yet another sf list

SF books on a shelf

I posted a few years ago around desires to work my way through some of the top SF novels ever, the canon if you like. The hard bit is working out what the canon should and shouldn’t include and whether there is truly a universal approach. Many of the lists tend to focus on US and UK publications. This post points out that issue in its discussion of yet another list, this time it’s the list from World Without End. It contains lots of related lists and its main SF one contains 256 titles. Of those, I’ve read 79, or approximately 31%. Come to think of it, I’d read around 30% of the list I used in 2012 (32 out of 100). This new list contains a broader variety of titles and does manage to include a graphic novel, Watchmen, yet where is Saga? Is it more that graphic novels tend not to get counted in lists with novels…is the genre too segmented?

recycling tv

[this is a leftover draft from #blogjune that I never got round to posting – I’ve updated it a little eg in June, I’d barely watched any Once Upon a Time and I’m now partway through season 3. I hadn’t watched Daredevil but have since finished season 1]

I watch so little TV at the best of times and there are so many shows I need to watch, or even finish watching. On top of that, I occasionally get a hankering to rewatch shows I saw long ago. While this post is an attempt to keep track of them, I suspect it’s more likely to be a tombstone to my continuing failure :)

  • Firefly (rewatch)
  • Torchwood (rewatch)
  • Dr Who (watch – I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Series 1 with Christopher Eccleston)
  • Battlestar Galactica (rewatch original, watch new series)
  • The Gilmore Girls (rewatch)
  • The West Wing (watch – this failure is particularly embarrassing)
  • Jessica Jones (watch – I have at least read the comics)
  • Archer (watch – I have seen one episode)
  • Blakes 7 (rewatch – sort of, I’ve seen many episodes but not all of them. I do at least own the complete series)
  • Alias (rewatch)
  • The Blacklist (watch – have seen the first couple of episodes)
  • Stargate (watch)
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (watch – recently bought the DVD)
  • Daredevil (have watched first season, not got round to second season yet)
  • Hogan’s Heroes (rewatch – have boxed set)
  • Twin Peaks (watch – this failure is also particularly embarrassing)
  • Once Upon a Time (watch – remarkably I am watching this and am partway through third season)
  • Babylon 5 (rewatch)
  • The Professionals (rewatch in entirety – I am curious to see if I still like Bodie and Doyle)

That’s a good start but I have no doubt there’s more that I’ve forgotten.

stuff I haven’t read

There is a fun meme going round, #iconfessineverread (Con, Rachel and others) and I had fully intended this post to be in similar vein but I seem to have rambled on instead :) Perhaps I will try and list some books I should have read but haven’t, in another post.

It’s fair to say that beyond what was required for school I have read little of the literary canon. I have on occasion dipped my toe into literary waters and at one stage I was at least trying to read Booker winners. That’s mostly a fail these days. Yet what I did read I enjoyed including Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam. McEwan I particularly liked as he managed to write interesting, intelligent books that were also short :) I haven’t read of his in years either including Atonement which everyone tells me I should read.

A lot of my reading has been more what is termed “genre reading”. Truckloads of science fiction, not to mention thrillers. Later I “diversified” into fantasy and other things. These days I read a mix of SF, fantasy, graphic novels and of course gaming. I’d argue that the games I like to play generally reflect a story telling approach and could be included in a list of “stuff I read”. I’ve recently finished Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and it was split into sections labelled chapters to chart the plot progression. This worked for me and it felt like I progressed through a story of the classic 3 act approach, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think it even had a prologue and an epilogue.

I’ve not been particularly keen on writers’ festivals or conventions either. I’ve been to the odd event at the Sydney Writers’ Festival but mostly skip it. On the other hand, the few times I’ve gone I’ve usually run into people I know in the crowd and had engaging catch ups. Despite my fondness of SF, I’ve never been fond of SF conventions either and usually skip them too. Looking back I think it would have been nice to have got involved in a book club at least. I’ve had friends who’ve been in clubs for years and enjoy the continuing engagement with a group of familiar faces.

This week in fact I have started a book I should have read years ago, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I have no excuse, I even bought the hardcover when it was first published. Disappointingly even though it’s the first edition, it’s the 8th printing. I have had a look around and it seems there was a very nice edition published some years ago by Hill House. Unfortunately it’s also a little expensive.

sciffy bits

I started #blogjune with high hopes of a daily whinge and occasional rant.  I started well enough but then got caught up writing another response about blogging relevancy in response to conversations about blogging as a thing. It was mostly finished in one hit, with good stats on the “golden age” of lib blogging, it just needed a paragraph or two more. As per my usual practice, I had to put it off because life, then procrastination, thus it became a bottleneck and nothing else got blogged. It still sits unfinished and the conversation has moved on though I think it’s still useful to point out that I was whining about my own erratic and infrequent blogging back in 2001 :-)

So sciffy stuff. Con posted an article on 10 SF books that people pretend to have read. Of the list, somewhat surprisingly, I’ve read 4. Top X lists can be interesting beasts, and Con commented that such lists can be good for finding authors you haven’t heard of. I blogged a list of top 100 SF novels in 2012 of which I’d read 32 with plans to read more. 3 years later, I think I’ve only read one or two more. Oops. Both lists have good stuff and I should read more of them. Some books are in common to both lists.

I have however been reading lots of stuff that doesn’t appear on top X lists…or perhaps I’m looking at the wrong lists. I decided to re-read all the Raymond Feist novels…which ended up being a wee bit exhausting and I eventually gave up around Book 15. I’m now re-reading the Vorkosigan Saga and on to book 4. Perhaps I should be looking at fantasy lists, though of course the real answer is the lists themselves shouldn’t matter beyond Con’s original point to find new stuff to read.

The reason I’ve been re-reading series’ stuff is that my other reading had slowed for a while and it’s nice to be able to steadily chunk through novel after novel. Lying in bed reading novels rather than playing handheld games or reading endless article feeds. Revisiting old friends and stories has been fun too and it’s nice to discover that the writing still sucks me in. Have been meaning to re-read Dune too, though I think I’ll do it as a standalone.

shelf by shelf 17 – tales of war

Growing up I loved war stories and escapism generally…unsurprising given all the Biggles’ books I have. One of my favourite movies growing up was “The Great Escape” which was based on a book by Paul Brickhill. I have it, as well the biography of Jerry Sage, simply titled “Sage”. Steve McQueen’s character in the movie, Hilts, took some inspiration from Sage, though wikipedia suggests another pilot and doesn’t refer to Sage at all. I found Sage’s book an engrossing read and Sage himself a fascinating character.

My other favourite destination for stories about WWII is P.R. Reid’s The Colditz Story and its sequel, The Latter Days at Colditz. The Great Escape was set in a camp, however Colditz was a castle. I don’t recall if I watched the TV series first or read the books. I recall finding the first book in a box at my grandmother’s place. I think it was actually one of dad’s old books but I’m not entirely sure these days.

Nestled away at the far end of the shelf are the books by Ivan Southall, particularly several in his “Simon Black” series. I think Southall was one of my favourite Australian writers growing up, along with Patricia Wrightson. I don’t think I ever read anything by Colin Thiele, though I did see the film of “Storm Boy” as a child. At the right end of the shelf are the all the Star Trek books I owned. I enjoyed the novelisations of several of movies as well as a few others. I’m a bit old school and really only watched the original series. I tried to get into Nextgen when it started and gave up after 2-3 seasons. Friends assure me it got better with 4th season. I’ve also loved the recent movies that have rebooted the show.

of things…and malazan

Holidays: needed, taken, appreciated. Returned.

My first decent holiday since 2010 when I spent 2 weeks, post LIANZA, in NZ and tramped the Routeburn. I’ve just spent a little over 3 weeks in Borneo, or more precisely in the northern Malaysian part as the island of Borneo is split between Malaysia and Indonesia. I travelled there with a mate on a 22 day trip with Intrepid. Intrepid trips are for small groups, usually up to a dozen with a guide/admin person. This trip was a combination of two trips and there were 8 of us on the first half and 12 on the second (including 4 from the first). Will perhaps speak more of the trip on a future post but I’ve at least uploaded all my photos and am slowly adding descriptions.

For most of the trip, I kept waking in Sydney time (around 7) which alas is around 4am Borneo time. Now that I’m back I’m going to bed around 1.30am Sydney time (10.30pm Borneo) which is really hurting when I have to get up at 7am (10am Borneo). I’m hoping this will resolve itself sooner rather than later.

Pre-trip, I was exhausted. Now, I seem to have topped up my reserves. I’m enjoying being back at work and think I have some balance once again. I have a clearer idea of what I’m doing and why; a better sense of my direction.

Despite a plan to stay offline for the trip, I did check in occasionally. Alas this meant that early on in the trip I saw an email from a bookseller in the UK relating to my Malazan obsession. He’d previously sold me book 2 (Deadhouse Gates) of the Subterranean Press limited edition for GBP270 (around AUD$420) thereby giving me the rights to books 3-10 of the same number as they’re released (approx every six months with book 3 currently on pre-order). The good news was that he’d found book 1 (Gardens of the Moon) of the same number on ebay, the bad news was that the asking price was USD$800. I don’t recall seeing the SubPress edition of Gardens on ebay at all ie it rarely appears for sale and for the same number as the edition of book 2 I have was a rather large stroke of luck.

I left it for a few days and realised that I didn’t really have a lot of choice, though the price was high, I needed it to complete my eventual set. The downside is that I didn’t have great net access in Borneo and was mostly reliant on wifi access in the occasional hotel/hostel. I had a few failed attempts at creating an ebay account and finally succeeded a week or so later. Then spent a week (with jungle treks in the middle), negotiating with the seller. The good news is that they were willing to drop their price to USD$650. That’s still on the expensive end but a little more comfortable than the initial price. Books 3-10 will cost me around USD$150ish each. Even better, the book was waiting for me when I returned home and now sits beside Book 2 on the shelf.

Oh, almost forgot, I’ve grown a beard. First time in a decade or so that I’ve had hair on my face…I think 1996 was the last year I had any sort of facial hair. Borneo is a very hot and humid country…so humid that trying to shave while sweating was a little icky. This also meant that my glasses tended to fog up so I stopped wearing them for three weeks too. In addition, not all places I stayed had available powerpoints. So I decided to let it go and see how it turned out.  I’m liking it. All the bits that were bright ginger last time I now grey. The other noticeable change is that last time was still in my shy days and it could be argued that I was hiding behind my beard. These days, it seems to suit, and my sense of me is not lost.


I sorta ran out of puff on #blogjune. I still had plenty of ideas to blog about but mostly I was tired; new job+filmfest has been a little exhausting. I’m hoping to squeeze in a holiday this year, having missed a decent break last year – though my week or so off in Perth & Margaret River did help. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that work will let me take a few weeks off so I can visit Borneo with a mate later in the year.

It’s rather worrisome, that in the middle of the National Year of Reading, I am struggling to read. I’ve managed but a few books this year, both e and p. Perhaps this year, I should focus more on easy reading and SF. I just bought the e of the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of the new Bujold and lo and behold, I’m straight into it. Yet other reading has lagged. Perhaps I’m attempting too many “literary” novels at the moment…I’m even midway through a book of a conversation with Umberto Eco on the future of the book. Haven’t touched it a week, but Bujold…oh yeah. Sookie…oh yeah.

It’s been nearly a month since the passing of Ray Bradbury. I still haven’t re-read “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed” though I have at least leafed through it; browsing the occasional paragraph. For that casual examination, I already suspect there’s more to the story than I remembered. That’s unsurprising for a work of Bradbury’s: his work warrants re-readings…re-visitings. Some of his stories I have read several times but I suspect I’ve only read “Dark they were…” the once…and it remains ever stuck in my head. It was the first of his, the first story that really sucked me in I s’pose. Captured me. I’ve just read a blog of Gaiman’s on Bradbury and it contained a certain resonance that I could connect with, and connect my sense of Bradbury.