Friday, December 23, 2016

My best books of 2016

Other people give regular reviews of what they are reading, or pick their best books of the year, which I enjoy reading, so I am doing the same in the hope that you will too.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith

I thought this was a book from last year, but I'm glad to say I was reading it at the beginning of this year as it's my favourite book of recent years and I wanted to mention it. It's set in 7th century Britain and follows the early years of Hild who later became Hilda of Whitby. There's not a lot known about her, so it's mostly fictional, though there's a lot of historical detail that Nicola's taken to get right. It follows her from when she was young into her teenage years. She's seen as a seer and so has more power than a child or a woman might have at that time. She needs to decide what to do with it though. Her foreseeing powers are played very straight, there's no magical realism here, yet she impresses others with those abilities.

I struggle with complex plots, and I must admit I got lost in the battles and politics of the time, but I just let it flow by and grabbed onto the things that I could get ahold of when they came up. Fortunately Nicola is planning a follow-up book as there is a lot more to come in Hild's life.

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day

A very honest account of how Felicia Day became internet famous with her web show, The Guild, and then life beyond that. She tells it in a very humorous and engaging way, as if she was speaking to you. Near the start she describes her unconventional education, including going to College before she was 18. She covers how she was overwhelmed with the work involved in doing The Guild, and also attacks by the trolls for being a female gamer.

Mother of Eden, by Chris Beckett

This is book two of a trilogy, so you'll really want to start with Dark Eden. What I say applies to both books. It's set on a planet a few generations after people first landed. No technology has survived and so they are living a primitive life, adapting to the strange flora and fauna. It's told from several points of view, which is unusual, but it gives a wide view of the story. There are differing points of view between the conservative and adventurous people, but no sense at all that one side is really good and bad. This book is set a few generations after the last one and the single society has fractured into different communities who are now spread out on the planet. I'm looking forward to reading the third book soon. Chris Beckett is a lecturer in social work, and so I wonder how much of his professional experience has fed into the characters in this book. 

You can see all the books I've read for the past few years on my librarything page. I've read well-known books like The Martian, but it's no surprise that I liked it, along with many other people. Those three are the ones that stood out as I look back.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It's a good time to like SF, TV and cinema

In his (mostly) spoiler free review of Rogue One (I just typed Rouge One - that's a very different film!) John Scalzi says:

In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable.
Picking up on his remarks on the original - yes it was pastiche-heavy, but George Lucas brought SF to the cinema, and for that I am eternally grateful. Since then we've had plenty of effects heavy SF films, but we've also had some more subtle ones - Bicentennial Man, A.I., that one where the guy is on the Moon in an all white moonbase. On TV there seem to be a number of US based TV series which involve space travel, but for a really good programme which has some of the familiar tropes around artificial intelligence and what it means to be human, I've really enjoyed Humans on Channel 4. It's a good time to be around.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How to write an article

  1. If you search "How to write an article" on Google there are 293,000,000 results.
  2. dictionary.com defines an article as "a written composition in prose, usually nonfiction, on a specific topic, forming an independent part of a book or other publication, as a newspaper or magazine".
  3. Dave Barry said:
    "In the past decade or so, the women's magazines have taken to running home-handyperson articles suggesting that women can learn to fix things just as well as men. These articles are apparently based on the ludicrous assumption that men know how to fix things, when in fact all they know how to do is look at things in a certain squinty-eyed manner, which they learned in Wood Shop; eventually, when enough things in the home are broken, they take a job requiring them to transfer to another home."
  4. This YouTube video is a song about articles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIJt_A0JVts
  5. Here's a personal anecdote: I once wrote an article.
  6. Not everyone gets irony.
  7. Show don't tell.