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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Housekeeping: Again, thanks to those folks who are linking to the new version of the blog and/or who have bothered to change their links. It is making a big difference: Over the past (approximately) two days, the traffic relationship between the two has shifted, with the new version now receiving the majority of unique visits. Yay!

Please do not forget to send in your self-descriptions: John Ottinger over at Grasping for the Wind (the originator of the review blog meme) said “use my existing description from the site” – so you all may already have written yours.

Note: A few of the links in John Ottinger’s list do not take you to the front page of the blog. So, when visiting, make sure you’re linking to the root and adjust things in the address bar if necessary.

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The Specusphere: Group blog from – Australia! Seems to be more of a front-end and archive for their webzine, now in issue 5. Reviews cover everything including southern hemisphere writings – which, if you haven’t been paying attention for the past couple of years is a hotbed of new talent and innovative ideas. Add

SpineBreakers: Very interesting concept/social networking site from Penguin Books. Targeted to ‘spinebreakers’ – “any story-surfing, web-exploring, word-loving, day-dreaming reader/writer/artist/thinker aged 13 to 18”. If you want to see what the targets of YA marketing are exicted about, reviewing and reading, check out this site. Add (for research value).

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: Two self-proclaimed (smart) bitches review romance novels and give it to you straight. Pretty funny, even if you aren’t into romance novels. Might add it for the humor.

Speculative Fiction: Not sure how current this blog is, as the 6th item down (as of reporting) chronicles my debate with Ian Sales that drew in IO9, Technorati and a bunch of others over whether there’s any ‘classic’ science fiction worth recommending. (They refer to it as ‘golden age’ SF and others use the term “vintage”, but it all translates into the same thing: good, solid science fiction, unencumbered by angst, psychologically conflicted characters or literary affectations. You know – stories, rather than philosophical treatises.) If you’re keeping track, I think I won that debate and if you aren’t – don’t worry about it. The whole thing was just one of those internet spasms anyways. Or proof that I know how to stir up controversy. Anyway. The site right now features link-o-rama – and I already have them in my blogroll.

Speculative Fiction Junkie: Good reviews focused in equal parts on fantasy and SF. Also focused on identifying the ‘true first edition’ of each work – so if you are a collector… Add.

Speculative Horizons: Interviews, reviews, giveaways. Covers everything – books, games, multi-media. More fantasy than SF, and primarily focused on new works. Probable add.

Spiral Galaxy Reviews: Lots of other review blogs link to and/or reference this one – and I can see why. The author is now a slush reader for Strange Horizons and is guest blogging for several other blogs, and has a very nice mix of a wide range of product – including a fair amount of esoterica (William Atheling/James Blish’s critiques, for example). Add.

Spontaneous Derivation: Ocassional contributor to the TOR site. A celebration of the Kindle, SFF on the Kindle, epubbing and ‘everything else’. I need to keep track of epubbing, so – add.

Sporadic Book Reviews: As advertised in the title, infrequent postings and short, short reviews. Unlikely add.

Stella Matutina: Very nicely designed site, but for me the gold and red and black colors make it difficult to read. It is nice to look at though. Mostly fantasy, YA and ‘creative non-fiction’, but the blogger is beginning to ‘get into’ SF, so I will check back as that progresses through the year.

The Sudden Curve: Looks like a guy having way too much fun; more clip gathering than anything else right now. Nice GGA graphics at the top and – anyone who proclaims Johnny Quest opening credits as ‘The Best Ever’ get’s the nod. Add. (Is the title from the Meatload song?)

The Sword Review: Way slow to load – but who knows whether that’s my fault or the page’s? E-zine that has ceased publication, now serving as an archive of that magazine’s contents and as a link to MindFlights, another e-zine. I’ll link to Mindflights.

Tangent Online: Site is being updated and therefore, currently no new material. Primarily reviews of short fiction from small press and e-zines. Gotta keep up with those markets. Add.

Tehanni Wessely: More personal musings/life experiences than reviews. The author is tied in to Australian small press and things spec fic. Probable add.

Temple LIbrary Reviews: Sci-Fi, horror and literary fiction. Mmmm. Interesting, but my impression is that it’s kind of all over the place. I’ll have to think about this one.

TOR.Com. Add. Add. Add. Patrick and Theresa are amongst the best (and most repected) editors in the biz. Often features free fiction from headliners and almost always has interesting bits, as well as good reviews. (Already added btw.)

The Road Not Taken: A few reviews but, perhaps more important to bibliophiles – coverage of book sale deals, coupon availability & etc. I got me some gift cards and this site’s coupon codes are going to help me stretch them to cover additional purchases. Add.

Un:Bound: Mostly horror/urban fantasy, but starting to branch out via membership in two book clubs. A first work is A Clockwork Orange, Burgess’ tour-de-force (and a great movie as well). Might add once they get around to reviewing ACO…

Urban Fantasy Land: Hmmm. Title says it all. Books are conveniently grouped into Grades A through F, though nothing is to be found in the D’s or F’s. (What, no one flunks out of urban fantasy?) In-depth reviews, just not my cuppa.\

Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic. One of my favorite book openings – Wells’ from War of the Worlds. (Particularly excellent as read by Richard Burton on the album of the same name.) And a perfect title for a review column. Not a daily blog, but a good read when posting and primarily SF oriented. Reminded me of the SFSignal/Buzz Aldrin discussion over whether SF has destroyed the space program or not. I’ll have something on that later today on the blog. Gonna add this one.

Variety SF: Short reviews – mostly of free online fiction, as well as links to free fiction finds. Add.

Walker of Worlds:Totally SF oriented. Wide selection of reads and some interesting finds. Add

Wands and Worlds: Publisher’s blog (well, personal review blog of a small press publisher of YA F & SF). Covers just about everything YA in those two categories. Add.

The Wertzone: Games, television and books, cross genre coverage. UK based, so some of the items may be unfamiliar to US based readers/watchers. Some news coverage as well. Mmmm. Thinking about this one.

With Intent to Commit Horror: Totally horror. Mentions rats (again) in the actual url. I think this might actually be a companion blog to another reviewed earlier. In-depth reviews, but – its still that same cuppa that ain’t mind.

WJ Fantasy Reviews: Comics, books, movies. Mostly fantasy as the name suggests. The blogger is having some internet connection issues and promises to get them sorted out. In the meantime, posting is sparse. Unprobable add.

The World in a Satin Bag: SF, right now devoted to Star Wars geekery and twitter. Working writer, also features submissions and novel-in-progress. Most likely not.

WriteBlack: Two minorities in one over here (so if you’re looking to save on your minority interests…). The author is not “too dumb to walk and chew gum at the same time”; reviews and musings on genre writing by black authors, by a female black editor. As the old joke goes, if she had a Spanish surname, she’d have all the bases covered… Nice writing and a very interesting perspective. I’m tempted to make all kinds of off-color jokes (pun-intended) but I’m not sure if black or white america is quite ready as we haven’t really seen what the post-Obama world is going to be like. Will it mean more space for black authors on the shelves? Go to this site and I’m sure you’ll find out. Add.

Young Adult Science Fiction: Infrequently updated due to pregnancy. Right now, more links to interesting science/space tidbits than anything else. Linked to three other blogs. I see few actual reviews here. Hails from Alaska: I wonder if she can see roosians out her kitchen window? Hot on internet safety for kidz (can you really advocate internet safety and YA SF together? My take is: sit them down with all the RAH juvenovels and when they’re done, you’ll have little to worry about.)Probably won’t add.

And, we’re done – except for a couple of follow on reviews and investigation of the foreign language blogs.

I sincerely hope that A: I did not offend anyone (it wasn’t my intention to do so if I did) B: that you find this useful C: that you send in your own take on your blog so I can add it D: that you visit all of these blogs for yourself and make your own decisions about adding to your rolls (a little spicy mustard never hurt) E: that some of you will take the time to return the favor and review my blog F: and that once I announce the creation of the pages that archive these reviews, you link to it so that fellow travelers can utilize it as well.

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It is currently 7 degrees (feels like -19) outside and I have to go shovel the walk and the back porch. I’d MUCH rather be doing more reviews…

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Housekeeping: Thank you to those who have already taken the opportunity to self-define their blogs. Those responses are currently in the comments and will be added right underneath my reviews once I: get a few more and finish out the list. They will also be added to the website page once that is compiled.

Thank you also to those who have been understanding and those who have sent comments of encouragement and approval – I really appreciate them.

NO thank you to the folks who didn’t send in instructions to my wife to get naked.

and finally – my best wishes to all of you during the coming New Year.

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There are some 28 review blogs beginning with the letter S; not surprising as we’re dealing with a double whammy with that letter. It is both one of the most popular consonants in the English language, and the initial letter in Science Fiction, Sci Fi, SyFy, SciPhi, SpecFic, SpecLit and SF (which does not stand for San Francisco).

I’ve entitled this post as part 1, anticipating that I will not make it through all 28 in one sitting – but I might depending on how the morning goes; today’s laundry list of tasks includes the laundry (we rent and must, therefore, endure foraging trips for quarters as well as establishing temporary encampments at the local lint factory), puffing up my courage and selecting a couple of short stories to send in to SFReader.com’s story contest (deadline is today), call the attorney (minor stuff – as well as wishing him and his a happy New Year) and draft a response to the response from my book distributor friends for the paintball book coming out in 2009. (That won’t take long, their changes/requests are very minor and well-within the confines of the deal I was hoping to make with them.)

And, as predicted, we have another winter storm gently floating to the ground and freezing all over everything. Which means I’m pretty much stuck indoors (or at least have an excuse to be stuck indoors).

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Sandstorm Reviews: Wide ranging (crime, history, SF, fantasy) and infrequently updated. Appears as if this blogger is trying to make time to blog but just can’t find it. Probably not.

SciFiChick.com: She has a new puppy! (Cute too – the puppy I mean. Oh, what the heck, SciFi Chick is pretty cute too. So sue me for the sexist remark.) Mostly television and film, news and links, but book reviews, mostly of an SF and fantasy nature, as well. Without the puppy – not sure. With the puppy, it’s an add.

Sci Fi Wire: Already monitoring this one. Has an annoying tendency to launch videos that you can’t turn off. A creature of SkiffyTube. Commercial and obviously so. Sometimes has breaking news, but usually follows the better news sources like Locus, BoingBoing, Signal, etc.

SciFiGuy: Not Bill. Doug. From Canada. Good grounding in classic SF, but is conentrating on urban fantasy just now. Nice layout and concept – features and author, a work and provides lots of background, supplementary material. Add

Sci-Fi Fan Letter: Bookseller. Long interviews with selected authors. Currently on fantasy. Mmmm. Probably….

Sci-Fi Songs: Probably THE most unique review blog on the list and will be added for that reason alone. Reviews music and ties it in to science fiction; also covers his own singing/songwriting efforts. Interesting and fun.

The Sequential Rat: What is it with the rat thing? Oh, after reading the “About’ over here, I have my answer. You’ll have to visit to find out for yourselves. Graphic novels are the focus here, right now particularly crime and horror and crime/horror. Probable add as I need to learn more about graphic novels (beyond what Watchmen and Dark Knight taught me).

Severian’s Fantastic Worlds: Begins with Gene Wolfe’s contention that “all literature is fantasy”; true to its self-description of being eclectic, devoted to writing, other things of interest (to the blogger) and reviews of both the fantastical and the mundane. Maybe an add. My counter quote for Wolfe would be: “anything not science fiction (or fantasy) is mundane”.

SF Diplomat: A blog that “has run its course”; permanently mothballed according to the author, who has gone off to do more film-critiquing elsewhere. Won’t be adding the flying insect deterrent.

SF Gospel: Author’s blog (author of The Gospel According to Science Fiction). Well, here we go with the mixing of genres once again. Although I must say that I didn’t feel drowned in biblical quotations, only that McKee (author) simply looks at everything through a theological lens. His view on Science Fiction, as quoted on Amazon is that “The main goal of SF is to show us how we can face the future and overcome the new challenges that our changing world may develop.” a contention that is arguable (but won’t be argued here). Well written and apparently well-researched, nevertheless the focus is one that I personally find – A: confusing and B: on a par with analyzing everything through a Freudian lens, Campbellian lens or any other affectation you might care to impose. But it is a well-presented argument for this point of view. On a slightly more picky note – the review of The Day The Earth Stood Still contains some inaccuracies that detract from the overall comparison of the two films (Klaatu was never allowed to speak to the UN in the original) and, if the director (Wise) says he was not deliberately engaging in re-writing christian parable with that movie, we’ve got to take him at his word. I will continue to point out the scene in which Klaatu reads the laundry tag with the name Carpenter on it, almost looks into the camera, smiles wrly and then throws it away as evidence that cast and crew were aware of the possible connection and deliberately denied it, in the film. But then that’s me. McKee’s point of view is intriguing enough that I’ll be adding this one, even if I’ll probably disagree with just about everything in there.

SFReviews: Ooodles of reviews, covering everything SF. Can’t fault a reviewer who gives 5 stars to Asimov’s Foundation trilogy – even if I think short shrift is given to Niven. Add

SF Revu: Blogazine. Covers – everything. Seems to be released as a monthly issue with archives. Add (but then, I’m adding all the free e-zines)

SF Signal: Oh Sf Signal. First – if they gig one of your entries, be prepared, since you’re gonna be seeing a lot of traffic. Next – their Mind Meld feature (asking a bunch of folks from the field to respond to a particular issue) is legendary, fun and informative. Reviews equally so and their TidBits (capsules of the day’s genre news) more often than not, scoop everyone else. If you had to pick one (free) genre news source/blog, this is the one. I just wish they’d pick on me every day, or at least once a week, instead of about once every month. Oh – already added.

SF Site: Home of the folks who maintain the F&SF website/forum, several author pages and hosts it’s own kinda-bi-monthly ‘magazine’ with reviews, interviews and articles. Lots of good stuff and already added.

SFF World’s Book Reviews: book review section of a lively forum that I regularly frequent. Wide selection of reviews by numerous reviewers (many of whom frequent the forum, where further discussion ensues). Already added.

Silver Reviews: A site hosted by the aforementioned SFSite. Hosts a book reviewer’s webring as well (probably worth checking out given the current subject) HUGE number of reviews archived, along with a nice little graphical index to such things as awards, nominations and etc. Covers other media in addition to literature (oops, I mean, ‘written science fiction’). Add.

OK for today! Tomorrow should see me wrapping everything up (once again, apologies to our foreign language friends; I’ll go through them and any I can understand I’ll review, but those I can’t…)

I will be fixing my rss feed link on the new version of the blog; traffic there is now achieving parity with the old blog, which means that at least some of you are going there (thank you!).

One more mention of sending in your own description of your blog – please, I think between my look-see and your own description, folks will be able to find everything they are looking for) and

even though I am guilty of this myself – think about adding a little more info to your “About” tabs…

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Be Safe and Be Well!

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It is pretty obvious that in the course of scanning, overviewing, encapsulating and perusing some ten plus blogs a day, I will inevitably get some things wrong.

Getting it wrong ranges from the prosaic (you forgot to include a link) to the esoteric (I’m not a scientist, I’m an economist) to the incorrect (hey, I review SF too dammit!)

This is annoying to say the least (not the commentary, but the fact that I missed something).

It ocurred to me that there is a solution, and a solution that will enhance both the reviews, the webpage that I’m compiling for them and, potentially, YOUR traffic.

It’s very simple. All you need to do is self-characterize your site and send it along to me either in a comment or to my email. (If you take the email route, please include the name of your blog and/or a link.)

I believe that the most effective way of self-characterizing your (review) blog is to provide some assessment of the distribution of your reviews amongst the various genres (I review equal parts hard fantasy, lycanthropic romance and urban vampiric techno-thrillers) along with a nod to other esoterica that may sneak in to your blog (I mix coverage of my personal interest in caves that have been visited by Franklin Pierce, transgender delphinoids and jello sculptures of well-known fictional characters in with my reviews).

I’d make this a poll type thingie, but as I’m learning, there are far more genres, sub-genres, sub-sub-genres (those are the stories featuring whatever taking place in submarines) and particularly defined cross-overs that I’d spend more time adding possible answers than it would be worth.

To get started, I’ll attempt to characterize my own blog:

The Crotchety Old Fan is primarily devoted to commentary on Science Fiction drawing inspiration from contemporary sources, the defense of classic science fiction (against all-comers) and ocassional reviews of movies, television shows, books, comics and other art forms with a connection to classic science fiction. It also features personal silliness, makes frequent forays into whatever strikes my fancy at the moment and is an homage to my wife, who is currently NOT naked.

Go on. Give it a shot.

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Housekeeping notes:

Mulluane noted that I’d missed putting the link in to Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews. That’s been corrected and here it is again, just to cover the bases: http://darkwolfsfantasyreviews.blogspot.com/. Mulluane’s blog is here

Ed Lerner of collaborating with Niven fame (and quite a few books of his own fame) sent along a link for the Fs that ought to be added to the meme list – http://fast-forward.tv/. It is actually the website for a cable television show that features interviews with SF authors and others. Given that more will be added in future as the list inevitably grows, I will have to add some follow-up reviews once I get through the Zs.

Ed blogs himself on subjects ranging from physics to SF, and you can read him here.

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Neth Space: ‘just a guy wasting time at work blogging about the books he loves’; info links, book reviews and commentary. Add

The New Book Review: A ‘service’ style blog; this site links you through to other reviews, and encourages submissions by anyone and everyone. Authors can use it to bring attention to reviews of their own works. Promotional in nature but does not have a ‘commercial’ feel. Books currently featured cover a very wide range – and it is not limited to fiction. Add

NextRead: Tolkien, cover art reviews and (contemporary) SF. Pretty tied in to the other blogs as well. Add.

OF Blog of the Fallen: Intellectual and academic, with multiple contributors. Right now featuring new weird and the year that was 2008. Not just spec fic. And a passion for foreign editions. Probable add.

The Old Bat’s Belfry: Self-proclaimed fantasy addict, who professes not to be able to really separate sf and fantasy. (We gotta talk son, lol.) ‘Link love’ dominates currently – bon mots from other sites that are of interest to SFF readers. Another blog from Mulluane (Dragons Heros, Wizards) A maybe.

Outside of a Dog: anyone that opens with this quote from Groucho gets an ‘add’: Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx . Covers what the blogger reads and is pretty eclectic – manga, history, fantasy, science fiction.

Paranormality: Excuse me. I had no idea that there were this many different paranormals – chick lit, romance, romantic suspense, mystery, vampire, vampire chick lit, vampire humor, dark fantasy, urban fantasy…and now I do, thanks to this blog. This one is strictly for the vampire/paranormal “reality” fundies amongst you. Appears to cover the topic well, but “paranormal reality” is about as far away from science fiction as you can get while still (claiming to be) under the general ‘speculative literature’ blanket. Not for me.

Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: Wide ranging coverage of ‘speculative fiction’; and appears to like things that I don’t like. As a reviewer, I often feel ‘out in the cold’ when I’m getting ready to pan something that receives universal acclaim. I question my own tastes and conclusions, but often do so in a vacuum. I need other reviewers that I can bounce questions off of. And it is rare to find someone who consistently likes things you don’t like (and probably dislikes things you do), so I’ll be adding this one.

Piaw’s Blog: More personal focus on hiking and investing than reviews – but interests other than my own, along with a few reviews. Maybe.

Post-Weird Thoughts: A bit of everything. Author does translations (comics seemingly) and is well tied in. SF, fantasy, television & etc. I’ve got a link through to a Porteguese blogger, so might get a little help with the translation here. Add.

Break: The wife just said “since I don’t have any clean clothes to wear, I guess I’ll just have to go naked” – but of course I didn’t hear what she said because I’m “off in my own little world here”, and any married guy can tell you that ‘what you don’t hear won’t happen’. You people have just cost me and cost me BIG time. You all OWE me.

Publisher’s Weekly: Very commercial site and not really a blog – but anyone with ties to publishing ought to be at least looking at it occassionally. Add – but not to the blogroll.

Reading the Leaves: Seems primarily concentated on “literature”. Sparse. Unlikely.

Realms of Speculative Fiction: Mostly urban fantasy because the author is “young” and “female” and needs to keep up with the readings of girl-friends. (Because ‘urban fantasy’ is primarily marketed to young females)And because the other reviewers cover the other stuff. Maybe.

Reviewer X: Mmmm – not sure. Very ‘girly’ (and intentionally so). Right now more personal stuff than reviews. But. I like girls. Especially naked ones I’m married to (see above), and ones I’m not married to that aren’t afraid to be ‘girly’. This girly girl gets lots of arcs, so you can get some advance notices. Probable add.

Rob’s Blog O’Stuff: One of the SFFWorld forum guys; interviews, reviews, personal stuff. Add. (Although I think I’m already linked to it…)

Robots and Vamps:DVDs, movie trailers, books, comics. Husband and wife team. Nice site. Wide-ranging and good inter-play. Add

For some reason my thoughts keep returning to naked women. Particularly the woman that I will not be seeing naked because I failed to be paying proper attention at a critical juncture – all because of YOU.

You know, I just knew it was a mistake to start blogging, but since I couldn’t nail down the reasons why, I went ahead and did it anyways. What a fool I am. Writer’s rarely need an excuse to stop writing, but when a really good one – like staring at naked women that you’re at least theoretically allowed to touch – comes along, you really ought to be able to take advantage of it.

But NOOOOOO! I had to be deeply mired in this stupid ‘reviewing the reviewers thing’, fulfilling an idiotic – and worst of all – self-imposed obligation to work my way through the entire meme list.

Are those sympathetic violin strings I hear? No? Well get crackin, dammit! I want each and every one of you to write in a comment telling my wife to get naked. For your sake as well as mine.

And for the hopeful among you – no, I will not be posting any pictures.

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EDIT: 1:37 PM 12/29/08

Jackie, from Literary Escapism, got in touch and, in a very friendly manner, pointed out that A: I had linked to a post rather than the blog itself (here is the correct link) and B: pointed out that I had hit the site during a slow period, one that is not truly reflective of the normal review content found on the site.

I was then asked (in the nicest way possible) why I had chosen to not add that blog to my blogroll.

Let me point out that an add to my blogroll is not like getting a Hugo or a WFA or Nebula – it won’t put anything up on your mantle and it certainly won’t put any dollars in the bank. On the other hand, I can understand why not getting the ‘nod’ might cause some a bit of concern, or generate a bad feeling (who the hell needs more negatives these days, right?) or cause someone to shout out ‘well then fuck you too!’.

I deserve the ‘hey, he added my blog – thanks!’ as well as the ‘fuck yous’ and I accept both as my due for the hubris of believing that I could take a look at everyone else’s blog and render a judgement – even though I’m not trying to be judgemental.

All I’m really saying in this coverage is ‘hey, I took a look at this blog and here’s what it’s all about’. This gal over here is covering things I’m interested in, that guy over there isn’t – but he might be talking about stuff you are interested in.

The ‘add/no-add’ thing is nothing more than a window into the world of the things I’m interested in. The old fogey’s world of pre-1985 “pure” science fiction (in all its stripes).

Jackie did what anyone ought to do, and few actually get around to doing: Asking. A simple question. “Why?” You may not like or agree with the answer, but at least you’ve gotten one. To my mind, an answer of some kind is far better than the formless void of ‘?’

A long time ago I learned that well-intentioned criticism really is well-intentioned. I’m still working on learning (emotionally) to accept it as such and in that regard I suspect that I’m very much like most other people. But I have absolutely learned to accept the idea that if no one is criticizing – no one is paying attention, and that, my friends, is the worst circumstance of all.

I have taken Jackie’s word and have amended my ‘not likely to add’ to ‘add’, not only because I want to encourage the kind of communication, willing acceptance of criticism and the willingness to ask that has been displayed, but also to demonstrate that these ‘reviews’ are not hard and fast statements of fact, but are instead another form of the give-and-take, constant learning experience that blogging in particular, and the internet as a whole, ought to be.

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Today I reach the half-way point – at least so far as the alphabet is concerned. But first:

A few people have pointed out to me that for some reason, the links to my blog default to the WordPress hosted version, rather than to the self-hosted version.

The ‘free’ (wordpress hosted) version is identical in content to the other version, but I am not able to do as much there as I am with the new one.

And, crassly commercial as it may be, I’ve been offered a few advertising gigs by aggregators if the traffic over at the self-hosted version was up to the level of the wordpress hosted version.

I’ve tried a few different ways to get people to switch their links and feeds over to the new version – begging and pleading, linking the follow-on of posts, more begging and pleading, to little or no effect.

So once again I will beg and plead and request that you call check the link to my blog in your feed-reader or on your own blogroll and make sure that the link is to www.rimworlds.com/thecrotchetyoldfan.

Thank you in advance for your indulgence.

And, kinda along those same lines, I’ve noticed that a lot of visitors are clicking through to the various blogs I’m reviewing and checking them out for themselves – which I appreciate and I’m sure those other authors appreciate as well. My objective here is not to critique the various blogs and sway people one way or another, it’s simply to put a little commentary on all the blogs featured in the meme in one place.

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The Galaxy Express: Focused on the concision of romance and science fiction. Lot’s of folks linking here, and lots of links to other review sites, writer sites and etc. Nice list of authors compiled by decade (SF) and an apparent supporter of the ‘romance has lots of money, SF ought to cash in’ theory. Irregular posting as the author is doing a lot of guest blogging. I won’t mention tentacle manga again. This one is floating on the maybe bubble.

Galleycat: General news of a literary nature – particularly publishing, publishing debates, e-publishing and etc. Good insider info. Add

The GamerRat: RPGs of an SF and fantasy nature. Looks pretty new. Unprobable add (I’ve stopped playing RPGs, Will Wheaton hasn’t.)

Genre Reviews: Cats, romance, SF, horror and the personal. Some commentary and links to goings on in the publishing world as well. Short and fast. Probably won’t add.

Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review: Already on my roll. Mostly fantasy – and lots of the goings on on other blogs as well.

Grasping for the Wind: Add. This is the blog that started this whole meme mess. Lots-o-stuff and well-written. Add (with a ‘duh!)

The Green Man’s Reviews: blogazine? in-depth reviews with a literary bent. A bit hard to navigate – but nice graphics. Unlikely to be added.

Hasenpfeffer: (incorporated – thank you Laverne & Shirley) we hear from the Canadian Contingent. This is the blog of Canadian author Edward Willet. He is currently featuring the World War I memoirs of his grandfather – pretty cool. Also has coverage of the field – publishing, science etc. Add.

Highlander’s Book Reviews: Decent reviews of a lot of material, currently mostly on horror and fantasy, but some SF in evidence. Most likely not an add.

Horrorscope: Welcome back to the land down under. Australian site focused on dark fiction (flipside here – is that horror read by candlelight?). The official blogazine for Australian Horror authors. Add – more for the Australian connection than for any real interest in horror.

The Hub Magazine: “weekly genre short fiction” it self-proclaims. The issues on the front page are slight on reviews, but no doubt they are a regular feature of this free fiction mag. Add – to keep track of the market.

Ink and Keys: Very infrequently updated blog of a ‘writer, reader and publisher.’ Other than ‘what I’m reading now’ mentions, no reviews in sight. Unlikely to be added.

IO9: No love lost here. Snide, snarky commentary, mostly directed at media SF/Fantasy and horror; IO9 comes across as if its mission is to act as the carnival barker at the sideshow that is the genre fiction community. Look at the freaks! Look at the freaks! Plays the game well – seems to be selective when including or not including links to source material based on – I guess – perception of how nicely or not-nicely the other site refers to them. I’ve been publicly critical of them – so you won’t be seeing links to COF over there, even if I’m the source. BoingBoing does this kind of thing much better – at least they don’t seem to hate the genre they cover. Sometimes inaccurate as well. On the other hand, if you feel a desperate need to laugh at what you love and get a taste for how non-genre types regard the genre, by all means, check it out. You can always slit your wrists later.

Jumpdrives and Cantrips: Please Note: if you are linked to this site, they have changed their location and you might want to update your links. In-depth musings on SF and fantasy. Currently featuring a review (one down) of Disch’s Camp Concentration. Add.

Lair of the Undead Rat: Mostly horror, but some whimsical television show reviews as well. Graphic novels and movies as well. Unlikely add due to horror concentration.

League of Reluctant Adults: Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Fantasy writers group blog. Totally insane – and I love the title. Add.

Literary Escapism: Tough to tell exactly what this one is; front post is the reviewers meme, and a host of pingback ‘comments’. Other pieces are short, sometimes reviews of mostly fantasy. Currently a slow time for this blog and it will be picking up again in the new year. Add.

Michele Lee’s Book Love : Writer Michele Lee’s book reviews – dark urban fantasy. Mmmm – not sure. Again, most recent post is the reviewer’s meme.

The Mistress of Ancient Revelry: Reviews by a library’s ‘reader’s advisor’ – covers a wide range and personal too. Most likely an add.

The MIT Science Fiction Society: Add, add, add. MITSFS is an institution. Lot’s of reviews by people who know what they’re talking about.

Monster Librarian: A guide to horror fiction FOR LIBRARIANS. Not into horror, but I will be adding this as it will be a good resource if and when I want to/need to get into than genre.

More Words, Deeper Hole: given the vocabulary – a scientists blog – short entries of things that interest the author and might be of interest to other SF fans who like to get things right. Probable Add

Mostly Harmless Books: Just about equal parts fantasy, SF and rambling; interesting commentary on re-reading books read as a child. Almost at the probable add level – almost.

My Favorite Books: Book-a-day-giveaway (for UKers only) and very, very short promos, more than reviews. YA, fantasy, horror, probably some SF further down. Unlikely, since I don’t live in the UK…

Wow, halfway done (alphabetically at least). Once again – two notes: please update your link to my site if you have linked to it and make sure that you’re linked to the rimworlds – more feature rich (and pine smelly too!) version and

if you’ve got a problem or issue with anything I’ve said about you (or a friend) – don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m not doing this to be negative, I’m doing it to be informative – while, admittedly, not always watching my tongue. I don’t mind apologizing if I’ve been wrong – and I don’t mind learning something new that I might have missed, so don’t be shy!

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Cheaper Ironies: Wow. Now I know why the SF Chronicle covers SF on a regular basis (Science Fiction, not San Francisco). This is a professional reviewers professional blog. He gets the add if only for that reason, but really because he lists Dr. Strangelove as one of his favorite films and lists Warren Zevon, Randy Newman AND Joe Jackson among his favorite listens.

Chery’ls Musings: Cherly Morgan’s personal blog. Hugo Nominee. Co-Curator of SF Awards Watch with Kevin Standlee. General musings and good info. Add.

Critical Mass: Don D’Amassa’s site. Wow. The Cs are full of uber Fen. Don has been a fixture of fandom and reviews for YEARS. I’m pretty sure he’s already on my blog roll and if not, he shoulda been. The guy knows his stuff – the genre, the writers, the publishers, the fans. It doesn’t get better than this.

The Crotchety Old Fan: Hi. I’m not into recursiveness all that much, so I won’t be adding myself to my own blogroll (actually, I already have, kinda) but I do recommend that you ad me to your blogroll. That way, you can easily check on the rest of the reviews!

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I’ve seen three bloggers mention that they were a bit ‘concerned’ that their blog was going to get reviewed here as I work through the Grasping at the Wind Reviewer Blog meme list.

I wouldn’t be all that concerned: if your traffic has experienced anything like the upswing I’ve been seeing as a result of that meme, nothing ought to bother you. The review can only help (any advertising is good advertising in action so to speak).

It is also important to keep in mind that so far as the internet and the real world are concerned, Crotchety Old Fan is buried somewhere deep in the bowels of the ship, changing out fuses with Fuseman 4th Class Bill, and if there’s anything lower in the space navy than assistant to a 4th class Fusechanger, I haven’t found it yet.

I’m also not doing real “reviews” – I’m not analyzing grammer and style or word use or page layout or the fantastic use of colors you spent 6 months working on. I’m just trying to give folks a quick snapshot. My only ‘rating’ is the liklihood that I’ll add your blog to my blogroll or not (which is about as consequential as deciding which potato chip to eat first).

However, if you are still concerned – here’s my solution: review my blog in return. Link to the site so I get a pingback, and then laugh at me.

“HA HA HA! Davidson thinks he’s got the last word with his review of reviewers – let’s see what he thinks about this!”

You might even want to write up two reviews of the site – one before I get you in the crosshairs, and the other after you’ve read what I have to say. Doing it that way will give you the warm and comfortable feeling that you’ve got some kind of hold over me.

And I’ll care about your review of my blog just as much as you (shouldn’t) care about mine!

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The Agony Column: Five wildly diverse individuals covering a range of topics in interesting ways. It does include some genre coverage and reviews and appears pretty professional. An almost definite add.

Andromeda Spaceways: a magazine actually rather than a blog – ‘Australia’s pulpiest SF magazine’. Should have been on my list already. Australia + science fiction – duh!

The Antik Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.: Nice site and some good publishing industry info. A maybe.

Ask Daphne, the blog from the kt literary agency. Add. (It is always nice to be nice to agents.). Daphne is “shoe-obsessed” and I like women who are shoe obsessed – especially those long, spiky heel obsessions.

Australian Specific in Focus: More Australia! I’ll probably add this because of the Australia connection – but there’s a lot of US-originated content replicated on there.

Author 2 Author: A “grog” (group blog) of five YA/MG writers sharing their writing experiences. Mmmm, probably not. It’s lively – but it’s pink.

End of the ‘A’s.

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SKIFFYTUBE ORIGINAL 11 6 copy

My wife took yesterday off so we could stay up late to watch the election returns. We fell asleep fairly early anyway, but did wake up for Obama’s rally speech.

I want to spend just a second or two describing how I feel before moving on to the more mundane SF stuff.

I remember Kennedy’s election and the mood throughout the country at the time. I remember the Moon landing in ’69 and the mood throughout both the country and the world. I remember the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the similar feelings that prevailed.

I can’t exactly describe those feelings without using words that have been done to death already: hope, belief in the future, limitless possibilities once again stretching out before us. What I can say is that I felt those same feelings upon learning of Obama’s election.

Like waking from a nightmare to find yourself snug and safe in a warm bed with the sudden realization that it was just a nightmare. Like you and your SO getting over that argument and remembering that your love for each other is more important than any other petty consideration. Like realizing that you are still alive and that tomorrow really IS a brand new day.

Like believing once again that we might actually be going someplace, might be doing good things and that we can once again look at ourselves in the mirror and smile at what we see.

***

Skiffytube’s rating has gone up – way up. Now they’ll chart the traffic at HQ, show everyone that their audience numbers are down and use it to drive the stake even further into their SF content. A couple of marginal movies and a Doctor Who extravaganze later in the week are really responsible for the rise in rating.

Just finished David Edelman’s Multireal for the Ray Gun Revival review. My review of the first volume of his Jump 225 trilogy – Infoquake – will be appearing in this month’s RGR offering – due out any day now.

I’m now back to reading Niven and Lerner’s Juggler of Worlds, which I’ll be writing up for SFReview and possible others. Next on the agenda will be Dreaming Again, Jack Dann’s Australian SF anthology. The one that has the last Chandler story to be published in it.

Then – who knows. We’ll see what comes in and what gets offered.

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If you noticed, I have a thing for Chandler.   If you didn’t – I have a thing for Chandler.

I particularly have a thing for his Rim Worlds milieu, but I can say honestly that I have read almost everything he has ever written for publication, a few things not originally intended for publication, and probably even a few things never intended to see the light of day, and I’ve never been truly disappointed.  I haven’t always been wowed. A few (very few) of his stories have left me saying ‘um – ok’, but I’ve never had to give a negative review.

David Mattingly's rendering of John Grimes, from The Anarch Lords

David Mattingly's rendering of John Grimes from The Anarch Lords

I’ve also seen the man writing – in the buff – and if you aren’t put off by an author who’s literally been stripped of all pretense and illusion, if in fact you can say you still enjoy his or her work, well then, you can only come to one of two conclusion: either they write some pretty damned good stuff, or you’re an unabashed, gushing fanboy.  And please note that those two conclusions are NOT mutually exclusive.

Now truth to tell, seeing ‘Jack’ Chandler writing in the all-together was a second-hand photographic experience (his friends called him Jack and I would have been a friend if I’d ever had the chance to meet him), but I don’t really think that deflates my argument all that much.  It is, however, certrainly much less awkward than experiencing it personally.

When someone has been stricken by unabashed gushing fanboyitis, no explanation is required if they are merely expressing their opinion (however over the top it might be) or somehow manage to keep it to themselves. (I’d keep back a few paces though. You never know when the geyser is gonna blow.)

Justification is only really required  when the goal is to convince others to share the disease.  So, on one level, I really don’t have to say anything else other than I really like his stuff and wish more people did too.  On another level –

I ought to tell you a little bit about his stories. And say something about why maybe you’ll want to hunt up a few of them to read yourself. But first, a bit about the man himself.

He was a sea captain, working his way up the ranks of promotion in the merchant fleet, first of England and later of Australia.  He served as an officer both during war and peace time. His travels during WWII took him to New York where he met with John Campbell, who encouraged him to write. Jack took up the challenge and sold his first submitted story.

The really interesting thing about the man’s personal history that informs his written work is – right now, in the real world, you can’t get much closer to being a starship captain than being a sea captain. Chandler recognized this and used it, bringing a level of work-a-day detail to his stories that has probably been equalled, but not by many.  The degree of realism comes through on every single page; the man didn’t have to ‘make stuff up’, all he had to do was look across the bridge and substitute the inky depths of space for the blue expanse of ocean out the port windows. 

This unique perspective for SF stories translates well to the page and immediately creates a background environment that is familiar and comfortable.

Enough about ‘Jack’.  There’s plenty more biographical and autobiographical material on the official website for anyone who’s interested.

***

One of the major charges leveled against ‘old’ science fiction is that it lacks characterization.

 Chandler’s work’s certainly qualify as old. His first story appeared in Astounding in 1944, his last novel was published in 1984.  One of the reasons for writing this piece is that his ‘last’ John Grimes/Rim Worlds story has finally seen print in Jack Dann’s Dreaming Again anthology (available this month).  The story – Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo – is the only known Grimes story that hasn’t been previously published.

But so far as characterization goes – It simply isn’t possible for a character about whom 18 novels and 31 stories have been written to lack characterization. Simply. Not. Possible.*

Character Characterization is not the only character building that’s going on in the stories.  In addition to the Grimes tales, there are at least eight more novels and at least a dozen more stories that share a common background – an internally consistent ‘future history’ that is at least as complex and as richly detailed as any other, including Niven’s Known Space and Heinlein’s Future History.

What other science fiction author can you name that has 25+ novels and 40+ other length stories devoted to the same consistent universe and ‘future history’?  Right now, off the top of my head, my answer is ‘none’.

 Another shaggy old argument against ‘old’ SF is that the stories are just ‘idea’ stories, with little to recommend them beyond nifty tech or nifty concepts that were out-dated four decades ago:  computers operated by punch card.  Invasive medical technologies.  Telephones with dials on them. Shopping in person.

Let’s talk about tech for a minute.  The man invented three separate and distinct faster than light drives – one of which still remains plausible today.

His first – the Ehrenhaft Drive – took mankind on its initial expansion to the stars.  The ED essentially turns itself and the vessel to which it is attached into a charged magnetic particle, which then travels along the ‘force lines’ between stars.

Out-dated, yes.  Unworkable, yes.  But extremely important for two reasons: first – Chandler abandoned it. Second – this drive often failed, stranding its crew and passengers, who then – if they were lucky – managed to crawl to a nearby habitable world and set up a ‘lost colony’.

Lost colonies – human societies cut off from the mainstream – are meat and potatoes in science fiction lore.  Chandler’s Ehrenhaft Drive gave him a tool he could use over and over again.

His third FTL drive – the Erikson Drive – only works on the outer edges of our galaxy where the fabric of space and time run thin.  The Erikson Drive is hokey, involving an extra kick with a reaction drive when a ship is already at .9999 c.  But it performs the trick of going FTL not by adding this extra push (a physical impossibility)  but by pushing the drive and its ship into an alternate dimension.

This drive has the added virtue of ‘reversing its sign’ and allowing trade and relations with the beings that inhabit anti-matter worlds.

(The Erikson drive is only featured in one novel and a few shorts and various clues throughout those stories suggest that they are not truly canonical works.)

Chandler’s bread and butter was the Manschenn Drive, a time and space distorting gyroscopic affair made with moebius strip rotors.  Chandler is sufficiently and properly vague about its inner workings that no holes can be poked in it (there’s nothing really to poke at); his descriptions of how it works properly intriguing and equally vague: the drive ‘moves ahead in space while moving backwards in time’.

Before the cosmologists jump on me with causality issues and the physicists attack – note that some recent hypothesis and even some experiments have seemed to indicate that some form of time-manipulation may be possible.  ‘May’ is key, because that’s ALL you need to keep your science fiction science plausible.  And Chandler gave due credence to the causality issues as plot devices and so was obviously aware that he was playing with fire. He didn’t shy away from it, he embraced it. 

And unlike many SF authors who get entangled in the strangeness that appears to be the foundations of our universe, he didn’t even try to explain it or wrap it up in some pseudo grand theory of everything.  Weird and bizarre things happen when you play with the Universe’s dice.  Instead he concerned himself with the effect these things had on people and how they dealt with them.

The Manschenn Drive is not the only tech that Chandler introduced which has withstood the test of time.  He was sufficiently familiar with the advance of technologies to realize that what was familiar to him (television with three channels, telephones with dials, no personal computers, etc) would not be what was used in the future.  He was sufficiently sly to dress his future with devices that are cleverly vague and yet workable.  His ‘playmaster’ device, a feature found on every spaceship and virtually every home, is telephone, radio, television, information retrieval and fact checker – home theater, video recorder, audio recorder.  In short, anything you can do with media electronically is embodied in a single machine that you can interact with in a multiplicity of different ways – voice command, keyboard, radio, etc.

There are even ‘planetary networks’ – that serve as air traffic control, security system, long-range communications devices and that interact with individual shipboard playmasters.  And all of this is activated and controlled in very ergonomic user-interfacey ways.  No one apparently has to ‘learn’ how to use these systems, it’s intuitive.  And we’re STILL trying to achieve that level of inter-connectivity and ease of use.

Finally, the boo-hissers say, that old stuff wasn’t literary enough.  It was poorly written and doesn’t take 15 pages to describe the nap of the carpet and another 15 to mention the smell of the new roof shingles. 

Ok,  You got me.  Chandler wasn’t a ‘literary’ writer.  He could write, competently, interestingly, engagingly, but not literarilly.

Although he did write sufficiently well to get  Australia to underwrite a ‘what-if?’ alternate history novel (in print as Kelly Country), one of the last novels he ever wrote.  I think that in this particular case I’ll let the literary review board of an entire nation speak for Chandler’s competence in stringing words together.

Credentials? He’s got plenty.  He’s won several Ditmars – the Australian Hugo award, some Seiun’s from Japan and was nominated for a retro-Hugo. His stories were steadily in print from the 50’s (with ACE) through the late 80’s (with DAW).  He’s in the top 50 of all time SF authors who appeared regularly in Astounding SF, based on reader response. Two of his stories are amongst the most anthologized in the industry – The Cage and Giant Killer.

Those two stories alone have given birth to entire plot schools, being the seminal, original works to introduce the plot: The Cage gave birth to the ‘aliens think we’re animals’ concept, while Giant Killer set the bar for ‘mutated rats as competition for humans’ concept (not to mention one of the best ever ‘think like an alien’ presentations to appear anywhere, anytime in print).

Very well developed characters. A huge and consistent future history.  Future tech that is still future tech. Writing that is at least acceptable to one country’s literary council.

Other than an inability to find his works, I can think of no other argument levelled against classic SF for which Chandler is NOT the exception that proves the rule.  So I’ll answer that one by saying – every single day virtually every single one of his novels and collections are available on Ebay, ABE and Amazon – usually for a couple of bucks each.

Not only are Chandler’s works fully up to snuff in the light of today’s offerings, he’s a cheap read too!

Do yourself a serious favor and check him out.  If you want to start at the beginning, visit the official Chandler site.  For some additional detail, visit my concordance site. If you want to start reading about John Grimes’ adventures from the beginning, pick up a copy of The Road to the Rim. (I just got an ACE double version off Ebay for a buck.)  

*John Grimes is probably one of the most fully realized characters ever created by an SF or fantasy author.  He’s a righteous old bastard who keeps his own counsel, intelligent and crafty enough to get himself out of the messes he  himself into, has no respect for authority just for authority’s sake, has a winning way with women and some well-developed ‘kinks’. He also smokes a pipe, prefers his gin pink and his women red-headed, doesn’t think all that much of convention (unless he’s the one trying to enforce the rules), can be a bit stuck up when it serves his purpose and can’t resist a lady in distress.  John always ‘does the right thing’ even if it might take him a bit to get around to it, and it is very doubtful that you’ll like the way he does it.

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