February Readings, Part 2, and March Readings Part 1

Sadly, yes, I am still catching up on my one and only current monthly magazine subscription. (I’m actually technically subscribed to a few more monthlies, but they haven’t yet started to arrive.) various magazine subscriptions. The theory is that I need to at least catch up, since I’ve subbed to a few more things and want to be in the groove once all the new subscriptions start arriving. But I find I can get through an issue of F&SF in a couple of days if I focus on it. So Maybe 5 or 6 days a month, my reading time will be for current fiction magazine-reading. It seems to me a good way to keep up with what’s going on.

F&SF, December 2006: I’ve just finished off this issue (on 21 February 2007), which arrive here in late November , just as the semester got busy, and then waited through all of my travels and through my reading several other things that had been waiting just as patiently.

My reactions are as follows: I’m very much enthused about M. Rickert’s “The Christmas Witch” and Susanna Clarke’s “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner” is good enough to make me consider reading her novel; Robert Reed’s “Pills Forever” was vaguely familiar to me (mined themes and types, I think) but also pretty good, and so was Darryl Gregory’s “Damascus”. I was less excited about Matthew Hughes’ “Bye the Rules”. (Maybe I just don’t get the whole notion of writing stories set “one eon before the age of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, but the guy has fans, so I suppose it’s just me. It was well-written, but the setting didn’t really come alive in my mind.) And finally, Scott Bradfield’s “Dazzle the Pundit” was cute, but I finished the story with this weird feeling that I didn’t really have any sense what the story was actually about… as if maybe there was a big in-joke I was missing, or something. Why all the animals in human roles? If we removed that, what else makes the story unusual?

Adam Roberts: Stone. I continue to feel somewhat uncertain what I think about Adam Roberts. There are things in this book that really surprised me: the way he imagined nanotech would affect culture, the panache with which he handled things like FTL and quirky future-physics, and the way he delved into the utter strangeness of murder, mass-murder, and criminality in a posthuman society. All of that was cool.

Things that I felt less certain about were the conceit that this text was a translation — alright by itself — reinforced  continually by footnotes, some of them built around distracting gags, and the ending. When a book builds up the way that Stone did, with all the repeated holding-out of mystery and the repeated reminders that after Event X, All Shall Be Revealed, then All needs to be a Damned Fine Explanation. The problem for me is that the All that ended up being Revealed was a letdown. Reading the last ten pages, I felt like Roberts was rushing towards closure, patching shut some gaping holes in the underlying logic of his story, and worse, to me anyway, theway in which he involved quantum mechanics was more Dancing Wu Li Masters than it was Realistic Science.

Ae was a compelling character, the Gravity Trench a neat artifact, and some of the folks he ran into along the way were fascinating beings; the jailstar was cool, the Wheah and the Palmetto and all of that. But the dropped ball of the conclusion reinforced for me the sense I have that Roberts is, well, a lit professor trying to write hard SF, but not quite concerned enough about getting the “hard” bit bang on. The worst part of that being that the part that wasn’t hard wasn’t soft, wasn’t even acceptably squishy — it was mulchy. It was fungal with New Ageyness, handwaving laypersons’ misconception of QM, and therefore, it was quite frustrating for me. All the more so since the

And yet, to me, he’s also a very hypnotizing storyteller. I’m hoping that the other books I have by him — On and Snow —  are more in the squishier side of SF, or at least pull off the hard stuff more believably, and with less of a shocking reveal at the end, because if I close another one of his books muttering, “Argh!” over my disappointment in the last few pages, after many more pages of being spellbound and happy, I’ll be less inclined to give the other one on my shelf a go.

Frank Miller: Sin City, Book 6: Booze, Broads, and Bullets. I’m probably not young enough, or not old enough, but when I read this book, while I found each little vignette interesting at the time, it struck me as, I don’t know, a combination of adolescent fantasies about sexuality and justice and the cold toughness of the world. Yet I was also riveted nonetheless, and did feel, in the first few minutes after finishing it, as if I should go right back to where I found it and buy the rest of the volumes in the series, which were in a stack under it. Thankfully, that’s across town at the Express Bus Terminal, and my laziness regarding crossing town deterred me to the point where I thought about it, and now I’m a little more lukewarm. I’ll probably read a few more, but I’m in no rush, and I’d be happier if I found them used or even borrowed them from a friend someday.

Funny, that… borrowing from a friend is my assumption, since this kind of thing isn’t in the libraries to which I have access. The University library where I work has some amazing things — tons of SF, and I still haven’t figured out why, as well as a sizeable collection of Korean translations of a certain European comic book about Gauls that I grew up reading, and to which my girlfriend was addicted for a while — but I don’t think the day will ever come when they will have Sin City in the stacks. Which isn’t weird. I doubt Sin City will ever end up in many University stacks worldwide.

Currently reading: Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 11 (thanks Tina!), Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture by John Strabaugh, In the Upper Room and Other Likely Stories by Terry Bisson, Korea Bug: The Best of the Zine that Infected a Nation by J, Scott Burgeson, Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science, and while I’m at it, I’ll try work in some more catching up on my SF mag subscriptions. For the latest, see the appropriate chunk of my sidebar.

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