Nightspore

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Archive for the 'Reading' Category

Ever fallen asleep over your favourite book?

I am an avid reader. SF, fantasy, crime, thrillers and a wide range of non-fiction are devoured when I have the time and opportunity. Trying to write a novel, time is at a premium. I tend to read now at the end of the day and, as a consequence, members of my family have often found me fast asleep, glasses on and, frequently, book still upright in my hand. The general conclusion is that this is a sad state of affairs.

Thus, I was pleased to note that another member of our household also falls asleep over his favourite book…
Max favourite bedtime reading

Max is the senior of our seven cats, the only one to have emigrated from England to France. All our cats (and the dog) are eccentric in their own way – which means they fit in perfectly in our household.

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More musing on SF magazines

Now I have the first paper Asimov’s and Analog magazines that I have seen in a while, it is interesting to compare them physically to F&SF and Interzone.

Interzone has just resized, bringing it down close to the size of the three US magazines. I have found this a great improvement, easier to hold and it takes up so much less “desk space”. The glossy cover and the qualkity matt white paper are pleasant to hold.

The first thing I noticed about Analog and Asimov’s (which are from the same publisher, Dell) is how flimsy the covers are. I remember them as being much more substantial magazines when I last bought them (true it is a decade or more ago!) Very easy to tear and flopping around when reading the magazines. F&SF, by contrast, has a nice stiff cover that makes the physical experience much nicer though the subscription divider card mid-way is a bit of an irritant.

Inside, all three US magazines use a more pulpy quality paper than Interzone. F&SF’s pages are a touch thicker so all in all, better to handle than the slightly larger format Dell magazines.

My conclusion? Ignoring content (perhaps another post?), Interzone’s size change makes it the hads-on winner for me, followed by F&SF. It will take me a while to get used to handling the other two… though I am still happier with them than with the Kindle versions.

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Musing on SF magazines

At the start of the year, in my enthusiasm for my new Kindle, I added several electronic SF magazine subscriptions (Analog, Asimov’s,Clarkesworld and Lightspeed) to my existing paper ones for “Fantasy & Science Fiction” (F&SF) and Interzone, both of which have been running since the 1980’s. So how have they done?

I have cancelled Clarkesworld, which I felt was too reprint-oriented. I have kept up Lightspeed on the Kindle. Asimov’s and Analog I have switched to paper subs. So why did I go counter to the current trend with these two?

    I am a browser of magazines, often flicking through to find stories and articles that interest me even if I intend to read the whole magazine cover to cover eventually. The Kindle is best for reading through.
    I find the Kindle’s indexing / contents listing unhelpful: listing by type – novella, novelette, short – then within these categories, showing the title without the author’s name. I look out for particular authors and like to turn to their stories first.
    Assessing the cost of Analog and Asimov’s, I found a two-year international postal subscription is not that much more than I was paying for the electronic version.
    Unless you consciously “keep” a magazine issue, Amazon deletes it when there are six or seven more recent issues. I like to be able to go to my collection and re-read from time to time (eg: Hugo and Nebula winners, or if I am reading a follow-up in a linked series)
    The content is DRM-protected. I can’t back it up to Calibre to read on my laptop nor can I pass the magazine on to anyone else, such as my daughter who is becoming almost as much as an SF fan as me.

To me it was “no contest” against the Kindle, though I find that great for reading novels and novellas (I am finding some excellent self-published ones I would not otherwise have discovered).

What of the future? Will I find myself a Luddite? Now my wife has an iPad, it will be interesting to check out reading a magazine (in colour) on that (if she’ll let me near it… which is unlikely given her current attachment to it!)

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The ubiquitous Ken Liu

On my recent return to the family home in South West France, I was pleased to find waiting for me the latest editions of both “Fantasy & Science Fiction” (September/October 2012) and “Asimov’s SF” (December 2012). Their covers revealed they both contained stories by a writer I have admired for a while, Ken Liu.

Subsequently opening “Analog” (December 2012) which arrived around the same time, the inside listing also showed a short story by Ken Liu. Then, within a week the delayed “Interzone” (September / October 2012) also popped into the letter box to show on the cover a story by none other than Ken Liu.

By this point, as an aspiring yet unpublished writer myself, I confess to feeling a little green with envy that someone – albeit an excellent writer, which could have something to do with it! – could get stories into the current issues of all four print SF magazines I have subscriptions for.

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Discovering new authors with Kindle: Jilly Paddock

One objective in acquiring a Kindle was to try to broaden my reading, finding new authors or tracking down hard-to-find or out-of-print titles. While I feel the latter objective has not been met (my first experiment – and failure – was based on assuming that all of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series would be easy to find and download from Amazon!)

I have subscribed to magazines that are difficult to find in UK and downright impossible when living in rural France unless one signs up for a late-arriving postal subscription. Since obtaining my Kindle at Christmas I have been enjoying Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld and Lightspeed – all with free trial and reasonable subscription rates.

I have also discovered my first author totally new to me, but one whose work I will look out for in the future: Jilly Paddock. I downloaded two of her stories when they were on a promotion through Amazon (another benefit of the Kindle is the chance to experiment at no or low cost).

First I read “The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone” – this is a combination of SF setting on a colonised world and police procedural around the kidnapping of the 9-year-old daughter of an Earth diplomat. The story is told from the PoV of a local detective, Jerome, not entirely human and just reassigned from Fraud to Homicide division to work with Afton, a difficult to work with detective inspector. The characterisation, particularly the relationship between Jerome and Afton and Jerome and the kidnapped girl, work very well. Add into the mix an extremely unpleasant kidnapper and equally unpleasant Terran agent with psy-powers (the spook of the title) plus a nasty underground guardian (the spirit, a near-fantasy element) and what sounds like quite a mish-mash of genres actually works remarkably well. The story moves briskly and with good touches of humour to leaven the, at times, distressing tale of the kidnapping of young girls. I would estimate this is novella length and I believe (and hope) this is the first of a series of “Jerome & Afton” stories. I will certainly be looking out for more.

The second Kindle story by Jilly Paddock is quite different. “No Earthly Shore” is set on a colony world, Calvados, where some 30 years after arrival, there are indications that one of the local life-forms, the invertebrate “sea-quilt”, may be sentient if the report by 12-year-old Boadicea Nantucket is true. Junior member of the verification team from Earth, marine biologist Dr. Zuzana Aaron-Jones, suspects that her colleagues want to come up with a negative result in order not to impact a fruitful colony. The leaders of the team, Major Burgoyne and Dr Moya Kent, border on stereotype characters, impeding Zuzi as she tries to communicate with and understand the squilts. However, the main human characters, Zuzi, her new-found colleague, Mooney – who has an ill-defined mission role – and Boodie. are well drawn but the stars of the story are the squilts, particularly “Drunkard’s Path”, who are a delightful invention. The story is told with humour and humanity (in its broadest sense) – what does it mean to be sentient? I’ll not spoil the story by giving more of the plot away – it is well worth reading.

Both Jilly’s stories are available on Amazon for 77p each – good value as both would hold their own on the pages of either Asimov’s or Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine and demonstrates to me the new market opportunities opening up for good authors through e-readers.

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Kindle & the new way to read

Received my new Kindle for Christmas.  While I like physically handling books it does seem to be an incredibly easy way to read… and to obtain books and magazines.  There I was, in rural South West France at 11pm on Christmas Day, able to download three out-of-print books written by a friend of my wife and also obtain the current issue of Asimov’s SF magazine on a 14-day free trial. Wow! I had been impressed with Amazon book delivery yet this was instant satisfaction, no waiting.

I will still want to collect books, especially first editions by authors I like (such as Iain Banks and Christopher Priest), yet for casual reading this appears to be the way of the future.  The only problem? Getting the Kindle back from the rest of my family!

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