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Showing posts from 2019

Bad User on Device

(for Damon Knight)

Though Riley awakens only two hours after falling asleep, her alarm will not negotiate peace. By the time the coffee’s aroma pervades the kitchen, she realizes she will never shake off this hangover in time to confront the office smilers where she interns at Life Inc., America’s premier self-help conglomerate. She sighs with the knowledge there are days to enjoy and others, like today, just to survive. To guarantee her survival, she gobbles some pills before stepping into the wintry city. A few seconds later, a nondescript package the size of a shoe box thuds upon the sidewalk a few steps ahead, splattering her Life uniform with street sludge. She expects to spot a Smile delivery drone above, but the sky shows nothing but a snow-threatening slate. Pedestrians step around the delivery. No one stops. Riley moves closer and hazards a glance at the label: no letters, just logograms—she assumes Chinese. It is heavier than she expects. Once she carries it back to her por…

Just a Little Touch of Mojo Hand

I haul groceries to my fourth-floor studio one landing at a time. My bottle of discounted rum, a 5 lb. sack of potatoes, and a rocket-shaped golden squash—so irresistible at the market—anchor me down like sandbags. Around me wafts the dinners of my neighbors. Sweat drips from my face and armpits. At my door, I dig for keys, but they escape, bounce off my knee, and land at the balcony’s edge. Sighing, I set my bags upon a nondescript pattern of mauve and cream tiles. Below me, a door opens, Landlady Busybody’s. “Mrs. Queen,” she says. “What now?” I sound unjustly exasperated. Busybody is not her real name—I name characters outside my books too. I snatch up my keys. “The rent…” “The rent? What about the elevator?” “It was working.” She addresses her words more to the ether than to me. “I’ll pay you next week,” I promise and ferry my groceries across the threshold. “But you better fix the damn elevator.” Inside, I lean against my door and breath once luxuriously. Because emptiness terri…

Questions of Consent

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Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked Autonomous. I thought Newitz’s vision of a future world with drug patent hoarding corporations and pirates willing to defy them scarily realistic. I also thoroughly enjoyed the embedded discussion of capitalism’s overreach of claiming human biological data, and the implicit criticism of how corporations gone wild will violently assert themselves to defend what they have appropriated. Newitz’s vision of information technology, an area of expertise for me, is also well-informed, and the robotic characters—whose assertion of constructed independent conscious will is a key focus in the story—are clever and subversive.

We see this patent gold rush in real life already, both in information technology, nanotech, and pharmaceuticals. Newitz pushes the phenomenon forward and hypothesizes an evolution of the same kind of white hat hacker that performs the vital service of keeping the Internet usable for the rest of us. These IP…

“Prime Meridian” and Its Many Marses

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Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Prime Meridian” is about Mars, though not the red planet nor the Roman god of war. Instead, this story features a black-and-white Mars decorated with cheap studio effects, another Mars that exists only as a bond between a young couple that cannot survive the chasm of their inequity of wealth, and a third Mars that calls to Amelia’s soul from a billboard. Each Mars drives the plot and situates the story in terms of real world history, culture, and the history of science fiction.

In Moreno-Garcia’s near future, Mexico City’s wealthy exploit the despair of vast masses of disadvantaged youth in a hyper version of today’s gig economy. Amelia, our protagonist, abandoned her studies of urban agriculture to care for her ailing, dying mother and is saddled with ferrying her sister's children around in the bargain. Amelia calls herself a freelancer on her CV, noting it is a “euphemism for unemployed.” Her …

My review of The Handmaid's Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is brilliant literary science fiction. I will discuss the literary aspects of it in a moment, but first it’s important to place it squarely in the domain of science fiction.

First, under Darko Suvin's definition of sci fi, the question is whether there is cognitive strangeness and nova. They are very apparent, specifically the new assignment of gender roles, along with the reason they exist. The nova introduced are ecological disasters, an enormous rise in failure to Gileadeans to sexually reproduce, and the imposition of a fundamentalist government that divides women by their function, entirely controlling them. We know (again from the lecture) that Atwood was responding to societal changes, such as the rise of the Moral Majority, which lends a spooky plausibility to the strangeness, making it not so strange and that much scarier.

Delany's definition is wider. He asks whe…

Game of Thrones Finale

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In my opinion, this is the best shot from Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Somewhat underwhelmed by the finale, because it all felt so rushed, but I'm excited for what the novels will bring. Winds/Dream. :-)

Devoured this scrumptious morsel in but a few hours and still left a little hungry.

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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sharp Objects is a solid first novel, to which I would have given a higher rating, were it not for the summary technique in the conclusion that robs the reader of the experience of that year of discovery. Flynn does everything else right. Her characters are evocative, and the setting of the town is lush and vivid. The murders percolate in the consciousness while the protagonist lurches absentmindedly forward into danger. You will find yourself screaming at her not to be so stupid, courting peril with such intimacy, and it's so in character. It's damn near a 5-star book until the last few chapters and I still enjoyed it a lot (3-stars means I liked it :-{) It's just not as good as it could have been, even though we are given a long, lovely tease. Sigh.

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Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time) on Matriarchies in Finn

I'm just posting this so I don't lose it. --- For Anonymous-George, long ago I saw one of the first, I believe, novels about a young woman who wasn't allowed to use magic or whatever because she was a woman, and the thought occurred to me as to how it might go if men were the ones who were denied the right to do magic. Or whatever. I hate using the word magic. From that long ago thought grew the One Power divided into saidin and saidar with the male half tainted and the reasons for and results of it being tainted. Now in most of these societies...I did not and do not view them as matriarchal. I attempted to design societies that were as near gender balanced as to rights, responsibilities and power as I could manage. It doesn't all work perfectly. People have bellybuttons. If you want to see someone who always behaves logically, never tells small lies or conceals the truth in order to put the best face for themselves on events, and never, ever tries to take advantage …

The History of White Onliness in America

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Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A long horrific account of America's deliberate segregation, its underlying current of white-onliness, born out of Loewen's personal journey of awakening to the fact he was surrounded by Sundown Towns, those locales so hostile to blacks that the communities orchestrate ways to keep them out. It's a long, hard slog, filled with disheartening stories, marks of shame of our past, of our present really, but books like this are so important both as eye-openers and motivators. Nobody conscious to American culture--again not just its history! We are talking about the present in many instances here--can deny these exclusionary practices, but Loewen focuses on the scale using census data and adds anecdotes that personalize the experience.

I read a lot of reviews here that mention how terrible reading this makes everyone feel, but for my part, I am overwhelmed by optimism, because it is cl…

When They Have Taken the Magic

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An important story written from a vantage point above a landscape of suffering and tears. Adeyemi does an excellent job with setting, painting a colorful mosaic rich in magical realism but grounded in pain and tragedy. I especially found compelling her use of West African religious motifs and language, much of which I recognized from my studies of Brazilian culture and its African roots.

Adeyemi uses 3rd person limited to great effect, allowing us to see the conflict of Orïsha-- essentially a violent suppression of the Divîners (a now-oppressed class who once practiced magic given by the gods) by the Kosidan, which are muggly-types--from three different angles. The first pov belongs to Zélie, an adolescent whose mother was a great Magi before King Saran crushed the power of the Divîners. She is the main protagonist and though a great warrior and able to draw from a deep well of magical power, her flaws and failures ofte…

Who is the one being selfish? Hmmm? LOL.

Julius Caesar for my Linguistics class.

If You Think Science Fiction Should Make You Ask Yourself Tough Questions...

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The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's tough to review this one without spoilers and still convey the essentials, because the worldbuilding is so unique, so let me give a one-liner first and you can choose to move on if you wish: I give this an unqualified recommendation! Don't wait. Go read it. This is a brilliant story with identifiable characters (even the aliens) and a clever, twisted plot. AND, yeah, the world Anders creates is hostile, alien, and is written so you are immersed at once.

I'll still try to avoid spoilers, but if I fail, all apologies...

Great character-driven story set on a tidally locked planet, January, the target of human colonization, which is also the home of an intelligent civilization of the Genet, who are completely integrated into the forbidding planet's ecosystem. The story focuses on two pov characters, Sophie and Mouth (forever in pursuit of her real name... I especially liked how the *inn…

Talking Heads as a 3 piece band in black and white from Toronto 1977.

Talking Heads
A-Space Gallery
Toronto ON
01-27-1977

00:00:00 Artists Only
00:04:59 The Girls Want to Be With the Girls
00:08:41 The Book I Read
00:13:42 I Wish You Wouldn't Say That
00:17:26 Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
00:20:15 No Compassion
00:24:41 fixing the drums
00:25:50 Questions for Lovers
00:28:45 Who Is It?
00:31:33 Happy Day
00:36:19 Love -> Building on Fire
00:40:01 I'm Not in Love
00:45:47 Pulled Up
00:50:50 Psycho Killer
00:55:04 Take Me to the River
00:59:42 1-2-3 Red Light/
01:01:40 Warning Sign

Duration:
01:05:30

Codec:
H.264 MPEG-4 AVC

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - A sad story of love and revenge redeemed by beasts who shall never be forgotten.

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The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the voice of the narrator, the straightforward unapologetic fairy tale weave. I enjoyed the transformation of Sybel, how she loses her naïveté to the Eld version of the Great Game, and I mourn her loss of the magical world she left behind, but the beasts rescue her in the end.

Caveat: The story has begun to show its age, especially when Coren *slaps some sense* into Sybel. That's straight out of a John Wayne western. LOL. Up until that point this was a solid 4-star story, but this error was regretful.


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A Modern Fairytale Explores the Union of Magic and Science.

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the birds... is such an enchanting story, a true modern fairy tale that still finds time to dig deep into doomsday ethics and build venn diagrams of science and magic. The characters spoke to me. I love how well it is researched, and the edginess of society's dynamics that Anders portrays. These characters feel real to me, even the machines. Also, Peregrine's consciousness, how it uploads itself, reminded me a lot of Stross's machines in Accelerando, which stroked my programmer itch. What an incredible book. I guzzled it. I've done nothing else since last night but read. Ahhhhhhhh...
So good

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Stephen Fry - on pedantic use of language

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Researching Language Origins -- Colors