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Monday, December 31, 2018

Books I Read in 2018

For the second year in a row, the number of books I read over the course of the year has declined, down to 86 books this year compared to 123 in 2017 and 135 in 2016. Even worse, my ratio of women to men authors has declined drastically, as has my ratio of genre to mainstream (or "literary") works.

There are a few reasons for this, some new, some carried over from 2017. First, hardly any of my lunch breaks at Stantec are devoted to reading books; instead, I'm either playing Dungeons & Dragons or catching up on Reddit politics threads over lunch. I'm also screening a lot more films than I used to. And finally, Dad's passing and the stress from the quickly unfolding global sociopolitical/environmental catastrophe has made reading more difficult for me; I don't have the same focus I used to.

What reading I did manage this year veered strongly toward nostalgia and escapism. I managed to whittle down some Hugo and Nebula award winners this year, and finally read Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr juveniles and the first of his R. Daneel Olivaw robot novels. I also knocked off James Blish's Cities in Flight books, something I've been meaning to do since about grade six.

Here's the list:

January: 11
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction (Grady Hendrix, 2017)
The Collectors (Christopher L. Bennett, 2014)
Miasma (Greg Cox, 2016)
Q Are Cordially Invited (Rudy Josephs, 2014)
When Angels Wept: A What-If History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Eric G. Swedin, 2010)
Surrounded by Enemies (Bryce Zabel, 2013)
BFI Modern Classics: Easy Rider (Lee Hill, 1996)
Once There Was a Way (Bryce Zabel, 2017)
The Returned, Part 1 (Peter David, 2015)
The Returned, Part 2 (Peter David, 2015)
The Returned, Part 3 (Peter David, 2015)

February: 6
The Dispatcher (John Scalzi, 2016)
The Power (Naomi Alderman, 2016)
Sidelines (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2013)
Shadow on the Sun (Richard Matheson, 1994)
Absent Enemies (John Jackson Miller, 2014)
A Lot like Christmas (Connie Willis, 2017)

March: 4
The Home for Wayward Parrots (Darusha Wehm, 2018)
The Bronze Skies (Catherine Asaro, 2017)
The Outer Limits: Season One (David J. Schow, 2018)
The Klingon Dictionary, second edition (Marc Okrand, 1992)

April: 1
The Berlin Project (Gregory Benford, 2017)

May: 6
Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman (Paul Levitz, 2018)
Those Were the Days (Marty Kaplan and Tom Shales, 2012)
Thor Meets Captain America (David Brin, 1986)
The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era (Vernor Vinge, 1993)
The Flowers of Vashnoi (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2018)
4 3 2 1 (Paul Auster, 2017)

June: 8
The Outsider (Stephen King, 2018)
Grammar: The Easy Way (Dan Mulvey, 2002)
A Girl in Time (John Birmingham, 2016)
Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (Joseph M. Williams, 2003)
Adventure: The Atari 2600 at the Dawn of Console Gaming (Jamie Lendino, 2018)
Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor (Bruce Campbell, 2017)
Wool (Hugh Howley, 2011)
Buying Time (Joe Haldeman, 1989)

July: 18
All Our Wrong Todays (Elan Mastri, 2017)
After the Fact: A Guide to Fact-Checking for Magazines and Other Media (Cynthia Brouse, 2007)
The Stuff of Dreams (James Swallow, 2013)
Artemis (Andy Weir, 2017)
Infinite (Jeremy Robinson, 2017)
sex, lies, and videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1990)
American War (Omar el Akkad, 2017)
The President’s Brain is Missing (John Scalzi, 2017)
They Shall Have Stars (James Blish, 1956)
A Life for the Stars (James Blish, 1962)
Earthman, Come Home (James Blish, 1955)
The Triumph of Time (James Blish, 1959)
Behold the Man (Michael Moorcock, 1969)
The Fifth Head of Cerberus (Gene Wolfe, 1972)
The Planet on the Table (Kim Stanley Robinson, 1986)
The Tale of the Wicked (John Scalzi, 2012)
Slow River (Nicola Griffith, 1995)
Powers (Ursula K. LeGuin, 2007)

August: 11
David Starr, Space Ranger (Isaac Asimov, 1952)
Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (Isaac Asimov, 1953)
Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (Isaac Asimov, 1954)
Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (Isaac Asimov, 1956)
Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter (Isaac Asimov, 1957)
Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn (Isaac Asimov, 1958)
Change Agent (Daniel Suarez, 2017)
Terminal Event (Robert Vaughn, 2017)
Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You (Charles Taylor, 2017)
Trigger Mortis (Anthony Horowitz, 2015)
The Sirens of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut, 1959)

September: 10
The Keep (F. Paul Wilson, 1981)
Hope Never Dies (Andrew Shaffer, 2018)
Flight or Fright (Stephen King and Bev Vincent, 2018)
The Fountains of Paradise (Arthur C.  Clarke, 1979)
Legacies (F. Paul Wilson, 1998)
All the Way with JFK (F.C. Schaefer, 2017)
The Boat of a Million Years (Poul Anderson, 1989)
Superpowers (David J. Schwartz, 2008)
All My Sins Remembered (Joe Haldeman, 1977)
The Coming (Joe Haldeman, 2000)

October: 5
Hadon of Ancient Opar (Philip Jose Farmer, 1974)
Mockingbird (Walter Tevis, 1980)
The Dreaming Jewels (Theodore Sturgeon, 1950)
The Consuming Fire (John Scalzi, 2018)
Head On (John Scalzi, 2018)

November: 3
Nightflyers (George R.R. Martin, 1985)
Strangers (Gardner Dozois, 1978)
Flight to Opar (Philip Jose Farmer, 1976)

December: 5
Elevation (Stephen King, 2018)
The Caves of Steel (Isaac Asimov, 1954)
Star Trek: The Book of Lists (Chip Carter, 2017)
The Massacre of Mankind (Stephen Baxter, 2017)
Star Trek: Lost Scenes (David Tilotta and Curt McAloney, 2018)

Nonfiction: 16
Fiction: 70

Science Fiction: 46
Mainstream: 11
Star Trek: 8
Fantasy: 3
Horror: 3

Top Authors
Isaac Asimov: 7
John Scalzi: 5
James Blish: 4
Peter David: 3
Joe Haldeman: 3
Stephen King: 3
Lois McMaster Bujold: 2
Philip Jose Farmer: 2
F. Paul Wilson: 2
Bryce Zabel: 2

Books by Women: 10
Books by Men: 76

Books by Decade
1950s: 12
1960s: 2
1970s: 6
1980s: 7
1990s: 7
2000s: 6
2010s: 48

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Two Little Ships

During this holiday break, I also painted a couple of very small ships, to scale with the fleet I posted the other day: a DY-100 of the style used by Khan to escape Earth, and an early Starfleet vessel of the Daedalus class. I don't have stats for these ships, so they'll probably wind up as objectives in our A Call to Arms: Starfleet games. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Realm of Earl December 2018

The Realm of Earl - that is, the places I've been on our planet - has expanded a bit since I last updated the map. As you can see, I've extended my travels in the American midwest and the eastern seaboard.

I'm hoping to visit Newfoundland and/or the Maritimes next year. I had initially planned to visit Florida, but now I'm thinking staying in Canada might be the better choice. As for Europe...2020, perhaps? 

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Fleet Gathers

At long last, I have repaired and repainted the entirety of my A Call to Arms: Starfleet miniatures. They're all the same colour now, except for the black Section 31 ship at centre, a little invention of mine. The next step is to apply the custom decals I ordered a while back, but I need to wait for some materials to arrive before I can tackle that task. Once that's accomplished, I can actually bring (some of) these ships to battle against Steve in our long-delayed points-based campaign. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Reformation

My robes are royal purple with gold trim, sharp at the shoulders, sleek of cut, almost unadorned save for three gold buttons on the high black collar. I’m walking briskly down a cobblestone street, and I’m not alone; the faithful are gathering, heading, like me, for church. Many nod and smile at me; they know I’m facing a significant transition just a few minutes from now.

It's a gorgeous day. The sun caresses the city, warming the lush parks, the meandering river, the spotless streets, the colourful adobe houses. The church rises from a hilltop overlooking an expansive green pasture; it’s a cherrywood edifice of soft curves and oval entryways and window frames, warm and welcoming.

I step through the side entrance, directly into our administrator’s office, a good-humoured, lovely, raven-haired woman of late middle age. And yet she is typical, for although our people are diverse in many ways, we all share certain traits: a need to poke fun at ourselves, a certain agelessness, and, frankly, good looks. My own frame is lithe and strong, even closing in on 50; my hair remains thick, my skin unlined. The only mark of age is a distinguished touch of grey in my sideburns.

The administrator and the bishop are sharing some acerbic but good-natured banter about paperwork. The administrator waves me through as they hurl balls of wadded-up documents at each other.

I enter the great hall of the church. Hundreds of congregants are sliding into the wooden pews, sharing smiles and quiet gossip. The retiring Cardinal is already behind the pulpit, jotting down notes, peering over the top of his glasses, which are perched on the tip of his nose.

I take my place at the secondary pulpit, and the congregational murmur dies down. According to the order of service, I should now welcome the congregation and invite the retiring Cardinal to speak.

Instead, on my left, the Bishop starts to speak. He apologizes for hijacking the proceedings, but warns of a great evil on the horizon, one that could break the church community. Indeed, he reaches out, pointing at the skylights to direct our attention to the dark clouds forming outside. Behind those clouds coalesces a sharp-edged obsidian shadow, shaped something like the head of a hawk, but at the same time unutterably alien.

The Bishop claims that I must take my place as the new Cardinal, as was planned, but that by doing so I could create a schism in the church. Horrified by the thought, I leave the pulpit and circulate among the congregants, including crucial influencers like the black members, the LGBTQ2+ members, the women, merchants, artisans, veterans, seniors and children. Even among this even-tempered population voices begin to rise, not in anger, but concern and fear. My words feel inadequate in the face of the monstrous evil forming in the skies above, but somehow they’re enough to restore calm, and even resolution.

I return to the podium and am ordained in short order. The sudden appearance of tangible evil in the real world has, indeed, cast the spectre of doubt upon church teachings that reach back more than 10,000 years. But in a short speech of some five or six minutes, I rally the people, reminding them of the many millennia of peace and prosperity our culture built together, urging us all to continue in that spirit. And though I fully intend to literally lead the charge against evil the second I finish my speech, the congregation takes that leadership out of my hands, heading for the exits with a roar, armed with nothing but their faith, compassion, and goodwill. I follow them into the street, and together we face the darkness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Boxing Day Painting

I celebrated Boxing Day by painting miniatures and watching movies from about 8-3. Here are four Hero Forge miniatures I created a few months ago and painted just now. The character second from the right is Cane Bersk, a Dungeons & Dragons monk. The others have no names or backgrounds yet; they might wind up in other roleplaying campaigns. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2018 Day 19

Mash, crush, squash, and kill
Black beaches of death and the
Screech of dying toys

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Friday, December 07, 2018

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Monday, December 03, 2018

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2018 Day 3

Crash! Bang! went the toys
Riderless, no children's squeals
Sad silence reigns

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2018 Day 2

"This is a stickup,"
Said the Rebel to the child,
"For the greater good." 

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2018 Day 1

The landspeeder glides
Across desert sands while the
Old space shuttle soars