Interview at Scy-Fy

S. C. Flynn over at Scy-Fy was kind enough to invite me over to his blog for an interview. So, if you’ve ever wondered who the hell is this sarcastic twit people keep calling “Couch,” this interview might shed a little bit of light on the matter.

So, tonight, I bring you…

Interview with From Couch to Moon at Scy-Fy: The Blog of S. C. Flynn

… and for the tl;dr, we learn that I am opinionated about books, concerned about the future of the Internet, and I hate toothpaste commercials.

But seriously, go over there, if only to check out Scy-Fy’s neat and tidy bookshelves.

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) by Ray Bradbury

Something_wicked_this_way_comes_first“He stared at fathoms of reflections. You could never strike bottom there. It was like winter standing tall, waiting to kill you with a glance” (p. 62).

“Stay away from the maze where winter slept” (p. 122).

Has anyone ever finished a mirror maze? I have not. Not out of some existential fear like Bradbury suggests. Just the fear of banging my nose on a pane of bendy glass is enough to prevent me from venturing further than a few feet inside, arms outstretched, before I back up and scurry out the entrance. And, yes, I’ve had to be rescued at least once.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a mirror maze of another kind, the existential kind, although it’s accompanied by some of the same appeal and angst. It recollects our pasts, that famous Bradburian nostalgia, and we see ourselves and our loved ones in his contemplative meditations. Like a warped mirror, Bradbury amplifies, intensifies, stretches, augments, and he stuffs the extra spaces with tenderly poignant musings. I get a pang in my gut when I read his prose, it’s so excruciatingly true and beautiful. Some people have physical reactions to art. I have a physical reaction when I read stuff like this.

But this is about Halloween. Not about my sensitivity to distinctive metaphors. (But he compares the mother’s optimism to fresh milk! *swoon*)

Here’s something scary… Continue reading

Big Sky fanzine, the Hugos, and other updates

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Want to increase your SF cred? You must check out Big Sky #3 & #4, the latest editions of the gorgeous book review fanzine, released this month for LonCon3. Issues #3 and #4 are dedicated to the Gollancz SF Masterworks list, in which SF fans share their thoughts about critically acclaimed works of the genre. Contributors include familiar names from the SF world, including some of my favorite writers, critics, and fellow blogger buddies from around the web. (Some of my reviews are in there, too.)

What else has happened lately? Continue reading

I’m back! So, what did I miss?

Greetings Reader Friends!

I’m back! Armed with an E-stack of books and a spotty WiFi connection, I managed to read my way through the past month, and abstain from Internet communication. In addition, I spent many days at the beach, ate good food, saw beautiful places, and crossed some things off my bucket list. Oh, and I joined the Mile-High Club! (That means vomiting at 30,000 feet, right?)

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It’s blurry, but I didn’t care.

 

Although it was all refreshing, I am ready to dive back in with new book reviews, and catch up on all my fellow bloggers’ insights and witticisms.

 

 

Autobots Have Taken Over the From Couch to Moon Blog!

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The WordPress autobots have decided that Megan needs some well-deserved R&R&MR (rest & relaxation & more reading), so they have taken over the From Couch to Moon Blog for the month of July. The autobots have planned some exciting posts about popular SF novels… some of which were read ages ago but were never posted.

Here’s hoping they post… the autobots have not always proven reliable in this matter. Enjoy and feel free to comment, disagree, or make snide remarks. Megan will respond as soon as she is released… er, as soon as she returns.

In the meantime, check out the index!

 

A SciFi Monkey Story

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”’Japanese Macaque”’ (”Macaca fuscata”) October 4, 2004. One of Iwatayama Monkey Park’s 170 monkeys. Photographer: David Turner {{GFDL}

I was at a workshop this week, and the presenter imparted this lovely bit of [misleading] wisdom:

In a 30-year study of the behavior of Japanese Macaque monkeys, one population of monkeys was given crates of sweet potatoes covered in dirt. At first, the monkeys ate the sweet potatoes and spat out the dirt, but one day, a young monkey discovered that water could wash off the dirt. That monkey taught the water trick to all of its hip little friends, and finally, grudgingly, the young monkeys taught the older generations how to wash their potatoes. Eventually, all of the monkeys washed their potatoes before consumption.

When the researchers estimated that the hundredth monkey had learned to wash its potatoes, the washing behavior was suddenly observed among populations of monkeys on other islands! The researchers determined that this behavior was proof that positive behaviors, when shared by a community of one hundred or more, can metaphysically leap into other populations, without any verbal or proximate contact, or monkey wi-fi. 

The researchers called this The Hundredth Monkey Effect.

We’re talking about psychic monkeys, people!

The presenter shared the story in order to illustrate the power of deliberate, positive behavior, and the importance of youth culture (although the youth component is left out of the stories I’ve found online).

That’s lovely, really, but the story is misleading, and the science is false, which the above link explains further down into the article. Still, the presenter believed the story and explained it as proven scientific fact, and the audience was entranced. But as soon as she started talking about behaviors leaping across space, byway of quantum physics (she really said “quantum physics”), I called, “Bullshit.” (Well, I muttered “bullshit” to myself and started googling for the deets on my phone.)

Anyway, it turns out that Japanese macaque monkeys can swim. And critical thinking is an important skill. And, it is possible to be a skeptic and enjoy SF, and recognize the difference.

Has anyone heard this story before? It was a first for me, but apparently it’s a common tale.

And, if you like scienc-y, critical thinking things, you should check out Science Book A Day, my favorite nonfiction book blog. I was flattered that Mr. PopSciGuy himself, George Aranda, asked me to provide a list this week of some my favorite scienc-y Sci Fi books. It was quite a task, but I did my best to sample from many styles and decades. I’ll also keep it posted on the “Suggested Reading Lists” link on the left side bar.

SF Book Award Season Begins…

…because who needs sports when you have frivolous book award competitions?

Just a quick note that two major SF Book Awards have open nomination periods, one of which is about to close:

Both competitions require paid membership to nominate and vote. If you are curious about other major SF awards coming up, you can view this handy little document, which is totally homemade and may require some gentle feedback. (gentle, I said.)

I will not be participating in the nominating process this year because I spent most of last year reading the past Hugo nominees, and avoided most new releases. However, I will be reading the shortlisted Hugos once they are announced this spring, so I am counting on you contemporary readers to nominate some decent books so I don’t have to read crap this year. (I’m about done with overt metaness, sexy dark lords, and zombie bloggers. Oh, and steampunk zombie apocalyptic history.)

May the best novelists with the most overzealous fans with resources earn the most nominations!

Happy Nominating!

Looking for a good book to read? Here are my next reads for October

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Since taking on this blog, I’ve managed to complete about one book per week, so I thought it would be a good idea to plot out my books for the month, in case someone wants to read along. Besides that, I thought it would be considerably easier to have them all ready to go on my Kindle, rather than finish a book and think, “Oh, crap, what am I going to read next?” and then shuffle through the Hugo list and curse the lack of availability of vintage sci-fi downloads.

So, these are the books I plan to read this month, and the order in which I expect to read them:

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin- Vintage sci-fi, Hugo Award winner (1975). Already reading it and I am in love with Le Guin’s prose. Jo Walton’s Among Others inspired me to give Le Guin a shot because she was the favorite author of the lead character. Her writing is beautiful and philosophical. It’s about an alien physicist who visits the planet from which his people emigrated thousands of years prior. His world is anarchical, whereas the world he visits is much like Earth, with a variety of social and economic systems. His reaction to these money- and law-based systems is enlightening.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison- I’m excited to read this 2011 Hugo nominee that lost to Connie Willis’ Blackout/All ClearI know little about it, but it seems to be about gods that walk around on earth, and are used and manipulated by the people. It seems like it might be a combination of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (read but not reviewed) and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest- This 2010 Hugo nominee lost to both China Mieville’s The City & The City and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. While I enjoyed The City, but strongly disliked The Windup Girl, I have been curious to try this novel, which appears to be a steampunk Civil War novel with zombies.

Neuromancer by William Gibson- It’s been a while since I’ve read some real hard sci-fi, and this 1985 Hugo winner seems perfect. It popularized the cyberpunk craze that drove a lot of nineties sci-fi.

Rendevous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke- In the past few months, I’ve read Asimov and Heinlein, so I better round out my vintage sci-fi reads by adding the final author of “The Big Three.” This space exploration novel won the 1974 Hugo Award and is considered one of his finest works.

I’m excited! New month, new season, and a new “stack” of books to explore.

 

2013 Hugo Best Novel Announced! Redshirts wins? I have an opinion about that.

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I stayed up late last night to learn the results of the 2013 Hugo Awards that were announced in San Antonio at LoneStarCon. I opted to follow along on Twitter while watching the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

And how fitting, considering Redshirts won. If you’ve read my previous post about each of the 2013 nominees, you would understand why I am both shocked and confused. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Redshirts, it was a little too flippant and silly to deserve such a career-making prize. The story was, at best, a fun, fanboy parody of a space opera, with the novelty of a meta-twist at the end. That, and John Scalzi’s growing fandom was enough to expect a nomination, but I really did not expect it to win the award. The story was so tongue-in-cheek, I’m surprised Scalzi isn’t walking around with a hole in the side of his face.

Then, the other shocker. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance won 2nd place. WTF? Apparently, a weak plot with two-dimensional characters and poor writing does not matter if you add it your previously long-standing and highly acclaimed series.

So, what have I learned this year? Never underestimate the loyalty of the fans.

Furthermore, my expected winner (2013) and hopeful winner (Throne of the Crescent Moon) landed 3rd and 4th spots, while Blackout, a book I was surprised to enjoy, got last place.

I suck at awards predictions. This is like junior-high me and the MTV music video awards all over again. Only popular people win.

Sigh.

Despite the status and clout that comes with a Hugo win, they are, after all, fan awards. One cannot expect that every year will recognize the most well-written, thought-provoking, and original contributions to the SF/F genre. Admittedly, this was a weak year for nominations. None of the nominees blew me away, and none of them deserved 5 stars. But, with such a weak ballot, I had a slight hope that a newcomer like Saladin Ahmed and his strong, unique characters and non-white fantasy world would get some deserving attention. But, I’m hearing he’s making it a trilogy, so maybe we’ll see him nominated again.

And with that, the 2013 Hugo cycle has come to a close. I’m ready to keep my ear to the ground for next year’s nominees, which will be announced mid-spring, with the awards happening this time next year in London.

 

Do your stacks stack up?

The last traces of my pre-digital reading life. The top book is The Martian Chronicles.

While reorganizing my house this summer, I stumbled upon a few forgotten books that hearken back to the days before my dear Kindle uncluttered my life. I know some people treasure their physical books as if they unlock some mystical, sensual experience by reading them and– egads– smelling them, but I dislike having a bunch of things around, taking up space and collecting dust. I don’t have to live in a dark, cluttered home with a thousand dusty, old books in order to be a book nerd, do I?

So, before I carted them away to the nearest library repository for donation, I stacked them up and snapped a picture (see upper left), just to see how this stack actually stacked up to my personal identity. For such a random selection of books (some were old purchases, long forgotten; others were more recent, but also forgotten), I think they stacked up pretty well. Within that stack, I see a blend of the weird and the classic, sci-fi and fantasy, vintage and, well, less vintage, and an occasional pop of reference material. I’d say that about sums me up.

That made me wonder about other people’s book leftovers. I imagine many people have gone the way of digital reading, (although some of us may be less willing), and I bet we all have a few forgotten books lying around. I’m not talking about those treasured favorites you plan to keep for all eternity (mine are in my attic), but just those last random books that, out of neglect or forgetfulness, somehow survived your last literary cleanse and donation phase. What are those books? Would you say they describe you well? How do your stacks stack up?

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Next Reads: Speaking of the burdensome, pre-digital days

Now that my summer is long gone and the new year has begun, my reading and writing progress has been slower. I have no review for this week because I just barely began The City & The City by China Mieville. I’m embarrassed to say that I have never before completed a Mieville book, but it’s not for a lack of wanting to. Years ago, back when I was still reading old-fashioned, analog (i.e. paper) books, I started Perdido Street Station. Unfortunately, a perfect storm of end-of-school year duties, and pre-vacation responsibilities erupted, and I never got past the first third of the book. I spent the entire summer on the beach in Europe, to which a Lovecraft anthology made the cut and Mieville went back to the library. (I had a luggage weight limit to deal with– yet another reason to go digital.) At the time, I hadn’t really connected with his characters, and I thought the short story style of H.P. Lovecraft would be more suitable for vacation reading. By the time I returned to the States, work had already started, and poor Perdido Street Station was long forgotten.

So, I thought I would make Perdido Street Station my next read for this blog, but then The City & The City caught my eye. It’s a murder mystery (another sci-fi mystery. I’m on a roll.) that takes place in two eastern European cities that are physically (and maybe psychically? I can’t tell yet) on top of one another.

Also, in an unusual, but not totally rare, circumstance, The City & The City tied for the Hugo with another novel, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, in 2010. I thought it would be fun to read both winners back-to-back. So, my reading list is set for the next few weeks.