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…

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.

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.

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Sad Puppies (meta)4

Sad puppies 4

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.

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.

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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.]

R.I.P Tanith Lee

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

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)?


“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”