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Books of 2009 [Dec. 31st, 2009|04:05 pm]
ben
This year I sort of meandered my way through books, mostly at random, reading whatever took my fancy at the moment.

I read Little Brother on my cell phone. I really liked the realistic, detailed computer knowledge that went into the book, and that it had some very cool teenage protagonists. I also liked its open source orientation, both within the story and in that the book itself was free (as in beer), but included dedications to various cool book sellers. I can testify that it definitely worked for Cory Doctorow, since my recommendation to one of my friends prompted him to actually buy the book.

In keeping with my quest to read all Nebula and Hugo winners and nominees, and because I liked ‘The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay’ so much, I read the Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Michael Chabon can really write, and the alternate Jewish Alaska was interesting, but I found the subject matter a little mundane for the mood I was in.

More in tune with my mood for fiction this year was the Complete Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance. I had read these in high school, and while I have always loved Vance's prose and his magic users, I did not like ‘Cugel the Clever’ as a teenager, because I was a very nice kid, and Cugel is a completely amoral jerk. I really liked Cugel 20+ years later, however, which may or may not say something about my moral development/decay. Really, though, Vance’s writing is a sheer joy. The numerous polite conversations regarding tentacles, the overworld, deodands, terrible and unlikely predicaments, and dubious cons are just so beautiful and fun.

A year with a new China Mieville novel is always an exciting year. The City and the City was not your usual Bas Lag type book, but it was definitely weird and unique.

Also, a year with a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel is a good year. After reading ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III: Century’, I believe I hummed Brecht songs from ‘Three Penny Opera’ for at least a month.

Another treat this year was ‘The Magicians’, by Lev Grossman. If you liked Harry Potter, but wondered where all of the sex and drugs and teenage existential angst went, and if you like to see some of the hackneyed tropes of fantasy literature reflected upon and deconstructed, then this is the book for you. It’s awesome.

I read a number of steampunk novels that I liked: the Somnambulist by Johnathan Barnes, The Annubis Gates by Tim Powers, and Boneshaker, by Cherrie Priest. Of these, I liked the Somnambulist best as it is the most mysterious and has the best characters including a mute albino giant that doesn’t bleed and a man who claims to move backward through time. The other two books are both good too. In Boneshaker, for example, you get air pirates, mad scientists, and zombies.

Most of the science fiction that I read this year was good, but not fantastically great. I read a couple of Robert Charles Wilson novels: Spin and Chronoliths, and liked them both, but not as much as his book Darwinia that I read many years ago. Alistair Reynolds’ book ‘Revelation Space’ was also good, but again not amazing though I really liked the sense of wonder that he builds. Ian Bank’s ‘Use of Weapons’ was my least favorite Culture book so far, though it is perhaps the best written. I liked his book ‘Player of Games’, which I read in 2008, much better. If you are a gamer, you will definitely get into that one.

My favorite science fiction book that I read this year, and one that is close to amazing perhaps (at least for the first 75% of it), is Desolation Road, by Ian McDonald. I liked it up to the giant battle at the end. I must be getting old, because I have tired of giant battles for the most part.

The horror from this year was all pretty good, Lost Boy, Lost Girl was creepy, and I liked the rock and roll sensibility of ‘The Heart Shaped Box’. I found 2 copies of Ligotti’s ‘The Nightmare Factory’ for $5.00 each, which was amazing, and I read some creepy stories from the collection ‘Tales of Pain and Wonder’ by Caitlan Kiernan.

It was Edgar Allen Poe’s 200th birthday this year, and I re-read the poem ‘The Raven’ several times, and especially appreciate the use of the word nepenthe. However, I can’t get the Simpon’s parody where Bart is the raven out of my mind. Quothe the raven, “Eat my shorts.”
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Krio if you have ever tried to teach yourself esperanto! [Dec. 15th, 2009|08:19 pm]
ben
If you have clicked on the Google logo today, you know that it is L. L. Zamenhof's birthday. When I was in my 20s I did the whole Esperanto correspondence course. It was fun! I was lead down that odd path by Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat novels. I guess the late 19th century dream was that if all humans spoke the same language, then misunderstandings between nations/cultures/peoples would be fewer. But the tower of babel fell way back then, and now we are all forlorn. C'est la vie.
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More deadliest warrior matchups! [Aug. 7th, 2009|03:16 pm]
ben
1. The Rats of NIMH vs. The Bunnies from Watership Down
2. Makuuchi Sumo Wrestler vs. NFL Line Backer
3. High School Shooter vs. PCP Deranged Axe Murderer
4. Victorian Rat Catcher vs. US Border Patrol K9 Unit
5. Monster truck vs. World war one battle tank
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My head is in the cloud [Jul. 21st, 2009|08:42 pm]
ben
Other than emergency/post apocalyptic/zombies are now attacking scenarios and actual human to human real time conversations, it seems that it is now much more effective to store most of what one knows in the cloud, and instead keep in the level 1 and level 2 caches that knowledge the lets you use the cloud more effectively.

I have noticed that my ability to use google and to filter through the results I find has been far more important than any set of facts I have learned, though the learning of these facts has made me a better google user.

Google/google-like services/the cloud in general have become an extension of the human mind. And access to the cloud is rapidly becoming more intimate and more immediate.

Since I have never believed that the 'self' is anything real and that its instead just an illusion created by our physical, embodied, human form of life and our language/culture, it doesn't bother me at all. There never really was an I doing this thinking anyway, or at least, not so that it was any sacred big thing. I feel just as smart or just as dumb as I have ever felt. Perhaps more so.
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Wikipedia Entry for the Day [Jul. 9th, 2009|05:17 pm]
ben
Gropecunt Lane. I have got to use this street name in a D&D game sometime...
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Match ups I want to see in deadliest warrior [May. 25th, 2009|03:23 pm]
ben
So, if you love the idea of pirates vs. ninjas, etc. there is this show called 'Deadliest Warrior'. They run computer simulations of match ups like 'Pirate vs. Knight', 'Yakuza vs. Mafia', and 'Shaolin Monk vs. Maori Warrior'. Way cool, though I confess to just watching the synopses on line.

Here are some future match ups I would like to see:

Drunken Bufoon vs. Feral Child
Killer Clown vs. Ape Man
Angry Motorist vs. Pony Express Rider
Punk Rocker vs. Soccer Thug
Stampeding Super Close Out Sale Shoppers vs. Mob of Bavarian Peasants with Pitchforks and Torches
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Hugo Winning Novels that I have read [Apr. 27th, 2009|05:28 pm]
ben
I thought I would post the list of Hugo Winners that I have read (struck through), just for the heck of it. Please see the caveat regarding Nebula Winners in the post immediately preceding this one. Also, I did not include the retro hugos. Ooops. Well I have read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradburywhich was awarded the 1954 retro hugo in 2004 (I think pretty much everyone has read Fahrenheit 451-- don't people have to read that in Jr. High School or something?), and I may or may not have read Issac Asimov's The Mule (I read the foundation trilogy in high school), but I didn't read Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky.

Hugo Winners I have read:

2008: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
2007: Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
2006: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
2005: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
2004: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
2003: Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
2002: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2001: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
2000: A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
1999: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
1998: Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
1997: Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1996: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
1995: Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
1994: Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1993: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
1993: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
1992: Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
1991: The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
1990: Hyperion by Dan Simmons
1989: Cyteen by C. J. Cherryh
1988: The Uplift War by David Brin
1987: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
1986: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
1985: Neuromancer by William Gibson
1984: Startide Rising by David Brin
1983: Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov
1982: Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh
1981: The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
1980: The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
1979: Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre1
1978: Gateway by Frederik Pohl
1977: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
1976: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
1975: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
1974: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
1973: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
1972: To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer
1971: Ringworld by Larry Niven
1970: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
1969: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
1968: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
1967: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
1966: Dune by Frank Herbert
1966: This Immortal by Roger Zelazny
1965: The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber
1964: Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
1963: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
1962: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
1961: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
1960: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
1959: A Case of Conscience by James Blish
1958: The Big Time by Fritz Leiber
1956: Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
1955: They'd Rather Be Right (aka: The Forever Machine) by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley
1953: The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
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Nebula Winners [Apr. 26th, 2009|11:36 pm]
ben
They have announced the winners of the 2008 Nebula awards.

I once made a goal to read all of the nebula, hugo, philip k. dick,
and world fantasy award winning novels. So I thought I would update my list.

Note that winning an award is not always that significant. Sure, you can bet that if a novel won an award, its probably pretty good, and so reading such novels is usually a safe bet, but there are a lot of great novels that are nominees, but for one reason or another don't win. For example, Perdido Street Station, nominated for the 2002 award, is an awesome, breakthrough work. In my opinion, its far better than American Gods, which took the award. Likewise, I preferred Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, nominated for the 2005 award, over the winner Camouflage.

So a better, but more ambitious goal would be to read all of the nominees. However, many of us have giant reading lists, and there are many novels that are just cool, and need to be read, but may not even get nominated for one of the above awards.

I currently do not have a serious goal of completing this list.
This is because there are too many other books I want to read, and I am more interested in reading the contemporary nominees and books by my various and sundry favorite writers, and books that my wife recommends (who has an uncanny sense for excellent space opera, weird fiction and weird non-fiction).

Nebula Winning Novels (I've struck through the ones I've read):

2008: Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin
2007: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
2006: Seeker by Jack McDevitt
2005: Camouflage by Joe Haldeman
2004: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
2003: The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
2002: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2001: The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro
2000: Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
1999: Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
1998: Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
1997: The Moon and the Sun by Vonda McIntyre
1996: Slow River by Nicola Griffith
1995: The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer
1994: Moving Mars by Greg Bear
1993: Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1992: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
1991: Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick
1990: Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
1989: The Healer's War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
1988: Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
1987: The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy
1S86: peaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
1985: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
1984: Neuromancer by William Gibson
1983: Startide Rising by David Brin
1982: No Enemy But Time by Michael Bishop
1981: The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
1980: Timescape by Gregory Benford
1979: The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
1978: Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre1
1977: Gateway by Frederik Pohl
1976: Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
1975: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
1974: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
1973: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
1972: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
1971: A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg
1970: Ringworld by Larry Niven
1969: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin1
1968: Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
1967: The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany
1966: Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany>
1966: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
1965: Dune by Frank Herbert
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Why not Satan? [Apr. 21st, 2009|07:43 pm]
ben
Why doesn't American Idol ever have a Satan night, god dam it!?!?
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craptracker [Apr. 17th, 2009|08:15 pm]
ben
craptracker update

18:44 sitting at my computer twittering, something like a migo, only a migo would hover unnaturally while plugged into a bank of brains in jars.

Another happy textual moment in the self imposed panopticon.
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