Orbit US turns 10

Jul. 27th, 2017 03:56 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll



Over the last decade, Orbit US, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, has quickly established itself as one of the premiere publishers of science fiction and fantasy, and a reliable source for everything from innovative works of science fiction to blockbuster epic fantasies. To celebrate the milestone, a selection of landmark Orbit titles is currently available on Nook for just $2.99 each, but we wanted to do more than point you toward some great titles, so we asked Orbit’s publisher, Tim Holman, to share a bit of history. Below his comments, you’ll find a timeline of key dates in Orbit’s history.

<a href="https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/orbit-books-turns-10-take-look-decade-milestones/>More here</a>

NIF: eps 17-19 the hiltless knives

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:55 am
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
There is plenty of action in these three episodes, but what really strikes me is the emotional complexity. More is revealed about the past, which reverberates deeply in the present day--these are the hiltless knives, memory, regret, emotion made exponentially intense by being hidden. There are confrontations that demonstrate these hiltless knives, beautifully broken up by hilarious episodes: there is no lugubrious all grim all the time.

Altogether the emotional rollercoaster is exhilarating, and it shore doesn’t hurt that everyone, and everything, is so very beautiful.

Read more... )

Philip Kerr: Bernie Gunther Series

Jul. 27th, 2017 05:29 pm
selenak: (Watchmen by Groaty)
[personal profile] selenak
Reading the first Bernie Gunther novel has sent me into the rabbit hole, the marathon reading from which I now slowly emerge, having grabbed all the novels my local library had available and then buying the most recent one, Prussian Blue. By which you can conclude that these novels are addictive, despite or maybe because of their very dark setting and the way Kerr handles it. I didn’t always read them in order, but that works out better than usual in a series because Kerr writes them not always in linear order as well, and several take place in different eras simultaneously (one post WWII, one during the Third Reich), each filling out different gaps in his anti hero’s life. In fact, I’m glad I read, not by intention but coincidence of availability, “The Other Side of Silence” (No.11, probably the one most located in the 1950s, with just one flashback to the 1940s) before “The Pale Criminal” (No.2, set in 1938), because while both novels feature male gay characters, the ones in No.11 are fleshed out and for the most part sympathetic, and also not just one or two but four on page and a fifth one intensely talked about, whereas in No.2 they are solely a weak coward and a villain respectively, which for a novel set during a time when gay people ended up in prison and/or camps in Germany is a highly questionable authorial choice.

(Sidenote: not that you don’t have historical basis for writing gay villains in a story set among the Nazis. I mean, Ernst Röhm. But still.)

Reading the first novel had left me wondering how Kerr would justify Bernie Gunther’s continued survival as a (mostly) ethical P.I. in one of the most brutal dictatorships in history. Turns out, he doesn’t; Bernie gets drafted back into police service by Reinhard Heydrich in 1938, which means that when WWII starts, he along with the rest of the police gets absorbed into the SS, and while he manages to get a transfer into another unit, this doesn’t happen before being exposed to and in one case participating in mass shootings. While some of the novels feature flashbacks to the P.I. period, most therefore have Bernie as part of the institutions he abhors, which simultaneously deepens his moral compromise (and self loathing) but heightens the likelihood of his survival (while also providing the novelist with excuses for letting Bernie be present at some key points he couldn’t have been as a civilian, like the discovery of the Katyn massacre, more about that in a moment). I find this a fair authorial choice – if you’re going to produce a series of novels with a German detective set mostly in the Third Reich, keeping him entirely guilt free of the morass the nation was sunk into would have felt like cheating. I also was able to buy into the premise of various upper hierarchy Nazis – Heydrich, Goebbels, Arthur Nebe – finding Bernie so useful they would want to use him because he’s That Good at crime solving and occasionally even in a dictatorship you need to figure out who actually did the deed as opposed to finding the most convenient scapegoat. (The constant in fighting and rivalry between top Nazis also plays a role in Bernie’s survival, since a good detective is also useful for getting dirt on each other.) Another way Kerr plays fair is having Bernie constantly aware of the sheer insanity of it all – trying to track down individual criminals when the entire system around you has become criminal, and murder and thievery actually are the law.

Further ramblings below the cut )

today is a brand new day

Jul. 27th, 2017 10:45 am
musesfool: christina hendricks (they would topple empires)
[personal profile] musesfool
I've been here since 7:45 this morning because of ~reasons I'm too tired to get into in detail but are more of the same annoying song.

Now that I'm back to looking at places, I've started looking at furniture again, and right now, all the apartments are painted white, so there's no background to match, so I've expanded my color horizons just a little (I was mostly looking at gray or sage green for sofas previously, and gosh are there some lovely gray sofas so I wouldn't count it totally out) and since blue is my favorite color, there are things like this, this, this, and this to admire, not to mention this if I had an unlimited budget (which I sadly do not).

I also have always liked the beach bungalow look, and this sort of stripey thing appeals to that sensibility.

But then I thought, why limit myself? Maybe I want an orange sofa! And I mostly am not into leather furniture, but the lived in look of this sofa is very appealing to me.

Otoh, I can also have walls painted once I've moved into a place, so I could do an accent wall as necessary (both the apartments that were removed from my list yesterday had beautiful blue accent walls in the living room), and have whatever color scheme I choose, so who knows what will happen!

Probably not red though. I've had a red sofa and chair for fifteen years. I'm ready for something new.

***
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Firstly, it takes very little discussion of regulations for my eyes to glaze over. Secondly, and far less constructively, if someone proposes a system that relies on genres like science fiction and fantasy being distinct rather than overlapping sets, I will start thinking about the worthy works that live in the overlap.

Wednesday Reading - Discworld

Jul. 26th, 2017 10:57 am
nocowardsoul: Ravenclaw as a psych major I'm qualified to go hmm ([hp] psych)
[personal profile] nocowardsoul
What I finished reading this week:

Night Watch. I really enjoyed meeting the younger versions of Sam and Vetinari. And very briefly Sybil - Sybil is such an underused character.

What I'm reading now

The Wee Free Men, which was the first Pratchett book I ever read back in 2009 or 2010. It's actually even better than I remember. Tiffany is SO WONDERFUL. There are so many good lines:

"Eight inches. Why didn't they just say?"

"Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short."

"I'm not familiar. I'm just slightly presumptuous."

"If you trust in yourself, and believe in your dreams, and follow your star, you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy."

What I'm reading next:

Thick as Thieves since it just came in at the library.
musesfool: Reboot Uhura (never tell me the odds)
[personal profile] musesfool
So on Monday the realtor I've been working with sent me 10 listings to choose from and I said I liked five, and so I'm seeing 2 out of those five tomorrow evening (the two most expensive and also the two I was least interested in. funny how that works out. the one that was my fave accepted an offer yesterday and is thus off the market now. Sigh. eta: and there goes my second fave, with an accepted offer. but I'm seeing the last one on Saturday, so there's hope! I like each of these three, just not as much as I liked the other two and also they each have one drawback or another, I guess./eta). I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I'd really like to see the two I like more before I have to make any decisions.

How can it only be Wednesday? Yesterday felt like it was 8 days long in and of itself. Sigh.

What I've just finished
Nothing.

What I'm reading now
Still on Abaddon's Gate. I like it but not as much as the first two books so it's taking me longer to read (the fact that I haven't been getting a seat on the train hasn't helped). I feel like the new characters are not nearly as interesting as Avasarala and Bobbie, though I like Anna and Bull just fine. Melba, otoh... On the plus side, spoilers ) I'm about a hundred pages from the end so I'm guessing there's still some excitement to come.

What I'm reading next
Regardless, I did pick up the next book - Cibola Burn - because I do want to see what happens next. I just also wish we got the POV from the others on the Roci instead of all Holden all the time there.

***

Passing the hat

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:01 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
My vet has an interesting receptionist and so what I was told would be a sixty dollar trip for their shots is in fact a two hundred dollar trip. This is all part of the seemingly futile effort to find them new homes. If people could donate towards the trip, that would be great.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

I am reminded of the cover of a Joe Abercrombie novel where every time I took another look, I noticed yet another sword the character on the cover was carrying.
selenak: (BambergerReiter by Ningloreth)
[personal profile] selenak
Having now read three of the four books the first two seasons of The Last Kingdom are based on, I find my original suspicion that Bernard Cornwell novels benefit from adaptions into other media because these take you out of the main character's head justified, though not always quite in the way I assumed. Because the novels are narrated by an older Uthred looking back, his narrating self can sometimes point out things his younger self did not yet see or realise, for example, that he wronged his first wife Mildrith, or that he underestimated Alfred early on because a chronically sick non-warrior valueing learning and feeling guilty about sex could not possibly be a strong leader in his young eyes. Otoh, older, wiser Uthred narrating still doesn't change the fact most female characters come across as more dimensional and fleshed out in the tv adaption than they do in the novels (Brida and Mildrith in the first, Hild and Aelswith in the second season - Iseult, alas, is a cliché in both versions).

The tv show cut or compressed various characters and slimmed down events, and given that they do two books per season so far, that's not surprising. But even if they took a longer time, I think some of the changes and cuts were to the narrative's benefit. For example: Cornwell has to come up with some pretty convoluted circumstances and far-stretched plots to have a teenage Uthred who is still with the Danes secretly present when Prince (not yet King) Alfred confesses about his carnal lapses to Beocca. In the book, he needs to be because he's the narrator and neither Alfred nor Beocca would have told him about this. The tv show dispenses with said circumstances and just has the scene between Alfred and Beocca, without Uthred secretly listening in, because he doesn't need to be in order for the audience to get this information about the young Alfred.

Mind you, dispensing with the first two times Uthred meets Alfred and letting their first encounter not happen until after Ragnar the Elder's death creates one important difference between book and show relationship that's worth mentioning. Book Uthred lies to Alfred (and Beocca) these first two times and point blank spies on them for the Danes, so the later "why do you keep distrusting me?" indignation rings a little hollow in this regard. Show Uthred does no such thing, so Alfred is accordingly less justified in his lingering ambiguity.

Another cut that somewhat shifts perception: the first novel has Uthred participating in a few Danish raids led by Ragnar, including one on Aelswith's hometown (though she doesn't know he took part). Now, in the show we go from Uthred the child to adult Uthred directly and adult Uthred is solely seen at Ragnar's home, with the deaths of Ragnar & Co. impending, but given adult Uthred later is shown to be already a skilled fighter, it stands to reason he practiced these skills. But I suspect the show avoided showing Uthred fighting against Saxon civilians this early on deliberately. Both show and books have Uthred loving the Danes but staying with the Saxons post Ragnar's death because various circumstances (and then Alfred's machinations) make it impossible for him to do otherwise. Only the book, though, spells out that Uthred doesn't start to feel any kind of identification/emotional connection to the Saxons until he sees them winning a battle (until then, narrator Uthred says, he hadn't thought Danes could lose, which makes sense given that throughout Uthred's childhood and adolescence, they were winning), when before he regarded them as weak and didn't want to think of himself as belonging to them. Which makes sense given Uthred is raised in a warrior culture and is a young, arrogant adolescent at the time, but again, I suspect the tv version avoids spelling this out in order not to make him off putting early on when establishing the character.

Otoh, the scenes the tv show adds in the two seasons where Uthred isn't present all serve to flesh out the characters in question more and work to their benefit, whether it's Alfred, Hild, Aelswith or Beocca. The notable exception is Guthred in s2, whose additional scenes make him look worse, not better than the novel does. Possibly, too, because in the novel Guthred is described having an easy charm that makes Book!Uthred forgive him even the truly terrible thing Guthred does to Uthred, and the actor playing Guthred on the show doesn't have that at all, and instead comes across as nothing but fearful, easily influenced and weak. (And show!Uthred while coming to terms with him doesn't forgive him.) I have to say, lack of actorly charm aside, given that Guthred does something spoilery to Uthred ), I find the tv version more realistic.

The push-pull relationship between Uthred and Alfred is there in both versions, but in the tv show, it comes across as more central. As my local library has it, I also read "Death of Kings", the novel in which, Alfred dies, not without manipulating Uthred one last time into doing what he wants him to do, and Uthred's thoughts on the man later, summing him up, are Cornwell's prose at its best:

I stood beside Alfred's coffin and thought how life slipped by, and how, for nearly all my life, Alfred had been there like a great landmark. I had not liked him. I had struggled against him, despised him and admired him. I hated his religion and its cold disapproving gaze, its malevolence that cloaked itself in pretended kindness, and its allegiance to a god who would drain the joy from the world by naming it sin, but Alfred's religion had made him a good man and a good king.
And Alfred's joyless soul had proved a rock against which the Danes had broken themselves. Time and again they had attacked, and time and again Alfred had out-thought them, and Wessex grew ever stronger and richer and all that was because of Alfred. We think of kings as privileged men who rule over us and have the freedom to make, break and flaunt the law, but Alfred was never above the law he loved to make. He saw his life as a duty to his god and to the people of Wessex and I have never seen a better king, and I doubt my sons, grandson and their children's children will ever see a better one. I never liked him, but I have never stopped admiring him. He was my king and all that I now have I owe to him. The food that I eat, the hall where I live and the swords of my men, all started with Alfred, who hated me at times, loved me at times, and was generous with me. He was a gold-giver.


Last Yuletide I added a Last Kingdom request at the last minute because I'd seen it had been nominated, and accordingly it was short, but this Yuletide I think I'll also offer, and will request in more detail and more characters. While the other historical tv shows I consumed during the last year were entertaining in various degrees, this was the only one which was also good.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll



The Order of Truth's Aeon Priests have resurrected our May 2014 Numenera Bundle, featuring the tabletop science-fantasy roleplaying game Numenera from Monte Cook Games. A billion years in the future, explore the Ninth World to find leftover artifacts of nanotechnology, the datasphere, bio-engineered creatures, and myriad strange devices that defy understanding. The inspiration for the recent Torment: Tides of Numenera computer game from inXile Entertainment, Numenera is about discovering the wonders of eight previous worlds to improve the present and build a future.



Bundle the first and bundle the second

NIF: eps 15-16 Lanterns and Swords

Jul. 25th, 2017 08:57 am
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
These are transitional scenes in that they flash to the past but are building toward a coming confrontation. But on repeated viewings, we can see deep groundwork being laid for even bigger stakes.

And oh, the emotional moments are riveting.
Read more... )

Walked to the library

Jul. 24th, 2017 11:15 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Saw a squirrel hop into the back of a pickup truck and wait, giving every impression it was waiting impatiently for something. Does it know trucks move? Is that how it got to the library?

Two questions

Jul. 24th, 2017 07:55 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
I wonder how long it will take the shadowy figures behind the Dragon Awards to count the votes?

I wonder to what degree the award has been gamed by the puppies?
grrlpup: (rose)
[personal profile] grrlpup

Things I’ve liked recently on the internet:

  • Just today I started listening to Iris Dement. I was raised on country music and can’t believe I missed her entirely til now. This one made me tear up– I feel like I know several people just now who are feeling diminished, but who mean so much to the people who love them.
  • An interview with Atul Gawande by economist Tyler Cowen that’s not in the New Yorker, so maybe you missed it? Has sound (which I haven’t tested) and transcript. I liked this bit:

COWEN: Do you feel you’ve underachieved in life?

GAWANDE: That’s a hard question. [laughs] I know objectively that it’s kind of ridiculous that I would think I’ve underachieved, and that I’m proud of all the random things that I’ve been able to be part of. But I bear a kind of chronic dissatisfaction and sense that I’ve got much more to follow through on than I’ve managed to. So yeah, I think “underachieved” is the wrong word, and yet I don’t feel I’ve achieved nearly enough, and that half of what I’ve achieved, I wish I could go back and fix.

This post also appears at read write run repeat. Comments read and welcomed in either place!

rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Illness memoirs, like child abuse memoirs, have a number of pitfalls. They’re about depressing topics and so are hard not to depress the reader, they’re often by people who don’t write professionally and so are not well-written, and as the subject is inherently self-focused, they can very easily come across as self-absorbed. Even if they manage to avoid those problems, many are valuable works of self-help, self-revelation, community-building, comfort, and calls to action… but are not interesting to someone who mostly wants to read a good book.

This one is a good book.

Julie Rehmeyer, a mathematician and science writer, chronicles how chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME) crept up on her until her entire life had vanished and she was frequently completely paralyzed. While she desperately tried to find a treatment, she instead encountered an array of quacks, snake oil salesmen, nice but useless therapists, nice but useless doctors, a patients’ community full of apparent crackpots, and medical literature claiming that it was a mental illness caused by, essentially, being lazy and whiny.

In desperation, Rehmeyer finally starts listening to some of the apparent crackpots… and when she applies her scientific training to their ideas, she finds that stripped of the bizarre terminology and excessive exclamation points, they sound surprisingly plausible. With her entire life at a dead end and nothing left to lose, she reluctantly decides to try a treatment which is both radical and distinctly woo-woo sounding.

And it works.

But unlike every other “How I cured/treated my illness by some weird method” memoir, the story doesn’t end there. Instead, she not only researches and theorizes about how and why it might have worked, she interviews scientists and doctors, and even arranges to do a double-blind experiment on herself to see if it’s a real cause of her symptoms or the placebo effect. I cannot applaud this too much. (I was unsurprised to find that every article I read on her book had a comment section claiming that her results were due to the placebo effect.)

Lots of people have suggested that I write about my own horrendous illness, crowd-sourced treatment, and jaw-dropping parade of asshole doctors who told me I was lying, a hypochondriac, or crazy. While you’re waiting… read this book instead. Though it’s not the same disease and she was treated WAY better by doctors, a lot of her experience with being beaten over the head with bad science and diagnoses based purely on sexism was very similar. As is much of her righteous rage. I am way more ragey and less accepting than she is. But still. It’s similar.

Overall, this is a well-written and honest memoir that shines a welcome light on a poorly-understood illness. Rehmeyer's perspective as a science writer provides for clarity, justifiable anger, and humor as she takes apart the morass of bad science, victim-blaming, and snake oil that surrounds chronic fatigue syndrome. It's informative without being dry, easy to read and hard to put down.

Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand

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