Category Archives: reading


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve read 4 novels (O YAY back to novel reading, my first love.)
I’m continuing my Walter Mosley education with KNOWN TO EVIL, the second Leonid McGill novel. He’s (the author) has moved from character relevations to procedure fiction but still his writing is fast and the surprises are good.
Since I watched all the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, I felt I should maybe read them a bit. Kerry Greenwood’s DEATH BY WATER isn’t the first in the series (which unfortunately my library doesn’t have; that would be COCAINE BLUES.) I’m reading a previously developed set of characters, Phryne and Dot, doing what they do. Not as quippy as the tv series but I think perhaps more clever in the details.
Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s HEX was okay. The situation and set up was classical horror and I loved that. There was much character depth and angst and I loved that. I think the motivation switch at the end and the ending itself didn’t lose me exactly but didn’t leave me with a zing. Satisfying but not the greatest read ever.
Colleen McCullough died a couple years ago. Notoriously the local paper ran an insulting obit for her. I just found a novel by her that I hadn’t read, BITTERSWEET, published in 2013. It’s an Australian, depression-era version of LITTLE WOMEN. No where near as treacly. And ‘Beth’ doesn’t die. I mentioned Colleen McCullough to a friend and nutshell described TIM (her first novel, I believe) as ‘middle-aged woman falls for a gorgeous young mentally handicapped man’ and my friend called that rapey. And ya know… Something about TIM always bothered me. The novels goes in-depth about consent and age etc (Tim’s of age; the protag is older and has a lot of doubt.) But you gotta think in terms of older men marrying young women and no one bats and eyelash. So… not sure. Anyway, this novel, BITTERSWEET, feels a bit rushed and too easy but still a fun romance type novel read.
NEXT on my tbr list and going to work with me today is THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell. I’m still working on KING LEOPOLD’S GHOSTS but I don’t really want that level of depression right now.


I have a huge TBR stack… embarrassingly so. New Years sorta-kinda resolution is to read these books. Here’s my start:

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, Sara Gruen. Fast read, structured like Stephen King’s THE GREEN MILE, but upbeat. The author used real photos from circuses to guide her chapters.

ASHLEY BELL, Dean Koontz. *sigh* Plus, don’t put antibiotics on new tattoos.

CALENDRICAL REGRESSION, Lawrence Schoen. I read half of this a while back and then lost the book. I refound it and reread it and yep, it’s fun, whimsical, and serious all at the same time, and its ‘aliens explaining the Mayan Calendar’ conceit is the best explanation that I’ve read yet.

THE LADY & THE UNICORN, Tracy Chevalier. This author also wrote THE GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING, which I loved as well. Historical romance regarding the people who made the art and the craft the the unicorn tapestries, with a footnote about what became of the tapestries.

THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS, Stephen King. Short fiction done up literary style. Most of these I’ve read in other venues (except the peculiar fireworks novella) and they’re okay, I guess. I have certain objections to official literary style (it seems to me that these types of stories are insufficiently thought-out plots where the author hasn’t figured out why he’s writing that story) but King, of course, still can write.

I’m currently within a few pages of the end of THE BURIED GIANT, by Kazuo Ishiguro, which is dense literary story telling about knights, dragons, and love. I’m liking it.

I have also been keeping up with Daily Science Fiction and Every Day Fiction and hope to post weekly overviews. I’m not reviewing these, btw, these are my surface thoughts.

World Fantasy Convention

World Fantasy Con is in Toronto this year (November 1 – November 4.) I got my membership and banquet ticket early, and booked my flight and after-journey (I’m off to New York for a day after WFC,) but missed out on the hotel block. The hotel I wanted sent a nice email advising me I could book a suite for $329/night.

So I’m staying at downtown Toronto’s youth hostel. Which means I’ll be trying out downtown Toronto breakfast spots during my stay.

I go to this particular small, insular convention for a variety of reasons: free books! splendid con suite 🙂 great parties. Mostly though I enjoy connecting with my friends. I’m very much a hermit in my day-to-day life. Conventions reassure me that all those names on facebook and livejournal and twitter and email are connected to real and generally darned nice people.

But that’s my motivation. Every year there are some authors and editors and artists who have other very strong movitations to attend WFC. This year, Cat Rambo *almost* didn’t go until she discovered she was nominated for an award (“Special Award Non-Professional,” which is fairly obscure.)

(see the list of nominees here:

I’m highly interested in the SHORT FICTION category. My writers group reads (yes, out loud, together) major award nominee short stories. This year we’ve read the Nebula nominees and the Hugo nominees (and subsequently voted on our choices for best-of) but we didn’t read the WFC nominees.

Short Fiction
• “X for Demetrious”, Steve Duffy (Blood and Other Cravings)
• “Younger Women”, Karen Joy Fowler (Subterranean Summer 2011)
• “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)
• “A Journey of Only Two Paces”, Tim Powers (The Bible Repairman and Other Stories)
• “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”, E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld 4/11)

Except, we had read Ken Liu’s THE PAPER MENAGERIE (not twice, that would have been silly) and E. Lily Yu’s THE CARTOGRAPHER WASPS AND THE ANARCHIST BEES.

Ken’s story won both the Nebula and the Hugo, and I suspect it’ll win the WFC award, but I liked E. Lily Yu’s story better. I was alone in that among my writers group, who voted for Ken Liu’s story. Ah well. I’ll still root for Yu’s story.

And I’ll continue to wonder what the award is named. SFWA awards a Nebula; WorldCon gives out Hugos. The Academy Awards have Oscars. Someone told me the little WFC statue of H.P. Lovecraft’s head (quite grotesque and stylized) is called a “Howie,” but I can’t find that elsewhere.

I did find a past online controversy about having such a racist as the emblem of the World Fantasy Convention awards. Ah, racism. That ugly stain which permeates human culture. We do best when we don’t try to hide it but do recognize it and then don’t do it again.

If you’re in Toronto, look me up.

Magazine Spotlight – James Gunn’s Ad Astra


James Gunn wrote “The Listeners,” a novel which bears a lot of resemblance to Sagan’s “Contact.”  He is one of the OG sf writers, is professor at Kansas State University, Lawrence (Got Chalk Jayhawks!), and was named Grand Master of Science Fiction by SFWA a couple of years back.  He has a series of books outlining the history of science fiction, “The Road To Science Fiction,” which qualifies as required research for our field.  And he has a how-to-write book, “The Science of Science Fiction Writing,” which served me well in my more-formative years as a writer.


And now he is debuting this gorgeous magazine.


The premier issue is themed “Communications & Information.”   The idea: poetry, short fiction, and scholarly articles (but not dry reading, oh no) about communicating with aliens.  Even if those aliens are us (those mostly, the aliens addressed here are not.)


I’ve attended several Gunn workshops in Lawrence, plus the attendant Campbell Conferences (if you don’t know what those are, you should find out.)  So, I know Professor Gunn, I know Chris McKitterick, and I know the authors of some of the articles and short fiction and poetry.  I’m terrible at reviews, I am always too gushy and enthusiastic, and if I told you my opinion of the material presented here, you’d agree: too gushy by far.  But these are good solid stories (look for a fun ride with Adrian Simmons’ story, and W.C. Roberts’ poetry shows up in all the best places) and good, well-researched articles (Jean Asselin’s article about Human Evolution As A Framework for the Themes of Science Fiction is a gas, and Sheila Finch throws in an article about mythology.)


This is a good venue for those of us writing fiction, but also intriguing, engrossing reading.