And Hnau For Something Completely Different . . .

I only had three chapters to read last week in Out of the Silent Planet. I should have listened closer or reread it in the print edition because the discussion covered things that hadn’t occurred to me. But that’s the fun of taking a class like this. Digging deeper and looking at the story from different perspectives.


Waiting for Corey to Join the Webinar

Joined webinar at 8:53 PM 

Waiting . . . 8:57 PM 

Still waiting . . . 9:05 PM 

Webinar started at 9:06 PM 

Now waiting on Corey . . . 9:08 PM 

Still no Corey . . . 9:10 PM 

Now starting 9:11 PM 

33 people attending 


YouTube: Out of the Silent Planet: Session 4- All the Hnau Now Crowd Around 


Week 4 

Read: Chapter 16-18 

Date: January 29, 2020 

Welcome back to Mythgard Academy Session 4 of Out of the Silent Planet 

Announcements about regional Moots and MythMoot (four day annual event).  This week we announced Verlyn Flieger will be joining MythMoot.  New Book Arthurian Voices (book release party) and wrote a play called “The Bargain” inspired by Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (14th century poem).  Corey might be the Green Knight.   

New registration page (pretty bare bones right now).  A custom system written for Signum University. Shifting away from an expensive third-party software.  Don’t be alarmed.   


Corey recaps and sums up from last week.  Let’s see what happens when Ransom starts to encounter the other species.

    Continue reading “And Hnau For Something Completely Different . . .”

Reorienting Ransom

I meant to post my notes from last Wednesday’s second week of the Out of the Silent Planet class but work life got very hectic and then I spent most of my last three day weekend until Memorial Day playing Aardwolf. I will do better this week, I promise – notes posted by end of week at the latest.

And I discovered a feature of GoToWebinar too late, at the end of the second session, that allows me to save the current slide as an image. Going forward, I’ll capture each slide so my notes make more sense to myself and others. Of course, I always include a link to the video of the session that’s published within a day or two by Signum University (see link above or click here).


Week 2 

Read: Chapters 6-10 

 Date: January 15, 2020 

8:53 PM ~ Joined webinar, organizer has not arrived.   

9:02 AM – Webinar started, but we’re holding.   

9:07 PM – Broadcast started; 41 attendees, 1 presenter 

Announcements:   
Two moots in February 
Spring Semester started at Signum U.   
Continue reading “Reorienting Ransom”

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”

Book Review: The Future is Female!

The Future is Female! cover

The Future is Female!

Edited by Lisa Yaszek

Read between November 12 and 24, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (Average Rating: 3.69)

Anthology Contents (courtesy ISFDB)


My Thoughts

Earlier this year I listened to an interview of the editor, Lisa Yaszek, via a Wired Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (Episode 346), and I immediately added The Future is Female! to my TBR shelf. Months passed and I remembered to check the catalogs of the various libraries I patronize (recently increased to six cards with a trip to Lawrence last month). I was also recently challenged to increase the print materials circulation statistics of my closest library branch. A happy miracle occurred when I found The Future is Female! in the catalog of the Kansas City Public Library. A hold was placed and a few days later all eight requests, including this one, arrived at the Plaza branch for easy (translate that two ‘why did I forget my large tote bag at home?’) pickup.

I like reading anthologies; they are a great break for my usual longer epics. I can read a story or two a day, when I get up over my morning breakfast tea, or right before bedtime. Weekends, of course, I could squeeze in more stories. When I read a short story anthology, I post a GoodReads status update as soon as I finish it with a rating and any comments I have upon completion. Here’s an example status posted about “Space Episode” earlier this month:

Finished “Space Episode” (1941) by Leslie Perri (4 stars – very short but very impactful, almost gut wrenching) and “That Only a Mother” (1948) by Judith Merril (3 stars) — Nov 13, 2019 05:57PM

Jon Moss is on page 100 of 531

My Favorite Things

In the Contents listed above (thanks to the great community of editors at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB), I have added my rating in parenthesis with bold emphasis.

My top five stories from this anthology are:

  • C.L. Moore’s “The Black God’s Kiss(sword & sorcery & horror & adventure)
  • Baby, You Were Great” by Kate Wilhelm (this one really gets in your head, literally).
  • Andre Norton’s “All Cats Are Grey(space opera-ish but some hard SF)
  • Space Episode” by Leslie Perri (hard SF but with heart like only a woman can write it and experience it)
  • And a tie between Joanna Russ’ “The Barbarian(a nod to C.L. Moore’s Jirel with Russ’ Alyx – so more sword & sorcery & adventure but with some SF elements) and Doris Pitkin Buck’s “The Birth of a Gardener(beautiful hard SF – again as only a woman can relate it).

I had previously read “The Black God’s Kiss” and “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” (by Tiptree). Surprisingly, the latter did not hold up as well to a second read. It had shock value (sort of) the first time I read it, but the luster was gone on a re-read. I was also disappointed in the last story included in the anthology by le Guin. Again, it was probably groundbreaking at the time, but just didn’t wow me like some of her work does.

Some of these stories were my first exposures to the writings of these women. But many of them I have read numerous books by. I’ve read all of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels and short stories. I’ve read most of Ursula K. le Guin’s novels – Earthsea, of course, but also many of her famous science fiction novels. I’ve read most of C.L. Moore’s fiction, at least what I can get my hands on. Also Leigh Brackett, but I like her work less than CLM’s writing, which is very hard to put down. Another one I try to read but is often hit-or-miss for me is James Tiptree, Jr.

I’ve read a few novels by Andre Norton, but since I don’t care of young adult fiction, I skip most of her canon. Kate Wilhelm I discovered last year, listening to her only science fiction novel Where the Late Spring Birds Sing. I found that book thanks to a recommendation I found in a review by Jo Walton of a book on clones (Never Let Me Go) I was reading for one of my many book clubs.

Ad Astra Per Aspera

I read most of the biographical notes and found that at the time of publication, three of these amazing authors were still alive. However, upon closer examination this morning, it grieves me to relate that Carol Emshwiller, author if the intriguing “Pelt” tale, passed away on February 2, 2019. Katherine Maclean, author of “Contagion,” very recently passed on September 1, 2019. Which leaves Juanita Coulson (pseudonym John Jay Wells above on the story “Another Rib” co-authored with Marion Zimmer Bradley) as the last woman standing from this august company of pioneers.

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”

Postcards from the Edge of Islandia

The second third of Islandia suffered middle book syndrome even though it’s not actually a middle book.  Yet it is the middle of this book.  The first third had elements of a travelogue, a natural history explorer, a diplomat and unrequited love.  The second half included the climax of the diplomatic crisis but replaced unrequited love with a rebound romance and the consequences of isolationism.  The protagonist’s predicament becomes more interesting and intriguing as he begins the return journey back from the brink of near total Islandiaic immersion or immolation.

 

 

***

 

Dorna, I had a marvelous visit with Natanna and the Hyths on my way back to The City. Yet I pine for the beauty of Dorn Island.  You have encouraged me to avail myself of all my opportunities.  Warmest regards, John (Ch. 16, The Hyths and The City)

 

Continue reading “Postcards from the Edge of Islandia”

Field Notes from My Retro Utopian Adventure

I’m in the final phase of my Hugo finalist reading, concentrating on the Best Novel category.  In the right-hand panel of my blog, you’ll find my “Currently Reading” widget which is just the RSS feed for my GoodReads status updates.  Three of the four books I’m currently actively reading are finalists.  I’m listening, or attempting to listen despite major shortcomings of the Axis 360 app, to Ann Leckie’s Provenance.  When I get too frustrated with listening, I switch to the ebook edition.  Last night and this morning, I’ve been powering through the middle of Raven Stratagem.  Earlier this week and most of last weekend, I immersed myself in the 1943 Best Novel finalist Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright.

I wish there existed a well researched biography of Mr. Wright, aside from the few paragraphs found in his Wikipedia entry.  His immediate family alone would make for an interesting read as well: “He was the son of classical scholar John Henry Wright and novelist Mary Tappan Wright, the brother of geographer John Kirtland Wright, and the grandfather of editor Tappan Wright King.” (Wikipedia).  Continue reading “Field Notes from My Retro Utopian Adventure”

Unexpected Heart-Pounding Action-Adventure in Under 7,500 Words

I seem to have left the best for last in my Retro Hugo short fiction reading.  This morning, I started reading and could not stop reading “The Sunken Land” by Fritz Leiber.  His writing took me back to the days when I immersed myself in the writings of Robert E. Howard. And once I reviewed his mini-biography at Wikipedia, I understood why I felt that affinity: “With writers such as Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Leiber can be regarded as one of the fathers of sword and sorcery fantasy, having coined the term.”

The Sunken Land” pulled me along for a ride with Fafhrd, leaving the Grey Mouser as a bookend to the story.  Leiber used a very active voice that left you no time to catch your breath from the first inhalation to the last gasp.

This leaves me with something of a dilemma in deciding which 1942 short story gets my top vote for the Retro Hugo Award.  I haven’t yet reread Asimov’s “Runaround” but I remember it being very good.  I will listen to it next week as an audiobook.  Before I read “The Sunken Land” by Leiber, I had planned on ranking “Runaround” as my first choice.  Then there’s also Clement’s hard science-fiction story “Proof,” which I read yesterday and ranked second after Asimov’s entry.  Both Asimov and Clement are the traditional science fiction types that are most often associated with a Hugo Award.  But my first love is fantasy and Leiber knows how to write a gripping tale.  I will have to ponder my vote and you will have to wait and find out until after I re-read the classic robot logic problem that is “Runaround.”

 

Reading the Best Novelette Finalists (2018 & 1943)

I predict it will take me longer to get through the Best Novelette category than any of the other short fiction categories.  Most modern novellas and some of the short stories are available in audio format.  Thanks to Heinlein’s continued popularity, most of his fiction is still in print and some of it, including “Goldfish Bowl,” has been re-released in an anthology that is also available as an audiobook.  The same can be said for Asimov’s Foundation fiction, which I own in ebook format but have requested the audio CD from my local library.

Another of my interlibrary loan requests arrived last week so I have everything I need to finish reading the finalists for Best Novelette.  I’m especially looking forward to reading the lone female author from 1942, C.L. Moore and do plan on reading the entire anthology žMiracle in Three Dimensions, which contains the nominated “There Shall Be Darkness” novelette (see original cover from Astounding Science Fiction below).

  • Update 4/17/2018:  Finished reading ‘Extracurricular Activities’ over breakfast this morning.
  • Update 4/27/2018:  This week I finished “The Secret Life of Bots” and “The Weapon Shop” and I’m reading “Star-Mouse” sporadically.
  • Update 4/28/2018:  Finished “Star-Mouse” which leaves one modern and one retro novelette to read.
  • Update 5/6/2018: Finished “There Shall Be Darkness” and on of the two Asimov Foundation novelettes.
  • Update 5/25/2018:  Finished the last 2018 novelette last week.

Continue reading “Reading the Best Novelette Finalists (2018 & 1943)”