I interviewed Hugo Award-nominated author and friendly guy Jim C. Hines about his new book, Libriomancer, over at GeekDad. I also posted my thoughts on the book there, too. You want bullet points? Fine.
- GeekDad interview with Jim C. Hines
- GeekDad review of Libromancer
- A panoramic view of Gale Crater on Mars taken by NASA rover Curiosity (Because MARS, that’s why.)
I suspect Booth and I are roughly the same age, and his stories stirred some nostalgic memories as I read. I found myself thinking back to the original Star Wars Luke Skywalker figure I owned, with the yellow lightsaber that promptly lost its skinny tip. Then when Empire came out, Luke came with a detachable lightsaber and a gun instead of the lightsaber that slid up into his arm, and that was THE MOST AWESOME THING IN THE WORLD!
As I’ve said before, knowing that I’ve helped someone dredge up a few memories of the glory days of Kenner That Was is a very cool feeling, as is, you know, getting a kind word from an author whose work you really enjoy. It’s right up there with Bespin Luke’s yellow lightsaber, and less likely to get lost under the basement stairs.
I also just found this YouTube book review video from user micahc6v8 – he starts talking about Collect All 21! around the 5:02 mark -
I’m guessing that he read the expanded electronic edition, since he doesn’t show a physical copy of the book, and he notes the $2.99 price. At any rate, he also says some positive things about my little Star Wars nostalgia trip, noting in particular that he identified with the book despite being of a different generation, which, again, is nice to hear.
I reviewed some awfully fun stuff this year for GeekDad – a dozen books and a couple TV shows, most of which are well worth checking out:
When I went through my journal to log this year’s books, I learned I’d been a bit lazy and had completely failed to record five of this year’s reads. Fixed.
So, here’s what I read in 2010:
The God Engines – John Scalzi. Dark. Bizarre. Innards-tangling. Not for the faint of heart, and a real deviation from Scalzi’s usual writing paths. I liked it.
Sailing to Byzantium – Robert Silverberg. I’ve liked Silverberg since I read Revolt on Alpha C as a kid, and when Kelsey was little, we read Lost Race of Mars together. This collection’s much more for the grown-up science fiction fan, and his take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer is fantastic.
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi (re-read)
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)
The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The 100 Stories for Haiti anthology reminded me that I had been meaning to read this, and I loved it. Post-apocalyptic and mind-bendy and still human. Plus it has both Pirates AND Ninjas.
Math, Science and Unix Underpants – Bill Amend
Mainspring – Jay Lake
Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters – John Stark Bellamy II
The Sagan Diary - John Scalzi. Listened to this one on the drive back from Providence in March.
Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations galore.
The City & The City – China Mieville. For me, this was 2010′s equivalent to last year’s Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a mental workout to read, especially in the beginning, but absolutely worth the effort.
FoxTrot: The Works – Bill Amend
Wildly FoxTrot – Bill Amend
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt
Goblin Quest – Jim C. Hines
Daemons Are Forever – Simon R. Green. This is the second book in a series – it was a freebie from the author’s lit agency – so I started a bit behind the curve, but it was so unlike just about anything I’ve read that I got hooked pretty quickly. And James Bond references tend to go over well with me.
Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix
Locke & Key: Vol. I, Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
My Best Friend Is A Wookiee – Tony Pacitti. A Star Wars memoir from a younger fan’s perspective, growing up when the originals could only be seen on TV or videotape, and coming of age in the prequel era.
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. The kick-ass conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reviewing it for GeekDad earned me some serious bonus parenting points because it meant my daughter had it waiting for her when she got home from school on release day.
Dreadnought – Cherie Priest
The Odious Ogre – Norton Juster. With illustrations by Jules Feiffer, this reunited the Phantom Tollbooth words-and-pictures team for the first time in almost 50 years.
Oddball Ohio: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places – Jerome Pohlen
A Western Journal – Thomas Wolfe. Inspiring me to revisit my cross-country road trip in journal form.
Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 – Mark Crilley
Armor – John Steakley. A different, brain-cramping (in a good way) angle on the space-trooper genre tale.
Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 3 1984-1986 – Berkeley Breathed
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials – Dungeon Master’s Book – James Wyatt. As someone who only recently returned to D&D, I hadn’t really begun to think about taking on the DM’s role yet. This book, though, made for a great and encouraging read in that vein – thanks Kato and Wendy! – but I also got an awful lot out of it as a new player still kind of learning the finer points of the game mechanics and structure.
I’ve already started Daemons Are Forever, which is my introduction to the Eddie Drood/Shaman Bond series, even though it’s the second book. Back in May, the guys at JABberwocky Literary Agency Tweeted that they had some Simon R. Green books to give away, so I offered to take a couple off their hands. Since a) two of my favorite recently-discovered authors work with this agency and b) I went through a serious James Bond phase when I was in high school, and c) um, free books, I figured these would be something I’d enjoy.
Goblin Quest is an overdue read, and Margaret Peterson Haddix’ Found comes at the recommendation of my daughter, who’s got a short but good track record in that department.
Yes, I’m deliberately keeping the reading light. I once made the mistake of deciding that a 30-hour bus trip from Orlando to Cleveland was a fine opportunity to read my first John Steinbeck novel, and I picked The Grapes of Wrath. And did I mention that this was a trip to visit my seriously ill Dad, during the dark times of the early 1990s? I mean, not that reading something like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would have improved my actual situation, but it probably wouldn’t have made the already-depressing bus ride even worse.
It’s also entirely possible that this stack will grow a bit during the trip, since a visit to Mysterious Galaxy is most definitely in order when we’re in San Diego. Speaking of which: They’ve sold some copies of Collect All 21, and there are still some signed editions available, and while it would be cool to go out there and see my book on their shelves, it would be even cooler not to see them there and perhaps even drop off a few more copies if, say, they’ve sold out. (San Diego Star Wars fans? A little help? You’re awesome.)
So: The books are set. Now, there’s this matter of clothes, food, Coca-Cola, Oreos, Lemonheads…
Kelsey and I went to the bookstore this afternoon because I’d gotten a few Borders bucks someplace or other and had a 33% off coupon, too, and I’m looking to stack up a few good reads for a long trip later this month. For myself, I picked up Jim C. Hines’ Goblin Quest, and with the leftover bucks I let Kels pick out a book for herself.
I also went looking for GeekDad editor Ken Denmead’s book, and though I had to ask an associate to point me in the right direction, there it was, right here in North Canton, Ohio and looking spiffy:
I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy writing for GeekDad, and being a part of that group of writers and editors, and though this book is absolutely Ken’s baby, it was still a tremendously neat thing to see it there, occupying physical space on a wooden shelf, and not just as a cover image on the computer screen or excerpted text or sample pages.
Now, the book was actually released about a month ago, so I’m late to the party on this one, and if there were any mentions of what follows on Twitter or the GeekDad contributors’ mailing list, well, I must have missed them. (May and June really have been hectic, I swear.) Because as I was showing Kelsey this book that “My GeekDad editor Ken” wrote, I flipped open to this:
I was just bowled the eff over, right there in the Borders, trying to juggle the phone camera and hold my books and snap this shot before realizing, “Hey, dimwit – your kid’s right here: And she’s got hands and everything.”
Make no mistake: I make NO CLAIM on ANY credit for this book, and it’s amazingly cool of Ken to have included me in there just for the bits I contribute to GeekDad, and it makes me proud to play a small part among such excellent and admirable hobbits.
Go buy this book and support a stand-up, kick-ass GEEK DAD.
I have a post up at GeekDad this morning about the Solar Stormwatch project, and it took me back to the very first guest post I did for the site almost a year ago, “So, How Many Galaxies Have You Classified This Week?“
When that post went up last April 4, Jenn and Kelsey and I were in Florida, staying with our good friend Jim. It had been about two weeks since I’d lost my job as a news reporter and blogger, and though I was working hard to make contacts and get freelance assignments, things were off to a slow start.
Having been a fan of GeekDad since Wired launched the site, I sent a note to editor Ken Denmead, who suggested I write something up. Since I had just found Galaxy Zoo a few days earlier, I made it my topic.
I remember sitting at Jim’s living room table using the laptop on a quiet morning – I don’t recall if Ken sent me a “Hey, your post is up” email or if I was just obsessively checking GeekDad to see if they’d used it – and there it was.
Quite the encouraging spark: It was the first time post-layoff that I saw my name attached to a piece published outside my former workplace, and it was on Wired. GeekDad accepted another guest post later that month, and I came on board as a full-fledged contributor in May, just in time for Penguicon 7.0.
It’s been a year of learning and building and often struggling with this stay-at-home writing career, and though GeekDad has played a small role financially, it has meant an awful lot to me: Though I’m not the most prolific writer there, I have a ridiculous amount of fun writing for GeekDad, and the group of contributors I have come to know online over the past year is just an amazing, enthusiastic, supportive bunch.
I’ve gotten to talk with people like Bonnie Burton and Jim C. Hines and Tim Kehoe and I mean, holy crap, this month I’m going to be on a PAX East GeekDad Panel, which aside from being awesome in itself, means I get to finally meet and thank a few of my fellow GeekDads in person.
They are a solar storm of fantastic.
Not long after my change in employment earlier this year, I got in touch with GeekDad editor Ken Denmead, who generously ran a couple guest posts I wrote in April and later included me on a very cool invite list, bringing me on board as a full-fledged contributor to the site. I’m incredibly thankful, because a) It’s GeekDad, and How Freaking Awesome; b) I’ve gotten to write pieces I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to, which inspired some writing I’m proud of.
It has been tremendously neat playing a small role in the site and watching it grow, and one of my resolutions for 2010 is to write more for GeekDad than I did in 2009.
That said, I had a TON of fun with this year’s entries, and while I truly enjoyed many of my shorter blog entries, there are exactly 10 longer GeekDad pieces about which I was most excited and got the most enjoyment out of writing, so Yay for a Ready-Made End-of-Year List! (Cop out: I’m presenting them in chronological order because it’s easiest.)
1) May 6 – Hands-on and Close-up Fun: Penguicon 7.0 . That weekend in May was absolutely one of the highlights of the year, and even the decade, for me. (I did a longer, more personal and detailed post here.)
2) May 21 - Girls Against Girls – Figuring It Out With Bonnie Burton – It’s incredibly difficult to accurately describe how enjoyable this interview was, and the book’s lessons have come in handy more than once in my daughter’s middle school years.
4) June 18 - Review: Swim Ways’ R/C Cyber Ray – Well, we got to play with a nifty toy that was only fun for a little while, but I like the way the review turned out, and who knows, maybe Swim Ways has ironed out the wrinkles by now.
5) June 27 – Nature at Its Closest – With several inches of snow outside needing shoveled, summer seems a long way off. But remembering the clutches of baby robins we got to watch hatch and grow on our front porch does warm the heart. (awwww!)
6) July 9 – 10 Things Parents Should Know About Warehouse 13 – It was a good excuse to stay in and watch some SyFy channel with Kelsey, but the truth is, though we though the premiere was OK, we never watched another episode.
7) July 26 – Bubbles, Zubbles, Toys and Troubles – Although at its heart this is another toy review, I had a blast talking to inventor Tim Kehoe about his 15-year journey from the idea for colored bubbles to the final production this summer.
8) Aug. 13 - Activision’s Science Papa Will Remind You Of Mama’s Cooking – Reviewing video games means PLAYING video games, so it’s not like I was going out of my way or anything. Plus I got to write this: “To draw a 1980s toy parallel, it’s Mighty Men & Monster Maker vs. Fashion Plates all over again.”
9) Sept. 21 – 10 Things Parents Should Know About Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – Kelsey and I had gone to see this just for fun, and I was so surprised that I liked it so much that I jumped at the chance to do the GeekDad write-up.
10) October 6 – Princesses and Mermaids: Who Needs Rescuing Again? – We were introduced to Jim C. Hines and his books at Penguicon, marking yet another reason the trip to Romulus was so memorable.
To circle back to the end of the first paragraph: c) It’s GeekDad, and How Freaking Awesome. Gobs and piles of thanks to Ken, Matt Blum and my fellow contributors and the Wired editors and everyone else I don’t know who makes GeekDad work.
It’s kind of an odd thing, maybe, since I enjoy a good adventure including mythical monsters and swordfights and demigods and magic, but there’s never been much fantasy on my bookshelves: The Lord of the Rings has been there since around 1976; so is The Sword of Shannara (but none of its sequels, of which I read only one); and Dragons of Autumn Twilight; and The Princess Bride. Once up on a time, you would have found the Dungeons & Dragons choose-your-own-adventuresque Pillars of Pentegarn and Mountain of Mirrors there, too. The only newer entrants in the genre are the seven Harry Potter books.
I think, though, the last fantasy I read was in January 2008 – the fourth book in Lian Hearn’s Otori saga, Harsh Cry of the Heron.
They don’t look like the kind of books I’d have stumbled onto – when I was reading Stepsister, my wife’s first chuckling reaction was “What’s up with the girls’ book?” and I can’t blame her, really, given that the cover image really doesn’t look like anything she’s seen me read before:
Now, when I started reading this, it was in large part because a) Jim was just a really nice guy when Kelsey & I met him at Penguicon, and b) I wanted to check the book’s suitability for my daughter. What happened, of course, was that I totally got sucked into the story, digging Hines’ weaving of the dark side of fairy tales into new takes on old favorites Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
While there are rescue quest at the heart of both Scheme and Madness, I thought the unfolding of the princesses’ back stories and their evolving relationships was as engaging as the main storyline in the first book.
That said, I enjoyed the sequel even more, I think, precisely because the primary tale – a meaty mix of love, powerlust, magic, warring kingdoms, and some land-and-sea battle action - really carries the day here. Not that the heroines don’t grow significantly along the way, but we get to see them much more as they are in the story’s present, if that makes sense, as opposed to hearing the tales that shaped their lives.
I also found the sequel easier to read because I already knew the characters, and as the story gained steam, I wasn’t losing track of which princess was which. (This was a problem for me toward the end of the first book, because when the action was really cranking up, I had to constantly slow myself down and make sure I understood which Hines’ character equated to which “real” fairy-tale character – which matters because of those interlocking backstories – what with three princesses and assorted stepsisters and mothers all kicking ass all over the place.) In Madness, Talia, Danielle and Snow all hold their own places from the start.
I’m glad to have crossed paths with Mr. Hines this year, and to have gotten back into the fantasy realm through his stories, and I’m looking forward to the sequels, and to sharing the series with Kelsey.
(On a semi-related note, his “20 Neil Gaiman Facts” – the literary equivalent of those Chuck Norris hyperbole lists – is one of the funnier blog bits I’ve read in a long time, and when it comes out on a T-shirt - yes, Neil’s given permission! – I’m all over it.)
Back in May, author Jim C. Hines was among the many incredibly friendly and cool people my daughter and I met at Penguicon 7.0. (Kelsey still cracks up over a disturbingly hilarious Sesame Street-related story he told during a Humor in Science Fiction panel.) I hadn’t heard of him before the convention, but after talking to him and hearing about the set-up of his book “The Stepsister Scheme,” I immediately added it to my To-Read list.
This summer, it grabbed Kelsey’s interest, too, especially when she read the first chapter one morning, since I’d left the book lying on the kitchen table. It’s good stuff: Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are reimagined as take-charge heroines, but the story goes well beyond just tweaking and spoofing the original fairy tales.