January 18th, 2016
|10:30 pm - Long Story Short (Fiction)|
Last year I decided to make a specific effort to read award-eligible short fiction, and tell people about the short stories I like. The second half of the plan was executed without too much bother - I have diligently updated my list on Diigo, and periodically remind people that said list exists. But working through the first half of the plan was far more difficult than I expected.
I did read a lot of short fiction. So much. But even with all that reading I was able to keep up-to-date with just four online magazines - Daily Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Nature, and Lightspeed. I've read a smattering from other magazines and anthologies too, but I couldn't get around to magazines I specifically wanted to read, like Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Apex, let alone start looking at new-to-me magazines, or anthologies, or author websites.
And the really sad part is, after all that reading... I didn't actually enjoy most of them. I was really hoping that at least one of the magazines would have a high enough ratio of Hit to Miss that I'd be able to say "This is the magazine for me! So long, Rest Of The Internet!". But no such luck. If I want to continue this experiment this year, I'll probably have to plough through just as many duds. Agh.
On the plus side, all that reading means I have definitely figured out what it is that makes me like a short story - tie the beginning and end paragraph together thematically, sneakily tell me the ending in the first 500 words, and have at least one character's life be slightly less crap at the end of the story than how they started out. Or have the entire story be based around a terrible joke, that works too. Heh.
January 1st, 2016
|12:50 pm - Books Read In 2015|
Every year I keep track of how many new books I finished. In 2011 I read 63 books, in 2012 I read 58, in 2013 I read 56, in 2014 I read 39, and in 2015 I read... 47!
And the last one on the list is the one of which I'm most proud, as I managed to read an entire book in Irish. Cue the Rocky music! I have been telling myself for years that if there was just an Irish-English dictionary for ereaders, that then I might actually break through the "what on Earth is that word, eh, maybe I'll go eat cake instead" barrier. And unlike many other soothing excuses I tell myself, this one turned out to be true! It took me 3 weeks to read 3 chapters, then I managed a chapter in one evening, and then I whipped through the rest of it in 2 days. I am now merely very, very, bad at reading in Irish! Woohoo! As for the book itself, it is a mildly humorous story of a lost vampire who wants a nap but can't find a coffin. Two thumbs up, will purchase the sequel.
1. Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson (paper book)
2. The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (ebook)
3. The Last Man by Mary Shelley (ebook)
4. The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events #5) by Lemony Snicket (paper book)
5. The Year's Best S.F. 1972 ed. Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss (paper book)
6. Best Science Fiction of the Year 1 ed. Terry Carr (paper book)
7. Transtories ed. Colin Harvey (paper book)
8. Dark Warning by Marie Louise Fitzpatrick (paper book)
9. Angel Kiss (Jacki King #1) by Laura Jane Cassidy (paper book)
10. Eighteen Kisses (Jacki King #2) by Laura Jane Cassidy (paper book)
11. Women Destroy Science Fiction! ed. Christie Yant (ebook)
12. Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion ed. Roz Clarke & Joanne Hall (ebook)
13. The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1) by Michael Scott (paper book)
14. Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne (paper book)
15. Dreams Of Shadow And Smoke ed. Jim Rockhill & Brian J. Showers (paper book)
16. Be My Enemy (Everness #2) by Ian McDonald (paper book)
17. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (ebook)
18. Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson (paper book)
19. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne (paper book)
20. The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories by Marjorie Bowen (paper book)
21. A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin (paper book)
22. The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea #2) by Ursula K. Le Guin (paper book)
23. The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard (paper book)
24. Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed (ebook)
25. Spectrum IV ed. Kingsley Amis & Robert Conquest (paper book)
26. The Farthest Shore (Earthsea #3) by Ursula K. Le Guin (paper book)
27. Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2) by Ann Leckie (paper book)
28. Sky Coyote (The Company #2) by Kage Baker (ebook)
29. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (paper book)
30. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, trans. Ken Liu (ebook)
31. Judgment Night: A Selection of Science Fiction by C.L. Moore (paper book)
32. Northwest of Earth by C.L. Moore (paper book)
33. Jirel of Joiry by C.L. Moore (paper book)
34. Solaris by Stanisław Lem (trans. Kilmartin–Cox) (paper book)
35. Resonance by Celine Kiernan (paper book)
36. The Ginger Star (The Book of Skaith #1) by Leigh Brackett (paper book)
37. The Perfect Planet by Evelyn E. Smith (paper book)
38. Mandrake by Susan Cooper (paper book)
39. The Door In the Lake by Nancy Butts (paper book)
40. The Kingdom and the Cave by Joan Aiken (paper book)
41. The Galactic Whirlpool (Star Trek: TOS) by David Gerrold (paper book)
42. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart (paper book)
43. Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch, #3) by Ann Leckie (paper book)
44. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N. K. Jemisin (ebook)
45. The Lifted Veil by George Eliot (ebook)
46. The Unfortunate Fursey (Fursey #1) by Mervyn Wall (paper book)
47. Ailfí agus an Vaimpír (Ailfí agus an Vaimpír #1) by Orna Ní Choileáin (ebook)
July 27th, 2015
|09:33 pm - Pathé, Propaganda, and Potatoes|
A few years ago I was looking through the online Pathé newsreel archive, as you do, when I came across The Best Thing Ever. In the 40s and early 50s, propaganda films were made to persaude children in the UK that they really, really wanted to spend their spare time picking potatoes. Child labor on the land during WWII seems to have been necessary, and many children seem to have enjoyed the experience. But whatever, these videos are hilarious.
Who's fault is it that there are no potatoes? YOURS, that's who! (also, ah! Potato avalanche! That does not look safe)
Does your child need to be "built up for the winter?" Send him to potato picking camp!
This is so subtle and cunning... "It may mean a week of school, of course..." I see what you did there!
This lad's obsession with his brother's friend Ginger starts to get a bit weird...
My absolute favourite. SAVE THE POTATOES, CHILDREN! SAVE THEM!!!
And I thought that was all there was...until today! When I found out that AP Archive/British Movietone have opened up their archives. MORE POTATOE-Y PROPAGANDA, YAAAAY!
No-one wants to see your holiday photos, kid
And this... this magnificent gem is the best of the lot.
I love the Internet, I really do.
May 4th, 2015
|04:53 pm - Talking About Short Fiction|
I read quite a bit of SF&F short fiction. Not as much as I'd like, of course, but I could say that about everything pleasant in life. But I don't tend to tell people about the short fiction I have enjoyed. I do recommend, and occasionally just hand people, novels that I love. But for some reason it never occurs to me to let people know about the great short stories, novelettes or novellas I've read.
So, I have created a Diigo account! And on it I will post links to short fiction I like (legal links only, obviously). The nice thing about Diigo is that has a tagging system, so I can label whether it's a short story, novelette or novella, if it's eligible for the 2016 Hugo Awards, and so on. And I can post comments on the links, which at the moment I am using to list awards nominations or wins.
I don't enjoy writing reviews, so I will only be linking to stories I like, rather than discussing those that I don't. But if you like reading reviews, there are some places that review SF&F short fiction. Here are a few:
People have had a variety of reactions to the unpleasantness surrounding this year's Hugo Nominations. One that has made me happy has been people vowing to read and discuss short fiction more often. If you are wondering what's eligible for the 2016 Hugo Awards, or want to recommend something, the two best places to check/post are:
March 2nd, 2015
|09:38 pm - Last Minute Hugo Reads|
There's only a week left until the Hugo Nomination window closes! I am frantically leaping from story to story in an attempt to stuff my brain full of every potentially-awesome piece of speculative fiction published in 2014. In case anyone else is similarly frozen by decision paralysis, below are some of my favourite free-to-read-online Hugo-eligible short stories and novelettes of 2014.
January 2nd, 2015
|07:43 pm - Books Read In 2014|
Every year I keep track of how many new books I finished. In 2011 I read 63 books, in 2012 I read 58, in 2013 I read 56, and in 2014 I read... 39!
Hmm. Not as good as previous years, but in my defense I was back at work full time for all of 2014, which is its own kind of awesome. This year, I'd like to make a dent in my TBR bookshelf. It's ceiling height and double-stacked, and I have three full overflow boxes... I suppose I could also stop buying new books... Ahahahahahahahaha. No.
1. The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty (paper book)
2. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (paper book)
3. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (paper book)
4. A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock (paper book)
5. Curious, If True: Strange Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell (ebook)
6. Parasite by Mira Grant (paper book)
7. More Than This by Patrick Ness (paper book)
8. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (paper book)
9. The 2014 Nebula Award Short Story Nominees (ebook)
10. Planesrunner by Ian McDonald (paper book)
11. Forever in the Memory of God: And Other Stories by Peadar Ó Guilín (ebook)
12. The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem (paper book)
13. Vertigo by Bob Shaw (paper book)
14. Dark Night in Toyland by Bob Shaw (paper book)
15. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (paper book)
16. The Palace of Eternity by Bob Shaw (paper book)
17. Ash-Tree Press Macabre Volume Two (ebook)
18. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi (ebook)
19. Starshadows by Pamela Sargent (paper book)
20. The Ginger Star (The Book of Skaith #1) by Leigh Brackett (paper book)
21. A Crack in Everything by Ruth Frances Long (paper book)
22. Hurricane Fever by Tobias Buckell (ebook)
23. The Volunteer by Peadar Ó Guilín (paper book)
24. The Shunned House by HP Lovecraft (ebook)
25. Folk'd by Laurence Donaghy (paper book)
26. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells (ebook)
27. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (paper book)
28. The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (ebook)
29. The Wisdom of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (ebook)
30. The Incredulity of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (ebook)
31. The Secret of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (ebook)
32. The Scandal of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (ebook)
33. Sand by Hugh Howey (paper book)
34. Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell (ebook)
35. Good Red Herring by Susan Maxwell (paper book)
36. Death & Co by D. J. McCune (paper book)
37. The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green (ebook)
38. City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare (paper book)
39. Collected Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (paper book)
October 12th, 2014
|10:17 pm - Elizabeth Bowen|
Last night I finally finished reading "The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen". I borrowed it from my local library for the retrohugowomen project, and it has taken me the better part of a year to read my way through its 79 stories. Elizabeth Bowen was renowned for vignettes depicting the breakdown of the British and Anglo-Irish aristocracy's way of life, and the destruction of family units. The topics and writing style are not exactly my cup of tea - it took a lot of will power to continue reading the story in which a blister on her main character's foot was a symbol of his failing marriage. So why keep reading? Because scattered among the dreary tales of children who are disappointed in their parents, and parents who are bored of their children, are some truly wonderful speculative fiction stories.
The Apple-Tree (1934) is an extraordinary work of ominous imagery. The Cheery Soul (1942) has one of the funniest, most pointless ghosts I've come across in fiction. The writing style and narrative of Pink May (1945) blend together to create pretty much the perfect story. And Gone Away (1946) is... well, Gone Away is actual SF written by and actual Irish Women in actual 1946, and it is a beautiful unicorn that should be treasured.
And so, 79 stories later, I have a list of Elizabeth Bowen's Speculative Fiction Short Stories. You're welcome, Internet.
Speculative Fiction Short Stories
The Back Drawing-Room (1926)
The Apple-Tree (1934)
The Demon Lover (1941)
The Cheery Soul (1942)
The Happy Autumn Fields (1944)
Green Holly (1945)
Pink May (1945)
Gone Away (1946)
Hand in Glove (1952)
Might-Be-Speculative-Fiction-Or-Might-Be-In-Their-Heads Short Stories
The Shadowy Third (1923)
The Storm (1926)
The Cat Jumps (1929)
Mysterious Kôr (1945)
September 22nd, 2014
|12:46 am - The SF&F Book Chat|
Last week The SF&F Book Chat started up again after our annual summer break, and I have just realised I have been running this weekly drop-in book club for three years now. Three years! Time flies when you're
desperately trying to find short-yet-interesting-books on a weekly basis having fun.
Over the years the core concepts of the Chat have remained the same - every week I turn up in a Dublin café to chat about a standalone SF&F story that is always legally available as an ebook or online - but we have made two significant changes since the Chat started:
So if you're in Dublin, and you want to chat about SF&F stories, do pop in. The more the merrier.
- From October of last year we've been putting the Chats up on Meetup.com. This has really helped the Chat break out of the friend-of-a-friend attendee pool that can hamper a club from expanding. If you're running any kind of regular event where strangers are welcome, I highly recommend spending the ~€3 a month required for an Organizer account.
- The Chat was 3 months old when I had a Road To Damascus moment courtesy of Juliet McKenna and decided to make sure 50% of the books chosen each month were by women. That has been... a challenge, to put it mildly, but I have actually managed to achieve that target every month. And I have found it progressively easier to come up with stories by women each month, because now my brain has been trained to see them when they're right in front of me. Like Rubin's Vase. And my every-increasing Amazing Must-Buy Authors list is testament to the success of this strategy (Oh, that list is so long now...).
September 16th, 2014
|08:47 pm - Indoor Tomatoes|
As anyone who follows me on social media is aware (or even just anyone who has been in a room with me for more than five minutes) this year I have been growing a lot of different types of tomatoes. I have of course grown tomatoes before - in the ground, in pots, in containers, and in greenhouses. But none of those methods have worked out particularly well. Ireland simply doesn't have the climate to reliably grow tomatoes outdoors, and whenever I grow them in the greenhouse I find it very difficult to water them with enough regularity to prevent the fruit splitting.
But in March of this year I discovered "micro tomatoes", a category of tomato plants which stay under 18inches. "Yes!" I thought. "I can grow these indoors on my windowsill, and if they are actually in front of me I won't forget to water them."
"But," my next thought was, "there are so many micro tomato varieties. How can I know which will best suit my needs? The only possible way is to grow lots of different varieties! In lots of different conditions! Indoors, outdoors, on my windowsill, in 20inch pots, 8inch pots, 3inch pots..."
I often have thoughts like that.
I ended up growing 13 different varieties (listed below for the curious). And the winner is... Little Sun! If grown in a large container it spreads to about an 18inch globe, but fortunately it didn't spread in the smaller pots. Unlike some of the other varieties it did really well in the 8inch pots with a stake, and even produced fruit in the 3inch pots. And the fruit... oh, the fruit. About 30g, which is far larger than the average cherry tomato, and it had the sweetest fruit of all the varieties I tried.
So, if you want to grow tomatoes on your windowsill, I recommend Little Sun in an 8inch pot, tied to a stake. Oh, and use liquid feed once the fruit sets (solid tomato food was such a mistake. So many fungus gnats...)
But just because Little Sun was the best of these 13 doesn't mean it's the best of all the micro tomato varieties. There are at least 30 more varieties. And they really should be tested in 20inch pots and 8inch pots and 3 inch pots, on windowsills and greenhouses and in the garden...
- Heartbreaker Vita
- Sweet 'n Neat Cherry
- Sweet 'n Neat Yellow
- Sweet 'n Neat Scarlet Improved (The nicest red tomato I grew this year)
- Micro Tom (the smallest plant, at just 6inches, but very sharp)
- Romanian Red Dwarf (not actually a micro tom, it turns out! It was about 3ft by 3ft)
- Red Robin
- Totem (Ugh. So dry. The only real failure of the lot)
- Red Alert (A little too large for the windowsill at 2ft, but produced fruit a good month earlier than all the other varieties, which is useful in Ireland's short growing season. And tasty! I'll be growing this again, in the greenhouse)
- Little Sun
- Pick a Tom
January 4th, 2014
|08:18 pm - Books Read In 2013|
I once again kept a list on MobileRead of all the new books I finished during the year. In 2011 I read 63 new books, in 2012 I read 58 and in 2013 I read... 56!
Not bad, considering I was able to return to work in June. Roll on 2014!
1. The Magic World by E. Nesbit (ebook)
2. Clarkesworld Magazine #69 (Jun 2012) (ebook)
3. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (ebook)
4. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (paper book)
5. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (paper book)
6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (paper book)
7. The Revolving Boy by Gertrude Friedberg (paper book)
8. London Falling by Paul Cornell (ebook)
9. The Kingdom and the Cave by Joan Aiken (paper book)
10. The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (ebook)
11. Wood Beyond the World by William Morris (ebook)
12. Probability Moon by Nancy Kress (ebook)
13. Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations ed. Paula Guran (ebook)
14. Running with the Pack ed. Ekaterina Sedia ed. (ebook)
15. Living Alone by Stella Benson (ebook)
16. The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (paper)
17. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (paper)
18. Suited by Jo Anderson (ebook)
19. Dark Spires ed. Colin Harvey (ebook)
20. Hugo Award 2013 Novelette Nominees (ebook)
21. Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy (paper book)
22. Armored ed. John Joseph Adams (ebook)
23. Edge of Infinity ed. Jonathan Strahan (ebook)
24. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (ebook)
25. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (ebook)
26. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (ebook)
27. The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake (ebook)
28. Lightspeed Magazine #20 (Jan 2012) (ebook)
29. Analog Oct 2012 (ebook)
30. Beneath Ceaseless Skies #100 (ebook)
31. Strange Horizons July 2012 (ebook)
32. Apex Magazine #39
33. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman (paper book)
34. Gold by Dan Rhodes (paper book)
35. The Complete Short Stories by Oscar Wilde (paper book)
36. World Fantasy Awards Short Story Nominees (ebook)
37. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear (ebook)
38. Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (paper book)
39. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (paper book)
40. The Gates by John Connolly (paper book)
41. The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan (paper book)
42. The Uninhabited House by Charlotte Riddell (ebook)
43. The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination ed. John Joseph Adams (ebook)
44. The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events #4) by Lemony Snicket (paper book)
45. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (paper book)
46. The Weekend Book of Science Fiction ed. Stuart Gendall (paper book)
47. Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds (paper book)
48. The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan (paper book)
49. Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor (paper book)
50. Sorcerer's Luck by Katharine Kerr (paper book)
51. Restoree by Anne McCaffrey (paper book)
52. The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events #5) by Lemony Snicket (paper book)
53. Bitter Angels by C.L. Anderson (paper book)
54. A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix (paper book)
55. The Ceres Solution by Bob Shaw (paper book)
56. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (paper book)