Category Archives: Books & Reading

Three Days at WorldCon 76: Sunday

Day 1Day 2 – Day 3: Sunday, August 19, 2018

WorldCon Sunday

Exhausted! By the time I got home Sunday afternoon, I was veering into walls.

Panel:
SETI:  What Do We Do When We Find Them? – Andrew Fraknoi Guy Consolmagno, SB Divya, Douglas Vakoch, Lonny Brooks

Wow!  Lots of interesting questions about contacting extra-terrestrial intelligence.  While there was a massive amount of smarts on the panel, it was really cool to learn Vatican City has an observatory, and the director of the observatory, Guy J. Consolmagno, was on the panel.

“We’re always looking for ourselves.”

Interesting questions:
How do we not anthropomorphize aliens?
Maybe we should warn them about us?
What are we not including/asking?
What is our motivation for searching for extraterrestrial intelligence?
What are the consequences of contact?
Will aliens be truthful?  (Based on human history, there’s been a lot of dissembling.)
Should we just remain quiet?
Should we be more powerful?

Recommended Reading:
Would You Baptize An Extraterrestrial?

John Scalzi Signature

After the panel it was time for another swing through the Dealer’s Room, and find the line for a John Scalzi autograph.

What a great weekend!

Three Days at WorldCon 76: Saturday

Day 1 – Day 2: Saturday, August 18, 2018 – Day 3

WorldCon Saturday

The must do event was the KaffeeKlatsche with @Mary Robinette Kowal and @astroKjell (Kjell Lindgren) .  MRK has written two of my favorite books ever, her Lady Astronaut series.  (Reviews coming much later when I get caught up with stuff.)

Getting to sit at a table and talk to the woman who wrote a fantastic book whose protagonist is strong, smart and an advocate for women in the space program knocked my socks off.  Oh, and a real live astronaut.  What a great way to start the day.

Mary and Kjell are some of the best people I’ve ever met.  They were kind and generous with their time, and allowed the 10 of us at their table to ask questions.  I’m grateful to for the opportunity to meet and engage with them.

Mary Robinette Kowal

The Calculating Stars signature

Kjell Lindgren

Kjell Lindgren signature

Panel:
1001 Years Later – What Happened to Arabian FictionShayma Alshareef and Yasser Bahjatt

1001 Nights is the first anthology ever.
“Fiction gives voice to the voiceless.”

Science fiction writing is booming in the Middle East now.  Yasser Bahjatt started a publishing house so that these voices can be heard.  One of his goals is to work with translators so that English readers get to hear the voices too.  It’s a really exciting development for world science fiction/fantasy

Recommended reading:
Frankenstein in Baghdad

Celebrity sighting:  George R R Martin in the audience

Panel:
Women Who Out Steampunked Steampunk:  Real Life Soldiers, Inventors, TravellersCarrie Sessarego.  

I couldn’t possibly do justice to Carrie’s roll call of Regency and Victorian era women who “broke” the rules.

Recommended Reading:
The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

Panel:
Houston, We Have a Problem …Bridget Landry, Norman Sperling, Kjell Lindgren

Two thoughts:  Failure is how we learn, and make new mistakes

Three Days at WorldCon 76: Friday

Day 1:  Friday, August 17, 2018 – Day 2Day 3

WorldCon Friday

I left fandom years ago because I wasn’t really enjoying myself.  Old friends have died or moved on and I wandered off to figure out me.  Early cons are where I realized I was “too freaky for the mundanes, and too mundane for the freaks.”

While WorldCon76 was my second worldcon, it was my best con ever!  Big backpack stuffed with con survival gear (food, books, journals, pens, etc.), bowler hat squarely on my head, I wandered the convention center with a big smile on my face.  Thank you Richard for insisting I go.

My recaps are an effort to wrangle my notes into one accessible place.  Notes are incomplete because there’s no way I could keep up with people like @MGallowglas or Shayma Alshareef and Yasser Bahjatt.  Mistakes are mine, not theirs.

My Year of Creative Reading by M. Todd Gallowglas

Panel:
Geeks Guide to Literary Theory – M Todd Gallowglas – @MGallowglas

Recommended Reading:

After the panel I wandered down to the Dealer’s Room to table F19 and talked to Todd for a few minutes and picked up a copy of My Year of Creative Reading, which he signed for me.

Then an hour plus interlude waiting in line to sign up for the @Mary Robinette Kowal and @astroKjell (Kjell Lindren) KaffeKlatsch scheduled for the next day.  Best reason for waiting in line.  Ever.

Panel:
AfrofuturismSteven Barnes & @StevenBarnes1

Afrofuturism is the myth, fiction, art, and science, the cinema and music and dance of the children of the African Diaspora.

Recommended Reading:

 

Review: Zer0es

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Title: Zer0es
Author:  Chuck Wendig
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 9780062351555
Publisher:  Harper Voyager
Twitter: @ChuckWendig
Publisher’s Blurb: Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab-Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. Calling themselves “the Zeroes,” they must spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, at a secret complex known only as “the Lodge.”

… North Korea is like the crazy little brother that keeps kicking over the neighbor’s potted plants and dropping flaming bags of dog shit on their doorstep.  You protect them because they’re your brother, but in private you drag them over the coals for acting like such an epic asshole.  (p. 274)

I came to Chuck Wendig through the Miriam Black series.  Miriam is one of my very favorite urban fantasy protagonists with her dark secret power which has driven her to a life of self-sabotage which makes most of us look sane and normal.

None of the characters on Zer0es come even close to being as interesting.  Not even the AI called Typhon.

And while I enjoyed Zer0es as the perfect mind candy getaway, the story of five disparate hackers forced to make the choice between prison or hacking for a unknown government project read like a Michael Crichton thriller without all the horrifying deathly side effects.

I really wanted to like this book on a level other than a Lord of the Flies-esque survival of the best hackers against each other, conspiracy minded players with a cult like belief they’re on the righteous side, and a terrifying Ai which could have come from any wetware scenario.

The writing is smart, and often times thrilling.  And as I said farther up, it’s a great afternoon read.  But for me, it read like “been there, read that.”  That’s not Wendig’s fault, I’ve probably been reading voraciously longer than he’s known how to string words together.

There are other books written by Wendig which interest me.  I’m looking forward to catching up on Miriam Black.  Zer0es just sort of missed the mark for me.

New to the Stacks: Toni Morrison, Asian Art Museum, Nebula Awards

Nebula Awards Showcase 2017
Nebula Awards Showcase 2018
Sula by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Jazz by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Dragons in the Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Searching for Guan Yin by Sarah E. Truman
Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami
Divine Bodies – Asian Art Museum
Guided Tour of Hell by Sam Bercholz
  • Nebula Awards Showcase 2017
  • Nebula Awards Showcase 2018
  • Sula by Toni Morrison
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Jazz by Toni Morrison
  • Dragons in the Waters by Madeleine L’Engle – read
  • Searching for Guan Yin by Sarah E. Truman
  • Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami
  • Divine Bodies – Asian Art Museum
  • A Guided Tour of Hell by Samuel Bercholz

Review: The Armored Saint

The Armored Saint
by
Myke Cole

Title: The Armored Saint
Author:   Myke Cole
Published: 2018
ISBN-13: 9780765395955
Publisher: Tor
Twitter:  @MykeCole
Publisher’s Blurb:  In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.
What’s Auntie Reading Now? picture

Her wounds sang out with every movement, but it was an old song to her now, sung so many times that she knew the words by heart.  She was good at hurting.  (p 186)

I blame Scalzi again.  He’s also one of the reasons I read Richard Kadrey, and have a never-ending wish-list culled from his Big Idea feature.

Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint is more than just a coming of age story.  It’s about family, right and wrong, identity and, love.  Heloise may only be 16 but she is badass in so many ways, and has become a character I want to know better.

Set in a medieval village ruled by a heavy-handed religious government called the Order, The Armored Saint is the story of Heloise, a teenager who questions everything she’s been taught.  And you know how dictator governments hate that, especially in women.

Myke Cole wrote Heloise for me.  For the woman who questioned things and didn’t understand why she was treated so harshly.  Only Heloise is surrounded by those who love her, and while conflicted about her questioning, protect her from being hunted down and killed by the Order.

Wizardry is not allowed.  Period.  Wizardry opens the portals for demons to crawl through.  Anyone who’s different gets killed.  Including, and especially, the mentally ill.  The man, Churic, normally quiet and described as “simple,”  has a fit one day.  Frothing at the mouth, purple skinned, eye bugging fit.  Which is seized upon as evil by the Order.  And the neighboring village, Heloise’s village is called upon to Knit Churic’s village.

Knitting is an horrific ritual, forcing those from one village to kill their friends in a neighboring village.  But it is in the Knitting that Heloise feels the power of all those questions, and the shoddy answers rise.  Her rebelliousness leaps out, putting her own village in danger, especially her father.  But she can’t help herself, what’s been going on is wrong, and evil, and she won’t stand for it any longer.

She may be 16, and small in stature, but girl is fierce.  And I love that Myke Cole wrote her to be the conflicted, flawed, insecure, brave hero she is.  She resonates through my very being and, I imagine, everyone who has ever questioned the status quo and been shunted aside.  Heloise is for those of us who want to be brave, but aren’t sure how.  She leads the way by living her truth, confusing as that may be.  She does it out of love.  And Cole shows in this brutal story that it is love which wins.  Whether he intended to or not, that’s what I got.

Heloise’s village hides her from the Order, and she comes out swinging.  The neighbor who hides her builds war-engines for the  Emperor to be used by his most fanatical officers in the army.  They are giant man-shaped machines, powered by seethestone, driven by men to grind everyone in their path to so much pulp.  (And while seethestone has a perfectly acceptable scientific method for working behind it, it seems a lot like magic to me.)

It is Heloise, broken and battered, and unwilling to give up the fight for those who have died at the hands of the Order who uses a war-engine to its most brutal advantage.  She is doing it for those she loved who died brutally, for those who could die brutally, and for herself.  Because, this shit will no longer stand.

In just over 200 pages, Heloise drives us through a paradigm shift.  From submissive to the Order, to mad as hell and refusing to put up with anyone’s nonsense anymore, she stands for what she believes in.  Which, of course, is in direct opposition to what the Order orders her to believe in.

Battered and bruised, Heloise becomes the sainted one who will lead the rest into battle.  At least, that’s what her neighbors tell her.  “No,” she says, “I’m not the hero you’re looking for.  I’m not brave or strong or anything.  I’m broken and hurting, and scared by the brutality I’ve been witness to, and have committed.  You’ve got the wrong girl.”

The rest of the story comes in the next two books, and I am so looking forward to following Heloise on her quest, standing by her side as I continue to heal from my own brokenness and find ways to say, “This shit will not stand,” in my own life.

Thank you Myke Cole, for this book and the books to come.  And thank you for Heloise, the hero we all need in this time and place.