Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Virtual Characters

Filed under: Art,Fun,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:53 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, and you’re reading this post, you’re either so far along on your book that you have time to burn, or you’ve given up.
Please, don’t give up.

In 2011, John Scalzi wrote about “being fictional”, which was his take on Elizabeth Bear’s post regarding how she is, in the minds of fans who have not met her, essentially, a fictional person.  It’s an interesting thought, I think, that someone can think they know us so well…
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Review: You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Bring Your Laptop To A Coffee Shop

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, last week I finished You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Bring Your Laptop To A Coffee Shop by John Scalzi.

I’ve been a frustrated writer since I can remember.
I’ve read more books on writing than most people even realize have been published! But, this book was different. Most writing books focus on the techniques of writing, dispensing all sorts of marginally useful advice, but Scalzi has some different advice for hopeful writers. He talks mainly about the nitty gritty that the other books leave out. For one thing, he talks about giving up the idea that one should only write “art” pieces. He talks about approaching writing like any other job. It makes sense, really, when you think about it. I mean, if you want to make a living at writing, then you have to write regularly, just like you’d work at any other job. You work regularly to get paid regularly.

Mostly, the advice is hard-nosed and drawn from his own years as a full-time, professional writer. Also, the sections are drawn from his blog, the Whatever and many are answers to questions from readers of that blog. Granted, he’s edited many of the original blog entries for the book, but I honestly don’t care that it’s mostly duplicated material I could get from the web. I find reading it from a book, an actual, bound book, far easier than trying to chase it all down on his blog. It was well worth the price.

I can’t recommend this book to most of my readers, but if you’re an aspiring writer and are tired of reading the same well-worn advice about how to write, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Bring Your Laptop To A Coffee Shop may be just the book you’ve been looking for. It won’t tell you much about how to write, but it will give you invaluable advice about the writing life and how to make a living at it.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"We cannot be sure that we have something worth living for unless we are ready to die for it."
   --Eric Hoffer


Review: Glasshouse

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Last week, I finished Glasshouse by Charlie Stross.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately than I have in a long, long while. Part of that has included a lot of last year’s award winners. There’s been a lot of really great science-fiction that I haven’t read in recent years and I’m trying to catch up a bit. Glasshouse is one of those.

The title comes from the name of a kind of prison where the inmates are under continuous surveillance. However, the story is about a kind of experiment with partially mind-wiped patients. Ah, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The story starts with a man named Robin who has recently undergone a significant surgery, to wipe certain parts of his memory. In fact, he’s undergone a rather radical mind wipe, no doubt driven by a significant trauma. At least, that’s what he supposes, since no one seems to know and, of course, he has no memory. Actually, he has to rely quite a bit on what people tell him and, frankly, a lot of guesswork. So, with that setting as a beginning, Robin explores who he is, why he’s there and why he knows about and is so comfortable with violence.
He quickly meets and gets involved with a woman named Kat. Though, in this future, definitions like “woman” are somewhat flexible. Kat, for instance, has four arms and is blue. And, she’s also gone through a mind-wipe, though not as radical as Robin’s. She convinces Robin to sign up for an experiment, an experiment in politics, sociology and history. The experiment takes the form of a game, of sorts, set in what would roughly be our time that includes constant observation to make sure everyone stays in character in this artificially created time and place. It’s an interesting way to look at gender roles and societal norms of our time, while layering on some other ideas for us to think about. And, of course, nothing is quite what it seems.

I have to admit, even though this won awards and was interesting, it’s not my favorite. I have a couple more by Charlie Stross in my stack of books to be read, and I’ll definitely read them, but I enjoy John Scalzi better. Still, the ideas Stross presented in this book were interesting and good, hard science-fiction. I won’t spoil any plot twists, but he creates a world where people can change gender almost at will and wear pretty modified bodies, too. Also, he portrays a world where, as an outgrowth of the mutable nature of humankind, sex and sexual morality has shifted far from our current standards, even in the most liberal of communities. I like, though, that it all fits together and makes sense internally. Sure you have to suspend disbelief in several instances, but, after that, everything else follows logically. In that respect, Stross is a very good writer, even though his style may not appeal to me. In the end, I’ll read more of his work because I can learn from it, and that’s more than enough reason for me. Also, there’s a fun “inside joke” reference to the Prisoner that made me laugh.

In short, if you’re patient and like so-called hard science-fiction, there’s a lot to like in Glasshouse. It’s well worth finding in paperback and reading.


Review: Old Man’s War

Filed under: Fiction,Fun,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I read Old Man’s War by John Scalzi this weekend.

I’m still reading Soon I Will Be Invincible, but, Friday, I got a free newsletter from Tor Books and it included a link to Old Man’s War as an ebook.  Naturally, I dropped everything to read it.  And, am I ever glad that I did!
John Scalzi is one of those authors that I’ve been hearing about the past year or two as being one of the new faces to watch in science-fiction, and, after reading Old Man’s War, I can see why.  On the surface, this is an old-fashioned colonization/space-war book in the vein of Heinlein or Niven, but with something else, too, that reminded me of Joe Haldeman at his peak.  This is truly great work and I’m sure I’ll be buying more of Mr. Scalzi’s books very, very shortly.

The story follows one seventy-five-year-old man, John Perry, who’s lost his wife of more than fourty years as he joins the Colonial Defense Forces so that he can get a new lease on life, literally.  Apparently, the only way for citizens of non-Third-World countries to colonize space, and take advantage of some slightly secretive, possibly shady, physical rejuvenation program, is to sign up for the military.  The story follows Perry as he leaves the planet, gets his new body and life, and sees the galaxy as a soldier in the Colonial Defense Force.  From there on out, Mr. Scalzi shows us a well-thought-out universe that, frankly, is rather hostile to humans.  He also gives us a compelling story of mankind’s place in that universe and how we might evolve, live and fight in the future.
He also writes a ripping yarn.

I cannot recommend Old Man’s War enough.  I don’t want to go into too much detail on this, so I don’t ruin it for you, readers, but, if you like science-fiction, you owe it to yourself to get this book and read it.

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