Spring House Guests

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Three robin’s eggs in a nest on top of my back porch light. This is the second time since we’ve lived in this house that a robin has nested in that exact spot. The last time it didn’t end well for the robin chicks.

Robin’s Nest Flickr Album

I took these photos using my Samsung smartphone standing on a step ladder inside the house with my arm sneaking around the top of the patio door. I could not see the screen when I snapped the shots. Two of the photos I adjusted afterwards to enhance the visibility and vibrancy of the eggs (which were hidden in shadow inside the nest).

Porthos is lounging in the background (on the step watching me taking the photo above).

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Reading the 1944 Retro Hugo Finalists

My reading list for the next several weeks, thanks to the recently announced finalists for the Retrospective Hugo Awards.  Or rather I should say my scavenger hunt because finding some of these stories will be challenging.

Update 7/4/2019: Happy Independence Day!  I’m several steps closer to completing my Hugo finalist reading.  See below for specific updates.

Update 6/19/2019:  The last push through the Best Novel nominees.  Listening (and a re-read) of Perelandra and reading ebook of Earth’s Last Citadel currently.  That leaves just Conjure Wife remaining.  I’m going to abandon The Glass Bead Game as I found it cloyingly philosophical.

Update 4/28/2019:  Finished ‘We Print the Truth’ and loved it.

Update 4/27/2019:  This week I finished ‘Proud Robot’ and a few hours of The Glass Bead Game (putting that on hold for now); started ‘We Print the Truth’ by Boucher and The Weapon Makers by Vogt.

Update 4/19/2019: Finished reading ‘Attitude’ this morning and finished ‘Citadel of Lost Ships’ yesterday.  Now reading ‘Proud Robot’ by Kuttner/Moore and listening to The Glass Bead Game by Hesse.

Update 4/13/2019:  Finished the short story category today.  Also started the “Clash by Night” novella.

Update 4/9/2019: Back at the office today so I’ll be switching gears from printed editions to one of the ebook anthologies I already own, probably one of the novelette finalists.

Update 4/8/2019:  My goal today is to finish the Short Story category and rank for voting.  (4:30 PM) Two out of three read.

Update 4/6/2019:  Scavenger Hunt Complete and Successful.  I have found readable reproductions of all finalists.  Let the reading commence or continue!

The finalists for the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Awards are:

Best Novel

  • Conjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (Unknown Worlds, April 1943)
  • Earth’s Last Citadel, by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner (Argosy, April 1943) †
    • Read 6/21/2019; 3.5-4 stars
  • Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (Astounding Science-Fiction, May-July 1943)
  • Das Glasperlenspiel [The Glass Bead Game], by Hermann Hesse (Fretz & Wasmuth)
  • Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis (John Lane, The Bodley Head)
    • I’ve read this previously at least twice.  If time allows, I will re-read.
    • Read 6/25/2019; 3.5-4 stars
  • The Weapon Makers, by A.E. van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction, February-April 1943)
    • Requested interlibrary loan via LCL 4/3/2019
    • Purchased as an ebook 4/6/2019
    • ILL checked out 4/18/2019
    • Read 5/13/2019; 2-2.5 stars (meh)

Best Novella

  • “Attitude,” by Hal Clement (Astounding Science-Fiction, September 1943)
    • Found in the Music of Many Spheres anthology
    • Placed hold via KCPL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from KCPL 4/5/2019
    • Read 4/19/2019 Excellent hard science fiction first contact SF story.  Better than the previous year’s debut short story ‘Proof’ by Clement.  (4-4.5 stars)
  • “Clash by Night,” by Lawrence O’Donnell (Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore) (Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/14/2019 (3.5-4 stars)
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” by H.P. Lovecraft, (Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Arkham House)
    • Found in Necronomicon anthology
    • Placed on hold via LCL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from LCL 4/8/2019
    • Renewed 4/27/2019
    • Reading but on hold 6/19/2019; still on hold 7/4/2019 (but I’ll probably finish this over the long weekend)
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Reynal & Hitchcock)
    • Available as an ebook through Hoopla
    • Not planning on reading this.
  • The Magic Bed-Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons, by Mary Norton (Hyperion Press)
  • “We Print the Truth,” by Anthony Boucher (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1943)
    • Found in the Compleat Boucher anthology
    • Requested interlibrary loan via LCL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from LCL 4/20/2019 (due back 5/4/2019)
    • Read 4/28/2019 A very good (possibly great) story in the ‘what if’ SF QA grand tradition. I could snarkily summarize without spoiler with ‘A priest, an atheist and an agnostic walk into a bar . . .’ and I’d be nearly spot on. This is the second novella I’ve read by Boucher and he does not disappoint. (4-4.5 stars)

Best Novelette

  • “Citadel of Lost Ships,” by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, March 1943) †
    • Purchased Swamps of Venus ebook anthology from Baen 4/3/2019
      • Read 4/18/2019 an action/adventure story that just happened to take place on or around a fantastical Venus. (3 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 5
  • “The Halfling,” by Leigh Brackett (Astonishing Stories, February 1943) ∞
      • Read 4/2-3/2019; Started out strange and slow but last third compelling (3-3.5 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 4
  • Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” by Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943) ∞ †
      • Read 4/3/2019; Insiduously chilling for parents of very young children (4-4.5 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 1
  • The Proud Robot,” by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943) ∞ †
      • Read 4/20/2019 (3.5 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 3
  • “Symbiotica,” by Eric Frank Russell (Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1943) ∞
      • Read 4/6/2019; Impressed by Russell’s writing, read like an action-adventure-comedy screenplay (4 stars)
      • Proposed ranking: 2
  • “Thieves’ House,” by Fritz Leiber, Jr (Unknown Worlds, February 1943) †
    • Already own the ebook anthology Swords Against Death, which contains this story
    • Currently reading ebook 7/4/2019

Best Short Story

  • “Death Sentence,” by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1943)
  • “Doorway into Time,” by C.L. Moore (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, September 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/8/2019; Compelling, imaginative, disturbing (3.5-4 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 1
  • “Exile,” by Edmond Hamilton (Super Science Stories, May 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/5/2019; This story is short but impactful (3.5-4 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 2
  • “King of the Gray Spaces” (“R is for Rocket”), by Ray Bradbury (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, December 1943)
    • Found in Classic Stories 1 anthology
    • Placed hold at KCPL 4/3/2019
    • Checked out from KCPL 4/5/2019
    • Read 4/8/2019; A nice coming-of-age for boys story involving rockets (every kid wants to grow up to be an astronaut). (3.5-4 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 3
  • “Q.U.R.,” by H.H. Holmes (Anthony Boucher) (Astounding Science-Fiction, March 1943) ∞
    • Read 4/4/2019; meh, okay, nothing Earth-shattering (3 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 6
  • “Yours Truly – Jack the Ripper,” by Robert Bloch (Weird Tales, July 1943)
    • Found in The Big Book of Jack the Ripper anthology
    • Placed hold at JCPL 4/3/2019
    • Hold available for pickup 4/5/2019
    • Checked out on 4/5/2019
    • Read 4/13/2019; Liked it enough to read the very next story in this anthology, also by Bloch. (3.5 stars)
    • Proposed ranking: 4

∞ † ∞

In anticipation of this list and some previous research, I have been purchasing ebook anthologies for C.L. Moore and Henry Kutner as well as requesting via interlibrary loan Asimov’s The Golden Years of Science Fiction Third Series anthology (for works published in 1943/1944) which contains many of the nominated finalists above (indicated by the infinity symbol [∞] above).  If I’ve purchased the ebook, the dagger symbol [†] will be used in the finalist list above.

The rest I’ll have to research using Internet Science Fiction Database (ISFDB) web site.  Earlier this year I created an account there in anticipation of nominations and finalist reading research.  Conveniently, there’s already a page with links to all the finalists found here.

As I find the anthologies or inexpensive ebooks to purchase, I will update the list above to indicate the status of my scavenger hunt.  Meanwhile, I’ll be reading the stories I already have in my hot little hand thanks to my planning and forethought.

 

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Resurrecting My Inner Artist

The first snow and winter storm of Winter 2019 finally arrive the second Saturday of January. In my experience, that’s a delay of nearly ten days from when we usually have snow or a winter storm or if nothing else bitter cold below zero temperatures and wind chills. The snow we received was wet and heavy, perfect for making a snowman but not so great for my back when I went out to shovel the driveway.

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Recipe Review: Calzones (4 stars)

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Almost two weeks into the new year and we finally saw some snow.  So, I spent the entire weekend doing indoor activities (except for that one time I went out and shoveled the heavy wet perfect-for-snowman-making white stuff off of my driveway).  Oh, and I did have to make a trip to the grocery store Sunday morning to pickup some missing ingredient items for the calzones I planned to make that afternoon.

The recipe I worked from can be found on page 186 of my favorite bread cookbook: The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook.  But you can find an online version of it at the King Arthur Flour website here:  Calzone

The dough part of the recipe is actually found on page 176 and is called “Hearth Bread Pizza.”  I use half of that recipe every time I make home-made pizza crust.  This time I did the whole recipe, all six cups of flour, and opted to use my Kitchen-aid mixer with a dough hook until I got beyond the five cup range.  I also did a full rise, not the no-rise option, which I usually do for thin crust pizza dough. Continue reading

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More on Mass Market Paperbacks aka One Book That Ruled Them All

I just checked my email and received an eblast from Tor.Com (one of my favorite publishers) which included the article below, which expands on my less-well-researched post from yesterday.

 

ONE BOOK TO RULE THEM ALL

How The Lord of the Rings Changed Publishing Forever

Last week marked the anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday, prompting Alan Brown to take a look back at the 1965 Ballantine paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, which ushered in a new age for both Middle-earth and the publishing industry—and, of course, helped changed the lives of generations of fans in the process.

[Read more]

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Book Review: Meditations on Middle-Earth (4 stars)

Meditations on Middle-Earth

Edited by Karen Haber ♦ Illustrated by John Howe

Essays by Various Authors (see highlights below)

First Edition Published: 2001

Read in January 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Excerpt from St. Martin’s Press Synopsis:

In Meditations on Middle-earth, sixteen bestselling fantasy authors share details of their personal relationships with Tolkien’s mythos, for it inspired them all. Had there been no Lord of the Rings, there would also have been no Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin; no Song of Ice and Fire saga from George R. R. Martin; no Tales of Discworld from Terry Pratchett; no Legends of Alvin Maker from Orson Scott Card. Each of them was influenced by the master mythmaker, and now each reveals the nature of that influence and their personal relationships with the greatest fantasy novels ever written in the English language.

If you’ve never read the Tolkien books, read these essays and discover the depth and beauty of his work. If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, the candid comments of these modern mythmakers will give you new insight into the subtlety, power, and majesty of Tolkien’s tales and how he told them.

Meditations on Middle-Earth is a 2002 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Related Work.

My Favorite Essays

If you read only one or two of these essays, I highly recommend Michael Swanwick’s “A Changeling Returns” and Donald A. Anderson’s “Tolkien After All These Years” – both of which brought tears to my eyes for very different reasons.  The latter also added to my TBR by referencing many non-fiction titles not yet gracing my shelves.

“What he [Sean] heard was the same book I had discovered that sleepless night . . . the single best adventure story every written.  As an adult, however, I found that during my long absence it had transformed itself into something else entirely.  It was now the saddest book in the world.”

Michael Swanwick, “A Changeling Returns” p. 35

“From experience, Tolkien knew that there are only two possible responses to the ending of an age.  You can try to hold on, or you can let go. … Tolkien’s vision of the combined horrors of the twentieth century ended with hope and forgiveness.  This is a book of sad wisdom.”

Michael Swanwick, “A Changeling Returns” p.36-7

Continue reading

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Four Decades of Fellowship

The Fellowship of the Ring

Part One of The Lord of the Rings

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Read in late 1976 or early 1977

Rating:  Five Stars

Review originally published at GoodReads

1976 Ballantine Fantasy Mass-Market Paperback Edition (well read condition with some interior handwritten remarks)

This battered well-read edition of The Fellowship of the Ring still stands on my book shelf, amidst it’s younger, better bound, brother editions. While reading essays contained in Meditations on Middle-Earth, it struck me that nearly all of these authors (many of whom I’ve read and enjoyed their own authorial subcreations), enjoyed a similar life-altering reading experience at about the same point in time as myself.

To confirm my theory (and increasingly dim memory of my life four decades ago), I pulled this paperback off the shelf and became immediately distracted by the notes written to me by my friends on the backside of the covers. No one signed their epigraphs, but I can still decipher the handwriting and put faces to scrawlings. But back to my original quest: The actual publication date of this mass market paperback (also confirmed here at GoodReads): 1976

If I acquired this edition that year, and read it then (which I have no doubt I did), I would have been either 11 or 12 years old (depending on the time of year; my birthday occurs in early October). If I received this edition (and their companions) in the following year (1977) the oldest I would have been reading it would have been 13. But I remember reading Lord Foul’s Bane in paperback (published mid-1978) after reading Tolkien’s masterpiece, so I’m reasonably confident I was either twelve or thirteen when I first visited Middle-Earth. Continue reading

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