mirrorshard: A book growing from a tree branch, captioned "Books where fruit should be". (Books where fruit should be)
2011-06-10 04:21 pm

5 questions meme

From [livejournal.com profile] sabethea

1. Science Fiction or Fantasy - which do you prefer/where do you make the separation/what do you like about them both. (*cheats with a three-in-one question* The general gist is, please ramble on about them.)

Let's see!

I rarely draw a hard line between SF & fantasy - I'm starting to prefer the catchall term "fantastika". When I do separate them, it's usually a contrast between what Darko Suvin referred to as a "novum", ie. the new thing which makes SF SF, and what I've started to think of as a diversa, a change in the metaphysical or moral way the world works, a way of narrativising the universe and justifying the Gods' ways to humanity. Whether that's "good will win out in the end", "the world rewards hard work and trust in your friends", "it's everyone for himself and all things will eventually decay and die", or "face it, everyone is a bastard deep down" that's... how fantasy seems to work. If we're talking about a change in physics or mechanics, or a new invention, that's a novum, but they can often overlap, as with universes where the Ptolemaic model of astronomy is real (since that's to do with the nature & importance of the world) or as with Valente's Habitation of the Blessed, which starts with an inversion of a classic Greek science text.

2. Photography or jewellry/other things making - which do you prefer?

The latter. I like photography, but I don't have enough... handles on it, I suppose... to be able to get the same level of absorbtion and complexity that I do with physical craftsmanship. I know it does have that level of complexity, and can be a fascinating analogue process, but I'm nowhere near that good. Whilst I can get good results, it's not from anything complex.

3. I gather you're coming up to three years dating [info]mirabehn. Congratulations, and how did you two get together?

We both played Satan in a readthrough of the radio series "Old Harry's Game" organised by [livejournal.com profile] midnightmelody.

4. Favourite Diana Wynne Jones book?

It's a tossup between Archer's Goon (the first one I read) and The Dark Lord of Derkholm.

5. Do you play instruments/sing? If so what?

I drum, though not with any great proficiency, and [personal profile] mirabehn is teaching me to sing.

I may or may not provide some questions to people who ask for them in the comments.
mirrorshard: A book growing from a tree branch, captioned "Books where fruit should be". (Books where fruit should be)
2011-03-25 11:05 am

Reviewer's pride: or, why I don't use NetGalley

On the face of it, NetGalley looks like a fantastic service: publishers offer electronic ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) to interested parties, ie. reviewers and industry people, via a convenient aggregator website.

However, most of the ones I've had from there (including KJ Parker's The Hammer, Tom Holt's Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages, JC Grimwood's The Fallen Blade and Gail Z Martin's, er, something or other) have been offered only as DRM-laden PDFs, and with an expiry date at that—after (IIRC) six weeks, they become unreadable. Re-downloading them will reset the timer, but the publisher withdraws them from the website after they come out, so the basic effect is of a book chained to a virtual desk that the publisher then confiscates back.

This is ridiculously unprofessional of those publishers, and I find it very insulting. If they want me to consider their book for review, the absolute least I want in return is a copy of the book, physical or electronic, to keep and read as I like. That isn't to say that I won't review books I buy or get from the library, because I do, but that's my choice and in my time. Being able to read them before other people do isn't valuable to me (in fact, less valuable than reading them as part of a community with whom I can discuss them) and I'm not going to jump through any hoops whatsoever in order to do publishers a mutual favour.

Not all publishers who use NetGalley do this, of course. Carina Press (Harlequin's digital-only imprint) gave me several entirely DRM-free ebooks, which didn't suck. Not really my sort of thing, and I don't know enough about the romance genre to be able to review them properly, but they didn't suck.
mirrorshard: A book growing from a tree branch, captioned "Books where fruit should be". (Books where fruit should be)
2011-03-23 04:42 pm

SF Mistressworks meme

Ian Sales has compiled a list of 91 'science fiction mistressworks', a complement to the Gollancz Masterworks series.

Bold those you’ve read, italicise those you own but have not read
long list )
mirrorshard: (The Book of Rainbows)
2010-10-14 05:48 pm

Lavie Tidhar - The Bookman

I read this last night, and you all have to know about this book. Here's an extract from my review, over at Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood:
The Bookman is set in an alternate Victorian era, and it’s intensely focused on the myths and legends of English literary geekdom. It has echoes of Alice Through The Looking Glass, Perdido Street Station, The Tempest, and The Eyre Affair, with a large chunk of Mayhew thrown in for good measure.

It’s set not long after 1887, several hundred years after an expedition to the Calibanic Isle results in the wholesale replacement of Britain’s ruling classes with giant poetry-obsessed lizards. Lord Shakespeare was the first of the great Poet-Prime Ministers; Moriarty is the most recent. And yes, that Moriarty. At the newly rebuilt Rose Theatre, Henry Irving performs his own adaptation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner supported by Beerbohm Tree.


(Read more)

Published by Angry Robot, since January 2010 in the UK and October 2010 in the US.
mirrorshard: (Blue flower tea)
2010-10-07 10:36 pm

On the Meaning of Maps

I've written a longish essay on Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood, entitled "On the Meaning of Maps" - it's all about the use & purpose of maps in fantasy books, and you can find it here.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2010-06-11 12:39 am
Entry tags:

Gentlemen of the Road

For those of you who haven't read Michael Chabon's excellent novel Gentlemen of the Road, it's available in its entirety from the New York Times, in serial form. Here's the final part, which has links to each chapter on the left.

Highly recommended New Pulp—Jews with Swords and Horses, in the Kingdom of the Khazars.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2010-06-06 11:29 pm
Entry tags:

Fanfic recommendation

Not something I'd normally do, but have a Harry Potter fanfic recommendation, in which standard-issue whiny entitled Harry is replaced by a hyper-rational[1] child genius.

Warning: Chapter 7 contains something that looks like a character making a rape joke. Reading on, thank goodness, it's a highly serious plot moment and his interlocuter is disgusted with him. The entire section is, however, both potentially very triggering, and generally a bit upsetting. [Edit: Also an actual rape joke in Chapter 11, which consists of eminently skippable random non-canon bits for some inexplicable reason. Not plot justified. F, see me after class, &c.]

As a whole, the story is extremely funny in places, genuinely moving in others, and quite interesting throughout. Bear in mind that I am only on chapter 17, so cannot either guarantee the quality or issue warnings beyond that.

NB: This story is not for fans of Ron Weasley.

"I only want power so I can get books." (I feel a T-shirt coming on...)




[1] For "Less Wrong" values of hyper-rational. "Less Wrong" is a somewhat pretentious and very self-regarding website all about being cleverer than everyone else. Nevertheless, this Harry is an engaging character who may be somewhat familiar to Bujold fans.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2010-06-04 02:51 pm
Entry tags:

Women writing SF & F

Via [livejournal.com profile] owlfish, authors read from the Periodic Table of 75 Years of Fabulous Writers (PDF):

Bold the women by whom you own books (or books including works by them)
Italicize those by whom you've read something of (whether short stories, non-fiction, or fiction).
Star those of whom you've never heard.

(Procedural note: I've counted books I can immediately lay my hands on, books I know I own but not in this house, and ebooks on local storage. Have also counted an author if the only one I've read (or own) is multiple authorship. No comment is made or implied about inclusion in the list.)
the list )
mirrorshard: (Default)
2010-05-21 05:59 pm
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Wenlock & Mandeville

The iconography involved is quite amazing. They're "born from molten steel", made from vinyl and CCTV cameras. And the names are utterly typical upper-upper-middle-class English.


It's as though someone had put out a casting call for the Home Secretary and Prime Minister in one of those uniquely British dystopias that were so popular in the 1980s, and after rejecting everyone who turned up decided that the best thing to do would be to put Tinkywinky and Po through a Cyber-conversion unit.

These guys have the names, they have right air of faux-benevolent omniscience, they have the smooth PR-friendly lines, and steel? When it comes to images of state control and oversight, that has unfortunate implications.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2010-03-22 12:41 pm
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Somtow Sucharitkul - Ayodhya

In the course of writing this review, I discovered that SF author SP Somtow is also the Artistic Director of the Bangkok Opera, and a composer. There are quite a few high-quality excerpts of his work, both as composer and as conductor, here. I particularly recommend Michael Chance singing Ganesha's aria "O Ramachandra".
mirrorshard: (Default)
2010-03-04 01:42 pm
Entry tags:

Eastercon 2010

[livejournal.com profile] mirabehn and I will be at Odyssey 2010, staying in the convention hotel. I'm presenting a talk at 5pm on Sunday, on "Information Decay and Archiving", looking at (among other things) the ways information tries to escape, and the tradeoffs involved. It's clashing with a couple of things I would have wanted to go to, but that's always the way...

The draft programme is up here, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] watervole.

Who else will we see there?

[Poll #1533724]
mirrorshard: (Default)
2009-12-29 01:47 am
Entry tags:

Late-night translation

Jo Walton posted at Tor on Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, noting in passing that she preferred to think of the poem that drives the plot as an indifferent translation from the Welsh. On a whim, and with the aid of the online lexicon and verb conjugator, I did an untranslation. Roman text is Cooper's English; bold is my Welsh; italic is a literal translation back into English. I've doubtless made some mistakes somewhere, so nitpicking is appreciated.

The Dark is rising; six shall turn it back.
When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back (Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] ashfae)
Pan godir y dywyllwch, anghenir chwech ei atroi.
When the darkness rises, six are needed to turn it back.
Three from the circle, three from the track.
Deuir tair o'r gylch, a dair o'r llwybr[1].
Three come from the circle, and three from the pathway.
Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long
Ar ben y flwyddyn[2], haearn; gludwyd yr efydd o hyd.
At the head of the year, iron; the bronze was carried all this time.
Wood from the burning, stone out of song.
Yn y llosg canfyddir y bren, ac yn gerdd[3] y maen.
In the conflagration the wood is found, and in song the stone.
Fire from the candle ring, -
Chwiliwch y dân yn gylch y ganhwyllau,
Search for the fire in the circle of candles,
- water from the thaw;
ac yn y ddadmeriad ddarganfyddir y ddwr.
And in the melting ice for the water.
Six signs the circle -
Gwneir y gylch o'r chwech arwydd[4]
The circle is made from the six signs
- and the grail gone before.
Ac aethpwyd y greal yn y flaen.
And the grail went ahead.




[1] Llwybr mostly means "path"; trac is a perfectly good Welsh word, but it sounds wrong in context to me.

[2] Penblwydd means "birthday" - literally, "year-head".

[3] Cân could have served instead of cerdd, but the first refers more to lyrics (including spoken poetry) and the latter to music or song as an art form.

[4] Arwydd is the common Welsh word for a sign; an informational one, an omen or portent, and a military ensign or banner. Argoel carries only the sense of an omen or portent.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2009-07-17 12:58 am
Entry tags:

Awesome

(otherwise known as, I had to see it. Therefore, so do you)

Star Trek slash for kids, via [livejournal.com profile] harald387.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2009-07-06 11:25 pm
Entry tags:

Book review

At Eastercon, we were given free books; I have reviewed one of them here.

It's Unnatural History by Jonathan Green, the first book under the Pax Britannica label from Abaddon Press, and it's uproariously, hilariously, risibly bad. It's like the hastily aborted bastard child of Bulldog Drummond and Sebastian Tombs, exhumed from a shallow grave and encased in a steam-powered armature of shiny brass.

(Elly made me post this link. In retaliation, I'm going to make her post about handling elephant poo.)
mirrorshard: (Default)
2009-05-31 12:56 am
Entry tags:

New SF blog - Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

I've started blogging elsewhere-too at Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood, because I wanted to write about SF in a different sort of way. Mostly, I intend to ramble about things that annoy me. There's a proper rationale here, and a couple of longish posts, because I wanted to make sure I had enough to talk about before I started telling people about it.

I am making no guarantees of regular updates, comprehensive coverage, actual competence at criticism, or indeed anything at all.
mirrorshard: (Lammas print)
2009-05-30 02:10 am
Entry tags:

LibraryThing data mining and author intersections

The methodology here is a bit dodgy (I'm using Google, with site:librarything.com "Author 1" "Author 2" - it's known to return a small number of duplicate results, and an unknown number of false negatives) but frankly it's the best I've got. The percentages for an intersection are the percent of the lower-ranked author who also had the higher-ranked one.

597 people list at least one book by Walter Wink.
5,530 list at least one book by Diane Duane.
44 (7%) list both authors.

I wanted to look at a couple of control groups, so I did this two ways. First, by picking two other authors who wrote Star Trek novelizations.

2,260 list at least one book by John M Ford. His intersection with Duane is 648 (29%).
782 list at least one book by Vonda McIntyre. Her intersection with Duane is 171 (22%). Ford & McIntyre intersect at 155 (20%).
58 (10%) list both Ford and Walter Wink; 1 (0%) lists both McIntyre and Wink.

A corresponding & connected religious philosopher seemed to me to be Rene Girard. His LibraryThing stats give him 298 fans, and his intersection with Wink is 54, or 18%.
Girard's intersection with Duane is 40 (13%); with Ford it's 33 (11%); and with McIntyre it's 2 (0%). (Neither of them the one who also has Wink.)

The second method I looked at was to find another religious philosopher who had similar stats to Wink, and another SF author with similar stats to Duane. It turned out to be John Polkinghorne (605) and Elizabeth Bear (5,780).

Polkinghorne's intersection with Wink is 49 (8%), and Bear's with Duane is 384 (7%) so they seem to be connected pairwise at about the same distance in L-space.

Polkinghorne's intersection with Duane is 32 (5%) while Bear's with Wink is 7 (1%). For completeness' sake, Polkinghorne's intersection with Bear is 17 (3%).

So overall, the Duane/Wink match does seem to be a bit more than random noise after all.
mirrorshard: (Portrait)
2009-04-15 01:27 pm

Eastercon report

It turns out that the best thing for my (usually rather unpleasant) travel sickness is milkshake. McDonald's thick milkshakes particularly, but others will do, and "Primo Coffee" (if I'm remembering the name right - found one at a random service station) does one which is rather tastier. Five hours on a coach is still not fun, but at least I met a couple of other London fans on the way up.

The Midland Hotel is lovely - delightful Victorian interiors, comfortable quiet rooms, friendly staff, and very functional showers. Not staying in the con hotel was a bit of a pain, but on the plus side it meant I got a decent amount of sleep and could get up in the mornings. The Midland coffee, incidentally, is shite, but the breakfast is otherwise v. good.
Friday - recreating history, and larping )Saturday )Sunday - paperblogging a steampunk panel )Monday - upcoming book rec, realistic fantasy, trithemy )
mirrorshard: (Sabalom Glitz)
2009-04-15 11:56 am

Eastercon report

It turns out that the best thing for my (usually rather unpleasant) travel sickness is milkshake. McDonald's thick milkshakes particularly, but others will do, and "Primo Coffee" (if I'm remembering the name right - found one at a random service station) does one which is rather tastier. Five hours on a coach is still not fun, but at least I met a couple of other London fans on the way up.

The Midland Hotel is lovely - delightful Victorian interiors, comfortable quiet rooms, friendly staff, and very functional showers. Not staying in the con hotel was a bit of a pain, but on the plus side it meant I got a decent amount of sleep and could get up in the mornings. The Midland coffee, incidentally, is shite, but the breakfast is otherwise v. good.
Friday - recreating history, and larping )Saturday )Sunday - paperblogging a steampunk panel )Monday - upcoming book rec, realistic fantasy, trithemy )
mirrorshard: (Terrella)
2009-02-03 01:27 pm
Entry tags:

Epic SF Fail

Via Tor.com: Global Warming is good for us.

I may have lost my temper slightly in the comments and posted one longer than the original article.