one after the other

So many things seem to be in series, sometimes things that should only be one are often more. It seems like everything in SF and fantasy is coming out in multi-book epics these days. Then I stop and think, this is not a new development.

I remember reading early Asimov stories and he had his robots series and his Foundation series, not to mention his attempts to unite them all, and of course Tolkien and Middle Earth.

shelf 1

Even one of my favourite books as a child, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ended up being a series. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett seemed to be a standalone, then he wrote some more and some more and suddenly it wasn’t for which I remain ever grateful – speaking of which, I don’t think I’ve read any since I first read them. One day, I must embark on a full Pratchett re-read; re-reading the entirety of Pratchett seems somewhat Odyssean.

Comrades in Arms

Speaking of childhoods, I read so many series: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, Trixie Belden, Biggles, and many, many Enid Blyton books. In fact, speaking of Biggles, I have finally acquired Comrades in Arms by Capt W.E. Johns which includes stories from each of his main character sets: Biggles, Gimlet, and Worrals.

A couple of years ago I read a then newish SF writer, Becky Chambers and her first novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which in turn has had a sequel, of sorts. At what point do sequels become series? Speaking of which I need to read more from her one of these days.

Oz author, Daniel O’Malley wrote The Rook – which was turned into a TV miniseries -and then a sequel, Stilleto. I am eagerly awaiting the 3rd book and have been for a long time. Though Book 1 came out in 2012, book 2 in 2016 so I have some hope that book 3 may appear in 2020. Some. 

picture books

Absolute Sandman Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman

When I was in Bowral last Christmas, I started re-reading Volume 1 of the Absolute Sandman as I was conscious that I never got round to reading the entire series. It was published as 4 volumes initially and later there was a 5th volume and a volume devoted to Death. I figured it was a good time to read them all through and made good ground initially. I took a break and read other things, recently finishing Volume 1 and anticipating continuing with Volume 2 in the near future. Dark stories well told; at times ethereal as they soak into my imagination.

A few weeks ago, or was it months, I managed to find a good edition, “as new” of the Omnibus edition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I recall seeing the movie version many years ago and while not blown away, it retained a certain charm and I wished there had been a sequel with a little more depth. The movie felt more like an introduction, of sorts, rather a complete tale. The omnibus is occasionally available through secondhand retailers but tends to be a little pricy due to weight and consequently higher delivery costs. I recently found a nice edition, reasonably priced and bit the bullet. It too, I am enjoying, having finished part I and soon to embark on part II. I believe I should also but the Black Dossier for further tales.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Omnibus

Other enjoyable graphic novels in recent years include:

And The Umbrella Academy Vol 1 (deluxe edition) by Gerard Way. I’d been waiting a while for the deluxe edition to be published. I first came across this when the series appeared on netflix last year. The timing was sorta right and my partner and I binged it all. I loved it both for the creative story telling and outlandishness of sorts. One of the better things I’d seen in a long while. Needless to say I went hunting for the original graphic novels and while I did find them, they were a little pricy on the secondhand market so I thought I’d wait and see if some special editions appeared and sure enough they have. There’s 3 volumes with each releasing every few months so I pre-ordered them all with the first arriving just prior to lockdown.

things abound

I think I’m entering week 7 of lockdown, or thereabouts. I figured when the library shut it’d be months before we returned though the odd bod I suspect was hoping for a few weeks. I’m somewhat unusual compared to my colleagues, working from home is old news; I spent years working from home in a previous job. This time round, it’s still the case that my job is mostly online and the bits that weren’t, very quickly were.

Weirdly, or perhaps not, my workload increased initially and for a few weeks after. It seems to have settled down though the gov has said we’re only supposed to work 7 hours with no flex. I have struggled to keep down to 7. Then again, I am glad that I have work and sad that so many do not. I am a renter without a mortgage to worry about.

I am overjoyed that we are lucky enough to have the nbn though adsl would suffice as it has in the past. It drops out on rainy days which suggests we’ll need to get the wiring looked at. We moved house prior to Christmas, downsizing, but the bigger house would’ve been good now with 2 adults and 2 adult children co-sharing a 3 bedder rather than our previous 4. All of us with different online needs. As I’m working fulltime, my life has not changed a great deal. My commute is now 10 seconds rather than an hour, which means an hour extra sleep in the morning – that will be hard to give up.

I have revisited my LibraryThing account; there’s an app now with barcode scanning. I am tempted to try and scan all my books, at least those that have barcodes. Many alas, do not. In the move, I reluctantly weeded a few boxes of books. Some I miss already…I think I got rid of my Wizard of Id collection of which I had many volumes. I have kept my Biggles, Enid Blyton, and of course Trixie Belden. Got rid of chunk of history things that I had grabbed from Dad’s books when he passed. I have been buying nicer editions of some novels, and tossing the ageing, smelly paperbacks.

Ms19 has bought a pair of roller skates which in turn has encouraged me to retrieve my old, old skates from the garage. I was unsteady initially but glad to report I still remember how, the confidence returns. We have been out twice to skate at a nearby basketball court which is sufficiently smooth and large for us to gain confidence and in my case, pick up speed as I skate the perimeter. However my upper body particularly is feeling the strain; feeling sore for a few days following each session.

As time goes on at home, I struggle to imagine what holidays look like. I had planned a 6-8 week trip in Europe to coincide with my partner’s Churchill Trust study trip. That will not happen this year and the Trust have postponed such trips to next year…I suspect at the earliest. I was saving my leave for a couple of years for this trip and now the idea of going on holidays saddens me. I am overdue a holiday and there is nowhere to go. I am keeping my fingers crossed that NZ will be a possibility later in the year.

And I am lucky, lucky that I have a job, lucky that I can still think of holidays.

a little weed

Books. I have some. Perhaps a lot. Not too many; I managed to weed a few boxes recently. Mostly I’m good with that, though there has been a couple of moments of wondering where a book was and realising sadly that it was gone. There was also a joyful discovery when I found one and realised I hadn’t found it as I thought it was by a different author.

Books weeded included a mix of fiction and non fiction, some I’d grabbed from my dad’s collection and some my own. For example dad had had many books by the historian Peter Gay, and I had one or two. A nice run but I’m not in that space now and it seemed a prudent spot to prune. Reduce. I kept a few Foucault but not all. I retain some Kant and Hobbes, Marx, Trixie Belden and Biggles, Capt America…all the Capt America.

Now that my books are sorted and shelved, I should do a count. Find the real number that I have. Because. It will not be a fixed number. I continue to acquire interesting things. Newly arrived is the Subterranean Press edition of Use of Weapons, by Ian M Banks in his Culture series. I think I read it long ago, and the books preceding; meant to continue but never got round to it. I am looking forward to reading it again.

i am not a number

Many years ago, prior even to my own existence, there was a British TV show starring Patrick McGoohan titled The Prisoner. Actually, McGoohan not only starred in it, he also created, wrote, produced, and directed it; clearly a passion project which contrasted individual needs with those of the group. It was rather surreal and ideas driven, with a certain eccentricity and a key logo being a penny farthing.

I had initially thought it was all filmed on a specially created set, but discovered later that the village where it was set was real. Portmeirion is a town in North Wales, on the River Dwyryd that was built during the mid 20th century. There is an extensive quote from Lewis Mumford in the wikipedia article noting:

an artful and playful little modern village, designed as a whole and all of a piece … a fantastic collection of architectural relics and impish modern fantasies

In the series and in the descriptions it looks deliciously quirky and eccentric. I don’t often visit places from TV or cinema but this one particularly appeals both as a reference to The Prisoner and interesting destination of its own.

Pathway beside canal in Oxford, OK.It looks like I may get to travel to Europe in 2020 as my partner will be undertaking a study trip supported by The Churchill Trust. Consequently I am putting together my own self-funded trip that will occasionally intersect with her’s as she’ll be working. The challenge is find places to visit that I’m happy to visit by myself, and the village of The Prisoner might just fit.

Location-wise, it’s not far from Dublin, possibly a few hours by bus and ferry, which is significant as it is the host city for IFLA in 2020 and I’m hoping to make the first few days of it. The last time I went to an IFLA conference was in Milan in 2009 and I think that was just after the IFLA Australia conference had been cancelled. I have good memories of the Milan conference, aside from the heat, and good friends and connections and would love to go again, hopefully Dublin will be a little cooler.

The challenge of visiting a town in Wales is to avoid another Welsh town, namely Hay-On-Wye, rumoured to have more bookshops per capita than anywhere else. I was last there in 2008, visiting many bookshops and bought more than a few books. Afterall, it’s the one place where buying books is its own form of souveniring :-)

bookish avoidance

I have lists of books to buy, kept in different places: books bookmarked, saved, noted, vaguely recalled, or simply listed. Recommendations from friends online, random stumblings, some p some e, a conversation there, an article, unrelated mentions elsewhere. Lists of books to buy, and some to read. Some are pretty, some are scary, some need to be read.

nicely bound books on a shelfSome years ago, I started blogging lists of books as a way to reduce the rate of purchase. I have a certain addiction to collecting books, their possession, ownership. Books have lined the corridors of my life, physical and mental; I can find it hard to distinguish between book as object and book as reading matter.

Upon seeing a book I liked, in a bookshop, or online, or other places, I forced myself to add it to a list on my phone. Then I would blog on new additions to the list every few weeks. Look upon my almost purchases ye mighty and despair for behold there was nothing as acquisition had been avoided.

The making of lists continues to be effective some of the time. I am buying much less these days though some of what I buy is nicer. I continue to seek nicer editions of my grotty paperbacks. I also look for new things and new authors.

a few things I have listed and managed not to buy include:

Looking at them again for this post, I am tempted by once more…

one book short

Many years ago, I used to read wine reviews in the SMH authored by Huon Hooke and liked his approach: a mixture of info and chatty. From there I ended up buying the Penguin Wine Guide which was co-authored by Hooke and Mark Shields at the time. I blogged some years ago…ok, nearly a decade back, about collecting the Guides. In that post, I commented on visiting Berkelouw’s Book Barn in Berrima and managing to pick up a guide or two. Alas my last trip wasn’t so lucky and it’s been many years since I last saw a Penguin Wine Guide I didn’t have.

Cover of 1993-94 Penguin Wine GuideThere are 22 editions in the series that I’m aware of with three published in the time since that initial post in 2010 bring my total collection to 20. I have used sites such as abebooks for tracking down other collectable titles, yet oddly never thought to search for the remaining wine guides. Popped them into the search box and found the 1993-94 edition in Germany of all places. I think postage was more than the book on that one and it arrived a couple of weeks later.

As far as I can tell I have but one remaining, the first in the series: 1990. I wasn’t sure if it existed and online searches didn’t bring up a great deal. Nor did I have the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) which would have narrowed it down. Following a few searches I discovered that the State Library of NSW had 14 of them, thankfully including the 1990 edition. I was able, as a member of the Library, to request the 1990 edition for viewing. I figured this would confirm that it actually existed and I could take a photo of the bibliographic data to improve my chances of finding my own copy.

Shortly before it arrived, I remembered another tool, that any member of the State Library has access to: Books in Print. Using that tool I was able to confirm that the ISBN was 0140146261 which made it easier to find as each edition has its own ISBN. This was confirmed when I got to view the actual book and take photos of the front cover and bibliographic data. No luck finding it so far though I did have a near miss recently. It popped up on amazon via a third party reseller but didn’t appear on the reseller’s own website. Plus the reseller’s amazon account wouldn’t deliver to Oz even though the reseller itself did. I asked a good friend in the UK to take delivery and I figured I had plenty of time as no one would want such an old edition. Unfortunately it has disappeared in the last day or so and I sorta suspect/hope that it may have been an erroneous entry.

Wine Guide Bibliographic data

I shall continue to look out for it in secondhand bookshops and perhaps set up some alerts online. On the other hand, I’m pretty happy that I’m only one short :-) I remain amused by the date expressions on each edition:

Cover of 1990 Penguin Wine Guide1991
1992-93
1993-94
1994-95
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
98|99
1999|2000
2000-2001
2001-2
2002/3
2003/2004
2004/2005
2005|2006
2007
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013

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.