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In Summer 1995, I picked up a book in a bookstore in Keene, New Hampshire where I worked before heading home for the weekend.

I was enticed by the Stephen King blurb.

I lived nearly 180 miles north in North Troy, Vermont.

Now, I didn’t always start books right away, but this one I was really looking forward to. In its own weird way, it changed the course of my life. Two years later, I’d be working as an immunology software engineer, though I ultimately decided not to pursue the additional degree(s) needed for more work in that particular field.

The blurb?

“The first chapter of The Hot Zone is one of the most horrifying things I’ve read in my whole life—and then it gets worse. That’s what I keep marveling over: it keeps getting worse. What a remarkable piece of work.” —Stephen King

Richard, then my partner and later my husband (not to be confused with Rick, my husband of 14 years) marveled that I was able to read the book in bed, turn off the light, and go to sleep. And stay asleep.

It’s not that I didn’t find the book terrifying. I did. It’s just that, for me, those horrors were so much worse than what I’d imagined, my own fears began to subside.

Before reading The Hot Zone, The Coming Plague, A Dancing Matrix, and other related works, I was always very fearful and squeamish about things medical. I was the kid who ran and hid under the doctor’s desk when it was time to get a shot.

I couldn’t watch a surgery scene on TV or in a movie. Just couldn’t.

After Richard died, I found myself watching a show about organ transplantation, showing transplant surgery, less than a week after I’d donated his organs. My neighbor wanted to make sure I was really okay with it. I was, which surprised me. I still avoid surgery scenes in movies and TV, but I’m not as horrified by them as I used to be.

I’d taken astronomy and geology rather than biology so I wouldn’t have to dissect anything. In Vermont, I finally took biology and the only things they made us dissect that first term were black flies. I hated them so much by that point (nasty, painful welts from bites if you didn’t know), I looked forward to stabbing them.

Eventually, I realized it would be a really long time before I could get through a Ph.D. or an M.D./Ph.D. program, so I decided to focus on the Master’s degrees I wanted.

But still, that book changed the course of my life.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Reading Audiobooks

For years, I never really thought about what verb to use when reading audiobooks. I discuss my shift in verb usage from “listen” to “read.”

Mary Robinette notes some good things for the future of audio-first books:

Last year, she was disqualified for Best Novelette in last year’s Hugo Awards because it was audio first and the posted story on her blog had some small staging directions. Thus, the administrators ruled it would qualify in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Sadly, it lacked the number of votes to make the nominating cutoff in that particular category.

This year, it was published on Tor.com and won Best Novelette.

A few months ago, I had a conversation on Twitter with Colter Reed. He said he’d “read” an audiobook, and the usage stuck out to me.

Audiobooks are really taking off, and a lot of people read them. (See what I did there?)

I’ve moved away from them myself, for various reasons, mostly that I tend to remember books better when I read them by eye rather than ear.

I’m very aware, as my very literate father’s eyesight has degraded, that reading a book with one’s eyes is a privilege not everyone has.

Some people prefer audiobooks for other reasons, like making a long commute easier.

Still, it’s a book—or a story—and we “read” those.

Accordingly, my usage of the term “read” has changed.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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I’m not a book marketer, okay? But I do know how you can sell books to me, and I’ve worked in a bookstore, so I know how things work at the other end, too.

Sell to where the reader reads (and shops).

There’s a book I’d like to buy, but it’s only available for Kindle (which I read on my iPad). My main ebook library contains 829 books (all items I bought; I have been buying ebooks since 2005). How many Kindle books do I have?

24.

One of them is QF32, which is an awesome story.

So, when I’m looking for books to read, where am I looking?

Not in my Kindle library. I never think of it unless I happen to remember it’s there. When I buy a Kindle book, I read it right away, and never think of my Kindle library again unless I want to read another book I can’t get another way.

Every book on the digital shelves I peruse, meaning my not-Kindle library, is an advertisement for your next book. I have lots of bookcases there, and I sort my books. I keep most of the books I’ve read (or re-read) in the last year on my iPad. Books are small.

If you want me to think of your book, remember your book, remember it the next time I’m looking for another book to read by an author I liked (and, honestly, I’ll like your book better if I get to read it in an application where the font choices don’t annoy me), then you’ll make the choice to sell it in one of two ways:

  1. Through Apple’s iBooks.
  2. Non-DRMed through another vendor (e.g., Nook, Smashwords, your own website) so I can sideload it into iBooks. This means it’s got to be an EPUB, which isn’t the Kindle format.

And yeah, I could de-DRM the books and convert them using a piece of crap usability nightmare like calibre, but I’d actually like to use the remaining hours of my life for something actively, you know, useful. Plus it only works for one of the two underlying Kindle formats, and I can tell you that the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction is of the other format.

Frankly, most people won’t bother with this. They shop where they shop, and if it’s there, it’s there, and if it’s not, they don’t buy it.

Every fucking time I have to go to the Kindle store to buy a book, I’m annoyed, and that’s not how you want me to feel right before I start reading the sample for your book. I will sometimes buy books without having read a sample on iBooks, but there’s NFW I’ll consider it for Kindle.

On the other hand? If I want to read a piece of trash and never have it sully my iBooks library again…. Ever bought that thing you’re completely embarrassed to have? Hate to be reminded of it every time you look at items “Not in My library”? Filed a feature request for a “Never Let Us Speak of This Again” button? (Unless, you know, you’re overtaken by insanity and you actually want to hear Duffy again. And by Duffy, I mean the meh solo works by Stephen Duffy, not the rather awesome Welsh singer.)

Well, my Kindle library is a great place for that kind of book, even if it’s available on iBooks. Just so you know what kind of company you’ll be keeping in those 24 books.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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The Hugo Awards

Best related work: Fic by Anne Jamison, a history of fanfiction.

Best fan artist: Randall Munroe. Last cartoon of the year is 1311 and first of 2013 was 1155 (thank you @xkcdfeed). Three of note: 1158 (it’s all about physics), 1167 (Star Trek Into Darkness), 1177 (Time Robot). For those who feel he isn’t eligible, he was ruled eligible in 2011 and the rules have not changed. Further discussion here.

Best dramatic presentation, short form: Flying Tiare by Matthieu Courtois and Ludovic Allain. Made as a fan film for the airline’s 15th birthday, it’s a real look at the technology and work of commercial flying. The really cool part, though, is seeing someone go up into the jet engine and get to see the (running) engine from the inside.

I’d already posted a recommendation for: Short story: “The Slow Winter” by James Mickens, so just a reminder.

The Cambellian Anthology

The 2014 Cambellian Anthology is out! It features 860,000 words (eight-ish novels in size) from 111 different writers who are eligible for the Campbell award this year. Totally, completely free.

I want to offer my immense gratitude to Stupefying Stories for this. More than any other single award, I try to be well-read for the Campbell, and it used to be a real chore before Writertopia started keeping the eligibility list. Stupefying Stories took it to the next level with the clever idea to have an annual anthology.

Also, immense gratitude (and props) to the authors and publishers who’ve permitted their work to be included.

Special shout-out for Brooke Bolander, who is one of the eligible.

Addendum

Best dramatic presentation, long form: Sharknado. As billed. Loved it, and I’m not normally up for this kind of thing. Definitely smarter than it had to be.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Finally got around to reading this post, The Women We Don’t See.

Last year, my reading habits shifted as I was looking to publish in another genre. As that genre happened to be romance, I read a whole bunch of female authors (some of whom may be female in pen name only, granted). To my knowledge, none of the authors I read last year fit in a non-binary category, though some of the works I read did.

Books read: 243
Books by female authors: 220
Books by male authors: 28

91% female authors

(Sum is greater than total because of co-authors, e.g., Witt & Voinov.)

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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As a side note to the whole SFWA bulletin issue, I wanted to specifically comment on the assertions that romance novel covers are all about beefcake covers. (I’m traveling, so really can’t get into the larger issue without context I currently lack due to poor Internet at sea.)

Here are the covers of the last 25 erotic romance novels I’ve read, in order (most recent to least). As an interesting point, the Maya Banks series has been re-covered since I read the first book in the series 3 or 4 years ago. Then, they had a woman in lingerie on the cover, but now have a black cover with inoffensive fruit. Which, really, is a WTF? for me, but I’m guessing it sells better. Yay for e-readers not showing the cover on the back of the device.

image

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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We’ve accumulated a ton of books through various conventions and have run out of shelf space. So here’s what a quick read of page 1 and page 119 helped cull.

For books with prologues, I use the first page of the first chapter as my page 1. If page 119 isn’t a full page, I use the closest full page.

You shouldn’t assume that a book is bad or good because of my answers. This was merely a “do I think I’d enjoy spending the time with this book?” test. I read almost exclusively in e-book these days anyway, so I’d probably get the samples of the e-books to see if I wanted to finish reading the book.

Yes to both

Gabaldon, Diana: Outlander, but print’s too small, so I’d read it in an e-book
Scholes, Ken: Lamentation
Lima, Maria: Matters of the Blood
Hanover, M.L.N: Unclean Spirits
Lindskold, Jane: The Buried Pyramid (good thing since my copy is signed)
Gross, Dave: Prince of Wolves. However, the title implies wolves, and I don’t like wolves, so I’m passing anyway.
Evans, Chris: A Darkness Forged in Fire
Marquardt, Michelle: Blue Silence
Cadnum, Michael: Can’t Catch Me
Higgins, Peter: Wolfhound Century
Knight, Francis: Fade to Black
Kadrey, Richard: Sandman Slim (Her voice is like honey and heroin.)
Devoti, Lori: Amazon Ink
Habel, Lia: Dearly, Departed (but: it’s a zombie novel, and I don’t like it enough to overcome my dislike of zombie novels)
Shea, Michael: The Extra
Lackey, Mercedes and Mallory, James: The Phoenix Endangered
Cooper, Brenda: Mayan December
McKinley, Robin: The Door in the Hedge
Williams, Sean: Cenotaxis
Kimberling, Nicole: Turnskin
Ogawa, Issui: The Lord of the Sands of Time

Yes to page 1 but not 119

Abraham, Daniel: A Betrayal in Winter
Goodman, Alison: Eon
Myklusch, Matt: The Accidental Hero (lots of leading, but why not larger type and less leading?)
Parker, K.J.: The Hammer
Bennett, Robert Jackson: Mr. Shivers
Greenwood, Ed: Falconfar
Tryon, Thomas: The Other
Hill, Laurel Ann: Heroes Arise

No to page 1

Cunningham, Elaine: Winter Witch. Paragraph 1 was a non-starter for me
Abraham, Daniel: An Autumn War
Teppo, Mark: Lightbreaker
Sutter, James L: Death’s Heretic
Adrian, Lara: Kiss of Midnight
Downum, Amanda: The Drowning City
Weis & Hickman: Secret of the Dragon
Farland, David: Chaosbound
Williams, Tad: Shadowmarch
Pierce, Meredith Ann: Birth of the Firebringer
Langan, Sarah: Audrey’s Door (partly the annoying typography)
Destefano, Merrie: Feast
China, Cinda Williams: The Gray Wolf Throne
Duncan, Hal: Escape from Hell! (annoying layout doesn’t help)
Saunders, Charles: Imaro
Anderson, James G. and Sebanc, Mark: The Stoneholding
Keck, David: In the Eye of Heaven
Hodgell, P.C.: The God Stalker Chronicles

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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It’s possible you haven’t seen this fine bit of rap from Annabelle Quezada, La Shea Delaney and company.

Lyrics are here and a note about author choice is here.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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I rarely review books for various reasons, though I do keep some notes about which ones did and didn’t work for me in various ways. However, these are more the notes of a writer than a reader and are specific to what I’m trying to work on at the time.

So, with that in mind, here’s two samples I’ve read recently, and I’ll try to make this a semi-regular feature after I polish off a few. With each one, I’ll include a quotation.

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee is a book about cancer, as one might guess from the title. I heard Mukherjee speak and decided to check his book out, it just took me a while to get around to it.

Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells—cancer in one of its most explosive, violent, incarnations As one nurse on the wards often liked to remind her patients, with this disease, “even a paper cut is an emergency.”

For an oncologist in training, too, leukemia represents a special incarnation of cancer. Its pace, its acuity, its breathtaking, inexorable arc of growth forces rapid, often drastic decisions; it is terrifying to experience, terrifying to observe, and terrifying to treat.

I’m definitely buying this one.

Kook by Peter Heller is a non-fiction by a man who, coming back from writing a book about Tibet’s deepest gorge, has a crisis of what to do next and so decides to take up surfing.

Most sports, at first entry, balance the initial strangeness and difficulty with immediate rewards. In kayaking, you launch down your first riffling whitewater, take the first little waves over your bow, feel the speed like a revelation as the current tongues into a smooth V between rocks. You may dump and swim but you’ve had that rush. Skiing is the same; the bunny slope gives you that first alien and wonderful sense of slide and acceleration, though you may not know how to stop or turn.

Everything works this way except surfing.

Surfing is one of the only pursuits on earth that can drub you into numb exhaustion and blunt trauma time and time again and give you nothing in return; nothing but sand in your crotch, salt-stung eyes, banged temple, chipped tooth, screaming back, and sunburned ears—gives you all of this and not a single stand-up ride. Time and again. Day after day. Gives you nothing back but tumbles, wipeouts, thumpings, scares. And you return. You are glad to do it. In fact, you can think of nothing you’d rather do.

I’ll also be picking this one up, but this quotation did remind me why I gave up surfing.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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This is going to be a rambly post, and I can't help it.

It's about why I think Thor is the best of the summer superhero movies (though I haven't seen Captain America yet), why Kij Johnson's story "Ponies" is incredibly awesome (and, given that it's been nominated for a Hugo, a Nebula, and now a World Fantasy award, apparently others agree with me), and why I felt so emotionally raw after reading the story of Kyrax2's Batgirl at San Diego Comic Con.

Oh, and why I think Harry Potter resonates with so many people. Read the opening of HP1. It's all about the need to belong.

That's probably not everyone's core issue, but it certainly was mine. My nickname was Weirdre. I was always "the weird kid." Eventually, I learned to embrace that, but for many years, I didn't like the othering phrases used to describe me. Then, in high school, I dated someone who read science fiction. His name was Lynn, so he was quite used to othering. Anyhow, that's how I got into SF.

It's not so easy for me to identify why I stopped reading comics. I read comics until I was about 30. My best friend, Dino (may he rest in peace), read a lot of comics, so it was an activity we shared. When I moved away, I sold my collection and was never tempted to pick any up again. Honestly, though, I never thought the art was all that. I never thought the writing was all that. I stuck with it long past the point where I'd have done it on my own, and I did it partly out of loyalty to a friend. I'm kind of sad that I didn't continue that tradition when he was dying of AIDS, but I'd lost my ability to relate to the genre.

Kyrax2's interview made me realize: I didn't lose my ability to relate to the genre -- the genre was never for me nor about me. As I grew up and out, there was nothing really for me to grow into. Instead, I really lost my love of not just comics, but all cartoons. People can say, "Oh, you should see this cartoon, it's hilarious!" I go look, and invariably I ask myself, "Srsly? Hilarious?" My ability to relate to cartoons or comics at all completely broke -- except, apparently, for Randall Munroe and the occasional w00t t-shirt.

That I dedicated so much of my energy throughout my life to a genre that, well, thinks women are unimportant -- that hit me hard last night.

Which brings me to Thor. Yes, I know, a lot of you who saw the movie or read the review probably wondered if I lost my mind up there in the second sentence, but I'm absolutely serious.

In the opening of the movie, Natalie Portman's character is a scientist. She has a hypothesis about the occurrences she's recording. Men tell her she's idiotic for believing said hypothesis (throughout the movie), but she remains steadfast, and she is right. Yes, the science is preposterous, but I totally get why Natalie Portman, who has an Erdös number (and an Erdös-Bacon number of six, the same as Richard Feynman) found that role appealing to do. She's a geek. I'm a geek. The movie has more than one female geek. We relate to the movie in that way.

How else am I supposed to relate? I never had a pony.
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This is going to be a rambly post, and I can't help it.

It's about why I think Thor is the best of the summer superhero movies (though I haven't seen Captain America yet), why Kij Johnson's story "Ponies" is incredibly awesome [note: may be very disturbing to people who've been bullied] (and, given that it's been nominated for a Hugo, a Nebula, and now a World Fantasy award, apparently others agree with me), and why I felt so emotionally raw after reading the story of Kyrax2's Batgirl at San Diego Comic Con.

Oh, and why I think Harry Potter resonates with so many people. Read the opening of HP1. It's all about the need to belong.

That's probably not everyone's core issue, but it certainly was mine. My nickname was Weirdre. I was always "the weird kid." Eventually, I learned to embrace that, but for many years, I didn't like the othering phrases used to describe me. Then, in high school, I dated someone who read science fiction. His name was Lynn, so he was quite used to othering. Anyhow, that's how I got into SF.

It's not so easy for me to identify why I stopped reading comics. I read comics until I was about 30. My best friend, Dino (may he rest in peace), read a lot of comics, so it was an activity we shared. When I moved away, I sold my collection and was never tempted to pick any up again. Honestly, though, I never thought the art was all that. I never thought the writing was all that. I stuck with it long past the point where I'd have done it on my own, and I did it partly out of loyalty to a friend. I'm kind of sad that I didn't continue that tradition when he was dying of AIDS, but I'd lost my ability to relate to the genre.

Kyrax2's interview made me realize: I didn't lose my ability to relate to the genre -- the genre was never for me nor about me. As I grew up and out, there was nothing really for me to grow into. Instead, I really lost my love of not just comics, but all cartoons. People can say, "Oh, you should see this cartoon, it's hilarious!" I go look, and invariably I ask myself, "Srsly? Hilarious?" My ability to relate to cartoons or comics at all completely broke -- except, apparently, for Randall Munroe and the occasional w00t t-shirt.

That I dedicated so much of my energy throughout my life to a genre that, well, thinks women are unimportant -- that hit me hard last night.

Which brings me to Thor. Yes, I know, a lot of you who saw the movie or read the review probably wondered if I lost my mind up there in the second sentence, but I'm absolutely serious.

In the opening of the movie, Natalie Portman's character is a scientist. She has a hypothesis about the occurrences she's recording. Men tell her she's idiotic for believing said hypothesis (throughout the movie), but she remains steadfast, and she is right. Yes, the science is preposterous, but I totally get why Natalie Portman, who has an Erdös number (and an Erdös-Bacon number of six, the same as Richard Feynman) found that role appealing to do. She's a geek. I'm a geek. The movie has more than one female geek. We relate to the movie in that way.

How else am I supposed to relate? I never had a pony.
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I'm tired today (thanks to the 5:11 a.m. phone call), and thus I'm just going to link to the Laughing Squid post.
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I read RSS through the application Pulse on my iPad. It has a reblog option.

The items I've added, largely from tech and science sites, can be found at desamo.pulsememe.com.

None of the text is my own, btw, just things I pressed the heart icon on when I was surfing in the morning.
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First off, this isn't really a review of either the book or the movie, but it's a list of some of what I perceive as significant differences between the book and the movie and why I think they do or don't work. I saw the movie first, so that colors my perception; in general, I prefer the movie to the book.

Numbers in brackets are page numbers, and I may link to Midnight Sun page numbers for Edward's (or other characters') POV, so those will be preceded by MS, e.g [MS 3-6]. You can read the incomplete draft of Midnight Sun here.

Point of View Changes )
The Revelation )
Edward's Motivation )
Miscellaneous )
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I'm about to do a Twilight-the-movie vs. Twilight-the-book post, but first some context.

Once upon a time, a few months ago, Rick and I saw a preview for Twilight. I wanted to see the movie; he didn't. At the time, I didn't realize it was based on a book because I've had my head in the sand about new novels, especially in YA.

You see, many people stop writing after Clarion. I stopped reading fiction. It became almost impossible to read fiction without hearing the collective voices of my class whispering, and by the time that was no longer true, I'd gotten out of the habit.

Since then, I've read slush, incomplete manuscripts from various writing groups, and all kinds of other things, but I honestly can't remember the last time I sat down post-Clarion and read a novel all the way through unless it was a book I was required to read in some context. Many books I read a chapter or two into, put them down, and never picked them up again. Terry Pratchett was the latest of these.

I've never been someone who is particularly fussy about prose style. Sure, I have my likes and dislikes, and I love brilliant stylists. That said, I don't necessarily prefer to read brilliant stylists; I'm not a brilliant stylist myself. I'm much fussier about structure.

So it happened that Rick didn't want to see Twilight when it came out. I was hunting for a ring tone on iTunes, and somehow got to the top ring tones page, and noticed that Supermassive Black Hole from the Twilight soundtrack was #1. This being one of my favorite songs, I had to see the movie to see how it was used.

I was, quite frankly, charmed by the movie, which has a screenplay by the writer of Dexter, some excellent directing, and some better-than-expected acting and effects, along with cinematography and score that are significantly better than I expected. Plus there's always Robert Pattinson, who seems to have a gift for comedy.

I'd heard it was quite different than the book, so I picked up a copy of the book at Kepler's -- and read it in five hours flat. 500 pages. Within a week, I'd also read the other three, and all but the last I read in a single sitting.

So I'm hoping that, for me, this means that I'll just be able to enjoy books like I used to.

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