Tuesday, March 16 2004

Note to the writers of Stargate: SG-1

Yes, yes, Kinsey is a villain composed of equal parts pure evil and arrogant condescension. We get it already, okay? Could you please drop the Snidely Whiplash act and get on with the story now? Yeesh.

Wednesday, March 17 2004

What the FUCK?!?

Could someone please explain to me how the film shown in this trailer could possibly deserve the title I, Robot? Or even how they managed to pull this story out of Asimov’s legacy? “Sci-fi action thriller suggested by the classic short story collection”, my ass!

Adding insult to injury, the official movie site is a steaming pile of Flash.

Monday, April 5 2004

The Return of Santiago

It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel by Mike Resnick. After finishing The Return of Santiago, it looks like it will be a while before I read another one.

It’s competently executed, and sufficiently entertaining that I did finish it, but if the plot had been any more telegraphed, they’d have had to change the title to Western Union. Maybe it’s because I’ve read four and a half other books set in this universe (I bounced hard on Widowmaker), but absolutely nothing that happened in this novel surprised me, and I’m already having trouble remembering any distinguishing characteristics of the characters.

Two things stand out: the running gag about Virgil’s sex life, which has no impact whatsoever on the story, and the fact that after Danny stumbles across the biggest secret in the history of the Inner Frontier, he cheerfully blabs it to damn near anyone within earshot, swearing them all to absolute secrecy.

Sunday, March 6 2005

If this isn’t a coincidence…

…then it’s hilarious. I haven’t been following the new Battlestar Galactica series, even though it’s getting lots of good reviews, mostly because I simply haven’t been watching much television at all. However, while looking at the fan sites, I noticed that Grace Park’s character, Boomer, is a Cylon disguised as a human being.

Boomer. Cylon. Where are the Knight Sabers when you need them?

Thursday, November 23 2006

Reading for comprehension

It’s not a bad collection of sci-fi babes, but I’m not the only one who choked on this line about Heinlein’s Starship Troopers:

One of the main plot points of Heinlein’s original novel was that all the experienced officers were killed off, leaving only the kids in charge.

What are they teaching kids in school these days?

Sunday, May 6 2007

Harry’s Matrix

Harry Dresden is a rather unconventional wizard, in a rather decent set of urban fantasy/detective novels. He has no significant connection to Japan, and indeed his magic is very strongly Western in origin.

So where did the glowing runes on his staff come from?

Dresden's Staff -- マトリックス

The paperback edition of Dead Beat doesn’t seem to name the cover artist anywhere, but whoever it was decided that the English loanword マトリックス (“matrix”) made a dandy set of runes.

[oh, and I just noticed that Amazon has a new “Amapedia” site…]

Wednesday, December 10 2008

Fleet Juggler

I recently read the two new pre-Ringworld Known Space novels by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner, Fleet of Worlds and Juggler of Worlds. Very short summary: Fleet was pretty good, Juggler less so.

The big difference: Fleet is a standalone novel set in Known Space. If you have a vague memory of Ringworld and the short stories, you’ll be fine. Juggler, on the other hand, is not only a direct sequel to Fleet, but also to more than a dozen Known Space short stories (including everything in Crashlander), which are air-dropped into the story at seemingly random intervals. The “big surprise” is also so poorly handled that for several chapters you can’t be sure that a major character wasn’t just another reference. On the plus side, it gives a faint nod to the old “down in flames” story idea, which was more fun than most of the backstage views of decades-old stories.

I’ve read all of the Known Space stories several times, so I got most of the references, but the secret history of the secret history of Beowulf Shaeffer just got tiresome after a while, and it took up space that would have been better spent expanding on the interesting new characters who were the focus of Fleet. They’re pretty much reduced to spear-carriers in Juggler.

Fleet stands alone quite nicely, and adds some real depth to the Puppeteers, both individually and as a race. I didn’t dislike Juggler, but I doubt I’ll reread it.

Tuesday, January 13 2009

Dear Baen Books,

Please do not give Clyde Calwell any future cover-art work. Or, at the very least, give him a description of the main character beyond “lives in cool-looking city, female, long dark hair, spends time on rooftops”.

I say this because I’ve been reading PC Hodgell’s novels since 1982, and the chick on the cover of The God Stalker Chronicles ain’t Jame.

I’ll have to scan in the cover of my battered old first-edition paperback, because that is Jame.

Sunday, August 30 2009

I did not know…

…that the Lensman novels had been translated into Japanese. Also, there’s a sequel, predictably titled Samurai Lensman. Sadly, while the author’s other book covers feature sexy ninja girls and moe demon hunters, SL’s cover restricts itself to a heroic male. While this may be in keeping with the old-fashioned spirit of the Lensman universe (modulo Clarissa and the girls), it was written in 2001, and I can’t help feeling that it’s time to infuse Doc’s classics with some modern tropes: Kyonyuu Tsundere Meganekko Catgirl Maids of the Lens.

[Update: turns out the girl on the cover is holding a big gun, and she’s a scrappy tomboy who uses it quite effectively, joining forces with Our Hero. And she’s named Cat. And she’s definitely a healthy female mammal. Not a samurai or lensman herself, though, and no sign of glasses or a maid costume, but it’s still more progress than I expected. There is a gender-ambiguous pre-teen cat-person in the story, listed as one of Cat’s younger siblings (presumably an adopted Vegian), but without actually reading the book, I can’t count that one as a loli catgirl yet.]

Oh, katakana word for the day: スペオペ.

[and this picture is just too cute for words…]

(Continued on Page 3405)

Thursday, September 10 2009

Words to live by…





(Continued on Page 3412)

Sunday, February 21 2010

A difference in the style

The following four images are the front covers of the Japanese editions of two well-known science fiction novels (two each, because novels are frequently split into two volumes in Japan). I have crudely blacked out the author’s name, so as long as you don’t sight-read katakana, you can examine the covers and try to guess which novels they are.

two well-known SF novels

The Japanese and English titles are below.

(Continued on Page 3514)

Friday, March 19 2010

Zelazny’s Crime

What if Roger Zelazny wrote a hard-boiled murder mystery, and no one knew about it for more than thirty-five years? Well, now you can buy it on Amazon

It’s been out since last February, but it didn’t make it onto my recommendations list until a few weeks ago. And, of course, I’d never have gone looking in that genre.

How is it? Not bad. It was a complete manuscript, but it’s got some rough spots, as if he planned to go back and work it over again, but then moved on to something else. Their best guess puts it right around the same time as Nine Princes in Amber, and I can see some similarities (stylistically, that is) to the opening section on Earth, before Corwin recovers his memory.

Monday, September 13 2010

R.I.P, James P. Hogan

He died back in July, but I just heard about it a few minutes ago. The SF novels he wrote in the Seventies and Eighties are full of crunchy goodness, and the prologue to Code of the Lifemaker is just plain fun.

Thursday, February 3 2011

Barsoomian Haiku

Evil men often
held Dejah Thoris for weeks;
did they get any?

Warlord John Carter,
always present when villains
say “As you know, Bob”.

Barsoom’s nude beauties:
inadequately described,
yet worth dying for.

Friday, March 4 2011

Well, at least it’s got a catchy title

Can’t go wrong with a title like “Regarding Ducks and Universes”, even when a quick inspection reveals that it’s a first novel published through Amazon’s vaguely-described Encore program.

I’m not recommending it, mind you, and I’m not even using my affiliate code in that link. I just found it interesting that Amazon is aggressively promoting an SF title by a complete unknown, as opposed to the usual “Kindle vanity press” or POD semi-publishing approaches.

Friday, March 11 2011

“Oh, joy, Tuf and Tuf again. I can hardly wait.”

George R. R. Martin’s Tuf Voyaging remains sadly out of print, but some small quantity of a relatively recent small-press edition are available directly from the author, autographed.

I made sure to place my order before mentioning this on my blog, just in case. My two paperback copies of the book are both starting to lose pages, and it’s an old favorite.

“I feel obliged to point out that a rather large carnivorous dinosaur has appeared in the corridor behind you, and is presently attempting to sneak up on us. He is not doing a very good job of it.”
– Haviland Tuf, Ecological Engineer

Saturday, April 30 2011

Fire, Deep, Sky

Must. Buy. Now.

I always thought the next one should have been called “A Sky Full of Fire”, but I guess he’s not ready to write that sequel yet.

Wednesday, June 6 2012

I’d almost forgotten about this one…

Gaining new relevance due to his death.

(replaced with youtube embed to get rid of the long ads)

Thursday, July 19 2012

…and so it begins

The Amazon listing for the upcoming Niven/Benford collaboration contains the following sentence:

At the publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

Friday, October 4 2013

Name that novel!

This is the cover of the Japanese translation of a well-regarded American science fiction novel (with title and author crudely hidden). It is not the author’s most famous or controversial work, but even Hollywood knows about it.

Japanese edition of well-known SF novel

[whoops, re-uploaded with the faint red English title also deleted…]

Friday, October 10 2014

Ranking the modern Doctors

  1. Eccleston
  2. Tennant
  3. Hurt
  4. Smith
  5. Morrissey
  6. Capaldi

Tuesday, October 21 2014

How sausage is made…

From TheWorstMuse:

If your alien culture isn’t a thinly veiled allegory for contemporary politics, what’s the point?

Wednesday, February 25 2015

I’m all for “expanding your mind”, but…

this novel’s blurb makes my head hurt:

Space travel has always come with risks. But hyperspace travel comes with one particularly frightening risk, namely, the non-corporeal dark energy-based macrobiotic entities that inhabit the void and are drawn to the presence of human minds. Once penetrated by a macrobe, the infected human mind rapidly devolves into raving insanity, which usually presents in a homicidal manner. Fortunately, hyperspace-capable ships are protected by a dark energy resonator that keeps the macrobes away and thereby permits safe interstellar travel.

I think I’ve read enough.

Saturday, April 4 2015

The Hugo wake-up call

“None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.”
– Rorschach

For the third year running, a group of people who felt that the Hugo awards for science fiction and fantasy were, shall we say, “unrepresentative of the generally popular works of the genre”, banded together and encouraged people to sign up and vote for the nominations and the awards. They even put together a suggested list of nominees.

They were mocked, belittled, libeled, and accused as a group of sharing the worst characteristics that could be identified in or attributed to any one member. A vocal group of longtime Worldcon-goers hates them with the fire of a thousand suns, and greeted their success in this year’s nominations with a promise that They Shall Not Pass. (more precisely, “I’ll vote ‘No Award’ above anyone they nominated”).

Mind you, a lot of that crowd still thinks George W. Bush stole two elections, so raging against reality is kind of their specialty.

They also have failed to think things through. For background, anyone who attended the previous year’s con or bought a supporting membership for the current year ($40) can both nominate and vote. The Worldcon community is tiny in comparison to major cons like Gencon, Dragoncon, or Comic-con, and only a small percentage of eligible voters ever vote.

The “Sad Puppies” campaigns brought a lot of longtime SF/F fans out of the woodwork, enough to significantly skew this year’s nominations towards their recommendations. In many cases, this was the direct result of people discovering for the first time that it was possible to nominate and vote for the Hugos. Worldcon is expensive, and if you weren’t in the habit of going, you’d never have known. Hell, I went to one and had no idea; they didn’t go out of their way to encourage you.

So now a lot more people know that it’s cheap and easy to participate in the Hugo awards. And unlike real politics, they can see that their votes counted. They’re likely to nominate and vote again next year, and spread the word to other formerly-unrepresented fans. A lot of the wailing and rending of garments is about the “unfairness” of organized participation by a group with a clear list of nominees, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They’re not an army of drones marching in lockstep to the dictates of their leaders, they’re something much worse: fans. They’ll vote for the things they like, and they like things that haven’t been winning Hugos recently.

(They also, it turns out, can vote for the location of future Worldcons. It requires a little more planning, since this year’s bids are for 2017’s con (I say Shizuoka), and the fee for voting becomes a supporting membership to that con, but if you’re going to continue nominating and voting, there’s no reason not to participate. Essentially, you pay twice as much for the first two years, and then you’re set)

Monday, April 13 2015

Quoted for truth…

“My view is that when we specifically try to change the rules to exclude the Sad Puppies, and we judge how well the changes work by how well they would have excluded the Sad Puppies given historical data, we will have some difficulty explaining to journalists that we are not doing it to exclude the Sad Puppies.”
    – J. Thomas, commenting on changing the Hugo rules at Making Light

Tuesday, April 14 2015

Refusing to be eaten

“But fandom’s furious identitarians succeeded where racists failed. Identitarians insist they want what I want, a world where everyone is equal. But to make that world, they attack anyone who wants equality in the wrong way. Perhaps my greatest disappointment with them is they happily use the tactics of racists and bigots–mockery, death threats, blacklisting, and censorship.”
    – Will Shetterly

Will, it’s because they are racists and bigots, and proud of it.

Friday, April 24 2015

I see what you did there…

SFWA proposes a method for handling the orphan-works problem, and subtly knifes their customers:

A growing percentage of e-book licensing transactions (often erroneously referred to as “sales”)…

When Tor offers a “potentially award-winning” (now that several people have withdrawn from this year’s Hugo nominations, anyway) ebook for $12.99, and the paperback for $13.50, I’d like to know exactly why I should settle for a DRM-laden “licensing transaction” instead of a good old-fashioned “sale”.

For that matter, $13.50 for the paperback? Fuck that. If we get a free copy in the Hugo voting packet, I’ll read it. Otherwise, there are plenty of other good SF books to read; I can wait until this one drops to a reasonable price.

Saturday, April 25 2015

Cory Doctorow is a liar and a bigot

In the past I’ve found Cory Doctorow vaguely amusing as a gullible technophile and leftist shill, but this is bald-faced lying. Also libel.

“The ‘Puppies’ are a coalition of right-wing and white-supremacist groups who pushed a slate of ideologically pure nominees onto the Hugo Award ballot, complaining that you could no longer judge books by their covers, and that science fiction had changed to reflect the world since the 1970s.”
    – Cory Doctorow, lying son-of-a-bitch

This is what he thinks of SF fans who like books he doesn’t like. It would cause me to stop buying his books if I’d ever started.

Tuesday, May 19 2015

Hugo voting packet now available

I just downloaded the voting packet for this year’s Hugo Awards, and unlike the folks who’ve sworn to vote in lockstep against anything that was nominated by wrongfans, I intend to read the whole thing before casting my votes.

Updates as I read them.

Graphic Story

I’ve read the four Graphic Story entries in the packet (The Zombie Nation Book #2 was not included). None of them are even half as good as any Astro City collection, but it wasn’t nominated, and they were, so I’m tentatively going with Ms Marvel. It starts off with a whiff of pre-emptive outrage, as if the creators are daring Hatey McWhiteHate to jump on the Haternet and start ranting about brown people and evil mooslims stealin our white blonde superchicks, but fortunately they get over it, and go on to tell a half-decent origin story that’s saved from mediocrity by an excellent heroine and a well-drawn 2.5-dimensional family. If they keep the focus on heroine and family, it will be pretty good. I plan to buy a physical copy.

Saga is imaginative and has nice art, but all I knew about it before reading volume 3 was a vague memory of controversy over the graphic depiction of childbirth in an earlier issue; the story didn’t grab me, but it’s well-done. Rat Queens is straightforward RPG grrl-power fantasy; meh. Sex Criminals feels like it was written 20 years ago and drawn today, and it’s not as titillating as the creators think; also meh.

The Zombie Nation is a webcomic, but I suppose I’ll have to poke around to find out what’s included in book 2, to evaluate it properly.


Skin Game has an early lead, on the grounds that I’ve already read it at least five times. People unfamiliar with The Dresden Files may have difficulty getting into book 15, but while there’s a crapton of context, I think it actually does a pretty good job of establishing the universe and characters for a new reader.

I’m just starting Ancillary Sword, and between the terrible blurb on Amazon, the clunky exposition on the first few pages, the fact that it’s book 2, and the names that were generated with a set of Boggle dice, it’s not grabbing me. The publisher supplied a hundred-page excerpt, and I’ll give it a fair shot, but I’d have already put it back on the shelf if I’d found it in a book store. (Update: finished the excerpt, managed to adjust to the awkward prose style, not really interested in any of the characters or what happens to them)

Nominally the first book in a trilogy, The Dark Between The Stars is completely impenetrable unless you’ve read the previous seven books and kept detailed notes. There are at least a dozen vaguely-connected point-of-view characters (9 in the first 10 chapters!), and I’d already forgotten the first three when I reached chapter four. I see no reason to continue. The editor should be smacked for not insisting on an intro, given that even for a loyal reader, it’s been six years since the previous book set in this universe.

The Goblin Emperor is a court intrigue drama set in a lightly-sketched fantasy world. That is, the protagonist goes through a series of experiences that happen to take place in a world that has races called elves and goblins, a world that you learn very little about. It is slow and well-mannered, and the protagonist faces no serious challenges or setbacks; he merely accepts his place in the world and performs his duty, while surrounded by characters whose personalities remain as unexplored as his world. It is neither exciting nor boring, and yet I managed to finish it, setting it above Ancillary and Dark. I would not give it an award, and had I been its editor, I would have told the author to use it as the backstory for an actual fantasy novel about the priest-detective who solves the murder mystery that put the protagonist on the throne. He at least gets to live in the world that the emperor rules.

I’m now 58% (Kindle) of the way through The Three-Body Problem, and I am completely baffled by Theresa Nielsen Hayden’s claim that “If they’re participating because they love the genre, and they’re into old-fashioned SF virtues, then surely they’ll have nominated The Three-Body Problem”, because I’ve yet to encounter anything resembling SF in the book (oh, wait; there’s the thing with the timestamp that’s forgotten almost immediately in favor of playing the dullest online game in history). In fact, it reads as if the author was told that SF consists of making frequent references to science and scientists in a contemporary novel. Browsing spoilers, it appears that there is actual significant SFnal content coming up, but if true, the only award this novel deserves so far is The Buried Lede. Seriously, in promoting this (on their web site and apparently nowhere else), Tor.com promised: “A covert military project. A secret war revealed as the worst fight that humanity has ever faced. Baffling mysteries. A series of ultra-science weapons, each more powerful and fantastic than the last, including one technology described as more important than nuclear bombs. Aliens that may be saviors, or invaders, or both.” At 58% I’ve got a military project and baffling mysteries, and none of the rest; some guy in a bar has claimed that there are aliens, but he’s an idiot. I can’t recall any classic SF that took this long to get to the point, but perhaps TNH can enlighten me. (update: I just read chapter 30; this book is horseshit)


The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale is a breath of fresh air after slogging through TBP. It’s not just a good yarn filled with crunchy SF tropes, it’s unapologetically optimistic about humanity.

Short Story

Totaled isn’t bad. I didn’t find it particularly compelling, and it’s a bit rushed, but not bad. I’m not terribly optimistic about any of the others, so while it would set a pretty low bar for “award-winning”, I won’t No-Award it; I’ll just leave it off my ballot. Actually, I refuse to No-Award anything this year, because it’s become a weapon to shout down Wrongfans.

A Single Samurai suffers from lengthy as-you-know-Bob exposition delivered in an affected style that might work for people who only know samurai from subtitled movies. I lost interest fast.

Sunday, May 24 2015

The stupid, it burns us…

I really hope this is not representative of The Three-Body Problem, the last of the Hugo-nominated novels I’m reading:

“…he had successfully predicted the birth defects associated with long-term consumption of genetically modified foods. He had also predicted the ecological disasters that would come with cultivation of genetically modified crops.”

This part of the book is set in the more-or-less present day, and our allegedly-reliable narrator treats these statements as simple fact. Fortunately, it’s soon followed with:

“He believed that technological progress was a disease in human society. The explosive development of technology was analogous to the growth of cancer cells, and the results would be identical: the exhaustion of all sources of nourishment, the destruction of organs, and the final death of the host body.”

With any luck, this batshit-crazy luddite will be one of the villains. Or a spear-carrier soon to depart from the plot. Fingers crossed, because there’s a page and a half of this nonsense before he ever utters a word.

Update and SPOILER! after the jump:

(Continued on Page 4594)

Thursday, May 28 2015

The Three-Body Problem Problem

This Chinese SF novel is being praised as good old-fashioned hard science fiction, filled with powerful and fantastic ultra-science and a gripping plot that uncovers a secret war against humanity that opens Earth up to alien conquest.

Yeah, not so much. The only two on-camera technologies that exceed present-day capabilities are:

  1. The bad guys remotely project a countdown timer into Our Hero’s field of vision. At the end of the book, they use this technology again to project a short insult to the eyes of a small group of people.
  2. The good guys use Our Hero’s experimental nanomaterial to construct monomolecular garrotes that slice an oil tanker into ribbons as it passes through the Panama Canal.

You have a well-funded secret society that sincerely believes in an upcoming alien invasion, but despite the complete lack of hard evidence, a room full of generals (and one suspicious old cop) is convinced that they desperately need to destroy that tanker in a way that kills everyone on board before they can delete their files (which are believed to contain additional messages from the aliens). Why a tanker? Because it was in fact a sea-faring radio telescope, used to carry out decades of two-way communication with the invaders.

But let’s assume for the moment that all of the third-hand evidence collected from the conspirators and the tanker is true, and aliens really are on their way to conquer Earth. What is their powerful and fantastic ultra-science weapon (singular, despite the blurbs)?

(Continued on Page 4596)

R.I.P Tanith Lee

SF/F writer Tanith Lee died last week. Bummer.

Saturday, August 15 2015

Dear L. Neil Smith,

Next time, ask the publisher to spend more than $1 on cover design. The current cover for Taflak Lysandra will not sell to people who aren’t already looking for your more obscure works.

51IppMoEcoL SX331 BO1 204 203 200

At least on the original cover, in which Elsie was drawn rather than pasted from cheap 3D software, the artist actually skimmed the book and understood that she was a petite blonde wearing an environment suit and carrying a sidearm, not Lara Croft in a Victoria’s Secret “encounter” suit toting a blaster bigger than she is. Seriously, she’s what, 14? [Update: 15, and considers herself a shapeless maybe-never-bloomer, especially compared to the other human female around]

(admittedly, she’s also supposed to be dark-skinned, being a test-tube baby with a healthy percentage of Australian aborigine in the mix, but whitening your hero on the cover was a definite thing back in the Eighties, so I doubt the original artist had a choice)

Also, I haven’t the slightest idea what she’s shooting at on the new cover, but I can instantly recognize both of the other characters on the original.

(and damned if I didn’t spend half an hour searching the house for my copy, and I still can’t figure out why I can’t find it; I know for a fact that I’ve seen it in the past few years, because I remember opening it up and reading a chapter)

And, yes, the new cover for Brightsuit MacBear is only less ridiculous because it at least looks like an environment suit of some kind, as imagined by someone completely unfamiliar with the book and the universe it’s set in. Still scraping the bottom of the barrel for cheap 3D cut-and-paste.

[Update: a reread reminds me that Mac and Elsie shouldn’t be the same age. Elsie was 9 in Tom Paine Maru (276 AL), and Mac’s father was alive and well. Brightsuit takes place in 283 AL, if Pemot is being precise, which works for Elsie but not Mac.]

Sunday, August 23 2015

Organized voting block sweeps Hugos

The organized effort to vote against anything nominated by wrongfans resulted in multiple categories getting the “no award”, which would be shameful if they had shame. I’m disappointed that The Three-Body Problem won best novel, but I’m not surprised; there’s a contingent that will vote against anything fantasy, and quite a few people admitted that the only reason they hadn’t proposed it for the Sad Puppies “slate” was that no one had heard of it before the nominations. I thought it was terrible SF, myself, but I can see how people preferred it to the alternatives.

Sad Puppies (meta)4

Sad puppies 4

Monday, August 24 2015

Dear Mundania Press,

I see from your web site that you’re mostly a romance/porn publisher, but FYI, Milo Morai is not Fabio, and the Horseclans novels are not bodice-rippers. Also, you’ve got him holding his sword like a baseball bat.

510Qf+v4E7L SX331 BO1 204 203 200

Thursday, September 3 2015

Dear Simon and Schuster,

Why is the Kindle edition of a 15-year-old Banks novel selling for $15.99? Why is the trade paperback of it selling for $21.59? And, why, for the love of all that’s Culture, is it currently #9 in Star Trek adaptations?

Mind you, I think $9.99 is a bit high for the other Culture novels, but Look To Windward doesn’t stand out as being worth 60% more than the rest. And it’s not like you let Amazon set the price.

Tuesday, September 15 2015

Nobody’s Home

I’ve been reading good science fiction and fantasy recently, by which I mean “the sort of thing that used to get nominated for awards” (in some cases not that long ago, before the Nebulas turned into the Women’s Award and the Hugos turned into the Superficial Diversity Award). So, Bujold, Powers, Daley, Watt-Evans, Hambly, the Liavek stories, etc.

This has led to the discovery of all sorts of new short stories and novellas released as ebooks. Last night’s was Tim Powers’ return to the world of The Anubis Gates, Nobody’s Home. It’s a pleasant little ghost story featuring Jacky Snapp. A bit pricy for only 80 pages, but it’s not like anyone else is writing Tim Powers stories…

Wednesday, September 30 2015

Adventures in categorizing

The latest version of Amazon’s recommendation page is built around tiles of categories, with one or more items composited as the representative image of the category. I find this less-than-useful, because I generally have no interest in the representative items, making me less likely to click and see what the other recommendations are as I skim across the page.

Also, the categories seem to be based on user-supplied tagging, so that things end up in unusual places. For instance:

Lenses for children

The 7 “children’s books” were: Zelazny’s Madwand, four of Smith’s Lensman novels, Sabatini’s Captain Blood, and some random guy’s Sherlock Holmes story. So, the representative image is something I don’t need to buy (an $8 ebook of a novel first serialized in 1939), the category name is something I don’t want, and the actual search results are mostly things I already own.

My actual wishlist for the Amazon recommendation system is a “less like this” button, so that the first N pages of results won’t be dominated by things related to a single recent purchase, like a watch, a box of coffee pods, or (ghod forbid) a Destroyer novel (seriously; never buy a book in a lengthy series (150!) without marking it “don’t use for recommendations”).

Sunday, October 11 2015

Dear Doctor Who,

1. Last week’s odd soliloquy worked as part of the teaser, but was dropped into the actual episode with all the grace of a flaming bag of manure.

2. This week’s fourth-wall-breaking was… jarring, to be kind. Vaguely condescending as well, which would be fine if it were Doctor-to-companion rather than writer-to-audience.

3. Hey, at least Missy didn’t show up.