Saturday, December 25, 2004

Drinking and posting: the Christmas curse!

Thanks to KRAD for pointing out the typo in the last entry. Nothing says Christmas like lots of Bailey's Irish Cream and then going online, I guess...

I was tempted to fix the post, but what the heck. Let this be a warning to us all. And remember, if you're going to make a typo, make it funny. Goon Trek indeed...

(Now playing: Bing Crosby, "White Christmas," on TV.)

Friday, December 24, 2004

'Tis the season for goon Trek news, apparently...

... though regular readers of TrekBBS won't find any surprises.

Trek novelist Margaret Wander Bonanno has offered some information on her 2006 Christopher Pike novel over on Wordforge, here and here. The plan is to make this the definitive Pike novel, telling his story from his childhood to "Menagerie" and beyond. It's part of the original series 40th anniversary celebration, and as a longtime TOS fan I am really looking forward to this one.

Keith R.A. DeCandido has announced the lineup of stories and authors for the forthcoming Tales From the Captain's Table anthology on PsiPhi and the TrekBBS. I think I'm most looking forward to the Kira Nerys and Demora Sulu stories, but again, I think this'll be a good 'un.

And for everyone who's noticed that Christopher Bennett's sig on the TrekBBS proudly mentioned that his site had been updated a few months ago, well, he's finally announced an update to reflect the availability of his debut Trek novel, Ex Machina, and provide more info on it. And once again, without wanting to sound like a gushing fanboy, I really want to get my hands on this book.

(Now playing... well, nothing, actually. I'm in my parents' basement while Laura and my mom are upstairs waiting for Dad to get back from church and my sister Nadja and her husband Bryan to show up, and I should really get up there...)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's Random Blather Day!

First, the obtrek...

Newbies posting anxiously about whether there will ever be another Strange New Worlds contest or another post-finale Deep Space Nine novel are distressingly common. What's not so common is someone at a high-traffic Trek news site pulling that kind of blunder, as happened at TrekWeb, which reported that the end of New Frontier is not far off. It was certainly news to Pocket and Peter David. Everyone knows about this by now, of course, but it does after all fall within the purview of this little blog.

So New Frontier is not ending after the current trilogy ends. It'd be nice to think that the policy of publishing the damn things in hardcover might end, though....

And now for something completely different...

Kate Bush resurfaces!

I first heard Kate Bush on 630 CHED in Edmonton back in 1978. The DJ said that he had a song that was kind of odd but hugely popular in the UK, and he liked it though it might take a little getting used to. It was "Wuthering Heights," Kate's first single, and I was blown away. I liked ELO, Queen, and Fleetwood Mac in those days, and in some ways Kate Bush wasn't too far removed from that sort of stuff, but at the same time it was undeniably unique. I wasn't much of an LP buyer yet so I got the 45 and played it a lot, as I did the 45 of "Wow," which I had on clear yellow vinyl. I got the first LP, The Kick Inside, for Christmas in 1979 and the next two, Lionheart and Never Forever, for Christmas in 1980. After that I acted more quickly when new albums were released. Not that there were many. Two during my university years (The Dreaming in 1982 and Hounds of Love in 1985) and two since then (The Sensual World in 1989 and The Red Shoes in 1993). And that's pretty much it.

Oh, there were other things to buy. My sister Nadja gave me a three-LP bootleg set for my birthday, I think it was, back around 1988. There was The Whole Story, a best-of with one new track and a rerecorded version of "Wuthering Heights." This Woman's Work, an eight disc CD set with the first six albums and two discs of B-sides and rarities. The Whole Story video compilation, Live at Hammersmith Odeon, The Red Shoes video. The Cathy's Home Demos bootleg. A couple of books.

And rumours, always just rumours, of another album.

And today, one of my Google News alerts brings me the news I've waited for: the new album is almost done and will be out next year. And there's more info at the unofficial Kate Bush News & Information site. Yep, I'm happy. (Laura's not, though. The one thing we really strongly disagree on is Kate Bush. But I can listen at work, or on headphones, or while she's not around. It'll work out.)

Why I love mp3s

Whether I'm looking through legal sources like emusic or itunes or more legally and morally ambiguous sources, I'm usually looking for mp3s of albums I have on LP or cassette. I have several hundred LPs, and yet I don't have a turntable in the car, at work, or in any of the PCs I use in the course of the day. I've bought some old favourites again on CD, sometimes with bonus material, but doing for all the records just wouldn't be practical (or worthwhile, in some cases).

So recently I noticed another old LP popping up at emusic. What the heck, I thought, I haven't listened to that in ages, but it'll only take up a small chunk of my monthly downloads. So I downloaded You Goddamned Son of a Bitch by the Revolting Cocks.

I went through a couple of industrial music phases, and still like my old Ministry and Front 242 albums. Revco started as a side project featuring members of both of those bands and a few other folks. They must have been saving their best ideas for their main bands. There are some good moments here, but in general I'm reminded of exactly why I haven't felt compelled to drop this on the turntable in several years now: it's boring. Despite its attempts at being shocking, loud, and obnoxious, it just isn't very interesting.

So it's just possible that I may get over my packrat sensibility where records are concerned. Now that I have this on mp3, and can burn it to a data CD along with several other albums, I'm even less likely to listen to this LP again. Not just because it's more convenient to listen to digital music, but because I have now reminded myself how unnecessary this album is. Even though the bonus track version of Public Image Ltd.'s "Public Image" isn't bad. Hell, I'd rather just play the original. Imagine how excited Laura would be if I actually pitched or sold the LPs I know I'm never going to play again. If I could bring myself to trim my record collection, heck, I'd get rid of that $1.99 Gene Loves Jezebel live LP without worrying about getting a digital version in any format.

It could happen. I got rid of a few thousand magazines before we left the apartment for the house. Almost every issue of Locus from 1986 on, a complete run of Wired, loads of music magazines, stacks of Asimov's and Analog and other SF mags, all savagely disposed of, and thus far pretty much unmissed. It scares me that someday I might be able to do this to books.

(Now playing: Kate Bush, "L'Amour Looks Something Like You," The Kick Inside.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The ebook debate again...

Yep, it's on the TrekBBS again. And certain folks (folks who, I hasten to point out, I like and respect, though I've only met one in person) are being a little dismissive of the concerns of people who aren't crazy about reading ebooks by saying Gotcha! You're reading this online, so what's the difference, ya big hypocrite?

Here's what I said in response to one post along those lines:

Well, I sit in front of two PCs all day. When I get home I'll occasionally spend a little while on the PC, especially when I'm trying to get a few things done for the website, obviously, but in general when I want an immersive reading experience (one not interrupted by emails and software update announcements, one that doesn't involve following hyperlinks, switching from Word to Outlook to Dreamweaver to SydneyPlus, etc), I want a comfortable place (usually with Laura and Spencer nearby), a light source or two, and a printed book.

Warning: this is not logical. It is entirely subjective. But for me, at least, it is completely true. When I do something on a computer, even though it may involve reading words, I'm dealing with something outside myself. When I read a book, I'm not. It's a much more internalized process, thanks to the need for visualizing the events of the story. When I'm getting a Dun & Bradstreet business information report on a potential customer or tracking down technical papers on a new development in satellite communications technology, I'm looking at words on a screen but I am not having the kind of experience I have when I'm following Richard Sharpe and Patrick Harper through a battlefield.

Some of the ebook proponents seem to suggest that dead tree loyalists are hypocrites for reading BBS posts on a computer. Reading BBSes and emails and such and reading novels on a screen are, for some of us, the same in much the same way that hearing polyphonic ringtones is the same as listening to CDs. Different attention span, different purpose, different experience.

Not that we need to go through all this again. And once I catch up with reading the print SCE books, I think I may well start downloading the SCE ebooks... and printing them out and reading them, and then buying the paperbacks when they come out for a better and more permanent copy to keep. (And yes, there are ways to print out ebooks, fortunately.)
And because I never wrote a post I couldn't make longer (though I've trimmed a paragraph or two from this one)...

I see a pretty clear dividing line between what I do when I'm reading online and what I do when I'm reading a book. Online is more like reading a relatively lightweight print magazine like Entertainment Weekly. I can flip back and forth, I can have any kind of music blaring in the background, I can go for a walk, grab a Coke and a snack, pick up the magazine again and munch away while being just as engaged in that magazine as I was before I went for the Coke.

It doesn't work that way with books, for me, anyway. Whole different level of concentration involved. With fiction in particular, more of my mental processing is called on, to generate images based on the textual descriptions. I need to get into it deeply enough that I can be sure to remember the setting, the characters, their personalities, the events that have already happened, and I'm going to need that information for a longer period of time.

Not apples and oranges. Apples and airplanes, maybe.

(Now playing: The Lisa Marr Experience, "Niagara, Niagara," American Jitters.)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Looking forward to new Star Trek books...

Over at the TrekBBS, Trent Roman has a survey asking people which of the forthcoming Trek books they're most and least looking forward to. Surveys don't usually interest me much, but it's worth reproducing Trent's list:

The ENT novel about the MACOs, working title ''Squids and Sharks'', by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin.

Hoshi Sato-centric ENT novel by Dave Stern.

''Errand of Fury I: Seeds of Rage'' (TOS) by Kevin Ryan

Untitled TOS trilogy by David R. George III

Potential TOS anthology, edited by Marco Palmieri.

''Vanguard'' Book 1 by David Mack

''To Reign in Hell'', the new Khan book by Greg Cox.

''Ex Machina'' (TOS) by Christopher L. Bennett

''Forged in Fire'' (Excelsior) by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin

The ''Terok Nor'' miniseries.

The new ''Lost Era'' book featuring Sisko, the Okinawa and the Tzenkethi.

The new ''Lost Era'' book covering Picard’s years between the Stargazer and the Enterprise-D.

''Engines of Destiny'' by Gene DeWeese.

''Hollow Men'' (DS9) by Una McCormack

''String Theory'' trilogy (VOY), by Jeffrey Land, Kirsten Beyer and Heather Jarman.

''Distant Shores'' anthology (VOY) edited by Marco Palmieri

''Worlds of Deep Space Nine Volume II'' (Bajor/Trill) by J. Noah Kim and Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin.

''Worlds of Deep Space Nine Volume III'' (Ferenginar/Dominion) by David R. George III and Keith R.A. DeCandido.

''Walking Wounded'' (DS9) whose author I cannot remember.

''Enemy Territory'' (''Gorkon'' Book Three) by Keith R.A. DeCandido.

''Breakdowns'' (SCE paperback reprint) by a whole bunch of people

''Aftermath'' (SCE paperback reprint) by a whole bunch of people

''Creative Couplings'' (SCE) by Glenn Hauman and Aaron Rosenberg.

''Small World'' (SCE) by David Mack

''Malefictorum'' (SCE) by Terri Osborne

''Lost Time'' (SCE) by Ilsa J. Bick

''Fables of the Prime Directive'' (SCE) by Cory Rushton

''Identity Crisis'' (SCE) by John. J. Ordover

''Security'' (SCE) by Keith R.A. DeCandido

''Wounds'' (SCE) by Ilsa J. Bick

''Out of the Cocoon'' (SCE) by William Leisner

''Vulcan's Soul, Book One: Exodus'' (paperback reprint) by Susan Shwartz and Josepha Sherman

''Vulcan's Soul, Book Two: Exiles'' by Susan Shwartz and Josepha Sherman

''Vulcan's Soul, Book Three: Epiphany'' by Susan Shwartz and Josepha Sherman

''Captain's Blood'' (paperback reprint) by Shatner and the Reeves-Stevenses

''Captain's Glory'' by Shatner and the Reeves-Stevenses

''Articles of the Federation'' by Keith R.A. DeCandido

''Death in Winter'' (TNG) by Michael J. Friedman

Second post-''Nemesis'' TNG novel, by J.M. Dillard.

''Taking Wing'' (''Titan'' Book One) by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin.

''The Red King'' (''Titan'' Book Two) by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin

''Strange New Worlds VIII'' edited by Dean Wesley Smith

''Tales from the Captains' Table'' anthology, edited by Keith R.A. DeCandido

''Other Times'', edited by Marco Palmieri

The sheer range of material on that list is remarkable. There's no way I can pick one really anticipated item there. I want all the DS9-related stuff ASAP. I'm really intrigued by the Terok Nor trilogy because "Necessary Evil" was such a great episode, but at the same time I want to see the post-finale continuity move forward.

I also want the Vulcan's Soul books. Shwartz and Sherman have written very few Trek novels, but the ones they have written -- wow. Scope, imagination, intrigue, character development, you name it.

The post-Nemesis TNG/Titan/Articles of the Federation stuff. The A Time to... series built up some pretty high expectations.

Vanguard. A new TOS-era series that isn't Challenger! Unlike that failed series, I suspect this will actually feel like Star Trek and not be driven by the ideology of someone who dislikes almost everything Star Trek stands for.

Voyager books not written by Christie Golden. Voyager novelists have often managed to realize the potential the series and its characters always had, which is more than the TV series writers generally did. The Voyager post-finale continuity, however, has been disappointing. As for Enterprise, though that show has improved dramatically, there's still plenty of room for writers to explore the show's characters and elements of its premise and setting that the TV series hasn't addressed.

My enthusiasm does not extend to absolutely everything in the list. I'm not particularly excited about more Shatnerverse stuff, or Errand of Fury (I didn't care for Errand of Vengeance at all). I don't see any New Frontier stuff listed there, but there's bound to be more. Given how often my tastes have clashed with the mainstream of fandom, I suppose that's for the best. Pocket has to stay in business somehow. (I'm still amazed by the popularity of the DS9 relaunch and the Lost Era books -- generally anything I like that much ends up being a flop.)

(Now playing: Brian Eno, "The Quiet Club," Music for Civic Recovery Project.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

I apologize for the late response.

I've been checking out the official Simonsays Pocket Books Trek board occasionally over the last week or so. There's not a lot of traffic, but the latest interface is an improvement over the last one, I think. I remember hanging out at simonsays a lot back in the old days, and then they switched to another interface and it kinda broke and everyone went over to psiphi instead.

So I posted something the other day and noticed that it showed me as having registered in 2000. I do not remember that. So I did a search, and I actually posted a few times back then. One or two looked pretty familiar, but there was one post I made that someone responded to and I guess I just couldn't be bothered to reply.

So, better late than never:

In a discussion about New Earth, a series largely created and partly written by a conservative ideologue, someone made a passing remark about new Trek series, saying "Now if they could just dump the political correctness garbage on the newer shows...."

And I posted, following a grumpy paragraph or two on the scientific issue relating to New Earth being discussed elsewhere in the thread:

As for "political correctness" in newer Trek series... are you one of those tiresome usenet people who can't relate to anything that isn't about white male Christian Republicans? You could watch Fox News.
(I spent a lot of time in the 1990s reading tiresome posts on usenet from people who thought there was no reason for having a black station commander or a female starship captain than pandering to the politically correct. There's nothing racist or sexist in always having white men running things; that's just the default, after all, and you'd better have a darn good reason for having someone who is not a white man. Otherwise you're demonstrating "politically correct" racism by making a character female or nonwhite who doesn't have to be. All of which is nonsense, but in those days Rush Limbaugh had a TV show, not a drug habit.)

So the guy replied:

I have posted a grand total of three posts here. You don't know me, or my politics, or my religion. and I don't know what a "tiresome usenet person is". For all you know, I could be a Klingon.

But I do know what a rude person is, and your comment reveals what you are quite clearly.
And I never replied, apparently.

Okay, my tone may have needed a little work. But "politically correct garbage" is a loaded choice of words. When aimed at the newer shows circa 2000, you know, the one with the black guy and the one with the woman, certain inferences can easily be made. It's certainly not the least rude way to refer to a couple of TV series.

So. Who is it who usually tosses around the term "politically correct garbage"? Google isn't turning up a lot of liberals and atheists. Plenty of conservatives and Christians, though.

And speaking of conservatives, the name of the person in question (with an email name matching his bbs username) appears on the conservative National Review forum. Same guy passes on his prayers on a sports forum elsewhere. Could be I'm wrong about his brand of religion, but I don't think I completely misconstrued his post.

And that's enough self-serving blather for now.

(Now playing: Franz Ferdinand, "This Fire," Franz Ferdinand.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

25 years ago

I'm 16 years old. I live in Edmonton, Alberta. It's a Friday in December, so it's a school day. A cold one, at that. I have a spare last class so I leave school early and take the bus downtown. Before too long I'm in front of the theatre on Jasper Avenue, one of Edmonton's main downtown streets, and wondering if the people milling around are in line for the movie. Star Trek - The Motion Picture premieres today. Turns out most of them are waiting for a bus.

I'm there by myself. It's my first time seeing a movie alone in a theatre, but my friends aren't particularly all that interested in Star Trek, and they sure aren't keen enough to go right after school to see it on the first day. I've been clipping out the daily newspaper comic strip running in the Edmonton Sun; it started its run about a week before the movie's premiere. I've bought the novelization and then won another copy in a newspaper contest. Definitely a bit more excited about this than the rest of the guys.

A couple of guys I know from school walk along Jasper and talk to me for a little while. They're not interested in the movie, but they happen to be there when the Edmonton Journal photographer comes along and takes a picture of the lineup. There actually is one by now. In the newspaper the next day, you can just see the top of my head; the two guys who weren't even there for the movie are in front of me, perfectly recognizable.

So before too long I'm in the theatre watching the movie. The new music, the new Enterprise, the scenes on Vulcan, the amazing V'Ger special effects sequences, the sight of these old familiar characters on the big screen, the brief use of the Alexander Courage theme music during a captain's log scene... I love it all. After the movie I walk over to the comics/SF bookstore four or five blocks away and pick up the Marvel adaptation of the movie (the magazine version). I read it on the bus home, disappointed by the artwork.

I start feeling twinges of dissatisfaction about elements of the movie. Maybe I liked it because I waited years for a Star Trek movie and I'm going to damn well like it. But the movie's taking an endless critical barrage, and some of the comments are accurate. Yes, it was a bit too reminiscent of some TOS episodes. Yes, it was a bit stiff. Yes, some of the minor supporting cast are not good actors (I'm not referring to any of the regulars, or major guest stars, but to some of the bit players who have only a line or two of dialogue.)

But Star Trek is back. After years of reruns and only a handful of novels to keep us going, there they all are again, up on the screen, and larger than life, and this can't be the end of it.

And it sure isn't.

Over the next few years, thanks to seeing the expanded TV version, reading a couple of revisionist articles, including one in a Best of Trek book, and seeing the movies that followed, I came to the conclusion that the movie has a lot of merit. The music and the visuals are simply stunning. The characters are given some growth. For all its weaknesses, it doesn't try to ignore that time has gone by, that characters can change, that friendship isn't always easily resumed. I also like the fact that, in 1979, someone made a science fiction movie that looked back to 2001: A Space Odyssey instead of Star Wars as a model.

And it was 25 years ago today that I first saw it. Tonight I'll see it again, though this time I'll be at home and I won't be alone. The fact that Laura was only 11 years old at the time doesn't matter now, of course. We didn't even meet until a few months after Insurrection came out, so we've only seen one Star Trek movie at the theatre together.

For what it's worth, there's a much more entertaining version of what that day was like at the beginning of Free Enterprise, a movie every TOS fan should own. Maybe I'll rewatch at least that bit of Free Enterprise tonight, too...

(Now playing: Cocteau Twins, "Fifty-Fifty Clown," Heaven or Las Vegas.)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Something Star Trek-related!

As Kevin Lauderdale posted over at the TrekBBS and PsiPhi, Dean Wesley Smith has set up a website complete with a Strange New Worlds forum. I understand DWS has been a regular on AOL for some time now, so it's nice to see him on the actual Internet. According to his blog, DWS is going to focus his writing time on original work, not media tie-in stuff, so his editing on Strange New Worlds may be the only Trek-related stuff he does from here on out.

He's had a long and varied career. I first heard of him and his frequent collaborator, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, through a small press they ran back in the late 1980s or so. They published Pulphouse, a hardcover quarterly magazine that usually had a different genre featured each time out, alternating between fantasy, SF, and horror. It lasted about 12 issues and published work by a number of established and up-and-coming writers. It was a little expensive, but I usually found it worth it. (My local SF bookstore didn't carry their later regular magazine incarnation, so I don't know much about that.)

I was kind of surprised when they started writing media SF novels. There sometimes seems to be a real divide between "real" SF authors and media SF authors, even though "real" SF greats like Theodore Sturgeon and James Blish were doing tie-ins as far back as the 1960s. Rusch and Smith seemed to have gotten off to a great start with the "real" SF crowd, becoming well known as editors and writers, so their focus on media SF seemed like a step backwards. Or sideways, at least. I don't know whether they're still together, but in recent years it seems Rusch has been concentrating much more on her own prolific writing career, not doing as much media stuff as she used to.

So if Smith is going to put most of his work into his own creations, good luck to him. Will it be a major loss for Star Trek? Not as much as some, I think, but he and Rusch did write several solid, good books. There are other people writing Star Trek now that I'll miss more when their inevitable success leads them to do more work in their own fictional universes. But naming names might give the impression that I'm sucking up. Let's just say that we're really lucky right now to have a lot of writers who know Star Trek well, who love it, who communicate with the fans, and who produce really good Trek novels.

In other news...

Andrew Timson has set up a feed of this blog through livejournal. If anyone's interested, it's called sjroby_feed.

Current reading: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. I'm halfway through and not sure what to think of it. It's not just an attempt to cash in on the current fad for book clubs, or the ongoing interest in Jane Austen. There's clearly more to it than that, especially considering the author, who's well respected as a writer of fantasy and slipstream fiction. In each chapter, as the characters address another of Austen's books, there are parallels, sometimes very subtle parallels, between some element of the book and what's going on in the characters' lives. And of course it's a pleasure to read a book that acknowledges the joy of reading. It's fun to see how the one male member of the group, a science fiction reader, sometimes has interesting insights specifically because he is a science fiction reader and has a different way of looking at things and lacks the literary snobbishness of the others, which snobbishness is mocked gently by the author. And there are some good funny bits, too.

But it still feels rather vague and insubstantial. Yes, there's some kind of pomo game going on with the collective/mystery narrator, but it doesn't seem to have much real importance as yet. There's not all that much discussion of the Austen books, sometimes, but I don't feel that I'm really getting as strong a grasp of Fowler's characters as I should, either. And every so often there's a passage that reads like something annoying written by some precious and pretentious old woman to another. Slate's Stephen Metcalf quoted this paragraph as an example, and in context it isn't any better:

We had, most of us, also lost our mothers. We spent a moment missing them. The sun was blooming rosily in the west. The trees were in full leaf. The air was bright and soft and laced with the smells of grass, of coffee, of melted Brie. How our mothers would have loved it!

Metcalf wonders whether that's meant as some kind of satire, because it just can't be as awful as it seems. I'd kind of like to take the book at face value, myself, as a book about reading (on more than one level). It's also got me curious about reading some of the gothic novels of Austen's time, the ones she poked fun at in Northanger Abbey. (Fortunately, we watched the BBC movie of that one before I read that chapter of The Jane Austen Book Club.)

I suppose I could always fall back on the idea that a book you have to think about, even to decide whether you like it, must have some merit, and to be fair I'm enjoying it so far. It's a pretty fast and breezy read.

(Now playing: Cocteau Twins, "Sigh's Smell of Farewell," Love's Easy Tears EP.)