Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thomas Covenant Signed!

Stephen Donaldson is signing Fatal Revenant at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore on Oct.13th, These are first editions, signed by the author, and if you pre-order you don't have to stand in line (or maybe miss it - its a numbered event).

I'm ordering mine as soon as my next paycheck comes in, cash flow being a heartless and remorseless demon. I have a long and very enjoyable relationship with Mysterious Galaxy, including shipping books to them for a signing and having them ship them back (at my expense, of course). They are responsible for my signed first edition of The Magic of Recluce ny L. E. Modesitt, Jr. So don't hesistate to contact them about a book. They're wonderful, helpful folks. I should point out that they are in San Diego, CA. and I live in suburban Austin, Texas. I heartily recommend them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Got It! You Gotta Love Ebay.

After trying to find David Anthony Durham's new book for weeks, I finally scored on Ebay. You see, I could of bought it at the book store or at Amazon (good sellers all) but I am a purist and, worse, a collector. I had to have a special book, even more so because the author has been so kind and thoughtful to me.

I'm so excited I can hardly sit still! This book has rave reviews and the author is a well-spoken gentlemen. I am gonna tear through this one even faster than Harry Potter 7. Then....

I'm going to review it myself. And, despite what you may think, nobody gets me 5-star rating without telling a great story. You can check my reviews, but only 5 authors have gotten my "buy this an read it or hang your head in sahme" rating; Bujold, Heinlein, Zelazny, Bear and Tad Williams. And not all of their books made it, either. Fair warning that, while I'm am definitely excited about reading Acacia, it doesn't mean I'm gonna rave about it.

But won't it be exciting to find out? I can't wait!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

My Top Ten Speculative Fiction Books

I think everybody that reads has those books that they read over and over because they enjoy them so much. This is my (very abbreviated) list of my favorites. I am more than happy to discuss them at just about any time and just about anywhere. What are yours?

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
3. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
4. The Element of Fire by Martha Wells
5. The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold
6. Blood Music by Greg Bear
7. Memory, Sorrow & Thorn by Tad Williams
8. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
10. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Most of these books have sequels or other stories set in the same universe, some are actually more than one book (okay, I cheated), but all of them tell an absolutely captivating story. These are the classics of our genre (or they will be) and they have won awards, sold a gozillion copies, and are still excellent stories as much as 30 or 40 years after they were written. Is there one or two you haven't read? Or one or two you'd add to the list? Gosh, I hope so...drop a comment and tell me how your list differs from mine. I might just get a good idea, and so might you.

SPORTING CHANCE by Elizabeth Moon

I am posting my latest book review here and on my website just to see how it works out and how much traffic I get. I hope you enjoy it!

The military and science fiction seem to be an inseparable pair. There is a huge tradition going back to Jules Verne of military-type organizations within the science fiction realm. Some are more about the military than the science and some are vice versa. Ms. Moon's book is neither - its about the characters. This is the first book in her now famous Serrano Legacy series which takes usually females military characters out of their military environment and plop them down in a conflict that is intense, somewhat personal to the heroine, and draws heavily on what they were taught in the military. They tend to be excellent reads, this is definitely space-opera at its best. And space-opera is exactly what this is.

Heris Serrano is the latest in a long family tradition of military officers, but she makes a mistake and shames her family (although the shame should be on her superior officers, military politics is what it is). She ends up out of the military and piloting a ship for a wealthy, well-connected patroness. Some of the patroness' progeny (her niece) becomes involved in a scheme to hunt humans (as the hunted) and Heris comes to the rescue using her ingrained military tactics, her native intelligence, and her high sense of moral duty. As in all good space-opera, the hero wins, the villains get their just deserts, and we move on to the next adventure. This isn't a new theme, but its told well and from a very different perspective.

This a very good space opera. Its entertaining and suspenseful. It is one of the only series of military fiction in this genre that has exclusively female protagonists who are strong, smart, honest and whoop the bad guys through ingenuity and intestinal fortitude. It heartily recommend it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wow! This Blogging Thing is Way Cool!

I started out about a year and a half ago to put up a website that attracted people with whom I shared an abject adoration of science fiction in all of its various media. After all that time and the hours and money spent, it was a total washout. I had about 2 readers that hit my forums about once a year. So I started looking for options. My wife, being the more culturally savvy of our team, suggested I look into blogging. I did and after a few false starts, here it is.

In three months, I've gotten more feedback and had more conversations about ideas and literature than the year and a half I was actively marketing my site. I've talked with an author (to be fair, I did when I was putting up my site - but not THIS author.This one has actually got a following! To which he has most definitely added me). I've been a a host of other blogs and commented on what they've said. They reply! This is great!

And, here's the good part - They all LOVE science fiction and fantasy. Some in one form, some in all snd some more than others. But hitting the blog sites has kept me more informed with more enjoyment than I ever experienced on my site.

So, I trimmed back the site. I kept my book reviews and a link to this site. I am toying with the idea of doing my reviews on the blog. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm reading and talking more about science fiction, fantasy.... and life...than I ever have before.

God, I love the internet!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Does Anybody Read Book Reviews?

Ok, I don't want to shock anyone. Some people may find this a little hard to believe, but I love to read. I read constantly. I read the backs of shampoo bottles in the restroom because that's all there is to read. I read a lot. My favorite form of reading entertainment is the novel followed closely by short stories. My favorite genre is science fiction with a barely perceptible preference for that over fantasy. I just don't know what I'd do if I couldn't read.

And, if what I read is good, I love to talk about it. I love to compare and contrast what really communicated itself to me in the story, which characters I identified with and why, why the central question is worth pondering or whay I have pondered it myself without prompting from the story. All in all, I love to talk about what made it a good story - or what it was missing in terms of my enjoyment.

And there's the crux of the matter. I've joined book clubs. All most all of which turned out to be mostly; a) new writers looking for free critiques from a semi-knowlegable pool, or b) wanna-be writers looking for free advice. It wasn't about the reading...except as it help one write. I read other people's critiques, but hesitate to argue with their honest opinions because their experience is most definitely different than my own, as it should be.

So, where does one go to discuss books? If you have an idea, please feel free to let me know. In the meantime, I'll keep looking.

My Personal Mecca...Or 'On First Meeting An Author Whose Books You Love'

Many years ago, I picked up a book at the book store and it turned out to be an incredible story that was well recieved. And...the author was from Texas. We were definitely firing on all cylinders! The book was The Element of Fire by Martha Wells, I read it a few times and relegated it to its position of honor on my bookshelf.

The years went by and I got more involved in collecting books and I attended my first Con in Dallas. Lo and behold, Ms. Wells was also in attendance! I was like a kid preaparing for his first kiss. This was so exciting! She actually was going to read from her upcoming new book (which turned out to be Ships of Air). She was going to m ingle with the common folk...and even better....that included me! I was giggly with anticipation.

The day arrived! I went to Ms. Wells reading and it was wondrous! Afterward, she just talked to us mere mortals. And, guess what? She had feet of clay. She wasn't this ethereal intelligence. She was personable despite being almost painfully shy. She was neater than sneakers and oh-so-normal. I was so disappointed...

.. And absolutely elated! Gosh, these author folks were just like me. Not only that, but they were giggly with excitement that I really enjoyed their books. Ms. Wells signed my first edition (which now truly is one of the pearls of my collection. I dare ya, find a signed first edition of 'The Element of Fire'). And we went our seperate but satisfied ways.

Since then I have had conversations with authors, both established and hopeful, publishers, editors, and critics (more nicely referred to as reviewers). But all of those subsequent conversations have been flavored by that first experience. I now expect that we start from common ground and, so far, that's held true.

I jusy hope they never find out I have feet of clay...

I Just Like To Read

I'm fast approaching middle age, I have a somewhat classical education (referred to in modern terms as 'liberal'), I am only marginally politically active (I vote and spend as much time as I can find in a vain attempt to do so from an informed stance), I have a marginal job in retail after chasing corporate success for 10 years only to find myself corporately unemployed at the end of it. (The headhunter calls come much more rapidly now than they did then I promise). I am happily married to my second wife, I have a dog and she has three, very marvelous children. I have been reading science fiction and fantasy for close to 30 years. I also read suspense thrillers, mysteries and satire. But mostly and by preference I read science fiction and fantasy.

As I got more involved in the joy of reading, I started collecting the books I was reading. I now have over 300 signed first editions. I have met a great number of authors, editors and publishers, but only in passing. And most of the other people I meet or talk to about science fiction and fantasy want to write.

I don't. Not that I think there's anything wrong with being a writer. Indeed, I am probably more in awe of the ability to write than I am of childbirth. I am unabashedly and proudly a reader. I am an avowed and unrepentant enjoyer of the writers art. To write would require large parts of my soul that, without casting aspersions, I simply cannot imagine myself being able to surrender. And that's the easy part. Then to take the hours of loving labor to a publisher and have them tell me that my blood, sweat and tears were - at best - sophomoric, well, I would be shattered. So out of laziness and fear, I read.

But having determined my proper place in the literary cycle. I then proceed to be the best damn reader that I can be. I am the worst nightmare and the best friend of the author. I aspire to be a critc (shudder!). I read incessantly and rapidly. I read the last Harry Potter in just over six hours. I then wrote a review. Its what I do.

I read. I love to read. I love what I read, even when I don't love it. I love the act of reading. I find it enlightening, educational, relaxing and expansive. I have read thousands of books. Most at least with some redeeming value as stories, some dogs and even fewer great works of literature. I have recognized some of the great literature before they hit the open market, I have also warned friends and neighbors off some awful works. Some great literature goes unrecognized. Some dreck is well recieved. But I've read it all.

And I love it!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

OMG! My First Retraction!

If you read my last post, you will now be aware on how I feel about racism, or at least have a peek at my attitudes. I think its a loss to all parties involved because its so limiting to the almost limitless possibilities of being human...'nuff said.

However, in making my comments, I addressed some of them to Mr Durham's post which, as he suggested very politely, I re-read. I completely mis-read some of his comments and compounded that mistake by making it seem that he and I disagreed on some of the sillier issues. He, again very politely (figured out yet that I'm embarassed?), pointed out that he and I were in complete agreement. And, of course, he is correct on all counts.

I can only offer my sincerest apologies and this correction to Mr. Durham. I will, I promise, read more carefully in the future. And try (note, I can but try) to limit my diatribe to factual ramblings instead of wishful license.

Dang if I'm not gonna have to read his book now. If it's written half as well and as thoughtfully as his posts, he cannot but be a pure pleasure to read. You should too, gentle reader. go here to get it: Acacia

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Belated Comments on The Lastest Blog Wave - Racism in Reading

I read a lot of other blogs. Some of which I found because, when I started blogging, I wanted to be sure that I was following all the nettiquette and following the proper forms. So I googled sci-fi blogs. While reading through the incredible diversity out there, some stuck. These blogs recommended others and the usual chain occured.

The big craze right now is based on a post by David Anthony Durham on being "color-blind". I won't pretend to understand or grasp what it means to be a person of color in the U.S. So, while taking the grave risk of seeming or maybe even being somewhat racist, I'm going to post my honest opinion.

I am not, nor have I ever been color blind with regard to race. I don't believe that anyone can or should be. A white person brings with them certain cultural differences from someone that is chicano or black. A woman necessarily views the world differently than a man. I also firmly believe that racial backgrounds, while influential in character building, are not the definition of who people are. It is a small indication of some of the things we can and some of the things we cannot share as experiences. I will never know what it's like to grow up in a bi-lingual household. There's simply nothing I can do about that. It is what is. That doesn't mean that I can't learn about and appreciate the culture of those from south of Texas. It just means that there are cultural differences. I also didn't grow up in a house with a spiral staircase. I still know how to climb one and can appreciate its architectural beauty. I can't experience being from another culture. No one can. That doesn't mean that I can't observe and appreciate other cultures. Nor does it mean that someone from another culture cannot observe and appreciate mine.

While Mr. Durham is absolutely correct in his assertions on institutional racism, I would argue that there should not be an African American literature section. Those books belong on the shelf with every other book. There's not an African American section at Bookstop in order to sell to everyone. It's there to sell to the racially conscience buyer, be they black, white or polka-dot. Is that not, in itself, racism?
The reason that section exists is not because these books are seperated literarily, but racially. Why? Is the book more or less of a good book because of the author's race? I must answer a resounding 'no' and I guess face the consequences of expressing that opinion.

I would also tell you that my bookshelf is as culturally diverse as Mr. Durham's, but not because I sought to make it diverse in terms of culture. I sought to get the best written books I could. After I read Mr. Durham's post, I actually had to think about who had written my books and what their backgrounds were. I, too, have white, black, latin, male, female and gay authors on my shelf. The authors' cultures are not why I bought the books. I sought out some of the best science-fiction and fantasy books I could find, and in doing so, my collection became culturally diverse - as was inevitable.

True talent, no matter what the art form, knows no cultural boundaries. To be truly diverse, one merely needs to appreciate that talent. While race and gender may flavor the langauage and the setting of a story, the author is the one telling it. The reader should enjoy that story for itself without examining the author's cultural background. I believe that to do it any other way is racist. All things being equal, a great story is a great story, no matter who wrote it.

I am not a writer, but I would think that no true writer wants to be appreciated on a purely cultural basis. Other than monetarily, I cannot imagine there could be much satisfaction in creating literature that only a portion of the world could appreciate. I would imagine that writers want to write stories that touch people of all cultural backgrounds, as much as possible. That it is possible, that it has been done before and will be done again just goes to prove my point that culture is not as restrictive in defining who we are as some would have us believe. A great story touches people. All people. Period.

I freely admit that an author's culture cannot help but flavor their writing. After all, the story comes from who the author is, from his/her past experiences and imagination. I simply believe that that cultural flavor won't determine whether the story is good to people who may or may not share that cultural background. A good story touches on emotions that are inherent in the human animal and those emotions don't happen to limit themselves along cultural lines. Thank goodness!

Culture is where we come from. But it cannot and should not determine where we are going. And it won't as long as we don't let it. I appreciate cultural diversity. Its wonderful and spectacular and sometimes scary that people are different in so many, many ways. Its also absolutely breath-taking that people - all people - are so alike in the ways we are alike. And being alike deserves at least as much attention as being different, don't you think?

Mr. Durham is a man of color. I am White (please feel free to substitute whatever racial tag you prefer for either of the above terms). I'll bet you any amount of money that when he's angry or sad or elated that he feels pretty much the same way I do when i'm angry or sad or elated. And that pretty much the same things make us angry or sad or elated. With an admittedly different experiential path, we arrive at the same emotional situation.

Isn't that okay?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stardust is Worth Seeing

My wife actually suggested that we catch a matinee of Stardust at the theatre this morning. So, of course, we went. And am I glad we did. It is an excellent movie.

Think of a cross between The Princess Bride and Pirates of the Carribean and you won't be far off of Stardust. It is worth seeing just to see Robert DeNiro's role. Let's just say its a unique and new challenge for him.

The wife gave it her ultimate compliment, stating with finality that there was another DVD we were going to have to buy. Higher praise is not to be had in this lifetime. Go see it. Its fun, its spectacular, and its one that you won't forget soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hereditary Insanity?

My oldest step-daughter just got bundled off to go off to her first year of college. As she was packing up all of the things that her mother just bought for her (can't go to college without the proper accessories!), she asked me if she could take along some of my books. I doubt that she will have time to read them, but it was very gratifying that she wanted to.

Now, admittedly, they were paperbacks. She probably doesn't realize it, but they are the first editions for those books. She took Kim Harrison's Rachael Morgan series off to escape from the pressures of higher learning and dorm life. I sincerely hope she enjoys them and gets hooked on the genre.

Only problem is, I doubt I'll ever see those books again...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Stardust trailer

I Gotta see this!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Finally! Thomas Covenant Is Back Again!

Stephen R. Donaldson has finished the second novel in the Last Chronicles of Thmas Covenant series. Its due out in October in the US and the UK. All of the big book sellers are accepting pre-orders. It looks like the first opportunity to get it signed will be at the World Fantasy Convention, so I expect about Mid-November that signed copies will be available on Ebay (and I'm guessing for a substantial chunk of change).

If you haven't read the 1st and 2nd Chronicles then you're in for a treat. For those that have, Runes of the Earth returned us to The Land with Linden Avery and a new adventure in the best anti-hero fantasy series of (probably) all time. Fatal Revenant is the next installment, and all of the usual noises are being made. (What's taking so long? I can't wait!!). I know I'm so excited that my wife is annoyed. That's usually a good sign that the book will be extraordinary.

I Can't Wait!

Moonlight - CBS Trailer

This looks like it could be good. It could be pure schlock. Caught my interest because it stars Jason Dohring in a supporting role. You might remeber him from Veronica Mars... he was Veronica's on-again, off-again boyfriend with the homicidal father. If Moonlight is 10% as good as Veronica, then its a hit!

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass - Sizzle Reel

This looks to be excellent! I'm going to have to read the books, now!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Its The Dog Days...Time to Read

As summer begins to get into the hot, muggy days of August demands at work has exploded (its been raining here for two months. Now its stopped.), The grass has quit growing so fast you could see it, and motivation to do anything remotely physical ebbs to an annual low. So what to do?

I read. I read a lot. In August, I subsume whole collections (one August I read the whole collection of Sherlock Holmes novels). My only problem is getting my hands on the books. While my need for reading material reached its pinnacle, my funds also reach an annual nadir - I'm broke.

So I re-read old favorites from the shelf, I pray that the library has added their annual addition of one new novel to the sci-fi/fantasy section and I cash in all my change from my change jar and haunt the appropriate aisle at Half-Price Books.

Usually, that works until the third or fourth week of August. This year, I'm in trouble already. Anybody got a book they've heard about that I can re-read for a review? I'll be very glad to do so. Right now, I'm re-reading Dreamweaver's Dilemma by Lois McMaster Bujold. Next is Blood Music by Greg Bear so I can do a review of it. Anything else spark anyone's interest? Help me out! I'm desperate.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

What I'm Reading Now

Here's the short list of books I have just finished, am currently reading, or have stacked on my "To Be Read" pile:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Sharing Knife, Vol. II
Ally (by Karen Traviss)
The Octagonal Raven

I am also going to re-read Blood Music so that I can write a decent review. Its been a couple of years since I read it, but as I recall it was a smasher. If you haven't read this one, you should.

What are you reading?