These books also arrived recently

…and I haven’t had the chance to read them yet either.

Fireside reading. Well, as soon as I write more on my thesis.

Fireside reading. Well, as soon as I write more on my thesis.

That’s Ian Tregillis’s Something More Than Night, with absolutely stunning cover art. Year’s Best SF 18, which I don’t expect I’ll manage to read: I’m not good at reading short stuff. Freda Warrington’s A Dance In Blood Velvet (and that’s a title that makes me think of cupcakes). And 21st Century Science Fiction, which I may have mentioned before.

A meme for books…

There is a book meme going around. Both Daniel Franklin and Beth Bernobich seem to want me to participate…

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be “right” or “great” works, just ones that have touched you.

Gods and little fishes, this is a hard one.

1. Lois McMaster Bujold, Curse of Chalion.
2. Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls.
3. Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History – this is one of the books that convinced me history was interesting as a collection of human stories. I read it while I was still in school, and it’s at least partially responsible for how I turned into a dragnet for interesting bits of historical information.
4. Timothy Zahn, Heir to the Empire – the first science fiction novel I ever read.
5. Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts.
6. David Mattingly, Tripolitania – how often, when you’re reading for final exam, do you read a book from cover to cover, not just for the Most Useful Bits? Alas that it is, and remains, out of print, for I would dearly love a copy.
7. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum – a similar thing happened with this book.
8. Ursula LeGuin, Voices.
9. David Drake, Lt. Leary, Commanding – I’m really exceedingly fond of Drake’s Leary and Mundy SF novels, but this one was the one that convinced me to stay on for the long haul.
10. Ursula Vernon, Digger – I’m cheating, because I only finished reading the omnibus last week. But it’s going to stay under my skin for a long time.

…Limiting the list to just ten annoys me. Redemption in Indigo! Trafalgar! Terry Pratchett!

But, on the other hand, these are what’re sticking with me this week.

ASCENSION, by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Reviewed over at

It’s not every day you read a space opera novel featuring a queer woman of colour who stows away on a starship. Still less often do you read a space opera novel that includes a main character who suffers from a chronic illness while not being about the illness, or one which includes respectful, negotiated polyamorous relationships.

Cat pictures

Visi, who's taken to urinating at random all over the house.

Visi, who’s taken to urinating at random all over the house.

Visi is much recovered from his recent wound, but I suspect he is under stress from the presence of Strange Cats hanging around outside. Well, poor lad, I’d be stressed too if one of them had recently put a hole in my face.

The free vet clinic found nothing wrong with him, so he gets to live in the bathroom until I can acquire soothing cat pheromone thingies to try, and see if that calms him down enough to give him free range of the house again.


Vladimir, annoyed by the fact he did not get to eat the humans' chicken.

Vladimir, annoyed by the fact he did not get to eat the humans’ chicken.

Mind, Vlad is as calm as he always is. Cranky, but calm.

Recently arrived – but still unread – review copies

Recently arrived review copies.

Recently arrived review copies.

Peter Higgins’ Truth and Fear has, by me, the most striking cover, so I made sure it faced out. Left to right, top to bottom, that’s Truth and Fear, Gini Koch’s Alien Research, Diana Rowland’s Fury of the Demon, Seanan McGuire’s Half-Off Ragnarok, Michelle Sagara’s Touch, Irene Radford’s The Broken Dragon, Jo Walton’s My Real Children, Tina Connolly’s Copperhead, and C.S. Friedman’s Dreamwalker.

Everyone should read Justin Landon’s guest post at The Book Smugglers on gender parity and cover art:

My first call was legendary Tor Art Director, Irene Gallo. From September 2013 to August 2014 in the Tor hardcover and trade list, 90 titles had commissioned illustration (or photo-illustration). 7 were done by women., which does a tremendous amount of original illustration for its short fiction, uses female artists 21% of the time. My next stop was Lee Harris with Angry Robot who offered 5 female artists out of 26 titles in 2013, or roughly 25%. Lou Anders with Pyr indicated they worked with two female artists this year. Other publishers were contacted, but were unable to generate the data.

While my survey is hardly comprehensive or statistically significant, it raises some very disturbing patterns that demand further exploration.

Gallo offered the right question in our email exchange, “There are at least as many young women in art schools and workshops. Usually more, in fact. Why do so few remain ten years later?”

Things to read, things to do

Tor Books have sent me a review copy of David G. Hartwell’s and Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s Twenty-First Century Science Fiction. I’m unlikely to read it: it’s over 500 pages long, and I’m not much of a short fiction reader at the best of times. It contains more short fiction than I would normally read in the course of a year.

The Sleeps With Monsters column at has moved to a monthly schedule for the foreseeable future. I have a thesis to write, and this year hasn’t been very kind to my ability to write it: that really needs to change.

I still owe a review of Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. I hope to get that done by the end of December, but things have gone so much the opposite of smooth this autumn and winter that I hesitate to make any firm promises.

David Drake, Monsters of the Earth

Tor, New York, 2013.

The third in a series begun with The Legions of Fire and continued in Out of the Waters, set in an alternate Rome which Drake calls Carce. Drake is of an antiquarian bent, a Latinist who does his own translations of ancient works, and his grasp of Roman elite cultural mores, at least those from within the city of Rome itself, is fairly spot on – though he doesn’t much broaden his view outside the elite. (Roman citizens, even semi-literate soldiers, are the elite. [His not-Rome here also lacks something of the staggering filth and mortality of the ancient city that’s not reflected in its literature. {One day I’ll read a book that acknowledges ancient public baths, and the fact that they drained by overflow.}])

There are striking similarities between this and Drake’s Lord of the Isles series, in particular the broad strokes of the character types and the fact that they are forever being dragged/traveling into other worlds, mostly separately, to confront magicians whose greed, arrogance, stupidity or power-hunger threatens the existence of the whole world, en route encounter/fight monsters and strange people, to be reunited at the climax. (It is a very “Wonders Beyond Thule”/Ctesias’ “Indica” sort of strangeness, with occasional Lovecraftian elements.) But if this is the kind of thing you like – and I like it, for the most part – then this book is a hell of a lot of fun.