Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:07 PM * 157 comments
For the past year or so Tiemen Zwaan, the SF/F and YA buyer at my favorite local bookstore (the delightful American Book Center in Amsterdam), has been doing what he calls Blind Book Dates. As he explains in a blog post on the subject:
I discovered that if you wrap a book and just put a few keywords with cryptic descriptions on it, suddenly something mysterious started to happen. People were drawn to this unknown book. They started to try to guess the obscured title. Interestingly enough, not knowing the title and the author made people more likely to try a new read. All the great (but not widely known) books suddenly started to fly off the shelves. And people came back for more Blind Book Dates. They tried new books, novels that they usually wouldn’t have picked up, and they really liked them.
I’ve seen the Blind Book Dates in the store, and the ones I’ve recognized have been well-chosen and well-described. I’m not surprised that people like them.
Tomorrow, the ABC in Amsterdam is hosting a Blind Book Date party, where people can bring their own wrapped and labeled books and try them out on other attendees. I’ve got other things to do and can’t go, but it does sound like a fun idea. I thought we might play along here on Making Light.
Of course, on the internet we can only “wrap” things with our words. So I’m suggesting a wrinkle on Tiemen’s rules: try to describe the book in about three points, but write them out in the style of another writer. I’ve included a couple of examples in this post, using fairly guessable books and styles. But I’d really love to hear about things I haven’t run across before. (Christmas is a-coming, and my wishlist is looking kind of thin.)
For the first, this book is the story of a revolution—or perhaps it might be more precise to say, a rebellion. The terms are, alas, often used interchangeably by lesser historians, which has led to a not uncommon degree of confusion among readers of history. Therefore, rather than mislead, I shall merely state that it contains one or the other, depending on the reader’s understanding of the matter at hand.
As a second clue, one of the characters in this book is not, in fact, human (nor, and I state this to once more be precise, is the character an Easterner). In short, he (or she, for the matter is not so much indeterminate as it is ambivalent) is not made of flesh at all.
The third hint that I will produce is this: the greatest proportion of the events that the author does us the honor of narrating take place not on the soil of our own native planet, but on, or rather principally underneath, that of a satellite of said planet.
- He has painted
she can probably
the night god.
But what is
The meaning of
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a demon-hunter desiring to retire must be in want of a final challenge.
However little he himself may wish it as he sips cardamom tea in his beloved city, this truth is so well fixed in the mind of the All-Merciful, that he is considered the rightful pursuer of any jackals and falcon princes that may appear.
Usual parlor game rules apply, please: it’s OK to duplicate books and authors, because everyone’s interpretations are interesting; ROT-13 your guesses. And do feel free to pick examples from outwith our usual genres and authors.
Posted by Patrick at 10:11 AM * 202 comments
I vote in every election, even funny little off-year ones. And I’m very sympathetic to the argument that if voting didn’t matter, certain factions among the powerful wouldn’t be going to so much trouble to reduce the number of people allowed to do it.
But there’s an argument I’m not sympathetic to, and I’m seeing it everywhere I look online today. It’s the one that goes “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”
It’s bullshit. Everybody has the right to complain. People who disagree with you and me about the value of voting have the right to complain. Monarchists and anarchists have the right to complain. The foolish, the feckless, and the chronically annoying have the right to complain. People who forgot about the election have the right to complain. People who were too tired to get out of the house have the right to complain.
I don’t want to get too far into the philosophical weeds of what “rights” actually are, which ones are “inherent” or “natural,” or what any of that actually means in the real world. But to put it plainly, if there are fundamental rights to justice and equity, to fair treatment, then we’re born with them. We don’t earn them by voting, or by participating in any other specific political transaction that’s evolved from the contigencies of history. To argue that “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain” is basically to frame fundamental human rights as a grant, not an entitlement. And it’s to assert that you, O virtuous voter, have the right to revoke that grant to someone because they didn’t value voting as highly as you do.
It’s a bullying assertion of unearned moral superiority. Voting is fine. Go, vote. But stop saying that people who disagree about this should be stripped of their rights. Alternately, if you keep saying it, well, we have a pretty good idea of how much you respect the idea that fundamental rights are for everyone, not just people you happen to like and agree with.
Posted by Patrick at 08:15 AM
One in Seattle. Vicki Rosenzweig writes:
We are planning a memorial gathering for Velma on Saturday, November 8, at 1:30 PM, at Washington Hall in Seattle. Everyone is welcome.And one in New York City. Elise Matthesen writes:
There’s no formal officiant. Instead, this is an opportunity for her family and friends to get up and share our memories of Velma. We’re still working on the details of the planning. If you know you’ll want to get up and speak, please tell Vicki Rosenzweig, by email at email@example.com. Or if you just want to be with people, please let Vicki know you’re likely to attend so we can get a head-count for food and drink.
Washington Hall is in the Central District, at 153 14th Ave., Seattle, 98122. We will be in the Lodge Room. The space is wheelchair-accessible and easily accessible by mass transit; there is also a parking lot. We have the room from 1:00 PM until 5:00 PM, including set-up and clean-up time; if you want to come early and help with set-up, please let Vicki know.
RSVPs to Vicki at firstname.lastname@example.org, please; I’m trying to reduce the burden on Scraps.
A memorial service for Velma deSelby-Bowen will be held Tuesday, November 18, in the theater of St. James Presbyterian Church, 409 W 141st St. (corner of 141st St. and St. Nicholas Ave) in Manhattan. The service will begin at 6 PM and will be followed with a light repast.To repeat: Please email Vicki if you plan to be at the Seattle event, and email Elise if you plan to attend the event in New York. Comments are closed on this post.
NOTE: If you plan to attend, please confirm by email to email@example.com, so that adequate preparations can be made to accommodate everyone at the service. (If you forward or repost this notice, please include this information as well. Thank you.)
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 10:00 AM * 101 comments
Today, after all, is a great day for such a thread. Not just because it’s (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) a gathering-in and hoarding time, but also because it’s All Saints’ Day. In the Catholic tradition, today is kind of the catch-all feast for the saints who didn’t make the Calendar, or who made it and were then superseded by some more recently beatified whippersnapper. It’s a good day for thinking about quirky, eccentric figures and their forgotten histories.
So tell me. Who, among the neglected and misunderstood figures of the past, inspires you? In whose story do you find delight and inspiration? (They don’t have to be Catholic, Christian, or religious at all. Just, you know, awesome in their own ways.)
I’ll start with kind of a gimme: Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
I mean, yes, it’s fairly clear that the loss of his fortune, and the loss of the subsequent court case, contributed to a fundamental departure from consensus reality. But, like alcohol, that kind of delusion is a real test of character. We’ve certainly seen other people who have suffered such reverses and become their darkest selves.
So what did Norton do when he’d slipped his moorings? What true self did he reveal? He made a number of proclamations, which seem to have ranged from “a good idea but impractical” to “wait a century or so and we’ll have it” (he called for a bridge across the San Francisco Bay and a tunnel under it). He spent his time inspecting the infrastructure of his demesne and paying attention to the activities of its public servants. He stopped a riot from becoming violent. He pardoned the policeman who arrested him for insanity and consistently thanked his benefactors.
If the proof of his life was in the ending of it, he proved out well: his funeral was paid for by well-wishers and attended by a reported 30,000 people. He’s an icon of the Bay Area, but really, he belongs to us all: a man who lost his mind, perhaps, but never his heart.
Posted by Patrick at 09:25 PM * 107 comments
As discussed in the current open thread: Velma Bowen de Selby died yesterday, in Seattle, 18 Oct 2014, at 3:30 PM (PDT). Her partner Soren de Selby was with her. Ave atque vale.
We will miss her forever.
Posted by Teresa at 12:33 PM * 888 comments
One Hundred Spanish Proverbs
A fool who knows Latin is never a real fool.
A good man’s pedigree is little hunted up.
A hundred years hence we shall all be bald.
A rich man is either a scoundrel or the heir of a scoundrel.
Always be patient with the rich and powerful.
An absent saint gets no candles.
An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.
As the abbot sings, the sacristan responds.
Beauty and chastity are always quarreling.
Better visit hell in your lifetime than after you’re dead.
Between brothers, two witnesses and a notary.
Between two Saturdays happen many marvels.
Buy from desperate people, and sell to newlyweds.
Cheat me with the price, but not with the goods I buy.
Communism is a cow of many: well milked and badly fed.
Do not rejoice at my grief, for when mine is told, yours will be new.
Don’t refuse a wing to the one who gave you the chicken.
Even a sugar mother-in-law tastes bitter.
Every cask smells of the wine it contains.
Every man for himself and God for us all.
Everything in its season, and turnips in Advent.
Fate sends almonds to toothless people.
From a fallen tree, all make kindling.
God is a good worker, but He loves to be helped.
Halfway is twelve miles when you have fourteen miles to go.
He that has no children brings them up well.
He who denies all confesses all.
He who goes with wolves learns to howl.
He who inherits a hill must climb it.
He who is a Basque, a good Christian, and has two mules, needs nothing more.
He who was first an acolyte, and afterwards an abbot or curate, knows what the boys do behind the altar.
Hell is full of the ungrateful.
How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
I know they are all honest men, but my cloak is nowhere to be found.
I’ve fried my sausage in better pans than these.
If a person is away, his right is away.
If fools went not to market, bad wares would not be sold.
If I die, I forgive you. If I live, we shall see.
If the sky falls, hold up your hands.
If three people say you are an ass, put on a bridle.
If you can’t bite, don’t show your teeth.
If you cannot be chaste, be cautious.
If you have nothing better to do, go to bed with your own wife.
If you want to sleep well, buy the bed of a bankrupt.
If you would be pope, you must think of nothing else.
If your enemy is up to his waist in water, give him your hand; if the water reaches his shoulders, stand on his head.
If your wife tells you to throw yourself off a cliff, pray to God that it is a low one.
In large rivers one finds big fish, but one may also be drowned.
In the absence of honest men, they made my father mayor.
It is good to have friends, even in hell.
It is no fun to guard a house with two doors.
It’s better to arrive on time than to be invited.
Laws, like the spider’s web, catch the fly and let the hawk go free.
Let fools and wind pass.
Losers are always in the wrong.
Love can do much, money can do everything.
Love is like war: you begin when you like and leave off when you can.
Lovers always think that other people are blind.
Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.
Never beg from one who was a beggar.
Never let a poor man advise you on investments.
Not everyone who wears spurs owns a horse.
Of what you see, believe very little; of what you are told, nothing.
Old age is cruel for whores and magicians.
One can’t ring the bells and walk in the procession.
One drink is just right; two is too many; three are too few.
Only God helps the badly dressed.
Pay me back what you owe me; we’ll talk later about what I owe you.
Since I wronged you, I have never liked you.
Take what you want, God said to man, and pay for it.
Talking about bulls is altogether different from being in the arena.
Tell a lie and find the truth.
The absent are always at fault.
The advice of foxes is dangerous for chickens.
The best cook drops a whole tomato.
The best word still has to be spoken.
The cat always leaves her mark upon her friend.
The empty purse boasts that she is made of leather.
The first drink with water, the second without water, the third like water.
The foolish sayings of a rich man pass for wise ones.
The judge’s son goes into the courtroom without fear.
The king goes as far as he may, not as far as he could.
The more you flatter a fool, the more seriously he plays his game.
The patient who names a doctor his heir makes a big mistake.
The treason pleases, but the traitors are odious.
The turd is proud that the river will carry it.
The wolf loses his teeth but not his inclinations.
There is a great art in selling the wind.
There were already twenty in the family, so my grandmother had a baby.
Three Spaniards, four opinions.
Time and I against any two.
To drunken mothers-in-law give full jugs.
What a fool does in the end, the wise do in the beginning.
What cures the liver harms the spleen.
What have you to hide from someone who shows you his arse?
What is much desired is not believed when it comes.
When you are talking about marriage, think about your mother.
Where the river is deepest it makes the least noise.
Who gossips with you will gossip about you.
You can’t have more bedbugs than a blanketful.
(Raw material found here; edited by TNH)
Posted by Teresa at 05:13 PM * 37 comments
On sale today in hardcover and e-book in North America, and on November 1 in the UK and certain other parts of the world.
My (rather glib) flap copy:
Vlad Taltos was an oppressed and underprivileged Easterner—that is, a human—living in Adrilankha, capital of the Dragaeran Empire. Life was hard. Worse, it was irritating. Then Vlad made a great discovery: Dragaerans would pay him to kill other Draegarans. Win-win!
The years of Vlad’s career as a crime boss and top assassin were cut short by a revolution, a divorce, and an attack of conscience (not necessarily in that order). In the midst of all that, he broke with the Jhereg, the Dragaeran house of organized crime. He’s been a marked man ever since. The Jhereg want to kill him. The Jhereg would love to kill him.
So Vlad’s been avoiding Adrilankha as much as possible. That hasn’t worked out too well. His life is there: his ex-wife Cawti, his son, and all his friends. One of those friends is his former assistant Kragar, who’s taken over Vlad’s old territory and criminal operations. Vlad will need Kragar’s help if he’s going to return to Adrilankha and deal with this mess.
It won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be simple. Because there are no messes like the ones you make yourself.
Some other people’s opinions:
“Adventure, humor, and pure fun…Highly recommended.”
—Booklist on Tiassa
“A wonderful return to form…This witty, wry tale stands well alone and is very accessible to new readers.”
—Publishers Weekly on Tiassa
“Hawk, the 14th book in Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, is a moving, funny and tantalizing end-game glimpse of the assassin, reluctant revolutionary and epic wisecracker. [I’ve] been reading this generation-spanning series of Hungarian mythology, revolutionary politics, and gastronomy for more than 30 years.
“I have been reading the Vlad Taltos books all my life, have literally grown up with them, and eagerly await each new volume, counting the years while Brust finishes it. He claims he knows where it’s all going — has known, in fact, since the first book — and there’s ample evidence for that, because if there’s one word I’d use to describe these, it’d be ‘premeditated’ — in a good way.
“That’s because each volume of this series is, first and foremost, a caper story. Even the ones where Vlad lies dying on a cave floor for the whole book. Brust is one of those natural caper writers (as is amply evidenced in The Incrementalists, his wonderful collaboration with Skyler White), a pulp writer in the Hammett tradition, someone with what William Gibson calls ‘wheels on his tractor.’ In other words, a writer who can spin a yarn that keeps you guessing until the end, aware of many precise moving parts all meshing in synchrony to drive a magnificent jeweled watch of a story.
“Even better, Brust uses those marvellous plots to tell even more marvellous stories, full of delightful and gorgeously flawed characters whose mistakes are both inevitable and horrible, and whose victories are improbable, partial, fraught and deeply satisfying. Brust writes people you want to root for, even though they probably won’t succeed (after all, who succeeds in the long run?).”
—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:16 PM * 78 comments
Since there’s a material lag between the broadcast times of Dr Who on the two sides of the Pond, here’s a spoiler thread for exasperated exclamations, squillions of squees, historical hrrumphs, and ridiculous retconning before the episodes are generally known.
Enter at your peril, if you aren’t caught up.