Category Archives: Books

RIP, Ursula K. Le Guin


I haven’t read nearly as much of her work as I’d have liked, and that’s something I look forward to rectifying soonly. I’ve never had the chance to meet her at a con, but very eloquent folks who knew her have said wonderful things in remembrance. Of particular note:

Neil Gaiman presents lifetime achievement award to Ursula K. Le Guin at 2014 National Book Awards from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

The Laddie Wha Lived

It has been making the rounds that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been translated into Scots, but I feel compelled to share here as well given how excellent this development is. I mean, seriously, BEHOLD:

New translation of Harry Potter into Scots

One could read it aloud in a think, Scottish brogue (as I have), or sit back with a dram and listen to the translator, Matthew Fitt, read a bit of it on NPR.

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin
The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin


Three terrible things happen in a single day.

Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.

She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Flavor: Primal earth-mages grappling with service to a society that both needs and fears them, as well as freedom from the horrible chains that their guardians judge are needed to keep them in line.

Thoughts: I listened to the Audible version. It started out slow for me over the first couple of hours, but soon broke through into quite the interesting story that easily had me hooked. Jemisin’s voice is distinct and fresh. The world she builds is intriguingly different than most fantasy settings, with enough broad strokes to give a sense of scope and spikes of detail to inform the story, but leaving much more to be fleshed out in future tales. The characters are strong, evolving in real and complex ways. By the end, I felt like I had thoroughly lived a story to a satisfying end, but with a clear setup for the next book.

Verdict: Highly recommended. An excellent choice for fantasy enthusiasts looking for something different, and very well-done. It won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016, and certainly feels worthy of that honor. I’ll be prioritizing the next book in the Broken Earth series on my to-read list.

Angry Robot week in The Secret Lair – win books!

Angry Robot, typing

I shall be doing a more proper update on what’s been going on in The Secret Lair shortly, but for now, know this: it is Angry Robot week in The Lair, and if you send us glorious haiku, you have a chance to win 5 of their books!

Angry Robot is an excellent UK-based publisher whose mission “is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!” Apart from publishing excellent books, they are doing some seriously cool, innovative things, like their freshly announced WorldBuilder project. All this week, we’re taking a look at some of their novels and short stories, as well as doing several interviews and taking a closer look at their WorldBuilder initiative, so please join us.

All of this culminates in the Angry Robot Haiku Contest, which is taking submissions until 8pm EDT on Thursday, September 1st. The details and prize descriptions are here. Enter! Amuse us! Win great stories!

weekly rounds

  • I think Laura said it best:

    Hello Feb 1! Can I pretend that this is the start of 2010 and that January didn’t happen?

    And so I shall leave it at that.

  • Apple also happened to announce a shiny new thing this past week. Ken encapsulates exactly why I’d want one, while Chris examines why the iPad (and, to a lesser extent, the entire Apple product line) are less “computers” and more “appliances”… and why that may be a bad thing.

TIRMTPI2009BD #1 – How I got here in the end, by Charlie Stross

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be putting up the rather self-explanatory series of Things I Really Meant To Post In 2009 But Didn’t. These Things are (at least to me) still notable, informative, or amusing enough to be worth sharing months after they happened or came across my radar… such is the joy of the “eternal now” of the Internet. And, of course, because I can.

Starting in June, author Charlie Stross posted a twelve part novella-length series on his blog entitled How I got here in the end: my non-tech autobiography. Although a rather lengthy read, Stross’s tale of his pre-author career and its influence on his current work is fascinating. In particular, his descriptions of working with computers in various start-up companies during the boom of that technology in the 1980-90’s put me in mind of my own several-year sales and service stint with CompUSA. If only we (and the customers) knew back then just how tenuous check/credit card transaction-processing companies were…

Check out this series here, and if you don’t read Stross’s blog in general, you really should.


I’ve held back from discussing politics in this space, but events surrounding the handling of the novel H1N1 vacc>>>  [ WARNING ::: DATABASE ERROR ::: CONTENT OVERRIDE ::: SOURCE: EXTERNAL ] <<<

Kilroy 2.0 is everywhere

> source terminal location: UNKNOWN
> source terminal identity: UNAVAILABLE
> source login information: ENCRYPTED
> message begins

the post you are now reading is designed to dull your senses to THE TRUTH.  do not live the life of the worker bee, the cog, the well-oiled piston in the MACHINE OF DECEIT!

there is a grand CONSPIRACY afoot.  you have been taught to believe that you are UNIQUE, one of a kind. THIS IS NOT TRUE. long ago, a cabal of scientists created technologies to ensure that ANYONE’S MIND AND BODY can be duplicated.

human cloning isn’t NEAR. it’s already HERE. discover the truth at

you are being DECEIVED. break free from the cogs, flee the hive, become A PROPHET OF THE TRUTH!

kilroy2. was here … kilroy2.0 is everywhere

>>> [ CONTENT OVERRIDE CEASES ::: DATABASE STATUS: RECOVERING ] <<< a grave injustice. It needed to be said, and all we can do now is hope that the coming influenza tide is a mild one.

Dragon*Con 2008 Schedule

First, it must be noted that Playing for Keeps hit #16 overall in books on Amazon yesterday. Congratulations Mur!

Dragon*Con is almost upon us. This year, I have the pleasure of being a guest on the science track, as well as participating in podcasting track events. If you happen to find yourself at this absolute zoo of a con, please feel free to stop by and say hello. If you are in the area, and not planning on being at the con, then seriously – it’s a zoo. Stop by and feed the animals. And say hello! Events I am involved with include:

  • Science Based Medicine: Spotting the Quacks, Charlatans & Those Elixer of Life Salesmen – Physicians save lives and they learn to do so by many years of training in a variety of sciences. Hear how to tell the difference between which Doctor and/or medicine is real and which Witch Doctor will take your money – and maybe your life! Friday, 5:30pm, Henry (Hilton)
  • Emerging Infectious Horrors! – What new viral apocalypse or creeping deaths are keeping the CDC busy while we are partying at Dragon*Con? Come hear the latest about infectious horrors, both old and new, and what’s being done about them. Friday, 8:30pm, Henry (Hilton)
  • Aliens You Will Meet Puppet Show, Live! – It will be made of felt, fur, and awesome. (Obviously, not the description stolen from the program.) Saturday, 5:30pm, Rockdale (Hilton)
  • The Third Annual Parsec Awards – Join us for the Third Annual Parsec Awards hosted by some your favorite podcasters. The Parsec Award is available for Sci-fi & Fantasy Original Content, Speculative Fiction and a variety of other categories dealing with the new frontiers of Portable Media. Saturday, 7:00pm, Regency V (Hyatt)
  • A Bloody, Burning, Painful Death . . . Is Coming for You! – Viral hemorrhagic fevers are among the most horrible infections to die from. What different kinds are there? What makes them so nasty? And, I’ve got nothing to worry about here in the USA… right? RIGHT?  ***** GRAPHIC PICTURES, NOT FOR CHILDREN ***** Sunday, 5:30pm, Henry (Hilton)
  • Strange but True Scientific Research: Inspired by the IgNobel Prizes & the Annals of Improbable Research – Elephants on acid?  Glow in the dark kittens?  Fainting goats?  Hamsters on Viagra?!  The world of scientific research includes many strange and fascinating phenomena.  Come and be amused and perhaps a bit enlightened about what the strangest areas of research have to teach us. Sunday, 7:00pm, Henry (Hilton)

There will be a con report, I promise. (You will ignore the previously absent con reports. Yes, you will.)

Playing for Keeps On-Sale Tomorrow

Playing for Keeps, Mur Lafferty‘s brilliant debut novel that sets the entire superhero genre on its ear, goes on sale tomorrow on Amazon. Go buy it then. It may cure your maladies, purify your genes, or give you honest-to-goodness superpowers. Or, failing that, it’s an excellent book and an imperatively entertaining and thought-provoking read.

There’s also an amazing amount of free Playing for Keeps related content that Mur has made available, as a run-up to the book’s release:

  • Still uncertain if the novel is a worthy purchase? (Oh, it is!) The full book, including all of the comic book-style covers from it’s initial podcast run, as well as an all-new short story, are available as a free pdf download.
  • The Playing for Keeps music video that I discussed previously has been released. Sadly, Mur did not recieve enough entrants to spur her to dance for the camera, but plenty of people did send in clips… including me. You just know you want to see me, uh, dance, or something…
  • Last and most certainly not least, Mur revived the Stories of the Third Wave fan podcast, which can be found on the Playing for Keeps website and feed, and has been putting out content for the last several weeks. Episodes include imaginings of what different radio shows might sound like during the daily commute in Seventh City, as well as original fiction set in the Playing for Keeps universe from J. C. Hutchins and Matt Wallace, and the Seventh City version of existing podcasts. Mur generously invited me to contribute, and I decided to riff on NPR’s Faith Matters program and explore how the existance of heroes in the world of Playing for Keeps might impact on exisiting religious faith, and perhaps create new belief systems entirely. I’m pleased with the result, and invite you to check out that episode as well as all the amazing content that has been contributed.

Playing for Keeps. Be a Hero of the 25th, and buy it tomorrow. YES.

2008 Hugo Award Winners

It would be remiss of me not to point out that the 2008 Hugo Awards were given out this past weekend at Denvention 3, the 66th World Science Fiction Convention. Here the results, from the official site:

  • Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins; Fourth Estate)
  • Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s Dec. 2007; Subterranean Press)
  • Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press; F&SF Sept. 2007)
  • Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s June 2007)
  • Non-fiction Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)
  • Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Charles Vess Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Paramount Pictures)
  • Semiprozine: Locus, edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi

While I will admit to great joy at the winners of some categories, and some disappointment at the winner of at least one other (don’t ask, because I’m not telling 😉 ), a hearty congratulations is extended to all for the recognition.

More linkage:

  • The final list of nominees in each category can be found here, and the the final tally of the breakdown of voting is here. The nominee page contains links to where all of the Novella, Novelette, and Short Story finalists can be read freely online.
  • Also, continuing what is now a Official Tradition, many of the nominated short stories, including four of the five final nominees, are available in free audio format in recent episodes of Escape Pod.
  • Finally, John Scalzi gives his irreverent take on his Hugo win and Hugo loss here, and io9 serves up a Hugo recap with pictures here.