Monday, November 29, 2010

Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture...(Pic heavy)

Last week my wife and I took a day trip to the next island over, Shikoku, and visited the main city in Ehime prefecture, Matsuyama. It was LOVELY.

We hopped the ferry out of Yanai, Yamaguchi-ken, and man was I excited. The weather was perfect, the ocean smooth and the ride so much fun.

I'm on a boat, M**********R, don't you ever forget!

The Seto Inland sea...

When we arrived in Matsuyama, we had a fantastic lunch at the ANA hotel then went up to Bansuiso, a preserved villa that was built in the 1920's by Hisamatsu Sadakoto, the former lord of Matsuyama castle, after he spent time in France. There is a museum dedicated to his life at the foot of the hill.

The Museum peeks through the bamboo, like a cheeky little monkey.
That's a haiku, man.

Walking up to the villa is a lovely experience.

Most impressive...

His head was held on with duct tape...poor guy. The funny thing is, my wife did the same pose but refuses to let me post her picture...

After the villa, we went up to the castle. The caste was up at the top of a mountain, as they tend to be in Japan, and so you can either walk, take the packed cable-car, or take the lift.

We took the lift. That's my wife in the middle there, in the beige jacket. it was a lovely, peaceful, incredibly dangerous ride. Not the complete lack of any safety equipment (seatbelts, etc.). When you get on or off, you kind of just jump on, they don't even stop it...

The castle was pretty cool. Nice and big and imposing, as it should be.

Inside the castle were the requisite samurai gear--swords, armor, and the like. My inner 12-year-old was squealing with glee.

That's a whole lot of sharp there...

The first Japanese chain mail shirt I've seen...

This was my favorite exhibit.

A murder hole. Know what it was for? Yeah...murdering people.

After the castle, we went to a department store to while away the remaining hour until hour ship home, and I met a lovely young carpenter named Shuugei Iyo, who tolerated my passion for sharp shiny things and stones, and told me about some local blacksmiths and a city that used to be a hone mining town, but in later years turned to ceramics.

He's a gifted woodworker, check out his site (Japanese only) if you like that sort of thing.

And that was our trip...a heck of a day, and well worth it.

He's a t Click Here to read the rest.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Angry Robot Press Releases, Ebooks and me

I got another interesting press release from Angry Robot Books.

Let's look at it TOGETHER!

22nd November 2010 ~ For Immediate Release


On December 1st 2010, Angry Robot will be launching “Nano Editions”. Exclusive to the publisher’s own webstore at, Nanos are digital short stories by Angry Robot novelists, sold at sensible prices in ePub format, ready to load onto the world’s most popular eBook readers.

Most Nanos will be in the 5,000 – 15,000 word range. Shorter works than that will be automatically bundled with another story to ensure value for money.

Talking of which – stories will cost just 59p each (approximately US $0.95). Readers can bundle a collection of any 10 by any combination of authors, for only £3.49 (US$5.59). The files will be DRM-free and available worldwide. If demand for the stories takes off, AR plan to also sell them via eBook retailers.

Angry Robot Editor Lee Harris said, “Publishing is changing, but our role as publishers remains the same – to find cool stories and bring them to readers. This is another step in Angry Robot’s ongoing plan to embrace the new opportunities digital formats provide – and an excellent way for readers to sample unfamiliar authors, without breaking the bank.”

Authors included in the Nanos series include multi-million-selling novelist Dan Abnett and award-winning short fiction authors Kaaron Warren and Aliette de Bodard, along with many others. We will have at least 30 Nanos available for the December 1st launch, with more added at regular intervals.


Lee Harris
Editor, Angry Robot

SO what Angry Robot has done is make a veritable short-story buffet, take what you want but eat all you take...

Holy crap, what a great idea.

I am an unashamed ebook lover. I am not one of those who say that ebooks are going to kill traditional publishing, but I think that no one would argue with me when I say that they will, indeed already have, caused a sea-change in the print world. The future of individual print companies is going to be determined by how they approach epublishing, and this strikes me as a particularly clever way. I mean, why not do this? What conceivable reason is there to not allow readers to customize their consumption, when the option is sitting right there all filled with ones-and-zeros?

I hope this catches on. I hope that this alerts other publishers to the fact that, once books become data, manipulation becomes automatable. You stop needing huge, complicated presses and start need small, complicated algorithms to make books. If you want flexibility, you can build it in. What joy...what freedom and innovation this can lead to.

I know this is only one publisher, and only one idea, but I think it actually does mean something bigger--books have changed. The very IDEA of a book is no longer what it used to be. I was listening to an interview with Tracy Hicks discussing his latest venture, and he said something that really resonated with me. Basically, his point was that books aren't stories, books are souvenirs of stories. You can read the story, get the words and images, on any platform. What a book does is remind you of the time you did so; it acts as a physical marker of the time you had a fever, and you sat in your dad's chair in front of the fire and read The Hobbit while your brother and sister were at school (for example). The book, the physical artifact, absorbs those memories, and that's why people love them, and why they won't die.

But stories...stories aren't books. They can exist anywhere; they've always been ephemeral. So why can't they be digital? Why can't you carry ten thousand of them in your bag? For people who love stories, the digital revolution in publishing is the best thing since the mimeograph machine. And I applaud Angry Books for taking a step in a damn good direction with this idea.
Click Here to read the rest.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On The Other Side

I've got a new article up on Grasping For The Wind.

It's about Religion and Spirituality in Japanese SF and Fantasy. It's called No God In The Machine.

Give it a read!
Click Here to read the rest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I give up.

Seriously. I can't be the only person on earth who can't read about characters that are all, without exception, complete assholes. To the bone.

Authors, here's a tip: when you write a character, imagine yourself on a road trip in a van with that character for 3 days. If you are ready for that character to choke on his or her own liver by the end of that trip, that person SHOULD NOT BE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER.

As a reader, I pray you to remember that rule.

That is all.
Click Here to read the rest.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This, actually.

A quote from Guillermo Del Toro, via
"If it doesn't engage me, I leave it," he said. "I do not do homework with my life."

Few times have I read anything so resonant.

I do not do homework with my life...oh yes.
Click Here to read the rest.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tome of the Undergates: Some impressions

The latest "Big Idea" post on John Scalzi's blog "Whatever" has kind of stirred me into some kind of...thing.

Sam Sykes has written a Big Idea post about his debut novel, Tome of the Undergates. Not only have I been reading this one, but I've been kind of sort of having a Twitter interaction with Sam himself (his twitter profile). We've talked about video games and stuff. We're totally like BFF now. Who wants to touch me? I SAID WHO WANTS TO F#*$#%G TOUCH ME?!

Whew. Anyway. When I saw that Tome was available on Kindle, and at a reasonable price, I bought it rather impulsively. I'm now about 20% in, and I'm of two minds about this book...on one hand, Sam has a VERY strong grasp of prose for fun's sake. Meaning, he's not some pretentious writer's workshop obfuscator, but he's also not some low-brow hack. I love his action scenes, and he never lets things get too quiet. His characters speak naturally, relative to their crazy-assed personalities.

On the other hand, the book is pretty much a role playing game session on paper. More specifically, it's a D&D/WRPG in the "Planescape: Torment/Dragon Age: Origins" milieu, right down to characters having inflexible classes ("Rogue", "Archer", "Healer-Priestess"...I'm surprised he's not called anyone a "tank" yet.) So things get really, really game-y. For some that's good, for some that's bad, but forwarned is forearmed as they say. I personally enjoy playing these kinds of games, but the jury's still out if I want to read a story which is essentially someone else playing these kinds of games.

What's more, these people are horribly, horribly broken. Broken beyond all hope of sympathy, from me, anyway. I know that Sam thinks it's part of their charm, or raison d'etre even (you would know that too, if you read the Whatever post...did you?), It's really, really hard to care about them. REALLY hard. I'm not sure in what world "genocidal fury tempered by occasional attraction" qualifies as essentially human, but it's not one I'm sure I want to live in, even by proxy. And I still haven't figured out why they're together. Apart from two of the characters seeming to have serious schoolgirl/boy crushes on others, for the most part they seem almost murderously hateful toward each other. Nothing really shows why they are together as a party...not even money seems strong enough a motivator to overcome the revulsion that seems to flow between nearly all of the main characters.

In that Big Idea piece, Sam wrote "It’s about a world that makes such people that can be bound together only by their own self-loathing and what they find in each other to keep going." is absolutely descriptive of this book. Thinking about doesn't sound very fun, actually. Self loathing mixed with hatred for everyone around you makes for...suicide? Psychopathic rampages? A journey of self-discovery? A very special "Blossom"?

I hope I find out soon.

That all being said, the book is not, by any rubrik, a bad one. It's quite well written and immensely fun in lots of parts. But the parts that are not fun are all the more unpleasant because of the contrast. I will continue reading, and unless the ending is utter crap (I suspect it's not) I'll likely read the sequels. SO I'm hooked, I'm just not sure how happy I am about the fact...
Click Here to read the rest.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What do YOU think?

I keep an eye on Angry Robot (as you can see from the banner), and I got an email from them that made me think a little bit.

It starts out straight-forward enough:

New Australian author Jo Anderton has signed with genre masterminds Angry Robot for at least two novels in her Veiled Worlds series. The worldwide deal, covering physical books and eBooks, was done by agent Anni Haig-Smith and Angry Robot’s publishing director, Marc Gascoigne. Debris will be published in the autumn of 2011, with direct sequel Suited to follow in 2012.

Congratulations to Jo Anderton, and good on you! I wish I could say the same.

Then there's this:
Angry Robot’s man with the cheque book Marc Gascoigne said, “With the ever-increasing popularity of Japanese and Korean anime, manga and computer games, it’s been surprising that there hasn’t been more SF and fantasy showing its influence. Debris’s mix of SF and fantasy themes, exotic future-medieval settings, Dune-esque warring factions, and a fabulous kick-ass heroine is exactly the sort of on-trend science fiction Angry Robot was set up to publish. We’re damned pleased to have Jo on board.”

Japanese and Korean Anime and Manga? I guess he doesn't know that Korean uses a different language from Japan, and thus different words for their comics and animation (Manhwa is apparently the word for both.) But ok, a little linguistic confusion happens.

Really, it's the jump in the middle there that seems odd to me. OK, so mixing SF and Fantasy themes and a future-medieval setting can be pretty Manga-ish (but the real source in these books will be seen later), but "Dune-esque warring factions and a fabulous kick-ass heroine" are not a particularly defining feature of the form, are they? I mean, I'm sure there are a few manga/anime that feature them, but the vast majority seem far more personal/individual, with male heroes. (One might almost say that Dune would be an influence for the former...)


Jo added, “I’ve been reading Angry Robot books since their first giant, metallic steps and absolutely loving them. Debris started out as an idea about a magical version of the industrial revolution and a scarred garbage collector who saves the world, but still has to pay her rent. Add a few motley companions, a pinch of probably-misinterpreted quantum physics, and far too much time spent in front of various Final Fantasy video games. I’m thrilled my books have found a home at Angry Robot."

So the books actually don't have any Manga influence, at all. I mean, there are FF manga, sure, but...she said games.

Anyway, yeah, I'm nitpicking, I know. My real confusion comes from this attitude expressed in the press release that some nebulous influence manga/anime/"computer games" might have had on the books is part of the marketing strategy. Is that important? Is the fact that Jo played a lot of FF before/while writing the books a selling point? I'm honestly asking here. Sure, I don't think it is, but maybe someone does. Do you?

The thing is, I could see marketing books based directly on manga/anime because of the appeal to the fanbase. But saying "This author likes video games! And those video games are Japanese!" seems like a bit of a stretch. Is a fan supposed to read that and say "Oh! Hey, I played a lot of FF, so these books must be EXACTLY RIGHT FOR ME!"

I seriously don't want anyone to think I'm criticizing the author, or even Marc Gascoigne. I'm simply a little confused by this marketing. Wouldn't it be better to let the books stand on their own merits, rather than going out of your way to make a (fairly flimsy) connection to another (increasingly less) popular artform? From what details they gave, the books do sound interesting, but really, there's not much there...I wish they'd said more about the books themselves.

For what it's worth, I've been piqued. I'll see if I can't review this one, see what's what.
Click Here to read the rest.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

In Which I Get Cranky Beyond Reason...

I really need to stop reading author interviews, or indeed anything which gives me any insight into the character of writers whose writing I (try to) enjoy.

It started with Orscon Scott Card. I LOVED Ender's Game when I was young, and I read the entire series with glee...until I learned more about the real guy behind them. Things like raging homophobia, his somewhat nutty views on Global Warming (It's all a conspiracy, man...) and the like colored my perceptions of the man, and thus his writing. I can't read a single Card book now without thinking, do I really want to support this man with my money and my attention?

The answer is no.

It's a similar story with Dan Simmons. His books have been such a pleasure to read,with such erudition, that when I found out the man is full of ridiculous anti-Muslim and anti-Hispanic hate (he actually complains that Spanish language education helps the "reconquista" on his blog), I nearly cried.

So it is with some sadness (which quickly turned to anger, as I'd already bought the man's book) that I read this interview that Aidan Moher had with recent World Fantasy Award nominee Jeff Vandermeer.It's not that Vandermeer is in the same nutjob/douchebag crowd as Simmons or Card, but reading that interview just put my teeth on edge. The guy's a pompous clown...every question was turned into "Gosh, what did you mean by that, you don't know anything!" and, frankly, I think the guy's a jerk. What's more, reading the story of the publishing of his first book, I think he's not only a jerk but a narcissist...I mean, he has a contract with a publisher and then DOUBLES THE SIZE OF THE BOOK, just because he wanted to. And you know what? I've read that book. The extra stuff is silly, pointless in-jokes and more ego-boosting. What kind of person writes an entire story in CODE, for pete's sake? Who thinks that I, as a reader, have the time and energy to devote to decoding an entire short story, which is in the end, not particularly enlightening or edifying? It is, at most, amusing. But hey, it's ART, right?

What was the point of such an exercise? First, it is important to the frame/plot of the new material. Second, the reader gains the experience of actually writing the story, word by word. The effect of decryption also slows the reading of the story, making each word have more weight, an effect usually specific to poetry. The sting in the tail of the decrypted story frees the reader to take over the author's role on a permanent basis. The intent is to liberate the reader from the author's manipulation, in a sense.
(Taken from City of Saints and Madmen: The Untold Story Part 1
by Jeff VanderMeer, The Agony Column for April 6, 2004

But you know what? The thing that got me going about the man's attitude could be summed up in this quote, describing the reaction to a rather peculiar piece called "The Early History of Ambergris," one part of City of Saints and Madmen:
My first readers sometimes didn't know what to make of it. Granted, about half of them enjoyed it. But among the others, one frequent response was "that's not a story." Another response--the one that irritated me--went like this: "Jeff, you've done a great job of background writing here. Now you know the entire history of Ambergris and you can write actual stories about the Silence and other events, fleshing out what you've summarized here." To which I replied, no--this is the story; the summary is the story. I wasn’t at all interested in fleshing out those events. A couple of people even advised me not to try to publish "Early History" because "it isn't a story." Did I agree? Not really. I have no defense for summarily rejecting half the advice I received on "Early History," except that it didn't seem to pertain to the actual text I had written.
(Taken from City of Saints and Madmen: The Untold Story Part 1
by Jeff VanderMeer, The Agony Column for April 6, 2004

So fully half of his readers felt that this "thing" wasn't actually a story. But he says no, the story is there, it's just missing details or cohesion. Why did he bury his intentions? Why make it harder for readers to know what you actually want them to know? WHY FOR CHRIST'S SAKE would you prevent half of the people who read your story from understanding what you're writing?

Oh, I know, because you think you're an "artist", and the thing that makes an artist is lack of understanding. Because of course, if people don't understand you it's THEIR fault, not yours, right?



If you can't understand that, it's YOUR fault, not mine.
Click Here to read the rest.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Work In Progress, August 2010

The beginning of a story that won't let me go...a weird western.

You can thank H.P. Lovecraft and Red Dead Redemption.


Jakob Kleist was an old man, and so he woke early most days. Today was like most days. He rose and put a coffee pot on the stove, and poured water for his morning ablution. The low chime of his gate wards rang as he shaved. He carefully wiped the large razor his father had left him, patinaed with age, folded it, and slipped it into his back pocket. He did not hurry as he washed the remaining lather from his face and dried his hands. The mother-of-pearl buttons on his shirt glinted in the morning light as he closed them. He put on his hat.

He opened the door and watched the shuffling figure approach. It was a man, young, clean shaven and dressed in a well-worn uniform of dusky green and brown. He was dead, and had been for some time by the color. Smoked glass lenses covered his eyes, and a wide-brimmed hat shielded his face from the sun. The skin of his face bulged and twitched like the belly of a gravid mare. Jakob’s stomach contracted, cold inside him.

“You stop, now. That’s close enough.”, Jakob said, as the dead man approached the covered porch. The dead man stopped. Jakob stepped onto the porch and he looked quickly to each side, expecting ambush. Nothing was there. He slowly stepped foward, cautious of trickery.

“Why’re you here, boy?” he asked of the thing, not at all sure if it could answer.

The corpse opened his mouth, and a voice came from inside it, distant but clear. It said “I’ve come with a message.”

“You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be able to be here. How’d you get through?” Jakob asked.

“Things have changed, the walls wear thin. We are coming.” the dead man said.

Fear started to pulse in his throat, but Jakob didn’t let his voice quaver. “That your message then? You finished?”

“No, Jakob Kleist. My message is this...” There was a pause then, his throat worked strangely and a new voice came from between dead man’s lips. “Hello father. I’ll be seeing you soon.”

The world seemed to shift a little under Jakob’s feet. The voice stirred up memories he preferred to keep locked away, and their rising shattered his self control. He blindly put out a hand as if to steady himself on the porchpost, but the dead man moved suddenly. He leapt forward, grabbed the groping hand and shifted, pulling Kleist into the air and throwing him rolling in the dirt. The old man felt something give in his chest, and the pain took his breath away. He blinked away the black spots dancing in his vision, fear spurring him to roll over and scramble backward, trying to keep away from the corpse shambling toward him.

The dead man must have used all his energy in the sudden attack, for he now moved weakly, stumbling drunkenly toward the old man rolling in the dust.

Kleist crabbed backwards until he backed up against a tree, and he used the leverage it offered to get to his feet. His breath escaped in a pained wheeze, and the world spun around him, but he stayed upright and managed to slip the folded razor out of his back pocket. He flipped it open and ran the blade over his left palm, just deep enough to let the blood run freely. This he flicked at the corpse, and as it hit his skin the crimson liquid exploded, knocking the corpse to the ground. Jakob slid down the tree to his knees, and slapped his bleeding palm to the earth. The ground rippled, like a pond disturbed by a dropped stone, and the ripples spread toward the dead man now trying to struggle upright. But when the first ripple reached him, the earth reared up in a wave and crashed over him and then hardened again into solid earth. The corpse was suddenly imprisoned in a small hill, hard as kiln-fired ceramic.

Jakob relaxed, breathing shallowly against his broken ribs, and stood. He stumbled over to the hill and, using his still-flowing blood, wrote a few scrawled figures across the smooth surface of the hill. When he finished, the hillock trembled then withdrew back down into the ground, leaving a clean patch of earth in its wake, leaving behind no sign of the abomination it had swallowed.

Jakob’s world went blank.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Hi Kids! You might remember me from...

This other blog!

If you want to read more about my lief in Japan, you might want to check out my monthly article series at Grasping For The Wind, where I'll be writing about being a fan of Fantasy and SF living in the mysteriose Oriente.

I'll still be posting here and at that other place, but for Japan-centric stuff, it'll be funneled over there for a bit.

Check it out!

Click Here to read the rest.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Temeraire love...

Have you read Naomi Novik's Temeraire books? Well, have you?

I just finished Throne of Jade, the second book in the series, which I bought on Kindle as soon as I finished the first volume, His Majesty's Dragon, and if I had a bit more spare cash I'd already have bought all of the others in the series.

Yes, they were that good.

First, the basics. The series is set during the Napoleonic wars, and focuses on one Englishman, Captain Martin Laurence, and his dragon, Temeraire. Of course, that reveals the big twist here--this is a history of a rather tumultuous time in European history...with dragons. Lots of them, of all shapes and sizes, and the difference adds a lot to the power of the story.

The Napoleonic wars took place at the beginning of the 19th century, and engulfed Europe in a series of wars that left millions dead. Throwing dragons into the mix seems almost unnecessary, as the true story itself is the stuff of fantasy. A single man, starting life as a lowly artillery corporal, rising to found an empire, overthrow republics and turn all of the continent of Europe into a battlefield...seriously, it's more than a little epic.

In writing about Laurence and his dragon, Novik succeeds in making the backdrop of these conflicts a stage for truly engaging adventure on a smaller, more personal scale, as well as giving opportunities for conversations about issues as difficult and timely as slavery and racism, intercultural conflict and the place of the individual in the sweeping events of history. The role of dragons in the European war is thrown into question as Temeraire discovers the evil of slavery, and sees the place that dragons hold in societies outside his own Britain, where dragons are seen as a kind of necessary evil, vicious brutes tamed for the use of men but still viewed with fear and suspicion, and kept isolated except in the performance of their duties at e behest of their masters.

I've yet to finish the series, but already I can see a politicization of the dragons in the outing--parallels with African slavery has already started to surface, and as Laurence himself has abolitionist leanings, it is inevitable that the series would treat this issue. In addition, a trip to China reveals an alternative to Temeraire, one where dragons are equal members of society with their own money, creative roles (dragon poetry, etc.) and most importunely, respect. It'll be futo see how Novik explores this issue more deeply in e future books.

But, really, these stories are just fun. The characters are brilliantly painted, as lifelike and believable as any I've seen in fiction. They grow and breathe, live and die and wear their histories like skin. Rarely have I been so moved to care about fictional characters, some of them not even human, as I have in these books. The action scenes, as believable as they are exciting, are drenched in glory as well as blood (nothing gory, but not exactly flinching at the ugly side of war). The political intrigue is engaging while not taking over the story, and in these first two volumes seems to be buoying toward something truly deep. Honestly, I've not had as much fun reading fantasy OR history books in a while.

Big big thumbs up...

Click Here to read the rest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Quiet Drive

Driving in Japan can have some peculiar challenges.
Like mind-numbing fear.

Last night, I got the bizarre idea to drive out to a small mountain town that I heard had at one time given home to a whetstone mine (tied to another obsession of mine you might have read about). I knew it was out of the way--I can read a map, after all. But I forgot that out of the way can have a very special meaning in Japan.

You see, Japan has lots of mountains, which are usually big things, but they are all crammed in very tightly, so they kind of get...squashed together. Driving in the mountains in the US usually means lots of winding roads and switchbacks. In Japan it means driving on things which would best be descried as "paved goat paths." Most of the 40 kilometer trip there was nice, broad, 4-lane highway, but about 3km out from the village, I turned off the highway and the nice big roads suddenly contracted into one lane (but somehow, mysteriously, 2-way) streets bordered by towering pines on one side and sheer drop-offs on the other. No sane person would build roads there...seriously.

I made my way, though, gripping the steering wheel tightly, driving about 10 km an hour and hoping that no one would come the other way, and found the village. Although everything was closed and I couldn't find the place I was looking for it was still very pretty, with lovely valley views and babbling brooks. So that was good--it wasn't a total loss. I even saw some foxes and a Tanuki. Then it came time to go home.

Now let me just preface this with a big old preemptive "It was my fault". I know it. There's no need to tell me, ok?

So here's what happened.

I had turned around, and was retracing my way home, and I even had the navigation system set for the way back. But suddenly, I noticed what looked like a big, brand new two-lane highway leading in the general direction of home...It had intersected the little one-way road I had come in on at a very acute angle and I hadn't seen it coming in. Now, looking at the winding path I had taken there and comparing it to the big wide highway, and taking into consideration that although it wasn't on the navigation map, that map was 2 years old and the highway looked brand new, I turned onto it. Would you have done differently? Of course not.

What I hadn't considered, of course, was the apparent fact that the Japanese road system was designed by a blind fool possessed by the soul of the Marquis De Sade. The two lane went about a half a mile, and suddenly ended at a t-intersection with another one of those one-lane roads (WHY WOULD ANYONE BUILD THIS ROAD????). Now, at this point I SHOULD have turned back to the road I had come in on, the familiar though scary path. But, that new path still went in the general direction of home, and it appeared to wind through a bucolic forest offering nice scenery and the chance to see more wildlife, rather than skirt any valleys or cliffs. So I took it.

Ghu help me.

The path soon narrowed. Then narrowed again. It squeezed down into a trail just barely wider than my car, hemmed in by overgrown weeds and pine trees curving overhead to make a tunnel that ended about 2 feet above my car. Now, apart from the fact that this road was paved beautifully, with drainage grates installed every 100 meters or so, I would have sworn that this was a trail left by generations of wandering mountain bears, not a road made by men. There were no houses, no paths into the forest, no sign of any habitation or industry but the road. If I had been afraid of oncoming traffic on the way in, I was nearly wetting myself now.

A real, honest to goodness picture of the road.

I drove slowly, the needle hovering just above the 0, and sweated and cursed and laughed, unbelieving the fact that not only did this road exist, for cars, but that I was driving on it. I was scared not only of traffic, but of falling limbs, of potholes, of bears...the works. Truth be told, we have had some real flooding recently, and the possibility of the road being blocked by a recent landlside, or washed away totally, or any number of problems that would require me to drive over it again, IN REVERSE, was very real. Luckily, none of those obstacles appeared.

Again, I am making NONE of this up.

But of course, on a hairpin turn with no place to pull off and let it pass safely, another car did.

Now, I had been driving for more than a mile and a half, through switchbacks and blind curves, and I was not ABOUT to back up. The map showed that we were about 300 meters from the nearest real road, and I laid into my horn. The oncoming car, hidden behind its own headlights (it was dark, of course, in that forest) backed up, and edged ever so slightly to the side, with it's tire hanging half off the road over a ditch. I did the same, and luckily there was just enough clear space to the side to go off the road. I folded in my mirrors, as did the other car (I'm not joking), and we passed, with about 3cm to spare.

I was soaked in sweat and fear.

But that final 300 meters passed, and I nearly cried with joy when the path intersected that lovely 4 lane highway that lead home. And I made it home safely, in the end, with another story to tell about my own stupidity.

I'll have to go back during the day to find the hones, though.
Click Here to read the rest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reading the Hugo Nominees: The City & The City

I've found my vote.

After getting my Hugo Voters pack and the free eBooks of the nominees, I swore to myself I'd try to read all of them before I voted. I did. I tried. But the only one I made it through was this one...and that's good enough for me.

You see, if book isn't good enough to hold my attention after the first couple of chapters, I couldn't in good conscience vote for it for an award, and most of the Nominees couldn't hold my attention for the first ten pages.

But The City & The City? I'm planning to read this one at least two more times.

I like China Mieville's work. I've read his three New Crobuzon novels (Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council) and enjoyed them all quite a lot, so I was already planning to buy this one. And now, having gotten through my free copy, I'm going to buy it anyway--because it deserves my money.

China has a flair for the fantastic, for introducing amazing ideas with little fanfare and letting you figure out for yourself how new, how exciting this thing is...and The City & The City is a constant rise of fascination and thrill, a slow drop of the jaw as you penetrate deeper into the mystery of the story.

I think the cover blurbs do little justice to this one. Basically, this story is a murder mystery/political thriller--if you have to genre-fy it, that is. It's not actually that fantasy-ish, in the traditional sense of the word. Nothing, NOTHING, in this book, is impossible. There's no magic, not amazing technology (except for rumors about ancient artifacts with unexplained powers, which are left as just that--rumors).

The amazing thing about this story, this wonderful, enthralling story, is that it skirts so very closely to the real world.

The two cities of the title are Bes'z and Ul Qoma. These places have different cultures, languages, and histories. Bes'z is vaguely Austro-Hungarian/Eastern European in feel, with street names like "GunterStrasz" and characters named "Lizbyet Corwi" or "Vilyem Barichi." Ul Qoma suggests a more Middle Eastern feel (as the name might imply), and in addition it apparently had a Socialist revolution--it is being blockaded by the US, keeping out such worldly things as Coca-Cola.

So there are two cities. Different in so many ways...and yet, and yet, the fascinating thing is these two cites share something vital. The same physical space.

"Aha!" I hear you say. We've moved into science fiction/fantasy territory--there's some kind of dimensional rift, or a wizard did it, or...quantum...stuff!"

Nope. These two city-states, with utterly distinct cultures, languages and political situations--and some amount of antagonism--are literally in the same place. They are interlaced, weaving together physically to make a place where neighborhoods abut another country, where a single street can pass between two cities as it meanders from building to building (a phenomenon called "crosshatching"). And because these cities are in different countries, with non-cooperative governments and some level of animosity, the citizens can, legally, only be in ONE place at a time.

Let's back up here...and let's get spoilery (I'm not going to really discuss details of the story, but more my interpretation--which might ruin it if you want to make your own, unsullied, as it were, by mine.)

I used to live in Post-unification Berlin (a city specifically mentioned in the book, and dismissed as "not at all the same"). In fact, I lived within spitting distance of the remains of the wall. That wall used to mark the border between two cities that were one--two countries that shared a name, a history, and a culture but had been cut in two for political reasons. The wall fell, eventually, and the city started to heal, but the marks are still there. People dressed a little differently, spoke a little differently, thought a little differently. That wall was in place for less than 30 years, but the differences on each side were real.

Now imagine that the division between East and West hadn't lasted for 30 years, but 300. Or 1000. How different would each side be? And how resistant to unification the two halves would become...the individual identity of each side would have been defined by separation. And imagine how that would be expressed in the minds of the people--over the years, the decades, it would be utterly and completely natural to accept the way of things. It would become ingrained...and this is what happened in the Cities of Mieville's novel.

Some untold number of years ago, thousands perhaps? The cities split, or grew together, or SOMETHING, and there were two cities in one place. They resisted unification, for whatever reason, and as time passed the cities reached a status quo with each other. The established reasonably solid borders, though those borders might claim every other building on a particular street, or they might miss a certain space, and in order to protect the integrity of the split, they erected barriers. Not physical barriers, but psychological ones.

The people of each city are trained from childhood, and from all sides, to not see or sense the other city in any way. They are trained in a kind of pointed ignoring that comes near to pathological blindness. What this means is, people--real live people--who live in the two cities can be walking down the same street, next to each other, but if one is in Bes'z and the other is in Ul Qoman, they can not see each other. They must, in the words of the book, "unsee." There are cues to help with this, luckily. Differences in dress and mannerism, and of course language help mark people as in one city or the other, and architecture and even colors differ enough that mistakes are largely absent. But that's it. No walls, no barricades. Just ingrained willful ignoring of the spaces around you which aren't yours.

In the book, it is shown time and again that there is no real physical prevention of seeing, but the indoctrination of each child trains them to not pay any attention to the inhabitants of the other city. In fact, the rift is so vital, so strong, that there is a specific law and a specific organization that pertains to just this thing. Any failure to maintain your presence in JUST ONE city, any paying of attention to events in the other, results in "Breach", and the infractor becomes subject of a near mythical, seemingly all powerful organization called just that: "Breach".

It sounds mad. It sounds like something utterly impossible...until you look a little more closely at the realities of national, linguistic and cultural borders.

If we return to Germany, think about this passage from Wikipedia:

When the Wall was erected, Berlin's complex public transit networks, the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, were divided with it. Some lines were cut in half; many stations were shut down. Three western lines traveled through brief sections of East Berlin territory, passing through eastern stations (called Geisterbahnhöfe, or ghost stations) without stopping. Both the eastern and western networks converged at Friedrichstraße, which became a major crossing point for those (mostly Westerners) with permission to cross.

Think about that--the trains crossed into another country, where you would be SHOT if you got off...then back into yours. You could look out the windows of your train on the way to work and see another country, where you had no hope of going, where you might have family or friends that you could never meet...and get off the train, still in your own nation, and go about your day.

Or take a look at this:

See that? That little spot there? That was a little village called Steinstuecken, that for some weird political reason was added to West Berlin in the big kerfluffle that arbitrarily divided a city into two enemy states. And so it was completely isolated, an area of a few square kilometers, for vague political reasons, and if you tried to leave for ANY REASON, you would be shot on sight.

So, no, I don't think the story is that out of touch with reality. I wish it were. It's just an extreme extension of things that we all known are true about politics, people, and psychology. In fact, the extreme isn't that far off...just look at Yugoslavia.

Of course, the madness of the politics and the cities is only part of the story. Add in some corporate greed, the natural tendencies of young people to resist the status quo, and some weirded out foreigners and the book becomes a real-live story. And a GOOD one.

This was a FANTASTIC book. On top of all the craziness with the politics and the cities themselves, the meat of the story is an exciting page turner of a mystery, with likable, believable characters and a satisfying ending. So you get it all--mind-bending weirdness, police procedural and a murder mystery, all in one.

Seriously, go and read it.
Click Here to read the rest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Twas a hot and sultry evening...

Last night. And tonight. And probably tomorrow night.

You got a problem with that? Cause I do...

Japan has a lot going for it. Low crime rate, cheap and competent medical care, excellent food...

But it ain't got weather. You get like, two good weeks in Spring, and the rest of the year is utter crap with scattered bits of hell. Right now is the latter.

But I shouldn't complain. Life is good...I just got a bonus at work, totally unplanned for and the actual result of my company appreciating my hard work--making it a REAL LIVE BONUS, as opposed to the Japanese "Deferred Compensation" faux-nus--and the wife said I could buy what I want with it. So...70,000 JPY bonus. iPad 64gig wifi is 68,800 JPY.

Guess what's coming in a week or two? That's right, UTTERLY NEEDLESS TECHNOLOGICAL GIMMICRY!!!! But it's pretty and shiny and it will help me while away the hours until death's icy hand closes over me for good.

How's by you?
Click Here to read the rest.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bad Translation Makes Kittens Sad

See? See what happens when you FAIL at translation?

My wife recommended a book, one of her favorite books, and she even went so far as to research the English translation (my wife is Japanese).

It's called Crossfire, by an immensely popular writer over here: Miyuki Miyabe. She's been called "The Japanese Stephen King", which she MIGHT have been aiming for (she name drops him in the book, and this one, well...we'll get to that).

So I bought it, because hey--she's my wife. Luckily, the book is a kind of mystery/suspense thriller, which is right down my alley, so I didn't have to suffer through some syrupy romance crap (She also likes Nicholas Sparks...).

So the book arrives, and...I'm having some problems reading it.

I really want to like it. The story is cool--it's about a pyrokinetic woman (see? Stephen King INVENTED that word...) who becomes a vigilante, and a police woman who is chasing her, as well as a super-secret group of vigilantes with super powers, and it should be exciting and cool...but it isn't.

It's dull, tired and flat as a pancake. The reason, I HAVE to believe, is the translation.

Now, I have some experience with translation, both reading and writing, and I have some theory behind me when I say this: This translation is a failure.

It fails on the basic idea that when you translate a work, ESPECIALLY a work of popular fiction, you should make something worth reading. Something that works as a piece of English, rather than a piece of Japanese fiction, which happens to be in English words.

Let me give you a concrete example--
In the story, our main character is tracking down a scumbag murderer, and she is meeting one of his friends. She find him, and the place is described thus:
"an old, run down drinking establishment."

Now, this is a popular novel, a suspenseful thriller about cops and criminals. There is not a single character in this book that, were they speaking English, would use the phrase "drinking establishment". They would say "Dive". "Seedy bar". "A hole-in-the-wall".

That's how people talk. But the translators (Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi and Anna Husson Isozaki) apparently don't.

Then there are the weird refusals to turn a Japanese text into and English text. What I mean is, Japanese language and writing follow certain conventions that we just don't in English. Japanese texts DEMAND context and description, for reasons that I don't fully understand but I believe have things to do with the context-heaviness of the language. In this novel, it is expressed in the fact that the opening scene, which takes place in an abandoned factory, is preluded by three pages of detailed description of this factory and its neighborhood--none of which is never mentioned again.

Things like "Hammers, wrenches, and giant phillips-head screws about thirty centimeters across were scattered here and there on the shelves.". Those enormous screws, such odd things, never ever come up in the story again. They should--screws that size certainly seem significant, but nope. Nothing. In an English novel, if something is not actually important to the story, you don't put it in the story. But apparently that's ok in a Japanese novel, part of establishing the vital scenery, creating context that is so important. So the translators devote nearly 20 words to empty, overwrought description (and this certainly isn't the limit)--rather than saying "the place was littered with junk", as befits a passing thing in an English novel.

Another example...A young man who, like our main character, has paranormal psychic powers that he uses to punish criminals, is talking about a case he's on, and says "There's this pitiful man in his thirties who can't get along without periodically interfering with little girls."

Now, I understand the hesitation to deal with this sensitive a topic, but a young, wild man (dyed hair, extreme sports hobbies) would never, ever use "interfering with" as a euphemism for pedophilia. "Touching", "molesting", there are lots of 'em. But "interfering"? That may well have been a direct translation of the word in the original (I haven't checked yet, but I will), but it surely doesn't fit--it doesn't carry anything about the character, or the situation, or the atmosphere of the book.

I guess what I'm talking about here is that the translators simply did the mechanical task of turning Japanese words and grammar into English words and grammar, but did NOT do the real work of making an exciting, engaging English novel. I'm of the "translation as creation" school of thought, best described in this article by Fred Uleman on the Japan Association of Translators website.

This quote is perhaps best: "The words and the grammar are only important because they carry the meaning. Feel free to ignore them when they get in the way. This is the key to doing good translation." Or perhaps, most importantly,
If the source text reads smoothly, your translation also has to read smoothly. Just as you should not omit meaning, you should not add new meaning or add new awkwardness in the translation.

What that means is, if you're translating an exciting, suspenseful novel from Japanese, you should produce an exciting, suspenseful novel in English. Sadly, this takes more than just a good grasp of the two languages, it takes a good grasp of writing techniques and a sense for writing--in a word, talent.

Without that, you get a translation like the one I'm slogging through now (oh, what we do for love)--boring, flat and unengaging, with brief flashes of the best-seller that lurks behind it.
Click Here to read the rest.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How To Kill My Interest as a Reader

"The emperor of China once asked his court painter, "What's easy to paint and what's hard to paint?" the answer was, "Dogs are difficult, demons are easy. Quiet, low-key things like dogs in our immediate surroundings are hard to get right, but anyone can draw a demon."--Alex Kerr, Dogs and Demons p. 10

I was reading Catherine Valente's Palimpsest last night. It is a famous book, nowadays, in certain circles. It's nominated for a Hugo, and is written by a young woman garnering a lot of attention in the SF/Fantasy world. And rightly so, the writing is rich and deep (if at times overpowering..."a bee sting blooms on her cheek like a kiss" (p. 6) is one of the more meaningless similes I've seen...).

It starts with some lovely fantasy, introducing a city of beauty and mystery, with impenetrable rituals and inhuman citizens. And just as I was settling into the new world, ready to explore it, I was whisked away to the mysteriouse oriente....

Sorry, I mean Japan.

The action jumps to a the interior of a Shinkansen, and within a paragraph I was utterly and completely disgusted.

For, you see, Japan here (as it so often is) is used as shorthand for exotic, unusual places with mysterious people. The manipulation is terrible. We are introduced to a young, apparently really hot, woman named Amaya Sei. It is implied that her name is intriguing because of it's meaning, "Purity". Unfortunately, that's 1.) not how Japanese names work and 2.) "Sei" does not mean purity. The sound "sei", depending upon the kanji used to write it, can mean:

Sex, gender, fault, energy, military strength, nymph/sprite, semen, true, regular, saint...and a hundred other things, due to the plastic relationship between meaning and sounds in Japanese.

A great number of things. And without seeing the word written, without context, it's IMPOSSIBLE to know the meaning of the word. That's how Japanese works. But for the story, of course, it's important to manipulate the reality of a culture and people.

Of course, the names being meaningless is mentioned (Ms. Valente did, apparently, do some research):

He quirked an eyebrow briefly, slightly, in such a way that no one afterwards might be able to safely accuse him of having done it. Sei knew the look. Names are meaningless, plosives and breath, but those who liked the slope of her waist often made much of hers, which denoted purity, clarity—as though it had any more in the way of depth than others. They wondered,
all of them, if she really was pure, as pure as her name announced her to be, all white banners and hymeneal grace.

--Palimpsest, p. 9

(Another nit to pick...neither of the names, Amaya Sei and Sato Kenji, contain any plosives. Sorry, linguist.)

But again, HE COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN the meaning of her name.

But the thing that really gets me is the depiction of the SHinkansen itself. Because NOTHING SHE SAYS about the train is right.

Let's start with:
[S]he was always moved to do this on the long-distance trains which crisscrossed the islands like corset stays. They were so pale and pure and unfathomably fast, like iridescent snakes hissing down to the sea. The Shinkansen was always pristine, always perfect, its aim always true.

--Palimpsest, p. 7 you go:


So...look like a corsetlace to you?

And then...

He gestured for her to sit down and, though she knew better, they sat together for a moment, her body held tense and tight, ready to run, to cry out if need be. Their thighs touched—a gesture of intimacy she had never allowed herself with another passenger.

--Palimpsest, p. 9

The seats on a shinkansen:

The two varieties. You'll notice that the only way it would be POSSIBLE to let your thighs touch would be if you really tried...there's a good 8 inches between "normally sized" people sitting here.

But really, this is nothing compared to:

[S]he took Sato Kenji by their linked hands and led him to the rickety, shivering place between the carriage cars, where the wind keened and crooned through the cracks in the grating and the white walls gave way to chrome.

--Palimpsest, p. 11

There is no place, on any Shinkansen in Japan, where this could have happened. There is no grating, no wind (the shinkansen travels at speeds of up to 186mph...) no's a seamless, pressurized environment. That's part of what makes the shinkansen special...

And what bothers me about all of this, as minor and nitpicky as it is, is that it implies that Ms. Valente relies on the ignorance of her readers to maintain her illusion. Fiction is a grand lie, and you have to do it RIGHT to make it believable. Fantasy is easy--cause no one knows what a demon really looks like. But truth? You can't fake that. You have to do the research. You have to care about the details. For God's sake, the characters in this section LOVE the Shinkansen, and it is indeed worthy of love. So why didn't the author take the time to check out the beauty of the real thing? All it takes is a couple of minutes on Google, and you'll know all you need to know.

The short of it is, I'm not going to invest the time in this book that it probably deserves, because the author didn't invest the time in her subject that it deserved. There are lots of people who will say that all of this isn't important, and it probably isn't, but it ruined the book for me.

But hey, maybe you'll love it.

Click Here to read the rest.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner

Zombie Detective! Good Times!

My first Angry Robot Army book, and this was definitely a fun read.

Nekropolis, by Tim Waggoner
US Release July, 2010 (possibly delayed...Angry Robot's going through some changes)
UK: Now Available

Nekropolis (scroll down at the link for a free sample) is a fun addition to the recent growth of the "supernatural noir" subgenre. Indeed, it's the logical progression--we've had the Noir Wizard (Jim Butcher's Dresden Files), the Noir Vampire (Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series), and now we've got the Noir Zombie!

Matthew Richter, our hero, is a walking corpse trying to keep his body from going the way of all flesh through expensive magical preservation. He funds his need by using the particular skills he developed in a 20-year police career to help people out with the rather unusual problems they encounter in the titular city of darkness, Nekropolis. He's unique in this city of unusual beings in that he is a zombie, a walking corpse, who has retained his will and consciousness...and the reasons for this remain unclear to himself and to those around him.

The particular MacGuffin in our story, the Dawnstone, is introduced by/used to introduce our requisite femme fatale--Davona Kanti, half vampire daughter of the city's Vampire Darklord. (How someone can be "half-vampire" is not exactly clear; the unusual idea that vampires can have children is kind of glossed over. But I digress.) Davona is blonde, thin, and apparently just the thing to get Richter's dead flesh perking.

Davona's problem is simple: the Dawnstone, a powerful artifact in her father's collection, a collection which had been entrusted to her, has gone missing and she's understandably terrified that her immensely powerful and rather unsympathetic father will hold her responsible. So she approaches Richter to ask for help, having heard he does that sort of thing.

After the expected banter (the humor in the book is actually pretty good, though it does occasionally "pun"ish the reader a bit much. Be warned.), the hunt begins and finally we meet the TRUE star of our story, the city itself. The title of the book is apt, as it is clear that the reason we're here is to see the place that Waggoner built. And it's worth it!

Nekropolis is a city populated by supernatural beings, with an immense variety of residents. Waggoner seems to have taken the kitchen sink approach to populating his world; it's full of demons, wizards, undead, shapeshifters, dark gods and more--he pulls characters from mythology (werewolves, Hindu demons), classic literature (Frankenstein's Monster, Jekyll & Hyde), and, apparently, thin air (The Chiranha, a cross between a chihuahua and a piranha, and the most fearsome scavenger in the city...???). It honestly gets a little overwhelming at times, but it's fun to spot all of the references (I was particularly tickled by the name of the information peddling bug).

All of these entities are aligned with a particular Darklord, divided by "type". There are the undead, shapeshifters (called "Lykes"), Vampires, magic users, and demons, and each group has its own area of Nekropolis. As our characters are touring the city, they move through these areas and encounter the Darklord of each of these groups, and in the process we learn about Richter's history, his relationships and conflicts with the Darklords, and find out a wee bit about the history of Nekropolis itself.

Personally, I would have enjoyed more of the latter; the city is a fascinating place, and I really think its connection to our world and the reasons for its existence, while explained in brief, could do with a much deeper examination. The fact that this book is obviously the first in a series (the sequel, Dark Streets, is due this year) encourages me.

Although the ending felt a little rushed, the book is a winner for sheer imagination and page-turning fun. All of the little turns along the way keep the story fresh, and the characters inhabiting the city are engaging. I read the book in one sitting (at 416pp it's not that long) and I enjoyed it enough that I'm looking forward to more, especially given that there are a few points in this book which, I think, were designed specifically to lead to further investiagtion. For example, there are advanced cybernetic enhancements that turn up in certain fringe characters that I think will be big in the sequel(s), and I'm eager to find out.

So the bottom line: Hemingway it ain't, but for a quick summer read, for the fan of fast paced, noirish dark fantasy, this one's a winner.

Jim Rion
Click Here to read the rest.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Worldcon 2010 Here I Come!

Except, not really.

SF geeks everywhere already know, but if you're not one of them, the sort of Grand Ball of the geek world is the yearly Worldcon, the SF convention to end all socially inept conventions. Readers, writers, fen and filkers all get together and live it up, nerdstyle.

I've never been to one, alas, I couldn't afford it when it was in Tokyo and since it's in Australia this year, ain't no way.

I mean, I MIGHT be able to convince the wife to go to Australia, but just to watch me get all squealy over some writers she's never heard of (George RR MARTIN!!!!)? Not a chance.

But I DID decide to become a "supporting member" this year, giving me two things. First, I can vote on the Hugo awards for genre literature and arts, which is pretty cool. But for me, perhaps best of all is I get eBook copies of all the nominated literature...novels, novellas, comics and all.

I was ALREADY planning on buying 80% of this stuff, so for the about US$50 it's a bargain. I mean, Boneshaker, The City & The City, The Windup Girl, Julian Comstock...that's fifty bucks right there. Add the graphic novels, magazines and novellas and I'm practically making book!

So now I have to wade through the packet to be an informed voter...pity me! ;)
Click Here to read the rest.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I GET it now...

So I've finished the first book of A Song Of Ice and Fire, and am halfway through the second.

And yep, I get it. The fans of the books, of which I am now one, have found something very very special here.

I'm stunned, really, that I never read these before. I mean, I'm an epic fantasy JUNKIE. Why didn't I read these books years ago?

The characters are so real and complex, the plotting is compelling and it's just so good. It's everything I want in a book--a huge, sweeping story, filled with people that are actually PEOPLE, not just archetypes, and things happen that shouldn't happen in a story. People die or are crippled without warning, and it actually changes things. The story goes places that you don't expect, and it makes sense.

Goodness, I think I might be in trouble if the next book isn't released in the near future...

And on that note, I'd best be listening to John Anealio a bit more.
Click Here to read the rest.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interesting Genre News

Angry Robot Books, a relatively new SF/Fantasy imprint, is attracting my attention.

Lately there has been a lot of buzz about this imprint, and I'm liking what I'm seeing.

In their own words,
Angry Robot ™ is a new global publishing imprint. Our mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!

Traditional SF and fantasy has been ploughing an entertaining furrow for many decades, but to our way of thinking much of it is missing a trick. To the new generations of readers reared on Dr Who and Battlestar Galactica, graphic novels and Gears of War 2, old school can mean staid, stuck in a rut. “Crossover” is increasingly the way forward and you’ll find plenty of it here, without batting an eyelid. New heroes and new settings, or maybe just reinventing the wheel, we’re not fussed – if there’s an energy in a book that gets us jumping up and down, we’re all over it.

(Complete information here: Angry Robot)

I'm reading a couple of their books (reviews will follow soon) and I LIKE what they're talking about here. Genre buzztalking aside, I like weird books (Tim Powers writing about beer and King Arther, China Mieville's Moths from hell, and so on) and Angry Robot seems to have a good grasp of not only WEIRD, but well written weird, and this pleases me.

Now, it looks like some big things are afoot over there. Again, in their own words:

Following an acclaimed first year of publishing, the revolutionary science fiction imprint Angry Robot Books has parted company with HarperCollins UK. It will now run as an independent publishing imprint, with the full backing of niche publishing experts, Osprey Publishing.

(See the full press release here: Angry Robot)

What does that mean? I have NO IDEA. Is it good? Is it bad? Will it help them? I guess that remains to be seen. But from the initial look I've taken at their catalog, I really REALLY hope they keep up what they've been doing.

And, in addition, I have gone and joined the Angry Robot Army!

I like the books, and they seem to want them reviewed, so I'll be reviewing them as I read more. So keep an eye out!
Click Here to read the rest.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Things to remember: May, 2010

It's been a dizzy month.

I'm such a creature of habit. Whenever any part of my daily routine changes I have trouble with everything else. So this month, with all the vacations and the work rearrangement and the twisted scheduling, was completely trashed as far as regular old life goes. It wasn't bad, not at all, but it sure wasn't normal...

Blogging, writing, all those little valuable things that I used to give up my time, went by the wayside. I just sat around on my downtime, watching back-episodes of "Fringe" and playing PS3. good there.

I have been reading some good stuff. I finished the first book of the George R. R. Martin series I mentioned earlier, liked it and am now well into the middle of the next. I'm beginning to get the's some very compelling character and world building.

I also read some good old free books on Gutenberg, and did a whole lot of nothing during the Golden week holiday.

We went to my wife's grandmother's house for a ceremony (her house is also a Buddhist temple, and she is the priest). It's refreshing, going there, because it reinforces the idea that Grandmas are the same everywhere--she always sends food home with us, and makes sure that we have sweets to eat and is, generally, grandmotherly.

May has started off slow, but soon it should be all kinds of busy.

And that's my beginning of May.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


What a wonderful, lively, photogenic place.

Such a wonderful wife and I celebrated our anniversary there, and it was well worth three years wait.

The first day, the weather was just beautiful. Bright and warm...


The second day, the weather was cloudier and rainy, but still worth the trip.


Click Here to read the rest.