Viable Paradise prep #1 – Reading List

So in anticipation for Viable Paradise XVIII in mid-October, I’ve been trying to read a good sample of books by all of the workshop’s instructors. I figured that tnowing more about their writing should help me appreciate and contextualize their awesomeness!

As background: I was so excited to apply to VP because I already loved Scott Lynch’s work from Lies of Lock Lamora and Red Seas under Red Skies, and Elizabeth Bear’s short work from 30th Annual Year’s Best Science Fiction (which included her In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns and The Wreck of the “Charles Dexter Ward”). I also read some of Stephen Brust’s Taltos novels a looong time ago, details fully faded from my memory.

So here’s what I have read thus far as my VP “homework”. I chose these books via a mix of what I wanted and what was available in my local library. Listed in order I read ’em.

  1. Scott Lynch: The Republic of Thieves
  2. Sherwood Smith: Inda
  3. Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald: The Price of the Stars
  4. Steven Brust: The Paths of the Dead
  5. Elizabeth Bear: Bone and Jewel Creatures
  6. Elizabeth Bear: Range of Ghosts

And yet to read:

  1. Steven Gould: Jumper
  2. Steven Brust: The Book of Jhereg (Taltos #1-3)
  3. Steven Gould: 7th Sigma

Next post: reviews!

Twitter!

I now have a twitter feed! Not that there’s anything of interest on there yet, but I’ll give this thing a whirl. Once upon a time I tried it for my professional science life, and gave that up straightaway due to a lack of interesting science to say (or read) in 140-character chunks. I’ll watch and learn and hopefully find more things to chirp about on this side of my life?

@BenCKinney

Virgil Magus: The Echo of a Story

I recently began reading The Phoenix and the Mirror by Avram Davidson, inspired by someone-or-other’s list of all-time best SF. Despite some frustrations with an occasionally jumpy writing style, I’m enjoying it immensely. Rich with detail and mystery, it’s a font and spectacle of ancient myth. The main character is Virgil Magus — the poet Virgil as warped and retold by medieval myths about his sorcerous wisdom. I’m only halfway through, but the plot seems interesting thus far.

But that’s not why I wrote this post. My edition of this book has a preface wherein Davidson said he planned to write more Virgil Magus books, so I glanced at Wikipedia to confirm whether this happened. Not only did he, but in those links, I found mention of a story I half-remembered from 1998! I had only remembered the second half of the title Virgil Magus: King Without Country, but it was enough to trigger the memory when I saw it listed. That (along with ) is story has been echoing in my head for years. VM:KWC is a story of Davidson’s that was posthumously finished by Michael Swanwick, possibly my all-time favorite author. If you want a slew of info and spoilers, read through the first link in this paragraph. Suffice to say the general tone and a few specific tricks in that story (e.g. the sword) inspired me in many ways throughout the years since.

This is the second time this year I’ve managed to identify a short story that inspired me >10 years ago. The other culprit was The Hydrogen Wall by Gregory Benford. That one was less serendipitous: I was thinking about it one day, and the near-closing line that stuck in my head: “The answer does not lie within your conceptual space.” That and a bit of google-fu eventually led me to a copy I could read (without having to shovel through back issues of Asimov’s in my highschool bedroom).

If I ever write a story that makes someone think, ten years later,: “Wow, I remember the story that had X and Y, that made me think about Z. I wish I could remember its name or author.” — if I write one story that accomplishes that, I will call my writing a success.

Workshop time!

It looks like I will be attending Viable Paradise XVIII this October! I am super-thrilled for this opportunity. It already looks like I’ll be joining a crew of weird and excellent and much-more-accomplished-than-I folks. My hope for the week is to get bitten by a radioactive author and gain his/her proportionate strength and speed.

JWA final results

The winner of the 2014 James White Award was “Beside the Dammed River” by DJ Cockburn. I am sad that I did not win, but still very excited that I made the shortlist. I look forwards to reading his story when it comes out, and/or eating his brain to absorb his talents!

James White Award shortlist!

My short story, “The Demands of Iron,” has made the shortlist for the 2014 James White Award! I am extremely proud to have made it this far. The winner will be announced this weekend, so stay tuned.

Website startup

Welcome to my bare-bones website! There’s only a little bit to see thus far; the links at the top of the page should work, but that’s about it.