reading stuff

My reading is going gangbusters. I am constantly reading and finishing books at a decent rate. A chunk of this is a certain mindfulness – ensuring that I make time to read rather than reading incidentally. The latter method tended to result in less novels and a tendency to casual dipping: twitter, facebook, newspapers, and various tech and gaming feeds. These days I check feeds occasionally, a few not a lot, less newspaper reading but still up to date with facebook and twitter.

Reading books. Lots. This week there was a Readers’ Advisory Seminar for librarians with a focus on SF, how could I say no. Actually I did originally but it was suggested I should attend at least for the first paper on ebook lending. I managed to get in at the last minute and that talk was good though more related to public library models for ebooks.

The second talk was for an Australian author I’d never heard of by the name of Daniel O’Malley. Turns out he won the Aurealis Award for his first novel, The Rook in 2012, and he’d since written a sequel, Stiletto. I thought I should have a look and try to read the first prior to his talk, was completely sucked in and had read both by last week. The first book has been turned into a TV series and I gather will screen on Stan later this year. He’s almost finished the third book in the series and I’m hoping that comes out this year too. He was also an excellent speaker: witty, friendly, self-deprecating, and engaging. Rather than being a talk about himself and his books, it was as much about the genre and genre generally, a liberal sprinkling of other interesting books to read; ideas aplenty.

I am slowly learning that I don’t need to finish books. This is harder than it sounds. It is a struggle. A book may not click for me, or I may find it dull, or it’s not quite to my taste. I can have several books on the go at once but if I hit a roadblock on one, they all come to a grinding halt; stuck in limbo. I will be stuck in that space for weeks and months. Finally I will either finish the problematic book or give it up; suddenly I am reading ferociously once more. I am increasingly mindful of the need to give up quickly and move on. So far it is working and I am reading so much more and the flow from book to book has less obstructions.

Malazan. Oh Malazan. The initial series written by Steven Erikson was a 10 book series: challenging: riveting, fantastic. Some of the best stuff I’ve read. I have read that series twice. The world on which it was built was a joint creation between Erikson and his mate, Ian Cameron Esslemont. Erikson published first with Esslemont crafting stories later. I have been collecting them all in nice editions from Subterranean Press in the US and PS Publishing in the UK: fancy printings, signed by the authors. I have read all the Erikson stuff but never quite got round to trying the Esslemont stuff so I’ve been buying nice editions of books by an author I was yet to read. I am unsure whether it’s due to a new author or trepidation about returning to Malazan which requires a lot of attention and careful, precise reading.

Esslement’s first Malazan novel is Night of Knives and at 280 odd pages is almost a novella by Malazan standards. I started it a couple of days ago and now, I’m two thirds through. Love being back in the world again. I am already looking forward to reading the next book, though Esslemont’s later titles are more substantial and some have been printed in double volume slipcases. I am looking forward to being lost once again, in Malazan.

forgetting

I am old and I have forgotten how to blog. What do I even write on this thing? It’s like I’ve forgotten how to communicate. My photos have been like that for a long while too; I keep taking photos but not sending them on to flickr. I have a paid account on flickr that I barely seem to use of late. This is not flickr’s fault.

Maybe if I keep typing rubbish, I’ll say something useful.

I remember long, long ago that I wanted to write more so I tried a few writing things, though I think the blog predates that. In olden days, it was mostly annotated links. Some years later, there was the PreSurfer though he died a week after his last post in 2017.

This is probably not my most creative time, December/January is always tricky; also hot and muggy.

2 books and a picture.I am however doing lots of reading for a change. I read chunks leading up to Christmas and have managed to continue. I’ve recently finished Wyntertide by Andrew Caldecott, which is a sequel to Rotherweird. I have loved both though did struggle a little to keep track of characters, but that didn’t reduce my delight. I think the third in the trilogy is due later this year; hopefully I can get a matching edition to the first two.

I have recently started The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova having enjoyed some years ago, another of her works: The Historian. I have started reading concurrently, The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover. I bought this as a present from one of my family and I think my sister snaffled it and read it first. I usually enjoy Glover’s column in the weekend SMH where he has quoted bits of it, though I gather he may have a radio show too. I have since bought my own copy and enjoying it so far.

time passes

Been a wee bit longer than anticipated. Holiday was good. My reading continues to be mixed though I seem to be chunking through stuff at the moment. I read Matthew Reilly’s new one, The Three Secret Cities, rather quickly. I seem to be devouring everything that the Australian arm of PS Publishing is putting out, though still no sign of their special editions of Dowling’s Rynosseros cycle.

PS Publishing Australia have released 5 titles so far of which I have and have mostly read, 4:

  • Dreaming in the Dark – Ed. Jack Dann – short story anthology of Oz genre fiction. I’ve read about 2/3 of the stories and it’s a strong collection
  • Odin’s Girl by Kim Watson – reading it at the moment and the writing is fab and I flow along with the story
  • The Book Club by Alan Baxter – a novella of about 100 pages. Well written and easily pulled me in
  • The Dragon’s Child by Janeen Webb – a novella of about 100 words too. Didn’t mind it but not blown either

There is one title remaining, Phantom Limbs by Margo Lanagan, an anthology of shorter pieces. I may have to get it if only to be complete though not sure it’ll be my cup of tea. While reading those at night, I read Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve during my lunch breaks at work. I spotted this title in NZ a couple of months ago, then heard about the film and thought I’d better hurry up and read it prior to seeing the film. Didn’t really blow my socks off but was a fun enough read. The movie isn’t getting fab reviews but I’d still like to watch it sometime.

a few bits but mostly books

It’s still a week or so before I am finally on holidays. Something I should have added to my list of things to do was stop.

Stop.

Return to a state of rest. Exist in that moment.

Then re-engage.

That’s a bit of luxury to be honest but it does me the world of good.

ereader, a glass of wine. By the river. Perth.I was worried that my reading had died off but I seem to be steadying. I have recently read, and loved, Rotherweird, and will get its sequel soon. I have ordered nice editions of both but they haven’t arrived yet. I may buy the ebook version of the second as I can’t wait much longer to read it. I am currently reading Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Early stages but enjoyable. Shaping up in a sort of military SF sort of direction though basic so far. This is my first stab at Scalzi though I’ve occasionally read his blog and tweets. Scalzi keeps popping up with Subterranean Press releases too, all of which I’ve missed out on as I hadn’t read him. Following on from Scalzi, I have queued Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan as I really enjoyed the first season on Netflix and liked the ideas at play.

Speaking of Subterranean Press, a few years ago, they published a nice edition of Altered Carbon but it’s really hard to find…so hard that the only copy I have found is over USD$3,ooo! It originally sold for US$75. They’ve recently published the next book, Broken Angels, and I have chosen not to collect. On one hand, there is money to be made, on the other, I’m not interested in buying books to make money. But I like a complete set and that won’t be possible with these. I am however collecting complete sets of Subterranean’s editions of Malazan and The Expanse. So far so good.

I am collecting all of Subterranean’s releases by Greg Egan. Egan is an Australian writer from Perth who does fantastic, ideas driven, hard-SF. I haven’t read everything by him but I dip in occasionally with fascinating works like his early material: Permutation City, Quarantine, and Distress, + other bits and pieces.

There’s a new book, Time’s Convert, due out soon from Deborah Harkness. I have read multiple times, her All Souls trilogy and have even bought her guide to the World of All Souls… Funnily enough I have also read her non-fiction as she initially wrote in my own field of the history and philosophy of science. Somewhat ashamedly, many years ago, I bought a copy of her book, The Jewel House, fully intending to read it…and I haven’t quite got round to it. I must add that to the priority pile of books to be read.

Admittedly, the priority pile of books to be read is rather large.

on collections

A friend forwarded me details of a home gallery they visited, the Elliot Eyes Collection (tEEC), and I loved their taste and may visit one day myself. Looking through their site, I saw so many things I liked. I would love a colourful sculpture by John Nicholson, in fact I want that block of rainbows :-) I’d never heard of Euan Macleod, now I would love one of his pictures.

I am not in their league; they occupy spaces, a mental landscape far removed from my own; other worlds beyond my existence.

I liked this reference they made to collecting:

Allen Weiss in “The Grain of the Clay” (Reaction Books,2016) has described collecting, or a collection, as an autobiographical statement. Unencumbered by the boundaries, rules and bureaucracy of public galleries, the housemusem displays the passion of the collector – individualistic, subjective, imaginative and zany.

It resonates. The collection conveys a sense of the person, their past, perhaps an image of themselves that they want to present. A curated appearance.

books on shelves in a warehouseThe objects you have in your house tell a story about you.

Objects. Books.

I collect books. I used to collect books to read, to accumulate, to expand. I used to read more in the past: a voracious appetite. I read less now but still buy but I no longer buy as much. I hope.

Books can be objects
Books can be read
Books can be memory

I buy books now as objects, to have nice things. Objects that can be opened and read; the intent is that all should and will be read. I buy nice books, pretty books, well bound books.

On occasion, I browse my books, pulling out this or that, memories triggered, a life passed. My books are a map to my past: of place, of mind, of heart. I need to know where my books are. They are part of the story of who I am.

pressing on

I have a sneaking suspicion that I have turned into a serious, albeit amateur, book collector; certainly I abide by the key rule of collecting: buy what you like. Some of the things I like have ended up being worth quite a bit and occasionally I pause and wish I’d bought doubles. That way lies danger and madness. I continue to buy pretty versions of things I want to read or re-read so that I can read them in a nice edition. I am on the mailing list of several independent presses within my area of interest: SF and Fantasy.

This week I have added another press to my list, Grim Oak, as I’ve decided afterall that I do indeed want nice editions of the The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks, of which they’re publishing the initial trilogy. I had considered it last year but decided against as the first had already sold out. Last year was also the 40th anniversary of publication of the first book. I’ve recently watched season 1 of the TV series (based on Book 2) and while not blown away, was keen to re-read the originals. So I’ve found the first one on Abebooks though it was a wee bit eccy (US$325) and have purchased books 2 & 3 (preorder) direct from the publisher at regular pricing (US$100 each). I contacted the publisher directly to see if I could get 2 & 3 with matching numbers to the first. They were happy to oblige and I’ve had a nice chat via email with their Associate Publisher.

That’s one of the things I like with small presses, that sense of personal engagement. Another I deal with is Subterranean Press and I’d recently missed an announcement for their next installment of Corey’s Expanse series. I emailed the main guy directly and he was able to put aside a copy for me with the matching number of the titles I had already. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve bought from Subterranean over the years but a rough estimate puts it over 30, possibly 40, titles. I’m also collecting the Malazan series (10 books) from Subterranean, and they’ve just announced preorders for the 8th book. Even though the limited set is not yet finished, their resale value is already a few times the purchase cost and the first alone has jumped to around US$2,000 (original purchase price of US$160).

The Grim Oak edition of The Sword of Shannara should arrive in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to re-reading it as soon as I have it. Book 2 (Elfstones of Shannara) is due in a few weeks and the third book (Wishsong of Shannara) mid-year.

Several books by Neal StephensonValue is a curious thing and it’s interesting to watch how much some titles sell out and increase in value while others languish. The Malazan titles for example by Subterranean Press, are a wee bit out of control, and I recall seeing a set (incomplete as only the first 7 of 10 have been published in these editions) of the lettered editions on ebay for a five figure amount whereas sets of the numbered editions seem to be in the mid four figures. Whereas I can easily buy the Subterranean editions of Greg Egan‘s shorter fiction and a new one is up for preorder. Egan is an Australian writer of hard SF.

The Centipede’s Press edition of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card sold out quickly and has a scary range of secondhand pricing: US$800 to US$2,200 whereas I bought it direct from Centipede for US$275. I missed out on Centipede’s edition of Logan’s Run and it’s now available for a range of US$200 to US$300 which is not bad but I don’t have the personal keenness for that title. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to buy their edition of The Delicate Dependency (vampire novel) but decided to read it first. Now I want it but it’s sold out and hard to find with the occasional copy turning up for US$275 or so, again more than I want to pay for that one.

Small presses that I like:Book cover of Amberjack by Terry Dowling

  • Centipede Press – they do a lot of horror and some SF
  • Grim Oak – Terry Brooks + a few short story collections and other things
  • PS Publishing – UK publisher that has recently launched an Oz office. SF and horror. I started with them for Malazan stuff but have continued to find interesting things. They will eventually publish (I hope) nice editions of Oz author, Terry Dowling’s Rynosseros cycle
  • Subterranean Press – primarily SF and Fantasy

Other publishers that I may or may not dally with include:

  • Cemetery Dance – horror and dark – I think I’ve bought some Terry Dowling, or been tempted to buy some
  • Easton Press – they do old school leather bindings, gilt edge and book ribbons…and they do it really well. I have a few on the shelf though I don’t think I’ve paid more than US$100 or so per title.
  • Folio Society – I have a bunch and there’s a whole bunch more that I want – every time I look I get a little scared. Current temptations include The Foundation Trilogy and Dune – though I already have a nice Easton Press edition of Dune.

In terms of buying sold out titles, I tend to use abebooks and bypass ebay though I have used the latter once or twice. I sorta like using book specific resources and non auction sites at that. Ebay often has an option to buy immediately but it’s more of a general store than a bookstore. The main time I used ebay was to buy a particular numbered edition of the first of the Malazan series.

 

avoidance

I drank the McHenrys 6th release 3 nights in a row this week and it’s like a lovely toffee verging on rich christmas cake. I know where I can a bottle from their 3rd release, and 4th for that matter, but avoiding it as it’s a little pricey. Though today I picked up a discounted bottle of the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, at $99 it’s a wee bit cheaper than the 18 year old that seems to sell in uncomfortable four figure amounts.

Somehow I have found myself on Amazon…just looking at stuff, minding my own business. I could for example get a whisky flask that looks a game cartridge, or even a dodgy looking steampunk version. On the other hand, the Disruptor Rifle looks rather cool but I’ve got nowhere to display it currently and it might not be quite the thing to put on my filing cabinet at work.

I occasionally, and this may surprise some, look longingly at Richie Rich collections. I had lots of comics as a kid and I’d like to say they were really cool in a pre-hipster sort of way but nyah, I bought the regular stuff not the niche. I had lots of Richie Rich comics, the story of the poor little rich boy. Though I did also have the english whizzer and chips with its stories of Mustapha Millions. Actually I did have a bunch of Captain America too. In later years I think I even have a complete run of the Babylon 5 comics. There’s a new book on gaming that came out a month or so back that looks rather interesting: Blood, Sweat and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made.

Other temptations include omnibus collections of the original Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even a couple of books on Soviet bus stops. Every other week there seems to be a new omnibus featuring Captain America and The Avengers though the really big temptation at the moment is the Complete Collection of S.H.I.E.L.D. as I’m currently enjoying the 3rd season of Agents of SHIELD via DVD. Also glad to see that an omnibus has been released of the new Ms Marvel of which I’ve read the first couple of releases. I tend not to buy much in paperback these days and prefer to wait for the hardcover omnibus releases…afterall they look rather nice on the shelf and hopefully last a bit longer.

Haven’t bought any books so far but may revisit later in the evening.