Read in June

And here's another month in which I read fewer books than I'd like -- well, that describes all months, basically, but lately it's even more so, due to various reasons that I probably could fix if I cared somewhat more. This time out, it's a combination of a new video game -- the Lego City prequel for the 3DS, which my sons gave me for my birthday at the beginning of the month and Thing 1 graciously let me borrow his device to actually play for long stretches -- and two business trips. (I used to read a lot on business trips, when I didn't have a Wifi-enabled device in the exhibit hall and work wasn't at such a frantic pace -- I could enjoy being in wherever-it-was and get caught back up to office stuff when I was back there. No more.)

Anyway, my life has fallen into a pattern where I have much less time for reading, but I continue to hope that will change at some point. Here's what I did read:

Rob Davis & Woodrow Phoenix, editors, Nelson (6/3)
It's very rare to see such an incredibly ambitious and almost completely successful artistic experiment, but Nelson is dazzling and wide-ranging, a book that exists because two editors led fifty-four UK cartoonists to create the story of one life, with each artist or team taking on a few pages to tell one piece (a day, or a moment) for each year of Nel Baker's life. It starts in 1967, runs through her birth and childhood, all the way to 2011, the year Nelson was published and Nel Baker was 43. Nel doesn't become famous, she doesn't save the world or even live up to her childhood dreams all that much -- like all of the rest of us. She just lives her life, day to day and year to year, finding what happiness she can and becoming a fascinating, real, deep, wonderful character along the way. There's nothing in comics I can compare Nelson to; it has the ordinary every-day-ness of the autobiographical cartoonists without their self-obsession, the visual and artistic variety of a great anthology put in service of a single story, and a depth of human understanding and feeling rare in any medium. What it's most like -- and it's not much like this at all -- is Michael Apted's series of Up films; Nelson similarly look at an ordinary person's life to show that "ordinary" is nowhere near the same thing as "dull." I picked this book up because I'd seen good reviews of it, and it lives up to every bit of praise: Nelson is one of the great comics of this century.

Nate Powell, Sounds of Your Name (6/4)
Powell is the creator of the haunting and magnificent masterpiece Swallow Me Whole and the only slightly less successful Any Empire, but Sounds of Your Name came before either of those books. In fact, much of it came long before -- this collects stories of various lengths from minicomics and anthologies, originally written and drawn between 1998 and 2004, during Powell's art-school days and soon afterward. There's a lot of comics here -- the edition I have (from 2006) is over 300 pages long, and I believe there's a newer, revised version -- but they are definitely more journeyman works than Powell's full graphic novels. His art was darkly atmospheric almost from the beginning, though -- Sounds of Your Name shows an artist honing his stories and allusions and layouts to get them up to the level of his drawing. The stories themselves are mostly in the territory between quiet and understated, more about mood and character than plot, and the significance of many of them, I have to admit, was lost on me.

MariNaomi, Kiss & Tell (6/5)
MariNaomi has had a complicated love life, and Kiss & Tell covers the first 22 years of it -- from her birth in 1973 (well, age 5, really) to 1995, when she was 22. So there's a lot of "I liked this boy" leading into "I kissed this boy" and then "we made out" and then the complications (sex, boys, girls, drinking, drugs) as she became a rebellious teen. MariNaomi was a pretty fast girl -- well, most of us would say that, but, by the standards of San Francisco in the early '90s, she probably was only very slightly ahead of the curve -- so there's a lot to write about. Her art looks Marjane Satrapi-influenced to my eye, with lots of figures floating in black panels and hand-lettered captions. There's not a whole lot of through-line to this story, though -- it ends pretty much as MariNaomi gets to the point of being a semi-responsible adult, and, though her teenage years were turbulent (kicked out of her parents' house at one point), she presents it all on the same level, as an endless string of boys (and, towards the end, some girls) that she had sex with. She doesn't really get into why she did any of this, so it just becomes a series of anecdotes. They are interesting anecdotes, with lots of drama, but that's all.

Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neill, Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition (6/7)
Marshal Law is one of the best piss-take comics of all time, and an essential document about just how extreme and nutty the superhero world was in the late '80s and early '90s. This new collection brings all of those comics -- originally published from 1987 through 1993, as a miniseries and then basically-yearly 50-ish-page one-shots -- into one shiny, spiffy package, to make the bile and spleen that much clearer and more obvious. It is darkly amusing that DC Comics -- which has brought back superhero torture porn over the past decade and invented ever greater heights for it -- is the publisher this time out, but I suppose they know what their audience wants. It's possible to read Marshal Law on the surface, without irony, but you might have to be really dim and oblivious to do so.

Carrie Vaughn, Kitty Goes to War (6/17)
The eighth book in the contemporary fantasy series and the first to be published by Tor (back in 2010) is another good outing, but I find I don't have a lot to say about the series at this point -- I read the prior book (Kitty's House of Horrors) last month, and haven't managed to put any words together about that. So let me point you to my reviews of books four and five and six -- I did the first three as an omnibus back in my SFBC days, so my recommendation then was based on actually spending my employer's money and my own time to promote a book -- instead. Besides, who starts a series with book 8? This one is worth reading, though, especially if you're interested in the question of how supernatural creatures could and would interact with real laws and governments in our world, and not about magical wish-fulfillment of any flavor.

Kevin C. Pyle, Take What You Can Carry (6/19)
I remember seeing good things about this graphic novel somewhere, so perhaps it only disappointed me because I was expecting too much of it. But it's one of those books with two stories that are related but greatly separated in time -- one set during WWII, about a young Japanese man and his life in a relocation camp, the other in the mid-70s with a disaffected young man who meets that now-adult ex-internee in what I'm afraid is a vaguely autobiographical tale -- and it just didn't come together for me. The WWII sections are wordless, which just distanced me from Ken as a boy (and Ken comes across as a grumpy man -- well, he would, since the ne'er-do-well protagonist of the '70s section, Kyle, meets him while trying to shoplift from Ken's store) without giving them much power. And the lessons Kyle learns in the '70s section are facile and obvious. Pyle's art does have a loose energy, and he varies his style (and color washes) to cleanly distinguish the two stories. But it just didn't turn into a single story for me.

Tom Gauld, Goliath (6/20)
Gauld's cartoons appear regularly in the Guardian and New York Times, but this is something larger (ha ha): a single graphic narrative, somewhat along the lines of the Norwegian/French cartoonist Jason, focusing on the famous Biblical Philistine named Goliath. In Gauld's version, Goliath is a gentle giant, happiest when doing paperwork for his regiment, but he's dragged into a sneaky scheme to frighten off the Israelites by an ambitious captain. We all know how it will end, of course, so the point is how Gauld shows us Goliath's "real" inner life, and fits his narrative into the holes and interstices of the Biblical story.

John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (6/21)
If you need me to tell you about the book that basically single-handedly launched the modern spy novel genre, then I hope you're quite young and/or were raised by some kind of jungle animals. (And, yes, Fleming was there before Le Carre, and Fleming's books do have more spycraft and tension and seriousness than the movies made from them usually do, but the spy novel really does descend from Came In From the Cold the same way the detective genre flourished out of "Murder in the Rue Morgue.") It's taut and smart and cold and ruthless, the way a novel like this should be, and fifty years have not turned it into a curiosity or an artifact. The technological trappings of spycraft, and the details of enemies and allies, may change, but the essential nature of the business -- obtaining information and channels for information, disseminating disinformation, and the darker operations to remove individuals -- doesn't change. Came In from the Cold is a nearly perfect spy novel: short, pointed, perfectly shaped, and driven forward with great force.

Awards -- Stoker & Locus

I'm trying to clean up everything I have saved in Google Reader -- since it goes away tomorrow -- and that includes these recent genre-fiction awards, which you may well have already heard about:

2013 Bram Stoker Awards

These were announced two weeks ago by the Horror Writers Association at the World Horror Convention:

  • Superior Achievement in a NOVEL: The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL: Life Rage by L.L. Soares (Nightscape Press)
  • Superior Achievement in a YOUNG ADULT NOVEL: Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster)
  • Superior Achievement in a GRAPHIC NOVEL: Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times by Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton (McFarland and Co., Inc.)
  • Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION: The Blue Heron by Gene O’Neill (Dark Regions Press)
  • Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION: "Magdala Amygdala" by Lucy Snyder (Dark Faith: Invocations, Apex Book Company)
  • Superior Achievement in a SCREENPLAY: The Cabin in the Woods by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy Productions, Lionsgate)
  • Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY: Shadow Show edited by Mort Castle and Sam Weller (HarperCollins)
  • Superior Achievement in a FICTION COLLECTION (tie):
    • New Moon on the Water by Mort Castle (Dark Regions Press)
    • Black Dahlia and White Rose: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco Press)
  • Superior Achievement in NON-FICTION: Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton (Reaktion Books)
  • Superior Achievement in a POETRY COLLECTION: Vampires, Zombies & Wanton Souls by Marge Simon (Elektrik Milk Bath Press)
(via SF Signal)

2013 Locus Awards

These were announced yesterday -- I'm catching up, more or less -- at a gala ceremony in Seattle. (I was supposed to attend a Locus Awards ceremony in Seattle, back in '07, but the job disappeared just before the conference.)

  • SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL: Redshirts, John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)
  • FANTASY NOVEL: The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
  • YOUNG ADULT BOOK: Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
  •  FIRST NOVEL: Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW; Gollancz ’13)
  • NOVELLA: “After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall,” Nancy Kress (Tachyon) 
  • NOVELETTE: “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi,” Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity)
  • SHORT STORY: “Immersion,” Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
  • ANTHOLOGY: Edge of Infinity, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
  • COLLECTION: Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear (Prime)
  • MAGAZINE: Asimov’s
  • PUBLISHER: Tor Books
  • EDITOR: Ellen Datlow
  • ARTIST: Michael Whelan
  • NON-FICTION: Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson (Putnam)
  • ART BOOK: Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood)

(I saw this first at

Congratulations to all of the winners.

Farväl Stockholms Stadion

Sveriges vackraste fotbollsarena lever inte längre upp till dagens hårda krav och Djurgården har spelat sin sista allsvenska match i denna vackra borg.

Tack Stadion för alla dessa år av glädje och spänning. Idag glömmer vi alla besvikelser och frustrerande missar. Nu minns vi gulden 2002, 2003 och 2005 efter 36 års väntan. Vi minns Stefan Rehns avgörande mål i sista hemmamatchen 2002, 8-1 segern mot Elfsborg i sista matchen 2005, Jonssons segermål i sista minuten i kvalet mot Assyriska... Vi minns hur Juventus fick slita hårt för att ha en chans mot oss... Alla gamla hjältar: Baloo, Lindman, Galloway, Sheringham, Kim, Mackan.... Vi minns de vackraste målen: Joona Toivios kanon som nästan knäckte ribban innan den studsade i mål... När Stefan Bergtoft dribblade upp halva Solna på läktaren och satte den i nättaket...

Sångerna, firandet, och kampen. En Djurgårdare kastar aldrig in handduken. Inte ens denna vår med tidernas sämsta start med en poäng av 21 möjliga. Sen dess har vi tagit fyra raka hemma och inte förlorat och vi har vänt ett katastrofläge till något att bygga på. När sen Jawo i sista matchen på Stadion klackade in 1-0 och vår egen Emil nickade in sista målet på Stadion spelade det ingen roll att domarna stal ett perfekt mål av Broberg och alla missar vi själva gjorde. Idag var det fest och inget annat...!

Stadion står kvar och kommer alltid att ge positiva vibrationer inom mig. Men nu är det dags att flytta och bygga en ny era. Ett hjärtligt tack Stockholms Stadion...!!

Incoming Books: June 14-16

Yes, I'm running late -- and I'm not blind to the irony that this blog is turning into a thinly updated series of lists of books I haven't read. But I like writing about stacks of books, so I'll keep doing that, and see if I can get myself back into doing more.

The following came home with me from a weekend away with The Wife, to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We went off to New Hope, where we used to vacation pre-kids, and I found my way into four decent used bookstores (two each in Lambertville, NJ and Doylestown, PA, each pair immediately adjacent, too), and brought home the following:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon -- a big novel about comics and fantasy and history and so forth; it won the Pulitzer and got glowing reviews and I had a hardcover that I hadn't managed to read before the Flood. (And I've read and enjoyed several Chabon books --  see my reviews of The Yiddish Policemen's Union, The Final Solution, and Manhood for Amateurs, for examples.) So maybe this trade paperback will be more likely to make it in front of my eyeballs.

Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney -- I don't read as much poetry as I'd like -- I'm in the middle of a long-stalled attempt on all of Browning, and have a shelf of Larkin and Pound and Bishop and Auden and others I want to get to as well -- but I keep buying it, and someday I will have read as much poetry as I wish I already had.

An Everyman's Library omnibus of three "Ripley" novels by Patricia Highsmith -- Talented, Under Ground, and Game. I either had this exact book or some other Ripley omnibus pre-deluge, but never got to it.

The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes -- I read this history of the early years of Australia a decade or more ago, and enjoyed it then. And it was 95 cents in one of those stores, so I grabbed it again.

Home Town by Tracy Kidder -- I can't remember if the book clubs I worked for at the time (1999, just before the merger) won this or lost it, but it was a topic of discussion at editorial meetings for a while, and it sounded interesting. Kidder's the author of a number of nonfiction books -- Soul of a New Machine is probably the most iconic -- and this was his look at the small Massachusetts town where he lives. (Well, lives part of the time -- like all moderately famous writers, his bio feels the need to cite two places of residence.)

Country Matters by Michael Korda -- one publishing executive buys a summer home near Poughkeepsie, and the usual rural shenanigans ensue. I read a couple of Korda books on publishing and bestsellers, which weren't nearly as windy and full of his own ego as I'd heard Korda was, so I'm willing to try again. (That was a long time ago, though -- this book is from 2001, and I think it's later than anything I read.) I do wonder if he means the Shakespearean dirty pun in the title.

The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch -- Lynch is a poet, but he's also funeral director of a family company in Michigan, and has been for his entire adult life. This little book of meditations on death and its attendants is exactly the kind of unexpected discovery that used-book stores are made for.

Story of My Life by Jay McInerney -- Among the many things I'm under-read in is the serious non-genre novelists of my own generation; I started out with McInerney with Bright Lights, but never read him again. I also have vague thoughts of collecting all of the early Vintage Contemporaries, since everyone needs a silly book-collecting plan.

River Dogs by Robert Olmstead -- Speaking of early VCs, here's another one. I bet it was on a recommended reading list when I was at Vassar -- the writing-oriented profs were always trying to get us English major to read contemporary short-story writers -- but I got it now purely as part of that possible VC plan.

And then we get into Calvin Trillin -- Uncivil Liberties, Travels with Alice, Deadline Poet, and Too Soon To Tell. Uncivil and Too Soon are collections of his column -- which I never read when it ran, though I've loved all of the collections. Alice is a lovely travel/family book, which I re-read and reviewed a few years back. And Deadline Poet collects the beginning of the least significant of his careers -- he's since put out four or so collections of usually politically-themed doggerel -- but this one, as I recall, was the best of that bunch. I lost every single Trillin book I had in the flood, and he's a writer I do expect to re-read now and then -- so I have to rebuild.

Submission Policy

I haven't needed a written policy before, but I've been getting more and more requests recently, so I now want something to point people to.

Guest Posts

Antick Musings has never had any guest posts, co-written posts, or sponsored posts.

I do not intend to ever have any posts in those categories, or any other kind of posts other than the ones that come out of my own fingers.

Do not query in these areas; I'll just ignore you.

Book Reviews

Antick Musings is, at least in part, a book-review blog. And I do take submissions, and at least a few of those eventually turn into reviews here. But I don't review even as much as 10% of the books I see, and I read and/or review a lot of books that aren't sent as submissions.

Self-Published Books

I work in Big Publishing, and have hopes to get back into the fiction end of that business. For that and other reasons -- sixteen years of dealing with submissions at the Science Fiction Book Club strongly among them -- I'm temperamentally disinclined to like self-published books. You can definitely query me about your book, but I'm really not that likely to ask for it. I like the system we have, and want to strengthen that to the point where I can work for a SFF publisher again.

I apologize in advance for standing in the way of your glorious revolution.


I can read e-books -- I've got a device with lots of things on it -- but I generally don't. Personally, piles of actual physical books are what spur me to read them, and e-books are easily forgotten since they don't take up space. So I am happy to take submissions in digital formats, but that means that I'm very likely to forget about them.

I prefer physical books, even when they cause me storage problems.

Again, I apologize in advance for standing in the way of your glorious revolution.


I don't read as much SFF as I used to, and I try to avoid fairly generic work in those areas these days. (I know that no author considers her book "fairly generic," but if you're writing about a small band of heroes battling the Evil Emperor, the spunky redheaded demon-hunter with a complicated love life, or the tough-as-nails Space Marine planet-hopping to defeat The Bugs, you're who I'm talking about.)

I also read mysteries/thrillers/spy stories -- again, I prefer smart and sneaky and intricate to James Patterson-level single-page chapters -- as well as a fair bit of narrative nonfiction and humor/columns, with the same caveats. (I don't see nearly as much in these areas as I'd like to.)

I am a marketer by day, but I'm generally not looking to review books on marketing, or most categories of business books.


I am very bad at replying to e-mail, especially if I have to say no to someone. I apologize in advance for dodging your e-mail. If you don't hear from me, it means I'm not interested but can't muster the energy to tell you that.


If your name is Matt Hughes or Harry Connolly, these rules don't apply to you. There are other exceptions, I'm sure -- if you think you might be one (hint: have we ever met?), ask me.

If I ignore you, see above.

34 år senare

Idag träffade jag en gammal vän jag inte sett på 34 år... Tiden har gått och satt sina spår... Det fanns mycket att berätta förstås, men ändå känns det obegripligt att tiden gått så fort...

Nu efteråt slår det mig hur lika vi ändå är de vi var då, för 34 år sedan, fast åren gått och gett både törnar och glädje. Vi är väl lite klokare nu och lite mer vidsynta, men ändå finns det karakteristiska så tydligt kvar och känns igen så väl, trots alla år.

Paul Eastham får spela för min pianospelande vän:

Varje morgon borde man vakna med tillförsikt och se ljuset komma in i ens rum...

Tragedi i fågelvärlden

Fågelholken, som min yngste son gjorde på slöjden för många år sen och som sedan dess suttit i björken utanför husknuten, föll ner i natt. Holken har varje år haft inneboende gäster och även i år har det hörts ljusa rop efter mera fågelmat och föräldrarna har ivrigt letat och återvänt med det bästa de hittat.

Nu låg fågelholken där på marken utan några som helst spår av fågelfamiljen...

I människornas värld hade denna fallolycka blivit förstasidesstoff och någon kvällsblaska hade säkert haft en 4-sidig bild-special och den andra kvällsblaskan hade haft en intervju med grannfamiljen (i den äldre sonens holk i björken bredvid), där de utförligt berättat om det hemska som hänt och vilken fin familj det var...

Likheterna mellan fåglarnas värld och vår egen, med alla katastrofer som följer utmed vägen, är påfallande, men i fåglarnas värld går den här tragedin obemärkt förbi och naturen läker alla sår utan något ståhej...

Eliza Gilkyson har gjort om sin "Bird of Paradise" något, men när John Inmon spelar så här på elgitarren blir det så rörande bra ändå:

Jag ska spika upp holken igen och nästa år är det säkert en ny fågelfamilj där som planerar för framtiden... eller som instinktivt försöker hålla sin art vid liv och dessutom lever helt i nuet. Kanske de är bättre än oss i levandets konst...?

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/22

I'm writing this early -- on Friday evening, actually, in the middle of packing for another trip on behalf of my liege, Lord John Wiley. That shouldn't effect any of what I write -- I can't see why it would -- but I do have an urge to share the most useless information with you folks, so there you are.

As usual, these are books that showed up on my doorstep, more or less unexpectedly, and they're all coming out in the near future from some of my nation's finer publishing firms. I have not read any of them, but here's what I can tell you anyway:

Sea Change is a first novel, some kind of odd fantasy -- the main character, Lilly, befriends a talking kraken and makes a frightening deal with a witch when he's sold to a circus, which can give you a sense of what kind of odd -- by S.M. Wheeler. She's probably no relation -- though we share a connection with upstate New York, for whatever that's worth -- but she's a Wheeler, which means her books are by definition better than most. Sea Change is a Tor hardcover, which hit stores a few days ago.

Steven Erikson's first novel was This River Awakens, a literary coming-of-age novel set in 1971 in a small Canadian town (and originally published under his real name, Steve Lundin). It is not a fantasy novel -- certainly not along the lines of his bloody, complex epic fantasies that began a couple of years later with Gardens of the Moon -- but it's being published now in the US (for the first time, I think) by his fantasy publisher, Tor, in simultaneous hardcover and trade paperback the first week of July.

Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series -- in which a WW II destroyer wanders via one of those convenient light-show temporal rifts into an alternate world in which a civilization of talking lemurs is caught up in a gigantic war with a civilization of talking lizards -- reaches its eighth book with Storm Surge, coming as a hardcover from Roc on July 2nd. I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty sure that the cute furry aliens are the good guys and the cold-hearted clammy forked-tongues are the evil ones, as required.

And last is a big book of the art of Atsushi Ohkubo, best known (to me, at least) as the creator of the Soul Eater series, with the unsurprising title Soul Eater Soul Art. It's coming from Yen Press this month -- which means it's probably out in all the places you might want to buy it -- and it has a neat clear plastic slipcase and lots of nice Ohkubo art (though not so much in the way of captions or text of any kind).


Jag älskar att ta en klunk whiskey framåt kvällen. Inte för att det sker varje dag, men väl då och då. Och då menar jag en lite rökig whiskey som bränner i halsen och sen har massvis av eftersmak. Inte sött, inte lent och absolut inte utspädd...!

Smak är inte något man föds med, tack och lov, utan något man utvecklar. När jag första gången blev bjuden på ett glas whiskey tyckte jag det smakade som fan, men mycket har hänt sedan dess. Tur att man inte har anlag eller orsak att bli beroende...

Givetvis finns det åtskilliga sånger om whiskey. Här är en ny Spotify-lista med whiskey-sånger:

Whiskey Songs - Låtlista på Spotify!

Här finns både glädje och sorg, klokheter och dumheter, och en väldans massa längtan...