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Where I’ll be (rest of 2013)

Mostly I will be at home, but not everyone has heard the rest of my plans, and it might be relevant to some of you, so:

I am going to Farthing Party at the end of this month in Montreal. I will show up the Wednesday before and depart the Wednesday after the Farthing Party weekend itself. J’aime Montreal. So many lovely places to return to, so many lovely places I haven’t been yet. And Farthing Party itself! Which is full of excellent monkeys but not in such bulk as to be unmanageable! Hurrah. Am excited. I already have one dinner plan. Poke me if you’re going to be there too and want something else definitive in that time.

I am also going to a family wedding in the Hudson River Valley in mid-October. I will not be going through New York City this time, just in and out of a little local airport a bit further north than NYC. Last time we were going to the Hudson River Valley, we wanted to stop off and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Which I loved, and which I bet I still love. But NYC traffic I do not love, and this trip is all about the family wedding, and since it’s a fairly short-notice wedding, we are not planning any kind of tours or visiting of NYC friends around it. Sorry to be so close and yet so far for some of you.

I will not be going to the Minn-StF fallcon this year, and this is no fault whatsoever of the concom. Fallcon is fun. You should go if you like fun. But following one round of very active con-like participation at Farthing Party and one set of family stuff, this year’s fallcon comes just too soon for me to plan to spend the energy. There is really nothing additionally fun the concom could have done to make this interesting to me; I was already interested. I just have not been overflowing with energy of late, and that’s already kind of a lot.

I will also not be going to World Fantasy Con or Sirens, although neither is off the table for future years when I have different time/energy commitments.

I have no idea where we will be for Boxing Day and beyond, but the odds are fairly good it will be somewhere in the upper Midwest that is not here. I am not in sole charge of that decision, and it’s unlikely to result in visits for any friends, given the other parameters and priorities–that’s Christmas with Mark’s side of the family, which means maximizing niece-time.

And now you know.

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Girl Meets Books.

This is an old old story. Boy meets girl in Science Fiction lit class. Boy mentions his love of Iain M. Banks; girl catches a ride with a friend to a different city to buy one and talk about it. Boy shoves stack of additional Banks novels at girl with shy hope. They start dating.

In the first few months they’re dating, they trade a great many books, like boys and girls and non-binary-gendered young persons do when they are nerds in love. What he lends her, in great bulk, is: Charles Sheffield, Iain M. Banks, Frederik Pohl, C.J. Cherryh. (Her list is a bit younger.) And since you know this story in one form or another, you won’t be surprised that it was Mark, or in other words, reader, I married him. I just…keep thinking about that list. Gee, for some reason.

I’m going to go reread Gateway now, but if any of you know C.J. Cherryh personally, can you, like, send her a fruit basket and invite her on a nice walk or something? Remind her to stretch while she’s writing and look both ways when she crosses streets. It would be creepy coming from me, but I’d just like to take a precaution. I’m a champion worrier, and I’m starting to feel a bit worried.

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All the baby tapir you could ask for.

The Minnesota Zoo has a new baby tapir, and she is so cute. I mean, sure, other people’s baby tapirs are cute, but…well, okay, she looks very much like them. But imagine how cute that is! With the watermelon mottling and the wee snout!

Oh wait! You don’t have to imagine. Because Tim has been taking pictures of her. You can see hundreds of adorable baby tapir pictures on his baby tapir photos Tumblr. If you’re one of those people saying, “Eh, what’s Tumblr for, really?”, the answer is here: baby. Tapir. Photos.

And then! You can get some of the best of them in high-quality art prints, or in sets of equality high-quality cards to send to your near and dear (or your distant and disliked–it’s not up to me where you send them). Because he’s having a Baby Tapir Blowout Sale! Now until September 12.

Tapir tapir tapir. So cute. I had been thinking of her as Hosey-nose, as an homage to the Hilary Casson books, but she needs a better name than that. The children at the zoo with Tim on Saturday thought perhaps Torpedo, and I have been going with that. Because she is a concentrated missile of mottled cuteness shooting through the water (or air).

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Books read, late August

Paul M. Barrett, Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun. I do not have a particular interest in guns, but like Doctor Worm in the TMBG song, I’m interested in things, and weapons often illuminate other aspects of the culture they’re in. This was not a terribly deep book, nor was it highly illuminating about other cultural aspects. Worse, the author had moments of sexism that were completely unnecessary to the microhistory, just popping in gratuitously and declaring themselves in a bright and perky way: “Hi, I’m sexism!” And then me, wearily: “Hi, sexism.” The thing I would say here is that if you’re interested in the flaws and drawbacks of a gun, read a microhistory of a similar gun, because dang. From the ones I’ve read, it really looks like the sort of people who write gun microhistories are not even slightly interested in being even-handed. Either that or all previous guns really did point death and despair solely at their owners. But from this and the AK-47 history I read, you’d think it was at Monkey’s Paw levels.

John Bierhorst, The Mythology of North America. This is an overview of myth types rather than an exhaustive compendium. It has maps carefully labeled with where Raven stories take which forms. It is useful. He also has two other volumes, one on South America and the other on “Mexico and Central America,” so if you were looking at the North America one in hopes of getting Aztec and Mexica mythologies, you would be disappointed. I was not. More a jumping-off point than a last word.

Sarah Cross, Dull Boy. Okay, I know titles are hard. And I get why she thought this title fit the story. But seriously, Dull Boy? DULL BOY? The kid’s superhero name isn’t even Dull Boy. It’s a step back from that, more thematic and all. And…you cannot name your book Dull Bo-. It’s too close to Dull Book. And this was not a dull book. It’s a teenage superhero story that actually gets pretty well into teen friendship dynamics, so if you have social embarrassment buttons, this will probably press them. My main complaint other than the title was that the ending was so very set up for sequels that it felt like the resolution was almost completely undone in the denouement, and then…there are not sequels, apparently. Sigh.

Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. I am sort of at a loss for how to talk about this book, because in some ways I think the premise is best if you let Fowler unfold it at her own pace. It’s sharp about family and humanity. It’s one of those books that’s less science fiction and more fiction-about-science. I like both. I like this.

Roger A. Freeman, Mustang at War. Grandpa’s. History of a particular plane mostly in WWII. Lots and lots of pictures. Probably not of great interest unless you’re specifically into Mustangs (as planes as opposed to cars or, y’know, horses).

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Neil is going to get asked a lot of personal questions about this book, poor man, but it’s his own fault, I expect. The nameless narrator does not get to do a lot of protagging compared to the much more interesting family at the end of the lane, and the ending…either assumes a Neil Gaiman semi-biographical element or only gives you resolution for the least interesting character in the book. So no wonder he’ll be asked questions.

Ken Kalfus, Equilateral. Another fiction-about-science book. This one was about the late Victorian plan to inscribe giant geometric figures in the northern African desert so that the Martians could see them. (Yes, the plan was a real thing, even though they didn’t manage it.)

David I. Kertzer, Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes’ Secret Plot to Capture Rome from the New Italian State. This was aimed at chipping away at my ignorance of the unification of Italy. I currently don’t know much about the unification of Italy and find the entire thing rather hazy and confusing. I suspect that after another six or eight books, I will know a fair amount about the unification of Italy and be able to definitively explain why it really is hazy and confusing. That’ll be much better. Anyway, there is quite a lot of Victor Emmanuel and quite a lot of Pius IX, and that seems useful, and I was hoping for a bit more Garibaldi, but you can’t always get what you want. Useful piece of the puzzle.

Eve LaPlante, American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans. Recommended. Anne Hutchinson was really a lot of trouble, and her family was also quite a bit of trouble. They were sort of proto-Quakers in several key ways, and the way that she (with their support) changed the American colonial landscape is really worth a read. It will also demonstrate that the phenomenon of “any word I don’t like can be applied to people I don’t like regardless of content” is not at all new.

Bruce Levine, The Spirit of 1848: German Immigrants, Labor Conflict, and the Coming of the Civil War. Every time I get to thinking I have a handle on what’s been erased in the standard schoolbook version of American history, I get to a book like this one and have another forehead-smacking moment. Among other revelations: it turns out it wasn’t only women with British Isles surnames doing the heavy work of first-wave feminism GO FIGURE WHO KNEW. Ahem. Sorry. (But Mathilde Franziska Anneke! You can look her up!) But seriously, the systematic removal of German-American contributions from standard texts looks like it’s the crappy residue of the World Wars. I knew the ’48ers had to have contributed to the mid-century American zeitgeist, and this book goes into some detail–with disagreeing factions! and divergences!–about how. And Levine does a great job of debunking the historians who want to use the refined student stereotype of ’48ers–can you believe that in many studies they were figuring that anyone who had economic reason to depart Germany could not possibly have been “political”? Aughhhhh, and also thank you, Bruce Levine, for the debunking. Lovely book, very important.

Caroline Moorehead, Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era. There is a trend that confuses me in nonfiction, and that is giving background in a book as though it might become a breakout popular history, read by people with no knowledge of its era or people, when no particular likelihood of that seems to be present. Seriously: if you don’t have an interest in Revolutionary-through-mid-19th-century France, how likely are you to say, “Ooh!” and pick up a biography of Lucie de la Tour du Pin? So why was this book filled with all sorts of rehash of the basics of the French Revolution? Interesting historical figure, interesting life, but this volume…well, I hesitate to say who this is for, since the people who would mostly find it interesting are also more likely to find it slow and frustrating.

Dmitri Nagishin, Folktales of the Amur: Stories from the Russian Far East. Beautiful, beautiful book. I am so very much not visually oriented, but these gorgeous illustrations made even me linger. And the stories themselves were different and fun. One of my best birthday presents this year. If you can find a copy anywhere, snap it up.

Phoebe North, Starglass. Generation ship YA SF. Sympathies do not go where they initially seem like they might. The warping and rediscovery of Judaism on an intended-Jewish generation ship was particularly well-handled, I thought, but this should be of interest to people without a particular interest in Judaica also. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Phillip F. Schewe, Maverick Genius: The Pioneering Odyssey of Freeman Dyson. It is so very strange to read the biography of someone you know personally. And it’s not that I think Schewe necessarily got Freeman wrong, it’s just that…okay, I guess I take for granted the intelligence of the people around me. (I guess, huh?) But when I think of Freeman, first I think “sweet-natured” and second “shy” and third “curious” and only far down the list do I get to “smart.” Whereas for Schewe, it really ended up sounding like he was a bit intimidated by Freeman’s intelligence. Anyway, interesting book about an interesting man, good addition to biographies of 20th century scientists, not automatically in sympathy with its subject and his foibles every time. (This is important in any biography, but in the biography of someone amazing like Freeman who has also made some amazing mistakes, it’s particularly crucial.)

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Murder at the Savoy. Not a particularly satisfying Swedish murder mystery novel, definitely not their best. The resolution hinged on a particular plot trope I never like. Meh. Don’t start here, and unless you’re deeply committed to the series, you can probably skip this one.

Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, The Hostage Prince. I had heard an excerpt from this at their reading at Minicon, so I was pretty sure I would like it, and in fact I did. The tone is humorous without being insubstantial, and the different Faerie groups are great fun. This is a series that’s not attempting to tell a complete story in each volume, so the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but I’m willing to keep hanging around here until the next volume comes out.

Sarah Zettel, Golden Girl. Zettel’s Depression-era fairies have gone on from the Dust Bowl to Hollywood. I agreed with my friend Diatryma that the ending was not as interesting/compliation-producing as it could be. But other than that, I really enjoyed this, the second volume in another trilogy that is not trying to tell independent stories with each volume. I’m a sucker for the 1930s, and I’m glad to see Zettel using them full force in these books.