skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
If I Were You (Stories from the Golden Age, #5)If I Were You by L. Ron Hubbard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Before L. Ron Hubbard got involved in...you know, he was a middling-good and prolific pulp author. The Golden Age Stories line is reprinting many of his stories in attractively designed paperbacks. This volume contains two short stories, , a preview of another, a glossary (really needed this time because of heavy circus slang) and a hagiography of Hubbard that does not mention...you know by name, just calling it "serious research." Hee. It's double-spaced in a largish typeface for easy reading.

The title story concerns a little person, "Little" Tom Little, who works as a circus midget, and then discovers a mystical method for bodyswapping with other people. He promptly decides to use this to swap with the tall, imposing ringmaster Hermann Schmidt. But Schmidt has troubles of his own, which could get Tom killed regardless of which body he's in!

There's a nice bit of foreshadowing early in the story, with what seems like random cruelty to Tom, but is actually a hint of what Schmidt's issues are. The lion phobia, on the other hand, was a bit too telegraphed. The payoff to that is a very exciting scene, mitigating the obviousness. There's a nice bit of ambiguity, too, in the motives of the Professor, who leaves Tom his books of magic.

The second story, "The Last Drop" is co-authored by the much better L. Sprague de Camp. A bartender foolishly creates a cocktail with some untested syrup from Borneo; growth and shrinking hijinks ensue. A fun story that at least waves at scientific plausibility as it goes by, in the form of the square-cube law. (The glossary explains it for the benefit of anyone who might have forgotten.)

While it's a handsome package, and the stories are fun, the book is thin on content for the price. I'd recommend looking for used copies at a steep discount, or checking it out from the library.



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skjam: created by djinn (Bottomless)
Universal StationUniversal Station by Beth Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This volume is by the Beth Brown who also wrote "All Dogs Go To Heaven". Like that book, it's a light fantasy about the afterlife. (Indeed, one of the main characters is a dog.)

Sadly, the charm of a talking dog is overwhelmed by the repetitive, preachy dialogue about the nature of the afterlife and how right Johnny's grandfather, Grand, is about everything.

There's a romance in the backstory, but if anything the dialogue in it is even more nauseating in its preciousness.

There's a different book going on in the background that would be arguably more interesting, and whose midpoint would be about the end of this book. In it are all the actual action scenes, and the adventures of Johnny's love interest trying to escape the Nazis.

This is an interesting curio, but it's easy to see why it's fallen into the memory hole.



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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.

MARS WEEPS: A RAY BRADBURY TRIBUTE

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: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Unlike last year, there were no big surprises on Thursday morning, so I was able to get off to the convention in good order, despite again mistaking which bus goes all the way to the end of the line.

Registration and Harmonic Convergence (the music room) switched locations this year, and since I had my pre-registration card handy, that went smoothly. I never did spend much time in the music room, so I can't say if it sounded better than the previous location.

The first panel I was on was "Diversity in Comics", starring Dwayne McDuffie (perhaps best known to the general public for his work with Static.) Also appearing was M. Nicholas Almand, creator of "Razor Kid." I seized the moderator position (with the permission of the other panelists) and mostly spent my time getting out of Mr. McDuffie's way, as he was clearly the most experienced with trying to get diversity into comics.

I'd also prepared a handout on comics that did diversity well--I hope a few of them got kept. Most of the discussion was nothing new to anyone who's seriously looked at diversity issues in comics, but there were a few people there who hadn't done that yet, and I hope they learned something useful.

Then it was off to the Crowne Plaza so I could register, drop off my clothes, and rush back downstairs for the next shuttle back to the Sheraton. Still frustrated by the fact that you can look directly across the freeway from one to the other, but it's a couple of country miles to actually get there.

The shuttle was somewhat delayed, which was something of a pattern for the next four days. But I still managed to get back in time for the Mark Time Radio Show (a little off this year) and opening ceremonies. The pass-around game was "the Cone of Shame", which those of you who've seen "Up" will recognize.

After that, I attended a panel on "The Horrible Humor of Joss Whedon." Got to see lots of Whedon-related hall costumes.

I made a short round of party rooms and then retired for the evening.

Unlike last year, my hotel room faced the parking lot, and the opaque curtains, unlike the ones at the Sheraton, turned out to be mere decorations, so the light level in the room was a bit much. Turns out I can't sleep wearing a mask, or at least not without being much much more tired, so it was a while before I dropped off.

First panel next morning I attended was "Free Online Games." I got a long list, and plugged "Billy vs. Snakeman."

A bit later, I was on the panel for "Gaming Etiquette." That was a mix of handy tips and horror stories. (When the *player* is using his hand crossbow to make his points, it's a bad thing.)

Then it was time for "Humor in Superhero Comics", which had the presence of Christopher Jones, the creator of ConVergence's mascot Connie, and artist on "Batman Strikes" and "Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink." Lots of fun discussion of favorite funny bits.

I spent some time at the "Shiny New Anime" panel, but left early as I'd seen most of the clips at the last convention, and I wanted to get autographs from the Cinematic Titanic cast (formerly the MST3K cast.) In line I met a fellow who'd come all the way from northwest Canada specifically for the CT folks, this being his first SF convention ever. We whiled away our wait time by discussing conventions and I told him about some of the fun stuff to do. (Most of which does not require drinking alcohol, but some of which is presumably enhanced by it.)

Next up, it was time for the "Old Time Radio" panel, and the moderator graciously allowed me to open the panel with my prepared "radio announcement" bit. I got applauded for it, which is a nice feeling! One of the panelists had started working as a radio station engineer back in the 1950s, so he had some very interesting stories to tell. Other than that, it was mostly plugging favorite shows, and suggesting places to acquire OTR at least semi-legally.

And my fourth scheduled panel of the day was "Manga & Graphic Novels", where we talked about the differences and similarities of US and Japanese comics. I ranted a bit about the cancellation of Shojo Beat--while admittedly I wasn't always impressed with it, it did fill an important niche in the market.

Last panel attended for the evening was "Fan Fiction", which had as always a number of fanfic authors on it, some of whom have done this panel numerous times. The topic drifted off into slash perhaps a bit too often, but otherwise it was an interesting and informative discussion.

I had almost no time for parties before retiring, and was only halfway through the House of Toast line before I had to bolt for the entrance.

Saturday morning I attended the "Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons" panel. They're not completely dead, but they're in pretty sad shape at the moment, when most stations would rather show infomercials.

Next up, I was on the "Justice League" panel, again starring Mr. McDuffie, and also including Daniel Wallace, who helped write the DC and Marvel Encyclopedias. Naturally, the majority of questions fell to Mr. McDuffie again, and we drifted off into the sad state of the comic book industry overall for quite a while. I was moderator for this one too.

Afterwards, Mr. McDuffie was in the AV room, doing live commentary on a couple of the cartoon episodes he wrote. I'd seen the JLA appearance in Static Shock before, but not the JLU episode "Epilogue." Some tidbits about the former--it was originally pitched as a Teen Titans appearance, but their show wouldn't be airing yet by the time it was scheduled, and as you can imagine, there would have been some serious character design issues. And it wasn't an attempt to boost Static's street cred, but the other way around, since the Static Shock show was the second-highest rated cartoon at the time.

Then off to "Farewell David Tennant", as the panelists reminisced about their favorite Tenth Doctor moments and looked forward to the last few Tennant appearances.

That was followed by "Writing Horror in the Age of Saw." The panelist were mostly horror writers, natch. One thing pointed out was that the literary horror market and movie horror audience are actually not as overlapping as the SF literary and movie audiences. Which causes some difficulty for the horror writers when they attend horror movie conventions. The important thing, panelists agreed, was that you don't need to put in gore if the story doesn't call for it, but you shouldn't skimp on the gore if the story *does* call for it.

And "Silent Movies Worth Your Time", with several suggestions of merit, though it can be awfully hard to find one projected at the proper speed. While in theory the final lost reels of Metropolis have been found, the film stock is in such awful shape that it may not be restorable.

I skipped the Masquerade to check out the Cinema Apocalypse room, which showed "Ip Man", a heavily-fictionalized biography of the man who would eventually teach kung fu to Bruce Lee. It's pretty good, but the version shown did not subtitle the intertitles that gave historical background, so I couldn't spot more than what year the next scene was taking place. (Mind you, "the Japanese invade" was pretty obvious from the action.)

I had just enough time to finally get some toast (and for some reason sushi) from the House of Toast before I needed to be ready for the shuttle bus. Which was then ten minutes late as it had swung by the megamall first. The other passengers were interested by the costumed people hanging out and smoking.

Sunday morning, I packed up and checked out of the Crowne Plaza, and after breakfast in the Consuite went to the anime room to watch the Detective Conan movie. It wasn't too much of a mystery, although one minor recurring character was a red herring. (Behavior very odd for that person.)

I picked up my winnings from the Art Show and Silent Auction (since several items are scheduled as birthday/Christmas presents, I won't talk about them here.) Speaking of the art show, I've said in the past that I don't really buy a plain photograph of a nude woman as SF/fantasy "art." I've come to the conclusion that just slapping a color filter on it (with a "fantasyish" caption) isn't really that much more of a qualification. Having her hold a sword is more of a step in the right direction.

The first panel I managed to drag myself to was "Tieflings are Not a Player Race", an examination of 4th Edition D&D. As you might guess from the title, this was not a completely optimistic panel, though it was admitted that the latest edition is a fine miniatures tactics game. (And as one of the folks in Alarums & Excursions mentioned, it simulates the Voltron Blazing Sword Effect well.)

After that, "Epic Storyline Fatigue", with the encyclopedia writer mentioned above. Please let "Final Crisis" be it for line-wide universe reboot events for a while, okay DC?

I dropped in on "TV Shows on DVD and Blu-Ray", which had a bunch of release dates. Sadly, you should probably stock up now while you still can, as it looks like discs are on their way out to be replaced with digital media.

And finally, my last panel, "What's Wrong With Japan?" As moderator (yes, again, let's face it, I like being moderator), I declared that the title of the panel was incorrect, and it would be "Different and interesting things about Japanese culture" instead. No one got up to leave the room, which I was pleased by. We had several people who'd spent extended periods in Japan, thanks to teaching jobs. (Our token Japanese-American panelist admitted he'd only gone for brief vacations.) After the first general question, "One thing you find interesting about Japan not directly connected to manga or anime", the anecdotes easily filled the time with minimal need for more prompting.

Between all of this, naturally, I spent a lot of time greeting and conversing with old acquaintances, making new ones ("Wait! I know you, you're on the internet!") and people watching. My nephew had managed to get the weekend off at the last moment, and got to see his first SF convention ever--perhaps he'll post about it in his own LJ. (hint, hint :-)

Sadly, the Sheraton itself was not running shuttles to the airport or Mall this year, so I skipped closing ceremonies to be able to catch the bus downtown. Still, I had a grand old time. (Next year, I do need to have a room in the hotel proper or Sofitel.)

And this morning, I went in to have my filling installed. Still can't bite anything until the crown is put in later this month.

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