Sunday Links for August 7, 2011

Hold onto your hats! It’s been so long since I’ve done a Sunday Links column that they’ve piled up to the ceiling. Grab your favorite beverage and settle it, because we’ll be here for awhile.

The Locus Award winners have been announced. They seem almost ridiculously predictable, as Ted Chiang’s win for a definitely subpar offering from him indicates. It’s almost as if voters chose their favorite writers rather than their favorite stories.

The British Fantasy Society has announced its long list for its awards. I love a list that contains references to lots of books I’ve not read or even heard of, though, of course, the books are rarely available at my public library. Still, there are authors and stories I’d never have thought to seek out – and now I will.

The long list for the Man Booker Prize for 2011 has been released. I’ve gotten four of them out of the library, and plan to make quite a meal of them. A.D. Miller’s Snowdrops sounds especially interesting to me.

Because August is the month for most vacations (including mine! Yay!), I’ll include this link even though it’s a bit stale: NPR’s picks for summer SF/F/H. I can’t say that anything here except China Mieville’s Embassytown is on my list, but maybe something will tickle your fancy.

If you’re a bit more ambitious for yourself, perhaps this list of the 100 greatest nonfiction books will be more to your liking. They picked the wrong Tom Wolfe if you ask me; I’d have chosen The Right Stuff over The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. And I think those three books chosen on the subject of “Literature” are far too limiting a selection; I’d have expanded it to include Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages -- it's more accessible than the books mentioned -- and Nicholas Basbanes’s A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books -- though perhaps that’s about book lovers rather than literature per se. If you have similar quarrels, you might find the discussion of the list at the Guardian website interesting.

Maybe you just want to stick with steampunk. Okay; go with this list.

Care to split the difference, and read something that’s highbrow but still sort of beachy? This is the list for you.

Or you could just go with the books the critics call the best of the summer.

Then there are the books to stay away from. Hard to imagine that there could be books that are more wrong than the Twilight saga, but apparently that’s the case.

NPR is running a poll asking for a list of the 100 best science fiction and fantasy novels. The list from which to choose is much more sophisticated than most such lists I’ve seen, including a number of titles some readers may never have encountered. I was able to vote for such favorites as C.J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun Trilogy: Kesrith/Shon'jir/Kutath, which I’ve always thought a masterwork but rarely seen or heard discussed. That’s probably because NPR sought the help of three genuine experts in putting the list together: John Clute, one of the editors of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy; Farah Mendlesohn, one of the editors of The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction and the forthcoming The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy; and Gary K. Wolfe, one of the Locus reviewers and a professor of English at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Go vote, so that we’re not once again humiliated by a list that has L. Ron Hubbard at the top. Want some guidelines about whether you’re qualified to vote or not? Read this blog.

Clute’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, mentioned above, is soon to be available online for free. I’ve owned an edition of this work for years, and it’s worth it’s weight in gold. It’s fun just to browse through, leaping from one article to the next – I imagine hyperlinking is going to make that even more fun. It’s an invaluable guide for scholars, and fun to read for the SF/F/H aficionado. Keep an eye out for the online publication.

Apparently we Americans have a crush on British writers. I know I read a great many British mysteries, including some by authors who are not excessively well-known on this side of the pond – Robert Barnard and Reginald Hill, for instance, both do amazing work, but you don’t hear them discussed with the likes of Ruth Rendell and P.D. James, though they should be. There are also a few British SF/F/H writers who do amazing work, China Mieville and Iain Banks premiere among them. This article is about mainstream authors, for the most part. There were a few I’ve never heard of, and one I consider a cheat (Neil Gaiman may have been born in the U.K., but he’s lived in the United States for decades now). And it’s a bit difficult to believe that J.K. Rowling didn’t make the list, but she’s nowhere to be found.

Speaking of J.K. Rowling, she’s apparently giving Harry Potter a new home -- in a video game. It’s a bit disappointing. I’d much rather have her concentrate her talents on creating a new world with new characters as fascinating as Harry and the gang. We just saw the last of the movies at an IMAX last weekend, and it was quite wonderful. (The 3-D didn’t add much, in my opinion, but the big screen was a terrific way to showcase the movie.)

One of my favorite writers, Steph Swainston, is taking a break from writing to teach. She’s apparently craving some reality after writing about a very complicated fantasy world for some time now. I sure hope she isn’t leaving writing permanently, because her books are wonderful.

If you were worried about an impending zombie outbreak, you can stop now; seems the critters wouldn’t really get far.

I want this house made of bookcases. We’re up to 50 bookcases in our house since our move, and we still don’t have enough room for all our printed material.

If it’s an interesting home library you’re looking for, rather than a structure that’s nothing but bookcases, this website will give you some ideas about how to make those so-called outmoded paper constructions look lovely. Assuming, of course, that you don’t mind arranging your books according to the color of the dust jacket (as in one photo) or putting decorative plates rather than books on the shelves (as in another). I guess it’s old-fashioned to want to have them arranged alphabetically by author, eh?

Nobody can insult a writer like another writer. All that skill with words brought to bear on a person rather than deployed in a novel, story or poem – yikes! I rather like William Faulkner’s comment on Ernest Hemingway, and vice versa.

It’s sad but necessary: Terry Pratchett has begun arranging his affairs so as to allow him to take his own life when his early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease progresses to a point beyond which he no longer cares to live. This doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily seek an assisted suicide, but it gives him the option. Would that such an option were available to us all, on our own terms – or not, if we chose not.

And finally, my very favorite xkcd cartoon. If you don’t know this web comic, you might cruise around the site a bit after you follow the link. It’s a thoroughly wonderful place to lose yourself for a couple of hours.


Sunday Links are back! Oh, joy! Yours are the best.

I had already seen the 10 worst fantasy series before, but it is still funny. And a house made of bookcases. . .


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