyes would be best, yes? [evil grin]

Mary Aileen... Urp!

Serge: I'll take that as a yes. ;)

But the important question is... what will the mane and tail be made of? I'm voting for rainbow pastel eyelash yarn.

(loud retching sounds)

I have rainbow yarn (as seen here: http://www.themousehole.org/Rainbow.html) and lavender yarn. Is there such a thing as sparkly silver yarn? 'Cause that would be cool.

Good gods. I go away for the weekend and not only is the virtual sink full of teacups and juice glasses with peculiarly-colored liquid dregs in them as well as plates covered with what look suspiciously like cookie* crumbs, a perfectly innocent comment thread has been invaded by Pastel Unicorns.

Mary Aileen: that sounds like something I would have liked immensely when I was about nine. At my current age, I think I sense some hives coming on.

(Am I the only one who, while never having actually read the Twilight books, has acquired an unpleasant twitch about the word "sparkly"?)

*Biscuits, for Neil and possibly Paul.

Steampunk writer GD Falksen

Is a local to me, did you know? I met him at Saloncon last year -- there's probably a picture of him in that photo album.

Mary Aileen, most all-silver yarns or cords will be too stiff and/or prickly, due to the heavy mylar content. But if you go to a specialty yarn store, I bet you could find some pastel yarn shot through with silver, which would have a much better drape.

Susan, I have never read the Twilight books, and thankfully my immersion in the bead world prevents me from having a problem with the world sparkly. It's usually associated with crystals, which I like very much. I DO twitch at the idea of sparkly, baseball-playing vampires, though.

Neil, I'm probably just not in the right mindset for Stephen Hunt's style. It feels like it's not funny enough to be a parody and not serious enough to be, well, serious. I may also just need a break from steampunk, as I've been reading a lot of it.

Susan: It would, of course, be a deeply ironic pastel unicorn. That's evil laughter you hear in the background of my planning.

"Sparkly" doesn't make me twitch, but the whole idea of sparkly vampires does.

AJ: Thanks for the advice. I'll have to see what I can find.

Susan... I remember now that you'd mentionned Falksen being a local.

As for Twiligth... At this last weekend's pre-Halloween party, I overheard part of a conversation where women made disgusted comments about the hero. Something about his having no flesh around his neck.

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