Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Random Thought - Four Dollars Worth of Books

This post is going to be a little bit of gloating, a little bit of an explanation, and a whole lot of love. What you see in the picture to the right is four dollars worth of books. Or at least, it is the number of books that the redhead and I recently purchased for four dollars at a library book sale.

I have written on this blog before about my love for library book sales, so it should come as no surprise that last Friday the redhead and I took a short trip to a nearby sale following up on an advertisement on the website Book Sale Finder. We knew we were going on a day when they were having a bag salem, so we brought a little cash and were prepared to spend an hour or two going through their selection and figuring out which books we already had and which ones we didn't (I have a tendency to buy books that I already own if I don't take a spreadsheet with me when I go book shopping). In my experience, one can expect to pay something on the order of five to ten dollars per bag of books, but when I walked up to the table the volunteers had set up, they were almost apologetic when they told me that they were charging one dollar per bag.

People sometimes ask me how one acquires a collection of thousands of books - the collection the redhead and I have amassed is just over eleven thousand books - and this sort of luck is a part of it. But it isn't really luck, because this sort of thing happens when one goes to book sales on a regular basis. Most of the time you show up, you buy reasonably cheap books, and you walk away having spent some reasonable amount of money for a reasonable number of books. Other times you get there and you just happen to be in the right place at the right time. I have had this happen before, when a library book sale had science fiction and fantasy paperbacks in flat fruit boxes and was selling them at a dollar a box. That time I bought everything they had and left with something like 1,200 books for around thirty-five dollars.

I wasn't quite so willing to buy out this library book sale's stock, and they didn't have that many books to begin with, but once I knew how little they cost, I became far less selective than I normally am. They had about seven flat fruit boxes of paperbacks and a smattering of hardcover. I ended up buying about half of their mass market paperbacks and a handful of their hardbacks and trade paperbacks. I am pretty certain that I unintentionally bought some duplicates of books I already have. I know that I bought duplicate copies of a few books I already owned, but in those cases the copy for sale was in better condition than the one I owned already. For example, I know I have a copy of John Varley's Ophiuchi Hotline, but my copy is beat all the hell and the cover is close to falling off. So I got a new copy that is in good condition. Similarly, my copies of Dune Messiah and Heretics of Dune are both pretty mangled. I got new copies of those as well. I bought one book twice at the sale, but that's the risk one runs in these situations. In the end, I wound up coming away from the sale with one-hundred and sixty-six books for my four dollars.

I figure that even if half of the books are unintentional duplicates (which seems reasonably likely), I'll end up coming out ahead. After all, the cost per book was in the two and a half cent range, so even if half are books I don't need that will only push the total up to something like five cents a book, and that seems like a pretty good deal to me. The most important thing about most of these books isn't that they were inexpensive. No, a lot of them are books that I probably would have bypassed on most days. Instead, I have a pile of books that I can now read and maybe find new storytellers and new stories that I might have missed otherwise. Some of the books are by authors who are unfamiliar to me, but are good enough at their craft that they have apparently managed to have several of their books published. Other books are parts of one or another extended multi-author series that I have never read. Others are books by authors that I know well, but I haven't read that particular title of theirs. And so on. The real point here is that there is a lot of new material for me to read in these boxes, and I am quite looking forward to it.

Random Thoughts     Home

Monday, July 17, 2017

Musical Monday - Amanda by Boston


Continuing with songs that are associated in my mind with specific people that I know., here is Amanda by Boston. There isn't really much to this other than the fact that I know a woman named Amanda, and whenever I see her, this song simply pops into my head unbidden. I still don't really know how common this quirk of mine where certain people are associated with songs based on their names actually is, or what it might signify, but it seems at least moderately interesting to me.

This song is actually kind of interesting, mostly because of the band that produced it and its position with respect to that band's overall oeuvre. Boston was one of the most successful bands of the 1970s, with their debut album Boston sporting numerous hits that still receive heavy airplay on "classic rock" stations, and a follow-up album Don't Look Back that was even more successful, with its own set of hit songs. Amanda, however, was on the band's third album, titled Third Stage, that wasn't released until 1986, ten years after Boston came out, at a time when Boston was more or less considered to be almost passe. And the odd thing is that Amanda became the band's most successful hit record - and as far as I can tell is the only single they recorded to ever reach number one on the Billboard Top 100. If you ask a typical music fan to list the most notable songs by Boston, they will probably reel off names like More Than a Feeling, Peace of Mind, Don't Look Back, Feelin' Satisfied, or even Rock and Roll Band, Party, or The Man I'll Never Be long before they even think of Amanda. All of those other songs have stayed in people's minds with much more tenacity than the song that was seemingly the most loved when it was released.

As a band, Boston seems to be plagued with a lot of odd misconceptions like this. I have had numerous people confidently assert to me that even though the band's debut album was a wildly successful album, they were never able to really build on that success, and every album after the first was a flop. The trouble with this narrative is that Boston's debut album topped out at number three on the album charts, while Don't Look Back and Third Stage both reached number one (although, to be fair, Boston had more staying power than either of the following two albums). Sure, the band never again had an album that sold as many as the seventeen million copies that Boston did, but calling an album that sold seven million copied (as Don't Look Back did) and another that sold four million copies (as Third Stage did) complete failures seems to be a bit harsh. It has, however, apparently taken root in the public consciousness that Boston was a one-album wonder, which seems decidedly unfair to the band, but is something that is unlikely to change.

Previous Musical Monday: Angie by The Rolling Stones

Boston     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Book Blogger Hop July 14th - July 20th: Archimedes Was Killed During the Sack of Syracuse in 212 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What is your go-to drink and/or snack while reading?

I don't really know that I have a specific drink or snack that I associate with reading. Most of my reading is done basically when I am not committed to doing something else, so I spend a lot of time reading on the bus, or while waiting for something, or in between other things, or just on a Saturday afternoon because I don't have anything that keeps me from it.

I suppose my "go-to" drink for reading would be Diet Mountain Dew, but that's only because that is pretty much my go-to drink for everything. For a snack, I don't know, something on crackers maybe? I'm fond of peanut butter on crackers, and I've found a pimiento cheese brand that is flavored with bacon that makes for a good cracker spread. Maybe peanuts, because those are easy to eat with one hand.

Most of the time, however, I'm not really in a position to have a particular drink or snack when I am reading, so I'll probably just end up with whatever happens to be on hand if I'm feeling peckish.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review - Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee


Short review: Tasked with putting down a heretical rebellion within the Hexarchate that has caused calendrical rot, Kel Cheris convinces her superiors to revive the insane dead General Jedao. If that sounds kind of incomprehensible to you, be warned that reading the book only makes it a little bit clearer.

Haiku
Calendrical math
Makes exotic things happen
Immortality

Full review: Ninefox Gambit is a work of military science fiction in which the science fiction is almost incomprehensible, and the military actions are only slightly less so. That said, it is a beautiful book that is not really hampered by the weirdly exotic world that it drops the reader into, and this weirdness is handled so well that by the end, it almost feels natural. Despite the alien strangeness of the setting, the story told in the book is fundamentally almost ordinary, and that manages to root the book in such a way that even with exotic calendar based math warping reality, there is enough that is familiar to hold onto that the story doesn't dissolve into impenetrability. One of the fine lines that science fiction authors have to walk is the balance between presenting a world in which technology and culture are different enough from ours that it feels at least somewhat alien, but not so different that the fictional reality has ranged so far from the familiar that it is effectively unintelligible for the reader. In Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee flirts with this line, standing right at the border where the setting would become entirely baffling, and occasionally stepping across for just a little bit, but for the most part remaining just shy of mystifying.

The central conceit of the novel is a brand of mathematics exists called "calendrical math", and by using it one can determine which collection of variables need to be controlled in order to change the way physics works, allowing for a variety of "exotic" technologies that are dependent upon this shared belief system. The government under which the various characters in the book live is the "Hexarchate" and it enforces a rigid calendrical orthodoxy of festivals, remembrances, and torture sessions to power the technologies that underpin the authority of the ruling Hexarchs. Deviations from the calendrical observances are treated as heresies and ruthlessly stamped out. Technology that does not depend upon calendrical math is called "invariant" technology, and is represented as generally being less effective than the calendrically powered "exotic" technologies - and with one notable exception none of the "invariant" technologies are ever really described. The "exotic" technologies are only described in slightly more detail than that: We get names like "Amputation Gun", and "Threshold Winnower", and "Carrion Gun", and a couple of dozen descriptions of various battle formations, but with the exception of the obvious effects some of them have, the technology is never really given any substantial definition.

Some have said that Ninefox Gambit is about calendrical math, but that does not seem to be entirely accurate. There are lots of references to calendrical math in the book, with discussions of people doing computations and the effects of maintaining or not maintaining the calendar, but there is no actual math in the book. To a certain extent this is to be expected - after all, if Lee knew how to do calculations that would reshape the laws of physics, he would be publishing ground-breaking academic papers, not writing fiction. On the other hand, when science fiction authors introduce heretofore unknown technologies into their stories, they usually try to give the reader some general idea of the parameters under which those technologies operate. Calendrical math, however, seems to have no limitation at all, which I suppose might be the point, because once you posit a particular technology that can alter the very fundamental elements of reality, all bets would seem to be off. This gives the book a pervasive sense of unreality, as the central conflict involves putting down a heretical faction that has cropped up and instituted their own calendar with an associated competing set of technologies. Since what is possible with calendrical math is never really explained, the reader really has no grounding in what is possible in this conflict, and as a result, must be content with simply gliding along as the various interested parties explain what is happening as it happens and satisfied with never really understanding exactly why.

One thing that is certain is that the political structure that makes up the Hexarchate are both instrumental to and supported by the maintenance of the orthodox calendrical arrangements. The nation is divided into six factions, each with a defined role within society. The Kel are the soldiers, and are imbued with "formation instinct", which causes them to reflexively follow orders. The Shuos are spies, assassins, and information brokers. The Nirai are mathematicians and creators of the exotic technologies that flow from the calendrical math used by the Hexarchate. The Rahal are the magistrates and judges, charged with enforcing civil order. And so on. Each faction has its place in society, and each member of a faction has a defined role to play. The incomprehensibility of the technology is almost entirely irrelevant to the book. While it is weird to read a book that is basically military science fiction in which none of the actions taken by the various forces involved make any sense because the technology they are using relied upon odd patterns of behavior and geometrical configurations that are never given any more detail than a fanciful name, the simple fact is that all of this exotic technology is just a way to explain the existence of a society that is so rigid that the deadliest heresy is allowing people to have choices.

The core story involves Captain Kel Cheris, a member of the Kel faction of the Hexarchate, whose use of unorthodox formations in response to having heretical weapons deployed against her unit has called attention to herself, leading to the Shuos Hexarch selecting her for a team to evaluate the best way to suppress a heresy that is causing calendrical rot at the heart of one of the most important regions of the Hexarchate in the key position of the Fortress of Scattered Needles. Cheris' proposal is to revive the dead and insane Shuos General Jedao and have him plan the attack that will allow the Hexarchate to retake the fortress intact and reimpose the proper calendrical order. This is a daring and dangerous idea: Daring because when he was alive, Jedao never lost a battle, and dangerous because in his final engagement he killed off the enemy and then turned on his own troops, slaughtering them to a man. The part of the plan that Cheris was not really prepared for is that to revive Jedao, he has to be attached to someone living, and that someone turns out to be her, creating what amounts to private a dialogue between the long-dead General and the living Captain (who is pretty quickly breveted to General for the operation). One might think that such an intimate relationship would engender candor, but like pretty much everyone else in the Hexarchate, Jedao plays his cards extremely close to the chest, even with someone who is literally the only person who can hear him. One problem with books in which intrigue is a major part of the plot is that the author runs the risk of withholding too much information from the reader because the characters would withhold information from one another, resulting in a story in which, from the perspective of the reader, things seem to happen almost at random. Ninefox Gambit doesn't quite sink to that level, but it comes close, and when this is combined with the almost inscrutable nature of calendrical math, the events in the book frequently seem almost haphazard.

For all of the exotic trappings, the story itself is fairly ordinary, although it does have some interesting twists: Rebels rise up against what appears to be a fairly oppressively harsh regime, forces are sent to bring the heretics to heel, various players have their own personal agendas they are trying to advance, and there are a couple of betrayals and reversals to spice things up. The heresy at the center of the story is the revival of the Liozh, a seventh faction that used to exist when the Hexarchate was the Heptarchate before they experimented with democracy and the calendar was revised to remove them. It seems notable that both the Liozh heresy and the creation of Kel formation instinct didn't take place until after Jedao had died the first time, but like all things in this book with its ever shifting reality, this is only an impression and there isn't really anything concrete to base that upon. The one somewhat unique question that seems to loom large in the background, but which is only hinted at, is whether it is possible to have anything resembling what we would recognize as a free society in a world in which calendrical mathematics exists. One can only hope this will be addressed in a future installment of the series.

Ninefox Gambit is a fascinating, confusing, and ultimately frustrating book. In it, Lee posits a strange alien society based upon a technology that is fairly off-the-wall and uses this setting to tell a story that feels oddly comfortable. While Lee never quite reaches the point where the story dissolves into complete chaos, the combination of bizarre technology, an alien society that underpins that technology, and pervasive conspiratorial machinations definitely serves to bring it to the brink of anarchy. There is a lot to love in this book, but there is also a lot that seems to simply whirl about without much rhyme or reason. This seems like a book that people either find interesting, or find absolutely intolerable. The real difficulty is figuring out which kind of person one is, and there's really no way to do that short of trying to read the book. That said, I am the sort of person who found it interesting, and as a result, I think it is definitely worth picking up.

2016 Locus Award Winner for Best First Novel: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
2018 Locus Award Winner for Best First Novel: TBD

List of Locus Award Winners for Best First Novel

2017 Clarke Award Nominees
2017 Hugo Award Finalists
2017 Locus Award Nominees
2017 Nebula Award Nominees

Yoon Ha Lee     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, July 10, 2017

Musical Monday - Angie by the Rolling Stones


As I mentioned last week, there are people who I associate with songs, mostly due to their names. Angie, by the Rolling Stones, is one song that fits in that category. I'm not going to explicitly say who this song is associated with in my brain, but it won't be all that hard for most people to figure out.

The odd thing about these associations is that they crop up without my really thinking about them, and most of the time the content of the song is irrelevant - only the use of the name triggers the association. I have no idea what this quirk might mean, but it is kind of interesting to me, because I've never met someone else who has a soundtrack like this running through their head all of the time.

Subsequent Musical Monday: Amanda by Boston

The Rolling Stones     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review - Monstress, Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda


Short review: Maika gives herself over to her greatest enemy to find out about her own past. Things more or less go downhill for almost everyone from there.

Haiku
Nothing but a girl
But maybe so there's much more
A monster within

Full review: The most important thing to know about Monstress is that it is, quite simply, a beautiful book. Yes, it has an intriguing story. Yes, it has a collection of interesting characters. Yes, it has an exotic and almost ethereal setting. But the one defining feature of this book is that it is full of some of the most beautiful artwork to be found in a graphic novel. It is also a brutal and gripping story about a young woman who is more than she seems, and the harsh and unforgiving but beautiful, and at times dazzling, world that she lives in.

As the first book in a new series, Awakening is heavy on world-building and character development, and somewhat light on plot development. That isn't to say that there isn't a story here, it is just that the story is, for the most part, used to give exposition and background relating to the overarching conflict to set the stage for the story of the main characters rather than delving into the stories of the characters in the book. The basic framework is that the world is divided into two regions, one controlled by humanity and the other controlled by the mystical "arcanics" who are essentially a collection of various mystical beings, some of which look almost human, while others have wildly exotic forms. Humanity is dominated by the Cumea, a religious organization of warrior -nuns possessed of mystical powers whose mission seems to be to rid the world of arcanics, while the arcanics are divided into two ostensibly allied groups: The Dusk Court and the Dawn Court. The two sides were at war in the past, but are now settled into an uneasy, watchful peace kept mostly because the Cumea were frightened by a powerful weapon the arcanics used to end the last conflict between the races.

Complicating matters somewhat, there are a trio of other races in this world, the most prominent of which is the sneaky and inquisitive cat race, identifiable by the many tails. The cats believe themselves to be the oldest (and most important) race, although most everyone else in the story seems to think of them as dangerous nuisances who are not to be trusted. One of the interesting conceits of the story is that every so often the book steps away from the narrative for a little time in the classroom with a cat professor giving a lesson on the history of the world and its inhabitants. The other two races in the setting are the beast-like Ancients and the enigmatic and terrible Old Gods. The Ancients seem to bear more than a passing resemblance to ancient Egyptian deities, and their indulgence in human sexual partners is apparently the reason for the existence of arcanics. The Old Gods are Lovecraftian entities, inscrutable and horrific who were driven from the world in ages past, much to the relief of all of the other inhabitants of this fantasy realm.

The opening page of Monstress shows the story's protagonist, an arcanic named Maika, naked and seemingly vulnerable, about to be sold as a slave before one of the warrior-nuns of the Cumea claim her and several other arcanics for sale as "donations". This apparent helplessness is deceptive however, and serves as a metaphor for much of the book. Maika is, in actuality, the most dangerous person in the room, possessed of a secret that makes her a threat to everyone around her. This theme is replicated in several other points throughout the book - the cute and cuddly looking multi-tailed cats are actually crafty spies, wise lore masters, and deadly assassins, the Cumean warrior-nuns despise arcanics and yet depend upon them for their abilities, and so on. Time and again, what is presented on the surface is inverted when one looks below the surface, a fact that looms large when one realizes exactly what Maika's secret is, and what it might mean for both her and the rest of the world around her. One might note, however, that these are only impressions: One gets the feeling that none of the viewpoints in the book are entirely reliable, and some are clearly engaged in outright deception.

Despite being a beautifully illustrated book, Monstress is quite a dark story. The book's tone isn't quite "grimdark", but it is just shy of it. The Cumea are quite ruthless as villains, and there are several sequences that are not merely violent but are over the top in their savagery. What makes these scenes truly chilling is that they are often undertaken by the characters in an almost casual manner - highlighting the fact that for the Cumea, for example, dissecting arcanic children and harvesting their organs is simply another task in a routine day's work. But it isn't merely that the villainous Cumea are given to vicious actions and offhand betrayal of their own, but so are their opponents, raising the question of whether any of the competing factions in this fictional world are actually "good guys". To be blunt, this book pulls no punches when it comes to depicting the depravity to which people will sink if they believe that their enemies are not even people. Even Maika displays an almost shocking level of callousness at times, and of course, the dark secret she holds is deadly to those around her - a fact that she hides even from many of those well-disposed to her, with some fairly tragic consequences. This isn't a story for the faint-hearted or for those looking for some light entertainment. It is a book about a terrifying monster who behaves like a terrifying monster and is still the most admirable individual in the story.

In the end, however, everything about Monstress comes back to the artwork. The story is brutal and dark, the protagonist morally suspect, the villains horrific, and the scenario makes everything seem dire, but it is all done so beautifully that it is impossible not to be carried right into the story. The lush depictions create an atmosphere that pervades the book with an almost perfectly ghastly allure that is both enticing and repellent at the same time. All of the elements of the story are well-done, but without the feeling of desolate magnificence that results from the depicted scenes, the parts would merely add up to an average final product. The artwork, however, elevates this book well above the ordinary, filling it with an ominous sense of dread that is both frightening and delicious.

Subsequent book in the series: Monstress, Volume Two: The Blood

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

Marjorie Liu     Sana Takeda     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Book Blogger Hop July 7th - July 13th: Publius Cornelius Scipio and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus Both Died Fighting the Carthaginians in 211 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: In one sentence, describe your passion for reading.

"There's a myriad of worlds in there just waiting for you to go and visit them."


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review - The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

Essays Included
Persistence and the Long Con of Being a Successful Writer
I'll Make the Pancakes: On Opting In - and Out - of the Writing Game
What Marketing and Advertising Taught Me About the Value of Failure
Taking Responsibility for Writing Problematic Stories
Unpacking the "Real Writers Have Talent" Myth
Some Men Are More Monstrous than Others: On True Detective's Men and Monsters
Die Hard, Hetaerae, and Problematic Pin-Ups: A Rant
Wives, Warlords, and Refugees: The People Economy of Mad Max
Tea, Bodies, and Business: Remaking the Hero Archetype
A Complexity of Desires: Expectations of Sex and Sexuality in Science Fiction
What's So Scary About Strong Female Protagonists, Anyway?
In Defense of Unlikable Women
Women and Gentlemen: On Unmasking the Sobering Reality of Hyper-Masculine Characters
Gender, Family, Nookie: The Speculative Frontier
The Increasingly Poor Economics of Penning Problematic Stories
Making People Care: Storytelling in Fiction vs. Marketing
Our Dystopia: Imagining More Hopeful Futures
Where Have All the Women Gone? Reclaiming the Future of Fiction
Finding Hope in Tragedy: Why I Read Dark Fiction
Public Speaking While Fat
They'll Come for You . . . Whether You Speak Up or Not
The Horror Novel You'll Never Have to Live: Surviving Without Health Insurance
Becoming What You Hate
Let It Go: One Responding (or Not) to Online Criticism
When the Rebel Becomes Queen: Changing Broken Systems from the Inside
Terrorist or Revolutionary? Deciding Who Gets to Write History
Giving Up the Sky
What We Didn't See: Power, Protest, Story
What Living in South Africa Taught Me About Being White in America
It's About Ethics in Dating
Hijacking the Hugo Awards
Dear SFWA Writers: Let's Chat About Censorship and Bullying
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: On Empathy and the Power of Privilege
Rage Doesn't Exist in a Vacuum
Why I'm Not Afraid of the Internet
We Have Always Fought: Challenging the "Women, Cattle, and Slaves" Narrative
Full review: The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of thirty-six essays by Kameron Hurley that mostly focus on what it means to be a woman in "geek" spaces plus an introduction and an epilogue. Many of these essays have previously been published on various online outlets, but they have been compiled here in one place, which has both beneficial and detrimental effects - putting them all together serves to reinforce many of the themes that Hurley hits upon, but it also means that the fact that she reuses some anecdotes and arguments is easy to notice. A few of the essays were written especially for this collection, and those are, in large part, some of the strongest in the volume. Through all of these essays, Hurley delves into a wide array of topics related to writing, life with the internet, feminism, and modern geekishness, with a commentary that is biting, incisive, witty, and insightful.

The essays in the book are grouped into four broad categories titled "Level Up", "Geek", "Let's Get Personal", and "Revolution". Each section deals with a broad topic like "professional writing" or "being a woman and a nerd" or "how to navigate the internet as a woman", although these are not hard and fast demarcations. Not all of the essays neatly fit into one or another grouping, in part because many of the essays have overlapping topics, but also in part because some of the other essays wander down paths that are entirely unique. One minor weakness of the book is that this is a compilation of essays, many of which appeared independently of one another, so there is no real coherent unifying theme, and they don't really build on one another. Rather, each essay mostly stands on its own - and builds its arguments pretty much entirely within the confines of the essay (which leads in some cases to arguments being repeated), The end result is a moderately disjointed final product, but the somewhat scattershot nature of the contents means that the book that does manage to explore a broad spectrum of the topics that Hurley is passionate about.

The first section - "Level Up" - is the shortest, with only five essays, all about becoming a professional writer. Persistence and the Long Con of Being a Successful Writer, is fairly standard essay about what it takes to become, and remain, a successful published author, and seems almost generic in its advice. On the other hand I'll Make the Pancakes: On Opting In - and Out - of the Writing Game, details the unique, and exhausting travails faced by women working in the publishing industry, a theme that recurs in multiple essays in the volume. The most interesting essay in this section, and the one that probably draws most deeply upon Hurley's unique perspective is What Marketing and Advertising Taught Me About the Value of Failure, in which she uses her experiences working in the advertising industry to offer an interesting perspective upon how to achieve success. Both Taking Responsibility for Writing Problematic Stories and Unpacking the "Real Writers Have Talent" Myth are fairly straightforward essays on topics that have been written about by numerous other authors, but like all of the pieces in this book, these display Hurley's personal perspective and are presented with a modest amount of snark, a lot of harsh truth, and a dash of brutal honesty.

The next section is titled "Geek", but most of the essays really zoom in on what it is like to be a woman who is also a geek. This is also the longest section, with the largest number of pieces in it. Essays such as Some Men Are More Monstrous than Others: On True Detective's Men and Monsters, Die Hard, Hetaerae, and Problematic Pin-Ups: A Rant, and Wives, Warlords, and Refugees: The People Economy of Mad Max detail how fiction so often glorifies and celebrates what amounts to monstrous behavior, oftentimes smacking female fans in the face in the process. Hurley's tone through these essays is often not so much "anger" as it is "exasperation", as she notes the few times that a creator has understood the toxic messages that pervade so much fiction and run against that trend, and how these voices are so often simply ignored in favor of the lazy ans sexist version of storytelling that has become so comfortably familiar.

From there, Hurley launches into a series of essays concerning gender in fiction, and how both women and men are presented in problematic ways, starting with Tea, Bodies, and Business: Remaking the Hero Archetype and running through Gender, Family, Nookie: The Speculative Frontier. In this set of essays, Hurley recounts how she fell in love with genre fiction, but how it systemically excludes women and systemically presents men in ways that excuse or even glorify monstrous behavior. The tone in these essays generally runs from "resigned" through "enraged", and in most cases justifiably so. Hurley lays out the problematic aspects of fiction in general, and genre fiction specifically, and then proceeds to flense away all of the tired excuses and half-assed justifications that are used to prop up these problematic tropes and lays bare the sexism at their core.

The key to Hurley's criticism, however, is that she loves genre fiction, and not only wishes it were a more welcoming space for women, but actively advocates for the kind of awareness that would make genre fiction more informed and, one would hope, better. The remaining essays in this section, starting with The Increasingly Poor Economics of Penning Problematic Stories through Where Have All the Women Gone? Reclaiming the Future of Fiction mostly deal with the problems in fictional representations, and why changing these tropes would both improve the fiction itself and open them up to a broader, hitherto ignored audience. The best essay in this group is Making People Care: Storytelling in Fiction vs. Marketing, which is about exactly what the title says: How does an author (or advertiser) get people to care about something. Once again, Hurley draws upon her experience working in the advertising industry and explains how this informs her fiction writing for the better.

For the most part, the essays in this collection are better the more closely they draw upon Hurley's direct experience, and as a result, when taken as a group the essays in the section titled "Let's Get Personal" are probably the best in the volume. In an unsurprising twist, these essays all intensely personal, detailing why she likes the fiction she likes in Finding Hope in Tragedy: Why I Read Dark Fiction or describing the experience of being a larger woman on a public platform in Public Speaking While Fat, or simply reflecting upon what she gave up to achieve the success that she has achieved in Giving Up the Sky. The best essay in the entire volume is The Horror Novel You'll Never Have to Live: Surviving Without Health Insurance in which she details her own health issues and how the healthcare system in the United States failed her as it failed so many others, drove her to make decisions that she would not have otherwise made, and essentially dictated the course of her life for some years. Hurley also maintains that the ACA essentially saved her life and ensured that no one else will have to face these same sorts of issues in the future, an assertion that seems a bit premature given recent political events.

This section also contains the most problematic essay in the volume, titled Becoming What You Hate in which Hurley tackles the subject of the pseudonymous blogger Requires Hate, who also used the moniker Winterfox, but whose real name was revealed to be Benjanun Sriduangkaew. At the time Sriduankaew's alternate identity was revealed, she was an up and coming writer, and what made the revelations notable was that as Requires Hate she had become known for vitriolic reviews of fiction, and also issuing a number of rape and death threats at those she considered to be insufficiently attentive to various issues dear to her heart. In her essay on the subject, Hurley compares Sriduankaew's anonymous online persona to an alternate persona that Hurley herself had created when she was a young woman in which she posed as a male writer. By using this sort of comparison, Hurley isn't really excusing Sriduankaew's campaigns of online harassment, but she is definitely soft pedaling them, and that is something of an issue. One can see why Hurley wants to downplay Srinduankaew's vile behavior as Requires Hate, as she had discovered (and loved) Benjanun's fiction before the revelation of her dual identity was made public. One can also see Hurley's point that several prominent male authors have gotten away with similarly bad behavior. The element that is somewhat disappointing about this essay is that else where in the book - both before and after this essay - Hurley has taken a strong stance against harassment and abuse, but here she tries to elide past it when it comes to Sriduankaew using many of the same rhetorical tactics that she had stridently rejected elsewhere.

The contrast between the essay and the other pieces in the volume is highlighted in stark relief by just the other essays on similar topics within this section such as They'll Come for You . . . Whether You Speak Up or Not and Let It Go: One Responding (or Not) to Online Criticism in which Hurley speaks eloquently about the volumes of hatred and harassment that are dished out to anyone of note online, and especially the extra helping of gendered abuse served up to anyone who dares to be a vocal woman on the internet. The difference in tenor between the essay about Requires Hate and these is almost extreme enough to give a reader whiplash. To a certain extent this is not entirely unexpected - people are more complex than we often like to believe, but it is noticeable. The remaining two essays in this volume When the Rebel Becomes Queen: Changing Broken Systems from the Inside and Terrorist or Revolutionary? Deciding Who Gets to Write History speak to this point, with Terrorist or Revolutionary using Nelson Mandela to illustrate that how someone is characterized is largely determined by who is doing the characterization and when they are doing it, but also that seemingly contradictory labels can be applied to the same person and both be true.

The final set of pieces in the book is titled "Revolution", and while Hurley's feminism pervades the entire volume, it is pushed to the forefront in this section, resulting in a powerful array of essays that not only point out the events that perpetuate the inequities in genre spaces, but also come down hard on their architects. Hurley takes on some of the most notable scraps within the genre community in recent years with It's About Ethics in Dating about GamerGate, Hijacking the Hugo Awards about the Sad and Rabid Puppy "movements", and Dear SFWA Writers: Let's Chat About Censorship and Bullying about the flap over sexism in the SFWA Bulletin. In each of these cases, Hurley uses the events as concrete examples of the push back against women in geek spaces, and casts them quite effectively as an indictment of certain forces within current geek culture. Most of the remaining essays in this section move away from these sorts of geekdom-specific events to deal with similar issues in a broader context, although they are all still sprinkled with nerdy tidbits. As I noted before, the pieces that draw upon Hurley's personal experiences are the strongest, especially What Living in South Africa Taught Me About Being White in America, her account of how living in South Africa affected her view of both race relations and sexism.

The final essay in the volume is the Hugo-winning work We Have Always Fought: Challenging the "Women, Cattle, and Slaves" Narrative, and as one would expect of an award-winning work, it is a powerful piece of writing. Drawn from Hurley's experiences drafting her master's thesis while a student in Durban, the essay takes note of the fact that women made up a fifth of the forces fighting for the African National Congress against the minority-white pro-Apartheid South African government, and then proceeds to explain that this is entirely unremarkable for revolutionary movements. Hurley makes the point, in part, using a metaphor about llamas - specifically scaled cannibalistic llamas - arguing that the stories we have been told about the history of women (and for that matter, men) are not accurate. She details how women have been erased from our histories, both intentionally and through neglect, and how this has served to shape our perceptions of both the past and the present. Although not intentionally written as a summation of the major themes that she hits upon throughout the book, it does an excellent job as fulfilling that purpose and provides the perfect capstone to the collection.

People looking for easy answers, cheerful helpful hints, or friendly banter are likely to find The Geek Feminist Revolution disappointing. People looking to get an uncompromising take on the state of the geek world as seen through the lens of a woman who loves genre fiction, but is unwilling to quietly accept its glaring flaws. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said "well-behaved women seldom make history". Hurley is anything but a "well-behaved woman", and this collection of often brutal, frequently illuminating, and always sharply perceptive essays demonstrates that she is unruly in the very best possible way.

Note: The entire volume won the 2017 Locus Award for Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work and was a Hugo finalist for Best Related Work. In addition, the essay We Have Always Fought: Challenging the "Women, Cattle, and Slaves" Narrative won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Related Work.

2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Related Work: Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson
2017 Hugo Award Winner for Best Related Work: TBD

2016 Locus Award Winner for Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work: Letters to Tiptree edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce
2018 Locus Award Winner for Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work: TBD

List of Hugo Award Winners for Best Related Work
List of Locus Award Winners for Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work

2014 Hugo Award Finalists
2017 Hugo Award Finalists
2017 Locus Award Nominees

Kameron Hurley     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, July 3, 2017

Musical Monday - The Lees of Old Virginia by Ron Holgate, William Daniels, and Howard Da Silva


A somewhat idealized and simplified version of the history of the passage of the Declaration of Independence is told in the musical 1776. After some introductions that establish the character of John Adams and the fact that Congress has become mired in indecision, refusing to even consider the question of independence, the story proper kicks off with this scene. Benjamin Franklin convinces the charismatic but somewhat dim Richard Henry Lee to head off to Williamsburg to use his considerable influence to persuade the colony to adopt a resolution in favor of independence. Given that 1776 is a musical and Richard Henry Lee is used in the early going as comic relief, the scene is played for laughs, but it is almost certain that the reality was nothing like this - among other things Richard Henry Lee was probably not nearly as affably dopey as he is portrayed here - he was, after all, one of the most successful politicians of his era. It is, however, true that Lee, at the direction of the Virginia legislature, did propose a resolution on independence.

The song uses a play on Lee's name for much of its humor, and this aspect leads me to my next point: I associate songs with particular people and places. I live in a town named after Lee's family, and whenever anyone says the name of the town, I always think of this song. There are people that I know that I cannot see or talk to without hearing a particular song playing in the back of my head. I don't know if this is a common phenomenon or if this quirk is particular only to me, but it does create an interesting soundtrack in my head.

Subsequent Musical Monday: Angie by The Rolling Stones

William Daniels     Howard Da Silva     Ron Holgate     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Book Blogger Hop June 30th - July 6th: 210 Is the Sum of Eight Consecutive Prime Numbers


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Name a book that changed your life.

The easy answer would be something like The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, both which I read when I was eleven, and pretty much launched my love of fantasy and science fiction to a new level. But while those books have been important in my life, I don't really think they changed it on a fundamental level.

I'd have to say that the books that most changed my life are the books that I read in law school. These books include Bruno Leoni's Freedom and the Law, Richard Posner's Problems of Jurisprudence, Robert Ellickson's Order without Law, Harold Berman's Law and Revolution, and even Richard Epstein's Bargaining with the State. These books fundamentally shaped the way I think about the law and how government works. I didn't agree with everything in these books, and in many cases, I completely reject the conclusions reached by the author, but they do inform how I think about the nature of the rules that govern society. Everything about my professional career has been shaped by these books and the other books in this field that I have read.


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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review - Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang


Short review: Four paper delivery girls find themselves beset with time-travelers, flying reptiles, and murderous zealots. Also, they make bad decisions with handguns.

Haiku
Erin has strange dreams
And then on October first
She has a strange life

Full review: 2016 seems to have been the year for us to get a mini-wave of nostalgia for 1980s-era young adult horror pieces, with the release of both Stranger Things (set in 1983) and Paper Girls (set in 1988). Both properties feature casts of preteens and seem to draw upon 1980s movies like E.T., Stand by Me, and The Goonies for inspiration, with stories that are intended to be frightening, but are intended to be frightening in a manner that is familiar and almost comfortable. Unlike Stranger Things, the story in Paper Girls focuses, naturally enough on four newspaper delivery girls and follows them through what has to be the most eventful November first of their lives.

Set in Cleveland, in the early morning hours of the day that are (or at least were) populated almost exclusively by kids on their paper route and other kids looking for trouble, Paper Girls focuses on a quartet of girls going about their daily business of throwing newspapers onto people's front porches. The main character, to the extent that any one of the four girls is the main character, is Erin, a paper girl prone to strange dreams involving death and the afterlife. She is accosted by some older teenage boys who are returning from a night of trick-or-treating while on her delivery route, and is only rescued when the other three girls, led by MacKenzie come riding to the rescue. MacKenzie is essentially the "bad girl" who smokes and swears, while KJ is pretty much defined by the fact that she carries a field hockey stick. Tiffany is mostly defined by the fact that she owns a set of walkie-talkies.

One of the few weaknesses of the book is that these four girls are, in large part, seemingly interchangeable. The only one who really stands out as her own character is Mackenzie, and that is because she is kind of a stereotype of a tough girl from the wrong side of the tracks. As noted before, she smokes. She was the first paper girl in Cleveland. She talks tough to bullying older boys. Her stepmother may have a drinking problem. She is the only one of the girls who doesn't attend a private school. And so on. The only thing that runs against the "tough bad girl" stereotype is that MacKenzie is a Girl Scout, but that's a throwaway line that isn't really built upon. The other three girls are mostly indistinguishable from one another. Erin and Tiffany are even drawn so similarly that in some frames it is difficult to determine which one is which. I am hoping that this is because this is the first volume in a series, and future installments will give each of these girls their own distinct personality and character arcs, but in this volume, they mostly seem to be "MacKenzie and her sidekicks".

In any event, things go sideways pretty quickly for the girls even after MacKenzie runs off the boys harassing Erin and Erin more or less returns the favor by providing MacKenzie with cover during a brief run-in with the police, as Tiffany and KJ are accosted by some cloaked figures who make off with Tiffany's walkie-talkie. From there, the plot accelerates into overdrive as people start disappearing, strange armored people riding winged dragon-like beasts show up in the sky, and the four girls make a series of rushed and somewhat poor decisions concerning a handgun. This sequence of events results in the girls making the acquaintance of some teenagers from the future, who deliver a little bit of explanation for the strange events that have been taking place thus far.

This sequence of events also results in Erin taking an impromptu jaunt through time - or at least what she is told is a jaunt through time. That uncertainty pervades this volume, as it is never made clear exactly what is happening or why, and it is unclear if any of the characters delivering exposition are actually telling the truth. This creates a very confusing atmosphere throughout the book, as the plot isn't so much a plot as it is a sequence of events that the reader is carried through without understanding who is doing what or why they are doing it. On the one hand, this confusion on the part of the reader mirrors the confusion of the four heroines, as they don't really know what is going or who to trust, but on the other hand, it makes this part of the book feel less like a story and more like a series of disjointed vignettes. This sort of storytelling methodology can be effective if done well, and Vaughn seems to pull it off for the most part, providing the story with the heightened tension that comes from not really knowing which side of the conflict to choose, although there are times when what is on the page is opaque enough that readers may have a hard time following along with the plot.

The other minor weakness of the book is an almost necessary result of it being the first in a series: There are a lot of plot threads left hanging, the reader has only a tiny bit more information about what is going on at the end of the book than they did at the beginning, and the volume itself ends on a cliffhanger. The end result is a story that seems like it might be going somewhere interesting, but there is really no way to tell from reading this book. To be clear, this isn't akin to the first volume in a series of connected stories where one can expect a resolution of the plot in this volume with threads left hanging to set up the next story. Rather, this is the first volume in a single serialized story that simply ends when it runs out of pages. This is a perfectly valid way to structure a graphic series, but it does mean that this volume, taken on its own is little more than a prologue and ultimately fairly unsatisfying.

As this is a graphic story, one of the key elements of the book is the artwork, which is a distinctive feature of Paper Girls. While the penciling is pretty much standard graphic story artwork, albeit well-executed graphic story artwork, the coloring is what really sets this book apart. The book is colored in what can only be described as the classic CYMK (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, Key) color palette used by color monitors and printers in the 1980s, which helps give the entire volume a very "retro" feel - a feel that is enhanced a bit more when one the time travelers leaves behind what appears to be an Apple iPod or iPhone. These are the sort of touches that can only be accomplished via the graphic story medium, and it is always interesting to see creators using the very medium in which they are working to enhance the stories they are telling.

Despite a handful of weaknesses, Paper Girls is a fascinating opening act. The four girls at the core of the story, taken as a whole, are an interesting bunch. The apparent generational war between two very different sets of time travelers that intrudes on their lives looks like an interesting conflict. There is enough in this volume to think that it is a promising start to a good story, but it is only a start. Anyone looking for any kind of resolution in this volume is going to come away disappointed. Anyone looking for the first installment in an ongoing story containing teenage newspaper delivery girls, time travelers, reptile-riding religious zealots, and a pile of 1980s nostalgia is likely to find this book to be pretty much exactly to their taste.

Subsequent book in the series: Paper Girls, Volume 2

What are the Hugo Awards?

2013 Hugo Award Nominees

Brian K. Vaughan     Cliff Chiang     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, June 26, 2017

Musical Monday - The Amazing Spider-Man Theme Song (1977-1979)


The Amazing Spider-Man was one of the super-hero oriented live-action television shows that aired during the 1970s in the wake of the 1960s era Batman television program. The show isn't particularly well-remembered now - as far as I know, it has never been released on DVD, although most of the episodes were released on VHS. The series was not great. Like most of the other 1970s era super-hero television shows, it was a super-hero show made by people who don't seem to have really liked super-hero stories, and who certainly didn't know what appealed to fans of the genre. It was, for the most part, a more or less generic action adventure show, just with a main character who would regularly dress up in red and blue tights and climb walls. There were no super-villains, spider-man's powers were toned down, and several of the plots involved a lot more investigating than heroic rescues or fights.

That said, when I was a kid, I loved this show. My family lived overseas when it aired, so I didn't get to see it on a regular basis, but whenever I had the opportunity, I would watch this show. The odd thing is that I have almost no recollection of any of the plots of the show. I do remember that one story line involved someone making a clone of Peter Parker, but that is the only really concrete impression the stories left on me. I don't remember much about the show other than the fact that spider-man was in it, and that Peter Parker was not a high school student. But it was spider-man, live, and on the screen. To nine-year old me that was all that mattered. I almost don't want this show to be released on DVD, because if it is, I'm sure I will get it, and I'm probably going to be disappointed when I watch them as an adult.

Previous Musical Monday: Wonder Woman Opening Theme (1975-1979)

Game, Movie, and Television Music     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Book Blogger Hop June 23rd - June 29th: There Doesn't Seem to Be Much That's Interesting About the Number 209


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: If you are at a really good point in a book and the phone rings or the door bell rings, do you stop reading or let the phone or door bell go unanswered?

Yes. I will stop and check the phone or the door. The book will be waiting for me to get back to it afterwards. I own bookmarks, so it will even be on the very same page.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review - The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher


Short review: Carrie Fisher found some old diaries she wrote when she was filming Star Wars and having an affair with Harrison Ford. She used them as the basis for a book.

Haiku
When filming Star Wars
Fisher had a fling with Ford
Now she remembers

Full review: In 1977, the movie Star Wars transformed the awkward and insecure Carrie Fisher from "Debbie Reynolds' daughter who also had a bit part in Warren Beatty's movie Shampoo" into Princess Leia, a title she would wear for the rest of her life. She played the part again in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and forty years later she came back to the role in The Force Awakens (and will presumably also appear in the forthcoming The Last Jedi). Though Fisher appeared in dozens of other roles on both the big and small screen, after 1977, she would forever after be first and foremost Princess Leia. The Princess Diarist is part memoir, part diary, and part self-reflection, with Fisher looking back upon what amounts to her lifetime sentence to playing the role of an entirely different person.

The catalyst for this book was Fisher's rediscovery of a set of diaries that she wrote during the filming of the original Star Wars back in 1976. These diaries form the foundation of The Princess Diarist, but they mostly serve to launch Fisher into a series of reminiscences about her life growing up as Debbie Reynolds' daughter, her acting background and romantic history before she arrived on the set of Star Wars, and then some reflection from forty years later on what that time in her life meant to her. To be blunt, the printed portions from the 1976 diaries are the weakest part of the book. The woman Carrie Fisher grew up to be was impressive in many ways - from her skills as an actress and script doctor, to the take no prisoners attitude of a woman who bit back at questions about her weight and took her dog Gary to interviews, but the girl Carrie Fisher was at nineteen was, well, she was an unsure, inexperienced, and awkward nineteen year old. To be perfectly honest, the inner thoughts of a typical nineteen-year old are kind of dopey, and while Fisher had grown up in the limelight, her educational background was relatively indifferent, resulting in the kind of inner thoughts that seem pretty humdrum overall.

The diaries are mostly interesting for two reasons, neither of which are really related to the actual content. First, they are interesting because they reveal that the thoughts of nineteen year old Fisher were pretty much the same as the hopes and dreams of many other nineteen year olds, despite the fact that she was in the midst of filming a movie that would essentially change cinema forever. The fact that the diaries written by someone participating in the creation of a cultural landmark were so astonishingly banal is a somewhat interesting note. This is, however, the lesser of the two reasons these diaries are interesting. The real reason anyone cares about this particular set of diaries is that the man that Fisher was mooning over with her overwrought teenage prose and poetry was Harrison Ford, with whom she was having a secret and kind of awkward affair at the time.

A lot of the buzz about the book related to the revelation of this affair, which was considered to be somewhat scandalous because not only was Ford thirty-five when he had this liaison with nineteen year old Fisher, he was also married to Mary Marquardt at the time and the father of two young sons. One thing that is somewhat interesting is that while Fischer acknowledges the existence of Ford's wife in the book, she doesn't mention her by name and for the most part doesn't even really consider this situation from her perspective. This is somewhat excusable in the diary sections of the book - after all, nineteen year old kids are notoriously self-absorbed - but it seems like an odd omission in the reflective sections that come before and after the diary excerpts in which Fisher tries, from a forty year distance, to reflect upon and put into context the whirlwind romance she had shared with Ford. Other than this somewhat conspicuous omission, everything about the affair is pretty banal, whether one is reading about it via the overwrought prose of a teenager's diary or through the more world-weary and snarky version that Fisher uses to frame her earlier thoughts. As Fisher says at one point in the book, she and Ford had a three-month long one-night stand, and that's pretty much about as significant as the affair seems to have been to either of them. This results in a story that is salacious and mildly titillating, but ultimately not very compelling.

To a certain extent, the same is true of the entire book. For the most part, Fisher's accounts are readable and humorous, but they are mostly only noteworthy because they involve her, and not because the stories being recounted are anything more than ordinary. Fisher's story about being cast in Shampoo is a fun little interlude, but it is a story that seems similar to that of a thousand other actors getting their first on-screen role. When Fisher recounts the whirlwind her life became after Star Wars was released, the account seems similar to the stories told by countless other celebrities riding the pop culture wave of a hit movie. Fisher's discussion about going to science fiction conventions to sign autographs and get her picture taken in exchange for money will only be revelatory to people who have never been to a large media style convention, although her description of the routine as being a "celebrity lap dance" is pretty much both on the nose and funny. While the first section and the last section that surround the diary entries are much more enjoyable to read, this is mostly because Fisher became a lot better as a writer in the intervening forty years, not because the stories themselves were particularly notable.

The Princess Diarist is a fun little book that gives a snapshot into the life of a woman on the edge of phenomenal superstardom and a bit of reflection and self-deprecating humor from the superstar that she became. That said, there's nothing particularly outstanding about the book unless one considers the details of what amounts to a pretty staid forty-year old infatuation to be "shocking" in some way. This is, in the end, a fairly light book filled with funny anecdotes told in a humorous and irreverent manner. Anyone looking for a deep and meaningful experience is likely to be disappointed by this volume's contents, but anyone looking to spend just a little bit more time with the snarky and irascible Princess turned General that her fans now miss will find this to be just the prescription they need to fill the void for just a little bit of time.

Carrie Fisher     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, June 19, 2017

Musical Monday - Wonder Woman Opening Theme (1975-1979)


Last week, while talking about the 1966-1968 Batman television series, I pointed out that the theme song for that series had become iconic to such a degree that it was almost universally known. I also noted that the theme songs for other live-action super-hero shows of bygone eras such as The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman have not had nearly the same cultural resonance, and seem to have mostly been forgotten.

That is pretty much all true, but even so, some of the theme songs for these shows were pretty good. Wonder Woman, for example, had a catchy, mildly funky, and vaguely disco-ish theme song that had elements reminiscent of the Batman theme song in some parts (such as the repeated refrain of "Wonder Woman!"). The theme song, like the show itself, evolved over the years, replacing the anti-Nazi themes found in the first season with more general crime fighting lyrics in the second, and eventually losing most of the lyrics entirely in the third season as the show attempted to rebrand itself as a more generalized "action adventure" show. Personally, I think that the theme song was better in its earlier iterations, but it is still good no matter what version one is listening to.

Previous Musical Monday: Batman Theme (1966-1968)

Game, Movie, and Television Music     Musical Monday     Home