Jul 8 2017

Unintentional radio silence, due to general thrashing and scrambling. Plus: Readercon!


No, I haven’t forgotten my blog readers.  Well, okay, I have, but only temporarily.

What I’ve mainly been doing is thrashing about on many fronts (including, be assured, Books 5 and 6), and trying very hard to Get Things Done.   I’ve basically locked my self away from most social contact for a bit.  And since my sister is currently cat-sitting  for our pals in New Hampshire, I don’t even have to maintain a minimum marginal level of civility!   Yep.  Don’t have to talk to a soul.

The upside of this, of course, is that when the time comes to hang out with people I will be really ready to do so.   I’ll chat and schmooze, and wave at people from across the room, meet entirely new folks, have all sorts of fascinating conversations, and be glad doing it!

And when will this be?  Well, next week. At Readercon, of course.

Readercon (in case you don’t know) takes place in Quincy Massachusetts, just south of Boston.   It’s the one convention focused mainly on the written word — so… don’t come dressed as your favorite anime character.   There are plenty of other conventions for that.

This year’s guests of honor are Nnedi Okorafor and Naomi Novik.  Now, as it happens, I had never read a word of Naomi’s work before.   And there’s plenty of it.  And I’ve heard nothing but good about it.  I just, somehow, never got around to it.   So, I thought I’d try to correct that.

I must say, I’m having so much fun reading In His Majesty’s Service.  This is actually an omnibus, gathering together the first three books in Novik’s Temeraine series: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder Warwith an additional short story, “In Autumn, a White Dragon Looks Over the Wide River.”

It’s possible that I was kept from approaching these books before because, in general, I’m not wild about Military SF/F, and not wild about alternate history.  But that’s in general.  There will always be writers who make me love what I don’t expect to love.  (Like, say … novels of manners.  Generally don’t like ’em.  But you know what I love?  Elle Kushner’s Swordspoint.  And Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw.)

I’m about two-thirds through His Majesty’s Dragon, and I’m utterly charmed.  Alas, I won’t be able to read everything Novik has written before I meet her at Readercon.   But I’m glad to find something that’s this much fun.

Oh, and here’s my Readercon Schedule:

Friday July 14

3:00 PM    5    Good Influences.   Scott Edelman, Greer Gilman, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Rosemary Kirstein, Ilana Myer, E.J. Stevens. In contrast to the bad influences panel from past Readercons, these panelists will discuss authors who were positive influences on their writing during their formative years. Who showed them what good worldbuilding is, what strong narration looks like, and how to deepen a plot with social commentary? Panelists will share, discuss, and praise their problematic and unmitigatedly awesome mentors.

6:00 PM    B    Reading: Rosemary Kirstein.   Rosemary Kirstein. Rosemary Kirstein reads a section of a YA novel set in the universe of the Steerswoman series. (…Yeah, you read that right.  I’m not reading from Book 5, because at the moment it sort of looks as if someone set off a hand grenade in the middle of it.  Which, basically, is exactly what I did.  For very good reasons, trust me.  But I won’t know what will remain and what will be discarded until I reassemble it into some semblance of a narrative — except for one stabilized section, which I’ve used for several readings already.   So, rather than introduce you to Artos, the Duke of Wulfshaven and the Lower Wulf Valley yet again, I’m pulling out some work I’ve done on a Young Adult novel that runs parallel to the events in Book 5.  I rather like it. )

7:00 PM    5    The Commonalities of Magic and Science.   Erik Amundsen, David Bowles, Rosemary Kirstein, Naomi Novik (leader), Nnedi Okorafor. Specialized and secret fields of knowledge create barriers to understanding and can become mechanisms of cultural control. They can also be foundations for resistance. They can support or destroy communities and instill gratitude or resentment. All these things could be said of both magic and science, and the wielders thereof. The tradition of pitting magic and science against each other goes back to Tolkien’s anxieties about industrialization, but today’s speculative works have moved beyond it to recognize that the two can coexist and are often used similarly as metaphors. We’ll examine Guest of Honor Naomi Novik’s mix of historical technology and dragons, Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor’s mix of futuristic technology and sorcery, and other successful amalgamations and integrations.

Saturday July 15

11:00 AM    AT    Autographs.  Rosemary Kirstein, Susan Matthews.

1:00 PM    CL    Kaffeeklatsch.  Rosemary Kirstein, Sarah Pinsker (Do you know about kaffeeklatches?  I think they were invented at Readercon, if memory serves me.   It’s a small gathering of an author and a bunch of readers, where we basically just hang out for a bit, over coffee or tea, and talk about whatever you like.  Space is limited, so if you’re interested, you have to sign up for it. )

And that’s just what I’m doing.  There are a lot more panels, with plenty of writers you love.   And — get this — the Thursday night programming is open to the public.  For free.  So, if you’ve never been to a convention, here’s a chance to try one out for one night, with no monetary commitment.

Oh, look, here’s a link to the entire Readercon Program Guide, listing every panel and panelist.  That should be useful.

Hm.  Must go now; more later.




Jun 18 2017

Radio silence due to crappy internet connection. Also: Signed up for Readercon.


Well, that was annoying.

I’ve been using an Xfinity hotspot for my internet connection at my office, largely because it was a) there, b) fairly cheap for a monthly pass, c) did not require me to buy an expensive package including TV just in order to get internet, and d) did not require me to sign a multi-year contract.

But alas, I’ve been having all sorts of trouble with it lately, with the connection being slow, dropping out more or lest constantly, and the signal strength being apparently miniscule at best.

Sparing you the blow-by-blow, after much back-and-forth and experimentation,  I’ve discovered that there’s nothing wrong with the hotspot at all — the problem is all in my desktop.  And my laptop has no problem with the connectons.

And interestingly, my crappy little laptop is actually exactly as powerful as my bottom-of-the-line desktop.  So….. obvious solution, wouldn’t you say?

Speed test. Little guy wins.

I spent far too much time dealing with this!  I have things to do !

Like signing up for panels at Readercon.   The convention takes place July 13 through 16 at the Quincy Marriot, in Quincy Massachusetts (just south of Boston).   If you’ve never been, you should consider coming — and the Thursday panels and events are actually all free.   You can test the waters before laying down any actual cash money.

Anyway: I made my selections for panels that I want to be on; let’s see if I get them.   When I know my final schedule, I’ll post it here.

In other news: A quick trip to visit pals in New Hampshire last weekend included a vist to Canobie Park, which I found utterly charming and fascinatingly retro.

As well as a collection of odd rides, the park has a musical stage.  While we were there, some rather mediocre big-band music was featured —  but when I wandered to the back of the hall, I discovered an absolute trove of musical history, with posters of shows from the Jazz Era all the way through rock and roll, to the present.

With life-size statues of some of the acts who played there.

Jerry Lee Lewis at the actual piano that the actual Jerry Lee actually played when he was at Canobie Park.


If, like me, you are one million years old, you know who these two are.

Ack.  Must go and catch up on all the stuff that I was unable to do because of messing around with computers instead of on computers.


Jun 6 2017

Promoted from the comment stream, because I am a nerd and there’s a strong chance you might be, too.


In the comments for the previous post, “eub” said:

If I may geek on the tone doubling effect, was it a fairly consistent musical interval, or did the interval get smaller for higher pitches? Like a shift of X semitones, or of X Hertz? There is an uncommon drug effect that apparently sounds like a frequency shift (not a pitch shift), so harmonic sounds become inharmonic and strange.


As a certified nerd, I’m always ready to geek out!

The second tone was a half-step different from the real tone, and tracked in parallel motion: when the real note went up, the fake one did, too, and the size of the difference didn’t get smaller or larger. I right away (well, after calming down a bit) wondered whether it was related to the harmonic overtone sequence, with some peculiar acoustic physics going on inside my inner ear… but in order to find an overtone half a scale-step away from the fundamental, you actually have to climb way the heck up the overtone sequence to the tippity-top. And then it’s not really a half-step away anymore, is it? It would be a half-step plus a bunch of octaves. But this was not a high tone, it was literally right next to the original note on the scale. Which makes me think it was some sort of neurological artifact, and not reflecting any actual physics.

However, there was another phenomenon that was definitely related to physics.

I was tuning my guitar, using an electronic tuner, as I often do (this one a phone app; I love the 21st century). But I was having some trouble because, apparently, the tuner just wasn’t working. But only on the low E string. Worked fine on the high E, the B, the G, the D, the A — But low E wasn’t working at all; because as I could see, the needle indicating “in tune” was perfectly centered. But the note I was hearing was absolutely obviously not E.

What a strange way for an app to go wrong, I thought. Oh, well, just use the good old-fashioned method, put yer finger on the 5th fret of the E string, match it to the open A.

But they already matched.

But this is not possible. If the A on the fifth fret of the E string matches the A of the open A string, then the E string is correctly tuned.

But the open E did NOT sound like an E. It sounded, when I checked, like a B…

An acoustic guitar string is rich in all sorts of complex overtones. So, of course the B would be in there; it’s the second one you’ll find in the overtone sequence (http://www.bsharp.org/physics/guitar). A perfect fifth.

Which is when I realized that I’d lost the ability to hear the low E note itself, and was only hearing the overtones above it. The lowest and loudest of which was the B.

That is, I had become (temporarily) deaf to that frequency.

A actually went to an online tone-generator (http://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/) and had it generate tones. The low E (around 165hz  correction: Guitar low E is E2 at 82hz), really was gone. Being only a sine wave, with no overtones, gone was gone: no sound. But as I moved the slider up, the sound faded back in.

This was actually a particularly scary moment. There was a small range of frequencies, including that low E, which no longer existed for me.

TEMPORARILY. This I kept telling myself, and so it turned out to be. I hear that low E fine now.

But at that time: I hit that E string and heard a B. Over and over and over.

For a musician, this is a level of weirdness equal to, say, stepping out of your front door and finding that your front steps don’t actually exist, but instead are a clever trompe l’oile image painted on the pavement; or that somehow you are now in Mexico City, when you weren’t before. The world just does not work that way.

Anyway, as I said: all is well now. Can’t say that enough.


Damn, now I’ve got myself all fidgety.

Oh, look, another fuzzy animal picture from my walk, here to cheer me up!

Yo. Public park, here, pal. You are specifically forbidden to eat me.

Jun 5 2017

Radio silence due to crappy events. Spoiler alert: I am fine.


When last we left our intrepid heroine, she was chilling on the couch, while recovering from unpleasant pain meds after a surprise kidney stone attack.

Aha, but there’s more to the story!

I seem to be the poster girl for bottom-of-the-warning-sheet side-effects.  I don’t waste time; I just go straight for the least common manifestation, and manifest up a storm.   For, example, oh… Muscle relaxants?  How about them?  Way down at the bottom of the list of rarely-seen side effects: agitation.  This being, you should note, the actual opposite of what a relaxant should do.   And then there’s Propofol, a common anesthetic for colonoscopies, which has the lovely rarely-seen side effect of causing agonizing horrible pain.  Yeah, that one was fun.

Anyway, to continue:

In order to mitigate the misery of the miserable headaches I always get after Dilaudid,  the ER doc gave me a prescription for 500mg of Naproxen.   The over-the-counter version of this is Alleve, which I’ve taken in the past for backaches and such now and again.  But never in this high a dose.

Let’s look at the bottom of the list of possible side-effects for that one, shall we?  Let’s see:

  • Continuing ringing or buzzing or other unexplained noise in the ears
  • hearing loss

These are listed as a minor side effects.

But what if you’re, say, already hearing impaired?  As I am?

Yeah.  I basically spent a week running through a dress rehearsal for my personal nightmare.   Of course, I didn’t know it was a dress rehearsal at the time.  For all I knew at the time, it could have been the real thing.

So, let’s repeat that spoiler alert: I am fine.   Side effects all gone now.

I’ve been deaf in one ear for most of my life, and it’s annoying and inconvenient, but not that great a problem.  But it does cause me to freak out about any changes in my remaining ear.  So, when my hearing went all bizarre on me, muffled and popping, and buzzing and weird, I saw a doc, of course.  I saw my Primary Doctor the day after I noticed the problem, and we got me in with a otolaryngologist.   But by the time I saw him (three days later), the symptoms had diminished a lot; and when we did the hearing tests, I came out pretty darn good, actually.

He’s not entirely convinced that the Neproxen was to blame — but for me, it’s pretty clear.  The timing was too perfect, including the fact that the problem seems to have been temporary, and has now completely cleared up.  Still, I’ll be getting an MRI of the whole shebang, just on the outside chance that something in there is going wonky.

But boy, that was so weird.   And scary.

And there was this one manifestation, which showed up a few days into the whole thing, where I started hearing every sound as two sounds.  That is, two different notes, one lower than the other.  Any sound that had a tone to it — fan, car engine, human voice — was doubled.  I noticed that particular one when, late at night in my office, I decided to play some guitar and sing, to prove to myself defiantly that I wasn’t actually going deaf — and discovered that I was singing harmony with myself.  So weird.

Oh, and it was bad harmony.  Like, a half-step off. And I couldn’t actually tell which note was the real note, either.

I didn’t know that it was even possible for one ear to hear one sound as two different notes.  But an intensive Internet search of legitimate medical research and report sites showed me that, yep, that can happen.  That particular side-effect hung on longer than the others, and I was treated to a meeting of the Genrettes in which Laurie and Delia discussed my manuscript, sounding like four people discussing my manuscript.   And the crowd at the cafe sounded twice the size it was.

But even that has cleared up now, thank goodness.

So… MRI to come, and we’ll see.  I’m pretty sure it’s all fine now.

But I will be avoiding all NSAIDs for the rest of my life!   Because they all (Naproxen, ibuprofen, even aspirin) have the potential to (very rarely) cause hearing problems — which are usually temporary, but in really really really rare occasions can be permanent.    Hello Tylenol, my New Best Friend.

In other news, I went for a particularly nice walk and saw a bunny, a blue heron, several turtles, and OMG baby skunks.  I’ll post about that next time, right?  I have pictures.


Too young to be out on their own!



May 20 2017

Slight change of plan


Original plan for yesterday: Head over to my office; answer emails, & catch up on news; review my recent work on Book 5;  autograph, package and mail out two books for the winners of the Con or Bust auction; take a walk; do new work on Book 5; play some guitar; read; work on the book some more; more guitar or some handicrafts; go home.

Revised plan: Wake up from a dream that someone was stabbing me in the back; realize it’s a kidney stone attack; attempt to tough it out with ibuprofen and lots of water; give up after 12 hours, and have my sister drive me to the ER; wait around for many more hours; get some heavy duty pain meds; see the ER doc; get a cat scan; get prescription for more meds; go home.

Original plan for today: similar to original plan for yesterday

Revised plan for today: sleep off massive hangover from yesterday’s meds; eat chicken soup; watch TV; more sleep.

I must again thank my wonderful sister, who gave up a night’s work to shuttle me around, and sit by me in the ER, and pick up my prescription in the morning, and make me soup.  Things would have been utterly dreadful without her.

We did get to watch part of Home Alone Two and Independence Day on the ER room’s TV.   None of which was particularly entertaining to me — until I got Dilaudid, after which everything was entertaining, including the cat scan.

This was very inconvenient, and not according to plan!  The Genrettes meeting had been postponed to the 28th and I was hoping to crank out some more wordage for them to consider.  Instead, we’ll probably have to make do with what I sent them for the originally planned meeting.

Thus, I grumble.

Ah, well.   Time for more meds.   And some TV.  And soup.

PS: did you know that they changed the design of the stars in Campbell’s chicken & stars soup?  True fact.


May 12 2017

Brain-fried, but in a good way.


I’ve just spent the last week or so prepping stuff to present to my writers’ group, the Fabulous Genrettes.

I’m up next!  On Sunday!  And our last meeting was just on April 30th, so that’s less than two weeks between sessions.  But Delia Sherman will be heading off to Paris quite soon, there to live for a year.  Just because.

(Ellen, of course, will be going as well.  They have an apartment!   That’s what you do, if you are famous, cultured and erudite:  a year in Paris.   I, on the other hand, am merely a slightly famous, nerdy autodidact.   There’s lots of us, actually.  We should form a national association!  No, wait, we’re all introverts. )

Anyway, I had not much time to organize the stuff I have on hand into something both readable and critique-able.   Had to pull out all the stops (which is a lovely metaphor from pipe-organ terminology, she pointed out  nerdishly).

Actually, I quite enjoyed it… I did a lot of late-night writing, and managed to remind myself that I really do prefer writing late at night and into the wee hours.   And often enough, into  the slightly larger hours.   I really ought to just embrace that.

I’m smarter at night.   I just am.

Although, parts of the tale that I thought would be easy, turned out to involve more heavy lifting than I expected.    And of course, much needs to be discussed with Delia and Laurie J. Marks.   I might have to print out a map for us to confer over, as the story involves a whole lot of movement across great swathes of  landscape.

I did manage to take a break from the push, on Saturday, when I attended a concert.   My friend Rob is a member of the Mendelssohn Choir, and they had a joint concert with the Civic Orchestra of New Haven.   The first half was just the orchestra, doing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number 4, which I’ve heard possibly one other time in my life, and was a treat.   The second half was John Rutter’s Requiem, totally new to me, which had text in both English and Latin.  Alas, the printed text in the program used a very small font, which made it hard to read in the dimmed auditorium, and the acoustics did not allow the English portion to be entirely understandable, so I had to pretty much guess what was being said, and check the program later when the concert was over.  Oddly, it turned out that I recognized the Latin more easily than the English.

The concert was at Yale University’s Woolsey Hall, which is was built in 1901, in a Beaux Arts style, which I found rather fun.  A lot of Yale looks pretty grim, but this place was festooned with carven wreaths and cameos of the nine Muses plus Athena on the ceiling.

Muses plus Athena.

And a bit of trompe l’oeil sky on the ceiling.  I’m a sucker for trompe l’oeil skies.

In other news:  My planned trip to Helsinki for Worldcon looks less and less likely.   It’s just a very expensive proposition, and at this particular point I don’t have a lot of financial leeway.  Just one of those timing things.

I am, however, still slated for Readercon.

Arg.  Very tired after this big push.  I’m going to practice some guitar, and call it a night.

They also had a Calder stabile/mobile in the courtyard.



May 4 2017

Con or Bust bidding is ending on May 7


So, just three days left.

The items offered tend toward signed books — you might find a beloved author’s books available, if you browse the listings.

But here are some notable exceptions:

Katherine Kerr will Tuckerize YOU!  As a villain.   You know you always wanted to be a villain.  (Don’t know what “Tuckerize” means?  Read this.)

Yep, you can be immortalized (I first accidentally typed that as “immoralized, which is perhaps appropriate, seeing that you’d be a villain) in Kerr’s next Deverry novel, Sword of Fire.  When will you get a chance like this again?  Without actually turning to evil in real life, that is.  You don’t want to do that.

Prints of the ebook covers for Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time series.

Like this:


Manuscript critiques!  Including Yoon Ha Lee’s offer to read and critique your entire novel. 

And there’s always custom chocolate from Dark Matter Chocolate Laboratory.

And your money goes to a good cause — so what’s to lose?


In other news:  I’m hunkered down especially hard this week, due to being up next for my writer’s group which is meeting on the 14th.  Yeah.  Not much time… so, back to it.


Seen on the sidewalk, as I walked home from the Genrettes meeting last week.

Apr 25 2017

It’s Con or Bust again!


The Con or Bust fund-raising auction for 2017 is up and running.  As usual, I’m contributing items to be auctioned.

Here they are; and if you want to bid on any of them, it’s easy to do, over at the  the Con or Bust auction site.

First up:  a hand bound blank book.

Bookbinding is a hobby of mine, but I haven’t done much of it lately.  This was a good excuse, and a kick in the butt to get back to it.

This book has a cover of thick, wrinkle-textured art paper, and the spine is lovely soft buckskin (if you’re against leather on principle, this book is not for you).   I’ve had the leather for a long time, and haven’t found a project that cried out for it — but when I saw the green paper cover, the combination seemed just perfect.  The ribbon ties are old silk, and there’s a silk ribbon attached bookmark.  With, yes, that is a mouse.

The end-papers have leafy bits included in the paper itself.  I love them.


The inside paper is the sort of calligraphy paper that gets called “parchment” even though that’s not real parchment (she said snootily).    It’s very nice paper, and works well with fountain pen as well as pretty much every other pen or pencil type.

And there’s a mouse.

He’s a netsuke-like wood carving, and I bought him in the dealer’s room at Worldcon in 2015, which was in Spokane, along with a handful of others of various animal design.   I knew I could use them for book embellishments… But I honestly completely forgot I had them!  This happens fairly often: I’ll see something perfect for bookbinding, but won’t have a particular project in mind.  So, I tuck it away — and rediscover it later, to my great delight. When I make a book, I don’t have a design in mind at first; I look at the materials on hand, and let them inspire me.   When I decided to make a book for Con or Bust, I started sifting through what I had on hand, and re-found the mouse!  That was it, I had it: Mouse, forest, green, leaves, buckskin.

The mouse is reading a magazine, by the way, and not a book.  You can tell by how he has the cover folded back:

Yes, this book can be yours!  Just head on over to the Con or Bust Auction site.  Bidding is easy.

Other items:

It’s a copy of the British edition of the Steerswoman.   Physical copies of my books are hard to find — but I have a few copies of the British publication by Pan Books. It’s mass-market paperback size.   As a bonus, I’ve printed out a map of Rowan’s world on “parchment” paper.  Looks nice.  Warning: The map inside each book is different, as Rowan discovers more and more — but this map is as of Volume 4.  Which means that it contains potential spoilers.   (I used the Volume 4 map because the Volume 1 map is so sparse it just doesn’t look very appealing.)


The Lost Steersman (Volume 3 of the series)  also with a parchment map.  Also spoilery, in a sense:  The landscape on the map is discovered during the events of the book.  So, you can follow along, if you like…

And finally:

The Language of Power, (Volume 4 of the series) also with parchment map.

In years past, I’ve printed the map out on handmade paper that I’d made some years ago, experimentally.  But I’ve used it up (the plain paper, that is).  But the parchment works pretty well, I think.

So, there’s Volume 1, Volume 3, and Volume 4 —  why no copy of Volume 2, The Outskirter’s Secret?

I have no extra copies.  Alas.

I have a couple of copies which I use for reference and readings, but for some reason extra copies of The Outskirter’s Secret weren’t made available to me, back when they were published.   Actually, I’m almost out of copies of The Language of Power now, too.

So, those are my contributions to the  Con or Bust’s fund-raising auction.

What is Con or Bust?  It’s an organization that helps people of color attend science fiction and fantasy conventions.   Here’s the official blurb from their site:

Con or Bust, Inc., is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization (EIN: 81-2141738) that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions (how to request assistance). Con or Bust isn’t a scholarship and isn’t limited to the United States, to particular types of con-goers, or to specific cons; its goal is simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves. It is funded through donations and an online auction held annually.


This is why I support Con or Bust:

a) Everyone should read science fiction and fantasy.  SF/F is actually good for you!   It increases your intellectual and imaginative skills, deepens your understanding of the world, and can be a great source of joy.

b) Everyone who likes SF/F should go to a convention at some point in their life, multiple times if possible.  At conventions, you meet other like-minded people, people who take delight in the same things you do — and you learn that you are not weird, are not a misfit, and are not alone.  There are lots of us.  And we want you.

c) People of color, and especially African-Americans, are very often actively discouraged by educators and American society in general from pursuing intellectual goals, or seeking intellectual values.  I view this as a crime, and a tragedy.  And it also means that many potential readers — and potential writers — of SF/F are directed away from our field, away from all its delights and benefits.   But by helping people of color get to conventions, Con or Bust is acting directly against those negative messages.  It says, explicitly: you do belong here.

There are all sorts of nifty things (and services) being offered over at the auction, and you should check them out.   You might find something you didn’t know existed, and now simply MUST have.

Like, oh… this:

Farscape script, with an actual piece of Moya.

… Bidding ends at May 7, 4PM Eastern time.

Apr 14 2017

Thanks, UK. Plus: WTF Netherlands? And random other news.


On April 11, inexplicably, my sales in the UK quadrupled!

Usually when this happens, I can do a Google search and find the triggering event, such as a good review.  I like to try to find those, when I can, so I can drop a note to the person who reviewed, or blogged, to thank them for the signal boost.  But this time, there seemed to be nothing identifiable.  Just, suddenly,  a bunch of people in the UK decided to buy my books.  They bought all four volumes, as well.   It makes me wonder if there’s a book-discussion group in Islington, nattering about Rowan over tea and biscuits at this very moment.

But the search also revealed a number of spurious sites purporting to allow you to read or download the books For! Free!    There are always a few of these around, but interestingly, this time they were mostly located in the Netherlands.  Why?  Beats me.  Usually it’s Russia that has the freebie pirate sites.  But for one day, it was the Netherlands.  Most of them have vanished now — or have stopped using my name as a come-on, which renders them invisible to me.

(If you’re ever tempted by these sites, be smart and don’t do it.  Seriously,  if they’re not even charging you, then they are almost certainly just trying to get you to click so they can infect you with evil malware.)

In other news: Hey, a friend of mine wrote a book!  Okay, plenty of my friends write books.  But this one is different because…it’s a diet book.  Not fiction.  It’s The Sustainable Weight Loss Lifestyle, by Brian Bambrough, who some of you may know, as he is a longtime pal of mine, and can often be found at conventions and SFnal gatherings.

Now, I can’t actually endorse the book, as I haven’t applied its principles in my own life, but I can tell you that it’s crammed with real information.   Brian is a nerd’s nerd, and he backs up everything, even including links to the relevant biomedical journal articles.   And formulas!  And charts.  (Although, you can also skip the formulas, if you are so inclined.)  Also, if you really hate the way most diet books try to cajole you, and manipulate you, and slather on pop-psychology slogans in an attempt to motivate you — well, you won’t find that in Brian’s book.   Just the facts.  So, it might be just what you’ve been looking for…

(Brian is also the author of Problem Solving in Life Contingencies, which, despite the title, is not a motivational book, but a textbook on actuarial mathematics.  Not currently available, according to Amazon.  Also, no reviews…)

Other stuff I’ve been up to (besides writing): reading up on wilderness medicine, because: hey, Steerswomen.  If we’re going to spend any time at the Steerswomen’s Academy, I’d better make sure I know what I’m talking about.

I now know (for example) three different ways to remove a fish-hook from human flesh, including a particularly neat method that I had never heard of before.  I’m using Wilderness Medicine, by William Fogery, but there seem to be plenty of books available on the subject.  And most of them have Kindle versions, which strikes me as odd, given that the time when you’d most need the book is when you are in the actual wilderness.  Where there are no ebook charging plugs available, generally.

Plus: I finally finished reading  Marina Abramović’s autobiography.  Whatever one might think of avant-garde performance art, this is a woman who has led an extremely unusual and  interesting life.  And she serves  as a very good example of being completely devoted to your craft, whatever that craft might be.   And a good example of someone who tries to view the world from a completely different angle.

Some of her performance pieces sound, frankly, appalling and needlessly brutal, and some sound self-consciously random and overly clever.  But others are startling and  profound; and still others are quiet and oddly moving.  Her most famous work, of course, was The Artist is Present.

Here are some exercises she gave to her students:

COMPLAINING TO A TREE: Hold a tree and complain to it, for a minimum of fifteen minutes.   (I admit to finding this rather attractive.)

OPENING THE DOOR: For three hours, very slowly open a door, neither entering nor exiting.  After three hours the door is not a door anymore.  (I’m not sure I can find three hours to spare for this.)

SLOW-MOTION EXERCISE: For the entire day, do everything very slowly: walking, drinking water, showering.  Peeing in slow motion is very difficult, but try.

I can’t help comparing her to Navarth, the mad poet from Jack Vance’s Demon Princes.  Except that he was something of a charlatan (though a true artist despite that), while she is most definitely in earnest.

Lastly: You know that Jo Walton has a Patreon supporting her poetry, right?  I’m a supporter, and I do love her poems, generally.  But her most recent one absolutely knocked my flat and made me shed real tears.    It’s a sestina — a rhymed sestina — called “The Grief of Apollo,” based on events from her novel The Philosopher Kings. I’d reproduce it here, but — nope.   It’s hers, and you really should consider signing up for her Patreon.  Then you’d be able to get all her poems.

A buck per poem.  Small price for real tears, say I.



Apr 5 2017

Quick post — Hugo finalists


The list of finalists for the Hugo Award is out.

Probably you already know this, since you’re an SF/F reader, you’re in the know, you’re connected, you’ve got your finger on the cultural pulse of America.  Right?  Sure.

But in case you missed it (or have wisely chosen to limit your screen-time in order to actually have time to accomplish real things in the real world, yet have chosen inexplicably to make  this blog of mine be sole contact with the SF/F world) — well, in that case, here you go:


Best Novel

  • All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
  • A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
  • Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
  • Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
  • The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
  • Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

Best Novella

  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing)
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing)
  • Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)
  • Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
  • A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing)
  • This Census-Taker, by China Mieville (Del Rey / Picador)

Best Novelette

  • Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
  • “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan (Tor.com , July 2016)
  • “The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, by Fran Wilde (Tor.com, May 2016)
  • “The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
  • “Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

Best Short Story

  • “The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
  • “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
  • “That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
  • “An Unimaginable Light”, by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

Best Related Work

  • The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)
  • The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)
  • Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)
  • The View From the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)
  • The Women of Harry Potter posts, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)
  • Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story

  • Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
  • Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)
  • Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)
  • The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
  • Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
  • Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
  • Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
  • Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)
  • Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
  • Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
  • Splendor & Misery, by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Best Editor – Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Chris McGrath
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility)
  • J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility)
  • Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility)
  • Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility)


Those are the “big” categories.   For the full list, head over to the official webiste of the Hugos, the  official website for Worldcon 2017,  or to the ever-informative-and-practically-indispensible Tor.com’s post.

But I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of things:

Ada Palmer is in the list both for Too Like the Lightning and for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer.  How often, I wonder, has it happened that a writer snagged finalist in both of those awards?  Well, probably plenty of times.   I don’t follow the details that closely every year.  But I’m amazed.  I’ve met Ada, and had the pleasure of hanging out with her (and other cool SF/F people) last year before Worldcon —  and yes, she is rather an astonishing person. I’m thrilled that she’s doing so well, right out of the gate.  You should go to her website to see all the things she’s done and is doing.  (The next book in the series, Seven Surrenders has just been released.)

Also: Remember all the fuss with the Sad/Rabid Puppies and the Hugo award in the last few years?  Well, note that the Puppies have only the slightest presence in the list.   (No, I won’t link to a history of that mess.  If you’re not familiar with it, you are blessed.  Google it if you must.)  Also, the list this year seems to be full of exactly the sort of writers the Pups disparage.  So, hey, bonus!

Plus: Pretty sure that Stix Hiscock is a pseudonym.  I’m thinking it’s a pen-name of Chuck Tingle.  Because that would be amusing.   Alternate explanation: a pseudonym of some Puppy trying to cash in on Tingle’s demographic.

Coming soon: the actual blog post I was in the middle of when the Hugo finalist list was released.