Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: August 2008 (page 1 of 2)

Musical interlude – Lotte Kester

Being the first in a series of posts about music…

I first heard the floating tones of Anna-Lynne Williams through a video podcast of the band Trespassers William on the brilliant radio program Morning Becomes Eclectic. Trespassers William (taking its name from a Winnie the Pooh story), is a Southern California band, a sort of dream-pop, mellow sound that blends acoustic instruments with occasional electronic accompaniment. To date they have released three albums, and a fourth is in the works. Some of the band members have embarked on solo projects. Lotte Kestner is the effort of lead singer Anna-Lynne Williams, and is available to purchase online. Unfortunately if you frequent brick and mortar stores for your CDs, you may not find a copy there. Listen to the songs over at Anna-Lynne Williams’ mySpace site, and support beautiful music.

I have wandered many paths through the 30 plus years I have listened to and loved music. I find myself now enjoying a variety of sounds, from the diamond-edged guitar symphonies of Explosions in the Sky, to the nuanced work of Robin Guthrie, to the ambient sounds of the album leaf, to the unpretentious dream pop of bands like Devics and Trespassers William, the now defunct Azure Ray, and similar but different bands.

I don’t pay much attention to pop music, either current or yesteryear; at least one person I know will shudder at the following anecdote: at a recent gathering of developers several people competed in a Rock Band play-off. A band formed by co-workers chose the song, “Tom Sawyer.” I had no clue as to who originally played this, as I have never heard anything by Rush. In high school, when my musical tastes gelled, I listed to BBC’s John Peel. Indie sounds… Most of the music I embrace is encountered through chance; links mentioning influences and “sounds like” that pan out one in a while. Sigur Ros was like that, a chance listen via an iTunes network connection at work. For a while whenever I was deep in the code I would listen to Sigur Ros on repeat.

I don’t deliberately embrace the obscure, but I find it neat when I come upon hitherto unknown sounds like the Danish band Under Byen. I gave up pushing my tastes onto other people years ago (I think I drove people crazy in high school when I brought my Cocteau Twins tapes to play on the school bus, back in 1985), but I still feel the urge to write about some of the kinds of music I enjoy. Music is one of those elements that define who we are, and there are times we humans feel the urge to declaim those definitions from the mountaintop, perhaps as a statement to the universe: look, I exist! This is part of who I am!

The Unincorporated Man

While scrolling down the list of forthcoming books noted by Fantasy Book Critic, I read a brief blurb about what might be a very interesting novel. The Unincorporated Man, written by two brothers (Dani and Eytan Kollin), is slated for early 2009 publication by Tor.

Justin Cord is now the last free man in the human race – owned by no one and owning no one.

Database nation

Why am I not surprised to read this story out of the UK, about the proposed tracking of kids to link them back to crimes long after childhood? Sure, it’s sold as a method to protect the kids, but it really is all about control. Petty, nanny-state control. Soon to be adopted in the US and civilized countries all around the world, no doubt.

Quite telling is this quote:

Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country, and its local authorities are increasingly using powers designed to prevent terrorism to spy on people suspected of petty crimes such as littering and failing to pick up dog mess.

Little Brother

This weekend I read a tough little cookie of a YA novel, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. Published earlier this year, the book is already nominated for next year’s Prometheus Award, and could indeed be a strong contender. I’m working on a review of the novel for Prometheus (unless any other brave souls out there would like to contribute a review…), but I’m already jokingly calling this the book that sent me to the ER.

The Young Adult fiction market these days is smokin’ hot. As a grown up reading some these books I can’t help but be irritated and impatient with the tendency toward a very simplistic style. I struggled to get going with Little Brother, and the ended certainly fizzled into a “Rock the Vote” solution that does nothing to advance individual liberty (a recent conversation with L. Neil Smith comes to mind, where he said that it’s easy to write dystopias, as we all can agree upon what we are against. But it’s damn tough to come up with better solutions. ) Still, the middle part of Doctorow’s novel is worth every penny, and is the part that most readers probably will remember.

Traipsing through olden times

I used to average reading 100-150 books a year. A middling amount, maybe, as some people never read a book and others read probably far more than this number of volumes. Though that number dipped for a while, I’ve probably ready between 1000 and 2000 books in the past two decades. Far from all are science fiction. Still, I’d be the first to admit there are far more sf books out there that I have NOT read, so I try to catch up on some of these every year.

Not sure if 1987 can be considered olden times, but 1965 predates me and so I say it qualifies.

I just finished reading David Brin’s The Uplift War, which is the third volume in his Uplift series. I read some other Brin novels in the 1980s, early 1990s, but none of the Uplift books. I do have the tendency to pick up new series in the middle or end, and then work my way backwards, so now I need to check if I have the first two books in the series and seek them out. There were times I skipped ahead, but overall I enjoyed the book.

I’m in the early stages of H. Beam Piper’s Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, which is another book that’s been in my shelves for many, many years. I keep meaning to read it, but never get around to it. Already in the first 50 pages, hell, the first 10 pages, I can see that this book deeply influenced L. Neil Smith’s novel, The Probability Broach. Good stuff also so far, but of a different cut altogether from the Brin book.

Blaylock interview

I discovered the fiction of James P. Blaylock back in 1989 around the time of my first science fiction convention, ArmadilloCon, which is held in Austin, Texas every year. Along with Blaylock, that year I started reading books by Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter, Charles de Lint, Lewis Shiner, Joe Lansdale, Bruce Sterling, and Dan Simmons. Twenty years later some of these writers are fairly established and famous, others not so much, but Blaylock and Powers stand above the rest in my eyes.

I liked the early Blaylock more so than his later fiction. While he started off quirky and light-hearted, his later books seemed darker and far more introspective. I am eagerly awaiting his latest novel, which will appear in Demember 2008. Meanwhile, the sf review site Fantasy BookSpot has posted a brief interview with Blaylock, which fans of his fiction, or people unaware of his books, may find interesting.

Half a loaf of WorldCon

I’ve attended three full WorldCon’s, but I don’t think I can count last week’s Denvention as my fourth, since I was at the con for only a few hours. I had never been to Colorado aside from layovers at the Denver airport, so the plan was to remedy that with a few days in Colorado Springs followed by some time in Denver. Along the way I would attend the LFS Prometheus Awards at the World Science Fiction Convention, and meet up with some people I had not seen in a decade or more. In the Springs we did a little bit of sightseeing, including climbing two sets of stairs at Seven Falls. I thought I was in decent shape, but after step number 40 out of 185, I could feel the burn in my legs, along with being out of breath and panting from the accelerated heart rate. Perhaps it was the altitude… I then failed to learn my lesson and climbed the other sets of stairs (in the photo), which went higher and followed the seven small falls. I did not see any bears or mountain lions aside from in the news and at the zoo, but was impressed by the wonderful scenery.

We drove back to Denver on Wednesday, and I rode over to the convention center. A large blue bear stood outside, gazing in at the tasty humans inside. After a long walk to find the registration table, I signed up for a one day membership, which granted me the right to see stuff for that day, plus a photo copy of the program for that week. I was not sure about the usefulness of seeing what was happening Thursday through Sunday, aside from telling me what I would miss. I noted the room and time for the Prometheus Awards, and headed up to the dealer’s room. There I ran into L. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser, manning the Big Head Press table. After chatting with them briefly I wandered around the anemic room for a while before heading to the location for the awards. I attended DragonCon in 1995, and the WorldCons from 1996 through 1998, and the number of dealers as well as selection has declined considerably since then. Most tables featured dealers who sold new books, which sad to say I can get cheaper online. It was rare to find dealers with a good selection of out of print books, and I walked out without making a single purchase, which is rare for me.

Initially I sat far in the back of the room, as the panel prior still had a few aisle-talkers. Once they cleared out I moved up, and then over some more for a better camera angle. Jo Walton appeared, followed by Harry Turtledove. Fred Moulton from LFS and Fran Van Cleave arrived and started setting up, then with little preamble launched into the presentation. Cheryl Morgan (formerly of the Emerald City fanzine) was there to take pictures for the awards web-site she co-manages. A funny moment occurred after the presentation. Morgan requested that the winners stand by a side wall, to which Turtledove quipped that “the libertarians are lining us up against the wall.” Morgan replied, “I am not a libertarian.” I suppose libertarians do not line people up against walls after all. Both the winners thanked the LFS and mentioned the reasons for their works, which dealt with people rebelling in various ways against variants of communism and fascism. A full convention report will appear in the Fall issue of Prometheus, as the Summer issue currently is at the printer, after getting some last minute photos dropped into the second page.

I chatted briefly with a couple of the LFS people, met a few people for the first time, and enjoyed being in the audience instead of presenting or organizing. I then headed back upstairs for another round through the dealers’ room, and another long chat with Smith and Bieser. I could not make the LFS dinner that night, but did enjoy a small dinner the following night with a handful of people. I ended up spending only half a day at the WorldCon, as I was in town with the family and wanted to see more of the area. I hope to return to Colorado and spend more time there, as it’s a great place and I know there is far more I want to see of that area.

I used to enjoy going to panels and listening to sf people talk, but this year I did not see one panel, and I felt somewhat removed from the whole experience. I would like to visit Montreal, but the kids are still too young to enjoy that place, and I find it difficult to split time between the conference and family. Perhaps the next time the WorldCon is in America it might be different. I believe that might not be until 2011, as 2010 is in Australia.

Robinson reviews Doctorow

Nice review over at Canada’s Globe and Mail by Spider Robinson, of fellow Canadian writer Cory Doctorow’s Prometheus Award nominated novel, Little Brother.

New Serenity comic online

First the TV show, then the fans, then the movie, then the comic books, now the online comic book. The voyage of Serenity continues in yet another format.

Back from CO

Normal sporadic posts to follow shortly…

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