Friday 29 April 2016

And So It Begins

It's the beginning of the Hugo Wars where the forces of lawful good versus chaotic evil.  Oh sorry, that was the plot-line of Babylon 5.  My bad.

Looking at the works there's a lot to like and my feeling remains the same: read the stories and if you like it vote for it.  If not, then vote no award and ignore the political machinations.  I can't help but pull on my cynic goggles and say that the only real winners here are those that benefit from the column inches in what passes for the mainstream press.

Anyway, a pick of some of my favourites on this years Hugo list.

First the Retro Awards

Novel: Slan by A.E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction, Dec 1940).

Best Dramatic Presentation: The Thief of Bagdad written by Lajos Bíró and Miles Malleson, directed by Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, and Tim Whelan (London Films, United Artists).

Hugo 2016 Nominees

Novel: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox).

Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures).

And separately I'm pleased to see.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Andy Weir.

As for the whole brouhaha over who nominated what and why all I can say is that after four years of discussions by various people on the internet ranging from the famous to the obscure (I include myself in the obscure) I fail to see anyone changing their minds about their positions, which I take as a cue for saying, "we'll all have to agree to disagree."

Friday 22 April 2016

The Course of Empire

After last week I started another book – The Course of Empire by Eric Flint & K. D. Wentworth, which meant I didn't get very far into the story and because I only tend to read on Sundays meant it took me longer to finish it.  Eric Flint is one of those authors who seems to write a lot of books with other people: or perhaps I should say other people write books with him?  As such, it makes it difficult to know what part of a book's story is down to which writer.  This bugs me because I like to get inside the head of an author through their writing.

However, saying that I enjoyed his Boundary series, written with Ryk E. Spoor, and I needed something to dispel the disappointment from giving up on the last week's book.

I really enjoyed The Course of Empire.  It wasn't the page turner in the way that say a Jim Butcher novel grabs one, but I found myself drawn to pick up the book over the course of the week and read a few more pages (so much so that I spent time reading it when I should have been working on Ghost Dog).  By the end of the novel I wanted to read the sequel, which my partner Susan had gone and ordered, while I was still ensconced in the story of the Jao occupation of Terra.  There's also a third volume coming out, stalled for several years by the fact that K. D. Wentworth died, called Span of Empire with a new co-author – David Carrico – coming out in September of this year.  It will be interesting to see how the change of co-author affects the telling of the story.

Other than that I've done diddly-squat this week on my own novel.  Hopefully next week will be more productive.  Catch you all later.

Friday 15 April 2016

United States of Japan

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but when I saw the book United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas I just had to buy it.  The question though is the story as good as the cover promises? 

Unfortunately, I can't tell you because I got to page 143 and had to stop.  I read the end and that was even less convincing so I put the book down unfinished.  Ultimately, it came down to various things within the novel that threw me out of the narrative and by page 143 I was fed up with reading the book.  I've thought about saying a lot more things about why, but decided that muzukashi desu neh – it is difficult – sums up my position.  So, in short, not my cup of tea, it may be yours.

Sorry to be so negative, but look at that cover.  Isn't it awesome.

You can now read an article of mine on Galactic Journey.  I'm very pleased to have been invited to write for Tak Hallus's blog and you can expect to see more from me.  I imagine once a month but could be wrong.

Writing wise, I been working through Ghost Dog doing an out loud read through, which is harder than it sounds.  I only managed to edit 15,429 words this week because of the day job, which is going OK and makes me think about stuff that I may even get around to writing about at some point.  So that's it for another week, see you all on the bounce.

NB: This review is a learning experience, in that it made me realize I don't have to write reviews of things I don't like. After all, my opinion is no more valuable than anyone else's.

Saturday 9 April 2016

Larry Correia at Forbidden Planet

Larry Correia was at Forbidden Planet today signing his new book Son of the Black Sword and any of his other novels that anyone wanted signed.  I've really enjoyed his work ever since I bought his first novel Monster Hunter International.  I can tell you how much I liked it by how many times I've re-read it, and though it's very much a first novel with all that entails, the story makes me laugh out loud.  Everything he's written since has just gotten better as he progresses as a writer.

So it was a real pleasure to meet him at Forbidden Planet and press the flesh and get a few books signed.  I was also very fortunate to meet his lovely wife Bridget,  and I got to schmooze Jim Minz or should I say he very kindly talked to me and I told him about my novel and I said,
It's VOTOMS meets Stargate as if John Ringo were writing an Arthur C. Clarke novel.
Which is now the official elevator pitch of my novel after Jim said that sounded interesting.

So, I came home with copies of Hard Magic, Spellbound and Dead Six, the latter written with Mike Kupari, all signed by Larry, who was really nice and took the time to chat to everyone.  I also picked up a copy of the novel Shooting the Rift from Baen Books by my long time friend Alex Stewart.

SpaceX Falcon 9

Watched this last night on the live feed and was stunned by the landing.  Rocketry has become exciting again and a new generation of scientists and engineers are leading the way into space.  It looks like Heinlein was right, private enterprise will make space accessible not NASA.

Friday 8 April 2016

Summer Knight

I have finished the next Jim Butcher book, and yes as usual I'm late to the series, but hey I got there in the end.  I'm not a critic, I'm a writer and so what I say is from this perspective.

I read Summer Knight in one day and Jim Butcher manages to draw me in despite the fact the books are light on rockets, robots, rayguns or 9mm gun action.  However, there is something compelling about the world that Harry Dresden lives in.  More importantly Jim Butcher clearly has a plot, and by plot I mean a story arc for the series that drives the narrative forward.  It doesn't hurt that his writing is smooth, like treacle running down the side of a glass: it makes you want to know more – and he avoids obvious denouements – in short he surprises me.  I'm always picking apart plots and thinking about how something is going to be resolved, so it's nice to have a book end in a way that surprises me.

I've even bought the sequel, and it waits on my to be read pile.  I can't give a better recommendation than that.

As for my writing, I've just finished off revising an article that was commissioned, which I will tell you about more later when it's announced/published.  Now it's back to work on polishing my third novel, resisting the temptations of starting a new story, which is hard because there's something compelling about facing icy wastes.  So this week ends with 17,825 words edited and I'm now at the beginning of Act 3 of Ghost Dog.

Friday 1 April 2016

Dark Matter

I mentioned that we heard Michelle Paver speak at this years PicoCon and I had bought the hardback of her book Dark Matter.

Though this is not the sort of story I would normally pick up, it's a ghost story, the research that Michelle puts into her novels made me want to read it.  It is beautifully written and disturbingly atmospheric, reminding me of H. P. Lovecraft but without the baggage he can bring to a story.  Up until the end the narrative can be read one of two ways: madness or the supernatural.  And to some extent even by the end the interpretation is that the narrator believes he experienced a supernatural horror but the evidence is based on the narrator telling us what others said and saw.  As such, given that he clearly has a nervous breakdown and the whole over wrought emotional milieu one is left to decide for oneself.

The scenes and the description of the landscape are stunning and while I'm undecided about reading any other of her books, I need to go away and look them up, I can recommend this to anyone who wants to read something different for a change.  It's certainly inspired me to have a go at writing my alien Arctic waste novel.

Yesterday we went into town.  Town being what people who live in London call the West End.

The trip involved my partner buying a new pair of shoes, popping into Selfridges, the halls of Mammon, and having a coffee – marveling at the extravagance of everything (feeling like proles from District 12 visiting the Capital of Panem – you can tell we have recently watched the Hunger Games series), and then we went on window shopping before having lunch in a small family owned Italian restaurant called Rossodisera.

After that it was time to go to Forbidden Planet, check out the books and then off to Orcs Nest to pick up this month's issues of Miniature Wargames & Battlegames, a bottle of paint and a Y-Wing to complete my Gold Squadron.  After that it was time to come home and put my feet up and have a nice cup of tea.  In short, we had a lovely day out together, which is after all what nice memories are made of.


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