Daily Archives: June 29, 2010

Just Arrived, 6/29/10

Speaking of the “Just Arrived” feature, I am totally behind on it, because a) first I was traveling, b) then I was catching up on work from travel and then c) I got distracted by shiny bits of foil. So the next couple of days will constitute catching up. Here’s the first installment.

* Ancestor, by Scott Sigler (Crown): The Internet’s own podcasting superstar Sigler is back, and this time he’s got a doozy: The good news is that they’ve bio-engineered a creature whose organs can be put into people without rejection issues. The bad news: those creatures are mean. Oh, science. You mean so well. Out as of last week.

*This is Where We Live, by Janelle Brown (Spiegel & Grau): A young, hip, creative couple buy their first house together — in LA! With an adjustable rate mortgage! — and then life jabs them right in the nerve bundles. As it will. Especially when you have an adjustable rate mortgage. Those things are death, man. Out now.

* The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris, by Leïla Marouane (Europa Editions): A Muslim man in Paris struggles to find his identity; as suggested in the title, some of that will involve sex. Marouane herself is an Algerian living in Paris; this is the first English translation of the work. Out now.

* A Kind of Intimacy, by Jenn Ashworth (Europa Editions): A woman with a mysterious and distinctly messy past tries to start a new life and then immediately starts to complicate it. Out this last week.

* The Crowded Shadows, by Celine Kiernan (Orbit): The sequel to The Poison Throne has the Lady Wynter Moorehawake attempting to heal the rift between the ruler of her land, and his legitimate heir, before their enemies strike. Out on Thursday.

* Kill the Dead, by Richard Kadrey (Eos): Fans of Kadrey’s Sandman Slim will be happy to know this follow up is coming, in which the series anti-hero Stark gets a new gig as Lucifer’s bodyguard. Yes, yes. I’ll say it before you can: Work is Hell. Thank you for that. This one is coming in October, so plenty of time to get ready.

* The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (Harper): A biological agent threatens to turn everyone everywhere into vampires, and not the sexy, True Blood kind, but the icky, nasty sort. This is the paperback release of the book, which has already been a New York Times best seller in hardcover. It’s out today.

* Red Hood’s Revenge, by Jim C. Hines (DAW): The third installment of my pal Jim’s Locus Best Selling “Princess” series, in which “Little Red Riding Hood” is neither little nor particularly innocent: now she’s an assassin, planning to kill Sleeping Beauty. Excellent. This one comes out July 6th, but if you just can’t wait, here’s a link to the pdf of the first two chapters.

* Land of the Burning Sands, by Rachel Neumeier (Orbit): In the followup book to Lord of the Changing Winds, the griffins who were used for nefarious purposes in the book find themselves in a position of power, which means danger for everyone else. Because, griffins, man. You don’t mess with them. Out now.

Why, Yes, I Still Actually Buy Books

Whilst out and about this morning, running errands, I stopped by Jay and Mary’s Book Center, because since I noted yesterday that they often had signed stock of mine, I figured I should go in and actually, you know, sign stock, just in case someone called and asked (it is now all signed, and they have everything in stock except Android’s Dream). And while I was there I also picked up this fine specimen of printed matter, China Miéville’s latest book Kraken, which went on sale here in the US just today. I read it in galley version and it’s great: It’s got squid, London and the end of the world, not necessarily in that order. It’s well worth buying, so I did.

That I actually purchased a book apparently comes as a surprise to a couple of people, since very recently I’ve been asked in all sincerity if I still actually go out and buy books. The question was posed not under the assumption that I am sub-(or post-)literate, but because thanks to The Big Idea and Just Arrived features here on Whatever, I get at least ten books a week sent to me, and often more, which is a) more than I could read and b) would seem to obviate the need and even the desire to go out and buy more of them.

Nevertheless, in fact, I still go out and buy books, and usually printed books, to the tune of several a month. Why? Here are some of the reasons, in order of how they come into my head.

1. Because even though I get sent a lot of books, I don’t get sent every book I’m interested in (alas), and therefore if I want to have those books, I have to go out and buy them.

2. Because some of the books I get sent are in galley or ARC form, which means that if I want a more durable version of the book, I should go out and buy it. Kraken, as noted, was sent to me as a bound galley by its UK publisher — which I deeply appreciated because hey, I got to read it early and I’m a big sloppy Miéville fan — and was already beginning to show signs of wear and tear by the time I was done with it.

3. Because buying books at my local bookseller helps keep that bookseller in business, which is something I have a clear and obvious personal stake in; after all, if authors won’t support their local booksellers, why should they expect anyone else to?

4. Because many of my friends write books (including China), and I think it’s a fine thing to support one’s friends and to help pad their sales.

5. I was a fan of China’s before I knew him, so even if I didn’t know him I would buy the book because buying an author’s work is the most obvious way to let a publisher know you’d like them to keep publishing that particular author.

6. Because in addition to paying the author and the bookseller, I also like paying the editor, the cover artist, the book and cover designers, the copy editor, the publicist, the guys who work at the printer and the people who drive the trucks that deliver the books. Thanks, folks.

7. Because books will look especially fine on those new shelves I just spent a whole lot of money on — and on those shelves I want not just any books, but books I actually like.

8. Because books make great gifts, and I enjoy giving books to other folks, but not the books I get sent because that’s kind of cheap, you know? If I think well enough of a book to want to give it as a gift, I can shell out for the market price.

9. As regards printed books, look, ma: No DRM, and the batteries never run out. I do use and for the most part like electronic books, but at this point for me they are still supplemental to, rather a replacement for, printed books; look at my eBook collection and you’ll see they’re generally copies of printed books I already own. That said, if I have a finished printed version of a book sent to me and I want a portable copy (for example, when I travel to Australia later in the year and am trapped in a plane for an entire day), I’m happy to buy the electronic version for that purpose.

10. Because at this point in my life I can afford books. When I was younger I couldn’t (thank you public libraries for being there) and who knows, maybe when I’m older I might not be able to anymore either (public libraries, hope you’ll still be around). But now I can, and I like spending money that way. Makes me glad my fetish objects of choice are books, and not cars.

So those are some of the reasons that I still buy books, and lots of them.

The Big Idea: Larry Doyle

The 50s were an archetypal time, both for America and for science fiction, but more than half a century later, does that era have anything to say to our own? Larry Doyle was minding his own business when one day a couple of years ago someone said something that made him believe that in many ways the 50s have never left us — and one result of that epiphany is Go, Mutants! a smart-alec comedy that imagines the 50s never really ended, and that the drive-in movie aliens were real… and that their kids are now in high school.

Who was that person that jolted Doyle back into the 50s, and what did they say? Let’s ask Doyle.

LARRY DOYLE:

We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity.

– Sarah Palin, September 3, 2008

I had been worried about America for a while. Ever since the Event, we had been slipping back into bad habits, starting wars to stop ideas, equating dissent with treason, abandoning principles in the service of protecting them, etc. But Sarah Palin’s speech before the Republican Convention gave voice to a dark yearning that had been palpable for years:

America wanted to go back to the Good Old Days.

Though it is risky to ascribe calculation or forethought to anything Ms. Palin does, her choice of quotable was telling. Westbrook Pegler, a powerful newspaper columnist in the 1950s and 60s, was a big fan of the way things were. “[It’s] clearly the bounden duty of all intelligent Americans to proclaim and practice bigotry,” he wrote in reaction to the civil rights movement. He supported old-fashioned lynchings. He also hated Jews, another traditional value.

And so when Palin approvingly spoke Pegler’s words – which were in near perfect code – it felt as if the Fifties had never ended.

And I wondered, what if?

I’ve always thought that popular culture is the purest expression of its time, that it more truly and vividly displays the hopes and fears of an era than the great speeches or history books. (I am biased, of course, as a purveyor of such stuff.) In the Fifties that meant comic books and B-movies, which were preoccupied with invading aliens and atomic mutants, stand-ins for communists and the Bomb, at least on the surface. Another popular genre, the juvenile delinquent movie, suggested a greater worry closer to home. America’s children were Young Hellions and High School Hellcats who might become a Reform School Girl or Crybaby Killer (Jack Nicholson!)

And so Go, Mutants! takes place in an America where the pop culture of the fifties never ended, where it is in fact history. Aliens really did invade, many, many times, from Venus and Mars and assorted galaxies; mad scientists and frequent atomic blasts created mutants of all sizes and consistencies. Mid-century design, and particularly the space-age Googie aesthetic, became the standard. And it’s all seen through the eyes of a big-brained alien teenager who is a rebel seeking a cause.

It’s fun, and even silly I suppose, but I hope some readers will see past the surface hilarity for the deeper amusement. Go, Mutants! takes place today as much as yesterday, as a skimming of the headlines will attest (Arizona’s next illegal immigration target: Babies), and may have something on its mind. At least I did when I was writing it.

But I won’t mind terribly if people simply laugh, at, for example, the scene where Peg Furry, a bigoted deputy sheriff with a distinctive northern twang, pays to have sex with a radioactive ape.

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Go, Mutants! Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the Go, Mutants! Web site to see book trailers, reviews and other media. Visit Larry Doyle’s blog.