skjam: (professional)
Hi folks!

This time we're exploring books Goodreads has suggested to me based on what I have put on my science fiction shelf. This includes science fiction, books about science fiction, books about science in science fiction contexts, and a few oddball books that are on the border of SF and fantasy.

As always, let me know if you've read any of these and have an opinion, or heard some interesting buzz.

From the ancient past to the unthinkable future. )

Your thoughts and comments?
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A Planet of Your Own/The Beasts of KohlA Planet of Your Own/The Beasts of Kohl by John Brunner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another fun Ace double.

A Planet of Your Own, first--Kynance Foy is a young woman from Earth who decided to go out and make her fortune among the stars...and failed. At the end of her rope, she's offered a job by the Zygra Corporation. A job that sounds too good to be true, despite the obvious hardships. But she's desperate, so sign she does. It isn't until she gets to the planet of Zygra that she discovers the true nature of the trap, but is it too late?

Good stuff: This is a rare mid-Sixties SF book with a competent female lead. Amusingly, towards the beginning she lists off traits that in bad fanfic would make her kind of Sueish (smart, multi-skilled and exotically beautiful) but it turns out that the further she gets from Earth, the more common these traits are, to the point that normal fifteen year olds are earning the equivalent of a doctorate.

The moment Kynance figures out what the trap is, she sets about systematically disarming it, using the skills she established earlier. And when male characters show up, they don't take over the story or assume control just because they're men. Kynance simply works them into her plan. And there isn't a shoehorned-in romance, either. Just a hint at the end that now that she's made her pile, Kynance might consider a relationship, possibly with one of the male characters.

Not so good stuff: Kynance's boss sexually harasses her as an added topping to his other slimy activities, just to reinforce that he's the bad guy here. There's the people calling a grown woman a "girl", and being surprised she's in the Zygra job (though the same character admits that a woman would be equally able to do it.) And the ending relies heavily on the legalistic version of technobabble.

The Beasts of Kohl is by John Rackham. Kohl is an aquatic lifeform that travels to other star systems, explores them, and sometimes brings back smart animals to serve it. (Thus the title.) But one day, Kohl's bipedal servant Rann asks a question that makes Kohl realize he isn't just a very intelligent animal, but a fully sapient being like Kohl itself. Since Kohl's ethics prevent it from enslaving true setitents, it decides to take Rann back to his home planet for a visit, so that Rann can make an informed choice about his life.

Joined by his female counterpart Rana (who has had a less wise master and is thus more emotional and unskilled), the great canine Gromahl and thehunting bird Virgal, Rann accompanies Kohl to a certain small blue planet. What none of the visitors realize is that quite some time has passed on that world, which has changed considerably. And in a single jam-packed day, Rann and Rana learn both good and ill about their home world and its inhabitants.

It's a fast-paced story, with some nice "outsiders looking at Earth culture" satire, but the latter half depends entirely too much on coincidence to speed things along. This easily could have been twice the length without spoiling the plot. There's some gender essentialism, and some readers may groan at the "nerdy guy gets the incredibly hot girlfriend" subplot.

Also, the story is implied to take place on Earth in "the near future" from 1966, so it's interesting to see what the author thinks would have changed, and what looks exactly like the Sixties.

View all my reviews
skjam: (Communications)
Just in case there are any garage sale fanatics reading my journal, I'd like to remind you of the upcoming Geek Partnership Society garage sale this Saturday the 15th. Proceeds go to funding fannish activities (like science field trips for kids)--unsold items will go to the Epilepsy Foundation for their garage sale. Since it's fans supplying the goodies, it will have a much higher percentage of fannish goodies than most garage sales.

How to get there: Get to Central and Broadway in Minneapolis. (The #10 bus stops there.) Jackson Street is one block south on Broadway, turn north and go around the Waterbury Building (dull red) until you reach the main parking lot. There should be signs directing you to the door unless they set up outside.

Enjoy and pass this info on to your bargain hunting friends!
skjam: (Communications)
Because it's easier in the age of the Internet to put the liner notes here than try to stuff them in the CD sleeve.

I finally decided to honor a favorite writer who has recently left us.


1. At Sunrise--The Themes

Opening with a natural scene.

2. Pure Imagination--Gene Wilder

Welcome to the candy factory of fantasy writing. Bright colors, tempting flavors; but there are dangers too, and lessons to be learned.

3. Ahmran (Song of the Winds)--Leaves' Eyes

Mostly here because it's pretty.

4. Rocket Boogie--Pete Johnson

"R Is For Rocket".

5. Ascent--Richard Shindell

Sometimes what happens to the protagonists just doesn't make sense to them.

6. Teenagers From Mars--The Nutley Brass

"And staring back at them, they saw the Martians."

7. Blood Like Lemonade--Morcheeba

Some of Bradbury's stories get a little gruesome.

8. Carnival--Tempest

Not quite as disturbing as Mr. Dark's carnival in "Something Wicked This Way Comes" but twisted nonetheless.

9. The World Has Gone Insane--Anthony Warlow

How Guy Montag feels about two-thirds of the way into "Fahrenheit 451."

10. Time's Scar--Yasunori Mitsuda

The theme of a game about divergent timelines for "A Sound of Thunder."

11. Under the Blasted Oak--George Formby

Ray Bradbury had a sense of humor too.

12. Creeping Misterioso--Lan Adomian

Lurking horror.

13. Smallville Pastorale--Rudy Schrager

Bradbury's beloved smalltown setting, Green Town.

14. Dr. Frankenstein--Jack Savoretti

Is technological progress for its own sake the best use of humanity's time?

15. Fiesta en el Camino--A New Andean Era

Another pretty piece for happier stories.

16. No One Takes the Train Anymore--Holly Dunn

"I sometimes think drivers don't know what grass is, or slowers, because they never see them slowly."

17. Fire In the Sky--Kristoph Klover

Space has its own poetry.

18. A Mushroom Cloud--Sammy Salvo

The Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation had their echoes in Bradbury's work, such as "There Will Come Soft Rains."

19. The Golden Rocket--Hank Snow

Bradbury's protagonists often have difficult relationships with their wives or loved ones.

20. Lonesome Water--Joe Bethancourt

Pastoral fantasy...but there's a bite even there.

21. Here Comes the Sun--Charlie Dore

"All of Summer In a Day."

21. Key of the Twilight--See-Saw

I keep returning to these stories.

22. The Parting Glass--Liam Clancy

And a beautiful song of farewell to an old friend.


Also, see the liner notes for [personal profile] barondave's mix here:
skjam: (Communications)
First off, there's an icon and other virtual art sale by Indigo over here--

And here's a rare treat: A Roger Zelazny reading at the Fourth Street Fantasy Convention many years ago.
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
I don't know if anyone outside my immediate family still reads these, but just in case, here's a slightly late look at my Fourth of July weekend.

Bring On the Bad Guys )

Minicon 45

Apr. 4th, 2010 07:00 pm
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Yes, it was Easter weekend, and time for my annual trip to Minicon. Once again it was held at the Sheraton Bloomington, even though to be honest it could fit in a much much smaller hotel. (450 memberships, of whom 430 actually showed up for at least a little while.)

The Sheraton had a couple of new twists to their service this year; one was the option of not having housekeeping clean your room for the day--for which you could get a $5 discount in the hotel restaurant (or extra points on the frequent stayers' club.) You can bet I took advantage of this. The other was a new entertainment lounge for guests, where you could have up to 90 minutes a day of free internet access per room. (More if you brought your own computer.)

I would like them to bring back the airport shuttle though, that was more immediately helpful.

The good thing about small conventions is breathing space--you can actually talk to someone without having to squeeze against the wall to let an endless stream of people get by...or ignore those people as you block the hall. Plus the chance that you'll actually run into the guests outside of formal panels or signings--and not be competing with a score of other people who also need to speak to that person right now.

As I think I mentioned before, this year's Author GoH was Brandon Sanderson, the fellow who's been tapped to finish the Wheel of Time series. Apparently, the second of three books is on its final draft and may be out by the end of the year. He also brought along his editor, and the artist GoH was Dan Dos Santos, who among other things did the cover to Mr. Sanderson's "Warbreaker" book. Lots of previous guests also came back (Minicon is small, but welcoming), including Ben Bova and Baron Dave Romm (who brought along his mother for her first ever SF con...she seemed to be having a ball, and learning a lot.)

So, panels I attended: The Snob in Every Fan (what parts of fandom do fans look down on as even more pathetic than their own?), Opening Ceremonies (always a treat), Recursiveness in Science Fiction that's About Recursiveness (stories about stories, stories that eat their own tails, stories about the process of writing a story....), Who Wants to Live Forever? (The up sides and down sides of immortality, and the comparative virtues of the different ways to achieve it), The Editors' Panel (Ben Bova said he owed his editorial career to the tobacco industry, as John Campbell smoked himself to death), Avatar-Cinema Event of the Year or Festival of Plagarism? (Yes), Do I Know Enough Science to Write Science Fiction? (Maybe, but research and fact-checking are key), Playing the God Card (Not about Yu-Gi-Oh! but about the hazards and challenges of using gods in your stories), How Brandon Got the Gig: Finishing the Wheel of Time (short version: Robert Jordan's widow really liked his writing.)

I saw bits of "Thunderbirds are Go!" and "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" in the film room--it will probably be in a smaller space next year as it tends to be lightly attended.

And yes, there was a huckster's room/artshow/science room. (The convention is small enough that all three and puzzle tables could fit in one large room.) I...picked up a few things, some of which will be surprises for the appropriate people.

I left early, as with no shuttle I could not rely on the bus to arrive in time to get me to the transfer point, and I walked from the Sheraton to Fuddrucker's. Lovely day for a walk, but I'm getting too feeble for long marches. (And sure enough, after I made it to the transfer point, the suburban bus showed up, I would only have had to wait an hour.)


Aug. 16th, 2009 10:10 pm
skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Got my teeth cleaned Friday morning. Owie owie owie. Will go back for another hour of it in a couple of weeks, but first another root canal. Hope my insurance hasn't run out.

Went to see "District 9" on Saturday. TV Tropes calls this "Humans Are Bastards: The Movie" and it's easy to see why. Recommended for mature viewers who like a little satire in their science fiction.


skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)

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