The Encounter Log

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Forgot to mention last time-- all the Hugo short fiction nominees: My top picks were "A Small Room in Koboldtown", "The Cambist and Lord Iron", and "Stars Seen Through Stone".

Grimtooth's Traps, edited by Paul Ryan O'Connor, and Grimtooth's Traps Fore!, edited by Elizabeth T. Danforth and Michael A. Stackpole: Two of the legendary sourcebooks for gamemasters who want to kill off their dungeon delvers creatively. Rather than the plain old spiked pit, choose from amusing suggestions like The Avenging Treadmill, The Soprano Chest, and The Bridge at Rue Vincent.

The Stardroppers by John Brunner: A hippie-era story about young people dropping out and tuning in to something promising mystical cosmic truth-- but since this is sf, there really is something interesting going on...

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis: Figured I'd better re-read my favorite of the Narnia books before the movie comes out. And there's still enough time for you to do it, too.

Space Opera by Jack Vance: Naturally this is the story of the first opera company to leave Earth and tour alien worlds.

Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore: Think H. P. Lovecraft at his weird and lyrical best, crossed with a third-rate romance novel.

Fire, Burn! by John Dickson Carr: A police detective falls back in time to the founding of Scotland Yard, where he solves a well-constructed mystery, but then the author takes the coward's way out with the possibility that it might all have been a dream. Includes a bibliography for readers interested in more about the people and customs of the period.

The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part I: From Columbus to the U.S. Constitution by Larry Gonick: The follow-on to Part III of the Cartoon History of the Universe. Maybe he really is going to finish this thing.

The Dechronization of Sam Magruder by George Gaylord Simpson: A novella by one of the biggest names in paleontology, showing its age now in the stance it takes on some now-decided controversies, but still holding up great as a story. Padded to book length with an introduction by Arthur C. Clarke, and afterwords by Stephen Jay Gould and the author's daughter.

Shardik by Richard Adams: A novel examining the relationship of humanity and the divine, through the device of a freaking enormous bear. A long book even by today's standards, but worth it.

Mushishi, entire series on YouTube (legally!): Whoa. Every bit as good as everyone says it is. And episodes 19-24 are eligible for next year's Hugos. Watch it (and other series from the same distributor) at

Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate: I think it's taken me three years to play the entire series from start to finish. Graphics suffer in the last installment as the programmers tried to pack the largest game of the series onto only 2 floppies, but it is the largest, and most varied. I couldn't help muttering, "It's the old man from scene 24!" at the end, but it's a fitting ending.

Journey by Marta Randall: The first book I've ever read which contains its own slash fanfic. For about the first two-thirds, it's a beautifully written story about a pioneer family and a couple hundred refugees trying to make it on a frontier world, and then suddenly totally implausible pairs of people are falling in love, and then they're abandoned completely to follow the totally depraved adventures of the family's prodigal son.

The Steel of Raithskar by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron: The first novel of a planned trilogy, with a fantastic setting which is clearly not quite what it seems, but with most of the explanation frustratingly saved for later.

Top Gear space shuttle episode: Yes, I've now seen the Reliant Robin turned into the orbiter on a miniature Space Shuttle, which was done in halfway through the flight by the main fuel tank refusing to separate. One notes that the US's best effort in this area so far was when the Mythbusters attempted to launch a Chevy Impala, but it exploded on the pad. When, I ask you, is our government going to wake up to our loss of dominance in the field of automotive spaceflight and get some proper science and technology education funding out there??

The Other Sinbad by Craig Shaw Gardener: A comic fantasy which would have been much better as a movie-- you wouldn't miss anything about the prose, and the jokes would be timed better.

Transit to Scorpio by Alan Burt Akers, illustrated by Tim Kirk: Well, the illustrations are very nice, but it's pulpier than a bag of oranges in a NASA centrifuge. If that's your sort of thing, go for it.

Fun With Chinese Characters 1-3: Collected lessons from the Straits Times of Hong Kong on the meaning and history of various characters. Even if you're not learning Chinese or Japanese, a neat sourcebook on the evolution of an ideographic writing system.

The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo: At one level, it's the story of the Stanford Prison Experiment in more detail than ever before, and its parallels to wartime atrocities; at another, it's a guy writing about how he once did a very bad thing, and has spent the rest of his life trying to make up for it. Educational reading, but best taken in small doses.

Princess Tutu DVD set: Possibly the worst-named anime series ever. Oh, there's ballet, but the story draws on the likes of Giselle (where the heroine dies), La Sylphide (where the heroine dies), Swan Lake (where all the principals die), that sort of thing. Also the heroine is really an enchanted duck, her teacher is an anthorpomorphic cat, and her opponent is the shade of a dead fable-writer who wants to see his last story end in epic tragedy. Highly recommended.

The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist: A nice little Christmas story about joy, and miracles, and the true meaning of Christmas, and how to do Korean barbecue just right.

Hestia by C. J. Cherryh: Possibly Cherryh's first ever novel about a blond human guy falling in with aliens.

Claymore volumes 11-12 by Norihiro Yagi: With Hugo nomination season coming up, I'm trying to read some stuff that's gotten good reviews for possible candidates. This is high fantasy, and confusing if you drop in in the middle of the story.

Fairy Cube volumes 1-2 by Kaori Yuki: An interesting setup with a boy using a borrowed body, his own having been stolen by his heretofore invisible, bodiless fairy twin, but too soon to really see where the story's going.

Nightmare Inspector volume 1 by Shin Mashiba: Short stories about a human-like being who lurks in a café in the 1920s and subsists on humans' nightmares. I have a feeling that there may be something Hugo-worthy somewhere in the five volumes published this year, but the formula so far is so rigid that I don't think I have the patience to look for it.

Mushishi volumes 4-5 by Yuki Urushibara: Like the TV series, which turns out to have been an amazingly faithful adaptation, the manga is really, astoundingly, good. The TV adaptations aren't in publishing order, so mostly different stories are eligible-- here, so far, my top pick is "In the Cage". Volume 6, will be published at the end of November, and will include some material not yet adapted for TV. On the basis of what's in these two, I pre-recommend everything in it.

Bride of the Water God volumes 1-2 by Mi-Kyung Yun: Despite the monster-movie title, this is actually a Korean series intended for a female audience, telling the story of a woman sent to the water god (by being drowned) and what befalls her at the god's palace. If the award were given just for visuals, this would win hands down, with hardly a page not full of beautiful people dripping beads and flowers and fancy brocade. (In fact I'm probably puting Ms. Yun on my ballot for Best Artist, if the rules permit.) If you like paranormal romance and are sick of vampires, check it out.

Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic by Howard Tayler (read online): Checked this out because Chris is a huge fan, and it's eligible. In his words, eh.

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