krpalmer: (kill la d'oh)
An “Answerman” column on Anime News Network explained where the money so many people these days see as having gone into OVAs and movies of the 1980s had first come from. Its discussion thread then spun along to the point of mentioning a book about American reactions to Japan in that decade, said to include a chapter about anime fandom then. That did get my attention, inclined as I am to reflect on having been around for that decade without really managing to pick up on just where some of the syndicated cartoons I’d taken quite an interest in had first come from until the decade following. I started looking up the electronic version of Andrew McKevitt’s Consuming Japan, then went to the point of signing up for Kobo when the title wasn’t available in the Apple Books store in my country; now, I’m wondering if the “bonus points” Kobo gives with purchase outweigh the differences and complications in its reading program from the standard Books.
From book to 'zine' )
krpalmer: (Default)
At the neighbourhood library, while paging through “BBC History” magazine I happened on an interview with Max Hastings about a book he’d just written on the Vietnam War. Having read some of Hastings’s other military history books, I thought it might be worth learning something more about a conflict more recent than World Wars One and Two. The first place I did look for information on the book was the area bookstore, supposing it might not be out in print over here yet. However, when I saw it was available in paperback in the store itself, I wound up buying a copy.
1945-1975 )
krpalmer: (anime)
Each successive volume of Legend of the Galactic Heroes arriving translated in print raises my hopes we’ll really get to the end of the series, even if it’s a conclusion I’ve already experienced through the anime adaptation. The eighth volume was where I supposed that this time for sure we’d be faced with a shocking development, one that would shake up certainties and leave the survivors in the story trying to make a new way forward. Once it had passed, though, I did have to recognize I’d forgotten some of the particulars of just how it had happened. In any case, with the various tactical schemes of the space opera battles easy enough to just sort of accept (a lot of the action in this volume is set in a choke-point in space set up beforehand as somehow constraining fleet deployment) the development did get away from everything else seeming to revolve around how enlightened a despot Kaiser Reinhard von Lohengramm is. Yang Wen-li, even holed up in a last redoubt, remained skeptical about what might happen “after Reinhard”; I’m afraid I was inclined to stay skeptical about the way Reinhard was himself presented and to muse about just what “the average folk” might wind up for whatever reason holding up, although it does seem like it just might be more interesting to provide an opposing argument by setting up a different fictional scenario than to just complain about the way a particular fictional scenario has been designed.

The omniscient narration of the book did seem to keep alluding to future developments I’m also familiar with. One thing that did surprise me, though, was a third translator showing up. I can’t say Matt Treyvaud’s work seemed any better or worse than what had come before; there was a certain bit of familiarity in the Imperial marshal Oskar von Reuentahl, who has one blue eye and one brown eye (a trait at least a minor fetish scattered through other anime series) being described as “heterochromiac.” I did look ahead again and see a pre-order listing for the ninth volume of the series, but it’s a long way away yet; even if getting to the end of the series keeps feeling a bit more likely, I can admit to feeling freer to wonder if that’ll happen this year.
krpalmer: (Default)
When the InSight probe landed on Mars, I said I ought to try and keep better track of what's happening with it than I've seemed to do for previous missions, and I have been looking at the official NASA site every so often. The news the probe's seismometer, still sitting on its upper deck before a robot arm lowers it to the Martian surface, had recorded vibrations converted into "the sound of the Martian wind" did spread beyond there, and it got me thinking back to impressions I'd seen a book by Arthur C. Clarke from the 1960s proposing a first Mars lander might not be able to send pictures back from the surface, but could well have a microphone attached. I picked my copy of his The Promise of Space off my bookshelf, but couldn't find that there. After a moment's wondering just where those impressions had come from then, I thought of something else all of a sudden and hurried downstairs to find a copy of Man and Space from the Life Science Library, which Clarke had written the text sections for just before starting to work with Stanley Kubrick on "the proverbial 'really good' science fiction movie." There, I found the description of the first microphone on Mars, all the way up to the possibility of it capturing "a sound that grows louder and louder, closer and closer," building to "clangings and bumpings and rattlings, all ending suddenly in a grinding crunch and the abrupt cessation of the radio signal." Certainly, I'm not expecting that in a further update from InSight, but Clarke could have been forgiven his optimism for having written that before Mariner 4 reached Mars.
krpalmer: (anime)
I suppose I look at the "Manga Bookshelf" site fairly often. Seeing the eye-catching title "Last and First Idol" on its front page, though, left me with an impression of having been lucky to have had something so precisely combining diverging personal interests catch my attention before the steady march of new content could push it out of sight. Sean Gaffney's review had explained the electronic release from J-Novel Club was a collection of three short stories using idol singers and other tangents off the anime-manga nexus to set up some pretty hard science fiction. I could amuse myself wondering how many other people have not just some interest in idol singers (I might not have quite as much as some, but it seems "enough") but also some awareness of a science fiction book from the beginning of the 1930s, less a conventional novel than a "fictional history" of its near to a very far future, named Last and First Men by an English author, Olaf Stapledon.
An existential widescreen yuri baroque proletarian hard sci-fi idol story )
krpalmer: (Default)
Even as I was putting together a post that dwelt somewhat on "I don't read as much prose fiction as I could, caught between supposing I'm overwhelmed by the subtle complexity of anything 'respectable' and looking down on everything else," I was working through some novels I'd found in a somewhat unusual way. A few years ago, I heard that "life plus" copyright terms on novels are shorter in Canada than in some countries, and that Ian Fleming's James Bond novels were now in the public domain. An anthology of new, unauthorized stories marked that news, but I suppose that, along with wondering about "fanfiction" being one of those things I don't read much any more such that it threatens to feel about the personal hangups and dissatisfactions of others on display, I wasn't familiar with the original work to begin with. Then, I happened on an offbranch of "Project Gutenberg" that did offer ebook versions of most of the original novels, and other works from authors who died as late as the 1960s. (I've also managed to read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and found it interesting. Since then, however, I've been ordered to take umbrage at the revised continental trade deal threatening to extend copyright terms up here. Although concerned, I'm also just trying to save what's available now to my own computer.)
Reputation and discovery )
krpalmer: (Default)
All too often these days I think "I should read more prose fiction" only to seize up between the likely-false dichotomy of supposing anything that would qualify as "respectable literature" would just go over my head even as I sweat and struggle to get through it and then thinking many other things "beneath my talents." Not that long ago, though, in the closest used book store (but just about the only one left open in my city) I saw a slim volume lying on the tile floor next to a full-up bookshelf and picked it up. Books by Michael Crichton do seem to fall into the second category I've just alluded to, such that I've long just slid by them. I did read Jurassic Park back in high school before the movie arrived, but I seemed to find the way he'd presented chaos theory "bleak" and wound up somewhat unenthused (and then liked the movie at the time better in part for brushing past the subject). With the novels he wrote afterwards, I was a bit ready to believe certain critical comments about their spins on controversial subjects comforting the already comfortable without actually reading them myself. Eaters of the Dead had been written years before any of that, though, and I suppose a story purporting to be a translated manuscript from an Arab courtier who just happens to be pulled into a band of Vikings travelling back north to ultimately face "a terror that comes under cover of night" was at least amusing to consider. I wound up buying the book.
A possibly late realisation )
krpalmer: (Default)
When I visited London, England a few years ago, I made a point of going to the British Museum. In looking up information on the artifacts of world culture on display there (I particularly wanted to see the Rosetta Stone and the Lewis Chessmen, but there were plenty of things I was pleased just to happen on), I picked up there had been a BBC radio series a few years before that had selected one hundred objects from the museum and used them to tell a history of the world. Copies of the companion book were displayed in the museum shops, but I only had so much spending money on me and had already packed my luggage pretty full. Instead, I eventually managed to download and listen to all hundred fifteen-minute instalments of the series, which made for an interesting but time-consuming tour (although probably still less time-consuming than going back to London). With thoughts of revisiting the history in a somewhat different way but saving time doing that, I finally ordered a copy of museum director Neil McGregor's book from my area bookstore.
Audio and text )
krpalmer: (apple)
Looking through a used book store I've visited before but not lately, I managed to notice a book I'd had a used copy of before but given away a while ago. Since then, though, I had got to wondering if I'd ever happen on the chance to read John Sculley's Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple again. I am quite aware of the conventional wisdom that paints him as the CEO who, after completing (with the help of a co-author) his inspirational "how I moved from soft drinks to computers, found my company in trouble, then steered into safe waters" tale, let Microsoft catch up to Apple as he daydreamed of "the Knowledge Navigator" without considering how to get from then to the future until it was easy enough to proclaim his company had been passed (to say nothing of having been there for the accusations of the Apple II being left to dry up on the branch.) Still, I could consider if I'd be able to read carefully enough to recognise a few new details.

Sculley talked with what seemed fond memories about his rise through the ranks at Pepsi as the company developed from "one of several competitors to the colossus of Coca-Cola" to "one of two firms dominating the soft drink trade." He then worked hard at presenting being enticed into a new line of work as "it wasn't that utterly foreign to me." Following the first months at Apple where everything seemed on its way up, things shifted into crisis, and I did get to wondering if this was presented less as a thread of the conventional wisdom, "we thought in our technological arrogance we'd created a fully adequate product," than as "we were spending too much on advertising chasing a consumer market that didn't actually exist." The Apple Computer Sculley describes shaping (once Steve Jobs was out of the picture) seemed more business-focused (which does have me thinking of how, as I go through the PC Magazine archive queuing up covers on my side-project Tumblr, by 1985 the IBM PC seemed very much presented there as "a serious business machine for people in suits and ties"), with the Apple II acknowledged as "having kept us afloat" but still seemingly retargeted as "an education machine." I suppose this impression may be shaped by recent opinions in "The Digital Antiquarian" about how, as MS-DOS based computers continued their incremental improvements through the beginning of the 1990s, they became more usable "at home" at a moment when all the other options were either aimed away from there or at best targeted ineffectively, but I was at least willing to consider it. I even noticed Sculley include a comment I'd seen in period Macworld magazines that Apple had a two-year head start on the graphical user interface and would of course build on it. That, of course, still raises the question of what happened with the company's software efforts, even if there have been comments since the book The Mythical Man-Month that "software is hard."
krpalmer: (anime)
Seven Legend of the Galactic Heroes novels having been officially translated into English and sold in bookstores ought to be something, but I admit I was still relieved all over again on the appearance of the latest volume that "losses hadn't been cut in the face of seemingly inevitable book-to-book sales declines." Anyway, as I started into the seventh volume I did wonder about the recently concluded new anime adaptation (which hadn't even adapted to the end of the first volume) and its slicker character designs coming to mind; as I kept reading, though, my older memories of the older anime did seem to return.
What I remember may surprise you )
krpalmer: (apple)
It's easy enough to say "I'm more likely to play an old computer game than a new one," but in trying to lay out my explanations for that I do seem pushed to the further admission "but I can't find the time for much of even that; instead, I just seem to read about those old games." While reading, though, I did happen to learn about a crowd-funded book about games on the Macintosh, which very much caught my attention. Given the cost of having a printed copy shipped across the Atlantic, I was happy to settle for an electronic version. Once I'd made my pledge, however, it was a wait for the book to be finished and edited, and when I did have my copy I was trying to tie up a loose end by reading another book on a similar subject, if one about a computer I hadn't played games on. The release version of Brian Bagnall's Commodore: The Amiga Years (the middle volume of a promised trilogy) had at least taken out the barbed anecdote in a preliminary draft made available to Kickstarter backers about the disk-swapping that would have set in had someone tried loading an application on a single-drive Macintosh from a disk without a System Folder; while strictly true, I'd been inclined to insist there was supposed to have been space for the system and application on a single disk. Once through that book, though, I could move on at last to Richard Moss's The Secret History of Mac Gaming.
Not so distant after all )
krpalmer: (Default)
When Scientific American ran an article on New Horizons's voyage to Pluto written by Alan Stern, principal investigator of the project, I read it with interest. At the end of the article, there was a little notice a book on the same subject by him and another author would soon be published, and that got my attention too. The way things worked out, I was able to get a copy of Chasing New Horizons for my birthday. Sorting out as I started reading that the coauthor David Grinspoon included "astrobiologist" and "at the launch" among his qualifications even if he could seem to have much less of a presence in the narrative, I headed through an attention-grabbing prologue about the loss of contact with the probe days before the long-awaited encounter with Pluto and got back to Alan Stern's space-age youth. There, a 1970 article in National Geographic about what we did know then about the planets from the photographs blurred by long exposures through the atmosphere, and the preparations to do a lot more than fly a few probes past Venus and Mars, was described as formative for a lot of planetary scientists his age. (I recognised the article from having found that magazine in my grandmother's National Geographics, if over a decade later when it was interesting as a piece of history.) The article had mentioned plans for the "Grand Tour," gilt-edged probes intended from launch to last all the way down separate courses to Neptune and Pluto that had unfortunately made assumptions about just how much money would continue to be made available for NASA. (The book cast another light on those assumptions with the casual mention there had been plans for four Grand Tour probes, one pair per trajectory; after noticing what seemed a proofreading error or two later in the book I did some quick searching and did turn up a NASA document mentioning four probes.) The more budget-minded "Mariner Jupiter Saturn" program that turned into Voyagers 1 and 2 had been faced with "Titan; Uranus and Neptune; Pluto--pick two of three" and had gone for the quicker, surer things, but as Stern had started his scientific career, invigorated rather than dismissive at new observations of Pluto from Earth, he'd contemplated "finishing the job."
The long trip )
krpalmer: (Default)
On a short vacation at the end of last month, amidst visits to museums and general sightseeing I dropped in to an ordinary if large library and headed for its space travel section. There, I saw a book I remembered having heard of before about the first space shuttle mission. Flipping quickly through Rowland White's Into the Black before closing time left me thinking I'd like to have more time to read it. Before finishing my vacation I'd already looked up that it had an e-book edition, aware of the way books pile up around my place. Before committing to that purchase, though, I checked my area bookstore just on the offhand chance to see a paperback copy of Into the Black on the shelf, and I went ahead and bought it, thus adding to the piles.
The past and the secrets )
krpalmer: (Default)
Even if we're well past the year it made famous, this being the fiftieth anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey has led to more looks back at the movie. News of a new book about its making did get my attention; I am aware that a good bit of what I think the film's imagery has been cadged from various print sources, starting with Arthur C. Clarke's novel but going on from there. At book sales over the years I've turned up vintage copies of Jerome Agel's The Making of Kubrick's 2001, a sort of scrapbook but as much about period takes on the movie (some of them even thoughtful and different from what had wound up seeming set reactions) as its actual production, and Arthur C. Clarke's The Lost Worlds of 2001, selected chapters of various takes on the constantly developing story, interesting in the same way I've found "the early drafts of Star Wars" that drift around online, and knit together with personal reflections (although Clarke wound up distant from the film production). I also remember finding a copy of Piers Bizony's mid-1990s 2001: Filming the Future in a used book store. The only problem is that when I think about the book, its "plus side" brings to mind a drawing of how the interiors of Discovery shown on screen could fit inside that spaceship's forward sphere (with plenty of room left; following up on a whim, I turned up competing cross-sections online), but its "minus side" includes a closing chapter with a rather sour judgement of both real life and all other science fiction movies since for not living up to the on-screen example. That does make for a rather unbalanced impression.

Those thoughts did add to my interest in reading Michael Benson's Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece. I did, though, flip through its last chapter in a bookstore before committing to asking for it for a birthday present; Benson dismissed the sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact with very faint praise but otherwise didn't seem too negative about the half-century following the original film. Once I'd started reading my own copy of the book, I did notice a brief early note pondering HAL's efforts to remove men from the mission to Jupiter, but from there found myself devouring its story at a rapid clip.
Complex characters, a complicated production )
krpalmer: (anime)
The appearance of another translated volume of Legend of the Galactic Heroes was in some ways a simple relief to me, given I still remember the days of a decade past when translated novels connected to anime series always seemed to stop appearing after their third volume, doomed by low sales. Even though some of Yen Press's translated "light novels" have run for a lot longer than three volumes nowadays, Legend of the Galactic Heroes being translated by a company connected to Viz does keep me wondering. At the same time too, the sixth volume showed up at an eventful yet controversial moment for its whole franchise over here.
Two anime adaptations and one translated novel )
krpalmer: (europa)
In dwelling on a disconnection that may only be increasing between me and this new corporate era of Star Wars product, I have thought a bit about at least some of the other opinions I've picked up on even at the possible risk of being pushed in unapproving directions. There are those who insist the sure antidote for current ill feelings is to turn back to the spinoff novels and comics sold up until a little while after the sale, works ultimately encompassed under the name "the Expanded Universe" but shockingly "decanonized" near the beginning of the new era. To focus on something you're positive towards does seem commendable, but I have to admit quite a few things built up over a fair while to detach me from those spinoffs.
Quite a few things )
krpalmer: (anime)
Hearing Vertical had licensed a title called Anime Supremacy!, said to be about three women working in the anime industry, did get my attention; a few thoughts of "it might strike a fine balance of comforting familiarity with, yet fresh differences from, Shirobako" came to mind. It wasn't until I was taking a copy off the shelf in the bookstore, though, that I seemed to really realise, or at least remember, it wasn't a one-shot manga but a translated novel. That did for a few moments have me wondering about all the times I've thought translated-from-Japanese prose not quite sparkling as I've plugged through it; as in other cases, however, the premise was appealing enough I was willing to take a chance.
Three characters, three sections, a few questions )
krpalmer: Imagination sold and serviced here: Infocom (infocom)
In delving into the particulars of computers from the 1980s as if to know now what I'd missed then (which might be no better or worse than grown adults buying up the toys they hadn't had as kids), period sources are useful but works made with the benefit of hindsight would seem to offer important perspectives too. A fair while ago, I managed to hear about a book by Brian Bagnall said to provide the history of Commodore computers; by the time I had, though, it seemed to have sold out. I then heard he'd split off the first part of his book and revised it with promises of a similar revision to the history that followed, but in the process I did start wondering about other things I'd heard. It might be one thing to say that "the survivors, at least, have written the history books," but from what I heard Bagnall was insistent on putting down Apple Computer in particular, even "the hacker-friendly Apple II crafted by that lovable 'Woz.'" It felt somehow a bit less like "the truth since obscured" and more like "grinding a particular ax, one familiar to this day."
Going ahead despite that )
krpalmer: (Default)
On a "last chance sale" table at the bookstore, I saw a copy of a science fiction novel called Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan, marked down to two dollars. That was cheap enough to break through my usual exaggerated caution towards current science fiction. Once I'd bought the book, though, it did sit in a pile for a while before I decided, more or less all of a sudden, to start reading it. While I can't say this with certainty, I do believe that decision preceded my managing to see Netflix was streaming a series of that title, the capsule episode descriptions of which matched what I'd sorted out on starting to read the book (the vagueness of the back cover blurb and promotional quotes just might have slowed me down getting past them) as a story about a man named Takeshi Kovacs, shot in a futuristic gunfight in the prologue only to recover in a new body on another world with the order to solve the murder of an immensely wealthy man irritated at needing to have been restored from a backup.

If it hadn't already happened by the time I heard about the adaptation, though, I must have supposed pretty soon afterwards that it wouldn't have mattered whether the series was on Netflix or anywhere else in a certain amount of the book's violence-and-sex excess having to be toned down in the adaptation to a visual work. That excess could make for a fair bit of narrative drive, however, and the development of this particular future felt nicely metered out throughout. (There was a little bit of odd piquancy, however, in getting a general sense the book was British with an announcement coming over the "Tannoy" and Kovacs being stuffed into a car "boot," but all the action happening on the west coast of the future Earth's North America.) At a certain point I was getting through the book in small bits at a time, though, and that might have contributed to a sudden feeling of a new and significant antagonist popping up in my mind even as I supposed the proper introduction had already happened. I might have to read the book over again to really grasp that; some of the nastiness in it, though, might be leaving me reluctant to do that right now.
krpalmer: (anime)
I've mentioned before the interest I've taken in the anime series "From the New World." It has a lot to do with the feeling there was fresh thought put in, and room for my own further thought, to its exploration of a particular idea science fiction has long included (although part of the novelty did have to do with my impression written science fiction backed away from "psychic powers" decades ago, perhaps not coincidentally around when a general credulousness for the idea crested and ebbed, to leave it for visual science fiction). Before the series had completed its first streaming run, though, I'd managed to hear this thoughtfulness had come not from the beginning of a manga or "light novel" series (or even from an "original production"), but from the adaptation of a serious and self-contained Japanese novel.
Piqued curiosity and an eventual surprise )

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