pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Diane Duane. So You Want to Be a Wizard (e) (re-read)
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix Ascendant (e)
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix in Shadow (e)
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix Rising (e) (re-read)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Interesting Times (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Diane Duane. Deep Wizardry
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Tamora Pierce. First Test

In progress
(anthology). Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01

Non-fiction books in progress
David Fromkin. A Peace to End All Peace

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Tamora Pierce. Page
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Okay, let's see: That was the last Riddler puzzle, and it unlocked the last bit of backstory. Still not 100% Complete, but there's no more story left: the only things left to do are demonstrate-your-speed-and-agility tests, which I don't care about in themselves, and all they unlock are concept art, which I can live without. I think I'm done here.

*swoops out of Arkham City*


2. Also done with: This collection of Murray Leinster stories. Which is a relief, unfortunately. I wish it weren't, because there are times when Leinster is a really good writer -- but oh, the race and gender issues. I had three stories left to get through. Two of them at least managed to avoid gender unpleasantness, though only by not having any women in them at all. The third (actually the first of the three, so fortunately it wasn't left as my final impression of the collection) had some gender essentialism that I mostly just rolled my eyes at, and an enslaved alien race whose depiction (and the protagonist's reacton to whom) would be a field day for someone who enjoys picking apart depictions of racial otherness and disempowerment. The cherry on the top is that literally the first thing we're told about these aliens, and the thing that seems to be the go-to adjective whenever the author wants to emphasize their strangeness and inhumanity... is that they're black. *sigh*


3. In happier classic-sci-fi news: There's a Kickstarter running for a collection of Henry Kuttner's Hogben stories, with a foreword by Neil Gaiman and new illustrations by Steve Parkhouse. I've been wanting to get my hands on these stories ever since I first heard about them, years ago. The publishers are planning a range of editions, from an e-book through a basic paperback to a limited-edition signed leatherbound hardcover. There's about a week left on the pledge period.


4. From the "we're all living in science fiction now" department: Canadian astronaut and video blogger Chris Hadfield commemorates the end of his stint on the International Space Station with a performance of David Bowie's "A Space Oddity" (with appropriately tweaked lyrics), filmed on location in a tin can far above the world.


5. I can touch my toes!
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Maurice Broaddus. King Maker
Frances Hodgson Burnett. A Little Princess
Kelly Sue DeConnick, et al. Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight
Warren Ellis, et al. Global Frequency
Kathryn Immonen, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kevin Shinick, et al. Avenging Spider-Man: The Good, the Green and the Ugly
Chip Kidd, Dave Taylor. Batman: Death by Design
Mike Mignola, John Byrne. Hellboy: Seed of Destruction (re-read)
Mike Mignola. Hellboy: Wake the Devil
Mike Mignola. Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and others
Tamora Pierce. Realms of the Gods
Adrian Ramos. Some One to See the Emperor (re-read)
Charles Stross. The Apocalypse Codex
Syd of the Funny Hat. Q de Grace

Non-fiction books in progress
David Fromkin. A Peace to End All Peace

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Tamora Pierce. First Test
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Robert Bolt. A Man For All Seasons
Dorothy Hewett. The Man From Mukinupin
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Local Custom (e) (re-read)
Anne McCaffrey. Black Horses for the King
Tamora Pierce. The Emperor Mage (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Peter Macinnis. Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World

In progress
David Fromkin. A Peace to End All Peace

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Maurice Broaddus. King Maker
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Another February, another Toastmasters speech evaluation contest, another creditable but not dazzling performance from me that didn't result in a place on the podium. (Which is probably just as well this year, as I think the next round of the contest is likely to clash with other stuff I have on.) Also probably just as well is that the evaluation rules explicitly forbid commenting on whether you agree with what the speaker says (the point being to improve the speaker's skills in how it is said), because this year I seriously disagreed with the conclusion of the speech we were set to evaluate. I have a speaking slot coming up next meeting; I'm seriously considering revisting the topic.


2. The first episode of Elementary aired here recently. It seems like a fairly entertaining example of the American quirky-detective show, and it's nice to see a female character get a major role in one of these things. The bee-keeping scene was a nice shout-out to the grand-daddy of the genre, I thought.


3. Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World is turning out to be a good book for killing time in waiting rooms and so on, but not the kind of book that's an entertaining read in itself. It's a survey of the technological and cultural changes that began or entered new phases in 1859, the year Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species; the coverage is (perhaps necessarily) broad, but not very deep.


4. Continuing through this Murray Leinster omnibus. Continuing to find Leinster's delusion that "because she was a woman" is a necessary or useful explanation annoyingly infecting stories that might otherwise have been pretty good. The latest victim is "Anthropological Note", in which a female anthopologist studies a matriarchal alien tribe -- a subject which, as the man who once wrote in all apparent seriousness that "there is no profession in which a really competent man tries to understand women", he might have thought better of attempting. Once again, though, it's the narrator more than the actual story that's the problem: I have a feeling that if someone had red-pencilled all the places where an explanation is given a prefix like "Being a woman" or a suffix like "in a typically female way", the substance of the story would not have been materially altered. ...Well, you'd still have some of the unpleasant features of the matriarchy, but at least you wouldn't have to put up with any of them being explicitly described as "definitely female".

Actually, the story does have another annoying flaw, again in the narration. The denouement depends on a rather neat coincidence, which Leinster apparently didn't trust his readers to buy unaided; his solution is to add a rather heavy-handed lampshade-hanging in the form of regularly reminding the reader that the denouement is going to depend on a remarkable coincidence, which might be regarded as a sign of the tribe's deity taking a hand in matters, if you believe in such things as tribal deities, ho ho ho. I reckon I can see a better way of handling it, but it does require modern subtle-incluing technology, which Leinster may not have had in his tool kit, and also that the author regard our lady anthropologist as an actual human being, which also appears to be a tool Leinster was lacking.


5. On a more cheerful note, I really liked Croc and Bird, a charming little picture book that begins with two eggs hatching together on a river bank, and the hatchlings deciding, in the absence of any grown-ups around to tell them otherwise, that they're brothers. And then it's about how they grow up together, and teach each other the things each knows instinctively (Bird teaches Croc to sing; Croc teaches Bird to hunt water buffalo), and about what happens when they meet other crocodiles and other birds and discover that their understanding of the world is not the commonly accepted one.

(I was hanging out in the junior corner of the library with my niece when I discovered it, but I shamelessly admit I read it for myself. My niece is still at the age where the coloured blocks are more interesting than the books.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Alexis Deacon. Croc and Bird
Tamora Pierce. Wolf-Speaker (re-read)
JR Poulter, Sarah Davis. Mending Lucille

In progress
Tamora Pierce. The Emperor Mage (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Peter Macinnis. Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Robert Bolt. A Man For All Seasons
pedanther: (cheerful)
I've been reading Colonial Survey, a 1956 collection of short stories by Murray Leinster, and finding it somewhat annoying. The stories themselves are all right (one is a Hugo winner), but the format is a problem.

It's a fix-up, which is a venerable dodge whereby a collection of stories is arranged, often with a bit of editing and some new linking material, to make it look like a single unified work, thereby expanding the potential audience to include people who don't read short story collections. This can work, if you have a set of stories with a single protagonist, or failing that a common setting and some kind of plot or theme you can use as a through-line. (Isaac Asimov's Foundation is a fix-up, as is Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. I could go on in this vein for quite a while. Charles Stross' Accelerando and Ryk Spoor's Digital Knight are more recent examples.)

The trouble with Colonial Survey is that, faced with four stories about four different colonial survey officials (the internet tells me they were named Massy, Bordman, Roane, and Hardwick), someone decided it would be a good idea to fake a common protagonist by renaming them all Bordman. This might have worked if Leinster were a worse writer, but even when he's writing classical puzzle-as-plot SF he gives his protagonists some individuality, and it's quite apparent that each story's protagonist is a different person and trying to reconcile their various personalities, or form them into a sequence of character development, won't get you anything but a headache. (There are continuity issues, too. The protagonist of one of the early stories falls in love and gets married. In the new interstitial material added to glue the stories together, much is made of how our pseudo-protagonist misses his wife and family when he's away working. But does he ever mention them in the stories themselves? No, of course not.)

I said that the stories themselves are all right, but actually one of them is annoying as well. "Sand Doom" has a neat puzzle-plot, and Leinster does some nice work on the psychological side: what it is about the protagonist that makes him the the one who figures out what nobody else does, and the jigsaw puzzle of the supporting characters that each contribute their bit to the solution. I would say that the characters are each distinct, rounded individuals, except...

...except that this is the one story in the collection with a significant presence of characters who are not white males, and they are not allowed to be individuals. The female lead isn't the way she is because she's that kind of gal, but because that's the way women are. (Except, okay, that she's self-sufficient and "not at all a nuisance", which is apparently "extraordinary".) The Amerind characters - who wear feathers in their hair, shun urban civilization, and all live together on a planet where the global parliament meets in a building constructed in the shape of a teepee - are the way they are because they're Amerinds. The African characters - you know what, I think you've got the idea.

It's largely a failure of show-versus-tell. What we're actually shown is a well-drawn group of individuals interacting and collaborating to save the day, if only the author would stop telling us about how they're all exemplars of their race and gender. (Except the white male protagonist, of course, he's an individual.) A stage or screen version of the story would be a considerable improvement just by dropping the narrator.

To end on something resembling a lighter note: While I was hunting up details of the stories' original publications, I learned that all but one of them was the cover-featured story on its first magazine publication. "Sand Doom" had one of those classic pulp cover illustrations that amuse [livejournal.com profile] serge_lj so much, depicting a man in an environment suit and a woman in a bikini standing together on the surface of hostile alien world - and for once this is a thing that actually happens in the story.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
John M Ford. The Final Reflection (re-read)
John M Ford. How Much For Just the Planet? (re-read)
PC Hodgell. Honor's Paradox (e)
Sharon Lee. Carousel Tides (e)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Mouse and Dragon (e) (re-read)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Necessity's Child (e)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Scout's Progress (re-read)
Tamora Pierce. Wild Magic (re-read)
George Bernard Shaw. Caesar and Cleopatra
Patricia Wrightson. The Nargun and the Stars

In progress
Tamora Pierce. Wolf-Speaker (re-read)

Abandoned
Rosemary Sutcliff. Sword at Sunset

Non-fiction books
TA Shippey. The Road to Middle-Earth 2nd ed.

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Peter Macinnis. Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Justine Clark, Arthur Baysting, Tom Jellett. The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book
Mij Kelly, Mary McQuillan. Have You Seen My Potty?
John Masefield. Odtaa
John Masefield. The Taking of the Gry
Tamora Pierce. Lioness Rampant (re-read)
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix Rising (e)

Non-fiction books, abandoned
Rossiter, Heather. Lady Spy, Gentleman Explorer: the life of Herbert Dyce Murphy

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Patricia Wrightson. The Nargun and the Stars
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
(anthology). Kitties
(anthology). Liavek
Lois McMaster Bujold. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (e)
John Masefield. Sard Harker
Tamora Pierce. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (re-read)
Bram Stoker. The Jewel of Seven Stars

In progress
John Masefield. Odtaa
Tamora Pierce. Lioness Rampant (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Alain de Botton. The Consolations of Philosophy

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
John Masefield. The Taking of the Gry
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Padraic Colum. The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles (e)
Tanith Lee. The Dragon Hoard (re-read)
John Masefield. The Midnight Folk (re-read)
Tamora Pierce. In the Hand of the Goddess (re-read)
Gene Luen Yang. American Born Chinese
Roger Zelazny. A Night in the Lonesome October (re-read)

In progress
(anthology). Liavek
Bram Stoker. The Jewel of Seven Stars

Non-fiction books in progress
Alain de Botton. The Consolations of Philosophy

In hiatus
Barbara Sher, Barbara Smith. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
John Masefield. Odtaa
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Verlyn Flieger. Pig Tale
Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planet
Ellis Peters. The House of Green Turf
Ellis Peters. The Knocker on Death's Door
Ellis Peters. Mourning Raga

Non-fiction books
Verlyn Flieger. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World

In progress
Barbara Sher, Barbara Smith. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Di Trevis. Being a Director
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Ellis Peters. Black is the Colour of My True Love's Heart (re-read)
Ellis Peters. Flight of a Witch
Ellis Peters. The Grass Widow's Tale
Ellis Peters. A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (re-read)
Ellis Peters. The Piper on the Mountain
Terry Pratchett. Snuff
Anthony Price. War Game

In progress
Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planet

Non-fiction books
Verlyn Flieger. Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology

In progress
Barbara Sher, Barbara Smith. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Ellis Peters. The House of Green Turf
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Bennett Cerf, Roy McKie. Bennett Cerf's Book of Riddles
Marianne de Pierres. Code Noir
Marianne de Pierres. Crash Deluxe
Marianne de Pierres. Nylon Angel
Phyllis Ann Karr. The Idylls of the Queen
Anthony Price. Our Man in Camelot
Brandon Sanderson. The Way of Kings

In progress
Murray Leinster. The Forgotten Planet

Non-fiction books
Declan Donnellan. The Actor and the Target

In progress
Barbara Sher, Barbara Smith. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Verlyn Flieger. Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology

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