Jumpdrives & Cantrips


New year, new reads
January 3, 2009, 1303
Filed under: Misc | Tags: , ,

Book Dragon

Here we are, another calendrical switchover and a new year. This past year was a big year for me, mainly due to personal reasons, but also in my world as a reader.

Believe it or not, I actually cleared out and sorted my library for the first time in years. Perhaps even more than a decade, I would wager. This was necessitated by needing to move the “library” to a new floor, and realising that the library would no longer have its own contained area–not to mention that a substantial portion of the books in it were not books I wanted to read again. Sure, they were books that had neat covers, or books that I might want to cite someday as an example of something–some I had even purchased for that exact purpose. But as the years have gone on, and I hadn’t made much headway in that realm, I figured it was time to move on.

It’s difficult to give up some books, and it’s amazing how emotional ties form to bundles of inked-up paper held together with glue. I had to decide whether I wanted to keep one of the books from my teenage years that helped me get through, by an author that has long since disappeared, even though it was poorly written and unlikely to give anyone else any joy. I still remember the first few “adult” books I read, the science fiction and fantasy novels my dad passed on to me when he realised I was running through children’s books a little too quickly and wanted more–especially more dragons.

The world of speculative fiction is much broader than it was back then, probably about fifteen years ago. I remember walking in to bookstores, being wowed by so many paperback books with amazing covers, and then trying to decide which volume to buy after saving up money for months and months. At that time, libraries only carried popular books in the science fiction and fantasy section, so anything that didn’t sell sell sell (like most mid-list SF books) quickly disappeared. I missed reading some popular authors in my quest to find gems, which I’m happy to say that sometimes I did. In retrospect, the stores were also quite small; what seemed like an overwhelming abundance on 4-6 shelves in one case (two if it was a big store!) now seems like a dearth in comparison to the big box booksellers who have massive shelving units floor to ceiling that would practically outline a large room.

Because of those limitations and the fact that young people don’t really have steady income (I never had an allowance with any regularity), books were like gold to me. Probably even more valuable than gold to be honest. So some of those books that I purchased from way back then, back when paperbacks were less than half the price they are now, while not books I want to reread, they are books that I have trouble parting with. And in fact, most of my books I still treat that way no matter how much I may have disliked them in the past. A book is a book.

Or at least it was. Who knows? Perhaps I can make the switch to e-readers in the next few years. I would miss the rasp of paper, the scent of a new book, and the hefty feeling in my hands of a comforting tome. But I think I would also enjoy not having to lug around boxes upon boxes of books in physical form when it comes down to it. Not yet, but some day. Some day when e-readers are more comfortable to use and to hold, and hopefully, become more affordable.

Now I have the added concern of whether or not my soon-to-be child would want to read any of these books. What if I give away or sell something that he’d love? Of course, this begs the question of whether any child of mine would actually like SF… Though given that my husband already read a full Robert J. Sawyer novel to the baby (Calculating God–review to come soon since I got to listen in), he’s certainly got a decent head start.

In the meantime, I am proud to say that I managed to start severing at least some of those emotional ties so that I have enough room to add some new ones, if I want to. That is, I emptied the library of at least 10 boxes worth of books. And it means I can at least look around for some new books to put in those shelves… for a little while, at least.

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More Book Sale Madness

I love book sales. I love being able to search through piles of books and pick out the treasures, and sometimes find treasures for other people.

This past weekend I managed to hit part of the Children’s Hospital Book Sale–which is a bonus, because all profits go to a good cause as well. And you know something? As much as I like reading classic SF, I can’t always bring myself to shell out the $11 per book that it costs. I am a cheap person, and looking back at some of these book prices… I mean, for god’s sake not much more than twenty years ago, paperback books were still under three dollars! Talk about craziness, eh?

Of course, I managed to pull out some treasures this time around: two novels by James Tiptree, Jr. which I am sure are out of print, a pile of Leigh Brackett, a not-quite-so-battered copy of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Clarke’s Childhood’s End since I have always managed to miss it, the second and third books following Kate Elliott’s Jaran, an omnibus of the first three books in Diane Duane’s Wizard series, and a copy of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself for $4 in trade paperback. I suppose given that I now have Abercrombie’s first book, I’ll be able to find out what all the fuss and bother is about.

One of the other things I love about book sales is looking at all the different covers over time for certain books. Stranger in a Strange Land is particularly good for this, but it’s neat to see how design ideas change (or don’t) over time. And sometimes finding odd notes in the books used as bookmarks. I once found a letter apologizing to a lover after an argument; but I commonly find more prosaic things like grocery lists, or classified clippings from the automotive section. I always wonder about the people who read the books. Did they ever finish, or did they just stop?

And just a reminder: if your book smells like vomit, please don’t give it to a book sale. I don’t care if it’s immaculate and has never been touched by projectile body fluids. If it smells like someone puked on it, I will not buy it. Not even if it was a first edition of some extremely famous literature. Not even if I could auction it off for a small fortune (a large fortune I may consider in special cases, and while using a hazmat suit).

Anyhow, largely I enjoy the smell of books. But, you know… there are limits.

If you’re wondering what’s up next, I’m currently reading Sandra McDonald’s The Outback Stars and Grimspace by Ann Aguirre.



News of the New

First off, Realms of Speculative Fiction, where one of my blog buddies (Thrinidir/Uros) resides, has put together an awesome list of SF-related blogs and included me along with a whole host of excellent bloggers (I feel a little odd being included with them). I even found some I hadn’t yet stumbled upon! Clearly he has superior blogging taste, and is very nice besides. I highly endorse his blog, which has multiple reviewers and other cool things.

But without any further ado, lots of interesting things out there the past couple of days, so this might run a little longer than usual…

  • Fantasy Book Critic reviews & interviews Lois McMaster Bujold and Kate Elliott (aka Alis A. Rasmussen). I urge you to read both of the excellent interviews, and then the books of these excellent writers.
  • Juno Editor Paula Guran posted her notes for a panel on urban fantasy that she didn’t get to. It’s a very good look at urban fantasy in the context of its cross-genre nature and points out some tendencies. My only wish it that it was in a more chronological format, as it tends to jump around a little without putting things into context time-wise, but if I really wanted I suppose I could edit it. Unfortunately, I’m unabashedly lazy (via Dark Parables).
  • This is why I hesitate to fully embrace eBooks–so much potential for paper-bound beauty! Take a look at Jordan Crane’s Cover Art for a Michael Chabon essay collection (via Making Light). It makes me drool a little.
  • John Scalzi on book remaindering and The Android’s Dream. Which is, by the way, a great piece of comedic SF and satire, and I encourage purchasing of the remaindered books, so keep your eyes peeled in the near future if you want a copy.
  • Jim C. Hines’ LOL Books. I highly endorse LOLing in general, and LOLSF is even better! I’m particularly be-snickered by the missing forehead one…
  • A new book by Farah Mendelsohn called Rhetorics of Fantasy is a work with scholarly slant that tries to categorise fantasy in a new way. Instead of looking at content specifically, she analyses how characters relate to the world they are in (via SF Scope). I’d be very interested to have a read of this volume, and I’ll have to see if she’s published any articles.
  • And the newest Compton Crook Award finalists have been announced. There’s only one I haven’t seen a significant amount of buzz about: Baen’s Mark L. Van Name volume One Jump Ahead (via SF Scope).

With that, I am off to pillage and rampage across countryside from the comfort of my home. I love computers 😉



Shadow Unit & Other Stuff
February 19, 2008, 2043
Filed under: news | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Unfortunately I’m a little under the weather today, but I’ve got a review of Emma Bull’s Territory in the works, and a couple others. Here are some interesting things to check out in the meantime:

Emma Bull & co. have started a fanfic site for a TV show that… doesn’t exist? It’s called Shadow Unit, and the first novella by Emma Bull is now up. Other collaborators include Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, and Will Shetterly. If you’re curious how the idea came about, check here for an explanation.

Did you sign up for the free eBooks from Tor yet? Apparently the site will also have social networking, and potential to purchase original short fiction from writers, accompanied by original artwork. I’m curious to see how Tor works the site, and what kinds of costs will be associated with the for-purchase items… See info at Bloggasm. (Thanks for passing this on to me, Flaede!)

Mike Shepherd now has contracts for books #7-9 in the Kris Longknife series, which I suppose must be selling well given the sheer number of books due to populate the series. I’m really hoping the next book takes the series somewhere new, and it’s nice to see that if it’s good, it’ll at least be three more books of good. This news amongst other book wheelings and dealings at The Swivet.

Last but not least, please check out Grasping for the Wind for more book review love–if you haven’t already. Its proprietor has been lovely enough to urge visitors to come and visit, which is very kind and much appreciated.



Free eBooks, You Say?
February 11, 2008, 2021
Filed under: news | Tags: , ,

You want to try a new author, but don’t want to shell out the money for it? Well, this is your lucky day. You don’t even have to set foot outside your home to get to the library to do that anymore. Lots of publishers are offering free eBooks as ways to get people hooked, and authors are starting to get more comfortable with people testing the waters. As long as you aren’t opposed to electronic reading, you’re in luck my friend. So settle in and have a look at what you can read for free:

  1. Tor Books will give you a free book every week until their site fully launches if you sign up for the mailing list. If you’re wondering which books, they’ve got Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn at present, and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi is coming up the next week (which is an awesome book). Sign up here. Though I admit, I made up a zipcode. Not that it matters much; I already own the first two books they’re giving away.
  2. Eos Books celebrates their 10-year anniversary by giving away an eBook every 2 months, starting with Shaman’s Crossing, the first volume of Robin Hobb’s newest trilogy. Get it here.
  3. Baen Books, who deserves praise for starting this up years ago, has a free library with many wonderful books. Some of them are out of print or difficult to get your hands on outside of this site.
  4. Neil Gaiman will be making one of his books a free eBook (or rather, HarperCollins will to be more accurate), and he wants your vote to determine which one. Go place your vote! For some mysterious reason, the leading books are American Gods & Anansi Boys… I suspect the vast majority of North America owns those books. Why not make something free that not so many of us already own?
  5. I have been alerted by a couple places online that Steven Brust has released a Firefly novel under a creative commons license–making it Really Big Name Fan Fic. Get your copy of My Own Kind of Freedom.

And if all of those aren’t good enough, check out this massive resource list for other free books online. Project Gutenberg is a favourite of a few people I know, with lots of variety. I’m always impressed by authors that have samples of their work around on their websites as well. Not everyone does it, but I think it’s a great way to let people get a taste of someone’s writing.



Box of Books!
February 9, 2008, 1458
Filed under: news | Tags: ,

This morning a friend and I headed off to the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital Book Sale at one of the local malls bright and early. You see, in past years when I attended, masses of people showed up with boxes in hand and as soon as the volunteers uncovered the books, descended upon the tables en masse. They swept armfuls of books into their boxes without even looking at the titles. I suspect they were local booksellers, or perhaps extremely rabid collectors, because they didn’t even sort through but bought the entire boxes unchecked. This time around was a little more sedate, and we were the first to end up waiting by the tables.

This meant we also had our pick of the initial tables. Even though they add books throughout the day, we weren’t really prepared to hang around for an entire day of breathing mall-air. So I found a whole bunch of classics (eg. various Norton, Bradbury & Heinlein, plus a first run Thieves’ World), as well as the full Chronicles of Tornor trilogy by Elizabeth A. Lynn and the first 3 books of Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series. There were some other interesting finds, including Chess With a Dragon by David Gerrold, who created the classic Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” and an anthology called Sorcerers! with contributors to the tune of Theodore Sturgeon, Ursula K. Le Guin, Avram Davidson, and Joanna Russ.

Basically, I left with a box of books. I guess what I’m trying to get at is you can expect to see reviews of books here that are a little older and perhaps not as easy to find, along with more recent stuff that’s out on the shelves. Plus, if you decide to visit the sale today you will find a bunch of great reads for a great price (most books are under $2), and benefit other people by doing so.

Reviews to come: On the Prowl, a book of novellas by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny, & In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez.