mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (R'lyeh)
( Oct. 20th, 2006 01:25 pm)
People who enjoyed Charles Stross’ The Atrocity Archives— a tale of covert government operations dealing with the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos amidst the 1990s tech boom— should know the sequel, The Jennifer Morgue, should be published quite soon and is available for preorder. This one is an homage to the James Bond films.
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My darling [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman got me a handy piece of software called ReaderWare for my last birthday, which can use a CueCat bar code scanner to identify books, music, and videos. In a fit of getting organized, I used it to catalogue my CD collection and my video collection. With those lesser tasks accomplished, I turned to cataloguing all the books in Maine Coon Manor.

Turns out that the two of us have accumulated over 6,000 of them.

Last year, [livejournal.com profile] hypothermya introduced me to a rather interesting Web 2.0 site called LibraryThing. I had a go at entering a few books, but I just didn’t have the stomach for the daunting task of entering it all by hand. After getting my 3000+ works of fiction into the ReaderWare database, though, I checked back at LibraryThing, and discovered that they have a bulk upload feature that takes ISBNs. So I dumped the whole database up there.

ISBNs are not entirely unique identifiers, so it’s necessary to go over these things with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also been collecting relevant hyperlinks such as author home pages, weblogs, and wikipedia pages, though those are only in my ReaderWare database as there’s no useful way to put them on LibraryThing as yet. And I’ve finally finished my first pass through my fiction section, and I think I have at least 99% of the books in the house now in the database. (Next thing to do is to start tagging all the works that have won or been finalists for various awards.)

You can look at my LibraryThing profile, see the linear catalogue, or try the author cloud or tag cloud as alternative ways of navigating the collection. Feedback from my manga-literate friends on the manga collection is particularly welcome; I’ve been going by Wikipedia’s notions of shōnen and shōjo, but would appreciate the insight of the connoisseurs. [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman’s collection is mostly tagged cookbook and mystery; she hasn’t had as much time to get into the detailed tagging as I have.

When I read Charlie StrossAccelerando, I was impressed by the amount of technological speculation he was able to weave into a tale that follows three generations of a family through a period of accelerating technological development. He’s careful to make sure that anything that’s important to the plot is explained, but there’s a lot in there that’s providing a rich verisimilitude for future-watchers like myself— things that would distract from the story if he took the time to explain them all. (Fans have created an Accelerando Technical Companion at WikiBooks.) My reaction was: “This is good stuff! I wonder what it’s like for someone who doesn’t know as much as I do about all this cutting-edge tech?”

Then I picked up Ian McDonald’s River of Gods, and I found out. The book is set in India in 2047, following ten characters through a set of interlinked storylines that lead up to Big Things Happening, and any time that McDonald has to choose between an Indian word for something and an English translation that would lose the nuance of India, he picks the Indian word— he won’t use “captain” when he means “subadar”. Like Stross, McDonald is careful to explain anything that you need to understand to enjoy the story, but puts in plenty of things that you can infer from context (and there’s a helpful glossary in the back of the book, too); again, this gives depth to the book’s world. I consider myself fairly cosmopolitan, but my reaction to River of Gods was: “This is good stuff! And wow am I ignorant about India!”

Now, I’ve got a very strong curiosity streak. I am no more capable of going through a book like River of Gods without looking up the places and ideas on the Web than I can go through Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun without hitting a dictionary. These are all good writers— they know how to make things obvious from context— but I can’t resist looking things up when I discover something I don’t know. The ultimate version of these books that I want to own (and I hope the publishers will be willing to create them before the copyrights run out) is the hypertext where I can trivially look up the Kardashev scale or illustrated descriptions of ghats any time I want to know more.

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Jared Diamond’s excellent work Guns, Germs, and Steel has been converted into a three-part miniseries on PBS. (Found out about this from Wired.)

Microsoft Windows Hatred Status
REVILE
They obviously can’t be bothered to write useful documentation.

mithriltabby: Sleeping tabby (Zonk)
( Jun. 19th, 2005 11:42 pm)
Just finished reading Alastair Reynolds’ trilogy: Revelation Space, Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap. It’s excellent hard science fiction, with a grand plot that addresses the Fermi paradox. The story has many interesting twists and turns, and Reynolds takes his time with the exposition— it’s a little frustrating not being able to see what the characters already know, but it’s worth it for the bang at the end. The future history— in which much of humanity has excellent reason to back off from strong nanotech— shows some things that go wrong with the technologies that could lead to a technological Singularity.
mithriltabby: Escher’s Waterfall (Home)
( Jun. 6th, 2005 10:53 pm)
Since [livejournal.com profile] daehith put me up to it:
  1. Total number of books owned: Roughly 3000 fiction (counting graphic novels and tankouban), 1000 nonfiction, 500 gaming. These are wild estimates based on checking the book density of a few shelves and multiplying by the number of shelves. And this doesn’t count [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman’s collections of mysteries and cookbooks.
  2. Last book I bought: I could list the whole batch, but I think I’ll just mention the hardcovers: C J Cherryh’s Destroyer, the latest in the Foreigner sequence, and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Crystal Soldier, the latest in the Liaden tales.
  3. Last book I read: Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds.
  4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
    • “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard P. Feynman et al. — showed me that omnivorous curiosity and eccentricity were no bar to achievement.
    • The Chanur Saga (The Pride of Chanur, Chanur’s Venture, The Kif Strike Back, Chanur’s Homecoming), by C J Cherryh — she does a damn good job of making her aliens alien.
    • Crazy Wisdom, by Wes Nisker — makes metaphysical sense of the universe for me.
    • The Annals of the Kencyrath (God Stalk, Dark of the Moon, Seeker’s Mask), by P C Hodgell — highly original fantasy.
    • Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, by K Eric Drexler — the first milestone on a very interesting road that should eventually lead to kicking the legs out from under the status quo and creating a very interesting future.
    • Honorable mention to the role-playing game Ars Magica, which got me hooked on going to historical sources for research.
  5. Tag 5 people and have them fill this out on their LJs: I insist that all memes must undergo ruthless selection. If you’re reading this and feel inspired to blog about your book collection, go ahead and propagate the meme. (If you’re curious about memetics, I recommend Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene and Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine.)
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mithriltabby: Sleeping tabby (Zonk)
( Jun. 1st, 2005 11:01 am)
Sometimes, it’s just easier to stay up late and finish a book than it is to go to sleep, wondering what was on the next page. This time, it was Kage Baker’s latest novel of the Company— a delightful series with time travel, undying love, secret history, corporate greed, millennia-spanning conspiracies, and some splendid “if this goes on” cautionary extrapolation of current social trends.

The series thus far:

  • In the Garden of Iden
  • Sky Coyote
  • Mendoza in Hollywood
  • The Graveyard Game
  • Black Projects, White Knights (short stories)
  • The Life of the World to Come
After setting up the conspiratorial background for four novels, The Life of the World to Come kicks the plot into high gear. Black Projects, White Knights isn’t crucial for appreciating the novels, but it has more details on the youth of Alec, who gets his time in the spotlight in this novel. (Fans of the Transhuman Space game setting should definitely read the Smart Alec tales in BP,WK.)

Baker has also produced an excellent work of fantasy, The Anvil of the World. If you enjoy Peter David’s talents for seamlessly mixing drama and humor, you should like that one.

Saw this in this post on [livejournal.com profile] smartmobs: Books We Like is in beta, accumulating peer-to-peer book recommendations. Go ahead and join up from my page there if you’re interested.
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mithriltabby: Graffito depicting a penguin with logo "born to pop root" (Hack)
( Jul. 22nd, 2004 05:15 pm)
Gnod - the Global Network of Dreams is another interesting place to find recommendations of various sorts. Flork is a profile site whose login takes you to Gnoosic, Gnooks, and Gnovies. Flork gives you your own profile page. It looks like the technology is still fairly early stage, but it’s an interesting thing to explore.
mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (Cute)
( Jul. 14th, 2004 03:31 pm)
Just finished K J Bishop’s The Etched City, which is a very interesting tale in the same vein as China Miéville’s work, with a great deal of lush description and occasional vocabulary that sent me to the dictionary. (And sometimes online when the little Merriam-Webster in my Palm failed, on such terms as “ekphrastic”.) It’s an unusual construction: the plot takes its time creeping into the story, and only begins to show itself more than halfway through the book. A very interesting piece of work.

I’m just starting to re-read Charlie StrossSingularity Sky before plunging into Iron Sunrise. One of the benefits of being forgetful is the amount of delight I can find in re-reading books, as I remember ideas and general plots, but seldom the details, and a bit like this, from the first passage in the prologue:

By the end of that day, when the manna had begun to fall from orbit and men’s dreams were coming to life like strange vines blooming after rain in the desert, Rudi and his family— sick mother, drunken uncle, and seven siblings— were no longer part of the political economy of the New Republic.

War had been declared.

can provoke great glee as I anticipate the story’s unfolding.

mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (Cute)
( Mar. 15th, 2004 05:34 pm)
Have you read Pat Murphy’s A Flock of Lawn Flamingos yet? I think you’ll find it heartwarming.
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Fallout shelter I was born in 1971. I grew up in Northern California knowing what a fallout shelter sign was for, but I never went through a “duck and cover” drill or heard a live air raid siren. I saw nuclear armageddon as a sort of natural disaster, something that might happen, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I might as well not worry about it. I didn’t consider it likely, but while growing up I had a gut estimate that there was about a 10% probability that I might be nuked out of existence along with most of the rest of humanity. One of my mother’s friends once remarked that he made a point of always living within the firestorm range of a military base or population center, so it would be quick; I remember thinking, “That’s comforting.” The usual item of speculation, on the rare occasions that the subject came up, was not “how could I survive?” but “how could I make my last moments really good?” Films like The Day After were sobering, but what could you do about it?

A while ago, I was watching an episode of Secret Passages on the preparations people took during the Cold War, and I suddenly noticed: I had, at some point in my life, quietly revised that chance of death-by-atomic-bomb down to “negligible”. I recognize that a rogue nation or terrorist group might get their hands on a handful of nukes, but I estimate the probability as too low to bother with— just keep the standard earthquake preparedness kit handy and don’t fret. I think somewhere between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, my hindbrain just wrote off the prospect of nuclear annihilation.

So shows like Secret Passages, or a chapter in The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of, which I’m reading now, can remind me of those days. Looking back on the Cold War, now that I have a lot more perspective, I get a mixture of the chills at how close we came and relief at how far we’ve come and I don’t know what all else— it’s muddled. Weird. And then I remember how “weird” used to be much more related to the notion of “fate”, and that, I think, is the cherry on this peculiar emotional sundae.

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