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Having managed to read a bit more fiction in the past little while than I've thought with mixed emotions to have got through for some time now, I found myself going a little deeper down a pile I'd bought from a library book sale to begin a science fiction novel that had managed to catch my eye there. The back-cover blurb for Christopher Priest's Inverted World had described a city being winched along tracks laid down in front of it and taken up from behind, struggling to pursue a moving "optimum" with fatal consequences should it keep falling back. I could think of other works of science fiction where humans struggled to survive in inexplicably altered worlds, and wondered how this one would turn out.
At the age of six hundred and fifty miles... )
krpalmer: (anime)
The fourth volume of Legend of the Galactic Heroes was one whose translation hadn't been promised back when the first appeared, so it was as welcome as any of them so far to me. I hadn't seen the part of the anime adapting it back at my university's anime club, so while I do have to admit to having managed to see it since then, as I read the book I did have a slight feeling of greater unfamiliarity. At the same time, I did have a sense the story was moving into an ominous endgame as the military genius Reinhard von Lohengramm exploits idealistic exiles and self-centred politicians while colluding with interstellar oligarchs to set up a full-scale invasion of his tottering opponent. I do keep thinking the focus of the series on "the appearance of an epoch-opening genius" can be balanced against "is it also possible a good many 'ordinary' people might only be convinced of that?", but just because a work of fiction raises a question it doesn't have to answer it itself.

Something about the translation did start feeling a bit odd to me as I worked through this volume, and I wound up going back to the earlier books to see they'd been translated by a different person. Whether this amounted to "an unfortunate cost-saving measure" or was just an inescapable necessity, I don't know. I had wondered on the way through if the entire book would amount to "preparations for battle," only for diversionary warfare to break out in the final chapters. This included a hand-to-hand battle between two high-placed subordinates, if one without quite as much significance as some might have anticipated. On getting to the end of the book without a preview page, though, I got to worrying again about this amounting to "everything hinges on how this volume sells if it hasn't already..." Looking a little further, however, did turn up some preorder listings for two further volumes. As I understand it this still won't complete the translation of the series, but there does seem to be a bit more to look forward to at the moment.
krpalmer: (anime)
Buying anime faster than I can watch it, in large part through the penny-wise, pound-foolish desire for "free shipping" turning most every casual interest into another title stored away here or there, does seem to have brought me to the point where every so often I just shrug off "getting through it" and go back to watch a series over again. The fair number of manga titles I buy haven't quite amounted to that yet, but that in turn has seemed to mean I never quite want to spare the time to go back and read a series again. When an older title that seemed to have attracted some lasting attention after all is licensed over again and released with promises of an improved edition, though, that can manage to get past my resolution.

Makoto Yukimura's Planetes got my attention near the start of the "cheap and fast manga paperbacks" era, and its science fiction tale of orbital garbagemen, collecting space debris and delving through layers of "resolve to exist beyond normal limits" to simple human connections in the end, left me with a "will anything else measure up to it soon?" sort of feeling. While his following work Vinland Saga has got through some risk-of-being-discontinued spots over here, it did get my attention again when I heard Planetes had been licensed once more, now by Dark Horse Comics. I did my best to buy both of the enlarged new volumes as soon as they were released, but it did take a bit longer to get around to reading them, specifically the Christmas holidays. Once I'd started reading them, though, I got through them with the speed of fresh interest.
A few new things, but one old thing too )
krpalmer: (anime)
In getting to read the Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels in translation at last, I am always sort of conscious of having managed to see their anime adaptation first. (At times, too, buying the novels does sort of seem a no doubt inadequate effort to try and "make up" for just how I saw the anime...) At the end of the second novel, I was as inclined as anything to keep seeing the story as pausing at a moment of great impact, but remembering a change in the anime's opening and closing credits (after a good number of episodes spun out of two novels) was one more sign of that. As the third novel picked up, I could see the Galactic Empire's protagonist Reinhard von Lohengramm as having been isolated by that, with his not nearly as totipotent counterpart on the other side of the interstellar space opera war, Free Planets Alliance Admiral Yang Wen-li, isolated in turn by being hauled before a kangaroo board of inquiry. I can understand this steady emphasis on the degradation of the Alliance (with an enigmatic third party meddling all the while) troubling people who might read the novel now; at the same time, I'm conscious of having become more dubious about invocations of "front-line military leaders who possess inbuilt dignity and reasonableness" since I first read the Robotech novelizations long years ago. The one point that might be made in favour of Legend of the Galactic Heroes could be that by this point in the story, the aggressive Alliance commanders have been killed off.
Space opera in the meantime )
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Cleaning up some piles of old correspondence a while ago, I managed to find two free movie passes in an envelope trying to get me to go back to a particular car service. Aware the passes would expire in the middle of next year, I got to wondering just what two movies I would try and see with them. One option opened up when I heard of a science fiction movie called Arrival. On going to see it, though, I did find myself thinking that what I'd managed to hear hadn't given too much about the movie away. That might have made it more interesting for me, but also left me half-convinced there'd be something gauche about turning around and saying too much to someone else in turn, as much as I want to share a positive opinion.
What I say might be vague anyway )
krpalmer: (Default)
Happening on the Wikipedia article for a book I'd heard of a fair while ago as one of the first serious critical looks at science fiction, I was reading almost idly through its information on Damon Knight's In Search of Wonder when all of a sudden I noticed it mention there was now an ebook edition. With dawning interest I made a quick search of the iBooks catalogue and discovered the ebook was available there as well. Eventually, I suppose, I could get around to "buying a first book for another e-reader application," but not having to do that in this case was fine for me.

On starting to read through In Search of Wonder, though, I did realise it wasn't quite the book I'd imagined it to be. As with some of the first science fiction novels linked to the tradition that grew out of American pulp magazines (which is of course a different thing altogether from "the first science fiction novels ever"), it was put together from small pieces from magazines. Knight's critical reviews of SF novels of the 1950s are incisive, often entertaining, and do seem written in such a way they perhaps didn't goad me to an uncomfortably familiar recoiling feeling when they were more negative than my own old reactions, but perhaps I'd imagined something constructed more as a unit. The book was revised a few times, and happening on a chapter about a single nonfiction book dwelling worryingly on irrigation projects spreading disease was one of the oddest touches for all that I could suppose Knight saw that point as needing to be made no matter what. At the very end of the book, after sorting out that a caustic take on "mainstream success" had been written in the 1950s rather than, say, the early 1980s, all of a sudden Knight was mentioning William Gibson and Kim Stanley Robinson; there'd at least been enough of a break to tell this was one of the revisions.

In any case, it did become interesting to see period opinions of books that, by the time I'd got around to them, were presented as "enduring classics" (as much as I've had to face how those "classics" have had some of their patina wear thin since then). I began to contemplate a two-volume boxed set of "classic novels" I'd bought not that long ago (although I never quite got around to writing a post about its second volume) and Knight wrote reviews of most of them, only for most of those reviews to include a fair bit of criticism. Two of the novels seemed to draw ire for invoking "striking images" that were nevertheless scientifically implausible; I have to admit this did provoke a thought or two about "gatekeeping" in general for all that I could see the specific point. Perhaps, though, it was the thoroughly negative takes on books I'd never heard of (for what I could see as perfectly good reasons) that were the most entertaining parts of the book, even if that might hint at quixotic quests ahead.
krpalmer: (Default)
I happened on a pointer to a site with an interesting yet challenging title. "Young People Read Old SFF" declared itself a "test of the hypothesis" of a comment from someone else that "nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing". In facing that I had to face the recollection that, while the movie Star Wars and science fiction books specifically for young readers had played their own definite roles, I'd been reading older science fiction paperbacks from the library at an early age. It might not be just a matter of "time catching up," though; it's easy enough to suppose nobody likes to contemplate that their opinions on various works of entertainment might not be the only reasonable one for others to come to.
One thing sticks, though )
krpalmer: (Default)
Looking through the bookstore, I was passing by the remaindered shelves when one particular title broke through the unfortunate sense of disconnection I just might all but wallow in when it comes to science fiction these days. I couldn't quite remember where the impression I'd heard of John Scalzi's Lock In before to have it catch my attention had come from, but in picking up a copy and reading the blurb inside the cover I thought I could take a chance on it, remembering I had liked his book Redshirts; it was cheap enough anyway.
A slang-driven digression )
krpalmer: (anime)
The second Legend of the Galactic Heroes novel has now been translated. At the back of this volume, there's the promise of at least one more instalment to be released, although I still don't know if the gloomy anticipations of other fans that "of course these books won't sell well enough to be fully released" will be realised. In any case, this volume gets a fair way into the story as I've experienced it in its anime adaptation, if still seeming to be a self-contained instalment in the story by itself. Both galactic factions turn to deal with internal dissent, which might only seem to feed into the air of reinforced genius of a still-rising star if not, perhaps, for a very significant loss at the close of the book.

I don't know if the translation has improved to any extent from the first volume, although I did seem able to cruise through it where I've found myself slogging through some of Yen Press's translated "light novels"; whether it's just a matter of this particular subject matter appealing more to me is a reasonable question. I did get to thinking again about the visual reality provided by the anime adaption. In the first volume, the uniforms of the opposing fleets are described well enough that I could envision what was ultimately drawn in my mind; however, there didn't seem anything said about the civilians in the corrupt democracy on one side (comments about the war eating away at its general vitality seem something I don't remember from the anime) dressing in late-twentieth-century fashion or the civilians in the aristocratic empire on the other side wearing late-eighteenth-century European fashions. There are also descriptions of the ultimate space fortress Iserlohn that seem different from the "liquid metal" surface it got in the anime as if to distinguish it from the most familiar visions of spherical space fortresses. However, the novel did get to setting up the "space-ax" combat that's long provided a more striking alternative to just zapping opponents. I can wonder how much more will provoke reflections back to the anime, but I've kept finding interest in what we've managed to get.
krpalmer: (Default)
After seeing The Martian at the movies last year, I did contemplate reading the novel it had been adapted from. Whenever I saw it at the bookstore, though, I never quite got around to buying a copy. It took seeing it at the library before I resolved to sign it out.

I have to mention the bad news first, though, that there's a moment in the book where a minor character throws in the gratuitous comment that he only wants "Star Wars original trilogy" memorabilia in exchange for a feat of programming. That events have already cast an ever so slightly different light on that didn't help much, and it gets harder every time I see something like that to respect that other people may have been less willing to enforce positivity than I was and am, and easier to just suspect a lazy bundle of reactions to pop culture taking over; somehow, it even casts a shadow over the story-long joke that Mark Watney is stranded with nothing but 1970s TV shows and disco music to occupy himself in between having to stay alive.

However, the book didn't get around to editorializing how it was only possible to send people to Mars by rejecting the official plans from around the time it was being written, which might have been the larger part of what had kept me leery about reading it even after the movie hadn't concluded with genius private inventors rescuing incompetent government employees. As well, I'd already known the novel contained a number of crises to be overcome later on in the story that the movie hadn't included. At one point, Watney accidentally burns out the replacement radio he had re-established contact with Earth with; I got to remembering that part of the movie and wondering if it still ought to be interpreted that way. A somewhat later scene where he's driving his rover into a dust storm everyone but him knows about did set up an interesting and somehow different challenge. In all, though, it does have me remembering the movie is now available for streaming on Netflix and wondering if I'll be able to find or make the time to watch it again.
krpalmer: (anime)
When I joined my university's anime club, more than a few years ago now, members in the know were talking up a series called Legend of the Galactic Heroes. By the time I graduated, the club had started showing the series "fansubbed," and I did find its austere military-political space opera set to classical music interesting. In the years that followed I learned more about the series, but the sense did also build the time when it might have been licensed for an official release over here had passed; even its invocation as a way of showing just how refined your tastes were, or how much better anime had been once upon a time, seemed to fade away.

Then, all of a sudden it was announced the series had been licensed at last; what was more, another announcement declared the first of the novels the anime had been adapted from were to be translated. The conditional nature of "first" did lead to some dark suspicions that would be all we'd get, but as we keep waiting for the anime to show up the very first novel has been released. I did take longer than some to get around to reading it, but I have now read it.
Thinking back, looking ahead )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
This week, I pushed into the computer magazine covers of 1976. In starting that year, I covered the mysterious circumstances of BYTE changing publishers and stumbled onto the sudden, relative certainty the four issues of Creative Computing I knew of from that year were indeed all of the issues it printed, which would amount to my having seen every issue of that magazine... I couldn't quite resist marking "Pi Day," but I also pondered just what "dieselpunk" means.

BYTE, January 1976
Creative Computing, January-February 1976
BYTE, February 1976
BYTE, March 1976
Creative Computing, March-April 1976
BYTE, April 1976
krpalmer: (Default)
The Martian got my attention when it opened. Good notices helped there in this case, but so did simple interest in another "realistic space" movie showing up not that long after Gravity and Interstellar, both of which I'd seen at the movies. That, though, seemed to turn into a reproach when the Saturday afternoons that seem the most available time for me to go to a movie with so many other diversions and distractions kept getting taken up by one thing or another. When one of those afternoons opened up at last, however, I did get to the single "flat" showing that day at my local theatre.
Stranded on the red planet )
krpalmer: (Default)
There's a perpetual book sale table at my local bank branch. Most of the titles on it are mass-market paperbacks in genres I brush by, but I do keep looking. When I saw one book with the title "Bimbos of the Death Sun," it grabbed my attention just like I'm sure it was supposed to. Looking at the back cover explained it was actually a murder mystery set at a science fiction convention, looking inside the front cover explained its author Sharyn McCrumb's other novels were also mysteries, and that got my interest that much more. I bought the book, intrigued in a bit of "cross-pollination" I hadn't seen before, but as I read it I did get to wondering if it now was most interesting, or best viewed, as a historical artifact.
The goings-on at Rubicon )
krpalmer: (anime)
I've said a few times already how I was impressed by the first Mardock Scramble anime movie, more or less because of the surprising impression it felt "just like" the science fiction movies and OVAs that often featured at my university's anime club showings two decades ago, only with the added polish of an age when certain people kept complaining how that kind of stuff wasn't being made any more with dark allusions to the current tastes of the paying audience in Japan. I waited for the two movies to follow to both be available over here so I wouldn't be leaving off on another cliffhanger, but in that wait I happened to buy the seven-volume manga adaptation, and then the translated novel both of those versions were based on. It didn't take too long after watching all the movies for me to get to the manga, but it did take me a while to start into the doorstop of the novel, wondering a bit about how I read plenty of non-fiction these days but not much prose fiction.

I worked my way through the novel all the same; the translation seemed more than competent. What I did find myself thinking, though, was that it didn't seem that different from the movies in particular (the manga invented and tweaked a few things along the way); I could definitely bring the animated visuals back to mind, and didn't get too much of a feeling that things were being "explained at last" after what had been established in the anime and manga. (I did notice, though, that one of the grotesques sent after the heroine Rune Balot and her talking, transforming mouse companion Oeufcoque to set up the action climax of the third part had just "modified his voice to sound like a woman's" rather than having started that way.) I did, in any case, seem to pick up on all the "egg"-related names just a bit more than before; maybe it would have been different when they were English words mixed in with Japanese. As written science fiction I did get to wondering if it might not be rated as highly as works that "work through their ideas" instead of just invoking what others have already developed, but as a character study it remained interesting.
krpalmer: (Default)
While I don't seem to make a great deal of use of the newspaper TV guide I included in my subscription, a promotional covey story about a short miniseries about to premiere did get my attention. The show was called "Ascension," and its story was "sold" by inviting us to imagine that at the beginning of the space age a "generation starship" was launched in secret, such that half a century later there's a small group of people still dressed in "Mad Men style" out in space. Even if "secret history" can seem to me a over-tilled seedbed for the breeding of unproductive suspicion, I supposed the specific idea appealed just enough that I could suspend disbelief that far. More than that, I have to admit the thought I "ought" to watch something not only in "live action" but "recent" had caught up to me.

Things started off with a distinct impression of being "over-TV-sexed," but that perhaps didn't get to me as much as a sudden revelation at the end of the second episode. It's the sort of thing that seems best befitted to some slight effort at hiding it from casual glances, but without dealing with it I can't get any further into the series.
The revelation )
krpalmer: (Default)
I've led off a number of posts here about science fiction books by talking about how I'm not keeping up with the written SF scene the way I used to; there are a whole bunch of reasons folded into that, from the large-scale and perhaps troubling (although recently noticing a piece of news about an anthology of "optimistic science fiction" does seem to have some positive bearing there) to the more personal and perhaps just reproachful. It just seems to add to all of that to admit that while I'd heard a while before how Vernor Vinge was working on another book connected to his A Fire Upon the Deep, I didn't actually know it had been finished until I happened on it being mentioned in a "TV Tropes" page. (It seems to tie up to at least the more personal reasons for not being as well-connected to written science fiction any more to say I don't delve into that site as deeply as everyone else seems to talk about, because I'm nervous about running into casual criticism of certain things I like...) The next time I did take a look at the science fiction shelf in a bookstore, I saw The Children of the Sky was already in mass-market paperback, and somehow that didn't compel me to buy it. When I was in the corner used book store and saw a hardcover of it high on the shelf for cheaper than the paperback would have been, though, I went straight ahead and bought it.
Zones of thought )
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Back in high school, I found a box of old issues of "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" from the late 1970s and early 1980s one day in the corner of a portable classroom. Out of the stories I read back then that have stuck in my mind ever since, I do seem to keep thinking back to one as standing out among that distinguished group. It was called "Prose Bowl," by Barry N. Malzberg (who before looking it up I supposed to be a "New Wave" science fiction author with a tendency of sardonic pessimism towards older SF themes such as space travel, but who I now know also did quite a bit of work with "metafiction") and Bill Pronzini (a prolific writer of mysteries and an editor of anthologies in multiple genres), and involved a showdown between two authors down on the field of a stadium filled with thousands of fans, each trying to finish typing a ten-thousand word story first. Just a little while ago, I started wondering if I could find any information about the story online, but a quick search turned up that it had been expanded into a full novel, which didn't seem to be in print any more but was readily available in electronic book stores. Curious, perhaps, as to how this would turn out, and equipped in just the last little while with some new ways of reading electronic books, I bought a copy.
A New-Sport experience )
krpalmer: (anime)
I did very much enjoy the manga adaptations of the old Star Wars movies Dark Horse brought across the Pacific a number of years ago now (enough so to wish they would reissue them in thicker, non-mirrored versions, and that there would be adaptations of comparable length of the new movies done over in Japan), but I suppose I've grown aware that to wish for all your personal favourites to be presented in "anime style," or even "manga style," has a certain first resemblance to certain attitudes of overenthusiastic fans slapped with somewhat rude names.

After the small diversion of noticing some Pacific Rim fanart, though, one little bit of news caught my attention. It seems there's been a manga adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. I do sort of flip-flop between "the licensing costs would be higher" and "maybe a manga publisher over here can squeeze in one more prestige project, and haven't those novels been read by a younger demographic in the past?" In any case, I was at least able to ponder the cover art. I assume the central figure ought to be Hari Seldon (before the "rather inconvenient paralysis" that put him in a wheelchair when he recorded his messages for the future), but I do wonder who everyone else is. That might tie into the whole sense of the novels being driven by dialogue, though, something that may have also aided in another adaptation across another ocean, radio plays from Britain.
krpalmer: (Default)
I don't make as many quasi-impulsive online purchases to qualify for free shipping on the things I really want to get as I used to, but not that long ago the old and more or less whimsical urge struck me and I ordered a DVD of a movie I'd heard a bit about. Message From Space, I thought, just might bring a few things I'm interested in into an amusing juxtaposition...
where fantasies are real & reality is FANTASTIC )

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