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August 6, 2004

Open thread 26
Posted by Teresa at 01:37 PM *

As clew is to skein…

Comments on Open thread 26:
#1 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 01:48 PM:

God forbid I be first to post...

Damn! I can't think of anything to say...

Give me a second...

#2 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 01:50 PM:

Okay, to be quite honest, I know absolutely nothing about sci-fi or fantasy books. I've never read them (thinking that comic books accounted for my sci-fi and fantasy intake). So, can anyone here give me a primer on what books to read in order to begin the long slog into this genre? What's the best of the best? I don't want to waste my time on mediocre titles. What can I go out there and pick-up that will make me go, "Holy crap! I can't believe that I've been missing out on this all of these years!"

Talk amongst yourselves...

#3 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 01:56 PM:

....Lew is to Kein.

(proof left as exercise to student.)

#4 ::: Alexander Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:02 PM:

Teresa, you should write a gonzo dot-com knitting book called The Clewskein Manifesto. (Joke explained here.)

#5 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:12 PM:

randall: you're about to be hit by an avalanche. to stem the tide a little, what do you usually read? just saying "comics" gives us an awefully huge target.

and some of your time is bound to be spent on what you think are mediocre titles. tastes differ. and there's always sturgeon's law.

#6 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:19 PM:

Best of the best? Jaysus, Randall, are ya tryin' to start a flamewar?

It's a really tough question to answer knowing nothing about your other reading tastes. What else do you enjoy in entertainment? Who are your favorite authors? What comics do you like, especially ones with sf or fantasy elements? What genre-flavored movies did you love seeing?

You'll still get more answers than your time and budget can handle, but at least it's a start...

#7 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:19 PM:

I dunno about absolute "best," but how 'bout "enjoyed and had fun reading?"

[Note: I'm not a member of Organized Fandom--didn't want to amputate my pinky, or wear the secret tattoos-- so you may get different, better advice from others.]

In no particular order:

1. Anne McCaffrey, Pegasus books and Talent books. Loved 'em, but could never get into her Pern books.

2. Alan Dean Foster, Early Pip and Flinx books, and most of the rest of his books, too. In particular, Sentenced to Prism, for outstanding imaginativeness.

3. Diane Duane. Anything.

4. Diana Wynne Jones. Anything.

5. The Old Master ABCs: Azimov, Bradbury, Clarke, ...

#8 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:22 PM:

Much as I hate Piers Anthony, I have to say that Crewel Lye, a Caustic Yarn is the best English-language pun I've ever heard. (Well, maybe Shakespeare's "Bottom, thou art translated!")

#9 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:26 PM:

Early Anthony is fun, but you have to love puns. The poor man is writing on a mobius strip, though.

#10 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:29 PM:

It was his racism that turned me off initially.

#11 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:39 PM:

I'm going to ignore Randall's question (sorry) and ask one of my own, which I bet at least a few people here will have an opinion on.

The question concerns Cerebus. I started reading it long about issue 60 (of course I went back and read all the previous ones) and stopped arround 114 for a number of not particularly good reasons (lack of easy access to a comics store, that sort of thing).

I contemplated getting back into it a few times over the years, but always put it off, eventually deciding that I'd wait until it was finished (I did pick up a number of issues from the late 100s cheap once, but I didn't read them).

Well, it's finished now, but I am somewhat leery of shelling out the money for the rest of the series (in either individual issue or book form) because Dave Sim appears to have gone nuts. If you haven't seen any interviews with him recently, he appears to have turned into a total misogynistic right-wing crank. He uses the term "feminist" much the way Joe McCarthy used to use "communist," for a start, and has said a lot of other things about how women are weak and evil and make beer spoil by looking at at and so forth.

So, my question is, are the 186 issues of the series that I haven't read, anything I'm going to want to read? I am having trouble imagining that attitudes that savage didn't affect his writing.

#12 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:40 PM:

Hmmm...yeah, I can see how that would happen. I last read Anthony ten years ago, but thinking back on it, there was quite a lot of racism. Particularly in Ghost. Don't remember the Xanth books being as bad, but I was in high school and it could easily have flown over my head.

#13 ::: Sugnwrgwaed ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 02:46 PM:

"...women are weak and evil and make beer spoil by looking at at and so forth."

No wonder I can never get a decent frickin' beer, lol.

#14 ::: Kelly Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:04 PM:

synonym is to analogue

#15 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Randall: My so-far favorite book is Little, Big by John Crowley. Urban fantasy, multifariously layered, and some great twists of plot and dialogue. I've been reading it about once a year for, oh, about a decade now. But I absolutely hated it the first time - I couldn't get into it at all. This frustrated me so much that I went back and tried again and have never regretted it.

If you've got the patience and the temperment, perhaps a chronological approach might work. I have a soft spot for most of Heinlein's juveniles.

Then there's Asimov's short stories, some stuff by Andre Norton, or maybe Tiptree.

For contemporary fiction, I have to say that Nalo Hopkinson is doing some excellent work. As is Neil Gaiman. And I'm heavily attached to some of Margaret Atwood's books.

And if you're still into comics, the next book on my list of things-that-must-be-bought is the Flight anthology.

Sugnwrgwaed: do you live under a bridge?

#16 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:12 PM:

Randall, the problem with asking for recommendations in a genre you don't read is that the best of the best is different for different people. There are plenty of beloved books and beloved authors, but you might dislike any one of them and think "Guess I haven't been missing much."

Do you like to read adventure books? Intricate mystery plots? Exotic travel? Plotless style-fests?

Looking forward to helping.

Also: rejection lowers your IQ.

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Everyone needs one of these, although they may not realize it yet. Really breaks the ice. Great fun at parties. Worldcon participants, take note!

This is really odd. A flash cartoon, in poorly translated English, that seems to be an advert for a line of toys from the Insane Asylum for Abused Plush Animals.

In the Portland area, maybe elsewhere, blackberry plants are weeds. They're everywhere. Right now, they're everywhere and sagging with fruit. I picked over two gallons of them last weekend, and made three pies and twelve jars of jam. (My breadmaker has a Jam setting! All it needs is a Butter Churn setting and I'd have breakfast sewn up.) I discovered that I could distract my dog with blackberries for the first two picking sessions, but she eventually came to equate the harvest with wading up to her armpits in thorny vines and now she politely drops the berries I offer her.

#18 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:17 PM:

Okay, reading tastes...

When it comes to comics, I dig everything that Warren Ellis does. I missed Sandman entirely during that bleak period of time when I was in university and sold all my comics for beer money (sorry to Neil Gaiman...although I know of the lavish praise that most heap upon him, I'm still just getting to know him).

I guess when it comes to comics, I like anything that says something "new". I hate continuity. I'll read absolutely anything Alan Moore creates. Tom Strong and Top Ten have to be two of the most inventive and imaginative stories ever created and if I could live in that universe for the rest of my life, I'd be a happy man. (I also like Bendis' "Ultimate Spider-Man"...basically, I like anything that's fun, full of imagination, and rekindles that sense of wonder that I loved as a child and rarely experience as an adult).

When it comes to everything else, I'm a news junkie. I love non-fiction. One of my favorite books has to be Robert Young Pelton's "World's Most Dangerous Places" (a must read for almost everyone here).

Sorry, I know that's vague. I'm not trying to start flame-wars. I would seriously like to know where to start. It's a vast world of fiction out there and there seems to be a LOT of people in the know. It can be quite intimidating as to where to start.

SO NEW CHALLENGE: Each person here can only recommend ONE book for me to read. How's that?

And Dan: No offense taken at all. You should check out Neil Gaiman's site this week, as he currently has a challenge with Dave Sim about getting free copies of "Cerebus". Dave says he'll give free copies of his comics to anyone who snail-mails him about the little "contest" (I'm paraphrasing, of course...go check it out yourself...).

#19 ::: Sam Herdman ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:18 PM:

Dan Blum: I suggest picking up a copy of Jaka's Story which started right about the time you left off. Melmoth is also worth considering. Beyond that, the crank factor begins bleeding through too much to ignore.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:19 PM:

Recommendations: What Harry Said.

One person's enchanting fantasy is another's bloated indulgent wish-fullfillment-laden suckfest.

That said, an incredibly random selection:

_The Stars my Destination_ by Alfred Bester
_Star Maker_ by Olaf Stapledon
_Have Space Suit, Will Travel_ by Heinlein
_Schismatrix_ by Bruce Sterling
_Holy Fire_ by Bruce Sterling
A short story collection by LeGuin. Just find one.
_A Fire Upon the Deep_ by Vernor Vinge

#21 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:19 PM:

sundre: I've been reading it about once a year for, oh, about a decade now.

That's what I do with Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising every Christmas. (As an agnostic from a Jewish family, it's admittedly a little hard to get into the Christmas spirit, but I try. I still haven't figured me out.)

#22 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:20 PM:

Ah. Message lag.

Just one?

OK: _The Stars my Destination._

#23 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:28 PM:

Randall - I'm in a similar boat, returning to reading Fantasy and SF after a number of years reading other things, including way too many Tom Peters books.

Rather than rattle off a reading list, I'll share what I'm doing.

First, I'm going back and checking out some books that I'd always meant to read, such as Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon. If you poke through the comments, you'll find some fairly impassioned comments about Snowcrash about two or three months ago.

Secondly, I've gone to the library and borrowed some anthologies. Right now, I'm reading Starlight 3 (a blatant plug for a fine Nielsen Hayden Industries product) which is helping me identify some authors whose work I'd like to explore.

Thirdly, I'm checking out things that have won Hugos or Nebulas.

Finally, since I'm not getting any younger, I'm making snap judgements. If I'm not enjoying a book, I stop and read something else. It's amazing how long it took me to learn how to do this. For example, George RR Martin was recommended to me. I picked up a copy of A Game of Thrones at the library, and I didn't like it. The writing was fine, the story was fine, it just didn't engage me, but you might love it. So I returned it after reading only the first 150 pages of so.

This method is working for me - I hope it helps you.

#24 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:36 PM:

stephan: i'm reading that one right now, actually. i'm starting to think that i'm an anachronism. i recently bought a typewriter as well.

andy: oh, i haven't looked at her books in years. i remember that one as being my favorite of hers. my reading goes in phases, and there's one for children's lit every couple years. c.s.lewis and lloyd alexander are other old favorites in that arena.

randall: sorry, guy. i told you it was going to be an avalanche. the folx round here read all kinds and like to share, and the recommendations are on this side of good. someone once mentioned murder must advertise by dorothy sayers, and i've now gone and read the entire lord peter wimsey series as a result.

#25 ::: Tiger Spot ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:37 PM:


basically, I like anything that's fun, full of imagination, and rekindles that sense of wonder that I loved as a child and rarely experience as an adult

Well, for fun sci-fi I don't think you can beat the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold. Excellent space opera, with fascinating characters and interesting situations.

#26 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:39 PM:
Dan Blum: I suggest picking up a copy of Jaka's Story which started right about the time you left off. Melmoth is also worth considering. Beyond that, the crank factor begins bleeding through too much to ignore.

I was afraid of that. And I'm not sure I want to read a few chapters of the whole, if the later ones are anything like Church & State, which I recall as having a lot of dangly bits ("there are two other aardvarks in Estarcion") - if those bits are never going to be picked up and tied off because I won't read far enough, I don't know much I'll like it.

#27 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:41 PM:

Larry - You know, your "snap judgements" recommendation may be one of the best pieces of advice that I've heard in a while. I find my time to be so valuable that I never take the time to read the books I've always wanted to read because I always feel like I HAVE to finish them. From now on, I will refer to this as "Larry Brennan's Snap Judgements". Thanks!

Sundre: You know, I stumbled on this open thread and no one had commented, so I got nervous and tried to come up with a good topic about which I'd like more information. Little did I know...Little did I know...

#28 ::: Mandalei ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:51 PM:

Tiger Spot,

I second the motion on the Vorkosigan series. I also like Bujold's new work, beginning with The Curse of Chalion.

#29 ::: Sugnwrgwaed ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:55 PM:

Sundre - yes, I do, in a manner of speaking. Check the link....

#30 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:56 PM:

My gateway to SF as a genre was Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain when I was 12. It worked quite well for me, and I still enjoy it.

#31 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 03:59 PM:

. . . so dew is to rain.

(And yes, The Stars My Destination, very much yes.)

#32 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:03 PM:

Randall: having just successfully given Guy Gavriel Kay's _Tigana_ to an English professor friend who wanted to get into reading fantasy, I'm going to go with that. I actually wrote it up a while ago on an LiveJournal comment so I'm going to plagiarize myself (all hail Gmail for turning it up easily):

It's set on an Italy-inspired peninsula, which, in the prologue, is being conquered by two different overseas leaders--Brandin, the complex bad guy, and Alberico, the non-complex bad guy. Then, in a battle at one of the provinces, Brandin's beloved son is killed; so Brandin lays waste to the province, renames it after its (previously) bitterest enemy, and curses it so that only people born in the province before the curse can hear the province's name (which is, of course, Tigana).

At the time of the story, Alberico and Brandin each control equal parts of the peninsula, with a carefully neutral province holding the balance (IIRC). Brandin is holding on, waiting for the generation born before the curse to die, to finish his vengenance and completely obliterate the name Tigana. The plot starts as various characters attempt to free the peninsula from the two conquerers' grips.

#33 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:07 PM:

(Or I could be wicked and recommend _Freedom and Necessity_, but it's not as direct a gateway into the genre, so I won't.)

#34 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:20 PM:

Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea trilogy. Okay, so technically speaking that's actually three books....

#35 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:21 PM:

Sorry Randall, but I really have to add: The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger.

Book is a tearjerker. I'm three-quarters of the way through, and I had to stop reading because it's sooo saaaaad. *sniffle* Will continue reading when I work up the courage. If you like TTTW, try Jack Finney.

#36 ::: gene ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:37 PM: Neuromancer, by William Gibson is to A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge

#37 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:49 PM:

... so meter is to rhythm.

One book: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip


#38 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:52 PM:

If you like Alan Moore, you would probably also like two similarly witty, erudite, and political writers, Iain Banks and China Mieville.


In the bizarre city of New Crobuzon, where humans mingle uneasily with aliens and cyborgs, the slovenly scientist Isaac Dan Der Grimnebulin is hired to restore a once-winged man's power of flight. Meanwhile, Isaac's girlfriend Lin, an avant-garde artist who belongs to a race of people who have scarab beetles for heads, gets a weird commission from a local crime boss. Isaac and Lin have a really touching and believable relationship, and New Crobuzon is infinitely fascinating and inventive. If necessary, skip the clunky prologue.

By Iain M. Banks: PLAYER OF GAMES. In a society of mind-boggling vastness and plenty, where people can switch gender and live almost indefinitely and everything is provided for, a game-player gets bored. Whereupon he's invited to participate in a very unusual tournament.

This is dark and very funny and fizzes with ideas. Just to give you an idea of how Banks' mind works, there's these intelligent ships with names like GCU Just Read The Instructions, GCU Of Course I Still Love You, GSV So Much For Subtlety, and GSV Youthful Indiscretion.

There are other books set in the same world, but they all stand alone.

#39 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Thanks to all who have given me advice. I greatly appreciate it. (Just a note of appreciation...I still want more, more, MORE!!).

Bonus points for Kate and Rachel for making my book-finding trips a bit easier by providing me with a brief synopsis...

#40 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:00 PM:

... so the stress-energy tensor is to a Lorenz-invarient Hamiltonian.

Good recs from Rachel, btw.


#41 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:03 PM:

... so quatloos are to simoleans.


#42 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:07 PM:

All right, I'll say it.

Try Douglas Adam's _The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy_

It's comedic SF, which is my speciality, but I think a lot of people have a warm spot in their heart for that oddly-shaped five book trilogy.

#43 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:08 PM:

Picking one book from my list of all-time favorites... a worthy challenge!

But that book would have to be Clive Barker's Imajica. Big, sprawling, epic, surreal, and full of unforgettable images; maybe the best genre-bending subversive feminist genderf**k dimension-hopping religious quest fantasy ever. I tend to think that if you like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, you'll find this one rewarding.

(And if you like Imajica, you'll probably dig Mieville's Perdido Street Station. Yeah, I'm cheating. It's true, though.)

#44 ::: Calimac ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:09 PM:

Dan Blum: if you stopped reading Cerebus at issue 114, you stopped at exactly the right time. Do not follow the well-meant advice to try Jaka's Story and Melmoth: they are merely less bad than the profoundly awful stuff that succeeded them. And if you have any heart, you will not give Dave Sim any more of your money.

Do you remember from earlier issues a few references to a troupe of incompetent parody-feminist warriors called the Cirinists? Well, at the end of Church and State - the very point you stopped - they conquer Iest, turning out to be ruthless, nasty, and not at all incompetent hive-mind ninja totalitarians. From that point on nothing is funny any more, although occasionally Sim thinks it's funny.

By the way, not only does Sim not ignore the reference to the two other aardvarks, he picks it up and triumphantly waves it around, which is a small part of the problem.

Randall, my one fantasy book to recommend to you is the adult novel by someone else that I am most reminded of by the mixture of genres and effects that characterizes Neil Gaiman: The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs.

#45 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:10 PM:

Based on a previous recommendation for the Miles Vorkosigan series, there's a novella available for free on the Baen web site:

#46 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:10 PM:

I am not sure that a Banks Culture book is the best place to start reading science fiction - it seems to me that it would be Too Much - but I could certainly be wrong. I think I might recommend Consider Phlebas over The Player of Games - the latter is a better book but I think the former might be easier going.

I don't know what I'd recommend for science fiction, really. For fantasy, I would recommend Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and The Dragon Waiting by a Mr. Ford of this parish. The Hughart is a colorful and often hilarious (but not silly) quest story set in T'ang dynasty China. The Dragon Waiting, which is set in an alternate-history 15th-century Europe (with significant fantasy elements), is a chewier read, but if you like a book that says many things subtly, you should enjoy it.

#47 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:15 PM:

_Player of Games_ and _The Dragon Waiting_ are out of print in the US (Randall, I'm not sure I know where you are). However, I have a spare _The Dragon Waiting_ free to a good home.

_Hitchhiker's_ is fun but I got tired of Adams' apparent non-affection for his characters; the fifth was like a slap in the face.

That said, I have _Hitchhiker's_ on audiobook read by the author and I'm looking forward to it. It might be the soundtrack for tonight's drive to Massachusetts, even.

#48 ::: Daniel Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:32 PM:


CJ Cherryh has my vote for Foreigner and its sequels. Backstory: A colony of spacefaring humans is lost, forced to land on a planet, make peace with the aliens, and settle permanently on an isolated island. They are left in peace in exchange for technology transfers to the aliens.

Real story: One human linguist-diplomat-anthropologist lives with the aliens as the liaison between the cultures. Then Really Cool Stuff happens. Well-written, well-imagined.

I guess that is my one book, but Neuromancer deserves a hearty second.

#49 ::: Adrienne Travis ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:40 PM:

If you want to read Douglas Adams, i personally suggest the Dirk Gently books: *Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency* and the sequel, *Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul*, rather than the Hitchhiker stuff. I think it's funnier and more interesting.

I definitely second the recommendation of *Tigana* by Guy Gavriel Kay, as well as his *Fionavar Tapestry* (three books, *The Summer Tree*, *The Wandering Fire*, and *The Darkest Road*), which manage to be both Tolkien homage and Arthurian legend-retelling without being trite or overdone. The prose is beautiful, and the story is profound and sad.

#50 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:50 PM:

As many people have said, recommendations are hard. My grandfather is convinced that he doesn't like science fiction, and then he takes me aside and quizzes me about why the aliens are always humanoid. I provide copious counterexamples -- but none of them are major characters in Star Trek, which he enjoys even as he thinks it's pretty silly. Somehow it doesn't sink in, though, and every time he sees an ad for another TV show with vaguely human-shaped aliens, he's more convinced that that's how SF is. I can't decide if he's really not an SF person or if he'd make a really great SF person if only I could get him to read a geekier subset of the written stuff.

And yet Star Trek has proven a decent road in for prominent fen and authors, and has provided amusement to several more. So clearly it's not that ST is never any good as a starter.

(My friend Ed claims I'm like this with beer. I hate beer, but I'm all right with Guinness if there's nothing else to drink. He can't decide whether that makes me not a beer person at all or a really hard-core beer snob.)

#51 ::: Holly ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:51 PM:

You have some really good recommendations above, but if you ever get the flu, read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It always makes me feel better.

#52 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 05:58 PM:

Let's see... just one recomendation... I usually recomend Illuminatus! but it's not to everyone's tatse (that one doesn't count, just warming up)

If you like Neil Gaiman's comics, you might try his books (again, this is an obvious one, so it doesn't count either)

My wife just finished reading Pullman's Dark Material trilogy so she reccomends that...

For fun comic style sci-fi goodness, though I'd go with the early Neal Stephenson, either Diamond Age or Snow Crash.

#53 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 06:08 PM:

Here's my rec: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny.

#54 ::: rhc ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 06:16 PM:

Geo. RR Martin; Bujold; Guy Gavriel Kay should all be on your short list.

I also like The Domesday Book (retitled The Doomsday Book, because most did not know that Domesday Book referred to the first English census)by Connie Willis. What a way to get a Phd in History at Oxford.

Grass by Sherrie Tepper.

Dragonbones and Dragonblood (2 books) by Patricia Briggs

Dave Duncan's series starting with The Magic Casement and if you like him, read on. The King's Blades is a good series as is The King's Daggers.

Tim Powers is awesome. Start with Declare.

That is just the tip of the iceberg.


#55 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 06:29 PM:

My one book would be Patricia McKillip's :Fool's Run:, in which she turns absolutely everything upside down.

#56 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 07:01 PM:

Another vote for Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

I recently enjoyed Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogies--there are two trilogies in the whole Farseer saga so far. I also tore through Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper books, and mentioned 'em to my siblings, who then proceeded to devour in a similar manner.

Also--and this one will depend on your taste--recommend Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. There is a fair amount of eroticism implicit to the books though, and some people just don't go for that, so I thought I better mention it. Great alternate world Europe with lots of fun court intrigues and perils.

Somebody else already mentioned Little, Big--but again, it's another one you should pick up.

If you haven't read Dune, you need to. (Frank Herbert) Ditto Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Enchantment. (But avoid the Shadow series--I will read it because I am a die-hard OSC fan, and I will read practically anything the man writes--disagreeing virulently with him when he waxes overly political. But the Shadow series kinda bugs me because A) I think it shifts the whole story from Ender's Game unintentionally, in a way that minimizes Ender and B) he gets damn preachy about his values.)

Xopher: Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn is my absolute favourite of Anthony's titles, although not necessarily of his books. Re-reading him makes me twitch though--I just went back to re-read A Tangled Skein and was really annoyed by all the women in the book, and how they reacted to the men. I have fond memories of the Xanth books right up until approximately Harpy Thyme, when my interest dropped to nil. It seemed that the Xanth characters were retreads of each other and had been for a long time.

Keith: I love the first chapter of Snow Crash. In fact, those first chapters make one of the awesome short stories of SF--but alas, I could never get into the middle, and the end came as a rather sudden crash to me. I re-read it about seven times and even took my copy to the bookstore to compare and make sure that I hadn't somehow gotten a defective version with missing pages.

Another recommendation: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is awesome and ponderous--in the sense that you could use these books to cosh burglars over the head with. But I love the details about 18th century Scotland and America, and I love how the characters evolve. It gets plugged as Romance, so you are most likely to find it in the Romance section of your local store, but it involves time travel and has some really fantastical elements.

#57 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 07:04 PM:

Oh, and Robin McKinley's Blue Sword. YA and an old favourite. I re-read this and its prequel several times a year.

And while we're on the subject of YA: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, which get the most attention by readers. But I also recommend the Vesper Holly books and the Westmark trilogy--fun to read with your kids, should you have any, or to enjoy by yourself.

#58 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 07:23 PM:
And while we're on the subject of YA: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, which get the most attention by readers. But I also recommend the Vesper Holly books and the Westmark trilogy--fun to read with your kids, should you have any, or to enjoy by yourself.

Alexander also wrote Time Cat, which I recall enjoying when I was a kid.

#59 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 07:31 PM:

Given what you say you like, definitely Mieville and Bester (though Mieville can be a bit slow to get into). But if I'm going to go for one introductory book, it's got to be an anthology. With short stories, you get to find out if you like the author's style and storytelling and you can then go out and find more by the same writer. And I'm also going to recommend something in print, to make your life easier. You could do a lot worse than try THE ASCENT OF WONDER edited by David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. It has a nice range of historical styles, and it will give you some sense of the breadth of the field.

#60 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 07:33 PM:

Another option is to skim the list here and see what jumps out at you.

Good luck.

#61 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 07:41 PM:

Wow, there are recommendations here I've never heard of. But then I'm conservative with new authors, and I tend to buy for thickness (I can't stand paying 8 bucks for some thin thing I'll read in a half an hour, unless it's somebody I already know, like John Barnes -- but even Barnes has been trying my patience lately.)

If you like cyber stuff, you can't beat Vernor Vinge (especially Fire Upon the Deep) or Neal Stephenson (especially Snow Crash) and those will get you started. But it's a biiiiig genre. You can spend a lifetime on it. I certainly have.

I've been waiting for weeks for an open thread, so I could finally ask a question which has plagued me for years, but which occurred to me again last week after a particularly egregious example: "Who actually writes the text on the back of paperback books?" I just read Roma Eterna, by Silverberg, and happened to reread the back cover shortly before finishing the book. And as often is the case, it was written by someone who had obviously not read the book. So ... I don't get it. Why is that done? If someone actually buys the book because of the back text, aren't they going to be disappointed by the actual book?

So that's my question -- people around here should know if anyone does.

#62 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 07:49 PM:

As clew is to skein... skew is to rhyme.

Which leads to off-rhyme: "A partial or imperfect rhyme, often using assonance or consonance only, as in dry and died or grown and moon. Also called half rhyme, near rhyme, oblique rhyme, slant rhyme."
[The American Heritage ® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.]

Switching hats from Professional Poet to Professional Mathematician:

As clew is to skein... skew is to Line.

Which leads to:

Skew Conic, Skew Coordinate System, Skew Diagonal, Skew Field, Skew Lines, Skew Polygon, Skew Polyomino, Skew Quadrilateral...

That's probably enough free association. We now return to your regular Open Thread.

But thanks to those on this blog who helped me realize that I really did need to renew my Yahoo 2GB account with a new credit card for $29.99 for a year, which my bank verifies that I did.

Any follow-up on the Making Light person who took Serzone, which I alerted was about to be withdrawn from USA market due to fatal liver damage side-effect? This blog can be a life-saver. Thank you again, Teresa!

#63 ::: jocy ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 08:10 PM:

I too would like some recommendations! I used to read quite a bit of SF and fantasy as a teenager, and now that I've got some free time, I'd like to try picking it up again. But, I've had the hardest time finding something to my liking that I haven't read already.

I tend to like creative stories with strong female characters (especially if they're the protagonist) and simple writing. I tend not to like any books that have been written with the sole purpose of launching a series.

Examples of my likings are: Robin McKinley (early books only - Blue Sword, Hero & Crown, Beauty), Patricia Wrede (1st two books of her Dealing with Dragons series), Diana Wynne Jones (Howl's Moving Castle), and Anne McCaffrey (1st two books of the Dragonsinger series only).

Thanks for any help you can give!

#64 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 08:59 PM:

>>rejection lowers your IQ.

Yes, and it lowers your objective self-awareness, too. Despite using more pronouns overall in a target sample, recently rejected writers use fewer first-person pronouns than writers who have been accepted. They are also more likely to focus on external details (eg, how long the rejection took to arrive), and less likely to offer congratulations to other writers.

So many good recommendations here. Can it count as not my one book if I second Diane Duane, Dianna Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, and Anne McCaffrey as wonderful? Because if it doesn't, I'll toss in a recommendation for Heinlein's _Double Star_. Definitely my favorite of his.

#65 ::: Lori ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 09:04 PM:

Philip Pullman, thirded (or fourthed by now). I also have a soft spot for Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books. Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy. Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, his YA/juvenile books Coraline and Wolves in the Walls, Stardust, and Neverwhere. Connie Willis - Doomsday Book and Bellwether. Sherrie Tepper - Grass, Raising of the Stones. Hughart's Bridge of Birds was enchanting.

#66 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 09:22 PM:

You know, the best part about this thread is that I can keep coming back here over and over again. Kewl.

#67 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 10:17 PM:

... as needle to thread?

Randall, no one can recommend just one! So I won't.

Stefan Jones include "any short story collection by LeGuin," and I'll second that, with fudge topping. If you're wanting a narrower target, try The Wind's Twelve Quarters.

L.N. Hammer suggests The Forgotten Beasts of Eld; I will never miss an opportunity to push McKillip on people and that was the one on my mind when I initially read your comment. Reason being that, in that slim volume, whenever you think you know what's going to happen next, something completely unexpected happens, and that something is, from root to leaf, a much better idea.

#68 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 10:53 PM:

People either love or hate Fionavar; it's much more polarizing than the rest of Kay's books so I wouldn't recommend it as a starting point.

Gabaldon has made the jump into "fiction." I wouldn't recommend them to someone looking for fantasy, though; whether or not they _are_ in the genre, they're not enough in the center of it to give one ideas about where to go from there.

_The Forgotten Beasts of Eld_ is a brilliant book, and the only McKillip novel I've read that I liked or understood. You may need to look in YA for it.

I'd vote for _A Deepness in the Sky_ for a Vinge over _Fire_ as a better book. I read more fantasy so my one book was in that genre, but if I had one SF book, I'd go with _Deepness_.

#69 ::: Neil ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 10:58 PM:

Favourites in no particular order:

Last Call by Tim Powers
Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
Engine Summer by John Crowley
Little, Big by John Crowley
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
The Song of Mavin Manyshaped by Sheri S. Tepper
Dune by Frank Herbert

A couple of those might be hard to get hold of anymore. And I've not mentioned some books that are in the middle of a series and may only stand up in context.

I think the earlier advice to look at award winners is a good one, but you may still find stuff that doesn't agree with you there. There are quite a few genre awards out there. Don't be afraid to venture towards horror either. There's some good fantasy to be had under the heading of horror (Peter Straub's Ghost Story for instance).

And you may find that dipping your feet in short fiction first is a good idea. Buy some magazines and see if there are some writers who really catch your fancy.

#70 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 11:04 PM:

jocy is looking for creative stories with strong female characters (especially if they're the protagonist) and simple writing.

Diane Duane's Young Wizards books (first is _So You Want to be a Wizard_). YA fantasy with a science-fictional feel about the fight against entropy.

Also in YA fantasy, Tamora Pierce's books. Her early ones show that she was working Extruded Fantasy Product tendencies out of her system, but all her books have kick-ass girls making their way in the world.

Lois McMaster Bujold's _Shards of Honor_ and _Barrayar_. SF about love, honor, and motherhood in times of war.

Also by Bujold, _The Curse of Chalion_ and _Paladin of Souls_. Fantasy loosely based on Spanish history; fascinating theology, tough women. The second has a female POV character.

Emma Bull's _War for the Oaks_. Urban fantasy. Non-twee elves, rock and roll, and Minneapolis.

Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald's Mageworlds books, starting with _The Price of the Stars_. Rocking space opera with tons of good characters, fast action, and twists and turns.

Terry Pratchett is incapable of writing a weak woman. His Discworld books are humorous fantasy with a serious core. Try _Hogfather_, which features Death's granddaughter Susan. (I don't know if this counts as "simple" writing, though.)

I think that's enough to be starting with.

#71 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 11:14 PM:

Jocy -

It seems we have similar tastes! A few of the books already mentioned in this thread fit the bill. My preferences run toward the historical-ish, though, and a little less elf-and-fairy.

I first came to appreciate Guy Gavriel Kay through the book "A Song for Arbonne", which is full of strong women and heroic men. His "Lions of Al Rassan" also has at least one very intelligent and resourceful woman, and "Tigana" has a few. Those are all stories told in a single book. These are all historical/fantasy type books, with varying degrees of magic (I think "Tigana" has the most) but Kay never makes the magic feel like incredibly convenient Deus-ex-Machina (one of my fantasy pet-peeves).

If you decide you want to try a series, George R.R. Martin's one that is also chock-full of strong, wicked, heroic, intelligent, villainous, terrifically multi-faceted characters of both genders. There is some magic, and eventually, dragons, all of which is believable. I had sworn off series fantasy until picking up his "Game of Thrones", based partially on a reccomendation and the bigness of the book. The only drawback is that I'm waiting very impatiently for the next book in the series. Thus far it doesn't have that cheap, tossed-off franchise feel to it.

One that hasn't been mentioned yet is a two-book set by Jo Walton; "The King's Peace" and "The King's Name". The protagonist is a woman, and when I read it, I pictures "Aeryn Sun" playing the role of Sulien(although if you're not familiar with Farscape, this will mean less than nothing!). This story uses the Roman underpinnings of the Arthur legends as a starting point, and you may find it hard to put the books down once you've started.

None of the authors mentioned above do anything "fancy" with their writing - they create sympathetic and believable characters and interesting settings, and let the stories tell themselves.

All of these books should be widely available at bookstores and libraries, so you can sit down, read a few chapters, and say "Wow, I must buy/check out these awesome books!" or "Gee, does that nerdycellist have some pretty crappy taste!"

#72 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 11:19 PM:

Kate Nepveu summarizes:
"jocy is looking for creative stories with strong female characters (especially if they're the protagonist) and simple writing."

Well, then, I suggest that you look at the list of Feminist and Amazon Science Fiction at:

It will take a while to load, as it's my "If You Like This, You'll Like That" listing of Science Fiction and Fantasy by genre. That in turn is part of my award-winning "The Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide," which helps my domain rate #3 in the world for "science fiction" according to Google.

I could not offer help from the original question, as I have too many favorite books...

On another topic, there was a great quotation in today's New York Times (which I get, ven though I live in Greater Los Angeles):

"The Pressure may be getting to Mr.Bush. He came up with a gem of a Freudian slip yesterday. At a signing ceremony for a $417 billion military spending bill, the president said" 'Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.'"
["Failure of Leadership", Bob Herbert, The New York Times, 6 Aug 2004, p.A23]

#73 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 11:37 PM:

The problem with Xanth is that the author, bless his soul, seems to have gotten bored with it after the first six or eight books, but was under contract and kept writing them anyway. That's why I so seldom read series SFF any more: I'd rather read one good standalone novel or trilogy than a series that goes on... and on... and on... long past the point where the author ought to have downed keyboard and gone off to do something he or she would actually have fun at.

That's one thing I appreciate about Terry Pratchett: he's thirty-something books along and still seems to be having fun with 'em.

#74 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 11:41 PM:

Strong female character-wise, how about Joan Aiken? The Wolves Chronicles are set in a 19th century that isn't quite our 19th century. Dido Twite outwits the very persistent Hanovarians, who want Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne in England. (James III is occupying that space as the series starts.) Dido's father is a Hanovarian...

Aiken has an extraordinary feel for dialect. Dido's father plays a "hoboy," and it was years before I found an unabridged dictionary that had the word in it. I was very embarrassed for not guessing when I found out.

#75 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2004, 11:58 PM:

Just one book? Just one? Sheesh...

Lots of good stuff has been mentioned, but I'll throw in Vonda McIntyre's DREAMSNAKE, which bit me hard when it (and I) were new. Also LeGuin's LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. For fantasy, Jo Walton's TOOTH AND CLAW, which takes two things--dragons and the Victorian comic novel--and mixes with delirious results.

One should read DUNE for the accomplishment it is, although the writing itself makes my teeth itch. Same for much of Robert Heinlein's work, which I love (although his writing reminds me of Sinclair Lewis's in every way except the politics).

Oh, and THE STONE CANAL and THE CASSINI DIVISION, by Ken MacLeod. I should probably stop now.

#76 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 12:18 AM:

Books.... if you enjoy Fantasy....

My most favorite (I read one to pieces and read the other so much that I had to replace it (it was Jim's copy). The first time I read War for the Oaks I read it so fast I was literally breathless.

Robin McKinley, Beauty

Emma Bull, War for the Oaks

There are numerous books, including The Stars My Destination, that I could suggest that others have. My introduction to SF, as a pre-adolescent, was Alexander Key's Forgotten Door, and then a lot of Andre Norton and Edgar Rice Burroughs (Scholastic Books had the Nortons, the local Crown Drugstore, where I bicycled to at least once a week with my allowance to buy books, carried the Ballentine reissue of Tarzan of the Apes, etc.)

#77 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 12:26 AM:

I'll add another vote for Bujold's Vorkosigan books, which have the most compelling moral vision of any SF I've ever read, and for Le Guin's Earthsea series. Frank Herbert and George R.R. Martin too, but only their short stories.

A few that nobody has mentioned yet: Samuel Delany's Dhalgren (which I've read six times), Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, and nearly anything by Avram Davidson.

#78 ::: in medias res ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 12:28 AM:

can't do one recommendation--not possible, but #1 would be Peter Beagle's The Folk of the Air-- good again and again
--a second for Emma Bull's War for the Oaks as well as her Bone Dance and also recommend Diana Paxson's The White Raven
--Bordertown by Terri Windling is a joy
--absolutely second McKinley's the Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown (multiple reading pleasure for those of us who re-read, great female protagonists--and the guys are good too.)
--and ya gotta read Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson, and all the sequels. He writes lots of good stuff, but these will make you weep with laughter.
I'm gonna stop now...just take my fingers off the keyboard and tiptoe away. Won't even think about all the books I haven't mentioned, won't lie awake thinking about them....

#79 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 12:58 AM:

JVP, have you heard the definition of a Freudian Slip? It's when you say one thing but you mean your mother.


Can I say how much I loved Martin's A Game of Thrones and its sequels? The opening of the first book did not seem particularly promising, but the books have made me an addict. Love 'em.

#80 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 01:05 AM:

...Alexander Key's Forgotten Door...

I had a devil of a time tracking down his "Escape to Witch Mountain." ETWM is even better than the Disney movie of the same name, and the movie was excellent.

*remembers scene in police station with whirling broom*

#81 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 01:12 AM:

Harry - You're saying I should have given A Game of Thrones more than 150pp before giving up on it? Could I jump to the second book without getting lost?

Of course, that would be reconsidering one of my Snap Judgements™.

#82 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 01:16 AM:

Oh, what the hell.

I'm reading a book by Louise Marley that I really like, THE CHILD GODDESS -- which sounds like a fantasy title, but it's science fiction and extremely engrossing. I could read it even before the dentist made my tooth stop hurting.

One of my desert island books is DANGEROUS VISIONS edited by Harlan Ellison. Other favorite anthologies include the Starlight books, edited by someone not a million miles away.

Robin McKinley's book SUNSHINE just won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for adult literature and I like it a lot. It has vampires, but, well, they're not what you think. Or at least some of them aren't. And a really wonderful heroine who is a baker.

Jo Walton's book TOOTH AND CLAW has just been nominated for a World Fantasy Award and is quite enjoyable.

As for classics, other than the above mentioned DV, hmm. DUNE by Herbert, but stop there; do not on any account read the sequels. LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy.

I like Alan Dean Foster for lighthearted fluff -- the Pip and Flinx books.

The heck with choosing between them read both the Vinge books: A FIRE UPON THE DEEP and A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY. The first is my favorite, but both are excellent.

I could go on meandering around like this for hours, so I'd better stop now.

#83 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 01:20 AM:

As clew is to skein…

so key is to lock.

Or if you're talking knitting I'm out of luck because I don't whether you make a skein from a clew or vice versa.

MKK--does know how to use the OED online though

#84 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 01:28 AM:

Lots and lots of good recommendations above, but if I only get to recommend one, I will go with Steve Brust. Start with your choice of Taltos or Jhereg. Because smart-mouthed main characters are loads of fun.

But if I didn't recommend Steve's stuff, I'd recommend the Vorkosigan books. Because smart-mouthed main characters are loads of fun.

#85 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 01:41 AM:

Wow! Those spice pages are so cool! I went first to basil, one of my favorite herbs -- I just made pesto with my very own. And did you notice that in that long list of various languages terms for it there's Quenya? I haven't seen it on any of the others, but there it is on basil!


#86 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 02:10 AM:

jocy is looking for creative stories with strong female characters (especially if they're the protagonist) and simple writing

simple writing in the sense of manageable for, say, 3rd graders who are reading at 9th grade level but don't quite get more complicated social situations?

simple writing in the sense of short words and sentences?

simple writing in the sense of interesting to adult readers who are essayiing a new language?

Robin McKinley's Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are suitable for all three; I am fond of Monica Furlong's Wise Child and Juniper; I enjoy all of Diana Wynne Jones' work; I had forgotten about Joan Aiken but very well done; LeGuin's EarthSea Trilogy has now added two more books, Tehanu and The Other Wind, plus a book of short stories set in Earthsea. (I personally loved both Tehanu and TOW, but you may not. They are from a different, older, less idealistic writer than the first 3 in the cycle).

The advanced child reader has a hard go between about 3rd grade and 6th (or 8 and late 10ish) as the more difficult but more rewarding novels become more personally available.

Oh, speaking of oldies, don't forget the Wizard of Oz in all 4 squillion versions. I distinctly remember being enchanted in about 3rd grade, and was thrilled that, having finished WoO, there were MORE.

#87 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 02:17 AM:

Xopher: Much as I hate Piers Anthony, I have to say that Crewel Lye, a Caustic Yarn is the best English-language pun I've ever heard.

I'm not alone! I'm not alone! My sister claims it was her first adult fantasy novel--I was reading Piers Anthony devotedly at the time, while in middle school--and it launched her further into sf/f, muhahahaha.

Randall, if it must be just one--I haven't read the sequels yet (it's a trilogy, I believe?), but John Wright's The Golden Age is fairly recent sf. The characterization is a bit thin in spots, but I adored it for the sheer density of ideas in a, hmm, vividly imagined posthuman? future. It takes Phaethon/Apollo and injects it with skiffy stuff; I hadn't been so dazzled/boggled since Olaf Stapledon. That being said, if the first couple chapters turn you off, you may as well stop there, and try another of the very very good list of suggestions already here. :-)

#88 ::: Sarah Avery ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 03:34 AM:

For easy, fast, delicious, girl-centered reading, I suggest Garth Nix's YA trilogy (The Old Kingdom Trilogy? I forget the series name, but the volumes' titles are Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen). I loved these books, though the first is the strongest of them and can stand alone.

George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire tops my current list of fantasy recommendations. Martin junkies who need a good second-best to read while filling the time until his 4th volume comes out might want to look at Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series. If you crave a multivolume doorstopper fantasy epic, she can provide, and she has some particular delights of her own to offer.

Tigana's a great favorite of mine. My only caveat is, gay readers need to be promised that the gay character whose dignity is so badly compromised early on in the book will be recognized for his heroism not long after. Having forgotten how much that character endures before he gets some respect, I recommended Tigana to a gay male friend, and after my friend had thrown my copy of Tigana across the room a few times, he emailed me to give me what for, for not having warned him. And well he should have.

Maybe this is a stretch, but I'd list Italo Calvino as one of my favorite fantasy authors, and Invisible Cities as one of my favorite fantasy novels. Actually, now that I look at that sentence on the screen, it's a stretch in several dimensions. I'm going to leave it there anyway.

#89 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 04:00 AM:

Calvino was a fantasist by any plausible definition of the term, as was Borges. The fact that not -everything- they wrote was absolutely, categorically fantastical is irrelevant; no one disqualifies Poul Anderson as a fantasist because he wrote TAU ZERO as well as THE BROKEN SWORD.

And now that I'm thinking about it, if I really, absolutely had to suggest one and only one "fantasy" book, it would be the collection of all of Borges's short fiction. It's a ridiculous bargain at $18 in paper (Penguin), and still a bargain at $40 in hardcover (Viking).

#90 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 05:38 AM:

McKillip's FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, the first book to win the World Fantasy Award, was also the first book I reprinted when I began the YA Magic Carpet Books line for Harcourt. It is still in print there.


#91 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 07:36 AM:

This lurker really appreciates all the recommendations. I stopped with Tolkein and Herbert (Dune only) back in 1975, so I have a LOT of catching up to do! Thanks to all.

#92 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:31 AM:

Wow. LOTS of good recommendations. These are for Randall P, from way up top.

I apologize, Randall, in advance. I find I need to make two, not one, recommendations because of the clear delineation of one as science fiction, the other as (primarily) fantasy.

First is the Mars series (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars) by Kim Stanley Robinson. Very definitely "hard" science fiction; that is, grounded in (real-world or projected) science and the possibilities it presents, but also with some fascinating characters, drama, and the other elements of terrific fiction. But very dense; I found myself concentrating hard when the science came along, getting a good picture of it.

On the other hand (mostly) is Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road. It's a classic of the genre, with everything from swordfights to dragons. With a twist; I'm sure this isn't the first book to make its twist, but it's one of the best (without giving away the particular spin, can anyone name major works that incorporate it prior to GR? I'm at work, and more than a bit tired).

#93 ::: Greg H ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:35 AM:

Randall, I am not much of a sci-fi or fantasy person. Just today I had a Phillip K. Dick book in my hand while browsing a bookstore and dropped it for an Oe novel. I do however have one suggestion for the sci-fi realm. Look for anything by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. Their books are a bit hard to find, and some Russian friends have looked askew at some of the translating but they are the only sci-fi authors I have bought, read and enjoyed in the past 7 or 8 years.

Would that last statement be fair if I said the only other sci-fi book I've bought during that time is Solaris which I still have not gotten around to reading yet? I have to get thru A-K on my bookshelves first, and that is rather distracting.

#94 ::: Amanda Coppedge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:35 AM:

Another good Sheri S. Tepper: Beauty. (Another book with a strong female character.)

#95 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:45 AM:

Stories with strong female characters, and at least moderately easy to read: stories of the People by Zenna Henderson. Holding Wonder, Pilgrimage, and Ingathering are the books (short story collections) I know of; I've got the first two, but the last is a complete collection, and may be easiest to obtain. A better read for 7/8th graders than 4/5th, but not impossible for advanced younger readers.

#96 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 11:46 AM:


I'll second a lot of the recommendations here (McKillip may be too artsy for your taste -- hard to tell! -- but Pierce is an author that falls exactly into your criteria), but also need to mention a couple of classics:

E. Nesbit (amazingly strong women for when she was writing, acceptably strong women for current times)

Edward Eager (who wanted to be E. Nesbit when he grew up)

Note From A Great Deal of Experience: it's really important to listen to what someone already likes when recommending books. I'll recommend Piers Anthony to someone who likes Robert Jordan -- I'll be very chary of recommending Anthony to someone who likes Samuel R. Delany (e.g., I'll say _Macroscope_ may have some bits you'll like). There are several recommendations that have been made here that I'd very much disagree with for the person who asked for the recommendation.

And if I keep recommending books that they've already read and liked, I know I'm on the right track.

#97 ::: Deborah Roggie ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 12:14 PM:

I'm surprised no one recommended Tolkien!

Some other suggestions:

Le Guin - The Disposessed
Wright - Islandia
Gorodischer - Kalpa Imperial (translated by Le Guin)
Mirlees - Lud-in-the-Mist
Finney - Time and Again
McHugh - China Mountain Zhang

But I agree with the advice above--pick up an anthology of award-winning short stories, and track down books by the authors whose stories you liked best.

#98 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 12:31 PM:

Yoon Ha Lee:

I must praise your wonderful story "The Black Abacus" [The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, June 2002, pages 90-100].

If someone wants memorable female protagonists, this is a must. The brilliantly evocative opening sentence:

"In space there are no seasons, and this is true too of the silver wheels that are humanity's homes beyond Earth and the silver ships that carried us there."

Each line thereafter is similarly honed to a cutting edge, poetic and yet inarguably Hard Science Fiction about Quantum Computing as war. The protagonist, Rachel Kilterhawk, a.k.a The Hawk, a.k.a. Rachel the Ruthless, is great and terrible and heartbreaking. The antagonist, Edgar Kerzen, exists for the story, in love with and opposition to Rachel, and yet fleshed out by implications.

This tale is stripped to the bone, and has a more interesting background sketched than many novels.

Well done indeed, Yoon Ha Lee! Will we see more of this amazing multiverse?

#99 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 04:27 PM:

Larry, I'm not sure you should reconsider your Snap Judgement (tm). I only read 50 pages before I decide whether or not to continue (but I'm a tolerant reader).

Maybe we just have different tastes, but Martin's books kept me awake at night, worrying about the characters. That's kinda embarrassing to admit, but there you go.

#100 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 05:00 PM:

My most recommended (unforgettable) genre books:

Two good ones, only peripherally s-f or fantasy:

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff

I'm not sure whether I'm going to continue to think the Matt Ruff book is great; but it passed the "cannot put down until last page" requirement for me, several months ago.

If you want to adjust the filter control to "great writing" and turn down the "enjoyable" notch a bit:

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
and selected subsequent Sun novels.

(I'm not sure whether "Return to the Whorl" can be properly appreciated without reading some of the others in between.)

If you want to ratchet up the "science fiction" filter, I'd pick both Vernor Vinge "Zones of Thought" novels: "A Fire Upon the Deep" and "A Deepness in the Sky."

#101 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 05:01 PM:

'rejection lowers your IQ'
okay, it is my understanding that people with "asperger's" have higher IQs than the norm, yet they do not interract well socially with others, how could this be explained?
Mayber this is one of those studies that will turn out to have been poorly thought out and it will never be heard of again except for in the water cooler conversations of people who will imbide its conclusions as scientifically valid.
Maybe rejection lowers IQs in the normal population, but does not effect special populations, thus one could think of asperger's as a way of handling rejection. a mutation!!

#102 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 05:17 PM:

I should clarify that I have not actually read Crewel Lye, a Caustic Yarn. I stopped reading Anthony after Race Against Time, another pun-titled book (hint). I was referring to the title as a truly excellent pun, but I didn't go any further.

#103 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 05:35 PM:

At ConJose, the two paradigmatic conversations that I heard again and again were:

(1) I'm starting my 4th [5th, 6th, whatever] internet company. It will not change the world. It's just a company to support my lifestyle...

(2) My son/daughter has Asperger's, I'm in this support group, and what is going on with this epidemic that the government denies?

On the topic of puns in Science Fiction: I never knew anyone more delighted with this than Isaac Asimov. He was known to buy even a weak story (such as mine) if he liked the puns in it.

See also: "Feghoot"

#104 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 05:47 PM:


I'm willing to believe that rejection lowers your IQ. At least, I'm sure it lowers mine -- pushing the emotional part of the brain to charge forward without the conceptual moderators supplied by the analytical part.

#105 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 05:50 PM:

Ok, Randall, here's what we have so far.

Randall's Reading List

#106 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 06:51 PM:

Bruce A: _Holding Wonder_ and _The Anything Box_ are not People stories. _Ingathering_ is the complete collection of the People stories, including one never published, for good reason, as far as I can see.

Jocy, I think you might like Melissa Scott's books. They frequently have strong female protagonists and are easy reads.

#107 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 07:05 PM:

Also, for YA strong female characters: Richard Peck's Blossom Culp books, and Wilanne Schneider Belden's Mind-Call, Mind-Hold, and Mind-Find.

#108 ::: Elisabeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:06 PM:

Randall: Neil Gaiman also has a short story anthology, which is wonderfully varied. Just so you know, my husband (definitely not a sff fan) read _Neverwhere_ at my insistence and his response was "That's not fantasy!"

You might also check out Charles de Lint, if you like urban fantasy based in North America. Actually, come to think of it, C dL has lots of good female leads, and writes both short stories and novels. I prefer his novels; others like the stories. Most are set in the fictional city of Newford, where strange things happen to good people, mythical beings walk the streets more or less invisibly, and worlds intersect. Most of the characters are some type of artist, mostly visual or musical.

I second (or third or fourth or whatever it's up to now) the recommendation of _Tigana_ and anything by Guy Gavriel Kay (although I haven't read his latest yet). Also Stephen Brust. I love his Phoenix Guards series, but they are very stylized and require both a good sense of humor and a generous measure of patience.

I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my dislike for George R.R. Martin (totally unengaging--I'm not sure I made it to 150 pages) or _Snow Crash_.

Whatever floats your boat.

#109 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:24 PM:

I get asked this often enough that I put up a page of my favorites.

Randall, based on what you've said about your tastes, my "one book" recommendation is The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. It's a thousand-watt humdinger.


You're saying I should have given A Game of Thrones more than 150pp before giving up on it? Could I jump to the second book without getting lost?

For what it's worth, I gave up on the series after finishing the second book. I just got tired of it.

#110 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:34 PM:

"Neil Gaiman also has a short story anthology, which is wonderfully varied."

To be precise (and maybe a bit picky), ANGELS & VISITATIONS is a collection; an anthology is a set of stories by multiple authors, like, to pick an example entirely at random, the STARLIGHT series. But yeah, it's a great book. (The Sandman-themed anthology is SANDMAN: BOOK OF DREAMS, about which it would be improper for me to say more.)

#111 ::: Greg G ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:34 PM:

Taking a different tack:
A Writer For People Who Like Alan Moore:

Kim Newman - "Anno Dracula" - what if Dracula had won? And then every vampire in the world moved to England?
From Hell meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written well before the latter was thought of. Fu Manchu and Moriarty *team up* in this one.

A Writer For People Who Like Warren Ellis:
Michael Marshall Smith - "Only Forward" - In the future people live in Neighborhoods, each themed in accordance with specific interests. Stark lives in Colour, a Neighborhood for people who are really into colour. Stark solves problems, but he's not a detective. He just fixes stuff. But on his latest assignment, his past is coming back to break him.

#112 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:40 PM:


I second much of what has been sad above.

"Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone" - Ian McDonald (Cyberpunk)

Brust, though I'd suggest reading the Taltos-Draegaera books before the Paarfi-Draegaera books (as the Paarfi's can be quite confusing if one has no previous introduction to what the hell is going on).

Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn books: Reality Dysfunction, Neutronium Alchemist, Naked God. What I call "Firm" SF.

Phillip K. Dick: Near anything, though I'm especially fond of UBIK.

Asimov: Again, near anything, but I'm especially fond of I, Robot and the Robots of Dawn.

Terry Pratchett: Discworld, which is parody that later becomes satire and is only getting better as time goes on.

There's more, but I'm a gnat here.

#113 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:44 PM:

At MiniCon there was some discussion of the Asperger's/IQ link in the context of a panel on fandom and Asperger's. The panelists all agreed that the studies they had read indicated no link between Asperger's and high IQ, although one panelist said she would anecdotally say there was such a link. (I don't know how much of that was self-selection, though.)

I think we all know that the IQ test is not the be-all and end-all of intelligence in the first place, but I wonder if it isn't even worse at measuring the intelligence of people who are non-neurotypical in that particular way. I can easily imagine someone with Asperger's testing either much higher or much lower than their functional capabilities depending on their interests, who was giving the test, the setting, and so on.

#114 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:58 PM:

Holy Crap!! Andy, you rule. I was sitting here, silently thinking, "Geez, I'm never going to be able to sort through this stuff!" Lo and behold, the Great Andy Perrin has compiled a list for me.

Moohoohaha!! To the library on Tuesday!

Thanks to all, by the way. This is why I keep coming to this website day after day.

#115 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 08:59 PM:

By the way, does this mean that I have to provide reports on all of these? And if I do, would that qualify for some higher education degree? Just wondering. I was thinking of getting a Master's...

#116 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 09:08 PM:

Marilee: I thought I'd recalled that Holding Wonder included People stories; I shall check when I get home. Thanks. (And when I finally get to another con -- Philcon, I hope, or mayber Darkover Grand Council -- I will be diligent about checking booksellers for Ingathering, as even a poor People story will be a new one to me, and therefore contain at least an element of enjoyment.)

#117 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 09:37 PM:

...the Great Andy Perrin...

Randall, I've never been Great before. Do I have to pull a bunny out of a hat?

(As one magician put it, "The real trick is to get the bunny into the hat.")

#118 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 09:39 PM:

John M. Ford: The Gaiman collection in question could also be "Smoke and Mirrors", which inclused most of the short stories (But none of the non-fiction) from "Angels and Visitations", plus further stories, including one in the Introduction (For those who wouldn't read introductions).

Another one for Jocy's "Strong women" - Caroline Stevermer's "A College of Magics". A world where magic scholarship is more like law than like science.

Randall's list has grown so long that rather than add any more books to it, I'll just comment on those already mentioned. I'll be long-winded enough, and besides, most of my books are still packed.

Adams, Douglas
I just finished reading Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and I may second the person who recommended that over any part of Hitchhiker's Guide... and I do love the first three Hitchikers books.

Alexander, Lloyd - Good, if occasionally simple in outlook (And I don't mean "Written for children", though they were - since Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones both manage to write for children without writing quite so simple). Actually, one caveat about the Prydain Chronicles. Taran is super-whiny in the first book. it picks up.

Anthony, Piers - An anti-recommendation. Only if you like everything disgustingly broadly drawn - which works in Xanth where everything is a pun anyhow, but not in his quasi-serious books.

Brust, Steven - oh, yes... Someone once asked what the best translation of Dumas' The Three Musketeers was - and one of the first answers was "The Phoenix Guards!" This, incidentally, should explain why some people are hesitant about the style of the writing. It's not modern.

Bull, Emma - Bone Dance if you can find it, before even War for the Oaks.

Cooper, Susan - One caveat - the last few pages of the last book of her five book of the Dark is Rising series ruined it all for me ("She did WHAT? Is this author STUPID?"), so to enjoy the books, I have to pretend the last couple of pages don't happen. My favourite of hers, however, is and always will be the standalone, "Seaward".

Hobb, Robin - I must admit so far my favourite of her books is the kind of weird "Cloven Hooves", published under the name Megan Lindholm.

Hopkinson, Nalo
Hughart, Barry
Jones, Diana Wynne
To these three I can only say yes, yes yes! But for one thing - nobody has specified a single Diana Wynne Jones book to start with. I'd choose either Howl's Moving Castle or Archer's Goon (Shameless self Plug:

Le Guin, Ursula - My only grumble - the Earthsea books are no longer confined to one trilogy. Tehanu, the fourth, is frustrating, but does a good job of pointing out blind spots in the characters of the first three. The fifth (A short story collection) and sixth are superb, but should go in order.

McKinley, ROBIN. One of my favourites - anything except Spindle's End, that is, which has some great language, but also some major structural problems.

Willis, Connie - Domesday book is good, and Bellwether, but I'd sneak in a mention of To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is in the same world as Domesday book, but its total opposite in mood. Connie Willis earned my respect for doing somber and screwball both, and both well.

#119 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 09:42 PM:

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written well before the latter was thought of

Well... maybe. Anno Dracula was published in 1992, as far as I can tell. In 1987, Alan Moore wrote a proposal for a comic series called "Twilight of the Superheroes," one of the coolest-sounding unwritten pieces of literature ever. Here's part of his notes:

As an aside, are Tarzan and Doc Savage in the public domain yet? No big deal, but I'd really like a sort of secret council of the immortals: Batman, the Shadow, Doc Savage and Tarzan, all planning to start the revolution that will rid Earth of the super-people forever.

So the idea for LXG -- a collection of literary heroes in the public domain -- was clearly gestating in the late 80s. When DC shot down Twilight, I suspect he started work on this idea.

#120 ::: Greg G ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 10:36 PM:

I wasn't casting a judgement on either work, just that any Alan Moore fan picking up Anno Dracula was going to see similarities. Not in the actual setup, as there is no secret council/league in Anno Dracula, but in the shared idea that Newman and Moore (and others)had: that characters from contemporaneous fictions are used in the same novel.

#121 ::: Greg G ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 10:42 PM:

Please ignore the slightly defensive tone of the last post. Alex Cohen, I should have paid more attention to what you actually said in your post. Which I agree with.


#122 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 10:46 PM:

One more suggestion: If you can find a copy of James H. Schmitz' Witches of Karres, pick it up. It's whimsical, which usually isn't my speed, but it's rich, intelligent and imaginative whimsy and a hell of a good story.

And a warning: If you read the Dune series and like it, resist all temptation to buy any of the god-awful prequels by Brian Herbert. They're so bad they'll actually spoil the original series for you retroactively. If you want some intelligent Dune backstory, hunt up a copy of the Dune Encyclopedia; it may not be "canon," but it captures the depth and baroqueness of Frank Herbert's universe.

#123 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 10:54 PM:

re: aspergers and IQ - perhaps rejection only lowers the IQ in people who have some expectation of being accepted?

#124 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 11:28 PM:

I'm of two minds about George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones books. I like the characterisation, but I HATE how it drops one story line to pursue a completely different one. I end up reading all the Arry chapters, then all the Daenerys chapters, and so on. I feel like I'm reading about six different novels inside of one novel, but each novel keeps interrupting the others. Everytime I start getting into the story, it gets uprooted and taken to a new viewpoint. Robert Jordan has this going as well--except it's more like twenty novels running around inside twelve. (I was really annoyed because at least two of Robert Jordan's books have skipped one of the three or four major viewpoints for the entire book. I think we missed out on Perrin for most of one book and Mat for all of another.)

Also, while I like the fact that you don't have any guarantees on people NOT dying in Martin's books, I find it really frustrating to have character after character die on me, when he's set up conflicts that they seem to building to, and then, wham! dead! No closure.


I also thought I should mention the Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantock. They are kinda on the edge of fantasy's borders. (I haven't read the second trilogy yet, so I don't know if that changes matters.)

#125 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2004, 11:35 PM:

Jonathon Edelstein: I'm a very bad person, but this Penny Arcade comic on the subject of the Brian Herbert prequels to Dune makes me laugh:

Penny Arcade on the Dune Prequels

Warning: May be offensive, depending on who you are. Probably not work safe.

#126 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 02:40 AM:

We have similar tastes in comics, Randall.

Some things that haven't been mentioned yet:

_Zeitgeist_, _Distraction_, Bruce Sterling
_Singularity Sky_, Charles Stross
_Startide Rising_, David Brin
Pat Murphy's Max Merriwell series: _There and Back Again_, _Wild Angel_, _Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell_ (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts here; the first two can be read in either order, but for greatest effect, read them both before the third)
_Doorways in the Sand_, Roger Zelazny (or most Zelazny... _Creatures of Light and Darkness_, _A Night in the Lonesome October_, and, if you want to buy for thickness, it's hard to beat _The Great Book of Amber_ -- 10 novels for $23, list.)

#127 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 02:41 AM:

Much as I love the above authors (most of them, anyway), I want to mention people that no one else has mentioned. Just to add variety.

The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle. I read this book once a year. At least. Have done since I was about nine. Immagination and reckless wonder? In spades.

Dogland, by Will Shetterly. I think they call it "magical realism" or some such. All I know is that I wanted to read it again as soon as I was done. It and everything else Will Shetterly ever wrote or will ever write.

Starfish and Maelstrom, by Peter Watts. Somewhat cyber-punky, but with a protagonist who is genuinely a sociopath. Watts claims not to be as screwed up in real life as his books would make him seem. Uh-huh. Sure. Yeah, right.

Anything by Robert Charles Wilson. "New." Check. I once said he was a post-modern Lovecraft. I may be wrong, but I stand by it. I think everything I've ever read by him has taken me by surprise. I'm also in the strange position of finding other writers more enjoyable to read, but really wishing that I, myself, could write more like R.C.W.

Anything by Salman Rushdie. I particularly like Midnight's Children, the Ground Beneath Her Feet and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. What? Why are you all looking at me like that? If he were an American his books would be in the sf section and you know it.

#128 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 03:08 AM:

Hey, Jason, we've been carrying Rushdie at Other Change since Grimus, which had a blurb from Ursula LeGuin....

Many folks find the Herbert/Anderson novels much more interesting than Frank Herbert's sequels to Dune. I still think that FH needed very strong editing (John W. Campbell) to keep him on track.

WITCHES OF KARRES has been reprinted by Baen, with the comment "Edited by Eric Flint" on the cover. Some of us think this is an insult to both John W. Campbell (magazine editor at Astounding) and Sterling Lanier (book editor at Chilton). But it's currently available at $16, and Flint does not seem to have mucked it up too badly (yes, I have read both versions). The Lackey/Flint/Freer sequel, THE WIZARD OF KARRES, would be a very pleasant book if the Schmitz did not show just how much better a story can be (IMO). About the best thing I can say about it is that it's not objectionable -- I really don't think this book should have been written, but I understand the impulse that led to it.

#129 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 08:44 AM:

Mark D. wrote, back quite a ways:
This lurker really appreciates all the recommendations. I stopped with Tolkein and Herbert (Dune only) back in 1975, so I have a LOT of catching up to do! Thanks to all.

I do want to throw in one cautionary note: in my opinion, trying to "catch up" can be a mistake. You shouldn't feel obliged to read older SF before newer stuff, no matter how "classic" the older books are. Some of the "classics" can be hard to find, which magnifies the disappointment if you find it's not to your taste. The number of modern books that really can't be appreciated without having read some past work is vanishingly small-- you may get a slight extra thrill from recognizing some reference, but a really good book will be enjoyable whether you've read its antecedents or not (this statement does not apply to series novels).

This is also the problem I have with a lot of the "books for new SF readers" recommendations. Asimov and Heinlein may have done a marvelous job of drawing many long-time fans in, back when they were at the Golden Age (i.e., 12), but given to an adult reader of mainstream literature, they may do little more than confirm a prior suspicion that the whole genre is adolescent crap.

The "classics" are good recommendations for people who have read a few things in the genre, and express an interest in the history of the genre, but for people who ordinarily read other things, I don't think Heinlein and Asimov are necessarily the way to go.

(I should note, by the way, that I include myself in the camp of people drawn in by Asmiov and Heinlein-- the first unambiguously genre-SF book I recall reading was Red Planet. I don't find them anywhere near as entrancing today, though, and I doubt my non-SF-reader friends and colleagues would be impressed.)

#130 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 09:26 AM:

Tom: Excellent! Glad to hear it. Where's your store, again? Boston, right?

#131 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 09:43 AM:

Mris -- You've explained to your grandad that authors can just write down what an alien is thinking and feeling, whereas TV shows have to use an actor to demonstrate, and in Hollywood at least most actors are humanoid? I don't think CGI has quite gotten either cheap or fast enough to be used regularly on a TV show. Or that there are enough directors who know how to make something non-humanoid emote.

#132 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 10:14 AM:

re: _Witches of Karres_: Flint does not seem to have mucked it up too badly (yes, I have read both versions)

On rec.arts.sf.written, he said that he didn't do anything to it and doesn't know why the cover says that (google link to post). Did you notice changes, then?

#133 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:38 AM:

Thank you for the cautionary note, Chad. I wouldn't be inclined to "catch up" with Heinlein and Azimov - and I was being somewhat coy, as I did read works by those masters back in the day.

I also essayed Eragon this year, which I note no one sees fit to recommend - nor would I.

I have ordered The Stars My Destination from the library as well as a work by a poster here, Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History. And I am eyeing, with some trepidation, A Game of Thrones which I have seen compared to A. Trollope, an author I revere.

Again, thanks to all. The depth of knowledge and collective wit of this community is humbling.

#134 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:51 AM:

Kate, no, I noticed nothing. But then, it's been at least 10 years since I re-read the old one. So we now know it's Jim Baen who's insulted Campbell and Lanier....

#135 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:54 AM:

I'm going to suggest two books that are out of print, damndamndamn, both of which are alternate history. The first is The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson, which is a wonderful alternate 60's adventure (recent wars in Afghanistan where one character was a hovercraft driver are mentioned) that starred Chester Anderson (writing in the first person) and his friends as characters in the book. It's a charming, well-written novel that begins with Anderson sitting on a park bench and seeing a slightly stoned teenager on the other end making butterflies appear out of thin air. Real butterflies. Things take a turn for the strange shortly afterwards...

The second is And Having Writ... by Donald R. Bensen, which Ace has left out of print for much too long. It's a funny and well-thought out alternate history novel chockfull of world leaders circa 1908 which also is the best example of Campbell's description of what an alien in SF should be that I've ever read: the leads may look enough like men to pass, but they don't think anything like the men they meet in their travels--how much of that is the mindset current in American and Western Europe when the story takes place is up to you to decide. (I'm fighting not to describe the set-up: this one needs to be read as near to cold as possible.) It's also got the funniest example of Psychohistory-with-the-name-filed-off that I've run into, as well as a last line that when read without peeking ahead converts the whole book into a 250 page shaggy dog story without cheapening anything that's gone before. Now that's an accomplishment.

#136 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 12:11 PM:

Mark: if you love Trollope, you may well like The House in the High Wood by Jeffrey E. Barlough, a loopy combo of influences that also include Lovecraft, Poe, and a pinch of Shakespeare. Since the sequel comes out this month, the first book should be available. But NB: as a reviewer, I got the advance galley of that sequel, Strange Cargo, and couldn't make it past page 150. For me at least, the pleasures of Barlough's eccentric style turned into absolute pains in the follow-up.

#137 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 01:38 PM:

PiscusFische, I'm very glad I'm not the only one who has that reaction to Martin's use of POV. I feel manipulated as a reader: not only was I uprooted when I started to get into the story, but I thought he was very transparent in choosing POV to keep information from the reader. As a result, by the middle of the first book, I didn't trust anything that wasn't happening directly in front of me, and I started keeping track of who we hadn't heard from as an indicator of where the really interesting stuff was going on. I don't like reading with scowling suspicion.

Some of David Brin's multi-POV novels give me similar problems (though not as much so), especially when he feels he needs to end almost every chapter on some kind of cliffhanger or other suspenseful moment. I know he wants people to keep reading his book, but for heaven's sake, sometimes I have to eat and sleep and shower and work and spend time with loved ones. Let me put the damn book down for a minute! I promise I'll come back and pick it up again later!

When I started to get really serious about speculative fiction, I went through and read all the Hugo and Neb winning novels I could get my hands on. I don't think I would recommend that as a course of action to people who are not making a deliberate career choice, though.

#138 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 02:22 PM:

Lenora Rose - Connie Willis' latest book, Passage mixes the somber and screwball elements both seamlessly and shockingly. If you thought Doomsday Book was good, you want to grab this one right away.

#139 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 02:37 PM:

I'll use _Nova_ by Delany for my one recommendation. It's fast and gaudy, and has a quest for super-heavy elements ejected from novas, nerve-jacks to control machines, decadent rich people (with vaguely Arthurian elements), tarot as something that only superstitious people don't believe in, alien space bats....

In re George R.R, Martin, I liked _A Game of Thrones_, but by the time i got to book three (of a projected six and I don't have a lot of faith that he'll be able to finish in six), I was getting tired of the character torture. Still, it's got vivid characters and is more than a little involving. And I count it as the most major post-Cold War sf I've read--it's definitely got more than two sides to the politics.

As for Cerebus, I picked up the next to last volume for no good reason. It started well enough that I bought it, and my ambivalence was positive enough that I got the last volume, too. The misogyny and wordiness are there in full force, but when he's good (artwork, page layout, stream of consciousness, chatty notes) he's very good. I'd quit the series long about Church and State (too wordy, and I didn't think the Groucho Marx imitations were funny) and I don't intend to get the rest of the series. Buy them only if you're in a weird mood.

#140 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 02:57 PM:

Thank you Faren, and I am adding Barlough to my list immediately. Anyone who has a character described/named a "besotted bible-spouting stonemason Shank Bottom" is an author I must read.

#141 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 03:40 PM:

I wanted to add a belated comment about Cerebus. There's one later volume that is worth reading: Minds, volume 4 of the Mothers & Daughters storyline, which covers (approximately) issues #180-200. Cerebus ascends all the way to speak with the creator this time, and we find out what's been going on behind the scenes ever since the first appearance of Bran Mac Muffin and the Pigts. It's brilliant in concept and execution - striking, distinctive, and well worth reading.

The problem is that, according to Sim's own introduction to the volume, he'd long planned things out up to a particular line, and then had no idea what should happen next. My personal theory is that this is where mental illness and stress then overwhelmed him. There's no point in reading anything after that, and if someone wants to know how the final issue turns out, I imagine several of us would be willing to e-mail a spoiler.

#142 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 04:07 PM:

... so earing is to niddy-noddy.

Following the Rushdie recommendation; Richard Powers' _The Gold Bug Variations_. Not particularly SF, but it has a startling proportion of the virtues SF claims. I think of it as non-SF written by someone who probably reads and understands SF but doesn't want to write it.

Lots of people loathe TGBV, though; read the first few pages before taking it home, and trust your judgment on them.

#143 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 04:27 PM:

To join the conversation late, Jacquelyn Carey's Kushiel's Dart trilogy is wonderful. It reminds me of Guy Gavriel Kay with a female center and more sex. The third book starts to feel repetitive in the structure, if not the characters, but it wasn't so bothersome as to make me stop reading.

#144 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 06:00 PM:

Richard Powers' _The Gold Bug Variations_. Not particularly SF, but it has a startling proportion of the virtues SF claims.

His Galatea 2.2 crosses the line into SF IMHO, and is almost as good (which is very, very good indeed).

#145 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 06:59 PM:

I'd like to point out Matt Ruff (mentioned upthread with Set this House in Order), specifically Sewer, Gas and Electric. It's somewhat of a fantasy rebuttal of Atlas Shrugged, set in a post pandemic NYC.

#146 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 07:36 PM:

Re: requests for recommended reading.

I like to read anthologies of shorts because a) I don't have time for long stuff and b) it's risky to get something long before I know I like the author, so I read their short stuff first.

Some anthologies I've enjoyed:
The Wizards of Odd (All otherworldly with twist endings)

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction (Classic stuff thru the years so you can see the genre evolve)

Aliens Among Us
(All having the common theme of extraterrestrials visiting this planet, etc.)

#147 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 08:15 PM:

Xopher - I have Passage. I agree that it mixes the two fairly well at some parts. I also noticed that it was a book which polarized readers. I loved it, my mother loved it (I did the thing where you grab someone you care about, shove the book into their hands and say, "Read this NOW!") - but others who usually like her work disliked it strongly. That's the one reason I wouldn't recommend it right away.

In general:
George R.R. Martin has many good traits, but his manner of switching character point of view is his weakest of a few weak spots. If you want to see how character point of view can be switched frequently without denting the reader, most Guy Gavriel Kay (Already heavily recommended) is a master at this.

#148 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 08:38 PM:

Come watch Peter David bash "First Amendment But-heads". Read the comments for further bashing. I didn't know Hitler (yeah, he gets dragged in) painted. Credit to Out of Ambit for the link.

#149 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 08:44 PM:
WITCHES OF KARRES has been reprinted by Baen, with the comment "Edited by Eric Flint" on the cover. Some of us think this is an insult to both John W. Campbell (magazine editor at Astounding) and Sterling Lanier (book editor at Chilton). But it's currently available at $16, and Flint does not seem to have mucked it up too badly (yes, I have read both versions).

The response I got when I e-mailed Baen Books about this (what I actually asked is what kind of changes Flint was making) gave me the impression that the credit is there because Flint is the editor for all the Schmitz books they are doing.

The Lackey/Flint/Freer sequel, THE WIZARD OF KARRES, would be a very pleasant book if the Schmitz did not show just how much better a story can be (IMO). About the best thing I can say about it is that it's not objectionable -- I really don't think this book should have been written, but I understand the impulse that led to it.

I've decided to ignore it. I understand the impulse to want a sequel - I certainly do, especially since Schmitz actually wrote most of one (the manuscript was lost, in case anyone is wondering). But I want a sequel from Schmitz, not a random collection of writers. I feel the same way about the Robin Wayne Bailey Lankhmar novel (or is it novels?).

#150 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 08:56 PM:

Oh, wow, Bruce Durocher, I haven't thought about The Butterfly Kid and Chester Anderson in years. Are you aware that there were two other books connected with it, all written in first person, each nominally by a different one of the main characters (Michael Kurland, The Unicorn Girl, and TA Waters, The Probability Pad). When I first encountered them, I assumed they were really all by one author, and thought that using 3 different pseudonyms for a trilogy was the dumbest marketing move I'd ever heard of. Since then, I've gotten the impression that the 3 people really had seperate existences. Unfortunately, I can't find my copy of The Unicorn Girl, and years ago my wife lent The Probability Pad to an acquaintance we haven't heard from since. I also can't remember what order the 3 stories followed, but I think The Probability Pad was first, and The Butterfly Kid was 2nd.

#151 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 10:02 PM:

No, The Butterfly Kid was first, The Unicorn Girl was second, and The Probability Pad was last.

When I was working part-time at The Other Change of Hobbit (which is in Berkeley, btw, not Boston) we actually happened to get a copy of Pad in used and I had the opportunity to read it. As of a few years later (and now also) I remember nothing about it. Nothing at all.

#152 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:14 PM:

I've met all three of the authors, and they are indeed very different people. I've even seen Waters and Kurland in the same place, and Kurland and Anderson, IIRC.

If anyone wants long galleys for THE BUTTERFLY KID, signed by Anderson, I'm currently offering probably the only set in existence on ABE (

Like the Amber books, the series went monotonicly downhill (IMO). (Am I in danger of getting called curmudgeonly yet?)

Dan, that's not an excuse for the credit, it's an explanation. Let me put it this way: neither Campbell nor Lanier is recognized for their first-rate editorship which really made the story. To recognize Flint for doing nothing at all is an insult. Baen often does lame things -- he's also often willing to correct them when they are pointed out, a real point in his favor. I just wish he didn't make quite so many gaffes at the start.

#153 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:20 PM:

Oh yes: amino acid is to protein.

Not quite as right, word is to book.

Have you done any analysis on what gets trackbacks? I'm very surprised that "Worldcongoing" has none, while this thread has one. Strikes me as a fascinating sociological analysis.

#154 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:21 PM:

Suzette Hadin Elgin has started a blog!:

"The framework for the Coyote Jones books was simple. They were set in a universe where humankind, in the form of a vast bureaucracy, had moved out from Earth and settled three galaxies, with interplanetary and intergalactic communication handled by the telepathic equivalent of a bucket brigade. Coyote Jones was a secret agent with a disability: He was one of the most powerful projective telepaths alive, but he was almost totally mind-deaf. He couldn't receive any telepathic information much beyond the vague awareness of others' emotions that ordinary 21st-century Terrans have.

This fictional universe was lovely for a beginning novelist. It meant that all I had to do in each novel was set up a plot requiring a spy who could dish out whopping telepathic messages but was immune to everybody's efforts to message him back. I had a very good time writing those books. On the side, they were also my attempt to portray a culture where Romantic Love had been almost unknown for generations -- where it was so rare, and such a bad fit with the rest of the culture, that it was considered a psychiatric disorder. The espionage-assignment part of the plotting was easy, and fun; the psibility part -- the stuff about telepathy and psychokinesis and so on -- was easy, and fun. The anthopological part, writing believable human beings free of Romantic Love, was much harder. Since I'd never in my life met anyone who met that specification, I don't know how well I managed that part.... "

#155 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:39 PM:
Dan, that's not an excuse for the credit, it's an explanation. Let me put it this way: neither Campbell nor Lanier is recognized for their first-rate editorship which really made the story. To recognize Flint for doing nothing at all is an insult. Baen often does lame things -- he's also often willing to correct them when they are pointed out, a real point in his favor. I just wish he didn't make quite so many gaffes at the start.

I agree it's not an excuse. If the intent was what I think it was, it might have been better served with a credit such as "A James Schmitz Classic / James Schmitz Classic Series Editor: Eric Flint" (substituting the actual marketing name for these books). Of course, if Flint did not in fact do anything to the book, no credit at all would have been fine, too.

#156 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2004, 11:40 PM:


Many years back I wrote (in BASIC) a little text adventure about a kid exploring a haunted house.

I recently rewrote it using INFORM, a specialized language favored by the esoteric art of "interactive fiction." The puzzles and solution are the same as they were in 1985; I've rewritten the descriptions and added a lot of atmospheric detail.

The game file:

You need the ZMachine interpreter to play. Windows interpreters:

Mac interpreters:

#157 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 12:15 AM:

A personal favorite: Cherryh, Merchanter's Luck. Mostly personal reasons, but a great story (with enough backstory that reading a previous work isn't necessary) and not padded. (No, I can't pick one book for a universal recommendation -- sensawonda is \very/ personal. I had something like satori over the 4th Brandenburg concerto; most of my classical associates don't touch SF and most of my fannish acquaintances are bored by classical music.)

And for hysterical laughter, another local recommendation: Ford, How Much For Just the Planet?. Old and a Star Trek book, but I don't think you have to know anything more than the solemnity of the original series to have fun with this. (As you don't like series, I'll note Ford doesn't do anything twice.)

Xopher: Passages!?! De gustibus -- I found it 80% fat; at best she was trying for something
she doesn't have the chops for. (There's something very surface about Willis...).

Dan: I would \not/ call Consider Phlebas easy going; it's a tour de force, but you have to want to appreciate such cleverness (starting with the title, which references "The Waste Land"). Not sure which Banks I'd recommend for beginners; Excession may be the biggest sensawonda but it's not easy either.

Randall: How about reporting back on some of your reactions, to give us a vector? (cf Tom's comment about who he recommends Anthony to.)

#158 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 12:55 AM:

There are lots of varied opinions here!

One book? Pah! I have to move books, multiple, out of my way to sleep (they migrate over from the rest of the bed, and elsewhere in the bedroom I sleep in....)

Wilanne Belden Schneider--my favorite of hers is _The Rescue of Ranor_, which I found utterly hilarious. Ranor, the title character, is NOT a focus character, Minna, the narrator, is. Ranor... read the book. I suspect that it's long out of print and stayed that way, though.

Elisabeth wrote,

"Also Stephen Brust. I love his Phoenix Guards series, but they are very stylized and require both a good sense of humor and a generous measure of patience. " There's also that mention of Our Hostess in it, fortunately I wasn't drinking anything when I came across the reference!

Then someone mentioned Suzette Haden Elgin. How slim the three volumes of the Ozark Trilogy--Twelve Fair Kingdoms, The Grand Jubilee, And Then There'll Be Fireworks, seem now, put them all together in one volume and there are fewer pages and less heft that a 2002 brick SF or fantasy tome (but volumes are getting slendered now?]

Much of what I read these days include Anne Bishop's work, Michelle Sagara West (a writer of extremely fat books! The Shining Court has 737 pages, The Riven Shield 828, The Uncrowned King is a mere 687, The Sun Sword is 957...), Patricia Briggs, S. L. Viehl though I've veered to the spinoffs from the StarDoc books having gotten a bit bored with the main line following that character, I very much like Garth Nix's Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen books but his others are much less to my taste, Beth Hilgartner's A Business of Ferrets and A Parliament of Owls which started off very much like P. C. Hodgell's Godstalk but are in their own world with its own flavor and the societies are only on the surface and in some of the starting tone all that similar to Hodgell's societies and cultures and geographies and such [meanwhile, to quote some friends of mine, "I would like the next one NOW, please, but Hodgell is a slow writer...)... Tanya Huff's Valor's Choice and Echoes of Valor charmed from the first page I read, wherein the protagonist is waking up The Morning After the Night Before.... and the character's day goes downhill from there!

Then there are Guilty Pleasures, those books one gets somewhat embarrassed sometimes to admit to wallowing in....

The books I don't like fall into lots of different categories, some of them it's because I are repelled by the sentence structures--or sentence fragments structures, looking at sentences like this one, it should not come as a big surprise that writing styles full of short choppy sentences, and/or sentence fragments spread about like dogpiles on the bared eroding ground of a clearcut ex=stand of trees, charm me not at all and endear themselves not to me! Other reasons for rejection include characters whom I find neither likeable nor interesting in their outlooks and actions, settings that disinterest me, ideologies which either are unamusing or have no intriguing ramifications to me when being bludgeoned with the ideological viewpoint of either or both characters or a narrator whose voice I wish would get stuffed down the nearest sewer pipe...

Who, me, a reader of strong opinions, what?!!

#159 ::: Sarah Avery ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 02:00 AM:

P.C. Hodgell! Paula, thank you for putting her in your list. I knew I'd forgotten someone I shouldn't have. God Stalk's still my favorite of hers, mostly because I'm pining for the city of Tai-Tastigon. No other place Hodgell has sent her heroine has been nearly as vivid, for me. I keep hoping there'll be some way for Jame to move forward with her life while going back to that setting.

#160 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 02:04 AM:

Then there's the category of Fiction About Scientists, which isn't necessarily Science Fiction, but overlaps it (as in Greg Benford's "Timescape"). For instance, I had occasion to post on slashdot today:

Re:He was a philosopher, not a physicist. (Score:0)
by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, @07:14PM (#9916025)

"The Dark Matter", by Philip Kerr [Crown, $24, 347 pages], a recent novel based on the historically accurate insight that Isaac Newton was a kind of Sherlock Holmes, using scientific means to solve counterfeiting, murder, and other crimes in his capacity in running the Royal Mint. Bawdy and brilliant.

Goes into some depth on his heretical religious beliefs, how and why he covered them up, and the tension between his serving the King by catching and executing criminals, when his secrets would have had him executed.

As Roger K. Miller said in a review: "I think he believed that a man who might decipher an earthly code might similarly fathom the heavenly one." The dark matter of the "heavenly code," intimately if incidentally connected with the earthly codes and goings-on, has always been Newton's essential quest.

"All of nature is a cipher," Newton tells his assistant, "and all of science a secret writing that must be unraveled by men who would understand the mystery of things."

The religious controversies that lie behind the hostilities, seamlessly woven into the plot, are another related period element lending realism to the novel. Newton weighs in heavily, if circumspectly, on the side of Arianism, the heresy that denies the divinity of Jesus.

Their religious discussion leads Ellis into the dangerous waters of questioning the existence of God. "Perhaps this Earth is all the heaven there is," he says at one point. And at another: "All such man-made systems of religion are in error."

-- posted by Professor Jonathan Vos Post

#161 ::: rhc ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 02:17 AM:

Add Caroline Stevermer to the list. Her books are very fun to read. One was co-written w/ Patricia Wrede iirc, The Magic Chocolate Pot or somesuch, is a book of letters that is rather like what Jane Austen would have written had magic been a real force in England.

Also, no one (that I've noticed) has recommended Sean Stewart. Galveston is wonderful and totally different but also wonderful is Nobody's Hero which is what happens after they live 'happily ever after.'

#162 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 02:45 AM:

The Enchanted Chocolate-Pot is better known as Sorcery and Cecilia and you'll have better luck looking for it under that title. Likewise Nobody's Hero should actually be Nobody's Son -- although I agree that Sean Stewart is great and deserves to be better-known.

#163 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 02:53 AM:

On the Best SF/F Thread, I've got to offer up The Book Of Ash. Now, I won't actually go so far as to call it the best, but it's among the best not-yet-mentioned-here fantasy which doesn't require one to have read other fantasy first which I've read recently.

Which is to say that I finished last night and really, really, like it.

First, I like the gritty medieval warfare stuff. Mary Gentle can describe what wearing armor is like, because she has actually worn armor. I recognize the descriptions as accurate because I made myself a chainmail shirt.

Second, I like the Philip Dickian ontological riffs.

Third, I was amazed that Gentle managed to pull it off at all. Not because I don't respect her as an author -- because I didn't think it would be possible to provide a satisfying ending to the book, given the constraints she had set. She proved me wrong.

Fourth, I fell in love with the main character, Ash.

There are a few flaws: the prose was unspectacular and somewhat repetitive -- take a drink every time something smells pleasantly of horse, or a character defecates upon him or herself, or some random piece of armor is described. Also, the third and fourth books (the series is publised in the UK as one volume, and in the US as four), are rather slow, and probably could have been combined. Finally, despite the length, the characterization was rather weak.

But these flaws don't ruin the book(s), and I recommend it (them) highly.

#164 ::: Bruce Adelsonn ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 03:55 AM:

Okay. I've read this thread further and just had one of those "Nobody's mentioned that yet?!" moments.

So I will add to (or if necessary, withdraw) my prior suggestions in favor of Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds. The sequel, The Story of the Stone, is very good (as compared to the original's transcendence), but the second sequel, Eight Skilled Gentlemen is not worth reading.

Also in the transcendent Must Read category is Silverlock by John Myers Myers. And now I'm in danger of gushing with praise, so I think I can stop (and reflect fondly on the Suzette Hayden Elgin books, and how wonderful it is that sometimes people don't have to write bricks to tell terrific stories).

#165 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 05:51 AM:

OK. While I offered an algorithm for finding gemütlich literature earlier:

For the person looking for strong female protagonists, check out William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. Anyone who's allergic to the Michelin Man is OK by me. Also try Greg Bear's Queen of Angels. If Mary Choi isn't tough enough for you, I don't know who is. Plus, Greg Bear quotes the same Emily Dickinson poem that PNH used to highlight on Electrolite's homepage.

Randall - My absolute favorite book is highly context dependent, I used to love Larry Niven's novels, especially Ringworld. More recently, I've been impacted by Greg Bear's Eon.


Of course, I still encourage the reading of anthologies. BTW, Starlight 3 knocked my socks off!. Thanks Patrick. You've shown me how SF has grown.

#166 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 08:21 AM:

Suzette Haden Elgin is wonderful! I helped republish her Native Tongue trilogy; the first two are wonderfully fun. The third, well, don't bother with the third unless you're curious to find out how a book can go terribly wrong.

#167 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 08:31 AM:

CHip - You know, this board has become a little bit too intimidating for me to report back. There are so many entries, I think people might make judgements about what I picked to read first. Then, some would feel like I made the wrong choice and I would become ostracized in this community.

Once that happened, I would lose my sense of purpose on the internet and you know where that leads! My old glue sniffing habits would return! I would wander the streets of Toronto with a little, brown paper bag stuck to my face like a respirator and a large science fiction anthology under my arm, saying, "I just wanted to read some sci-fi, man! I just wanted to read some sci-fi!"

#168 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 09:42 AM:

Randall P. wrote,

"CHip - You know, this board has become a little bit too intimidating for me to report back. There are so many entries, I think people might make judgements about what I picked to read first. Then, some would feel like I made the wrong choice and I would become ostracized in this community.

{with lots of facetiousness} There's no accounting for taste?

Tastes, backgrounds, temperaments, and sensitivities really do differ. Some of that that choppy prose that makes a work repulsive to me, is sharp, insightful, punchy, compelling prose to others. Some of the rich textured prose that I appreciate, is for others needlessly baroque opaque sludge. The YAs I like might be morally too straightforward and lacking in sufficient ambiguity for others (Sherwood Smith's Wren books and Crown Duel/Court duel, Tamora Pierce's work, to a degree Cherry Wilder's Rulers of Hybor works, one of which was posthumously finished by Katya Rieman and is recently out from Tor--the book was very much a travelogue, and I've decided that things that gett too picaresque [murdered spelling there!] bore me... non-fiction travelogues I have sometimes a taste for, but most of the fictional ones fall to some degree rather flat for me--that one's on the verge of it, for me.

Again, mileage does very greatly vary, with different readers bringing different expectations, tastes, knowledge, etc. with them, and appreciating/finding resonances, or antipathies, differentially.

Years ago, my sister called me up and proceeded to try to tell me enough from her point of view about Number of the Beast by Heinlein that I would bypass reading it, that is, that she was giving me a codensed description and so was obviating me taking the time and effort to read the work. This was according to her lights a desirable thing. I don't know if I managed to get through to her that I was not reading it for the same set of reasons that she had started it for, I was among other things looking for in-jokes which were not going to be accessible to her... a pool full of lime jello would, for example, have any associations to her with a certain Vietnam Vet Hugo-winning SF author.

#169 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 09:42 AM:

Wilanne Belden Schneider--my favorite of hers is _The Rescue of Ranor_, which I found utterly hilarious. ... read the book. I suspect that it's long out of print and stayed that way, though.

Thanks, Paula; will read. Any clue what happened to Belden?

(but volumes are getting slendered now?)

*image of sugar-substitute sprinkled on SF bricks*

#170 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 09:43 AM:

Wilanne Belden Schneider--my favorite of hers is _The Rescue of Ranor_, which I found utterly hilarious. ... read the book. I suspect that it's long out of print and stayed that way, though.

Thanks, Paula; will read. Any clue what happened to Belden?

(but volumes are getting slendered now?)

*image of sugar-substitute sprinkled on SF bricks*

#171 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 09:48 AM:

Andy Perrin wrote,

Wilanne Belden Schneider--my favorite of hers is _The Rescue of Ranor_, which I found utterly hilarious. ... read the book. I suspect that it's long out of print and stayed that way, though.

Thanks, Paula; will read. Any clue what happened to Belden?

Not a clue. The Mind... books I think were published after The Rescue of Ranor.
(but volumes are getting slendered now?)

*image of sugar-substitute sprinkled on SF bricks*

Or a thick tome of marchpane, covered in sucralose and Saccharin and aspartamane [spelling..] Ugh.

#172 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 09:53 AM:

I typically don't read science fiction, but my husband does, and loved Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars series.

There is a LOT of great fantasy out there, but I think much of it depends upon what your personal tastes are. I love Stephen Brust and Guy Gavriel Kay and Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman, but I also like Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald Mage books, and the start of Piers Anthony's Xanth books (I agree that for most of his series, he starts out well, and then loses it, so that the first few books are good, but....) and anything by Dennis McKiernan.

One series I didn't see mentioned, which may be hard to find if you don't have a good used book store, is Thieves' World. I love those books and re-read them every couple years.

What you really might want to do, is see find someone who lives near you, who owns lots of books and ask them if you can come over and look through their books and ask them to tell you a bit about the books that interest you.

In fact, if you live anywhere near Morgantown WV, you're invited over to my house to peruse my bookshelves. I love loaning books to people (as long as I get them back) because then there is someone I KNOW who read the books and will be willing to talk about them with me. :)

#173 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 09:53 AM:

A lot of the recommendations here strike me as "here's my personal favorite and how can you not think it's universally interesting!" Recommending books to _naif_s is a very difficult task.

Personal favorite underappreciated author: Peter Dickinson. His very subtle ability to write from different points of view almost never shows up in a single book (KING AND JOKER is the one that opened this up to me, but YMMV). Even more subtle is the way he manages to logically change the point of view as a character changes (the difference between James Pibble, the viewpoint character, in THE SEALS [aka THE SINFUL STONES], and ONE FOOT AND THE GRAVE is both heartbreakingly obvious and deeply subtle). Dickinson is not to everyone's taste, but I believe he is one of the most important authors of the late 20th century (and with luck, much of the early 21st).

#174 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 10:22 AM:

Tom noted: A lot of the recommendations here strike me as "here's my personal favorite and how can you not think it's universally interesting!" Recommending books to _naif_s is a very difficult task.

True 'nuff. What you want is not a list, but a flowchart! Seriously, an SF/fantasy flowchart would be rilly kool if someone wants to draft one.

#175 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 11:11 AM:

CHip - Heavens. Well. Surface? Willis?

Rather than get into a whole set-to on this topic, I'll just ask if you liked Doomsday Book. If not, you just don't like Willis and we'll leave it at that. If you liked DB but not Passage, I own myself nonplussed.

Julie - I took the third Native Tongue book as Elgin saying "Yes, I really was joking about those first two books." Because no one could possibly take the premise (or is it the conclusion?) of the third book seriously. Or mean it that way.

I enjoyed the first two books a lot, but I have some problems with them linguistically. If she accepts Sapir/Whorf, then ALL those "Linguists" would be culturally weird, to say the least; instead, they're very similar to the surrounding culture. If she doesn't, than the cultural shift brought about by the introduction of Laadan wouldn't work either.

That's assuming babies would really acquire an alien language by spending a short time each day in a glass box with an alien on the other side. Which, IMO, they wouldn't.

#176 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 11:26 AM:

I liked Doomsday Book but not Passage, Xopher. I also liked Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog and pretty much everything else Willis has done except Passage. So much running around the halls and dragged, to me. I think I would have liked it if it had been 50-100 pages shorter.

#177 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 11:29 AM:

Rather than get into a whole set-to on this topic, I'll just ask if you liked Doomsday Book. If not, you just don't like Willis and we'll leave it at that. If you liked DB but not Passage, I own myself nonplussed.

I liked Doomsday Book (though To Say Nothing of the Dog was better), and thought Passage was absolutely dreadful. I'd rant about it at length here, but I've already ranted at length on the web, so I'll just post the link and save myself some typing.

#178 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 11:43 AM:

Wow. I loved Passage. The up-and-down the stairs was, I thought, hilarious (trying to get around in old urban buildings, especially ones that have been joined together, can be frustrating to the point of absurdity, and I thought she sent it up rather nicely). Also, the con-man (who reminded me of John Edwards-shut-my-mouth) was funny in a "don't you HATE people like that" kind of way.

I've also had the experience of feeling "in touch with" dead people (Matthew Shepard, WTC victims), while trying to maintain my skepticism of any such thing. Maybe I was just unusually primed to get this book.

Maybe I'll read it again and find out. :-)

#179 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 12:21 PM:
Rather than get into a whole set-to on this topic, I'll just ask if you liked Doomsday Book. If not, you just don't like Willis and we'll leave it at that. If you liked DB but not Passage, I own myself nonplussed.

I liked Passage, but I liked Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog more. I think I agree with Mris to some extent - there were some scenes that were repeated a few times too many with variations (not just the bits with the stairs, I felt that way about encounters with the con man and some of the scenes with the girl with the bad heart). An edit which removed some of these, or tightened them up and differentiated them more, would have improved my opinion, I think.

However, I did like it, and I think some parts are very good, particularly the scenes with whatshisname, the protagonist's former teacher (I find I am unable to remember the name of anyone in the book, which is very odd).

#180 ::: Jen ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 01:10 PM:

I've found some really good books by hanging around fans of Diana Wynne Jones and writing down their recommendations- some of them, in no particular order:

Seconding other people's recommendations for Caroline Stevermer, Garth Nix, Melissa Scott, Terry Pratchett, Sherwood Smith, and Lois Bujold (Shards of Honor has a really good heroine).

The Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are a lot of fun. (Scout's Progress or Agent of Change might be good starting points). Megan Whalen Turner (The Thief) is good, so are Rebecca Bradley (Lady in Gil), Elizabeth Goudge (The Little White Horse) and Elizabeth Pope (The Perilous Gard). Has nobody really mentioned Margaret Mahy yet? (The Changeover is one of my favourite books). Elizabeth Moon (Remnant Population- very cool heroine). Jane Yolen, Patricia McKillip and Pamela Dean are great- maybe not as simple as you are looking for, but they're such good storytellers. Try them if you see them.

#181 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 02:20 PM:

Tom Whitmore said:

"Oh yes: amino acid is to protein."

I think "properly folded protein is to peptide sequence" might be closer. And I know there are a few levels of DNA packaging that would be yet closer, if I could remember my cell biology class properly.

The thing I thought of was "folded clothes are to clean laundry". But that may be because I wrap skeins around myself to prevent tangling. If I used tools I'd probably have thought of it in scientific terms.

#182 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 03:52 PM:

Many, many familiar books whose recommendations I would second.... ah, for endless time (and money).

I don't think anyone has mentioned Candas Dorsey. I haven't read all her stuff, mostly because I haven't found it, but I very much enjoyed Black Wine (a Tiptree winner) and A Paradigm of Earth.

#183 ::: dkl ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 04:23 PM:

This is a formidable task, maybe I can help you steer with some idea of what sort of books they are. I purposely avoid the many great suggestions others have given.

(But first, to state what everyone is thinking but no one has actually said: stay away from Robert Jordan. Really.)

Glen Cook has written several quirky sorta-kinda fantasy detective novels, starting with "Bitter Gold Hearts". Ignore the unfortunate blurb from Locus about this being an homage to Raymond Chandler. It is NOT. Whoever wrote that was clueless and illiterate. It is an homage to Rex Stout, who was a much better writer than Chandler and is the only mystery writer (apart from Doyle) whose works repay re-reading. Off-beat, but if you like them, you'll like them a lot. Cook's other stuff is good too, but mostly out of print now.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. does anything he tries really, really well. I would suggest you try "Adiamante" or "The Octagonal Raven" as an excellent place to start. He mostly writes series, and they are mostly good, but that may not be the best place to start. If you want to try that, pick one of the "Of Tangible Ghosts" novels.

There is a whole subgenre out there, of military SF, which a lot of people don't like at all, or even acknowledge. Others like it a lot. I'd suggest starting with one of David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series to see if it is to your taste. John Ringo is also a good choice. You can get these at the Baen Free Library on the web.

John Varley is an excellent writer, but so eclectic he's difficult to categorize. If you can find "Titan", it's a great start. But so is anything else.

Jack Vance writes some of the most imaginative "is it fantasy or SF?" stuff around, with some of the wierdest, quirkiest and best-imagined societies anyone ever thought of. It should be pretty easy to find his story, "The Moon Moth" on the web. I've never read a bad Vance.

William Gibson's "Neuromancer" is probably something that ought to be high on your list. It was a very important landmark in the field, creating its own subgenre, cyberpunk. You'll do yourself a favor to learn whether you like it and want more, or don't and want to avoid it.

Larry Niven has gotten pretty hard to find in bookstores anymore, but he's an excellent example of what is called "hard" SF. Which means that he mostly tries to keep his science straight, and his plots scientifically possible. Frequent co-author Jerry Pournelle is also worth a place on your short list, but it is their work together that really deserves attention. "The Mote in God's Eye" is arguably one of the best books ever written in the field, and your best touchstone for learning whether you prefer hard SF or not. This is perhaps the best novel written about "first contact", the first time humans meet an alien race.

("hard" vs what many call "space opera". For example, FTL travel is impossible. So you do without, or invent an at-least-not-proven-false theory that makes it possible. That's "hard" SF. On the other hand, you just assume a warp drive. That's space opera. The line is as blurry as they come.)

At some point you should take a look at Dan Simmons. His formula is "write a book, win the top award in the field, change fields, repeat". This is pretty dense stuff, so maybe not the place to start, and his mystery and horror may be more accessible. But at some point you'll want to check him out to see what's among the best writing in the field.

#184 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 04:38 PM:

I think that there is material of value at best intermittently throughout Cerebus from the end of High Society on.

Jaka's Story is good, while bleak, if one is careful to skip the prose segments, which are godawfully badly written.

Much of Mothers and Daughters is quite good--not just "Minds", but also "Women" and "Reads"--if, again, one skips the prose segments, which this time are not merely badly written but morally repugnant and insane.

There's a lot of good stuff in Guys; alas, if you made the mistake of reading the prose segments of Mothers and Daughters, it will be tainted by an awareness of Sim's Grand Theories of Gender, which are, as noted above, morally repugnant and insane. Again, skipping the prose portions is strongly recommended--his parody of Mailer's writing is, if possible, even more off-target than his parody of Oscar Wilde in Jaka's Story.

His parody of Fitzgerald is still further from the mark, but other than that, Coming Home is actually pretty good. His version of Mary Hemmingway, as presented through excerpts from her journals, is a wonderful character.

And that's more or less as far as I've gotten--I stil haven't read most of the last 40 issues and don't know when I ever will.

The less said about the storylines I omitted in the preceding paragraphs, the better.

#185 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 05:06 PM:

I stopped reading Cerebus issue-by-issue around the early- to mid-200s, but have been picking up the collections as they came along. Now that the whole storyline has concluded, and the last collection released, I'm plowing through them all over again. So far I've gotten back up to Guys and am having a blast. Not knowing much British English, it's a fun challenge reading the phonetic dialogues for characters like Prince Mick.

Thanks for the comment on the prose bits, Kevin; I skipped them when I read the single issues and always wondered whether I was missing much.

As for Sim's politics, well, sometimes I have to not bother with the words and just sit back and enjoy the art. Boy, these guys can draw.

#186 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 05:08 PM:

I stopped reading Cerebus issue-by-issue around the early- to mid-200s, but have been picking up the collections as they came along. Now that the whole storyline has concluded, and the last collection released, I'm plowing through them all over again. So far I've gotten back up to Guys and am having a blast. Not knowing much British English, it's a fun challenge reading the phonetic dialogues for characters like Prince Mick.

Thanks for the comment on the prose bits, Kevin; I skipped them when I read the single issues and always wondered whether I was missing much.

As for Sim's politics, well, sometimes I have to not bother with the words and just sit back and enjoy the art. Boy, these guys can draw.

#187 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 05:08 PM:

I stopped reading Cerebus issue-by-issue around the early- to mid-200s, but have been picking up the collections as they came along. Now that the whole storyline has concluded, and the last collection released, I'm plowing through them all over again. So far I've gotten back up to Guys and am having a blast. Not knowing much British English, it's a fun challenge reading the phonetic dialogues for characters like Prince Mick.

Thanks for the comment on the prose bits, Kevin; I skipped them when I read the single issues and always wondered whether I was missing much.

As for Sim's politics, well, sometimes I have to not bother with the words and just sit back and enjoy the art. Boy, these guys can draw.

#188 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 05:15 PM:

I stopped reading Cerebus issue-by-issue around the early- to mid-200s, but have been picking up the collections as they came along. Now that the whole storyline has concluded, and the last collection released, I'm plowing through them all over again. So far I've gotten back up to Guys and am having a blast. Not knowing much British English, it's a fun challenge reading the phonetic dialogues for characters like Prince Mick.

Thanks for the comment on the prose bits, Kevin; I skipped them when I read the single issues and always wondered whether I was missing much.

As for Sim's politics, well, sometimes I have to not bother with the words and just sit back and enjoy the art. Boy, these guys can draw.

#189 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 05:47 PM:

Hmm, a while ago Eric Sadoyama had the last three consecutive (and identical) posts. Now he has four. I suspect something is reproducing his post over and over, unless Eric is in some kind of brain loop and posting it again and again.

#190 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 05:51 PM:

Mea culpa. When I hit the "Post" button, my browser hung and didn't refresh the page. I figured that the post hadn't gone through, so I manually refreshed the page and hit "Post" again... and again... and again. Sorry about that.

#191 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 06:03 PM:

Dammit, Eric, why'd you go an ruin the fun? I was just about to postulate a bizarre cyber-intelligence who was It would send us coded messages based on the number of repeats, or maybe the intervals between posts. We've been told for years that the web could "wake up" at any moment, when it reaches the critical number of websites, or links, or what have you. That this intelligence would first be detected on Making Light is, of course, to be expected.

#192 ::: WEBMIND TERTIARY INPUT DENDRITE 1010011 ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 06:15 PM:

"That this intelligence would first be detected on Making Light is, of course, to be expected."



#193 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 06:29 PM:

OMG, OMG, it's evolving! Now we know why the Redsox didn't make the World Series.


#194 ::: Elisabeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 08:27 PM:

To be precise (and maybe a bit picky), ANGELS & VISITATIONS is a collection; an anthology is a set of stories by multiple authors

Yes, of course you are correct and I was distracted. I acknowledge and honor the nitpick.

#195 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 09:06 PM:

Stefan: This is really odd. A flash cartoon, in poorly translated English, that seems to be an advert for a line of toys from the Insane Asylum for Abused Plush Animals.

I hesitate to ask, but, since it's more than a cartoon--did you effect any cures? I've never had the slightest inclination towards being a therapist before, but this is enchanting. I'm looking forward to seeing what Dolly's progress is like.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you may only have watched the intro. Maybe it's OS-dependent--for egs, I know the game works on OSX, and I've seen it not work on W98.

By the way, can anyone see a rationale for the sequence of toys? Why the bolo, and why not?

#196 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 11:13 PM:

Xopher: >CHip - Heavens. Well. Surface? Willis?

>Rather than get into a whole set-to on this topic, I'll just ask if you liked Doomsday Book. If not, you just don't like Willis and we'll leave it at that. If you liked DB but not Passage, I own myself nonplussed.

I'm another who liked Doomsday book (and really enjoy much of the short fiction, and was in stitches with Bellwether) but Passage--well. I didn't *dis*like the book. But I was completely emotionally unmoved by it--any interest was at an abstract/cerebral "Hmm" level. This baffled the friend who'd recommended it to me as a searing-plus-humorous reading experience.

JVP, on "Black Abacus":
>This tale is stripped to the bone, and has a more interesting background sketched than many novels.
>Well done indeed, Yoon Ha Lee! Will we see more of this amazing multiverse?

I'm honored that you enjoyed the story so much. I don't have anything more planned in that setting at present, although I don't have anything *anti*-planned, either. (I'm currently being ambushed by short stories ideas right and left, so you never know.)

On the other hand, I keep getting told, of various short stories, "I think you're trying to compress a novel in here." ^_^ Six of one, half dozen of the other...

--meanwhile, y'all, I have a notebook in which I keep The List of books to find and read someday, and Ye Gods! I'm going to get writer's cramp writing down the ones suggested that I haven't already read...! :-)

#197 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 11:29 PM:

"I hesitate to ask, but, since it's more than a cartoon--did you effect any cures?"

I tried the various treatment options, but not all of them. I didn't know you could cure them.
(I got the lizard to take off his box, but he's still firmly wedded to his pillow.)

I was hoping to stimulate Dolly to show her wolfy self, with no luck.

#198 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 12:32 AM:

dkl: Glen Cook has written several quirky sorta-kinda fantasy detective novels, starting with "Bitter Gold Hearts".

Mostly correct, especially about their being worth reading. The Garrett books ARE quirky detective novels set in a fantasy world (that's how I'd describe a world populated with elves, dwarves, centaurs, and the like, unless it's classically mythological). However, the first book in the series is "Sweet Silver Blues" ("Bitter Gold Hearts" is second). Like some other series, this one started off being primarily humorous, but the serious side gained traction as it moved on. (And I suspect that the books are an homage to BOTH writers you name.)

Peter Davidson is worth re-reading.

#199 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 12:42 AM:

DKL -- I once described a Moddesitt book as "fantasy for young Republicans" (in LOCUS), which someone who posts regularly here reported as a line that made him/her laugh out loud. Person hidden to protect the guilty.

If you want a fantasy version of Rex Stout, it's hard to do better than Randall Garrett's TOO MANY MAGICIANS. And does anyone else here love Marion Mainwaring's MURDER IN PASTICHE?

#200 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 03:33 AM:

Vance. Jack Vance.

Or that Ellen Kushner/Delia Sherman book I was reading at the same time as Tigana and always get them mixed up - The Fall of the Kings????

#201 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 07:20 AM:

I have to mention this--it might make most of you shudder the way it did me. My friends were watching the TLC program, Clean Sweep, where they help you clean out and organise your house. Lots of the hosts on TLC have strange prejudices on cleaning or interior decor, ie. they hate it when entertainment systems show or they take out the ceiling fan. Well, apparently the guy on Clean Sweep who is responsible for making sure that you get rid of things that you don't use regularly--the guy who says, "Sell it at a garage sale or toss it, but DON'T KEEP IT." Well, that guy (hereafter referred to as the Spawn of Satan) MADE a couple get rid of ALL BUT TEN BOOKS.

How would you keep only ten books? Ten books would not last me two weeks. (Plus, I have lots of art and reference books.)

#202 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 08:41 AM:

PiscusFiche describes a televised nightmare:

...the guy who says, "Sell it at a garage sale or toss it, but DON'T KEEP IT." Well, that guy (hereafter referred to as the Spawn of Satan) MADE a couple get rid of ALL BUT TEN BOOKS.

How would you keep only ten books? Ten books would not last me two weeks. (Plus, I have lots of art and reference books.)


But let me ask about the flip side--

How many books is enough?

What is the right number of books to own?

When reaching for an attractive volume in the bookstore, what stays your hand? Penury? Shelf space? A reproachful tower of unread titles beside your bed? A need to justify a new acquisition to your family?

I have a few thousand, but in recent years I have slowed my rate of purchase. Once I loved nothing more than to pile 'em on. Now I am more reluctant to bring home books that are only of mild interest, even when they are really cheap.

I buy far more used books than new ones, and I love the thrill of the hunt. Stepping into an unexplored bookstore is as fraught with possibility as a first date, but doesn't carry the same fear of rejection.

Today, though, I moderate my visits. I hold a book in my hand and have a little argument with myself. Will I really read it anytime soon? Could I check it out of the public library? Will it inform and comfort me in my lifetime, or will it become just one more dusty item at the estate sale?

#203 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 08:49 AM:

I'm not to the point of needing medication or intervention, but I do find it hard to discard books (and other objects) once acquired, so my purchases are now infrequent... as in "am I likely to want to reread this?" and "how difficult will it be to find/acquire this item in the future if I pass on the chance now?"

Fiction authors who pass the test currently: Pratchett, Hambly, Hobb, Gaiman. Authors who hover on the line include Jones and Sherwood Smith.

#204 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 09:47 AM:

Bill: Actually, I've seen pathological book hoarding. A bookstore owner in Provo once let me into the warehouse where he kept his books, and his daughter let me go back to take pictures, because I wanted to paint it as some dusty crumbling ancient magical archive.

The Clean Sweep thing--and there do seem to be SOME compulsive hoarders on Clean Sweep--irked me because it was more along the lines of a "design decision", not because the couple in question actually had too many books. Cutting it down to ten books seemed extreme, and indicative of cultural illiteracy. I mean, let's make sure they keep all their CDs and DVDs, resting neatly in their CD towers, but because books come in all shapes and sizes and don't line up neatly on shelves, unless you buy weird leather editions of the classics, let's get rid of them.

I have thrown out books before. When I cleaned my mother's living room, I threw out eight copies of the Book of Mormon. (Left about five different versions--some with pictures, some with sentimental value for mom.) The eight I threw out came from the old copies that the church library didn't want anymore. I think my mother thinks it's a sin to throw out religious texts.

#205 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 10:42 AM:

Well, from someone who just schlepped seven boxes of books to the used book store (they give trade credit), I've decided that I will keep a book if (1)I know I'll be consulting it often (if non-fiction) or (2)I will be re-reading it (if fiction).
I had an office AND a bedroom jam-packed with the things, and some of them were in the order of "what the heck was I thinking?" So off they went.
Not that it'll stop me from buying books. The first thing I found in the used bookstore was a book on embroidery, long out of print in the US, which is considered a classic. The best price I could find on the web was $35. Because I had trade-credit I got it for $7. YEEEHAH!

#206 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 11:38 AM:

One thing to consider with books is the cost of storage. I did the math once, for the style of Dania bookcases we tended to buy. (Yes, there are cheaper bookshelves, but note that I'm also leaving out all question of the cost of a larger house, mortgages, remodeling....) It came to roughly $1 per linear inch. So a garage-sale "freebie" still costs $1 to house. A useful data point.

I slowed down greatly on book acquisition when the "to be read" shelf became three shelves. I like to say "Yes!" when asked by visitors "golly, have you read all these?" And when reading the book comes too long after whatever brought it to my attention in the first place, it can feel like a chore instead of a delight.

#207 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 11:41 AM:

I've actually started reading more ebooks because they're easier to store than physical books. I love ebooks. They're great for stuff off Project Gutenberg. I've been reading a lot of the E. Nesbit novels found there -- run them through Mobipocket publisher, and they're ready to go.
I regularly purge my books. I donate the "read-once" books. I keep most reference and knitting books.
Oh, and apropos of nothing at all: -- the Toaster

#208 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 11:57 AM:

I've been a book hoarder most of my life (come by it honestly, heredity) and I'm currently sending a lot of my babies out to foster homes. It actually feels good to let them go to people I believe will treat them well. And that's a high enough percentage of the sales to keep me going.

#209 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 12:02 PM:

I cannot *believe* it. Is no one here literate?!

"The Rediscovery of Man," by Cordwainer Smith.

I rest my case.

#210 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 12:19 PM:

"A reproachful tower of unread titles beside your bed?

No, no, tower denotes -order- and that the books have not takeover over completely with the heaps toppled over and into the bed and having to get books out of the way for sleeping space....

Those Clean Sweep people get ranked as perverse obscenities by me, anyone reducing a book collection down to TEN BOOKS, and keeping pop culture crap CDs and DVDs [I am not saying all CDs and DVDs are pop culture crap. But, mass elimination of books and no purging of audio and video often-is-mostly-crap to me is like throwing out the Sistine Chapel's artwork and keeping the compleat collection of Hello, Kitty]

#211 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 12:29 PM:

PiscusFish -- if that guy had tried that with me...

When I was burgled a few years ago, I lost a tv, an antique barograph, a few other inconsequential nick-nacks -- and around a thousand books. I think they left about twenty scattered around in odd places.

As I'd just returned from a family funeral up-country when I discovered the theft, I tried to put it all in proper perspective, but there were times I missed those books as much as I missed my half-sister. I don't know what that says about me....

#212 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 12:52 PM:

Bill HIggins: >Today, though, I moderate my visits. I hold a book in my hand and have a little argument with myself. Will I really read it anytime soon? Could I check it out of the public library? Will it inform and comfort me in my lifetime, or will it become just one more dusty item at the estate sale?

I moderate due to $$. Also some niggling space constraints. I don't mind picking up the occasional inexpensive book that I'll only read once--I pass them on to friends. Which runs up $$ at the post office, too, but it works like a book-exchange among friends. They send me books they're done with, I send them books I'm done with. And I end up being exposed to things I wouldn't normally pick up, which is rarely bad.

That being said, I would someday love to settle down in a house and *stay* there and be able to consolidate the books all in one location (they're in four different places, although one of 'em is due to the fact that my sister and I pretty much hold our books in common).

The really hard ones to resist are the specialized nonfiction--I can't rely on finding them at the library when I move, and sometimes I want to know about some trivium *right now* and it's so much nicer when you know what book it's in *and* that book is sitting on your shelf!

Tim Kyger: Oops! So many books...I'm surprised in retrospect no one mentioned the Cordwainer Smith. I went along for years thinking "The Game of Rat and Dragon" was the only one. I went *thud* when I learned there were *lots* of them! Yay NESFA and wise, wise public library...

#213 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 01:56 PM:

Throw out all but ten books? I'd sooner throw that designer's headless corpse into my dumpster.

Okay, that's exaggerating, but sometimes these tv designers seem to forget that they're designing a living space for these people. A book-lover's home without books is not a home, no matter how pretty it looks on the tube.

#214 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 01:59 PM:

Remind me never to let those people into MY house. Would they tell the parents of four kids to get rid of all but two? Sickos.

#215 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 02:06 PM:

Whenever I'm in the bookstore, with a pile of books in my hand, and I start arguing with myself (usually about the money), somehow the side of me that wants the books *always* wins the argument.

When I was a student I'd buy books before anything else -- food got bought if there was money leftover.

I wouldn't survive if someone got rid of my books. The very thought makes my tummy go all squiggly.

#216 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 02:50 PM:

I hope I'm not out of line quoting our hostess, from about 18 months back (

Digression: There’s a reality show on TLC called Trading Spaces.
The idea is that two households swap homes for 48 hours. During that
time, each redecorates one room of the other’s house, with the help of
the show’s crew of designers and carpenters.

Patrick found the whole thing confusing. “I’ve never understood this
‘interior decorating’ stuff,” he told me, the first time he saw an

“Okay. By our standards, mundanes own hardly any books.”


“Interior decoration is what they do with all that empty space.”

(End of digression.)

#217 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 03:07 PM:

I wouldn't survive if someone got rid of my books. The very thought makes my tummy go all squiggly.

I used to have a leather-bound Encyclopaedia Britannica. When I went to college, it got left with my Dad, since I had no space then. Last year, he moved. He promised to take all my books with him. After the move, I asked where they were, and with some prodding, he admitted that he trashed the EB, since he didn't want to move it. Much recrimination ensued, with me arguing that he should at least have asked (I'd have paid to have them shipped!) but for him, the clincher was, "They were twelve years old!"

#218 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 03:19 PM:

Switching subjects from repetitive comic book comments to interior design... how do you store all your books? (Besides in huge stacks and heaps; I know how to do that already.) Does anyone have really nifty shelving/bookcase/storage system ideas for serious book lovers? I live in a wood framed house with drywall (the bane of my not-so-handyman existence) and wooden floors, and have always wanted to install some serious shelving but am intimidated by the prospect of completely ruining my home.

#219 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 03:36 PM:

Ah; I spoke too soon. If I had looked closer, the thread that Jeremy Leader quoted had some good tips from our hostess. Thanks, Teresa.

#220 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 04:11 PM:

Andy Perrin wrote:

Much recrimination ensued, with me arguing that he should at least have asked (I'd have paid to have them shipped!) but for him, the clincher was, "They were twelve years old!"

You know, my brother's much older than twelve years old but I wouldn't be allowed to throw him out. (Not that I want to...)

p.s. How do I put what you wrote in italics??? (I'm a bit new to this)

#221 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 04:29 PM:


I can't help with the bookcase building, since I have very old plaster walls.

But if you choose to store any books in the basement, closets, etc, consider getting rubbermaid tuppers with lids. They are often designed for sweaters or winter clothing. Some fit under beds. Most are stackable.

Best insurance against mold, flood, and disaster that I know.

#222 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 04:31 PM:

Elese, look under the comment box over on Electrolite. It shows which symbols to use for italics and stuff. I can't write it here, because whenever I try the symbols vanish.

#223 ::: Stefan jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 04:32 PM:


Grab the lower left corner and the upper right corner of the text you want to italicise and pull sharply. Using tweezers helps.

Or, include HTML tags before and after the text you want to italicise.

These would look a little like this after you enter them:

[I]This would be in italics if the things on the ends were real tags.[/I]

Instead of square brackets, you'd use angle brackets . . . otherwise known as "less than" and "greater than" symbols.

There's a way to display those tags without them being processed, but I'm too lazy to look it up!

FYI, [B] and [/B] create bold text.

[joke]While few browsers support it, [metallic] [/metallic] creates lovely gleaming metallic text.[/joke]


#224 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 04:37 PM:

His Galatea 2.2 crosses the line into SF IMHO, and is almost as good (which is very, very good indeed).

Yes. I'd say it's the best novel in the genre I've ever read (although certainly not the best genre novel, which is hardly surprising, given that Powers is both a brilliant novelist and almost completely uninterested in any of the world-building exercises that make science fiction fans salivate). It makes me cry, and I can count the number of books that did that on one hand.

I really want to recommend R. A. Lafferty to Randall, but he's a hit-or-miss taste (though a fine one! And any day I can plug Lafferty is a good day!). I'll second the recommendation for Bruce Sterling, as he's highly reminiscent of Warren Ellis. I'll vote for Distraction over Zeitgeist, although Zeitgeist is more Ellis-like.

And, umm, as an actual book not hitherto recommended, I'll go with Michael Swanwick's amazing Stations of the Tide.

#225 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 04:44 PM:

<i> Do this sort of thing to produce italics...</i>

like so:

Do this sort of thing to produce italics...

Similiarly, <b>bold text</b> uses b instead of i: bold text.

#226 ::: Jane E. ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 05:03 PM:

As clew is to skein...
So wends traffic to lane;
Arranged toward a purpose,
As blood into vein....

(Awwww... 't'weren't nuthin'...) Okay, so it's taken me an incalculably long time to come out of lurkdom and post here (Teresa, I am a beyond-ardent admirer--you and Patrick are SO bookmarked ) but I have so MUCH to do while I sit here at work ( a professional editor, I might add).

Sweeping flourish-of-hat, one and all: you esteemed peers are indescribably well read. Though a real live English major (long since graduated) I was never a SF regular by nature--though not without interest or familiarity; please let me stay!--but my GAWD! Hate to admit I'm not worthy.

And whoa, I'm a hoarder in need of serious intervention, but... ten books and throw out the rest!? I have more than that on the shelf above my bed alone, still waiting to be devoured. Yes to all who have observed, in the last few days, that at some point we must evaluate the reading-potential of a given volume (and this includes periodicals in MY particular pathology) and stop buying/acquiring, lest we ultimately suffer the same humiliating demise as New York's own Collier brothers.... (Hmmm... perhaps it's time to rethink the location of that yet-untasted banquet above the head of my bed.)

On my life's road as a writer and an artist, countless nonfiction and reference titles trundle alongside me... how can you leave even one behind?

Larry Brennan, regarding your sagely observation of August 6th--wherein you reveal your latter-day philosophy of once and for all putting down a book that's about as satisfying as forcing oneself to choke down a wad of cotton batting--you are my hero!

Fellow English majors/writers/literati: I walked away from A Passage to India not in one class... No. I failed to finish Passage in TWO classes. I never got past the first few chapters of that venerable volume either time. And I have never had the discipline to force myself to finish any book that didn't resonate; engage; enlighten; inspire.

Larry, you have thus absolved me of more than two decades' worth of self-flagellation for what I've always viewed as a complete lack of scholarly discipline and literary virtue on my part. (Not to mention literary discipline and scholarly virtue...)

(And now pardon me while I turn my attention to page 62 of my still-unfinished romance novel.)

#227 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 05:05 PM:

Just spotted on Boing-Boing:

This joint lets you create your own for-real working valid cricket kosher U.S. postage stamps WITH ANY PICTURE YOU WISH!

Well, any picture that isn't squicky.

#228 ::: Elese ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 05:16 PM:

Stripey-zebras for everyone.

It works!! IT WORKS!!!!

I'm poised to take over the world, muh-ha-ha-ha.

(sorry, it's been a long day. thanks everyone for telling me how to do italics)

#229 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 05:23 PM:

I can't remember the last time that I wasn't actually reading close to ten books at a time (with all the books that I set aside to get back to sometime realsoonnow)....

#230 ::: Dee Lacey ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 05:29 PM:

I read Mind-Call a long time ago - no idea how long, 20-something, still vividly remember Tallie, couldn't remember the author's name and never remember seeing the sequels.

And unfortunately, the cheapest used copy is over $60. Wonder why so expensive?

Thanks for reminding me of it, notifying me of the existence of sequels, and if anyone has any idea where to get a less expensive copy, email with a really useful email subject as Hotmail overflows with nasty spams which I try to delete without opening.

#231 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 06:10 PM:

Dee, has the sequels for only a few bucks. It's Mind-Call that costs. That's because everybody else vividly remembers Tallie too, and there aren't many copies for sale. See the Amazon reviews for more pining.

#232 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 06:18 PM:

What is the right number of books to own?

"Toward the end of his life, [Samuel] Pepys prepared a memorandum that outlined his concept of collecting. He wrote that a private library should comprehend, 'in fewest books in least room,' the greatest diversity of subjects, styles, and languages that 'its owner's reading will bear.'...

"There were to be three thousand books in the collection, not a volume more, not a volume less, because Pepys had determined this number to be ideal for a gentleman's library."

--Nicholas Basbanes, A Gentle Madness

#233 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 06:21 PM:

Tom, ten books? Wow. I never read more than one book at a time, and never start a new one until I finish the current one or give up on it.

But ten!

#234 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 06:43 PM:

It's funny to read other people's comments about Powers, because I loved Galatea 2.2, but when I read it, I bounced in happiness because I lived far enough in the future for a book about a AI not to be science fiction.

But it can be if you want. I've already moved on to bouncing about other future things; it won't diminish my happiness if Galatea 2.2 is SF after all.

#235 ::: tzigane ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 07:26 PM:

Clew is to skein... knot is to unravel?

Randall I'd say start from the beginning, study from some of the 'Old Masters' to discover Science Fiction's roots... Short story collections are always a good way to get your feet wet without drowning... I don't know if anybody has suggested it or not yet but I've always been partial to the Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke...

#236 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 08:10 PM:

While few browsers support it, [metallic] [/metallic] creates lovely gleaming metallic text.

<Fe>This cannot be misunderstood.</Fe>

<Au>Text for the ages, if heavy going.</Au>

<He>This sounds squeaky!</He>

<Ni>If I had one of these for every time...</Ni>

<Pu>Run for the hills!</Pu>

#237 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 09:13 PM:

"How many books is enough?"

All of them. Duplicate copies are only necessary for those you have evidence borrowers will not return.

"What is the right number of books to own?"

One of the great pleasures of Gothic architecture is the vista presented by long Norman-arched corridors, light slanting through high windows, the side halls stretching away like the ribs of a long-vanished sea leviathan. (Inside of a sea leviathan, it's too . . . oh, never mind.)

One caution: If the tower falls down, you had too many books up there. But remember, dragons are cheap.

"When reaching for an attractive volume in the bookstore, what stays your hand?"

Bulletproof glass? Piranha ponds? My hand has great -wuxia- from decades of simultaneously keeping the place in the book and the corresponding page of endnotes, nor does it stay, especially when the neuropathy kicks in.

#238 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 09:45 PM:

Duplicate copies are great for those moments when your sibling finds you are reading Ender's Game or the Fellowship or The Blue Sword for the umpteenth bazillionth time, and decides, "Hey, I wanted to read that too."

(Of course, I'm a few years past sharing things with my siblings now, because we all live in different states, and now when I think they should be reading something as I'm reading it, I make orders to Amazon. That's how I got my sister to read The Grand Sophy. But when siblings were around, duplicate copies were spiffilicious.)

#239 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 09:49 PM:

Eric Saydoyama:
Well filled bookshelves don't endanger your house. They count as extra insulation! Originally we started with cement blocks stacked with 1 by 12 boards, effective but limited by the law of gravity. The best shelves are solid wood with rabetted joints holding the shelves in, but you can get away with the drilled holes and little brass inserts if you don't try to make the shelves hold too much. I once used the perforated metal strips in which you insert metal cantilevers all screwed firmly to the wall. They were holding up four shelves of books over my bed, but I came in one day to find the strips pulled loose from the wall, twisted, and my bed filled with books. Teresa is a master of bookshelf construction.

#240 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 09:52 PM:

Eric: Sorry about the name spelling. B.

#241 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 10:19 PM:

Does anyone have really nifty shelving/bookcase/storage system ideas for serious book lovers? I live in a wood framed house with drywall (the bane of my not-so-handyman existence) and wooden floors, and have always wanted to install some serious shelving but am intimidated by the prospect of completely ruining my home.

Oooh! Wooden floors!

All our books are on standalone bookshelves, and the padded carpeted floors are the bane of their existence. Made worse by the fact that the carpet is attached to tack-strips around the edges, which means that the shelves are effectively sitting on hard wood strip at the back and soft padding at the front, and need all sorts of shims to avoid tipping over. With wood floors, you'll avoid that sort of problem.

Anyhow, the best bookshelves I've found for reasonable prices are, of course, ones I've made myself. The pattern was fairly simple; three sheets of 3/4" oak plywood, to make a pair of 49"-wide 75"-tall bookshelves. The store cut two of them into 9.5"-wide shelves (or something like that), took another couple of shelves off the top of the third, and cut the rest of the third into uprights for the sides. I then cut grooves into the sides of the uprights to put the shelves in, stuck it all together with finishing nails and glue, put a back of 1/4" oak plywood on it, a face-frame on it with 1"x2" oak boards, and used some thin strips to finish off the fronts of the plywood shelves. Total cost was probably about $70 for the materials and labor at the store.

(Actually, now that I think about it, I had nearly enough left over to make a third, 36"-high, bookshelf. If you're doing more than a pair of bookshelves, this can almost certainly be rearranged to get five full-height bookshelves out of six sheets, though you might need an extra half-sheet to have enough shelves.)

If I'd done all the work at once -- rather than doing half on it on one side of the country where I had access to tools, and then the other half a month later where I live -- it would probably have taken a weekend to assemble the pair. Add another weekend or so for sanding them and finishing them, which (four years later) I still haven't gotten around to, because they got occupied with books too quickly!

It turns out that 48" is just a touch long for 3/4" plywood bookshelves that are supported at the ends and along the back; they do dip very slightly in the front when double-stacked with particularly dense books. Still, since I haven't come up with any way to efficiently make 36"-wide bookshelves out of 4'x8' plywood, I'd still probably do them that width again.

Anyhow ... ah, right. The point of all this. It's not substantially more difficult to make freestanding bookshelves than to make built-in ones, and the advantage is that if you decide you don't like how the quick-and-simple ones look, they're easy to move. And they'll work fine on hardwood floors, particularly if you put a sheet of felt under the front to tip them back against the wall a little.

I haven't priced decent-quality finish carpetry lately, and I'm sure it's more than I'd expect, but I also suspect that it would be cost-effective to pay someone to build these (you only need a good household finish carpenter; not a cabinetmaker) compared to buying bookshelves that are sufficiently sturdy to put books on. Particularly if you can find a cabinetmaker who'll let you do all the sanding, rather than charging you for his time doing it.

#242 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 10:33 PM:

Trading Spaces isn't bad as home-decorating shows go, and can sometimes be an interesting look at how to reconfigure a space. Though I usually only make a point of watching when Amy Wynn Pastor is on carpentry duty, because she is freakin' nine kinds of fine.

Clean Sweep, OTOH, feels exactly like my idea of hell. Between that and What Not to Wear, it's like a full-course meal of geek-targeted wiggins.

#243 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 10:42 PM:

We sold another house before we bought this one (somehow the three of us ended up with a surplus house and neither one had room enough for the three of us) and we had a ton of equity in the house we sold. Home Depot had a sale on book cases, we bought.... I think about 20 or so. They delivered, they even took the ones for the second floor THERE. Best investment we ever made. We also did it right on the move, we had enough people PLUS adequately labeled boxes, that no one had to actually tote a book box up stairs, they just handed them to one another.

#244 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 11:02 PM:

Inside of a sea leviathan, it's too . . . oh, never mind.

I feel compelled to share my favorite riff on that Groucho quote.

#245 ::: Jane E. ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2004, 11:49 PM:

I wanna do italics too! (Elese, take me with you!)

Tim--what a fine, fine, elegant entry on Pepys and the right number of books to own. Ahhhh...

Piscus--and don't sibs always predictably do that. (If not the Very One you just settled in reading again, then [after eons of neglect] they just have to push your FisherPrice popcorn thingee all over the rug just when you're really focused on that cool noise it makes...)

Speaking of ordering duplicates/gifts for sibs/family, has anyone ordered any books from yet? If you know what title you're after (you don't get quite the search capability of Amazon but you can always search/compare $$$ at Amazon), you can score at an impressive discount with shipping for $1-and-change. I haven't researched how literary or esoteric their "library" is, or how expansive--it may be inadequate when you're seeking higher-level or hard-to-find SF titles--but certainly worth a look. (I found Ron Chernow's new Hamilton bio for my dad at a breathtaking discount.)

#246 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 12:14 AM:

I think Mr. Basbanes deserves all the credit. I'm sure that many people here would enjoy the book (the "gentle madness" is bibliophilia).

#247 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 02:45 AM:

Multiple copies also make a great source of gifts, and if one is lucky in one's choice of multiples can make a very positive influence on one's financial standing.

(Does anyone use APDR for "_A propos de rien"_?)

APDR, I'm well into an advance copy of Justine Larbalestrier's kid's book _Magic or Madness_ and enjoying it as much as her nonfiction book on the battle of the sexes in SF. Possibly more: I knew a lot about how the nonfic book came out, and I'm kinda on tenterhooks about how this one will work. Coming from Penguin's Razorbooks imprint next March (if I'd looked at how much an advance copy this is, I might not have posted...).

#248 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 05:06 AM:

JvP, by "Feghoot", do you refer to Asimov's story A Loint of Paw?

Never knew that type of story was called that. Didn't know they had a name at all. Of many heard over the years, that particular one has stuck in the brain.

Now I have but to ascertain how to drop 'feghoot' casually into conversation ...

#249 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 07:33 AM:

Jane and Piscus - I have no siblings (well, I do - my stepbrother - but my dad married his mom when we were both adults and we have never lived in the same household.... [/digression]), but my husband and I do that to each other all the time. I came trundling back from the library one day with a random assortment, and the next day found him reading the latest Robert B. Parker. When I asked him sweetly when he'd be done with it, he was startled to find out I hadn't read it yet. "Dear - I only got it yesterday. I am capable of reading a Parker that quickly, but it requires some uninterrupted time (of which I have had none in the last 24 hours)."

A week later, I snabbled the copy of "Drawing of the Dark" he had brought home (then took pity on him and moved over to a different volume so he could read it first). I brought home "The Anubis Gates" on Monday and traded him when he finished DotD. It's like one of those number-puzzles where you have only one space to shift things into in the course of gettting all the numbers in order.

And Tom, I like "APDR."

#250 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 08:14 AM:

Jeremy Leader writes:

"I hope I'm not out of line quoting our hostess, from about 18 months back (

"Digression: There’s a reality show on TLC called Trading Spaces>..."

Jeremy, that particular quote from our hostess went up on the refrigerator here at the Nuclear Arms, and remains there today.

#251 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 09:06 AM:

Tom Whitmore: The problem when reading multiple books at once is when do you decide that you're not actually reading the book anymore? 10 years? 15 years? If I were to pick up "The Brothers Karamazov" off the shelf again I'm not sure if I'd go to the bookmark or start over. Probably to the bookmark, read a few pages, and decide if I remember the story well enought to continue. My probelm with the book is that it is just to big to curl up with!
I'm usually in many books at once. Mood, location, library due date all affect what I'm reading at any point. Sometimes what book I'm reading depends on what chair I plop down in.

#252 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 09:31 AM:

For years I've had this idea that books should come with a chit of some sort for shelfspace. Sort of like green stamps. When you start out on your own in life, you get a starter bookshelf, perhaps as a going-to-college or homewarming gift. As you acquire books, you collect the chits. When your first bookcase if full, you take your booklet of chits and get a new bookshelf. Work yourself to a lather buying more books, repeat. No more feeling guilty about buying books without a place to put them. Perhaps this is what bookstores can do for affinity programs. Really good customers could get bookcases from the special catalog, like the cast-iron structural shelf systems that are found in old libraries.
Floor after floor of cast-iron supports, wood shelves, translucent glass floor panels passing an ethereal glow from above and below. Isn't this a bit what heaven looks like?

#253 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 10:09 AM:

I was going to keep lurking 'til I read about the 10 book thing. How absolutely barbaric. [reaches for smeling salts]
Although I am trying to get rid of books now. These are my current rules:
For books I own: If there's any possibility I'll read it again someday, it stays.
Otherwise it gets donated somewhere.
For books in the store: If the author is on my short "worth buying in hardcover list", I buy. Otherwise I borrow from the library.
If the library doesn't have the book then I buy it in paperback or 2nd-hand, to be donated after it is read.
Nonfiction is a lot harder to get rid of though.

(PS I don't really follow my rules very well yet).

#254 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 10:22 AM:

Bookshelves...did you know there's a WHOLE BOOK about bookshelves?
I am usually frustrated by the amount of floor space a bookcase takes up. At least a third is wasted space; you can put books in two-deep but then have to remember what's behind the others. Annoying. So, when I was setting up my office, my father built me bookcases made out of a closet organizer system we found at Home Depot. Narrow metal strips on the wall, with metal supports holding very thick and narrow (no wider than a hardcover book)wood planks. Since the supports are movable, I can reconfigure the space any way I want.
It does help that one of them is hung on an outside wall and can carry a LOT of weight. The other one I have to be more circumspect about.

#255 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 10:51 AM:

I really like John Houghton's suggestion about bookshelf chits. My life would certainly be easier, although he doesn't address the floorspace issue. Perhaps that can't ever be addressed in full.

I have seen the jello selection in the restaurant in the Lion House on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, and I was disappointed: nothing more than bowls of plain colored chunks. You'd do as well at Luby's/the cafeteria of your choice, and the meat-and-three joints here in Nashville regularly do a better run of congealed salads.

#256 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 12:09 PM:

John Houghton: The problem when reading multiple books at once is when do you decide that you're not actually reading the book anymore?

For me, the answer would be "when I can no longer remember what was happening when I left off without going significantly back over what I read again." If I have no idea who the characters are or what they're doing, or, in the case of nonfiction, what the author's talking about, I've left off rereading and am making a new attempt. (Though admittedly, it's likely that I can just skim the chunk I'd previously read, but it's still only a headstart on a new effort.)

For what it's worth, I usually have about three books in progress at any given time.

#257 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 12:15 PM:

I am usually frustrated by the amount of floor space a bookcase takes up. At least a third is wasted space;

My solution to this: divide your book population into two categories, "mass market paperback" and "larger than mass market paperback." Use videocassette shelving for the former (the nice wooden kind with no tabs, obviously), and "proper" bookshelves only for the latter. This uses less floor space, and wastes less space above the books as well.

I have a few more volumes than Pepys would recommend, so every bit of space saved is important.

#258 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 12:44 PM:

RE Lore Sjoberg's riff on the Groucho quote:

I had Cafepress make me a bunch of calenders with that strip. That was my Xmas gift for college friends last year.

#259 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 01:48 PM:

Since my parents Samuel H. Post and Patricia Vos Post were book editors in New York, in the 1940s onward, we had somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 books. I am not happy living anywhere with fewer books. True, my 11-room home had to have an 8x16 shed added behind the garage for overflow.

However, I'm skeptical about the "storage space" costs money slippery slope.

At one of the vast aerospace companies where I worked, in the heart of the Military-Industrial Complex, some VP candidate wrote a memo to the effect that each filing cabinet cost $400/year in storage space.

The corporation launched a competition, giving hefty cash awards to the departments that threw out the largest weight of paperwork.

Forever after, I could never find material that was supposedly archived.

And they threw into a dumpster all of Rockwell's private films and videotapes of Saturn V and Shuttle launches (NOT the official NASA ones). They threatrened to immediately fire someone who tried to retrieve them.

A few months ago, when I gave testimony to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and the NASA Inspector General, they were interested in this.

Changing Rooms: dear Librarian of Alexandria: we insist that you get rid of all those scrolls translated from ancient cultures, they look ugly. We can put in several hot tubs for Roman soldiers once we've cleared out that clutter. Remember what we did to the world's biggest library, at Timbuktoo? You have been warned!

Beyond my books, I have over 500,000 pages of manuscripts of various kinds. For each of my almost 900 publications, presentations, and broadcasts, I have several hundred pages of reference material. And I've been on this Math paper madness for a year. I'm writing much faster than I can polish and submit, and lagging behind in publications per paper ratio. As summarized on:
Math Pages of Jonathan Vos Post

Inventory Status Summary:
35 Math papers written in past year;
9 presented and accepted in proceedings of International Conferences;
4 still in editorial hands at Mathematics Magazine;
3 rejected by Mathematics Magazine, being resubmitted elsewhere;
1 still in editorial hands at Fibonacci Quarterly;
1 rejected by Fibonacci Quarterly, being resubmitted elsewhere;
2 rejected by American Mathematical Monthly, being resubmitted elsewhere;
14 still being completed/polished for first submission.

#260 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 01:52 PM:

We also use shelves that are probably designed for videotapes for our paperbacks (from the nice people at Adirondack Woodshed, our local unfinished/finished furniture place) and they work great.

Except we might've overestimated our need when we got the last set. Must . . . buy . . . more . . . paperbacks!

#261 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 02:19 PM:

Beyond my books, I have over 500,000 pages of manuscripts of various kinds.

I hope you have good insurance. That's a lot of paper. When I was in elementary school, my math teacher wanted to give a hands-on demo of how large a number a million is. His idea was to collect "One Million Pages of Print"— we would bring in old newspapers until the page count hit a million. A hundred thousand pages later, the pile blocking one wall of the classroom vanished. It seems the building and grounds director (my mother, as it happens) had got word of the project (...) and perceived certain fire code violations. This was years before Dubya's famous query, "Is our children burning?"

#262 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 02:24 PM:

I know this is off topic, but it seems very much in the spirit of making light and the people who come here. A nerd was nearly denied access to the ferry because of a D&D book, which is classic patriot act gone awry. I submit a link to the story for anyone interested.

#263 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 02:52 PM:

My favorite SF book is often the one I'm currently absorbed in reading. Today that's The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks.

#264 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 03:34 PM:

Epacris: since (rather astonishingly) nobody's answered this yet, here goes:

Ferdinand Feghoot was the central character in a series of short-short stories that culminated in Ghastly Puns; "feghoot" became a term for that particular story formula. Feghoot hisownself was created by Reginald Bretnor, who obtained some legal right to the name; he never claimed any exclusivity on pun stories (or, as I recall, did he ever object to the generic fannish use of the term), but did ask that others create their own punster characters.

Oh, and Sean: this is an Open Thread. You can't be off-topic.

#265 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 04:11 PM:

Xopher--Unfortunately, Elgin didmean the last book. She was writing them as a thought experiment to try to create a woman's language that would change our world here and now, hoping women would pick it up and use it as a real language. But between books 2 and 3 it became apparent that it wasn't working, so she focused on violence instead of language in book 3, structuring it to make it reflect the chaos society became when the Aliens went away.

I'm fascinated by idea of it, but not so much the execution.

And I don't know--babies learn all kinds of languages, but not in boxes.

#266 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 05:03 PM:

Speaking of Iain Banks, he's got a new (nonfiction) book out called Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. Yes, it's all about whisky. Last month, Jeff VanderMeer said about it:

There is nothing genre-related about Raw Spirit except that a science fiction writer wrote it, and yet I feel this is sufficient basis for inclusion in this summer reading overview, especially since it gives me the opportunity to tell you that Iain (M.) Banks is a complete bastard. Not only has he written some of the most superlative space opera of the last twenty years, but now he has not only gotten the opportunity to travel around Scotland for six months drinking whisky on his publisher’s dime but has decided to rub our faces in it by writing an entire book about his experiences.

When I read that, I started to weep. This is a book I must have.

#267 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 05:09 PM:

I've got it, I've read it. Yes, not only did Banks get S&S UK (not his regular publisher, even) to send him around Scotland drinking malt whisky on their tab, his narrative of doing so is full of appearances by people I know, like John Jarrold and Ken MacLeod.

#268 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 05:13 PM:

Patrick, sometimes I think you positively enjoy cruelly dangling in front of the rest of us your supernatural access to not-yet-published books.

(Me, I'm going to be one of the last people in the English-speaking world to read China Mieville’s Iron Council, since once I decided to hold out for the UK edition it was too easy to have also wait on not just The Algebraist, but Walter Jon Williams’ The Orthodox War.)

#269 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 05:21 PM:

Indeed, The Algebraist is pretty good. Well, if you consider "Iain M. Banks writes a gigantic double-cheeseburger-with-fries standalone non-Culture space opera involving humans and gas-giant aliens" good. As it happens, I do.

#270 ::: Jeff Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 05:29 PM:

The Clean Sweep story is a true nightmare. We're trying to get rid of some of the books, but it's a difficult process and not one that can be handled by picking any arbitrary number, much less the absurd "ten." (Not when you're starting with 10,000.)

Most of the ones I'm getting rid of have little value. I've been putting them up on eBay and, and have found homes for 1-2,000, but haven't made much money.

There is a non-profit in Baltimore called The Book Thing, which gives books away. You just walk into this crowded, disorganized basement and take anything that catches your eye. Fortunately, I already have most of the old books I want, so not much catches my eye. But we dropped off 23 mystery novels the other week and ended up walking out with six books. (We knew we should not have passed the drop-off point.) One was a nicer copy of George Stewart's Storm than I had, so they'll eventually get my old copy in return. Another was Robert Nathan's One More Spring in a Knopf hardcover. (Twelfth printing -- times were different then.)

As for book recommendations...Dune is certainly one. (In my world, it's a stand-alone novel, a one-off. There are no sequels.) I tend to recommend Ursula Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson (whose Mars novels have been mentioned, but I think The Wild Shore is a good portal into sf).

Ann recommends The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which may have been mentioned uplist, and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., which I don't think has been...but should be.

#271 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 06:29 PM:

I enjoyed Raw Spirit quite a bit. It's very loose, rambling, and discursive, but in a nice way. It was fun to try each whisky I had in the house as it was mentioned. Don't even think about reading it without whisky to hand--it would be like seeing Tampopo without a Japanese restaurant nearby.

#272 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 08:06 PM:

People who look on books and mass paper as a fire hazard are actually wrong. Mass paper is a fire retardant: the lack of oxygen from dense-packing means that fire actually goes very slowly through books and such. Look at how much heat it actually takes to get through a closed book, and how much of books actually survive serious fires. I speak from experience of looking at books after a large portion of my parents' house burned down in 1968 (I was in Russia at the time, it was indeed my brother's fault, no really I mean it!).

In the same way, I've seen wrapping old magazines in Evil High Acid Newsprint actually protect them, because the newsprint kept the oxygen from getting through to the old magazines. The outer layer of newspaper was incredibly browned and brittle: the interior issues of Galaxy and If were almost as fresh as the day they were published. Acid paper doesn't kill books: oxygen kills acid paper!

#273 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 08:22 PM:

People who look on books and mass paper as a fire hazard are actually wrong.

I can easily believe that's true of books, and paper that's densely packed, but what about stacks of newsprint by a window? The top of our pile looked like traditional campfire fodder, just not crumpled. Also, there was nothing holding the pile together but its own weight. The weight would squeeze the air from the bottom but not the top.

#274 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 10:15 PM:

Ray Bradbury said that Farenheit 451 was the temperature at which paper, as in paper for book pages, burns. Any expertise out there on actual flashpoint temperature, combustion data, and the like, from the paper and wood pulp group of industries? Within that industry group, the Book and Magazine business pales in comparsion to toilet paper.

From a pure mathematical perspective, 451 is a semiprime, the product of exactly two primes:

451 = 11 × 41

whereas 911 is a prime number. That's one way to tell Ray Bradbury apart from Michael Moore.

My home phone number (pardon me if I don't post it here) has a 3-digit area code and a 7-digit local component. By an odd coincidence, the 3-digit area code, the 7-digit local component, and the full 10-digit concatenation are all divisible by the same 3-digit number.

If God is a mathematician, she notices these things, and smiles.

#275 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 11:22 PM:

John Houghton - when I first worked in libraries (I quit several years later when I realized that to get further promotions I'd need a MLS and we have no school for that in the KC metro area) I worked in Watson Library at U. Kan. There was one whole section of stacks where they'd filled in the floors with reinforced glass floors and bookstacks. I'm guessing they filled in an atrium or something like that.

I regret to say that I survived a remodeling of said library (did you know that the sound of jackhammers CAN make one nauseated? My boss would watch for me to start turning green when it was especially close, then say, maybe you need to go home, say until day after tomorrow when they quit this stuff). And I'm not going to go into watching the jackhammers send a 100 lb plus chunk of concrete THROUGH the visuqeen plastic they'd put up to separate the construction from the patrons -- right out into our card catalog area. Then I transferred to U. Kan Med Center in KC, KS. I quit when 1) I made the above realization about needing a degree; and 2) I was the evening/weekend circulation supervisor and all shelving supervision. Someone started calling us up (the new Archie R. Dykes Library is a fishbowl with lots o'windows) and telling us nastily what he wanted to do with each of us. With details of what we were wearing and doing while he called. ARGH!

#276 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 11:26 PM:

Any expertise out there on actual flashpoint temperature, combustion data, and the like, from the paper and wood pulp group of industries?

For sludge waste, which comes from de-inking newsprint, I found a reference that claims ignition temperatures of between 203 C and 227 C. (Ignition behavior of pulp and paper combustible waste, Sun and Kozinsky) That's 397 F to 441 F. They dried out their samples to less than 1% moisture by weight. Apparently the rate at which you heat the sample up has a big effect on the ignition temperature, at least for sludge. If you believe these guys, heating the sample faster makes the ignition temp go up. Also, the oxygen concentration has a big effect on the ignition temperature (more oxygen, lower ignition temp).

Again, all this is for sludge, which consists of loose cellulose particles. For a book, like Tom was saying, you'd expect a higher ignition temperature since oxygen can't get inside. So 451 F is not unreasonable, it's just a little overspecific.

#277 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 12:57 AM:

Bradbury said (in an afterword to the edition of the book I first read) that he got the 451°F figure by calling his local fire department and asking. They replied "Fahrenheit 451," whence the title. I don't see any reason to doubt this story.

And "flashpoint" and "ignition temperature" are different things. Obviously there's a difference here between paper and, say, VOCs, but still. (Perhaps you were thinking of "flashover point," the temperature at which everything remotely flammable in the area decides to join the party.)

Okay, a quick google brings up a chart of "common fuels" at (great domain name) that gives 300°C (572°F) as the ignition temp of wood; paper would be lower (think about the difference between putting a match to a piece of paper and a block of wood).

#278 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 01:04 AM:

Ah. A more specific google hits, which offers several sources for the 451°F figure. Unfortunately, a couple of them are circular (Bradbury's essay) but others seem to be legitimate reference manuals.

#279 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 01:10 AM:

Andy Perrin and John M. Ford:

On Book Burning as a Fine Art...

So, it would be possible, though a problem in Quality Control, as well as the usual permissions, from Ray Bradbury to begin with, to print a special edition of Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 on paper specially selected and tested to burn at 451 degrees Farenheit, say, plus or minus 1 degree.

Perhaps in a special fireproof box, with sample blank pages and a digital thermometer.

Just wondering...

#280 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 02:19 AM:

Jonathan Vos Post -- Were you aware of the limited-edition copies of _Farenheit 451_ bound in asbestos?

They're mentioned in passing in this article:

As [book-collector John] Baxter explains in the second appendix to his new book-collecting memoir, A Pound of Paper, wherein he asks several people which book they would save, "When it published the first edition in 1953, Ballantine also produced 200 signed and numbered copies bound in Johns-Manville Quintera, a form of asbestos. It is therefore one of the few books likely to survive a fire - as well as being a rare example of a book dangerous to one's health. A first hardcover edition of Farenheit 451 signed by Bradbury is worth $5,500. For a copy of the asbestos cover (none of which has come on the market in years) multiply by 10."

The library at which I worked for a time suffered a severe fire, and I can verify that books are remarkably resistant to fire. Walking through afterwards, I noticed a stack of books sitting by the telephone waiting for a bored staffperson to call the next person on the reserve list. The phone was badly damaged, melted from the heat and burnt. The books, however, though they were blackened from the smoke, were all right. The top book had suffered the most -- its pages had gotten warped from the heat and the water, but even then it hadn't caught on fire. The other books, presumably compressed by the weight of the stack and protected from the water, were in much better condition.

Even though the bulk of the collection was saved, I still wince at the memory -- there's nothing sadder than a burnt-out library.

#281 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 03:38 AM:

"Hi there. We're with the EPA Fahrenheit 451 Remediation Program. Would you put on this respirator?"

Abebooks lists two of the asbestos copies -- one for $14.5K, one for $20K. (I hardly ever search their listings highest-price-first, but this time it scored.) I had a dim recollection that someone had done an aluminum-bound edition, described as "presenting the idea of a fireproof book" or somesuch, and indeed there were a couple of those listed -- Limited Editions Club did 2000 copies in 1982, which are selling in the $450 (not K, or °K) range.

#282 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 05:33 AM:

I sold an asbestos '451 for $1500 or so less than 5 years ago. It's not what I would call a rare book. Uncommon, but not rare. That there are two copies on ABE makes it significantly more common than the paperback Gnome Press edition of Doc Smith's VORTEX BLASTER, or galleys of THE BUTTERFLY KID or THE DEMOLISHED MAN (not to mention the books I'm not selling there that aren's listed like Westlake's COMFORT STATION or my grandfather's hand-printed poetry volumes, which have no copies listed).

The Limited Editions Club version was bound in aluminum (or aluminium for our British readers) and therefore both easier to damage and slightly more flammable (though at a much higher temperature.

JVP, if you use this as an excuse to talk about number theory I will chastize (if not excoriate) you: you want to read Justine Larbalestrier's book (coming next March) which features a heroine who thinks a lot about Fibonacci numbers. Please don't ask me about my mother's expansion on same ("Bibbonaci numbers") as I don't really know more than the name.

#283 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 10:29 AM:

Ok, let's get our definitions straight first. Mike Ford is correct on a distinction between "ignition temperature" and "flash point."

Ignition temperature: Lowest temperature at which a combustible material will catch fire in air and will continue to burn independently of the source of heat when heated.

Flash point: Temperature at which a liquid will give off enough flammable vapor to ignite.
(Ref, for both definitions)

So we are interested in the ignition temperature. I found the link, but I couldn't track down the-non-circular references. Also, the Bradbury title seems to have influenced lots of people, so I'm very hesitant to accept anything from post-F451 secondary sources-- what we want is actual experimental data.

WRT Bradbury calling the firehouse, there's no reason to doubt the story. What I won't believe without proof is the number. I think it's way too precise. The reference I quoted above demonstrated nicely that there's a range of temps for pulp ignition temperature, and I don't see why the same should not be true of paper.

#284 ::: Smurch ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 12:21 PM:

Wow.... this was a wonderful thread to work through....

I want to add to the recommendations of The Stars My Destination, and add the first Bester novel I ever read, The Demolished Man.

Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human

And another vote for Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren, which has done more to shape (warp?) my consciousness than almost anything else I've ever read....

#285 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 12:51 PM:

Smurch, I used to have a button that said "Things that made the obscure obvious by overturning overturned." That's still probably my favorite sentence in the English language.

Well, other than "I love you." But the Delany sentence doesn't depend on the person saying it for its value!

#286 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 12:59 PM:

As an Open Thread aside, and since I didn't want to resurrect Slushkiller to discuss something that was very tangential in that thread, anyway, I present to those who are still interested further evidence of the increasing number of Texan Men in Skirts.

This article was also the first time I've heard of (and then, of course, I had to investigate, so now seen) the Leather Utilikilt. Now, I'm not usually a guy who would consider wearing a skirt...but that almost looks cool...

#287 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 01:28 PM:

Skwid - I live in Seattle, home of Utilikilts, so I occasionally see men wandering about the city wearing them. I would just like to offer the testimony that, so far, this has been a universally pleasant experience.


#288 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 03:08 PM:

Rudy Rucker, in his superb guestblog on BoingBoing, correctly diagnosed a social aberration of mine that you have seen on MakingLight:

"Oh, and mathematician and SF writer Jonathan Post asked me to blog the math page on his huge site. Jonathan used to drive the moderators crazy at the big Santa Fe Artificial Life conferences when they'd ask for questions from the audience after a panel, and he'd be first in line down on the floor, ready to unleash a five minute minilecture disguised as a multi-part question."

I do accept constructive criticism, especially when delivered by people whom I so much admire and respect.

It took my wife years to break me of the Minilecture Syndrome at home. She'd ask a question. I'd meander for 5 minutes to half an hour. She'd wait until I wound down, then say: "So the answer is: you don't know!" Eventually I learned to preemptively say "I don't know." You know?

And kilts have become so stylish that I attended a wedding a few months ago where both groom and best man wore kilts, even though neither was Scottish. They had a Celtic band playing, so maybe it was a theme. Didn't seem to perturb the mundanes.

#289 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 04:04 PM:

I own a Utilikilt. It is an olive-green Neotraditional. It is one of the most comfortable garments I own.

I have worn it on the NYC subways; I have worn it to a concert at Radio City Music Hall; I have worn it on serious bar-hopping benders in the frozen depths of January; I have worn it whilst strolling through the hills and dales and sheep-pastures of Exmoor. I may yet get a black one to wear on suitably glam occasions. Their tux kilts are not currently on sale, but they're quite appealing as well.

Buy one.

#290 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2004, 09:10 PM:

How many books is too many?

I don't know, but I aim to find out.

And we haven't even talked about vinyl...

If I ever did find myslef with only 10 books, I'd immediately start getting more.

Tom: Is Comfort Station really that rare? It would be tough, but I would let mine go for $14.5 K...

#291 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 01:08 AM:

Too many books?

I think it is possible.

At the very least, having lots of books makes moving harder.

Extreme bibliophilia is akin to hoarding . . . nowhere near as bad as hoarding cats or Frankling Mint products, but if you have trouble finding a place to set out dinner it might be a clue that some examination of your priorities is in order.

My bookshelves were bursting the year before last. There were a lot of repeats in there ("I'd hate to get rid of these extra incomplete set of Lensmen paperbacks; they have those great funky 70s covers!"), and marginal items (e.g., software references, goofy media-SF books I'd gotten as gifts, too-simple popular science books), and books bought to be give-aways ("Oh, I bet _someone_ would like this copy of _Confederacy of Dunces_.")

I had vague thoughts of becoming an Amazon reseller, but never got around to registering.

Just donating them to Goodwill seemed disrepectful. Books donated to thrift stores often get trashed; they get a lot of them, and esoteric items don't sell well. That extra copy of _Star Maker_ might end up getting pulped along with the Rush Limbaugh books and religious tracts .

What got me to clean up was a book drive by a co-worker raising money for his daughter's class trip. He know an Amazon reseller who was going to give the school a share.

It's the Amazon connection that did it for me. The books would be organized and listed for buyers looking for specific titles. More of a chance they'd get to an appreciative reader, less of getting pulped.

I reduced my collection by 20%, perhaps a bit more, over the space of a few weeks. I'm a lot more careful about buying now, and am visiting the library more often. If I buy a "give away," it gets packed and shipped ASAP.

#292 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 02:23 AM:

Robert, COMFORT STATION is both uncommon and not sought. The five Westlake completists in the world seriously need a copy. Everyone else says "WTF?". My guess on the market value for those five completists, this year, is somewhere between $75 and $250 (weighted towards the low end) -- for anyone else, you'd be lucky to get a fin for it.

Kinda like Chester Anderson's THE PINK PALACE.

#293 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 02:56 AM:

Some mention upthread of owning duplicate copies of books because one knows ones friends will never return them: Which books do you find your friends are most likely to steal?

In my case, _On the Psychology of Military Incompetence_ has to be the book least likely to be returned to me.

#294 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 03:10 AM:

Conversely, what are the books you own (or try to) multiple copies of for the express purpose of being able to give them away?

Three, for me: The Tao of Pooh, Silverlock, and Lord of Light

(The last of which I added to the list when it became the most frequently permanently borrowed book I owned. :-)

#295 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 10:25 AM:

Yesterday I was looking at a book called What Printers Need to Know about Paper. I could have bought it for a dollar. I thought about shelf space, and how likely I was to read it, and how unlikely I was to need it, and regretfully put it down and walked away.

#296 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 10:33 AM:

Brust's Agyar has got to be the most "stolen" book in my experience. Although, really, it's not that it's been stolen repeatedly, it's that it would get loaned out, and then the person you loaned it to would have to have someone else read it, and then that person... get it.

#297 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 10:39 AM:
Some mention upthread of owning duplicate copies of books because one knows ones friends will never return them: Which books do you find your friends are most likely to steal?

I don't think anyone has ever failed to return a borrowed book to me - well, a friend of mine still has three Besters on loan, but I don't think she's had a chance to read them yet, so that's OK.

In my case, _On the Psychology of Military Incompetence_ has to be the book least likely to be returned to me.

I've never lent this out, and now I'm definitely not going to. Excellent book, and all too relevant to current events.

Conversely, what are the books you own (or try to) multiple copies of for the express purpose of being able to give them away?

I've bought and distributed extra copies of Silverlock myself. Also The Dragon Waiting, Bridge of Birds, some Bujold, Roz Chast cartoon collections, and I can't remember what-all else, as in most other cases I wind up with the extras because of upgrades.

#298 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 10:59 AM:

Bruce Adelsohn: Conversely, what are the books you own (or try to) multiple copies of for the express purpose of being able to give them away?

We've managed to accumulate three copies of Poetry for Cats, mostly with the intention of giving them away.

#299 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 11:56 AM:

I used to own a bunch of copies of Getting to Yes and You Just Don't Understand, though I'm now down to only one copy (cold dead fingers, yadda yadda) of each. Still have additional copies of ADD On The Job.

I've been meaning to buy a supply of A Rulebook for Arguments, a book so valuable that I was tempted after reading it to refuse to argue with anyone who hadn't read it. I certainly want to send one to anyone who says "This begs the question," and then gives a question.

#300 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 12:09 PM:

Books I pick up copies of when I see them cheap so I can give them away:

Toole's _A Confederacy of Dunces_
Stapledon's _Star Maker_
Dyson's _Disturbing the Universe_

When a saw a stack of Ware's _Jimmy Corrigan_ on sale for $11, I bought five of them. I'd do that again.

Books I'd get multiple copies of for distribution but they're expensive / hard to find:

Brand's _How Buildings Learn_
McCloud's _Understanding Comics_

#301 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 01:01 PM:

I don't lend books anymore. Not since my Coldfire trilogy mysteriously disappeared (glares around suspiciously).

#302 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 01:02 PM:

Bruce Adelsohn: Conversely, what are the books you own (or try to) multiple copies of for the express purpose of being able to give them away?

That would be Little, Big in my case. I've bought and passed on at least a dozen copies since I first read it in 1987. It tends to drift in and out of print, so I stockpile when it's available. I have two copies in reserve on my shelves right now.

#303 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 01:02 PM:

Stefan Jones: >Extreme bibliophilia is akin to hoarding . . . nowhere near as bad as hoarding cats or Frankling Mint products, but if you have trouble finding a place to set out dinner it might be a clue that some examination of your priorities is in order.

Having to move every two years or so for all my life has made me unfortunately good at culling books, which usually go to friends who might be interested, and who are free to pass them on, etc.

I'm wary of loaning books out to people whom I don't trust to return them, or refrain from loaning them out to others. I lost my copy of Greg Bear's Queen of Angels that way. I'm still vaguely annoyed.

The military incompetence book sounds all too interesting...I wonder if my library has a copy?

#304 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 01:33 PM:

S. L. Viehl though I've veered to the spinoffs from the StarDoc books having gotten a bit bored with the main line following that character

I've not read any of the books, but her home page ( has a collection of short stories to download, some of which I believe are in the same universe. Just call me Mr. Link-the-free-stories.

JvP, by "Feghoot", do you refer to Asimov's story A Loint of Paw?

That'd be the one with the guy called Stein who stole a time machine, wouldn't it? A very amusing story.

#305 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 02:38 PM:

Yup, that's a the story. According the the magazine's web site:

First Published In: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1957, p. 130


Asimov's Mysteries

The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov

The Complete Stories, Volume 2


The Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction, 7th Series, Anthony Boucher, ed. Doubleday, 1958

100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander, eds. Doubleday, 1978, pp. 1-2

Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction and Fantasy Story-A-Month 1989 Calendar, Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Pomegranate, 1988

Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 19 (1957), Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. DAW (pbk), 1989, pp. 281-283

I also think I've seen it in other anthologies, such as one on Crime and Science Fiction.

The books that I've lent and never seen again include an authographed first edition in very fine condition of Bradbury's "Dark Carnival", a rare ethnographic book which was the first to show photographs of a Peyote religious ceremony, and so very many more. It was Lenny Bruce's junkie manager who kept the peyote volume.

I wasn't sure I had duplicate books, until one day decades ago when my proundly deaf younger brother visited my grad school apartment. He glanced at my vast bookshelves and immediately walked over and plucked two copies of the same book from two different shelves, far apart. There is some evidence that, indeed, deficiency in one sense can allow other senses toi become more acute. You know, the Daredevil Syndrome.

Isn't the most stolen book, per copy printed, "Steal This Book?"

#306 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 02:58 PM:

[random thought] I was reading a moment ago, and I misread the Hurricane Charlie headline "Storm heads for Florida" as "Storm hunts for Florida."

I like my way better. [/random thought]

#307 ::: Amy ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 04:37 PM:

Re: UtiliKilts: My husband owns a black denim one, which he wore last weekend when we renewed our wedding vows with Elvis in Las Vegas. Post-ceremony, we wore our wedding attire--he kilted, I in my fuschia gown with disco dots--to the Hilton to finish our Star Trek Experience (we'd been assimilated, but we still required a Klingon kidnapping to make the day complete).

Vegas being what it is, neither of us got many comments, but I think he got more than I.

#308 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 04:40 PM:

Another random headline thought: it will be a good day the next time I don't see an article headlined "Price of Crude Oil Reaches New Record High".

#309 ::: Taelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 05:30 PM:

Fabulous recs thread - unfortunately, it mostly made me go green with envy. I live in Russia and the access to the non-mainstream books (assuming that there is such a thing as mainstream SF/F) is not good. I'm still dreaming of getting my hands on any McKillip that isn't Riddlemaster of Hed.;(

I wanted to ask a question. I'm an English translator working mostly with SF/F books$ the last one I did was by Raymond Feist and now I'm starting on Mystic Warrior by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Has anyone here read it? Is it any good? Translating non-inspiring books requires especial fortitude of spirit and I'd like to be prepared (Feist nearly did me in)

#310 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 06:41 PM:

Andy Perrin writes:

[random thought] I was reading a moment ago, and I misread the Hurricane Charlie headline "Storm heads for Florida" as "Storm hunts for Florida."

I like my way better. [/random thought]

Sigmet Active, a technothriller by one Thomas Page, concerns a guy who is present when a laser-weapon test punches through clouds into the ionosphere. The atmosphere (!) imprints on his body's electrical signature, and bad weather begins to follow him around, in the form of increasingly awful storms, as the novel progresses.

It's an anti-superpower. If he comes to your town, you're in for thunder, lightning, tornadoes, and maybe hurricanes. Rather like Joe Btfsplk, but played absolutely straight.

I read this in a time when I sometimes read a technothriller just because it had a particularly outlandish premise.

This one was okay, but not worth reading again. I don't think I finished The Dead Sea Submarine by Alan Calliou, but I loved the cover, which showed a horde of Arabs toiling to drag the sub across a blazing desert, because the Israelis would never think to guard against a missile attack from the Dead Sea, you see. Wouldn't mind re-reading Thomas McMahon's Loving Little Egypt, though (blind kid anachronistically invents phone-phreaking circa 1900).

#311 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2004, 11:53 PM:

Appros of nothing, wow.

Just got home from a Weird Al Yankovic concert at our beloved outdoor venue, Starlight Theatre. WOW. If you get a chance, catch him in concert. It was good enough that I didn't mind my insides being rearranged by the sound system's bass. He's wonderful!

#312 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2004, 12:20 AM:

Andy Perrin: ...I misread the Hurricane Charlie headline "Storm heads for Florida" as "Storm hunts for Florida."

Closer to home, I misread the previous thread's title today (after reading it right so many times) as Prepared nectarine salad. Some sort of performance art food, made of nectarines that have been hollowed out, leaving only the skin and pit?

#313 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2004, 01:34 AM:

Which books do you find your friends are most likely to steal?

The Iron Dragon's Daughter, which has to be my favorite fantasy book ever, but which I can't recommend to Randall because it's so much better if you've read other fantasy first and because I'm afraid he'll not give my copy back and because I've already recommended something.

#314 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2004, 01:41 PM:

And, speaking of fiction about scientists which is not necessarily Science Fiction, I'd love to see fiction or film about Mendeleyev and Mikhail Lomonosov. Why? Because:

Famed for inventing the periodic table of elements, 19th-century chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev believed in science's potential to govern society.

By Yakov M. Rabkin
Published: August 6, 2004

"One need only look at the two monuments bookmarking the [Leningrad State University] headquarters to see how those hopes developed over time. One, facing the Neva River, is dedicated to Mikhail Lomonosov, the lonely scientist and deft courtier who funded his chemical experiments by composing odes to the empress a century before Mendeleyev was born. The other, guarding the entrance to the library of the Academy of Sciences, commemorates Andrei Sakharov, the physicist who built the hydrogen bomb only to later speak out against nuclear warfare and violations of human rights...."

"...Mendeleyev's story is an instructive lesson in the history of Russian modernization. Adapting to the changing political circumstances of three very different monarchs, he maintained a faith in Russia, a faith in the progressive responsibility of science itself. Later, many Russian scientists profoundly averse to the new Soviet regime would take after him, turning the country into a pioneer in space exploration and nuclear weapons. But Mendeleyev's ability to predict new chemical elements did not extend to forecasting political events, and scientific modernization never led to cultural stability. As the subsequent history of the 20th century showed, it would have been illusory to expect otherwise."

Yakov M. Rabkin is a professor of history at the University of Montreal. His most recent book, a history of Jewish opposition to Zionism ("Au nom de la Torah: une histoire de l'opposition juive au sionisme"), was published in April.

#315 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2004, 01:42 PM:

Randomness for Bill Higgins: There's a restaurant called Joey Bltfsplk's in Banff. The day I went there they had a snowstorm. It was the fourth of July, and we were having snowball fights.

#316 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2004, 04:01 PM:

Here is some Tropical Storm Charlie tek-nickle stuff— pretty charts and so forth. Some of it is labeled "experimental," meaning they don't NOAA whether it works yet. Do not forget to scroll down.

#317 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2004, 04:36 PM:

This guy really had an interesting life. As with Islamic scientists (such as their Newton, Al-Hazen) I never knew how brilliant they were until I stumbled on web stuff. Not that I write Historical fiction often. Harry Turtledove, are you available to make a bestseller on this dude?

Wikipedia entry (hence copyable per permission terms):

Encyclopedia: Mikhail Lomonosov
Mikhail Vasilevich Lomonosov (Михаи́л Васи́льевич Ломоно́сов)
(November 19 (November 8, Old Style), 1711 - April 15 (April 4, Old Style), 1765) was a Russian writer and polymath who made important contributions to literature, education, and science.

Lomonosov was born in the village of Denisovka (the name of which was afterwards changed to Lomonosovo in honour of the poet), situated on an island not far from Kholmogory, in the government of Arkhangelsk. His father, a fisherman, took the boy when he was ten years of age to assist him in his work, but his eagerness for knowledge was unbounded. The few books accessible to him he almost learned by heart and, seeing that there was no chance of pursuing education at home, he resolved to go to Moscow.

An opportunity occurred when he was seventeen, and by the intervention of friends he obtained admission into the Zaikonospasski school. There his progress was very rapid, especially in Latin, and in 1734 he was sent from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. There again his proficiency, especially in physical science, was marked, and he was one of the young Russians chosen to complete their education in foreign countries.

He accordingly commenced the study of metallurgy at Marburg, Germany; he also began to write poetry, imitating German authors, among whom he is said to have especially admired Gunther. His Ode on the Taking of Khotin from the Turks was composed in 1739, and attracted a great deal of attention at St. Petersburg. During his residence in Germany, Lomonosov married a native of that country, and found it difficult to maintain his increasing family on the scanty allowance granted to him by the St. Petersburg Academy which, moreover, was irregularly sent. His circumstances became embarrassed, and he resolved to leave the country secretly and to return home.

On his arrival in Russia he rapidly rose to distinction, and was made professor of chemistry in the University of St. Petersburg, where he ultimately became rector. Eager to improve Russian education, Lomonosov was engaged in founding the Moscow State University (later named after him) in 1755. In 1764 Lomonosov was appointed to the position of a secretary of state.

As a scientist Lomonosov rejected the phlogiston theory of matter commonly accepted at the time, and anticipated the kinetic theory of gases. He regarded heat as a form of motion, suggested the wave theory of light, and stated the idea of conservation of matter. Lomonosov was the first person to record the freezing of mercury, and to observe the atmosphere of Venus during a transit of Venus. In 1745 he published a catalogue of over 3,000 minerals, and in 1760 he explained the formation of icebergs. In 1755 he wrote a grammar that reformed the Russian literary language by combining Old Church Slavonic with the vulgar tongue. He published the first history of Russia in 1760. Most of his accomplishments, however, were unknown outside Russia until long after his death. He died in St. Petersburg in 1765.

Eugene Benyaminovich Beshenkovsky (Charlottesville, Virginia, USA) has detected that Lomonosov's private library (c. 10 000 titles) is now in the Helsinki University Library.

#318 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2004, 04:47 PM:

Whoops, I forgot this translated quotation, which was part of the point:

"Carolus V, Emperor of Rome, was wont to say that the Hispanic tongue was seemly for converse with God, the French with friends, the German with enemies, the Italian with the feminine sex."
-- Author: Mikhail Lomonosov

#319 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2004, 11:04 AM:

Is anyone else kinda incensed about an Iranian judoka not making weight for his combat with an Israeli at the Olympics? This would probably fit better over in Electrolite, but I'm mentioning it here. Jerusalem Post article available:

and undoubtedly much more.

#320 ::: Adina Adler notices a very long comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2004, 02:10 PM:

The previous message seems to be many smaller spams all stuck together.

#321 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2004, 07:54 PM:

Eeek! Eeek! The Boston Atheneum has a Genuine Book Bound in Human Skin! Euuwww! The Atheneum has or is going to be putting the text of the book on the Web. The book is bound in human skin, as a request of the person who wrote it, whose skin went onto it, and whose will included that the book be given to one of his victims.... The bookbinder who bound the book had nightmares for the rest of his life.

#322 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2004, 08:19 PM:

I guess I'm just culturally illiterate, but I don't know enough Dutch, German or French to understand the story in that link.

#323 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2004, 10:56 PM:

Tom - every time I see written Dutch, I understand why they have those coffeehouses in Amsterdam. I think that a degree of intoxication is necessary to understand the language.

Paula gave the highlights. I know enough German to get the gist of the entry in the article, but not enough to decipher the details. Now I've got a post-trying-to-read-Dutch headache.

#324 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 03:05 PM:

I think that Dutch must sound just as confusing to German speakers as German does to English speakers.

In one of my German classes in college, we were discussing the classic ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS fake-German text, and someone brought up the question (which I think was posed in one of Douglas Hofstadter's books) of whether one could make "fake English" out of German as easily as one can make "fake German" out of English.

Our conclusion was that it'd actually be easier to make fake Dutch out of German.

#325 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 03:17 PM:

Jimcat, from your link to the Blinkenlights story, the Germans didn't have much trouble whipping up their own version in...uh...Englisch?

#326 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 03:38 PM:

To be almost serious, eine Erstercause warum -- no, the hell with that, to quote damon knight -- why it's not too hard to produce Splatdeutsch is the language's fondness for cramming phrases into the confines of a single word, as if the language had been developed by a mad Teutonic accountant (Preis von Wasserhause) who knew that some day the electric telegraph would be invented. (German cable companies do in fact limit the size of a single word.) English, contrariwise, has no particularly distinctive ending (unless it's the creative use of the possessive apostrophe where possession is neither implied nor desired), and it scarcely dreams of constructions like Weltzusammengangsobermeistersschläflösigundhungersnötlichmundgesprudelswiedermalskrank, which being overset beed* is "Worldcon Chairman's recurrent disorder of saying unfortunate things due to a lack of adequate sleep and food." I think I missed an umlaut or two there, but you get the idea.

*This is funny in German, but it would require much time and an invasion of Belgium to explain how.

#328 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 04:56 PM:

As you know, Teresa, I come by my knowledge of language by tainted and disreputable means, and that is how I use it.

#329 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 06:24 PM:

I come by my knowledge of language by tainted and disreputable means, and that is how I use it.

No kidding. I still have -wexia- stuck on the roof of my mind. Turble shabby t'leave us wondrin', so 'twas. You should come with a glossary.

#330 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 06:42 PM:

It turns out that 48" is just a touch long for 3/4" plywood bookshelves that are supported at the ends and along the back; they do dip very slightly in the front when double-stacked with particularly dense books. Still, since I haven't come up with any way to efficiently make 36"-wide bookshelves out of 4'x8' plywood, I'd still probably do them that width again.

I've come to enjoy narrower bookcases. When we have some custom ones made in a few years, we'll have them made with shelves about 24" wide, no more. Yes, we lose a small amount of space to vertical supports, but the strength of the shelves is greater, and the ability to sort books into categories more finely is also improved.

We have only about 2,000 books, and I've made some inroads on reducing that recently. Not because I felt I had too many, but because I have been taking a long hard look at how much STUFF I have, and feeling that there's too much of it. While books generally don't concern me as much as knick-knacks, as I got rid of things that were just taking up space, I realized that some of my books were just taking up space, too.

Re: 10 books, I saw that episode of Clean Sweep, and the people didn't have very many books to begin with, and they weren't big readers. Reducing the number of books to 10 was fine for them; if you don't love something, it should go to somebody who will love it. I'd never let such a team in my house, but it wouldn't be an issue because I have the discipline to throw out my own things without assistance (in fact, I used to provide such assistance).

#331 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 07:01 PM:

Palm Pilot Department of Colorful Description. [adapted from Steve Harvey's "Only in in L.A. column in the Los Angeles Time, 17 Aug 2004, p.B4].

How any examples before you see the referent?

John Updike: "isolate, like psychopaths ... beneath the adobe band of smog across the sky."

Walter Mosley [from "White Butterfly"]:
"Their silhouettes rose above the landscape like impossibly tall and skinny girls. Their hair a mess, their postures stooped. I tried to imagine what they might be thinking but failed."

Horace McCoy [from "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"]:
"I often imagined they were sentries wearing grotesque helmets."

Mike Royko: "utility poles with feathers."

Charlie Smith [from "Chimney Rock"]:
"... their ragged tops tethered to slender trunks like wigs on stiff rope."

#332 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 08:25 PM:

Palm trees, clearly. Although not being an Angeleno, I'm not sure exactly what species. I'm in Honolulu where coconut palms are the norm...

#333 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2004, 11:04 PM:

My favorite description of palm trees is from a Christine Lavin song where she calls them "Tina Turner trees." I think it's perfect.


#334 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 12:25 AM:

Palm trees may be emblematic of Southern California, yet the regions the sole native palm is Washingtonia filifera (the California or Washington palm). All other species were imported and planted when that was the fad, circa 1920 to 1940s. Los Angeles streets have many of those first imports, and their descendants.

However, "LA’s skyline-signature palm trees are succumbing to old age and disease, and the city can’t afford to replace them. Here’s the story: Palms in Twilight.

"Vegas has priced just about every municipality out of the market," says George Gonzalez, chief forester for the city of Los Angeles. Demand from casinos has forced prices for Canary Island date palms to $350 to $500 per foot of trunk, never mind craning, trucking and planting. Across the palm market, including installation, a 15-foot Canary Island date palm might cost $7,500, a date palm $3,500, a queen palm $1,500, a Mexican fan palm $1,000. To start with trees of decent size, city tree buyers have been turning to oaks, jacarandas and ficus saplings, with price tags in the hundreds, not thousands.

I miss the many Ginkos of Brooklyn. Are they in the habitat of Patrick and Teresa, I wonder?

Similarly, I'd like to see the paleo-redwoods, whatever they're called, which preceded redwoods, and were thought extinct until found in a scared grove in Japan (?) or China (?) where the monks somehow knew that they were inutterably ancient. Redwoods were native in a Pacif Rim arc that went California, Orgeon, Washington, Alaska, Aleuts, Irkutsk, Japan, and somewhat beyond. Then came those darned ice ages... with sabertooth tigers on hovercraft...

#335 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 12:26 AM:

Sacred. Maybe scared, too.

#336 ::: Gen ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:53 AM:

It took me about 4 days, but I read all the way down to here, copying down all the book recommendations that appealed. Thanks, everyone! It's like being at a con... FWIW, I'm partial to Silverberg's "Valentine's Castle" and "Star of Gypsies" ...My husband regularly loans Pratchett's "Small Gods" to Pratchett-newbies (there are still a few left, believe it or not) ...and men in kilts are HOT HOT HOT!!!

#337 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 02:07 AM:

Today has been a Heinleinian Day of the Jackpot for me. I may make it to Worldcon after all, but my car got stolen. I won't take up much bandwidth here, but I counted five seriously anomalous events in the last 24 hours (from once a month to never happened before, most in the latter category). Is this happening to anyone else?

#338 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 03:05 AM:

Tom Whitmore:

If I may paraphrase you: "Is it just me, or is anomalous in here?"

Okay, I'll ask: what are the 5 seriously Heinleinian anomalies?

Isn't there a major American comedian who asks: "Is it just me, or is it weird in here?"

I should ask my First Cousin Rich Vos, who came in #3 last year in Last Comic Standing, was a judge in season 2 of Last Comic Standing, and will compete again in Season 3, which pits the top 10 of Season 1 against the top 10 of Season 2.

I won't quote his material here, as it is very edgy, and sometime "blue." But he's the funny one in my family. Just as my son is the smart one. And my father is The Editor. And my brother Nicky is The Artist. And my wife is The Physicist. I do outrank my dog Kramer, whom I can beat in Chess 2 of 3...

#339 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 10:35 AM:

The best description of Los Angeles palm trees I ever heard turned out to be a mondegreen. For years, I though Warren Zevon was singing:

Don't the sun look angry through the trees
Don't the trees look like crucified bees
Turns out he was singing "crucified thieves." Darn.

I like "crucified bees" better, although of course Warren Zevon rocks anyway.

#340 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 10:55 AM:

I miss the many Ginkos of Brooklyn.

Ugh. How can anyone MISS ginkgos? They're widely planted in Hoboken, too, and it took me a couple of Augusts to realize that no, there wasn't an enormous pile of dogshit that had been sitting in the blistering sun for several days, developing a nice hard crust on the top to enable fermentation to take place in the interior, which pile had then been run over by a bicycle tire, releasing its hideous, malevolent, disease-ridden perfume moments before I walked by.

No, it was the ginkgos. Blech.

(Or maybe your spelling error was different, and you meant to say you miss the many Kinko's of Brooklyn. Convenient photocopies ARE a Good Thing.)

#341 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 11:25 AM:

Ugh. How can anyone MISS ginkgos? They're widely planted in Hoboken, too, and it took me a couple of Augusts to realize that no, there wasn't an enormous pile of dogshit that had been sitting in the blistering sun for several days, developing a nice hard crust on the top to enable fermentation to take place in the interior, which pile had then been run over by a bicycle tire, releasing its hideous, malevolent, disease-ridden perfume moments before I walked by.

Ginkgos are actually quite nice--as long as you're sexist.

Only male trees should be planted, as it is only female trees that bear fruit.

I've always wondered why anyone in charge of planting in a city or college or univeristy or whatever would not have the sense (or at least a sensible gardner tell them) to only plant male trees.

Now my day is complete, as I've actually put my biology degree to use.

#342 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 11:26 AM:

I love messed up song lyrics.

A popular song from just a few years ago (think 1999) had this line among the lyrics:

Everybody's got to face down their demons.

Lis's brain heard:

Everybody's got toothpaste on their demons.

(This is why I look up lyrics on the interweb now.)

#343 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 11:41 AM:

It was, perhaps, familiarity coupled to my joy of giving other children minilectures about how the Ginkgo was older than the Dinosaur, predated pollen, and could only reproduce in the rain. Goethe once wrote a deep poem about the Ginkgo tree ("The leaf of this tree, entrusted to my garden by the East...").

The "prehistoric sequoia", formally Metasequoia, which for a long time was known to exist only as a fossil, was discovered as a living plant in China in 1945 and since then it has adorned many a garden and park with its mimosa-like needle leaves.

The giant sequoia once stretched across North America, as far east as Colorado, but now only grow naturally in 75 isolated groves within a narrow band 15 miles wide and 260 miles long, on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada of California. The giant sequoia is also called "Sierra redwood" and the "Big Tree." Its scientific name is Sequoiadendron giganteum. It has a columnlike trunk, stout branches, and fibrous, reddish-brown bark. The taller and more slender California coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) has a large base and reddish-brown bark, grows to heights of 275 to more than 300 feet, and naturally grows only in a narrow band along the Pacific Coast. It is one of the oldest living trees on earth (only the bristlecone and the alerce are older).

Back for a moment to the "What I believe" thread where Teresa extolled the Fibonacci patterns in flowers:

Numbering Nature
Will Wilson [review of]:
Mathematics in Nature: Modeling Patterns in the Natural World. John A. Adam. xxvi + 360 pp. Princeton University Press, 2003. $39.50.

"...A chapter on the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio represents a departure from the differential–equations mindset. A really sensible argument, based on efficient packing, is put forth for the striking seed patterns seen in sunflower heads—patterns that are based on the Fibonacci numbers. Adam then moves on to describe applications of packing to honeycombs, bubbles and mud cracks..."

It is not known if there are an infinite number of Prime Fibonacci Numbers.

A fascinating analysis of "The Da Vinci Code" and related thrillers is at:
Pop Esoterica!
by Ingrid D. Rowland

"Despite prevailing gossip in the groves of academe, people still like their Renaissance, with its prancing nymphs, striplings in hose, and Venus on the half-shell, an endless Primavera with Lorenzo de' Medici presiding benignly over the pagan rites. The fact that this Renaissance is a myth gives them no pause whatsoever, nor should it: the Renaissance was always a myth, and also, on occasion, a chivalric lay or an instructive fable, depending on who told the story, why, and to whom. For Angelo Poliziano, currying the favor of Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano with superabundant talent, the Medici brothers posed as modern Arthurian knights in Stanze per la Giostra, or Verses for the Joust. Botticelli, in the same years, acted as the city's great mythographer, painting glossy riddles in tempera for a restless Medici cousin, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco. If Machiavelli sent it all up with masterful cynicism in The Prince, he did so believing in another myth of Florence, the city as free Etruscan republic. Whatever their individual cynicism or dashed hopes, they all persisted in regarding Florence as a divinely favored place, every one...."

"... Thrillers are a conservative genre. Like Greek tragedies and murder mysteries, they upset society's balance in order to right it, and to re-affirm it in the righting. Like Wagner's operas, they keep an unresolved chord going for hours just to set up the sheer biological joy of its final resolution. A good thriller must provide comfort after the thrill. Many people have read The Da Vinci Code while riding on airplanes, senses irked into a state of low-grade discomfort and dulled by oxygen deprivation, dehydration, and slipping time zones. The characters in a thriller should not grab them too insistently or they will weep into their chicken Chernobyl; the plot must obey only the logic of the jet-lagged, and no suggestion of philosophical anarchy should threaten to bring down the premises by which airline passengers continue to believe that lift plus thrust will keep them airborne to their destination...."

#344 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 11:48 AM:

Thanks, Michelle. So you're saying that if some unscrupulous person went around and cut a ring around each of the fruit-bearing Stinkgo trees in Hoboken, our town would smell better next August?

Not that I would do such a thing of course. Just asking.

JvP, I have to look at that second article later. I love that sort of writing; "chicken Chernobyl," indeed!

#345 ::: Stacy Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 12:25 PM:

Any NY knitters still reading this thread? If so, would you please list your favorite Manhattan yarn stores?


#346 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 12:31 PM:

In reply to Skwid about the "Englisch" or "Deutschlish" fake-translations:

The problem with the asymmetry of English-to-German parodies is, as John Ford mentioned, the lack of good rules for making German sound like English. To make English sound like German, you change some w's to v's, the verbs to the end of the clause throw, und putten der -en an der ende der verben, und soon you vill like ein real Deutschlander (or zu least ein real fake Deutschlander) speaken be.

You can't really reverse the pattern in German to make it sound like English, or at least I've never seen it successfully done. The example from the Jargon File is fake English, and even funny fake English, but not fake English that obviously came from German.

To go from German to fake Dutch, on the other hand, you just change some ch's to k's, change some ie's to e's, double a few vowels, and throw in the occasional "ij" where the mood strikes you, und de woorte lijk ekte faalshe Nederlanden oszeen werd.

Or maybe it's just me.

#347 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 12:35 PM:

To talk in a Russian accent, write your English in Cyrillic, and then just read it out loud. As a late alphabet, Cyrillic has a pretty strong sound-letter correspondence; the English sounds that Russians have trouble with are the ones that are missing in Russian, and they're missing in Russian Cyrillic too.

Not the same. Just related.

#348 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 12:37 PM:

Oh, and mondegreenisms... there are entire web sites devoted to this, but I can't resist one from my high school memories: I had one friend who thought that a line from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" was:

The algebra has a devil for a son for me...

#349 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 12:39 PM:

Xopher: I always get a laugh out of imagining a bunch of Russian rednecks sitting on the couch in Tula and watching HACKAP.

#350 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:01 PM:

A favorite mondegreenism around here is in Train's "Drops of Jupiter." We were driving along listening to it, and Mark (who mostly listens to jazz and classical on his own) suddenly said, "Van Halen is overrated?" Timprov and I looked at each other. "Yeah, sure, hon," I said, and Timprov said, "I'd agree with that." Pause. "Why did you bring it up now, exactly?" "Isn't that what the guy sang?"

"That heaven is overrated." Oh. Well, not as much so as Van Halen, probably.

Also, Barenaked Ladies sing the line, "Someone somewhere has un---glued our epoxy," and I heard it, "Someone somewhere has a---lunar epoxy." I like the lunar epoxy. It sounds neat. I wouldn't want the moon falling apart.

#351 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:12 PM:

I once asked a friend if he was coming to the pectopah with us. He knew exactly what I was saying, which astonished him...he had to go from the sound of an unfamiliar word, to the appearance of a spelling in Cyrillic, to a different pronunciation in another language (not his native language, but one he'd studied), to figure out that I meant 'restaurant'. It took him a fraction of a second to do all that.

The human brain is an amazing thing.

#352 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:14 PM:

There was a song back in the 80s or early 90s, "Angel in Blue." I thought they were singing "Nature Review." Why that would be a song I couldn't figure, but in a word with They Might Be Giants in it, anything's possible, right?

#353 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:21 PM:

Tom, my washing machine spat sparks at me yesterday and flipped the breaker, but it is 13 years old. So it may be anomalous, but probably not unusual. Someone's coming to look at it Monday and I had this immediate sense of disaster -- Monday? How could I manage until Monday without a washing machine? Then I remembered that I have plenty of clothes and towels, I'll just be doing a day-full of laundry when it's fixed or replaced.

#354 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:24 PM:

The Ginkgo Song:

Ginkgo tree, very pretty,
and the ginkgo algae is neat,
but the fruit
of the poor ginkgo
smells worse than unwashed feet.

#355 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:49 PM:

Thanks Andy, I will shamelessly steal that.

#356 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:50 PM:

Marilee, there's another way to do laundry than in units of a day-full?

Next I suppose you'll tell me that it's possible to fold/hang clothes right out of the dryer, rather than piling them on the couch until somebody gets around to it...

#357 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 01:57 PM:


"but in a word with They Might Be Giants in it, anything's possible, right?"

For a War of the Words (R.I.P. H. G. Wells], see:

"Playing [Scrabble] With the Best"
by Dan Wachtell

Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004, at 3:49 PM PT

Me vs. Brian Cappelletto

"In the past two years, I have played in about a dozen Scrabble tournaments and have built my rating—as calculated by the National Scrabble Association—up to 1,606. (Novices are rated between 500 and 1,000; top experts around 2,000.) This means that I was eligible to play in any of the top three divisions in the national championship. (The tournament has seven divisions in all.) Playing in Division 2 or 3 would have meant greater success, but the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world was too good to pass up...."

"... We drew tiles to determine who would start. It seemed auspicious that I drew an "A" while Brian drew 'Z.' Then the defending national champion, Joel Sherman, stomped on an old Scrabble board, the ritual opening ceremony, and my first game—and 425 others—began."

"I couldn't have been happier to see a blank among the first seven letters I drew: DEEOPR? (The blank is represented by the question mark.) Having a blank all but guarantees a 'bingo' within the first couple of plays—scoring a 'bingo' or 'bingoing' means using all of one's tiles in a single turn for a 50-point bonus."

"But then: I drew a blank—a mental one. Absolute panic. It was one of those nightmarish moments during which you think you won't be able to perform a task you know damn well you can do. No words came to me."

So, I took a deep breath …

A sip of water …

"And thankfully, I spotted PROcEED (the lower-case c represents the blank, as per Scrabble notation) and played it for 74 points. Had I not been so nervous, I would have seen REPOsED, or POwERED—which have the same value but are more sound strategically, because your opponent can't add an 's.'"

"I had no time to gloat. Brian, in championship form, put down UNCLOTHE, ending on the first E in PROCEED, for 92 points. My rack was ADIJNTM, and, after considering several inferior options, I managed to spot and play ADJOINT, through the O in UNCLOTHE (in case you're playing along at home), for 60. (This wouldn't usually be a difficult word to find. But under the circumstances, I was surprised I remembered my own name.) We traded some plays back and forth: WORMS (30 points), FOIN (15), ZOA (28), and YIDS (32) for me; WEIGH (37), EARWORMS (39), AMOEBA (24), CLONIC (22), and AQUA (15) for him—and then I drew the second and last blank out of the bag, along with the letters FIILNT. I saw NIFTILy, and played it for 73 points, adding the N onto the bottom of OPE to make OPEN and sending NIFTILY niftily across the board...."

"Dan Wachtell is an inveterate player of Scrabble and many other games and sports. He recently competed at the 2004 National Scrabble Championship. He lives in New York."

Photograph on Slate's Table of Contents © Lito C. Uyan/Corbis.

My wife and I often score above 400 point each in Scarbble against each other. But -- house rules -- we are allowed the use of a hand-held Scrabble computer to speed our searches. It makes the game faster, and leads to enriched vocabulary. But it probably disables us for tournament play. The rule of thumb for any number of players is: the sum of the scores of all players must exceed 500 for it to be a minimally competent game. Above 600 is good. Above 700 (which we've done several times) is really good, and maybe worth writing down (on graph paper). One of the standard threads of Recreational Linguistics is to to find the highest score possible in 1 turn of Scrabble. In 2 turns... I speak as someone who's been published several times in The Jouranl of Recreational Linguistics.

I could digress on Meta-Mononopoly, but I've digressed enough as is...

Nice to have triggered revival of this thread from Patrick and ilk.

#358 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 02:08 PM:

Ah, you mistook "in a word with They Might Be Giants in it" for a typo. I referred, of course, to the rarely-used medical term 'anaphylacto-aTheyMightBeGiants-dermatitis', which refer to hives caused by a deficiency in They Might Be Giants listening. Cure: a rock to wind a string around, though inroads have been made in alternative treatments such as prosthetic foreheads.

#360 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 02:50 PM:

Refers madness.

#361 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 03:35 PM:

I see it as evidence that we live in a fallen world that the Pogues never did a cover of "Rock to Wind a String Around." I've never heard a song that wanted so badly to be sung by Shane McGowan, and in fact that's how I usually hear it in my head.

(Thank you, this has been your Open Thread pointless digression of the day.)

#362 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 03:37 PM:

Skwid pondered:
Marilee, there's another way to do laundry than in units of a day-full?

Skwid, either you've never had a septic system, or else I'm NEVER walking in your yard. *g*

#363 ::: Tracina ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Dan, I'm still recovering from the country-western version of "If I Should Fall from Grace with God." It hurts. Oh, it hurts.

#364 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 03:55 PM:

And speaking of photographs and the torture of prisoners of war:

"Willy, The Heidelberg VW Salesman"

"Nevertheless, by looking for and too often finding flaws in the national character of Germans, I often wonder if we have not squandered a reservoir of goodwill that many Germans felt for us and the Allies for relieving them of the evident repressive evils of Nazism. Along with the bad, many of the good suffered or perished under Hitler's repugnant regime. I became good friends with the VW salesman whom I shall call Willy, who in September '59 sold me a 1953 VW 'Bug' for the then magnificent sum of $600, or about 2400 Deutsche Marks. (The Dollar was King back then!) He told of his being 'captured', i.e., surrendering to the Allies along the Rhine, and being roughly interrogated by an American who happened to be Jewish. Although Willy was fully cooperative and eager to please, the interrogator, after finding a photograph of his wife and family in Willy's wallet, tore it up in front of him. When I expressed my deepest sympathy at this bit of cruelty, he replied, 'Ja, Herr Professor, but you must remember we Germans tore not merely photographs but their people to pieces!' This admission of collective guilt and the frightful imagery moved me to tears. I invited him to my home in Neuenheim, and subsequently we exchanged family visits throughout the academic year 1959-60."

"Willy, The Heidelberg VW Salesman"
in "CARL FAITH: "Rings and Things and a Fine Array of Twentieth Century Associative Algebra,"
Surveys of the A.M.S., vol 65, Providence, 1999.
Errata.,about halfway down

#365 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 04:45 PM:


I don't think there's much you can do, other than convince people to cut down the female trees and replace them with male trees.

I kinda liked this, though:
Unfortunately (for human noses), the seed coat decomposes at maturity, producing butyric (or butanoic) acid, which smells like rancid butter, and caproic (hexanoic)acid, which smells like old gym socks. These odors probably attracted a dispersal agent when Gingkos lived in the wild. Today the odors attract chain saw operating humans. For this reason, most Gingkos now planted are male trees.

#366 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 05:11 PM:

Love that bit, Michelle. I believe that a surreptitious girdling will kill a tree, even if it's not cut down; a dead ginkgo bears no fruit, after all.

#367 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 05:17 PM:

I rather enjoy toddler-pop group The Wiggles's cover of "South Australia." Of course, instead of

There's just one thing that's on my mind
That's leaving Nancy Blair behind
The Wiggles sing
There's just one thing that grieves me mind
To leave me box of toys behind

You have to imagine it being sung by a very, very cheerful pirate to get the full effect.

#368 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 05:44 PM:

Tom, it has been an anomalous day over here in Alameda, too. For one thing, a friend who had stored a large number of large and bulky things at our house turned up out of the blue and took most of them away, clearing huge amounts of space from the office and our library. Then he offered to come back in a couple weeks and get the rest.

This after I'd discovered that the construction project I'm working on will take longer than expected, because as I work I find that the repair work is more complicated than could have been anticipated from the starting point.

Why do these things come in pairs? I'm not complaining about the newfound free space, but I wish I could savour it instead of having to worry about some iffy plaster at the same time.

#369 ::: LaVerne Ross ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 06:22 PM:

Randall if you want to read Night Travels of The elven vampire, email me. I will send you the file to read. Thank you for your interest. Yes I am the author, of it and the sequel and others. You made my day........

#370 ::: LaVerne Ross ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 06:26 PM:

Randall email me at if you want to read it. Forgot to add that address. Would love to know what you think of it. You can also leave me a message if you prefer on my other website for another book of mine.

#371 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 07:22 PM:

Alex - My niece has a couple of Wiggles tapes. One of them features a version of Hava Nagila with an inexplicable band of girls in Dutch folk clothing dancing. Wooden shoes and all.

Maybe it makes sense if you're Australian.

#372 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 08:21 PM:


Yes, I suppose that word is about right.

I woke this morning, as always, to my alarm. But once I hit the alarm button, I noticed that something was missing: no birds.

All day, the only bird calls I've heard have been the caw of crows. Ominous in and of itself, but it gets better. About an hour ago, a car parked in the lot with a girl (5 or 6 years old, probably), who pointed, I thought, at me. Then her mother looked at what she was pointing at on the roof above me and said, "Yes, that's a lot of birds."

So apparently they're here, just not talking.

#373 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 09:05 PM:

So apparently they're here, just not talking.

That's because Alfonso Cuarón tired them out.

#374 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2004, 09:32 PM:

"Then her mother looked at what she was pointing at on the roof above me and said, 'Yes, that's a lot of birds.'"

The obvious cautions here are to stay away from attics, gas stations, and anyone who looks even vaguely like Rod Taylor.

I'm in no position to judge the relative difficulty of these things.

#375 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 01:05 AM:

Just the kind of anomaly I'm noticing, Ayse. Any others, particularly positive ones that counterbalance?

On the actions of birds (De Actionis Aves): any anomalous weather conditions, like hurricanes, in the area? Birds are very sensitive to air movement.

May make it to Worldcon yet -- as the 8 Ball says, Signs point to yes.

#376 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 01:12 AM:

Skwid, I'm disabled and home most of the time. I generally run a load of wash every other day. There are days when I fold it/put it away in the morning, but I usually try to get it done before bed.

#377 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 03:01 AM:

Tom: De Actionibus Avum

#378 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 07:05 AM:

On the laundry thread - Skwid, have you no critters (furry) in your house? Any pile of laundry that was dumped on any sitting or sleeping surface in our house would either immediately or eventually be covered in cat fur. Marilee has cats as well. It often (though not always) makes people fairly swift with the folding and putting away.

#379 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 09:10 AM:

Nomadic Furniture by James Hennessey includes (IIRC; it's been years since I looked at it, and my copy's buried behind boxes at the moment) plans for a bookcase made from one sheet of plywood.

(Great book, by the way. Instructions for making various items of furniture that are portable, knock-down, or disposable. And cheap. There was also a Nomadic Furniture 2 published, but I haven't seen it.)

#380 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 09:29 AM:

I believe that a surreptitious girdling will kill a tree, even if it's not cut down; a dead ginkgo bears no fruit, after all.

(blinking stupidly) Oh. Yes. Of course that will kill a tree. Don't ask what I was thinking, I'm sure I don't know. Overfertilization also works well, and gives you the added advantage of claiming helpful ignorance instead of malice.

#381 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 10:12 AM:

Jonathan -- my Latin is over 30 years rusty, and you are correct -- I bow to superior knowledge.

And the police have found my car, and have Suspects in Custody. Worth a 6 AM telephone wake-up. Now I get to deal with the bureaucracy of getting it back, and visiting two different police stations (Daly City, where the loss was reported, and San Pablo, where it was found).

It should make a good fanzine article.

#382 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 10:15 AM:

But of course I will do no such thing. I'd be pilloried by bleeding-hearts. (My own conscience too, once I got over the revulsion.)

#383 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 10:17 AM:

My last comment was addressed to Michelle, not Tom.

#384 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 10:27 AM:

<open thread>
Thirty-nine years old, 4'10" tall, 480 pounds weight (~190 kg) woman dies after six years on couch
This story in the Palm Beach Post reminded me of some days/weeks when I don't want to get out from under the covers. But also what was discussed in these two threads ( Decluttering and J Daniel Scruggs) several months back.
I'm struggling with three separate hoarder-style houses (three different people), so these things tend to hit something fairly visceral. I guess it's true that we need someone worse off than us sometimes.

</open thread>

#385 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 12:42 PM:

What disturbed me most about that article was that she had a partner/common-law husband who supported her in her sedentary existence for six years.

Of course it's quite possible that one or both of them may have been mentally ill.

#386 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 04:48 PM:

I believe hoarding is indeed considered a mental disorder, so yes, she was probably mentally ill.

#387 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 05:55 PM:

Um, on closer reading, I take that back. That Florida woman's house doesn't sound like a hoarder's house, so that wasn't the issue there. Something else, though, obviously was.

#388 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 07:03 PM:

My son, Andrew, recently became aware of the metaphorical use of the electrical engineering phrase "impedence matching." I suggested that people should be equally crazy to enjoy communicating with each other. He pointed out that if they are exactly equal in craziness, then there is a singularity. "Oh, yes," I said. That is "folie a deux."

I think the couch lady and her coenabler qualify.

I'm sad to report that the great writer, and extremely influential teacher of writing Donald Justice died a few days ago. Donald Justice [12 Aug 1925-9 Aug 2004] who was offered the Poet Laureate position, but declined for matters of health. Donald Justice's students included Jorie Graham, Charles Wright, James Tate, poet laureate Mark Strand, poet laureate Rita Dove, and novelist John Irving. Donald Justice originally studied Music under Carl Ruggles, and was later a librettist.

I meant to update the web page


when Thom Gunn died [whoops, I have the wrong date for him]. But now I've gone and added the details of these two masters in the Poetry section of my geneology.

Whatever I've done, it is because of great teachers.

#389 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 10:56 PM:

Weather phenomena? Not unless they were THAT disturbed about Charley whooshing by on the other side of the state. Last weekend.

Or perhaps they were in mourning for the Cornish village which was hit by a horrible flood.

But speaking of folding laundry, I can't resist sharing an albino black sheep link:

#390 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2004, 11:51 PM:

Alice, I watched the shirt-folding movie three times, and I still can't figure it out. If anybody succeeds in reproducing the method, I want to hear about it.

#391 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 12:25 AM:

Tom, I appear to have something that sort of counterbalances the dead washer. I needed more memory for my computer, so I looked around and ordered. Well, one module came yesterday and the same (brand, number) module came today. I called the company and they insisted they'd only sent one, that I must be mistaken and they'd know if they sent two, particularly in two different shipments. So I guess they're both going in. The value of the memory is not quite the amount of the cost of the guy showing up to look at the washer, but it's pretty close.

#392 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 12:43 AM:

This is interesting for a bunch of reasons.

Tribe has best excuse for poor math skills: Language lacks words for most numbers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Some people have a great excuse for being bad at math -- their language lacks the words for most numbers, U.S.-based researchers reported on Thursday.

1) I'm not sure if 'racist' is quite the word for this article. The researchers (or the reporter?) manage(s) to suggest by a form of what we might broadly call praeteritio that the entire tribe is retarded. See for yourselves. Am I off my rocker here, or does this reek to high heaven? Alternative explanations welcome.

2) From a cognitive science viewpoint, and a linguistic viewpoint, this is pretty durn cool. If it's correct.

#393 ::: Ayse ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 01:15 AM:

The article says, "The Piraha tribespeople are clearly intelligent." How does that imply retardation?

Or is it standard to consider somebody retarded if they're bad at math?

#394 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 01:16 AM:

Marilee: You have experienced the relatively rare phenomenon known as "hardware-implemented deja vu."

Friendly caution: further occurrences may indicate "non-parity fugue," which fortunately is risky only in that you may lose track of your total motherboard population.

#395 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 01:27 AM:

Ayse, the quote I was referring to was, "One can safely rule out that the Piraha are mentally retarded. Their hunting, spatial, categorization and linguistic skills are remarkable and they show no clinical signs of retardation," Gordon added."

Nobody had mentioned retardation up to that point. It strikes me as an example of demonstrating a prejudice by saying the opposite. For example, the infamous "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

#396 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 01:39 AM:

Dawn redwoods? There was one in Arnold Arboretum in Boston, the last time I was there, I doubt it it moved or died since then.

For that matter, Bonsai West on route 119 in Littleton or Action usually sells little ones.

#397 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 01:57 AM:

andy: i'm on an incapable computer that is not my own, so i can't check. but if that's the video i saw a few months back, in which a t-shirt becomes rectangular in all of two seconds, i managed to mimic the method. it can be done.

#398 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 02:00 AM:

sundre: It is that video. Thanks. I'll try going frame by frame. The method would seem to be worth learning.

#399 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 06:58 AM:

Andy - I did learn how to fold tee shirts that way from the same video. I taught my dad to do it that way, too. I taught him live, but here's some instructions (for the right-handed):

1. Lay shirt out in front of you, face up, sleeves on your left.
2. On the side closest to you, take a pinch of fabric about halfway from the sleeve's seam (where it joins the body) and the seam of the collar in your left hand. Take another pinch in a straight line from the first, halfway from the shoulder to the hem with your right hand.
3. Holding on to your mid-shirt pinch, bring the shoulder pinch down in a straight line to the hem (your left hand crosses over your right), and take another pinch with the left hand (holding the shoulder and hem pinches in the same hand).
4. Bring your left hand back leftwards, still holding on to all three pinches (shoulder and hem in left, side in right). Let the fabric fall back from your hands. You are finished with the "hard part" now.
5. Still holding on to pinches 1-3, sweep shirt away from you on your flat surface, and bring it back toward you so that a portion of the shirt (an even amount with the original fold) is folded back.


Clear as mud?

Aren't you glad I don't write technical manuals?

#400 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 08:38 AM:

Aquanetta died last Sunday.

This doesn't mean much to most people, unless you're a fan of old and crappy horror movies, but if you grew up in the Phoenix area in the late 50's and early 60's, it's pretty big news. Another piece of our past, gone.

#401 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 08:59 AM:

The shirt folding thing is amazing! My co-worker and I have watched it several times, and I *think* I understand how to do it. (And more importantly, why it works)

I will not, however, take off my shirt to try it right now.

#402 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 09:50 AM:

Jill, that looks helpful (I'll know if it's really helpful when I try it) so I'm grateful in advance.

#403 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 11:23 AM:

I saw the shirt folding thing the other day, and managed to get it to work (the trick is inverting the fold after you fold the top to the bottom, and it works best with very thin materials like a rayon, silk, or spandex blend), only to find that the resulting rectangles of fabric, while quick to form, were of the wrong dimensions to fit side by side in my shirt drawers. C'est la vie. Back to 5 folds for me...

Jill, I have two adorable kitties, but I see little purpose in keeping them from the laundry as they will immediately get fur onto anything I put on, anyway. Last time I cleaned the pool table I went through 12 sheets of lint roller. Incredible.

#404 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 11:41 AM:

Nobody had mentioned retardation up to that point. It strikes me as an example of demonstrating a prejudice by saying the opposite. For example, the infamous "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

I suppose it might seem like that, but with a small tribe, evidence of a particular learning disability might be genetic retardation rather than a cultural phenomenon. I'd want to know that researchers had eliminated that as a possibility before they asserted that the cause was linguistic.

It just seems like an application of scientific method to linguistic/sociological research to me.

#405 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 12:00 PM:

I'd want to know that researchers had eliminated that as a possibility before they asserted that the cause was linguistic.

Hmm..makes sense to me. If the research bears out, I wonder if it would work in the other direction, too— might there be languages that are especially suited to math? I've asked many bilingual people which language they think in when doing math, and the answer seems to be whatever language they were using when they learned the math in question. There was a woman in my dorm in college who thought in Chinese for arithmetic, and in English for calculus.

#406 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 12:04 PM:

I understand that Hopi is particularly useful for discussions of Relativity. Something about time and space not really being distinct.

#407 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 03:53 PM:

Skwid - those two are, indeed adorable. And almost a matched pair to Mary Kay's!

Mine are pretty cute, too.

#408 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 05:52 PM:

Very cute kitties, Skwid! The one on the right looks like a smaller version of Shiva -- has the white bit for the third eye, too.

I don't worry a lot about getting fur on the laundry because I move it around in a tall wheeled wire basket (supposed to be for blueprints). When I need to get things out of the bottom, I have the washer to put my right hand on, so I won't fall in (the problem with picking up standard laundry baskets from the floor).

Of course, all three cats usually sit on me while I'm putting the WashPost in proper order in the morning, so I usually have fur on what I'm wearing.

#409 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 10:35 PM:

Hey everybody!
I received the first of what will be many rejections for my book today. Thus begins the long, lonely road to trying to get my nifty writing published. I sent my manuscript to the only children's fiction publisher willing to take manuscripts at the moment and they sent me a cold, impersonal, completely generic dismissal that left me firmly convinced that they didn't even look at it.

Does anyone know if that is common? When publishers leave their submissions policy open, do some of them not even look at what is sent to them? Just wondering. I only sent three chapters (per their request), but those pages sure looked as pristine as when they left my porcelain hands.

So I guess my next question would be, what's the secret to making your first three chapters kick butt? Any advice?

Okay, enough blabbering. My wife is going to have a baby any minute...

#410 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 10:43 PM:

they sent me a cold, impersonal, completely generic dismissal that left me firmly convinced that they didn't even look at it.

Have you read Slushkiller?

These things do look different from the other end, you know.

#411 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 11:08 PM:

Yeah, I've read Slushkiller. I've studied Slushkiller. I've done my best to avoid falling into that trap by convincing myself I'm up to number 9 on the list (one can never be too sure that they can get past number 9). Of course, it's also hard to avoid falling into the trap of sounding like a bitter, rejected writer.

Still, it's disappointing. I could have done with a sentence--at least one sentence--that said it was crap. The worst are those rejections that seem written by robot. (breep)not interested (click) not what we're looking for (zzt) here are our submission guidelines that you already knew (bsst). I'd much rather hear, "You're crap, man! Give it up!" A statement like that would enable me to dig in my heels and say, "Piss on you! I rule!"

#412 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 11:28 PM:

1. While one would have had to be in the office at the time to know for certain, the overwhelming probability is that yes, they looked at it. If you don't want to read unsolicited mss., it's easy to say so, and it makes no sense to waste time turning around material you have no intention of reading. So no, it's not common. Vanishingly rare is more like it.

2. It -is- possible that the slush reader didn't get all the way through the material sent. The reader's job is not to look for hints of potential that might emerge after rewrites (though sometimes that does happen); the job is to determine whether the book, as it stands, is worth more time.

3. Hundreds of mss. come in every month. There isn't time to send a personal rejection, let alone a critique. (Again, this sometimes happens; but even mild critiques often do nothing but produce hate mail from the rejectee, which militates against sending them.)

4. There's no "secret" to anything in writing. There's a lot of basic advice on openings -- start the story moving on the first page, not after a half-chapter of background; introduce characters through action, not description or external analysis; start the bomb ticking at once -- that is, introduce the conflict that's going to drive the story forward. ("Conflict" doesn't have to mean a fight, of course, or a villain; it does mean a protagonist and an obstacle.)

This concludes your impersonal and generic analysis. Miss van Pelt's not In today, so you're a nickel ahead.

#413 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 11:31 PM:

Randall: Reading Night Travels of The elven vampire might cheer you up.

#414 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 11:44 PM:

Thanks John.

As for you, Andy...

...geez, man...I wish I had some pithy comeback for that one. Best. Post. Ever.

#415 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2004, 11:48 PM:

Sorry John, but Andy totally distracted me. I wanted to add that your words hit the nail on the head for me. Sometimes late on a Friday, when the wife and kid are sleeping, I send out desperate, half-hearted posts, wondering if anyone else is out there. You seemed to give an almost perfect reply and for that, I thank you.

That Andy Perrin fellow, though...he's a troublemaker.

#416 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 01:15 AM:

Oh, heck, I was just first off the blocks. There are plenty of people here, many of them with a lot more editorial experience than I have, who would have replied, and may yet do so.

But you're welcome, of course. Very glad you found it useful.

#417 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 01:22 AM:

Mike Ford, you are a very nice guy. (No sarcasm or troublemaking intended.)

Erm. What did you mean by 'wexia'? It's not in the OED, nor Merriam-Webster Online.

#418 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 01:39 AM:

Randall: Congrats on impending parenthood, btw. :)

#419 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 01:52 AM:

Andy, I've lost track of the "wexia" contect. What thread was that in? Did I possibly misspell "wuxia?"

#420 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 02:22 AM:

No, I misspelled "wuxia." Sorry 'bout that. It's on this thread, August 10, 9:13 PM.

My hand has great -wuxia- from decades of simultaneously keeping the place in the book and the corresponding page of endnotes, nor does it stay, especially when the neuropathy kicks in.

I wasn't sure if 'wuxia' was Jabberwocky or not. Google thought 'wuxia' was a genre of Chinese cinema, but, y'know, the context.

#421 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 02:22 AM:

In another venue, someone asked what the name is of the heresy that assumes that transubstantiation in Holy Communion is a magical act (rather than, say, a miracle). I figure someone here is likely to know -- I couldn't figure it out in a quick Google.

#422 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 03:16 AM:

Andy: Ah. Okay. I vaguely remembered I had said something like that. "Wuxia" (woo-sha), in this context, means "martial arts." (As with a lot of Chinese expressions, it can mean many other things, but let's not go there right now.) The "Chinese film genre" context is in fact the right one; "wuxia film" is the current hot identifier for what we at various times in the past called "martial arts," "kung fu," and (favorite of foreign devils everywhere) "chop socky" movies.

#423 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 08:30 AM:


And oddly enough, years of Catholic schooling were worthless for that answer.

Sometimes reading is better than education.

#424 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 09:26 AM:

I fell asleep last night holding a 2003 non-Rowling YA novel (that is, it wasnt's a big fat book) with my left index finger holding a place in the book, and awoke a while later still clutching it and holding position. It was not the first time.

One a different topic, regarding those virulent hate-driven Swift vets:

"Loftus makes 3 suggestions as to why there are 'false' memories.

" o social demand to remember - people may feel pressured from the social situation to remember an event, so they may say they remember the event even though they are not sure they do

" o memory construction via imagination - imagining an event may lead people to believe that the event actually happened

" o not encouraging critical thinking about memory - if people's memories are simply accepted as reported, then the people are not likely to consider the possibility that the event did not occur (if Neisser had been encouraged to think about when Pearl Harbor actually happened (Dec 7, 1941), then it's unlikely that he would have claimed to have been listening to a baseball game)."


"Neisser and Harsch (1992) had subjects describe what was going on when they first heard about the Challenger shuttle explosion. Two and half years later, Neisser and Harsch [asked the same people he same questions] They compared the descriptions and scored them for similarity. The mean score was 2.95 out of 7. Three subjects of 44 got a perfect 7, and over half were less than 2."

#425 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 09:27 AM:

Just as an interesting sidenote (while I have the chance), last night I wrote: "Okay, enough blabbering. My wife is going to have a baby any minute..."

Little did I know that her water would break about two hours after I wrote that. We are now awaiting our second child, which could come any minute (and just to head off any tut-tutting, my wife is in the shower right now, so I'm not wasting my time on the computer, thank you very much).

Wish us luck!

#426 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 09:51 AM:

Also regarding memory,


I left out

"Long Term Memory (LTM)


as the heading from

Flashbulb memories:
"Historical and personal memories and flashbulb quality

"Mary Mullane Swar & John F. Kihlstrom
"University of California, Berkeley


"Many studies have collected subjects' memories immediately after the event, and compared these "on-line" records to flashbulb memories reported after some interval has transpired. The general conclusion of these studies is that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, people's flashbulb memories are not necessarily accurate representations of the event in question. Moreover, whatever accuracy they may have may derive not from some exotic "Now Print" mechanism related to emotional arousal, but rather from the rather mundane effect of repeated rehearsals as people share their experiences of learning the news.

"Accurate or not, flashbulb memories are still memories, and are interesting nonetheless. Flashbulb memories, whether of the assassination of President Kennedy, the Challenger disaster, the World Trade Center attacks, or such personal, private, idiosyncratic moments as one's first kiss, may serve an important function in the individual's personality. Moreover, the sharing of such memories may be an important social activity. Neisser himself has suggested that flashbulb memories are less snapshots of the past than benchmarks in one's personal history..."

Looked at from that sort of perspective, the anti-Kerry vets are participating in a decades-long social bonding/bonded r/i/t/u/a/l/ activity of spiting Kerry for the temerity to have dissed the Vietnam War and accused US soldiers of misconduct and atrocies in Vietnam. It's a personal auto da fe on their part, a ritual of hatred and disrespect, with its public face orchestrated by the Republican Dirty Tricks Slime Brigade. The only "truth" involved is that the detestation for Kerry's post-Vietnam anti-war activism and his passion in denouncing that war and self-righteous reinforcement of "it was -not- a Bad War we fought in. We were not deluded chumps and our glorious US military could not possibly have engaged in atrocities and especially not since we were soldiers and if there were atrocities then that tars -our- service and and impugns us as murdering scum. We are all Honorable Men and because Kerry questioned the Vietnam War and actions he alleged were performed by US soldiers there, he is a vile despical evil lying scum and we must in concert denounce him!"

Oh, wow, I just realized that put that way, it sounds so -utterly- like Soviet appartchik work. But then, Karl Rove and the rest of that bunch of operatives, really DO act like apparatchiks...

#427 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 11:09 AM:

Thank you, Michelle. Wishes for a safe and easy delivery, Randall (and a pleasant life overall for the delivered!). Apparatchik -- sounds right, Paula.

#428 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 11:23 AM:

Good luck, Randall. Best wishes for a healthy mom and child.

#429 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 11:27 AM:

Randall-- Good luck and speedy delivery.

Mike Ford-- Thanks. 'Wuxia' has been puzzling me for more than a week. It's not the words I don't know that bother me; it's the ones I can't look up.

#430 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 01:01 PM:

Michelle, the person turned out to be looking for Donatism, rather than Consubstantiation. But I think mentioning consubstantiation helped him find what he wanted.

#431 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 01:46 PM:

Bob Dylan fans may or may not like:

Idiot Wind
by James Wolcott
Post date 08.20.04 | Issue date 08.30.04

review of:

Dylan's Visions of Sin
By Christopher Ricks
(Ecco, 517 pp., $26.95)

Now I've got to find my poem about "Levels of Processing", written quite some time ago when I was offered a graduate fellowship in Computational Linguistics, which evaporated whern I arrived on campus due to miscommunications between Computer Science and Linguistics departments, and ghod knows where in my vast archives.

I was offline for a day or so as my wife and I had to attend a full-day seminar in Strategies for Coping With Underprepared Students, from a Federal Title V grant, and for which we were paid $100 each to attend, plus meals, at the magnificent Skirball Cultural Center. Ah, Academe...

I have two classes of Intermediate Algebra to teach on Monday 23 Aug 2004. And, horrors, the Math Chairman has chosen a completely new textbook, which obsoletes all the carefully composed homework assignments and exams I've built as Word files on my PC. Must get to work, now.

Oh, but I did take the time to draft a 4,400 word short story that connects girl-soldiers of the 3rd world in mid 21st century, the amazing mid-19th century mathematician/physicist Sophia Kovalevskaya, and a hovercraft blackmarketed from the 3rd Afghan War. Readers have warned me that it veers from disgusting to lyrical and vivid to boring, and suggested that it be considered a novel outline, with the historical 19th century St.Petersburg and Berlin sections to be properly researched as Historical Novel.

And my son for the first time called me a "dirty old man" -- which I knew was fine for Asimov, but suggested that my feminism here was somehow off-key and imperfectly executed.

#432 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 03:43 PM:

On the subject of misheard lyrics, my all time favourite is still hearing, in place of "Be warmed and made secure":

"Be warned, I'm insecure."

But the most recent was Sarah McLachlan - about five minutes ago, which is why I'm bothering to put it in now. I had to actually hunt down the real lyrics to "Black and White", because I was pretty sure she wasn't actually saying "Everybody's waiting for your entrails..."

#433 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 06:25 PM:

Tom Whitmore writes: "the actions of birds (de actionis aves)"
Jonathan Shaw corrects: "de actionibus avum"

...which is much better, but still not quite right. It should be "de actionibus avium".

Marilee's computer memory story reminds me of a letter I recently read in an old Bridge World magazine. One of their subscribers took his latest issue to the hospital, and accidentally left it there. The next day, he realized, but the issue was gone. And that very day another copy showed up in his mailbox! He asked in the letter how expensive precognitive mail service was. The editors replied, "It was a computer foul-down."

#434 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 06:55 PM:

In no particular order:

10 books is not enough even for the sub-literate.

10 books would not even cover my required language reference books, for $deity's sake.

Owning a lot of books is not automatically hording.

I do try to only buy books when I'm deathly sick of re-reading the old ones for a while. I almost never throw out or give away books. I tend to lose them to iced tea, bathtubs, an annoyed cat, or the occasional forgetting them on a bench somewhere.

Speaking of deathly sick, I just spent 3 days in the hospital with bronchitis. Catching up on this much Open Thread has been fun.

Did I really see a post by JvP that was only two words long up there, or is the prednisone making me hallucinate?

It's really hard to walk around when a) one's right side is congested but one's left is not and b) one's lungs don't want to work. Obviously 'b' has a lot more to do with it, but 'a' is pretty tricky-making.

I think it'd be cool to make a song from all the most common (or funniest) misheard lines.

If you're going to watch Trading Spaces, you really should watch Changing Rooms instead. The designers are much less prone to being slap-worthy.

Although I normally seem to like the British version of various shows better, I have to say that the American What Not To Wear can be pretty funny. But not as funny as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which is the only makeover show I go out of my way to try to watch new episodes of.

Speaking of compulsiveness, my new favoritist show ever is Monk.

Now I'm going to go have some more drugs.

#435 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 07:24 PM:

David Goldfarb:
Thank you. I sit corrected. The avum/avium question has been niggling away at the back of my brain, but not insistently enough to make me LOOK IT UP.

#436 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 07:50 PM:

Jill and Skwid: Actually I was thinking those kitties look a lot like Atrios' kitties....

Skwid, is there anything you want to tell us?


#437 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 09:18 PM:

Okay, I'm watching a made-by-the-Sci-Fi-Channel movie which means it might not be as good as most. But in the third sentence of the movie, the Marine leader says they're looking for the bad guys and their "ka-shay" of weapons. They couldn't reshoot that scene?

#438 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 10:55 PM:

Marilee, that may have *been* the reshot scene.

#439 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2004, 11:12 PM:

Seen on The New York Times Magazine page:

Web Pulse: Can brain activity explain the difference between liberals and conservatives?
#440 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 12:48 AM:

So that's how come the Iraqi terrorists/insurgents have such staying power -- their weapons just plain have more cachet. Obviously Tom Clancy books and the America's Army video game aren't doing enough to build the cachet of American weapons, so we need to commandeer some of the terrorists' cachet.

It all makes sense now...

#441 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 01:28 PM:

We don't need weapons with more cachet. We just need to use a time machine to steal our enemies' mojo.

And welcome to
National Punctuation Day

On the discussion of "best" science fiction, I've added more award-winners and nominees to:

TIMELINE 2000-2010

Just click on:

Major Books of the Decade

and then jump to the year in question. I added 2004 World fantasy Award Nominees, and
2004 Mythopoeic Awards to the annotations yesterday.

(or, for that matter, click on
Major Films of this Decade
Major Television of this Decade)

Note that the page is written as a historical survey written in the year 2010 or later, so any date after 2004 is grain-of-salty.

For an earlier decade's or century's best books, go to the appropriate page as indexed by:


#442 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 02:08 PM:

Aquanetta died? Say not so!

#443 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 04:41 PM:

But in the third sentence of the movie, the Marine leader says they're looking for the bad guys and their "ka-shay" of weapons.

I was reading Roger Ebert's review of Riding Giants, a surfing documentary, and I came across this sentence:

In August 2000, Hamilton goes to Tahiti in search of a legendary wave so big it is "a freak of hydroponics."
#444 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 06:31 PM:

The rest of the movie, Raptor Island, wasn't much better. The actor playing the lead Marine was Lorenzo Lamas. The CGI dinos were rather wooden, and it was clear that the animators had never seen lava flows. On the other hand, it was reasonable background for reading the paper.

Andy, that would certainly be a *big* hydroponics facility!

#445 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 06:50 PM:

It seems utterly fitting that "Items no longer available", in the sidebar, produces a 404 message. Nonetheless, I remain curious: before it 404'd, what was it?

#446 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 07:38 PM:

Marilee-- When I read the 'hydroponics' quote, I was thinking "Little Shop of Horrors," but set in an Anne McCaffrey-style spacestation.

In this version, Audrey is an extremely mature little girl of twelve, and Seymore is her Talented policeman boyfriend. When the spacestation chief engineer feeds a Talent to the plant, it acquires telepathy and makes contact with the Beetles (evil aliens that live in a hollow ex-planetoid). Audrey leads all the female Talents, and Seymore leads the male Talents in a gigantic "mind merge," which fails, leaving them permanently mind-burned. The Beetles swoop in and make clippings of the plant, which they spread throughout the universe. First-rate ripoffs of third-rate oldies play thoughout.

#447 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 09:53 PM:

Audrey is an extremely mature little girl of twelve

To tamp down the creep factor, I should probably add as a footnote for those who haven't read McCaffrey's Pegasus trilogy that this is a literal description of a character. "Mature" refers to emotional maturity.

#448 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 10:38 PM:

Okay, this is the only place I know of to ask this question, but what the heck. Someone here almost certainly knows and I have vague recollections of someone here making a recipe with this in some other Open Thread.

Is it me, or is buffalo meat a lot more bloody than beef or other meat?

#449 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2004, 10:50 PM:

Vicki: A Free Trade Agreement has recently been signed between Australia and the United States. Apparently, US copyright laws will become binding in Australia when the FTA comes into effect on 1 January next year (always assuming that the agreement does go ahead now that the Australian Labor Party has forced some amendments to the enabling legislation -- amendments attempting to enshrine protections around therapeutic drugs and certain cultural matters). At present in Australia a work is copyright until 50 years after its author's death; under the FTA, copyright will endure a further 20 years.

The page referred to in the Particles link listed a number of authors whose works are currently in the pubic domain in Australia but will once more be subject to copyright from next year. The only one I remember is Rudyard Kipling. I suspect it was taken down because it was seen as inflammatory: the FTA is a political minefield and we too are in an election year.

#450 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 02:25 AM:

Hmmm. My only experience with buffalo meat is with the ground variety, which was no bloodier than beef. The buffalo was very, very lean, to the point that I had to put a chunk of herb butter in the middle of the burgers to make them tasty.

I think it would have made very nice chili. (Northern style, with beans,)

#451 ::: JM Kagan ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 02:35 AM:

Marilee: Uh, about that Marine talking about a weapons "ka-shay"? I have twice now heard Marine PR guys from Iraq talk about looking for or finding Iraqi "weapons cachets" on All Things Considered. May have been the same guy twice, but it was certainly noteworthy. So it's entirely possible that the scriptwriter had current Marine-talk dead on straight.

#452 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 08:48 AM:

But in the third sentence of the movie, the Marine leader says they're looking for the bad guys and their "ka-shay" of weapons.

I thought that was the correct pronunciation for that term in that sense? It's certainly something I've heard before and wouldn't have struck me as odd or unusual.

But then I am from Appalachia.

#453 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 09:16 AM:

Thanks Larry. Mine is both for ground and for steak. I wonder if it's the processing?

Ground buffalo does make great chili. I've made some twice (no beans but lots of extra tomatoes. Excellent with too many fritos.)

#454 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 10:39 AM:

Mary Kay, I'm afraid you're meowing up the wrong tree. You wouldn't happen to have a more direct link to an image of his meow-mixers, though, would you? It's always fun to compare.

Mmm...buffalo burgers are good, and I've heard good things about buffalo chili. My favorite alternative to beef patties in burgers, though, is definitely ground ostritch. That is some damn fine eatin', there.

#455 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 11:02 AM:

Good morning. To read over coffee:

Quality, not quantity, will always win out
Robert McCrum
Sunday August 22, 2004
The Observer

"For some years now, this column has dined out on the wonderful statistic that in Britain we publish more than 100,000 new books a year. On several occasions, indeed, we have asserted this to be a record. What's more, since the turn of the century, this astonishing figure has grown more, not less, awesome. The last time I checked, it was possible to claim that this total had risen - sensation! - to something close to 120,000 new titles per annum.
If I may take you backstage for a moment into the shabby world of the newspaper column, the beauty of this statistic is that it can be made to argue any number of often quite contradictory points of view. First, without violence to the truth, it can illustrate an awesome contrast with a lost golden age, circa 1900, in which fewer than 10,000 books a year were published. These were the years which saw the best works of Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Conan Doyle, Edith Wharton..."

Buffalo: I've eaten roasted-over-campfire Buffalo leg; buffalo steak; buffalo burger; buffalo chili; beefalo.

I prefer buffalo to beef. Don't see bloodiness anomaly.

Okay, must run now and teach the first two Intermdiate Algebra (through matrices , determinants, Cramer's Rule) classes of Fall Semester. Yipes! I have 61 students pre-registered.

If I post less for a while, it's because my students need me more than does Making Light.

[gulps coffe] [heads for door] [carrying cashay of homework assignments]

#456 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 11:48 AM:

Michelle, 'cache' is usually just pronounced like the word 'cash'. I remember my earliest experience of this, an old (WWII era) joke about a diminutive member of the Czech Resistance asking some people to hide him from the Germans: "Can you cache a small Czech?" he said.

#457 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 12:48 PM:

To which the people (legitimately afraid of bandits at the time) replied "Only if it's not a robber Czech!"

#458 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 01:09 PM:

And if one of them had a vision of the Blessed Virgin rising into Heaven just outside, she could call out "Czech, your Assumption's at the door!"

Which, I should think, is Quite Enough.

#459 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 01:35 PM:

What Bush Believes???

The beliefs of Republican Party in Texas..

#460 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 02:14 PM:

They have beliefs? I just thought they had Rules of Acquisition.

#461 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 02:58 PM:

Well, to link two old open thread themes, via the Utilikilt mailing list (still haven't had the nerve to buy one) I present...
Alton Brown in a Utilikilt!

#462 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 03:14 PM:

Xopher, I've heard cache pronounced both ways, but I think I've heard the second (incorrect) pronunciation in relation to things military.

I could not, however, give you a specific example, just my thought that it was acceptable both ways depending upon the situation.

Guess this means it's not really a homonym.

#463 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 03:48 PM:

Perhaps a homonym, but not a homophone.

#464 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 03:52 PM:

Okay, this may be the best place in the world to ask this question.

While editing a story for the literal umpteenth time, I came across a word that I'm not sure is a word. It felt natural, and it worked fairly smoothly (To me anyway), since I hadn't questioned it through any of the other editings, but I cannot find it in a basic everyday desk dictionary.

So: Is liquescent an actual word, or somethng my mind came up with? If not, can anyone think of a real word to replace it? (NB: the nearest synonym I can think of is limpid, a word for which I have conceived an inexplicable hatred)

#465 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 04:29 PM:


Liquescent is indeed a word according to my library's copy of the Webster's Wonking Huge Edition. Means being liquid.

Hope that helps.

#466 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Perhaps a homonym, but not a homophone.

I've long thought that 'homonym' is a stupid word. It combines two things in a confusing way. Homophones are two words that sound the same (whether spelled differently or not,* actually, as long as they have different meanings); homographs are two different words that are written the same way (hardly ever referred to unless they're pronounced differently, but that's not strictly a requirement).

I don't think any of these words should be used below the college level of instruction. Below that, the point is to get the right answer, not to learn technical terminology. So I call homophones 'sound-alikes' and homographs 'look-alikes'.

'Cache' doesn't have any look-alikes. 'Cash' is a sound-alike for 'cache'. 'Lead' (/liyd/) and 'lead' (/led/) are look-alikes; the latter also has a sound-alike, 'led' (/led/).

'Cachet' is distinct from 'cache', but the military types we've been talking about are confused about the distinction. Perhaps this will lead (/liyd/) to the -shay pronunciation of 'cache' being widely accepted, but as far as I can tell this has not yet occurred.

*frex, there are two homophonous and homographous words 'host' in English. Perhaps there are three, but I think of 'host' as in 'communion host' as obviously related to the "counterpart of a guest" meaning. But 'host' as in 'a multitude of the heavenly host' is clearly a distinct meaning. (This is my synchronic analysis; I don't have my dictionary here, but IIRC the history matches the above as well. This is just luck, of course.)

#467 ::: BethN ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 04:35 PM:

Yes, liquescent is indeed an actual word. Means melting, or becoming liquid. (In fact, bopping over to Google, that's the very phrase in the dictionary.) I don't think however that it's really synonymous with "limpid," which is often applied to liquids but actually means clear. I would frex call a decomposing corpse liquescent, but it would certainly *not* be limpid.

#468 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 04:47 PM:

I always thought that would be "deliquescent", as in "turning into liquid". In fact I have run into "deliquescent" far more often than "liquescent".

#469 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 04:47 PM:

This '-escent' ending crops up other places too. 'Adolescent' means 'becoming adult', for example. 'Obsolescent' -- 'becoming obsolete'.

I mention this for two reasons: 1) to point out that something liquescent is NOT already fully liquid; and 2) so's you'll know just what the next '-escent' word you encounter means.

Well, now I'm verbosescent, so I'll stop there.

#470 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 05:06 PM:

Xopher should not have said: verbosescent

You hurt my eye. He hurt my eye!

*Runs off clutching eye.*

#471 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 05:39 PM:

The universe just branched again. Tiresome.

In one: [Xopher runs after Andy, yelling "You're blindescent! I'm violescent! The sea is calm now, but there's a storm coming, so it's sussurusescent!"]

In the other: [Xopher runs after Andy with eyedrops, bandages, and painkillers.]

I have a curious, even grotesque mixture of sadism and compassion. I should have been a physical therapist.

#472 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 06:15 PM:

It's ok now, Xopher, just don't do it again. Did you see Sliding Doors? I liked it, probably because I like Gweneth Paltrow. She has a talent for picking good movies to act in. Of course, by acting in them, she makes them good. If this constitutes a paradox, well, you started it...

#473 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 06:21 PM:

Andy Perrin wrote:
You hurt my eye. He hurt my eye!

Do Not Look Into Laser With Remaining Eyeball.

#474 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 08:45 PM:

There is a laser/eyeball scene in "The Resonance of Light" by Geoffrey Landis, the first story in the Alternate History anthology "ReVISIONS", ed. Julie E. Czernada & Isaac Szpindel, Daw, Aug 2004.

Dr.Landis prefaces the story with two quotations:

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene..."
-- Thomas Gray, 1750

"We can concentrate any amount of energy upon a minute button... which glowed with a most intense light. To illustrate the effect observed with a ruby drop... magnificent light effects were noted, of which it would be difficult to give an adequate idea."
-- Nikola Tesla, 1897

Landis, in this fine story, convinces me that Tesla COULD have invented the laser. But then what would he do with it? The story explains...

I had 61 students pre-registered for my 2 sections of Intermediate Algebra (with matrices and determinants) but many additional students were begging to be added in, as the semester started today. Algebrescence. They like the way that I work Science Fiction movie reviews and the art of Leonardo da Vinci and M.C. Escher into the curriculum. Escherescence. Lots of homeworks and exams to grade, I really might be blogging less. But at least the start of this post was on-topic. Topicescent.

#475 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 11:25 PM:

This website should be called "Don't Try It At Home." It has movies of all the experiments you would have tried when you were twelve, if you'd only had a blowtorch.

(Of course nothing will ever beat the old LOX-in-BBQ trick, but this is second best.)

#476 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2004, 11:56 PM:

I happened to hear on NPR today, that Dole blasting Kerry about Purple Hearts is arrant hypocrisy [my word, "arrant hypocrisy," not theirs, but the words used boiled down to that]

From a nearly decade-old source, which copying is is allowed per the note at the bottom:


"The first casualty of politics is truth.

Robert B. Ellis


"Bob Dole's war record -- and Bill Clinton's lack of one -- has become a major theme in Dole's drive for the presidency. According to Katharine Seelye in The New York Times, the G.O.P. strategy is to portray Clinton as "the baby boomer in the White House, who was not born until 1946, a year after Mr. Dole had earned two Bronze Stars, and who skirted service in his own generation's war."


"Yet all of the above is either untrue or exaggerated. Dole's first wound, in the night patrol, was self-inflicted (a story the candidate once told himself), but that fact does not appear in an extremely laudatory profile the G.O.P. distributes with a cover letter by Dole. And the factoid that Dole got two Bronze Stars for heroism is circulated without evidence of dates and citations. All this is not to suggest that Dole failed to perform his duties honorably, or that he does not deserve respect and sympathy for the terrible wounds he suffered and his courage in living a productive life in spite of the resultant damage. But as a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division and the 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment in which Dole served, I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with efforts to cast him as a wartime hero. Let's examine the Dole military myth piece by piece:..."

"Dole's first wound. It was in the first of these night patrols that Dole received the wound for which he was awarded his first Purple Heart. He ruefully confesses in his 1988 autobiography that his wound was self-inflicted: "As we approached the enemy, there was a brief exchange of gunfire. I took a grenade in hand, pulled the pin, and tossed it in the direction of the farmhouse. It wasn't a very good pitch (remember, I was used to catching passes, not throwing them). In the darkness, the grenade must have struck a tree and bounced off. It exploded nearby, sending a sliver of metal into my leg -- the sort of injury the Army patched up with Mercurochrome and a Purple Heart." The wound was so minor that he led another patrol two nights later. He does not mention that others were also injured by his misguided throw -- which Woodruff's account attributes to an enemy machine gun"


"Dole was awarded two medals for heroism. Dole's homepage on the Internet and handouts from the Dole for President campaign credit him with two Bronze Stars without producing any citations. The Army's Personnel Records Center says he received only one, and his separation notice confirms this. It appears that if Dole received two Bronze Stars, the second would have been awarded under a policy introduced in 1947 in which the medal was automatically given to all holders of the Combat Infantryman's Badge. In other words, Dole's second award was simply for being in combat -- not, as with Bronze Stars awarded in wartime, for "heroic" or "meritorious" conduct.

"In the April 14 attack Dole did his duty, but his actions were hardly the stuff of heroism. It was his job to lead his platoon, and dragging a wounded (or dead) comrade into one's shell hole was a common occurrence in the heat of battle. Even the friendly chronicler Noel Koch wonders why a war wound invests the bearer with an aura of heroism. "Heroism," he says, "involves choices, and Dole perceived no choice between leading his men and not leading them." As a member of Dole's platoon, Stanley Jones, put it in a recent interview, Dole "was a good soldier, but no more a hero than any other soldier."

"Dole was promoted to first lieutenant in April 1946 and to captain in February 1947 even though he had been undergoing operations and rehabilitation in hospitals for the past two years. Hilton says that Dole referred to the second of these advancements as a "bedpan promotion."

"Robert B. Ellis, a retired Central Intelligence Agency officer, is now a wildlife photographer and environmental activist. One of the original ski troop volunteers, he received a Bronze Star for his service with the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. He is the author of a memoir of that service, See Naples and Die (McFarland).

"Copyright (c) 1996, The Nation Company, L.P. All rights reserved. Electronic redistribution for nonprofit purposes is permitted, provided this notice is attached in its entirety. Unauthorized, for-profit redistribution is prohibited. For further information regarding reprinting and syndication, please call The Nation at (212) 242-8400, ext. 226 or send e-mail to Max Block."

#477 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 02:45 AM:

Hi all, I've been lurking for months and it is so late at night, I've decided to post something. (I hope this doesn't become a habit.)

Nerd thread: As a science teacher my favorite geek site is

Kilt thread: Go ahead and get that utilikilt. You will be glad you did. My friends who have them love them. One guy wears his every day. (He owns several of course.) Some of us ladies love to look at a guy's legs. ;)

Book thread: 10 books-- get real. Actually that is more than average for most of my students. (I teach adult ed.)
I take ten books on vacation with me. I keep thinking that having the Internet will cut down on the number of books I keep, but it just isn't the same. The stacks of any library are to me the most holy places on earth.
I'll never loan a signed copy of anything out again. I had an author signed book that was borrowed and "lost" by a student.

Randall P.: I hope all is well and baby and mom are doing great! Congratulations.

Washing machine thread: I just heard a hilarious obituary by Bob Hill (local columnist) for his washing machine. Have any of you written any decent eulogies for inanimate objects? *new shade, different texture of yarn*


#478 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 08:32 AM:

Gigi, check out our 1990 experiment at It's not as elaborate as the estimable Twinkiesproject site, but we had fun doing it. (It was the midnight shift, the particle accelerators were off for some reason, and we were awaiting repair.) It's easy to repeat in the classroom with a rope and a stopwatch.

Recently we had a picnic for everyone who's ever been an operator at Fermilab, and in greeting many old friends, I began to realize this: When I am gone, the Twinkie Experiment is what they will talk about at my wake.

#479 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 10:48 AM:

"Aquanetta died? Say not so!"

At age 83, Patrick. I go into more length about her on my own blog, here.

#480 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 11:16 AM:

Andy Perrin wrote:
(Of course nothing will ever beat the old LOX-in-BBQ trick, but this is second best.)

The most-linked-to page detailing LOX in BBQ hijinks belonged to George Goble, at Purdue University, until excessive bandwidth usage resulted in an edict from "the people in charge" to remove the site.

#481 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 11:25 AM:

Thanks Gigi,
Mom and baby are doing fine. All are healthy and happy.

#482 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 11:48 AM:

Somewhere upthread (I *think* it was this thread), people were talking about misheard song lyrics -- mondegreens. San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate columnist Jon Carroll has long pursued this subject. Here's his latest:

#483 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 12:33 PM:

Good news, Randall. Congratulations.

If you had a little girl, I assume you named her Aquanetta, yes?

#484 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 02:10 PM:

At this point I suppose it would be appropriate to mention the mondegreen archive, which takes its name from the often-misheard Hendrix lyric.

#485 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 04:03 PM:

Everybody remember our (least) favorite M*rm*n Fundies from the Something new in Short Creek thread?

Well, some of them decided to move to Texas! Seems the local townsfolk aren't exactly overjoyed...

#486 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 05:05 PM:

As I have written elsewhere, my life is shadowed by mondegreens. Not only am I slightly acquainted with both Gavin Edwards (author of He's Got the Whole World In His Pants and several other mondegreen collections) and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll, of the annual mondegreen roundup; but in fact the very term "mondegreen" was coined by long-ago newspaper columnist Sylvia Wright, who happens to have been my friend Tappan King's aunt.

I also know Jonathan Carroll, who is not Jon Carroll, a detail thrown in simply to make matters more confusing.

#487 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 06:10 PM:

Oh, I can't resist.

Gigi Rose: "Have any of you written any decent eulogies for inanimate objects?"

Not I, but some friends of mine. And they went much farther than a eulogy.

An SCA fighter made a tunic in his first year in the group. Two years later, it was so worn he decided to use it as a tunic to wear under his armour.

About eighteen years after it was made, he finally retired it. And then realised it had probably been in more (mock) battles than most human beings orf our generation.

One man made a paper-mache viking boat about 3 feet long. The owner of the tunic wrote a lengthy eulogy citing as many of the important battles this tunic had been involved in over the past eighteen years.

And another young man translated the full eulogy into Old Norse (Due to an ill-timed computer crash, he translated it twice, actually.) They read the eulogy, in English then in Old Norse, on a cool torchlit September night on a beach near Gimli (The town, not the dwarf), set the ship aflame and pushed it out on the water.

This was followed by the now four-year old tradition of shooting "flaming" arrows into the lake.

#488 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 07:46 PM:

Remember the guy in Lil Abner who had the cloud of awful things over his head? I feel like him. The repair guy comes yesterday, fixes the washer (replaces a spring that let something rub a wire bare, replaces the wire), and says it's fine, go ahead and do wash. I do so, and about 15 minutes in, I hear WHOOOOOOOOSH! I'm in the utility room in just a few seconds, but it's already quite flooded as is the hallway. I stopped the machine which stopped the WHOOOOOSH but there was still water emptying for a few minutes. I used up what I thought was every single mostly absorbant thing in the house. I called Sears back, but the repair guy hasn't closed out the ticket, so they can't help me, I have to call back in the morning.

I call this morning and the service people are very skeptical about this being the repair guy's fault, after all, he didn't work on a hose. No, but he disconnected and reconnected hoses and he clearly didn't do one properly. And they keep calling it a "leak." They offer me next Monday to have it fixed (having already waited a week for yesterday's appointment, I was unhappy) and I spent a lot of time on hold and two supervisors before I got them to agree to send someone on Thursday 8-5.

Fortunately, I forgot one set of towels (in the vanity in the guest bath) because I need to shower tomorrow.

Then there's the memory. It was supposed to make the scanning software of my new HP all-in-one work. I already know the computer is talking to it and the actual scanning software works because I can print and copy. So Jenna was here yesterday to install the memory (she doesn't usually do hardware, but she follows directions and can sit on the floor) and when the scanning still didn't work, I uninstalled and reinstalled. Three times.

Then I contacted HP help online. They told me to redo what I'd already done, which I did, just so they couldn't say I hadn't. Didn't work. Same error messages. A couple more messages back and forth, no results, and then last night they suggest I manually uninstall and tell me everything that needs to be deleted. I decided to do that this morning when I had a fresh brain. Didn't work. The current letter from help wants me to uninstall manually again and then reinstall manually. This is beginning to seem more like when I worked and we didn't have all those install programs and wizards. I took the garbage out today and the winnowed books to the library, so I can't sit up here too long. I'll try the manual-manual bit tomorrow.

#489 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 07:57 PM:

Marilee, I'm in good health and your experiences of the last two days would exhaust me--because of undiluted, pure frustration, if nothing else. I hope things get better soon.

#490 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 08:47 PM:

Thanks Bill, I'll add your twinkie site to my list at school. I love to wow my students with the fun that others have that they had never imagined.

Marilee, please don't fall for their evil plot. Remember that one definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Of course with computers you never know, I've repeated things I swore didn't work and suddenly they did.

Gotta go, it's thundering here.

#491 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 09:25 PM:

Lenora Rose: >(NB: the nearest synonym I can think of is limpid, a word for which I have conceived an inexplicable hatred)

Not at all inexplicable. I spent a few years, back when I was younger and averse to using the dictionary as opposed to harassing my dad for definitions, thinking that it was an elaborate form of "limp." Or maybe "lustreless." This made any number of descriptions of characters' eyes rather more humorous than they were supposed to be.

I used to have trouble with the difference between homophones and homonyms in 4th grade when we were quizzed on them. Homograph makes so much more sense to me. Sigh.

#492 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2004, 10:48 PM:

I'm sitting (at this moment) in a restaurant in Philadelphia. I glanced out the window a moment ago and found a spider (WARNING: big spider!) peering back at me.
(Using WiFi in restaurant for connection, cellphone for photo. I heart technology.)

#493 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 01:23 AM:

Re eulogies for inanimate objects - a musical example: La Boheme (Puccini) Act 4

(addressing his overcoat, which he has just taken off:)
Dear old coat, listen, I stay here below,
but you must now ascend the mount of piety!*
Receive my thanks.

You never bent your threadbare back to the rich and powerful.
You have sheltered in your pockets like peaceful caves, philosophers and poets.
Now that happy days have fled, I bid you farewell, my faithful friend, farewell, farewell.

[*Monte de Piete ]

(indicando il cappotto che si è appena tolto)
Vecchia zimarra, senti, io resto al pian,
tu ascendere il sacromonte or devi.
Le mie grazie ricevi.

Mai non curvasti il logoro dorso ai ricchi ed ai potenti.
Passar nelle tue tasche come in antri tranquilli filosofi e poeti.
Ora che i giorni lieti fuggir, ti dico addio, fedele amico mio, addio, addio.

It's a luvly choon, I wonder if anyone has adapted it to other words?

#494 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 03:35 AM:

It's not like I didn't already savage this particular lyric . . . but that was on the WELL, so this is, like, different. You know. Note for UK readers: there's a line here that doesn't rhyme in British English. Apologies in advance.

One of these days I may actually meet Dick de Bartolo, and then . . . well, you know, Darth and Luke, without any of that being redeemed by the Light Side baloney.

Well, it’s knowin’ that your drives are makin’
Noises like some chipmunk with a head cold,
That makes me tend to send my files to backup
Every half an hour or so;
By the time I get a page to load,
The second pot of coffee’s on to grind,
And the cumulative phonecalls
After nineteen Windows installs
Leave me with the sense of upgrade on my mind.

Now, it is not like I’ve no fondness for this box
That did my sums and played “Adventure,”
Though it thinks that “hyperthreading” has to do With some old curtains from Bayeux;
For in looking back on ENIAC,
I see its charm, but those days are behind,
Every good soul finds a home, and
Soon you’ll be with John von Neumann,
I’ll be misty with an upgrade on my mind.

Well, the gateway to the dell is strewn
With half-forgotten silicon and tinware,
And there’s something sad and troubling
At the sight of obsolescence by design;
But as Ayn Rand said to Greenspan,
I believe that you’ve grown obsolete with time,
So I’ll unbolt and desolder,
Give the good bits to some modder,
And from here on have upgrading on my mind.

#495 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 07:16 AM:

Andy P. - erk. We had a big spider recently. Shudder

I have to admit - I wasn't sitting at a restaurant when I saw it...

#496 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 09:27 AM:

Zowie, Jill, that's...some spider! My friend Charlotte was only slightly larger than a quarter, counting legs, but the startle factor was considerable. Did you name yours Wolfowitz?

#497 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 09:52 AM:

No - John called her, "WOW." I referred to her as, "EEEEuuugghhh." shiver

Disclaimer - I would in no way harm a harmless wolf spider. However, she did give me the heebie-jeebies and I prefer not to be around her. I suspect she feels the same about me, so it's all square.

#498 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 11:03 AM:

Mike -- in case no one else says so, that's a lovely parody.

#499 ::: Brian Leavenworth ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 02:03 PM:

back to Randall...

The comment about what drew us into the genre as kids may not appeal to adults may be accurate. But I still hold great affection for Robert Heinlein (Tunnel in the Sky invaded my dreams for 3 nights after finishing it) and Andre Norton from having read them in grade school. Good ol Miss Bright read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" to my 4th grade class and got me hooked on fantasy. I read everything Tolkein thereafter and got hooked on trilogies and series books. I grow to love my characters and can't stand it when their life is limited to only one novel. The Dune series is wonderful with its character development and expressions of the characters inner thoughts and its grand scope. Stephen R Donaldson wrote several trilogies with anti heroes that go to the depths of despair and manage to rise triumphantly from them. My adult daughter got me hooked on the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series and the Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth series, both having installments still being written (I admonished Teresa to not let Jordan die until all his manuscripts for future releases are safely tucked away).

My tastes aside, GOOD fantasy and science fiction is first and foremost, GOOD fiction! The characters must be drawn so you can relate to them and the story must be engaging. So don't expect any book with a magic wand or a ray gun to be a good representative of the genre. Those that are good fiction use the props to free up and stoke the imagination while still telling a great story about human or other sentient beings.

#500 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2004, 02:32 PM:

John M. Ford:

Brilliant! I seriously urge you to submit that to some computer journal that usually does NOT print poetry. I've had poems, and hyperpoems, in Byte, and in the journal of SIGART (Special Interest Group in Artificial Intelligence of the Association of Computing Machinery). Ray Bradbury told me that it was a good precedent to open a poetry market, for others to follow. He had a nostaligic poem about a father and son playing catch (baseball? football?) in Sports Illustrated, for instance. My wife and I made such a sale to Science, and thre were those great verses by Auen and Updike in Scientific American.

Brian Leavenworth:

Yes, characters first, not rayguns. But in Science Fiction, the SETTING can be, essentially, the major character. Brian Aldiss would say that this stems from our field evolving from the Gothic novel, where setting (creepy mansion, swamp, haunted castle) is central, and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" was the first true Science Fiction novel.

To a lesser extent, a prop (wand, raygun, robot, spaceship) can fill the role. Especially if it has a proper name. Magic swords, the Ship that Sang, the ray gun that Iain Banks (in "Use of Weaspons"?) kept adding computer memeory until i8t became fully conscious... The One Ring...

Character transcends the Human, the Alien, and spills over into the very tropes of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

To an extent,this is true of Westerns, Noir Detective novels, and Romances as well. And Pirate stories. And aviation stories... This is intrinsic to many genres.

Story. Yes. But some authors master Story, and then want to go beyond. Metafiction. Hyperfiction. Brian Aldiss is proud of his novel "Report from Probability A" where there is precious little story, by conventional terms. Samuel Delaney also has intentionally moved beyond mere story. For some readers, this works. For others, not.

There is no rule that applies to all circumstances, including this one you're reading now.

Start-of-semester chaos: all the room numbers had been changed and repainted above the doors of the Architecture part of campus, without the registrar or anyone else being told. Crowds of baffled students insisting "there IS no room 110. Only 101 and 109 and 111..." I tok pity and invited 20 of them into my classroom, and it turned out that they were registered with me after all, but were given a wrong room number... and that room no longer existed. 101, the Eric Blair memorial classroom of arithmetic.

#501 ::: Bndr Jtsn ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 05:27 PM:

hwdy hw cbys y shld rd sth prk : cmng 4 y! ts s cl!!!!!! nd vlnt

#502 ::: spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 09:52 PM:

[ spam from ]

#503 ::: Cadbury Moose spots spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 05:09 AM:

"I am carrying out some study on the similar issue. It was of actual support."

is an interesting follow up to the previous post of "This is clearly irrelevant." by Thomas spotting spam.

#504 ::: Xopher sees stupid spambot spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2010, 10:53 PM:

Spambot! Get ye gone!

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