May 2006

Fucked it up, first go, so here's the second.  Next time I should do what they tell me.


I wanna get off.

Well, maybe.  I've been reading Charles Stross' Accelerando (the print version), and while I don't hate it, I'm not too thoroughly engrossed, either.  I'd read and liked the segments I'd read previously ('Lobsters' and 'Halo' were both Hugo nominees as short fiction), but as a novel, it's too much.
I recently read an article about how Stross' and Cory Doctorow's style is the latest Big Thing in SF; that is, books focusing on the Singularity and the posthuman.  (And now I can't find the article.  I think it might have been from an interview at WorldCon in Glasgow last year.)  And while I can't say that I dislike the concepts or the characters, there's just…
I guess my real problems are two-fold:
Firstly, I don't feel an emotional attachment to the characters like I should.  In fact, I have a lot of this problem with not only Stross, but his contemporaries in the genre.  I also have this problem with Neil Gaiman's work.
Secondly, let's just say that plot gets lost in the exposition of concepts and (in the words of Don Henley) the post-postmodern world.  Either I'm trying to figure out the tech and the world in terms I can understand, or I'm trying to figure out the plot.  Maybe I'm just woefully behind and dumb, but I really can't do both at once on a first read, and I don't feel connected enough to the characters to read it again.  I realise that this is an aspect of the Singularity, that technology skyrockets and people are left behind, but leaving ME behind isn't exactly the best plan as a writer.
(As an aside, in diametric opposition to this, I read Catherine Asaro's Primary Inversion this past week, which had backstory and tech explanation clunkily hit you over the head.  Frankly, I have to confess that I found this more painful than scanty explanations.)

So yeah.  It's good SF.  But it's not my personal cuppa.  Perhaps it's revealing that I like Stross' female characters best, as I'm heading to WisCon 30 tomorrow.  If Stross wrote a whole book on Amber Macx, and if it were 100 pages shorter than Accelerando already is, I think I'd enjoy it more.  Meanwhile, I'll be stalking and fangirling my favourite feminist SF authors…see you there.

Having read Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food a while ago, and because that book wasn't in at the library when I was there yesterday, I picked up the sequel, I'm Just Here for More Food.

Which is about baking.

Anybody who's ever really attempted to cook knows that baking is not as easy as cooking.  It's a series of chemical reactions, yes, but very specific ones, and if you screw up, you don't get a still edible but different menu.  You get a bunch of crap, as evidenced by the time I made box brownies and didn't add the eggs because I was absentminded…they ended up flat and stuck to the pan.  (By the way, I was the queen of box brownies in high school.  The secret is to use cold coffee instead of water, makes them a lot richer.)

And Brown, much as I love him, didn't do much to allay my fears.  In fact, I should have been using a scale for baking all along, as I did when I was in the UK…that's what they do over there, and apparently it's far smarter.  To get really good baked goods, you should measure by mass instead of volume.  That is, if you've not been in physics for a while, grams and pounds instead of cups.

But as always, he's quite entertaining, and there's a reason 'knowledge is power' is a cliché, 'cause it's true.  I haven't made my way through the entire book yet, or cooked anything from it.  I may modify his Pineapple Upside-Down Cake a little, because the other day Mom and I were talking about having some.  Southern Boy says it MUST be cooked in a cast-iron skillet, and while I respect that piece of equipment and its fine heritage, I really can't afford to buy one right now and neither can Mom.  (Not when my stuff just got here from Massachusetts via UPS, at a tune of about $1000.)  That, and I really prefer my upside-down cake in sheet form.  Personal thing.

By the way, my respect and love for AB is compounded by the fact that he's a Renaissance man liek woah…guy was a Steadicam operator for Spike Lee at one point, and was the cinematographer for REM's 'The One I Love' video.  So he kinda rocks, even if he's slightly strange about cakes.

And that, my friends…is some Good Eats.

OK, that was cheesy.

Since the readers of my LiveJournal seemed keen on it, I'm starting up another blog.  This go-round, I'm dealing with what I'm reading, what I'm cooking and probably some more random commentary on facing Teh Real World, as it were.

If you're new here, I'm Rhi, age 22, recent recipient of a BA from Smith College in American Studies.  My current Plan is to work a mundane job for a year or two and save some money so I can relocate and possibly go to grad school…all of which is a precursor to my ultimate goal of making movies.  I have several alternate lives, one as a fangirl and two others in RPGs…but that isn't really going to be the issue here.
I also tend to rant.  Lots.  And most of the books I read are either on food or science fiction.  Consider yourself warned.

I suppose I'll start with a few thoughts on what I've been reading recently: The Da Vinci Code and the Miles Vorkosigan novels.

Probably it's safe to say that I'm one of the last readers in the English-speaking world to tackle Dan Brown.  I came to him like I did Harry Potter…with massive trepidation.  And unlike J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown really doesn't have a good concept of how a third person narrative actually works.  His writing is either pedantic or ridiculously simplistic.  The love story is tacked on in a worse fashion than in a Wachowski brothers film, and the plot is just plain wacky.
And you've heard all of this before, I'm sure.
That said, The Da Vinci Code is one of those books that one just can't put down.  It's not good, but it's interesting enough that you want to get to the ending, and for once I didn't see the biggest plot twist coming at all.
Just do me a favour and don't buy it, kay?  It isn't worth the $8…though from what I hear, it's a better use of your money than the film.  Oh, Ron Howard.

As for Lois McMaster Bujold…I never thought I'd like military SF.  It's always been a long haul for me.  But the Vorkosigan novels are a combination of the military and the cultural (the latter being my preference) to a degree where things are consistently interesting and always, always moving.
The big thing here is that Miles Vorkosigan is a bipolar smug bastard, alternately overconfident and completely lost regarding himself, who understands the varied worlds and cultures of his universe far more easily than he does women, while not being too much of a misogynist.  He's a good guy but kind of a jackass…and sometimes a fuckup…and I LIKE him.  God, I like him.
Miles and the cultural differences of his universe are the two driving forces of these novels, besides the plot.  And by the end, you really care about most of the things Miles cares about, which makes these a real success.  They're not great literature, but they're good reading and they move.  The last one I've read was Memory.

Off that topic, I've started my summer project of making my way through as much of the twofifty as I deem necessary (for a film person to see) by checking out The Shawshank Redemption.  Unfortunately, I'm not off to watch it right now…I'm more in the mood for some CSI.