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What are you reading this summer?

... Because a random drive-by on twitter suggested this would be a good question to ask on my blog, and they're absolutely right.

NB: Please don't just post a title: post at least a couple of sentences explaining why you think the book in question is of interest. (Even if it just boils down to "escapism, subtype: personal itch-scratching".) Context is good!



Homo Deus - Yuval Noah Harari. Reviewing it for New Scientist. Very enjoyable futures romp into the Singularity. Non-fiction potboilers catching up with you guys...

Ulysses - Joyce. In the age of ego-media, a bit like coming back to the original text. Bloom's voice is a like someone's emotionally incontinent tweet-stream (combined with a neuro-interface read-out).

New Left Review. Back to front, every two months, as always.


Im nearly done reading "History of Western Philosophy" because having read it once before I wanted to actually absorb some of it this time (and I think I have). Also it's a pretty good primer on a lot of history (albeit from a more cultural/philosophic point of view).

Next up is Nightmare Stacks as something fun and quick.

Otherwise I have "Site Reliability Engineering" for lurnings and "Blind Assassin" for a book club/expanded reading.


Nightmare Stacks, obviously, Paul Cornell's Who Killed Sherlock Holmes, as I was hoping the third in the series would not have Neil Gaiman in it, finished Robert Harris' Lustrum last night ahead of starting Imperium, as I'd forgotten how Cicero and Tiro's fortunes had panned out, then probably the second Maplewood book. I suppose after that I'll be diving in and out of various O'Reilly stuff as work dictates.


Truman by David McCullough. It's McCullough's most award winning book. It gives a step-by-step detailed account of Truman from his grandparents settling the West to meeting his future wife Bess at the age of 6, fighting in WWI, bankruptcy and money problems at home, etc. I'm currently in the section on his first term, which is a close view of the beginning of the cold war.

A good history to me is better than science fiction, and this one foots the bill. Somewhat long, though.


The news. And wincing every time.


'The Silk Roads' by Peter Frankopan, a major history of the world through the lens of central Asia rather than Europe. It's interesting to me because so much of the history I've read is Anglo Saxon in origin and/or focus: this is making me turn to Wikipedia and other references every few pages, so it's slow going but I feel I'm learning new things.

'Normal' by Warren Ellis, serialised weekly on my Kindle. I've read a lot of predictions/trends/future shock in the last year for work and study: this feels like a characteristically profane, sharp antidote.

'Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain Learned to Love the Computer' by Tom Lean. I'm at the bottom end of the age range to remember all of this, but there are sufficient reminders of childhood experiments with BBCs and Spectrums for this to be a powerful piece of nostalgia.

'The Architecture of Innovation: The Economics of Creative Organisations' by Josh Lerner, because I have a Masters dissertation due in ten weeks and it's one of my main sources.


Just finished The Nightmare Stacks, which was excellent - one of OGH's best I feel. Currently starting on Ken MacLeod's The Corporation Wars: Dissidence which seems fun so far.

Non-fiction, I just finished Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction, an economic history of Nazi Germany which further upheld my view that it Hitler was incredibly lucky to have got as far as he did.


Finished the Nightmare Stacks (thumbs high btw) and planning a re-read of the Annihilation Score after your crib sheet. Before that it was Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre because all Brookmyre must be consumed (and it was very good). Bit peeved I missed its launch in Feb. Currently on A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab as I need to get through my backlog of "highly recommended stuff I have missed". It's not quite grabbing me yet. Then it's on to Mark Lawrence's new trilogy as the first one was just unbelievably good.


@George (6): I read the Frankopan. Slow going, but I enjoyed it.

As for myself, I am continuing the slow Shahnameh (The Persian Epic of Kings) reading project that Tessa Gratton and Kate Elliott have organized. It's an interesting window into a cycle of story that I, personally, have had no conception of. This translation is mainly prose instead of the original poetry, although there are occasional passages in poetic form.


Just finished Seveneves by Neal Stephenson; I've got a weakness for plots driven by geeky meanderings.

Now I'm between books, I'm not sure what to go for next. While Nightmare Stacks is the obvious and most pressing one, I'm going to at least try to wait for the ebook price to drop. I'll give in, of course, but I'll try. I've been waiting for The Last Mortal Bond (by Brain Staveley) to drop for what seems like eons now, but turns out to be only 4 months.

Meanwhile, I continue to read the Vorkosigan books to my wife at bedtime (don't laugh...). Currently on Memory (going through them in internal chronology) and strongly considering Miles as a name for our soon-to-be-unleashed son. I'd consider Bob, but that's her dad's name....


I've just started a re-read of the Saga of Tuck, an early web-fiction serial story that I enjoyed when I first started reading it a decade ago. Sadly the author has abandoned it in place about 600,000 words in and disappeared back into Real Life somewhere.

Eugene Tucker aka Tuck is a smart but not wise teenager in high school in the US with a semi-dysfunctional family and an overbearing girlfriend. Hilarity ensues, along with a certain amount of emotional and physical trauma. Well-written if rather simplistic in plot terms, aimed at geeks and nerds.


Earlier this summer devoured all of S.A. Corey's "The Expanse" series to date—some of the best semi-hard space adventure I've read in a long time, really engrossing and with a pretty good mastery of human behavior and politics. Can't wait for the next one this fall.

After that read Nightmare Stacks, and was inspired to go back and start a re-read through the Laundry series, since my reading of those has been so spread out in time that I realized I only vaguely remembered a lot of the earlier events of the series. Midway through The Jennifer Morgue right now.


Right now I'm reading "A Decent Ride" by Irvine Welsh for a good laugh after just reading the depressing but awesome two first parts of Liu Cixin's "Three Body" Trilogy. Part three should be available in september and I've just ordered two new books by Alastair Reynolds: "Beyond the Aquila Rift" and "Revenger". Just for sticking to one of my favorites. I will be in South Africa next week and hope I run into some interesting in a local bookshop.


I am plowing through -- and it has reached that point -- Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series, in order this time. I have refrained from purchasing a copy of Nightmare Stacks yet because it would be a temptation.

Also a whole pile of technical works on greatly increasing the share of renewable power in the US Western electric grid. California is starting its push to get changes that allow for unified regional planning. Not surprising now that it's official that the Diablo Canyon nukes will be retired in '24 and '25.


Just finished the first book in C.J. Cherryh's classic (?) Foreigner series (titled, crazily enough, Foreigner) on the recommendation of a friend. (For those not in the know: humans stranded on an uncharted planet must co-exist with the indigenous people.) I liked it, though it's a bit light on plot and heavy on first-person cogitation about political machinations. First book feels like the first chapter in a much larger book, and I'd like to know how it turns out, but the fact that the second requires another expenditure of time/money has me questioning if I should go on. Is this one of those series where the first is the standout and the rest gradually diminish in stature (with maybe a few high points sprinkled in), or one of those series where the first is a slow start to the truly great middle/end bit of the run?


Now I've seen it's out, Paul Cornell's new book. I enjoyed the first two so I'll add this one to the list. While we're on the topic, I wish Ben Aaronovitch would publish a new traditional form novel too. For two series where the elevator pitch is so similar I really enjoyed just how different they were.

I will probably go back and go through all the Laundry books again, I read The Nightmare Stacks when it came out and just before a migraine hit but I like to reread series and integrate books into my memory of the series like that. Likewise I'll be rereading the whole of the Jesse Sullivan series by Kory M. Shrum. They seem to start as YA UF but they take a fairly serious turn into left field quite quickly. Add one lesbian and one bisexual main character and all is not what it seems.

After that, I'm not sure. I don't seem to have a lot on pre-order due in the next 6-8 weeks and July and August aren't typically great for free books on BookBub which is my main source of new authors these days. I might go and see which of the Vlad Tepes book are available as eBooks now and catch up on them or hack my way through the millions of pages of The Malazan Book of the Fallen.


Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? (Where "Bible" => OT/Tanakh.) and Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.

Both explore in detail how the various theopolitical forces and concerns in, respectively, the OT and NT periods produced the versions that emerged as canonical.


Roy, I've been trying to track down a book about the economics of the Third Reich which, from memory, suggests that the Nazi's were increasingly likely to have to start a war from some point in 1936, but that their chances of winning began to drop off from the summer of 1938. Tooze's Wages of Destruction looks like it might be it.

I also seem to remember that about 5 years ago I came across a suggestion that one of the British intelligence units had started doing similar economic analyses in 1934/35.


Currently working my way through Nightmare Stacks, though that's on hold for a few days. Recently re-read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and am about to re-read Reamde by Neal Stephenson. Basically life served me up a shitstorm recently, so I'm falling back on comfort books (along some tech books): my previously seizure-free dad had a seizure at 4am about a month ago, followed up by another in the ER, and while trying to find the cause of that they found that he has a cancerous tumor in his chest. Radiation therapy starts this week with chemo in another two or so. Fortunately(?) I was told at the end of May that my contract wasn't going to be renewed for the next fiscal year, so it's much more doable to be involved in my dad's treatment and get him to appointments double-fortunately that my wife makes pretty good money as an astronomer.

It's a weird world when being hospitalized for a seizure is a good thing.


I've read the Foreigner series from the beginning. For me the stories have been fairly even in quality through out. The series does seem to have been drawn out a bit, but that I blame on the publisher rather than the author. :-)


Currently reading "Abundance - The Future Is Better Than You Think" by Peter H. Diamandis & Steven Kotler. I really would like to see a bright shiny post-scarcity utopia future for my grandkids rather than Hunger Games.

Before that, "Remanance" by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Book 2 of what looks to be a decent space opera, by a very rapidly improving new writer.

Before that, "The Buried Giant" by Kazuo Ishiguro. My son had read it at the beach & gave me his copy. One of those literary-ish writers, but an engaging read none-the-less.


I've read through all of Sharon Lee & Steve Millers Liaden series just recently. Though I'm not sure series is quite the right description, given that it covers over a millennium. I'm a bit old so I tend to like the kinds of things that I read growing up in the '50s, particularly Norton (I reread her early Witch World books earlier this summer.) Lee & Miller's Liaden works are very Nortonesque space opera. So strictly a fun read. Otherwise my hobby is WW2 history so I'm working through a 1600 page book on the Southern German attack at Kursk in '43.


I liked the second trilogy in the Foreigner universe best, books 4 through 6. Might be worth keeping going at least as far as book 4.


My core reading schedule is a slow re-read of the whole Discworld corpus, begun shortly after PTerry's untimely death and progressing at around 2 a month, with a break of a few months earlier this year (also giving me the excuse to collect them all electronically). Begun simply as a memorial to the man, who I find I miss (despite never having met him) more than all but the closest of friends and relatives. Witches and Guards sequences first, followed by the Rince-cycle, although I have branched into the Death/Susan novels too, as Rincewind was never my favourite character and he does outstay his welcome after a while.

Other reading has been somewhat random, but I have found that since fully embracing the joys of the eReader, I have gone from a long fallow period of reading a book or two every few months, up to 1 or 2 per week (close to my max reading rate, if I'm just reading for pleasure).


I bumped all my reads for Nightmare Stacks. When that's done, I'll be back to:

Blink, Malcolm Gladwell (recommended by my psychiatrist)

The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt (interesting pop psych on the phenomenon of political polarization)

The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama (exploring the dynamics of power, authority and legitimacy)

The Mauritius Command, Patrick O'Brian (fun)

Black Swan, Nassim Taleb (heard it was informative, and it has been to a degree, though I can only tolerate so much negativist postmodern epistemology)


I have just finished the first part of Ian McDonald's 'Luna' diptych, which was marvellously written but I had some issues with the world building (mining He3 from lunar regolith is the cunning insight that made the protagonist family's fortune? Really?)

I'm alternating newer stuff with Juliet McEnna's 'Einarrin' books thanks to seeing her posts here (currently up to The Warrior's Bond).

I read about half of 'SPQR' by Mary Beard before getting distracted and putting it down, but I'm a sucker for Roman history so I will be picking it up again when I'm on holiday next week.

Regards Luke


Recently read: - The Nightmare Stacks. Very enjoyable - it's interesting to see junior Laundry staff looking at Mr Howard the same way Bob used to view Angleton. Another ruthless trope subversion from OGH; long me he continue to write them. - Company Town, Madeleine Ashby. I think I picked it up based on a recommendation in this blog. Good, if a bit uneven here and there. - Being Mortal, Atul Gawande. Interesting perspective on how to manage old age. - Disrupted, Dan Lyons. Ex-journalist thinks he can reinvent himself as a marketing guru by working in a late-stage Internet start-up (Hubspot). Things don't quite go according to plan. A true(ish) story, the chaos inherent in most start-ups is very familiar.

Currently reading: - Site Reliability Engineering, for work. I suspect some of The SRE Way needs some adjustment if you don't work somewhere the size of Google. - Beyond the Aquila Rift, Alistair Reynolds. While there's overlap with an earlier collection of short stories, it's good. I'd forgotten how good Reynolds is at short stories.


Currently waiting for Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry) to become available from the library so re-reading the Vatta's War x 5 books by Elizabeth Moon

However very excited to see about the new / not so new Brookmyre, Macleod and Cornell books above. More library reservations beckon.


Sorry - forgot to say why Elizabeth Moon - well as I get older I do appreciate her bolshy older women.

Someone recommended the Essex Serpent so thought why not.


I've just re-read Mary Gentle's "Grunts"; you know, the one where the orcs effectively turn into the USMC.

Presently reading "Dead Center"(sic) by Ed Kogler, autobiography of a USMC Scout Sniper in Vietnam, because it was recommended by someone I got into a discussion about sniper tactics with on another site. If you don't have biography about ground forces in 'nam I'd recommend it too.

Lined up, some VE Schwab, Sarah Pinborough.


The entire Laundry Files. It turns out my library's other audiobook service has them up to the Annihilation Score. Elle Newlands is fabulous, and Gideon Emery is good too. Though I'm amused to realize I'd been "hearing" Bob's voice in an American accent (boring east coast, I think). Oops. I like Pete's accent, though I can't place it.

Next on the list is Karen Memory and the Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth bear. Unfortunately, they don't have the Edda of Burdens but if I can scrounge the change I might get the audiobooks. I'm in the mood to hang out with the Sun-Eater.


This week, The Most Human Human / Brian Christian, because it was recommended by someone on the internet, pop philosophy on what it means to be human in a world with AI. Last week, TNS/CS, possibly the best written of the series, most enjoyable. Next week, I'll be reading the last 50 years of The English and their History (the first 13 centuries) / Robert Tombs, which is excellent, recommended by John Rentoul. Probably read War Factory / Neal Asher after that, because I read the previous one and it was OK.


The book I waited for the most this summer was The Nightmare Stacks. I read it it two days because it arrived three days before our two-week trip to Japan, and I didn't want to lug it around with me, especially with a couple of city changes.

In addition to that, I've been reading a variety of books. For most of the summer and also spring I've been brushing up my Japanese skills, because of the aforementioned trip. I've studied it for a couple of years in the upper secondary and in the university, so I had the basics down, even if that was twenty years ago and I have enough to get a working tourist language. During the two weeks I began to understand more and I'm now continuing to learn the language. I got a couple of manga books (Yotsuba To! 1 and 2) in Japanese, so I've been very slowly reading those. The language books I've been reading help.

I have also read a couple of recentish books by Finnish women who have been to Japan on longer trips. They have not been translated to anything else than Finnish according to my knowledge, though. Both gave an interesting view on the society and were obviously more interesting as I did travel to the country as they would have been otherwise.

I also discovered the Expanse series - I heard of the tv series and found out that it was originally a book series, so I used the brilliant local library and have now read the first four books of the series, with the fifth coming for me in a couple of days.

I have also read Railsea by China Miéville, and some webcomics on printed paper, mainly Questionable Content, Schlock Mercenary and Dumbing of Age. To complement this in the other direction, I've also been reading The Graphics Programming Black Book by Michael Abrash which has been provided as PDFs on the Dr Dobb's site.

I am also re-reading Silmarillion because of some Internet discussion about it, and finding it quite fun.

This is not all, as I tend to read a lot and have forgotten some books already, but it's a relatively good sample in my opinion.


I'm defining "summer" as "it's too warm for my liking", roughly June-September, for this.

TNS, by OGH, obviously. Diane Duane, the Young Wizards series; fluffy YA fantasy, perfect for the commute and for "a couple pages before I turn off the lights" re-reads (same reasons): the whole of David Gemmell (fluffy Heroic Fantasy), starting with Simon R. Green now (fluffy Generic (sometimes Urban and/or Heroic) Fantasy that does decidedly not take itself serious) Set aside for the vacation: "Schwarzbuch Öl" ("blackbook oil", no idea if it was translated) by Thomas Seifert, "Der Baader Meinhof Komplex " by Stefan Aust (the RAF (german terrorists in the 70s) story, by a more-or-less-respected journalist). Why set aside? Because these ain't books that can be read piecemeal on the train.


Just started Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? by Katrine Marcal. Having just finished rereading Wealth of Nations I thought it would be interesting to get a different perspective. Not certain if this book will give that — but it seemed worth a shot.

Also need to finish Capital in the 21st Century by Piketty. Started it last fall, put it on hold and never got back to it. A bit slow to read — the style is not what I'm used to (whether that's the translation or Piketty's writing I don't know) — so I have to be careful.

Slowly working through Hitler's Charisma by Laurence Rees. Slow going because unpleasant subject. But it somehow seemed politic to know a bit more about charismatic populists.

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City by Joan DeJean. A fascinating look at the interplay between society, politics, and architecture.

The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power by Steve Fraser. A labour history that's been mostly written out of current general histories, so interesting.

Stranger Than We Can Imagine by John Higgs. Well recommended by a friend, so it's on the pile but not started yet. Alternate history of the 20th century (alternate in perspective, I think, as it's not a fiction book.) No idea how good it is yet.

The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom by Candida Moss is also on the pile. It seemed interesting; don't know if it will be.


Ah, explanations, sorry!

Nightmare Stacks: Because the Laundry series is good and I like deconstructing tropes.

Japanese language books and Yotsuba To!: Because I like languages and Japanese had a practical application this summer.

The books on Finnish people living in Japan: Because of the trip, and it's fun to learn about different cultures.

The Expanse: Because I like good scifi, and they were recommended to me. I still think I've read this blog more than strictly necessary because many of the "wild west but in SPAACE" tropes annoy a bit.

Railsea: I do like many Miéville books and I found it fun. I didn't notice the YA aspect of the book until reading the TV Tropes page for it. I'm also a sucker for certain kind of speculative fiction, and Miéville does nice world-building.

Webcomics: I find the scifi-setting and consequences of the inventions in Schlock refreshing - everything seems to have effects which might not be obvious but which are often used in the story. QC and DoA are in my opinion two of the best "twenty-something personal drama" comics, with a very good handling of minorities and social issues. All three are also fun to read.

The Graphics Programming Black Book: My first computer was an XT clone and the second one a 386, the first with the CGA adapted and the second with VGA. I did some graphics programming with them and that is a big reason why I am working where I am now (though now as an auditor instead of a programmer). It's interesting to see how low-level programming was done then, and how things have changed.

Silmarillion: It's a classic and very epic, and it's nice to occasionally read that kind of stuff too. I like it nowadays more than the other two Tolkien books, which I probably won't re-read again if I can help it, but Silmarillion I can re-read.


The best answers are on blog:, and they all have more than a few sentences attached.

Perhaps the most interesting from your perspective that hasn't been on blog yet might be Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People from Stephen Wolfram. It's an idiosyncratic but consistently interesting reflection on mathematicians and figures in adjacent fields, along with an attempt to understand some of their human motivations and contexts. Phrases like "building complex systems from simple rules" and "When I was working on A New Kind of Science" are repeated a little too often, but the rest of the book makes it worthwhile.


Other than "The Nightmare Stacks"? Let's see.

"1177BC - The Year Civilization Collapsed" by Eric Cline: A summary of the end of the Bronze Age civilization that was, to me at least, displaying surprisingly long distance trade networks and cosmopolitan cities. Then the postmortem of it all seemingly falling apart and the component civilizations collapsing into the Bronze Dark Age within the span of a decade or so. I am a sucker for Bronze Age archaeology, maps of antiquity, especially when it reaches beyond the Near East.

"Normal" by Warren Ellis: Already mentioned by previous posts. The abyss gaze of the futurist sure does seem familiar wrt the history I like reading. Only halfway through the serialization and it's shaping up to be an EXCELLENT Agatha Christie locked room whodunit. Quite excited.

"The Long Utopia" by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter: The end of the series which has a very interesting overlap with "Contact". We've explored the variation of the infinite Earths, the effect of that on humanity, so this time we get to talk about places beyond Earth having already had fun with Mars. I've always felt this was Terry taking the idea of narrativium from the "Science of Discworld" series, running with it, and then looking at the old series "Sliders" and blowing it out of the water.


"Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers", Robert M. Sapolsky.

"Good Calories, Bad Calories", Gary Taubes.

Because I am stressed and chubby.

Roy, I've been trying to track down a book about the economics of the Third Reich which, from memory, suggests that the Nazi's were increasingly likely to have to start a war from some point in 1936, but that their chances of winning began to drop off from the summer of 1938. Tooze's Wages of Destruction looks like it might be it.

Sounds very much like it. Tooze's basic thesis is that Germany's appalling balance of payments situation pretty much meant that their initial re-armament was so unaffordable that they had no choice but to embark on a conquest -> re-armament cycle until every threat was dealt with. Basically they had to keep playing double or quit. Remarkably, up to the end of 1941, they kept throwing doubles.


I'm planning on reading Normal once it's published as a single volume later this summer. But then I read most of what Warren Ellis publishes.

I'm currently reading The Wicked and the Divine as the comics are published; a meditation on fame, celebrity and pop culture built on the iconography of popstars (Lucifer as Thin White Duke-era Bowie! Inanna as Prince!) and the premise "every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as young people - and die within two years." It's ...astounding. I shall permit myself gush no further, lest I fail to stop.

Starting The Crimes of the Economy - a criminologist returning the favour of all those "economics of crime" studies. Not far enough in to have gotten any meat yet, but the crust's pretty good...


Christ. Good luck to your dad - and you.


Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, because the first one was chosen by my book club and, as a huge Patrick O'Brian fan, I found it hit enough of the right Napoleonic war/historical adventure/sea story culture/procedural spots to be entertaining enough to continue with.

The Situated Technologies Pamphlet Series, edited by Omar Khan, Trebor Scholz, and Mark Shepard, because one of this year's reading projects is urban planning, specifically as it related to "smart city" and "sharing economy" issues, and this series has been excellent, if a bit technical, and will come at issues from an anarchist/contrarian/psychogeographical/otherwise oblique direction that winds up being both refreshing and insightful. Along the same lines and for the same reasons are Adam Greenfield's Against the Smart City pamphlet, Tom Slee's What's Yours Is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy, and Geoff Manaugh's A Burglar's Guide to the City. The Slee book in particular is notable not just for its analysis but for its extensive original research into the actual economic and social effects of the sharing economy on both its workers and the communities such companies set up shop in.

Also on tap are Bruce Bethke's Headcrash and Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather, because my other reading project is "classics of cyberpunk" and these were both recommended to me as important (though perhaps a bit dated).

I just finished reading a Canadian literary novel I am dying to recommend but can't, for contractual reasons (the review I'm being paid for isn't out until September), but next up in that direction is Bernard Malamud's baseball novel The Natural, because I like the film and am also a huge baseball fan (go Blue Jays!) and it's supposed to be the finest novel ever written about the game. (The film has some really iconic moments, but most important takeaway from it is that Robert Redford doesn't know how to throw a baseball.)

This will likely take me into September, when I hope to get some mystery/crime fiction and more literary stuff back into the mix (I have, in particular, a backlog of J.G. Ballard and Derek Raymond I've been meaning to get to--Ballard dovetails nicely with my cyberpunk/urban planning program, especially in a psychogeographical kind of way, and Raymond is absolutely harrowing, but in a good way).


Gawd, should be;

Starting Dictator by Robert Harris, the third in the Cicero series, as Imperium was the first.

The second Maplewood should be Chapelwood by Cherie Priest. The first was Maplecroft.

I blame the hot weather.


Coyote by Allen Steele - Uncomfortable predictions of the future with the current Presidential campaign.

Octagonal Raven by L.E. Modesitt - Media controls the world in the future. Boy, is that far-fetched (Both of these written near 2000)

Old Man's War by Scalzi - Fun read. Interesting ideas of life on the other side of the singularity...


Ta, I'll order it, assuming I don't manage to mangle the title up.


Thanks for picking up on my Twitter request Charlie, very kind of you.

My list so far is:

Empire Games - for obvious reasons - probably preceded by re-reading the revised trilogy

The Nightmare Stacks - again for obvious reasons, though I have been gritting my teeth and avoiding hitting the buy button on this so I can read it on holiday. Usually I re-read the whole series in preparation for a new book but this time I'm just doing the Annihilation Score; I re-read the Rhesus Chart a couple of weeks ago. It's probably the most exhausting, depressing, yet thrilling and clever of the whole series.

The Long Cosmos - Pratchett and Baxter. I really like this series and I'm delighted there's another one.

Europe Between the Oceans - Barry Cunliffe's magisterial survey of the European Neolithic, I've read most of it but I want to chisel out a bit more insight from it. His Britain Begins is also extremely good.

Hopefully I will pick up some more tips from this thread once I've read it!


I have no idea how I missed the Situated Technologies pamphlets, but they're so precisely up the alley of a preoccupation of mine it's not even funny. Thanks a million. Sidenote: have you heard any noises about the supposed follow-ups to Against The Smart City?


The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan - Kim Barker.

On the inanity of the enormous sums of money spent in pursuit of our 'War on Terror' and how we really have no clue what to do in the area.



I recently read Dataclysm by Christian Rudder & Neoreaction: A Basilisk by Phil Sandifer. The former is probably the most accessible book on doing empirical sociological research with 'big data' I've read (it's by the guy who used to run OKCupid's great analytics blog, back when OKCupid had a great analytics blog). The latter is an extended essay about Elizer Yudkowsky, Nick Land, and Mencious Moldbug, deconstructing their political views as a kind of literary criticism, with the idea that each of their philosophies contains hidden within itself a monstrous 'basilisk' -- an idea that is implicit but unacknowledged in their thinking that, when discovered, annihilates it.


Aside from The Nightmare Stacks, the only work of novel-length fiction I read since January that's worth recommending is Futuristic Weapons and Fancy Suits by David Wong; it's a little like a cross between The Peripheral and The Fifth Element, with the satire turned up to eleven, and it's largely about the intersection of transhumanism with libertarianism and how that plays out in line with ideas about social justice. (Basically any piece of science fiction written by a Cracked editor is worth reading; David Wong is juggling two series at this point -- the psychological horror-comedy John Dies at the End and the near future satire Futuristic Weapons -- but he's not the only one or even the best: I strongly recommend Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity and The Unnoticables because both are better-crafted and more original, if less humorous)


I don't get too much reading time these days, except once in a while. However, I was pounding through the Huge reader's packet, at least for novel, novella, novelette, and short, and I really need to vote....

Speaking of which, I haven't read it, but that dino-porn - anyone got an opinion? Above, or below "none of the above".



I strongly recommend Stranger than We Can Imagine; the idea is that he does a history of the 20th century by focusing only on the elements that don't get a lot of coverage in regular history books (so, he skips the world wars entirely to focus on dada, quantum mechanics, and the human potential movement). Higgs is an interesting guy; he wrote a biography of Tim Leary I've heard good things about, and wrote an essay for The Guardian about Robert Anton Wilson a few years ago.


anonemouse: I have heard that he is actively working on what should be the final draft of The City Is Here For You To Use right now, but there's no ETA of any kind that I'm aware of.

Adam is still blogging from time to time at SpeedBird, and he runs a TinyLetter newsletter that started up again last month, although seems to be pretty scattershot.

(I'm the same August as in the comment above, but realized my typepad profile was redirecting to the obsolete typekey service and therefore a 404, with no way to fix it, so here I am with a fresh account.)


One newsletter subscription later... :-) Thanks! I'd lost track of him, somehow.


I'm a professor who didn't have to teach a course during the first part of the summer, so I got in a lot of sci-fi and fantasy reading for fun:

The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan (starts with A Natural History of Dragons). I enjoy both fantasy and historical fiction, and this series combines them effectively. The animating premise seems to be, "what if, instead of being a man who studied finches, Darwin was a woman who studied dragons?" Some of Brennan's plots suffer from a slight case of Act III Contrivance (don't worry, it's not nearly as severe as Neal Stephenson's), but she really nails the "lay scientist" voice of her heroine, and the feminist edge is incisive without being strident.

Another, very different series that combined sci-fi and historical fiction was Walter John Williams' Dread Empire's fall. Williams gives us a space opera where interstellar travel faces some of the same constraints as wooden sailing fleets did during the Napoleonic wars, and in which the imperial society reflects some of the same qualities. I found myself enjoying interstellar conflict with echoes of O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin novels.

I also read the James S. A. Corey Expanse series, and right now I'm working on Neal Asher's Polity novels. All these books are fun, but the also share a quality that bugs me a bit, which is the unlikely fact that one main character is a principal player in so many of the major turning points of human post-history. I wish these writers would take a lesson from George R.R. Martin and Iain M. Banks (PBUH): if your world-building (or galaxy-building) is strong enough--and in both these cases, I think it is--you can spread the stories around to a larger variety of protagonists.

I also re-read The Laundry Files this spring and summer to be ready for The Nightmare Stacks to drop. I just finished it and loved it, especially the twist at the end when [REMAINDER OF POST DELETED BY MODERATORS;




"Blue at the Mizzen" by Patrick O'Brien because I just need to return to this fabulous series.

"Rum Affair" by Dorothy Dunnett because it is set along the west coast of Scotland where I'll be cruising in a week or so.

"The Game of Kings" by Dorothy Dunnett - a bit of fiction in the history of Scotland

"Arabella of Mars" by David Levine - hasn't grabbed me in the first few pages but I'll give it some time.

"Nightshades: A Paranormal Thriller" by Melissa F. Olson - I like the idea of discovering vampires are real and how the FBI and the US might deal. I'll finish it but so far not great, gotta continue, summer reading.

"Company Town" by Madeline Ashby because some folks whose taste I respect have said good things.

Something or other by Jack Vance because his writing is deeply resonant with me. Anything in the Gaean Reach appeals as well as his fantasies.


Re post 56: about one person at so many critical turning points in human history - I absolutely agree. I am so sick of 5 4-book trilogies where the Hero is the One And Only who can Save It All.

Most folks who perform real heroic actions - like that self-described DC bureaucrat who leapt into the ice-choked Potomac in Jan, '81, to help pull people from the crashed plane on the 14th St bridge, not some sportsballplayer) have one, and are frequently lucky to live through it. And what do you call someone who tries to keep doing Heroics? A dead hero.

The novels my late wife and I were working on (and which I'm working on, and started flogging one), had a universe we liked... but that was it. One novel followed a main character and a number of others. The next? elsewhere in the Diaspora, and they don't know the folks from the first in any way. Why would you want to follow just one set of people, when you can jump around and really explore the universe?


As usual, I'm "currently" reading about a half dozen books -- I switch to another one when they get boring, go back when the alternate is boring or I finish it. Or sometimes I switch a new book because I'm so excited about it.

So far this summer, I've read:

  • Plastic Smile, by SL Huang. Fourth book in the series, interesting variant on super powers. This book and the previous have annoyed me a great deal because how badly they treat facts. (Admittedly, I know too much about cellphones to let magic with them go by without comment.)
  • Necessity: A Novel, by Jo Walton. Conclusion to the trilogy, with a good ending, but I was disappointed with the plot in this one. The trilogy is still worth reading.
  • This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity), by Victoria Schwab. Now this was interesting! I found the setup quite interesting (the deeper setup, discussed in a couple of paragraphs in the middle of the book, was irritating). Looking forward to a sequel, if there is one.
  • Edge of Dark (The Glittering Edge), by Brenda Cooper. Certain aspects of this really bothered me. I loved certain other aspects. I'm thinking it was, not inspired by, but assisted by, the Expanse novels. Which is good, I'd like to see more along those lines.
  • Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic, by Ursula Vernon. Second in a fantasy series, it's quite enjoyable.
  • The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton. Second in the series. I went through this one very quickly, and liked it a lot. Kept thinking of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, however.
  • And that's what I've read so far this summer. (I stopped listing books I'd finished by June 21st.)

    Still reading:

  • Hexed: The Sisters of Witchdown, by Michael Alan Nelson. Apparently based on a comic?
  • Hostage (The Change, Book 2), by Rachel Manija Brown. Second in a series. I like the genre, which is the same kind of setting as The Six Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher, and Mark Sumner's Devil's Tower.
  • (Those are the two I'm actively reading at the moment. This will undoubtedly change tomorrow when new books come out.)


    Currently reading Ken Liu's first collection, "The Paper Menagerie and other stories". Liu does brilliant work, and he doesn't shy away from the really difficult and nasty stuff, without losing hope for the bright things in life. And his stories repay careful reading, since they're always layered and full of interesting things you can't see with a quick surface read. Even stories that seem simple at first glance have hidden depths. Highly recommended.

    Next on the list is "The Nightmare Stacks" (I save my Stross each year as a reward for a rough spring), though I wish you'd get back to Bob Howard. Nothing against the supporting cast, but Bob's much more interesting to me. He's the real heart of the series, obviously.

    Then on to one or both of Max Gladstone's two most recent books. I just flat-out love his writing style, and he does many things interestingly differently from everyone else. Reminds me a bit of John Grisham transplanted to a fantasy world.


    Nice to know I'm not the only one on a bronze age kick at the moment.

    One book I'm reading is Fernand Braudel's The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. It's a classic that's been referenced so often in other books I've read that I decided to read the original.

    It's worth it, too. This is a two-volume monster, and the first volume isn't about Philip II of Spain and the 16th Century, it's about the Mediterranean going back in places to the Bronze Age, because Braudel's thesis is that you can't properly understand what happened without understanding the Mediterranean from the geology up. It's really a work of how the longue duree (what I've called deep time elsewhere) affects the named events of history, and even though it's a bit dated in places (it was first published in French in 1949), it's still a very impressive book.

    Also, it's a lot of fun to read. I don't know enough French to read the original, but he had a gifted translator.


    Like many others above, have read TNS , Who killed Wherlock Holmes and currently on the Corporation Wars. Have the next Peter Grant lined up when it is finally published.

    I've also been reading a fair bit of 99p books from Kindle - from Denzil Meyrick's DCI Daley novels to Melissa F. Olson's Boundary novels. So crime, urban fantasy, bit of Sci-Fi and the very silly Chronicles of St Mary's history romps.


    "How Music Works", David Byrne: a look at how spaces & technology affect music performance & composition, mostly focused on the 20th Century and popular music.

    "Thinking, Fast And Slow", Daniel Kanneman: examines two kinds of thinking, one fast & intuitive, the other more deliberate & logical.

    "Transmetropolitan": Warren Ellis has brain wrongs. He gives them to people.

    "Red Plenty", Francis Spufford: A cunning blend of history and fiction set in 1950s Soviet Union, when the Socialist Paradise seemed just around the corner.

    Musical Bonus Round:

    "Phone, Turenas [et al]", John Chowning: electronic musics from a pioneer of digital synthesis.

    "The Ugly One With The Jewels", Laurie Anderson: stories in her trademark sly-witted deadpan.

    "Lux Aeterna", Ligeti: transcendant vocal works employed to great effect by Stanley Kubrick in 2001.

    "Back In Black", ACDC: sometimes nothing works so well as putting on one's schoolboy pants and having a 100 decibel temper tantrum.


    Fiction Dancers Lament, Ian C Esslemont Fall of Light Steven Erickson I do not read much fiction now-for some reason I find it hard to get into but The Malazean Book of the Fallen and its spin offs are so complex that I enjoy them. It also helps that there isn't an omnipotent hero as bemoaned above-in fact even the gods are not omnipotent. Nonfiction The Art of the Renaissance P & L Murrey- I know little about art and find that regrettable so I am remedying the lack Seeing Like a State James C Scott, Recommended on this site many times so I am reading it(It helps that I have strong anarchist leanings) The Puzzle of Ethics Peter Vardy and Paul Grosch to feed my deep interest in philosophy and politics. And just because I can, I am restarting 1000 Plateau's by Deluze and Gutteri. When these are finished I can start on the “to be read” heap which is growing as I read this thread! I almost forgot, various magazines, New Scientist, Rail, Modern Railways, Buses, Philosophy Now, Scientific American, Soundings and Anarchist Studies, all of which feed my interests.


    I can't stomach S.A.Corey, but at least in Asher's Polity/Cormac novels, Cormac isn't one person, he's a repeatedly instanced AI construct.


    I've been slowly working my way through all of Ian M. Banks's works. Why? I have to admit it was because of the names on the SpaceX landing crafts. So I guess there's advice for aspiring authors, just get a space-crazed millionaire to name some key infrastructure after characters from your books.

    I have been enjoying the books, though I could definitely do without the requisite horror sequence in each book.


    In fiction I've recently read Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning, a history of some important events of the 25th century narrated by someone close to the action. In terms of social and political institutions it's a very different world from the one we inhabit now, or any world I've seen in fiction before, which I adore. There is an important Miracle that makes this book appear to slant into fantasy and some aspects of the world building either don't cohere or aren't explained yet. It remains to be seen if it will all make sense in the end. But I enjoyed this first one at least.

    In non-fiction I've finally read Kate Brown's Plutopia after ordering it a while back. It's the parallel story of the "atomic cities" of Ozersk, Russia and Richland, Washington (home of Hanford Site workers), both of which produced plutonium for nuclear weapons starting in the 1940s. Both were near-ideal cities to live in if you overlooked the health and environmental problems of the central industry, and many people did choose to overlook those problems. And ironically (or inevitably) they were so wonderful for skilled workers only because they didn't work like their respective nations' ideology said things should work: in Ozersk the stores never ran out of consumer goods or luxuries, never mind national sacrifice and equality. In Richland the workers had heavily government subsidized housing and other basics of life that the free market could ostensibly do a better job providing. The atomic site also shored up racial segregation in an era where the armed forces that would actually use the bombs were desegregating. Sometimes I think that Brown works a little too hard in trying to draw parallels; by the numbers, Ozersk was far more disastrous when it comes to releasing radioactive materials into the environment. But there was more overlap than I would have guessed before reading about how political dogma, worker safety, and everything else took a back seat in both nations when it came to the urgent mission of producing weapons plutonium as fast as possible.


    Just finished the first book in C.J. Cherryh's classic (?) Foreigner series (titled, crazily enough, Foreigner) on the recommendation of a friend.

    Heh. What a coincidence. I just grabbed half a shelf-full of those myself for bed-time reading.

    Cherryh's Foreigner series consists of about 17 novels as 5-and-a-bit trilogies (to date; Wikipedia says there are two more books still in production to round off trilogy no. 6 and make start on trilogy no. 7...)

    Each of those books has a single word title of the form 'Noun ending in -er or -or'. Well, except for the latest two still in progress, that for no apparent reason seem to have switched title format to 'Noun ending in -ence'

    That little lot will probably take me most of the rest of the Summer and more.


    Fair criticism, but there is the occasional counterpoint. (Though Talleyrand's lessons are most likely "be the adviser, not the hero; alienate no-one; and keep an eye on your exit.")


    Summer reading so far (some omissions, possibly, as my memory is far from perfect)

    Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold, because addicts need their fix. My partner expressed wonderment at a book in a military SF series that had very little actual action in it. "All character, no plot!" she declared. I told her that was nonsense, that Bujold did a fine job of getting her characters up into a tree and throwing rocks at them; it's just that they were relationship rocks.

    The Nightmare Stacks by somebody-or-other, again, because addicts need their fix. It seems to me that OGH has returned to his original brief of pastiche of thriller writers, with the writer in question this time being Tom Clancy. I say this with approval, not disdain. (I have come to more clarity about my growing discomfort with the Laundry books that I remarked about flippantly in a comment to an earlier post: the series comes off as a justification for the Deep State, that democratic process cannot cope with the reality of the One True Religion.)

    A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, because twice I have ventured into the topsy-turvy socialist world of disaster and disaster relief, and I wanted to read what Solnit had to say. The book is an eye-opener, a thorough-going refutation of the Hobbesian vision of brutality that supposedly is inevitable when the social order is brought down. On the contrary, when disaster strikes and society is brought to its knees, it turns out that people are extraordinarily nice to each other.

    Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, because Stan Robinson. A hard-science look at a generation ship's journey to a nearby star. Scientific realism, human realism, and heart, like all of his work.

    Supergods by Grant Morrison, because I am a superhero nerd, and Morrison (a writer for comics, including some highly regarded superhero titles) brings perspectives both as an insider and as a visionary who sees beyond the confines of consensus reality.

    Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny, because it's an old favorite. The suck fairies gave it a near miss, and what is wonderful about it remains so.

    The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton, because how could you resist a series about Plato's Republic being made real. Trouble ensues.


    Nightmare Stacks, obviously.

    Bujold: Penric and the shaman. This is essential a cosy mystery set in a secondary world fantasy. Solid. Because it's Bujold, and Bujold is always solid.

    SL. Huang, Plastic Smile - latest installment in a series i love because the main character is a gloriously deranged merc with math-based superpowers, in which the logical consequences.. mostly.. ensue in the way you would expect them to (the main character not being dead sometimes exercises suspense of disbelief a fair bit)

    Georgette Kaplan: Ex-Wives of Dracula. This is a fix-fic of Jennifer's Body with the numbers filed off just enough to avoid legal trouble. Yes. That movie. The one with Megan Fox. This works far, far better than it has any right to, mostly by being consistently funny and treating it's characters with empathy.


    All kinds, because my average ebook is 75 a year, THEN I add the various books for which ebooks don't work (either because the ebook formatting is almost broken - that include's our esteemed hosts' Orbit ones which I take in doorstopping paper form - or because they have too many figures that don't render cleanly in ebook).

    The current doorstopper is The Invention of Science by David Wootton, or basically the chronology of the complete transformation of the philosophy between 1572 and 1705. The dates are probably a bit arbitrary, but from Tycho Brae's nova (1572) and Newton's optics (1705), the way of thinking about knowledge and what "science" meant did change a lot.

    In ebooks, I'm finishing my backlog of Baen and indy stuff. I still have books from 2013 tagged "unread" on my reader. Something that never happened with paper books.


    Ben Elton, Time and time again. A well done time travel novel. A discovery makes it possible to travel back in time to 1914. One bullet might prevent millions of deaths and alter all the wrongs of the century that followed. Different timelines meet in 1914 and shit happens.

    After reading an announcement on a site with a name that shows disrespect of our beloved pope I've been forced to order 3 omnibuses so I'll have to read those as well. Just when I thought I had saved enough money to buy my first jar of peanut butter of the year it's back to bread and water. Damn you CS!! ;)


    Started of with the Ancillary trilogy. I found the multi perspective switching enjoyable and read the whole lot in one go.

    Then I started The Vorrh, pfff that is not an easy read (I'm not native English speaker)! It feels like a poem crossed with a dictionary. I needed something else after chapter two so I picked up The Flicker Men which reads like a breeze. I'm determined to finish The Vorrh because it left some mystery and a challenge in the back of my mind, but I'm not sure if it will be in small bites or if I will try to swallow it whole.

    As a background - non fiction - read I'm also switching between Darwin's Island and Life Ascending which I find resonate well.

    Next up on the very long list is Uprooted...unless I look at this Nightmare Stacks thing everybody "obviously" seems to read (I have no clue what it is at this point and I'm going to resist looking it up for the moment :-|).


    "1177BC - The Year Civilization Collapsed" by Eric Cline: A summary of the end of the Bronze Age civilization that was, to me at least, displaying surprisingly long distance trade networks and cosmopolitan cities. Then the postmortem of it all seemingly falling apart and the component civilizations collapsing into the Bronze Dark Age within the span of a decade or so. I am a sucker for Bronze Age archaeology, maps of antiquity, especially when it reaches beyond the Near East.

    Excellent book.


    The Nightmare Stacks! Because summer = Stross.

    Christian Materiality: An Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe by Caroline Walker Bynum, my favourite medieval historian, I've been working my way through her exceptional works for the last couple of years. Dense, academic work that's poetic and so full of love for her subject.

    Emotion and Devotion: The Meaning of Mary in Medieval Religious Cultures by Miri Rubin. There's a summer reading theme here, filling in gaps in high and late medieval art.

    The Public in the Picture: Involving the Beholder in Antique, Islamic, Byzantine and Western Medieval and Renaissance Art, edited by Beate Fricke and Urte Krass. More medieval art history and theory, this time dealing with symbolic, political, social, and religious representation of all the people in medieval art who aren't the main attraction.

    Islamicate Sexualities: Translations Across Temporal Geographies of Desire edited by Kathryn Babayan (Author), Afsaneh Najmabadi. Najmabadi is to Iranian history and culture what Bynum is to the medieval, another one I'm reading through the works of.

    A bunch of sci-fi/skiffy/fantasy for when I need a break from the above entertainment like: The Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng; China Miéville's new one The Last Days of New Paris (as with Charlie, I read everything Miéville writes, one of my all-time faves); Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria (I read her The Winged Histories first and liked it a lot); Jo Walton's Necessity, the third part of her brilliant trilogy (also scything through her What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Fantasy and SF at the moment)

    And have Frank Dikötter's The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, 1962-1976 on order, the third part of his communist China trilogy, thoroughly recommend his works for a comprehensive history of 20th century China; and Peta Stephenson's Islam Dreaming: Indigenous Muslims in Australia – and if you want superb and brutal sci-fi Australian short form drama: Cleverman.


    I have come to more clarity about my growing discomfort with the Laundry books that I remarked about flippantly in a comment to an earlier post: the series comes off as a justification for the Deep State, that democratic process cannot cope with the reality of the One True Religion.

    Correct. One nightmare scenario for the philosophical underpinnings of the Enlightenment would be the discovery of entities that are provably superhuman, because it totally wrecks the foundational assumption that the lives of different citizens are of equal value. At an absolute minimum it opens the door for aristocracy and/or a caste system; if you're not lucky it goes some way to legitimize monarchism or a theocracy. Also privilege in the pre-1789 sense of the word. This is as true for post-singularity fic as for the Laundryverse; why do you think the Dark Enlightenment folks mostly started out as techno-utopians, silicon valley libertarians, and extropians?

    (And I'm going to dive down that rabbit hole in The Delirium Brief.)


    "Digital Apollo" by David Mindell. The central question examined by the book is "Who should control the flight: the astronauts, the guidance computer, or mission control"? The book has some great insights into real rocket science, and the clashes between steely-eyed missile men who wanted to automate everything and the pilots who wanted control of every valve. Also some great gems, like the fact that the original NASA contract for the guidance computer lacked any requirements for the software, and the details of how Little-Old-Ladies at a sewing factory knitted (!) the rope-core memory that held the flight software. You couldn't make it up!


    Tried reading Pines, gave up half-way through. Story wasn't bad but wasn't great. Writing was definitely bad.

    Enjoyed The Fireman by Joe Hill, but it got weaker as it went along. So even though it was over-all enjoyable, I wasn't left with that great an impression.

    Enjoyed Stephen King's The Revival. Good story, good characters. King's prose is usually workmanlike, but there are time in this one where he approaches lyrical. I liked it.

    Earlier this year read all five of the Expanse novels. Grand space opera, lots of fun.

    Should I mention The Nightmare Stacks? I suppose so . . . liked it a lot, worked better than I expected given who the narrator was. And every time he referred to “Mr. Howard”, I laughed.

    Liked Justin Cronin's City of Mirrors (conclusion to his vampire trilogy) a lot. His tendency to jump backwards and forwards can be off-putting, but it usually worked for me. I recommend all three.

    Ursula Vernon's second Hamster Princess book, Of Mice and Magic was almost as good as the first. My grandchildren shall be having it read to them shortly.

    M. R. Carey's The Girl With All The Gifts is a stunning take on plague, post-apocolyptic disasters, and humanity. I was really, really impressed.

    Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House didn't hold up as well as I expected. It's almost too compact, compared to more modern stories. Still really good, just not quite as good as I recalled from 40 years ago.

    David WIngrove's The Ocean of Time needed to be cut about 40%. The third book in this trilogy is finally scheduled, but it'll have to get damned good reviews for me to buy it.

    Robert Jackson Bennet's City of Blades was a most worthy sequel to his earlier City of Stairs. Some great worldbuilding, and characters who really sang for me.

    And I'm part-way through Jarod Diamond's The World Until Yesterday. I don't always agree with him, but he's always interesting and always makes me think.


    Well then, that goes on the stack.

    Considering how many conversations I have with journalists that go along the lines of "Interesting question. To properly answer this $VERYMODERNQUESTION we're going to need to discuss the maniple system and the Samnite Wars..." this sounds right up my alley.


    Most recently several books by Robert Louis Stevenson, because of a book club thing coming up, all available from Gutenberg etc.:

    Treasure Island - the definitive "Arr, matey" pirate story, it still holds up pretty well if you ignore the bit where the kid narrator sails the ship by himself - which Stevenson cleverly lampshades much earlier in the story - and a fun source for things like the TV series Black Sails, Disney's Treasure Planet, etc.

    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - which I thought I'd read but found I hadn't. Another hugely influential work, which led to things like The Incredible Hulk, greatly distorted in most versions I've seen in films etc.

    The Wrong Box - a comic romp with a misplaced corpse and much ado about Tontines. Filmed with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and many others (though they took a LOT of liberties with the plot), and can be seen on line.

    Island Night's Entertainment - various south-sea tales including the classic Bottle Imp.

    New Arabian Nights - Collection of short stories including The Suicide Club and The Rajah's Emerald, two fun series that may have inspired Chesterton, a dreadful "hunted by Italian bandits" story that was apparently hugely popular and influential, and some historical shorts. Not actually on the book club list, it's an old favourite and I took the opportunity to read it again.


    I recently finished listening to Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer. It described 4 unique migrations from England to the USA starting with the Puritans in Massachusetts the 1600's, moves on to the pro-royalty Cavaliers in Virginia, next explain the Quakers and end with a look at the immigration from the borderlands of Scotland, Ireland and England to the America back country. It then attempts to show how these 4 peoples shaped the next centuries.

    So far its the best history I have read that explains the different personalities I have met while travelling the USA. It also explains how everyone can be pro-freedom and yet still think 2/3rds of the country is insane and evil.


    Fic: Finished Who Killed Sherlock Holmes by Paul Cornell, which again manages to marry up the modern supernatural with the police procedural, with a side-order of despair. Fascinating and addictive, if slightly disturbing. Currently reading King's Justice & The Auger's Gambit by Stephen Donaldson, two original novellas. Been a while since I've read anything by Donaldson that doesn't leave me cold but these are good. Like the length too. Also finishing up The Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence, enjoyable fantasy romp with a Flashman-esque central character. Lawrence has fun with less than sympathetic protagonists, luckily he's good at wry black humour. Next up is the Don Winslow Cartel books, been looking forward to these for a long while, since reading Warren Ellis' review of The Cartel in his weekly email. Two volumes that have been described as the War & Peace of the modern American crime novel. The first - The Power of the Dog - certainly opens with a bang... Bonus mention for a fun little graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff. Great art, nice humour, and what's not to love in a book about a troublesome ninja-trained young 19thC lady and her reluctant travelling companion, a Turkish Janissary who's the best tea-maker in Europe. Preview at Non-Fic: I tend to have several on the go at the one time, but here's the current selection of recently done and still going: Recently done: The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service Since 1945 by by James Jinks and Peter Hennessy. Pretty much what is says on the tin. Delves a little too much into the politics of Trident and the like, and is a little short on stories of Cold War derring do (no doubt due to most of them still being classified), but still an interesting insight into the closest thing we currently have to what it'd be like to spend 90 days travelling around locked up in a tin can with a hostile environment outside. Silk Roads - as mentioned multiple times above. Shifts the narrative East, and rightly so. Great stuff. All Hell Let Loose by Max Hastings, WW2-in-a-volume history, aims to be more sociohistorical in form - lots of quotes from various letters, diaries, etc - and dotted with Hastings' at times acerbic observations. I think Beevor's The Second World War still beats it, but acts as a worthy counterpoint. Still too Europe-centric though! Ongoing: Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World by Noel Malcolm, which starts as a fairly small-scale overview of a region of modern-date Albania that was, in the mid-Sixteenth Century, at the frontier between Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire, and produced various important characters. Through these Malcolm opens out and reviews various key events (Battle of Lepanto, St Bartholemew's Day Massacre) that they were to some degree involved in. Strangely, I think Guy Gavriel Kay's new book is based in a lightly-fantasised version of the same region. The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks: A Critical Introduction by Simone Caroti. Picked this up after hearing an interview on the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. Bought it out of curiosity more than anything - I know what I think of the Culture novels, curious to see what someone else makes of them. Plus cheap Kindle version, if suffering some formatting issues. Feeds into my plan to re-read IMB's SF end-to-end over the winter... Time Reborn by Lee Smolin. Just about to start this. Picked up after reading Peter Watts comments on his blog. I'm a complete physics "just-enough-ability-to-comprehend-to-wish-I-had-the-means-to-really-comprehend" person, but the whole reversibility of time thing is strange even for physics (to me), and Smolin promises a new approach that challenges it. I think.


    I've read a lot, so I will focus on some books I haven't finished yet. Non-fiction takes me quiet a while...

    Earlier this year, I saw an article "Data Mining Reveals the Four Urban Conditions That Create Vibrant City Life". The opening paragraph mentions Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I've got that one on audio and ebook and have it's pretty good so far. I am reading it because learning how complex things like cities work is fascinating.

    I love learning about animal behavior and cognition. This is one reason why I am reading Frans de Waal's, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

    For some reason I am having trouble getting through one of the books I got on embodied cognition, and I've been jumping from between books by Andy Clark Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind or Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension

    Michael S.A. Graziano Consciousness and the Social Brain by way of a bibliography from a paper from a blog post by Peter Watts, probably on consciousness and gods. Anyway, I went from there to this author and settled on this book. which will explain the "attention schema" theory of consciousness. essay,

    one book I actually finished.Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening by John Elder Robison because of an interest in autism and how TMS affects the brain.


    "Ghengiz Khan and the Making of the Modern World" by Jack Weatherford.

    Turns out the the Mongols were the good guys,moreliberaros than conquerers.

    If Ghenghis is among the greatest military leaders in history, his grandson Kublai was history's greatest administrative genius. His empire's accomplishments inlcuded:

    Religous tolerance, no offical state religion and no inquisition

    Banned torture and blood sports, minimal executions (which werenever public entertainemnt likein Europe)

    Meritocracy instead of aristocracy open to talentinstad of birth or nationality

    Rights for women, many power Mongol queens

    Mass printing of books with translations from dozens of languages, encouraged literature

    Universal public school system to spread literacy, establishment of major universities

    Encouraged the arts by raising the status of artists (who had been considered little better than prostitutes)

    Banking and paper money, creation of credit markets

    A free trade zone extending from Syria to Korea

    The world first defensive treaty alliance organization

    An elected Khanate with regional, local, city and peasant councils with real decision making authority

    Rights of appeal and due process of law even for the lowliest peasant

    Created a unified Chinese nation (previous dynasties had temporarily conquered most of China but Kublai was the first to create an integrated administrative and politcial system for all of China).

    Multiculturalism. Kublai's administrators and governors were drawn from all of Eurasia including Europe

    Encouraged scientific research and engineering, massive flood control and hydraulic engineering projects

    Invented an international code of law

    Replaced powerful mandarins with administrative councils who made decisions based on deliberation and consensus

    A modern liberal democracy? Hardly. But if I had to live in the 13th century anywhere in the world it would be in the empire of the Great Khan.


    "The Water Knife" by Paolo Bacigalupi

    "Chinatown" meets "Cadillac Desert" and climate change.

    If they make a movie of this, Danny Trejo has to play Angel.


    Just as a couple of other commenters (? commentators?) have said I have just completed Alistair Reynolds' Beyond the Aquia Rift. A great collection of short stories, and a good entry (or extension) to the Revelation Space Universe.

    But as always after a Reynolds' book, I then have to read a light amusing book, with a happy ending (sorry Alistair!), so I am re-reading A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor. This collection of (great) books postulates an historical establishment (St. Mary's) which "views historical events in contemporary time". Yes, yes it is a time travel series, but it is also a superbly written set of (fairly) light, and (fairly) accurate trips to some very famous times. Very well written, light and as enjoyable as Pratchett.

    Very recommended.

    After that, maybe Conrell's 3rd trip with DI Quill.... (but I will bet it is another dark one, so maybe Taylor of Pratchett after that...).


    Bonus mention for a fun little graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff. Great art, nice humour, and what's not to love in a book about a troublesome ninja-trained young 19thC lady and her reluctant travelling companion, a Turkish Janissary who's the best tea-maker in Europe. Preview at

    Nice book — an excellent present for adventurous nieces (and nephews) :-)

    There's two sequels: a B&W PDF-only short story which is pay-what-you-like (Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Misfortune) and a full-colour, print graphic novel twice as long as the original (Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling).

    All have the first half readable on-line.

    Double-plus second the recommendation.


    Knew about the Seeds of Misfortune, which I will be picking up from the local FLCBS shortly. Missed the PDF short story - thanks!

    Also, adding to the book ideas, picked up Moskva Rules today to add to the to-read Tower of Piza. A thriller set in mid-80s Moscow, it's written by Jack Grimwood, perhaps more familiar in these precincts as John Courtney Grimwood...


    Reading the whole 'Honor Harrington' series. Mostly escapism, but I must admit I find the conservative politics (old style, not neocon) that shine through the texts interesting as well.

    I've come to the belief that with states the size of EU or the US simply are not capable of remaining free due to how unfathomably profitable regulatory capture becomes.

    This has given me a lot more understanding of 'states rights' Republicans, whom may not actually be fighting against the [great cause of the day], but principally opposing even more power concentration in a Federal government that, to be honest is not one of the more effective bureaucratic organizations on earth.

    I'm definitely a liberal, but I would really like to understand the why's of people's political opinion.

    Good books 'from the other side' helps.

    So much of what passes for political discourse is misunderstanding, and when even the very same words can have completely different definitions depending on which side you're on (feminist, black lives matters, states rights), how can we make any progress?

    Neuroscience seems to indicate that there are in fact structural differences between liberals and conservatives - so they're obviously not going to go away because we give them better schooling.

    We need to learn to talk together again, not just shout at each other.

    If we fail, this is gonna be one hell of a depressing century.


    He also killed (directly and indirectly) tens of millions in the process. Omelette, eggs, etc. Better to have lived after conquest than during it, certainly!


    Like most, I read the Nightmare Stacks when it was released, and my review is posted all the places I could think to post it. Most of my recently read stuff is on my blog.

    Currently reading are: The Secret State by Peter Hennessy. It's been on the shelf for a while and I like to understand how we have got to where we are now. With the recent trident decision it seemed relevant (and it is really interesting, so far I've read about our decisions to be a nuclear power, and how we got into vetting people).

    Once More: with footnotes by Terry Pratchett. Another one that I've had on the shelf a while. I've got completist about Pterry's work, and because I know there is no more of it (after the Long Cosmos) I've been eaking it out. I felt it time for some short stories. I've also got the Dragon at Crumbling Castle for later on.

    The PRINCE2 Manual because someone decided that it was about time I got project certification as I head up a projects team. I've only been doing projects since 1995 and have a postgrad course in it. Still, it'll be over by Friday.

    Next on the list are the Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson, and then when the next Peter Grant is out I'll have that, unless Empire Games beats it.


    I've been keeping books I read on a shelf as a finish them, so this will be easy. Pardon the lack of concern for paragraphs and complete sentences. Influx by Daniel Suarez. I liked Daemon/Freedom and it's been sitting there unread so I read it. Decent thriller with a preposterous premise. China Mieville: actually I read Perdido Street Station last spring when I was sick, having just come down with Rheumatoid Arthritis like a ton of bricks dropping on my head. Just laying around in pain taking lots of NSAIDs while waiting for tests and methotrexate to kick in. It just was quite an experience, the miasmas seemed to match. So I read some more by him for follow up--The Scar, Iron Council, The City and the City, and Kraken, which gets us up into summer. Embassytown is next, after I finish Vacuum Flowers, which I am currently reading because it came up on a list of "good science fiction novels" that I got on an internet search. It ain't all that, other than the excellent world building. Seems to move too fast, the protagonist just meets people and a few pages later they're trusted associates for no reason. Also read Steel Beach by Varley, recommended here actually. It struck me as too frivolous and somehow old fashioned, but it was long, so that's something. The Nightmare Stacks, which was great, even though I'm not a fan of vampires, this is different. About time somebody told the truth about elves. I read a Dashiell Hammett short story collection "The Continental Op" because I had been looking for stuff that might be public domain, which it isn't, and also Guy Noire on Prairie Home Companion sometimes leaves me wanting more like that. I enjoyed it so I got a couple more by him lined up, "Nightmare Town" is next. On the noire private eye jag after that, I read a couple of Ross Macdonald omnibuses, "Archer in Hollywood" and "Archer in Jeopordy". "Existence" by David Brin is in the stack, though I'm not sure if I read it in the last couple of months. I had it for ages before I read it. Got it because Amazon kept telling me I would like it, and I had really enjoyed "Kiln People" a few years ago so I believed them. But I couldn't get into it at first, I guess it was the wrong flavor after what I had just read before, like if you mix two foods that don't go together. Loved it when I picked it back up. "American Elsewhere" by Robert Jackson Bennett was another one I got from an online list of good books to read (which is what I use them for). It was OK, not particularly sophisticated or special. I also have "A Thousand Pieces of You" lined up, also from an internet list, sounded good about alternate worlds. No nonfiction. I read some nonfiction last year, and read New Scientist and stuff on the internet.


    "Listen, Liberal" by Thomas Frank. Absolutely amazing book for understanding the modern history of the Democratic Party, and how they transformed from the party of labor and egalitarian economics into a Rockefeller Republican party of social liberalism, (extremely broken) meritocracy, and economic neoliberalism with a little bit of pity-charity welfare state thrown in. Anyone who wants to understand the 2016 American election, especially the dissatisfaction driving support for Sanders and Stein, and the disgust with the main party and its arms and surrogates should read it. Riveting stuff.


    .... that democratic process cannot cope with the reality of the One True Religion

    democratic process cannot cope with reality. - FTFY

    Find a solution to that one and you could do a lot of good in the world.

    This winter (don't be a hemicentralist, Charlie), I'm mostly looking at a bunch of books, articles, talks and code associated with deep learning - what it can do, what it can't, and what the limits are. I did the whole bit on Neural Networks back in the 90s and bringing that forward to the current state of the art is valuable - more for the bigger picture than anything.

    I do wonder what would happen if you used the technique to model and then optimise the economy. Economics as a subject is a long way back in it's worldview (very mechanistic and simplifying) and I'd bet there are more levers that can be tweeked than Finance Ministers can understand.


    Right at the moment, nearly all my box are in boxes, in preparation for moving. I'm just starting to read a library copy of Red Moon and Black Mountain, by Joy Chant, as research for a possible project. I've requested The Nightmare Stacks, and I'm hoping they can get it to me before we depart San Diego.

    In the time we can spare, we've watched season two of Orphan Black, and plan to watch season three next.


    I recommend Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism trilogy. Of course, I finally read all of it after finishing The Baroque Cycle, and I was stopping every few pages to exclaim, "So that's where Stephenson got that bit!" But it would be fascinating even if you'd never heard of Stephenson.


    "It's almost too compact, compared to more modern stories."

    Wow, that made my wife laugh when I quoted it to her. She and I are always bitching about the contemporary trend to write enormous books, and even enormous series, especially in the cases where a multivolume series has no more story than Darker Than You Think or The Man in the High Castle fitted into one short volume. Not that there aren't huge books that we enjoy. But sometimes we quote "Another damned, fat, thick book?" to each other. . . .


    I just finished Francis Spufford's Backroom Boys, which has been sitting on my Kindle for a couple of years. Really enjoyable look at the lives of engineers and scientists and the shenanigans they have to engage in, in order to make their dreams a reality in the public world. Good for research into the working lives of scientists and engineers.

    I just started Robert Lomas' book about Nikolai Tesla, The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century, because Tesla.

    I just finished Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, which aims to explain modern geopolitics with the intention of making the state of modern international affairs more clearly explicable. Again, research. It certainly opened my eyes.

    I re-read Jack Womack's Random Acts of Senseless Violence after twenty years and it was a revelation. Probably my fiction highlight of the summer. And still unpleasantly relevant in its description of a collapsing American society under the control of right-wing demagogues.

    I don't normally read much fantasy as such, but I got around to re-reading Lev Grossman's The Magicians as well as reading the other two books in the trilogy for the first time. I'm never likely to read Harry Potter, but The Magicians is much more interested in skewering some of the underlying assumptions of the genre. Also, it has all the sex,drugs, rock and roll, bitter disappointment and general fucked-upness that come with real teenage life. Hugely recommended.

    I haven't read Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus, but I really want to after reading his Sapiens, which has a brilliant central thesis (which I won't spoil) of particular relevance to writers.

    What else? Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, which I enjoyed because major Stephenson fanboy, but even I found this one a little bit hard to get through because of the huge quantity of what struck me as unnecessary description. I'll still read him, but I'm not sure he's quite the 'must buy and read immediately' he used to be for me.

    On the other hand, William Gibson's The Peripheral turned out to be a revelation, a brilliant return to form after quite a few books that struck me as a little disappointing.


    "The Slow Regard of Silent Things", by Patrick Rothfuss. Short, plotless, oddly brilliant. How often do you read a book where most of the characters are inanimate objects ?

    "The Peripheral", by William Gibson. Solid as usual, and an interesting plot.

    "Afterparty", by Daryl Gregory. A hoot, and memorable.


    I recently finished Lavie Tidhar's Central Station. It's a collection of intertwined short stories set in a version of the future in which many of our science fiction takes came true. It was recommended by a higher power (in this case, Warren Ellis) and was well worth my time. I probably only caught a small fraction of the references but it was a terrific read regardless.

    I'm currently in the middle of Howard Dully's memoir My Lobotomy. dully's parents had him lobotomized at age twelve. The book is his attempt to piece together what happened to him and why after he was given access to his medical record. Not exactly fun summer reading, but it's riveting to read and deeply touching.


    Oops. Moskva is the correct title. No Rules, don't know where that came from.


    It could be argued that the Mongol empire was a constitutional monarchy with parliament and elections.

    All Mongol emperors were elected by kurultai (kind of Mongol Parliament responsible for electing emperors and making major military-political decisions).

    Khubilai himself though wasn't much of democrat. The kurultai of 1259 elected his cousin Arig-Boke, but Khubilai disagreed, held his own kurultai which had him elected as an emperor and then went on to defeat his rival in a short civil war.

    Such things happen in democracies sometimes...


    "Silk Road(s)" NO decent maps or index or clues for same. A major failing in such a book. Very irritating.

    Neil MacGregor: "Germany" - a history in objects & places. Wonderfully illuminating.

    The latest "new Naturalist" - very hard going, I'm afraid - badly written.

    A bio of Lord Woolton (Rationing & supply in WWII) - fascinating stuff.


    One of the reasons for Chamberlain's "appeasement" of course. We were re-arming, but wanted to postpone war (or even better avoid it entirely) certainly until 1940 or '41. Often forgotten. Though Chamberlian didn't help himself, either.


    Dine Duane STILL hasn't written her last "Tale of the Five" novel & - I suspect, never will now ....


    Is a cause or group of causes posited for the Bronze-Age collapse? Something that even Eric Fagan doesn't go too near.


    So I finally got around to picking up the second and third of the Ancillary books, and blew through them last weekend. Really quite satisfying, though pleased I waited for the third. The political resolution to a space opera was a nice change from the whizz bang whistle of mainstream trends.

    Been reading a lot more fantasy again of late, Mark Lawrence's Red Queen's War was a rather fun post apocalyptic series with a wonderful coward as a hero. Kind of felt like Flashman meets the Vikings at times, though turned out he had actual fighting ability and tactical nous. Has an unusual quantum mechanics handwave for magic in the setting, and works in the equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider as the instigator.

    Also had a great deal of enjoyment from digging into the past with the SF Gateway project returning a ton of out of print stuff to life as ebooks. Finally being able to get all of Sheri S Tepper's True Game books in one place to read them all was immensely satisfying, and it is amazing how well they hold up today as "something different done well", despite being written in the 80s.


    I finished Kameron Hurley's books from the God's War trilogy, refreshingly different to the other stuff I read.

    What else comes to mind is the Malazan Book of the Fallen, I suppose I forgot the beginning when I got the the middle section books. Enormous amount of pages to read.

    Red/Blue/Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and Hyperion / Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simons.

    Also, Perry Rhodan more out of habit.


    Finished The Nightmare Stacks which was good, but probably should have a re-read (possibly a "whole series re-read").

    In recent re-reads, Williams' Drake Maijstral series. Because who doesn't love Jeeves and Wooster with aliens, and Wooster as a professional burglar. Actually, it's probably not Wooster, since Maijstral is all-in-all competent. But, you know, it's that style of plot, mostly.

    In mostly-unread-but-some-rereads, I am also working my way through Duane's Young Wizards series, because I read the first three many years ago and liked them. And I read the two (two? I think two) cat wizard books, which were also excellent. It's basically "what happens if you can become a wizard by finding the right book at your local library", with epic world-saving action (well, some of the action is on a much smaller scale, but requires the epicness to have happened for full impact).


    I just started reading part 2 of Greg Egan's Orthogonal trilogy. Egan takes world-building to a new level, complete with very wacky physics and biology. In this world, only the suicidal do chemistry. When the planet is threatened by meteors, a group of people send out a giant spaceship filled with scientists. Since they travel at high speed, generations of scholars will have plenty of time to find a solution, while only a couple of years pass back home (told you it was wacky).

    The books are strictly idea-driven. Egan doesn't just invent new laws of nature, he describes them in excrutiating detail too. Recommended for fans of hard sci-fi.


    Just read Mick Herron's Slow Horses set - I'd not come across him before, and I found the dark humour very engaging. Started the Zoe books, but I am finding them a bit gloomy.


    It's Winter, though you'd hardly know from the temperature. It's been mid 20's.

    Just re-read the fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. It's quite dense in terms of ideas and it's rewarding to read a viewpoint character who looks at life in a way I can relate to rather than the typical ones that I see. So densely packed that I missed a lot the first time around. Vastly better than the fiction it's very very very loosely based on. Probably closer to Ender's Game than Harry Potter, but better than either.

    Re-read the whole Laundry series as I tend to do when a new book comes out.

    So a bit of re-reading as there's nothing on my radar at present.

    Oh wait, I read a comic. Something I rarely do. Freefall dot purrsia dot com From a recommendation I saw here. However it's a bit slow... We're about a week into the story and the strip has been running for decades. Best suited to post humans with long lifespans. Click the yellow box labelled Freefall Speed Reader. That loads the whole thing rather than three sentences at a time.


    Currently I'm on a War of the Spanish Succession rampage. Fascinating period, in so many senses half way amongst the Thirty Years War and the Enlightenment... also, the period is priceless in terms of exotism and sheer entertainment value.

    You can't beat a period in which the English were French - unstable, highly emotional people always ready for a good riot and suffering recurrent outbursts of political violence and civil war, with two 'bona fide' dinasties and a 'republic' that ended with a military dictator that almost succeeded at stablishing a third one - and the French were English - moderate and reasonable people with an unshakeable attachment to their old traditions and a deep love for their kings - and the Duke of of Marlborough, the greatest general of the age, had to consider all the House of Bourbon armies a lesser menace than the intrigues of Queen Anne's chamber pot maid.

    I won't bore you with a complete list of my readings. I will just mention that Internet has made available for free and in a matter of minutes works that in my youth would taken months or years, some long trips, and probably deep pockets too, to get.

    In other order of things I agree with our fellows, Adam Tooze's work on the economy of Nazi Germany is almost required reading, in spite of (or perhaps, because of) some moments of horror, not all of them related with Nazi atrocities. To mention one example, the direct link Tooze implies between the Allied blockade of 1914-18 and Nazi plans to starve the Russians is truly chilling. I would also recommend his new (1914) book 'The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order' which, while not so good as the first one in my opinion, is very good anyway.


    Make that 2014, not 1914...


    The Men of the North by Tim Clarkson - a comprehensive overview of the evidence (such as it is) for the existence & constitution of a series of post-Roman British kingdoms in northern Britain, from Elmet, in West Yorkshire (which lasted into the 7thC) to Strathclyde (which lasted into the 11th). Nicely debunks a whole bunch of speculations based on little more than linguistic similarities.

    The Nightmare Stacks - rich and engaging w a lol ending. And it's always fun to read about elvish dragon attacks along roads you've just driven down!

    Normal by Warren Ellis - only part way through but reads like one of Ellis' newsletters; i.e. acerbic, wry, insightful in a tangential kind of way. I appreciate the weekly release, as I find bite sized chunks of Ellis are easier to cognitively digest ...

    The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple - a surreally dystopia graphic novel, superbly drawn,,w images that will stick with you.

    Fantastic Geometry by David Wade - as the blurb says, 'Thus book investigates the fashion for polyhedral based geometrical art that flourished briefly in the mid-sixteenth century, mainly in Germany and Italy.' Full of wonderful drawings that foreshadow Escher & a beautiful example not only of the representation and analysis of structure but of what can emerge at the intersection of art and science.


    I'd love to know your take on season 3 of Orphan Black when you're done. Watching it week to week I was underwhelmed. But I binge watched the whole 3 seasons in preparation for season 4 and whether it was the rewatch or the binge viewing I found it a lot better the second time around.

    Either way, season 4 totally rocks by the way, so you've got that to look forward to, maybe after the move!


    I'm currently reading a book about werewolves called Lunatic Fringe by, and I swear to the Goddess I'm not making this up, Allison Moon.

    I'm enjoying it because I've hit a real dearth of genre fiction about queer ladies recently. I go to the bookstore and the library, and every interesting book about a woman seems to revolve around her falling in love with a dude. It gets old.

    This book was recommended to me by a friend, which I was hugely grateful for, because if you type "Lesbian fantasy" into a search engine, ladyknights slaying dragons and rescuing princesses is not what turns up.


    I've come to the belief that with states the size of EU or the US simply are not capable of remaining free due to how unfathomably profitable regulatory capture becomes.

    There's been rumblings of discontent with the way the US is set up since we've had a US, but an interesting trend I've noticed in the past several years is more and more people furtively pushing forward the notion that perhaps we should consider breaking up the Union in a controlled, non-violent manner. I'm not entirely sure that's the best idea in the world--Brexit has shown us that there would be far more second order consequences than we could hope to anticipate, for example--but it makes one wonder if the US really has any legs left if her own citizens are starting to talk like this. I really hope that whatever happens, it's peaceful.


    Currently finishing all of the Sanderson works I haven't had time to read...just finished Bands of Mourning, now on Mistborn: Secret History which is awesome as it is basically book porn his Cosmere fans.

    I have a couple of compilations on my ipad I need to get through, hopefully while I am on travel later this week, then need to start the Nightmare Stacks.


    Software Foundations, 4th edition.


    Because it is what is important.


    The Nightmare Stacks - Currently busy with this one. Because it's written by you, and part of one of my favourite series of all time (gratuitous praise over) The Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton - Really great near future scifi. Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt Jr - Enjoyed other books of his in the past, although some of the series seem to go on long after the death knell has rung. Thought I'd try this as I haven't read any of his other scifi books.


    Oh the Modesitt SF books are great. Very different to the Fantasy ones, they tend to be standalones or pairs, but have some really cool ideas.

    And lots of thoughts about ethics. Lots.

    Solar Express I really rather enjoyed. It's different.


    I used to enjoy LE Modesitt. I happily and uncritically read the Recluce books, right up to the point that I noticed that the solution to the big problem all too often seemed to involve the sudden death of thousands of people.

    It's the problem with big battle fantasy. JRRT could get away with it by having most of the enemy being unhumans, but I've become sensitised to it, and it doesn't half ruin a lot of stuff out there.

    Meanwhile, I've just read Hummingbird Futures by Simon Le G Bisson, and found it really rather slickly dealing with a singularity. (I don't know why, but I always have low expectations before first reading stuff by people I know. Since the group now includes more than one subsequent Hugo winner it's a bit silly, but there you are.)


    As soon as I get home, Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone. I'm pretty sure that's sufficient explanation but it also means we've got the five books of the Craft Sequence in chronological order. happy bounce


    Currently reading: The Expanse series (plus novellas) because I just bingewatched the first season of the TV adaptation and that itch needs scratching.

    Next up: TNS because the Laundry, and the new MacLeod.

    After that, I'm going to try my hand at reading some Spanish/Latin SF in the original, probably Yoss' Se Alquila Un Planeta because I want to keep my skills up to date and I'm interested in reading Cuban SF. Anybody got some more recommendations?

    And after that, I'm not sure yet but I hope Adam Roberts will have something new out, or The Three Body Problem will reach its conclusion...


    Also, lunch breaks at work I catch up on various web serials (some are still in production, some are complete but I still haven't caught up to the end)

    Twig (same author as Worm): Bio-punk is the best genre description, awesome characters. One of the few works I've read where a character death really hits me. This one is just frickin hilarious, he spoofs all kinds of cliches and it is totally un-PC, R-rated, explicit, you name it.


    "The Dark Forest", by Cixin Liu Just started this one, because it's part 2 of a trilogy that part 1 was great of. That doesn't guarantee a thing of course, but it seemed worth a try.

    "The girl with all the gifts", by M.R. Carey Having high hopes for this one, partly because it's an 'ABC favorite'. ABC (American Book Center) is the shop where I buy half of my SF-books. The SF department has someone working there that has good (that is, similar to mine) taste. Proof of that: last time I bought an 'ABC favorite' it was:

    "Constellation Games", by Leonard Richardson. That was one of the best and definitely one of the funniest SF-books I've read in years.

    "Uprooted", by Naomi Novik. Because it won a Nebula award.


    Audiobook wise I've been doing the Pillars of Reality by Jack Campbell. 6 part series (Each about 12 hours, so novel length) that was put out in just over a year and a half by Audible.

    First Book is Dragons of Dorcastle.

    Basic concept is on the world of Demeter, two great guilds between them control the common people of all the nations. The Mechanics Guild, who run the trains, have electrical power, and will sell you guns at a high enough price each bullet is worth its weight in gold. There's also the Mage Guild, who can rain down horrible destruction on your enemies.

    Both guilds think the other is a fraud.

    And between these two groups, in an extreme situation a pair of youngsters realize maybe they aren't so different.


    Constellation Games was a blast. I've reread it a few times when I need to read funny things.

    Speaking of humor (and comfort), I've reread Pterry a lot this year and have been getting audio book versions of my favorites to listen to them as well. His books are filled with such warmth and insight and humour.

    I've been on a search for funny books. The other day I read Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones for something funny and light.

    I reread OGH's books too for humor and fun. Typically Halting State, Rule 34, and various Laundry books. Alex as a protagonist is hilarious. I love this latest one. The order of things in the book is really cool because... [probably mildly spoilerish so it's for some other day. not a profound insight on my part, just pleasurable.]

    (I'm enjoying this thread in particular for discovering humor writing (seems extra hard to find) along with history recommendations. I'm rather week on history)


    Various books on the history of astronomy, because my course notes are past their best-before date and need updating.

    Rereading The Rhesus Chart, working up to my prize copy of The Nightmare Stacks (thanks Charlie!).

    Working my way through Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye books, the first half-dozen or so anyway, because my local library seems to have suddenly decided to acquire them and they're fun.

    William Heacox' The Expanding Universe, undergraduate cosmology textbook, because the local CUP rep gave me a free copy and wants to know what I think (don't know yet—not far enough into it).

    The PhD thesis of my colleague's student, because I was his internal examiner and I need to sign off on the "minor corrections".

    Plus whatever 3 or 4 books catch my eye at the library this week!


    I'm going to reread Evans-Pritchard's The Nuer, in particular the chapter about time and ecology, or 'oecology' to use EP's spelling.

    Possibly also Rapaport's Pigs for the Ancestors.

    Maybe also Zola's The Debacle. We'll see what happens.


    I've put "1177BC" on my to-read list. It sounds interesting.

    I've recently finished "Darker Shade of Magic" which was fascinating and "Gathering of Shadows" which grated.

    I'm currently reading (nonfiction): "The Information" by James Gleick, a history of how we deal with stored (and thus transmitted over distance or time) information.

    "The Poison King" by Adrienne Mayor, an attempt at a biography of Mithrades, an important and clever rival to Rome.

    (fiction) "Kingfisher" by Patricia McKillip. Hard to describe. It's a grail quest, with its knights and sorceresses living in a modern world.

    Deryni books by Katherine Kurtz. I saw a retrospective on her (I think at Tor) and picked up some paperbacks at a used book store. I'll see how it goes.


    You know what I'm not reading, though?

    The Delirium Brief.

    sulks just announced the acquisition. Congratulations :)


    Re-read "The Hydrogen Sonata" because Iaan M. Banks, and it's still a great story on the second read, read "The Nightmare Stacks" because OGH and also it's a great story, read/reading a rather eclectic pile of new-ish scientific papers in search of the future, reading some tomes on Tai Chi Chuan (have a couple of black belts in a very traditional hard style, working on the soft now), slowly reading the short stories in "The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015 Edition" (Rich Horton). Many quirky stories in the later; notables include "The Magician and Laplace's Demon" (Tom Crosshill) (Female magician lead to super-intelligent benevolent AI: "The philosopher comedian Randall Munroe once suggested an argument something like this,...". A bit cartoonish but fun.), and "Trademark Bugs: A Legal History" (Adam Roberts) (surely absurd, right?) Also "Voices from Chernobyl" because of a recommendation and because it feels deeply real. Also, like most, have in queue both a physical pile of paper books and a metaphorical pile of Kindle editions.


    Software Foundations, 4th edition. link
    If that book is even 10% of what it claims, it's going to change the world of software development. Downloaded the public copy.


    Currently I'm reading Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. After hearing it praised for years I'm finally getting around to reading it; yes, the final straw was a mention here. After the books mentioned below I'm losing my patience with human short-sightedness, willful ignorance, and general stupidity.

    In the recent past I read The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean. Morbid curiosity, among other things. Could they really be that smart and that stupid at the same time? Yes, yes they could. Politics, not money, drove Wrapped in the Flag by Claire Connor. The reality-defying Trump supporters didn't just crawl out from under their rocks recently; there's a long established core of cranks that prefer being angry and fearful far-right conservative factionalists to taking considered assessments of the national situation.

    Just for fun I'm nibbling at piles of fan fiction set on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars. Thud and blunder under the hurtling moons of Barsoom! Also, pretty much at random, I just finished up several Terminator novelizations; what does it say about political nonfiction that stories set after an apocalypse and swarming with killer robots are escapist reading?

    Looking forward, The Nightmare Stacks of course, and a big pile of David Gerrold work that I expect to get in the near future (which should have been read about last September but #include worldcon_drama). On the pile I've also got some climate stuff by Brian Fagin which I entirely mean to get to... sometime.


    US citizens have always talked Like That for various reasons (and various portions of states have been disgruntled for a long time, google history of the State of Jefferson--we had a petition all ready to turn in, but alas it was going to be offered up on December 7, 1941...turns out we were busy that day). Also note Nullification, which President Jackson had to squash like a bug, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and most of all, Texas, where some people have always been like that. For those of you familiar with the books of J.D. Robb (the In Death series), we're about to enter the time of the Urban Wars. Yippee. :( But note the people in the series generally survived it just nicely.


    "The King's War 1641-1647"

    Because I'm in the UK this summer, which means being bludgeoned by history every time I open a door.

    And because the way England slid into civil war accidentally is a reminder of how stupid shortsighted politicking by optimistic, opportunistic fools leads to epic historic disaster, war, slaughter, destruction and desecration.

    Really scary reading in the days of Trump, Da'esh and Brexit.


    I have been reading 'Gods, Voices and the Bicameral Mind' edited by Marcel Kuijsten. Which is 'interesting' to say the least. Though, if you are interested then you should probably start with Julian Jaynes original book "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind."

    After at least a decade, I am still attempting to decide whether he is right or wrong.

    Anyway, it is a fascinating theory....

    Otherwise, our hosts book and Dave Hutchinson's trilogy. Hope the third book reconciles some plot issues.


    Here's what I've been reading-- QUALIFY, by Vera Nazarian (a nice freebie)--Divergent type book, with an asteroid hurtling towards Earth (though rather slowly) and space aliens offering rescue to people who make it through various contests. Good fast reading, worldbuilding needed a bit of work (freebie).

    PENRIC AND THE SHAMAN, by Bujold. She's an automatic buy, and this was quite good once you know the universe.

    EARTH IS ROOM ENOUGH, Asimov. Collection of classic stories, and a portrait of long-ago attitudes. "The Fun They Had" forecasts some current trends in schooling (and assumes that women always stay home with children, as well).

    BABI YAR, Anatoly Kuznetzov. Had never read it before, a stark chronicle of wartime, massacre, and survival.

    A HERO BORN, Michael Stackpole. First person, with a pretty competent hero, a quest, boon companions, and some pretty cool literary special effects. Nice fast read.

    And I need to do some catch-up reading till I get to NIGHTMARE STACKS.


    After reading a story about a violin wielding secret agent, I returned to splitting my time between reading a book about a handicapped man struggling with obsession and a hatred for albino toothed cetaceans, while trying to make a living and a book about wings.


    Talking to myself again. This is a bad sign.

    The story about the agent was escape reading. The story about the handicapped man is the novel I use when I need to be re-centered.

    And wings? I'm a recovering aerodynamicist.


    Aah ... the titles. I thought this was a guessing game.

    Annihilation Score (Dr O'Brien with a violin is scary. I just didn't realize how scary because BOH doesn't talk about her)

    Moby Dick. I'm sure there are other handicapped obsessives with a fear of albino toothed cetaceans. Overall, Ahab may be one of the premier hard-asses of literature.

    Wing Theory, but Robert Jones One of several, more or less independent, inventors of swept wings.



    About half-way through Pratchett's Discworld series - wanted a comfort read to kick off the summer. Not yet finished Uprooted (Naomi Novik) - good bet for this year's Hugo. Read most of the other Hugo entries as they came out and although enjoyable, none made it to the must reread pile. Have not yet read OGH's newest but definitely will. The comments thus far from other posters make this a must-read soon!


    It's 2016 and US politics is looking like a badly edited deja-vu nightmare sequence so I picked up a likely candidate book to please, please explain what the hell is going on. (Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations by Al Franken)

    About 8 or 9 books (including Idiot's Guide and For Dummies) on alternate/ solar (active & passive) energy for home and other everyday uses. Only one of these books was by a UK author (PhD type - worked for gov't as well as private consulting) and, frankly, he was the best of the lot in explaining/pulling together the various types of energy available with pros & cons. Also, this author repeatedly comments about how the UK would have to change its building code(s) in order to meet EU energy efficiency requirements. Sounds like a very plausible Brexit argument that was never featured in any of the news stories I was reading pre-Brexit vote. (BTW - solar is feasible and practical even in Scotland. hey, Sweden is almost entirely on alternate energy so if they can do it.) From the US authors I learned that navigating the building code re: energy is a nightmare because every little township, county, state, etc. is allowed to toss in their own 'rules'. (Away from home/bookshelves and can't remember the authors' names because I'm unlikely to continue buying anything else they write. Reason for reading is a potential home project, not a hobby or on-going special interest.)

    Very likely to buy/read several books mentioned by posters above. Am currently interested in (gen-pop/layman level) history of various sciences: bio, physics, maths, geology, astronomy, etc. Recently started rereading Genome (Matt Ridley). Might reread some Dawkins too.


    I had a friend recommend the Foreigner series highly, and when I gave him a quizzical look after I finished the first volume, he explained that it was just the first in the first trilogy. I was much happier by the end of the third volume. Also, I think they have gotten better as the series has gone on.


    On a recommendation from an earlier post I'm approaching the last act of Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh.

    Also on the go is The Ghosts of Berlin by Brian Ladd.

    Queued up for summer reading are Die Vermessung Der Welt by DanielKehlmann (which will be a slow read with a translation dictionary) and The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (possibly also based on a recommendation in an earlier discussion on this blog).


    The Nightmare Stacks, obviously. Excellent work.

    Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica by Nicholas Johnson. A journal of corporate awfulness, written by a garbage man at Antarctica. With asides of early explorer awfulness. Funny, but also depressing.

    Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel, by J Fink and J Cranor. A novel in the world of the Night Vale podcast. Entertainingly surreal small town. This one is taking a while to read because while I really like Night Vale, I like it in small doses.

    Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles of Capture Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier. Does what it says on the tin. Probably a good introduction to someone who isn't already following this stuff. Some interesting anecdotes so far but nothing ground breaking if you already follow surveillance and big data news. I'm about half way through it.

    Skin Game, Book 15 of the Dresden Files. Just finished re-reading all of them. Some arcs and themes surprisingly similar to the Laundry Files (and hence good), despite fundamentally different mechanics of magic. I think I remember Bob Howard reading one of the Dresden books once, on a train trip. Did he like it?


    Just read All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders.. which was most enjoyable, even with a Protag that shares my name, spelled correctly, nonetheless. Sensible character progression over years and well-tuned dialogue. Will read more of hers as it occurs.

    Now doing a Comfort-re-read of Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle.. because it's one of my early favourites and it's been a long while and these older eyes are reading a different book to the earlier me. A properly alien travelogue with a goodly amount of political intrigue..

    Nightmare Stacks is up next and I'm going to mooch this page-list for suggestions from thereon, although The Expanse is waving at me from yonder e-reader..


    The Foreigner series is trilogies all the way down.

    I just finished Seveneves, and I remain ambivalent about Stephenson's stories.


    BTW - solar is feasible and practical even in Scotland. hey, Sweden is almost entirely on alternate energy so if they can do it.

    At the moment Sweden gets about 40% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Some older plants are getting shut down over the next few years though. Much of the rest of their capacity is hydro but that is pretty much maxed out with no major new developments on the horizon.


    Incidentally, this entry has made me realize that I'm finding more and more difficult to really lose myself in fiction. It seems like each year I read more non-fiction - mainly history, some politics and economics - and less novels (and watch less movies, which could be significative). Further, the few novels I read are usually SF, fantasy, and historical fiction; once upon a time I did read detective & legal thrillers, horror, whodunnits, and some 'general' if nerdy literature (Umberto Eco, for example) but now they are mostly gone.

    I wonder if it's only me or this does happen to people with age. Or perhaps it's because reading history makes you analyze things in detail and afterwards you find difficult to adopt a willing suspension of disbelief.


    I've noticed the same thing.

    I wonder if part of it is pattern recognition? After reading a lot of fiction I find I'm often able to predict what will happen in terms of plot and characters, which makes reading much more like re-reading — and much less enjoyable.

    Another possibility is that knowing more (and experiencing more) makes it easier to see patterns in the real world, which are much more interesting than those in most fiction?


    Oooh, I'm really liking twigserial - very nice. Thanks for that.


    Really ? I found Seveneves impossible to finish - stopped caring at part III. But I love the Systems of the World books, and REAMDE, and Cryptonomicon, and Anathem.


    The Annihilation Score, of course - well, strictly speaking I already finished that. Loved it to bits. Now The Blind Assassin, and then... either The Doomsday Book or A Brief History of Seven Killings.


    Great discussion. To add to the pile...

    N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season, manages to be both incredibly intelligent and sci-fi-summer-reading style. The second book in the trilogy is due next month. Whilst waiting, I have just read her Inheritance trilogy back-to-back. Like Ursula Le Guin, she is a real planet builder i.e. the planet has more than one climate and culture.

    Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Mary Shelley), Letters written in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Because she is a lone, strange woman traveling in a strange land, and writing a first-hand account of the landscape, people, and the cultures she experiences. Compare with my comment above. See the resonance? Not a million miles from sci-fi.

    I have to restart my reading of Italo Calvino's, If on a winter's night a traveller. I stand in utter awe at his writing craft. He makes this postmodern novel seem effortless, you read and chuckle–the touch is so light.

    Mystery addition to this list is the book on the top of my academic reading pile: ET Culture, Anthropology in Outerspaces, edited by Debbora Battaglia. Does what it says on the tin, a quirky but academically solid collection of reflections by anthropologists who are working with UFO groups. I just flicked through, and saw page 116 has the subtitle 'Speaking Klingon'. The academic world can, sometimes, be a fascinating place to hang out in...


    I've switched predominantly to non-fiction as well, but I blamed it on writing more, and the desire to have raw material to work with, rather than age. Another part of my problem may be that I know too much, so issues that I used to ignore now jump off the page at me.

    Interesting if it turns out to be simply age-related.


    I'm pretty sure it's not age-related, I'm reading a bit less fiction these days but that's because I just have less time with other commitments. It's not being made up with reading non-fiction for pleasure.

    I am reading some more non-fiction because I have my own work-load (which is lighter than it has been at some times but higher than it has been at others) then I'm reading a lot of research papers alongside my partner who is dyslexic and studying in a field similar to my (now quite dated) PhD so I read her papers so we can discuss them and make sure she's got the concepts straight in her head. But if my heart had gone in another direction I wouldn't be reading these things so it's definitely not something I consider as reading for pleasure.


    Years ago I was told that as you get older your interest in biographies goes up. In my case that's sort-of true — I'm still not 'into' biographies as such — but I do enjoy histories that concentrate on a particular person (if that makes sense?).

    A good example of what I mean is Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror Not a biography as such, but definitely woven around de Coucy (who was an interesting character).


    Just finished Going Postal by Mark Ames. Interesting thesis, not convinced he's got the evidence to support it (lots of anecdotes, not so much data). Is America that bad a place now?


    My local paper ran a story that the town has made the list of one of the most crime ridden communities in the state. This is based on statistics that each year 500 of 100000 people is victim of a violent crime. One in 5000 is victim of a property crime. So I can live here 20 years before I get a wheelbarrow stolen (happened last year), and 200 years before I suffer a violent crime. So between me and a couple of friends, if we live here all our lives, one of us might get assaulted at some point. Syria this is not.


    Correction, it's 5000 in 100000 suffer property crimes each year.


    Currently, I'm rereading OGH "The Traders' War" in the gym (the ebook sits nicely on the elliptical trainer, stops it getting boring) and a paper copy of "City of Blades" at home. I've been stocking up on ebooks, as much as I can resist reading them; I'm off on holiday this weekend, and there's not room for much dead tree in the suitcases...

    So, Ken Macleod, Max Gladstone's new book, and the first book of Craig Johnson's "Longmire" series beckon... (I was unable to resist reading The Nightmare Stacks and Stiletto).

    Meanwhile, the ability of this forum to affect the bank balance continues. I binge-read all of Jodi Taylor's excellent St. Mary's series, as well as everything I could find by Naomi Novik...


    Amazon finally shipped The Nightmare Stacks. I ordered it when it came out, then Amazon sat on the order for weeks. Glug! I read that then started reading the whole series again. I was up till 3 a.m. finishing The Atrocity Archives. I've read the book countless times, so I know how it ends, yet I could not put the book down, and stayed up well past my sell-by-date. I suspect that at some point Pinky and Brains do decide to take over the world as they always say they will.


    It is important if you want a future with less bad software in it. If you do not, download the free Windows 10 update, while it is still free. Now, is there a way to have a future with less bad politics in it?


    Shorts: nearly finished the Gardner Dozois edited Best SF 32nd Annual collection because the 33rd collection is sitting there staring at me. Favourite so far is "Entanglement" by Vandana Singh, a future climate change story that isn't a grim meathook of a story, but that's not the only reason I like it. It's from the anthology, "Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future" edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer.

    Next up, "The Nightmare Stacks" by OGH.


    I don't reed fiction that resembles what I write for recreation, because (waves hands). So here's some random-looking stuff:

    "The Bullet Catcher's Daughter" by Rod Duncan -- first of a quasi-steampunk trilogy set in an alternate world where the Luddites took it all the way to a civil war and secession, splitting the UK into two nations -- a royalist kingdom and a northern republic -- and subsequently to a quasi-clerical international Patent Office whose fearsome inspectors have shut down most technological innovation for two centuries. Not your usual steampunk paranormal romance so much as gritty, almost noir-ish crime thrillers set in the underbelly of the resulting world. To say more would risk spoilering it: highly recommended. (Sequels are "Unseemly Science" and "The Custodian of Marvels".)

    "Crooked" by Austin Grossman -- Richard M. Nixon's autobiography, in which he explains how he ended up as the ultimate American anti-hero, widely despised and forced to resign from the Oval Office ... despite unbeknownst to the public, having spent decades battling to protect the republic from Lovecraftian horrors.

    "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies" by Nick Bostrom, because I need some implausible SF in my fantasy cereal every so often.


    On Seveneves: in the style of mis-heard lyrics, initially misread the cover as Seveneyes - it has an eye on the cover FFS.. and had bought in e-book so no hardcover to correct whilst reading.. will admit it took a while for the OH! moment..


    Finally finished Jonathan Shay's Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1995, but available as an ebook with only a few typos).

    I started this because of that "bronze age" kick I'm on (tl;dr: it's research for a fantasy world I'm thinking about). Since I have very little to do with the military, I wanted to get some idea of the commonalities between what soldiers experienced in a more modern war and what the warriors went through back in that pre-classical time, and Shay spends about half the book comparing the Iliad with accounts from the veterans he treats as a psychiatrist.

    And I got what I needed. It's a good book to read if you're interested in what war does to warriors. I was an undersocialized high school nerd when I read the Iliad for class, and back then I didn't get how much it is really the tragedy of Achilles, who's undone not by his imperfections, but by chance and the doings of fickle gods and men, causing him to fall from being a moral, compassionate human being to an amoral berserker.

    What Shay brought home to me was how the same thing happened so often in Vietnam, and how some of the things that the US military did to its soldiers actually made their resulting mental problems that much worse. Ultimately, this book is really about PTSD, and though it's 20 years old, I'm pretty sure it had an impact, because some of the worst practices of the Vietnam-era military seem to be long gone. If you're ghoulish, they used to do things like encouraging berserkers to stay in combat and re-enlist instead of giving them honorable discharges and getting them into mental health care, and chaplains provoking soldiers grieving the loss of the comrades into berserking by berating them for mourning and telling them, "don't get sad, get even."

    The thing that really stood out to me, especially towards the end, was how much the bureaucratic practices of, say, the Laundry or those of the antagonists in The Nightmare Stacks mirror those of the US military during Vietnam. I'm not sure whether that's a bug or a feature in this series, but it's says something about the fantastic nature of the books that none of the protagonists have galloping PTSD yet (or worse, have gone berserk).


    One nightmare scenario for the philosophical underpinnings of the Enlightenment would be the discovery of entities that are provably superhuman, because it totally wrecks the foundational assumption that the lives of different citizens are of equal value

    How do you square this with your own identification of various forms of human collectives as superhuman aliens?

    We currently have some communication-based constraints on the actions of collectives, but we already have fairly strong legal foundations that recognise and reinforce the superiority of some kinds of collectives over mere citizens, while the communication constraints are gradually slipping away. Most of the debates about democracy vs. monarchism vs. anarcho-syndicalism vs. theocracy etc. seem to be ignoring the main issue of how us humans can and should live when these ancient predators are acquiring greater speed and agility.

    In the Laundry Series, you seem so far to have taken the stance that sufficiently augmented humans (including a greater than usual willingness to go against direct orders and to subvert the rules), working within a rigid and partially sighted but well equipped collective, can hold off hostile entities. This appears to be a refinement of the earlier Accelerando stance, that augmented individuals can hold their own via informal networks of exchange but must ultimately capitulate to benevolent superior entities. In the Freyaverse the humans were replaced with individuals able to network with lower latency and higher bandwidth, and thus to form more effective collectives in brutal competition. The Miriamverse posits information-transfer shortcuts between separately developing universes, but it is not yet clear whether you will use the setting to say something about Little People vs. Big Aliens. The bleakest version was perhaps Missile Gap, where the dichotomy was especially stark, plankton vs. whale rather than mouse vs. cat and with no possibility of change.

    Current reading is one of the best ways of deanonymizing pseudonyms, so I will just mention a few selections: Karen Joy Fowler, What I Didn't See and other stories is a deeply twisted collection, kicking off with The Pelican Bar from 2009 (shudder) and going back to The Dark from 1991, from an erstwhile SFF writer who has been claimed by the mainstream. John Kay, Other People's Money sardonically explores the why and who of the 2008 crisis. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations because it's been too long and the times too exciting since I last read it.


    I'm not sure whether that's a bug or a feature in this series, but it's says something about the fantastic nature of the books that none of the protagonists have galloping PTSD yet (or worse, have gone berserk).

    You missed Mo having a nervous breakdown in The Delirium Brief? Or Bob going on about his nightmares in The Fuller Memorandum and subsequent books?

    (There's more: by The Delirium Brief the Senior Auditor is overloaded and showing signs of impending wigged-outness, but to say more would be a spoiler.)


    Lee Smolin & Roberto Mangabeira Unger: "The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time." Not for the faint of heart. It's interesting that Smolin states that the two big unanswered questions of Science are: What is the origin of the universe, and what is consciousness. He doesn't tackle the 2nd question (at least not so far in my reading)—but Smolin and Unger are developing the criteria for a successful theory of the everything. Fascinating!

    James Joyce: "Ulysses." This was the book I was supposed to read way back in college, but I was never able to read it. Coming up to the last looooonnggg chapter. Overall, it's been worth the effort. There's some brilliant passages in it, but there's lots of tediousness, too.

    And I recently polished off the "The Nightmare Stacks." Great fun to read!


    True, and I've been thinking about this. What's missing are other conditions common in PTSD, like normal events triggering violence or flashbacks, blackout rages, the forced reliving of traumatic events, hyper-vigilance, self-medication, the avoidance of potential triggers, and so forth. Admittedly it's not a clean comparison, because there's a bit of a difference between the Laundryverse and a war.

    I'll give you the credit that PTSD was known as a chameleon illness that could be misdiagnosed, among other things, as schizophrenia or manic-depression. Still, given how people are compelled under geas to do horrific acts, there's ample room for PTSD to surface, especially since most people involved are draftees, not volunteers.


    ... In the Freyaverse the humans were replaced with individuals able to network with lower latency and higher bandwidth...

    I don't know as I'd say that. "Individuals able to live in vacuum and high radiation environments," maybe?

    But you make an interesting argument; please continue.


    The Expanse TV show turned me onto the books. Loving it - good blend of fairly hard science and action-packed pacing. Only issue is that I am just short of halfway through book 3...and my copy of Nightmare Stacks has arrived!


    A Song of Ice and Fire. I've not seen the TV. (But I have heard of it) I picked up the first book in Waterstone's (bookshop, if you are not from round here[1]) expecting it to be extruded fantasy product but found it better than that, and am currently into the third book, a block of the things standing up on the coffee table.

    The Menace from Earth - Robert A Heinlein.
    Collection of short stories which has been on my bookshelf for decades, and deserved attention. The story to remark on today is "The Year of the Jackpot" because a) 2016 b) William Gibson's stub story "The Peripheral" which I think has some new stuff in it. It follows "The Jackpot" and I may yet ask him if it is partly referential.

    Something by Stross recently which I rather liked.

    And re-reading Anathem which is continuing to wow on 4th reading. Seveneves is out with a daughter.

    [1] I read Altered Carbon a while back, and re-read it more recently, and that phrase is rather good in it. Understated alienation.


    Like several other posters I find that I'm reading more non-fiction these days. First off: Despite budget cuts, there's a helluva lot of science that's happened since my last science course. Next: As a long-time SF fan/reader, I'd prefer to be able to tell whether the 'science' in an SF story is plausible, wishful thinking or just plain garbage/wrong. Lastly: I'm valuing my spare/reading time more these days therefore will read/buy only authors who've done their writerly homework/research including giving their ideas considerable thought before committing them to paper/wordfile.

    Any fiction should also tap into authentic human experience/condition either directly or indirectly (via observation) to create characters that are plausible, internally self-consistent and multi-dimensional*. If the characters feel real, even the weirdest situation/scenario will feel more genuine and plausible. This is especially so if the author is able to toss in something small and trivial, e.g., Jurassic Park movie ... circular ripples in the coffee cup just before we see T Rex approaching.

    *No, I don't mean that these characters must live in more than our local spacetime dimension.

    Given that the overall level of education has increased over the past 60-70 years, the multiplication, expansion of and access to technologies, the public's instantaneous access to historical as well as current research across disciplines from most of the globe via the Internet and Google search ... that is, the reading public is more educated, informed, etc. ... it follows that hard-SF authors have to jump more hurdles these days if they want to be taken seriously. (And once you find a good hard-SF author, you buy every single thing they've ever written including their very early stuff. Ditto for science writers.)


    This article might interest you ...

    Looks like there's considerable overlap between PTSD and seizures. So the good news is that PTSD is 'real' and not some silly all-in-your-head excuse given by cowards. Bad news is that having 'seizures' means almost automatically getting an 'epilepsy' diagnosis, which means being prescribed/having to take seizure meds. Really bad news is that it turns out that there's a substantial risk of suicide among those diagnosed as PTSD-with-seizures taking these meds.

    The VA has a ton of research being done on PTSD and other military-related conditions.


    I enjoyed Snow Crash, and just loved Diamond Age. I've never managed to get through his Baroque Cycle.

    I think the third part of Seveneves was certainly the weak point of the book. I found the transition from part 2 implausible, thanks to a couple of the discussions on this site about long-term sustainable habitat. Part 3 also seemed pretty lightweight, after the first two.


    Thanks. BTW, I'm not planning on writing a fantasy based around PTSD, but I'm glad I read about it.


    I've just been assuming that either the geases/wards also provided some mental protection. Or that they've been acculturated to horror — this is the workplace that reuses dead coworkers as zombie security guards, after all.


    The Illiad, The Odyssey - Both for a class, although they are quite enjoyable. Probably have to come back here in a couple months

    Saga of Recluce (Modessit) - They're kind of fun, if repetitive, pretty easy to read and a good way to procrastinate

    Go Like Hell ( Baime) - An annual re-read centered around the Le Mans 24 Hrs

    OGH, thanks for this thread. I'm using it to restock my reading list.


    Given that the overall level of education has increased over the past 60-70 years, Are we really SURE about that? I'd dispute it, given that IMHO the number of both unintelligent & seriously-uninformed fuckwits seems to be on the rise .....

    /grumpy old-man mode OFF ...../


    "The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks: A Critical Introduction by Simone Caroti…"

    I hadn't heard of this. A while ago I read The Transgressive Iain Banks: Essays on a Writer Beyond Borders edited by Martyn Colebrook, Katharine Cox and was really unimpressed, so I'm kinda sceptical of 'Critical Banks (and any that passes over Feersum Endjinn).


    eta: Still will buy, because Iain Banks! With or without M. I've re-read him many times and very few of his works don't reward at least second readings. And it's surprising how infrequently works like A Song of Stone or Transition are recognised as Culture novels, or that The Crow Road is a variation on the family drama of The Player of Games.


    (You're getting what I'm reading in winter, because while it is technically possible for me to pull up the full list of what I read last Summer - I started tracking my reading for a year back on December 24 last year out of curiosity - on a more practical note it would require me to dig out the external hard drive, find a place for it to sit temporarily, and get it plugged into the computer and the power in such a way that I could actually get data off it, and at present this is too much of a logistical juggling act to be contemplated. Reasons below).

    At present I'm re-reading my various Georgette Heyer romances, mostly because we're in the process of moving house (currently in the immediate post-move "unpack everything and find 'aways' for it" stage). I've managed to combine moving house with getting the flu, so it's been an ... interesting move this time (nothing quite like trying to pack things when you're feverish and achey; unpacking while dealing with a persistent unproductive cough is just the icing on the cake, such as it is). Basically, the combination of moving house, mental illness, plus tail ends of flu equals "Meggy brain no do thinky thing", so Georgette Heyer is pretty much the upper limit of what I can handle at present.

    Read "The Nightmare Stacks" before we moved out (yup, the copy I won got here on time!), but I was rather feverish and flu-ey at the time, so not much of it stuck in my head. When I find it and the rest of the more recent books I was reading (which are packed in yet another box, which hasn't yet surfaced in the process of unpacking - I suspect it was one of the first boxes moved over, so I'm not surprised it's at the bottom of the pile) I'll give it a re-read. Also recently read "The Armageddon Score", which I quite enjoyed - Mo is a very interesting protagonist, and very realistic in terms of "voice" (as in, she sounded not only believably female, but also believably middle-aged, and believably middle-aged and female - although I could have done with a bit less of her harping on about the pretty girl's mid-life dilemma[1].)

    I started my grand Georgette Heyer re-read with "Cousin Kate" (because that was the only one in the first box of books I unpacked) and I've since moved on to "Black Sheep". I also mixed things up a bit by re-reading "Night Watch" by Terry Pratchett in the middle there (because between boxes one and three, there was a break of about a day where I didn't unpack any books, so I was stuck with what was in that first couple of boxes). Next on the list is "A Lady of Quality" because it's basically the same story as "Black Sheep" just with a few of the details changed to satisfy the publishers. After the Heyers, I may move on to the Agatha Christie mystery omnibus volumes I have handy, because they're similarly "low cognitive load" reading.

    (Oh, and whichever new chapters of the various bits of fanfic on AO3 have come up lately, plus a couple of re-reads of old favourite pieces in around the edges of things).

    [1] Feminine social invisibility is only a handicap in middle age when you haven't been living with it since your teens. Otherwise, for those of us who weren't actually on the masculine radar to begin with, there's not a lot of difference noticeable between "being invisible because you're not attractive" and "being invisible because you're not young".


    You're getting what I'm reading in winter


    Do you subterraneans antipodeans also get irritated at those people who think the Vernal Equinox is the first day of Spring?


    A nice series of articles from a few years back about PTSD in (mainly speculative, given site) fiction, particularly liked this one on why Sayers' depiction of it in Lord Peter Wimsey, writing in the '30s, was unusually good.


    Reading/listening to at the moment:

    Corporation Wars: Dissidence, Ken Macleod - I read the fall revolution series a while ago and really liked the politics and the humour but haven't got around to reading anything else from him. When I saw that this was the first of a trilogy I thought it was a good jumping on point so I picked up the audiobook to enjoy on my commute. The story is great - entertaining and thoughtful. Not sure it's best suited to audiobook though, I mostly listen to fantasy on audio and it just seems a better fit.

    Anathem, Neal Stephenson - I don't get as much time as I would like to read so this is a slow burner for me but really enjoying it so far, I love the fact that a book like this exists. I'm currently trying to read at least one Stephenson a year and I think I'm about half way there!

    Books read recently:

    Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie - This is a series of books that really does work on audio, the narrator is excellent and brings it all to life. The books are massive and I always need a break between listening to them but I find I'm soon eager to listen to the next one and will be sad when I finish. A very British fantasy series I would say, cracks me up at times.

    The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin - I read this years and years ago but I barely remembered it so I decided to read the whole of the Hainish cycle. The earlier books are interesting but this is just amazing. Brilliant characters and story, absolutely loved it.


    Not your usual steampunk paranormal romance so much as gritty, almost noir-ish crime thrillers set in the underbelly of the resulting world. To say more would risk spoilering it: highly recommended.


    Currently I read the Guardian's installments of "House of Cards (Labour edition)". As for books, I usually read authors, not titles. So I'm usually up to date with my favorite authors: C. Stross, Ken MacLoud, Chris Brookmyre, Max Gladstone, Neal Stephenson, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Jim Butcher, Genevieve Cogman, Expanse series, Patricia Cornwell, Cory Doctorow, Tess Gerritsen, William Gibson, Carl Hiassen, Kameron Hurley, Ann Leckie, Linda Nagata, Karin Slaughter, Jodi Taylor, WJW, and a few others.

    Malka Older's "Infomacracy" and her short story "Tear tracks" were very nice.


    He does note the crossover of some of his 'mainstream' fic in the Intro, hoping he gets into this more in the book proper - I'll admit it's not something I had really picked up before.

    It is dawning on me that a major re-read of Ian (M and blank) Banks oeuvre is now looming in my near future...



    Would you folks read an overt unselfconscious steampunk novel with my name on the spine?


    Sure. Before or after the Space Opera? :-)


    Reading The Tripods Trilogy to the kids with War of The Worlds to follow. I think they've got a thing for three-legged mecha.


    Not sure exactly what you mean by "overt", but yes.


    Thanks for the link ... excellent Wimsey recap motivating me to add Sayers to my re-read list.

    I first read Sayers because I wanted a similar contemporaneous author/style after having read through all of Christie. Turned out that I enjoyed Sayers so much more and still wish she'd been more prolific.

    Lord Peter Wimsey and Miles Vorkosigan are two of my favorite fictional characters. And although Bujold credits Heyer as a key influence, personally I see a lot of Wimsey in Miles. (The Time Traveler's Wife is another sorta Wimsey-inspired SF novel ... personally found it only 'meh'.)


    almost certainly, if its 'strossy' it'll be good you'd somehow turn the trope on its head


    Yes ... and would expect both more 'historically' accurate and more twisty than current steampunk offerings.

    Have read about 10-12 steampunk-SF novels. Most left me feeling 'Meh, what's the big deal' because (based on this admittedly small sample) it seems that this genre is basically trying to recreate a Jules Verne sensibility toward a J-V level of technology/science while at the same time tossing in anachronisms (i.e., real-time/current info) as though telling the reader 'Isn't this quaint! But we know better, don't we? [Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.]'. It's SF that's looking backwards in time.


    Yes. I assume you would do something New & Unusual with it.


    I obsessively read your screwball comedies, the others I only read once. I need to go back to the others, one of these days. I'm reading through the Laundry Series because of the latest book. I always read the latest, then the whole series through the latest to see the Story as a whole.

    I read Atrocity Archives till 3 a.m. the other night. I could not go to bed until I finished it. I'm going to read it again today because it is such a joy, then move on to the rest. BTW, I will also read Declare by Tim Powers, once I finish Nightmare Stacks again.

    In other words, I will read any of your books over and over, as long as they are the screwball comedies. The genre does not matter.


    Sure. I find parts of MP are already consonant with what I understand of the term, and so am already predisposed in favour of that particular variety of Strossulosity.


    Opening sentence of random steampunk idea:

    "Captain's compliments, doctor, but the Chaplain's velociraptor has gotten loose in Gas Cell Four this time, and would you be so good as to catch her again?"


    Of course. You write good, and I'm not averse to steampunk (mostly). I suppose you could even force-fit it into paratime with a bit of trying. Keith Laumer comes to mind.


    I started the summer with a taste for lit-ra-chure, don't you know, and since I'd read and liked The Great Gatsby last autumn, I began with F. Scott Fitzgerald's wonderful The Beautiful and the Damned and then his depressing but engaging Tender is the Night. I tried Ulysses, again, and bounced, again, and it convinced me that I needed something less, ah, intellectual for the heat of summer so I read the Skylark series and the Lensman series by Doc Smith and so enjoyed life without modern conveniences such as radar and electronic computers (or just solid state electronics in general,) that I went on to John Campbell's Invaders from the Infinite and The Black Star Passes and Islands of Space.

    Now that my brain is thoroughly melted I've started Jury Service by Cory Doctrow and some up and coming Scottish fellow, and would probably enjoy it except that the file is seriously infected with adware and I can't see the text through all the spam ads it's throwing onto the lenses of my glasses. I'll try again after I've upgraded my spam blocker.


    Wards seem to act as force fields, while geases seem to act like REMF-installed curses of the variety: do this and die horribly. Also in the Laundryverse, there's a thing called a soul which survives death, your soul can be readily destroyed at any point, and your body can be reanimated without any free will after you die.

    In other words, it's a fantasy.

    Put this in military-like terms: what would the PTSD rate be if, as in Vietnam, corporate hiring practices prevailed (soldiers were hot-swapped in and out of units, as if they were employees, and units were not trained as a group or given time to become a real community, what with six-month rotations in and out), people are impressed, not even drafted (in the Laundry, if you're in the wrong place and the wrong time, you're stuck with that job for years, if not for life), you're forced on pain of death to do certain things and not do other things (that's what a geas is for), you can be forced on pain of death to kill yourself (geases again), you can't rejoin your previous family (due to the geas, secrets, and living with the knowledge is incredibly nasty, bleak, and random, while being forced to pretend that life is good (for your civilian friends and family), and learning (if you're in operations) that not even death can free you from service, although you can be annihilated.

    Yeah, that might cause a bit of PTSD. I'm not saying Charlie should put it all in, because the Laundryverse runs on The Rule of Cool rather than stark realism. Still, it can't hurt. Indeed, one of the possible redemptive storylines to keep the last book from being a total downer would be if the Laundry comes together as a community and heals enough to fight that last ditch stand, rather than making the infighting worse than the monster of the book.

    One thing about Achilles in Vietnam is Shay's harsh commentary on how much damage standard 1960s management and economic techniques caused when transposed into a military context where they were dangerously inappropriate. He even quotes Clausewitz to show some of the basic problems with a mindset that sees soldiers as interchangeable employees. The tl;dr version is that battlelines are not factory lines, even if war is industrialized.


    Absolutely. In a heartbeat. I'd pre-order it right now if I could.


    Set in the Venusian atmosphere, where 80/20 N2/O2 is a lifting gas?


    Sure, if you can get to it while Steampunk is still popular.

    It's too bad that steampunk fashion is all about dressing for the next ice age. I still think you could steampunk the climate changed future fairly nicely, if the babes get to wear leather bikinis along with their equipment belts, sun hats over their goggles, and deploy multifunctional parasols.


    I'd certainly buy book one of the series, assuming there's a series. Subsequent books depend on me like book one but I think I've got everything you've published so it's a pretty safe bet.


    Oh yes, yes indeed. Please incorporate as much Tesla as possible.

    Hey, will this turn out to be another parallel in the Merchant Princes sequence?


    Oh, yes, please. Especially with an opening like that.


    While I fully realize that Steampunk is supposed to be fantasy with clanky gears screwed on and coal and stuff, that it's most definitely not what-if SF...

    It occurred to me that you could get from the present to steampunk fairly simply by positing that good ol' rubber leaf blight (cf: this pdf paper) wipes out the global rubber industry, and we're back in the pre-vulcanized days of, well...clanky gear fantasies.

    Hmmm. What an evil thought...


    "Aye, Cap'n. I'll get me armour," he said dejectedly. "Again."

    Yep, that'll do. Certainly no reason Steampunk has to be alt-historical, why not a different world setting?


    That last bit's meant as a reply to some other comments.


    Now that my brain is thoroughly melted I've started Jury Service by Cory Doctrow and some up and coming Scottish fellow,

    Or you coud read the whole book "Rapture of the Nerds".

    Sighing heavily, Dr Roadster regretfully decided to go with the Model S noose instead of the larger Model X, as it was still charging via the Powerwall.

    That is the Tesla you meant, right?


    Would you folks read an overt unselfconscious steampunk novel with my name on the spine?

    My problem with steampunk was always it was trying soooooooo hard to shoehorn Babbage and Victoriana into the plot. Real world would have always gone from steam and gears to electricity and semiconductors for processing in the same way you don't see many valves around today. As for Victorian society, that was always going to change as well - income inequality without growth tends to do that.

    I've wondered why steampunk hasn't mutated into a setting of biotech and some other society's norms, say the Indian caste system. What is it about the steampunk combo that entices? Dreams of fading empire maybe?

    As for the possible book - well as always, that depends on if the idea is intriguing enough.


    "Leviathan Wakes", for the second time. I read first three books of the Expanse series, and for a long time was reluctant to start the fourth because I was afraid it would break my SOD. I finally got the fourth book, but decided to re-read first three before tackling it.

    The most recent "new" (as in not-read-before) fiction I read was "Rule 34".


    Real world would have always gone from steam and gears to electricity and semiconductors for processing in the same way you don't see many valves around today.

    This raises the next question: Why would these settings not move over to solid state electronic computing?

    Offhand I can't think of a reason to avoid transistors that leaves people using electricity at all. As soon as electric motors are around mechanical switches become very useful, and we went over to vacuum tubes not long after that. But it's a good question and one that should be addressed by anyone writing a Steampunk setting of any duration: what's the deal with their electrical devices?


    I would not, but only because I can't stand steampunk.


    My mental picture of wards isn't force fields*. Instead, I see them as absorbing nastiness that might harm the person wearing them (getting hot in the process — clearly some energy is involved). PTSD is nasty, hence my supposition that maybe wards stop/slow it (or at least keep the symptoms more under control).

    A geas seems to be the mother of all literary post-hypnotic commands. Maybe part of the Laundry geas is "don't turn into a quivering pile in the corner"? Not necessarily dealing with the underlying stress, but controlling the symptoms.

    Just thoughts. The lack of protagonist mental breakdowns** isn't a problem to my — given we're already accepting unspeakable horrors from multi-angled dimensions (or whatever) having our heroes being mentally tougher than normal… well, they're obviously PCs :-)

    *Mind you, SF force fields don't much resemble what we mean by "force field" in physics, either.

    ** Yes, Mo was having one. But she still held herself together enough to get the job done.


    Steampunk in the sense of The Difference Engine? Or steampunk in the sense of a fantasy story dressed in goth fashion with gears glued on?

    The first yes, the second no.


    That's the space opera. This is something different.


    I've wondered why steampunk hasn't mutated into a setting of biotech and some other society's norms, say the Indian caste system. What is it about the steampunk combo that entices? Dreams of fading empire maybe?

    Hmm. You might want to dig up "The Peshawar Lancers" by S. M. Stirling, then. (TLDR: giant comet impact fucks Europe in 1800s. British Crown decamps for India. A century later, the Raj is the great global superpower, in a cold war with the Russian Empire ...)


    I tried to read "The Peshawar Lancers", but gave up after 20 pages. The problem is, I liked the original version, "Flashman in the Great Game", too much... :)


    There's quite a lot of free time even in our world. Valves were developed around WW1, but transistors didn't happen until after WW2, and they were still quite shit for some considerable time after that until we figured out how to make them out of silicon instead of germanium. So there was about a fifty year period where valves "ruled the roost", first for everything, and later for everything that required power handling of more than a few watts. (High current stuff like motor control remained purely electromechanical until the silicon era, high current being one thing valves are notoriously bad at.) So up to and including WW2 there's no problem about setting a story without transistors.

    Before we had transistors, we had digital computers using valve and electromechanical technology. We also had nukes, which are well known for being more hostile to semiconductors than to valves. Particularly during the germanium era there were made miniature valves that were not much larger in size than transistors, didn't use vastly more power, and generally had better high frequency performance than transistors of the time - part of the reason for making them was that germanium transistors were quite shit and didn't offer such obvious advantages over valves as silicon ones do, and part of it was their superior ability to withstand nuclear EMP.

    So I don't think it'd take that much of a shift to make lack of transistors plausible. A more precarious peace after WW2; computer development remaining a mainly military matter; peace deteriorates leading to limited nuclear exchanges before either side has built up a massive arsenal; this causes the world to "stick" at a WW2-ish level of shitness; invention and development of transistors is greatly delayed, and risk of occasional nuking causes military to stick with (miniature) valves for computing. Or something along those lines.

    There are, of course, loads of technologies which can be used for digital computing, and one in particular suggests a possible scenario for computing without using electronics at all: fluidics. This can operate at speeds comparable to early valve computers, the parts don't wear out, and it is immune to EMP. You could imagine it becoming popular anywhere from the above nukes-but-no-transistors world back to when it first became practical to mass-produce identical small objects with tight tolerances and good surface finish.

    There was also a time when analogue computing was thought to be the way forward, at least in some circles. IIRC the "ac" in Asimov's "Multivac" stands for "analogue computer". And mechanically, things like WW2 bombsights are quite amazing and beautiful examples of analogue computation.


    Sure, why not? I'm in a steampunk book club and that stuff can be super fun, even when it's dumb as hell. I enjoy it, but I go elsewhere for my Deep Thoughts.


    There was a surprising amount of mechanical, as well as analogue computing around Pre-WWII even in our timeline. Why no-one ever re-purposed/upgraded etc the machines used for the "totalisator" calculations, beats me. ( Totalisator - a.k.a. "The Tote" used in horse-race betting for odds calculations & summations. )


    Most likely would at least buy and try to read anything with your name on it.

    However, you already did the steampunk (sans velociraptors) in the Miriamverse, before rightly deciding it was an unstable equilibrium that called out for a dose of technology disruption, and moving swiftly on. I have yet to read a convincing explanation for why a steampunk world makes sense as anything but a brief transitional epoch. The system dynamics seem to me reminiscent of the milieus of the world wars. Yet your opening sentence hinted at something longer term. Are you perhaps planning to yet again explore (see #172) the dynamics of how humans can deal with superhumans in their midst?


    "Burmese Days" by George Orwell, because that's where my Christmas vacation will take me. Plus, it seems fitting to read something about the dawn of the British Empire these days.


    Oh FFS, I'd read the back of the HP sauce bottle if I thought it had been penned by you.


    At this point in your career? Sure. Anything you choose to write, tho' maybe not the back of an HP bottle. I've enjoyed some steampunk novels though it isn't a go-to subgenre for me, enjoyed a couple of SP anthologies a bit more.


    I have always avoided steampunk like the plague because I did read Verne and Wells in my teen years and I'm a history buff that can't stand

    • the rose-coloured glasses too many people use to look at the period prior to 1914 (just one example: ISIS murderers have got nothing on the anarchist terrorists of the steam age, which incidentally were very often immigrants/refugees)

    • the black-coloured glasses other people use for the same purpose, 'dark satanic mills' and all that. Sure children were exploited at the coal mines, but one has to be gullible indeed to think before steam engines they would have been happily playing all day.

    But I'm intrigued: Exactly which flavour of steampunk? And what kind of story do you think steampunk would allow you to tell better?


    Sure. I'd expect it to be less my thing than the Laundry series, but as a general rule anything with the name Pratchett, Banks or Stross on its gets read.


    +1 for the Steampunk as I have faith yours wouldn't degenerate into cosplay, MarySue type shenanigans like so many seem to. More Mieville-like would be my preference.


    With an opening sentence like that, and your name on it, I'd read it (the only book of yours I didn't get on with was Accelerando, which is still lying around unfinished somewhere—I found I didn't like any of the characters enough to care what happened to them).

    Not usually a big fan of steampunk: its world-building assumptions tend to exceed the tensile strength of my disbelief suspension mechanism.


    John Kay, Other People's Money sardonically explores the why and who of the 2008 crisis.

    The best non-fiction books I read the last years is written by a Dutch journalist, originally an anthropologist, who studied London bankers in their natural habitat. He blogged about this for two years, then wrote a book about it:

    "This cannot be true" by Joris Luyendijk

    Definitely worth a read.


    Funny that you would mention cosplay. I once saw steampunk defined as 'what happens when goths discover brown'...


    Well, my winter reading (summer was too many months ago, but antipodeans learn to translate, much as left- and right-pondians do) has been a bit over the place.

    Reread a couple of Lindsay Davis' Falco novels, before reading her new 'daughter of Falco' books - murder, mystery and adventure set respectively in Vespasian & Domitian's 1st Century Roman Empire. Bujold's 'Captain Vorpatril's Alliance' before reading 'Gentleman Jole'. A visit to Auckland's maritime museum led me to digging out Arthur Ransome's 'We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea'. One of my childhood reads. It holds up better than some, if you think of it as a historical children's book. I was surprised at how much sailing jargon is in it - wouldn't happen now. Alastair Reynolds - His books migrated from the 'to read' pile to the shelves without ever being read, so I am starting on his works from the beginning. The latest, and last-but-one of the Laundry books from OGH. Do I need to give a reason? I started Steven Saylor's 'Roma', but couldn't be bothered finishing it. Will go find some NF on early Rome instead.

    I've dipped into a few non-fiction books on ancient history this year, so I will put the severally-mentioned 'The Silk Roads' on my to read list. Now, can anybody suggest something in the same vein/era as Turtledove's old fix-up novel 'Agent of Byzantium'?


    Just started listening to Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. I figured an alt-history novel where Charles Lindbergh was elected president in 1940 was unfortunately timely. Mixes the politics with Roths details of growing up in the 40s, including a fine eye for the details of stamp collecting.


    Re: Stross steampunk ...

    Can't recall how far back the Laundry was established but feel sure it was active during the Victorian and through the Edwardian periods, the preferred steam-punk eras.

    So, if you're planning on filling some of the organizational history gaps of the Laundry, or maybe doing a hybrid alt-universe (advanced steam-punk) and our universe merging of Laundry orgs, that would be insane (very good)! Plus, from a more-Stross-books perspective, this provides a logical and 'natural' way of expanding the Laundryverse. Points of divergence/convergence of these alternate/multi-universes would probably also mean some interesting explanation/scenarios.

    Request: Any chance of getting a map or historical Laundryverse events diagram in your next Laundry novel along with the book title associated with that event?


    ...the Chaplain's velociraptor has gotten loose in Gas Cell Four... Don't know if you've read Alastair Reynold's "Terminal World" (2010) but it has a scene uncomfortably close to this. (This is not much of a spoiler.) Most parts of it are low-deep-time steampunk, enforced by zones. I listened to the audio version, actually; kinda fun alternative to listening to radio news during a long commute.


    Read it: that's not what I have in mind.


    "I have yet to read a convincing explanation for why a steampunk world makes sense as anything but a brief transitional epoch" Maybe that's the essence of fantasy: stasis. A world that changes unnaturally slowly. That's why it's popular in times of rapid change, and why it's paired with science fiction. Both are tonics of different kinds for the same ailment. So where are the failure points where you can stop progress in it's tracks? It seems to me the best one is electronics. A slight and highly plausible change in physical laws, or even conditions, could make solid state transistors impossible, in which case you get a twentieth century world, technologically advanced up to basically the 1970s on average. You can do a lot without computers really, and they did. You could do television, cable TV even, and videotapes. One real problem is banking. How DID they do banking before computers? So they'de be using those vacuum tubes for all they're worth. What, Valvepunk? Another failure point is any of the suite of technologies that led the world into the modern era after the middle ages. The world of 1400 AD wasn't necessarily that different from the world of 1400 BC. A world with little iron ore might do it. Or a world that never had a carboniferous, so no coal deposits. A sort of advanced neolithic is another one that could be pretty stable if you had a world with no easy ore deposits, though we're talking advanced Neolithic: with enough time you could develop alphabets, math, sailing ships, looms, even the printing press. Until you encountered a flint crisis and learned to make glass and ceramic do. But what would freeze you in the nineteenth century? What led out of it? Internal combustion? A world with no petroleum still has other oils and alcohols. Electricity generation? Physics are different enough that dynamos are impractical? How about a world where alternating current doesn't work? Edison world? To use electricity industrially they have to string huge DC cables everywhere? That's kind of limiting. All very hard to do without taking out several things at once.


    Cibola Burn is set on a planet, and starts with different characters than the crew of the Rocinante, so it's hard to get into if you are expecting something like the first three. But it picks up. Nevertheless it's the weakest of the series. Nemesis Games gets right back to the old form.


    Maybe it could be something to do with Band Gap? Either the physics of this world make the band gaps of materials common in that world unusable, or else the sun of that world, or planetary electrical field (either naturally or by alien intervention) creates a distortion of electron behavior that makes transistors not work or makes them impractical without extremely expensive and rare materials.


    Possibly relevant to steampunk, back in 2000 there was some discussion of "Spaceflight without Electricity" (q.G.) on I.e.,if you didn't have any technical manifestation of electricity, could you still get into orbit, go to the moon, etc. using mechanical, chemical, optical means? Eyes and brains are allowed.


    OK. I would buy it.


    My summer was mostly graphic novels: Riad Sattouf - The Arab of the Future: A Graphic Memoir - Riad tells of the his childhood in Lybia and Syria. A very scathing look at the various arab nationalisms, but also at arabs in general. Didn't like. Magdy el Shafee: Metro - a noir story set (and written) in pre-arab-spring Cairo, with a dash of cyberpunk (No SFnal elements, just the tone and protagonist is a hacker). Recommended. The first two elfworld volumes - Wanted to see what the hype is about. I see that it's an epic journey with complex characters, but just doesnt interest me that much. Saga - is really awesome fantasy/space opera with cool characters. Check it out. Moebius/Jodorowsky - The Incal, first 3 volumes. IMO bollocks, story just doesnt make sense at all. And I was expecting fantasy. Marjane Satrapi - Chicken with Plums & Embroideries: Two distinct looks at certain slices of iranian society pre islamic revolution, both quite good. Re-read Moores Watchmen. Still great.

    Other fiction: Of course OGH TNS. IMB The Hydrogen Sonata - I felt reluctant to read it for a while. I really, really liked it. Banks manages to cast an (for lack of a better word) existentialist eye at what in his universe is The One True Religion, and it works. Or that was my reading.

    A book on the last ice age by (I think) a Brian Fagan? Interesting anyway. Christian Gerlach - Extremely violent Societies: Gerlach looks at several instances of massviolence starting with the Armenian genocide and tries to generate a new approach to understand mass violence. Impossible to do his theis justie in a few sentences, but I strongly recommend to read it. Wolfgang Behringer - Ein Kulturgeschichte des Klimas (A cultural history of climate): Behringer examines historical records of climate changers in europe after the fal of the western roman empire and around the medieval climate anomaly and the little ice age, and writes about how climate affected economic and cultural history. I don't think I agree with one of his central statements (life was good during the medieval climate anomaly, so we should limit and mitigate climate change but not panic) but found his accounts of how everyday life and culture changed to reflect changing climates quite gripping.

    If I were a proper busy bee I would probably shell out some money and time on the Metcalf and Eddy Wastewater Engineering bible or some such. I guess I'm a bad bee.

    Right now I'm reading David Harveys Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, my first impression is good but I can't say much yet. Next up likely Naomi Kleins This changes Everything. Or I start on the Expanse.

    Serious question to people with jobs and kids: How do you find the time to read much? I practically only re-read short stories these days, for one, and avoid fat non-fiction books because I fear I will spend months on them.


    Nope. That would fuck chemistry, and there wouldn't be any humans. Any reason for lack of transistors has to be of the social/political/etc type, not based in physics, or else the story must be not steampunk but instead something very, very alien indeed.


    Whilst it isn't Steampunk, I can envisage a way to change History and get something similar. If the First world war didn't happen as it did because Friedrich III didn’t die after a few months in power, the Edwardian world would change, only much slower than under the compulsion of Total War. We could also posit a world where von Schliffen was killed in the Franco-prussian war and hence the war of 1914 started with a radically different German Strategy and the trenches never happened (this is doubtful, even in the absence of Schliffen, I suspect the European war would be Trench warfare) A second possibility is that revulsion after WW1 stopped technological change and a (sub)conscious decision was made to revert to Edwardian times but this is doubtful in the light of sociological changes which had occurred. These are possible starting points for stories which I am not competent to write, some one else can use them if they like. ...and now back to what I am reading, those nice people at PS Publishing sent me my copy of Erikson's "The Fiends of Nightmaria" which is top of the reading list


    Re: 'Serious question to people with jobs and kids: How do you find the time to read much?

    Sorry, you'll just have to wait until your kids hit their teens* in order to catch up on your leisure reading. (Ditto for non-kiddie movies, TV and music.) Having grown-up time is probably why parents are usually okay with their kids going to sleep-overs, summer camp, weekends at grandparents or, if divorced, the days/evenings they're at the other parent's.

    • Provided your teens don't have hobbies/activities that require a dedicated chauffeur.

    And provided your job/career trajectory permits because that's also around the time most people hit their highest earnings level/potential. One of the up-sides of business-related travel is all the reading time you get hanging around airports 'cause, like, it's poor corporate security to actually be doing real internal office work where anyone walking by can see all your corporate confidential stuff. Or, some time in your forties (esp. if your work frequently includes all-nighters) insomnia kicks in ... so you pick up a book.


    I gather that a lot of folks who drive to/from work daily use audiobooks. (I wouldn't know from personal experience how good an experience that is.)

    Folks who use public transport? Ebooks are a boon, as are cheap e-ink readers (vastly less attractive to casual thieves than a smartphone, readable in daylight on the bus, unlikely to run out of battery life), although a big-ass phone is okay for reading on. And there are always folks on any longer bus or train journey grovelling through work-related binders or textbooks.

    I suspect a lot of reading gets done over lunch at the office/break room, too.


    ADMIN NOTE: The server had a bit of a whoopsie last night and has been down for 12 hours.

    As you can see, it's up and working again now (and there was no database corruption) but there appears to be an intermittent problem with one of the drives in the RAID array. So some time in the next few days the server will be down for a bit longer, pending a disk drive replacement.


    The Schlieffen plan would have been radically different or non-existent if Napoleon III hadn't utterly cocked up the Franco-Prussian War beyond all hope of rescue.

    By rights the French could well have won in 1870, or at least bloodied the Prussian nose badly enough to drastically weaken Bismarck's unified second Reich to the point where the German war plans would have focussed on the defensive. But the relatively quick victory of 1870 left the French spoiling for revenge and encouraged the German general staff to think in terms of landing a quick knock-out blow in event of a re-match.

    Don't underestimate the long term demographic impact of developments in hygiene, though! First, the germ theory of disease and antiseptic practices that cut the maternal childbed death rate by 1-2 orders of magnitude in the late 19th century (doctors washing their hands with soap between deliveries, the horror!), then proper sewers for cities and the abolition of metropolitan cholera epidemics, then refrigerated food storage and the gradual replacement of horse-drawn transport in cities with steam trains and light rail (which reduced the number of urban horses -- a major vector for the spread of tuberculosis). These developments had far-reaching social consequences that took generations to emerge.

    Also note the diminishing cost of woven fabric thanks to developments in agriculture and weaving technology throughout the 19th century, then the invention of the sewing machine and overlocker (serger) which made the process of turning fabric into clothing much cheaper ... which led to the (modern) phenomenon of rapidly changing fashions.


    Personally the invention of the transistor looks rather unlikely to me, so I would find it plausible that the early experiments in that area (which appeared rather unpromising) could have led to people relegating it all to niche snakeoil merchants. Maybe they'd get cold fusion working instead.


    I don't have kids, but my boss does. He doesn't read as much as I do but still reads a lot. His travel time to and from work is about five minutes because he cycles from one end of his village over to the closest edge of the next village for work, pretty much whatever the weather.

    If he really has to drive, which usually means he's going to a client meeting, it takes him about 3 minutes in the morning because he starts when it's dark, even at summer solstice but if he's unlucky it can take 20+ minutes to get home with the traffic. But even so he gets a lot more time than say my partner who often has an hour+ commute each way and isn't fond of audio books. OTOH she doesn't have kiddies to worry about.


    I'm inclined to agree. While I agree with Pigeon's comment that the physics and chemistry should work if you're in a basically Earth-like environment I think there's a fair degree of chance with when we find the semi-conductor and we could have a much longer period with valves as the peak of electronics.

    Not sure how well the Steam part of the steampunk equation holds up though, if we stay with valves as the pinnacle of electronics for a century say.


    From the Holy Crap department: economist Brad DeLong just did some interesting numerical analysis that suggests the scenario I came up with in the Merchant Princes series for a delayed industrial revolution and demographic transition in a time line where the British innovations of the 18th century stalled out (by a lag of about 100-150 years) holds up, on the basis of an earlier paper that links the rate of technological change to population growth. (He started out by looking at whether there was a high-level pre-industrialization local minimum past which progress was unlikely, then worked out that there's a step change once population exceeds a certain level, beyond which the accelerating development of technology drives productivity and breaks the culture out of the previous Malthusian trap, leading in due course to wage growth and ultimately demographic transition to a technologically innovative but low/zero population growth society.)

    I confess: I pantsed the development of time line three, rigging it to produce a pseudo-steampunk world in the original "A Family Trade". (Spoiler: it's not steampunk, Miriam just encounters it at a particular point and doesn't recognize the applicability of Gibson's Rule -- "the future is already here: it's just unevenly distributed".) But this actually gives me a solid, if speculative, numerical basis for pretty much the changes I came up with for the new Merchant Princes trilogy.

    I'm getting a really strange feeling here. Let's just hope we don't suddenly get confirmation that the Many Worlds explanation for quantum mechanics is actually true and we live in an Everett-Wheeler cosmology, because that would be really uncomfortable ...


    I'm getting a really strange feeling here. You probably noticed that we basically nailed the MH370 suicide scenario [1] (in the news recently) in a comment thread here when you pointed out that list of probable prior pilot murder/suicides. (Bayesian priors adjusted.)

    [1] Assuming MH370 pilot's flight simulator plotted course over southern Indian Ocean is true and relevant.


    Would you folks read an overt unselfconscious steampunk novel with my name on the spine?

    As long as it's actually steampunk and not another entry in the recent trend of high fantasy overdosing on brown leather jackets, sure.


    One note: sewers have been around since at least the Minoans, and they've been (re)invented multiple times.

    What really seems to crank up life expectancy isn't sewers, because their job is basically to get the shit off the streets. No, what helps people live past their 40s on average is clean drinking water. It's not just getting rid of the waste, it's taking fairly simple steps to make sure the stuff coming in is clean too. I can dig out the book if you want and cite sources, but IIRC, old age started becoming widespread in cities when city planners got more serious about potable water. That's not to say that sewers aren't critical, but they're the older part of the answer.

    19th Century tech was still on par with the Romans in some ways (concrete being the most notable one). Steampunk could have started a lot earlier, had history gone very differently.

    If you want to go for extreme alt-history, there are probably a bunch of times in history when a smallish change would have had a huge outcome. Constantine losing the Battle of Milvian Bridge, for instance, would have made Europe unrecognizable (that battle is where Constantine had his troops adopt Christian symbols and won, thus destroying Christianity's reputation for treasonous non-violent protests and making it a tool of empire. Had he lost, Christianity would have been further persecuted), but given how screwed up the later Roman Empire was, there are almost certainly historical junctures prior to that where a small tweak would have set history in a vastly different course.

    In any case, I notice on the web that Roman Steampunk is a thing, and it's worth considering that they could have done it, had things gone differently. The Antikythera mechanism is testimony enough to that.


    Serious question to people with jobs and kids: How do you find the time to read much? I practically only re-read short stories these days, for one, and avoid fat non-fiction books because I fear I will spend months on them.

    Strictly enforced bedtimes for younger kids, which was the norm when I was growing up, seem to allow much more adult-time for parents.

    I've got acquaintances who let their kids sleep whenever the kids want, and the parents don't seem to get any time to themselves as at least one kid seems to be awake. When I was growing up we had strict bedtimes (staggered by age, and getting a bit later every year) which gave my parents a couple of hours to themselves after we were in bed.


    I'm getting a really strange feeling here. Let's just hope we don't suddenly get confirmation that the Many Worlds explanation for quantum mechanics is actually true and we live in an Everett-Wheeler cosmology, because that would be really uncomfortable ...

    Less uncomfortable than your other big series being actually true… :-)


    If Charlie's shit is going to be coming true, could he please get Doctorow in on the deal? I want to get my ass up to the Cloud like ASAP.


    "When I was growing up we had strict bedtimes (staggered by age, and getting a bit later every year) which gave my parents a couple of hours to themselves after we were in bed."

    This is why you had brothers and sisters. The best contraceptive in the world is a crying kid in the same room (or next door).


    What really seems to crank up life expectancy isn't sewers, because their job is basically to get the shit off the streets. No, what helps people live past their 40s on average is clean drinking water. It's not just getting rid of the waste, it's taking fairly simple steps to make sure the stuff coming in is clean too.

    There's a saying that you can measure the level of a civilisation by the distance they put between themselves and their shit. However as you say it doesn't help if the shit is carted or piped away if it contaminates the drinking water (and food too, human waste is not a safe fertiliser unless it is treated properly) coming in.


    Not a fan of driving and listening to audio books. If the book's any good, the driver gets overly rapt-up consequently not paying sufficient attention to the road. Ditto for cyclists, pedestrians, etc. Tried audio-books for a couple of years for easy-driving (one highway all the way at the same speed limit) for distances of 500+km. Then one day a truck zoomed in front of me out of nowhere. I skidded to a safe stop and decided that audio-books and highway speeds don't mix.

    Okay, there have been times that it seemed I drove to the office on autopilot. Even so, I think that autopilot mode still allows your brain to scan the environment, detect danger and alert you more easily versus having to compete with active listening.

    Otherwise, if not a driver/pedestrian, agree that audio-books are a great way to get some affordable quality grown-up book-time.


    I dunno, I saw a report the other day on what T.Rump wants to do to the internet. It instantly put me in mind of their story "Unwirer". I don't actually remember what the report said, but yesterday he said that the US military should go back to using couriers.


    Just finished "Nightmare Stacks", and a big thumbs up, it was hugely enjoyable. And much, much gratitude because... broke the near unrelenting monotony of Neal Stephenson's "Seveneves". Now, I stand second to no-one for my love of Neal's work. But how, dear lord, is it possible to make the end of human civilisation so ... utterly ... teeth-grindingly ... piss-poor boring? I suppose the signs were there and growing after the indulgence that was "Anathem"; but I still read it from cover to cover. With "Seveneves" I just gave up and sought refuge in yours, so thanks Mr Stross.

    Now doing a multi-sided journey through:

    a. Joyce's "The Dubliners". Partly because the man writes like a babble-laden dream, and partly because it might be a good idea to bone up on Irish culture as I contemplate the necessity of trying to find a potential EU passport...

    b. Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora". Because I need to regain my faith the big-idea writers writing science fiction can still be readable.

    c. Waugh's "Vile Bodies". Because it's a combination of fun, anarchic and sad, and I now wonder what took me so long to finally start reading the man's work.


    (also replying to other comments re. reading time/work/kids)

    Fun fact, at my previos job I worked longer hours and had a longer commute but made more time for reading: My commute was basically one long train ride. Now it's streetcar, wait, train, walk, in 10min stretches or so and I find it impractical to read anythin much more longform than twitter on the go. Bedtime for kids helps,but then it's time to do chores ...

    On rethinking the question, I think it's not so much the time but the time in a state of mind when you are somewhat receptive and not dead tired, and the difficulty is really more with long non-fiction stuff than about reading novels.


    "Stilletto", by Daniel O'Malley, for the fun of it. It's the second in a great urban fantasy series

    A number of Calvin and Hobbes collections, also for the fun of it.

    Uresh Vahalia's "Unix Internals: The New Frontiers", because, while outdated, it's a beautiful exposition of the inner workings of Unix. I will probably read McKusick's "The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System" next. While I mostly support Windows servers, I am responsible for Linux servers and various appliances.

    I'm just finished listening to George Musser's "Spooky Action at a Distance" on Audible, as I ride the bus, and started on "Where Wizards Stay Up Late", by Lyon and Hafner. I read it in paperback a number of years ago, when I started TA'ing for a man who's been heavily involved in the IETF for the last 40 years.


    As RDSouth pointed out, shouldn't no transistors gets you dieselpunk at least?


    Apparently I am still the only person on Librarything to own a copy of Dozois 33rd annual Best SF whereas The Nightmare Stacks is owned by 98 others.


    sure. I'm not that taken with the usual steampunk tropes, but I trust you to do something interesting and less historically questionable with it.


    Only 98 others? I guess it'll take a couple of years to really spike. The thing about librarything is that it obviously skews American, white, reads lots of books, but the really unusual stuff doesn't feature on it much. I've got quite a lot of books which I am the only person to have, partly because I'm Scottish in Scotland with a few Scottish history ones, and partly because people aren't putting old textbooks or obscure books up much.


    Almost to 300, so (discounting non-academic papers etc) I can add without too much pollution:

    Re-read list:

    Oryx & Crake Trilogy. Atwood. Living in the End Times Zizek a thousand plateaus Deleuze & Guattari The Empathetic Civilization Rifkin Arne Naess and others: all of it. A huge massive slice of Feminist tracts that don't have crusty layers of Identity politics and The Dumb [tm] (it's related to The Suck (tm)) attached. Alexander Bogdanov / Goldman all the old originals, to remind myself of things[1]


    Obvious why. Need to dust off the edges that the finest wines of the internet (I mean the smudgiest lighter-fuel soaked rags) has lead to being reduced to Frogs and Three dimensional gags.

    The wish list:

    Need to get back on top of the Oxford bioethics people. Which means either dumping £500 on tomes or traveling and libraries.

    History: English Civil War. (That's technically a re-read but Witches)

    A lot of others. Most of them will be academic papers.

    Discover why I've not heard about any new Deep Green stuff for ages without having to burn down Primitivists / EvoPsych / MRA etc pyres.

    The Happy Fun-Time Gang list:

    Host's latest (which, unless I'm mistaken, seems to have had a much more benign landing than the last? We can hope, both in terms of feedback and sales)

    McLeod's latest

    Baudolino Eco (because I attempted it a while back and totally hated it due to where I was at - Eco is always worth a re-try)

    Anything Romantic but non-YA and Grimdark. Looking for suggestions. Dragons a must.

    The entire Hugo / whatever lists of 2015/16 that I've not read.

    The entire slab of African literature I spotted in a compedium.

    The Necronomicon because I now have a copy.


    Devour-(h)er of Wor(l)ds.

    [1]Wikipedia link -- whoever made this was a Randian Tool. It's a summation of just how bad American education and propaganda has become.


    On the Steampunk thing: I've never seen the appeal, barring C.Melv's Iron Council take. Anything post Perdido strikes a rather Disneyesque feel. (2015 Hugo winner about Steam Robots came close, but very anthropocentric / duality and thus lesser).

    Not sure the angle that a) would be new / fresh, b) be interesting or c) marketable.

    Not sure Steampunk is salvageable.

    ~~ Look into Sunless Sea / their Fallen London mythos for an interesting one.


    Just finished Grunts by Mary Roach. A nice book, nothing challenging — like her other science books.


    I listen to "In Our Time" (the BBC podcast) during my commute to/from work. If I'm tired, conditions are bad, or traffic is acting strange I can turn it off. I find the format is good for casual listening because Bragg doesn't let a single point take too much time, so I can listen with half-an-ear (so to speak).

    In terms of time to read, I'm binging at nearly a book-a-day while on holiday, but during the year (with 60-80 hour weeks) I'm lucky to get 2-4 hours for pleasure reading during a week. Reading over meals is a big chunk of that.


    I initially read that as Grunts by Mary Gentle -- I gather the Mary Roach title is very different!

    (The Mary Gentle one is, however, highly recommended.)


    Popular science, not Warhammer-ish fantasy, yes.

    Also on the pop-scie front, just finished Because I Said So! by Ken Jennings. The science behind the warnings you heard from your parents, who heard them from their parents… (at least if you live in North America — different cultures have different folk customs). A good book for parents with little time, because each section is only a few pages.

    I've just started Vermillion by Molly Tanzer. Has potential to be good – will have to see how it goes.

    Added to the pile Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes by Virginia Nicholson. Social history of women in the 1950s (starting in Britain — don't know if it covers other countries).

    And on a more serious note: Becoming a Nazi Town by David Imhoof. A look at culture and politics in Göttingen between the wars.


    Yes. Particularly if you had written it.


    I didn't find Seveneves boring. There actually is an element to disasters that you can see them grinding on, with people doing the wrong things, and that does drag...


    Going back to OGH's question about steampunk ...

    Per Wikipedia: 'The Spanish inventor Jerónimo de Ayanz y Beaumont obtained the first patent for a steam engine in 1606.'

    So there are actually quite a few other historical eras as well as countries/ cultures that can be used as story backdrops for 'steampunk', not just the English Victorian era.


    Thinking Fast and Slow is simply brilliant. Unlike so many popularizations of the last 30 years' work in cognitive psychology / decision-making / economic psychology, it's neither snarky ("look how irrational people can be") nor self-helpish ("here's how to think clearly and avoid these common errors and fallacies").

    Instead, with a systematic accumulation of evidence that reminded me of The Origin of Species, it makes the case that "thinking fast" (by habit, rule of thumb, generalization, incomplete evidence) is the default, hard-wired because it's good enough for most purposes most of the time... while "thinking slow" (logical, articulated, seeking and weighing alternatives) is a recent and costly add-on that we can only bring to bear a small part of the time. You come away thinking not "oh, we're so fallible" but "Hey, what would you expect from modeling the world and society in three pounds of jelly?"

    This summer for me? In SF, catching up on Adam Roberts and Max Gladstone, both worthwhile; in history, Sven Birkerts' Empire of Cotton and Alex Butterworth's The World That Never Was, a good pop history of anarchism, terrorism and counter-terrorism from the Paris Commune to the Bolshevik Revolution. We have been here before, after all.


    Albion's Seed: yes. I had not read much "folkways" history before it, and was startled to realize how durable regional cultures can be through multiple migrations and mixings -- that features of language or social style that I had, as a USAan, come to think of as "upper Midwest" or "Appalachian" really could be traced as coherent clusters to the Midlands of 1675 or Northumbria of 1750.


    Most people would be self-improved by reading "Thinking Fast and Slow" IMO. It's much better than just reading a dry list of cognitive biases, particularly if readers are motivated by the surprise at their broken thinking to internalize methods for recognizing and compensating for cognitive biases.


    Re these two: Arne Naess and others: all of it. A huge massive slice of Feminist tracts that don't have crusty layers of Identity politics and The Dumb Do you have any recommendations, shortest first? (I grabbed a few Arne Naess (and related) kindle editions at random for possible vacation reading.)


    I'm trying to work my way through Clive James' translation of Dante. I love Clive James' essays and I love poetry so it was a no brainer.

    I've just read Ken McLeod's latest - it didn't engage me as much as most of his previous work but I have ordered the next one. He's one of the writers I always follow. I was given The Long War and realised I still hadn't read Long Earth. I'm still saddened to realise there will be no more Pratchett, so will be reading the rest of the series.

    I'm up to Book 4 in the Expanse series. I stopped there because of the cost of the Kindle versions. I still read most fiction that way because I'm running out of space...

    I'm using the kindle to read some forgotten authors too. I bought the entire works of E Phillips Oppenheim for example. The few I've read are surprisingly good.

    I read a lot of history, especially the period to 1914. Currently Suffragettes, edited by Joyce Marlow.

    Other books - The enemy within by Seumas Milne; Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton.


    TF&S came out in 2012.

    It wasn't the first of its kind though, by some long margin: Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart (Evolution and Cognition) Gerd, Todd 2000, ABC research group.

    Is this simply a case of the 'trickle down' effect, or was there something fresh about TF&S? It strikes me as a pop-sci version of older (and better) works.


    Mr Arnold. No Time for Tea Tonight.

    Try this short paper: The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism C Rottenberg, Sussex University 2014. Then feel free to compare / contrast the rise of C. Jenner and similar (spookily so) transmogrification of Trans* identities / experience into a similar mold. (Capital - the major issue is that without something fresh to colonize, it usually just copy/pastes).

    But I'll be digging out the old Deep Green and looking over the bombed out shells of where the Man wrecked havock on the old communities.

    To be literalist, probably Dark Green by Emily Hunt (Little Reviews for Busy People, American Microreviews & Interviews) - she references Emily Dickinson as a major inspiration, and Emily & I have history.


    This Summer I am reading:

  • The Nightmare Stacks by Charlie Stross (5 stars, superlative, my #2 favorite Laundry Files novel, just behind The Atrocity Archives (see my review on Amazon). The last 50 pages are amazing; I just finished reading them again. The visit to Alex's parents has to rank as one of the funniest and most embarrassing sequences I've ever read in any genre.

  • The Second Formic War: The Swarm by Orson Scott Card. I've been following the Ender's Game series avidly since I first picked up a copy of Analog featuring the original novella in 1977. This book just arrived today from Amazon. :)

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It's time to put some order into chaos. It's time to find what delights me, and de-acquisition what doesn't. Kondo may be obsessed with tidying up, but it's a good kind of obsessed. I'm not so obsessed, but I'm hoping I can hitch my wagon to her star to gain orbital velocity, stuff-wise.

  • 297:

    Regarding reading time when kids are about, mine read avidly so I can read at the same time or read to them. I mentioned above that I've got them into some fairy soft sci-fi, so that helps a bit. I've also got a 30-minute commute into work, which isn't enough time to get into anything for work, so that's an hour a day reading. The kids are also in bed by 10.30, so that leaves another two hours free time before bed. Just finished reading The Nightmare Stacks for the second time by using that evening time.


    A lot of things, including the history of the biggest North American slave uprising, in Louisiana, in 1811 (this in prep for a conference presentation at Berkeley in the fall on the subject matter).

    Also: the fascinating Sam Willis (maritime historian) work -- The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution. What really matters in terms of this work is how effectively Willis demonstrates that naval power goes far beyond a state's fighting ships of the line. So often the most important water power is delivered by the average water man of rivers and lakes (in North America, the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake, for this war in particular). He also got me to admire Washington in this context beyond anything I'd already known about his 3 THREE crossing of the Delaware from and to and back to New York, bringing each time with him all men, horses, artillery, amo, supplies, leaving nothing for the Brits -- without a single loss of life, under the most trying weather and seasonal circumstances. Without the local water men and their locally made vessels, from barges, to canoes, to others, this couldn't possibly have happened.

    Beyond that, Willis shows how this war was global as well. He gives fascinating details of naval ships being built at the same time by rajah of Hyderabad, for instance. He provides bits of info in his footnotes in the ways that the building of such large ships differed from the way it was done in Europe and North America.

    He never loses sight of the geopolitical pressures, forces and actions that were set off by the war of independence in North America and then continued, but focusing it all through what happens on the waters of the world.


    The Dorothy L Sayers translation is the one to go for, if only for the really extensive historical footnotes & explanations. Got me into high Medieval history that did .....

    Just about to start a semi-bio of Lord Woolton, who organised food supplies & rationing & much else during WWII in Britain. A great man ....

    I'm getting a really strange feeling here. Let's just hope we don't suddenly get confirmation that the Many Worlds explanation for quantum mechanics is actually true and we live in an Everett-Wheeler cosmology, because that would be really uncomfortable ...

    I think you should feel uncomfortable, then.

    I believe the lack of consensus on Many Worlds is just a cultural thing. The prevailing Copenhagen interpretation is obviously flawed -- the concept of "observation" is pretty much undefined and therefore should not appear in a description of fundamental physical law. People like to think they are conscious, and there's some intuitive overlap between the ideas of consciousness and the idea of making an observation, so there is a good social explanation for why people want to think observations are a thing.

    The mechanism by which people maintain the belief that they are conscious is identical to the mechanism by which various religious groups maintain belief in their own religions, so far as I can tell. In both cases there is no evidence in favor of the hypothesis, but there are nevertheless strong feelings about it, and those feelings are interpreted as proof of something. Also, in both cases the distinction does not matter for everyday life, so getting it wrong does not cost much.

    Many Worlds doesn't need the undefined "observation" concept. The small scale quantum behavior happens according to the formulae, and in the larger scale you just have the tendency of large quantum systems to have negligible overlap with each other simply because multiplying together a large number of quantities with absolute value less than 1 tends to give you a number close to zero.

    The cosmologists assume Many Worlds because nothing else makes sense in their domain. Everyone else assumes Copenhagen Interpretation because it fits their preconceptions better and the distinction doesn't matter for everyday life. The popular functionally religious beliefs about consciousness lead to the dispute getting unpleasant, so nobody talks about it, and the dispute just sits there unresolved.

    I'm not sure why you feel uncomfortable about it, though. The distinction makes no practical difference to everyday life.

    I don't see how to write a sellable novel about cosmology so I don't see anywhere to go with this idea, but I'll put it out there just in case your discomfort is connected to something real that I don't presently understand.

    As for stuff recently read -- I recently enjoyed Person of No Interest, which is a take on how a reasonable person would deal with becoming a superhero.

    I also enjoyed Salvation Wars. It seems to have been designed to offend Christians and it provoked an organized response, but I didn't pay attention to all that before getting hooked on the novel. The first chapter will let you know whether it's your thing or not. It isn't everybody's thing -- I know at least one other non-Christian who was not impressed by it.

    I saw the citation here of Constellation Games and enjoyed it too. Funny is good.

    For nonfiction, Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus was amazing, but not because I care about Jesus. He has a rational basis for assigning ranges of probabilities to practical things based on available evidence. He applied this to the historical question of whether the founder of Christianity was a real person, and got an interesting answer (less than 1/3). I can't judge the underlying asserted facts, but the framework for converting facts into probabilities seems usable for other things.


    Just finished Gregory Maguire's Out of Oz because I liked the political commentary that he'd baked into the rest of the Oz books he wrote.

    About to reread Annihilation Score, as I just got it in paperback and I enjoyed it a great deal the first time around.

    Also, I have the Lunar Men, about the group who pioneered Birmingham's growth to read because I'm getting interested in local history and The Lost Gods of England, as its sat on the shelf for a while and I'm interested in 'lost' cultures.


    When it comes to Thinking Fast & Slow & similar books, I prefer Intuition Pumps to the rest. The insight density is very high. (Pretty much the only section whose content was already familiar to me is the bit where Dan Dennet teaches you how to code, which takes up one chapter in the middle.)


    When it comes to Thinking Fast & Slow & similar books, I prefer Intuition Pumps to the rest.

    I've got that one, I think. Have to give it a shot later this holiday.


    Just finished Glock by Paul Barrett, because I wanted a bit of insight into the gun industry in the US. Good enough for a read-once, which is what I expected.

    Just started The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu. Social history of modern China. ("Corpse walker" was a trade — people who walked corpses from where they died back to their home village.) Fascinating.

    Got to the part of Vermillion where you're shouting "that's a stupid idea" at the protagonist, so put it down until I feel less shouty. I know it's a trope that the plucky young investigator walks straight into a trap, but it still bugs me when they don't use even a bit of foresight. I'll probably finish it tonight or tomorrow.


    T,F&S is a summary of forty years of Kahneman's work with the late Amos Tversky and others. For all I know the Sveriges Rijksbank (Economic "Nobel" memorial prize), the White House (Presidential Medial of Freedom), American Academy of Arts & Sciences (Parsons Medal), American Psychological Association (career achievement award) et numerous al may have grossly slighted Gerd Gigerenzer.


    The cosmologists assume Many Worlds because nothing else makes sense in their domain. Everyone else assumes Copenhagen Interpretation because it fits their preconceptions better

    I'm not sure where you got that from. Most cosmologists don't assume either, in my experience—quantum mechanics doesn't play nicely with general relativity, and most cosmology doesn't go back far enough to need explicit quantum calculations. Most cosmologists do, I think, believe in multiverses, but they're not Many Worlds multiverses: they're either eternal-inflation multiverses or extra-dimensions multiverses.

    Those of us who do need quantum calculations tend to take the "Shut up and calculate!" view: it doesn't actually matter what your visualisation is (if any)—follow the Feynman rules and you'll get the right answer.

    Yes, of course there are people who work on the quantum measurement problem, but they're a small minority. (And it's not a straight choice between wavefunction collapse and Many Worlds: there are other options, such as decoherence.)


    The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism C Rottenberg, Sussex University 2014. Well, that was a nice read; thank you. (Surprisingly repetitive and wordy; are there any such authors who write compactly?) Any hints about intellectual ratholes to avoid when poking through the references? Is this simply a case of the 'trickle down' effect, or was there something fresh about TF&S? It strikes me as a pop-sci version of older (and better) works. It was well-crafted IMO. Much of pop-sci is easily put down after a chapter or two; this one was not, even to somebody familiar (from self-reflection) with nearly all of the biases presented.


    Just Finished Neuromancer, after 32 years of putting it off. I was not a fan of cyberpunk back in the day. Now that I am retired, I have time to go back and read some of the classics. I can see why the book won so many awards - plenty of big ideas, good storyline. But it did not win me over.. I will not read the rest of the Sprawl series, at least for now. The characters did not engage me, or were even likeable (except for the Zion colonists).


    So far this summer, I started off with Stephenson's Interface, to get ready for the election cycle. New reads include Our Host's latest, plus Dad's Nuke, a take on the post-apocalypse, and "The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant" on the basis of the title and a friends recommendation, plus I'm trying to work my way through Chalker's WellWorld_ series, which was the first SF series I read wayyy back in 5th grade, but which has had a few books added since I last read them, and which I'm seeing isn't quite as good as I nostalgically remembered.


    Dick swinging is really unattractive when the people you're attempting to "Top Trump" are also fairly major "game changers" (to use DNC language).

    Goldstein's doctoral thesis used computer simulation to study the accuracy and frugality of satisficing heuristics for making inferences. Investigations of the take-the-best heuristic[5] and the recognition heuristic[6] were later published as journal articles in Psychological Review and in the book Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart.[7] These fast and frugal heuristics have since had an impact in medicine, law and politics, and other areas outside psychology.[8][9][10][11] With Eric J. Johnson, Goldstein authored an article on organ donation in the journal Science[12] [13] [14] [15] Along with Nobel Laureate William F. Sharpe, he created the Distribution Builder method for eliciting probability distributions.[16][17][18] Hal Hershfield and Goldstein ran virtual reality experiments in which people saw renderings of themselves as senior citizens and increased their intentions to save for retirement, as discussed in Goldstein's TED talk The Battle Between Your Present and Future Self.[19]

    Yes: it makes you look a bit silly.


    And yes, you might understand the joke now. You might not.

    The book I referenced has lead to heuristics that have cut medical deaths by a significant percentage in their short life-span.


    Not so much.

    Oh, and Prospect theory and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences are evil little beasties.

    Top tip: you get medals for Rah-Rah the Right Response to Mimetic Contagion, not for anything actually beneficial.


    And, yes: Hedonic psychology. Talk about writing the Horse into the story when the Cart has been running the show for a hundred years before. [Hint: work that one out for yourself. It's not too hard]


    Oh, and for Host:

    Street countdown

    (apologies for the low quality format, but that's what the TPP / TIPP brings).

    Come on, Brass Eye is now illegal and all that.

    No, really.

    The MP tricked into condemning a fake drug called ‘Cake’ is to chair a committee debating new drugs law Independent Oct 2015.



    If you really want to push buttons, I'll show you the entire network of interlaced financial, political and ideological ties that run your world.

    Hint: Failed Generation. You're fucking shit at it.


    Speaking of web serials: I've been reading Unsong lately. The basic plot is that one of the Apollo spacecraft crashed into the crystal sphere surrounding the earth, resulting in, well, a lot of consequences, but the most immediately relevant one being that it's possible to manipulate reality by speaking the Names of God. Giant theonomic corporations control most Names (by using buildings full of people speaking kabbalistically relevant gibberish to find new Names, then applying magically-enforced copyright law). It's been described as "kabbalahpunk", which I think is appropriate - AFAIK, the "kabbalah" in it bears a similar relation to actual kabbalah as steampunk does to real steam engines. If it sounds interesting, and you're not overly invested in philosophical accuracy, it's worth a read.


    Care to elaborate on your claim that prospect theory is evil? Or is this just a passing reference to its implicit exhortation to flip signs to invoke either loss aversion or risk seeking as appropriate (aka nudge)?

    Also, thanks for supplying good search terms to dive into modern theory of heuristics. I greatly enjoyed Pearl's book back in the day but it didn't go much into applications the way Gigerenzer and his collaborators have.


    "The Origin of Concurrent Programming", Per Brinch Hansen. This is a collection of classic papers, mostly from the 1970s, mostly by Brinch Hansen, with a few from Edsger Dijkstra and C.A.R. Hoare. Together, they laid down the foundations for concurrency and concurrent programming.

    I came across a paperback copy of the Burton translation of the Arabian Nights a while back, and have not yet found time to start reading it. I have a similar-sized book, a collection of the first five or so of the Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter" novels. (I originally read them in high school and college, and have wanted to re-read them for decades.)


    I have just re-read Charlie's Merchant Princes series in response to the announcement of the forthcoming next volume.

    Spotted something I didn't see before... ISBN 978-1-4472-3761-7, p305, line last-7: "alien keys". Which amused me, because that's what I always call them.


    Re: 'The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant'

    Sounds hilarious, will take a closer look ... thanks!


    Well, simply put: It's utter utter bullshit.

    I mean, seriously:

    V(x,p;y,q) = v(y) + TT (p) [v(x) - v (y)]

    And that's your model of how a Homo Sapiens Sapiens makes choices. Oh, and we'll cheat and make sure they're Rational Choices to boot.


    It's bullshit.

    Vapid, trite and noxious bullshit, used to justify models Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    Write Doctor Who slashflick, it has the same relevance to reality.


    Note to Monte_Davis: Beware the large Bear Pit with Sharpened Stakes in it.

    Translating the 'equation' (which I'm perfectly capable of doing) just leads to Comedy Gold. No, really, the Comedy comes when we translate the pseudo-math into the alleged "Reality" that it represents.

    Hint: if you throw Pi into the mix to bake your cake, chances are, you're a fucking idiot.


    And Triptych.

    If you want to understand why I consider the Stanford "Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences" to be rather pernicious little knids, it's simple.

    It's a form of the US Army School of the Americas (sorry, now rebranded as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

    It's also funded by the same people.

    Which is fine, if your end goal: a) doesn't destroy the biosphere, b) is robust enough to create a flourishing society and c) leads to a maximal number of happy humans.


    Whelp, fuck all that, fucked that one up.

    But, hey, as long as you enjoyed the brief energy / resource boom that drained the last 3,000,000,000 years of life on the planet...

    And you still bitched and moaned during it.



    Meta-Meta. [+1 Meta if you know who the Author we're discussing is].

    No, (((pernicious little knids))) is not anti-Semitic, it's a riff off Roald Dahl and Alex Jones / David Icke.

    Grow up.

    And yes, Dahl was pretty racist, not the same thing at all.

    Building a giant wall around your country, a la "World War Z", yeah.

    I've NO IDEA about how the utter Racist and Fascist Political landscape of Israel could possibly be ever criticized without being a member of Storm Front though.

    Oh, unless we Trump'd it up.


    Basically your Reality is a bit shit and you should feel ashamed.


    One of your youngest fans, other than Menhit, asked to borrow the entire Laundry series a SECOND TIME before he starts his computer science degree in the Fall. I am worried this means he will wind up a disgruntled pharmacist.

    And apparently the U. S. Navy will be reading Walter Jon Williams. I assume in order to get an edge over the Army's antiquated Heinlein modules.

    Myself, I am mostly catching up on old stuff I missed, like the later Taltos novels and P.C. Hodgell.


    Does the "shut up and calculate" approach not tacitly equate to what Max Tegmark calls a Level IV multiverse? Sort of the math space is the largest set and everything else is within it. I gathered from "Our Mathematical Universe" that all these multiverses amount to the same thing. It doesn't matter whether an "alternate universe" is in an additional dimension or simply so distant it can't be detected. Not that such "models" produce new understanding, unless you subscribe to David Deutsch's notion that the function of science is explanation, rather than merely precise and useable description. Maybe it matters because explanation, while not science itself, leads to new science in ways that description cannot, and enhances the usability of science the way a handle enhances the usability of a tool.


    No doubt about it Israel is a selfish and imperfect state, like most in the world. And the overwhelming majority in history, which is a litany of atrocities. But this merely disqualifies them from claims to some kind of moral leadership. It doesn't qualify them as primary targets of anyone's scorn or militancy. If one wants to make the world better by criticizing individual bad countries, Israel is hardly a rational place to start. And those who have done so, including the much admired Iain Banks, must have some hidden factor skewing priorities.


    How about this. "Observation" is just magnification of significance. When a tree falls in a forest (or an electron "picks" a location)it just affects that little patch of forest (or that one atom) unimportantly. But when someone is there to hear (or detect) it then that "observation" is magnified, influencing a much larger part of the world than the event alone would have done.


    Let's not be sexists. The end.


    I've just started reading this, but also have just listened to the first 2 podcasts to help with the book. Found the podcasts rather amusing too. The book is a bit 'bitty' so far, but seeing as I don't really understand the universe yet will take it slow until I catch up and 'get' it.


    And apparently the U. S. Navy will be reading Walter Jon Williams. I assume in order to get an edge over the Army's antiquated Heinlein modules.

    Do they know that Heinlein was a Navy guy? grin


    It's meta-meta-meta politics joke.

    If a response to an innocent: "Well, I thought the earlier works had more substance, and here's something else" is "GRAAAR FALL BEFORE OUR GIVEN TITLES AND REWARDS" with an added bit of snark dissing one of the authors as 'unworthy'... it's all just very silly. (And yes, Goldstein isn't exactly a WASP surname).

    There's also some bits of historical politics in there.

    CASBS was founded by the Ford Foundation (yes, that pro-Nazi Ford), and has had some interesting proteges (e.g. Harold Garfinkel, J Rawls, Shmuel Eisenstadt, Thomas Kuhn) many of whom would view Prospect Theory as severely bunk filled nonsense.

    But yes, CASBS has been fairly slanted towards Israel in the past. The punchline is that many of the aluminae/i shared the sense of existential horror at what Israel had become (citations can be provided).

    But at the same time, CASBS is 100% part of the MIC sphere of influencing the world. Whether-or-not many of the products knew it at the time.

    It's just neepery / meta-jokes. The wrapper is Trumpian because unlike the naked High Priest, sometimes there are depths to be plumbed.


    "That would fuck chemistry, and there wouldn't be any humans" Not necessarily. Maybe it only affects semiconductors. The difference between an insulator and a semiconductor is much smaller than the difference between a conductor and an insulator, rather than midway between, so a small shift (especially if it mainly affected stuff at that end, making almost insulators more insulating more than it makes conductors more insulating) might be enough to make semiconductors impractical without affecting chemistry too much. I speculate. And while my wonder "field" is at messing with atomic behavior, maybe oxidation could be a little slower outside of biological environments with all the catalyzing enzymes and such. Not enough to prevent fire, just enough to make stuff just a little less explosive.


    Re "Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart" (Evolution and Cognition) Gerd, Todd 2000, just wanted to say thanks for that reference. The book is hitting the sweet spot as vacation mind-tech reading. I'll defer any pointed comments until finishing it. So far, it's - "Why am I reading ML(non-connectionist) and decision systems literature from an alternate universe?". If I'm recalling the time correctly, induction of parsimonious, human-runnable decision systems e.g. decision trees, was a busy topic at the time (2000-ish), and there was already a venerable (as these things go) literature on feature set pruning and feature selection (and frugal data set labeling). Mapping from the ABC-style body of literature to ML ideas/algs/vocabulary has been interesting. - "Why did I have to reinvent these basic heuristics?" (Over a lifetime. 2000ish, they seemed too simple for what I was working on at the time, adversarial classification problems e.g. malware and spam; in both cases the number of cues can be very large because cues go stale for new stuff but remain useful.)

    Both of which illustrate a lack of cross discipline communication. Sad. I hope that it has since been corrected.


    OK Brief summary of "Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart". First, please remember that it was published in 2000 and covers earlier work. - Very simple and frugal algorithms can perform very well in the real world, including some algorithms that are frugal (for meat-minds) in both setup and evaluation and therefore biologically plausible. This aspect makes the book worth reading. - Eschew overfitting. Reinforced this point by showing that some more complex methods like regression (or NNs) overfit on a bunch of simple small test domains. (/snark) - It can be hard to determine through observation/experiment which, if any, members of a collection of frugal and biologically plausible algorithms are actually used by meat-brains. [1] - Lots of straw men related to unbounded rationality. This is fair in the context of meat-brains. Comment: computers can outperform humans (meat brains) in increasing numbers of domains. This is OK. - Very little on the style my father (RIP) taught me, making meta-cognitive judgments of the accuracy (truth probability) of every part of the decision/estimation process[2]. This is slower but can be internalized and made reasonably quick. I remain convinced that cultures (or subcultures) must exist where this is the norm.

    [1] They could consider asking, or more precisely, finding/training up a bunch of subjects [to be] aware of their own cognition including decision processes. That way, they could get their questions answered directly, and as a side effect have a bunch of test subjects aware of their own mental processes and able to rapidly adjust them (within reason), including on demand. Would make experimentation easier. Would also be an interesting social experiment. Would not answer questions about non-human animal cognition.

    [2] He also ruined probability for me. That's an entirely orthogonal story.


    Working on the Expanse book 5. Gotta have stack of space opera books to get me through waiting for Peter F Hamilton to finish his current trilogy. Helps that they don't get too far up their own asses.

    Reading Transmetropolitan because it's been 4 years (again) and elections just keep getting stupider.

    Reading Infomocracy by Malka Older. Holy crap these elections, I gotta have more crazy fiction to take the edge off.

    Taking a break from the Sword Art Online light novels. Fuuuuck you Reki Kawahara, book (redacted) didn't have to end like that. Fuck you in the neck.



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