Hugo Hiatus

Two people I know in real life are traveling down under this spring, to New Zealand, not to attend WorldCon, home of the Hugo Awards ceremony, but just for vacations. Although, I wonder if their plans have changed since I last spoke or saw them over two months ago now. Much ado about something is occurring everywhere now, but don’t even compare it to 1918. Regardless, a trip to New Zealand would check off two items on my bucket list: 1) to see the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky (stars and constellations I cannot see from 39 degrees north latitude) and 2) to visit the closest thing to Middle-earth on this Earth.

Continue reading “Hugo Hiatus”

My Top 50 Books from Last 10 Years

The end of the year and this decade arrived unexpectedly. Well, not completely unexpectedly for the former, but the whole ‘where did the twenty teens go?’ thing caught me by surprise. I’ve been reading and listening to ‘decade in review’ articles and podcasts for the last couple of weeks. Which inspired me to analyze my reading of 965 books over the last ten years.

The following compilation of ‘Top Five’ books for each year starting in 2010, do not include my occasional re-reads of favorites, like the works of Tolkien, Lewis, Jordan, Donaldson and Modesitt.

2010 (read 102) 

  1. Blackout/All Clear by Willis (Hugo/Nebula/Locus Best Novel Awards) 
  2. Under Heaven by GGK 
  3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Stein 
  4. A Civil Compaign by Bujold 
  5. Breath and Bone/Flesh and Spirit by Berg 

2011 (read 75) 

  1. Wars of Light and Shadow (books 5-9) by Wurts 
  2. The Lions of Al-Rassan by GGK 
  3. The Wise Man’s Fear by Rothfuss 
  4. The Empire Trilogy by Feist & Wurts 
  5. Ready Player One by Cline 
Continue reading “My Top 50 Books from Last 10 Years”

Second Wave of Short Fiction

Last week, I finished listening to or reading the rest of the short fiction I had earmarked for perusal before end of year in a previous post. I’m very grateful to the podcasts of various SFF magazines that fit perfectly into my daily commute. Many of the authors below are new to me. Only Aliette de Bodard, KJ Parker and Sarah Pinsker have I read previously.

December 16th I listened to “Portrait of the Artist” by KJ Parker (3.5-4 stars) published in a special double-issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. After dinner I read “The Imaginary Palace of the Winter King” by Sarah Tolmie (3.5-4 stars) from the February 2019 edition of Strange Horizons. “Winter King” was also available via a podcast but I felt like reading the ebook edition I receive as a Patreon of that magazine.

Continue reading “Second Wave of Short Fiction”

End of Year Short Fiction Dash

Last week I wrote about my annual reading goal, which got me thinking about all the science fiction and fantasy magazines and podcasts I subscribe to. I support two at Patreon: Uncanny and Strange Horizons. I follow several more via my Podcast Addict app on my phone: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Escape Pod, Lightspeed and Podcastle. My Patreon magazines also have audio podcasts of select stories.

Most of the year, I’m heads down in full length books and novels. Only when I reach December, when my book clubs take a break for the holidays, do I come up for air enough to review any novellas or novelettes published in any of the magazines listed above. So I spent some time earlier this week, scrolling back through my Patreon posts to find all the ebooks I forgot to download for Uncanny and Strange Horizons. Then I scrolled through all the podcast episodes for authors I liked or had heard of for any works at least 40 minutes long (the length of half of my daily commute). I added several to my playlist and downloaded the ebooks to my tablet. My commute and lunch time reading was taken care of for the entire week.

Last Sunday, I read “A Time to Reap” by Elizabeth Bear (published in Issue 29 over the summer) and gave it four stars. At lunch on Monday, I read “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye” by Sarah Pinsker (published in Issue 31 very recently) and didn’t like it quite as much as Bear’s story, so gave it a 3.5-4 star rating.

Continue reading “End of Year Short Fiction Dash”

Reading the 1944 Retro Hugo Finalists

My reading list for the next several weeks, thanks to the recently announced finalists for the Retrospective Hugo Awards.  Or rather I should say my scavenger hunt because finding some of these stories will be challenging.

Update 7/4/2019: Happy Independence Day!  I’m several steps closer to completing my Hugo finalist reading.  See below for specific updates.

Update 6/19/2019:  The last push through the Best Novel nominees.  Listening (and a re-read) of Perelandra and reading ebook of Earth’s Last Citadel currently.  That leaves just Conjure Wife remaining.  I’m going to abandon The Glass Bead Game as I found it cloyingly philosophical.

Update 4/28/2019:  Finished ‘We Print the Truth’ and loved it.

Update 4/27/2019:  This week I finished ‘Proud Robot’ and a few hours of The Glass Bead Game (putting that on hold for now); started ‘We Print the Truth’ by Boucher and The Weapon Makers by Vogt.

Update 4/19/2019: Finished reading ‘Attitude’ this morning and finished ‘Citadel of Lost Ships’ yesterday.  Now reading ‘Proud Robot’ by Kuttner/Moore and listening to The Glass Bead Game by Hesse.

Update 4/13/2019:  Finished the short story category today.  Also started the “Clash by Night” novella.

Update 4/9/2019: Back at the office today so I’ll be switching gears from printed editions to one of the ebook anthologies I already own, probably one of the novelette finalists.

Update 4/8/2019:  My goal today is to finish the Short Story category and rank for voting.  (4:30 PM) Two out of three read.

Update 4/6/2019:  Scavenger Hunt Complete and Successful.  I have found readable reproductions of all finalists.  Let the reading commence or continue!

The finalists for the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Awards are:

Best Novel

  • Conjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (Unknown Worlds, April 1943)
  • Earth’s Last Citadel, by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner (Argosy, April 1943) †
    • Read 6/21/2019; 3.5-4 stars
  • Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (Astounding Science-Fiction, May-July 1943)
  • Das Glasperlenspiel [The Glass Bead Game], by Hermann Hesse (Fretz & Wasmuth)
  • Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis (John Lane, The Bodley Head)
    • I’ve read this previously at least twice.  If time allows, I will re-read.
    • Read 6/25/2019; 3.5-4 stars
  • The Weapon Makers, by A.E. van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction, February-April 1943)
    • Requested interlibrary loan via LCL 4/3/2019
    • Purchased as an ebook 4/6/2019
    • ILL checked out 4/18/2019
    • Read 5/13/2019; 2-2.5 stars (meh)

Best Novella

  • “Attitude,” by Hal Clement (Astounding Science-Fiction, September 1943)
    • Found in the Music of Many Spheres anthology
    • Placed hold via KCPL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from KCPL 4/5/2019
    • Read 4/19/2019 Excellent hard science fiction first contact SF story.  Better than the previous year’s debut short story ‘Proof’ by Clement.  (4-4.5 stars)
  • “Clash by Night,” by Lawrence O’Donnell (Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore) (Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/14/2019 (3.5-4 stars)
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” by H.P. Lovecraft, (Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Arkham House)
    • Found in Necronomicon anthology
    • Placed on hold via LCL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from LCL 4/8/2019
    • Renewed 4/27/2019
    • Reading but on hold 6/19/2019; still on hold 7/4/2019 (but I’ll probably finish this over the long weekend)
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Reynal & Hitchcock)
    • Available as an ebook through Hoopla
    • Not planning on reading this.
  • The Magic Bed-Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons, by Mary Norton (Hyperion Press)
  • “We Print the Truth,” by Anthony Boucher (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1943)
    • Found in the Compleat Boucher anthology
    • Requested interlibrary loan via LCL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from LCL 4/20/2019 (due back 5/4/2019)
    • Read 4/28/2019 A very good (possibly great) story in the ‘what if’ SF QA grand tradition. I could snarkily summarize without spoiler with ‘A priest, an atheist and an agnostic walk into a bar . . .’ and I’d be nearly spot on. This is the second novella I’ve read by Boucher and he does not disappoint. (4-4.5 stars)

Best Novelette

  • “Citadel of Lost Ships,” by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, March 1943) †
    • Purchased Swamps of Venus ebook anthology from Baen 4/3/2019
      • Read 4/18/2019 an action/adventure story that just happened to take place on or around a fantastical Venus. (3 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 5
  • “The Halfling,” by Leigh Brackett (Astonishing Stories, February 1943) ∞
      • Read 4/2-3/2019; Started out strange and slow but last third compelling (3-3.5 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 4
  • Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” by Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943) ∞ †
      • Read 4/3/2019; Insiduously chilling for parents of very young children (4-4.5 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 1
  • The Proud Robot,” by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943) ∞ †
      • Read 4/20/2019 (3.5 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 3
  • “Symbiotica,” by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1943) ∞
      • Read 4/6/2019; Impressed by Russell’s writing, read like an action-adventure-comedy screenplay (4 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 2
  • “Thieves’ House,” by Fritz Leiber, Jr (Unknown Worlds, February 1943) †
    • Already own the ebook anthology Swords Against Death, which contains this story
    • Currently reading ebook 7/4/2019

Best Short Story

  • “Death Sentence,” by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1943)
  • “Doorway into Time,” by C.L. Moore (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, September 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/8/2019; Compelling, imaginative, disturbing (3.5-4 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 1
  • “Exile,” by Edmond Hamilton (Super Science Stories, May 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/5/2019; This story is short but impactful (3.5-4 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 2
  • “King of the Gray Spaces” (“R is for Rocket”), by Ray Bradbury (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, December 1943)
    • Found in Classic Stories 1 anthology
    • Placed hold at KCPL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from KCPL 4/5/2019
    • Read 4/8/2019; A nice coming-of-age for boys story involving rockets (every kid wants to grow up to be an astronaut). (3.5-4 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 3
  • “Q.U.R.,” by H.H. Holmes (Anthony Boucher) (Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/4/2019; meh, okay, nothing Earth-shattering (3 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 6
  • “Yours Truly – Jack the Ripper,” by Robert Bloch (Weird Tales, July 1943)
    • Found in The Big Book of Jack the Ripper anthology
    • Placed hold at JCPL 4/3/2019
    • Hold available for pickup 4/5/2019
    • Checked out on 4/5/2019
    • Read 4/13/2019; Liked it enough to read the very next story in this anthology, also by Bloch. (3.5 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 4

∞ † ∞

In anticipation of this list and some previous research, I have been purchasing ebook anthologies for C.L. Moore and Henry Kutner as well as requesting via interlibrary loan Asimov’s The Golden Years of Science Fiction Third Series anthology (for works published in 1943/1944) which contains many of the nominated finalists above (indicated by the infinity symbol [∞] above).  If I’ve purchased the ebook, the dagger symbol [†] will be used in the finalist list above.

The rest I’ll have to research using Internet Science Fiction Database (ISFDB) web site.  Earlier this year I created an account there in anticipation of nominations and finalist reading research.  Conveniently, there’s already a page with links to all the finalists found here.

As I find the anthologies or inexpensive ebooks to purchase, I will update the list above to indicate the status of my scavenger hunt.  Meanwhile, I’ll be reading the stories I already have in my hot little hand thanks to my planning and forethought.

 

More on Mass Market Paperbacks aka One Book That Ruled Them All

I just checked my email and received an eblast from Tor.Com (one of my favorite publishers) which included the article below, which expands on my less-well-researched post from yesterday.

 

ONE BOOK TO RULE THEM ALL

How The Lord of the Rings Changed Publishing Forever

Last week marked the anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday, prompting Alan Brown to take a look back at the 1965 Ballantine paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, which ushered in a new age for both Middle-earth and the publishing industry—and, of course, helped changed the lives of generations of fans in the process.

[Read more]

Book Review: Meditations on Middle-Earth (4 stars)

Meditations on Middle-Earth

Edited by Karen Haber ♦ Illustrated by John Howe

Essays by Various Authors (see highlights below)

First Edition Published: 2001

Read in January 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Excerpt from St. Martin’s Press Synopsis:

In Meditations on Middle-earth, sixteen bestselling fantasy authors share details of their personal relationships with Tolkien’s mythos, for it inspired them all. Had there been no Lord of the Rings, there would also have been no Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin; no Song of Ice and Fire saga from George R. R. Martin; no Tales of Discworld from Terry Pratchett; no Legends of Alvin Maker from Orson Scott Card. Each of them was influenced by the master mythmaker, and now each reveals the nature of that influence and their personal relationships with the greatest fantasy novels ever written in the English language.

If you’ve never read the Tolkien books, read these essays and discover the depth and beauty of his work. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, the candid comments of these modern mythmakers will give you new insight into the subtlety, power, and majesty of Tolkien’s tales and how he told them.

Meditations on Middle-Earth is a 2002 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Related Work.

My Favorite Essays

If you read only one or two of these essays, I highly recommend Michael Swanwick’s “A Changeling Returns” and Donald A. Anderson’s “Tolkien After All These Years” – both of which brought tears to my eyes for very different reasons.  The latter also added to my TBR by referencing many non-fiction titles not yet gracing my shelves.

“What he [Sean] heard was the same book I had discovered that sleepless night . . . the single best adventure story every written.  As an adult, however, I found that during my long absence it had transformed itself into something else entirely.  It was now the saddest book in the world.”

Michael Swanwick, “A Changeling Returns” p. 35

“From experience, Tolkien knew that there are only two possible responses to the ending of an age.  You can try to hold on, or you can let go. … Tolkien’s vision of the combined horrors of the twentieth century ended with hope and forgiveness.  This is a book of sad wisdom.”

Michael Swanwick, “A Changeling Returns” p.36-7

Continue reading “Book Review: Meditations on Middle-Earth (4 stars)”

Four Decades of Fellowship

The Fellowship of the Ring

Part One of The Lord of the Rings

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Read in late 1976 or early 1977

Rating:  Five Stars

Review originally published at GoodReads

1976 Ballantine Fantasy Mass-Market Paperback Edition (well read condition with some interior handwritten remarks)

This battered well-read edition of The Fellowship of the Ring still stands on my book shelf, amidst it’s younger, better bound, brother editions. While reading essays contained in Meditations on Middle-Earth, it struck me that nearly all of these authors (many of whom I’ve read and enjoyed their own authorial subcreations), enjoyed a similar life-altering reading experience at about the same point in time as myself.

To confirm my theory (and increasingly dim memory of my life four decades ago), I pulled this paperback off the shelf and became immediately distracted by the notes written to me by my friends on the backside of the covers. No one signed their epigraphs, but I can still decipher the handwriting and put faces to scrawlings. But back to my original quest: The actual publication date of this mass market paperback (also confirmed here at GoodReads): 1976

If I acquired this edition that year, and read it then (which I have no doubt I did), I would have been either 11 or 12 years old (depending on the time of year; my birthday occurs in early October). If I received this edition (and their companions) in the following year (1977) the oldest I would have been reading it would have been 13. But I remember reading Lord Foul’s Bane in paperback (published mid-1978) after reading Tolkien’s masterpiece, so I’m reasonably confident I was either twelve or thirteen when I first visited Middle-Earth. Continue reading “Four Decades of Fellowship”

My Reading Recap for 2018

Best Book(s) read in 2018:  The Murderbot Diaries (all of them) by Martha Wells

Best Short Fiction: The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata

Best Tome: Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright

Best Tolkien* Book: The Fall of Gondolin

Best Non-FictionNever Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

I read one hundred and four (104) books of varying length in 2018.  The longest book award goes to Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer (1,248 pages) but at least it was an ebook. The second longest book was only available in print and, at 1,013 pages, Islandia by Wright was heavy reading. Continue reading “My Reading Recap for 2018”

Returning to Tolkien Depths

For the past eighteen months, the Void that is my job, sucked all my spare time and forced me to back-burner several personal projects, including a deep dive into all things Tolkien.  Back in May of 2017, I had just discovered the local chapter of the Tolkien Society, the Smial of the Withywindle.  Oddly, they were finishing up their group read of Dune by Herbert, which I had also recently re-read via an excellent audiobook edition.  Over that summer, we read The Tolkien Reader and Tree and Leaf.  I threw in Humphrey’s J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography for good measure.  I kept up with our other group readings, but the work project increasingly encroached on my reading time.  I also didn’t let my employment interfere with our inaugural MiddleMoot on October 6, 2018.

20181027_080058

Within a week, I will have reached the final milestone of my epic project and can return to a somewhat slower pace at work.  And not a moment too soon, since the Tolkien Society of Kansas City is also doing a ‘deep dive’ into The Lord of the Rings by reading, concurrently, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the Shadow.  For the first month (November), our plan is to read the first four chapters of each book and discuss it at our next meeting on November 30th. Continue reading “Returning to Tolkien Depths”