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Guardian Sci-Fi List

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Following up on Stella – this is the Guardian list of 1000 books you should read with just the SciFi ones pulled out – bold is what I’ve read…

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
5. Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
6. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
7. J.G. Ballard: The Drowned World (1962)
8. J.G. Ballard: Crash (1973)
9. J.G. Ballard: Millennium People (2003)
10. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
11. Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
12. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
13. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
14. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
15. Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)
16. William Beckford: Vathek (1786)
17. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
18. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
19. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
20. Charles Brockden Brown: Wieland (1798)
21. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
22. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
23. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
24. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
25. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
26. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
27. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
28. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
29. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
30. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
31. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
32. Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
33. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
34. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
35. Angela Carter: The Passion of New Eve (1977)
36. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
37. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)
38. GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
39. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
40. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
41. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
42. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
43. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
44. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
45. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
46. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
47. Thomas M Disch: Camp Concentration (1968)
48. Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)
49. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000) (on my top 10 list)
50. John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
51. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
52. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
53. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
54. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
55. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
56. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
57. M John Harrison: Light (2002)
58. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The House of the Seven Gables (1851)
59. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
60. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)
61. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
62. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980) (great book not many people know about)
63. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
64. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
65. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
66. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
67. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
68. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)
69. PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
70. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
71. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
72. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
73. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)
74. Stephen King: The Shining (1977) (his best book)
75. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
76. CS Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56)
77. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
78. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)
79. Ursula K Le Guin: The Earthsea series (1968-1990)
80. Ursula K Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

81. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
82. MG Lewis: The Monk (1796)
83. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
84. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
85. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
86. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
87. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
88. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
89. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
90. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
91. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
92. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
93. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
94. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
95. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
96. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
97. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
98. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
99. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
100. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
101. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)
102. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
103. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
104. Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
105. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
106. George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four (1949)
107. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
108. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
109. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
110. Frederik Pohl & CM Kornbluth: The Space Merchants (1953)
111. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
112. Terry Pratchett: The Discworld series (1983- ) (some of them, anyway)
113. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
114. Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials (1995-2000)
115. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
116. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
117. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
118. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
119. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
120. Geoff Ryman: Air (2005)
121. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)
122. Joanna Russ: The Female Man (1975)
123. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)
124. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
125. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
126. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)
127. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
128. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
129. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
130. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
131. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)

132. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
133. JRR Tolkien: The Hobbit (1937)
134. JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)
135. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889)

136. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
137. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (1764)
138. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
139. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
140. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
141. HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
142. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)
143. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)

144. Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo (1961)
145. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
146. Virginia Woolf: Orlando (1928)
147. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
148. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
149. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

The full list at the Guardian

Random links

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Looking for something to do? These will keep you occupied for a few minutes…

Best 404 Errors

Snap Circuits Jr – Awesome Toy

Fuck You, Penguin

Eskimo words for snow (there’s not 40, really)

Gorillas protected by guerillas

Me, me, me …and Malcolm Gladwell

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Book club book this time around is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. If one can sum up the theme of it, it’s basically this: when you see a “self-made” success, it’s really the result of many hours of practice (10k to be precise) and a network of people who provide the right opportunities at the right time, and also being in the right time at the right time (it kinda makes sense).

We had some great discussion with this book, so in terms of recommendations, I think it’s a good one for a book club.

It’s hard not to factor some of the observations in the book through one’s own experience, so I thought I’d do a little navel-gazing. I consider myself a relative success (granted, not the self-made millionaires or software geniuses or moms that Gladwell focused on) – I’m well educated, I have a decent job, my own house, I can travel when I want to, and buy lots of books because they give me great feelings of squeee! So was this me, or my “network” of people and opportunities?

I have the required level of intelligence. Gladwell makes the point that after a certain level of intelligence (like a genius IQ as a measurement), any increase above that doesn’t matter that much. So, I’ll concede that I had enough, and that there’s probably a strong genetic component in that.

I had ambition enough. If you asked me when I was 5 what I was going to do when I grew up, I knew for sure that I was going to university, even if my parents hadn’t and their parents hadn’t and no one else in my family had. It was just a given. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to pay for it when I got there, but that didn’t seem to phase me.

I walked the walk. Gladwell makes what I think is a salient point: the difference between middle class and lower class kids mostly doesn’t seem to be native intelligence or even what they can know by rote, but it has to do with the fact that the middle class kids are taught by their parents how to talk to adults, how to formulate questions and opinions that will be listened to. I probably got a little of this from my parents, but I think, overwhelmingly, it was from reading and teachers. I just matched the speech pattern to the situation and took it from there.

I had teachers who helped me. Definitely part of my network of opportunity. Some gave me challenging work. Some spent extra time exposing me to culture and arts and academic pursuits. Some winked and turned away while I committed acts of petty vandalism or, you know, showed up to English class a little tipsy. And most importantly, these same teachers helped me to find scholarships when it came time to worry about the money I needed to actually pay for university. I guess it’s no wonder I thought and still think teaching is a vocation, not a job.

I was born at the right time. I came through on a wave of feminism which opened up attitudes and opportunities for being a bright independent girl. I came through the system when they were trying all kinds of gifted programs where I got to hang out with some freaky smart (and usually well-off) kids – culture shock in a very good way. I came through when they still offered *gasp* grants (that’s right FREE money) to qualified students going to university. I also, by pushing myself, qualified for some pretty major academic scholarships once I got there, so that in the end, I came out with 4 or 5 degrees and relatively little debt for my troubles. Meaning that when I did start working, even though I was a late bloomer in the workforce, I was able to get on my feet quickly.

I wonder if the teachers in particular have any idea what they were able to do for me, and probably for many others like me. And I also wonder where I’d be if any one of those factors had been different.

Oh, and what do I have 10,000 hours experience at? The trifecta: reading, sleeping and dancing in my living room… .

Wherein I blaspheme

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Okay, I gotta say it. That last ep of Battlestar Galatica was not good. The pacing was weird, slow even. There was a lot of choppiness between scenes and storylines, … and I didn’t care about what was happening. Egad.

They’re also getting cutesy with the cylons, which is just not a good idea, as much as Tigh needing a drink was appropriate and funny. The president, as Robin says, needs to stop being crazy or die–one or the other. Gaeta isn’t strong enough to carry whatever intrigue they have going for him. And if all this set-up is so that the main story arc this season is a civil war in the fleet, I’m sorry, but I’m not interested. I know, I know! It just isn’t a storyline that I’m not interested in.

Now I’ll be over here in the corner waiting for the sci-fi gods to smite me.

“Some human beings are more endearing than others”

Sunday, January 25th, 2009
Fierce by Hannah Holborn

Fierce by Hannah Holborn

The epigraph is from Robert Service (check) and the cover is the after-shot of a drowning (check)–yep, good Canadian fiction! My snout for finding debut authors has worked a treat again.

The short stories and final novella in this collection are like backstories to those pictures you run across where something strange and maybe slightly soiled is happening in medias res and you wonder what led up to the moment.

They are stories about dysfunction but also about redemption and loss and all of those mournful moments that Canadian fiction is known for and you know, some laughs. Okay, dark laughs, but that’s the way we roll. The landscape–the Yukon and Northern BC–is a keen player in the the stories too, and it seems kind of exotic and northern, as it does to those of us who live “down south” or “out east”.

My mother tamped out her cigarrette. She stood and then glided past me, smelling of carcinogens and rose perfume. The familiar combination provided a strange comfort. Her hand swept my head, sparked me to life. She had the knack after all, only her knack didn’t hurt. Tears of self-pity formed in my eyes, “I just wanted her to be normal, Ma.”

Yeah. Normal. You’ve got lost children who drink or stumble or dance to epiphanies. Fierce children left without parents. A fierce old woman living in the bush alone with her cabin fever. Drinks and fights and mythic fires. A young man who clings to the memory of his foster-sister and lover. And old men who stop living when they lose the same woman.

An old horse wanders the streets like an old man that everyone nods to, and who is horse-jacked from time to time. A young girl liberates a ananaksaq doll. A teen girl goes on ugly rides trying to find the realness of her brother’s disfigurement while avoiding her father’s leper jokes and her mother’s penchant for the whiskey.

There’s a wry and yet real sensibility in the telling which sets this collection above a lot of stuff out there, and maybe a little magic realism. Definitely a good read.

Work in progress

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Ill Doctrine expresses my take on Obama Day very well. Definitely worth watching.

(Link courtesy of Sweetney at MamaPop)

I’m more interested in what happened after

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

A woman in Houston got a little perturbed and she shot someone with an arrow in her office. Definitely not good, but check out what happened right after (bold and italic for emphasis) – it was freakin’ standoff in there! I don’t know whether to be happy she was stopped or freaked out at the armaments.

HOUSTON – Authorities say a 30-year-old woman entered a Houston office and fired an arrow into a worker’s chest, and that police later shot and wounded her.

Police say Julie Parker entered the Texas Components Corp. office Monday afternoon armed with a bow, arrows and toy gun, and fired an arrow into 55-year-old Armando Silva’s chest.

Houston police spokesman John Cannon says two office workers then drew their own weapons and confronted Parker.

Police say officers shot Parker several times after she turned on them with the bow.

Investigators have not determined a motive.

Parker was hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday. She is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Silva was in hospitalized in good condition.

(Link courtesy of Mike’s Bloggity Blog)

Obama Day

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I think a lot of us are thinking why bother to write about it. There’s already more than enough over-the-top gushing and commentary and analysis and replays of everything that happened today. Yet, there might be a mega-anthology built by future historians who want a true understanding of what different people felt and thought about the Obama election, so here’s mine:

  • It was uplifting to see the simple elation on people’s faces as they stood there in Washington. A whole mess of sheer glee, affirmation, gratitude and a quieter type of patriotism (less combative and more uniting).
  • Barack Obama is a preacher. As I said just previous, his best secret weapon is his ability to inspire, and that might get Americans through a lot.
  • It’s really not about him being black, at least for me. I mean I get it. And maybe there’s this huge catharsis in saying over and over again that a black man is president, but for me it’s the person and the message that he carries. Though it also makes me wonder if the racism in Canada is more insidious because it’s not so talked about.
  • He did a shout-out to those who don’t believe in God, which is probably a very brave thing.
  • Is he pro-gay rights? I guess we’re still not clear, though they got a mention in his speech last night. I truly hope he is.
  • I loved the key messages. Grow up. Be responsible and take responsibility (and I surely believe that the people helped themselves to get to the mortgage crisis). Know we can do it, think about peace and earning respect. Remember humility. Try an open hand before the closed fist. These are all things that resonate in my heart. Quiet hard work is the backbone of a strong people. It is the differences of cultures and people that make the country strong.
  • As a Canadian, these messages feel very much at home. These are the things that we have always (I think) associated with ourselves, which perhaps explains why Obama is so very popular here. If you need proof, many businesses set up “watching areas” for employees so that they wouldn’t take the network down trying to watch the speech. This would never happen for our own prime minister’s swearing in.
  • Canadians are pleased as punch that our fair land will be his first international visit as president. It’s probably because the Secret Service already has men on the ground here and want to start with an easy one, but we’ll pretend it’s because he likes us :)
  • They said his middle name.
  • As far as preachers go, Rev. Joseph Lowery is a hoot.
  • Now there’s also reality. Even though it feels like everything changed in one day, there are a mountain of things to deal with. And as much as the American people are still innovative, still willing to work and still willing to lead, they are also still deeply tied to exclusionary religiosity, still facing prejudice, still often interested in personal gain more than collective good and still woefully ignorant of the world (and we have some Canadians like this too – make no mistake).
  • The world cares about today because maybe, just maybe, Obama’s oratory will lead to the kind of change that brings us forward a few steps to somewhere much better than we were.


Full text of the inauguration speech

Video of speech



The Chronicle


Jealous and hopeful (me)

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Did you see Obama’s speech yet?

It is the same thing that gave me hope from the day we began this campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago; a belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together — Democrats, Republicans, independents; Latino, Asian and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not — then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.

Full text here.

Regardless of whether or not you believe he can solve all of those things, his calm demeanour, open address of the issues and conciliatory words are a balm that we certainly won’t get here any time soon.

BSG – what the frak?

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Without spoilerage, that was one of the darkest, grittiest and human tv episodes I’ve seen. When she hums and then she takes off her jewelry and then she… holy cow!

And hang on to your hats with the Cylon timelines. Already there is much speculation about the reveal at the end – is it true? Well, this great interview that Maggie linked to pretty much confirms that it is (do not read unless you’ve seen the ep already).

As for Kara, the big money seems to be that she is the first hybrid. All I know is that I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.