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June 26, 2014
Open thread 198
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:29 PM *

There are many ways that the Dutch are unusual about bicyles. The one that struck me most recently, though, is nomenclature.

Most terms that I know of for this device fall into four rough categories:

  1. Borrowings and derivatives of the French vélocipede, or “fast foot thingie”
  2. Borrowings and derivatives of the German Fahrrad, or “travel wheel” (including the less-common Dutch term, rijwiel)
  3. Borrowings and derivatives of the English bicycle*
  4. Terms that belong to the Emperor Comprehensible exceptions, such as the Polish Rower, which comes from the proper name of a bicycle manufacturer

The Dutch term, fiets (pronounced as an English speaker would say “feats”), doesn’t appear to fit into any of those categories. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest etymological mysteries of the language, which results in an Etymologie section of the Dutch Wikipedia page stretching over nearly 600 words. The seven paragraphs lovingly detail the dialect terms in various regions of the Netherlands, several French words that could have been corrupted into the word, and the identities of manufacturers whose names sound similar, before giving up and admitting that nobody knows†.

The only analagous etymological mystery of national importance I can think of is America.


* Of course it’s made up of Latin and Greek terms. What could be more English than a bastard assembly of morphemes from several foreign languages whose original speakers would never have considered using them in conjunction with one another?
† It does not, alas, include the theory that Martin advanced, which is that it’s onomatopoeic, possibly from the sound of trouser legs brusing against one another. My response was that an onomatopoeic term for a bicycle in Amsterdam would be thunkRATTLEscrapeSQUEAK.

Continued from Open thread 197. Continued in Open thread 199. Unsurprisingly. One day we’re gonna do something weird and you all will be totally flummoxed.

June 14, 2014
My Real Children Spoiler and Speculation Thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 09:31 AM * 108 comments

By popular request, a thread where you do not have to ROT-13 your speculations about why the book ended the way it did…and what happened next.

I will copy and rotate the thread of the discussion as best I can into comments here. Don’t be too surprised to see comments added to your (view all by) as part of the process; they’ll be linked, labeled, and backed up, but since they’re you’re words, you get to own ‘em.

Needless to say, this thread is full of spoilers.

June 10, 2014
Published today: California Bones, Greg Van Eekhout’s wild heist caper set in a literally eat-or-be-eaten LA
Posted by Patrick at 05:58 PM * 36 comments

CaliforniaBones.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Opening three chapters here! Special dedicated website here! Tour schedule here! “Big Idea” post on John Scalzi’s Whatever here!

My flap copy:

“Our bodies are cauldrons,” he said, “and we become the magic we consume.”

When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian.

When Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones.

Now, years later, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles—the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California—Daniel is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist he wants Daniel to perform: break into the Hierarch’s storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian’s sword, an object of untold power.

For this dangerous mission, Daniel will need a team he can rely on, so he brings in his closest friends from his years in the criminal world. There’s Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Alverado, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.



Extravagant and yet moving, California Bones is an epic adventure set in a city of canals and secrets and casual brutality—different from the world we know, yet familiar and true.

Some advance reviews and quotes:

“Great story, great characters, and a truly cool/creepy alternate Los Angeles built on magic, blood, and bone. This took me to places I didn’t expect. I like books that do that. You’ll like this, too.”
—Steven Brust

“I both love and am terrified by Greg Van Eekhout’s vision of Los Angeles. I already want to go back.”
—John Scalzi

“L.A. noir as dark as La Brea tar meets magic drawn from ancient bones.”
—Steven Gould

“It’s got subterranean halls with pillars of bones, a magic sword, magical duels and some of the coolest bone magic ever, but that’s all interwoven with the taste of an LA burrito, the concrete waterways of Los Angeles, and the neon glow of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier. Van Eekhout has written a 21st century alchemy.”
—Maureen F. McHugh

“Wonderfully imaginative…The story is structured like a caper novel, and fans of stories about heists will enjoy it, but its fantastical elements make it an absolute must for urban fantasy readers, too.”
Booklist (starred review)

“In Van Eekhout’s first hardcover for adult readers, a combination of caper novel and urban fantasy packs a wallop. Daniel and his team banter even while up to their necks in danger, and the magic system in which eating the bones and flesh of creatures can grant you their power is unique and fascinating (if a little icky). Highly recommended.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Set in an alternate Los Angeles ruled by authoritarian sorcerers and corporate moguls, California Bones is an engrossing story about political malevolence. But it’s also a caper about the ultimate magical heist. You won’t be able to put it down….This is a book about what happens when magic is just another weapon in the arsenal of a dictator—and in the pockets of his rivals. It’s action-packed and intense to the last, bringing in weird twists that add psychological complexity to the fireballs and earthquake fights. California Bones reaches a satisfying conclusion, though you can tell there’s more to come—and indeed, Tor will soon be releasing the sequel, Pacific Fire.”
—Annalee Newitz, io9.com

(PNH: I said that I was going to more regularly post about my and Teresa’s editorial projects on their dates of publication. But I want to add that I really love this one, for its crazily reimagined Los Angeles and for its lovably snarky ensemble cast. And honest to God, having also read books two and three, I can honestly say they get even better and even better. Greg is great.)

June 01, 2014
Open thread 197
Posted by Teresa at 09:25 AM *

Widely disseminated science joke from the early internet:

An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician find themselves in an anecdote—indeed, an anecdote quite similar to many you have no doubt already heard.

After some observations and rough calculations, the engineer realizes the situation and starts laughing. A few minutes later, the physicist understands too. He chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.

This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from its similarity to other anecdotes; but he considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.

Continued from Open thread 196. Continued in Open thread 198

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