When I was a kid, we used to sing Merle Travis's Sixteen Tons in the car on long trips: it's a poetic masterpiece, capturing the clash between a worker's proud and indomitable spirit and his impossible, inescapable poverty trap (chances are you've heard Tennessee Ernie Ford or Johnny Cash perform it).
Read the rest
A new Florida law redefines the reach of beachfront property owners' claims to "the land above the mean high-tide level." This seemingly innocuous change means that private property owners -- and their patrolling rent-a-cops -- will have vastly expanded powers to kick members of the public off of public beaches.
Read the rest
Steven Brust is a literary treasure
and his longrunning Vlad Taltos series
, now nearing its final volume, is a good example of where his strengths lie: hardboiled plotting, snappy dialog, weirdly realistic and plausible depictions of magic, and a sensitive eye for power relationships and their depiction, all of which are on display in his latest, outstanding novel, Good Guys
, about the minimum-wage sorcerers who investigate magical crimes on behalf of a secret society.
I have been reading Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novels since I was a pre-teen and singing their praises on Boing Boing since 2006
, and with the occasion of the publication of Vallista
, the fifteenth and nearly final volume in the series, I want to spend some time explaining to you why goddamnit you should really consider reading 15 books, get caught up, and finish this sucker with me, because if there was any justice in this world, the Vlad books would have a following to shame The Dark Tower at its peak.
Glenn Greenwald frames what I've been trying to articulate: as neoliberalism and its handmaiden, corruption, have swept the globe, making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and everyone in the middle more precarious; as elites demonized and dismissed the left-behinds who said something was wrong; as the social instability of inequality has been countered with increasingly invasive domestic "war on terror" policing, millions of people are ready to revolt, and will support anyone who promises no more business as usual. Read the rest
Laurie Penny weighs in with an important addition to the discussion about privilege and pain, making the important point that privilege is not the absence of pain, discrimination or hellish conditions -- but that doesn't mean that the nerds who suffered through school bullying are without it. Read the rest
, the 14th book in Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos
series, is a moving, funny and tantalizing end-game glimpse of the assassin, reluctant revolutionary and epic wisecracker. Cory Doctorow
explains why he's been reading this generation-spanning series
of Hungarian mythology, revolutionary politics, and gastronomy for more than 30 years.
Steven Brust and Skyler White's The Incrementalists is a spectacular new contemporary fantasy novel about an immortal cabal of dysfunctional do-gooders who use their subtle, near-wizardly powers of persuasion to alter the course of history, and change bodies by implanting their memories into the bodies of successors chosen from the population at large.
Though I'm new to Skyler White, I am a gigantic fan of Steven Brust, and this book was an absolute home-run for me. Thematically, it's close to The Sun, the Moon and the Stars -- to my mind, his great, neglected masterpiece -- in its philosophical depth, emotional range, and sense of deep, fabled magic. But the collaboration with White is extremely fruitful: the authors trade off writing from different points-of-view within chapters, providing a glimpse of the godhead-like group mind of the Incrementalists themselves. After the first couple of switches, I stopped trying to guess who was writing what -- it felt like a style that was neither Brust's, nor White's, but a superior hybrid of both. Read the rest
There's a new special-edition audiobook of Welcome to Bordertown, the YA reboot of the amazing, classic urban fantasy shared-world anthologies that practically invented the genre. The special edition includes lots of new material, such as Neil Gaiman's reading of his poem "The Song of the Song" and Steven Brust fronting a musical version of his "Run Back Across the Border" -- there's lots more, and its all available as a DRM-free MP3CD.
I grew up on the Bordertown books and was delighted to be asked to contribute a story: Shannon's Law. Read the rest
Earlier today, Mark wrote about a boycott of the Ender's Game movie; called for on the basis of Orson Scott Card's public statements opposing gay marriage. Unlike Mark, I really enjoyed Ender's Game and read it several times; later, I read John Kessel's brilliant essay about it and realized some of the ways in which it brilliantly -- and troublingly -- snuck in a message of justifiable pre-emptive violence.
I've been concerned and upset about Card's views on homosexuality since his "Hypocrites of Homosexuality" came out in 1990. But I won't be signing onto the boycott call for the Ender's Game movie, for the same reason I didn't sign onto the call for a boycott of the Superman comic Card was tapped to write. A Steven Brust essay changed my thinking on this:
Read the rest
So, then, the question immediately stops being, “is it morally wrong to try to convince DC to blacklist Scott Card.” It becomes, “Is it a good tactic to try to convince DC to blacklist Scott Card.” In the previous discussion, Emma pointed out, quite correctly, that it’s an ineffective way to create change. I agree, but there’s more. Just like in a good work of fiction, what we need to examine are consequences. And the consequences of creating a blacklist are simple: it opens the door for it’s use against us. And, frankly, we’re a lot more vulnerable than they are; they have the entire power of the massive machine of capital and the State; we have only what we can pull in with our voices.
A reminder that you've got 3 weeks left to apply for the excellent Viable Paradise science fiction writing workshop on Martha's Vineyard -- a week-long, very intensive course taught by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Debra Doyle, James D McDonald, Steven Brust, Sherwood Smith, Steven Gould, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. I've taught it several times and recommend it unconditionally. Read the rest
Steven Brust nails what it feels like after you send a book in to your editor:
It has now been over an hour since I sent my [email/query/story submission/250 thousand word novel] and I have heard nothing. Nothing. I now understand Lee’s frustration at Gettysburg when Stuart didn’t show up. Has there been a fire? Has someone died? If so, I’d think you could at least drop me a note explaining the delay. It is almost as if there are things you do that don’t involve me. In fact, I could almost believe that I am not the most important person in the world to you. No, I don’t accuse you of that; but can you see how you might be giving that impression?
Have you considered what would happen if everyone behaved the way you are? I would have to learn deferred gratification. And, as you know, deferred gratification is a slippery slope that can lead to me not getting everything I want.
An Open Letter To My Editor Read the rest
I love rediscovering cool things. I'm sure I learned, at some point, that the Soviet Union had once sent probes to land on the surface of Venus. But I had completely forgotten this fact until today.
This photo comes from Venera 9, which landed on Venus on October 22, 1975. The lander remained operational for 53 minutes, which isn't bad considering we're talking about a planet with hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoric acid in the atmosphere, and a surface temperature (as measured by Venera 9) of 905° F.
The photo — at three different phases of processing — comes from the website of Don Mitchell, an enthusiast of Soviet space history. Mitchell did the processing that resulted in the clear, bottom image in this stack.
The upper image is the raw 6-bit data. The center images include the telemetry brust replacements, with remaining bursts blacked out. The 6-bit values have been transformed to linear brightness, using the published photometric function of the camera, and then converted to sRGB standard form (gamma 2.2). In the final version, I filled in missing regions, using Bertalmio's inpainting algorithm.
• Read more about these photos at Don Mitchell's website
• Read more about the Venera landers and how they survived on Venus
Thanks to OMG Facts for reminding me of this cool bit of history
Read the rest
Two of the greats of science fiction and fantasy literature, Emma Bull (War for the Oaks and many others) and Steven Brust (the Vlad Taltos books and many others) have coincidentally gone for surgery at the same time. Emma had a thyroidectomy on August 8th to investigate a 4 cm nodule on her thyroid. Steve had a defibrillator implanted on Aug 22.
And yeah, neither of them are adequately insured. Because writing is an entrepreneurial, economically marginal arts career, and its practitioners are often not able to buy insurance on the "open" market, especially as they enter middle age. Most of the US writers I know rely on spouses with "straight" jobs for insurance. But Steve isn't married, and Emma is married to another writer, Will Shetterly.
Writer Scott Lynch published a name-your-price novel called Queen of the Iron Sands. He's announced that two thirds of the proceeds from this book will go to Steve and Emma.
He's done this off his own bat, without Emma or Steve asking for it, because they're not the sort of people who ask. But it sure sounds like they could use it.
Update: Steve Brust says,
Read the rest
This is very, very sweet, and I'm tremendously grateful for what Scott and everyone else is doing. But you need to know that, as of a couple of months ago, I DO have health care coverage--after the congestive heart failure, Those Who Decide Things decided I was partially disabled (which I guess is true; it's slowed my work down) and I'm now on MA, which is how I was able to get the surgery.
Inspired by some of the more pathological behaviors on display in the comment section of John Scalzi's blog Whatever, author Steven Brust has created a doggerel epic entitled "John Scalzi’s Blog." Here's a sample:
I’ve done my work for the day,
I’ve twittered random shit.
I’ve whined about immigration;
And I’m sure I displayed my wit.
I’ve drunk my supper, watched some porn,
And even fed the dog.
Now it’s time to be an idiot on John Scalzi’s blog.
He’s the president of SFWA
His comment strings are long.
Lots of people pay attention,
SO I HAVE TO PROVE HIM WRONG!
He wouldn’t dare delete my words,
Or the comment chain I’ll clog.
So I’m free to be an idiot on John Scalzi’s blog.
John Scalzi’s Blog Read the rest