27 August 2012

What Amazon recommends to me

I get emails every now and then from Amazon, telling me what they think I should buy. Here's the latest, because it amused me. This is the order they're in in the email, too.

1. Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football, by David Winner
2. Frederica, by Georgette Heyer
3. Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics, by Jonathan Wilson
4. Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer
5. The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, by David Goldblatt
6. Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
7. Intruder (Foreigner #13), by CJ Cherryh
8. The Nonesuch, by Georgette Heyer

This, apparently, is what happens when you order Glamour in Glass at the same time as a football book, and have some Heyer in your purchase history, too.

23 August 2012

Book review: Worlds of Exile and Illusion

Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. LeGuin

This is a collection of three short novels that are linked together.

First, Rocannon's World, which includes part the short story "Semley's Necklace." Rocannon is a representative of the Hainish League, and he's gone to a world as yet unnamed by the Hain to talk to the people there and recruit them into the League, because the Enemy will attack them. His ship is destroyed, along with his teammates and all the records of their research, and he sets off to find the enemy's base on the world.

Second, Planet of Exile. Rolery is a native of Alterra, and Agat is a human born there, a descendant of League explorers. On Alterra, each season lasts fifteen years, and a person is lucky to remember two winters. At the end of every fall, the people from the north migrate south, usually in individual bands that pillage as they go. The people of Tevar, Rolery's people, build a winter city underground.

Except this time, the migrating people are all travelling together, and they've united their forces better to attack the wintering cities. Agat and the other humans warn them, but they go unheeded. When the raiders invade Tevar, the humans help evacuate the survivors and bring them to their city, where they jointly fight off the raiders.

Third, City of Illusions. A man who knows neither speech nor name appears in a clearing in the woods. The people who live there take him in, teach him speech and the Canons. After several years, he feels a need to go to Es Toch to learn about the Shing, and, if possible, regain his memory. He travels across the country, which millennia before was known as the United States, until he reaches Es Toch and learns who he really is.

These are all excellent stories, with LeGuin's typical skill at anthropological worldbuilding.

20 August 2012

Book review: These Old Shades

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

This is a rather fun story. Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, buys a young boy named Léon to be his page when he literally runs into him on the street. Except Léon is actually Léonie, which he suspects from the start.

She falls rather in love with Monseigneur, and Justin, much to everyone's surprise, including his own, falls in love with her. There's a somewhat convoluted revenge scheme, wherein Justin uses Léonie against his mortal enemy. He plays the Hamlet gambit, and it works.

Léonie is a wonderful, mischievous character. She spent many years pretending to be a boy (in her brother's inn, to protect her from lascivious guests), and she doesn't take well to being made into a girl, with girl clothes, etc. She does admit they make her look pretty, but she'd still rather wear breeches.

Justin and Léonie are Vidal's parents in Devil's Cub.

I enjoyed this book. Fans of Heyer or historical romance should enjoy it, too.

16 August 2012

Book review: 1633

1633 by David Weber and Eric Flint

I admit, as much as I enjoyed 1632, I picked up this book with trepidation, because I've heard rumors of Weber's penchant for excessive description of how weapons etc work. But I was in the dealers room at LibertyCon while Flint was signing things, so I bought the book to get signed.

This picks up 6 months or so after the end of 1632. Mike Stearns is president of the US, Gustav II Adolfus is rebuilding Magdeburg, Rebecca Stearns has led a diplomatic mission to Holland to try to convince them that Richelieu is a lying double crosser, and Rita Stearns Simpson is in London trying to convince King Charles (or his advisors) that Richelieu is a lying double-crosser.

The history books from the Grantville High School library have made their way around Europe. Charles kills Oliver Cromwell's family and throws him in the Tower of London, where the Grantville delegation is staying (in the nice part). Richelieu uses them to his advantage, too, convincing Charles to sell/swap him the entirety of their colonies in the New World.

There are a lot of plot threads woven together here, far too many to discuss in any detail. It becomes obvious why 1634 has 4 books, and 1635 4 as well (or something like that).

There were mercifully few passages wherein the details of how something works were discussed in minuscule detail. There are people who enjoy that sort of thing, and I can appreciate the effort it takes to figure out how to build an airplane with technology and materials available in the 1630s plus whatever got zapped along with Grantville, but my eyes glaze over while I'm reading about how cannons are being made and whether they're smooth bore or rifled, breech- or muzzle-loaders and why. I skim those sections and hope it isn't important later.

There's still a bit of "America! Fuck yeah!" jingoism, but less than in the first book, probably because there's so much shit hitting the fan.

Some people might find the idea of spreading democracy problematic, in light of current American foreign policy. I can agree and disagree there. By the end of this book, the Americans are stepping rather sideways from the leadership position and letting the Germans (and Swedes) start their own party. The radical change from 17th century monarchy to 21st century American democracy will come at its own pace. Also, in the mid-17th century, anti-monarchist sentiments were already extant, so the peasantry and non-nobility now have a model that works (to some extent).

Fans of well-researched alternate histories with political intrigue and grand battle scenes should enjoy this series.

13 August 2012

My WorldCon schedule

I'm on two panels, but I'd like to do more. They can't add me to any until the con starts & I go to the programming room and find out which panels need people still.

Fri Aug 31 3:00:pm Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading

Grand Suite 3

I'll be reading about 4 minutes' worth of "Something There Is."

Sun Sep 2 3:00:pm Anime Then and Now


The evolution of anime fandom (and its relation to SF fandom) from the 1980's to the present

Maybe see some of you there! If I get added to other panels while I'm at the con, I'll tweet them (@exaggerated).

09 August 2012

I've got a story coming out!

My novelette "Something There Is" will be published in Substitution Cipher by Candlemark and Gleam on December 18, 2012.

07 August 2012

Geekdom and me, part 2

So, yesterday I talked about my history of geekiness. Today, I'm going to talk a little about fandom and my experience with it.

I attended my first convention in March 2000. It was ... actually, that's not true. My first convention was in 1999, a gaming con at RPI. I'm not much of a gamer, but a lot of my friends went, and it was fun.

March 2000 was my first Animazement. I can't remember if I wore a costume, but I don't think I did. I had fun, I volunteered, I saw a lot of great costumes, and I took a lot of pictures, back when cameras still needed film.

I fell deeply into anime fandom. I wrote fanfic. I made cosplay. I flew across the country to go to cons. I joined Yahoo!groups for my favorite 'ships. I joined livejournal communities for fanfic. (I've since left both; the former because the particular fandoms didn't interest me anymore and the latter because it got too big and there was too much drama.)

As I said, though, I still read print science fiction and fantasy. I don't see a good reason why liking anime and manga should exclude me from liking a good science fiction novel, or vice versa. (Let me tell you about some really good SF anime sometime.)

I went to my first Dragon*Con in 2006. I'd wanted to go for years--the friend who hooked me on Bujold goes every year--but I was in pharmacy school until 2005, then on residency, and I couldn't skip classes. It was chaos, but it was awesome. I spent a few hours down in the basement of the Hyatt at the lit track, wandered around gawking at amazing costumes, and being awed by TV/movie stars, even if I'm not a big media fan.

Apparently, there's some controversy about whether being a fan of Firefly is "real" fandom, or whether a costumer is a "real" fan.

Let me tell you, as someone who has done costuming, spending in excess of 50 hours sewing or otherwise crafting a replica of a piece of clothing someone wears in a TV show, comic book, movie, or whatever, and spending large sums of money on materials and patterns, is a pretty damned geeky thing to do.

I favor inclusive fandom. I share Scalzi's opinion that the core of being a geek is saying, "You love this thing I love? Let's love it together!"

I don't agree at all with Taral Wayne in his essay in File 770 [p 40] (which I only read because it's in my Hugo packet). I don't believe the purpose of being a fan is to be a big fish in a small pond, or, to use his metaphor, Andy Griffith in Mayberry, as opposed to some faceless person in a big city.

If you wonder at the greying of fandom, at the greying of the long-running cons like Boskone, or BayCon's (San Francisco) likely impending demise, wonder no further. Gatekeepers who want to keep fandom tiny and exclusive are driving away the new fans. They're driving away people who love science fiction/fantasy TV shows or movies and read books on the side. They're driving away anime fans.

Look at Dragon*Con. It's huge. The first year I went, they were in three hotels. Last year, they were in FIVE (and need to go to more; it's so crowded). The WorldCon Orlando 2015 bid chair said that there's no reason to compete with D*C, and he's bidding for the same Labor Day Weekend because he doesn't see it as a zero sum game (see File 770, op cit) and "there's enough fandom to go around." He'd prefer to work with them, not against.

I want to be excited about the things I love, whether that's the newest Macross series or the latest CJ Cherryh novel, with other people who love them. That's what fandom is about. Not self-aggrandizement.

06 August 2012

Geekdom and me, part 1

I've been thinking about writing a post about fandom and what it means and how it's changing (or isn't changing) for a while, and then there was apparently a spat about who's a real geek or not, and then the ReaderCon harassment thing happened, and the whole conversation of who's a geek, who cons are for, and whether women are welcome blew up a bit.

If I'd written the post when I first thought of it, I may have seemed prescient. (Or not; as if my readership is that big...) So now, I'm taking advantage of the Zeitgeist serendipitously.

I didn't grow up a geek. I was smart. I should have been in the gifted program but my mom wouldn't let me, so I was just in the advanced track in my elementary school. I finished first grade math before Christmas, and I had to change classrooms to a second grade class. I corrected my kindergarten teacher's spelling of "vulture." (She wanted to spell it with a g.)

I liked to read, but my mom isn't a big reader. She mostly had Harlequins and Barbara Cartlands, which I read a few of. I'd read from the two-volume dictionary, or the four-volume medical encyclopedia from my grandpa's time in pharmacology school, or, if I was really bored, the copy of Emily Post's Etiquette from 1917.

I don't have fond memories of going to the public library to check out books. The only times I ever went there were for English papers, when I needed to access the literary criticism books. I borrowed books from the school libraries, though, and I tore through the L'Engles in sixth grade, I think, and Earthsea, and, for some reason I'll never know, The Left Hand of Darkness. I have no idea why it was in a middle school library.

My grandma would buy me books whenever she went to the used book store. That's how I got my first copy of Lord of the Rings, which I read so many times the cover fell off. Then I got the Book of Lost Tales, which I found recently, with all the notes and bookmarks for cross-referencing.

My dad would take me to the bookstore when he visited, and that's how I got more books. He's an old school Trekkie, and when I visited him at his house, or in his truck (he drives a big rig), I'd read whatever books he had around. I read a lot of Stephen King one summer, and another summer it was Ben Bova's Mars.

So I had geeky interests as a teenager, but I never knew there was such a thing as fandom until much later. I didn't read a lot of the geek youth "canon" until I was 30!

At college, I fell in with the LARP crowd, didn't really get into tabletop, etc, but it was awesome to meet more people who liked nerdy things and be able to be open about it, because the popular kids wouldn't harass me over it. (As if being fat, smart, and poor weren't enough...)

When I moved to North Carolina, I joined the UNC anime club, through which I had my first fandom and con-going experiences. I still read books, often ones suggested by one of the older members of the club. (He told me I should buy Shards of Honor when we were stuck in an airport. Then I tracked down everything else Bujold had written up to that point, which was 2000 I think.)

That's my background in being a geek. Or not, whatever. I've fairly thoroughly embraced my geek nature, and if someone wants to label me a poser, that's not my problem. I'll go more into the what is fandom/who are fans in my next post.

02 August 2012

Book review: With the Lightnings

With the Lightnings by David Drake

This is the first installment in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy series, which are essentially Master and Commander in space, and with 98% less early 19th-century naval jargon.

Lt. Daniel Leary is sent to accompany a diplomatic mission to Kostroma, which is a sort-of-neutral player in the game between Cinnabar and the Alliance. He meets Adele Mundy, a librarian-spy with a traumatic past.

There are diplomatic double- and triple-crosses, and Lt. Leary and his misfit band, including Adele, save the day.

Parts of it were kind of frustrating, like Leary's attitude toward, well, everyone who wasn't from Cinnabar or the navy, and his casual sexism. At the same time, these attitudes are very much like the ones Jack Aubrey displays in O'Brien's work, and because the RCN series is based on those, it makes sense.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, full of diplomatic intrigue and space battles, snarky humor, and great characters.

The first three books are available in the Baen free library. The first six are available free here, along with a few other works by Drake.