i am a dodgy librarian

I don’t read academic papers.

There I’ve said it. For work stuff, it’s more fun doing than reading. Yet with so many things, it is the reading that is the fun part. I go to conferences and listen to folk talk about their papers but rarely read the paper itself. When I hit a thing at work that needs more thought, I’ll check online, do a google, find key blogs or forums in that area.

I don’t even use google scholar.

I’m not active in academic circles. I’m not part of the conversation nor the production around academic papers. I sometimes skim a paper looking for something specific or a key outcome.

Perhaps I am not sufficiently reflective of the work I do. I have access to lots of academic papers via my library. I do engage here and there, usually more in a community of interest sort of way. Conference papers are almost like a calling card of finding people of interest or relevance. I am curious about their insights and the stuff around their papers and what they do.

Perhaps there is some sort of middle career lethargy going on. I’m conscious that I need to share more of what I’m doing but a blog post means I can get to the nitty gritty quicker, academic papers require more work, bigger hurdles. Hmmm…the same could be said of reading…blogs you can get straight into, but academic papers demand more, have more hurdles. Blogs can be conversational and papers formal.

Perhaps I find formal environments challenging, of which academic papers are but one part. I like piecemeal, adhoc, adlib, playing with bits and pieces. Formal papers seem like another sort of space.

While writing this, I read a comment of Ruth’s on another post:

“Perhaps the value is in the dedicated time to share one’s thoughts, rather than the medium.”

That is a sentiment that I like a lot.

not day 7 yet

I am ruminating on Con’s entry yesterday and not sure I quite have the words yet. A familiar space has gone and I’m not sure if it’s me or the space. I commented on an absence of conversational engagement but that’s not quite right and I want to say some sort of silo-ing but I am unclear where the silos are, or even if they’re generational of sorts.

10 years ago, 15 years ago, perhaps more, there was the fun of the new and a large bunch of folk all trying out new things together. It started out slow: 1 then a few, then a few more, then at some point or other it hit critical mass. It seemed to be cross generational and by generational perhaps I mean to say cohorts or tribes rather than age specific as groups picked up and came on board.

Newgrad stuff took off too. None of those original bunches are newgrad anymore: some are mid career, some top career, some retired, some moved on entirely. Twitter is sort of a bunch of familiar faces with occasional new folk but nothing revolutionary.

Perhaps the wave of social media excitement has crested and folk are tired. Then again, #blogjune seemed to start initially as a means to revitalisation. Recognition then, that we were falling off. The number of friends I have on facebook doesn’t change a lot whereas twitter is more public with chopping and changing. I keep trying instagram but it lacks traction for me. I initiate stuff on facebook but mostly respond on twitter. 2-3 forums seems to be about my limit.

Other folk do other things. Perhaps we now are the “old folk”, “old guard”, the folk we railed against and our approaches are less relevant. Perhaps we didn’t rail at all and that was a convenient ploy. An aspect of me and who I am is the struggle to easily establish new friends; friending people takes years. Perhaps that limits my ability to engage these days.

We are more careful these days, watching what we say, what we do. Comments in jest can be misconstrued, quoted out of context later. Everybody is in our spaces now, everything recorded. It’s tricky to find the right size space; a space sufficiently large for conversations by multiple players but not too large that conversations get drowned out and forgotten. Large enough to have a flow of people without being a quickly flowing river.

The fun has gone, but habits of community and communication remain. I have been here before. I had a decade or so swept up in the glories of usenet for online discussion across the late 80s and 90s. Then there was a pause for a while and then social media and public access took off. Different people for different times.

Perhaps pauses are natural as we stroll.

the future of old

What even does that look like? Saw a post from a friend pondering retirement, future and planning and it’s a space I occasionally wonder about and whether I could indeed afford to retire. If I did retire what would I do, what is life like without the job I have.

Privilege blah blah blah plays a part in this conversation of course. I’m almost 53 and I have a good job and own a flat with mortgage paid off. My super is ok but not fab, previous jobs paid much lower and a decade as a professional student barely paid at all. I cannot envisage retiring; I like my work and remain passionate for it and the industry I work in. If I stop working I’d probably have to stop buying pretty books – on the other hand, I have plenty to read.

Post 65 is a tricky space as my dad died at 65 while working fulltime and doing a PhD part time. Mum did retire but her final years were physically painful with athritis and osteo. My oldest grandparent (great-gran actually) died at 93 and I suspect they had some form of dementia. I sort of figure my life expectancy probably maxes out at around 80.

I joke about wanting gaming consoles in the nursing home but wonder if I’ll be coordinated enough to play them.

I’m happy enough now though thinking about the future a little. I find comparing myself to others an exercise in anxiety and ultimately different people have different needs and different lives. There isn’t a one size fits all in this conversation. I don’t want a lot of things but I don’t want to end up homeless either.

Still at 52, I am happily surprised to find myself in a satisfying job doing things I love and associating with interesting people.


Slept in. Cocooned in the doona. Odd dreams about living and working from home in the outer burbs yet somehow some combo of Barcelona/Rome/New York was a 10 minute walk away with a grand central style train station. A large place with a spooky cellar. An itinerant chap was living in the cellar. Was spooky initially but we chatted and I was fine with him living there. A big backyard and I had no idea how to mow it. It seemed to be a temporary place; all my stuff was in the other house with my partner and we’d spend weekends together. There was some sort of techerie that needed addressing somewhere. The house was empty yet there was a wheelchair in a spare room.

It reads a little like the start of a horror story, yet felt relaxed and comfy.

Had a late brekky and there’s something about a 1pm brekky on a sunlit afternoon with shadows stretching away. I hit a mental moment of relaxation…happy thinking on things and ideas and directions. The travel section of the paper had a nice suggestion for a place to stay in Stanley, Tas. We may visit Stanley and that may work…or perhaps we’ll stay in Burnie – a few days in Burnie and a few in Launceston. Perhaps a distillery visit. Quiet towns and walking. Dunno. A nice dinner in Launceston would be good and there’s interesting options.

Bought more Zooom today. So so good.

Blogging without blogging about work is a little tricky. Work is such a large part of me and what I do and often what I like to do. But blogging about work requires caution – I don’t mean that in a sinister way. Work is an institution and things are known and unknown. I don’t do a lot in public spaces, my work is more back room, supporting those in the patron facing spaces.

Most of my work conversations are with staff or with suppliers, there’s not a lot of reason for me to talk to non library people. What I do is a mix of spreadsheets and budgets and stats and tech and negotiations and planning and preparing and exploring and evaluating. Talking about my work needs to steer a path away from selling my work I think.


Quiet. Uneventful. Of no fixed mood. Minimal creativity.

I am however sipping a rather nice beer, Zoooom choc-pecan mudcake stout from Sauce. First released last year early on in lockdown and I wasn’t able to grab any. Walked into the local bottle shop a couple of weeks ago and they had some. Wow! Way tasty, a hint of nuts and a silky smooth texture. This might be a new favourite. Strong at 9% or 2.7 standard drinks per can.

I went to a brewery twice last year, once to meet a couple of friends as things opened up a little, later for a friend’s 50th. I’m still not going out much; I s’pose while covid continues to be ever present and the risk of another outbreak in Sydney remains, I continue to be cautious.

Weekends usually involve the newspaper in a cafe and time with family. Definitely not keen to go to bars and people-y places much. We have cautiously booked flights for a week in Tassie in August, fingers crossed we’re still good then.

Had my first shot of the AstroZeneca vaccine on Monday, with no side effects. Second injection is scheduled for a few days after I get back from Tassie. Fingers crossed.

I miss travel. A lot.

I’ve even investigated train trips across the country…actually it’d be nice to visit Perth again too, perhaps head north to Broome. My partner mentioned a trip to the Kimberley and that’d be fab, always wanted to go there. I am fortunate in that I have managed to visit every state and capital city at least twice and driven across great swathes of the country. Yet there is still so much to see.

I’d love to return to Uluru though I wouldn’t climb it even if it were allowed. I will confess I did so as a teenager in the 80s. It’s an odd parallel as in the 70s dad used to take me on land rights’ rallies for first australians yet in the 80s I still wanted to climb the rock. My past sins. We also did a tour round the base and my sister and mum flew over it in a small aircraft which did not agree with my sister.

book folk online

I have had an abebooks account for many years, and have bought from secondhand booksellers from around the world. Often buying a book is a little anonymous and disconnected and you don’t often get the chitchat you might get in person. Then again, I tend to be shyer in secondhand bookshops and never chitchatted much. Online often meant I could buy the thing and avoid the conversation :-)

Perhaps I’m coming round to being the person it would have been nice to have been 30 years ago. I lamented elsewhere, my lack of engagement with book conventions and worldcons for science fiction. I am the person I am now and that’s fine. The beauty of sites like abeooks is that they provide easy access to bookshops around the world and at times an easier way to buy from bookshops that aren’t english, yet have interesting wares.

Occasionally, these bookshops from around the world will send chatty emails, sometimes I respond though the challenge is that I don’t end up being a regular as it were. Though that is less and less true and I have ended up with membership accounts on a couple eg Kathmandu Books and Camelot Books in the US. Camelot for example, are able to hold books for me and package together to save on postage – postage rates out of the US these days are horrible.

I s’pose I’m building up a list of my own trusted retailers. Bookshops that provide accurate descriptions and pictures, pack well, and engage. Some descriptions online don’t always match what you end up with. Visiting a bookshop in person you can see what you’re getting and assess the worth on the spot. Buying online is a different experience with a little more trust involved. I’ve mostly bought well but have had occasional issues with for example ex library books that didn’t indicate sufficiently the extent of library markings and stickers.

I commented elsewhere that I’ve been joining a few facebook groups on books and collecting. I’ve even bought some books from other participants eg the recently arrived Broken Earth trilogy. I ordered a book last night via abebooks (A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick, Suntup Artist Gift Edition) from a bookshop called Barsoom Books and it turns out I’ve chatted to the guy from there occasionally in the facebook groups. Was nice to be dealing with someone familiar, and from the scene as it were.

more piles of reading

Yesterday I talked about my piles. I sorta like talking about my piles so I think I’ll do it again. Books that is. Perhaps mental piles as they’re mostly on shelves whereas a pile may imply a lack of order. I s’pose the next pile is the stuff waiting to be read though even then it’s not simple as there’s stuff I’m keen to read as soon as possible, stuff I’d like to read in the next few months, and stuff I’d like to read eventually. Things can move from pile to pile at will, and with new books arriving, there is not a fixed amount of books to read or even re-read, some books can be even be re-read multiple times – I’m looking at you Miles :-)

Currently in the wings pile – stuff I’d like to read sooner

  • The Gold-Jade Dragon by Janeen Webb – nice edition by an Australian author published via PS Publishing – I’m collecting all their Australian releases. They previously did a novella of her’s, The Dragon’s Child, so I’m looking forward to the next book. I managed to score book 6 of 100.
  • The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemison – this is book 2 of the Inheritance trilogy and I loved the previous book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which picked up the Locus award for best first novel.
  • The Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemison – I have recently picked up the SubPress editions in matching numbers of this later trilogy by Jemisin. Each book in the trilogy separately won a Hugo award, the first trilogy to do so.
  • Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis – book 1 of a trilogy set in alternate history of world war 2. I tend to avoid, with exceptions, alternate histories but this popped up in a few specialist groups on facebook with good comments. It’s a nice edition too.
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – I recently picked up a signed first edition relatively cheaply US$65) as I really enjoyed her earlier work, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – the latter I’ve recently discovered I’ve lost the paperback of, so I’m looking out for a nice edition to replace it.
  • Colditz: The Full Story by PR Reid – as a teenage lad I loved Reid’s stories of Colditz, full of escapism. This a folio edition and I am unsure as to how much overlap there is with the old paperbacks I have. I need to sit and compare properly.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen – Steven Erikson – I have talked of these at length and have been collecting the SubPress editions. The final book arrived a few months ago and I hope to do a full re-read using these beautiful editions. On my first read through I read the first couple in print and the rest as ebooks. On the 2nd and 3rd re-reads, I read them all in ebook format. I am curious how how I will go reading these hardcover editions…they will be so heavy to hold, particularly the later books.
  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu – this is book 2 of the trilogy, following The Three Body Problem. I really should have read this last year and had started but things got in the way and I haven’t got back to it yet. SubPress editions of course
  • The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – this is book 3 in his 4 book series of the Labyrinth of Forgotten Books set in Barcelona. I’ve recently re-read the first two so that I can read through the last 2 now that I have nice editions of them all.

piles of reading

Piles. Endless piles. Books to read. Books I’m reading. Books I’ve paused. Books I want to re-read. Books virtual. Books physical. Books to look at. Books to admire. New arrivals. Old arrivals. I shuffle. I rearrange. I shelve. I re-shelve.

Currently reading:

  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – I’ve got about an hour to go according to my ereader. I think I’ve had an hour to go for nearly a month. It was fun and I must get back and finish it but I keep getting distracted by other books.
  • In Darkness Visible by Tony Jones – Jones is most recently known as the former host of Q&A and has written a couple of political thrillers, this being the second. I enjoyed the first and started this one recently on the ereader, forgetting I was still reading Midnight Library.
  • Unfettered 2 – edited by Shawn Speakman. A collection of fantasy tales. This was a wee bit eccy and I did um and ah over buying it, but ultimately the cause is good and the book pretty; bound in leather and housed in a slipcase. It resides in the pile beside the bed.
  • The Absolute Sandman Vol 3 by Neil Gaiman – I’m doing a slow re-read of these and truth be told I don’t think I ever read the series in its entirety. Plus there’s been further instalments which need to be read too.
  • Tales From Two Pockets by Karel Capek – inspired by a post on Librarything, I sought out a copy of the folio society edition and found one cheaply (about US$20). I’ve read a couple of stories and so far so good. This lives in the book bag/shelf thingy that hangs off the bed
  • The Gifts of Reading: Essays on the joys of reading, giving, and receiving books, curated by Jennie Orchard. Also in the book bag/shelf thingy where the ereader also resides
  • Walking Home: Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way by Simon Armitage – I like reading tales of folk walking the Pennine Way and have a somewhat forlorn hope of walking it one day myself – though at the same time it sounds wet, chilly and miserable. This is on the ereader as told by the poet author, I dip into this occasionally and I’m almost finished. Like Midnight Library, I think I have about an hour to go.
  • The Lost Gutenberg: The astounding story of one book’s five hundred year odyssey by Margaret Leslie Davis – this resides on a shelf at the foot of the bed, just under the shelf with the Absolute Sandman. I’ve read two chapters and need to return, particularly as my partner has recently finished it :-)

#blogjune…i’m running out of snappy titles

I am unsure if #blogjune will be a thing this year, to be honest, I think I’m rather past it and the care factor. I suspect I’ve said variations of that since the beginning. Oh I forgot, my first post of #blogjune usually begins with:


or similar, perhaps less h and more r.

So 2021 here we are. Perhaps this I will try recycling ideas from the start of this instance of this blog ie the stuff that is still easily accessible. I have talked too much of older versions so I figure this might be the year to recycle the current version, but with new bits [narrator: unlikely] and new images [narrator: likely but they’ll just be more books].

There were murmurings last week of doing stuff for #blogjune. Someone even threatened I take up a variation of a suggestion of a Lem idea and write reviews of movies that don’t exist.

Though I drink whisky regularly [narrator: nightly] I think I’ve moved on from my obsession in that direction. These days I’ve moved back to books and collecting books [narrator: I warned you about the books] so I could chat about collecting I s’pose and post pictures of the pretty books I have [narrator: I warned you about posting images of books].

Mostly I don’t care. Some years I start with a plan. I still have lists of things to blog about from years gone by. Blogging every day is sometimes easy, sometimes hard, sometimes I just don’t care.

Some years I fudge day by day.

This year, Sydney filmfest has been moved from June to August depriving me of much content, and content about content. I might have to work a little harder this year to churn out daily posts. To be fair, even with filmfest, some years I struggle. If I am in the mood, there will be posts. If I am not in the mood, there may not be posts. Perhaps.

Anyway, #blogjune is off again.

a bunch of hugos

I’ve read lots of science fiction over the years, or speculative fiction, or fantasy, or other things that sort of look like those things. I’ve realised recently that in my 50s I am increasingly seeking out award winners to purchase and read. As a librarian I am supportive of loaning and lending; folk reading books and passing them on to others. Whereas I collect and acquire, I own and I retain, I hold and I cherish. I have occasionally loaned books to others and sometimes get them back, occasionally I realise years later that there are some I don’t get back.

On to award winners. I have tended to read them incidentally, as I have come across them in my meanderings through bookshops: physically and digitally. I have read things I’ve loved that haven’t won awards, and not loved some award winners. Yet award winners tend to be at least interesting, perhaps a step in a different direction. There are some I’ve skipped eg Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book as they concern alternate histories which I’m not fond of, yet I have read alternate histories by others such as Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

Below is a list of all the winners of the Hugo awards which I tend to regard as one of the top awards, along with the Nebula, Locus, Aurealis, Philip K Dick, and others. Anyway I thought it’d be interesting to go through each and list the ones I read and owned. A different sort of list to circulate. For each book listed I have added 2 of 3 symbols such:

  • + I own
  • $ I own fancy edition – usually Easton Press or Folio Society or Subterranean or Suntup or Centipede or Grim Oak etc
  • # read – have I actually read the bloody thing.

I’ve included one of the Retro Hugos which were awarded much later to fill missing years. Of those I gather, only one has been awarded post 1953 when the awards themselves began – as that’s a Bradbury I can’t help but include it.

  • 1953 The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • 1954 $# Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [retro hugo]
  • 1955 They’d Rather Be Right (also known as The Forever Machine) by Mark Clifton & Frank Riley
  • 1956 Double Star Robert A Heinlein
  • 1958 The Big Time by Fritz Leiber
  • 1959 $# A Case of Conscience by James Blish [beat Heinlein’s Have Space Suit Will Travel]
  • 1960 $# Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein
  • 1961 +# A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M Miller
  • 1962 $# Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein
  • 1963 $# The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
  • 1964 +# Way Station by Clifford D Simak [also known as Here Gather the Stars]
  • 1965 +# The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber
  • 1966 $# [joint winner] Dune by Frank Herbert [I own multiple editions: basic omnibus, Easton Press, Folio Society, eventually Centipede Press I hope]
  • 1966 [joint winner] The Immortal by Roger Zelazny [also known as …And Call Me Conrad]
  • 1967 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
  • 1968 Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
  • 1969 $ Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
  • 1970 $ The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin [I’ve read so many of her’s yet still it waits]
  • 1971 +# Ringworld by Larry Niven [Centipede Press are planning to release a special edition]
  • 1972 To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer [used to see it the shops and never quite bought it]
  • 1973 The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
  • 1974 +# Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke
  • 1975 $# The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin [this was the first of her’s I read]
  • 1976 The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • 1977 Where Late the Sweet Birds Sing by Kate Wilhelm [not read much by her but have read some of a 2 volume collection of her short stories from Centipede Press]
  • 1978 +# Gateway by Frederik Pohl
  • 1979 +# Dreamsnake by Vonda N McIntyre [she wrote a bunch of star trek novels which is I came across her initially]
  • 1980 The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke
  • 1981 The Snow Queen by Joan D Vinge
  • 1982 Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh
  • 1983 +# Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov [been a long time since I read his Foundation series but I tend to feel this is a weaker entry]
  • 1984 + Startide Rising by David Brin [also meant to read it and read others of his]
  • 1985 +# Neuromancer by William Gibson [I can’t afford the special editions of this one]
  • 1986 $# Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card [love it and have read it several times, hate the politics of the author]
  • 1987 +# Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card [I anticipate getting the fancy edition in a few weeks]
  • 1988 The Uplift War by David Brin
  • 1989 Cyteen by CJ Cherryh [never read her adnd was alas never attracted by the blurbs – perhaps I need to try her hugos at least]
  • 1990 Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • 1991 +# The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • 1992 +# Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • 1993 +# [joint winner] A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
  • 1993 [joint winner] Doomsday Book by Connie Willis [I recently skipped the SubPress edition of this as I’m nostly not interested in alternate histories]
  • 1994 Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • 1995 +# Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • 1996 The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  • 1997 Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • 1998 Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
  • 1999 To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
  • 2000 A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  • 2001 +# Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
  • 2002 +# American Gods by Neil Gaiman [if anything I s’pose I’m disappointed he didn’t get a hugo for Sandman]
  • 2003 Hominids by Robert J Sawyer
  • 2004 Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • 2005 ?# Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke [? as I can no longer find my paperback; I suspect I loaned it to someone long ago. Currently tempted to replace with a fancy edition]
  • 2006 Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
  • 2007 Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
  • 2008 The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
  • 2009 $# The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman [possibly one of my favourite Gaiman books]
  • 2010 $# [joint winner] The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi [I only read it recently and then bought the fancy edition]
  • 2010 $ [joint winner] The City & The City by China Mieville
  • 2011 Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
  • 2012 Among Others by Jo Walton
  • 2013 Redshirts by John Scalzi [I have read others by him but not this one yet]
  • 2014 Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie [had an opportunity in the last week to buy the fancy version of the trilogy but passed as I bought a trilogy by Jemisin – see below]
  • 2015 $# The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu; translated by Ken Liu
  • 2016 $ The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin [Book 1 of first trilogy ever for all 3 books to get a hugo; managed to find fancy set with matching numbers this week]
  • 2017 $ The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin [Book 2 of first trilogy to win hugo]
  • 2018 $ The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin [Book 3 of first trilogy to win hugo]
  • 2019 The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • 2020 A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine