Dances With Demons

According To Hoyt

I was going to write about something completely different. Or perhaps not. I was going to write about understanding people from completely different backgrounds; about putting yourself in other people’s shoes.

Particularly in the age of the internet — and yes, particularly on the left, but we do it too — it’s very easy to judge someone for something stupid and build a whole picture of what people are like that has nothing to do with reality.  (Take for instance all the assumptions made about my beliefs and preferences because I prefer less authoritarian government.  Or less preachy fiction, for that matter.)

Before you defend on “we do it too”, I’ll remind you I’ve been called a communist and/or an atheist for … not being a conservative, but a libertarian.  When I disagree with socon stuff I quickly get called names.  As for libertarians, they’ve been known to call me…

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Venus on The Half-Shell by Kilgore Trout

Venus on The Half-Shell by Kilgore Trout (actually written by Philip Jose Farmer from characters and ideas by Kurt Vonnegut) is a mixed bag of imaginative ideas, pulp sci-fi parody, and sophomoric humor (part of the parody I presume). Reminiscent of Hitchiker’s Guide to The Galaxy (which was written later), it follows the lone survivor of an Earth-wide deluge, as he explores the universe in a Chinese spaceship with a faithful dog and owl he rescued from the flood.

VenusHalfShellWhat I liked about the book is that they touch on several different alien worlds with very creative, imaginative aliens and cultures. In one place Farmer seems to pay homage my favorite author Robert Heinlein’s “Coventry:”
“The Free Land, it turned out, was a territory about the size of Texas. It consists mostly of mountains and heavy forests, wild animals and wilder humans. Felons, instead of being put in jail, were sent into it and told not to come back. Also, any citizen who didn’t like his government or the society he lived in was free to go there. Sometimes he was asked, not very politely, to emigrate there.”
On the other hand, gratuitous raunchy humor, phallic symbols, or descriptions of alien sexuality every few pages might annoy or offend many readers; apparently this was Farmer’s characterization of the fictional author Kilgore Trout.
On balance I enjoyed it because it was imaginative, sometimes funny, and readable (action and dialog flow).

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adsinfinitum ads infinitum by Tony Russell Wayman was very hard to get into, but some readers may find the last half of the book well worth it, if you like the author’s style, wordy with wordplay and peppered with alliteration, with many descriptions as thick as Dickens.
In the most general terms the plot reminded me of Robert Heinlein’s Glory Road, with a major part of the novel a fantasy-quest, framed by a contemporary (near-future) setup and denouement.
It seems to me Wayman put much effort into writing on a micro level, refining each sentence and paragraph, while failing to put it all together as a compelling novel.  It starts with a one chapter flash-forward to Peterkin, the protagonist, waking in a dream-like Commercialand setting, covering himself with a towel to tour a series of apparent commercial sets — bedrooms, kitchens, and baths with characters in various stages of cooking, cleaning, shaving, bathing, and et cetera-ing. This is probably supposed to be a hook; but it didn’t hook me, only hinted at a confusing kind of story I don’t like.  The only reason I kept reading was that it hadn’t been reviewed yet and I wanted to find out if it got better (it did).
But the real problem with the book is that this first hook chapter is followed by a full fifty-pages of flashback to tell about Peterkin’s dreary, lonely life and how he gets to Commercialand.  This part is heavily padded — even with the author injecting himself as a minor character who presents Peterkin with a manuscript, which Peterkin later pulls from his pocket to read in a waiting room; so we, too get to read this older story by Wayman–and it’s not bad, a short short horror story about a reporter spending the night in a wax museum.  It fills a couple pages but has no relevance at all to the greater novel. I would have enjoyed the novel much more if this whole first part was reduced to a one or two page prologue.
Finally we’re back in Commercialand, and this longer part (about 160 pages) I think fantasy fans will like.  It’s not as humorous as Terry Pratchett, not as serious as Tolkein, but entertaining with some rare gems, as Peterkin joins the lovely plumber Josephine, Ajax the white knight and other characters on a quest  to overthrow J.G., the Jolly Green Giant, with cameos by Tony The Tiger & other advertising characters along the way (there are many references to 1960s commercials and advertising styles)….  And finally, the end is much better than the start — even if I didn’t completely understand it.

So, as a sci-fi fan but not a fantasy fan, I’d give ads infinitum 2 to 3 stars — but fantasy fans will like the 2nd half, and there were quite a few gems, so maybe it deserves 4; here are just a few quotations, starting with my favorite: “Not ‘I think, therefore I am,’ but, ‘I am in an other’s thought, therefore I am.'”
And here is a short sample of the best writing in the book: “But even as these thoughts dampened his mind, a spark of defiance struck itself between the mettle of his will and the flint of his determination to be gone from these parts. The tinder of his feelings ignited. ‘Well, to hell with you!'”

Here’s a one-sentence sample of the author’s style, that happens to contain one of several descriptions of the main characters:
“Leaving aside the matchless middle-classness of the mendicant Avon, which presumably must have suited well the mentality of the occupier of this mediocre mansion, there was himself, clad in dustry green tweeds and boots, and bearing on his chin the stubble of nearly three days, followed (as he glanced back along the line) by the psychedelically clad, red-faced, hard-hatted doggedness of Noah, in turn trailed by the slender- and green-limbed almost naked nixieness of Josephine, her green-booted strides paced by the bulking largeness of the looming Granny, sincere, rugged, and honest as anything conceived since “The Great Train Robbery” plunged the world of Western Thought into the world of Western Action; hotly pursued, with all friendly intent, by the white-armor-clad, clanking person of Ajax, spear at the ready, and obviously gripped, within his carapaced security, by a naked devotion to the cause of the Quest.”

And this is part of a long speech by a used car evangelist:
“If we don’t get more and more cars, preferably late-model ones, sold to more and more people, then the whole economy is going to collapse around us and leave us to face–the problem.  If we don’t get this car off the lot and make room for another; if we don’t get this chick out of this bed and into the next; if we don’t arrange it so that the next dawn will see a blank and unpunched-carded day, unencumbered by the left-over problems of a predicated past; then, baby, we’re going to give ourselves time to think and in this day and age we don’t dare to think, in case the alternatives we think of are too awful, or in case we face the horrible fact that there is no alternative at all.”
Two more:
“Ignorance is never confused with stupidity by the intelligent mind.”
“They confuse pity with compassion, sympathy with empathy, and conscience with consciousness.  Can’t seem to see that to feel with is not the same as feeling for.”
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I Am Alive

According To Hoyt

Apparently my life was getting boring so this morning, in the shower, it seemed a good idea to have a cardiac episode.

Now, I sort of assumed this was my body being my body and giving it attention would just encourage it, but my husband doesn’t have the jaundiced view I have and insisted on driving me to emergency.

There seems to be something wrong with the electrical part of my heart and typing this is really frustrating because I have a sensor on my middle left finger.  Anyway there’s something about  a circus rhythm.  (I hate clowns.)

I had planned to work today, d*mn it.

I feel stupid and guilty for letting my body get out of line and encouraging it in its nonsense.  But they’re keeping me under observation till tomorrow, and I can’t even type with this thing on my finger.  And I’m worrying my family.

So. …

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Annette’s Thanksgiving

Some great movies and shows about Thanksgiving, By The Light of The Silvery Moon (1953) being one of my favorites featuring a turkey sequence with Billy Gray.

I'm Annette!

Annette’s Thanksgiving

Image

Doris Lee’s Thanksgiving (1935)
The Art Institute of Chicago
Photo courtesy of http://mommyofamonster.com/2012/11/thanksgiving-recipes.html

 This painting is a favorite of mine! It is so homey, so cozy. It reminds me of dinners at my grandparent’s farmhouse when I was young.  My grandmother, mother, great-aunt, and aunts cooked up more than one delicious feast in that small Iowa kitchen. (I have been blessed to have grown up surrounded by wonderful cooks!)  I remember the delightful aroma that wafted from that country kitchen, as the sounds of friendly chatter and laughter joined in combination with the loving preparation of the upcoming meal.

This painting also celebrates my most favorite of holidays: Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving, a time when we take the day to give thanks to our God for all that He has given us, embrace the love of our family (All of my kiddies will be home this Thanksgiving week-end!!! :o)), and…

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The Reefs of Space

The Reefs of Space by Frederik Pohl (Gateway) and Jack Williamson (The Legion of Space) is an excellent example of good science fiction, with the science speculation, plot, & sympathetic characters all inter-related. The first two thirds follows Ryland, a “Risk” with an explosive collar around his neck, through his future dystopian society as he tries to remember how he came to such a low status, develop a reactionless space drive for the government to win his release, and survive imprisonment in a morbid “body bank.”  Along the way he learns about a “spaceling,” an alien animal which can travel through space without a ship or suit, carrying it’s own air; the final third of the novel takes Ryland into space.  Very imaginative and original with a complex but tightly woven plot.

ifreefs

Second Contact by Mike Resnick

Second Contact by Mike Resnick has a fascinating premise: A space captain on trial for murdering his own crewmen because he believed they were aliens. After that’s set up, the rest of the novel reads more like a contemporary political thriller than science fiction, as Becker, the officer assigned to defend the Captain, runs into dead ends with disappearing witnesses. Pursuing every lead with the help of a computer whiz, Becker incurs the wrath of a conspiracy that seems to involve aliens, like something you’d see on the X-Files or The Invaders. The computer technology described probably seemed futuristic when this was written, but seems ordinary now, though the story is still set about 50 years in the future from now. The suspense kept the pages turning. In the end everything is explained and mostly wrapped up.

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2ndContactResnick