Read in November

November has been a light month for the past few years -- that's when the big family vacation (so far, to lands of The Mouse) hits, and that vacation seems to bring a certain lassitude to my reading and writing-about-what-I-read life.

That's all by way of saying "gosh, I really didn't read much this month, did I?"

I'd like to read more, or at least I think I do, but, when I have time these days, it seems that reading long-form prose is not at the top of the priority list. (Once again, I can wish that long-form prose was still my job, but it isn't.)

Anyway, here's what I did read:

Gary Fingercastle, Wanted: Bear Cubs for My Children (11/2) -- I picked this up, knowing that it was a collection of strange posts from Craigslist, but thinking that Fingercastle had found, curated, and edited those posts --that it was a work of found art, or of "look at all these weirdos." I was mistaken, though; this is more like those books of annoying letters to famous people that Jerry Seinfeld keeps insisting that he didn't write. Fingercastle has spent much of the last decade thinking up, writing, and posting to Craigslist deliberately strange, offensive, and unpleasant posts, across all of the categories on that site, and Wanted collects those posts. So it's not found art; it's a guy imitating found art, and trying to out-bizarre the real world, which is quixotic at best. It does feel like Fingercastle is making fun of people -- and, even more so, that he's making fun of non-specific, vague ideas of particular kinds of people, which is worse for comedy purposes. It is moderately funny in spots, but the exercise is unpleasant to begin with; Wanted is an extended trolling expedition that got a book deal, and I don't think trolling should be rewarded.

Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth (11/12)

Lisa Lutz, The Spellman Files (11/13) -- I don't know that I have much to say about this novel -- it's a funny mystery novel, which manages to be both really funny and a real novel (though the mystery, in the core genre sense, is slightly skimped along the way -- I didn't mind at all). It centers on a very dysfunctional family of private detectives in San Francisco, as seen by the ne'er-do-well older sister of the family, and it has already been a big success, with praise and bestsellerdom and four sequels to date. (I got to it several years late.) If you've heard about it and were waiting for one more person to rave about it, count me as that final rave -- it's not a demanding novel, but it's both deeper than it looks and a hell of a lot of fun to read. (It was my primary airplane book for the round-trip transcontinental flight earlier this month, and made time in that cramped seat pass admirably quickly.)

Daniel Handler, The Basic Eight (11/16)

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque & Sean Murphy, American Vampire Vol. 3 (11/26) -- The third volume of the HBO-stylish Vertigo vampire series (see my reviews of the first and second books) isn't as middle as the second book was, though it's still clearly more stuff in a saga writer Scott Snyder intends to spin out for a while. This particular book collects a one-shot story, with series anti-hero Skinner Sweet coming across a Wild West show in 1919, which is mostly to remind us that Sweet is the ostensible core of the whole story. And then there are two longer stories -- "Ghost War" and "Survival of the Fittest," the latter of which was published as a separate miniseries for complicated and probably irrelevant comics-publishing reasons. "Ghost War" brings the main timeline up to WWII, and focuses on the other American Vampire, Pearl Jones, who chases her human husband, Henry Preston (and Snyder does the tedious vampire-story thing of having Preston continually note how he's getting older and slower, while Jones stays young and spry, even though he could become a vampire any time he wants, and have essentially no bad side-effects) off to the pacific war. There's another vampire variant, and the usual mad-scientist tinkering in the realms of God, and Sweet is involved a bit, too. But, all in all, it's just an episode -- a thing that happened to these two characters, without much more significance. "Survival of the Fittest" has an entirely different cast -- primarily Cash McCogan, the ex-sheriff turned vampire hunter, and Felicia Book, the requisite half-vampire vampire hunter, and their secret organization, the Vassals of the Morning Star -- in a secret mission in WWII Europe at nearly the same time. Both stories have a big impressive death scene for a major character -- one of which I expect will be much more permanent than the other -- and both are impressive modern supernatural-comics thrill rides. But they're both pretty surface-y; they don't get deeply into either the characters or Snyder's mythology, so it feels a bit like ticking off boxes: this series is working its way through the 20th century decade by decade, and WWII was a big deal that had to be addressed. It's still solid comics, but Snyder is telling a long story in small episodes, so it might be a while before anything really important happens.

Jacques Tardi, Benjamin Legrand & Dominique Grange, New York Mon Amour (11/27) -- New York circa 1980 was dark, dirty, corrupt, depressing, and ominous -- so much so that even a bunch of Frenchmen knew it. New York Mon Amour collects one long and three short stories, all drawn by world comics superstar Jacques Tardi, written by various hands (including Tardi himself, for one of the short pieces). They're snapshots of a particular era and style -- very influenced by early Scorsese and '70s cinema in general -- of a city seething with anger and resentment, bubbling over with danger and fear, crammed full of death and violence and revenge and hopelessness. It's all very noir -- all but the last, devastating short story, "Hung's Murderer," are clearly over the top -- and all very bleak. There are no happy endings, no moments of grace -- just the big bad city looming over all, and destroying all of the small lives it touches. Tardi has done better, subtler work than this (see my reviews for It Was the War of the Trenches and West Coast Blues for examples), but this is solid noir in the '70s style, though it does get a bit cartoony at times. 

Jasper Fforde, The Woman Who Died a Lot (11/27)

JT Petty & Hilary Florido, Bloody Chester (11/28)

Lemony Snicket, "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" (11/28)

Shannon Wheeler, I Thought You Would Be Funnier (11/29)

Yes, 60% of the books I read this month were finished the last week; I've gotten into an odd rut where I don't read books while I'm on vacations or holidays. (It's not on purpose, but there's always so many other things that need to be done that finding time -- or a place -- to sit quietly and read is difficult.) Well, the boys will be grown and out of the house before I know it -- Thing 1 got his first piece of mail from a college this month -- so I had better enjoy the bustle and excitement while I have it.

Links and reviews -- deep or desultory, time will tell which -- for the missing books will follow at some indefinite time in the future. (Possibly some over this weekend.)

More Books Than You Can Shake a Stick At

Most people will look at these pictures of an Amazon warehouse and talk about how big, complicated, and organized it is.

I must have been working in finance/supply management publishing for too long, because what I see is no automation, massive amounts of handwork, and those unfortunately oddly sized objects (known as books) which cause trouble for robots to pick and pack, as they would in a proper warehouse. It's sad but bracing to realize that one is never happy with anything.

(Oh, and if this drives you to think of buying something-or-other from that particular retail behemoth, here is a handy link to allow you to do so.)

Loudon Wainwright om kärlek

Jag har sagt det förr: Loudon Wainwright skriver låtar om precis allting! Det är få ämnen som han inte berört. På senaste skivan gör han upp med åldrandet, men kärleken finns alltid där. Oftast dränkt i elände... Vem skulle annars skriva en låt som "I Remember Sex"??

Han har alltid befunnit sig i alla faser av kärlekstrubblet om vartannat, hit och dit. Gång efter gång. Om och om igen...!!

And it's been 16 years now that I've written songs
Over a 100 and still growing strong
About drinking and hockey and flying above
Again and again about unhappy love
Over and over, unhappy love
- Loudon Wainwright III

Men humorn har fört honom vidare. Hur allvarligt det än är, så kan han oftast få till det lite dråpligt, eller med en glimt i ögat:

Woke up this afternoon and I sat up in the bed
There was a gnawing in my gut and a poundin' in my head
So I went to the bathroom, to the medicine chest
There was sleepin'pills and razorblades and all the rest
But I was in control baby, I was so relaxed
I found myself my dental floss, my favourite kind, unwaxed
I'm alright, I'm alright
Yeah I'm alright baby, I'm alright without you!
- Loudon Wainwright III

Bitterheten finns ofta där... Vad sägs om dessa citat:

Everything changes, time takes it's toll
Your folks fell in love, loves a very deep hole
It's a vague and a meaningless word
As an idea, completely absurd
It's been sung and said
It's been written in read
It's a fairy tale ending deferred
A vague and a meaningless word
Sure it's kind of lonely, yeah it's sort of sick
Being your own one and only is a selfish dirty trick
Leave love alone... and let it die!
- Loudon Wainwright III

Allt kryddar han dessutom med en stor portion ironi:

We both tried, nobody died
But I feel damned near dead
I miss you but I'm really blue
Cause I'm back with me instead
I can't stand myself
I sure can pick em
I'm looking for my next victim
Who will that unlucky one be?
- Loudon Wainwright III

Jag har samlat ihop några av hans kärleksalster här:
Loudon Wainwright about love
- Spellista på Spotify att frossa i...!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

To help you get into the festive mood of the season, NoiseTrade have made available one of the great Christmas albums -- Over's the Rhine's 2006 Snow Angels -- absolutely free.

Now, you can leave a tip -- I know I paid for that record when I got it a few years back, and it was well worth it -- but you don't have to; you can get it for absolutely nuttin', if you want.

And I do recommend you check it out -- if you're not sure, listen to "Darlin' (Christmas Is Coming)"  and "Here It Is" for the joyful side and "Snow Angel" and "All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue" for the other persuasion. It's a great record, it's perfectly apropos right now, and it's completely free.

Hey -- you can listen to all of the songs right in this here widget, without even clicking off to NoiseTrade. C'mon, I can't coddle you any more than that, can I?

Bushman Lives! by Daniel Pinkwater

For more than two generations now, weird, quirky kids have been peering out at the world, sure that there must be some hidden reason behind it all. They've looked around for those explanations, to religion and science and superstition and gut instinct, with varied levels of success. But the smartest and luckiest ones are the kids who found the novels of Daniel Pinkwater, and realized that the world is both unknowable and wonderful, that explanations are absurd but still worth chasing, and that the possibilities are even wider and more amazing than they have dreamed.

Pinkwater's books are all odd, all a lovely mixture of sweet and goofball, smart and nutty. They're all deeply pleasurable to sink into, especially if you are -- or were -- one of those weird, quirky kids. But some of them are more than that -- some books, like the sublimely Dada Young Adult Novel, or the two "Snarkout Boys" stories, or the pseudo-autobiographical The Education of Robert Nifkin, see Pinkwater integrate all of his themes and obsessions, from Yiddishkeit to '50s Chicago, from smart outsiders to his own kind of magical realism, and create great, moving novels even more impressive than his usual work. Pinkwater's usual books are a wonder and a lifeline, but his best books are world treasures. And Bushman Lives! is one of the strongest novels of Pinkwater's long career.

Pinkwater's deepest and most resonant novels usually draw from his own life, and Bushman  continues that tradition, following the story of teenager Harold Knishke, a smart, fat kid in the Chicago of the 1950s. But Bushman isn't a tightly focused book; it's as much about Harold's friend, the budding sailor Geets Hildebrand, as it is about Harold himself, and even more so, it's a book about being that kind of kid in that time and place, in a Pinkwaterian world full of wonders and oddities. Bushman also slots into the recent sequence of loosely linked Pinkwater novels, from The Neddiad to The Ygyssey to The Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, with Molly the Dwerg and her friend the Wolluf showing up here as important secondary characters.

As usual with Pinkwater, the plot isn't the point -- that plot, loosely, is "Harold wanders around Chicago, one hot summer, learning about people and starting to get serious about art." It's probably as close to an autobiographical novel as Pinkwater will ever come, but it's not that close; Harold's adventures could only take place in a Pinkwater book, not in the real world. Everything that happens in Bushman is one turn away from the real world, a click or two more heightened than actual reality, in that brighter, more vibrant world we all know from our imaginations.

And Bushman himself? He's a famous gorilla, who lived in Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo from 1930 to his death in 1951. In our world, his skin is stuffed and on display at the Field Museum. But Harold and Geets, in a Pinkwater world just a few years after his "death," insist that he never died, that he escaped from men and their zoos to a better place. And in the world of a Daniel Pinkwater novel, that's not just the answer we want to be true, it's the way to bet.

Bushman Lives! is a wonderful, kaleidoscopic, lovely, deep, thoughtful, silly novel about growing up and figuring out what to do with your life. It will be immeasurably helpful to uncountable young people, as earlier Pinkwater novels have been. And it's also a window into Pinkwater's world, one of the clearest and best-positioned windows yet, to give the rest of us a view of a world more interesting and purposeful and meaningful than our own. To put it more simply: it's one of the best books of one of our best writers.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/24

I hope my American readers had a pleasant and calorie-filled long Thanksgiving weekend (or, at worst, didn't have to work too many hours at retail this Black Friday), and that the rest of the world had a week not too much worse than normal. I say that because it's a social nicety, and because -- after doing these posts weekly for several years -- I've run out of on-topic, coherent things to say to begin them, and so have a tendency to just babble randomly for the first paragraph.

With that out of the way: this is a new week, with new books, all sent to me by the wonderful Publicists of Publishing. I haven't read any of these books yet, but I can tell you some things about them anyway, an those things (which are guaranteed to be as true as possible) are:

The Price of War is a handsome paperback repackaging of the back half of Daniel Abraham's acclaimed fantasy series "The Long Price Quartet" -- that would be the novels An Autumn War and The Price of Spring -- as a follow-up to the similar omnibus Shadow and Betrayal, which came out last year. Price was published by Tor earlier this month, and comes with encomiums from Jay Lake, George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Jo Walton, S.M. Stirling, Paul Di Filippo, and (unexpectedly) Junot Diaz. I haven't read the series myself, but who am I to quibble with such a line-up?

To see how much my manga-reading has deteriorated in the past year, I'll point to the next book: Is This a Zombie?, Vol. 3by Sacchi, the latest in the manga series based on the light-novel series by Shinichi Kimura (with art by Kobuichi and Muririn, who therefore designed all of the characters). I have the first two volumes sitting on my shelf to read, so I can't say a whole lot about this one -- I believe it's a shonen harem story (the M-rating tends to agree with me) with one shlubby boy and a bevy of busty supernatural girls (at least one vampire, I'm sure, though the Japanese don't go in for werewolves the way we do in North America) who fall all over him and/or beat him up for perceived bad behavior. This one, like the first two volumes, is from Yen Press.

Joanne Bertin -- author of The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix, which I acquired for the SFBC way back in my prior life in the last century -- is back with a new novel in that series after more than ten years of silence. Bard's Oath is a hardcover from Tor on November 27th, continuing the high-fantasy story of shape-shifters and dragons than I vaguely remember liking at the time. (Hey, it's been thirteen years! I've read a lot of other things since then. If it weren't for the flood last year, I'd be able to pull out my old reports and see what I said about the old books at the time, but those were yet more things I lost last year.) Anyway, if you remember the old books, or just want a big fantasy in the McCaffrey mode, check this out.

Hannu Rajaniemi, the latest wide-screen-SF wunderkind and author of The Quantum Thief (see my review) is back with the second novel in the trilogy -- did you really think any mildly successful SFF book would avoid becoming at least a trilogy? you are so silly! -- The Fractal Prince, a Tor hardcover also coming on the 27th. Quantum Thief was big, bold, and almost too zippy for words -- so much so that less-experienced SF readers have reported having trouble comprehending it -- so I'm happy to see Rajaniemi back for another go, and not quite as happy to keep trying to teach my fingers how to spell his name correctly.

And last for this week is The Bones of the Old Ones by Howard Andrew Jones (also known as the managing editor of Black Gate), the sequel to The Desert of Souls and thus the second of "The Chronicles of Sword and Sand," a pseudo-Arabian fantasy series. I understand that this is an old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery style series, meaning that each novel and story stands alone (and, I dearly hope, that Jones's heroes at no time attempt to save the world), so a reader could easily begin with this volume, in which scholar Dabir and swordsman Captain Asim head out into the worst winter in history to battle an evil cabal and save a beautiful noblewoman. Bones is a hardcover from St. Martin's Press, coming December 11.

Cirkeln sluts: Love will meet again...

Tillknycklad av kärlek, fas 6
Visst borde en sån här 'serie' sluta lite hoppfullt. Eric Andersen's "Love Will Meet Again" gör det på bästa möjliga sätt, trots motstridiga känslor och oönskad tvekan, så finns tron på att allt kommer igen, kärleken kommer att möta dig igen...

There's a feeling that lies inside me
Questions my heart and my mind
Changes, all the changes around me
I will know when it's time

Love came to me like a stranger
Creating the warmth of a brand new friend
Time has no limitations
Love will meet again
- Eric Andersen

Vill du ha riktigt lyckliga kärlekssånger, se här:
Sånger om lycklig kärlek
Lycklig med fart

Ännu en fas om kärlek

Tillknycklad av kärlek, fas 5
Har fått en kommentar om denna serie om kärleksstrul (se 28 september - 1 oktober i år).
Var är bluesen? All saknad och självömkan...

Jovisst, den borde väl vara med! Saknad och längtan kan ju finnas ändå, men förstärks till det outhärdliga vid kriser, och då kan blues hjälpa som inget annat...

Så jag stoppar in en vidunderlig blues med Sonny Landreth:

För dig som önskar ännu mer: Frossa i min Spotify-lista:
Blues Run The Game - Spellista på Spotify !

Something I Should Remember, But Never Do

It doesn't pay to buy cheap used books from Amazon, because the sellers there have no sense of condition. And every single "great deal" I've gotten on a "Very Good" or "Like New" book inevitably turns out to be an ex-library copy with stamps and stickers everywhere.

Case in point -- I'm trying to rebuild my Love & Rockets library, this time with the fat paperbacks. And a recent Amazon order included what was supposed to be a "Very Good" copy of The Girl From H.O.P.P.E.R.S., the second collection of Jaime stories. What I got was, instead, a mildly foxed and over-stickered (bar code on the front cover with marker scribble over it! two stickers on the back cover that don't come off! stickers on the spine with the title pasted right over the actual title printed on the spine!) reading copy that the Denver library tossed aside recently.

So, if you're like me, and looking for book bargains, do not, under any circumstances, give in the the siren song of Amazon. They're fine at shipping brand-new stuff, and they can zap electrons around like nobody's business, but used books requires a human being's eye and discrimination, not Big Data and massive warehouses, and so they do not do that particular thing with any great facility.

(And, he added with a fine eye for irony, look out for a post or two in the very near future with lots of Amazon links for you to use to buy things!)

(Further parenthetical thought: I also got a copy of Shannon Wheeler's I Thought You Would Be Funnier, Stephan Pastis's Pearls Freaks the #*%# Out, and a Rick Riordan fantasy novel for Thing 2, my younger son. This concludes the ritual Announcement of the Incoming Books.)

Stabil sprödhet med Great Lake Swimmers

Great Lake Swimmers, Debaser Slussen, Stockholm 2012-11-18

Kanadensiska Great Lake Swimmers har fått många kritiker att ösa superlativer och de har nått en viss kultstatus här och där. Deras senaste två skivor har varit något mer up-tempo och på så sätt har de börjat nå en större publik. Ändå finns det plats för fler på Debaser vid Slussen denna söndagskväll. Endast 145 kronor i inträde och det borde varit proppfullt och slutsålt sedan länge. När de inleder klockrent med "Think That You Might Be Wrong", en av årets bästa låtar, förstår jag vilken fin kväll det kommer att bli!

För mig är de helt enkelt en av de bästa grupperna de senaste åren. Deras andra och tredje skiva, "Bodies and Minds" och "Ongiara", tillhör mina mest spelade skivor. Musik att krypa in i och bli sofistikerat lugn och harmonisk av!

Tony Dekker har en spröd ljus stämma och skriver fruktansvärt vackra låtar som växer och etsar sig fast. Det mesta centreras runt hans röst och kompositioner, men nu förstår jag vilken viktig insats de övriga bidrar med. Miranda Mulholland spelar fiol och sjunger stämmor känslosamt och är den som märks mest på scen. Erik Arnesen spelar elgitarr så sofistikerat och när han ibland plockar fram banjon kan man känna gräset under fötterna. Bret Higgins ståbas understryker och skapar på samma gång luft i ljudbilden. Trummisen Greg Millson är ett under av dämpad dynamik, han spelar så dekorativt och varierat och emellanåt dramatiskt att jag häpnar. En finlirare av sällan skådad klass!

Ändå blir det både tryck och lite fart, uppblandat med spröd känsla som mystiskt nog känns riktigt stabil. När de går av scenen efter mer än en timme blir de inklappade till extranummer och nu händer det oväntade: De kliver ut mitt på golvet och kör en spontan och livad version av "Still" helt utan förstärkning. Glädjen är uppenbar, stämningen uppsluppen och glad, och det blir en värdig avslutning på en väldigt fin musikkväll.

Great Lake Swimmers hemsida - med alla nyheter och mycket mer.
En dryg halvtimme från New Orleans i våras - för alla er som missade det hela igår.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/17

First of all, let me point you back to last week's post, which has finally been updated. (Getting settled at home after a week-long vacation didn't leave quite as much free time as I had hoped.)

And then, the usual notes: these are books that showed up, more or less unexpectedly, in my mailbox over the past week, each sent by a publicity person from their respective publishers. This is a wonderful thing, so I want to give all of these books some attention, even if don't end up reading and actually reviewing all of them. Below is what I can tell you about them right now -- it may be slightly incorrect (or even biased, since I don't love everything equally, like anyone else), but it's relatively honest and arguably positive.

Last week I saw the most recent installment of Atsushi Ohkubo's demon-fighting manga Soul Eater (the eleventh volume), and this week brings the second volume of the spin-off, Soul Eater NOT! (also by Ohkubo). This one seems to be sillier, and more focused on "partnering" between scythemeisters and their (sentient, shape-shifting, often female) weapons, with the romantic/sexual undertones that implies. (I might have to ask my older son, who read the first one -- in fact, he grabbed it away almost before I saw it.)

The Inexplicables is not a new superhero team -- well, it probably is, somewhere, but this particular manifestation is not. It is, instead, a new novel by steampunk queen Cherie Priest, the fourth book in her loosely-linked, alternate-historical, zombies-in-Seattle "Clockwork Century" series. And it's a trade paperback from Tor, hitting stores November 13th.

But The Ultra Violets is both a new superhero team and a novel -- the former made up of four girls, best friends, who are splattered with a mysterious purple goo that transforms them, and the latter the story of their adventures, written by Sophie Bell with illustrations by Chris Battle. The latter is aimed at middle schoolers -- who will have to wait until April of 2013, when Razorbill will publish it -- and, I would suspect, in particular young women who want a Powerpuff Girls for their generation. It looks quite cutesy and fun, in a very girly way.

Scott Westerfeld's bestselling Uglies series spawned a graphic novel a year or so ago, and it's clearly still fecund (to extend a shaky, unpleasant metaphor), since a second GN, Cutters, has just appeared. It's written by Westerfeld with long-time comics writer Devin Grayson, and features art by Steven Cummings, who has also been part of the Udon collective. This book is a side-story to the main novels, telling the story of Shay's time in New Pretty Town from her point of view. And it will be available on December 4th from Del Rey.

King of the Dead is the second book in a dark urban fantasy series by Joseph Nassise -- the first was Eyes to See, in which series hero Jeremiah Hunt gave up normal sight for the ability to see the supernatural world. This time, Hunt and his compatriots (urban fantasy heroes always have compatriots; it's the core Scooby-Doo DNA of the genre) travel to New Orleans, one step ahead of the feds hunting for them as serial killers and just in time to try to battle a nasty evil something-or-other. This one is a Tor hardcover, publishing on November 27th.

From Tor's corporate sibling Thomas Dunne Books comes Weston Ochse's SEAL Team 666, a thriller about the special forces that battle supernatural threats, with the tone and style of the Clancy-derived technothriller. I'm probably jaundiced, but it looks to me like Stross's "Laundry Files" series, written for your cousin who only reads James Patterson. (Although that could probably be a lot of fun, come to think of it.) Seal Team 666 hits stores on December 11.

David Walton's Quintessence is an alternate-historical novel, set in a 14th century where the Earth is flat and magic works, and it promises "alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic." (I'm slightly worried that the publisher feels the need to mention both human dissection and torture, as if they're both selling points, but it otherwise sounds awesome.) Quintessence does not sound like anything else out there, which is a huge plus. And it's coming from Tor as a hardcover in March.

And last for this week is Crown of Vengeance by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, the first book of a new series (The Dragon Prophecy) set in the same world as their prior two trilogy-length collaborations, The Obsidian Trilogy and The Enduring Flame. This may be a prequel to those earlier series, and the publisher's copy promises things like "the truth about the Elven Queen Vielissiar Faricarnon, who was the first to face the Endarkened in battle and the first to bond with a dragon." If you're looking for that kind of big fantasy, full of "Elves and demons, unicorns and goblins, and Mages and warriors", then this is exactly what you want. It's a Tor hardcover, hitting stores last week.

2012 World Fantasy Award Winners

The World Fantasy Convention is held every year on the weekend closest to Halloween, and the World Fantasy Awards are given out then -- so most folks who have any pretensions to providing genre news have announced those winners some time ago.

But things have been busy in these parts (and the other parts where I happened to be) over the past couple of weeks, so I missed posting these when they were brand new. But, luckily, the good thing about excellent stories is that they're still as excellent a couple of weeks later.

So, with my congratulations to the winners and nominees (and my thanks to the judges, who have a hard but wonderful job), these were the winners of the 2012 World Fantasy Awards:

Lifetime Achievement Award Winners:
Alan Garner
George R.R. Martin

Novel: Osama, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

Novella: ”A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong,” K.J. Parker (Subterranean Winter 2011)

Short Story: ”The Paper Menagerie,” Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)

Anthology: The Weird, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (Corvus; Tor, published May 2012)

Collection: The Bible Repairman and Other Stories, Tim Powers (Tachyon/Subterranean Press)

Artist: John Coulthart

Special Award Professional: Eric Lane, for publishing in translation – Dedalus books

Special Award Non-Professional: Raymond Russell & Rosalie Parker, for Tartarus Press

(via SFWA)

Triologi om politik med Steve Mednick

Steve Mednick - “Where Are The Bodies Buried?” 2012

En del gör låtar om politik... Andra gör hela skivor... Steve Mednick har gjort en serie album han kallar "Problems In Democracy", en triologi av politiska skivor och där nu "Volume III" har kommit. Och då räknar han ändå inte in skivan "Immigrants... and Other Americans"!

Jag råkade upptäcka Steve Mednick då en skivbörs i Stockholm spelade hans "Ambling Toward The Unknown". Jag hade med skivan när jag gick ut. Roots-rock med ett stänk av the Band och en aning av Warren Zevon. Skivan lever mycket på Billy Kotsaftis (bör nog inte uttalas på svenska...) explosiva gitarr och andra läckra detaljer med närgången fiol och luftigt komp.

Mednick började 2006 vid femtio års ålder göra skivor och har nu hunnit med hela 10 sen dess,
ett snitt på nästan två per år! Han har definitivt mycket att berätta, en stor lyrisk uttrycks-förmåga, men nöjer sig ofta med avgränsade anekdoter, små iakttagelser som formar hans låtar, med tydliga melodier som ändå spelas något opolerat. Ibland blir det riktigt bra, ibland något tråkigt, kanske Mednicks röst inte har den karisma som behövs för att hålla intresset uppe en hel skiva. Denna gång finns fler tjejer med på stämsång och det underlättar.

Skarp kritik mot Amerikas ytliga politik, full av lögner, utan ansvar eller saklighet, finns överallt på nya albumet. Den här texten är dock hämtad från "Immigrants... and Other Americans":

"They tell their stories without a trace
Of the lies they spread to the human race
They hide behind the veil of fear
Fire and sword defeats the hopeful year
They speak out of both sides of their mouth
they say they’re patriots when they’re really not
Never let the facts or figures get in the way
While they trample on our destiny
Stand up and take them on..."
- Steve Mednick

Steve Mednick har stort intresse i humanism, rättvisa och miljöfrågor. Det finns till och med vardaglig psykologi instoppat i hans texter. Han vet vad han tycker och säger det rakt ut och många i USA ser honom säkert som ett vänsterspöke. Med titlar som det senaste albumets gör han det inte lätt för sig... Låtar som “Liberty Bells Are Calling”, "Still Time for a Change",
"Confessions" och "Warning Signs" borde höras ofta och om och om igen. Det finns egentligen inte en ointrssant låt på skivan och Mednick skriver texter som angår. Tyvärr kommer de som verkligen skulle behöva lyssna säkert inte att bry sig...

Steve Mednick's hemsida - Han gör skivor så oftá att han inte hunnit uppdatera...? Här finns alla låttexter och en personlig biografi.
Steve Mednick's MySpace-sida - med några låtar att lyssna på.

Steve Mednick – Where Are the Bodies Buried? - På Spotify kan du lyssna mer, här finns fler skivor, men ha lite tålamod...


Hey, have I ever mentioned the webcomic The Non-Adventures of Wonderella here? (I don't think I have.)

Today's installment is particularly fun, with a smart take on the ticking-bomb scenario so beloved by hack writers the world over. And Wonderella is regularly funny, in an often sneaky way (not unlike Sinfest) that works particularly well if you know North American superhero cliches.

OK, OK, the elevator pitch: Wonder Woman is well-meaning, but self-centered and more than a little fond of the bottle. Now go read it.

(The panel I chose isn't even the best bit of this one: the ending is excellent.)

Possibly the Worst Infographic Designed by the Hand of Man

There's an old saying to the effect that a little learning is a dangerous thing, and this here infographic about bestselling SF is a sterling example of that.

It's breathtaking in its stupidity and mistakes -- I'm half-convinced that every single "fact" in that image is utterly wrong.

For one example, it chirpily announces that Slaughterhouse-Five has sold more than 60,000 copies! Actually, the current trade paperback edition has sold about that many copies in the last two years -- the total number of sales is vastly higher. (I'd ballpark it in the 5 million range.)

It's also nuttily inconsistent in its aims -- it's far too long, to begin with, and doesn't present books in any coherent sequence (such as a countdown or countup), but tosses them at random, with odd (probably incorrect) factoids that usually, but not invariably, are numbers connected to sales figures.

(There are also plenty of grammatical, syntactical, word-choice, and other errors as well -- a fully-annotated version of this thing would be massive.)

In fact, if any of you out there are also marketers, as I am, this infographic is a perfect bad example of the form. If you ever set out to make an infographic, this is exactly what you don't want to do.

(Hat tip to Making Light, which discovered and made fun of this before I did.)

Fler kritiska sånger om Amerika

Oj, det här skulle kunna bli en lång följetong... Så många giftiga låtar att välja bland...
Här är några av mina favoriter, fulla med kritik, men som ändå berör ända in i benmärgen:

Neil Young - "Long Walk Home"
En skarpsynt och rörande antikrigssång full av smattrande kanoner och kontraster.

"If Liberty was a little girl
Watching all the flags unfurl
Standing at the big parade
How would she like us now?"
- Neil Young

Richard Thompson - "Yankee Go Home"
En lättsamt medryckande sång om hur amerikansk kultur och livsstil invaderat våra liv.

"I lost count of the chewing gum that I've had
And coca-cola make my teeth go bad
We'll handle this on our own
Yankee go home!"
- Richard Thompson

Jackson Browne - "For America"
En ren 'avrättning' av politikers alla lögner till ylande saxofon.

"Until the land of the free
Is awake and can see
And until her conscience has been found
- Jackson Browne"

Friskt Vatten - "Lee Highway"
Vi måste ju ha med något svenskt och det här gillar jag än idag. Härligt drag i sången!

"Bland nedslitna hus och 6-filig ny motorväg
Min sång det är drömmen om chansen att få dra iväg"
- Håkan Wannerberg

Billy Bragg - "Help Save the Youth of America"
Ord och inga visor, men Billy Bragg känns alltid uppriktig.

"A nation with their freezers full
Are dancing in their seats
While outside another nation
Is sleeping in the streets"
- Billy Bragg

Decameron - "So this is God's Country" / "Peace with Honour"
Den avslutande balladen om USA:s alla krig är kanske den bästa av dem alla.

"Peace with Honour, cries the dollar
Ring the liberty bell
If you invent another word for peace
We can drink to better's well"
- Dave Bell/Johnny Coppin