Terry Pratchett’s Unpublished Work Crushed by Steamroller – The New York Times

A pity to not be able to see it, but it probably isn’t as good as what we know and love. It’s hard to see how there could be a better goodbye than “The Shepherd’s Crown”.

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The Nature of the Feast — Louise Penny — Minotaur Books

20 Recipes from the World of Three Pines

Source: The Nature of the Feast — Louise Penny — Minotaur Books

Those of us who like the Inspector Gamache novels of Louise Penny enjoy the descriptions of food and meals as much or more than the grisly murders. Here’s a free download of recipes for some of the food.

Two pieces of science fiction criticism

I mentioned a few months
ago
how difficult I found it to write well about Science
Fiction, although I enjoy reading it.

I realized this morning that this week I’ve read two really
good pieces of criticism that were science fiction related, so I
thought I’d pass them on to you.

  • Here’s the
    piece
    Jo
    Walton
    wrote about Mary Renault. You should read it for
    its description of why trying to sell her work as genre Romance
    is a doomed strategy:

    Romance makes assumptions about the value and nature of love that are very different from the assumptions Renault is using. Romances are set in a universe that works with the belief that love is a good thing that conquers all, that deserves to conquer all. Renault is starting from an axiomatic position that love is a struggle, an agon or contest—a contest between the two people as to who is going to lose by loving the other more, which certainly isn’t going to lead to inevitable happiness.

  • Here’s an interview
    with Peter
    Watts
    where he explains why there’s so much torture in
    contemporary science fiction:

    Need to deliver a three-page neurophilosophical infodump at the climax of your first-contact novel? You could always have Spock and McCoy trading debating points in the med lab. Or you can have your protagonist assaulted so violently that his very consciousness shatters into profound autism, that he perceives all external input as a deafening disembodied voice from the heavens. (That was Blindsight.) Pretty much any infodump becomes more – immediate – when you sheath it in pain and jeopardy.

2014 Hugo Award votes

Novel

This category was difficult this year — they nominated the 14
volume sequence “The Wheel of Time” in it’s entirety. It’s about
6 times the length of War and Peace. I only had time to read 2
times the length of War and Peace between when they sent out the
voter packet and when I had to vote.

It’s possible that when (if, but I’m sort of enjoying it) I
finish it, I will be bowled over and wish I had voted for it over
the three I ranked ahead of it, but really, if anyone had ever
said anything about it that made me want to read it, I would have
read some of it by now. The first volume was imitation Tolkein
by someone with a tin ear for language. I’m sort of glad I pushed
on — it improves pretty fast after that. But I’m not finding
reading the online summaries is anything like reading the books,
so I’m going to just continue reading them in order.

So my choices are:

  1. Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross
  2. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  3. Parasite by Mira Grant
  4. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon
    Sanderson
  5. Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles

The first three of those are what I consider “normal” science
fiction — examinations of the impact of some kind of technology
on the lives of the characters. The Stross got first place
because I thought both the technology idea (how do you do banking
over interstellar distances?) and the characters were a bit more
interesting than the Leckie and the Grant.

I voted for “The Wheel of Time” over “Warbound” because if it
does turn out to be a good fantasy series, it will be much more
the kind of thing I want to read than the “Grimnoir Chronicles”.
(I should mention that in addition to the 14 volume series
nominated as a whole, the publishers of Warbound also gave us all
three volumes of this series, and I’m not sure I’d have wanted to
read Volume III on its own.) It seems to be SF for the video
games generation, and in spite of some good writing in between the
action scenes, I found it difficult to slog through.

I considered voting for “No Award” ahead of “Warbound”, but I
decided that it was well enough written to justify an award if
that’s the kind of SF the voters really want.

Novella

  1. “Equoid” by Charles Stross
  2. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
  3. “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages
  4. “The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen
  5. The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells

The top three of these are all excellent stories. The other
two lack characterization. I voted for the Stross over the
Valente and the Duncan because I thought the Science Fiction (a
proposed life cycle for the Unicorn) was better. “Wakulla
Springs” is a well-written story, but really not SF at
all. “Six-Gun Snow White” is brilliant in spots, but doesn’t
really hang together at the end.

Novelette

  1. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang
  2. “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard
  3. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal
  4. “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen
  5. “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day

Again, any of the top three would be a good award winner. I
didn’t remember until I’d filled out my ballot that the Vox Day
was controversial, but I figure it doesn’t matter because I didn’t
like it without any political motivations.

Short Story

  1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu
  2. “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar
  3. “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky
  4. “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Here, I do feel strongly that my number one vote is better than
the others, although I certainly won’t be surprised if something
else wins. I don’t feel strongly about the ranking of two and
three.

Maddaddam

This
book
is billed as book three of a trilogy, but I understand
book four is already out in the UK.

LIke the first two books, it takes place in a near-future
dystopia where most of the human race has been wiped out by a
genetically engineered plague. I found it a little easier reading
than the others, partly because we’ve already met most
of the main characters. Also because the point of view stays
pretty focused on Toby, who is one of the easier characters to
identify with.

The descriptions of post-apocalyptic survival strategies are
quite interesting. For instance, figuring out what to do with
kudzu is one of their problems. There’s also a long discussion of
what you can and can’t still find in drugstores.

I wouldn’t say to start with this one, but if you’ve tried the
others and found them heavy going, you may like this one better.


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