Sunday Links for January 29, 2012

Connie Willis is science fiction’s latest Grand Master. A reward well deserved.

The 2012 Crawford Award winner has been announced: Genevieve Valentine for Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. I’ve read the first few pages, and hope to start reading in earnest this coming week.

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for its 2011 awards.

The British Science Fiction Association has announced its shortlist for its 2011 awards. I have some reading to attend to if I’m to catch up with these.

The Bram Stoker Award ballot has been announced. And there’s not a single story I’ve read, or even own.

I’m similarly at a loss as to the books nominated for the Edgar Awards. I am really in bad need of some uninterrupted reading time.

The website This Is Horror has announced its awards for 2011. Based on the award, I read Gary McMahon’s The Concrete Grove this past week, and wow, that’s a scary book! If that’s an indication of how on-the-mark these awards are, I’d say they’re worth paying attention to.

Pity the poor male novelist. Or, ya know, don’t. I don’t. This essay must set some sort of record for self-absorption.

Damien Walter offer seven literary science fiction and fantasy novels every well-read genre reader should have under her belt. I’ve read exactly one of them: John Fowles’ The Magus (many years ago; I have little recollection of it now and should give it a reread). I do have all of the others on my “to be read” list, some even in the “to be read” pile. Which ones have you read?

Scientist and science fiction writer David Brin offer his list of the greatest science fiction and fantasy tales. Now this list is finally one in which I’m fairly well-read. I have particularly fond memories of reading Stand on Zanzibar for my science fiction master class a few years ago, disliking it when I read it, and liking it much more after hearing it brilliantly dissected by Geoffrey Ryman.

Kat Warren is one of Book Balloon’s stalwarts – a voracious reader with excellent taste. Here, she lists her favorite reads from 2011. You could do worse than to purchase these and read them one right after the other. They are, as Kat would say, “finest kind.”

I’ve always admired people who can speak more than one language fluently. The closest I ever came was high school French, and I do remember having the very occasional dream in French. I think my circuits are stuck on English now. But there are those who pick up languages the way I pick up books. Michael Erard has written a new book about hyperpolyglottery, and Nataly Kelly interviewed him about it for The Huffington Post.

I take great comfort from the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder wasn’t published until she was in her mid-sixties; that gives me a good decade or so to go before I’m officially past the point at which publication becomes well-nigh impossible. She and I aren’t the only ones getting a late start, though; this article discusses seven such writers.

Publishers wonder if Amazon isn’t going to take the entire industry down. In this article, they talk of Amazon’s latest venture into publishing books, rather than merely marketing them.

One of the oddest things about ebooks is that, essentially, the author need never stop writing them. The book can be edited, updated, even substantially changed at the author’s whim, if he’s on the right website. While I can imagine this making great good sense for textbooks and scientific publications, it seems odd when one is discussing fiction. It also reminds me of a fellow lawyer who once opined that a brief is never done, it is simply “due.” In this world, no book is ever truly done, and isn’t even really “due.”

Nick Mamatas lists some bits of advice writers ought to cease offering to would-be writers. First on his list is “Don’t give up,” because, he says, some people should give up. Wow, that’s a hard pill to swallow!

Can you read this poem aloud without making any mistakes? English is a very strange language.

When authors make it big, they apparently buy big houses. I’ll take Gore Vidal’s Italian villa, please.

My sisters are often the source of items to be found in this column, and this week my sister Peg, who is going through a spate of home redecoration, sent me this article on homes with books. I love the room shown in the very first photograph, but really, I’d take any of these houses – except the one with the book wallpaper. Who needs wallpaper when you’ve got the real thing?

Group read?

I've read something by Fowles every winter for a few years now, let me know if you're up for The Magus. Did you know it was a work he heavily edited after it's publication? I think I own three different author approved versions.

In line with 'a book is never really done,' that reminds of a story about Beethoven and his OCD ( and a host of other substantial mental illnesses; geniuses are such bad examples to use). It was often said that he would never had published a single piece of music if it weren't for the fact that he had bills to pay and needed the money.

As for the houses with books; none of those looked like real lived in living spaces to me if you know what I mean. I liked the second picture the best.

Writing about Poe

Much as I would enjoy reading The Revised Magus with you, Chad, I must decline this year because I have to read lots of Poe and Poe-related stuff over the next couple of months as I work on my paper for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Between that reading and my reading for review, I'm going to have pretty much every minute booked. Another year?

Poe vs. Fowles in a Cagematch

So Poe is the flavor of the year? I can do that too; I have a collection of his works somewhere and I agreed to read one book from before 1900 so I might as well get it out of the way. I also have few other of Fowles novels to my own 'winter Fowles reading' so, sure we can do The Magus another time.

Have you read The Collector?

It's got to be the creepiest of Fowles' novels. You feel like you need to take a shower after you read it.

Maybe you can do me a favor and read my Poe paper in draft, once I get that far. Whaddaya say?


I have read The Collector and yes it was creepy. (In some ways I found The French Lieutenant's Woman creepier.) Unfortunately, much of the former's story is still relevant today which only adds to it's creepiness.

I'll gladly read your paper, but be warned that my two cents are only barely worth it. Scarier still, I may ask you to read something of mine...

The French Lieutenant's Woman

I loved that book! I saw it as mostly a book about the process of writing -- a metafiction, that is -- and I generally love metafiction. I also thought that it translated in a very interesting way to film, making the film about filmmaking.

I'd be happy to read something of yours -- we all need to help each other out, right? And then, when we're all famous literary critics/authors/notable men and women of letters, we can give cool speeches in which we credit one another.

Books and the Big Screen

I like the crediting one another part; that's sounds fun.

I never thought to look into The French Lieutenant's Woman movie; I'll check it out. On a quasi related note, I just learned of the HBO adaptation of The Corrections; that has me all kinds of excited.

More books on the TBR pile

I haven't read The Corrections yet, though we own the notorious first edition, first printing, in which a couple of pages were flipped. In fact, I haven't read any Franzen at all. My reading has been so midlist of late, in every sense: decent enough works, but nothing that sets me on fire. I need to pick up the pace a bit.

We're just getting around to Mad Men in this household (not HBO, but AMC, I know, but it gives you the idea of how low on the totem pole TV watching is in this house). We're finishing up Season 3, and Season 4 should arrive from Amazon on Monday. We're both blown away by the quality of this show. Highly, highly recommended.

You deserve better

No one--no one--should suffer wading through the midlist. Give yourself something amazing from time to time to remind you of why you're doing the midlist penitence you've imposed on yourself. (Or just stop this midlist thing--time served--and read good stuff...)

I've only read The Corrections as far as Franzen goes, but it is certainly worth it. Freedom is on a bookcase waiting.

On an unrelated note, my sisters tell me I've been more dyslexic than usual as of late in my communications so if these past comments haven't made the most sense, sorry. I try to proof read but sometimes it doesn't work.

2011 was a weird reading year

I had a strange year in 2011, which led to bad reading habits. My billable hours, which had been hovering around a mere 20 hours/month, suddenly shot up to 80/month on average. That doesn't sound like much -- it's really only half time, after all. But health issues made that quite a change to be dealt with, and my reading changed as a result: challenging books were things I put aside for a time when I was a little more used to my new routine. That means I read a lot of books that were just fun -- not great works, often, but fun. On top of that, my reviewing responsibilities for Fantasy Literature required that I take my share of midlist books.

And let me add: "midlist" and "fun" aren't pejoratives. I don't know too many people who can read a steady diet of Moby-Dick and Middlemarch, or even, for that matter, Mieville, Crowley and Egan. I expect to read more challenging work this year -- for one thing, my Poe paper requires it -- but I'll also be reading a lot of books that are just plain good.

The Fun Stuff

"And let me add: "midlist" and "fun" aren't pejoratives"

I know exactly what you mean. I'm intentionally making time for more 'fun' stuff this year. That said, it's nice to find something meaty and substaintial to chew on from time to time.

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