Monthly Archives: June 2009

Way Up in the Middle of the Air, Rin-Ne by Rumiko Takahashi

Rumiko Takahashi’s latest project is Kyoukai no Rinne (or Rin-Ne). It can possibly be described as “Bleach turned upside down, shredded, and then put in a blender on frappe with a handful of Takahashi’s romantic comedies.” I figure that now would be the best time to do a review of it, since it’s currently long enough to get a feel for the story, and short enough that I don’t have to tear my hair out trying to condense five hundred chapters into an overview. (Takahashi’s style tends toward the melodramatic continuous plot twist and cliffhanger side of the literary force. (It’s like Charles Dickens, only not.) This can be entertaining or frustrating depending on my mood and general interest in the series.) Continue reading

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Filed under fantasy, humor, manga/anime, Review: Manga

Interview: Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ works are primarily fantasy. Her third novel, The Death of the Necromancer was a Nebula Award Nominee in 1998, and the French addition was nominated in 2002 for an Imaginales Award. She has also written two media tie-ins for the TV show Star Gate: Atlantis.
More information about Martha Wells writing can be found on her site.

How long have you been writing as a career?
I sold my first novel in 1991 (The Element of Fire), though it didn’t come out until 1993. I wrote part-time until about 2004, when Ifinally was able to quit my day job.
Where did you go to school? (Did you go with the aim to become a writer?)
I went to Texas A&M University, and my degree is in anthropology. I did want to be a writer when I first went to college, and did submit some stories to magazines, but I didn’t sell anything. I chose TAMU because they had a very active SF/F club that ran an annual convention, and I wanted to get more actively involved in fandom.
This may be a redundant question, since you have a blog, but what’s your opinion of the increased interaction/communication between reader and writer as a result of authors who keep blogs and interact on a regular basis with their readers/fans? What do you think are the positives and negatives of this?
I think it’s a very necessary right now, as basically a publicity tool, since publishers generally do very little promotion for books. The positive is that it gives the author a way to keep in touch with people, let them know when your books and short stories are available, lets you do contests and promotions and post excerpts, etc. When a book is published now, it generally has a very short window of opportunity to succeed. Sometimes that window can be as small as two to four weeks. You have to tell your readers that it’s
available as soon as possible.
The negative is that you have to remember that when you’re online, you’re always on stage. To a large extent, anybody who is posting anything in public online is on stage, but when you’re an author and you’re using it to advertise your work, you’re more public than normal. If you want to have a normal blog like everybody else where you talk about personal issues, or just rant and bitch to your friends, I think it’s better to keep it locked to restricted to people you know, so it’s more private.
It can cause problems, even if your blog is just about your day to day life and not particularly dramatic. The first year I had a blog, it wasn’t actually my current author blog, it was a personal journal that I used to talk to friends online, though some of the people who followed it knew I was a published author. I had a reader basically say to me “I bought one of your books so I don’t want you to post links to political articles I don’t agree with.” I sent her back the money for the book. Later, I pretty much gave up on the idea of
having a personal blog at all.
How would you describe your writing process? (Do you think this is basically a fancy way of asking ‘where do you get your ideas?’? Why or why not?)
It’s a similar question to “where do you get your ideas” though I think it’s a little easier to answer. I usually start with a character or a setting I want to write. If I start with a character, that usually controls what I kind of setting I use, since I have to come up with a setting that would develop that person. If I start with a setting, I have to come up with a character who would fit in there.
What do you like to read (by way of genre), and who are your favorite writers?
I like SF/F, and mysteries best, though I read a little bit of everything. Some of my favorite writers are Judith Tarr, Lois McMaster Bujold, Barbara Hambly, Rex Stout, Barry Hughart, and F.M. Busby. When I was growing up, I was heavily influenced by Andre Norton.
What kind of research goes into a book like The Death of the Necromancer?
I did a lot of research on the Victorian/La Belle Epoque time period in England, France, and Europe, on architecture, development of cities, material culture, clothes, food. I was building on the research I originally did for The Element of Fire. Both books are set in the same world, in the same city, about 200 years apart, and I wanted to show how the setting had changed and developed in that time period.
What do you like or dislike about research?
I like the fact that I find out all kinds of neat stuff that I wasn’t expecting to find. A lot of I might not use in the book, or end up using in a later book, but it’s always fun. I don’t think there’s anything I dislike about it.
Of your own books, which ones are your favorites? (Do you have any favorite characters among those you’ve created?)
City of Bones is one of my favorites, because it was the first fantasy I wrote that wasn’t heavily based on a real-world setting and culture, so in a lot of ways it was more fun to the Queen Mary as a setting for a long time, and with that book I finally got a write. The Ships of Air is also a favorite, because I had really been looking forward to using chance to do it. Right now my favorite is The Cloud Roads, which is the book I finished in early 2008, and which is still looking for a publisher at the moment.
Which of the characters you’ve created are your favorites?
Kade from The Element of Fire, Khat from City of Bones, Tremaine from The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods.
What is The Cloud Roads about? (I’m guessing it’s in the same universe as The Ships of Air?)
No, it’s set in a completely new fantasy world. (The Ships of Air is the middle book in the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy.) At this point, since it doesn’t have a publisher, I don’t want to get into too many details about what it’s about.
(Note to Interviewer/Self: don’t assume series relationship based on apparent theme.)
Many fantasy novels (particularly those from a few decades ago) put “magic” in opposition to “science/technology.” In your stories, you tend to combine them–what made you decide to do this?
I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I’ve just never seen them to be mutually exclusive, or as naturally opposing forces.
What would you say are the most common tropes or themes in your writing? (If you want, you can use the tropes defined in “Television Tropes and Idioms.”)
I find myself using themes of trust and betrayal a lot, of characters who feel alienated, different, alone, characters who have difficult parental relationships. I had the most fun with the last one with the character of Tremain, who is the daughter of Nicholas from The Death of the Necromancer.
How would you describe your writing style?
I like to stick with one or two main viewpoint characters, and to keep the POV very tight and immediate.

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Filed under Interview, Martha Wells

The Darkover Novels of Marion Zimmer Bradley

Originally posted: Sep. 23rd, 2004 at 8:54 AM on lj.

Yep. Another mocking of a beloved series/author. I adore Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series–when I don’t want to run screaming from certain characters, plots and sub-plots that she created. From the little I’ve seen from a distance, I get the feeling that Darkover fandom is/was probably kinda wanky, after all, how could it not be, with the following rules? Continue reading

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Book Review: Conspirator by C.J. Cherryh

Daw, 370 pgs

Conspirator: (Foreigner #10)Conspirator is the tenth book of C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. In this installment taking place shortly after the events of Deliverer Bren is given a notice of eviction from Lord Tatiseigi’s apartments (where he’d been staying as a guest because his own apartment has been taken over by a noble family claiming that they should have the apartment since they helped Tabini-aiji dispose of the usurper.) Not wanting to cause a hassle and break up the very tentative peace, Bren obtains permission to go to his country estate and attend to all the really important things he hadn’t been able to manage due to being in space for two plus years. A working vacation (with sailing, fishing trips and a visit from his brother in the planning) seems to be just what the doctor ordered, so Bren and his household pack everything up and head to the coast. Continue reading

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Filed under book, C.J. Cherryh, distant future, political intrigue, Review: Book, science fiction, sociological

Outline of An Oblique Approach by David Drake and Eric Flint

This is an Outline, not a serious review or critique, meant for parody and humor purposes only.

Other Outlines can be found here


An Oblique Approach (Belisarius)purpose:*sparkles*

MICHAEL OF MACEDONIA: *Is a Very Snarky Stylite* Hmmm. *Considers* *touches*

purpose:*Brain shattering KA-BOOM* apocalypse! doom! destruction! evil empires! take me to your general!

MICHAEL OF MACEDONIA: Ow. *wakes up a few days later* Huh. Why don’t I take you to my friend ANTHONY CASSIAN perhaps he’ll know what to do.

AUTHOR1: BELISARIUS, he so fine, he so fine he blow our mind.

AUTHOR2: Also? His wife is a babe. And smart.

AUTHOR1: And anyone who disses them are dorks.

*ANTHONY CASSIAN and MICHAEL show up at BELISARIUS’ house with purpose in tow. BELISARIUS and ANTONINA go to meet their guests, there is Lighthearted Plot Exposition and Introduction of purpose where ANTHONY and MICHAEL and BELISARIUS take turns as the straight man before things turn serious again.*

ANTHONY: *holds out purpose to BELISARIUS.

purpose: *sparkles*

BELISARIUS: *picks up*

purpose: *METASTATIC BOOM!* *APOCALYPTIC VISION OF DOOOOOM!*

BELISARIUS: Ow. *falls over, but not for as long as MICHAEL or ANTHONY.*

purpose now has an aim: help! can’t sleep, new gods will eat us!

BELISARIUS: *Wakes up* OMGWTF!? Why didn’t you tell me about our son!

ANTHONY: WTF?

ANTONINA: Because he’s not your son! I didn’t want to hurt your reputation because of my bastard!

BELISARIUS: FUCK my reputation! You should have trusted me!

ANTONINA: *Angst*

BELISARIUS: *More angst*

ANTONINA: *Even more angst*

MICHAEL: STFU!

BELISARIUS and ANTONINA: Grrr. *Then they realize MICHAEL’s yelling at BELISARIUS, not ANTONINA.* Er?

MICHAEL:*rips BELISARIUS to shreds for being a dork*

BELISARIUS: Meep. *sheepish.*

EVERYONE: Okay, let’s talk about our visions.

aim: *attempts to communicate* help!

BELISARIUS: Bzuh? Help how? What?

EVERYONE: *stare* BELISARIUS, who are you talking to?

BELISARIUS: The gem. It talks.

aim: you promised! help!

BELISARIUS: Help how?

aim: *shows instead of tells*

BELISARIUS: You’re from the future?!

aim: yes!

*Game plan: 1. Find out about the Malwa and their weapons. 2. Tell THEODORA about plot, but not JUSTINIAN because he is a very stupid genius. 3. Recruit smart people, while tricking bad guys into thinking ANTONINA and BELISARIUS are amenable to bribery and treachery. 4. Save the princess, save the world!

ANTONINA: But you won’t believe the rumors, right? *lip trembling*

BELISARIUS: Baby, you know you rule my world.

ANTONINA and BELISARIUS: One True Pairing!!!

BELISARIUS: *Does military things. Plots*

Intro of MAURICE, the Crusty and Cynical Nature’s Sergeant: I am crusty and cynical, BELISARIUS should listen to me more often, dagnabbit, even if he is a genius. Whippersnapper.

Intro PROCOPIUS: I am a sleazy little gossip with pretensions of being a l33t biographer/historian.

Intro of BOUZES (HANS) and COUTZES (FRANS): We are here to mess (grunt) you up!

Intro of MARC OF EDESSA: I won’t be important yet for a few books, but I’m shocked out of my skull that BELISARIUS promoted me!

Intro of MENANDER: I’m important to the plot, but I’m mostly here to be Young and Inexperienced.

BELISARIUS: *does more military things.*

*The Medes are coming. The Medes are coming!*

Persian XO: I mock you! Mock mock mock! Your Mother smelled of elderberries!

HANS and FRANS: OMGWTF! Did you hear what he said about Mommy!?

BELISARIUS: Why the hell do you care what he’s saying about you? Twits.

HANS and FRANS: OMGWTF! We hate Persians! Argh!

BELISARIUS: *does military things. sets up HANS and FRANS as a couple of patsies because they’re STUPID, and steals their army* You’ve been served, biatches. *Eventually ransoms them back and yells at them for being STUPID*

HANS and FRANS: Meep.

*Is getting some help from aim and twigs to it *

BELISARIUS: Hey, you’re helping me, right?

aim:yes.

BELISARIUS: Cool.

*A little later*

aim: argh! invent the stirrup you protoplasmic dork!

BELISARIUS: Huh? *gets whapped with an image* Oh cool.

aim: *sighs*

*Insert scene where BELISARIUS is proven to be awesome. Also, indirectly introduce Persian Characters Who Will Be Important Later. Remember to take notes!*

Intro Bodyguard1: Hey, I’m ANASTASIUS. I’m an example of a humorous incongruity; I look like an ogre, but I’m really a smart, bookish, philosophical guy.

Intro Bodygaurd2: I’m VALENTINIAN. I look like a mean, murderous weasel…Because I AM a mean, murderous weasel. I also mutter rude things under my breath.

*Meanwhile, in Darkest India*

MALWA: *Ebil Empire put together by a Cyborg. Cyborg is using the Hindu caste system to create a Eugenics program. Evil Cyborg is Evil, and looks nothing like Arnold Schwartzenagger.*

YE-TAI: Pillage! Burn! Maim! Ravage!

RAJPUTS: We gave an oath. *grumble*

KUSHANS: We really, really hate our job, but we do it anyway.

VENANDAKATRA: *Toad*

SHAKUNTALA: *Heroic brave princess type, with assassin training.*

RAGHUNATH RAO: *Heroic brave warrior-assassin type, teacher of SHAKUNTALA, nifty kshatriya type.*

KUNGAS: *Iron wall of a Kushan.*

ANDHRA EMPIRE: AIEEEEEEEEEEE *falls*

SHAKUNTALA’S family: AIEEE! *dies*

YE-TAI: *evil minion laugh* C’mere girlie

SHAKUNTALA: *slays*

YETAI: Eeeep! *gang up on her*

KUNGAS: *slays YE-TAI* Don’t thank me, I’m saving you for VENANDAKATRA.

SHAKUNTALA: *rage* Don’t worry, I won’t.

KUNGAS: Don’t be a playa hata’

SHAKUNTALA: *playa hates*

*Later*

RAGHUNATH RAO: Argh! KUNGAS and his men are too damn good! *prays* Please God, don’t let SHAKUNTALA do anything stupid!

SHAKUNTALA: *Is princess, is brave, is heroic. Of COURSE she’s gonna do something stupid*

*Back in CONSTANTINOPLE (not ISTANBUL)*

PHOTIUS: Hi, I’m cute!

HERMOGENES: I have NO idea what y’all are up to, but I want in!

IRENE: *Is a genius*

SITTAS: *is not a genius but makes up for it by being LOUD*

*Audience with the Emperor!*

VENANDAKATRA: *is slimy* We’d like to open trade and have peaceful relations. Just ignore our ninja spies.

AXUM ENVOYS: Hi, stop giving us the cold shoulder while you’re schmoozing with the slimeball.

AUTHOR2: Oh, by the way, AXUM=ETHIOPIA.

BELISARIUS and FRIENDS: Hi! Let’s get acquainted!

AXUM ENVOYS: Okay, but everyone else is ignoring us pointedly.

BELISARIUS and FRIENDS: Yeah, sorry about that, by the way–

JUSTINIAN: Okay, Belisarius can go to India along with the Axumite envoys to discuss trade, now shoo.

VENANDAKATRA: *is pissed* Why of course I don’t mind going completely out of my way and taking everyone to India as envoys.

AXUM ENVOYS: Huh, what huh?

AUTHOR2: Oh hai, have we mentioned the AWESOME that is AXUM?!

OUSANAS: Dat ain’t ‘awesome!’ Dey got me talkin’ like I be ignant.

AUTHOR2: So you basically have plenty of material to work with when you mock them, right?

OUSANAS: Dat troo.

EON: *Is a brave and noble younger son of the King of Axum. Not so sekritly bookish, and should not be allowed to come up with anything sneaky.*

OUSANAS: *Is quite simply made of awesome.*

GARMAT: *Is not quite as awesome because he agreed to idiot prince’s idea of having Ousanas speak in pidgin.*

EZANA and WAHSI: *Eon’s bodyguards*

*On the ship there is warriorly bonding between the Romans and the Ethiopians. Everyone takes a vote and agrees that VENANDAKATRA is a slimy varmint. Despite warriorly bonding Ethiopians need something a bit more concrete.*

aim:*gives Power Point Presentation of the Apocalypse to OUSANAS.*

OUSANAS: Ow. I’m going to stop speaking pidgin now so I can explain in detail how really bad the future is going to be if we don’t do something about it.

BELISARIUS: Now that that’s settled, here’s the plan…

*Later*

BELISARIUS: Oh hai, let’s be best friends VENANDAKATRA!

VENANDAKATRA: Yay, let’s talk about how much fun it is to be evil!

BELISARIUS: Yay, evil!

EVERYONE except EON: Yay, evil!

EON: *Muttered.* Yay evil, whoo-hoo.

*In Darkest India…*

VENANDAKATRA: *Gives the evil overlord tour.*

EVERYONE: *Pretend to be impressed and also evil and susceptible to bribery and corruption.*

BELISARIUS: *Purchases supplies necessary for appearing to be evil and also for the rescuing of princesses, including a bunch of hookers and one DADAJI HOLKAR whose entire family will become Very Important Later.*

Intro RANA SANGA: *Who is made of awesome despite working for bad guys*

VENANDAKATRA: *Continues evil overlord tour.*

BELISARIUS: *Tells whoppers about his evilness which causes VENANDAKTRA to become hugely paranoid. Also tells whoppers about how evil (and horny) Kushans are.*

EON: *Does not LIKE pretending to be evil*

EVERYONE: STFU with the whining! You’ll pretend to be a sadistic abusive scumbag and LIKE IT!

EON: Why isn’t BELISARIUS collecting a harem then? Since he’s also supposed to be lecherous and evil.

EVERYONE: Because Romans are monogamous, BELISARIUS is married, and you AREN’T married or monogamous, now quit whining!

EON: *Thinks dark thoughts.*

BELISARIUS: *Continues to tell whoppers.*

aim: *has just been told there’s no santa claus.* aaaaaaah! you’re a lying liar who LIES!

BELISARIUS: The hell?

aim: you lie! you’re just like the new gods! waaaaaaaah*

BELISARIUS: Um. No that’s strategy.

aim: you lie! *betrayed! woe!*

BELISARIUS: I’ve never lied to you!

aim: you will. ‘cause you’re a lying liar who lies.

BELISARIUS: *sigh* Look, let me try to explain the concept of subterfuge to you…

*Meanwhile…*

VENADAKATRA: *Replaces Kushan guards with skuzzy Malwa priests.*

KUNGAS: …The hell?

VENANDAKTRA: *Completes evil overlord tour by having the Romans and Ethiopians observe the destruction of a city that rebelled against the Malwa.* So, want to meet the Emperor and join up with Evil Inc.?

BELISARIUS: Sure! Where do I sign up?

VENANDAKATRA: Right here on the dotted line, and why don’t you demonstrate what a tough guy you are by killing these rebels in horrible ways!

BELISARIUS: *to Reader* In some stories, this would be the point where everything goes to hell because the good guy absolutely can’t do something evil. This is not one of those stories. *to body guard* VALENTINIAN, do the honors.

VALENTINIAN: *Kills the rebels quickly, making a mess all over Malwa Emperor’s carpet.*

BELISARIUS: And that was your demonstration of what Romans do to traitors.

VENANDAKATRA: *Gritted teeth.* Very educational, you passed the evilness test. *to others* Get these barbarians out of here.

*And so, the plot advances. DADADJI decides BELISARIUS is actually made of awesome and might even be an avatar. OUSANAS is sent to find RAO to let him know that he has allies.*

OUSANAS: *Delivers the letter, the sooner the better.*

RAO: *Reads the letter.* This is legit?

OUSANAS: Yep.

RAO: Score!

WRITER2: *Makes extensive use of trademark ‘compare people/concepts to animals’ similes.*

RAO: *Makes like ninja.*

SHAKUNTALA: *Makes like brave and heroic warrior princess. Or rather, tries to.*

RAO: *Facepalm.* You do realize you’re about two feet too short to break the neck of someone taller and wider than you just by twisting, right? Good form, though! I give it eight and a half for effort.

SHAKUNTALA: *snarl* All right, I’ll kill him the right way! *TKO in three moves!*

RAO: That’s my girl!

*Later*

KUNGAS: *Has been assigned along with his men to BELISARIUS as guards.*

BELISARIUS: *Is friendly and charming.* So, no one’s been able to locate the princess or the army that ‘kidnapped’ her?

EON: *Is loading harem onto elephant. One girl is all covered up, but is suspiciously SHAKUNTALA shaped.*

KUNGAS: *Is suspicious.* It wasn’t an army, it was just one man.

BELISARIUS: Only one man?

KUNGAS: RAGHUNATH RAO. One of the mightiest warriors in all of India. He wouldn’t have gotten past me though. *is still suspicious* Not by himself.

BELISARIUS: I know. *Cheerful!* But knowing how you Kushans are, it’s not surprising at all you were replaced!

KUNGAS: Say what?

BELISARIUS: Don’t pretend! It’s why you were assigned to us, after all. EVERYONE knows how lecherous and lustful Kushans are!

KUNGAS: O Rly?

BELISARIUS: Ya Rly! I anticipate you’ll be causing quite a ruckus in camp, constantly sniffing around our hookers and the prince’s concubines!

KUNGAS: *Snicker.* It seems our reputation has spread even to the West! I anticipate our uncontrollable lust will result in many a fracas with your men.

BELISARIUS: Good, good-er, I mean terrible! Outrageous!

*Later*

aim: psst. my name’s aide now.*

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