December 2015 Archives

I haven't blogged about tech in a while: maybe that's overdue for a correction. As you probably know I used to be a tech/IT freelance journalist, and the occasional residual spasm prompts me to go back to it. This blog isn't Ars Technica but on the other hand there's no editor yelling at me to file copy regularly or stick to a fixed format or optimize for clickbait, so here's my logorrhoeic take on fourteen gizmos I played with in 2015 and what I made of them—Without continual click-throughs, ads, or slow-to-load images because I'm a textual kind of guy. Ahem: continued below the cut.

Once upon a time, Dr. Wilder Penfield happened to cut open a patient's head and poked a part of his brain, which in turn caused the fellow to mutter something about seeing his grandmother (long dead) coming towards him with a freshly baked pie. It's worth noting that Penfield was a well respected neurosurgeon and the man having visions of nana and her baked goods was on the receiving end of a surgical procedure. Then again, when your name is "Wilder," it's pretty much a guarantee that your life will be interesting. I mention these things because Penfield went on to replicate and write about this experience, providing arguably the first real evidence for the engram, a physical manifestation of memory in the human brain.

ghItlhlu'meH QaQ DaHjaj!

Lawrence M. Schoen

Hi there, I'm Lawrence M. Schoen, and yes, the title above is in Klingon. It loosely translates as "Today is a good day to write." I mention this because Charlie has generously invited me to post here and now then, and you can expect something from me very soon as part of the shameless publicity plot commonly known as a "blog tour," in which an author with a new book coming out (in my case, that would be December 29th in the US and January 13th in the UK) asks, begs, and pleads friends and colleagues for a chance to tap into their respective audiences, day after day, desperately trying to say something new and fresh at each stop along the social media highway.

So last week I vented a little bit about shibboleths common to the written science fiction genre. This week, it's fantasy's turn in the barrel!

Fantasy is a much broader church than SF; if we're drawing Venn diagrams, you can probably characterise it as a really big circle overlapping at one side with the much smaller circle that is SF. (Items which explicitly blend magic with SF tropes occupy the overlap.) And the fantasy circle is pock-marked with smaller domains.

My protagonist Irene spies for the Invisible Library: a secretive inter-dimensional organisation. Its purpose is to acquire books (by any means...) from thousands of alternate worlds. And this helps supply balance to the multiverse. This also lets the Librarians pursue their private literary obsessions - but that's just icing on the cake.

The Library doesn't actually observe Christmas as a holiday. (In fact, they don't observe any specific holidays, and personal leave is handed out strictly at the discretion of a Librarian's own supervisor.) To the surprise of junior Librarians, giving and receiving Christmas presents between Librarians is tends to be discouraged. This often causes confusion. Surely giving presents is a sign of cooperation, of friendship, of sisterhood or brotherhood or whatever family relationship you like to idolise? How could this possibly go wrong?

I'd like you to give a welcome to our latest author blogger, Genevieve Cogman, whose second novel, The Masked City, came out in the UK at the beginning of December (if you're American, you have to wait until next year to experience the joy of her work for the first time with her debut novel, The Invisible Library when it comes out next April).

There's generally a lot of best-of lists circulating at this time of year, especially in the fantasy genre. I'm a bit disappointed that "The Masked City" came out too late to feature on any of them, because I rate it as one of the two best British fantasies of the year (along with Zen Cho's "Sorcerer to the Crown"). It's a sequel to The Invisible Library, and it's slyly witty observations and dry humour mesh beautifully with a fast-paced caper plot, an abducted damsel in distress (except the damsel in question is both male and a dragon), and the sort of metatextual games you'd expect of a series about a librarian who works for an extradimensional library and whose job it is to collect (or steal) works of fiction that only exist in parallel universes. Seriously, if you like fantasy (but not boring, cliched fantasy) you are going to want to jump on these books, either right now if you're in the EU, or next April when the first of them comes out in North America.

Genevieve got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age has never looked back. On a more prosaic note, she has an MSc in Statistics with Medical Applications, and has used this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. She has previously worked as a freelance role-playing game writer. Her hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England. And this week she has something to say on my blog ...

Let's ignore, for the moment, the point that fiction is an exploration of human interior spaces, and that sometimes a spaceship or a princess is a metaphor; science fiction and fantasy are genres famous for their departure from the plane of mundanity, and usually a spaceship is just a form of transport between inhabited worlds ...

Let me tell you what makes me yell when I kick the tires on an SF/F novel these days.

(null)I can't remember a time when, as an adult, I regularly watched TV news. In the days before the internet, there were times when I got and read newspapers: the excellent Edmonton Journal in its heyday, The Globe and Mail, and the Sunday edition of the New York Times. But most of my news, in the nineties, came from CBC Radio One. They do regional, national and international series daily. Their coverage was balanced and interesting, their journalists are brilliant, and the people they got to do interviews had legit expertise in whatever they were being asked about. None of these were gimmes, even then, and it was all nicely curated and informative. It gave me that feeling I used to seek from the news, that of being connected to global goings-on.

All of that changed overnight, pretty much, on September 11, 2001.

^^^Hello. M Harold Page here again! Swordsman. Author. Edinburgh literary type (as long as by literary you mean "pertaining to books in which time travelling communist tanks battle magic-using knights...")

And it's December, so let's assume you've finished your NaNoWriMo novel with the help of that previous post of mine.

Now what are you going to do with it?

Please don't just bin it!

There's a lot of macho advice out there, and you have to write your "gazillion words" of crap and all. And you may feel you've spewed worse than crap onto your word-processor screen. Flaunting your angst may also seem like less hard work than fixing your book.

But, you were buzzed enough about the idea to spend a month on it, so calm down a little and consider doing the following...

Various commenters have been badgering me to run a discussion of the Paris massacres and subsequent international response on this blog. I've been reluctant to go there because we invariably get far more smoke than light in the heat of the moment, and because it's not a terribly productive use of my time.

(Update: as of 2-Dec, the war faction won in the British Parliament and the bombers are already flying missions. How this plays out remains to be seen.)



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This page is an archive of entries from December 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

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