madbaker: (mammoth garlic)
I went to SF in SF for the first time in quite a while last night. They often run them on Sunday evenings, so I tend not to go unless there's an author I want to hear/get books signed. In this case it was two - one local, one formerly local now in Oregon. I've quite enjoyed both their books, which are quite different but maybe share a sense of humor. I haven't quite enjoyed them enough to buy them; my bar for buying books has gotten pretty high the last five years.

Megan O'Keefe has written a steampunkish fantasy trilogy centering around two con artists. I like well-done heist novels, and the characters are fun. (Plus the interactions are Wodehouse-esque.) Curtis Chen has written a couple sci-fi novels about a spy with a superpower (he can open a "pocket" to an empty parallel universe, which is handy for storing stuff). But the spy is hardly James Bond; he's a total amateur.

Both authors read from a couple of their works and took questions. I enjoyed it. The only downside was suffering a major calf cramp as I jogged across a busy intersection. I couldn't exactly do anything about it, and limping the 3 blocks to where I parked didn't help matters. It's better today although still bugging me.
madbaker: (scary clown)
Friday we went across town to the Balboa, an art deco theatre in the Richmond. It takes less time to drive down to Palo Alto than it does to drive from one side of SF to the other. But SF in SF was hosting a free showing of Bubba Ho-Tep, which I had never seen; and Joe Lansdale, who wrote the short story the film was adapted from, was there to sign books and talk about the film and story.

I haven't actually read any of Lansdale's stuff, but it sounded like a good outing. We had a fine time and I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I expected to. It's not just a low-budget goofy movie with Bruce Campbell.

The wife reminded me to ask my standard author question, which I got from George "Kill 'em All" RR Martin: on the spectrum of gardeners to architects, where do you put yourself? Gardeners plant seeds and see what comes up; architects plot structure before building. I find it to be a non-fanboy question that sometimes leads to a good discussion.

Oddly enough, hardly anyone admits to being an architect. There's no best answer, because the one that works for the author is the right one. Too much gardening leads to unconnected scenes, with no plot or story structure; too much architecting probably feels forced.

madbaker: (life is good)
As I get time (ha!) and effort (ha ha!) to sum up...
Omnivore Books had an event for Stephen Grasse, the founder of Sailor Jerry rum (which I have not had) and Hendricks Gin (which I have and liked). He's got a new book out: Colonial Spirits, about the US history with founders and booze. Short version: if it could be made into booze, they did. Jefferson "made shitty wine"; Washington was smarter and distilled whiskey, which they have re-opened on Mount Vernon.

Grasse is an interesting guy. He's apparently a bit of a rock star in the booze consulting world. He knows it and certainly has some diva qualities. On the other hand, he's got lots of good stories and knows how to play to an audience be it large (the bookstore was pretty full) or small (six of us went out to dinner with him afterwards). It was a fun time and I may try some of the adapted colonial booze recipes from his book. Some of the punches look good; they made a sample at the event that I quite enjoyed.

madbaker: (life is good)
One of my former go-to authors, Dave Duncan, was in town on short notice and signing books at Borderlands. It's not really fair to call him a "former go-to" but I'm not sure what else to call him. During the late '90s to early '00s I bought his books unread and enjoyed them immensely. Then... his publisher dropped him, presumably for insufficient sales. I special-ordered a couple of his subsequent books but didn't like them enough to keep. He fell to my "be aware of his publishing and consider his books in my library queue" list.

The last time he was in the Bay Area must have been around 2000, because I have books from then signed. It was a bit sad that there were only four of us there yesterday... although one was a collector with a huge box that I really hope he isn't selling on E-Bay today. On the other hand, I got to chat with Mr. Duncan and show my bona fides ("I enjoyed Eye of Strife; it reminded me of the Hunter's Haunt books"). His wife was also a very nice woman.

I didn't get all my remaining books of his signed, but the ones that I re-read more I took. It was still six hardcovers. I hope he wasn't too disappointed by the turnout.

madbaker: (Bayeux cook)
Zinziber's publication date was pushed back. Again. It was originally due October 2015, I think? Prospect Books not getting it done is the most likely culprit but [livejournal.com profile] aryanhwy, you should hit up your colleague for an explanation. Says the self-entitled impatient purchaser.

madbaker: (Galen)
I had a list of things planned for this weekend: smoke a 6-lb slab of bacon, clear up the fridge, do some number-crunching, start a batch of daikon and carrot pickle...

But the wife is away this weekend, and the neurotic cat is clingy. (He actually made sure I was still here around 4:30 this morning. Which I know because I was - sigh - awake in bed.) So instead I've spent much of the time sitting on the futon reading with a cat on my lap.
It's been wonderfully relaxing, if not particularly productive. But that was one of the reasons why I didn't head north for the weekend with the wife - I really wanted to not have to go anywhere.

madbaker: (life is good)
So, Charles Stross.
He did a reading and signing earlier in the day, which I was unable to attend. I might not have gone in any case; while I have enjoyed a number of his books (love the Laundry Files, quite liked the first Merchant Princes book but got bored as it got increasingly ranty, meh on most of the space opera) I do not own any of them. However, Borderlands occasionally offers sponsors extras. In this case, spending a couple hours with Charlie and his wife at a bar afterwards. I put in my name and was one of the ten drawn from the hat.

It was fun. Charlie felt no need to restrain his feelings, and indulged his rantyness. Sometimes this was hilarious, other times entertaining and interesting, occasionally an internal eye-roll on my part. (He's a Scottish socialist; I'm neither.) One example of a long-winded, hilarious diatribe was his story about going from drug-running [as a licensed pharmacist] to becoming a computer scientist, thus becoming the "only actual qualified cyberpunk."

Also good chattage with other Borderlands sponsors, because we're similar book geeks. I bailed a bit after 9 PM, because Sunday night. People were still going strong. I made sure to thank Jude from Borderlands for the opportunity.

madbaker: (life is good)
I'm going drinking with Charles Stross tonight!
Details tomorrow.

madbaker: (Simpsons me)
I just finished a collection of Anthony Boucher's short SF stories (thanks, NESFA!). In general they were good. Boucher was primarily an editor, although he also reviewed mysteries for the San Francisco Chronicle and taught at Cal. There's a long-running mystery convention named after him.
Many of the stories were somewhat dated - they were written during WWII, after all. One of the last ones went the opposite way I thought it would, and I think it would be far more interesting the way I envisioned. So, as a way of getting it out of my head:

The editor of a small-town newspaper is granted one wish. He wishes that the newspaper should always publish the truth (it's the masthead slogan). He gradually realizes that everything he publishes comes true - at least within the circulation area. When he headlines "War Ends!" the town acts as if there were no longer a draft, ration coupons, etc; but the federal government eventually sends an agent to investigate why they've stopped complying. Eventually he realizes that he's abusing the power and publishes a retraction of the ability.

How I thought the story would go: The other way 'round. Instead of everything he publishes coming true, he only has the ability to publish what is true. Hilarious problems with advertisers! Even more so with politicians! How do you make stories interesting when you are limited to exact descriptions? Or constant usage of "This reporter thinks that..." Basically, it's a more nuanced problem.

madbaker: (Krosp)
Today's Girl Genius makes me laugh. The library army's slogan - "To read what you want, you have to be FREE!"

madbaker: (Saluminati)
I just finished Sausage: A Global History by Gary Allen. It's a decent little book in a series dedicated to food and drink - a good overview, some modern recipes, a fair number of photos and historic advertisements. There's nothing really that I didn't know, but it's a much deeper dive into the history than any other charcuterie book I've read.

The second chapter (the title still makes me snerk - "Some Historical Sausages and the Links Between Them") starts with a couple allusions from The Iliad and goes forward. Apicius, check. Both the 10th and the 13th c. Middle Eastern cookery books, that's unusual. Form of Curye, Menagier, Guter Spise, check. Rumpolt, that's less common. Manuel de Mujeres? Ouverture de Cuisine? Dude did some serious research.

Eventually I get to the acknowledgements, here put in the back.
"I have to first thank Ken Albala, historian of all things culinary, who practises what he preaches."
Ah, that makes sense!
"He put me in touch with Jeremy Fletcher, who has collected and translated a vast number of medieval and Renaissance sausage recipes."
...
I'm glad the Charcuterie doc was useful. I did not translate much of it, of course, and the doc has full attribution to those who did. But, um. Is it bragging to say that I know his pre-1600 research is accurate?

madbaker: (charcuterie)
Chapter title in a charcuterie book: "Some Historical Sausages and the Links Between Them."

madbaker: (Nubian?)
My dad gave me a B&N virtual gift card to download things to my Nook. My dad gave us a Nook some years back, which we promptly returned for actual books. I do have an iPad from work now; occasionally I download books from the library, but I feel no need to pay money for things I plan to read once (even electronically). I have a conference I am attending in Florida in February, and I thought hey - there are a couple e-books I wanted to read, so what the heck. I'll use the gift card to buy those, and because it's a gift I won't care if I delete them afterwards.* This will allow me to carry less stuff.

However.
Trying to redeem the gift card took me to their website where I logged on. It then told me I was using the wrong e-mail. I tried logging on with that one and... it's not a valid account.
I finally braced myself to deal with their customer service - and after some runaround with the rep going by script rather than communicating with what I said, was told that they have to refund the gift card. And have my dad then re-purchase it with the e-mail logon I use with them once it clears.

Making prospective customers jump through multiple hoops just to spend money is a guaranteed way to lose said prospective customers.


* I first typed "afterwords", which is vaguely amusing and not totally wrong.

madbaker: (life is good)
Huh. Apparently Harriet Klausner died.
The obituary is a feel-good description of the person's life, and is the best example of this genre to be published this year! I have read it already despite it just coming out! I am not going to disclose that I received a free copy from publishers, and now I will sell it on eBay.
[/snark]

madbaker: (life is good)
From Eric Nylund, a writer whose works I have enjoyed:
In your opinion who’s the best new Sci-fi writer?

I like Earnest Cline. His READY PLAYER ONE is wonderful. His ARMADA is not so wonderful. Lessons to be learned from both books.

madbaker: (Skippy)
I am going to a Taco Tuesday signing tonight: Greg van Eekhout, a San Diego writer whose latest series I quite like (and won the third in a drawing, so now I have something for him to sign); Seanan McGuire, whose InCryptid series I enjoy but haven't felt the need to buy, and whose urban fantasy series I threw against the wall when the second book had a "Deus ex Stupida" plot.* Also a third writer from the same publisher whose name I can't recall, as I didn't recognize it. In any case, the publisher is providing tacos and Tecate beer. Plus I'm a sponsor, so the bookstore should be reserving a seat for me.

* My term for a plot driven by character or, in this case, characters acting so stupid that it's beyond credulity. Even the clever ones don't see the 20-ton plot truck barrelling down on them. It's too big to ignore and the author needed to at least acknowledge it, or (preferably) rewrite so it wasn't quite so glaring. I finished the book but could never go back to the series.

Here follows my Dragon Coast review, since I finished the book this weekend and it comes out today.

Disclosure: I received a free ARC from the publisher via a Goodreads drawing.
The first book in the series was a caper novel; the second investigated and revealed relationships; and the third brings the two full circle. Daniel has to impersonate his dead brother/golem Paul while stealing a priceless treasure - to restore Sam, who he realizes is now family to him. This while dealing with revelations about Paul's own family interactions. Sam has to wade through his own internal minefield of what it means to be the dead Hierarch's golem.

Not as fresh and fun as the first novel in the series, but more witty and better-paced than the second. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This closed enough of the story threads that it could be the final novel in a trilogy, but I'd be happy to return to this universe.

madbaker: (life is good)
It is hard to get rid of books that I once liked (and in some cases, have gotten personalized/signed by the author). But if I haven't read them in the last five years and don't really think I'm going to reread them, why am I holding on to them?

That's a question that is harder to follow through upon than it is to answer.

madbaker: (PVP)
Half a War, Joe Abercrombie. The final volume in the trilogy. All were quick reads. I quite liked this; the characters behaved in ways that were not solely plot-driven but consistent with their personalities. Including the twist at the end, which managed to be both surprising and inevitable/logical in retrospect. Well done, sir.

madbaker: (Gunnerkrigg me)
I've been a SF/F reader for a very long time. I date my start to seven or eight, when I discovered Heinlein and Bradbury and Vance. It's fair to blame my dad for reading The Hobbit as a bedtime story when I was five, though.

This is possibly heretical, but since it's on LiveJournal no one will actually read this and flame me. So here goes:
I don't understand why Connie Willis is a popular writer.

I've read a couple of her books. I thought they were okay - nothing world-shaking or engrossing, certainly nothing that made me want to read more of her work. The couple I read were, in fact, among the many ones she's written that have won many awards. But they were far from the best things I read that year. I only vaguely remember one of them, and that was getting to the end and going "So... nothing actually happened."

Taste is a funny thing. I'm not limited to one genre; I sometimes like space opera, sometimes guns and monsters, sometimes heroic (or anti-heroic) fantasy. I adored both Ancillary Justice and City of Stairs and those two have nothing in common. Except excellent writing. And... I just don't think Connie Willis is an excellent writer.

The rest of SF/F fandom disagrees. And that's fine. But I don't get it and I don't see that ever changing.

madbaker: (life is good)
I've mentioned it before: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles are part of my comfort books. It's good to know that others feel the same way.

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