Monthly Archives: March 2018

Wrapping March 2018

Reading

March got off to a rough start. It took me a while get into a groove.

  • Books Finished: 5 (though two were novella length)
    • Highlights: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (review to come), though Frankenstein Dreams is a strong runner-up.
  • Books DNFed: 2
  • Short Stories Read: 37
    • Highlights: Rereads of “The Dancing Partner” by Jerome K. Jerome and “Moxon’s Master” by Ambrose Bierce
  • Challenge Updates:
    • FrankenSlam! – Oh, Hi! Plutarch. I didn’t see you there.
    • 2018 Nonfiction Reading Challenge – The Infamous Harry Hayward (ARC, review to come) wasn’t on my reading list, but it was this month’s nonfiction title. Still maintaining over 30% nonfiction for the year.
    • 2018 TBR Challenge – I ended up DNFing three books in a row from my from the TBR Challenge pile. In the end, I read one of the shorter titles Monster in the Mists by Andrew Mayne.
    • Wild West Reading Challenge – No progress. Still 1/6
    • Shelf Maintenance – I acquired a copy of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens for a read-a-long that is starting March 31st. It’s going to follow the pace of the novel’s original serialization. Interested? Join The Pickwick Club. I also nabbed Thirteen Chocolates, a cozy mystery by one Agatha Chocolats.

Continue reading

Writing Update, 3/28


How’s It Going?
It’s going well. I’ve done my first cull of stories I want to include in Our Past in the Uncanny Valley. I’m left with 19 stories which fall into roughly eight thematic periods. I’ve already formatted six of the stories. I’m still thinking about what I want to do for introductions. I also have a bit of supplementary reading that I’d like to do.

I’m going to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April in an effort to get at least the manuscript formatted by the end of April.

About This WIP
Our Past in the Uncanny Valley is a collection of automaton stories from 1810-1910. From the E. T. A. Hoffmann’s nightmarish Olimpia to the enigma of the mechanical chess-playing Turk and the plethora of humorous later-century robot maids, these stories show that our current fears about artificial intelligences—especially human-looking ones—aren’t that new at all.

Down the TBR Hole 11

TBRHole

This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

The Candle Man by Alex Scarrow The Candle Man by Alex Scarrow

I seem to remember a reader I respect recommending Alex Scarrow, though I don’t remember who it was. In any case, the combination of the Ripper murders and the sinking of the Titanic still seems compelling. KEEP (even though it seems very out of print).

 

Seduction by M.J. Rose Seduction by M.J. Rose

This is book five in a series. I’ve sworn off fiction books with historical characters. Yet… Victor Hugo and séances. KEEP.

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

I have an overage of historical fiction that I want to read (see above) or that I already own. GO.

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

“But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years.”

Honestly, this doesn’t seem like my type of novel. GO. (But at least the cover features a whole face, if not a whole head.)

Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio

And this is why Delia’s Shadow had to go: yet another historical, but with a female con artist. KEEP.

So, what do YOU think? Any arguments for KEEP or GO?

Mini Reviews, Vol. 12

alt text The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann

E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote some weird stuff. This is his most well-known work (written in 1816), though most people are more familiar with the ballet than the original story. The ballet smooths out some of the weird, like the seven-headed rat king, to present a more family friendly fantasy. The original is a little darker and a lot bloodier. Definitely worth revisiting come Christmas time!

alt text The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

I have a confession to make: I don’t really like the movie version of The Wizard of Oz. As a movie it’s always felt big and loud to me, even though I can appreciate that it’s quite good for 1939. So, as a kid, I never read the Oz books. Since the Tin Man is more or less and automaton, there are other clockwork men further in the series, and the first one was kinda fun, I’ll be dipping in and out of the series for a while.

alt text The Chronological Man: The Monster In The Mist by Andrew Mayne

Man, the beginning of the month was rough for me DNF-wise. I dumped a couple books off my TBR challenge list. But I settled on The Monster in the Mist. It’s was a mostly fun, steampunk-ish adventure that ran a little too long with its action scenes. The next in the series sounds way over the top, so I’m going to pass on it.

alt text Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell myself to go see this at the theater. Arguably, the best thing about the original Blade Runner is its setting and this sequel, despite some apprehensions, nailed the setting. Plus, it’s the film for which Roger Deakins (my favorite cinematographer) finally won an Oscar. I really should have seen it on the big screen.  I’m not sure I buy the plot and I didn’t care for Jared Leto as the villain, but Ryan Gosling was spot-on in the role of K. (I seem to prefer Gosling in roles where his character is fairly unemotional. See also, Drive (2011).)

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It’s Monday, What Are You… 3/19

…Reading?

The Chronological Man: The Monster In The Mist The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis All the Crooked Saints

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Watching?

At this very moment, Deception:

So far (about half an episode in), it’s what I expected: not terrible, not great, but enjoyable. Although, if you didn’t like the Now You See Me movies (and there were plenty of magic aficionados who didn’t), this probably isn’t for you. Also, I had forgotten that Vinnie Jones is in it.

…Doing?

Pretty ordinary week planned…except that I might have jury duty tomorrow. I have to call in tonight to see if they need my pool. I’ve never done jury duty before.

What Was I Doing?

Apparently, I don’t do much on the 19th of March…

  • 2013: Review ~ Behind the Scenes with the Mediums
  • 2010: Nattering about disc – As an addendum, it was only last summer that I actually figured out a better technique for my backhand. If I move the heel of my left foot forward when I pivot for the backhand (or step for my forehand), it keeps my right shoulder down which leads to a more controlled, more powerful throw.
  • 2009: (More about ultimate) – Apparently, I realized the value of punting on a high stall count years ago, yet did not learn the lesson…

Deal Me In, Week 11 ~ “Retro Demonology”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Retro Demonology” by Jana Oliver

Card picked: A – Finally a club!
Found at: Amazon freebie

The Story
This is an introductory short story for Jana Oliver’s Demon Trappers series.

Riley is the seventeen year-old daughter of a prominent demon trapper, out on her first solo capture. The demon is a minor one, a biblio demon. Biblio demons like tearing up books and, uh, spraying green urine all over the place. It’s currently annoying a “retro” couple. Retros in this world are people who have decided to live as though they are still in another era—in this case the 1970s. The demon was attracted by a copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but is also menacing a collection of Doors albums. This being Riley’s first solo capture, she’s nervous, but things go rather well. That is until the demon gets loose during the car ride home. Actually, things don’t even work out too poorly then: Riley avoids a car accident, gets out of her traffic ticket, and even manages to easily recapture the demon.

While the story gives a taste of the Demon Trapper world, it doesn’t do a lot plot-wise. As concerned as Riley was about the assignment, the stakes were pretty low. Actually, I wish the details would have meshed together a little better. Seeing a biblio demon doing something really nasty at a bookshop, maybe, instead of spit-balling a page of Milton would have been more harrowing.

Review ~ Frankenstein Dreams

Cover via Goodreads

Frankenstein Dreams: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Science Fiction edited by Michael Sims

Long before 1984, Star Wars, or The Hunger Games, Victorian authors imagined a future where new science and technologies reshaped the world and universe they knew. The great themes of modern science fiction showed up surprisingly early: space and time travel, dystopian societies, even dangerously independent machines, all inspiring the speculative fiction of the Victorian era.

In Frankenstein Dreams, Michael Sims has gathered many of the very finest stories, some by classic writers such as Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, and H.G. Wells, but many that will surprise general readers. Dark visions of the human psyche emerge in Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s “The Monarch of Dreams,” while Mary E. Wilkins Freeman provides a glimpse of “the fifth dimension” in her provocative tale “The Hall Bedroom.’

With contributions by Edgar Allan Poe, Alice Fuller, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, and many others, each introduced by Michael Sims, whose elegant introduction provides valuable literary and historical context, Frankenstein Dreams is a treasure trove of stories known and rediscovered. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
At the beginning of last year, I noticed that many of the “literary” writers of the late 19th and early 20th century seemed to have a real enthusiasm for science that spilled into their works. In that time period, there seems to be a fuzzier boundary between literary and  genre.

What Worked
Frankenstein Dreams is chronological survey of science fiction starting at the publication of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in 1818, which can arguably be considered the beginning of the genre. All types of science fiction are included: bats on the moon, a tale of mesmerism (which was thought to be a science), high-tech submarines, augmented humans, augmented dinosaurs, time travel, future societies, and more!

Included are some of the “genre” authors you’d expect (like Edgar Alan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne) along with some classic authors I don’t think of as having genre connections (like Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy) and many authors I wasn’t familiar with at all.

A surprise favorite was “The Senator’s Daughter” by Edward Page Mitchell. The introduction made me worry that it was going to be a very scattershot view of the future world of 1937 (it was published in 1879). I was further worried that about the premise of the US having been conquered by “the Mongolians.” If you read enough Victorian Era stories, you’ll come up against cringe-worthy Yellow Peril propaganda every-so-often. Mitchell’s story is thoughtful though, dealing with an interracial relationship that, while isn’t approved of, exists! Mitchell has two stories in the anthology. The other, “The Clock that Went Backwards,” is a time-travel tale. (I also recently read Mitchell’s “The Ablest Man in the World” for my automaton anthology. Definitely an early name in SF.)

What Didn’t Work
There were a few excerpts. In fact, the anthology starts with a series of excerpts from Frankenstein, which I would think a reader would be somewhat familiar with if they’re reading this book. Other excerpts are from Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau, Vernes’ Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the SeaStrange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Two on a Tower by Hardy. The excerpts work more or less as stand alone stories, but I wish Sims would have stuck to short  stories only.

My other sort of half-problem was that some of the stories weren’t really science fiction. “The Monarch of Dreams” by Thomas Wentworth Higginson involves the attempt by the narrator to control his dreams, but it’s more fantastical than science-based. The same goes for Mary E Wilkins Freeman’s very good “The Hall Bedroom.” While there’s speculation of a fifth dimension, what occurs could as easily be called a haunting.

“Monsters of Magnitude” by Thomas Hardy (what Sims decided to call the excerpt of Two on a Tower) isn’t really science fiction, but is more like science *in* fiction, which is part of what I find interesting about a lot of literature in the Victorian era. As I also noted on Twitter, this excerpt makes me want to read the novel; I had sworn to forever hate Thomas Hardy since an unfortunate circumstance of being made to read him in the 7th grade. Similarly, Kipling’s “Wireless” involves science, but with a speculative fiction twist. Despite that, it too was one of my favorites of the anthology.

Overall
This was a solid set of short stories and a great taster of Victorian science and speculative fiction.

Publishing info, my copy: trade paperback, Bloomsbury, 2017
Acquired: Tempe Public Library
Genre: science fiction