4 September 2011

Aliette De Bodard's Hugo Nomination

We have three of Aliette de Bodard's stories on our list of suggested reading, (Here, here and here) and having followed her so far it was a great pleasure to see her name on the list of Hugo nominees for her story, "The Jaguar House, In Shadow."

The Jaguar House is set in a Mexico, Mexica, where an Aztec society still prevails alongside modern technology. All is not well in Mexica, however. There is a madman, an insane leader, stopping at nothing to suppress revolt. This leads to a chain reaction in which the leader of the Jaguar knights attempts to keep Jaguar House alive by going along with the madness. This doesn't impress the knights, and thereby hangs the tale. Ultimately, it is a sad story, and I can see how people were moved to nominate it for the Hugos.

You can read it here at Aliette de Bodard's site, or have it beautifully read to you at Starship Sofa. If you go to de Bodard's site, there is a bonus in the form of a link to another story set in the same universe.


23 August 2011

Hugo winners

Much excitement over the Hugos. Sean McMullen, who has been writing for years, made it onto the best novella shortlist for "Eight Miles". I really enjoyed "Eight Miles" when I heard it on podcast from Starship Sofa. This is what I wrote elsewhere about it:

McMullen's story, 8 Miles, is a fun little adventure, set in Victorian era England, about a balloonist who is hired by a rich man to assist in some research concerning the effects of altitude upon a strange woman he has in his care. Before long, the plot thickens as the balloonist learns that his employer has ulterior motives for the research.

It is cleverly written in the style of 19thC adventures, with the quirky habit of not only mentioning which tools, for instance, were used but who manufactured or invented them. 

I enjoyed it all the more for hearing it beautifully narrated by Simon Hildebrandt, who did a good job with the voices of the different characters and brought the whole thing to life.

Here is the "Eight Miles" link

The actual winner of the best novella section was Allen M Steele with "The Emperor of Mars". I haven't read it yet so there's something to look forward to.

Claire Brialey, whose writing I know of through ANZAPA, an amateur press association, won for best fan writers. Squee.  Claire rocks!

One of her fanzines, Banana Wings, which is reachable here at eFanzines, was on the shortlist for best fanzine, right alongside zines like Starship Sofa, but Drink Tank, which can be found at eFanzines, won.

Another story I was familiar with through Starship Sofa was Rachel Swirsky's "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window", (which is the main character's name, so it's not surprising that the narrator refers to her simply as "The Lady" in the recaps that begin parts two and three) which was spread out over three installments beginning here.

Rory, who became The Last Centurian in Dr Who
My all time favorite Dr Who episode, "Vincent And The Doctor", did not win Best Dramatic Presentation - Shortform. A different Dr Who episode, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,” did.

There are a couple of interesting titles on the shortlist, though, such as "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury". It might have been nice if Shaun Tan's "The Lost Thing", a beautiful little story which has won a swag of Australian awards plus the Academy award for best animation, had won, but Shaun Tan did win for Best Professional Artist.

Plenty of good reading and viewing to follow up on from the Hugo list. Check it out.

19 August 2011

Chris Adrian's new novel

A while ago I posted a link to Chris Adrian's beautiful short story "A Tiny Feast". This story was about the fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania, who, having stolen a changling from the human world, found themselves caring great deal about what became of it. They did not expect to care. As fairies they were not designed to care. But neither their care nor their power could help when the changeling had to go to hospital.

Chris Adrian works in emergency pediatrics where doubtless he sees these things.

A few days ago I heard that he had a new novel out called The Great Night, about three broken hearted people and their encounter in a San Francisco park with Oberon and Titania who are also broken hearted after the death of their changling. When I realised that it was a kind of sequel to "A Tiny Feast" I wondered if I could cope with a whole novel of grief, but the reviewer also says that the book was fun, so I'll be looking out for it in the libary.

(I would look forward to buying the book, but I'd need new bookshelves first. Of course, these days I could look forward to buying the ebook, but the right ereader hasn't come along for me yet.)


16 August 2011

Computer games: Torchlight

Torchlight is a lot like Diablo but more appealing. The Torchlight of the title is kind of mining town that might be found in  a cowboy western. The mine, though, has a substance in it called ember. This ember is a slow poison which is going to make your character first more powerful and then die. Your character then goes on various quests which mainly involve killing all the monsters in your path in order to reach some object or other. The harder the quest, the deeper into the mine you go, down to the remains of ancient cities and so on.

In Torchlight, you also get to have a pet. It's a smart pet. You can give it spells, which it will use to help you fight your way through the monsters, and small items of jewelry which help empower it. The best thing, gamewise, about the pet though is that it has a backpack, so when your own backpack becomes full you can place items into the pet's pack and then, when that is full of things you want to sell, you can send the pet back to town to sell everything while you continue on your quest. This is good because you don't have to fight your back up all the floors you've come down, and then fight all the way back down again to where you left off. All you need to do is send your pet, who can accomplish the trading mission very quickly.

Of course, you can use the portal scrolls to step back to town and return, but it's easier just to send the pet.

Another thing you can do with the pet is feed it fish. When fed a fish, the pet turns temporarily into a monster with monster powers to fight the enemies. The pet I chose was the ferret, which is cute, especially with its backpack and goggles. 


12 August 2011

Fantasy worlds: Diablo

The kids have been introducing me to a multiplayer computer game called Diablo. I have talked about Oblivion before, but it's not possible to play that in multiplayer mode, and I have mentioned Sacred, but that is not very satsifying when played as a group. For one thing, in Sacred only one person gets the bonus point when a quest is completed, and for another there are problems when the characters get too far apart.

So we've been playing a game called Diablo. In this game, I've been playing the character who casts healing spells and long range explosions, and most of the time I run around wondering where everyone else has got to. The kids have gotten finding me and bringing me back to the rest of the party down to a fine art.

Diablo is a very simple game. You run around in a landscape a lot helping to fulfil quests which the kids know about, sometimes using portals to get instantly back to town, sell stuff, finish the quest, cache stuff in a chest, and jump back through the portal to start where you left off.

In Diablo, when your character dies all the stuff you were carrying at the time falls beside your body and you find yourself back in town. Then you have to run to where your body is and pick up all your stuff, i.e. the latest armour and weapons etc that you've found along the way, and find the party again.

Yes, it's a fantasy game a lot like D&D in that the group can provide various skill to help the party succeed.

The landscapes are not especially appealing, not that I get much chance to look at them, and there is no reason to become particularly engaged with the characters. It's a chewing gum sort of game, which is to say that it passes the time.

This is a highly rated game, according to reviews. To my mind it's fun but not addictive.

However, it is a particular kind of game style and by learning about it I was able to pick upon Torchlight fairly easily. More about that next time.


6 August 2011

The Great Raven: Writing With A Day Job

The Great Raven: Writing With A Day Job

Joe Haldemann once remarked that the best way for a writer to make money was to marry someone with a job.

Combining a job with the joy of writing is difficult but it's what most writers have to do. Wolfborn author Sue Bursztynski works as a teacher in a high school, which does not mean that she has short hours and plenty of holidays in which to work. What she has is lots of extra work. However, in this post she also explains the plusses to what she does. My favourite bit of advice from this post was, "If you have a car, leave it at home." Time sitting on public transport is time to write.