mirrorshard: (Default)
(Not Dapper Drake: unfortunate namespace collision. A contraction of "data mapper".)

Dapper is a website which handles screen-scraping sensibly, taking several pages and parsing them to extract the static and dynamic data. It can export these as XML, RSS feeds, or data/components for any number of popular web2.0 services.

The reason I ended up playing around with this was after getting annoyed with Tor.com's annoyingly arsy attitude towards RSS feeds - they provide one, with everything in, instead of adding a feed for the particular author or tag you're interested in. However, since they're aiming to be a "focal point for SF fandom", they pile together book re-reads, discussions of last night's $TV_Show, advice to authors, fananism, artblogging, and Weird Stuff They Found on the Internet all in one, and it's pretty spammy.

I like reading weird things as much as anyone, but since I don't have the time to wade through everything (and, admittedly, partly on principle) I set up a "dapp" to sort the posts by author and RSS me links & contracted text. For instance, this is the dapp created from this page, and the (first parts of the) individual posts just show up in my RSS reader.
mirrorshard: (Autumn skin)
Somewhat incoherent - reaction-dumping. Context:

Writers (and fans, by extension) are caught on the horns of a dilemma (or possibly a gazebo): on the one hand, we don't get to write honestly about other peoples' cultural experience, because it isn't ours to write about. On the other hand, other peoples' cultural experience is really fucking cool and interesting. On the gripping hand, most of these Interesting Cultures are actually really poor and deprived and don't have luxuries like time to write, a thriving publishing industry, or even a corpus of work in their own language and cultural idiom to grow up with. Which means that if it isn't written about by privileged white people (or coconuts, or bananas) then it isn't written about at all.

Poor us, what a problem we have.


We don't. It's not our problem. Seriously. The cultural experience of imperialism is not about the imperialists. I don't give a flying fuck what keeping someone in chains, whether steel or economic or both, does to your soul. Angsting about that makes you sound like Cordelia. [Edit: That's as in Buffy, not as in Lear or Vorkosigan.]

It's really tempting to assume that a) for every problem, there's a solution somewhere, if we only work hard at it with good intentions; and that b) that solution is more likely to be arrived at by smart educated people in developed countries.

But I don't see anything to support those assertions in these cases. Problems come in a lot of different domains, which often don't share anything with each other. And I appreciate that Not Doing Anything is a) hard, b) morally problematic when you think you might have an answer, and c) a whole barrel of No Fun.

(No, I don't have a consistent, coherent answer, or a manifesto to set out, or a program of things to be done. I'm neither that naive or that arrogant. Besides, I'm a privileged white Westerner myself, and the nearest thing to an oppressed minority in my bloodline is Welsh.)
mirrorshard: (Default)
The top fifty SF & fantasy books (where from? I don't know). Bold the ones you've read, strike the ones you hated, italicize the ones you couldn't get through. Asterisks for the ones you loved - more asterisks, more love. Plus signs for the ones you own.

I've assigned stars based on how much I loved them when I first read them, not how much I love them looking back. The instructions don't specify, but this makes more sense to me.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien *****+
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov **+
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A Heinlein **+
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin *****+
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C Clarke **+
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury **+
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe *
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr *+
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov **+
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett *+
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester **+
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey **+
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R Donaldson *+
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman **+
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl +
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling *
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams ***+
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny *+
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick *+
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement ***+
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon *+
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith *
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C Clarke ***+
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven **+
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, JRR Tolkien **+
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson ***+
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner **+
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester **+
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A Heinlein *+
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock *+
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks *+
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer **+
mirrorshard: (Default)
From an io9 post:

Perhaps the fear that Stephenson is becoming the literary equivalent of Weaving is what motivated Anathem's marketing campaign, or maybe it was the realization that Borders wouldn't order as many copies of the book if it were labeled what it is: A space opera, pure and simple.

Seriously... what were they actually reading? Did someone slip them E. E. 'Doc' Smith reprints inside an Anathem dustjacket? Yes, there was a spaceship in it, but it's not exactly important, and frankly the book would have been better without it.

As for becoming the literary equivalent of Hugo Weaving... oh, no, what a terrible obscurity to be doomed to.


Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:01 pm
mirrorshard: (Terrella)
Neal Stephenson's latest is good enough that I took it on the Tube with me - a thousand-page hardback. Saying that, though, I do have some grumbles about it.
Here be spoilers )


Jun. 10th, 2008 12:08 am
mirrorshard: (Blue flower tea)
The first draft of Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds has been posted online. If you aren't familiar with it, read this review and then immediately acquire a copy. If I owned more than one, I'd lend it out, or indeed press it on people. As it is, Fantasy Centre on the Holloway Road has a copy in stock as of lunchtime today.

Also as of lunchtime today, they no longer have copies of Archer's Goon (the first DWJ I read, and the one that got me instantly hooked); The Well at the World's End, Vol. II (with proper management, the entire North Sea could be restocked using the amount of cod in William Morris's fantasy novels, but they're still a really good read. They remind me irresistibly of The Deed of Paksenarrion); Randall Garrett's Too Many Magicians, which I've been wanting to read for a while;The Tombs of Atuan; and Isidore Haiblum's The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders which is a wonderful Sheckleyesque romp through Jewishness.

Incidentally, I've also been updating my free book bookmark list. It's not even slightly comprehensive, but if it's on there then a) it's freely downloadable and b) I think it's worth reading. It should also be c) legal, or it it isn't then it's there by mistake. Other recommendations gratefully accepted.

I went to see Wolves at the Window at the Arcola Theatre the other evening, with [livejournal.com profile] friend_of_tofu - it's a dramatization of many of Saki's short stories, woven together into a more-or-less continuous narrative. Seeing Louis performed with a swaddled-up teddy bear adds a wonderful level of uncertainty to the presentation. Highly recommended, and it seems like rather a good theatre overall.

Wednesday, I'm going to the ABTT Theatreshow with my father, to geek out over shiny new lighting toys and pretend to be a real lighting designer.

For those of you who haven't been following it already, I recommend Freakangels, by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield. First episode & archive.

That seems to be more or less it for lit-geek type updating, so I'm going to go and start clearing off enough of the kitchen table to try mounting some prints. And wrestling with my laptop power cord/socket in the hope that it'll consent to stay charging for more than ten seconds at a time.
mirrorshard: (Default)
I've been wandering through a lot of discussions on the covers of SF&F books in the last few days - the old chestnut about "is this tacky or great?", "Will this put off new readers or will it keep the mundanes out of our genre?", and so on. I may work up a longer ramble on the subject, but I wanted to share my bogglement at one thing with you, O my readers.

Someone posted this image, showing the cover of his book, and asked for honest opinions.

Inexplicably, they didn't eviscerate him. There was not even any pointing and laughing. It's pretty good art, as fantasy art goes, but apparently that isn't a joke title or series name.
mirrorshard: (Terrella)
I remember hearing about Asimov's death, and Heinlein's. Now the third of the Trinity has broken the bonds of earth.

I don't think I read everything he'd written before I was 16, but it was very close to it - and of course he cheated obliged us by carrying on writing, if mostly with collaborators, for a long time after that.

He spun tales for us - he told us we could make friends with dolphins and surgically uplifted killer whales, build a ladder to the sky and live there for the rest of our days, delve the depths of the sea and find stars inside a monolith on the moon. We could do anything, given science, and determination, and faith in mankind.

The incredible, wonderful, way he had of crowbarring your mind wider wasn't anywhere near the limit of his talents. If you saw science in his work, you could be sure it was right according to the best ideas of the day. He was an accomplished scientist and engineer, too - he worked on the new radar technology during the Second World War, which helped to save uncountable numbers of lives, and he was one of the very first to envision a geostationary satellite, an unsleeping home-made star which would bring all the peoples of the earth closer together.

He shone with ideas like a star, with the same wonderful, unpredictable twinkle. And now another of the Names of God has been spoken.
mirrorshard: (Default)
Thursday 8th May - keynote speaker, Symposium: Science Fiction as a Literary Genre.

Given the amazingness-density of The Baroque Cycle, and the intricte overlapping with history and mainstream fiction, this looks fascinating.
mirrorshard: (Heart's Desire)
Went to see Ui last night, as previously mentioned, with [livejournal.com profile] thekumquat. It was a rather good version, though the African touches seemed thin and superficial to me. I suspect I'd have found them rather less so of Brecht weren't such an intellectual, detached exercise anyway - seeing it in a captioned performance was an interesting variation on that, since we quite literally had the text to read along with as we watched the play. I actually had to push myself to concentrate on the performance rather than the captions - or on the text as performed, rather than the text as printed.

The African touches were mostly down to costumes (or at least hats) and music, but then I have somewhat of a tin ear for world music and I tend to focus almost obsessively on the text. It was faithful to the original - the only differences I noted were a string of African place-names (Harare, Kinshasa, Freetown, &c.) in Ui's last speech, and his constant reference to himself as a son of the desert rather than of the Bronx.

Technically, it was nearly flawless - the only hiccup was in the placement of two desk microphones in the investigation scene, which caused the clerk's voice to drop out as he turned his head to speak to Dogsborough rather than the audience.

The conjunction of Brecht with the Ken Macleod I was reading on the train there caused some odd mental swirls with the combination of Brechtian detachment and distancing with SF reading protocols. Now I come to think about it, there's another tenuous connection that amuses me - the one I was reading was Newton's Wake, which has as two of its protagonists a couple of crap Scottish propaganda-folk singers. Just about the first time I ever encountered protest songs and the idea of music as something that could actively do something was in McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang, where one of the brawns refers to 'dylanizing' - this kind of laughing bitter soul-deep anger at the sheer fucking banal incompetent evilness of the idiots who are in charge of this one single world we're currently stuck on is the same strand of thought as Brecht was playing with a lot of the time.

Oh, yes, and that meme that's been going around. Ask me stuff, if you want to. I'll answer as best I can. Comments screened, will be unscreened unless I'm asked not to or they're horribly embarrassing.


Mar. 13th, 2008 03:51 pm
mirrorshard: (Default)
Have just booked for Orbital. They've assigned me a membership number of 1234.
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Oh, dear. People are still talking about space elevators? The state of science teaching these days... (sparked off by comments to this post by Charlie Stross)

why not )
a better idea )