Monday, July 31, 2006

Beneath The Ground You Walk On

Here is a review of Hollow Earth by David Standish, that I found on PTDR:

Hollow Earth Review

Here is a review from Publisher's Weekly:

The idea that another world exists below the surface of the Earth has captivated science fiction and fantasy writers since the days of Edgar Allan Poe's "Ms. Found in a Bottle" and Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. As Standish reveals, the theory has also been promoted by serious (if sometimes slightly off-kilter) scientists, beginning with the eminent Edmond Halley, who theorized that smaller concentric spheres were nested inside the Earth. Standish's approach relies heavily on plot summaries of novels by the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs, with frequent sarcastic interjections. "Stop him before he describes more!" he cries after one particularly lush passage. Scientists are dealt with in similarly detailed and skeptical fashion. Beneath all the wisecracks, however, Standish seems to have a genuine affection for his assorted crackpots and dreamers, and he provides an amusing tour of their various underground utopias. Unfortunately, the story fizzles at the end, failing to develop the all too sketchy hints that some people out there are still hollow-earth believers—but it's a fun romp while it lasts. 65 b&w illus. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Scar

I've just finished reading China Miéville's The Scar. I felt that as a whole The Scar was lopsided, with character development and plot reaching an equal pace (or at least a more effective unity) towards the last third of the book. Not to say that I didn't enjoy the hell out of everything that came before it.

The depth of imagination on display in The Scar is remarkable, and is testimony to Miéville's absurd world-building ability. I haven't read Iron Council yet, but I sure as fuck hope he gets back to Bas-Lag (the world in which The Scar takes place) again or at least releases the reams of notes he's written about it.

If you do not care about spoilers, here are a couple of reviews you may want to glimpse at:

  1. Jeff Vandermeer's review
  2. William Thompson's review (which reveals A LOT more than Jeff Vandermeer's review)

With that said, The Scar is well worth your money.

Sidenote: Did anyone else feel sympathy for the Avanc, or is that just me being irrational?

Beautiful editions of illustrated fairy tales

I've spent the past couple of weeks looking for and collecting some beautiful and interesting editions of fairy tales and the like, and will spend the next couple of days putting up pictures of the illustrations and information for those who are interested in that sort of thing. So expect to see pictures and info from the following books:

The Annotated Wizard of Oz - beautiful oversized book, with voluminous annotations and pages of pictures and information that tracks the history of Frank L. Baum and The Wizard of Oz

The Annotated Alice - from the same collection as the Annotated Wizard.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses - Ill. by Kay Nielsen (one of the greats from the Golden Age of illustrators, and my personal favorite)

Easton Press edition of House of Mirth - Easton Press is a specialty press that prints beautiful leather-bound editions of classics and modern favorites. They're also known for their hardbound, often signed, editions of sci-fi classics and Hugo/Nebula winners.

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - The editions illustrated by Mervyn Peake, many people are not aware that Mervyn Peake famous for his Gormenghast trilogy was also an illustrator for Alice, I will be displaying some of the images throughout the book here. Mervyn Peake's illustrations for the book stand out to me as one of the most interesting. I will provide more info over the weekend.

There are other books that I am still looking for, but look for interesting pictures and information on editions of your favorites in the next couple of weeks

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Too Poor For Graduate School

Here is an interesting article in the Washington Post (online) about how difficult it is for students with an insufficient income stream to continue their higher education into graduate school:

"Put Grad School Within My Grasp"

Although I agree with the sentiments expressed in the article – I am hoping to get into a PhD program sometime in the near future, and worry about my ability to afford doing so – I think the issues surrounding higher education and those in the low-income bracket are more complex than is expressed in it. For example the author, Sui Lang Panoke, recommends the creation of a federal need-based program to assist graduate students based on merit and not on economic background. This point is well taken; a program that is blind to one's economic standing while basing desert on academic merit is a fair one. However, from personal experience, I know only two people who also intend to attend a graduate program, and share my socioeconomic background. So it is not only a matter of what your economic standing is at the point you decide to attend graduate school. Granted, the author's situation is a common difficulty that deserves attention, especially when considering non-funded masters programs. But my concern lies with getting individuals from a socioeconomic background that just about dictates against going to grad school, to want to go to grad school in the first place.

Margaret Cavendish & China Miéville

I stumbled upon a very interesting blog posting about the trans-speciatiation relation between Margaret Cavendish (17th Century writer of The Blazing World) and China Miéville. Here's a quote from this piece:

A colleague who is an 18th century-ist was reading The Scar along with me, and suggested that there might also be a strong parallel between The Scar and the 17th century utopian text by Margaret Cavendish called The Blazing World (1666), which is about a human woman who is kidnapped by a man who loved her, and taken out to sea. The boat is taken across the ocean in a freak storm, and the men on board all freeze to death as the ship is brought towards the North Pole. But the kidnapped woman is rescued by strange bear-men, and brought to see the Emperor, who is so impressed with her that he marries her and makes her Empress.

Trans-speciation: From Margaret Cavendish to China Miéville

Richard Bowes: There's a Hole in the City

There is a great Richard Bowes story on titled "There's a Hole in the City". It's a post-9/11 narrative that begins a day after the attacks on the towers. I don't know if the appeal of the story increases in proportion to your familiarity with New York City. Nonetheless, its very effective and packs some good jolts. Here's an enticing quote from the story,

I was in a hurry when I went off duty Saturday evening. A friend had called and invited me to an impromptu "Survivors' Party." In the days of the French Revolution, The Terror, that's what they called the soirees at which people danced and drank all night then went out at dawn to see which of their names were on the list of those to be guillotined.

There's a Hole in the City

Friday, July 21, 2006

I guess this wouldn't be such a bad investment at the $228 price tag, if it wasn't for the fact that cats, in my experience choose to scratch more than just the scratching post you provide.

Jeff Vandermeer's Shriek Party - Update

I’ve just received a lot of goodies from Jeff Vandermeer for our Shriek party to be held on Saturday, August 19. For those of you who have already RSVPed to come, expect to receive cool signed bookplates, Ambergris beer and other goodies for the party.

If you are a fan of Jeff Vandermeer’s and live in the Philadelphia area, please feel free to join us, especially if you like drunken debauchery, prancing squid and that sort of thing. We would love to meet other fans^_^. Just e-mail me at and we will make arrangements.

I’ll be posting pictures of the goodies later tonight!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Randomness from a Bibliophile

How come has a better selection/availabilty of books than Does that mean we care less about books in this country? And do their major publishing houses churn out as much crap as ours?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Readercon, George Washington, and Deer

I was thinking about something this morning in relation to one of the panels at Readercon. The authors on the panel were having a debate about the tropes, or forms of fantasy and whether you can mix avante garde writing into fantasy and still keep you readership and audience. One of the authors ventured that the problem with trying to be experimental (straying from the formula or what is expected) is that you run the risk of losing the main audience.

Well yes that may be true, but then why be a fantasy writer at all when you can gain a larger audience by writing romance? If every author wrote based on what he thought would earn him the widest readership (the most sales), we’d end up with, well, crap. It’s like that psychological experiment that creates a painting based on statistically surveying the American population for what they believe they want to see in a masterpiece. This is the result:

Apparently we want to see deer and children hanging out with George Washington. There’s a good reason, sometimes, to ignore what your audience thinks they want...

The other question posed by the author to support his point was: how many fantasy readers have ever read M. John Harrison? Hmmm. . .I guess the foregone conclusion is that if he isn't sucessful as say Mercedes Lackey, then he should stop writing how he writes and follow Lackey's example? When did we begin to use the number of readers as a counter for good v. bad writing? Or worse: what should and should not be written? So what if only thousands out of billions of readers appreciate your writing? Is that so bad? Again let me remind you, as a whole, we want to see George Washington hang out with deer…

And I know there is a demographic of who reads what genres, but like genres, demographics can often just be marketing bullshit that makes it easier for the execs to prod their authors and readers into nice, well-delineated areas.

I’m 23, Asian, Female, and a Wharton graduate. The marketers predict that I should be reading the next, shiny How-To management book…or at the very least Amy Tan.

I’m not ambitious enough to read How to Backstab Your Way to Middle Management and I hate Amy Tan (really, that’s not a strong word for the feelings I harbor for her and her writing; way to perpetuate stereotypes is something I would like to say to her; here you are given the opportunity to observe some grain of truth about what it's like being Chinese-American, and you squander it writing only what the American audience wants to hear is something else I'd like to say), but I digress.

The point is that I’m not in the demographic for fantasy and certainly not avante garde genre writing. Yet I have read M. John Harrison and his writing has enriched my life, in a way that Tolkein or Robert Jordan & Co. have never done. So thank god he writes what he does, the way he does it.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I read Fantasy/Sci-fi because it let’s me get away from my own mundane life. But if I just wanted formulaic escapist stuff, I could just as easily pick up Nora Roberts. It’s for the ideas, the different ways authors tell their stories, the experimental things, the thought-provoking qualities of the genre that keeps me coming back. So kudos to those who are doing what you do despite sales, because you are the ones that are an inspiration and constant source of delight to me, and I suspect many others.

World eBook Fair

Between, July 4 - August 4, go to for over 330,000 downloadable eBooks (classics, philsophy, poetry, children's books, sci-fi, even movies and audio) in 100+ languages. Have fun!

I guess I know how I'm going to spend my weekend...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Something saccharine to go with the morning coffee

Looks like a barbie doll set for some enterprising little girl? It's's a set of tools made for a woman. I'm somewhat speechless.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

International Philosophy

Alright, I could not help myself. Here is the Monty Python international philosophy soccer game:

Here's the link if you can't watch the embedded clip: Monty Python-International Philosophy

Salt and Pepper Dog Shakers...

Kind of unappetizing if you ask me...

Diana Wynne Jones

For anyone who still reads children’s books, I would suggest Diana Wynne Jones. Having only picked up her work as an adult (if you want to call me that) I have no idea how children react to her work. But I find her writing to be enchanting and strangely uncompromising. There are less clichés and more real characters here than many other children's novels. Let’s just say, if I had children, I’d be gently coaxing/bribing them to read her.

By the way why is Morgantown Public Library in West Virginia so much better than all the libraries in Philadelphia combined?

Favorite children's series

I'm going to update the lists of recommendations that I've made in my blog, so here's a link to my post of favorite children's series, to be updated.


I have to say sometimes I feel sorry for my cat Nemo, who is too fuzzy for her own good, causing her to do a lot of slipping and sliding on our hardwood floors when she's trying to surprise attack us.

She makes up for it by leaving a large quantity of very fine and fuzzy cat hair all over the towels in the bathroom.

Foucalt Vs. Chomsky

Ever since I heard the mention of a televised debate between Michel Foucalt and Noam Chomsky, I've been dying to see it. It was televised in Europe sometime during the 1980's, but thanks to Youtube, I can now post it here.

Part 1:

Part 2.

If the embedded clips don't work for you here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2

Readercon Pictures

Here are three pictures we took at Readercon:

China Miéville, ready for his interview.

From left to right: Paul Witcover, Paul di Filippo, and Elizabeth Hand

From left to right: China Miéville, Paul Witcover, F. Brett Cox, John Clute, Jeanne Cavelos, and Jeffrey Ford

Monday, July 10, 2006

Readercon Revisited

We got to Readercon about 8 at night on Friday, rather dazed and hardly able to believe we were in Massachusetts. The drive up was unmemorable except for being stuck in rush hour traffic for 2 hours trying to get out of New York. Oh and also almost being rear-ended while stuck in traffic, cause the guy behind us decided that he would sit on our bumper, and speed up quickly every time we moved.

Anyways, we really were thrilled to be at the con—although there were moments of pure sheer terror. It didn’t help that we both felt out of our element and highly intimidated since everyone seemed to already know each other. Anytime I began a conversation with someone that I was a fan of, I felt as if I were an English major in the presence of James Joyce, utterly incapable of making normal conversation, and having the slight tendency to stare and blubber. Toss in the feeling that I can’t possibly say anything to them that would be interesting and the “I don’t know you, but I want you to like me” thing, and it makes for some uncomfortable situations. Luckily for the most part we managed to escape those moments by the sheer grace and kindness of the authors we met. As David mentioned, the encouragement and graciousness of the authors that we talked to really made our trip worth it.

Of course the panels and the interview with China Mieville was nothing short of amazing. I will make another post about the rest of Readercon, including my personal thoughts about the man who would not stop scratching his head or sitting in front of us when he did so! And I will definitley bring up the hilarious Bad Prose competition, a highly creative version of the game Dictionary. For those of you from high school, do you guys remember how much fun we would have playing that game at slumber parties? I still remember some of the definitions we made up strangely enough. I also feel a tiny bit sad, because I felt so much funnier and smarter back then =P.


Getting Back From Readercon

So we got back from Readercon yesterday afternoon. We had a great time meeting some of our favorite authors and going to the awesome panels put together by the Readercon organizers. We also quickly learned (me more than Cindy) that we are going to have to work on getting over the anxiety, awkwardness, and nervousness that accompanies meeting authors we hold in high esteem (Our apologies to any authors we made feel uncomfortable during the course of the convention). But other than that it was a really great time. And sleeping in the car turned out not to be as awful as we thought it would. So here are some of our experiences:

Meeting the Authors (in loose chronological order)

There was a meet the pros party scheduled for the first night, and we were ecstatic about meeting our favorite authors. Excitement soon turned into bewilderment at our awkwardness (mostly mine), and fear of saying something stupid to an author. We stood and looked around for someone we recognized, which was pretty pointless because we were too damn nervous to walk up and say hi.

Awesome Moment # 1: I eventually stopped Jeffrey Ford while he was making his way somewhere. We began talking about it being our first convention and he advised us to not be nervous and to get out there and meet people. He was really encouraging.

So we continuted to look around at faces. We saw China Miéville and his girlfriend drinking some wine. R. Scott Bakker standing next to another really tall author whom we couldn't identify. Eventually, on our way out of the party room, we ran into Jim Crowley and said hi. We then ran into Paul Witcover and payed compliments.

Awkward Moment # 1: I asked Richard Bowes for a sticker (authors had a page of stickers with a one line quote printed on them), but if you already know me you know I barely move my lips when I speak, and I often speak too softly to be heard. I guess he thought I was just staring at him, so he avoided eye contact by looking at the floor. We walked out of the room. I felt like a dumbass.

We limped away from the party and agreed to focus on panels instead of forcing ourselves to meet people.

Awesome Moment #2: The next day, while we were waiting for the Bookshop to open, we ran into Paul di Filippo. We asked him to autograph Fuzzy Dice and also talked to him about this being our first time at a convention. He was really nice throughout the brief conversation (even encouraged me to keep working at writing) and didn't seem uncomfortable at any moment. We also went to his Monsterpunk reading and now I must plug his forthcoming Creature From the Black Lagoon book.

Awkward Moment # 2: We were at the From Within Us It Devours panel. After it finished I called my mom. While I was talking to her, Paul Witcover was walking up the aisle to leave the room. As it turned out I had a copy of Waking Beauty hiding under a copy of The Empire of Ice Cream, on my lap. I must have been goofing with the books because I noticed him look down at Waking Beauty. At the exact moment he glanced at me, anticipating being asked to sign his book, I tilted the phone away from my mouth and blurted, "How you doing?" I really felt like a dumbass. Oh, pick up his new book, Dracula: Asylum.

Awesome Moment # 3: I chased after Jeffrey Ford to get the Thackery Lambshead Guide and The Empire of Ice Cream signed. While signing the books Jeff asked whether we are interested in writing. I told him I am, and that Cindy is interested in getting into editing. He offered to introduce Cindy to a well known copy-editor who was celebrating her birthday that night. Although we did not make it, the offer was awesome.

Awesome Moment # 4: We went to China Miéville's book signing. He was really nice and understood our first convention bafflement. He gave an awesome interview later that day.

Developing Phobias

The convention wasn't all rosy though. About five minutes after sitting in on a panel we noticed a bald man, sitting a couple of seats in front of us, persistently finger-massaging his scalp. My first thought was deciding that I did not like seeing a bald man rubbing his scalp. I then tried to pay attention to the panel discussion, however, the scalp massaging continued, and Cindy was affixed. She pointed out a scab on the man's head, no doubt the result of his mania. I cringed for a couple of minutes as he continued, and was finally relieved when the panel concluded (what a way to suck the excitement out of a Borges discussion). Later that night, during the Bad Prose Competition, after we took our seats and waited for the event to begin, the same guy sat diagonally to our left. Long story short, he scratched the scab and it started bleeding. Cindy and I cringed for half the competition, and I now have a phobia of bald men scratching their heads.

We're back!!

We made it back alive, although I spent the entire 5-6 hour drive home in a dream-like hallucinatory state. I have a day of hard work ahead of me. But will be back later with impressions of the con. We had a blast!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Our journey begins...

In about an two hours, David and I will begin our long drive to Boston. We're equipped with 4 different sets of directions, lots of water, and wet wipes. Hopefully we'll be back by Monday with some great stories.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

DIY Cat Project

So I read up on this easy and thrifty way to insert LED's into a cat. It took me about half an hour, a frenzy of clawing, and some cat scratch fever but I got it done. Check it out:


I’m barely able to contain my excitement, as I write this entry, since David and I have decided to make a trip to Boston this weekend. Never mind that I’ve never been on the highway for more than 2 hours tops (it takes 6 hours to get to Boston) and that the AC in my car is broken, and that we have no place to stay when we get there…

Now why, you ask, would anyone want to do that?

Answer: Readercon! Readercon is a literary forum for science-fiction/fantasy, speculative, fantastical, slipstream, whatever you want to call it, fiction. The convention focuses on the discussion, writing, and reading of such books (droooool). There is no cosplay (I have to admit that I’m a little relieved by this, fat elves in tiny costumes---although very entertaining---nevertheless make me slightly nervous) or other things that often mark science fiction conventions. And the authors that are attending! The plethora of people that I read and admire makes me feel somewhat giddy. Simply put, it’s the Holy Grail of conventions for me.

Of course there are the technical issues that we still have to deal with since we are wholly unprepared for such a trip. Not to mention this will be our first convention, so we're both slightly nervous. But somehow I have convinced David that it is a good idea for us to drive up to Boston for the weekend and camp out in the car (after all we’re only young and broke once) and he agrees, angel that he is. So we’re ready to set off on our high adventure, never mind that past the first day, we may smell a bit. And seeing as how we will be spending a decent amount of quality time in the car, I will have plenty of time to write about the weekend. So stay tuned for postings and pictures on Monday of our high adventures, and see whether we make it there and back in one piece.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Cindy came home last week, raving about LibraryThing. What is LibraryThing? It's a website that allows you to catalog your books while at the same time connecting you to a community of other LibraryThing members. You can search for who else owns a particular book. Even better, you can search for that one LibraryThing member with whom you share most books. In sum, this website is great for getting a pulse on what other people with similar interests are reading, and connecting with them.


Oh and here's the review of the movie on Pajiba that makes me want to read the book. And if you've never heard of Pajiba, I recommend a look-see. Want to see all the summer "blockbusters" hanged, drawed, and quartered? You have no further to look than

Summer Reads

Taking a break from "literature", I’m picking up some stuff for pure entertainment purposes. Among these will be, Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links. Anne Rice’s Interview With An Vampire, and Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada, supposedly better than the chick lit category may have you think. Who knows, we will see. I’ll report back on what I think.

Vile Bodies and Never Let Me Go

I’m currently reading two books (both for book groups): Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. The first is a satirical look at the London “smart set” of the 1930s. While I want to hold judgment until the end, I have to say satirical works about one era or another usually do not appeal to me (The whole body of writings by Kurt Vonnegut, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 being the exceptions)

I’m uncomfortable with authors who “use” the novel as a device to push one singular idea across. I understand that many of our considered classics use this form, however often I feel the idea takes over the novel blanching out the characters and plots in sole service of that one thing the author want his whole novel to be all about. And characters suffer as a result, having no developed personality or acting in ways that make no sense in relation to their personality. Vile Bodies suffers from this. Rather than displaying the decadence and demoralization of an era through real and complicated characters as Edith Wharton does in House of Mirth, Evelyn Waugh creates a novel that has no interesting characters, just caricatures. Anyways, it’s stuffy reading. But we will see.

The second book looks to be more promising. Kazuo Ishiguro evokes the same feelings I had when I was reading Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. Never Let Me Go is a story spent on reminiscing, of childhood, of friendship, and of things that are boiling under the surface. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy go to a private boarding school called Halisham somewhere in England. The book serves as a memoir to their relationships, and the knowledge that there is something special about the children of Halisham. As Kathy and the rest grows older, ever aware of their specialness, they must come to grips with their lives and the meaning behind them.

I am not going to give away the plot, although you can’t escape it if you’ve ever heard of the book. What’s with reviewers these days? If you look at almost any of the reviews about this book, you’ll see the plot that takes the author 2/3rds of the book to slowly unravel completely revealed in the first couple of sentences. As if today’s readers can’t be bothered to discover what lies within a book’s covers without someone else rehashing it for them first.

If you don’t know the book’s premise, I advise you to pick it up without looking online at reviews. It’s a fast read, and it’s better if things dawn on you as you read the book. This is a book about the potential of our world, and the devastating effects it will have on future generations (err I was just told that that's not what the novel is about at all, and I'd have to agree after some things were pointed out to me, so I will have to say that the novel is really about uhm humanity---keeping it broad to save myself more embarassment down the road). Kazuo Ishiguro is also famous for The Remains of the Day.