Archive for July, 2012

July 31, 2012

Hit or Miss, July 2012

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.  (You can click on the links for short reviews or comments I’ve left elsewhere.)

Hits

  • A Distant Shore (John Houghton)
  • A Prisoner of Birth (Jeffrey Archer)
  • The Amazing Spiderman (movie)
  • The 2012 Rhysling Anthology
  • Signs & Wonders (Jennifer Crow)
  • How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction (J. N. Williamson, ed.)
  • Virgin of the Apocalypse (Corrine de Winter)
  • The Tortilla Curtain (T. C. Boyle)
  • The Poetry Home Repair Manual (Ted Kooser)

Along with the most recent issue of Dreams & Nightmares

Misses

  • There were no misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • None here either!

It’s always a good thing to post an all-hit list!

So how was July reading and viewing for you?

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July 23, 2012

The Illustrated Man

I just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, a book that has been on my TBR list for a while, but somehow kept getting pushed to the back of the queue as other things demanded more immediate attention.  When I first got back to Singapore from my most recent stint in Shanghai, I had put it back on the top of the stack, intending to read this summer.  That was more than a month before Bradbury’s death.  His passing perhaps made the reading of the collection all the more special to me, but I know I would have enjoyed the stories in this volume at whatever time I read them.  But it just happened in such a way that the reading of The Illustrated Man, coming when it did, felt like a celebration of the man’s life and work.  It is a masterful collection of short stories, with a framing story that pulls them all together into a tidy bundle.  There are 18 tales in all, several of which are chill-inducing.  All are enjoyable.

Another perk of this reading experience grew out of the particular copy of the book that I happen to own.  I cannot remember where I picked it up, but it is an old beat up book I got second hand somewhere.  This Doubleday edition was printed before I was born, in its 9th incarnation.  The feel of the old volume, the crisp pages lying between battered covers, seemed like an especially appropriate treat with which to celebrate the lifetime of writing it represents.  It was a clear reminder of just how accomplished Bradbury was, drawing particular attention to the longevity of his outstanding career.

There are many Bradbury books that get more attention than The Illustrated Man, but this one is a good one.  I’m glad it was the book that turned out to be the one with which I was able to have my own private celebration of his life’s work.

July 11, 2012

Speculative Fiction: Literature’s X-Games

The X-Games can be amongst the most exciting sporting events to be found anywhere on the planet.  While I grew up watching baseball and expect to forever count it my favorite sport, I also have a real affinity for watching the extreme sports that make up the X-Games.  I don’t know any technical terms in any of the events, nor do I really care to go into it in such detail, but I do find it quite thrilling to watch the skills of the athletes who participate in the games.  They are strong, they are savvy, and they are serious risk-takers.  The feats they accomplish on bikes, boards, and climbing can be absolutely stunning, even to an eye not trained in the intricacies of the respective events.

The strange thing is, the X-Games are something of a marginalized event in the sporting world.  Worldwide, football/soccer is the main sport to follow.  In the US, there’s the big three of baseball, American football, and basketball.  Other events such as cricket or rugby get a similar following in other parts of the globe.  Tennis, golf, polo, hockey, badminton, lacrosse, water polo… you name it, they all have a more prestigious image than the X-Games.  The extreme sports sit on the edges of respectability.  They are the fringe culture of the sporting world.

For those of us who write in the speculative genres, this might sound familiar.  Science fiction, fantasy, and horror (the mainstays of the speculative field) dwell can be counted the marginalized voices in literature, only occasionally getting a nod of approval from the more mainstream literary giants.  Those of us who write in this field understand what it is like to be on the verge of respectability, yet remain on the outside looking in — just like those athletes who compete in the X-Games each year.

But I would submit that, like the X-Games, the speculative genres are capable of producing spectacular feats.  Pushing boundaries, climbing higher, taking risks… these are all characteristics that writers of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi share with extreme athletes.  Just as they compete in the extreme, we write to the extremes.  And while sometimes we might have terrific falls, we might also just manage a stunning trick from time to time.

So all I can say is, keep watching.  You never know what might be coming next.

July 1, 2012

Hit or Miss, June 2012

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.  (You can click on the links for short reviews or comments I’ve left elsewhere.)

Hits

  • The Cyberiad (Stanislaw Lem)
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
  • Shakespeare in Love (movie)
  • Puss in Boots (movie)
  • Black Maria (Kevin Young)
  • 《我的心中每天开出一朵花》畿米
  • The Personifid Project (R. E. Bartlett)
  • Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Legends of the Fallen Sky (Marge Simon and Malcolm Deeley)
  • The Civil Servant’s Notebook (Wang Xiaofang)
  • The Phantom World (Gary William Crawford)

Along with the most recent issues of several magazines, including:  parABnormal Digest, Scifaikuest

Misses

  • There were no all-out misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • 贴身感觉》张小娴
  • American Empire:  Blood and Iron (Harry Turtledove)

So how was June reading and viewing for you?