Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Octopus Delight! 30 October 2013

New Review! Anyone who's paid me the slightest bit of attention over the years knows I'm a fan of Tentacled Americans. They're delicious. They're delightfully ookie. They're probably the closest things I'll ever have to soul mates: They don't like their own kind, regard other species as prey or enemies, and possess a deeply misunderstood intelligence.

All I lack is six more arms. Which is why I enjoyed OCTOPUS!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea by Katherine Harmon Courage so much.

My review lives on the Science page.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A fond farewell to the Sookieverse 29 October 2013

AFTER DEAD: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse
In the Southern Vampire/True Blood thread.

Charlaine Harris gave her fans a decade of her life. Thank you most kindly, ma'am. The gift of a comprehensive wrap-up of the series' minor characters is tremendously generous, and surprisingly touching. I hope it hits every bestseller list there is.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My review of FOLLOWING TOMMY posted 28 October 2013

I reviewed FOLLOWING TOMMY for The Small Press Book Review, specialists in bringing attention to the underknown and often unsung writers and publishers doing some of the best work in fiction publishing today.

Small presses, ones with editors and designers and passionate owners, are doing what we most need done in the Groves of Readerly Delight. They are using their critical faculties to decide what kind of work they want their own names associated with. They are making editorial changes, guiding writers to the best book that the story they want to tell can make. They are surviving on sales that make Amazon's shrinkage (theft and damage) allowances look like titanic bestselling sales department wet dreams.

I feel about this the way I feel about censorship: Don't let some witsy-teensy group of strangers make your aesthetic decisions for you! Find books by first-timers AND BUY THEM. Find small presses that publish things you're interested in AND BUY THEM. Vote for diversity and choice the only way that matters in business: with your dollars.

It matters, and it matters a lot, that us real readers who love our chosen hobby do this. Even if it's taking a chance with our scarce reading allowances. One purchase a month from a small press and/or a first-time author! Give the writers, the publishers, the editors whose labor is at best meagerly rewarded some much-needed practical support.

I already do. And I promise you I'm poorer than you are.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Circle Read #163: A Clockwork Orange

Book Circle book #163 was A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which only gets one star from me at 54. It would've gotten three at least when I was 14. I'm older, I'm (hopefully) wiser, but most of all, I'm fully resident in the 21st century. Most of the fears in this book are dated to the point of absurdity.

http://tinyurl.com/bvqg83o

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Review 21 October 2013!

Who makes Bond look sensitive and feminist? Morgan Kane, Texas Ranger! First of 83 books (!) published by "Louis Masterson," a Norwegian (!!) author. The 83 books were published between 1966 and 1978 (!!!), with all that implies in terms of violence and sexism.

A movie is slated to come out some time reasonably soon. The film company is releasing the stories on Kindle to build interest in the film. This one is more a novella than a novel, coming in as it does at 124pp. But that's the perfect length for the story, so it doesn't feel like you're shortchanged. It's not like you'll be making a heavy investment in the characters. It's a plot-driven piece.

Enjoy it. Don't bother analyzing it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why Fighting Censorship Matters

"Will this cause an author distress?" is an unimportant consideration, or should be, to a reviewer, a reader, or a website, in relation to a review. The author is, by the act of offering a book, a story, or any other written/created work for the perusal of the public, no longer entitled to the protection of "that hurts my feelings."

I post here my very thoughts spoken by another:
"It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I'm offended by that.' Well, so fucking what?" —Stephen Fry

You, by writing something intended for public consumption, are agreeing that the public is entitled to judge that thing. By their own standards. Whatever those standards may be. The public then has the privilege (right, in the case of the USA) to pass on that opinion AS AN OPINION to any and all persons they can convince to listen to them.

An Italian tenor named Guido Nazzo (horrible name even in Italy) came to the USA and sang in many regional opera companies' productions. He made it to New York, despite his very modest gifts, and here he encountered a reviewer of his era named George Jean Nathan who said of one of his performances, "Guido Nazzo is nazzo guido," and completely ruined the man's career. Never, ever again after that could he appear on a stage without some wag repeating this knock.

And it was, and is, perfectly legal for a CRITIC (a reviewer, in the case of Goodreads), to pen such an inevitable and memorable, yet cruel, line.

If the authorities, private business or public official, veer over the legal line into making value judgments about what kind of criticism you're willing to accept about any given work of PUBLIC art's creator, then YES MA'AM you are engaging in censorship and you are doing so either in inexcusable ignorance or disingenuous purposefulness.

There aren't other options.

Vile people will always find a way to be vile. Whatever avenues of expression I can close down to them, I want to close down to them. There is a difference between not liking what someone says and forbidding them to say it. The best, most socially useful way to silence someone is to point to what they theirownselves have said, or done, and shout at them...embarrassment, shame, contumely are more instructive than disappearing someone's thoughts.

Life is hard for the sensitive. I realize not everyone can deal with the rough-and-tumble of free speech and argument. That's unfortunate. But no one makes a person stand up and be noticed. If you choose to do that, accept the consequences. Otherwise, sit down and use your other means of participation, like voting for or buying from those whose views match most closely your own.

This works in commerce as well. Your patronage is your vote. I won't buy an Orson Scott Card book because he's a public homophobe. Not one dime of my money will go to support him or the people who publish his books, or the people who made his book into a movie. Others make their own choices. But, and this is crucial, I go the next step and write shaming reviews of his books, pointing out that his revolting "moral" stance ruins the pleasures (such as they are) of his writing, and by purchasing his books the buyer implicitly supports his desire to take away civil rights from a group of people he dislikes. I don't ever support that, even though I'd love to make exceptions for some groups.

I believe, with all my being, that you stand up for what you say believe or you lie down for your dirt nap. What I don't condemn, I condone; and I can't live with passive condoning of what I see as wrong. My only avenue of expression is here in cyberspace. I take my self-imposed responsibility to live up to my principles very seriously. So, wherever someone's right to be a public nuisance is infringed, I have to complain loudly about it, point to the infringer, and say "SHAME SHAME SHAME" because, one day, they'll get around to silencing me.

I won't make it easy on 'em. Which, I've learned over the years, doesn't make me easy for others to deal with. Ah me, that's a shame, but there it is.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My 3100 Words on the Evils Of Censorship and the Wrongness of Breaking Trust


Goodreads, I hardly knew ye.

I joined in 2010, and I became an active member in 2011. Less than two years later, I’m beginning the process of ratcheting my activity down to virtually zero. In those two years, I had a blast and a wonderful streak of lucky friendships and some great reviewing fortune. I’ve amassed a following of about 1600 people, become a “Forbes 25 Top Reviewers” member, been in the top-ten most popular reviewers measured, by Goodreads, every week or month for most of 2012 and 2013. That’s a wonderful, wonderful experience for anyone to have.

Then Amazon bought Goodreads, and my “uh-oh” light went on. Otis Chandler, founder of Goodreads, announced this in April 2013. The Feedback forum on the site went bonkers. That forum consists of about 13,000 people, out of a reported 20 million members. A tiny, tiny minority...but a vocal and passionate minority committed to working on a site that allowed its members to, for free, catalog and discuss their books with a vibrant and opinionated community of likewise vocal and passionate readers of books. The price? Look at the ads. (And not even that if you, like me, have AdBlocker on your browser.) Goodreads asked us if we minded them sharing our popular reviews with third parties, as an extra revenue-generating measure. I myownself agreed readily. I wanted to help the site survive, to maintain its independence.

The announcement of the sale chilled me to the bone. All the posts I made about the sale are gone, deleted with the thread that contained them, in May 2013. Otis Chandler decided to distill the conversation into a series of FAQs. I’m reproducing a few select questions with some responses bolded for emphasis:

Editing of reviews - can Goodreads or Amazon edit my reviews? Delete them without asking?

Nothing has changed when it comes to reviews. Your reviews are yours and we value the frank and honest opinions of all our members. That's what makes Goodreads different and special. (And yes, you can continue to swear if that's important to you, include images, etc.)

Our policy has been and will continue to be that we never edit a member's review. In some cases - where the review has broken our guidelines - we will delete the review, just as we have in the past.

There is one situation - and again this has been our policy for a long time - where we might use part of your review without showing the whole review. Sometimes, an author or publisher will ask to use a snippet of a book review in an advertisement outside of Goodreads or on a book's back cover. Rather than include the full review, they will use a line or two. This is similar to what you see in ads for movies. We always check with the members who wrote the reviews before granting permission. If an author or a publisher wants to use an excerpt of a book review in an ad on Goodreads, our team will review the ad and we permit this without checking with the reviewer as members are already sharing this content on Goodreads. These are policies that we already had in place and they have not changed.

Will sales targets or sponsorships now influence how reviews appear on the book page and which book recommendations I see on the site?

From the very beginning of Goodreads, we have always had a very firm policy about ensuring that editorial content on the site is never influenced by advertising. This isn't changing.

We'll also continue to show reviews in the same order as before:

* Reviews by your friends (people you know and trust)
* Reviews by people whose reviews you have chosen to follow (people whose opinion and taste in books you trust)
* Reviews from the Goodreads community, sorted by our proprietary algorithm.

As for recommendations, our proprietary algorithms analyze 20 billion data points to come up with personalized book recommendations. Advertising is not part of this process and won't be in the future.

Will Goodreads now be more focused on being a site for authors?

We love having authors on Goodreads. But, we are a site that's focused on readers first. If there is a choice between what is best for readers and what is best for authors, we will always err on the side of readers. It's right there in how we describe ourselves: "the largest site for readers and book recommendations."

On the other hand, lots of readers love to have direct interaction with their favorite authors and we're happy to provide a platform for that to happen.

For new authors looking to establish themselves and build awareness of their books, we'll continue to educate them on the best way to interact on Goodreads. It's a learning process and our key advice will always be: first and foremost, be a reader on Goodreads.

All that sounds very reassuring. No plans to change, no one will notice a difference. Then came Banned Books Week and, ironically on the Friday before the celebration of resisting censorship began, an announcement that Goodreads is deleting the reviews and, later on, the shelves labeled in a manner that focuses attention on the author of a book and not the book itself. Kara, the Director of Customer Care, posted this in response to massive numbers of protest posts on the “Important Note Regarding Reviews” thread where the surprise was revealed:

We’ve been reading all the comments and wanted to give an update based on some of the concerns in the thread.

To clarify, we haven’t deleted any book reviews in regard to this issue . (Not strictly speaking true. See below.) The key word here is "book". The reviews that have been deleted - and that we don't think have a place on Goodreads - are reviews like "the author is an a**hole and you shouldn't read this book because of that". In other words, they are reviews of the author's behavior and not relevant to the book. We believe books should stand on their own merit, and it seems to us that's the best thing for readers.

Someone used the word censorship to describe this. This is not censorship - this is setting an appropriate tone for a community site. We encourage members to review and shelve books in a way that makes sense for them, but reviews and shelves that focus primarily on author behavior do not belong on Goodreads.

From Wikipedia, this definition of censorship:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body. It can be done by governments and private organizations or by individuals who engage in self-censorship. It occurs in a variety of different contexts including speech, books, music, films, and other arts, the press, radio, television, and the Internet for a variety of reasons including national security, to control obscenity, child pornography, and hate speech, to protect children, to promote or restrict political or religious views, and to prevent slander and libel. It may or may not be legal. Many countries provide strong protections against censorship by law, but none of these protections are absolute and it is frequently necessary to balance conflicting rights in order to determine what can and cannot be censored.

So yes indeed, the act of deleting reviews and other user-created materials suddenly deemed not-community-friendly is censorship. "Enforcing community standards"...well...just a question from the peanut gallery here, but how did these "community standards" get set, by whom, and when? A long and separate chat could be had on that topic. But for now. let's note there were 21 people whose reviews were, summarily and without warning, deleted. That contradicts what Kara said above. And she posted this update to backtrack from her earlier assertion:

Thank you for all the comments so far. One concern that has come up in this thread is that the content was deleted without those members first being told that our moderation policy had been revised.

In retrospect, we absolutely should have given users notice that our policies were changing before taking action on the items that were flagged. To the 21 members who were impacted: we'd like to sincerely apologize for jumping the gun on this. It was a mistake on our part, and it should not have happened.

Anyone else with reviews or shelves created prior to September 21, 2013 that will be deleted under the revised policy will be sent a notification first and given time to decide what to do.

Again, thank you for all your comments. We'll continue to monitor this thread for your feedback.

So we’re all hunky-dory again, right? Warning will be given to people who fall afoul of the new “community standards” which we’re now enforcing. Time to make a decision about revising content, moving content, what one wishes to do in response to the site’s desire to remove one’s content from its community’s gaze. I wasn’t given a warning, I was informed my content was removed:

Hello Richard,

Your review of The Hydra were recently brought to our attention. Please note that any reviews you post must contain your own original content (see our review guidelines). Any reviews that are simply copy-pasted duplicates of other reviews will be removed. Given this, the review in question has been deleted. We have attached a copy for your personal records.

Additionally, your review of Civil Disobedience and Other Essays was recently flagged by Goodreads members as potentially off-topic. As the review is not about the book, it has been removed from the site. You can find the text of the review attached for your personal records.

Please note that if you continue to violate our guidelines, your account may come under review for removal.

Sincerely,
The Goodreads Team

Now, I've been completely and publicly pantiwadulous over the major change in Terms of Service as they affect what reviewers...the unpaid volunteers who create the value that Amazon paid for the company to get!...can and cannot say to/about authors in their own reviews, and even more troublingly, what the reviewers can and cannot name the shelves or collections they put their books into. It didn’t need to be personal to me to draw my attention to the many and various attempts to censor what kind of reading material is available to you, me, our kids, our grandkids, and the banning parties hope, posterity. Books that talk about S-E-X or the right of women to walk down all the streets of the world without fearing rape or the existence of this little thing called "science" that rejects religion's once-upon-a-time version of Creation get banned regularly...until now, Goodreads has been a place to discuss these banned books freely and openly. How long before the author-friendly censorship moves into family-friendly censorship, such as the amorphous "community standards" Kara cites above will come to demand?

In the long run, censorship doesn't work. In the short run, it's hideously costly in human emotional terms, titanically wasteful of time, effort, and resources to police and enforce, and morally repugnant to right-thinking people.

But the evil doesn't stop at formal banning of a book, governmental or business anathema pronounced upon a writer, a press, a review...those things, while reprehensible, are formal, out there for the public to see and hear and (theoretically) obey.

More insidious is a behavior that's meant to fly under the radar, such as deleting people's work without warning, is almost inevitable when these "community standards" that were never hashed out, publicly debated, or even made a topic of conversation are put in place by fiat. And when the actions are discovered, they're covered up by (factually correct, morally wrong) justifications like "Oh look how few people are actually affected!" and "Most of you will never know it's even there!" and "It's my {concrete noun} and I'll do as I goddamned well please with it."

To quote a religious figure of great renown, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Matthew 31:45) You didn't speak up for the safety or the happiness of those piddling few? You didn't worry because it wasn't you?

Next time it will be. Or the time after that. Or the one after that. Because if I've learned nothing else in 54 years of relatively constant annoyance by earthlings, I've learned that the forces of Command and Control NEVER EVER STOP WANTING MORE.

I don't know if anyone on the Goodreads staff expected the strength and passion of delivery of the vitriol that the sheeple (irony there!) of the site unleashed on this decision. If they did not, they were not paying attention to the titanic kerfuffle when Amazon bought Goodreads. Twenty-five hundred posts (mostly) of outrage and fear didn't make an impact? The Ugly Green Button contretemps, with 2,350 posts, made no dent? Now there are over 5,800 posts on the Announcement thread linked above!

Goodreads folk are passionate and committed readers and writers. And the reason they've...we've...invested so much emotional energy in the site is, at base, simple. It's the only one of its kind, the only place where readers connect with other readers by means of reviews, groups, and serendipity. Competitors to Goodreads are a great deal smaller, they're often focused around special interests (eg, LibraryThing, that unparalleled book cataloging site, with a sideline of social activitythat's not very much encouraged), or they just haven't got the chops to make the ease and fluidity of opinion discovery on a par with Goodreads.

So naturally change will be resisted and feared by many, and just as naturally the Powers That Be will seek to direct the community's attention to such areas as will benefit the advertisers and/or owners who pay the bills. Some tension is inevitable, some compromise desirable on all sides. But to date, no compromise has been offered on any issue of site governance I've cited here. The policy announced Friday, 23 September 2013, that announces Goodreads can and will delete user-created information at will and without warning is in place. The mea-culpa issued the next week, with a reassurance that they won't delete stuff without warning again isn't, it appears, part of the formal policy yet.

This is put in place, we're told, because Goodreads wants to maintain a TONE, an atmosphere, of respect and tolerance. Because nothing says respect and tolerance like unilaterally changing a community-wide policy with a dump-and-run message on Friday afternoon, in a group that much less than 1% of the user base belongs to, right?

Still, it's their (well, Amazon's) site and they set the rules, right? Right. They do. And they offer the service to us for free, right, so they pretty much deserve to have a completely free hand, right?

Nope. Not without a fight.

I’m appalled by the dismissive snort many Goodreaders emit, essentially saying, "suck it up Buttercup, if you're not the paying customer you're the paid-for commodity." Point taken...you don't value the existence of a cyberspace dedicated to free discussion of the ideas and impact of books on readers. Fine, then you're not required to be upset about the absence of such a cyberspace. But you still lose when ANY voice is silenced, out of fear or obedience or...worst of all...despair. How many honest reviews, negative to the author's feelings and even insulting in language, will now not be written? How many conversations will go un-had? (I've learned a lot from arguing my point's validity on my most vitriolic reviews.)

Talking about books freely and without censorship, whether internal or external in origin, is as important an activity as reading the damn things. If no one talks about Mein Kampf, or Man and Superman, or The Hydra, why kill the trees to print them? Why dedicate the bandwidth to delivering the files to the ereader screens? If people care enough to read even one book a year, shouldn't they be encouraged and supported in a desire to discuss it in full, even (or espeecially) if they aren’t experts in literary theory or history or ethics or copyright?

Stifling one, twenty-one, a million and one, people's willingness to speak honestly and from the heart about the ideas, the words, the feelings expressed in a book, by an author, is stealing from the rest of us who are unaffected the very necessary challenge of understanding, if never accepting, a different point of view.

And that's what Goodreads was. Was. I have to use the past tense. It WAS this. It is now a data farm and sales platform for a bookselling entity. (Whose customer I am, by the way, and will continue to be, because I exist on less money per month that most of you make in a week.) And sales are hurt, the conventional wisdom goes, by shouting.

Goodreads was a unique thing, a place where opinions about books created by writers could be examined and opined upon without fear of censorship. That is an important function. No one else was doing it. And now, in fact, no one is doing it.

And that's the most horrible thing about censorship: To avoid falling afoul of the censors, we question ourselves and censor ourselves and make a big deal out of things in our heads. We do the work of the control freaks for them, out of a desire to avoid them.

Like Amazon, Goodreads reviews will steadily become less and less useful because, basically, how will I ever trust that the happy-clappy Kool-Aid dispensing Nicey McNiceToMe people haven't got hold of it?

Ray Bradbury said it best: "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." And talking about them. And now there's no safe place to do that with the size audience, with their wallets ready to spring open.

The decline, it would seem, has accelerated, and the fall is imminent. I'm sad about that. For me, I'm going to shout from the wilderness. I'll post protests and I'll post reviews that are explicitly anti-censorship and tie them into these concerns. And most people will learn to ignore me, more than they already do, because "what's that noisy old coot hollering for?" is easier, safer, less trouble than thinking about what this explicit statement of censorship as a policy means for your own future mental freedom.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://expendablemudge.blogspot.com/2013/10/my-3100-words-on-evils-of-censorship.html.

Censorship by Goodreads Post...ignore if you're complacent

So I got my first nastygram from the censorship board at Orwell Enterprises, Inc, a wholly useless tentacle of Amazon:

Hello Richard,

Your review of The Hydra were recently brought to our attention. Please note that any reviews you post must contain your own original content (see our review guidelines). Any reviews that are simply copy-pasted duplicates of other reviews will be removed. Given this, the review in question has been deleted. We have attached a copy for your personal records.

Additionally, your review of Civil Disobedience and Other Essays was recently flagged by Goodreads members as potentially off-topic. As the review is not about the book, it has been removed from the site. You can find the text of the review attached for your personal records.

Please note that if you continue to violate our guidelines, your account may come under review for removal.

Sincerely,
The Goodreads Team

My review of The Hydra was a repost of someone else's protest review, and I put it up specifically so they'd have to spend time taking it down. However, my review of Civil Disobedience was entirely my own work, and was indeed in the spirit of the book reviewed. Taking this review down is the act of a censor of opinion, not the act of a community-standards enforcing body.

They didn't want to have my critical opinion out there for public consumption. So here it is, unreachable by their tentacles.

The Goodreads policy of arbitrarily censoring, by deletion, any reviews that contain references to an author's behavior, beliefs, or public statements that affect my personal opinion of that author and his or her output is flat-assed stupid.

Silencing people does not make the world Nicer. It doesn't make the author's views go away. It doesn't stop people from...gasp!...being offended by something they read. It makes the censor a fool, and those calling for censorship crybabies.

Thoreau, a mama's boy who lived at home until he moved to the wilderness of five miles away from home and still ate mama's cookin' and used mama's laundry skills, advocated standing up to stupidity by legal protest action. This is me, being Thoreauvian.

No, Goodreads, I won't delete my account. No, Goodreads, I won't sit down and shut up. You are censoring speech because some delicate little fleurs find it too harsh? Where does that road lead, except to Orwellian doublespeak and Kafkaesque domination of people's personal space?

The law allows you to do what you're doing. But my mama, a woman whose political views were to the right of Hitler's, taught me something important when I was small:

THE LAW ALLOWS WHAT HONOR FORBIDS.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Endings and grievings and frustrations



Everything ends.

I want the good times to last, and the people I care about to care about me, and the happy places to get happier instead of darker and less happy.

And that plus a Metrocard will get me on the subway. Nothing stays the same, people change their ideas of each other, disagreements on fundamental worldviews fracture friendships. It's the nature of the world, and it's still my least favorite part of this whole thing we got going on here on Earth.

The source of my sadness is here. It's amazing to me how much I've invested in book socializing, writing reviews that seemed to amuse and entertain and possibly even persuade the people who followed me on Goodreads, all 1600-plus of 'em. But seriously, how can I trust the Powers That Be not to decide, for whatever capricious reason they feel like, to alter or delete my reviews?

It affects me not at all as of now. All my data is backed up. But my trust isn't backed up. It's flushed like the communal toilet.

And the friends who, for their own reasons, don't feel this fight is worth their energy to fight, are beginning to snipe, snark, and complain about the battle being waged on their behalf. Okay, fine...ignore it, but don't belittle or insult the people who won't lie down and accept whatever Master delivers.

Some respect is not too much to ask. Not for the cause, but for the fighters.

But it would seem not. And that makes me sadder than all the rest put together.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy Pulitzer, Alice Munro

Rating: 2.5* of five

I hate Flo, and dislike Rose, and can think of no possible reason for anyone to read more than the Pearl Rule requires or the first three stories, whichever comes first in your edition.

The entire unkind review is on my Short Stories Page.

Second Catherynne Valente Review posted 10 October 2013

Catherynne Valente gets 5* from me! At Shelf Inflicted, I review THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING. I think it is superb, jaw-dropping writing. I'll be very surprised if this isn't a lot of people's favorite childhood read in the year 2040. (Which I hope to be around to see.)

Take a gander!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sometimes A Short Dip Into Smooth Fantasy Is Great 7 October 2013

I've read...make that immersed myself in...Catherynne M. Valente's delicious THE GIRL WHO RULED FAIRYLAND -- FOR A LITTLE WHILE in the Kindle Originals tab.

It's free online. Spend the mouseclick! It's a prequel to a lovely, lovely series of novels, so you don't need to know anything to derive a lot of pleasure from it.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Unload Some Venom on a Book 5 October 2013

Today was the turn of WE NEED NEW NAMES by NoViolet Bulawayo. It's been shortlisted for the Booker, and the fact is I cannot begin to fathom why.

I had a spirited chat with a fan of this book. She (naturally) stated I was behaving in a sexist manner and implied, with dark tones of voice, that I was probably a racist too, because I don't think this is a particularly good book, and *certainly* don't think it's Booker-worthy.

I don't post full reviews on censored sites like Goodreads, so see the whole thing Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

Friday, October 4, 2013

SIX MONTHS, THREE DAYS by Charlie Jane Anders

I've reviewed a Hugo-winning novelette, SIX MONTHS, THREE DAYS, by Charlie Jane Anders.

What an interesting question it poses. Do we in fact have free will? Does the ability to foresee more than one future outcome to the present mean change is possible, or merely that some choices are okay to make?

I love the answer. Read it, it's free.


SIX MONTHS, THREE DAYS
CHARLIE JANE ANDERS

Tor.com
Free, available now

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: NBC is putting Charlie Jane Anders’ Six Months, Three Days into production and we could not be more excited! Tor.com published the Hugo award-winning novelette in 2011.

From Deadline Hollywood, NBC is adapting the story into...

...a light procedural about a mismatched pair of San Francisco private investigators — an upbeat, free-spirited idealist and a swoon-worthy, brooding fatalist –- both of whom can see the future. Forced to team up, the pair knows their relationship is destined to grow from antagonistic rivalry into fairy-tale true love… but only if they can stop him from being killed in six months and three days. The adaptation will being written by film and TV writer Eric Garcia, author of the novel Matchstick Men, on which the feature film was based. Ritter, Garcia, Janollari and Silent Machine’s Lindsey Liberatore are executive producing.
Charlie Jane had this to say over on io9...

I was really blown away by how many people connected with this story, both with the characters and with the ideas. After a decade and a half of toiling in obscurity as a fiction writer, it's beyond intense when something you wrote takes on a life of its own like that. Knowing that something that came out of your head is living in other people's heads, is enough to make your head explode. I felt way beyond lucky.

So then hearing from other creative people that they want to turn my story into something brand new and different is kind of that same feeling of astonishment and luck — only maybe even more so, because of the realization that smart people are putting time and energy into the idea of adapting your story. Whatever happens with this deal, I will never stop being thrilled about that.
A huge congratulations to Charlie Jane Anders! And a thank-you to editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden for acquiring the story for us. This remains one of my favorite stories we have had the honor to publish. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. And then get the popcorn ready for TV night!

My Review: "O wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us!" --Robert Burns

That quote has always chilled me. I don't want to see myself as others see me, thanks. Burns's point is that we should not wish for that, ever, because the burden of knowing what another person thinks, sees, feels is quite impossibly heavy and unbearable. Think of how many times in this good life you've wanted not to know what you yourownself thought, felt, saw.

Charlie Jane Anders, a smallish fixture in the SFnal world with a good reputation as a storyteller and a nice lady, imagines for two people the horrid, heavy burden of seeing the future...exacerbated or ameliorated by their discovery of each other and their subsequent, doomed relationship. After all, seeing the future means knowing how it ends, right?

“I don’t think you’re any more or less powerful than me. Our powers are just different,” Doug says. “But I think you’re a selfish person. I think you’re used to the idea that you can cheat on everything, and it’s made your soul a little bit rotten. I think you’re going to hate me for the next few weeks until you figure out how to cast me out. I think I love you more than my own arms and legs and I would shorten my already short life by a decade to have you stick around one more year. I think you’re brave as hell for keeping your head up on our journey together into the mouth of hell. I think you’re the most beautiful human being I’ve ever met, and you have a good heart despite how much you’re going to tear me to shreds.”
Or does it, wonders Judy, mean that she can make changes in small things and thereby change the future? Is it in her power to alter the inevitable? Doug doesn't think so. Doug is a committed and convinced determinist. He sees only one future, and he's sure he's correct about its inevitability.

Judy sees, on the other hand, a multiplicity of possible futures, and must weigh in a matter of a blink which one she will choose. Pause a moment and consider that. Doesn't that degree of personal accountability for one's life's course sound appallingly dreary?

And now imagine for a moment the sheer relief of finding and spending time with the one other person on the planet that fully, as fully as humans can anyway, Gets You...while knowing that your love is doomed. (See the title for a clue.)

Do you lie down and weep for what can't be changed? Do you rail against the cold, merciless gawd who lumbered you with this "gift?" Or do you break the rules, test the limits, fight for yourself and your happiness, by doing something, anything, to take your future into your own hands?

Well?

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sunday Comics from 1974 Still Make Sense...Darn It!

My review of Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics is all that kept me from popping a vein last night. Government shutdown by the asswipe Teahadists means billions in costs that...never mind. Gonna pop that vein after all.

Gaham Wilson, at least, can make me laugh. Not much else can.