Links (2018-07-18)

Humor

Politics

I tend to avoid politics on this blog, only making exceptions for things which ought to be non-partisan like taking a stand against gerrymandering no matter who’s doing it. Well, here’s another thing that ought to be completely non-partisan for any American. This is a Republican representative from Texas, Will Hurd, on the US, NATO, and the Russian government. It’s been months or years since I’ve heard a politician of any party speak for six minutes and been able to agree with it all.

History

Science

Science Fiction

Birthdays

  • 1921-07-18 John Glenn
  • 1943-07-18 Charles G. Waugh
  • 1948-07-21 G. B. Trudeau
  • 1936-07-22 Tom Robbins
  • 1923-07-23 C. M. Kornbluth
  • 1947-07-23 Gardner Dozois
  • 1895-07-24 Robert Graves

I’ve recently mentioned Dozois in the other context. Still, it’s another opportunity to express appreciation. And, of course, C. M. Kornbluth wrote many superb stories, co-wrote an all-time classic in The Space Merchants and much more. Waugh helped Asimov and Greenberg and others produce many anthologies.

Otherwise, this is another “outside the envelope” week. Glenn is in the ISFDB for a single essay but, hey, it’s Glenn! On a very different note, Trudeau is in for a single cartoon in someone else’s book but memory says he’s another top cartoonist. (Incidentally, the top cartoonist is in the ISFDB with a couple of random items but without his birthdate of July 5, 1958, so a belated happy birthday to Calvin and Hobbes‘ Bill Watterson.) Graves could certainly interest writers of any kind as well as  fantasists and history buffs with The Reader Over Your Shoulder writing guide (recently purchased and started, but currently distracted from by several other books and this blog), The White Goddess myth/poetry book, “Claudius” semi-historical novels, and much more. Finally, Robbins isn’t a “genre” guy except that he writes stuff that’s very much science fictional/fantastic. Either way, I’ve read Still Life with Woodpecker more than once and most of his other books including Jitterbug Perfume and Another Roadside Attraction.

Happy birthday and thanks for all the fics!

Music

Ty Segall’s second self-titled album was in the running for an appearance in Tunesday: Favorite Albums of 2017 (Mohs Scale 2-3). Here’s the last full track. Continue reading

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Tunesday: Favorite Albums of 2017 (Mohs Scale 2-3)

No one can make a list of the “best” albums of 2017 but everyone can make lists of favorites and this is the first list of a batch of mine. They’re in batches because there are a lot and so doing them by genre seems reasonable, but musical genre is an impossible rat’s nest which leads to endless disputes so I’m just using a “Mohsical scale” which goes from 2-9 (because there’s always something harder/faster/whatever or softer/slower/whatever). So this is a list of some alternative-esque albums that impressed me, arranged alphabetically by artist (no idea why there’s nothing after “M”) with my very favorite in bold. Each is represented by a sample track from the album and the total time of these nine tracks is 43:34. Continue reading

Links (2018-07-11)

Site News

History

Science

Science Fiction

General

Birthdays

Doing something different with the birthdays. Rather than discuss the birthdays of the past week, I’ll be doing a heads-up on those of the coming week. So this week is a double shot of both.

  • 1907-07-07 Robert A. Heinlein
  • 1913-07-11 Cordwainer Smith
  • 1923-07-12 James E. Gunn
  • 1779-07-15 Clement C. Moore
  • 1944-07-17 Thomas A. Easton
  • 1971-07-17 Cory Doctorow

What can you say about the giant that is Heinlein? Cordwainer Smith, on the other hand, has given his name to a “Rediscovery” award. If you don’t know him, discover him for yourself! Start with The Best of Cordwainer Smith or some other comprehensive collection of his weird and wild stories. I’m regrettably unfamiliar with Gunn directly, but I know he’s contributed much as an author, editor, critic, scholar, and more. (I have many books from several of those categories I need to read Real Soon Now.) And, yes, that is that Clement C. Moore: Twas the night before, etc. Easton reviewed for Analog for many years and, for instance, has just recently co-edited a pretty good anthology. And I don’t know that I’d love everything Doctorow‘s done but I loved “The Man Who Sold the Moon.” Okay, so it’s not the most original title but it’s good.

Music

First up is a video. Second is an audio file. I couldn’t find it on utoob (gasp) so I had to find it at archive.org and figure out how to embed it. Continue reading

Links (2018-07-04)

Site News

Humor

Politics

History

Philosophy

  • The Splintered Mind: Will Future Generations Find Us Especially Morally Loathsome?. While this article has its own points to make (and I disagree with, or at least question, some of them, such as the idea that people of moral excellence would condemn, rather than seek to understand, the morality of others), it raises issues I’ve long wanted to articulate and which I think are especially pertinent in this era of disturbingly absolutist, holier-than-thou attitudes which bring to mind the “loathsome” eras of Puritans, Salem, Prohibitionists, etc. But if you’re not interested in my take, don’t let that discourage you from reading the excellent article for the author’s viewpoint and for your own.

Science

Science Fiction

General

Birthdays

  • 1900-06-29 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • 1877-07-02 Hermann Hesse
  • 1883-07-03 Franz Kafka

This week’s authors are, oddly, all non-English. I don’t really recall Saint-Exupery‘s  The Little Prince, but who hasn’t read it? I haven’t read Hesse for years but things like Steppenwolf had their effects. I love Kafka‘s The Trial, which is a perfect metaphor for almost everything. He’s, of course, famous for “The Metamorphosis” as well, but I’ve read his complete stories and it was well worth it.

Music

Happy Birthday to the U! S. Aaayaay! Continue reading

Links (2018-06-27)

Instead of my previous practice of putting off posting these for as long as I could, which resulted in massive, partly out-of-date links posts, I’m going to try posting smaller ones (ironically, this one is not much, if any, smaller) more frequently, aiming for every Wednesday. This may not last, but we’ll see how it goes. (Tempted to rename this the Hump Day Link Dump or the Hump Dump. No? How about Week Links?)

Humor?

Politics

Science

Science Fiction

General

  • Uncanny #18, September/October 2017 | SF MAGAZINES. A “fine wine” review, I suppose. Not prompt, but of high quality. It particularly notes the Prasad and Cooney stories on the positive side of the ledger (as I did individually, without writing up the entire issue) and the counter-productive ideological excesses on the negative side.
  • Tyrannosaurus Ranch: In Praise of Form Rejection Letters. Some may appreciate this generally, but I was particularly struck by one element: “Now, some personal rejections can, in fact, help you revise the story into something more publishable. However, in order to give advice of that caliber and with that great detail, an editor is going to have to do some thinking–and thinking takes time. Time that editor could spend on reading more stories.” We certainly wouldn’t want editors thinking would we? What if John Campbell had spent time composing multi-page letters to authors? What if diamonds in the rough were polished rather than just being rejected (or, worse, accepted)? Why, we might have a Golden Age! I think Afsharirad is confusing editors with anthologists. Not every thing in this fast-paced world is better with speed and editors should take time to make authors and stories better. And there should be good proofreaders, too!
  • Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and F&SF – Locus Online. Speaking of a guy who was both an anthologist and an editor. (Joe Haldeman has a great comment (seen at File 770) on what a real editor can do. Speaking of  “The Hemingway Hoax,” he said Dozois “cut [the novel version] to shreds so he could run it as a novella in Asimov’s. He did so much damage to it that it won both the Hugo and Nebula.”) And Dozois was a reviewer, too! I’m not sure what the backlog on these is like, so don’t know if this is the first posthumous one or also the last ever, but reading it produces a weird feeling, either way. We certainly didn’t have the same taste but he just as certainly influenced me and it’s interesting to see that, in this particular review, he recommends a Clarkesworld story I was less impressed by but thought was clearly the most significant tale of the issue, the two stories he notes in Lightspeed were the ones I gave a recommendation and an honorable mention to, and my favorite story in the F&SF is the one he names the best. It all differs by degree and he’s much more positive about much more than I was but the point is that he influenced me (and a generation or two of readers) in many pervasive, indefinable ways.
  • Black Gate » Black Gate Book Club, Downbelow Station, Fourth Discussion. The Union/Alliance conflict is growing and the panel is getting more excited.

Birthdays

  • 1957-06-21 Berkeley Breathed
  • 1977-06-21 Maria Dahvana Headley
  • 1947-06-22 Octavia E. Butler
  • 1936-06-23 Richard Bach
  • 1964-06-23 Joss Whedon
  • 1916-06-24 John Ciardi
  • 1903-06-25 George Orwell
  • 1935-06-25 Charles Sheffield
  • 1954-06-26 James Van Pelt

Charles Sheffield wrote one of my favorite SF novels with Between the Strokes of Night. I know it’s been revised, but I only know the original version. He also wrote one of my favorite connected collections with The Compleat McAndrew. You can get started with “Killing Vector” and “Moment of Inertia” along with many other fine stories listed in the link. Butler is famous for her many novels and didn’t actually like to write stories much but she was extraordinarily good at it. Bloodchild and Other Stories is a masterpiece. Van Pelt has also written scads of  noteworthy stories, including “Of Late I Dreamt of Venus.” I haven’t loved everything I’ve read by Headley, but, among those I have, “The Scavenger’s Nursery” made the biggest impression.

This is the week for stretches, too. Whedon is more visual but has created some of the best SF/F shows (and movies) around. Breathed‘s also a stretch, but Bloom County‘s among my top three comic strips. While Ciardi was a poet who wasn’t above writing limericks with Isaac Asimov and pseudonymously contributed two stories to F&SF, I appreciate him most as translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is  a giant medieval poem of epic fantasy. Bach is another who doesn’t seem “part of the club” but gets a mention anyway. He’s probably most famous for the talking animal fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull but Illusions was also a fantasy of interest. And, of course, Orwell‘s Orwell.

Music

Former Pantera Drummer Vinnie Paul Dead At 54 – Blabbermouth.net. Sympathies to the Abbott family, again. Continue reading

Links (2018-06-20)

Site News

Triggered by an SF news item below, I’ve updated the “List of Webzines.” The newer “List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines” is actually more relevant to what this site currently covers and includes not just the webzines but all the SFWA-qualifying markets (and links to the reviews of them) but the webzine page is still much more popular so I’ll try to maintain both.

(I’m also editing this post later in the day to reflect that the “Third Discussion” of the Cherryh novel was posted today (see the “Science Fiction” section below) and to add a humor item.)

Humor

History

Politics

Science

General

Centauri Dreams

After playing catch-up, here’s a Top 10 list (plus guest post) from the last 50 or so posts over the last couple of months or so. (I’m telling you, Centauri Dreams is one of the best sites on the web.)

  • Holographic Sails for Project Starshot? — Homage to Bob Forward. This guest post by Greg Matloff conveys interesting ideas about holographic starships.
  • More News from the ‘Planet of Doubt’. Nice SF references and a neat look at our outer worlds.
  • Gaia: Data Release 2 Announced. Now that’s a catalog. 1.7 billion stars.
  • Getting Water into the Inner Solar System. “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it.” Kind of ironic that the things that may have made life on Earth possible also cause occasional mass extinctions.
  • Is Asteroid 2015 BZ509 from another Stellar System? This follows up on the story about the retrograde asteroid and references the excellent Billings piece I mentioned in “Links (2018-05-23) -> Science/Technology -> ExoSci -> item 2.”
  • TESS: The View into the Galactic Plane. And here’s Centauri Dreams‘ take on  “ExoTech -> item 2” of that same “Links” post.
  • Star Formation at ‘Cosmic Dawn’. This is different from the “unchanged galaxy” link in the previous section. That’s looking at a nearby galaxy a mere 225 million light years away that has aged gracefully. This looks at galaxies over 13 billion light years away, and the implications for the possible starting point for life, given that heavier elements are already found in those that far back.
  • Galactic Habitability and Sgr A*. Speaking of life implications, our galaxy’s central black hole may have sterilized swathes of the galaxy over 30,000 light years out. Among a great many other things, this makes me think how piddly the imaginations of our supervillains are. When’s the last time some Imperial flunky of a Sith lord had a weapon that could sterilize a radius of 30,000 light years’ worth of star systems? “I feel a GRR-RRR-EAAT disturbance in the force, as though millions of octillions of voices cried out and were suddenly silenced.” The picture of Centaurus A in that article defies words. Now that’s a beam weapon. But enough silliness – in all seriousness, the implications are extremely significant and, again, the more we learn, the more unlikely and old the Earth seems so why couldn’t we be the first and/or only? Though we’ve still got uncountable stars and years to have produced at least more than one.
  • Dawn at Ceres: Imagery from a Changing Orbit. This is another take on “Links (2018-06-04) -> Science/Technology -> Space/Physics -> item 3.” (See this post’s Science -> General -> item 5 for an update.)
  • Protoplanets: The Next Detection Frontier. Our fascinating glimpses into the processes of formation.
  • Enter the ‘Clarke Exobelt’. More “detection frontiers.” Aliens with our tech couldn’t detect our belt of artificial satellites but, by straight extrapolation, such a belt could be detectable by 2200. Perhaps other such belts are already detectable? (I actually find this very limited and it would require a literally astronomical coincidence, which is noted in the article, but it’s a neat idea and, hey, Clarke.)

Aside to science fiction writers: less about contemporary anthropocentric issues on this particular momentary speck of dust and more about the above, please. Less anger and more awe. I get more thrills and mind expansion from Centauri Dreams than any current SF zine. It’s a big universe out there. Let’s go outside and play.

Science Fiction

General

Birthdays

I’m going to try something a little different with this. I searched the ISFDB for birthdays since I’d last done a links post and, while this is obviously a very select list and I may miss some people I’d mean to include, I thought I’d try to list the folks who’ve given me something and who I wanted to express my appreciation to on their happy day (whether they’re still with us or not).

  • 1915-06-06 Tom Godwin
  • 1910-06-08 John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • 1911-06-09 J. Francis McComas
  • 1925-06-09 Keith Laumer
  • 1943-06-09 Joe Haldeman
  • 1908-06-14 Stephen Tall
  • 1896-06-16 Murray Leinster
  • 1920-06-16 T. E. Dikty
  • 1972-06-16 Andy Weir

Godwin‘s most famous for “The Cold Equations.” Campbell is, of course, the editing giant and it speaks to the magnitude of his editing legend that it has dwarfed his writing when he was previously a giant author, in the top handful from the 30s. McComas co-edited one of the more famous SF anthologies and helped start one of the more famous SF magazines (Adventures in Time and Space and F&SF). Laumer wrote a lot of great stuff and was probably most famous for the Bolo and Retief series. Haldeman, of course, wrote the superb The Forever War and many other excellent novels but his increasingly superb short fiction collections often get overlooked. I only know Stephen Tall, aka Compton Crook, as the namesake of The Compton Crook Award and the author of The Stardust Voyages, the latter from a citation by Victoria Silverwolf when I was looking for particular “space exploration” stories. Leinster was the original “dean of science fiction” and wrote countless stories in various genres, many all-time classics of SF such as “First Contact,” the Med series and the stories that went into the Colonial Survey (aka Planet Explorer) fixup, including the Hugo-winning “Exploration Team.” Dikty co-edited (later solely edited) the first science fiction “year’s best” anthology series. I still haven’t read the book I bought but Andy Weir gave us The Martian which I have seen and immensely enjoyed as a movie. Happy birthday, all!

Tunes

Special request: please give these two songs of less than ten minutes a try. Obviously, I’d like to share any tunes I post but these more than most. Continue reading

Links (2018-06-04)

Site Note

As I mentioned in the May summation, I’ve added The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF, Volume 4 to “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links).”

Humor

History

Science/Technology

Computers/Robots

Biology/Chemistry

Space/Physics

Science Fiction

Special Link

  • Black Gate » Announcing the Black Gate Book Club: Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh. With all my other reading, I probably won’t be able to participate but encourage others to do so if they can. It’s an interesting idea with an excellent start (Cherryh is awesome and Downbelow is great but it took two tries for me to realize that and it isn’t the easiest thing to get into for many people). I will follow the comments, at least. (It doesn’t seem to have happened this Monday but maybe it will tomorrow or next Monday.)

General

  • We Lost Control a Long Time Ago – From Earth to the Stars. Sue Burke, who published a good story in the May/June Asimov’s, contributes a good piece to the Asimov’s blog. I don’t like the idea that SF is condemned to be a Cassandra or that humanity is necessarily destined to be “out of control” (though we certainly are at the moment) but this was an interesting, powerful, and not utterly bleak piece.
  • Black Gate » A Classic Without the Quotation Marks: Rogue Moon. Be warned that, without maybe being terminally spoilery, it gives away a little too much for my comfort but I can’t resist linking to anything promoting Budrys and/or Rogue Moon. It also gets in a little about Who? and his reviewing and so forth.
  • Black Gate » With a (Black) Gat: Some Har[d]boiled Anthologies. Some of this is in Mount TBR (which dwarfs Everest) . And, okay, it’s not SF but I’m an SF fan and it interested me and you’re presumably an SF fan and perhaps it will interest you.
  • Becoming an Expert in a Micro-Expertise – Auxiliary Memory. James Wallace Harris is going for his Ph.D. in Literature, Science Fiction, Magazines, 1926-76. It’s also about Zen and the art of knowledge bonsai. A beautifully crafted small, calm tree of knowledge beats a million-miles-an-hour mess of mere information. And I certainly treasure his field, too.
  • Blog 11 | Jack McDevitt | Science Fiction. Jack McDevitt with some wise words on what fiction should do and what style really ought to be.

Birthday Reviews

Visual Media

  • “Solo: A Star Wars Story” falls short with $83.3M at box office | | The News Headline. (I actually got this from the CBS website but their video “autoplay” infuriates me (I disable javascript to prevent it, but it’s a pain) and I don’t want to inflict it on others, so I found another link.) I don’t understand why this movie made even a penny. No Harrison Ford? No Han Solo. (I haven’t seen the Star Trek reboots, either.) And, while I did pay to see Rogue One and did enjoy it, I’m sick of prequels in principle. One thing many don’t seem to be considering, though, is that some of this movie’s problem may have nothing to do with the movie itself or an abstract “fatigue” but could instead derive from the specific problems of The Last Jedi: people were turned off by it, so this one suffers.
  • What Makes a Great Parody? – SuperversiveSF. I came across this link at madab.info (thanks to whoever put Featured Futures on there, by the way) and, as someone who loves Airplane, This Is Spinal Tap, Princess Bride, GalaxyQuest, etc. (and, in books, Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers), all of which seem like the second or third of the article’s three types to me, I thought this was an interesting article. Also, I don’t know anime from Adam but, while I didn’t think it was as good as the author did, I watched and enjoyed SAO Abridged. Not knowing the original, I can’t say, but that doesn’t seem to me so much a “parody” as simply a “reboot” unless you’re taking “parody” to mean literally “to sing beside” as opposed to “to make fun of.”
  • Phineas & Ferb Star Wars: A Reminder that Disney Isn’t Star Wars’ Problem, it’s Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, and JJ Abrams | Cirsova. To wrap back around to Star Wars, the previous link led to this one. I was unhappy with The Last Jedi for different reasons than this author (and still think Disney is part of the problem) but I’ll grant that this animated pseudo-Star Wars special does sound structurally better and the video clips (especially the second) were amusing.

Tunes

Continue reading