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An Occasional Series

The multibranched internet strikes again… A digression about books about grass (where, solely to confuse you, I am identified as phialastring), or the lack thereof, led to a struggle to remember a particular science fiction novel that featured a rainbow-hued grass planet, to a Google-fueled discovery of that novel’s place on the Gollancz SF Masterworks list.

The novel in question is Grass, by Sheri Tepper, and I am now rereading it. It is the one I was thinking of: hooray for near-infinite searchability.

But that Masterworks list… the most up-to-date index I could find has one hundred and ten books on it. I haven’t read most of them, and the ones I’ve read were mostly in the distant past. (Here’s a less-current list, but with cover images.)

And there’s a fantasy list too, with another fifty books (and here again with covers). There too I haven’t read as many as I’d like, though for both lists many of the books have been on my to-read list for many years.

I haven’t read anything on either list since I became serious about writing fiction. My approach to reading has changed as my writing skills have improved, probably the former even more than the latter.

My new long-term project: track down and read all of both lists, and write short reviews here (main index). These books won’t be all I read, nor do I expect this to read them in order or any such organized approach. As I already said, I’m rereading Grass right now. I got the first volume on the fantasy list out of the library: Shadow and Claw, the omnibus of the first two volumes of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. New Sun has been on my to-read list longer than most, as I reliably bounce off Gene Wolfe’s writing, short or long.

Want to play along?

A year of writing

Yeah, I did some of that. Mostly it was a very good writing year, but for one thing: I sold no fiction whatsoever.

Science first, since that pays the mortgage.

3 peer-reviewied papers written in previous years
1 peer-reviewied paper written this year
1 peer-reviewied book chapter written this year
2 fact sheets
2 magazine articles

1 paper written this year

Still in review:
2 papers, both with postdocs as first authors

Other academic writing:
1 book chapter on textile archaeology

SFF-related nonfiction:

1 article for Clarkesworld, “Building Forests, Remaking Planets

11 essays for Science in My Fiction. I’ve taken over as schedule coordinator, for SiMF, and you’ll likely be hearing more from me on that subect shortly.

6 reviews for SFF Portal, before they switched directions


Rigor Amortis was re-released by Edge (with distribution), made the list of Barnes and Noble 2011 Best Zombie Fiction

I finished a novel first draft, started rewriting it: first completed book-length work (not that it’s anywhere near done).

3 stories finished
6 more stories started

6 submissions of 4 stories (all rejected)

4 Friday Flash stories published online


It wasn’t a great year for blogging.

stringpage.com: 70 posts
sarahgoslee.com: 83 posts

Guest post, “Collection and Contemplation” at Chocolate Scotch

Books read: 114

That looks like a lot, but doesn’t feel like I did nearly enough. Not enough blogging, not enough novel rewriting, not enough short story finishing, and certainly not enough submissions. I did a lot of science, though: five new papers/book chapters is a lot in my field, especially considering that several were single-author.

2012: more blogging, more fiction? I’m not sure how to make that happen, truly. Ideas?

Be subversive

The Crossed Genres folks, some of my favorite publishers, have a new anthology out today.

This is their first anthology of original stories; previous anthologies were from the Crossed Genres periodical (no longer with us; I’m certain that has nothing to do with them publishing my first story).

Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy tales of challenging the norm is an anthology of stories about striking back at the status quo – whatever that might be. The Authority can be real or perceived; the act of subversion subtle or overt; and the consequences minute yet significant, or immense and world-shaking.

Sound like fun? You can pick up a copy of your very own (Kindle or print) at Amazon or BN (Nook).

Science Fiction Geekery

Need something to read this weekend? SFSignal has a wonderful guide to the recent NPR Top 100 SFF books.

Me? I’ll be reading this.

Or maybe I’ll be reading the books I just got from Elizabeth Bear’s book sale.

Or going to SCA events in the rain.

Or, just maybe, all three.

Zombies and a reading list

If you're    ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.    emergency.cdc.gov

This is a clever marketing ploy: CDC disaster preparedness has gotten more discussion today that in the past few months, I’d guess. And you know, it is rather important to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse. Also flood, tornado, earthquake and fire.

And the rapture, since it is happening Saturday. The rest of us may need to have some supplies laid up.

Once you’ve got your canned goods and drinking water (and flamethrowers!) safely stashed away, you’ll need something to do. I’ve got you covered there too: the 2011 Hugo nominees have been announced, and once again there’s a Hugo voter’s packet available, containing most or all of the nominated works.

For reasons I don’t understand, the link to the login page is not on the packet description page. You need a userid and PIN to log in, so why not publish the link. But they didn’t, so I won’t either. The packet page does have an email address to contact for more information.

Edit: I was just ahead of the game, apparently. The login link has now been posted. If you are a member, you can get a packet here. You’ll need your userid and PIN.

And how do you get this bounty of first-rate SFF? You become a member. It’s online, it’s quick, and Worldcon membership entitles you to not only read the packet, but also vote for the best and nominate next year. What a deal! It’s kind of pricy: supporting membership is $50. But how else could you participate in deciding what the best SFF of the year is?

And yes, there are zombies among the nominations.

You can tell from the lack of posting that I’m swamped. This working-for-a-living thing, you know. I got a pile of things submitted, and all were promptly rejected. Dammit. I’m not too bothered, actually. I’ve been writing and submitting scientific journal articles for a long time, and fiction rejections are so much friendlier. Really.

I finished the first draft of my novel in progress quite some time ago. I intentionally set it down for a while, but I didn’t intend for it to sit this long. Oops. I’m really intimidated by the amount of work still to do, and a bit scared to read the whole thing and see concretely how much revision, rewriting, addition it needs. So there it sits.

Last week I figured out the two major things that were missing, things that had been bothering me about the background and structure. I hope that knowing the missing bits will help me settle into the revision process. It gives me a starting place: reread the whole thing with an eye to where those two story-things need to be worked into the existing structure.

Having an entry point is a major part of the struggle on any project of this size.

But notice how I said “the two major things” up there, like I won’t find many more as I work through it. Heh.

Wrapping up

A final note on the wonder that is Powell’s customer service.

Nick wrote this in a comment on my last Powell’s post, and I reprint it here so you can all appreciate it and go forth and purchase books from Powell’s.

Powell’s has indeed:

Replaced the lost books that they could find another copy of, including one case of replacing a used copy I had paid $8 for with a new ($50) copy;

Issued an immediate refund for those lost books they could not find replacement copies of;

And gave us a gift certificate to apologize for our troubles.

I think they might, you know, be a class act or something.

Yay Powells, and yay Serra Toney.

All is not lost

Yesterday I was sad. My books were lost. Losing books is always traumatic. It was too late to do anything official, and Nick had the credit card receipt with the info on it, so instead I blogged and whined on twitter.

(You know what? My online friends are all bibliophiles. They completely understood why this was a big deal. Hooray for online friends.)

And not one but two really nice things happened.

Chaz Brenchley saw my post, and offered to replace the missing Outremer books from his stash. If you think that’s a terribly nice thing to do, you should go vote for his new book at the Book Tournament (Jade Man’s Skin by Daniel Fox, since it isn’t obvious). And then you should go buy his new book so he can write some more. (It’s on my to-read stack, so I can’t recommend it from first-hand experience yet, but the series sounds fascinating.)

And then Powell’s customer support found my blog post, apologized, and said they were looking for replacement books, and would refund payment on anything that couldn’t be replaced. Now that’s customer service! The photo of the USPS label I posted was enough to identify the order and pull their record of what was in the box.

I’m very impressed. I’ve been a Powell’s fan since my first visit over 15 years ago, and have purchased piles of things, new and used, in person and online, and will definitely keep doing so. You should go buy something there too. (But buy the Daniel Fox book new, please, so the publisher gets good sales numbers and the author gets royalties.)

Actually, three good things happened: the Powell’s box with the novels in it showed up. The box that got munched was actually a different Powell’s order, one I hadn’t known about from when Nick went back on his own. The really big box from our first expedition is fine. Nick lost a stack of art books, but none of them are particularly hard to find, so he should be getting other copies.

Today I am not so sad.

So sad

Portland: Science museum, zoo, friends, family… Powell’s. World’s biggest used bookstore. Hours of entertainment, piles of books I’ve been looking for. Or even more fun, didn’t know existed. Best of all, they ship!

The Chaz Brenchley that’s long out of print, the fantasy novels by Adam Stemple… I’ve seen him play guitar, but had no idea he wrote too (not surprised, though, given that his mother is Jane Yolen), the research materials…

Nick and I accumulated a big box of books. (Is there an emoticon for understatement?)

The box arrived today.

Powells box

Exactly like that.

Powells box


(Edit: But read part two for the good bits.)


Hugo-winning author and Shadow Unit co-founder Elizabeth Bear, author of some of my favorite books, has a new book out today, Grail, third in a science fiction trilogy (Dust and Chill being its predecessors).

I may have gone on a bit of a Bear-book-buying binge. When I went looking for a copy of Grail for my new Nook Color (about which more later, now that I’ve had it for a couple weeks and can write a sensible review), I discovered that a lot of her back catalog, including some out-of-print things I’ve been wanting to read, is available in ebook form.

I love living in the future.

And also, I seem to be suffering from an infestation of commas today. Sorry.

Settling in

A very full October has concluded. I still haven’t written much about Viable Paradise, but I will. I’ve been gone every weekend in October, and weekends are when I usually get blogging done. Also fiction writing and many other useful things. October was very good in many ways, but I’m glad it’s over. November won’t be quite as crazy, and December appears to be fairly tame.

I need some down time. It’s been a roller coaster of a year.

This past weekend was my first ever World Fantasy Convention (and first ever con of any time). It’s a writer-oriented con, with readings and literary panels, and no costumes, movies, or gaming.

This year it was in Columbus. I had an awesome time. It felt wonderful to be moving into that world, if only as the newest of writers. I signed many copies of Rigor Amortis and participated in the publisher’s group reading on Saturday. Many nice compliments on my story and reading.

I went to many panels and readings, including ones by Saladin Ahmed and Cat Valente. Both of those links are for short fiction, while the authors read from new or forthcoming novels. Saladin has a novel coming out soon, while Cat’s latest novel, The Habitation of the Blessed, was released today. I’m looking forward to reading them both.

After this weekend, I have no shortage of things to entertain myself with while I wait.

That’s not the complete collection!

Many of the people who live in my computer sprung to life at WFC. I’m not going to list them, because I would inevitably forget some (but there’s a list; you can imagine me meeting your favorites). I also met many new folks who will be living in my computer until next year.

A couple of other things:

I have a new Science in My Fiction article today, complete with baby dragons. It would be great if you read it and left a comment.

Tomorrow is election day in the US. If you live here, I expect you to vote, dammit. Google will helpfully tell you where.

National Novel Writing Month starts today. 50000 words in 30 days! I’m using the peer pressure to finish something already in progress. VP and WFC have got me all revved up; I hope that inspiration lasts for a while. I have piles of ideas, and a lot of writing to do.

Just in time, the new edition of the wonderful writing software Scrivener was released today. They’re doing a special NaNoWriMo 30-day trial edition for both Mac and the new Windows edition, a discount for WriMo participants, and a larger discount for winners. I highly recommend it, especially for writers who don’t work in strict order.

And now, time to settle in with my laptop, cat, novel-in-progress. I’ll keep you posted.