Tag Archives: stross

30 Days of Giving 5: Heinlein Society

I was introduced to science fiction by the Laura Donovan Elementary School librarian, who picked out a Robert Silverberg book for me to read. I’m pretty sure I read it at least three times, given the rather narrow selection of the genre in 1969 — but then I was introduced to the Monmouth County Library system, where Robert Heinlein, Silverberg, Isaac Asimov and others awaited. Science fiction has continued to be a staple of my life, with John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, China Mieville, and a host of others filling my head with visions of what is possible, impacts of the future on current policy and politics, and how we might bridge the present and the near present.

I discovered the Heinlein Society through a posting on John Scalzi’s annual holiday postings, where he allows readers to represent their artistic and charitable works to a wider audience. The Heinlein Society attempts to pay forward the legacy of one of the greats of the genre, and my donation supports its educational efforts. Hat tip to both Scalzi for networking good works, and to friend Marc for renewing my interest in my first sci-fi literary crush over a series of breakfasts.

Day 5: Support the Heinlein Society with a one-time, one year membership.

Doctorow Short Stories (And A Long One)

In anticipaion of today’s mail drop, I re-read “Another Time, Another Place”, the short story contributed by Cory Doctorow to the Chronicles of Harris Burdick anthology. Without spoiling it too much, it’s a great story about hope and possibility. As much as I’m a fanboy at MAXINT volume for all of Doctorow’s work, I tend to favor his short stories just a shade over his novels, mostly because they elicit such a great emotional response that’s packaged and primed and then released with timing worthy of a circus acrobat. It’s right up there with his contribution to Welcome to Bordertown and both are high on my young adult/sci-fi enraptured gift-receiving list this year. Having just finished Orson Scott Card’s Pathfinder and The Lost Gate, I’m reminded that Card’s books are long novels with a short story like ending (why can’t he bring his books to a rousing conclusion?) while Doctorow’s stories take you along the single thread of a novel in short form.

Why the fawning? I’m the happy recipient of the Doctorow/Stross collaboration Rapture of the Nerds and tomorrow I’m going to hear them read/speak at Makerbot in Brooklyn (7pm, 85 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, near the 3/4/5 and D/N/R Atlantic Avenue stops). Been waiting for this one for a while — two of my favorite authors in one binding, dealing with topics that skirt some themes in Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom (Doctorow’s first book). It’s up there in the Simon-esque pantheon of seeing a naked girl while eating ice cream.

Rapture, indeed.

Locus Magazine Recommended Reading for 2007

Every year Locus magazine, the trade journal for science fiction and fantasy writers, puts out a recommended reading list. I usually end up reading about half of it, sometimes based on re-inforcements from sources like Cory Doctorow (himself a frequent name dropped on the list), BoingBoing or a nod from another author whose work I enjoy. The 2007 list has been published, and I just ordered a half-dozen books from the tally in search of new sci-fi authors and genres.

I’m a bit surprised to see Michael Chabon on the list; his work impresses me more like that of E. L. Doctorow than Cory Doctorow (and they’re not officially related). Richard Morgan’s “Thirteen” and Charles Stross’ “Halting State”, both great reads, made the “Best Sci-Fi” subsection. Doctorow (Cory flavored) shows up for his “Overclocked” collection and “After the Siege,” a novella recently turned into an insanely great comic book, capping the six-part series by publisher IDW. Ellen Klages’ “Portable Childhoods” also makes the “Collections” list, and it’s freakishly good in the spirit (pun intended) of Neil Gaiman.

One thing I found with last year’s list, which was heavy on Vernor Vinge and earlier performances by Doctorow: more of the sci-fi stories involve what might happen, rather than alien races, bending the rules of general relativity, space operas and human extinction. This year’s list builds from an historical fiction point of view (especially Jo Walton and Michael Chabon’s works), so perhaps the locus of popular science fiction opinion is shifting to helping us understand and plan for eventualities that are easily conceived and potentially instantiated, rather than those which are merely fun fictions.

The 2007 List

Presenting the fourth installment in a continuing series dating back to 2004: the 2007 list.

Best Parenting Moment: Son Benjamin’s Bar Mitzvah, celebrated with lots of friends and family. He made us cry, he made his hockey coaches cry (something I hadn’t seen before) and he played a mean guitar solo with the band.

Best Work Moment: This was a hard one, because it was a remarkably fun year. I’ll break with emergent tradition and declare a tie. Early in the year, it was my interview with Cory Doctorow, on the heels of introducing him as the keynote at Sun’s Worldwide Education and Research Conference. The interview was carried in ACM Queue magazine and turned into an unedited podcast. Later in the year, I had the pleasure of promoting one of my own people to Vice President, a first in 18 years at Sun. SeChang Oh is one of those guys who has boundless energy and is a fountain of creative ideas. And he’ll take your money on the golf course. SeChang’s promotion was a reflection on him, his team, and our organization, and it had me smiling for weeks.

Best T-Shirt: “Sudo make me a sandwich” available from the xkcd store. The best part was wearing this on a diagonal cross-country trip. Originating in Orlando, many people in the airport were trying to figure out which theme part featured stick figure characters; in Houston I got a few chuckles and finally in San Francisco it was old hat (but drawn well, to abuse the pun).

Best Sports Moment: There were a lot of bad ones this year, from the Devils failing to show up for the Ottawa playoff series, to A-Rod using the World Series to stage a contractual publicity stunt, to the Mets choosing golf over baseball playoffs in October. The event that put the jock in jocular for me wasn’t covered by any media (including our town paper) and didn’t involve winning teams. Every year, hockey fans want to see their teams play into June, when the Stanley Cup finals fill the 10th month of the season. This year, my adult ice hockey team made the league championship tournament in Hockey North America, playing hockey in June in Toronto. After a few years of traveling to youth hockey tournaments, I got to experience one personally, complete with t-shirts, getting lost on the way to the rink, missing gear bags and a team dinner. A friend of mine once said that when you play sports as an adult, it’s more about the guys you play with than winning or losing, and he was right — the Toronto trip was a fun weekend with the guys, independent of finishing in the bottom of our round robin pool.

New Toy: Long-time prognosticators would go for the Steinberger style bass guitar, sitting (unplayed) in my office. It was a find, but it’s not the winner. Inside the envelope is a collection of random comic books I picked up at the MOCCA show in New York, on a hot Sunday afternoon when my sister (yes, I have a sister) and I visited every booth in the show, gets top billing. In this case, it’s not so much the utility of the toy as the story surrounding it; we did nothing but laugh for three hours; I got to meet Richard Stevens of DieselSweeties fame; we had $6 coffees and didn’t mind because it was the first true day of summer, marked by the end of the school year, making the stories worth remembering. Throughout the course of 2007, I re-discovered comics including DS and the above-mentioned xkcd, resulting in a comic-inspired t-shirt buying spree.

Best Reading Accomplishment: I ran through a spanning tree of writers, mostly rooted at Cory Doctorow or Marc Donner from Google. During 2007 I exhausted Charles Stross, Rudy Rucker, Jo Walton, Vernor Vinge and a handful of books on the late 1970s World Series. I read way too much science fiction and sports history, but it fed a variety of thought experiments. Plan for 2008: more science, more history, and more fiction (although I did run through all of Michael Chabon’s work this year as well).

Happy 2008 to all, with hopes that it’s filled with good friends, good books, and good cookies (edible or browser-digestible).

Cory Doctorow Comics

Combining my love for off-beat comics with an overtly fan-boy consumption of Cory Doctorow led me to my own Brighton Beach Memoirs moment of perfect mash-ups: I’m now in possession of the first three Cory Doctorow comic books based on his short stories.

The artwork is fantastic, the realizations of the characters contain enough subtle hints and jokes to make each panel worthy of a Hidden Mickey-like scan, and they’re, well, cool comics. If you didn’t know that Doctorow and other current fave Charles Stross collaborated on a few stories (and that Stross’ work draws heavily on H.P. Lovecraft), you’d find the sysadm sporting a “Hello, Cthulhu” t-shirt only mildly amusing instead of an entreaty to open “When Sysadmins Ruled The Earth.”

To quote Jerry from Craphound, each one is a poem in colors and a story in layout.

Foreground Process, Reading Input

I basically did a control-Z on blogging about a month ago. It was completely unintentional, a combination of too much travel, holidays, a short family vacation, a lot of work, and quite honestly, the NJ Devils going on an 8-game winning streak that had me devote significant time to coaching from in front of the television or streaming broadcast of their games. After spending a few solid, uninterrupted days with my family, the best thing I did was plow through a few books.

Doug Hornig’s “Boys of October” explores the 1975 Red Sox. I remember their World Series against the Cincy Reds vividly, not because I was a Sox fan but because the Red Machine had eliminated my beloved Pirates for a few years running, and I was happy to cheer against them. It was also the first series in which everyone was an armchair manager; I vividly recall hearing my elementary school friends discussing whether Bill Lee or Luis Tiant would pitch Game 6. It was a fun perspective, penned before the Sox lost the Series in 1986 and eventually won in 2004.

On the sci-fi front, Richard Morgan’s “Thirteen” was outstanding, possibly his best yet, and Charles Stross’ “Halting State” was even better. Most of Stross’ work could be described as the right-oriented cross-product of Hello, Cthulhu t-shirts and Benny Hill-flavored looks at Her Majesty’s bureaucracy. “Halting State” is “Numb3rs” meets Wikinomics with a Java jolt, literally, and it’s a very fast-moving story. I finished it the same night that “Numb3rs” featured a storyline involving an alternative reality game, which was both ironic and fitting.

I also listened to all seven parts of Cory Doctorow’s novella “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow/Now Is The Best Time of Our Lives”, a superb riff on the Disney ride of the same name, and polished off Douglas Coupland’s “The Gum Thief.” I’ll admit to thoroughly hating Coupland’s “JPod,” mostly because I felt like he ran into character development issues and solved for j by writing himself into the equation. But “Gum Thief” made up for his prior detour with sharp writing and characters that blur in and out of story lines. In a week when I spent copious amounts of time thinking about blogging, writing (actually cranking out a paragraph of the now-dormant hockey book), FaceBook, and my hockey team’s web site, it seemed an apt metaphor for my own various states of matter(ing).

Finally, John Grisham’s “Playing for Pizza.” It’s not a great book, it pales in comparison to some of the other sports literature I’ve read, but it was fun. And that was the whole point of bringing reading into the foreground.

Vacation Reading

Just got back from a week of much-needed vacation in Aruba. Our first time to that wonderful country, but definitely not the last. The confluence of Dutch, Spanish, Caribbean and American cultures is fantastic; where else can you see a 300 year old fort with a Dunkin’ Donuts across the street?

Spent most of the week relaxing and reading by the pool. On this week’s list:

  • Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow. I’ll admit to being a huge Cory Doctorow fan. His writing conveys a future colored by eBay and Disney. Part of me felt that this book touched on some of the same globalism versus tribalism themes as McWorld vs Jihad but it’s an order of magnitude more readable and more fun.
  • A Place So Foreign (and 8 others) also by Docotorow. This set of short stories provides a glimpse into some of his earlier and more raw writing. However, “Craphound”, the first piece in the book and the story from which Doctorow’s domain name is derived, was one of the few SciFi short stories I’ve ever finished and then said “That was wonderful!” Of course, I’m also a craphound, so this one resonated on all frequencies.
  • Singularity Sky by Charles Stross. A treatment of time travel and its cosmic or religious interpretations. If there is such as thing as projecting kabalah three millenia into the future, then Stross has created the genre. Didn’t get to finish Iron Sunrise, the sequel, but that’s teed up for this week’s trip to California.