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About Wilbur

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    Landed Knight

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  1. Wilbur

    June '18 Reading - Something something witty.

    This showed up on my Kindle some time last year for free, and I read about half of it. As you say, it was no Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux, and I gave it up because the stories revolved around dull bouts of either pointless drinking or petty theft. The author said he planned to visit small town America, but then described mainly visits to places like Reno or New Orleans, if I recall correctly, in between trips to national parks. Perhaps to an Englishman these are small towns, but to an American they lack appeal. Some of the tales made me wonder how he managed to avoid being beat up or shot unless the stories were exaggerated or he was pulling some of the stuff on the most profoundly unaware denizens of the cities he visited. In general, the stories were just not very interesting. References to the fact that he overstayed his visa or failed to perform necessary maintenance on his van aren't that funny and don't impress me as to his daring. The author's lack of moral center was unattractive; furthermore there was no counterbalance of cleverness or wit or insight to make the story interesting, so I stopped wasting time reading his book. In fact, your review made me wonder how books like this get published. Is there really a market for this sort of dull/unfocused travelog? It seemed like the sort of thing that Millenials might find interesting, but are they big readers? Who would pay to read this over something like The Great Railway Bazaar? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Railway_Bazaar
  2. Wilbur

    June '18 Reading - Something something witty.

    Finishing up Jack Vance's Ports of Call, which means I will have to now pick up Lurulu in order to finish the plot of Myron Taey's travelogue of the Gaean Reach. I have to admit to laughing long and loud at the episode of the crew of the Glicca being hypnotized by the warden of the Penal Satellite that they visit, and the resulting new "formal dining" manners that they adopt as a result. Vance really was the premiere stylist of the genre. No other writer could make such mundane interactions between tourists and hoteliers, cargo shippers and transport workers, or human-leather workers and export buyers so fascinatingly mannerly and slyly witty. I also enjoy the several references to Cugel in the characters along the way, particularly the long-running conflict between Schwatzendale and Moncrief the Mouse-Rider. If P.G. Wodehouse had spent his formative years crewing tramp steamers instead of haunting the music-halls, this is the sort of science fiction he would have written. It is the sunset of Jack Vance's writing, but still a wonderful ride.
  3. True. The loss of so much art from Classical Greece is a shame.
  4. One aspect of civilization that I value is the willingness to consider viewpoints and artistic values that I do not share, if only to be able to identify ideas and worldviews that I perceive as being morally or intellectually wrong. As a result, I would not support the proscription and elimination of all copies of Mein Kampf. It is a badly-written piece of literature full of bad ideas, and its author was a bad person, so it checks all the negative ticks on my list of moral assessments. Still, possessing the text allows us to point at it and say, "There are Hitler's ideas, in case you wanted to check and make sure that he was bad and his ideas were bad." Furthermore, if you start burning books or stamping out other forms of art, where do you stop? And who shall make the determination of what should be eliminated? One person might find Monty Python of value but dislike Key and Peele; if that person has the power to wipe out the works of Key and Peele, is it the correct, morally-right action to take? And I would go so far as to say that being able to reference The Clouds in a discussion of a society that does not value science or intellectual pursuits possesses some value. If I point to the resulting death of Socrates as the outcome of an environment unfriendly to reason or curiosity, I may be able to draw a parallel to some more contemporary possible outcome.
  5. Wilbur

    The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

    Thank you for these reviews, and for posting them here. I very much enjoyed your retrospective reviews of each book. As a contemporary reader of these books as they were published, either in Analog or other publications in part, and then as the novels themselves, I want to mention again how much they stood out in the 80s and 90s from other SciFi books of the time. LMB's worldview, one that included women as having agency, one that portrayed a science-fictional world as ethnically different from "future California", and one that considered the relationship challenges of future technology like uterine replicators, was SO very different from other books on the shelves. The book covers, though, were very, very much a product of their times: http://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/?tag=lois-mcmaster-bujold Thank you again.
  6. Wilbur

    Tolkien 2.0

    I had never heard of this film before. I showed it to my wife and child, who were properly horrified. Personally, the trippy-sixites static animation were fine for me, but even I had to shudder at some of that story line. Come on, man, you had the rights to use the names - why not just use the correct names?
  7. What specifically did you not care for in The Reality Dysfunction?
  8. I agree with this reading of Vinge's work. He is working from the same sort of idea as William Gibson, whose famous quote on NPR was, "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." [Listen here: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1067220] The Deepness in the Sky and Fire Upon the Deep works both appear to show the clash of civilizations that are on different points of the timeline around the Singularity. Sometimes the clash is between pre- and post-singularity societies, sometimes it is between mid-singularity and before/beyond-singularity societies. Even his Realtime books have a similar juxtaposition of pre- and post- societies as a result of the function of the bobbles, just written from a 1980s view into the future. So does Tatja Grimm's World in a pre-steam-punk space-opera sort of way that reminds me a lot of something Jack Vance and GRRM might have written if this was a subject that interested them.
  9. The answer to your query is, "Jeff Fisher was an idiot coach who cut the legs out from under every player and team he ever supervised. You could have substituted a blancmange for Jeff Fisher and still earned as many wins in most seasons."
  10. His books in the Realtime/Bobble series accurately describe the state of the art military research project management (not the technology of the Bobbles, but the processes used and the locations as depicted in the stories) of our Motorola facilities in the late 1980s and 1990s. Unlike many writers, he was a writer who was an actual part of the milieu of scientific experimentation and progress who happened to be a writer, rather than a writer who set his stories in what he thought was a scientific manner. As a result, although there may be other writers whose styles I like or find easier to read than Vinge, there are no other writers whose writing was so utterly absent of errors in describing project management, experimentation, research, or development. The Peace War (1984) Marooned in Realtime (1986)
  11. Wilbur

    Fantasy/sci-fi books with central love stories?

    You might also consider the Vatta's War / Vatta's Peace novels by Elizabeth Moon, wherein the romance between Kylara Vatta and Rafe Dunbarger drives a lot of the tension in the story, as corporate and military forces, familial social influencers, and government agencies all frown on the love between a space admiral and the CEO of the interstellar communications monopoly.
  12. Wilbur

    Fantasy/sci-fi books with central love stories?

    And if we are going to talk about Jack Vance, then you have a long list of books were the protagonist's love or infatuation for another character drives him or her to take on the key action of the story. Some examples include: Sessily Vader - Glawen Clattuc - Wayeness Tam in the three books of the Cadwal Chronicles (Araminta Station, Ecce and Old Earth, and Throy) Adam Reith and Zap 210 in four books of The Planet of Adventure (The City of the Chasch, The Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir, and The Pnume) Jorjol/Muffin/The Grey Prince, Elvo Glissam and Gerd Jemazse in a love quadrangle with Schaine Madduc in The Gray Prince Jubal Droad and Mieltrude, daughter of Nai the Hever in Maske: Thaery Keep in mind that Jack Vance's romances are the polar opposite of Lois McMaster Bujold's relationship stories. In a Vance novel, the love between X and Y will cause X to board a space ship and become a janitor in a museum in a civilization of ambulatory trees, where X will discover a plot against a sea-faring nation of religious kangaroos and fight a duel to preserve the savings X has accumulated so he or she can return home and marry. However, upon his or her return home, X will find the object of his or her original desire, Y, has become a strident nationalist monk, and will discover he or she actually loves the bank teller who originally loaned him or her the money to emigrate I exaggerate for effect, but still the outline above will STILL not be as weird and roundabout a tale as you will find in any Jack Vance novel.
  13. Wilbur

    Fantasy/sci-fi books with central love stories?

    The Dying Earth has a couple of stories of unrequited or unexpected love, including Etarr and T'sais when Pandalume sends T'sais out of the plane of Embelyon; Shierl and Guyel of Sfere when they are forced into the Museum of Man by the Saponids; and Lith and Liane the Wayfarer near the ruins of Kaiine. Keep in mind that this is a Jack Vance story, so the relationship may be...different...from what you expect.
  14. Wilbur

    Fantasy/sci-fi books with central love stories?

    Walter Jon Williams' Dread Empire's Fall series revolves around the relationship between Caroline Sula and Gareth Martinez. Both Sula and Martinez are fully-realized characters with independent story arcs and motivations that drive their stories. The story line brings them together and apart, and although their relationship is an important part of both of their respective tales, the plot is not necessarily about their relationship.
  15. Wilbur

    The Cyberpunk thread

    It would be like shooting an American version of Ghost in the Shell set in Arkansas. Imagine the theme tune ( ), but played on banjos and sung by folks with an Ozark accent.