Cornfield Meet

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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.

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

Guest post: “100 Stories for Haiti” creator Greg McQueen

Today – meaning Feb. 25, because even though it’s before midnight here, it’s already Thursday over in Europe –  I’m turning Cornfield Meet over to the inspired and ambitious Greg McQueen, whose brainspark got the “100 Stories for Haiti” fire going in the first place. And because he clearly has no need for sleep, the guy’s in the midst of “blog tour,” writing about the book for various sites and talking about different angles of the project, to which I contributed a story called “The Painting.”

Read on for a glimpse into the process of bringing an 80,000-word book from concept to finalized reality in just a few weeks:

Thanks for letting me graffiti your blog, John.

If you’re just joining this blog tour, you can catch up HERE and HERE … Oh, and HERE.

Today I want to talk a little about how we handled submissions and chose the 100 stories for the book. As you can imagine, it was a huge task, and I have to admit that I didn’t have as much to do with it as I’d wished.

To give you a rough idea how big a task it was … We had 420 submissions within about a week. Each submission, on average, was at least 800 words, so that’s about 336,000 words that needed to be read within a matter of days.

When I started the project, I fully expected to be hands-on with the story selections. However coordinating everything — answering emails, arranging stuff with the publishers, sorting out agreements for the authors, plus a million things that I never expected would be part of producing a book — took up most of my time. I read as many of the stories as I could, but the real credit for making sure that each and every submission was read goes to Amy Burns and the team of volunteer editors.

So, I want you to get up now and give them a standing ovation. They deserve it. They all worked their wobbly bits off to make this book happen.

Okay. Thanks. Be seated and read on.

We started out with about 25 readers and editors. Everyone gave as much time as they could spare. I set up a special web forum for everyone to work in. For the geek-a-trons among you, we used Basecamp from 37 Signals. I chose Basecamp because 37 Signals like to create products that don’t need a manual (and they come pretty darn close!). They also have a system called Writeboards, which are amazing for writers because they save every version of a document. So, it made it easy to encourage readers to correct typos as they found them because we could always rollback to a previous version of the story if needed.

The way we initially vetted submissions was simple. I described it to one of the editors as the literary equivalent to a wrestle-mania smackdown. Each story had to be read three times, and each person had to vote, Yes, No, or Maybe.

2 x Yes = Stays for the next round.

2 x No = Knock out.

2 x Maybe = Stays for the next round.

There were disagreements and discussions over pieces, which was where I stepped in. The original spec for submissions was 1000 words, any genre, no massive death-destruction-violence, feel good stories – the kind that makes you tell grumpy old men that life really ain’t that bad. We had to compromise on the specs a bit, not too much, though.

As the submissions dwindled to about 150, Amy volunteered as Head Editor, and whip-cracked to get those submissions down to 100.

This was where encouraging readers to make corrections as they found them really paid off because we ended up with stories that needed little or no corrections. Amy and a team of about five core editors then re-read and re-edited the remaining 100 stories to get them close to publishing standards.

I’d be lying if I said that I’d planned the whole thing. I started the 100 Stories for Haiti project because I wanted to help. I didn’t sit down and think it through at all … If anything, my plan was that I had no plan. I felt that many of the people involved in the editing process were experienced writers and editors. I told them from the start that I had this crazy notion that they’d be able to just roll up sleeves, knowing the kind of stories that we were looking for, and do what they do best — read and edit, choose stories that resonated with them, and fight to have them included in the book.

Odd thing is … Turned out I was right.

You’re going to read/hear me say this a lot during this blog tour. It’s because I am proud of the book. I want people to read it. More importantly, I want people to buy it. Not because I want a best-seller of some sort, simply because I think it’s a cracking read, made by a talented and dedicated team of writers and editors who want nothing more than to raise money for the Haiti Earthquake and Disaster Recovery appeals. Here goes …

100 Stories for Haiti comes out as an ebook and paperback on March 4th, 2010. The paperback costs £11.99 + P&P. It is available to pre-order here: http://www.100storiesforhaiti.org/buy-the-book

Tomorrow, the blog tour takes me  HERE and will feature a few more extracts from the book.

…..

Thanks for stopping by, Greg!

Okay, so, to sum up: Buy a book that The Gone-Away World author Nick Harkaway describes with the phrase “the sheer weight of unrefined awesome contained within these covers,” and all the proceeds go to the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti, because every bit of time and work going into 100 Stories has been donated. (And yes, for those of us living outside the United Kingdom, the shipping costs don’t come cheap: If that’s an issue – which I totally understand – buy the electronic version: It’ll be coming out via Smashwords the same day as Bridge House releases the paperback, March 4.)

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, science fiction, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pre-order “100 Stories for Haiti”

Thanks to the timely arrival of some funds in my PayPal account, I just ordered my paperback copy of  100 Stories for Haiti.

100 Stories for Haiti

The paperback edition from Bridge House Publishing in the UK is set for a March 4 release, and there’s a Smashwords electronic edition on the way, too.

This is such an amazingly cool worldwide effort, and if you don’t believe me, check the list of author bios, which is not only jaw-dropping in its diversity but has introduced several new writers and books to my own must-read list.

Still on the fence? Consider this bit from Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World:

“Of course, while giving is, according to a recent scientific study, more pleasurable and healthy than receiving, it can become a bit burdensome after a while — especially if you can’t see the real time effects of your gifts. That’s where this book comes in. The writers and publishers will do the actual giving, and you just have to buy some really great stories which you would, of course, have rushed to buy anyway because of the sheer weight of unrefined awesome contained within these covers.”

So you get 80,000-plus words of good book, and all the proceeds go to the Red Cross’ relief efforts in Haiti.

Now, here’s what you do: You can go to the 100 Stories for Haiti site and order from there, or to the Bridge House site and order from there. If, like me, you’re ordering from the U.S., since the book project is UK-based, you’ll need to buy through that little button/option marked “Rest of World” or “ROW” (a note of caution: I very nearly ordered an extra UK-shipped edition due to a default setting somewhere that put both an ROW order and a standard order in my PayPal cart, so play close attention). And PayPal automatically handled the pounds-to-dollars conversion swimmingly, I say.

Also, tell a lot of people about it.

February 16, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

100 Stories for Haiti

Check out the 100 Stories for Haiti anthology project, sparked and organized by writer Greg McQueen in Denmark, and all sales of which will benefit the Red Cross and its relief efforts in Haiti. Nick Harkaway, who wrote The Gone-Away World, contributed a story and the introduction (and no, nobody’s getting paid for this – the stories are all donated); Smashwords is producing the e-book version, and Bridge House Publishing will handle the paperback.  (On Facebook? Here’s the project’s page – spread the word!)

I read about the effort on John Scalzi’s blog the same day as the initial submission deadline and managed to get a story in under the wire. Pretty much forgot about it over the weekend, but Monday’s email brought me word that my piece was selected!

The entire 100-story list is here, and it’s a crazy-global roster, from Harkaway to The White Road and Other Stories author Tania Hershman to Botswana writer Lauri Kubuitsile. And  Alasdair Stuart, the host of Pseudopod is on there, too. (Edited to reflect the fact that Alasdair popped in to confirm that’s him.)

With so many voices and styles, it should be an interesting read, which, yes, I realize is hardly the point here, but I’m awfully excited about playing even a small part in a project which has the potential to do a lot of good.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, science fiction, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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