Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

What I read in 2013

In terms of quantity, I had kind of a lousy year in 2013: I only finished 11 books, and five of those (marked with asterisks below) were re-reads.

The list:

On the other hand: Quality. I really enjoyed all of them, and my six first-time reads were a nice mix of popcorn fun, mind-bending, gut-punching, and thought-provoking.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | Books, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A complete and total Redshirt-O-Rama

Redshirts John Scalzi

Image: Tor Books

John Scalzi’s new novel, Redshirts, comes out next week. You can read my review of the book over at GeekDad, along with an interview in which Scalzi talks about science fiction tropes and humor in the genre. Both posts were a lot of fun to write.

May 29, 2012 Posted by | Books, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2011 in (GeekDad) review

GeekDad reviewsI 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:

Gaming Fix: Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken

It’s A Craft Trap! The Star Wars Craft Book by Bonnie Burton

Fuzzy Reboot: John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation

Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer

Simon Pegg’s Nerd Do Well

The Transformers Vault: Treasures from Cybertron

The Snow Queen’s Shadow by Jim C. Hines

The Science Channel: Dark Matters

Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition

Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads by Kirk Demarais

Man in Black: Star Wars: The Complete Vader

Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C.

Doctor Who: The sixth series DVD set

The Millennium Falcon Owner’s Workshop Manual

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Television, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My GeekDad interviews of 2011

Two facts: One, contributing to Wired‘s GeekDad is, no question, one of the most fun things I get to do as a writer; and two, I’ve always loved the inspiration and energy rush that comes from talking with creative people about their imaginations, work and passion.

So when I get to do both of those things at the same time, well, it’s like sticking the equivalent of a plant nutrient spike into the nerdiest corner of my brain.

I wrote up four interviews for GeekDad in 2011:

From Monty Python to Mad to Manga: An Interview with Mark CrilleyDon’t forget, Brody’s Ghost, Volume 3  is set for a May release.

Please Don’t Stab John Scalzi in the EyeballsWe talked about Fuzzy Nation and geek parenting, and he shared a father-daughter anecdote which he later turned into a Penny Arcade comic strip.

Air Cars to X-Ray Spex - My friend Kirk Demarais has a blast pulling back the curtain on the real stuff in old comic book ads in his book Mail-Order Mysteries.

What’s Behind James Gough’s Cloak? – Great premise for a book, fantastic guy to talk to. You’re ever in the market for an extra kiloton of energy, spending five minutes with James will replenish your stores and then some.

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

John Scalzi and Fuzzy Nation

Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi It’s been a fun couple months: In late February, I received an advance copy of John Scalzi’s new novel, Fuzzy Nation, a reboot of the H. Beam Piper classic Little Fuzzy. A couple weeks later, I interviewed him about the project for GeekDad, and this week, I wrote a review of the book itself.

Fuzzy Nation comes out May 10, but if you want more than that out of me, you’re going to have to click on those links and read the pieces over at GeekDad.

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2010 in Books

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 Hunger Games and Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins. My first daughter-recommended science fiction reads. Proud parenting moment.

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.

PvP Levels Up – Scott Kurtz. Bought from the man himself at PAX East, signed & Scratch Fury-ed.

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

Quixote: A Novel – Bryan J.L. Glass. Adam introduced me to Bryan at the Pittsburgh Comicon in April. ‘Cause I’m a sucker for tilting at windmills and all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt

The Specific Gravity of Grief – Jay Lake. Reviewed this one for GeekDad, though I would have read it regardless.

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

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories – Mary Robinette Kowal. The only thing I didn’t like about this book? Too damned short. And I wish it could have included “Evil Robot Monkey”.

Red Hood’s Revenge – Jim C. Hines. The subject of another GeekDad review, and my favorite in his Princess series so far.

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

Clementine – Cherie Priest. Both of these are set in the world Priest created for Boneshaker, though neither is really a sequel in the strict sense. I like this universe.

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.

Little Fuzzy – H. Beam Piper. A classic of which I had no knowledge until Scalzi announced his upcoming take on the book.

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.

Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children – Trace Beaulieu (Illustrated by Len Peralta)

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.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A sound road ahead

I have extremely fond memories of family drives to Florida when I was a kid, sitting in the back of our van with a friend, each of us wearing Princess Leia hair bun-sized headphones which we plugged into boom boxes, in and out of which we shuffled tape after tape after tape which we’d bought at the local Camelot or Quonset Hut or blanks that we’d filled with songs recorded from the radio or MTV.

And while I do loves me some driving around and singing horrifically off-key, for the long road trips, I have spent most of the last 20 years preferring non-musical audio accompaniment for the journey. Not surprisingly, I can easily trace this back to the early 1990s, when the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back radio dramas were released on cassette and I fell in love with them immediately.

Then I started checking out old horror, mystery and science fiction radio broadcasts like Dimension X and Suspense! and The Shadow.

Not long after Jenn and Kelsey and I moved to Ohio and I took a job an hour from home which required a drive through East Rural NoRadioLand, I got hooked on audiobooks. And I mean really hooked: I had a library request in for the cassette edition of Green Mars well before the book’s release date, and as I listened to these,  I even started checking out titles based almost as much on the performer – George Guidall in particular – as the author.

Today, I’m packing up the mp3 files for the drive to PAX East.

The Star Wars dramas are still a favorite, and they’re great for the longest trips, lasting close to 15 hours if you include the much later Return of the Jedi addition to the series. But I can only listen to them once, maybe twice a year, really, and since Star Wars Celebration V is coming up in August, I’m holding off on them for now.

Wil Wheaton’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives audiobook would seem an obvious pre-convention psyche-up, and it’s a favorite, too, but my daughter and I just finished listening to it together within the last couple weeks, so I’m not ready to enjoy it again quite yet. Instead, I’ve grabbed a few Radio Free Burritos.

Being a fan of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe, I’ve also downloaded The Sagan Diary, which I’ve never read, and which comes with the bonus of being performed by some remarkably talented women, including Mary Robinette Kowal, whose own short story Evil Robot Monkey will also be making the road trip with me. Other pieces include an old Tor.com podcast and a reading of Jay Lake’s Metatropolis chapter, both of which I downloaded awhile back and never got around to listening to.

Finally, I’ve piled on some podcasts from The Retroist – I’ve already listened to the shows on E.T., New Coke, Asteroids, Vectrex and Tales of the Gold Monkey and as a former 1980s kid, every single one of them has been a blast.

Among those I selected for this trip is the episode about Thundarr the Barbarian, which means I can appropriately close this entry with: “Ariel! Ookla! We ride!”

March 24, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Infinite Cornfields – and Beyond!

You know what? Ohio’s a pretty nifty place.

Consider – thanks to the various quirks of life that bring people here (and hey, some people even stay!) – that photographer Kyle Cassidy, whose very cool “Where I Write: Fantasy & Science Fiction Authors in Their Creative Spaces” collection dropped my jaw awhile back, has just wrapped up a road trip through the state continuing that photo project.

And his notes and photos from the journey – they’re all worth reading – are a trunkful of “Damn that’s neat.” Stops across the state and visits with C.C. Finlay, Mike ResnickStephen LeighJohn Scalzi and Tobias Buckell, and then a swing up to Northeast Ohio for Catherynne M. Valente‘s weekend wedding. (She’s another author I discovered thanks to Penguicon – I absolutely love “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica.”)

Of course, now that I’m all geeked up about how many nifty people are milling around these parts, it just so happens that the Buckeye Book Fair is this Saturday in Wooster -  not too far from where Kelsey’s got a gymnastics meet…

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, Ohio, photos, science fiction, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seventeen Saturdays: Episode I

Today marks the first of my scheduled 17 consecutive long-run Saturdays.

Seventeen. Not a big number, really. (Heck, it’s already been 12 Saturdays since I started my freelancing career.) Still, for now it remains hard to wrap my head around the notion that I’ll be spending Saturday No. 18 resting and hanging out at JediCon WV, then waking up the next morning and making a go at my first marathon.

So, being Week Number One of the Hal Higdon novice marathoner’s  training plan, six miles were on the calendar for today. I plotted a 6.17-mile loop, loaded some podcasts on my player, and hit the road a little after 7:15 a.m.

I’ve never run with headphones, at least outside: Most of the time I’m on fairly rural, semi-hilly roads and I like to really be aware of what’s going on around me. And even on a treadmill, listening to music can mess with my pacing, so I’ve generally only used it for shorter runs where I’m trying to keep the adrenaline up and running hard.

That said, I’m facing a lot of miles over awfully familiar ground over the next four-plus months, and as gorgeous as I find the place where I live, well, sometimes, as we learn from Wesley in The Princess Bride novel, you’ve got to be able to take your brain away. I had a couple short podcasts my buddy Ivan had emailed me which I hadn’t gotten to yet, so he kept me company for a bit, and then – since I didn’t really plan ahead on this one – I listened to the latest “Car Talk” episode  from NPR.

I only plugged in one earbud, so I could still hear the world around me, but the audio player did make the run seem to go by more quickly. I’m on the lookout for other podcasts and radio shows – the Totally Rad Show‘s usually a fun listen, and there are a ton of classic sci-fi broadcasts of Dimension X and similar shows, which I love – but I also realized I’ve got a chance here to take in quite a few audiobooks (And dammit, will someone tell me why NONE of the three biggest library systems in Northeast Ohio have the Metatropolis CD ?!? Yes, I know the print version comes out next month, but two of the authors live here in Ohio and it’s a Hugo nominee, for the love o’Pete. Sheesh.), which I haven’t done regularly in the better part of a decade.

So, to finish the tale of the pavement: I didn’t really push myself on this run. It’s been a month since I’ve done anything over the five-mile mark, so I took it easy – even all the way through the finish – and wound up averaging about 9:30 per mile, finishing in just under 59-and-a-half minutes.

Sixteen Saturdays to go.

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Books, Fiction, Ohio, running, science fiction, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Penguicon leftovers: Reheated and still tasty!

Some of the stuff we brought home from Penguicon 7.0:

Two pieces of nondescript board which arrived at the convention as one piece of nondescript board. I figure I’m now appoximately one-fortieth of a level above No Belt, but still, it was pretty neat learning to put my fist through this.

“The Book of Biff Vol. 3: Fresh Toast,” and the postcard print that sold me on the cartoon from the start. It reads, “Biff realizes that it’s tricky to eat giant-squid noodles.” This also reminds me: Saturday morning (I think), Kelsey is chilling and reading the Biff collection. She turns on the TV to check the Penguicon channel, but lands first on a Care Bears cartoon. After about thirty seconds, she observes, without even cracking a smile, “You know, the Care Bears aren’t very good at problem solving.” We proceed to mock the Care Bears and this episode’s bad guy, who is either wearing giant mechanical battle armor or the new Master Chief Bear.

My registration badge. No, there aren’t any of those informative/funny/bizarre ribbons on it (check out this photo of Beaker to see what I’m talking about), but then, we were first-timers at Penguicon, and not volunteers or guests or room partiers, and we must have just happened to not attend any classes or panels where they were being given out. No big deal – though I do admit that we both loved the “Captain Hammer Threw A Car At My Head” ribbons, so bonus points to whoever distributed those.

Penguicon Program Book: Regularly folded up, rolled up, marked up and consulted.

Tobias Buckell‘s “Crystal  Rain.” – I read this last year, and met him at a book signing in Columbus where I didn’t actually have a book for him to sign, so I’ve owed him one. And it’s a great read. (It’s also a signed copy, which I didn’t realize until after I bought it.) John Scalzi’s “The Ghost Brigades” is here for the same reason – I brought it with me to have signed, since it’s my favorite chapter in his Old Man’s War universe.

Daniel Pinkwater’s “The Neddiad.” – This author has been on my radar for awhile, but I haven’t gotten around to reading him yet. This paperback was in one of the boxes of free books in the lobby. (Speaking of free stuff, I can’t find the sheet of Ubuntu stickers I picked up. And I’ve only gotten to cover one tiny Windows symbol so far!)

A bookmark promoting Jim C. Hines‘ “The Stepsister Scheme,” which he signed in lieu of the book which I failed to pick up prior to the signing and which I still need to go buy because he was such a friendly and hilarious guy.

Munchkin Bites and two Munchkin bookmarks – We’ve played twice since returning home (I’m now batting .333 vs. Kelsey, having finally won a game), and while I’ve been thinking we need to pick up some big 10-sided dice for level counters instead of the poker chips we’ve been using, I just found these and will be doing some downloading later.

We didn’t take a ton of pictures, but here are a few. I’m pretty sure I like this one the best:

May 6, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, linux, Science, science fiction, Travel, Web/Tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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