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Posted by Editor

Richard J. Chwedykby Richard J. Chwedyk

“I didn’t go to an arts college to look at another equation!”

So protested one of my students when I scrawled an equation on the blackboard while we spoke about the concept of negative mass (we were playing around with another student’s story, and trying to come up with a plausible FTL drive).

Her frustration underscores a common anxiety many beginning sf writers struggle with. “I’m afraid I don’t know enough science,” they’ll tell me.

I know the feeling. Although I scored well in science and math aptitudes, I never pursued anything in what are now called the STEM fields. And here I am, writing about spaceships, bioengineering, artificial life forms and alternate universes. How dare I?

How dare they? They’ve enrolled in an arts college. Many of them are majors in Creative Writing. What kind of a background is that for becoming a science fiction writer?

The interesting thing I’ve discovered is: When I’ve queried those same anxious students about space exploration, robotics, CRISPR genome editing, dark energy and dozens of other current topics, they’re exceptionally familiar with them. So familiar, in fact, they take for granted how much they really know.

To some degree, we can thank online media information resources. Granted, though there’s a lot of bad information out there on the internet, it should not overshadow the simple fact that so much good information is available to anyone who can get online. Even for folks who still prefer paper journals and libraries, the abundance of information is awe inspiring.

Often, many of us are appalled by statistics recounting how many Americans believe cave men rode on dinosaurs and that the universe is a little over six thousand years old. Disheartening as that is, it’s not a problem I face in my classroom, to my relief.

Even so, I have my students do some exercises where they utilize stories about recent scientific/technological developments as a basis for fiction. We call it “NOT a Science Project.” I’m always amazed at how well some of them do their homework, and how often a simple exercise becomes the basis for a final project.

Recently, I’ve been impressed enough with their abilities to reconsider changing my emphasis: from what we know to what we don’t know.

Encouraging for me to see I’m not alone in this. Recently, physicist Daniel Whiteside’s and cartoonist Jorge Cham’s We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe was featured on the public radio Here and Now program.

I’ve read a number of editorials and commentaries recently in the general press, the science press and sf-related sites, about how “the future is here” – that sf addressing our future is finding it difficult to come up with new and relevant topics . Not that these complaints haven’t followed our “genre” for as long as it’s existed, but the signal seems louder thanks to our ubiquitous media.

Our confidence in our current knowledge is hard-earned and well-deserved – we have extraordinary scientists utilizing incredible technology to pursue important research, and accomplishing this within a culture that, when it is not antagonistic to pure research, does its best to disregard it.

What may help bring us back to Earth, if you’ll excuse the expression, is some serious contemplation of all that we yet don’t know – enough that, very possibly, can fundamentally change our ideas of where we’re going in the future and what we’ll do when we get there.

Not only does consideration of all we don’t know provide a necessary dose of humility, it provides a multiplicity of directions we science fiction writers can explore (and ways to explore them) as we follow Theodore Sturgeon’s proverbial advice to “Ask the next question.”

In a recent interview, I found myself, quite unexpectedly, saying, “Science isn’t always about the things we know; it’s more often about what we don’t know. It’s about the mystery.”

What I’m working toward now is finding more ways to incorporate the mystery of science into my fall classes, and all my future classes.

•••

Richard Chwedyk is a Nebula Award-winning science fiction writer, poet and teacher. His work has appeared in Nebula Awards Showcase 2004Year’s Best SF 7Year’s Best SF 8Fantasy and Science FictionAmazing StoriesSpace and Time80! Memories and Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin and other publications. A collection of his “saur” stories is making the rounds. He lives in Chicago with his wife, poet Pamela Miller, and occasionally blogs at Critinomicon.

(no subject)

Jun. 25th, 2017 09:16 pm
kay_brooke: Stick drawing of a linked adenine and thymine molecule with text "DNA: my OTP" (Default)
[personal profile] kay_brooke
New Doctor Who episode yesterday, the first part of the season finale!

And I didn't even watch it until today, and it was only a momentary diversion...



...because I am currently obsessed with Twin Peaks.

Is anyone else as obsessed with Twin Peaks right now as I am?

Where are good fandom places? I've already been all over Tumblr and Reddit.

SyFy Greenlights NIGHTFLYERS Pilot

Jun. 25th, 2017 01:05 am
[syndicated profile] grrm_feed

Posted by George R.R. Martin

Here's some cool news for the fans of my Thousand Worlds stories... y'know, the science fiction that I wrote way back when, long before I thought of GAME OF THRONES.

The SyFy Channel has just greenlit the pilot for a proposed NIGHTFLYERS series, based on my 1980 Hugo-losing novella, one of my SF/ horror hybrids.

Details can be found here (and in lots of other places on the web):

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/george-rr-martins-nightflyers-picked-up-pilot-at-syfy-1016296

Since I'm exclusive to HBO, I can't be part of the NIGHTFLYERS development, but I wish them well. The novella was a favorite of mine (especially the longer version that I did for BINARY STARS), and I think the show could have a lot of potential... especially if you like a little horror in your SF.

If it looks as good as THE EXPANSE, by my pal Jimmy Corey...

(That pic up above is me and Parris at Denvention II, by the way, the night that "Nightflyers" lost the Hugo to Gordy Dickson).

Some Odds, Some Ends

Jun. 23rd, 2017 07:55 pm
[syndicated profile] grrm_feed

Posted by George R.R. Martin

Had a great visit with Walter Jon Williams and his Toolbox students up in Angel Fire. It's a lovely drive from Santa Fe, and it was nice to meet (however briefly) the fledgling writers. How many of them will actually go on to make it, well, one can never be sure of that, but I shared what wisdom I could from my years in the field, and showed them a few of my scars as well. They have some good teachers in Nancy Kress and Walter Jon. As I mentioned to the class, I workshopped with WJW for years, and he was right almost 75% of the time. :)

Back at the homestead, we're facing a certain amount of disruption. Santa Fe is a lovely town and one of its charms is its pueblo style architecture... but be warned, those damned flat roofs will LEAK, don't let anyone tell you any different. My office roof has been leaking off and on for years, and has been patched and repaired at least a dozen times since I've been here... to the point that my contractor finally threw up his hands and said he couldn't keep putting patches on the patches on the patches. I need a whole new roof. And since that process requires me to vacate the premises, I figured this is the perfect opportunity to do some of the renovations I've been planning (and putting off) for the better part of the decade. So, bottom line, I'm moving to new workspace, while the old workspace gets a new roof and some cool additions. But I should be settled in at the new place within a week or so.

Also have the big trip coming up. I cut way way way back to my travel this year, to give myself more time to work. Back in April/May I did Stokercon on the Queen Mary and the benefit for Clarion, but come August I'll be off again, first to NYC for a wedding and the usual round of publisher and agent meetings, then off to Finland for worldcon, then on to Russia for a con in St. Petersberg. I have been to Finland twice before, but this will be my first time in Russia... though I know I have a lot of Russian fans from the emails I receive. It will be nice to meet them. Two trips for all of 2017 is the least amount of travel I've done in twenty years.

LOTS of things going on with television and film. Season 7 of GAME OF THRONES will be here on July 16 (and we're doing a season 6 marathon at the JCC), the five successor shows are moving forward at various rates of speed, and we're talking with UCP about not one, not two, but three possible Wild Cards series. And there are a couple other TV projects that I can't tell you about... how much of this will come to pass, nobody knows. Ah, the joys of development...

Oh, and football will be starting soon. Don't ask me to explain what the Jets are doing. I don't understand it either. I foresee a very painful season for fans of Gang Green. But hey, what's different about that?

Finding That Elusive Writing Time

Jun. 23rd, 2017 03:57 pm
[syndicated profile] sfwa_feed

Posted by Editor

by Anthony Izzo

Next to people wondering where a writer’s ideas come from, the question I hear most is “How do you find the time to write?” Currently, I’m working on my 18th novel. Like many other writers, I hold a day job. With a 9-5 job, family obligations, and other responsibilities, how do you find time? I have two recommendations that will help carve out time during the day to pursue your writing.

Conduct a Time Audit

If I had to guess, I’d say the biggest time waster for most writers is television. Social media might come in a close second, at least for me. I enjoy binge-watching a good series as much as anybody, and there are some fantastic shows out there. But is gorging on Netflix helping you with your writing goals? I’d say no. This is where a time audit comes in.

I’d suggest looking at how you spend time over a two-day period. Look for times when you could be writing. For example, you might come up with something like this:

  • Get up early before work. Spend a half hour writing.
  • Lunch hour at work. Fifteen minutes to eat. Forty-five minutes of writing.
  • Eliminate a half-hour television show at night. Write.
  • Half hour before bed. Write.

That’s quite a bit of writing time available during the day. I can write about 500 words in a half-hour, which is doable for most people. Using those time slots during the day, you can pile up a lot of words. I did an audit of my own time and found I had over two hours during the day, and that’s with being in an office from 7 a.m.- 4p.m. during the week.

Put Together a Portable Writing Station

I’d also suggest taking advantage of down times, such as sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms or waiting for your kids’ sports practices to end. In order to do this, it helps to have your writing ready to go. I have an accordion-style folder in my bag I take to work. In the folder I carry 2-3 notebooks, multiple pens, story notes, photos I’ve clipped from magazines, and a plans for marketing/promotion. I typically write longhand when I’m writing in public and type it on the computer in the evening. However, you may want to carry a laptop or tablet with you.

During the day, using shorter writing sessions, you could:

  • Write 1-2 pages of rough draft
  • Outline your next few scenes
  • Jot down ideas for your next story/novel
  • Compose a blog post

The great thing about writing is that you don’t have to write in long stretches. If you can train yourself to take advantage of shorter time frames, you’ll find the words will pile up. Even spending a half-hour per day on writing can yield two pages per day (at 250 words per page). Over the course of the year, that’s two average-sized novels.

If you really want to write, take a hard look at where your time goes. I think you’ll find there is time for writing. We all tend to let that time get away from us. By conducting a time audit and making your writing portable, you can fulfill your writing goals.

•••

Anthony Izzo is the author of 18 thrillers, among them The Dead Land Trilogy and The Damage Factory. He enjoys writing tales of mayhem involving anything from zombies to psycho killers to murderous shapeshifters. Anthony has also served as a judge for the Buffalo Dreams Film Festival screenplay competition. He recently had a story appear in the military sci-fi anthology “SNAFU: Future Warfare.” Anthony holds a B.A. in English from D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY. When not writing, he likes playing loud guitar, reading crime novels, and spending time with family. He makes his home in the Western New York Area.

 

 

Notebook - Practicality

Jun. 21st, 2017 09:52 pm
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[personal profile] carisma_sensei in [community profile] dreamwidthlayouts
Title: Notebook
Credit to: [community profile] inconformista
Base style: Practicality
Type: full layout in CSS
Best resolution: 1024x768 or above
Tested in: Firefox, Google Chrome, IE



Click the thumbnail to preview the layout
Layout is here @ [community profile] inconformista

Season 7 is (Almost) Here

Jun. 21st, 2017 06:19 pm
[syndicated profile] grrm_feed

Posted by George R.R. Martin

HBO's latest trailer for season 7 of GAME OF THRONES is here.



And for those in New Mexico, we'll be screening a season 6 marathon at the Jean Cocteau before the season 7 premiere. Check the JCC website for dates and details. Admission is FREE,

Off to Angel Fire

Jun. 21st, 2017 06:02 pm
[syndicated profile] grrm_feed

Posted by George R.R. Martin

Been a while since I posted here, I see. That doesn't mean nothing is happening. Quite the contrary; it means lots of things are happening, and I've been way too busy to worry about my Not A Blog.

I seem to have an insane amount of things on my plate. Would that there were more of me. Would that there were more hours in the day. The work is actually going well, I think... but there's so MUCH of it, on so many different fronts...

Anyway...

Today will be a pleasant interlude. I'm taking the Tesla up north to talk to the students at Walter Jon Williams' Taos Toolbox workshop... which no longer seems to be in Taos, but further north in Angel Fire. But it's a beautiful day and it should be a beautiful drive, and I always relish the opportunity to corrupt some young minds.

[syndicated profile] sfwa_feed

Posted by Editor

by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

WorldCon in Helsinki is THE social event of the year, and we’re all really looking forward to it. However, for many people, it might be the first time traveling to a country where English is not the native language. This can be nerve-wracking because it is impossible to know what to expect. In a vague attempt to help, I’ve created this ten-point list of how to cope.

1) Research before you go. Read articles. Pick up a travel book. If you are comfortable with Reddit, browse through https://www.reddit.com/r/helsinki/ or even take part in https://www.reddit.com/r/Worldcon75/ and get to know people before you even arrive. Use Google Street View to explore your neighborhood. Look up the address and phone number of the American consulate. Install Duolingo and practice five minutes of Finnish a day for four weeks.

2) Immerse yourself in culture. It’s extremely rare to meet someone in Helsinki who does not speak English, so save your study time for exploring Finnish history and literature. There’s plenty of speculative fiction in English by Finnish authors including Leena Krohn, Hannu Rajaniemi, Emmi Elina Itäranta, Antti Tuomainen, Jyrki Vainonen, and of course, Tove Jansson’s Tales from Moominvalley!

3) Relax. You can get by with pretty much no research at all. One important thing to understand about continental Europe is that the Brits have been traveling all over it for generations, insisting on their right to be 100% British. If you feel like things are going wrong, fake a British accent. It might not fix the issue but it will at least ensure that the Brits get blamed instead of us.

4) Search Google for specific questions. You’ll be surprised at how many things are documented in detail and Google as a search engine is particularly good at finding the discussions where someone else has asked this before. I end up with long lists of things to look up, ranging from public transport to etiquette to neighborhood gossip. At worst, if you don’t find any information, it either means your question is too specific (“What’s the plumbing like at Aleksanterinkatu 33?”) or, more likely, it is simply not an issue and you can wait until you arrive. If you are really nervous, look up tourist information and try mailing them to ask. Pretend it is for a novel, if you like. I’ve asked about everything from “How easy is it to find parking in city center on a Sunday?” to “Whom should I contact to talk about indigenous plants in the 1880s.”

5) Smile. People say you can recognize Americans because they are always smiling broadly. In Europe, my smiles are one of my defining features. Hell, as a Californian, even New Yorkers are bemused by my insistence at smiling at everyone. Smiling is a fast way to signal that you are a tourist. It also helpfully lets people know that you are laid back and not one of those WHY DO YOU NOT DO THINGS LIKE WE DO AT HOME shouty tourists. It can give you an air of mystery. If you smile constantly, locals might assume that you are on drugs. Embrace this: it’s as good an explanation for your confusion as any.

6) Don’t get offended. People won’t greet you happily. They won’t ask you how you are. They won’t insist that you have a nice day. This does not mean that they are upset at you. They are not putting you down nor are they deliberately being rude. It’s just a standard transaction and it is not at all personal. Just keep smiling until they start to look nervous.

7) Plan to disappear. You probably don’t have any reason to visit Helsinki again. You can be stupid. You can fulfill every stereotype of the brash tourist. You can admit that you are completely lost. You can do everything wrong and embarrass yourself to death and it will not matter: you will never see these people again. Speak to strangers on the street. Ask questions.

8) Eat anything. It’s easy to make assumptions of how dinner works and I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people stumble at this hurdle. “But they must have Swiss enchiladas here, we are right next to Switzerland!” It can be confusing, especially if you are craving carne asada. The harsh truth is that your chances of decent Mexican food in Europe are slim and none. The more laid back you can be about what you eat, the easier it will be. But also, if you are hungry and confused and just can’t face negotiating any more foreign things, then forget being cool and slip into McDonalds. I won’t tell anyone. Once you are fed and watered, you’ll find everything else easier to deal with.

9) Don’t panic. Thousands of Americans pass through Helsinki every year. There is NO WAY you are going to be the worst. If you avoid referring to architecture older than your country as “cute” and make a point of speaking slowly and avoiding slang then you are already a step ahead of most tourists. If you ask questions, rather than announce what you think you already know, you’ll be in the 99th percentile.

10) You’ve been invited in like a vampire; it’s too late for them to turn you away now. The Helsinki team worked VERY HARD to get the bid, knowing that Worldcon is extremely biased towards the US. You are their treasured guest. They want you in Helsinki. They want your trip to be successful. There are Finnish people on every street corner who are hoping that you are having a good time. You may not need to ask for help, but if you do, know that they are there and that they care.

Above all, plan to make friends. I’m looking forward to seeing you there and so are a whole lot of other people. It’s going to be fantastic.

•••

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley was born in Germany and spent her childhood in Los Angeles. She emigrated to Scotland where she guided German tourists around the Trossachs and searched for the supernatural. She now lives in Tallinn where she writes about plane crashes and Estonian air maidens, which have more in common than most people might imagine. Her fiction was nominated for a Nebula in 2014 and her short stories have been translated into over a dozen languages.  Her first novella, The Borrowed Child, was published in 2015 by Tor.com and is available now at all good book stores. You can find out more about her at http://www.intrigue.co.uk/

I do not like moving

Jun. 20th, 2017 06:14 pm
dragovianknight: closeup of a green dragon (Default)
[personal profile] dragovianknight
And I certainly am not thrilled by the idea of moving again, less than a year after the last move.

However, the place I am (knock wood, fingers crossed, etc) hopefully moving TO? I am extremely thrilled about that.

So if anyone would like to send good energy into the universe about [personal profile] darthneko and my home buying adventure, it would be much appreciated.

For James Vance, and his family

Jun. 16th, 2017 06:39 pm
[syndicated profile] neilgaiman_feed
posted by Neil Gaiman
I read James' Vance's work before I met the man. He was a playwright who had discovered comics and  wrote a graphic novel called KINGS IN DISGUISE, set in the great depression. I loved it. Powerful, moving and smart. Years later, when I was creating a line of comics for Tekno Comics, I asked James to write "Mr Hero", because I suspected that someone who could go so deep could also do funny and light and sweet, and he could. We became friends.

James met another friend of mine, who was writing Tekno Comics: Kate Worley. They fell in love, they had two children together.




Then Kate got cancer. I posted their appeal 13 years ago. (This is a beautiful letter from Jim to this blog in 2005, asking people to stop sending money, following Kate's death. It gives you the measure of the man.)

Jim died of cancer on June the 5th, leaving a wife and three children (two Autistic, one with Chronic Fatigue  Immune Disfunction).

Here's his obituary in the Tulsa World.

Go and read all about Jim and Kate and their lives and children at https://www.gofundme.com/vance-family-home-mortgage. If you're someone who was touched by their work, or by their friendship, please donate, even if it's a few dollars.  I did.






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[syndicated profile] sfwa_feed

Posted by Editor

by Mark Niemann-Ross

At the 2017 Nebulas, I presented what we’ve learned about running a reader series in Seattle and Portland with hopes of assisting anyone interested in running a series in their home town. I’m following up that presentation with this written summary; let me know if you find it useful or have any further questions.

Let’s start with an overview of the Portland and Seattle series. Four times a year, we invite authors to read their work in front of an audience. We start at 7pm and run until 8:30 pm. Each event features three readers, each reading for twenty minutes. We include a break after two readers and time at the end for question and answer. You can find a complete schedule on the SFWA.org site at https://goo.gl/fff45j. Readers mostly come from the Pacific Northwest, they are invited to read at both Seattle and Portland events, and can expect audiences of somewhere between twenty-five and fifty people.

The issues related to starting a reader series can be summarized with an acronym; VRBA. (Like VRBO [Vacation Rental By Owner] but with an “A” instead of an “O.”) Those letters stand for: V for “Venue,” R for “Readers,” B for “Books,” and A for “Audience.”

VENUE

The venue is the most difficult part and we’ve learned several success factors from experience and surveys. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good venue; noisy venues without parking will bring your reader series to a quick finish.

Important considerations, in priority order, are: ambient noise, parking/accessibility, food, beer/wine, and cost.

Noise: Don’t run your reader series in a coffee shop with a cappuccino or frappuccino machine in the same room. Every time someone orders a fancy drink, that machine will prevent the audience from being able to hear the speaker. Coffee shops are tempting – but problematic for this reason.

Both Portland and Seattle reader series happen in bars with separate event rooms. These separate rooms prevent drunks from disrupting your reading and muffles the ambient kitchen noise. Unfortunately, this may cost something to arrange; I’ll discuss it below in the section on costs.

Parking/accessibility: Personally, I was surprised how important this is to our attendees, but it makes sense. If someone can’t get to the event, they won’t attend the event. Some attendees will ride the bus, some will bike, some will drive. When you pick your venue, look for a parking lot with handicap parking spots and easy distance to the bus. Remember that SFWA events should be handicap accessible.

Food, Beer, and Wine: Most people will show up after work and they’re hungry. Some want dinner, most want a drink. Importantly, it’s what keeps the venue interested in having you come back. We’ve been told the reader series are profitable for the venues and they are delighted to have 25 hungry and thirsty people suddenly show up.

Cost: Venues have different policies for how much they charge for use of the room. Some venues will give the space to you for free. Some will charge. We pay $100 in Portland, Seattle gets their room for free.

I would caution about hotels with catering fees. Many hotels will ask for an assurance of one or two thousand dollars in food and alcohol sales. If your attendees are big drinkers this can work out, but if your attendance busts for an evening-an unexpected snowstorm, for example-then your credit card will pick up the difference.

READERS

We look for a mix of well-known authors alongside up-and-coming authors. Big name readers help pull larger crowds and generate sales for our booksellers. We prefer readers local to the Pacific Northwest, but are always hoping to coordinate with anyone traveling through our area. When necessary, we give priority to SFWA members.

We are currently scheduling almost a year in advance. We avoid conflicts with major conventions, but we try to coordinate with author book releases and tours.

We are primarily looking for good performers. Reading in front of an audience is theater. Some authors do it well, some do not. I highly recommend taking a public speaking class, theater workshop or review Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Tips for reading fiction out loud” at https://youtu.be/hg7xY_vLL54.

We do not pay travel or expenses. Sad, but that’s the reality of the budget. We do what we can to provide back bedrooms to defray the cost of travel.

BOOKSELLER

In today’s brutal bookstore market, it’s difficult to get a bookseller to attend. But it’s important! Form a partnership with a local bookseller, make sure they know how much you love them. Remember that from their perspective, it’s a lot of work; they haul a bunch of books to your venue, set up, play with money, stay up late, then pack up and head home. Booksellers are really important because they can handle distributed books.

In Seattle, The University Bookstore has been an honored long-time partner. In Portland, we’ve been unable to find a bookstore partner and instead rely on a private individual (Brad Wheeler – our hero!) I provide authors with the option of bringing their own books and selling on consignment, or I will purchase the books at retail cost from a local bookseller on my own credit card. Books that don’t sell are returned; the bookseller is ok with that.

Don’t forget to acknowledge the bookseller. Point out where the books are located. Repeat this several times. Provide time for autographing. Many booksellers may want to keep a few autographed copies for later sales.

AUDIENCE

Think about how you will announce your reader series and get an audience to attend. Our most successful method is word of mouth. Friends attend because their friends are attending. The local library has entire sections about how to build word of mouth, some of that advice is useful.

The second most productive method of advertising is our Facebook page. We don’t buy advertising, instead we just simply note the event as a calendar listing. Our audience tells us they watch this closely.

Third most productive is emails from SFWA. SFWA maintains an event calendar application very much like Eventbrite. You can publish your event and invite people. They can sign up for notifications that are automatically sent out by the system. You’ll need help setting this up, but we’re happy to do it.

NOW – JUMP IN

Running a reader series isn’t difficult but it does require persistence. Be sure to let us know you’re doing it, we’re interested in helping you out with authors, encouragement, and other support. We really want you to succeed.

When you’re ready to get started, contact me, Mark Niemann-Ross. I’ve got useful insights and a willingness to coach you through the process.

 

 

•••

Mark Niemann-Ross is a Portland-based writer of hard science-fiction with an emphasis on the impact of technology on society. His short stories have appeared in Analog Magazine of Science Fiction and Fact as well as Stupefying Stories. He is currently working on his first novel, a murder mystery solved by a refrigerator.

In his other earthly instantiations, he works in the software industry, plays jazz bass, raises chickens and has a big mouth billy bass that recites political speeches.

May Books

Jun. 14th, 2017 11:26 pm
kay_brooke: A stack of old books (books)
[personal profile] kay_brooke
Yeah, even though we're halfway through June already. I really thought I'd posted this way back at the beginning of the month.

Anyway, I read seven books in May, as follows:

1. Ghosts of India by Mark Morris - 3.5/5 stars. The first Doctor Who book to feature Donna, and one I hadn't already listened to the audiobook for before. This one features Gandhi, stuck-up British people, a tricksy alien, and the Doctor getting possessed again. Donna on the page is actually kind of more compelling than Donna on the screen? But then I was never as big a fan of Donna as a lot of other people seem to be.

2. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes - 4/5 stars. A story about a time traveling serial killer and the badass female newspaper intern who takes him down. There's a lot of interesting stuff in this book and I enjoyed it a lot. It loses a star for a rushed ending and a kind of skeevy relationship between the early 20s female protagonist and her 50+ male mentor.

3. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood - 3/5 stars. I'll stop after this, I promise. First book in the Maddaddam trilogy. Features one of the most frustratingly incurious protagonists ever. In the book, civilization has ended and humanity is dead. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. Fortunately, the bulk of the book is a series of flashbacks that explain what happened. Unfortunately, they are told from the POV of a completely clueless character who doesn't really give a shit about anything but obsessing over various girls he's had crushes on.

4. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood - 4/5 stars. Second book in the Maddaddam trilogy. This one is better than the first book because it features POVs from two different characters, both of whom are more interesting and competent than the loser from the first book. A lot of the frustrating gaps from the first book are filled in here, and the ending left me kind of excited for the third book...

5. Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood - 3/5 stars. ...which kind of sucked again. The bulk of the story is the history of a side character from the first two books that I didn't really care enough about to want to know his history. Of the two strong, interesting female characters who narrated the second book, one gets completely sidelined (she has maybe a dozen lines in the whole book) and the other regresses into a jealous, petty teenager because the guy she likes might be fucking someone else. There's a gross focus on getting all the fertile women left pregnant, and it was while reading this that I think I finally hit upon what really annoys me about Atwood. She just hates humanity, right? Every word she writes is just dripping with disdain and condescension toward her own characters and human society as a whole. I'm not asking for 24/7 happy fun times, but wow do I hate feeling like I'm being lectured by a pretentious blowhard. I read these books because they've been on my to-read list for years. I promise I'm done with Atwood now.

6. The Scar by China Mieville - 3.5/5 stars. My other favorite pretentious blowhard author. This book was the main reason I only read seven books in May. I made myself finish it before I started anything new, because I didn't want to abandon it again. Wow, is it a slog. It gets a lot more interesting as it nears the climax, but it takes such a long time to get there. And the ending suffers from the same flaw as Perdido Street Station - it's as if immediately after the climax Mieville got bored, so the story just ends without much resolution. I wish I liked these books better, because Bas-Lag is a fascinating world.

7. Night Shift by Stephen King - 3/5 stars. Re-read. King's first short story collection, originally published in 1979 and featuring many of the older shorts King sold to magazines before he hit it big with novels. A lot of the stories are classic Stephen King horror (including "Trucks," "The Lawnmower Man," "Children of the Corn," and a couple short stories addendum to Salem's Lot), but it's definitely not his strongest collection. There's a decent amount of variety here, but some of the stories get a bit same-y.

Kind of a middling batch in May, honestly. I can give you a sneak peek and say that June is already more promising.

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