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January 27, 2015
On sale today: Greg Van Eekhout’s Pacific Fire, the sequel to California Bones
Posted by Patrick at 08:50 AM * 6 comments

pacificfire.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Excerpt here. Author website here. West Coast tour schedule here.

(Making Light post about the previous book, California Bones, here.)

My flap copy:

I’m Sam. I’m just this guy.

Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of practice, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.

Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never going anywhere near Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me.

But always hiding, always traveling gets old. I’ve got nobody but Daniel. I’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.

Things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of magical destruction. Daniel thought only he could stop them, but now he’s hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Yeah. Lots of women. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon.

Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA.

This may be the worst idea I ever had.

Some reviews and quotes:

“Half crime caper, half heroic quest, Greg van Eekhout’s Pacific Fire pulls the reader into an inventive, compelling, fully-textured urban fantasy world, mixing SoCal culture with magic so ingenious and convincing you can practically smell it, and feel it crunch between your teeth. A real treasure, not to be missed.”
—Kurt Busiek, author of Astro City

“Tense action and great worldbuilding.”
Library Journal

“Van Eekhout switches his POV from Daniel to Sam in a generational kind of move, and the tactic pays off. Instead of simply recapitulating the same sensibility and attitudes, the author delivers a fresh perspective on both the actors in the game and the social structures that support them. […] Van Eekhout’s scrupulously crafted language continues to flaunt that Zelazny-esque balance of demotic and poetic. I am also reminded of Steve Gould’s voice in the Jumper books. […Pacific Fire] comes to a highly satisfactory and resonant conclusion, while still keeping its face turned toward an open horizon of further adventures.”
Paul Di Filippo, Locus Online

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

“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 on California Bones

January 24, 2015
Open thread 203
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:03 PM * 993 comments

So every now and then someone asks me for a link to something nice, or expresses so much stress in their life that I want to send them one. Usually, what I do is to Google “baby $animal” (where $animal varies depending on my mood), switch to image search, copy the link and clean up all the referrer crap, and send it on. It almost never fails to improve things.

But at the moment, my go-to link is not an image search; it’s a video of someone scratching capybaras until they bliss out. “Scratch me like one of your capybaras,” I found myself murmuring once. Don’t judge me.

What are your go-to links for the bad times?

January 23, 2015
“Why I Am Not a Maker”
Posted by Patrick at 10:02 AM * 100 comments

Deb Chachra, engineer, teacher, sometime Making Light commenter, on what’s wrong with the notion of “maker culture”, and why she doesn’t identify as part of it.

The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system. While the shift might be from the corporate to the individual (supported, mind, by a different set of companies selling a different set of things), it mostly re-inscribes familiar values, in slightly different form: that artifacts are important, and people are not. […]

[C]oders get high salary, prestige, and stock options. The people who do community management—on which the success of many tech companies is based—get none of those. It’s unsurprising that coding has been folded into “making.” […] Code is “making” because we’ve figured out how to package it up into discrete units and sell it, and because it is widely perceived to be done by men.

But you can also think about coding as eliciting a specific, desired set of behaviors from computing devices. It’s the Searle’s “Chinese room” take on the deeper, richer, messier, less reproducible, immeasurably more difficult version of this that we do with people—change their cognition, abilities, and behaviors. We call the latter “education,” and it’s mostly done by underpaid, undervalued women.

When new products are made, we hear about exciting technological innovation, which are widely seen as worth paying (more) for. In contrast, policy and public discourse around caregiving—besides education, healthcare comes immediately to mind—are rarely about paying more to do better, and are instead mostly about figuring out ways to lower the cost.

Worth reading in its entirety. Deb’s email newsletter Metafoundry, from which this was reprinted, is a constant stream of similar insight, and is thoroughly recommended.

January 16, 2015
The Just City: Spoilers, Arguments, and Speculations
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:19 AM * 122 comments

It’s all but a tradition here on Making Light now: shortly after the launch of a Jo Walton book, we’re in need of a spoiler thread. But for this one in particular, I think we need more than that. As both Liz Bourke and Amal El-Mohtar point out, The Just City is not only a fascinating book, but a set of arguments that invite arguing back. And judging by my Twitter stream, its premise is also a rich source of speculation.

So here’s a thread where you can indulge in all of these things with people who have either read the book, or don’t mind spoilers.

January 13, 2015
On sale today: Jo Walton’s The Just City, Book One of Thessaly
Posted by Patrick at 05:20 AM * 47 comments

TheJustCity_final.jpg On sale today in hardcover and ebook in North America, on January 15 February 28 in ebook in the UK and associated markets, and in print in the UK &c. in July.

Excerpt here. Author’s post about it (with FAQ!) on her own site, here.

From the author’s essay for the Tor-Forge newsletter/blog:

“One of the odd things about explaining what The Just City is about is people’s reactions. The Just City is a fantasy novel about a group of classicists and philosophers from across all of time setting up Plato’s Republic on Atlantis, with the help of some Greek gods, ten thousand Greek-speaking ten-year-olds they bought in the slave markets of antiquity, and some construction robots from our near future. What could possibly go wrong?

“Now I get two different immediate reactions to this. The first is from people who say ‘That’s insane, and I want it now!’ The second is from people who say they know nothing about Plato or philosophy in a kind of apologetic way, as if anything that touches on these subjects in any way would require background reading and be kind of boring….What I’ve written in The Just City is a utopia. No, a dystopia. No, wait, no…no, it’s not an ambiguous heterotopia either. But it’s about a designed society, and about human nature, and consent, and questioning. It’s about two women (and one god) growing up.”

Some reviews

“A remarkable novel of ideas…Superb. In the end, the novel does more than justice to the idea of the Just City.”
Booklist (starred review)

“As skilled in execution as it is fascinating in premise, The Just City doesn’t require a degree in classics…Although rich with philosophical discussions, what keeps this novel from becoming too chilly or analytical are its sympathetic female characters.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Walton shines, as she always does, in the small and hurtful and glorious business of interpersonal relationships. Some of her children are forever scarred by slavery, others are lifted from it. Some find Plato’s teachings and philosophy to be a powerful force for happiness and satisfaction, others fare less well. The others around them—including, eventually, both Socrates and Apollo (who has incarnated himself as a mortal child)—reflect back their philosophical and human development, and show us the incredible beauty and the cruelty of utopian projects….Nobody writes like Walton. The Just City manages to both sympathize with social engineering at the same time as it demolishes paternalistic solutions to human problems. In so doing, this book about philosophy, history, gender and freedom also manages to be a spectacular coming-of-age tale that encompasses everything from courtroom dramas to sexual intrigue.”
—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“A brilliant and haunting meditation on utopia, power, and consent—with deeply engaging characters and consummately clever worldbuilding. Jo Walton has given us another winner.”
—Susan Palwick

The Just City will be followed by Book Two of Thessaly, The Philosopher Kings, slated for June 2015, and Book Three, Necessity, currently being written, tentatively scheduled for mid-2016. Follow Jo Walton’s blog for updates.

January 08, 2015
Editorial work, 2014
Posted by Patrick at 07:38 PM * 9 comments

Or perhaps I should say, my editorial work that appeared in 2014. We’re always working on several years at once. What day is today?

Original hardcovers
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
Like a Mighty Army by David Weber
Working God’s Mischief by Glen Cook
My Real Children by Jo Walton
Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind
California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
Lock In by John Scalzi

First softcover editions
The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Human Division by John Scalzi
Homeland by Cory Doctorow
Gaudeamus by John Barnes
Mending the Moon by Susan Palwick
The Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind
The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skyler White
Dangerous Women eds. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Original short fiction (all published on Tor.com)
The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging” by Harry Turtledove
The Cartography of Sudden Death” by Charlie Jane Anders
Something Going Around” by Harry Turtledove
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome” by John Scalzi
Combustion Hour” by Yoon Ha Lee
The Devil in the Details” by Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald
Sleeper” by Jo Walton
As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders
Midway Relics and Dying Breeds” by Seanan McGuire
Where the Lost Things Are” by Rudy Rucker & Terry Bisson
Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North” by Charles Vess

2014 also saw the softcover edition of the reprint anthology Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

What Makes This Book So Great, The Incrementalists, and “Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North” were co-edited with Teresa. In addition, Teresa copyedited My Real Children, and edited the original hardcover Hawk by Steven Brust. She also edited Skyler White’s story in the Incrementalists universe, “Strongest Conjuration,” which appeared on Tor.com; and another book she edited, Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson, saw its first softcover edition in 2014.

January 07, 2015
Juan Cole on the Charlie Hebdo murders
Posted by Patrick at 02:48 PM * 149 comments

Specifically, on why al Qaeda targeted a bunch of satirists and cartoonists.

Hint: It had nothing to do with outraged piety.

The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism. Most Muslims are not even interested in politics, much less political Islam. France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. But in polling, only a third, less than 2 million, say that they are interested in religion. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world (ex-Soviet ethnic Muslims often also have low rates of belief and observance). Many Muslim immigrants in the post-war period to France came as laborers and were not literate people, and their grandchildren are rather distant from Middle Eastern fundamentalism, pursuing urban cosmopolitan culture such as rap and rai. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination.

I never cease to be amazed at how many people, including thoughtful, intelligent friends of mine, look at political events without ever considering the possibility that some actors might be doing things for reasons other than those they declare. My guess is that we’ve all become so chary of the dreaded wrongthink of “conspiracy theory” that we no longer have the common sense to extrapolate our everyday knowledge that people lie a lot into the world of larger affairs.

Back to Cole’s theory: Of course, it’s hard to imagine where Al Qaeda (or ISIS, or Name-Your-Band-of-Heavily-Armed Assholes) would get the idea that it’s possible to drive a prominent Western country into batshit behavior that would roil the entire Islamic world for years and decades to come. What an imagination!

January 01, 2015
Not much rhymes with “Zamyatin”
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:48 AM * 43 comments

Some say the world will end in Huxley,
Some say in Orwell.
From what I’ve seen of those with bucks, the
Odds do seem to lean towards Huxley.
Yet as I on the matter dwell,
It seems the military state
Is bent on showing that Orwell
Is just as great.
But time will tell.

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Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.