Review: Always Coming Home

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Shedding a beautiful light on life’s possibilities, this book reforms post-cataclysmic human society on earth – in ways that feel as though they could be and have been before. Changed coastlines, changed people, but still people on the coast. The format of one main tale surrounded by cultural articles gives the etic and emic ethnographic perspective of a time that feels quite real, and familiar. Portions of this book speak through time and imagination of experience that transcends both. Nature is nature, people are people, and home is home.

The poems can be read by themselves and appreciated by other audiences. I enjoyed the created world so thoroughly that… okay, confession time… I read aloud every word listed in the glossary. In my life of reading books with invented glossaries, only J. R. R. Tolkien’s had me as engrossed. Words crafted with sound and culture by someone who understands language! I read the entire glossary in a Game of Thrones book, but not aloud in entirety.

 

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Curriculum: Richard Chwedyk’s Sci-Fi Writing Syllabus 2018

This list is neither qualitative nor comprehensive. The new stories come from the latest Neil Clarke Year’s Best anthology. The rest help (I hope) to illustrate various techniques and approaches to writing sf, and are also geared up to various exercises we’ll be doing in relation to them. Next term’s selection will probably look significantly different.

Week 1 – September 5, 2018
In-class readings (opening of Snow Crash, “They’re Made Out of Meat,” “Day Million”)
Readings for next week: Tom Godwin, “The Cold Equations”
James Patrick Kelly, “Think Like a Dinosaur”

Week 2 – September 12, 2018
In-class reading: “How to Become a Mars Overlord” by Catherynne M. Valente
Readings for next week: Cordwainer Smith, “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”
Paolo Bacigalupi, “Pump Six”

Week 3 – September 19, 2018
In-class reading: “Reason” by Isaac Asimov
Readings for next week: Clifford D. Simak, “Desertion”.
Stanley G. Weinbaum, “A Martian Odyssey”

Week 4 – September 26, 2018
In-class reading: “Air Raid” by John Varley
Readings for next week: William Tenn , “The Liberation of Earth”
Vandana Singh, “Shikasta”

Week 5 – October 3, 2018
In-class reading: “Out of All Them Bright Stars” and “Exegesis” by Nancy Kress
Readings for next week: Philip K. Dick, “Frozen Journey” (aka “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”)
Nancy Kress, “Every Hour of Light and Dark”

Week 6 – October 10, 2018
In-class reading: “Balanced Ecology” by James H. Schmitz
Readings for next week: Robert Sheckley, “Specialist”
Rachael K. Jones and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, “Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship”

Week 7 – October 17, 2018
In-class reading: “Plotters and Shooters” by Kage Baker
Readings for next week: Pat Cadigan, “Pretty Boy Crossover”
Matthew Kressel, “The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)”

Week 8 – October 24, 2018
In-class reading: “Kyrie” by Poul Anderson
Readings for next week: Theodore Sturgeon,“Thunder and Roses”
Indrapramit Das, “The Worldless”

Week 9 – October 31, 2018
Readings for next week: R. A. Lafferty,“Nine Hundred Grandmothers”
Sarah Pinsker, “Wind Will Rove”

Week 10 – November 7, 2018
In-class reading: “The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” by Vonda N. McIntyre
Readings for next week: Samuel R. Delany,“Aye, and Gomorrah”
Karin Lowachee, “Meridian”

Week 11 – November 14, 2018
In-class reading:. “Kirinyaga” by Mike Resnick
Readings for next week: James Tiptree, Jr., “The Women Men Don’t See”
Greg Egan, “Uncanny Valley”

Week 12 – November 21, 2018
Readings for next week: Greg Bear, “Blood Music”
Kathleen Ann Goonan, “The Tale of the Alcubierre Horse”

Week 13 – November 28, 2018
In-class reading: “Infinities” by Vandana Singh
Readings for next week: “Bloodchild” – Octavia E. Butler
Tobias S. Buckell, “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”

Week 14 – December 5, 2018
Readings for next week: Ted Chiang, “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang
Suzanne Palmer, “The Secret Life of Bots”

Review: The Forever War

The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman

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It’s hard to read, and that’s because the experience is horribly real. I lightened it up by reading other things in between, but I kept returning to witness this account. I could see soldier stories through science fiction metaphors (such as time dilation, the world having changed much more than the time spent on campaign). There’s a soul-gripping terror and malaise in these pages – not just in the violence, but as seen through societal humanity. Deeply affecting, eloquent messages delivered with the twang of sci-fi experimentation.

(review hosted on Amazon & Goodreads)

Review: Acorna’s Quest

Acorna’s Quest
by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball

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(book jacket drawn by ele)

Fantastic entertainment carrying a balance of humor and deep worldcrafting. Unicorn people will understand… with their minds. Reflects the struggles of the newly adult finding their own kind, ethical dilemmas in science & politics, and different people complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

(review hosted on GoodReads & Amazon)

Review: Forest of Memory

Forest of Memory, a novella by Mary Robinette Kowal

If you emerge from the forest, will you be quite the same?

Clearly delineated internal debate and suspenseful action that gives you just a little bit at a time, amidst a knowledgeably vivid and lush sensory landscape. Kowal’s setting removal provides tangentially humorous perspectives on habits and mindsets of today’s world. A dramatic meeting between modern techie life and brutal nature.

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(review also posted on Goodreads & Amazon)

Review: Norse Mythology

A distinct flavor of culture understood through time and across languages, cast in transcendent form into a re-homed delivery. The tales are what they are; concepts and scenes are couched in a familiar sensibility that looks you straight in the eye with its reactions. This book has a fine savor, meaning that it delivers multiple qualities to appreciate all at once, and tuned in varying amounts. Artistically, it seems made of swooping penstrokes and careful woodcuts.

(The above review also posted on Amazon & Goodreads)

Additional note: A1…!

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Review: Enlightening Symbols

Enlightening Symbols, by Joseph Mazur

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This volume revolutionized my understanding of mathematical thought. Following the development of symbols walked me through our primal, unstructured mental evolution of grasping intangible concepts that nevertheless apply to everyday reality, through the human context which fostered their understanding. Connected me to the great abstractions of communication. An incredible way to encounter mathematics, revealing a deep level of global research and reference. For instance, I now credit Virahanka for the golden ratio number addition sequence! And I also credit Joseph Mazur for the insightful education presented here.