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This thing is still here?

Well, looks like I’ve done a phenomenal job of keeping up on this blog. And with writing in general. Although I did get my first short story published! Yay me! Granted, that was in November, and I was last sending out submissions in May, so the last few months have kind of been a portrait of myself as a fuckup. So rather than make a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that I’ll never be able to live up to, I’ll just try to get back on track, without the melodramatic vows that accompany the holiday. So yeah, expect to see more of this. Unless I fall back into my old habits.

Reading list, just because it’s fun. Since I last updated in March, there’s been a lot…

24. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, Jay Bonansinga

25. Sword of Sedition, Loren Coleman

26. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett

27. Grey, John Armstrong

28. Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Cory Doctorow

29. Reamde, Neal Stephenson

30. Zoo City, Lauren Beukes

31. After the Golden Age, Carrie Vaughn

32. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

33. The Blue Light Project, Timothy Taylor

34. Playing for Pizza, John Grisham

35. A Dance With Dragons, George R.R. Martin

36. The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi

37. Old Man’s War, John Scalzi

38. Accelerando, Charles Stross

39. Machine of Death, anthology

40. Deadline, Mira Grant

41. Makers, Cory Doctorow

42. Falling Free, Lois McMaster-Bujold

43. Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

44. Zendegi, Greg Egan

45. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin

46. Feed, Mira Grant

47. Soft Apocalypse, Will McIntosh

48. Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan

49. The Last Argument of Kings, Joe Abercrombie

50. At the Queen’s Command, Michael Stackpole

51. Of Blood and Honey, Stina Leicht (Favorite Book of the Year Award!)

52. For the Win, Cory Doctorow

53. Agent to the Stars, John Scalzi

54. God’s War, Kameron Hurley

55. Embedded, Dan Abbnett

56. Before They Are Hanged, Joe Abercrombie

57. A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin

58. A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin

59. A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin

60. A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin

I think that’s it, but I can’t be sure.

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Don’t Look Behind You

I read an interesting little story today, called “Don’t Look Behind You” by Fredric Brown, one of the most enduring and beloved of America’s pulp writers. It’s a mystery story in which the reader is the victim. I don’t want to give anything away, but it uses the format in which it originally appeared to make the conceit work. Very fun, and I’d say it’s a precursor to the modern alternate reality game, which uses the myriad of information resources available to craft a compelling story that immerses the reader.

Reading List Update 1

20. 1632, Eric Flint

21. The Blade Itself, Joe Abercrombie

22. Space Cadet, Robert Heinlein

23. The A.I. War: The Big Boost, Daniel Keys Moran

That last one is very important to me, although more important to Dan Moran, I expect. The previous books in the ‘Tales of the Continuing Time’ series, Emerald Eyes, The Long Run and The Last Dancer, are great.  Nominally cyberpunk, with time travel, aliens, conspiracies and a smart hero devoted to non-violence. Good stuff.

So the next book in the series came out, which in itself is awesome, but here’s the thing: the last book was published in 1993. There was a big blow-up with the publisher which, as far as I can tell, ended up with them dangling the finished book out of his reach, refusing to publish it, and DKM finally buying back the rights to his own book a few years back.

It’s been like slipping into an old pair of shoes. Well-worn, but fits you perfect. If you’re into sci-fi, and want a fun series to sink your teeth into check these books out. The first three are available free as PDFs, and the most recent is available (as well as the previous books in epub and other ebook formats) at the enigmatically named FS&.

Banner Ad Fail

While it’s not quite as bad as the McDonald’s “I’d Hit That” from a few years back, I just saw a banner ad that made me laugh out loud with its less-than-favorable implications.

So, with all the reviews Domino’s has received for their new pizza, the most glowing review they could come up with is four out of five stars? Not a single taste-tester gave it five stars? Even the most strident Domino’s fan, apparently Mia6 of Dover, DE, said “Five out of five? Let’s not go nuts, here.” If that’s the standard Domino’s measures success by, those are some seriously lowered expectations.

Oh, and if you’re not aware of the McDonalds ad, check out this blog post from Andrew Teman.

Reading List, 2011

I’ve always been a voracious reader, but I’m only starting to realize how important that is to an aspiring writer. You really have to read to keep up on trends and ideas, to prevent yourself from repeating stories. I wrote a story about a time-traveling historian who visits Tang Dynasty China to interact with a famed poet, only to find that several 2010 novels (“Blackout/All Clear” by Connie Willis and “Under Heaven” by Guy Gavriel Kay) deal with time-traveling historians, the Tang Dynasty and the poet in one or the other.

So I’m trying to get back into old habits and pick up on my reading. For enjoyment, yes, but also to try to prevent myself from retreading familiar ground. So, in no particular order, the books I’ve read since New Years.

  1. On Basilisk Station, David Weber
  2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
  3. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
  4. The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
  5. Star Wars: Vortex, Troy Denning
  6. On Writing, Stephen King
  7. Rite of Passage, Alexei Panshin
  8. Blackout, Connie Willis
  9. All Clear, Connie Willis
  10. Ethan of Athos, Lois McMaster-Bujold
  11. Brothers in Arms, Lois McMaster-Bujold
  12. Mirror Dance, Lois McMaster-Bujold
  13. Memory, Lois McMaster-Bujold
  14. Komarr, Lois McMaster-Bujold
  15. A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster-Bujold
  16. Diplomatic Immunity, Lois McMaster-Bujold
  17. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow
  18. Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
  19. Fallen Angels, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle & Michael Flynn

Please note, this does not include short stories, novellas, novelettes and other short form work. I enjoyed all of them, for the most part. The Vorkosigan books are among my all-time favorites, and Rothfuss is getting up there. Blackout and All Clear (one book, really, split into two by the publisher), however, were Nebula nominated this year, and I found them, while not bad, fairly tedious at times.

I’m also in the middle of 1632 by Eric Flint (as an ebook) and The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (in print). Next to be read is likely God’s War by Kameron Hurley, For The Win by Cory Doctorow, or Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi (all three free ebooks from various legal sources on the Internet).

Curse you, Batman!

Honestly, for all his supposed good works, Batman has caused far more suffering in my household than joy. Ignore, for the moment, the idea that Gotham’s supercriminals exist as a response to him. His ears are pointy, making him a perfect weapon for 627 to poke his brother with. His existence in a mere single temporal-spatial location makes my children scream (“I want it!” “It’s my turn!”). The variety in portrayal creates a never-ending flow of demands (“I want that one! And that one!”). Videogames with him in it are apparently physiologically addictive, because they lead to shakes, screams and begging for more.  Honestly, I’m sick of him.

That said, I love his portrayal in Cartoon Network’s Young Justice. Rather than the grim loner avenger of the night, he’s a thoughtful father figure. Sometimes stern and authoritative, but never authoritarian. He’s capable of both a firm, guiding hand and a soft touch. Compare him to the confused, occasionally belligerent Superman, who deals with his newfound offspring in Superboy by ignoring him whenever he can. It’s a very pleasant change of pace from the near-psychotic that he’s been portrayed as in recent years.

The First Rule of Preschool Fight Club…

First off, an apology. It’s been a while since I wrote something here, so for all six of you who read this blog, I’ sorry. I’ll try to do better.

There’s a new development among the boys that is both amusing and terrifying. They have decided it’s fun to fight. Not argue, not compete, but fight. Slapping, body slamming, clawing, pinching, head-butting. The other night, 2.0 had more welts on his chest than a pro wrestler, and I think Experiment 627 is starting to develop cauliflower ear.

My own brother and I are five years apart, and we never fought like this. We’d have an occasional altercation, but it wouldn’t last for more than a punch to the arm, a toss into a wall, or a shovel to the head (the shovel was an accident, not an actual assault by my brother, but it still doesn’t change the fact that I can’t remember the entire month of January, 1996).

My own kids are just over two years apart, and with my little one continuing to be a voracious eater, they’re not far apart in weight. 2.0 has a reach advantage, but when everyone’s jumping around on the couch, that doesn’t count for much.

I’m actually a bit glad, in a way. 2.0 has been, to this point, a bit wimpy. I’m certainly not the kind of parent to encourage fighting, and I’ve never really been a particularly tough guy, but there’s something to be said for sucking up a bit of pain. But when I gave the ultimatum “If either of you makes the other one cry, you’re both going to bed,” they continued to fight and laugh about it.

On a side note, my father, who had spent more than three decades as a Chicago police officer, retired last month. I have never known him, professionally, as anything other than a police officer. To see him as a man of leisure is slightly disconcerting, but well-deserved. Imagine this: in all his time working, he never took a sick day. He’d had medical leave for injuries, but not once did he wake up and think “I don’t want to go to work today, I’ll make something up.” That’s a love for a job and a work ethic that I find remarkable.