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Virtual Speculation 2018 Picks

So begins another year and another set of books to read, hopefully you'll join me.  The selections this time around include three long-overdue rereads, one a sequel to a book I picked my first year, and eight books that have popped up and looked particularly worth reading.  There were actually a good half-dozen more titles at various points I had meant to jot down for this list... and apparently never did so.  Hopefully they'll come across my desk again some time soon.  Otherwise, we'll see how this goes!  I only vaguely know what to expect for most of these.

February: Chill / Elizabeth Bear
March: A Wrinkle in Time / Madeleine L'Engle
April: The Sheep Look Up / John Brunner
May: Islands in the Net / Bruce Sterling
June: The Shore of Women / Pamela Sargent
July: The Forever War /Joe Haldeman
August: The very best of Kate Elliott / Kate Elliott
September: Infomocracy / Malka Older
October: Lovecraft Country / Mike Ruff
November: Autonomous / Annalee Newitz
December: The…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XXI. Of Túrin Turambar

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As previously related, Húrin was captured and his family cursed.  Now we get to read about it "in brief."  It's worth mentioning that The Children of Húrin exists as its own novel.

As it stands, this is a story of mistakes, pride, and overall bad decisions.  Maybe at some point folks will start learning to listen to Maia.  I'm considering just calling Melian "Cassandra" from now on.

Túrin was sent into Thingol's fosterage, where he does well until news of his mother and sister stopped, and he went searching.  On his return he was worn, unkempt, and probably not in the best head space... and a councelor decided to be petty and a few clashes ended with Saeros falling into a chasm and Túrin deciding he was an outlaw rather than risk judgement and imprisonment.  He goes a little edgelord there, becoming the captain of outlaws and naming himself Neithan, or "the Wronged."  Seriously, dude?  Then when Thingol sends someone out to make sure Túrin kno…

So much for taking it easy

A few months ago, I mused that I had a lot going on.  Truth be told... I did.  Maybe that led indirectly to the misjudgements of time and work load that led to where I am now.  Whoops.

Gaming-wise things have quieted down... with some regular contributions to the monthly Sabbat game I help run, and apparently writing Regional Plot when I get horrible ideas for our monthly Space game (that I do not help run).  I am attached to a few large projects, but they're on the back burner until things kick off in a bit.  Thankfully.  Panic for all of that is due to start this summer most likely.

Professionally things are quite interesting.  I'm in the middle of trying to write (and appropriately beat into shape) an essay for a professional publication on immersive play in libraries.  I was hoping to have it already done but things keep being busier than expected.  On top of that next month I'm giving a webinar on disability representation in libraries.  This shouldn't be a big de…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XX. Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad

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We start out with Beren and Lúthien in their (literal) new life together, visiting their family and then leaving to live their own life (and reproduce) "until all tidings of them ceased."

And then we go on to a different story.    Maedros takes heart from the deeds of Beren and Lúthien in their blows to Morgoth and tries to unite the different Eldar peoples to stand against him.  Sadly, sons of the father and all that, this is less effective than it could be, though they make a showing.  Also, I think we can all agree showing up and making ultimatums rarely goes well, so haughtily demanding that Thingol hand over the Silmaril or become their enemy.

What follows is a hot mess.

Morgoth has his plans, the Elves do their best to out-think and overpower them.  Unexpected aid shows up, but the forces are also drawn in when they should stay back.  The Elves might have had a chance but for betrayal by allies.  The Dwarves stood against dragon fire and foe, but Balrogs struck down the…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XIX. Of Beren and Lúthien

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If you've read the main Middle Earth novels, it's hard to remain unaware of Beren and Lúthien.  Their love story is the basis of a cycle we see repeated most notably between Arwen and Aragorn, and a song we hear within The Lord of the Rings.  I'm not going to compare it to Romeo & Juliet, because this isn't a cautionary or satirical play about impulse and naivete that takes place within a single week.  When Tolkien does romance, he goes big.  Realm shaking politics, claims to immortality, and epic trials of valor and devotion.

Our story even starts with the weight of love and grief, as Sauron uses Gorlim's desperate hope that his wife still yet lives to bring about the downfall of Beren's father and his men.  After slaying the orcs that killed Barahir, Beren spends the next few years wandering in solitude and needling Morgoth until a bounty is placed on his head equal to that on Fingon, High King of the Noldor, and orcs flee at rumor of him rather than see…

[Book Review] Grass

Grass / Sheri S. Tepper

It was good for me to return to this book, ten to fifteen years since I read it last.  I think, on reflection, while I loved the story then, a lot went over my head.  Which is a bit surprising since Tepper isn't exactly subtle in this book...  Not all science fiction is political, but you can count on examinations of politics, morality, and gender in Tepper's works.  This does end up with some instances of archetypes rather than characters, but she makes it work well, in part by using an archetype with depth that other characters to reflect off of.  Some of the mystery is lost in a re-read, but there were still enough details that I missed or forgot that I hunted for clues throughout.

I throughly enjoyed my reread, and plan on hitting up the other two Arabi books in the near future.  At almost 20 years old, Grass does not suffer from anachronisms, neatly sidestepping how society and technology has changed between 1989 and now.

Discussion Fodder:
How does…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XVIII. Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

The Noldor, strong and numerous, fair well in their alliance with Men.  For about five hundred years at least.  Time gets a bit wonky when dealing with the conniving of immortals, and "patience" becomes a bit relative.  I can't even say that Morgoth was really patient by waiting five hundred years because he built up his resources until he reached "good enough," and rushes out to burninate the countryside without really evaluating his plan.

His opening salvo is fire, rivers of flame, volcanoes, dragons, and Balrogs.  Morgoth's forces wrecked destruction on their unprepared enemy, but many retreated and regrouped, to strengthen those further away from the front and fortify defenses.  Fingolfin beholds the apparent destruction of his people, and calls out Morgoth in challenge.  Their fight is one of legend, a fight between demigods.  Morgoth rends the earth with his hammer, while Fingolfin springs away from Morgoth's blows, wounding Morgoth seven times.  …