#C2E2 Roundup

We had a good time! Other than having to park a full 27-minute walk away from the venue, that is. That’s a decent length for a walk in the cold, and my watch asked me on the way to and from my car if I was working out or not. No! I’m just trying not to die.

Also, when we got there, there was absolutely no signage that there was a security line or a bag check to go through? Just literally a few thousand people all milling around being confused, because no one knew why they were there but everyone stood in the huge mob because they felt like they ought to?

We had our badges already, and they were already activated, so I literally moved a barrier aside and the three of us went in. Somebody tried to follow us and got sent back, and tried to get security to go get us too, but they didn’t. For some reason I found that hilarious. I didn’t find out until after the show that we’d actually dodged the security line; as I said, no signs at all, just a lot of confused people in a herd. I wouldn’t have jumped out of line if I’d have known that, but … whatever, I guess. I thought it was will call, I swear. ūüėÄ

I feel like there were a ton more people at the show than the last time, but more on that in a few minutes. I had goals! Nerd goals! First one: meet Gail Simone and Al Ewing. Well, Al wasn’t at his booth at all on Saturday, which was a bummer. But I met Gail!

So, interesting detail: Gail follows me on Twitter. And the account belongs to Luther, which, remember, isn’t my real name. So the fact that I automatically went into “I’m at a con” mode and told her to sign my graphic novel to Luther took me by surprise. Then I found out she was selling scripts and snapped one of those up too– that issue of Tony Stark: Iron Man contains what might honestly be my favorite single-panel joke in all of comic book history:

Gail’s husband accidentally told me something VERY COOL that might be coming out and I was immediately sworn to silence, but I wasn’t told not to tell you that I know something cool now. Which I do.

Authors! We ended up leaving before Robert Jackson Bennett’s signing, but my wife got Sam Sykes to sign a book, and I got autographs from John Scalzi and S.L. Huang:

By this point, I’d set precedent that books were signed to Luther, so I decided to roll with it. John was nice enough to let me take a picture with him, too:

On the Charizard: the boy put it on the table, and John immediately volunteered to sign it if he wanted, which he declined, not knowing who the hell John was. We only talked for a minute or two but he was very nice– in general, everyone was, unsurprisingly.

Also, I bought stuff:

New leather dice bag! Forgive the vast amounts of cat hair on the piano bench, there; it’s one of Jonesy’s favorite spots and I’m not about to retake the pictures somewhere cleaner.

Leather dice tray! It was either this or a tower, and I went with this instead, because of…

…the super fuckin’ cool obsidian dice I bought, which the salesperson made sure to point out are made of glass, and thus, honestly, are probably not the best choice to make dice out of? The price of the set, plus the box and the tray was frankly ridiculous, but much more reasonable compared to the first set I looked at, which were made of Damascus steel and priced at four hundred dollars. But fuck it: twelfth/third anniversary and we both saved up to buy cool shit at this show and I was ferdamnsure going to buy cool shit.

Oh, and I ran into my friend Verna Vendetta, who I met at Starbase Indy a million years ago:

The only real fail of the show, at least for me, was the sparse number of cosplayer pictures I took. Turns out that 1) it’s way easier to get people to let them photograph you when you’re at a booth, and 2) it really was hugely crowded, so most of the time if I saw somebody I might have tried to get a picture of in other contexts, the ridiculous number of people in between us made stopping to do so practically impossible. So I missed out on, say, the guy in the 12-foot-tall Bumblebee costume, because despite being near him there was no way I was going to get him to stop. So I didn’t get nearly as many pictures as I thought I was going to, but I did get a handful of them:

So, yeah: didn’t get arrested, spent lots of money, met cool people, walked seven miles, Achilles tendons currently really painful. I’ll call that victory! If you’d told me at fifteen that I’d not only eventually attend a nerd convention with a hundred thousand people there but that I’d have my wife and son with me and we’d be doing it on our anniversary, I’d have called you a liar. It’s good to be a geek.

Two quick #reviews and an update

UnknownREVIEW THE FIRST: ¬†Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. ¬†This is going to be one of those reviews that is mostly complaining but then I tell you to read the book anyway, so just be prepared for that– it’s just that the weird stuff is more interesting. ¬†Doomsday Book tells a story of a time traveler sent from 2048 to 1320. ¬†In this future, time travel is part of how historians do their jobs, for the most part, although certain periods are considered too dangerous to send people back, and the machines they use to do the time travel are calibrated in such a way as to deny people travel if sending them back will cause paradoxes.

So Kivrin, one of the main protagonists, gets sent back to 1320, and then all sorts of shit goes wrong, including an epidemic in the “now” timeline (causing a massive quarantine) that may have been caused by sending her back. ¬†Which is impossible, which kind of complicates things.

This book was published in 1992, but reads like it was written in the fifties or sixties, in that ¬†other than time travel and¬†some weirdly inconsistent advances in medicine the author appears to have anticipated exactly zero societal changes that were actually brought on by advanced technology. ¬†Like, the internet existed in 1992, even if it was mostly AOL and local BBSes at the time, and most houses had a computer. ¬†Willis appears to have believed that computers were a fad that were going to go away. ¬†So her notion of future is kind of weird and charmingly retro, but her notion of¬†past is excellent– the bits of the book set in the fourteenth century are phenomenally interesting, enough to make it much easier to ignore the weirdnesses of what is supposed to be 2048 where they seem to still be using rotary phones. ¬†Which¬†never work. ¬† At times it almost seems like they’re going through operators to connect phone calls.

It’s also enormously and charmingly British, so be prepared for that. ¬†The book won all sorts of awards, and it’s a great read, but be prepared to chuckle condescendingly at it in a couple of places.

51SX5APRP1L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The second book of John Scalzi’s¬†Interdependency series, The Consuming Fire,¬†is out and I finished it today. ¬†I liked the first one a hell of a lot– no surprise, as Scalzi has been a favorite for years– but didn’t write about it here. ¬†¬†The Consuming Fire¬†suffers from a slightly meandering first third and takes a bit to get its legs underneath it but once it does it’s off to the races. ¬†I like the basic premise of this series a lot– the Interdependency is an intergalactic human civilization (no aliens in this universe) headed by an Emperox, who is both a political leader¬†and the leader of the church, and the different smaller human societies are joined by what are called Flow streams, which (more or less) are wormholes that connect one chunk of space to another and allow a properly-equipped ship to move substantially faster than light. ¬†This has allowed the Interdependency to exist, as many of their civilizations can’t fully provide for themselves and so trade is absolutely necessary for their society to exist.

In the first book, the Flow streams started collapsing. ¬†This is Bad. ¬†In this book, it becomes clear that what first started out as a couple of lone scientists screaming about the slow-moving ecological and societal catastrophe (sound familiar?) has now become a real and present danger to human civilization. ¬†The good thing is that the Emperox is on the side of the scientists. ¬†The bad thing is that virtually no one else is, and the political machinations going on throughout the book are complicated and (ultimately) really satisfying. ¬†Scalzi’s humor is on point throughout, although he’s kept a trend from the first book of giving spaceships really weirdly anachronistic names– there is a ship called¬†The Princess is in Another Castle, for example, and I feel like there was one in the first book named after a Beatles song.

Still. ¬†S’good. ¬†Read it.

spiderman_negativeUPDATE: ¬†I keep almost abandoning¬†Spider-Man PS4,¬†to the point where I’ve declared myself done with it at least twice and I keep going back to it. ¬†It’s one of those frustrating games that keeps having bits that are entertaining and fun as hell and then four seconds later you’re¬†screaming at the screen because of the absolute bugfuck stupidity of whatever Goddamned dumb thing the game is insisting you do next. ¬†The research missions, in particular, so far are damn near unforgivable– they can be ignored, but I’m¬†bad at ignoring shit¬†in games like this and so far each research mission has found a new and different way to be¬†absolutely insanely annoying in some way or another. ¬†I’ll be perfectly happy to make it through the rest of the game without another fucking car chase, too, which are never not terrible.

Also: I think I mentioned this in my previous piece about this game, but guys? ¬†Spider-Man doesn’t kill people. ¬†Ever. ¬†The only character more fanatical about not killing people than Spider-Man is Batman, and even¬†that is only true for properly understood versions of the character.

This game has a reward for knocking 100 people off of buildings. ¬†Like, there are occasional big fights on top of skyscrapers (in itself, kinda dumb) and the easiest way to be successful is to use moves that knock the bad guys back a lot because most of the time they’ll go sailing off the edge of the building and they’re dead.

No.

I will probably end up finishing this, but much like¬†The Witcher 3, another game that I hated initially and only completed out of spite, I’m going to hate it about half the time I’m playing it. ¬†But¬†Read Dead Redemption 2¬†comes out in a few days and I need this one done and dusted by then. ¬†So I need to beat it this week.

On audiobooks

the-dispatcher.jpgI have always suspected that I would not like audiobooks. ¬†There are a number of reasons for this; chief among them are the facts that I read way,¬†way faster than anyone could ever read out loud and don’t have the patience to wait for someone else to take four or five times as long to read something as I would, and the fact that I really enjoy the¬†physicality of reading. ¬†I have drawn this distinction between my wife and I a few times in this space, I think; we both enjoy reading, but I like¬†books. ¬†I have thousands of them. ¬†I think she’d be content with an e-reader for everything for the rest of her life if it weren’t for the fact that I buy so many books that there’s always something for her to read. ¬†I generally only read ebooks if I’m traveling (which doesn’t happen very often) or if I have no other choice, such as when my indie author friends have released new books. ¬†Even then I prefer to get their stuff in print if I have the chance.

All that said, I’ve never actually¬†tried to listen to an audiobook. ¬†Enter John Scalzi. ¬†Scalzi is one of my favorite authors, probably in the top five, and is also a guy who has served as a major influence on my own style. ¬†I get everything he releases immediately, no questions asked, and I’ve never not liked one of his books.

John just released a new novella¬†solely as an audiobook. ¬†There’s a print version coming eventually, but for now, if you want to read The Dispatcher, you have to get the audiobook. At first that sounded kinda shitty, at least for me– John can do what he wants with his work, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it– and then I found out that Audible.com was letting everyone download the book for free. ¬†So I did.¬† And I started listening to it in the car this morning, on my way to work. ¬†A one-way trip to work is 20, maybe 25 minutes, so I figure that’s a decent chunk of time to digest a bit of an audiobook. ¬†That said, the entire thing is about two hours and ten minutes long– even round-trip, that’s several days of driving. ¬†I’m in, like, Chapter Three.

Well, after day one, I still don’t like audiobooks. ¬†In fact, weirdly, I’m finding that I don’t like the¬†book, which I’ve never said about a Scalzi work before, and I’m trying to suss out whether it’s the book itself that’s bad or whether I dislike the format itself so much that it’s bleeding over into the actual story. ¬†Zachary Quinto seems fine as a narrator, I suppose, but what’s getting me is that he’s clearly¬†reading a book as opposed to¬†telling a story,¬†and it all feels really unnatural. ¬†I just discovered that there’s an option to double the speed he’s reading at, and I’m going to enable that tomorrow and see if it helps things. ¬†Because right now, this experiment is a failure.

Do you listen to a lot of audiobooks? ¬†Do you read a lot of John Scalzi? ¬†If so, wanna download this thing right quick and tell me if I’m nuts or not?

Review, sorta: LOCK IN, by John Scalzi

lock-in-by-john-scalzi-496x750How’s this for a first sentence that should cause deep, creeping dread in any author: my favorite thing about¬†Lock In, by John Scalzi, is the¬†cover.

That’s the greatest damning-with-faint-praise sort of sentence of all time, right? ¬†But seriously: I¬†love love love the cover to this book. ¬†I’m not sure what it is about it that I like so much other than the fact that it stands out from everything else on the shelves so well, but… damn.

(EDIT: ¬†Scalzi himself has popped up on Twitter to let me know that Peter Lutjen is the artist who did the cover; he was also responsible for the cover for Scalzi’s¬†Redshirts. ¬†He doesn’t appear to maintain his own site or I’d link to it, but he does a lot of work for Tor. ¬†There’s a neat article about the production of the cover here.)

Weird detail: my copy (which I got in a signed edition through Subterranean press; the rest of you can’t even¬†buy this until later this week MWA HA HA) says “A NOVEL OF THE NEAR FUTURE” across the bottom of the book. ¬†There are images on Google that say “A NOVEL” in the same place, but I can’t find an image of the actual cover my book has anywhere– including on Scalzi’s own¬†website. ¬†Which is weird.

But anyway. ¬†Scalzi is one of my favorite working authors, and his work is especially near and dear to my heart because I think when I’m writing at my best he and I sound a lot alike. ¬†I’m a huge China Mi√©ville fan, right? ¬†I couldn’t write like Mi√©ville¬†if my life depended on it. ¬†I love Alastair Reynolds’ work, but I couldn’t write Reynolds-style books either. ¬†Scalzi, on the other hand, and for whatever reason, is a writer whose works I tend to thoroughly mentally dissect as I’m reading them, because I think he and I have similar senses of humor and we want to write the same style of books. ¬†I finished¬†Lock In overnight. ¬†My last book before that, Scott Lynch’s¬†Republic of Thieves, took a week.

I’d rather write books you can read overnight. ¬†700-pagers aren’t my style. ¬†I am a fan of the semicolon; John just wrote an entire book in which he ruthlessly removed all of them on purpose, partially because he thought he liked them too much. ¬†(Yes, I did that on purpose.) We both tend to be dialogue-heavy as opposed to description-heavy. ¬†Things like that.

(I should be clear: he’s¬†way better at¬†all of this stuff than me. ¬†I’m not saying I’m as¬†good¬†as Scalzi, although I certainly aspire to be. ¬†Just that if I had to pick a pro author and say “I”m gonna be¬†that guy when I’m rich and famous!” it’d be him.)

Anyway. ¬†Right: the book. ¬†Lock In¬†is a bit of a departure for Scalzi because it’s not a space opera, the genre that the majority of his books have fallen into. ¬†It’s a near-future detective novel, taking place in a world where a disease called Haden’s Syndrome has imprisoned a certain percentage of the world’s citizens in their own bodies. ¬†He’s taken that simple premise, extrapolated forward an extra twenty or thirty years to give society a chance to mature a bit, and then written a murder mystery.

Which is an¬†awesome way to do a science fiction novel, because it lets him stretch into another genre (crime fiction) while still staying in his wheelhouse of sci-fi as he’s doing it. ¬†This is not my favorite Scalzi book (that would be a tie between¬†Old Man’s War¬†and¬†Redshirts, which is one of a¬†very small number of books that actually made me cry while I was reading it) but it’s still a book that I think most of you should be reading. ¬†The setting is deeply interesting, the characters are fun, and the mystery/procedural itself has enough twists and turns in it that it felt like a seasoned pro was writing it and not someone who was trying his first novel in the genre. ¬†I gave it five stars on Goodreads. ¬†You should give it a look.

(Yeah, I just talked about myself for 500 words and the book for 150. ¬†That’s why it says “sorta” in the title up there. ¬†Shuddup.)

Schadenfreude pie

More details later. Not my recipe.

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EDIT: ¬†The details, including an explanation of the name, can be found here, a link that’s worth clicking on and reading through even if you don’t intend to make the pie. ¬†The short version: ¬†Dark corn syrup, brown sugar, molasses, kahlua, chocolate chips, eggs, cinnamon, butter, and pre-made graham cracker crust. ¬†Eat a¬†very small slice at a time (oh my god¬†so rich)¬†preferably warm and with a large glass of milk.

Delicious. ¬†But I’m totally diabetic now.

PS: ¬†It’s called schadenfreude pie, remember. ¬†I will be enjoying a piece during Game of Thrones tonight. ¬†ūüėČ