tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (book + billie)
I finally fit that NPR Sci-Fi/Fantasy book list meme that's been doing the rounds into my busy schedule of ways to procrastinate on useful activities.  This list includes a lot of damn good books, but it also has some huge problems.  The most obvious is that it is disproportionately books by white men, even beyond the diversity problems in the genre as a whole. The way they lumped together some huge series as one entry while others are split up or only have one book on the list is somewhat mystifying.    One of the rules was that young adult books aren't allowed, which I think is a rather artificial distinction given how many YA books appeal to adults and how many of the "adult" books on the list I read as a tween or teen.

I've completely read 36 of the 100 entries (using "read" loosely; two of those I only took in as audiobooks and one through hearing my dad read it aloud.)  I also included sugestions of books I think should have been on the list at the end.

Books, books, books )
tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (allosaurus bitches)
One of the lovely things about Sherlock Holmes is that the original canon is out of reach of copyright laws, meaning that established authors can write fanfic and get paid for it.  The BBC's Sherlock is a classic "born in another time period" AU, for instance.  The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a book with an excellent collection of professional Holmes fic that may appeal to the Sherlock fans on this flist as well as others who have read some of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.

The concept of this collection is that it contains a mix of genres:  some straight-up mystery stories where every bizarre occurrence can be explained away, and some speculative fiction stories where the solution to the mystery involves something like aliens, Cthulhu, or travel to a parallel universe.  In almost all of the stories I was able to tell whether the supernatural occurrences were "real" almost immediately, well before the reveal, but the variety of genres was fun nevertheless.  As in any collection of short stories, some are better than others, but there were a number of stories I absolutely adored and only one or two I truly disliked. Some of my favorites included (with some fairly minor spoilers):

-Naomi Novik does her fanfic origins proud in "Commonplaces."  She directly addresses the question of exactly how deep the connection between Holmes and Watson runs.  I squeed SO DAMN HARD, even though it's a bittersweet story.  Also, I really like Novik's version of Irene Adler.

-Stephen King's descriptively titled "The Doctor's Case," wherein Watson solves the mystery before Holmes.  It turns out that my fondness for super-competent!John in the BBC-verse translates to other versions of our detective duo as well.

-"The Singular Habits of Wasps" by Geoffrey Landis, a brilliantly unsettling take on Jack the Ripper.

-Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald."  If you don't already know why this story is a dark gem, you can also read it on Neil's website.

-"The Adventure of the Pirates of Devil's Cape" by Rob Rogers.  Inspired lunacy with an albino alligator and PIRATES!  Also, BAMF!Watson fights a giant.
-For an example of a pro writer dipping into that beloved fandom genre of crack, I loved "The Adventure of the Lost World" by Dominic Green.  Those in Sherlock fandom may be especially amused to note that this story contains a dinosaur.  (Yes, watchalong folks, it is better than the movie with Gareth David Lloyd.) As if the prospect of Sherlock + dinosaur isn't tantalizing enough, I really must share this selection of dialog between Holmes and Watson.

[excerpt behind the cut )

In summary, if you're looking for a fun bunch of stories putting familiar characters in unfamiliar situations or you want some [mostly] gen Sherlock Holmes fanfic you can carry around in book form, I recommend The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Fic rec!

Feb. 19th, 2010 11:50 pm
tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (book club adventures 9/rose)
If you're reading this, you probably already know that the combination of Doctor Who and literature makes me an extraordinarily happy fangirl.  For those of similar inclination, I have a fic rec! 

Check out Read Between the Lines by [livejournal.com profile] sciathan_file .  Trapped in Pete's World after Doomsday, Rose comes to the disconcerting discovery that many of her favorite books have entirely different and usually disappointing stories in the parallel world.  I love how the story explores the idea that the Doctor is far from the only thing Rose lost when she became trapped away from her home universe.  Alt!Donna makes an appearance, being her typically wonderful, sassy self.  This is a story about stories and their importance to us through both our emotional health and how we frame our own narratives.  The fic has a melancholy beauty.  Extensive knowledge of literature is NOT necessary to enjoy this fic.
tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (seasonally appropriate laugh)
I saw Invictus today and enjoyed it quite a bit. It's about a truly inspiring time, the early days of Nelson Mandela's presidency of South Africa. They country had just left apartheid behind, but many blacks were still bitter about all those years of horrible oppression while many whites were extremely distrustful of the new government and angry about their own loss of power. The nation could so easily have fallen apart, but it didn't. There are a number of factors that kept South Africa from disintegrating, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, but Invictus focuses on two: Nelson Mandela and rugby. I could care less about rugby, but it was a good microcosm to show all the racially charged issues that South Africa had to cope with. Also, all of you Doctor Who fans will be interested to know that this movie has Adjoa Andoh, who played Francine Jones, playing one of Mandela's aids.

I spent five months in South Africa in college, studying at the University of Cape Town. I really enjoyed all the reminders of life in that country I got from the movie, everything from drop-dead gorgeous aerial shots of Cape Town to a passing mention of a proposal to make retailers charge extra for plastic bags. (This was established law by the time I visited in 2004. Why doesn't every nation do this?) It was nice to go into the film knowing a little bit extra about the underlying politics and symbolism, but the film explains enough that you don't really need prior knowledge. f you're interested, however, I recommend Nelson Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. It's a well-told personal story of a truly remarkable man, but it is also a good introduction to recent South African history. Better yet, go to South Africa. Take me with you!

As for the film, it was quite good, though not truly great. I felt like it told most of the story it had in the first two-thirds or so, leaving the last third weighted down with too much slow-motion footage of large men slamming into each other while grunting a lot. Some bits toed the line between inspirational and trite. Matt Damon, playing the captain of the rugby team, did a decent South African accent but not much else. If you see only one 2009 movie about South Africa, it should be District 9. However, Invictus is still very much worthwhile. Bonus points: read this blog post on what Nelson Mandela's leadership in Invictus teaches us about how to tackle global warming.

I'm currently reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss. I correctly anticipated its appeal to my inner punctuation snob, but I never predicted how often it would make me laugh out loud. Consider this sentence about the Italian printer who, among other achievements, invented italics and printed the first semicolon: "That man was Aldus Mantius the Elder (1450-1515) and I will happily admit I hadn't heard of him until about a year ago, but am now absolutely kicking myself that I never volunteered to have his babies." Ha!
tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (reading outside)
-I found a cool discussion thread over at Feministe for recommendations of feminist sf/fantasy/speculative fiction books. There are a lot of authors and stories I love recced over there, and a bunch more I now want to check out. This is going in my bookmarks!

-We actually had frost last night! On the central California coast!

-Go away, sore throat. :(
tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (badass geek)
I'm going to Dragoncon next weekend!  Will any of y'all be there?  I'm looking forward to it, although the crowds might be even more crazy than usual due to some big name guests (Leonard Nimoy!  Patrick Stewart!  Adam Savage from Mythbusters!  William Shatner!   I'm glad I'm not in charge of crowd management.)  Gareth David-Lloyd will the rest of this sentence cut for CoE spoilers, just in case. )    I'm also thoroughly excited about the chance to see my family, who live in Atlanta and will also attend the con.  (Well, my dad and brother will attend the con full time.   My mom will probably come for a few hours one day to see Adam Savage and look at costumes.)   

I saw District 9 this week.  It was amazing!  (No spoilers in my discussion, no promises about comments.)  The premise is innovative. (Alien spaceship parks over Johannesburg, but the aliens inside are impoverished and disorganized.  They end up living in a shanty town in Jo'burg.  The movie hinges around an effort to evict them for relocation to a farther away camp.)  The treatment of social issues is complex.  The acting is superb.  The effects are great, integrating so well into the documentary-style film that you don't notice them.  This is what science fiction is for:  thought-provoking movies that can also feature a giant robot throwing a car.  Plus, I lived in South Africa for five months during a semester abroad in college, so parts of the movie were a trip down memory lane but with added aliens.  I highly recommend it, with the caveat that the severely squeamish might want to stay away.  There are some intensely gross scenes of illness and quite a bit of violence.

While I'm recommending things, I'd like to direct you to the book Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.  It's young adult (but entirely suitable for adults) post-apocalyptic steampunk about moving cities that eat other cities.  There are also airships!  And cyborgs!  That premise alone may be enough to send you to your local book store, but it's not just a cool idea.  It's a thrilling adventure that I found hard to put down, but it's really more about the fascinating characters and their complex moral dilemmas.   The warning for this one is that I came about thisclose to crying on the Tube while reading it.  Tissues are your friends!


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