Saturday, June 27, 2015

Looks amazing: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Here's the second of some posts I'm stealing from SF Signal, but can you blame me? This book looks and sounds pretty badass.


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Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Doesn't that sound cool? It'll be out on September 22 through Tor.com

Further reading:

Cheap reads: In Midnight's Silence by T. Frohock

If there's something I've learned over the years, it's that less is sometimes more. I like a nice weighty tome as much as the next person, but sometimes I love a nice brief read.

That's why I'm excited to try out In Midnight's Silence by T. Frohock.



SF Signal has given this a pretty good review and by all accounts it looks like the only negatives to it was that it was short (it's only 128 pages) and it left the reviewer wanting more. Neither of these are deal breakers for me.

I haven't read this yet but I'm fairly excited to get started - this is only 99 cents on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, which is a really nice, cheap price. It's a good way to hook readers in (it worked for me), since I won't feel gypped over the book's length. Come on, how many of us have declined to purchase a novella or short story because we felt that its price posed too much of a risk?

In any case, this sounds like it'll be a good read. Here's the synopsis:

The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes. Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can't get to him directly, they do the one thing he's always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover's life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world's next war. The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock's In Midnight's Silence shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he'll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

Further reading:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Indie Gems: AlterWorld by D. Rus

I'd come across this via a recommendation by a friend. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical for several reasons:

The first is that the book was self-published. You can find a lot of amazing things in the self-published world- WOOL is a great example of this since it was initially self-published and it's since developed a huge fan following. Scott Sigler's work is also something to point out. However we all have to be honest: for every one book that's extremely well done there's at least 3-4 that just weren't ready to be published.

The second is the obvious thing: if a friend recommends a book and you don't like it  then what do you say? Obviously my friend isn't going to subject me to a Klingon shunning ceremony but it can make for a little awkwardness if your friend is a particularly big fan - which he is. I think the average book fan's fear is that you'll read their favorite book and it'll be so awful that you can't even begin to understand why someone would like it.

Luckily this book is shaping up to be pretty darn good- so much so that I'm going to go ahead and give it a recommendation despite not finishing it because I think it needs to be in more people's hands.

The book is the first entry in the Play to Live series by D. Rus, AlterWorld. The author lives in Russia (presumably) and this was initially published in Russian but was translated into English and self-published on Amazon.

I'm really stumped as to why this isn't more well known and my only guess is that this isn't really being talked up that much. The first book is only $3 on Amazon and so far I highly recommend it.

The book is what is being called RPGlit and it's extremely similar to stuff like Sword Art Online. However the bigger difference is while the SAO characters are unwillingly kept in their online world, people in Play to Live are completely willing- most are choosing to live in their online world because their bodies in the offline world are severely disabled or they're facing a terminal illness.

In any case, I recommend it. Here's the cover, a link to where to purchase the work, and the synopsis for the first entry in the series:



A new pandemic - the perma effect - has taken over Earth of the near future. Whenever you play your favorite online game, beware: your mind might merge with the virtual world and dump its comatose host. Woe be to those stuck forever in Tetris! And still they're the lucky ones compared to those burning alive eternally within the scorched hulls of tank simulators. 

But some unfortunates - the handicapped and the terminally ill, shell-shocked army vets, wronged crime victims and other society misfits - choose to flee real life willingly, escaping to the limitless world of online sword and sorcery MMORPGs. 

Once a seasoned gamer and now a terminal cancer patient, Max grasps at this final chance to preserve his life and identity. So he goes for it - goes for the promise of immortality shared with a few trusty friends and the woman he loves. Together they roam the roads of AlterWorld and sample its agony and ecstasy born of absolute freedom.


You can purchase this in the following places:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Author Behaving Awesomely: Joe Basara

With all of the authors behaving badly, I thought I'd highlight an author that responded very well to what was ultimately not a positive review.

The book in question was Cypress Lake and it was written by Joe Basara.


It ended up not floating my boat (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) and I left a rather lukewarm review. Joe was incredibly understanding about what I wrote and he admitted that he knew that the book wouldn't have an exceedingly wide appeal. I know that my biggest issue was that it was a bit slow and as someone who didn't grow up in the era I just didn't get some of the references and topics. (A co-worker of mine had read the book and loved it, so that's proof that the book has merit.)

He was so wonderful about everything that I've remembered his name years down the road and I'd even written about him back in 2012. I'm a little sad to see that he hasn't published anything since 2012, when he released Sale Day at C Mart and Fred's Golden Years.

I'm not sure what he's up to now (a Google search doesn't bring up much), but I hope that he's doing well.

In the meantime I'd recommend that you check out his books and keep this in mind: impressions, both good and bad, leave lasting memories. In the case of Joe Basara, it's a good one.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Authors Behaving Badly: Dylan Saccoccio

Hi everyone! Today's author behaving badly is Dylan Saccoccio, the author of The Boy and the Peddler of Death.



Looks pretty cool, right? I admit that it's something that I'd probably pick up if I came across it in a bookstore or in my Amazon storefront. It also bills itself as a mixture of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, which makes it even better. 

This is what drew in the Goodreads user Cait, who eagerly purchased the book... and didn't like it. This happens, so all Cait did was post an extremely brief one paragraph, one star review on Goodreads where she just says that she didn't like it. 

Hours after Cait posted the review, Saccoccio responded. And boy did he respond. 

I don't think I've seen an author meltdown this severe since Candace Sams started threatening to call the FBI over negative reviews for her book Electra Galaxy's Mr Interstellar Feller (later republished as Galaxy Man through Smashwords).

What did Saccoccio say? It's more like what didn't he say. His reaction to Cait's review was so over the top that I'd almost say that this was some sort of Andy Kaufman-esque troll-style performance art where he published a book and eagerly waited for the inevitable negative reviews to roll in so he could start his true work. 

Yes, it's that crazy. 

The initial comments have been removed but you can see the interaction here. Saccoccio accused Cait of being deliberately nasty and said that her one negative review was going to legit ruin his career, as in every possible reader is going to read this review and decline to purchase the book. He also called another commentator "Ba'al" and spouted more commentary to the point where things got truly surreal- and that's just in the first page of comments. 

I don't think I could sum up the gist of his comments any better than the following statement written by Saccoccio himself:

"I'm not embarrassed at all. And all of you who are taking Cait S's side, what you're doing in the bigger picture is waging war on the consciousness of humanity. The end. If this interaction prevents you from reading my work, it's okay. I'm not offended. I don't want your money, nor do I want you having a bad experience by reading my books. What bothers me is when people that operated at a low level of consciousness defame the work of people that are trying to help humanity, and no one helps humanity better than artists."

I really can't tell if he's serious or if this someone trying to troll book readers. There are interviews like this one that are in the same vein as Saccoccio's comments on Goodreads, so this might be the guy's honest personality. There's more evidence to suggest that this guy is just stuck in some Shia Labeouf level of idiocy than him being an Andy Kaufman. 

Either way, if this guy was trying to get attention then he got it. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A good idea?

Do you hate bullying? Of course you do- it's a nasty practice done by people who have little better to do with their free time.

One specific group, Hollaback!, is trying to take this on via their project HeartMob. They're raising funds for this via Kickstarter and I have to admit... I'm worried.


The website will give users a place to seek assistance from other people with cases of online bullying. This doesn't sound so bad until you look at some of the reports:


The problem with this is pretty obvious. How are we to know that the version of events that we've been given are the true version? What type of quality checking is there? Even if the staff has checked things, what if all that the person is looking for is a group of people to come and help fight the opposing party? In other words, what's to stop someone from going to this site and getting a horde of people to go attack another site? This would cross a very thin line where the people who are bullied could potentially turn into bullies themselves depending on the situation. 

I'd like to think that people would apply rational thought to a situation but group mentality and first impressions are powerful. If I were to read a post by someone who claims that they went to a website and were bullied horribly, I'd be more inclined to want to believe what I first read just based on that first strong impression. That I've been bullied and I'd go into this with the idea that I could be someone's superhero would also potentially prove to be a bias. 

This brings up another issue- what are the qualifications of the people who would be responding to the posters? The average person might do more harm than good because sometimes bullying needs to be very carefully approached because you need to get all of the details and know how to properly respond to someone. Sometimes telling someone to confront a bully is not the right answer, nor is giving them only sympathy. Sometimes people can give wrong information or even inadvertently say something to shame the other person or make them feel less likely to open up about everything. What's to keep this from just turning into a forum- of which there are many similar ones out there? The Kickstarter says it'll be moderated, but moderating can mean a lot of things. For example, if I remove a comment in a blog then that's me serving as a moderator right there. Will the moderators be qualified persons or just volunteers? 

I'm not condoning bullying but anonymous posts are kind of difficult to judge. Sometimes people are targeted for the stupidest of reasons and you can see this on places like IMDb where people will create accounts and target people just because they happen to like the Twilight series or because they have a differing opinion. 

However sometimes you'll have someone do something like go on to 4Chan and do something insanely stupid. Again, I'm not condoning bullying and I don't want this to seem like I'm victim blaming, but sometimes you'll get people who won't tell you the entire story- something that can be incredibly important. 

Something also important to note is that sometimes you get people who weren't being bullied to begin with. It's not insanely frequent but sometimes you'll get people who will create fake accounts in order to make it seem like they're being bullied in order to gain attention or get revenge against someone. The false rape accusations of late are a good example of how something can go very, very wrong very quickly and end up ruining someone's name, possibly for life. 

That's not even addressing the issue about whether or not someone from one of the other groups would be able to get the same sympathy on this site. What if someone from MRA was getting bullied? Would they be able to receive the same care and sympathy or would they just be told that they shouldn't support the MRA? Would the site be able to adequately monitor this site to avoid this specific person getting bullied on their website? 

Even if the website doesn't allow people to specifically identify and link to the sites they're getting bullied at, this still has several big flaws that will need to be addressed. A commenter on the Huffington Post article brought up a good point: without the support of the social media sites there's not much that websites like this can do. No social media site is going to openly say that they condone bullying, but you will have sites that say that they cannot oppose free speech- and that's how a lot of groups manage to remain on social media. That means that this website may not be able to do much more than what many of the pre-existing websites like Stopbullying.gov or the various anti-cyberbullying forums offer to their patrons. 

I'm not saying that this website will fail, just that this needs to be done very carefully in order to avoid some of the pitfalls that I've mentioned here. Here are my biggest concerns:
  • What type of quality checking and verification will this site do for the posters? 
  • How will it be moderated?
  • Will they allow users to post links to the places that they claim are bullying them? 
  • Will each poster be guaranteed to have a qualified person responding rather than a random person on the Internet? 
  • What sets this apart from other similar things on the Internet?
  • Where will all the money go? 
  • How will this organization work with other organizations and the social media outlets?
  • What type of advice will they give? 
  • Will the site allow posts to go up "as is" or will they read over them first to ensure that they are appropriate? 
  • What will they do if they find that the person in question is not being truthful? 
  • What will they do if the person is not being bullied? 
  • If the person will not take advice, what will they do then? 
I have more questions, but these are the biggies and they're ones that every website or organization of this nature need to address- especially if they are seeking your money as their startup.

EDIT:

Sorry if any of this seems rambling (because it is) but stuff like this always concerns me a little since sometimes some of these sites can do more harm than good and sometimes they can just perpetuate stereotypes of what a victim looks like, what a bully looks like, and what constitutes bullying. 

It also doesn't help that a little searching about the organization asking for money (Hollaback) came under fire last year for editing a street-harassment awareness video to remove a lot of white men that were harassing women. They may not have meant to make it appear that a white woman was mostly getting harassed by non-white men, but this is what I mean by sites sometimes doing more harm than good. The comments in the Jezebel article are especially appropriate to what I'm talking about. This sort of thing needs to be done very carefully and be very transparent from the get go to avoid stuff like this whenever possible. 


Further reading


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Patrick McLaw: An update

This is a little late coming, but I notice that when you google "Patrick McLaw", many of the hits tend to fall along the lines of "he was victimized for writing a book". I think that it's important that I write this, even if it's fairly old news.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the reason for McLaw's suspension came from mental health issues and not because he'd published the works. Apparently the school and the police had been aware of his books for years and as they hadn't arrested him back in 2012 it seems like they weren't anything they'd arrest someone over, which is contrary to what some of the newspapers had been printing.

In my previous post I'd written that someone had claimed that McLaw's suspension and police investigation had been due to a letter he had written- which ends up being a truth. McLaw did write a letter that gave the school system and the police reason for concern. The reason we know about that is because the state decided to release parts of the letter to show justification for their actions. They didn't want to do this, but the growing pressure of the various blogs and news articles pushed their hand. I have yet to find any of the letter's contents, but one news outlet has stated that it contains "suicidal tendencies" and another stated that the police were involved mostly because they were concerned for McLaw's own well-being. If I can find the letter, I'll post what I can.

Now I've saved this part for last, as it's kind of a little muddled. In a September 6th article via CBS Baltimore, McLaw says that the police have been taking things out of context. It may not apply to the books, but I'm kind of thinking that this may be implied. I wish he'd clarify his point in all of this, as this sort of thing can really, REALLY backfire if/when more information comes out that proves beyond even a reasonable doubt that he wasn't targeted because of his books. What is also concerning is this statement:

“Within hours we received information of perhaps an inappropriate relationship involving a student so we had some concerns,” 

So... does this mean that McLaw was having an inappropriate relationship with a student? Did that factor into anything at all? Was it even about him? I dislike this sort of thing, as it's entirely possible that the relationship wasn't related to McLaw and/or that it was an innocent relationship. The article also mentions that he did in fact have a model of the school in his shed and that he is still at a mental institution, receiving treatment. (Although in all fairness, this could be something he's doing at the recommendation of his lawyer as showing that he was willing to cooperate with mandated treatment will work in his favor in court- especially if the doctors say that he had no pressing mental issues.) This sort of opens up some more questions, but it does seem that the "was he targeted for his books" question has been answered for the most part.

And the answer is no- he wasn't. I'm still not sure of the exact reason for what happened to him, but it appears that it wasn't because he was an author. Whether he did or didn't do anything that would be reason for concern, we need to stop holding him up as someone who was victimized for publishing controversial books because that seems to be far from the truth of the situation.


Further Reading: