[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Over at Inverse, writer Ryan Britt is annoyed that two of his favorite science fiction books of the year, Death’s End by Cixin Liu, and Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey, are not on the Nebula list of nominees for Best Novel. His argument for both basically boils down to they’re both amazing so they should be obvious nominees, obviously, which to be fair is the same general argument anyone makes when they complain about something they love getting what they perceive to be a snub for whatever award they think the thing the love should be up for.

Not to single Britt out — his is merely the complaint about this I’ve seen today, not the sole complaint out there — but to serve as a reminder, as we head fully into science fiction awards season: There’s no such thing as an automatic award nomination for anything, no matter how good you think that thing is. If you think there is, you’ll be finding yourself frequently outraged for no particularly good or useful reason.

Likewise, a thing you love not being on an award ballot doesn’t mean it was “snubbed”. “Snubbing” here basically means someone (or in this case more than one someone) actively going out of their way to keep a thing off the ballot, i.e., something along the lines of “I hate this novel and/or author so much I will instead recommend a different and possibly inferior book and encourage all my friends to do so as well.” It’s pretty much 100% certain this didn’t happen here; instead, people just voted for the novels they preferred, and preferred other books.

But Death’s End and Babylon’s Ashes were good books! Indeed they were. But there were five Best Novel slots available on this year’s Nebula ballot and dozens of SF/F novels (at least!) of sufficient quality to make the ballot. The two novels that Britt points out are only a couple of the novels that could have been on the ballot, from the perspective of quality, but aren’t. There — thankfully — always more good SF/F novels in a year than may fit on a Nebula ballot.

And not just novels but novellas, novelettes, short stories, YA novels and screenplays, those being categories that SFWA awards annually. I mean, let me use me as an example: My novella The Dispatcher was eligible for the Novella category this year. It was very well reviewed, had a huge audience, and is already up for other awards. I’m a well-known and (mostly) liked science fiction writer, and former president of SFWA, so I’m also familiar to the folks who nominate for the Nebula. The Dispatcher should be a shoo-in for a nomination, yes? Yes! I say yes! A thousand times!

But — surprise! — it’s nowhere on the Nebula novella ballot. Is this a snub? I mean, maybe — perhaps malign forces at SFWA aligned against me simply because of who I am — but the far more reasonable and likely correct answer is: The people who nominated for the Nebula awards this year simply decided on other novellas instead. There were many fine novellas this year, and the Nebula ballot reflects this, as all the novellas on it are eminently worth award consideration. I don’t consider my not being on the Nebula ballot a snub. It consider it a sign that it’s a really competitive year, with many excellent things to read. As a reader of the genre, and as a professional who wants the field to thrive, I really can’t complain.

I think it’s perfectly fine to champion books and stories and to be disappointed when people nominating for awards don’t have the same enthusiasm for them, in aggregate, as you do. But remember when that happens, it’s almost always not a “snub” of the thing you love, but rather an affirmation of the things the other person loves, and probably without reference to the thing you are championing. It’s a good perspective to have, in my opinion.


[syndicated profile] foodpolitics_feed

Posted by Marion

The Environmental Working Group and Food Policy Action are trying to get a head start on the upcoming Farm Bill.  Their new initiative: Plate of the Union.

This has four objectives:

  • Stop taxpayer subsidies going to Big Ag polluters – instead, invest in healthier farms.
  • Protect and improve vital anti-hunger programs.
  • Increase federal investments in organic agriculture.
  • Expand federal programs to revitalize land and reduce food waste.

These are critically important goals.  Everyone who cares about food needs to understand the farm bill and what it does.

But how to achieve them?

I’d like to know the action plan.  Stay tuned.

 

nancylebov: (green leaves)
[personal profile] nancylebov
Richard Stallman ordered a button from me-- the top half had blue writing on white which said BLUE LIES MATTER*, the bottom half had black writing on yellow "Prosecute Perjury", and the whole thing had a red ring around the edge to make it more eye-catching.

What could possibly go wrong?

He wore it to Boskone, and several people saw it as being about lies from Democrats.

I considered redoing it with "Prosecute Police Perjury". However, most police lies aren't in court and therefore aren't perjury.

Please discuss this at DW/LJ, not on Facebook.


*read it carefully, there's a gotcha

Ok, today's another day.

Feb. 23rd, 2017 10:48 am
feng_shui_house: me at my computer (Default)
[personal profile] feng_shui_house
Weather looks good & innards seem to have settled & hip is only faintly cool/burny, which will probably improve if I get up and move around.

So called taxi & he says he'll be here in about 15 min. Time enough for a quick post. ;^)

Roostery (uses Spoonflower designs to make custom home furnishings) now offers wallpaper. I should go back to studying the CooperHewitt antique wallpapers, the high-res ones often have very good ideas for texture layerings- serpentine, criss cross, boxes, spaced groups of dots, etc. that all add interest to the featured motifs above.

and HAH! One of my designs is included in the 3 pages of featured wallpapers (out of the many thousands of available designs.) I am chuffed.

www.roostery.com/p/isobar-wallpaper/4566770-animals-jigsaw-white-by-eclectic_house

Ok, pulling the plug on the computer now. Wish me luck, I'm facing the wilds of Hellholeah.

(no subject)

Feb. 23rd, 2017 09:33 am
telophase: (Default)
[personal profile] telophase
I'm feeling vaguely guilty for just saying "Thanks!" and nothing else on the knitting suggestions but really, that post's for Toby. I just wanted y'all to know I was reading it and appreciated the suggestions. :)

I have also notified Toby of the existence of Meow Yarn, yarn dyed to resemble cat fur colors, and told him when he gets good enough I want something knitted from one of those. Notifying my mother, a weaver, of its existence has not produced anything yet so I am now dependent on my husband. XD

Thoughts on Reactive Systems

Feb. 23rd, 2017 10:04 am
jducoeur: (Default)
[personal profile] jducoeur

This one's just for the programmers/architects, and mainly for the experienced ones: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Building Reactive Systems.

The more you're used to building traditional Tomcat-plus-RDBMS applications, the weirder you're going to find this, but it's well worth reading and absorbing. It describes a few of the assumptions underlying modern, scalable, so-called "reactive" architectures, each of which gores one of the traditional sacred cows you're probably used to. What it all boils down to is that it's entirely possible to build seriously efficient, seriously scalable online services -- you just have to change a lot of well-worn habits.

(Querki is built around all of this stuff, except that I still have some blocking I/O in the MySQL code; replacing that with a better approach such as Slick is becoming an increasingly high priority.)

And this reminds me: among other things, it links to the paper Life Beyond Distributed Transactions. If you're playing at the Senior Software Engineer or above level, this is one of the most important papers of recent years, and you should read it if you haven't already done so. It was the paper that finally demonstrated that the emperor has no clothes: that the traditional transaction-oriented model of data processing doesn't scale well, and that you need better approaches if you're going to compete in the modern world.

For all that it calls itself "An Apostate's Opinion", it has become something like the new gospel. It has inspired enormous ferment and evolution over the past decade, and led to radically new architectures (such as the event-sourced approach that Querki is now mostly built on). If you are doing architecture for systems that are intended to scale, you need to understand this stuff in order to understand how the industry is evolving...

Impact Effect

Feb. 23rd, 2017 02:34 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

I recently saw a list of revisions suggested by the editor of a scientific journal, which combined technical issues with a number of points of English usage, including these two:

Please try to avoid the word ‘impact,’ unless it is part of a proper name.  It is now over-used (its ‘impact’ is diminished), and doesn’t communicate anything specific.  If used as a verb, it is better to describe exactly what happens.  As a noun, ‘effect’ (or similar) would suffice.  For example, “The impact on quality of life…” could be rendered as “The reduction in quality of life…” […]

Be clear and direct; avoid the passive voice.

This is an interesting mixture of different types of usage peeving.

The "avoid passive" business is a old stylistic concern that we've often discussed, for example in "Passive aggression", 7/18/2006.  Interestingly, those who are strongest in condemning the passive voice are often its most vigorous users. Thus Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage quotes Margaret Bryant, Current American Usage, 1962 (p. 720):

Bryant 1962 reports three statistical studies of passive versus active sentences in various periodicals; the highest incidence of passive constructions was 13 percent. Orwell runs to a little over 20 percent in "Politics and the English Language."

The incidence of passive versus active verbs in the editorial note under discussion is 50%. (See also "Those who take the adjectives from the table", 2/18/2004.)

But anti-passive campaigning doesn't seem be a response to changes in usage — if anything, the opposite is true, as suggested in "When men were men, and verbs were passive", 8/4/2006. And most people, including some of the anti-passive authorities, are not very clear about what passive voice actually is, as discussed in "The passive in English", 1/24/2011. So what is the psychodynamics of anti-passivity? Apparently it's just a vague sense that active is good and passive is bad —  metaphorical generalization of an accident of historical word-sense development. (See "The direct and vigorous hyptic voice", 8/5/2006, for a sketch of alternative history.)

The objection to impact is different. People who object to the alleged over-use or wrong use of a particular word do really avoid such usage themselves, in general. And most such objections react to a historical usage shift on the scale of 50 years or so. Certainly this is the case for impact, as measured crudely by frequency in the Medline corpus of biomedical abstracts:

A table of the numbers behind those graphs is here.

And we can see something similar in Google Books (vertical black line at 1974 when Medline starts):

The table of numbers is here.

MWDEU says about impact:

This word comes in for adverse criticism both as a noun and as a verb in figurative use. The criticism is relatively recent, beginning evidently in the 1960s with Bernstein 1965, Fowler 1965, and Follett 1966. These three (and also Bremner 1980) are concerned with the noun; later writers take up the cudgels against the verb. The gist of most of the criticism is fairly well summed up in this portion of the discussion in Cook 1985:

impact A word fit to describe the crash of a wrecker's ball against its target, impact has become a substitute for bearing, influence, significance, and effect. It's so overworked in officalese and journalese that the more appropriate terms are falling into disuse. Both Follett and Bernstein have harsh words for this "faddish" abasement of the noun. How much more horrified they might have been had they lived to see the current vogue of the verb impact in the sense of "to have an impact" or "to have an impact on" (Loose usage adversely impacts the language).

The graphs above suggest that the mid-60s usage mavens were bidding the impact tide retreat when it was merely swirling around their ankles. The disapproving editor in 2017 is …

Well, a journal is free to insist on any arbitrary style guide.Every paragraph have an prime number of commas? Sure, if you say so.

Update — I'm also puzzled about the concessive clause "unless it [the word 'impact'] is part of a proper name", since I can't think of any relevant proper names containing "impact". A personal name? Unlikely. A place name? Probably not. A business name? The USPTO lists 4079 trademarks involving some form of the word "impact", but a quick scan doesn't turn up any that seem likely to be mentioned in a scientific article. What am I missing?

Update #2 — a quick scan of Medline results turns up things like the "Arthritis Impact Measurement Scale" and the "Center for High-Impact Philanthropy", for which relevant mentions would get a pass.

 

 

interrupted!

Feb. 23rd, 2017 10:01 am
cellio: (don't panic)
[personal profile] cellio
XKCD on carrying spare phone battery to never be disconnected

I disbelieve. How is he going to maintain connectivity while changing the battery? That takes a couple minutes (including the reboot time). He needs a whole spare phone!
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
Mexico will not take deportees dumped over the border. And it is their right to do this -- but what will happen to the thousands of people whose lives are in question? The deportation policy that ICE is enforcing is an assault on basic American values. It is about as unAmerican as it could be.

The Occupation has rescinded the access to appropriate bathrooms that Obama guaranteed for transgender people.

***

Standing Rock camp closes.

***

The five Trump administrations -- entertainment, cleanup, crazy, GOP, and essential -- and the perils of Potemkin democracy. And let's not forget poorly thought out economics.

***

The folly of abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts.

What Facebook owes to journalism -- and what it could do to support good reporting with 1% of its profits.

***

Protesters jeer at cowardly Congressmen who don't have the guts to face their constituents. And a woman whose husband is dying confronts her Congressman: “And you want to stand there with him at home, expect us to be calm, cool, and collected? Well what kind of insurance do you have?” And that was only the start.

Democratic Senators introduce legislation to stop the deportations.

The British Parliament votes no to a state visit from Trump. The vote is emphatic but nonbinding -- he can still visit, but it won't be the whole formal deal that other presidents received.

This is the page in Congress.gov for House Bill 610, which takes away free lunches from children who need them, and turns money for public schools into vouchers for private schools, as a way to destroy public education in America. Read it. Write your Congresspeople about it. Tell them to defeat it.

US libraries become sanctuary spaces, in resistance.
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Sarah Gailey

reddress-hurley

A dress the color of ripeness, of warning, of danger, of invitation. It’s cut in a way that beckons the eye, but it skims the edge of probability—how can it stay up? What kind of woman is comfortable wearing that?

What kind of woman, indeed?

reddress-buffy-glory

The red dress is a staple of costuming. It communicates a thousand ideas at once. It draws the eye instantly — the primate brain in the skull of every viewer knows to watch for that color. It’s the color of a toadstool, the color of a berry, the rings on the coral snake and the best apple on the tree all at once. It’s tempting and alarming. “Stop,” it says, but also, “reach for me.” The canny costumer will use the red dress to alert the audience: look here.

But the red dress isn’t just a costume; it’s an archetype. When we see the red dress, we already have an idea of what we can expect from the woman inside of it.

She’s not bad; she’s just drawn that way.

reddress-jessicarabbit

It’s sexy. There’s no way around that. It’s a sexy piece. It’s form-fitting, and it’s daringly cut—sometimes so daring that it feels outright dangerous. Sometimes so daring that it’s not even flattering.

Consider Number Six from Battlestar Galactica. Her iconic red dress is stunning, architectural, sexy as all get-out, and… not terribly flattering. The bodice is cut so low as to create a sense of both suspense and confusion—it seems to not quite fit, to stay put via some technology that is beyond human comprehension. There are oddly-placed seams and cutouts that don’t quite make sense, and spaghetti straps that are not only superfluous but which, when viewed from the front, don’t appear to connect to the bodice at all. The sum of these parts is a dress that insists upon its own sensuality and upon its own architectural complexity.

In this way, the red dress is a perfect preview of the wearer.

reddress-battlestarsix

The viewer knows not to trust the woman in the red dress. The moment we see her, we know that she must be up to something. Why?

It’s the sexiness of the dress. Like the flourish of a magician’s brightest scarf, the sexiness is a blatant grab for attention. A lifetime of patriarchal indoctrination has impacted most of us thoroughly enough that we immediately distrust a woman who requests attention—especially one who requests attention using her sexuality. We’ve been taught over and over again that women who use their bodies to make money or to garner fame are morally bankrupt. We see the woman in the red dress and think: I’m being tricked.

reddress-matrix

And because the red dress is a tool drawing upon tropes that we as an audience know and love, we’re usually right. This is the part where the red dress becomes a perfect tool for a fourth-wave feminist narrative of female agency: it is a trick. It’s a simultaneous reinforcement of and a strategic use of the societal narrative of female sexuality as devilry. The woman in the red dress wears that dress because she knows that it will draw in her target, and the costumer uses the red dress because they know that it will alert the audience to the character’s moral complexity.

Because she is morally complex. She’s doing bad things, but she’s doing them for the right reasons. Or, she’s doing them for the wrong reasons, but she doesn’t care that they’re the wrong reasons because they’re her reasons. The woman in the red dress almost always has her own motives, her own goals and dreams. She is usually tied to a man, but the audience can see her chafing at that man’s ineptitude and at her own objectification at his hands. The red dress is usually ill-fitting, and that’s no accident: it is, after all, a costume.

reddress-themask

Here is the part where the red dress becomes one of the most reliable cards in a costumer’s hand. It’s incredibly meta: it’s a costume for the actor and a costume for the character. A costumer will select the red dress because of what it says to the audience; the character will select the red dress because of what it says to her fellow characters. She is an actress in a play-within-a-play, and her part is that of the sexpot.

But the woman inside of the red dress always has an ulterior motive. She will invariably reveal them in a scene that is meant to shock, but which instead tends to satisfy. She draws a snub-nosed revolver that had been tucked into her garter, or she slams her target against a wall in a choke-hold, or she leads him into an ambush. This is set up as a betrayal—but upon analysis, it becomes obvious that the woman in the red dress rarely makes promises to the men who she betrays. The promise is made by the dress itself: she lets her costume do the talking, and the man she leads to his doom always seems to listen. He follows her into the ambush, or he gives her the access codes to the security mainframe, or he signs away his soul—and then she does exactly what she always intended to do. The audience’s suspicion of her motives is rewarded: we were right all along, and we get to feel the satisfaction of knowing that the woman in the red dress is never to be trusted.

reddress-sixbaltar

So why does her target never seem to suspect what we as an audience know from the very start: that the red dress is a warning sign?

By choosing the red dress, the costumer is inviting the audience to consider that maybe the target does know. The costumer isn’t only telling us about the character who wears it—they are also telling us about the character who she will manipulate throughout the course of the story. Because everyone knows that the red dress is dangerous, and surely this character knows, too. He recognizes the danger—but he is drawn to that danger by the same instinct that draws one to stand near the crumbling edge of a cliff and look down.

His hubris, or his death-wish, or his willful ignorance: one of these will play a major role in his story. Without them, the red dress would be a simple ornament. But the woman in the red dress sees those aspects of her target’s personality, and she crafts her lure accordingly.

BEDAZZLED

The costumer who chooses the red dress is turning the first appearance of the character who wears it into a prologue: here tonight shall be presented a tale of weaponized feminine sensuality, of deception and betrayal, of hubris defeated; a tale of masculine indignation at the revelation that a woman can have an entire life’s worth of motives outside of her interactions with a male protagonist.

In this way, the costumer shows us an entire story in a single garment. It’s the story of the woman who wears it, and the story of the man she will effortlessly seduce and destroy.

It’s the story of the red dress.

riverteeth-thumbnailSarah Gailey’s fiction has appeared in Mothership Zeta and Fireside Fiction; her nonfiction has been published by Mashable and Fantasy Literature Magazine. You can see pictures of her puppy and get updates on her work by clicking here. She tweets @gaileyfrey. Watch for her debut novella, River of Teeth, from Tor.com in May of 2017.

[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Carl Engle-Laird

Art by by Magdalena Pagowska

Tor.com Publishing is proud to announce that we will be publishing Jane Yolen’s next book Finding Baba Yaga, a verse novel exploring the legacy of the great, iconic, Russian fairy tale witch who lives in a house in the woods that walks about on chicken feet. Finding Baba Yaga was acquired for Tor.com Publishing by Senior Editor Susan Chang in a deal facilitated by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown Ltd.

Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America,” is the author of over 350 books, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight. A graduate of Smith College, with a Masters in Education from the University of Massachusetts, she was recently named an unsung heroine of Massachusetts (though she’d say, “Hey—I’m sung!”) Her books and stories have won two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott Medal, three Golden Kite awards, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, and the Jewish Book Award, among many others. She was the first woman to give the Scottish St Andrews University’s Andrew Lang lecture since the lecture series was started in 1927 and the first writer in the Connecticut Valley to win the New England Public Radio’s Arts and Humanities Award. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates. She is a Grandmaster three times: for SFWA, SFPA, and the World Fantasy Association.  Also worthy of note, her Skylark Award—given by NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association, set her good coat on fire.

yolen2015-jason-stemple

Photo credit: Jason Stemple

Jane Yolen had this to say about the sale:

It’s been a while since I’ve had a book with Tor, and for them to take Finding Baba Yaga, which is a book of my heart, makes me doubly delighted to be back in the Tor fold. Especially since this is a difficult and special book, a verse novel, and one I’ve been thinking about for a number of years. Also I get to work with three people I both love and admire: Susan Chang, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Irene Gallo. Can’t get better than that.

Senior Editor Susan Chang had this to say about the sale:

I’ve always wanted to work with Jane Yolen. I even wrote her a fan letter back when I was an editor at Hyperion Books for Children. That was many years ago. So I am delighted beyond words to be working with Jane on her first YA novel-in-verse for Tor.com. Finding Baba Yaga is one of those magical books that feels utterly timeless—as if it already exists in a perfect universe—but we are discovering it for the first time. I can’t wait for you all to read it!

Look forward to Finding Baba Yaga in 2018.

Top image: Baba Yaga’s Chicken Leg Hut artwork by Magdalena Pagowska.

[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Alex Brown

wendig-wheretobegin

It seems like everyone’s talking about this Chuck Wendig dude. Everyone but you, that is. And that’s a damn shame because Chuck Wendig is ten shades of great. On one hand, as a guy who’s done self-publishing, traditional publishing, and digital publishing (not to mention scripts and video games), he’s written a ton of stuff so you have plenty of titles to choose from. On the other, where the hell do you even start? Ah, my friend, that’s where I come in. Sit back, relax, and let me introduce you to your new favorite author.

Chuck Wendig writes like a punch to the face. His words are visceral and pungent, his tales discomfiting and nonconforming. There’s a fevered, staccato-like quality to his text which gives a sense of urgency, both for the characters and the reader. He writes characters who reject the norm even when they secretly crave it and rage against the family and friends they need the most, all while remaining imminently relatable and recognizable. Every time it feels like things can’t get any worse, Wendig turns the screw once more. Some writers can write big action sequences that make you feel like you’re part of the chaos and some can craft moments of quiet reflection between characters that make you feel like a fly on the wall. Chuck Wendig is one of those lucky few who can do both.

It’s not schadenfreude that keeps eyes glued to the page but a desire to follow the characters to the ends of the earth. No matter how weird or dark his stories get he never sacrifices a character’s personality for shock value. Stories are built around the characters, not the other way around. Even when the action gets really heavy it’s still all about Mookie Pearl or Miriam Black or Sinjir Rath Velus, how they’ll react or reject, coerce or connive, or beg, borrow, or steal to make it through the end.

I came late to the Wendig party but better late than never. Aftermath was my gateway drug—and the book of his I recommend the most frequently—and it’s been a steep and rapid descent into his oeuvre ever since. If you need some cracking good reads, you’ll have more than enough to pick from here. The short and sweet version is Irregular Creatures for a sampling of his style, Zer0es for his best work to date, and Aftermath or Blackbirds for his most accessible. Or dig a little deeper…

 

Loners and Losers

Wendig-BlackbirdsWendig introduces Miriam Black in Blackbirds, and we’re now up to six books released or scheduled (book 4, Thunderbird, is due out February 28th), plus “Interlude: Swallows,” a short story that appeared in the Three Slices anthology. How to describe Miriam…think Faith but instead of being a slayer she has the ability to see how people die. She’s also way angrier. She thinks of her gift as a curse and reacts accordingly. In the first book she fears and hates her powers, especially when a person she unexpectedly cares about gets caught in its crossfire. Miriam is the badass female urban fantasy anti-hero you’ve been waiting for. Too bad the TV show never made it past the greenlight stage. If only AMC would pick up the tab. Pairing Miriam Black with Tulip O’Hare would make a killer Sunday night.

Looking for some updated cyberpunk? Zer0es is right up your alley, then. A gaggle of hackers are kidnapped by a mysterious group and blackmailed into hacking a range of seemingly unrelated companies and people. But once the “Zeroes” figure out how it’s all connected and who—or what—is really running the show, the chances of them making it out alive get slimmer by the day. I loved this book way more than Tor.com’s reviewer, but that’s mostly because I wasn’t put off by some of the more, ahem, hacky elements. I love it when writers turn a trope on its head, and Wendig does that here. Sure, the story’s a bit overstuffed, but the rapidfire pacing, interestingly diverse quintet, and twisting plot kept me hooked. The sequel, Invasive, is available now, too.

 

Spooks, Mooks, and Kooks

Wendig-BlueBlazesIn The Blue Blazes, Mookie Pearl brings the reader into a world where New York City is literally a Hellmouth. The Organization runs all major vice, including magic, and Mookie is one of their best enforcers. Until his rebellious daughter, Nora, kicks up trouble, that is. Corruption infiltrates the mob and as the bodies pile up Mookie and Nora are the only ones who can clean it up. If they don’t get killed by hungry goblins, venomous monsters, and vengeful gods first. For those wanting another hit of that sweet, sweet Dresden-style urban fantasy, this should satisfy. It’s a helluva lot darker and more violent than the Dresden Files, but there’s a familiar brand of gallows humor, plucky and/or two-faced sidekicks, and uncontrollable magic.

Speaking of tweaking tropes, Double Dead tackles three in one go: the post-apocalyptic road trip, vampires, and the zombie apocalypse. Coburn comes out of his vampiric hibernation to find humans overrun by a zombie plague. He hooks up with a group of survivors headed for sunny California and he becomes their muscle in exchange for a constant supply of blood. Coburn is an anti-hero with heavy emphasis on the “anti” part, and while his co-star is a teenage girl named Kayla this book is very far from YA-friendly. It’s gruesome, violent, and profane in terrible, beautiful ways. This is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you’re looking for a nice new zombie to play with, Double Dead (and the novella Bad Blood) are the way to go.

 

In Spaaaaaaaaace!

Wendig-AftermathObviously Aftermath was going to make it on this roundup, and rightfully so. Besides being a rollicking space adventure it’s tapped into something culturally broad enough for even SF dabblers to get on board. The story is set in the period shortly after the Battle of Jakku as the New Republic asserts itself and the vestiges of the Empire begins its eventual mutation into the First Order. There are space pirates, rogue warriors, morally ambiguous assassins, traitorous villains, ace pilots, tech savants, bizarro aliens, and killer robots filling out a sizzling trilogy (the second book is due out in July and the third next year). Don’t buy into the naysayers and trolls. This book drew the ire of haters mostly because two middle aged woman are the main protagonist and antagonist, a boy has a pair of lesbian aunts, and a soldier is also a gay dude. If you like Star Wars, military/space/adventure fiction, or good books in general, you’re welcome. The trilogy continues in Life Debt, and concludes with Empire’s End.

 

For the Young’uns

Wendig_ABAtlanta Burns is a YA/crime novel with fire in its belly, pun definitely intended. Atlanta is no wilting wallflower pining over a cute boy while another opposing cute boy pines over her. Atlanta is already ostracized for taking revenge against a terrible crime that’s committed against her at the opening of the book, but when she gets tangled up in a battle of bullies she has to decide once more whether or not to enact her own vigilante justice. It’s a story that assumes teens can handle some tough talk and hard themes. There’s a lot going on here including bullying, suicide, sexual assault, emotional trauma, and gun violence, but I’d argue it’s not much further afield than, say The Hunger Games or Twilight. In fact, given how deftly it shows Atlanta learning how to navigate the complexities of racism, sexism, and homophobia, it’s a better read than either of those books. I don’t believe in coddling teenagers, and while I probably wouldn’t hand it to a conservative 12-year-old I’d certainly offer it up to an older teen with a voracious reading appetite.

 

No Attention Span? No Problem!

Wendig_ICIrregular Creatures is one of my favorite of Wendig’s books. It’s a collection of short genre-y stories that, tonally speaking, fit somewhere in between Neil Gaiman’s The Little Gold Book of Ghastly Stuff and Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. Each tale is a little wacky and a whole lot weird with a spash of Twilight Zone for creepy measure.

I don’t know anything about Hyperion the superhero other than he’s basically Marvel’s knockoff version of Superman, but so far so good with Hyperion #1 (artist Nik Virella, colorist Romulo Fajardo, letterer Joe Caramagna). There’s a lot reminiscent of Blackbirds here—young woman hitchhiking away from her past, male trucker attempts a rescue and gets caught up in her shit, violence and manipulation of gender politics ensure—but with the twist of capes and supervillains.

 

Your Inner Penmonkey

Wendig_KAFor those in need of some writing advice, The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience is here. This book is perfect for people needing practical craft and publishing guidance. It steers clear of the sort of unfounded writerly advice like “write what you know” in favor of actual useful advice on how to set up a story arc, establishing and describing characters, and the arduous process of publishing. With tips like “Embrace Your Inner Moonbat” and “Theme and Character: Car Crash or Pubic Braid? You Decide!” it may be a bit hard to take him seriously, but trust me, it is chockablock with vital recommendations. As a writer working on a few novels myself, The Kick-Ass Writer lives at my desk and is practically my writing bible. And don’t forget to check out his blog at terribleminds.com for more great articles on writing and other miscellaneous topics.

 

This article was originally published in June 2016 and has been updated to include more recent titles.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

A festival of clouds

Feb. 23rd, 2017 01:45 pm
[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

cloud swirl over Morocco
0

NASA has released a lovely gallery of striking cloud formations. These are not your puffy everyday floating bags of water.

Horse (Non)Sense

Feb. 23rd, 2017 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

Momma gave us this birthday tip
Her face stern, her hand on her hip
"When serving horse cake
"With this kind of face

"Well, sonny, don't give me no lip."

***

 

Gumdrop was gloomy and tense
Her flight was one filled with suspense

With wings on one side
No physics applied
But whoever said magic makes sense?

***

 

This pony gives no end of grief
Its texture defies all belief

Missing legs, is it now?
Should we call it a cow?
Because wow does it look like ground beef.

***

 

Ted is a unicorn with sass
His friends like to say he's a gas

The life of the party
Whenever he's farty
And rainbows shoot out of his a$$

 

Thanks to Amanda L., another Amanda, Brio G., & Sarah L. for finding everyone's next birthday cake request. Take note, bakers: Rainbow-Farting Unicorns for EVERYBODY!

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

Neko Mads-sume!

Feb. 23rd, 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Mads Mikkelsen with cat-ears photoshopped onto his perfect head.

Twitterer Ruben Ferdinand brought this epoch-defining moment to our attention “Hideo Kojima just retweeted photoshops of Mads Mikkelsen with cat ears.”

Yes we would like to collect all the photoshops of Mads Mikkelsen in cat-ears. That seems like the correct use of our time, and a game that should be created post-haste.

And can we please talk about that wiener dog shirt? And how weirdly natural it is to see the extra set of kitty ears hovering just above Mads’ regular, human-type ears? Like, that shouldn’t look so natural, should it? And yet, there it is. He looks, as always, perfect.

daf bit: Bava Batra 32

Feb. 23rd, 2017 08:46 am
cellio: (talmud)
[personal profile] cellio

The g'mara on today's daf discusses two cases of disputed ownership. In the first case, a man said to another: "what are you doing on my land?" The other said "I bought it from you; here's the deed of sale". The first said it's a forgery; the second then said to Rabbah "yes it's a forgery; I had a real deed and lost it". Rabbah rules in favor of the man occupying the land, saying why would he lie? He could have claimed the deed is genuine; since he instead told us this story about having had a deed, we accept his lesser claim. But R' Yosef objected, saying it's mere clay (and he's admitted it!). Rabbah wins this round.

In the second case, a man said to another: "pay me the hundred zuz you owe me; here's the bond". The second says "that's forged". The first again told Rabbah that yes it's a forgery but he had a real one before. Rabbah again says "why would he lie?". And R' Yosef again says it's mere clay. R' Yosef wins this round.

What's the difference between the two cases? R' Idi b. Amin says in the land we follow Rabbah because we say "let the land remain in its present ownership", and in the money we follow R' Yosef because we also say "let the money remain in its present ownership". It's not about land verses money; possession, according to this g'mara, determines the outcome absent proof. (32b)

jducoeur: (Default)
[personal profile] jducoeur

Laurie Penny is a journalist who has, in recent months, been following the Milo Yiannopoulos National Crassness Tour. It's made for delicious reading: she is utterly unsympathetic to Milo, but as far as I can tell he's enjoyed having her around as a sparring partner, so she's gotten to see what the whole shit-show looks like from the inside.

Her most recent post (which I suspect may be the last in this particular series) is especially fascinating, and well worth a read. It follows the Milo story over the past few weeks -- from the Berkeley riot to Milo suddenly becoming a Conservative un-person due to finally crossing a bridge too far -- and reflects on it.

The bulk of the article is not about Milo, and that's part of what makes it so interesting. Rather, it focuses primarily on the idiot children who have been following him around -- the GamerGate-type alt-right groupies who've been treating him as some sort of prankster-god -- and how completely incapable they are of coping with a world in which their side has, for now, won. She gives a sense of who they are as people, without even slightly forgiving them for what they have done.

Along with that, she makes a point we should be remembering and echoing: that the sudden crushing of Milo lays bare the hypocrisy underneath the right wing's cloak of First Amendment rights.

Not a short article, but highly recommended. She's a fine writer and analyst, and this is a great corrective to our tendency to see the right wing as some monolithic and impregnable fortress of evil -- quite to the contrary, she shows just how fragile some of them are, and in the most terribly practical sense that's worth understanding from a tactical perspective...

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