association-list a veritable mint for dunning-kruggerands

Not Dead!

Unannounced vacation. I went on RAGBRAI with some friends, so I was gone for a week. This has taught me a couple of things:

  • I need better sun block. The crap that I was using has left me covered in pimples and rashes and supremely unhappy, plus I still got burnt a little, though it’s not as bad as it could be.

  • For anything above 20 miles, I really need to do something about my handlebars. I think that I’m going to have to get a new stem to raise them up a little and move them closer. A lot of hand pain was experienced.

  • I think that I’m going to pony up for a Brooks B.17 leather saddle. People were singing their praises, and my saddle isn’t all that comfortable past 30 miles or so.

  • I need some new pedals, again for the greater distances. I think that I’m going to get a new commuter bike and transfer the egg beaters to that one and then get some quattros to go on the road bike.

  • I need better bike luggage. I think that I’m going to put a rack on both bikes and get some panniers (something big enough at least to take my laptop and a change of clothes and shoes). It’s all well and good to haul stuff to work in my bag, but there’s really something to be said for real luggage for anything longer than a couple of miles.

Anyway, enough bike dorkery. I did do some reading on the trip, and I thought that I’d spend some time going over that. I took a lot more things along than I was able to get through, but then, I thought that I was going to be able to read at night and there just wasn’t the time or the energy for that. On the plane to and from, I got through Mr. Dozois’ 23rd annual collection of the year’s best science fiction short stories. I really do love short fiction, though I don’t really read enough of it. I need to catch up on all of the stuff that I haven’t read, but then, I have something like 30 unread novels waiting as well, so we’ll see what kind of time I can make for all of it. In any case, a few comments on each of the stories contained (those that I’ve read, at least), to give you a bit of the flavor so that you go out and buy it now like you already should have.

Actually, after about half an hour of writing a little bit about each one, I find that I’m bored with the project. Here’s a short list of the really, really good stories from it that you really shouldn’t miss (because I am a painfully lazy slackass):

  • “Camouflage”, by Robert Reed. A Great Ship story. I really like Reed’s

  • “A Case of Consilience”, by Ken MacLeod.

  • “Little Faces”, by Vonda McIntyre. Quite weird. Gracefully establishes
    a very strange setting with characters who aren’t really anything like human, but gets you emotionally involved in any case.

  • “Deus Ex Homine”, by Hannu Rajaniemi. I’d never heard of the author
    before I picked up the Nova Scotia anthology earlier this year. I really liked this one. Looking forward to hearing more from the author.

  • “Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck”, by Neal Asher. A Polity short story, with
    a gabbleduck far from home. Every time I read an Asher novel, I keep reading the word gabberduck, which gives me the mental image of some coked out late 90s English raver type wearing a duck hat. I think that this dampens some of the terror, at least for me, some of the terror that Mr. Asher means the gabbleduck to inspire.

  • “Beyond the Aquila Rift” & “Zima Blue”, by Alastair Reynolds. Both of
    his short stories in this collection are, to me, indications that Reynolds might be pushing to hard with the novels. He’s still really good at the short form, which makes me think that if he focused on writing shorter, more economical novels, instead of the massive tomes that he’s been pushing out once per year lately (I’m sure that’s publisher pressure more than choice, though), he’d be writing books that I’d be more interested in reading.

  • “The Clockwork Atom Bomb”, by Dominic Green. Never heard of the author
    before, but this is an interesting one, about weapons inspector/disarmament expert type handling some really nasty relic weapons.

  • “Gold Mountain”, by Chris Roberson. Another entry in his series of
    stories (leading to a novel, I think) about a world where China never turns inwards, but becomes the leader of the civilized world, about the construction of a space elevator using American and other foreign labor around the same time that in our world the railroads were getting built. All about the human aspects, though as what they’re building really wouldn’t have mattered all that much. Affecting.

  • “The Fulcrum”, by Gwyneth Jones. Jones is almost channeling M. John
    Harrison here, but doing so in her own inimitable style. Mayhem, weirdness, hateful characters and utter despair in the outer reaches of the solar system.

  • “Two Dreams on Trains”, by Elizabeth Bear. An really great far future
    snippet about art and the lengths to which we’ll go to express ourselves.

  • “Burn”, by James Patrick Kelly. I bought this a while ago as a stand
    alone novella. It has its weaknesses, but it’s a very good story about the choice to remain human in a universe that has definitely moved right on.

Also read Warpath by Tony Daniel. I really like his short stories and the two other novels of his that I’ve read, Metaplanetary and Superluminal. This is his first novel, and it shows in a lot of ways. I doesn’t have a lot of the confidence and panache that he developed later on, and the pacing is quite uneven. Still, entertaining if you’re a fan. The cover and back copy (and the title! I think that the one word title fad has done on long enough [as an aside, Haldeman’s Camouflage was originally called Sea Change, and was changed for the same reasons. I think that was lessened a little by that alteration, but then, I’m one of those weird people who think that titles matter]) are pretty dire. Ahh, the late 80s and early 90s. Things are getting better, but it’s very, very slow. Anyway, if you’re a Daniel fan, pick it up, although you’re unlikely to find it unless you have a really good used bookstore or you look online. If you’re Tony Daniel, write some more stuff! Looking on the internet, it seems that all of his projects are stalled at the moment, which is assy. I really liked the first two, and would love to see at least some short fiction, but it seems like the man dropped off the face of the Earth in 2003 or so. I hope that he makes a triumphant return at some point. It’d be kinda sad if he didn’t, as he was one of the more interesting up and comers of the last few years.

In other news, it looks like Elizabeth Bear saw my little capsule review of her last couple of books. Again, I really should write something longer, at least about Blood & Iron. It really is quite good.

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