Wednesday, March 31, 2004
People on a mailing list I belong to were kicking around this topic and making lists, and I thought it might be fun to do one of my own. So:
When I am the writer/producer of my own SF TV show...
My aliens will be as believably alien as I can make them and still have them work as television characters. Specifically, they will not conform to human gender stereotypes. They will not look like humans with head bumps (though I recognize that time and budget considerations must sometimes trump principles in this area). Their cultures will not be caricatures of historical or modern Earth cultures. For every cultural or biological quirk I give them, I will carefully think through what the consequences would be for other aspects of their biology and behavior, and I will write them accordingly.
My heroes will make mistakes. They will not do so only when it is convenient to the plot. If they do do so when it's convenient to the plot, they will be given an especially hard time about it by the other characters.
There will be no dead girlfriends (or boyfriends) of the week. Ever. Light flirting between a major character and a doomed guest star may be acceptable, but only if there are no weepy declarations of "I think I could have loved her!" at the end.
I will not introduce a major, universe-altering plot twist unless I am willing to follow through on the consequences. On the other hand, if the consequences are interesting, I'll go for it.
While a certain amount of scientific fudging is both necessary and acceptable, I will try not to flout the known laws of physics and biology too flagrantly. If I find it absolutely essential to include a plot element that doesn't make a great deal of scientific sense, I will be sure to have the characters who know about such things scratch their heads and go, "Huh." Things that would make less sense if I tried to explain them, I will leave unexplained.
I will examine each storyline and ask myself, "Has this been done before?" The answer will almost certainly be "yes." I will then ask myself, "Has anything new been added to it?" If the answer is "no," I will toss the script in the trash can.
If the characters need to explain the plot to each other in the last five minutes of the episode in order for it to make sense to the viewer, it's probably a bad plot, and I will either fix it or ditch it.
My aliens, robots, and other non-human entities will be able to use contractions and will not humorously mangle human figures of speech. They will posses both emotions and a sense of humor, though these may not be of a type that humans will easily understand.
I will pick one philosophical or metaphysical framework and stick with it. Human consciousness, for example, will not be presented as a purely physical process which can be duplicated by computer one week, and a mystical "life-force" which cannot be explained by science the next week.
My villains will have lives apart from chasing after Our Heroes. They will also have reasons for chasing after Our Heroes other than "he tasks me, and I shall have him!" That doesn't work for anybody but Khan. Or, OK, Ahab.
I will not misuse the term "energy."
I will not introduce technology with the potential to solve all the heroes' problems, thus neatly saving myself the bother of having to think up ways of making it break.
I will not name alien life-forms by putting an adjective in front of an Earth-critter's name (e.g. "Tiberian bat"). I will also not create alien figures of speech by taking a well known English-language cliche and replacing some of the words with made-up alien syllables.
Warrior women will keep their vulnerable areas covered.
When my characters find themselves in a situation just like the one they were in twelve episodes ago, they will notice and comment on it. They will also at least attempt to avoid making the same mistakes. If this happens on a regular basis, I will damned well make it stop.
Characters living in the future will not have irrational interest in and in-depth knowledge of the 20th/21st century with any greater frequency than contemporary people do of, say, the 15th century. When they do make references back to our time, they will frequently get them wrong.
On the other hand, if a contemporary human character is thrust into a science fictional setting, he will recognize when has has found himself in a situation that mirrors the plot of a Star Trek episode and respond accordingly.
There will be as much diversity among the individuals of any given alien species as there are among humans (unless that species is supposed to be a hive mind or something). If a species is described as a "race of warriors," that simply means their culture is strongly focused on fighting, not that there are no engineers or janitors or day-care providers among them.
Further to this, there will frequently be multiple cultures represented by the same species. Just because one Alpha Centaurian society practices cannibalism, worships the Sky Goddess, and produces Galactic Grandmasters at tiddliwinks doesn't mean they all do.
There will be a strict limit on the number of times a character can return from the dead. Each time it happens, there will be a penalty exacted.
Leaving the occasional dangling plot thread to be picked up on again later is great for building story arcs. Allowing the occasional mystery to remain mysterious is good for verisimilitude. And introducing tiny, strange, unexplained elements here and there to be used as possible story hooks later on is fun. But I will not go overboard with this. When I have more possible story seeds than I have stories, it's well past time to start tying those plot threads together.
I will do my very best to make sure the audience's perceptions of a character and the other characters' perceptions of that character match up, unless the audience very specifically knows things about that person that the other characters don't. E.g. I will not have a character that everybody onscreen praises as incredibly smart who consistently does incredibly dumb things without anybody apparently noticing.
If two characters are clearly interested in having a relationship with each other, I will not invent artificial ways of keeping them apart. I will instead concentrate on finding ways of making their relationship interesting. I will do this before all their interaction starts focusing on their sexual tension, however, because otherwise getting them together will simply be an anticlimax.
If I go to the trouble of creating a good ensemble of characters with interesting backstories and personalities, and of casting good actors to play them all, I will take advantage of this instead of having all my plots focus on the same two or three people every week.
If I come up with a nifty bit of backstory for a character for use in, say, episode 35, I will ask myself exactly why he hasn't ever mentioned said nifty bit of backstory in the past 34 episodes. If I can't think of a good reason, then I don't care how nifty it is, I'm not going to use it.
When a new species/idea/gadget/whatever is introduced and everyone is surprised and acts like they've never heard of it before, I will not then in future episodes treat whatever-it-was like it has been galactic common knowledge all along.
Just because it's "day" on the spaceship doesn't mean it won't be night when Our Heroes land on the planet, or vice versa. Jet lag will be a problem, at least for human characters (and probably for aliens as well).
Systems run by artificial intelligences will have a good reason for being artificially intelligent. If a system can be run perfectly well by a machine that doesn't have a mind and an agenda of its own and doesn't feel the need to talk back, it will be.
I will avoid using props that look like they belong on the spiffy cutting-edge of technological development, because that will only make them look incredibly dated twenty years from now.
No Reset Button. Ever. I mean it.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Monday, March 29, 2004
I've seen this meme floating around in several different forms, and, lacking anything, you know, interesting to blog about, I thought I'd just do the sheep thing. So:
Write a random phrase from each of the following:
Nearest book to you: "hy-po-in-o-se-mi-a [...] n. Pathol. abnormally diminished formation of fibrin in the blood resulting in decreased ability to coagulate." There is a small shelf of reference books, all about equidistant from me, but I think the unabridged dictionary may be the closest, point to point as the crow flies.
Nearest cd insert: "Music Composed and Arranged by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard." From the Gladiator soundtrack, which was in the bathroom, for some reason. I'm assuming this referred to a music CD, rather than a software CD, of which I've got quite a few sitting around in this room.
Nearest piece of paper that you wrote on: "Socks/belt/doormat." From a list of things I need to buy when I get around to making the drive up to Wally-World.
Nearest piece that was written to you: "...it's perfect." From an e-mail describing something that I'd written. OK, OK. That phrase might not be entirely random. Heh.
Something on your desk: "Click Start. This will open your Start Menu." From the instructions for installing the software that came with my new mouse.
Yep. That was exciting, all right.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Friday, March 26, 2004
I was unloading groceries from the car a little while ago when Happiness, who is supposed to be an indoor cat, took advantage of the two and a half seconds I had the door open for to go dashing out of the house and under the car. I ran back and forth from one side of the car to the other for a while, trying to catch her, until she darted out and ran under the trailer. Eventually I ended up crawling under the trailer, getting filthy and scraping the shit out of myself, and managed to grab hold of her. But I must have grabbed her too hard and hurt her or something, because she suddenly turned into a screaming, spitting Ball of Feline Death, clawed the hell out of my arms, wriggled free, and ran off. Which is really totally unlike her.
I'm trying hard not to worry. She's probably off sulking somewhere and will come back when she's hungry. But I have to leave for work in a couple of hours, and I'm not optimistic about her deciding to do so by then. I tried walking around looking for her, but there's too damned many places in a trailer park for a cat to hide if she doesn't want to be found.
Damn. If that stupid animal doesn't come back safe, I'm gonna kill her.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
The car is back! It's all fixed-up and shiny, and smells like paint. Yay! Well, yay, except for the paint smell, which is kind of unpleasant... But the fact that the painting has been done is good.
I did have one bad moment, when I pulled out of the body shop, went to turn onto the street, and discovered my blinker didn't work. I drove it right back, they called somebody out, he checked the fuses and re-seated a couple of connectors, and suddenly everything worked just fine again. I'm trying not to be worried about that.
Anyway, I'm glad to have the ol' Neon back, though after driving a different car all week suddenly nothing feels like it's in quite the right place. I'm also reflecting rather sadly on the fact that, even if the pedal placement made my legs hurt, that Sentra had much more comfortable seats. One day, perhaps, I will find a car that is kind to both my back and my knees.
Behold, the latest batch of interesting search requests that have brought people here, and my lame, geeky commentary thereon:
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
I did just call in sick to work. I'm a terrible person. But, damn it, I just want rest.
In other news, I have a new mouse. The scroll button works properly on this one, but it fits my hand slightly differently, so it's taking a little getting used to.
I know. My life is so exciting. Admit it. That's why you keep coming back!
You are angelic and dreamy. You are the kind of
tree that likes to dream big and live your life
openly, no matter of the criticism. You love
things that a magnificent and quiet. The cold
is your favorite thing because you never change
when faced with a difficult situation or
inquiry. A quick thinker, and a philosopher,
you spend your afternoons trying to solve world
hunger. You love testing yourself to new limits
and being faced with new challenges to
overcome. You aren't much of a risk-taker, and
you always try to do what's right. You fear
being helpless and faced with a situation you
have no control over. You value endurance of
the body and the mind. When you leave this
world, you hope that you can inspire those
after you to do something better for the world,
and be remembered for something great.
What's Your Inner Tree?
brought to you by Quizilla
I like pine. But is it just the fact that I've had no sleep, or was that description completely full of non sequiturs?
Went to bed last night around 3:30 (not at all unusual for me). Woke up at 6:30 with my nose so stuffed up I couldn't breathe. Yes, that's right, three fricken' hours of sleep. Gaaah!
It feels like allergies, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm coming down with a cold on top of it.
Am seriously tempted to call in sick. Spending the day in my pajamas, curled up with a mug of hot tea, sounds like a really nice idea.
Monday, March 22, 2004
Well, I finally got the car in for the body work that should have been done on it three weeks ago. The good news is that the work that isn't covered by my insurance turned out to be rather less expensive than I was fearing, and they even cut me a break on the price for materials and stuff, since they were already doing the insured work on the bumper, anyway.
So, my sweet li'l Neon is currently in Los Lunas, and I'm driving around in a rented Nissan Sentra, which I like quite a bit better than the Geo Metro they gave me last time. (Even if, as with so many other cars, there's something about the way the pedals are positioned that makes my legs uncomfortable no matter how I adjust the seat.)
The Neon should be back Wednesday or Thursday. Yay!
Sunday, March 21, 2004
I've seen this meme a couple of places now and figured, hey, what the heck.
(Hmm, is it just me, or do I seem to be writing about books a lot more often now that I've pretty much entirely quit watching TV (except for the DVDs)?)
1. I'm currently reading: Pole to Pole with Michael Palin.
2. Next I'll read: Good question. I've got book 2 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on its way from Amazon. If it gets here before I finish Pole to Pole, I might read that next. Otherwise, probably the next Lemony Snicket book. Uh, I think that'd be The Austere Academy.
3. The best book I read in the past year was: Hang on while I consult my Big List O' Books... Hmm. There are a couple of contenders, but without expending too much thought on the matter, I think I'm going to have to go with The Complete Maus, which I read just a few weeks ago. Oh, talk about books that make you ache (and, yes, because they're supposed to).
4. The book I'm most looking forward to reading is: Dunno. I've got probably about a hundred books on the Pile about which I've recently thought, "Ooh, man, I really need to get to that one soon!"
5. My favourite author is: Every time I'm asked this question, I give the same response: I really can't pick one, but if you're going to force me to give an answer, I'll say Terry Pratchett, because his book are unquestionably buy-on-sight for me.
6. My favourite book from childhood is: Oh, there were so many of them! Of course, I suppose the answer to the question depends on whether you mean my favorite book when I was a child, or the book I read as a child that's still my favorite. The former seems easier to answer, but it's still impossible to pick just one. There were the Oz books, the Narnia books, Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, anything by E. Nesbit or William Sleator... Oh, hell, if I have to name one, I guess it's gotta be A Wrinkle in Time. I read that one over and over and over.
7. My favourite book from when I was a teenager is: Man, that one's even harder, and I think I'll have to take a pass. Well, OK, maybe I'll say Lord of the Rings, just to say something. I read that when I was 17, I think.
8. The first western I read was: I'm not sure I've ever read an actual genre Western. I'm quite fond of Mike Resnik's "inner frontier" books, which are pretty much unabashed Westerns in space, but that's not quite the same thing. Oh, wait, I know. I remember one of the very first Choose-Your-Own Adventure books I ever read was a Western. Deadwood, or something like that. Man, I was addicted to those things as a kid...
9. The first romance I read was: Again, I don't know that I've ever read anything that was specifically labeled as a "romance." I've read lots of books that had romances in them, and a few in which it was a major element of the story, but genre romance? Not so much. Well, maybe I read one or two teenage romances when I was just barely into my own teens. I know I read a lot of Judy Blume; maybe some of those qualified.
10. The first mystery I read was: Don't know, but I remember reading several Ellen Raskin books, which were mysteries of an offbeat sort. Oh, and a lot of Encyclopedia Brown books before that. (Geez, how is it I'm supposed to remember the first instance I read of this or that when I started reading at an earlier age than I can remember?!)
11. The first coming-of-age story I read was: I dunno. Maybe one of those Judy Blume books.
12. The first "ethnic" writer I read was: OK, see, here's the other problem with all these "'first book of type x' questions." It wasn't until I was, oh, ten or eleven or so that I ever even starting thinking about books in terms of genres, and by that point I'd probably already read hundreds of books. I just didn't classify what I was reading as "mystery" or "western" or "coming of age story," and I certainly didn't have any conception of what an "ethnic writer" might be. But, let's see... Do the "Uncle Remus" stories count? I remember reading those fairly young.
13. The first science-fiction/fantasy book I read was: The usual objections to the question apply here in spades, because I think I was reading science fiction and fantasy as soon as I could make out words on paper. I seem to remember answering this question here before, though, and mentioning a book called The Boy from Outer Space, which was about, uh, a boy from outer space, on whose planet fun consisted of sitting quietly and thinking and watching grass grow. The Earth boy had to teach him about how Earth kids have fun playing baseball and stuff. Me, I remember wistfully wishing I could go to the spaceboy's planet, because I was a serious little kid who loved sitting and thinking about things and hated being told I should go out and play, particularly things like baseball. On the fantasy front, I have vivid early memories of a book called The Adventures of Calico Cotton, about a girl who flies to a holiday-themed fantasy realm on the tail of a kite. My parents bought it for me at a garage sale, and I have a vague memory of them talking among themselves about how it seemed like too advanced a book for me, but that someone (a doctor? a counselor?) had told them they should encourage me to read at as high a level as I could. It was a little advanced for me, maybe, but I read it over and over and loved it, so, whoever you are, Mr./Ms. Advice-Giving-Person, thank you!
14. I wish I spent more time reading: Yes.
15. The book I think was the greatest waste of my time to read was: Battlefield Earth. Wasn't I just ranting about that recently?
16. The person who most encouraged me to read was: The answer to #13 aside, I don't know that anybody specifically encouraged me to read. Hell, I never needed any encouragement! But my family, at least on my mother's side, were all readers and liked to trade copies of the latest bestsellers back and forth (and, for that matter, still do). My mother could often be found buried in a book, there were always books in the house, and I remember her taking me for trips to the public library when I was still young enough for picture books. So it was definitely a reading-friendly environment. Mostly, though, I think the biggest encouragement she gave me was reading to me as a child. A lot, apparently.
17. The book I'm embarrassed to admit I liked is: Oh, possibly Interview with the Vampire. The prose is incredibly purple, and objectively, I just really don't think it's a very good book, but I enjoyed the heck out of it, anyway. The sequels, however, are another matter. I had to suppress a strong urge to hurl Queen of the Damned against a wall.
18. I think people could be encouraged to read through: Personally, I do think reading to kids is the best way to get them into reading. Other than that... Well, I can tell you what I think the wrong way to encourage kids to read is, and that's the way that it's done in the public schools: assign them "classic" books that don't hold any personal interest for them, quiz them to make sure they've read 'em, and then lecture 'em for hours on the hidden symbology or whatever. Surefire way to take all the pleasure out of the experience and make reading seem like work, or even punishment, rather than fun.
19. My current favourite genre is: Well, I've always been a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, since long before I knew what science fiction and fantasy even were, and that's certainly never going to change. I also read a lot of non-fiction, although I have noticed the kinds of non-fiction (or at least, the proportions) changing as I get older. These days, I'm reading fewer science popularizations and more travel books. I have no idea what significance that might have.
20. The one book that I'd recommend to almost anyone is: I don't know that there's one book that's suitable for everyone. I mean, people's tastes vary a lot. But I'm tempted to say Alan Moore's Watchmen. People who think they don't like comic books ought to read it, because it's almost guaranteed to change their minds. People who do think they like comic books, of course, have probably already read it.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Things I've accomplished so far today:
Things I still need to do:
There's a lot of other stuff, too, but I'm trying to be realistic about what I'm gonna accomplish, here...
Friday, March 19, 2004
1. ...owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve? Probably Italian. I love Italian food, and this town could really, really use a decent Italian restaurant.
2. ...owned a small store, what kind of merchandise would you sell? Books, of course. I have occasionally entertained the daydream of owning a small used bookstore. Not that I have any interest in going into business. Quite the contrary, in fact. But the thought of being able to sit surrounded by books all day, with no boss to report to... Ah, it's a nice dream.
3. ...wrote a book, what genre would it be? You're all expecting me to say "science fiction," aren't you? And maybe that's the answer, but, I dunno. I know myself and my own strengths and weaknesses and abilities well enough to know that I am not a novelist by nature. Short stories, now, I could do, assuming I ever had any ideas that didn't involve characters and settings that would have the lawyers after me if I actually tried to put them in a book and publish them. Which, um, I don't.
I have occasionally thought that I could very easily write one of those books that combine an episode guide and a critical analysis of a TV show. (I'd be happy to tackle either Farscape or Blake's 7 at the moment.) I particularly tend to think that when I've been reading something like, say John Muir's A History and Critical Analysis of Blake's 7. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I could have done a better job on the subject than that. So, uh, you know, if anybody wants to throw some cash my way for such a project, I'm open to offers. Hell, I'd write it for free and post it on the internet, except that I have no idea where I'd find the time.
4. ...ran a school, what would you teach? Umm... How to analyze TV shows?
5. ...recorded an album, what kind of music would be on it? None. I don't sing, and I don't play any instruments. Maybe it would be me reading an audiobook. I could probably do that. (Again, anyone who wants to pay me to do so is more than welcome to inquire.)
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Yeah, I know, I didn't do it last week. Sue me. Here's the current batch:
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Sometime last month I mentioned that I was reading The Da Vinci Code, and a couple of people asked me how it was. I couldn't really answer that at the time, as I was only a handful of pages in, but I just got my copy of Phoenix APA, in which I discussed it at some length for this "Phoenix Reading Circle" thing we've got going now. (The idea of which is that every mailing we vote on a book, and whoever wants to participate reads it and contributes some kind of discussion or commentary.) Anyway, I thought I'd repost my review-thingy here, for those who might be interested. So...
Thoughts on Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (no major spoilers):
I enjoyed it. It's not the world's most exciting and memorable book; it's not filled with sizzling prose; it didn't change my life or anything. But it was a decent, solid example of the kind of mystery/suspense/puzzle novel it is.
One thing I admit I wasn't too thrilled about when I started was what seemed to me like excessive amounts of "infodumping": largish sections where the story would momentarily grind to a halt while we got a lecture on architecture or religious history or something. But that improved quite a lot as the story went on and it became more plausible to have the characters explaining things to each other instead of the narrator lecturing the readers and the material being presented became more interesting in its own right. And the author clearly has a very good sense of how to keep the pace going even when he does have to take frequent breaks for exposition. Plus, some of the stuff that seemed like irrelevant digression in the earlier pages turned out to be extremely important later on, so I'm very much inclined to forgive it.
I feel like I ought to say something about the controversial nature of this book... Having read it now, I find that I can easily understand why it might upset those with conservative religious viewpoints. Personally, being an atheist, I've got nothing invested with the religious issues involved at all, so it certainly didn't bother me. And it does seem to me that the author is fairly careful not to blanketly condemn the followers of the Catholic Church, even if he does have some major issues with its historical decisions. I did feel a bit, especially early on, like I was being set up to be preached to, something that annoys me deeply whether the content of said preaching concern Jesus Christ or pagan goddess worship or anything else. But the religious aspects of the novel were an important part of the story, not gratuitously tacked on, and the discussions of them served the plot rather than detracting from it, so in the end I felt OK with it all.
Speaking of the end... I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. The climactic plot twist took me completely by surprise, which is a good thing, but it didn't immediately result in something going "click" in my mind and me shouting, "Oh, of course, why didn't I see it!?," which IMHO is the measure of a really good climactic plot twist. (It left me more going "huh?" for a while, really.) And the actual ending seemed a tiny bit anticlimactic, to the point where I can't quite make up my mind whether it was sufficiently satisfying or not.
Still, like I said, overall I did enjoy the whole thing. Some really interesting ideas, some fascinating background stuff which really did make me want to go out and learn more about subjects that never really interested me all that much (like art history), some nifty puzzles (several of which, I am proud to say, I figured out in advance of the characters), and a plot that moves along very nicely, with lots of action and a few unexpected surprises.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Via The Presurfer, here's a very cool link: Sign of the Times. Pictures of actual signs ranging from the hilarious to the poignant to the bemusing to the downright bizarre. My favorite was the "rotating drive line" warning sign. I'm not even sure what a "drive line" is, but I definitely know I'm bewaring of it!
Monday, March 15, 2004
|51% Of The Internet Loves Me!|
|I am loved by 51% of the population, including:|
9253 people who love people who drink lots and lots of coffee
9445 people who love people who wear sweaters
13829 people who love night people
In return, I love 7% of the population, including:
2891 star trek fans
|show the love at spacefem.com|
I have no idea why, but for some reason that amuses the heck out of me.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
Saturday, March 13, 2004
Return of the Ghost of Ferro Lad links to yet another set of "100 Best Books" lists, this time from the Modern Library. The "board's choice" list didn't look too exciting to me, and featured very few titles I've read, but the "reader's list" is... interesting. Here it is, then, with my own comments on the stuff I've read/intend to read:
1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
2. THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
What? What?! God damn, but Battlefield Earth is a serious, serious contender for "worst book I've ever read in my life." Hackwork prose, ludicrous science, a ridiculous plot, stupid (in several senses of the word) aliens, and oh, yeah, it's about a thousand pages too long. Ugh.
4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
I've said it before: I can understand perfectly well why Tolkien's writing may not to be everyone's tastes, and he's not without a few fairly obvious flaws. But Lord of the Rings is still one of the great all-time stories ever produced by the human species. Truly.
5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
6. 1984 by George Orwell
Long, grim, dense, and difficult to read. I'm glad I got through it, but it's not exactly an enjoyable experience. Not that it's meant to be.
7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
The only Rand I've read. Starts off as a semi-decent, though not terribly memorable, little SF story, then turns into a boring political screed at the end. At least it's short. Definitely put me off trying her longer stuff, though.
8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
I say again: What?! Oh, wait, I see. There was a public vote on this, wasn't there? And clearly the ballot was stuffed by Scientologists. (And Objectivists, probably, judging by the prevalence of Ayn Rand.) I got three books into the 10-book Mission Earth series and just couldn't take it any more. I'm amazed I lasted that long, to be honest.
10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
11. ULYSSES by James Joyce
12. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
Classic black comedy. Dark and disturbing and thought-provoking and funny.
13. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Had to read this for English class in high school. Really didn't care for it.
14. DUNE by Frank Herbert
Excellent example of SF world-building, though the writing style isn't entirely to my taste.
15. THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein
I read this one back in high school and remember it being one of his better works... Though my opinions have changed a lot since high school, and I might feel differently about it if I re-read it now.
16. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein
You can actually see Early Heinlein morphing abruptly into Late Heinlein during the course of the story, and it's a shame, because the book Heinlein started to write is much better than the one he finished.
17. A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
18. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
Much more readable and interesting than 1984, in my opinion.
19. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
20. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
Also much more readable and interesting than 1984. The satire is a bit heavy-handed, as I recall, but, again, it's not exactly meant to be subtle.
21. GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
22. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
23. SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
I read this back in high school, and still vividly remember the way it made me ache inside.
24. GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
25. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
26. SHANE by Jack Schaefer
27. TRUSTEE FROM THE TOOLROOM by Nevil Shute
28. A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
29. THE STAND by Stephen King
I read the "uncut" version, which was almost certainly a mistake, because it really was too damn long. Good story, though, with great characters and a very vividly-realized post-apocalyptic world... and, unfortunately, an ending that really pissed me off.
30. THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN by John Fowles
31. BELOVED by Toni Morrison
32. THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison
On the To-Read Pile. I've heard Eddison is... interesting.
33. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
34. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
35. MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
36. ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
37. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
38. WISE BLOOD by Flannery O'Connor
39. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
40. FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
41. SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
42. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
43. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
44. YARROW by Charles de Lint
45. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS by H.P. Lovecraft
I have a big omnibus volume of Lovecraft. I'm not sure whether that one is in it or not. I've definitely been thinking I ought to get around to reading that soon. I've actually read very little Lovecraft, and it seems like quite an oversight.
46. ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
47. MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
I've got several of de Lint's books on the To-Read stack, though I'm not sure whether that one is among them or not. His stuff looks really appealing to me, but somehow I've just never gotten around to reading it.
48. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
49. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
50. TRADER by Charles de Lint
51. THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams
The geek classic. What more needs be said? I've got large chunks of it memorized. Naturally.
52. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
53. THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has taken a lot of flack in genre circles for being one of those people who writes science fiction and then denies that that's what she's doing. This annoys people, not just because of the snob factor, but also because such mainstream writers tend to write science fiction that, um, isn't very good science fiction, simply because they're not used to doing the things that science fiction writers know how to do. The Handmaid's Tale, in my opinion, isn't terribly good science fiction. The future it postulates really just isn't very plausible to me, for a couple of reasons. But it is a good piece of social commentary, and a well-written book, and overall I liked it quite a bit.
54. BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
55. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
On the Pile. The movie was good. It should be interesting to compare the book.
56. ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute
Another book I read in high school whose emotional effect on me has stuck with me to this day. Such a terrible sense of oppressive hopelessness... It really did epitomize everything I felt about the cold war growing up.
57. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
Was forced to read this in high school English class. Loathed it beyond the telling.
58. GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
59. ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
This is the sort of book that, if you'd described to me what it was about, I would have been quite sure that it wasn't the sort of thing I'd like. And I would have been dead wrong. It's a very good read. Haven't read any of the sequels yet, but I've got a couple and I keep meaning to get around to them.
60. THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
I'm pretty sure I have this one on the Pile.
61. THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
62. STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein
Not a bad book, although, as is often the case, Heinlein's politics can get a little annoying after a while.
63. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
64. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving
On the pile.
65. SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury
Oooh, the perfect book to read on a dark Halloween night, with the bare branches scraping against the windows outside...
66. THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
67. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
68. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
69. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
70. THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
71. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
72. THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein
I read this a long time ago and remember thinking it was one of Heinlein's best, then re-read it recently and found that, while it had dated quite a bit, it was still pretty enjoyable.
73. ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert Pirsig
On the Pile.
74. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
On the Pile.
75. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
76. AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O'Brien
77. FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
*shudder* My idea of a horror story! They'll take my books away when they pry 'em out of my cold, dead hands!
78. ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
79. WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
An excellent book. Do not be an idiot and refuse to read it because "it's about bunny rabbits." Or I will personally come and smack you.
80. NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
81. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy
This was one of the rare cases where I actually thought the movie version was better. Because it's a good story, but Clancy likes to stop the plot cold every few pages to give you a forty-minute lecture on submarine engines or something. Of course, some people are into that...
82. GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
I used to really like this series, but the last few books have grown less and less to my taste, which is a pity.
83. THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein
Another one I read ages ago and remember thinking was one of his better works. I really ought to re-read it sometime.
84. IT by Stephen King
King is genuinely a good writer, but in this one, as in so many of his other books, he really needed the services of a good editor. Very satisfyingly creepy, though, I'll definitely give it that.
85. V. by Thomas Pynchon
86. DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein
OK, clearly the Heinlein fans were stuffing the ballot box along with the Objectivists and the Scientologists. I did read this one, but don't remember all that much about it.
87. CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
88. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
89. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
90. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey
I read this one in an "America in the 1960s" literature class I took in college and really liked it. Yes, the movie is good. The book was better.
91. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
92. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
93. SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey
94. MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
95. MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
96. SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
97. MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
On the Pile.
98. ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach
I remember this as being an absorbing and thought-provoking little fantasy story, marred only by the sneaking suspicion that the author really believes all this stuff. Which is just... kooky.
99. THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
100. THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie
Hmm. That's what, 30 read out of 100? Poo. I'd thought I'd have done better than that...
Friday, March 12, 2004
1. What was the last song you heard? "Brian Wilson" by Barenaked Ladies.
2. What were the last two movies you saw? Bubba Ho-Tep and... Does the "twisted animation festival" count? I suppose it does. Of course, I'm assuming you mean movies in the theater, rather than DVDs.
3. What were the last three things you purchased? Dinner/breakfast for me and a friend. A (very small) birthday present for my sister, even though I technically wasn't supposed to. A bunch of groceries. That's in reverse chronological order.
4. What four things do you need to do this weekend? Do laundry. Lots of laundry. Make an attempt to get caught up on my e-mail. Work on a couple of writing projects. Watch some more Babylon 5, damn it.
5. Who are the last five people you talked to? The guy I relieved for my shift at work. An internet friend of mine who was visiting from out of town. A waitress. The checker at the grocery store. Uh, probably my boss. (That's people I talked to in person, mind. People I "talked" to over the internet would be a very different list.)
Your Energy is Turquoise. Full of fresh ideas,
liveliness, and imagination, you bring faith
and enlightenment to others. You usually
project a calm and cool exterior and are
capable of dealing with demanding events with a
take it in stride attitude. You tend to see
things clearly and don't panic easily
You relate well to the world of ideas and anything
innovative. You would make an excellent
inventor, scientist, quantum physicist, airline
pilot, astronomer or New Age entrepreneur.
What color is your energy?
brought to you by Quizilla
I got a "B" in quantum physics. And I do sorta work in astronomy. But, excuse me, "New Age entrepreneur?" Well, I guess that's for those people who actually take this "vibes" stuff literally.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Some worth-reading perspectives on the gay marriage debate:
28 reasons against gay marriage
Jody of Naked Writing talks about his day at work.
A tragic story
OK. There. That's my civil rights sermonizing for the day. Back to more contentless content tomorrow, I promise.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Current clothes: Blue jeans. A red Marvin the Martian t-shirt. (It has "MM" on the front in the style of the Calvin Klein logo, with "MARVIN the MARTIAN" superimposed over it and "MARTIANWEAR" underneath. The back has a picture of Marvin's head, which I gather has a rather disconcerting stare. Somebody once asked me if it helped keep tigers away.) Multi-colored stripey knee socks. White sneakers.
Current mood: Reasonably relaxed.
Current music: Currently in the stereo is Disc II of Queen's Greatest Hits, and, I think, Barenaked Ladies' Disc One.
Current hair: Not yet in need of another cut. Also turning gray far too rapidly for my tastes, I might add.
Current annoyance: Oh, man, I've got a list of those. The aforementioned wonky scroll button on my mouse. A recent and unexpected management shakeup here at work. The fact that I seem to have a very, very tiny headache.
Current thing: Procrastinating shamelessly on all the boring Real Life stuff I really ought to be doing.
Current desktop picture: I'm back to the Farscape wallpapers again. This time it's a nicely arranged set of images of Stark, mostly looking all tortured and tragic. I'd link to it, but the page I got it from seems to have disappeared.
Current song in head: "Clocks" by Coldplay, which was playing on the radio on my way into work.
Current book: John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider. It's a science fiction novel about "future shock" published in 1975, which makes it really odd to read.
Current video in player: Most recently, the Doctor Who episode "Arc of Infinity." Currently in the DVD player is the first disc of season 2 of Babylon 5.
Current refreshment: Moroccan Mint tea from Stash.
Current worry: I dunno. Making time to get my car in to get the stupid body work done that should have been done weeks ago, I guess.
Current thought: "Clocks" is a good song.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Monday, March 08, 2004
Sunday, March 07, 2004
You are John Constantine.
John has a strong knowledge of the occult and at
times he appears to wield strong magical powers
but he has also become known as something of a
con-man, more likely to talk himself out of
trouble than pull a rabbit out of a hat.
What Gritty No Nonsense Comic Book Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Heh. Anybody wanna be my friend?
- Dogma:: The Kevin Smith movie
- Spirit:: Is willing, but the flesh is weak
- Voodoo:: Doll
- Demon:: Angel
- Digital:: Computer
- Ceremony:: Ritual
- Research:: Card
- Career:: Path
- Penis:: Envy
- Film:: Movie
Hmm, that was interesting. I wish to state for the record that the only reason the phrase "penis envy" was in my head is because it happened to appear in the book I was reading last night. And "research card" is from the Torg RPG. I always seemed to end up with that damned card during times when it was useless, and never when I actually needed it.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
Here's a quiz a friend of mine sent to me: How Well-Read Are you? I got 8 out of 10, which qualifies me as a "number-crunching bookworm." The "number-crunching" part comes, apparently, from the quiz's assertion that "Accountants spend an average of five hours a week reading - more than anybody else." To which I can only say: five hours? Of however many groups they surveyed, the maximum reading time of anybody was five hours a week? Man, I'm more of a freak than I thought...
I've got an internet friend visiting from out of town at the moment. His plane got in yesterday, he came over, and we watched three episodes of Farscape. I find the thought that I'm now apparently getting people to travel thousands of miles to watch Farscape with me oddly pleasing. Yes, my Farscape crusade continues!
In a little bit, I'm gonna drive him out to the VLA. Should be interesting, actually, as I haven't been out there myself since they put the new gift shop in.
Friday, March 05, 2004
You're the United Nations!
Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long way to go. You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result. But your heart is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid
Not an entirely inaccurate description, actually.
1. ...your first grade teacher's name? You know, I honestly don't remember.
2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon? I remember being deeply fond of the Superfriends. That is, until one day when I was about seven. I was watching as a giant wall of lava came surging forward to engulf Our Heroes and they all just stood there looking at it while Superman said, "Look, a giant wall of lava is coming right towards us!" and I thought, "this is stupid" and never watched another cartoon again until college.
3. ...the name of your very first best friend? I'm not sure I ever really had a best friend in the way I tend to define the term. I hung out with Samantha across the street a lot when I was very small, though. Her mother and my mother were good friends.
4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal? When I was a kid? I'm not sure. Possibly Lucky Charms. I still like Lucky Charms.
5. ...your favorite thing to do after school? Read.
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Yes, it's back by popular demand! Well, OK, it's back because two or three people told me they missed it, and I'm a complete sucker for flattery. Anyway, it's back, it's here, it's a list of the wackier search requests that have brought people to this blog of late, along with my own smart-assed commentary. Enjoy. Or don't. Whatever.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
My broadband connection went down for a couple of hours earlier today. During the time I was disconnected I did the dishes, went grocery shopping, swept and vacuumed the floors, and paid the bills, thus accomplishing more than I'd managed to do in pretty much the entire previous week. I'm honestly not sure if I'm more pleased or depressed about this fact.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
NASA's Opportunity rover has found strong evidence that the area it's exploring was once home to liquid water. Not a terribly surprising finding, I don't think -- it's long been believed likely that Mars had a wet environment in the distant past -- but still pretty cool.
There's a nice analysis of the announcement and what it means here, on Oliver Morton's MainlyMartian blog, which I found via Jay Manifold's A Voyage to Arcturus. Looks like a pretty good blog for those interested in Martian geology; I'll have to read more of it later.
Monday, March 01, 2004
I'm slowly making my way through Season 2 of Babylon 5. OK, very slowly; I just watched the second episode.
And there was one particular (very minor) element of said episode that got me thinking about a couple of things. Last season some time, Dr. Franklin came into possession of a nifty alien artifact that could steal the "life force" from one person and give it to another. (It was originally used as a rather clever sort of execution device.) Anyway, it got a mention in this episode, which really pleased me, because it's a great example of B5's attention to continuity. I think in most shows we probably would never have heard of that gadget again after it served its plot purposes in the episode it was introduced in. So, a big cheer to the writers of B5 for that.
However, it also got me to thinking about something else. What is it with this idea of "life force" in science fiction shows? You see it everywhere. Star Trek used the concept on a semi-regular basis. Farscape used it. B5 used it. Probably every SF TV show in existence has at least mentioned this idea at some point or another. And this, to me, is pretty weird, because the idea of "life force" as some sort of animating property, like a kind of invisible fluid that permeates living matter, hasn't been taken seriously (at least not by scientists) since, I think, the 19th century. And, OK, Trek uses a lot of silly ideas quite shamelessly, and Farscape really is more science fantasy than science fiction. But I find it interesting that even a show like B5, which pays very careful attention to accuracy in the physical sciences, is willing to play with an idea that, from a scientific perspective, makes just about as much sense as talking about luminiferous ether or phlogiston. It's strange.