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junipergreen

pareidolia

science fiction, new weird, old weird, very weird - and everything else

not always save for work. never nice.

Currently reading

Dhalgren
Samuel R. Delany
Progress: 201/801 pages

Vote for The New Academy Prize in Literature 2018

Which author should be awarded this year’s international prize in literature?

Take your pick from the shortlist composed by Swedish librarians. Voting closes August 14th.​

 

Your votes will single out three authors for the final judging by the expert jury. A fourth author will enter the final entirely based on the nominations from the librarians. Of these authors, two will be female and two will be male.

The winner will be announced on October 14th.

 

~~~

 

The New Academy was founded to warrant that an international literary prize will be awarded in 2018, but also as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect.

In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes the counterforce of oppression and a code of silence. It is now more important than ever that the world’s greatest literary prize should be awarded.

The New Academy is a non-profit organization, politically and financially independent. It consists of a wide range of knowledgeable individuals. The New Academy works within the time frame of the Swedish Academy and in five different committees. 


The winner will be announced October 14th and presented at a formal event with a grand celebration December 10th 2018. 

The New Academy will be dissolved December 11th. 

Corpora Delicti - Reading progress update: I've read 41%.

Corpora Delicti  - Manna Francis

Ah, Manna Francis and the Art of Writing Un-Gratuitous Sex-Scenes - or kink, in this case. Scenes that actually develop characters and their relationship. Francis is just so, so good at it.

 

And all former grumbling aside, Toreth carefully planning kinky presents, anticipating Warrick's reaction, and being so smugly happy when his plan works out (and it always works out) is my very favorite thing.

Corpora Delicti - Reading progress update: I've read 34%.

Corpora Delicti  - Manna Francis

Haha, I picked another winter-season read midst a July heatwave! Go me! Here, they're celebrating New Year as a secular replacement for Christmas. 

 

Anyway, I've really missed the boys and girls of The Administration, the world, and Manna Francis smooth - and very British - writing. But as much as I love the two assholes Toreth and Warrick, my frustration with their relationship has reached a level where I want Warrick to finally ditch his pet-torturer and let him rot all alone. It's basically Toreth deliberately being a jerk and Warrick putting up with it because he wants to be tied up and fucked, and --- argh, it's pissing me off right now.

Gifts Given - Marshall Thornton

— feeling cold
Boystown 10: Gifts Given - Marshall Thornton

It's always good to be back with private eye Nick Nowak and his found family in 80s Chicago, but part #10 of the Boystown series is kind of a mixed back. It feels a bit like a rushed job, with some continuity issues: In book #9, Nick was told what exactly his boyfriend Joseph is up to on Fridays, their cheat-night. Here, it's written like that never happened and Nick still doesn't know. Also, some secondary characters are described two times in two subsequent chapters using the same words, like the paragraph was copy&pasted and then forgotten about. 

 

Nick is working two jobs here, background-checking his friend and society-lady Sugar Pilson's fiancé, while also trying to uncover a scheme by a fishy accountant and equally fishy private eye for his former employer, Peterson-Palmer. I wasn't too invested in the white-collar crime, even when it turned more lethal in the end. I mean, Nick spends a great deal of this story going over accounts and checking funds, and that's not exactly riveting literature. The part featuring Sugar's beau felt a bit half-baked, but I guess we will see more of this story in coming sequels.

The book is at its strongest when it concentrates on Nick's private life and his little circle of family and friends. I loved his Christmas morning with Joseph and Ross and I wish we had seen more of them, because both felt a bit deprived of personality here. But in this book the stage belongs to Mrs. Harker, Nick's ex-mother-in-law (his deceased boyfriend's mother), who has some tough stuff to deal with, and becomes a more fully fledged character for it. Nick also goes through some further development and it's quite imptessive to see how different he is from the man we met in part #1.

I just really wish he would stop running into fists and knifes and guns.

Corpora Delicti - Reading progress update: I've read 0%.

— feeling excited
Corpora Delicti  - Manna Francis

Back with my favorite boys! 

Boystown 10: Gifts Given - Reading progress update: I've read 9%.

Boystown 10: Gifts Given - Marshall Thornton

Reading what's basically a Christmas story on a sunny day in July feels wrong. But the book is due for return on the 6th, and I still haven't settled on which "bigger" SF book to read next (the contestants are Palmer's Too Like the Lightening, Disch's Camp Concentration and Delany's Dhalgren, which is by far the biggest, in number of pages - any opinions?) - so I'm now following grumpy private eye Nick Novak grumpily hunting Christmas presents for his boyfriend.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution - Peter Watts

Just realized I forgot to add my soundtrack choice to my review for The Freeze-Frame Revolution. So, here it is: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Berlin.

Kit de Waal: Don't Dip Your Pen in Someone Else's Blood: Writers and "The Other"

While authors have always made things up, adopting a different viewpoint needs particular care and sensitivity to avoid falling into the trap of cultural appropriation.

 

This is a very good, measured article on how authors can write characters with different life-experiences.

I have to admit, the mention of "cultural appropriation" makes me cringe, because it's used out of context more often than not. Therefore it was a real joy to read de Waal's nuanced take. 

Her advice is really rather basic: write people, not stereotypes; do your research; be respectful. But especially in SF, I'm sometimes left with the feeling that authors spend a lot of time researching science and tech, but neglect to research the people they write about. That leads to flat characters who reveal the author's prejudices, but don't work as full-fledged protagonists.

de Waal also offers a neat analogy to explain why members of marginalized groups often are so protective of their culture.

— feeling panda face
Now done! Review for all the stories in the Sunflowers Cycle - as of date - featuring links to all free stories, SJW ramblings, and gratuitous cat-content!

Peter Watts - Sunflowers Cycle

Reblogged from pareidolia:
— feeling panda face
The Freeze-Frame Revolution - Peter Watts

To be updated as I read my way through the short stories, novellas and novelettes forming the Sunflowers Cycle. There are four entries so far, I chose to read them in chronological order (which is not the order of publication).

 

1) Hotshot (first published in Jonathan Strahan's Reach for Infinity)  - **

A short story introducing the main character Sunday Ahzmundin and her mission to punsh wormholes into the universe to allow faster than light travel for following generations (or something). It helped to get an impression of her character, but wasn't all that satisfying as a story. It's about Sunday being groomed for her mission and tackles questions of free will vs. determination - yet again. Watts really doesn't believe in free will, but he's told that before, multiple times actually, and here he's so much in the nose about it that it physically hurts. Man, ever heard about subtlety? Over at Goodreads another reviewer descriped the story as self-parody, and tend to agree. Makes one wonder if he has anything else to tell.

 

Ffr2) The Freeze-Frame Revolution (a novella recently published by Tachyon) - ****

Despite a regrettable lack of pandas, I liked this novella a lot more than its chronological predecessor. Our 'spores are now on their way through the universe, on board the Eriophora, a hollowed-out asteroid powered by a singularity-drive. The blunt of the mission is overseen by the ship's AI, called Chimp. The Chimp's intelligence is somewhat limited though, so every now and then it needs some help. That's where the humans come in. Awake for only a few days every hundred or thousand years, they are spinning a web of wormholes though the galaxy, always hoping to see someone else coming through. But after 66 million years, there's still nothing but an occasional demon, still no sign of whatever became of Earth's inhabitants after our crew left. And yet, the mission just goes on and on.

 

Not everyone is happy with this. Some want an end. Some want the home they have been promised. Some want a revolution. But how to fight an enemy that sees through your own eyes, hears through your own ears, that controls everything around you? 

 

The fight human against machine is nothing new, of course; neither is the kind of affectionate relationship between our narrator Sunday and the Chimp. They have their fair share of HAL-and-Dave-moments - but those really work here and are also symptomatic for the whole novella: The Freeze-Frame Revolution feels charmingly old-fashioned, despite being set 66 million years in the future. It's not as dense and high-concept as Watts' longer works, but high-concept, big-idea sci-fi nonetheless, with character-building taking a backseat. Watts also provides some vivid descriptions of Eriophora's life-support system, haunting midnight-forests, which are a lot better than any of his descriptions in Echopraxia. And even after reading some stupid interview with stupid spoilers, I found the showdown to be tense and gripping.

 

Although I wasn't exactly rooting for the humans. 

 

FFR pretty on the inside

 

3) The Island (novelette, first published 2009, Hugo Award winner 2010) - ***

It's getting increasingly difficult to say anything about these stories without spoilering. Therefore I'll keep the summary short: The eponymous island is a spot on an intelligent Dyson sphere made of something akin to octopus-skin – still not a space-panda, but apparently an enormous, intelligent being. First contact, Watts' style. And Sunday has a son now.

 

I liked this a little less than The Freeze-Frame Revolution (FFR), but that's no fault of the writing. Sunday's voice seemed pretty consistent between Hotshots and FFR; The Island – the first story in the Sunflowers Cycle to be published – marks a notable shift. I have no idea if that was intentional or not, but it's fitting: after the events in FFR Sunday wouldn't be quite the same. There's an oddly lyrical quality to Watts' tech-jargon, and it's stronger here than it was in FFR. I needed 5 pages to even notice that it's 1st person present tense. I hate 1st person present, but it worked just fine here. The story just didn't grip me as much as the novella.

 

When looking for reviews, I saw one reviewer complaining about Sunday not acting or talking „like a woman“. That begs the question how a woman is supposed to act and talk? It left me wondering.

However, I sometimes do have problems with Watts' treatment of whomever he perceives as "other"; Foz Meadows talks about this in more detail in a review of Watts' short story collection Beyond the Rift, and I have noticed some of the things mentioned there, too. I had issues with how he dealt with his WOC characters in Echopraxia, othering Siri is the core of Blindsight - and I'm emphatically not okay with the inclusion of what's basically corrective rape. I'm not okay with the implication that a neuroatypical person is wrong and has to be raped right, and no amount of rationalizing will convince me that this was necessary. (Given the nature of Blindsight, it's not clear if that's what actually happened, but the implication is there). This drives me a bit nuts, because Watts is so spectacularly good at writing the „other“, the alien as well as humans who don't quite fit. He nails those characters, just absolutely fucking nails it, and then goes on and has to shoehorn some sexual violence or rape-as-a-metaphor into the text. Ugh, dude, why?

 

That said, I didn't notice anything off about Sunday, especially not given the singular circumstances. At least she doesn't think or talk about her boobs every five minutes (yes, I'm looking at you here, Andy Weir). In addition, Meadows' critique of everyone in Watts' stories being white and straight doesn't hold up, not in his short stories nor in the Firefall books (Blindsight and Echopraxia) nor in the Sunflowers Cycle. I didn't read someone named Sunday Ahzmundin as being particularly white to begin with; yes, that's stereotyping based on names, but why should I default to white here? And FFR in fact reads like Watts wrote parts of it as a direct rebuttal of said criticism, with hints at Sunday maybe being bi and the inclusion of gay and non-binary side-characters (yeah, I know, a white, male author actually listening to someone who criticizes him for not being inclusive enough: that sounds almost too good to be true). But I already noticed this kind of casual diversity in the Firefall universe, so it's nothing new.

Anyway, so much for the SJW ramblings. As an excuse, have some gratuitous cat-content.

 

Donna mit FFR

 

4) Giants (short story first published in Extreme Planets, 2014) - ****

The first story not told by Sunday. I spent the first quarter of the text trying to figure out who the narrator is; some other readers guessed it's Dix, Sunday's son. It isn't. But you need the knowledge provided in FFR to figure out whom exactly we're dealing with here. Given the author, it's no big surprise that he would choose this POV somewhere along the line; given it's me, it's no big surprise I liked this guy. His voice sounds a bit like Siri, maybe because they share the loneliness; maybe it just reads like Watts and he really needs to work on writing unique voices.

 

The giants in questions are two bodies, one hot, one cold, an ice giant and a sun, and Eriophora has to fly through both.

 

Giants is my favorite story of the Cycle so far, with very vivid descriptions, a palpable sense of urgency, and a great structure. I read it sitting on my balcony, watching the dawn of an incredibly big, incredibly red full moon – very atmospheric. I completely failed to capture it on camera. It looked a bit like the picture below, but that's from last month.

 

Moon over Berlin

 

5) Super-hidden secret content aka Hitchhiker - ****

The red letters in The Freeze-Frame Revolution form a message that leads to another short-story. No spoilers, just so much: it's creepy. Again another narrator than Sunday (but not new), also the first story told in close 3rd person. I'm not exactly sure where this falls on the timeline – I'm crap with numbers. It could happen before Giants, maybe even before The Island? That'd leave room for all kinds of uncanny possibilities.

 

~~~~~~

 

So, two novels, one novella, one novelette, and six short stories in a bit more than six month: I think that's enough Watts for the time being, before my obsession grows any more severe. I'm drawn to his work not only because he's so good at writing outsiders (no matter how much he fucks up sometimes), but also because he's always looking at humans through his biologist lens, seeing just another mammal driven by instinct, desire, need, and fear. Mostly though, I simply like his writing. It's heavy on tech-babble and verges on the obscure from time to time; I often have to go back and re-read sections; sometimes even that won't make things clearer and even a dictionary won't be of any help. But I like an author who doesn't underestimate his readers.

Now, though, I need something less cold, less cynic; something a bit kinder, a bit more compassionate, something with a more wholesome view of humanity.

— feeling panda face

Peter Watts - Sunflowers Cycle

Reblogged from pareidolia:
— feeling panda face

To be updated as I read my way through the short stories, novellas and novelettes forming the Sunflowers Cycle. There are four entries so far, I chose to read them in chronological order (which is not the order of publication).

 

1) Hotshot (first published in Jonathan Strahan's Reach for Infinity)  - **

A short story introducing the main character Sunday Ahzmundin and her mission to punsh wormholes into the universe to allow faster than light travel for following generations (or something). It helped to get an impression of her character, but wasn't all that satisfying as a story. It's about Sunday being groomed for her mission and tackles questions of free will vs. determination - yet again. Watts really doesn't believe in free will, but he's told that before, multiple times actually, and here he's so much in the nose about it that it physically hurts. Man, ever heard about subtlety? Over at Goodreads another reviewer descriped the story as self-parody, and tend to agree. Makes one wonder if he has anything else to tell.

 

Ffr2) The Freeze-Frame Revolution (a novella recently published by Tachyon) - ****

Despite a regrettable lack of pandas, I liked this novella a lot more than its chronological predecessor. Our 'spores are now on their way through the universe, on board the Eriophora, a hollowed-out asteroid powered by a singularity-drive. The blunt of the mission is overseen by the ship's AI, called Chimp. The Chimp's intelligence is somewhat limited though, so every now and then it needs some help. That's where the humans come in. Awake for only a few days every hundred or thousand years, they are spinning a web of wormholes though the galaxy, always hoping to see someone else coming through. But after 66 million years, there's still nothing but an occasional demon, still no sign of whatever became of Earth's inhabitants after our crew left. And yet, the mission just goes on and on.

 

Not everyone is happy with this. Some want an end. Some want the home they have been promised. Some want a revolution. But how to fight an enemy that sees through your own eyes, hears through your own ears, that controls everything around you? 

 

The fight human against machine is nothing new, of course; neither is the kind of affectionate relationship between our narrator Sunday and the Chimp. They have their fair share of HAL-and-Dave-moments - but those really work here and are also symptomatic for the whole novella: The Freeze-Frame Revolution feels charmingly old-fashioned, despite being set 66 million years in the future. It's not as dense and high-concept as Watts' longer works, but high-concept, big-idea sci-fi nonetheless, with character-building taking a backseat. Watts also provides some vivid descriptions of Eriophora's life-support system, haunting midnight-forests, which are a lot better than any of his descriptions in Echopraxia. And even after reading some stupid interview with stupid spoilers, I found the showdown to be tense and gripping.

 

Although I wasn't exactly rooting for the humans. 

 

3) The Island (short story or possibly novelette?)

 

4) Giants (short story)

 

5) Super-hidden secret content: The red letters in The Freeze-Frame Revolution form a message that leads to another short-story. I will get to this in a couple of days.

The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin

— feeling doubt
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin's famous novel cannot hide its time of conception: it's clearly a work influenced by the Cold War. But without doubt it's still relevant today; I think it should be required reading, not only for Science Fiction-fans, but for everyone, especially in a time that's so busy building walls.

 

The Dispossessed is a successful though-experiment on how and where an anarchist society - or anarcho-syndicalist society, more to the point - could actually work (answer: in an isolated system with limited, but not too limited resources). Le Guin has put a lot of thought into her topic and into her ambiguous utopia, with ambiguous being the key-word here; every objection I could think of she had already covered. It's a smart book that's not as didactic as I feared, but it didn't leave me fully satisfied. My problems don't stem from political disagreement, mind you. Quite the opposite: I can agree with her too much, on too many points, and that's always bound to turn out a bit boring. I prefer books that make me bristle, leave me uncomfortable, force me to rethink my opinions. No such luck here, although that's hardly Le Guin's fault.

 

I also found the book to be less successful as an entertaining Science Fiction-story. It's dry, even for Le Guin's standard, who's never been an especially juicy author to start with. I've seen other reviewers argue that the dry tone is meant to mirror either the barren world of Anarres or Shevek's thought-processes as a physicists. Both takes sound logic to me, but don't exactly make the story more enjoyable to read. It didn't help that I'm the one SF-fan that's not at all interested in math and physics. I needed to force myself not to skip the endless passages on Shevek's work, as important as they may be.

 

That's not to say the book is badly written; it's Le Guin after all. You can find some delightful turns of phrase and even some humour here and there. But she tells her story from above, turns us readers into spectators rather than letting us experience things from ground-level. It's a veritable story-telling technique and maybe even appropriate for what she set out to do here, but I can't say I liked it very much. I missed detail. Take the food, for example: She describes how the people of A-Io like to have these big parties with fanciful meals and drinks, but never mentions what exactly it is they eat and drink. I missed immersion. She rarely lets us in on her characters feelings, into their heads. She tells us about their feelings and thoughts, but most of the time she keeps us at a distance. When she finally deems to get down into the personal POV, when her characters become more than spokespersons for her ideas – which happens a lot more often in the second half than in the first - she manages to create some poignant moments.

 

So, an important book, but not a favourite. I guess I would've enjoyed it more had I read it 20, 22 years ago, at a more impressionable age, when I was just starting to learn about Anarchism and Taoism. Of course, that's completely my own fucking fault.

 

The Freeze-Frame Revolution - Reading progress update: I've read 60 out of 192 pages.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution - Peter Watts

Book: I'm going to tell you about some poor SOBs on a spaceship, falling through space for thousands of millennia, being awake only some days every thousand years, eating wormholes into the universe...

 

Me: Oh, in that Valente-book, wormholes looked just like really big Great Pandas. 

 

Book: Erm, okay. Anyway, our protagonist are more than sixty million years from home, facing the occasional demon coming through the gates. They try to stage a revolution to fight an enemy that never sleeps, that sees everything, hears everything...

 

Me: Really, really huge fluffy Pandas.

 

Book: They have to keep their plans secret, but the ship offers few hiding places, like artificial forests with...

 

Me: ...Pandas?

 

Book: ...trees which look like someone build them "from the blood vessels of slaughtered giants: flushed out the blood and replaced it with tar."

 

Me:bored panda

 

This is going really well :)

Peter Watts - Sunflowers Cycle

— feeling panda face
The Freeze-Frame Revolution - Peter Watts

To be updated as I read my way through the short stories, novellas and novelettes forming the Sunflowers Cycle. There are four entries so far, I chose to read them in chronological order (which is not the order of publication).

 

1) Hotshot (first published in Jonathan Strahan's Reach for Infinity)  - **

A short story introducing the main character Sunday Ahzmundin and her mission to punsh wormholes into the universe to allow faster than light travel for following generations (or something). It helped to get an impression of her character, but wasn't all that satisfying as a story. It's about Sunday being groomed for her mission and tackles questions of free will vs. determination - yet again. Watts really doesn't believe in free will, but he's told that before, multiple times actually, and here he's so much in the nose about it that it physically hurts. Man, ever heard about subtlety? Over at Goodreads another reviewer descriped the story as self-parody, and tend to agree. Makes one wonder if he has anything else to tell.

 

Ffr2) The Freeze-Frame Revolution (a novella recently published by Tachyon) - ****

Despite a regrettable lack of pandas, I liked this novella a lot more than its chronological predecessor. Our 'spores are now on their way through the universe, on board the Eriophora, a hollowed-out asteroid powered by a singularity-drive. The blunt of the mission is overseen by the ship's AI, called Chimp. The Chimp's intelligence is somewhat limited though, so every now and then it needs some help. That's where the humans come in. Awake for only a few days every hundred or thousand years, they are spinning a web of wormholes though the galaxy, always hoping to see someone else coming through. But after 66 million years, there's still nothing but an occasional demon, still no sign of whatever became of Earth's inhabitants after our crew left. And yet, the mission just goes on and on.

 

Not everyone is happy with this. Some want an end. Some want the home they have been promised. Some want a revolution. But how to fight an enemy that sees through your own eyes, hears through your own ears, that controls everything around you? 

 

The fight human against machine is nothing new, of course; neither is the kind of affectionate relationship between our narrator Sunday and the Chimp. They have their fair share of HAL-and-Dave-moments - but those really work here and are also symptomatic for the whole novella: The Freeze-Frame Revolution feels charmingly old-fashioned, despite being set 66 million years in the future. It's not as dense and high-concept as Watts' longer works, but high-concept, big-idea sci-fi nonetheless, with character-building taking a backseat. Watts also provides some vivid descriptions of Eriophora's life-support system, haunting midnight-forests, which are a lot better than any of his descriptions in Echopraxia. And even after reading some stupid interview with stupid spoilers, I found the showdown to be tense and gripping.

 

Although I wasn't exactly rooting for the humans. 

 

FFR pretty on the inside

 

3) The Island (novelette, first published 2009, Hugo Award winner 2010) - ***

 

It's getting increasingly difficult to say anything about these stories without spoilering. Therefore I'll keep the summary short: The eponymous island is a spot on an intelligent Dyson sphere made of something akin to octopus-skin – still not a space-panda, but apparently an enormous, intelligent being. First contact, Watts' style. And Sunday has a son now.

 

I liked this a little less than The Freeze-Frame Revolution (FFR), but that's no fault of the writing. Sunday's voice seemed pretty consistent between Hotshots and FFR; The Island – the first story in the Sunflowers Cycle to be published – marks a notable shift. I have no idea if that was intentional or not, but it's fitting: after the events in FFR Sunday wouldn't be quite the same. There's an oddly lyrical quality to Watts' tech-jargon, and it's stronger here than it was in FFR. I needed 5 pages to even notice that it's 1st person present tense. I hate 1st person present, but it worked just fine here. The story just didn't grip me as much as the novella.

 

When looking for reviews, I saw one reviewer complaining about Sunday not acting or talking „like a woman“. That begs the question how a woman is supposed to act and talk? It left me wondering.

However, I sometimes do have problems with Watts' treatment of whomever he perceives as "other"; Foz Meadows talks about this in more detail in a review of Watts' short story collection Beyond the Rift, and I have noticed some of the things mentioned there, too. I had issues with how he dealt with his WOC characters in Echopraxia, othering Siri is the core of Blindsight - and I'm emphatically not okay with the inclusion of what's basically corrective rape. I'm not okay with the implication that a neuroatypical person is wrong and has to be raped right, and no amount of rationalizing will convince me that this was necessary. (Given the nature of Blindsight, it's not clear if that's what actually happened, but the implication is there). This drives me a bit nuts, because Watts is so spectacularly good at writing the „other“, the alien as well as humans who don't quite fit. He nails those characters, just absolutely fucking nails it, and then goes on and has to shoehorn some sexual violence or rape-as-a-metaphor into the text. Ugh, dude, why?

 

That said, I didn't notice anything off about Sunday, especially not given the singular circumstances. At least she doesn't think or talk about her boobs every five minutes (yes, I'm looking at you here, Andy Weir). In addition, Meadows' critique of everyone in Watts' stories being white and straight doesn't hold up, not in his short stories nor in the Firefall books (Blindsight and Echopraxia) nor in the Sunflowers Cycle. I didn't read someone named Sunday Ahzmundin as being particularly white to begin with; yes, that's stereotyping based on names, but why should I default to white here? And FFR in fact reads like Watts wrote parts of it as a direct rebuttal of said criticism, with hints at Sunday maybe being bi and the inclusion of gay and non-binary side-characters (yeah, I know, a white, male author actually listening to someone who criticizes him for not being inclusive enough: that sounds almost too good to be true). But I already noticed this kind of casual diversity in the Firefall universe, so it's nothing new.

Anyway, so much for the SJW ramblings. As an apology, have some gratuitous cat-content.

 

Donna mit FFR

 

4) Giants (short story first published in Extreme Planets, 2014) - ****

The first story not told by Sunday. I spent the first quarter of the text trying to figure out who the narrator is; some other readers guessed it's Dix, Sunday's son. It isn't. But you need the knowledge provided in FFR to figure out whom exactly we're dealing with here. Given the author, it's no big surprise that he would choose this POV somewhere along the line; given it's me, it's no big surprise I liked this guy. His voice sounds a bit like Siri, maybe because they share the loneliness; maybe it just reads like Watts and he really needs to work on writing unique voices.

 

The giants in questions are two bodies, one hot, one cold, an ice giant and a sun, and Eriophora has to fly through both.

 

Giants is my favorite story of the Cycle so far, with very vivid descriptions, a palpable sense of urgency, and a great structure. I read it sitting on my balcony, watching the dawn of an incredibly big, incredibly red full moon – very atmospheric. I completely failed to capture it on camera. It looked a bit like the picture below, but that's from last month.

 

Moon over Berlin

 

5) Super-hidden secret content aka Hitchhiker - ****

The red letters in The Freeze-Frame Revolution form a message that leads to another short-story. No spoilers, just so much: it's creepy. Again another narrator than Sunday (but not new), also the first story told in close 3rd person. I'm not exactly sure where this falls on the timeline – I'm crap with numbers. It could happen before Giants, maybe even before The Island? That'd leave room for all kinds of uncanny possibilities.

 

~~~~~~

 

So, two novels, one novella, one novelette, and six short stories in a bit more than six month: I think that's enough Watts for the time being, before my obsession grows any more severe. I'm drawn to his work not only because he's so good at writing outsiders (no matter how much he fucks up sometimes), but also because he's always looking at humans through his biologist lens, seeing just another mammal driven by instinct, desire, need, and fear. Mostly though, I simply like his writing. It's heavy on tech-babble and verges on the obscure from time to time; I often have to go back and re-read sections; sometimes even that won't make things clearer and even a dictionary won't be of any help. But I like an author who doesn't underestimate his readers.

Now, though, I need something less cold, less cynic; something a bit kinder, a bit more compassionate, something with a more wholesome view of humanity.

 

Soundtrack: FFR comes with its own soundtrack, but... well, it's from well before my time, and - just no. Let's have Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club instead: Berlin.

Octavia Butler - Lilith's Brood

Lilith's Brood: Dawn / Adulthood Rites / Imago - Octavia E. Butler

This is not really a review, but it's Octavia Butler's birthday, and I want to use the opportunity to encourage everyone to read this trilogy, one of the most disturbing and brilliant things I've ever read. I first read it about four years ago, taught it three times since then, and it always leads to intense, rewarding discussions. There are so many layers here, every time I read and talk about it, I come away with something new. Likewise, my impression of and opinion about the story's aliens, the Oankali, keeps changing, from horror to approval to longing and back again.

It's here where Butler remarks that humanities core problem is being 'intelligent and hierarchical'. So far,  I haven't found a better assesment.

Laing - Nieselregen

 

Happy (?) Sunday.

Reading progress update: The Dispossessed - I've read 18%.

The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

So far lots of political & philosophical musings and no plot.

Is there a plot? Am I curious enough to find out?

 

Characters and world(s) seem underdeveloped and liveless, mere ideals, lacking real-life complexity. Yes, a lot more can happen in the coming 82%. But using 18% (and more) of a book for introduction is really pushing it.

 

(Bis jetzt viel graue Theorie und keine Handlung.

Hat das Buch eine Handlung? Will ich das überhaupt noch wissen?

 

Die Charaktere und zwei gegensätzlichen Gesellschaften wirken bislang ziemlich blutleer, sind reine Idealbilder ohne Tiefe, Ecken oder Kanten. Klar, da kann noch viel kommen, aber 18% Setup ohne Handlung sind schon eine harte Geduldsprobe für den Leser.)