Log in

No account? Create an account


This is my last post to LiveJournal. I have switched off cross-posting from Dreamwidth.

Find me there under the same name. I will be delighted to see you.

This account will be deleted on 31st March 2019.

It has been very good, but all good things come to an end.


Reading books I skimmed to write an essay. I would alter a sentence or two, having read these two.

These follow on directly from the previous books in chronological order, with the usual cast of recurring characters - O'Mara, Prilicla, Murchison, along with a large cast of aliens, who may be minor characters but do get proper introductions and speaking parts. Conway interestingly, is frequently mentioned, but almost never actually there, and even when he is there he doesn't get to speak.

The Galactic Gourmet
The Galaxy-famous chef, Gurronsevas - "a massive six-legged alien of considerable dignity", driven by ego and overwhelming pride, arrives at Sector General to improve the hospital food. After creating certain entertaining kinds of chaos, and making himself largely unwelcome on the Station, he is seconded to the ambulance ship Rhabwar: it is not clear whether he is supposed to be useful or is just being quietly removed from the Station while things settle down. In the event he finds that, like his medical colleagues, chefs can employ professional concerns to bond with individuals of other species, and help to improve first contact situations gone somewhat awry.

This was entertaining, in a slightly repetitive fashion: Guerronsevas is a large, ponderous and rather rigid alien learning better, the third in a row, after Cha Thrat and Lioren. Overall there's a good idea here, and White has fun with the standard tropes of Sector General, but it doesn't feel like essential reading.

Final Diagnosis
A change of tack with this one, with protagonist Hewlitt, an Earth Human male, arriving on Sector General as a patient to puzzle the hell out of everybody: the Diagnosticians - including Conway and Thornnastor - can find no physical cause for his enigmatic symptoms; but Lioren, now Padre, and Lieutenant Braithwaite of O'Mara's office can't find anything psychogically wrong either. Hewlitt slowly wends his way through his own and Sector General's pasts, visiting with Hudlars, Kelgians, Chalders and Telfi on his way to a really, really neat ending that pleases me enormously as an idea.

Hewlitt is a rather stuffy and tedious character whose pale, stale, maleness was trying at times, so this was a book that dragged somewhat in the reading; and White still has to explain ideas rather than showing them. I enjoyed meeting the many aliens, and the cat, and I'm glad I read it.

July 2017: This entry was originally posted at https://coth.dreamwidth.org/387044.html where there are comment count unavailable comments. I'm still reading on LiveJournal, but please comment there rather than here.
Revisiting titles earlier skimmed.

Code Blue - Emergency: Sommaradvan Cha-Thrat is rewarded for meritorious action by being offered a Hospital Station trainee-ship. Which she gets wrong. She proceeds to experience a series of accidents as she get everything wrong for the right reasons, until everyone achieves a better understanding of each other, and she finally earns a new opportunity. I enjoyed this from the beginning to the end - the book sticks to Cha-Thrat's pleasingly blunt viewpoint, and the book has a lightness of touch that White does not always achieve.

The Genocidal Healer: The Tarlan Surgeon-Captain Lioren wrestles with his guilt and responsibility for genocide by exploring a range of ethical and spiritual dilemmas thrown up by the evolutionary history and personal circumstances of a variety of individuals of several different species. Starts off rather clumsily as White explains the background, improves as Lioren gets to grips with the problems of his new friends, and then trails off slightly as White earnestly explicates some rather naive theology on his way to the happy ending. Probably ought to be considered for reading lists for religious sf - I don't recall seeing its ultimate argument made elsewhere. (There is also a brief mention of a character called Carmody - a reference to Phil Farmer's Night of Light maybe?)

Glad that my skimming did not miss anything essential to the books. Also nice to properly meet Khone the Gogleskan, and Hellishomer the Groalterri Cutter.

Beginning to think that the Hospital Station books would make a very good basis for a tv soap series. Someone should pitch it to Netflix.

July 2017: This entry was originally posted at https://coth.dreamwidth.org/386662.html where there are comment count unavailable comments. I'm still reading on LiveJournal, but please comment there rather than here.
A few weeks ago my friend [personal profile] electricant  helped me to obtain a copy of the 2014 ebook, Unexpected Stories, that contains Childfinder and A Necessary Being.  The two stories are framed by a very short foreword, short afterword, and short biography. Both stories were completed in the Seventies, and never published until they were found in Butler's papers after her death.

Cover of Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler

A Necessary Being is a novella. It tells the story of one of the background events to Butler's novel, Survivor, which was published in 1978. The encounter between the leaders of two tribes will determine their own fates and those of the tribes they lead.

The story turns on the political and social structure of the tribes, the Rohkohn and the Tehkohn. The Hao, the parent, leads the tribe of judges and hunters, who are the warriors, and the nonfighters. I particularly enjoyed the way the Hao are challenged by their peoples.

The notes say that Butler failed to sell the story several times during the 1970s, and eventually let it lie. Which seems reasonable, because although it is a perfectly good story, it adds little or nothing to Survivor. Butler later refused to allow Survivor to be republished, and I suspect that had the question arisen in her lifetime she would have included this alongside Survivor in her refusal. I enjoyed reading it.

Childfinder is a very short story. It was finished in 1971, and given to Harlan Ellison for Last Dangerous Visions. It was thus never published until Ellison released it for this ebook in 2014.

The Organisation is a group of telepaths, hidden among the ordinary human population, that is trying to grow by recruiting new members. One of its members, the childfinder, has a gift for identifying the children who are pre-telepaths, who will mature into telepaths if they get the right kind of experiences and education. There is conflict among the group.

It's short. It reads like a fragment of an early or alternative version of Mind of My Mind. The story is told in conversation. The teller is a Black woman, and the conflict among the telepaths is racially charged. It's interesting, and I can see why Ellison would have bought it, but it's not very good.

The foreword by Walter Mosley is brief and laudatory. The afterword, by Butler's agent, Merrilee Heifetz, is brief and anecdotal. A very nice bonus is the photographs of Butler from babyhood to maturity: she was a very striking woman.

This entry was originally posted at http://coth.dreamwidth.org/378833.html. In April 2017 I'm still hanging out on LiveJournal, and comments here and there are both fine.

My little travel radio

This was a present from my parents while i was still a teenager and has been in use for over forty years. I am finally replacing it as it has no longer holds its tuning. But wanted to commemmorate its long and high-quality service before it goes.

I was on a panel at Innominate (Eastercon 2017) entitled Disability in SFF: Beyond 101. The item blurb read:

"Sue Smith presents a short introduction to accessibility and disability in science fiction. Three panelists with varied experiences respond to it and push the discussion beyond the standard 101 debate often seen at conventions."

I decided to look (briefly) at three science fiction books that treated disability in three different ways.

Bob Shaw's Night Walk is copyright 1967. Sam Tallon is a spy with a secret, is captured and blinded, contrives a device that enables him to see through the eyes of other creatures, uses it to escape and return with his secret to his masters, who are no longer his masters because his invention has allowed him to solve the problem of sub-space navigation and become master of the universe. Whoo. That was a fast ride. Tallon's blindness is inflicted on him, but he is is not disabled, and Shaw has fun with his device. I enjoyed the SFF notion that does not just repair the damage to Tallon's sight but opens up new and rich additional possibilities with the use of technology.

Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang (1971) is a fix up of several stories about Helva, the ship who sang. The first story opens with the phrase: "She was born a thing..." But because she is intelligent she is treated and indoctrinated to become a cyborg ship, capable of interstellar flight. I read the first two stories, and McCaffrey's focus is on Helva's emotions and how she deals with being a human being encapsulated in a starship. Helva's birth defects have justified treatment that removes her entirely from the company of normal human beings, but she gains many other opportunities and benefits as a result, including human love and companionship that might not have been available to her had she matured in her original imperfect body.

Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain (1993) deals with the sleepless, human beings whose genes have been modified in the womb so that they don't need to sleep.
I read the first 40 pages in time for the panel. Without the handicap of needing hours of sleep each day, the sleepless are in a position to supplant normal human beings and take over the world. But they are born to normal human parents, and are normal human beings in most respects...how can people deal with the knowledge that their close kin have attributes they lack?

On the panel Sue Smith talked about the necessity for SFF "to imagine futures where we all belong", and about a modern anthology of stories about disability that does that. Diane Carr talked about metaphors of disability in the language. My own ideas about science fiction have quite a lot to do with imagining futures where we all belong, as well as examining different views of what constitutes ability or disability. I'm not sure whether what I said about these books fully engaged with Sue Smith's opening statement, or constituted a discussion "beyond the standard 101 debate". Nevertheless, I enjoyed rereading and discussing them. Someone came up to me afterwards to thank us for the panel, so we must have said some things worth listening to.

Six delightful stories of books, gastronomy, (lack of) sex, death and miscommunication. I laughed out loud, and salivated.

Obsolete national stereotypes may offend those reading in a modern spirit.

Cover by Val Biro.

Six stories:
Two I'd go back to: The Public School Education (old friends meet in Venice) and The Havoc of Havelock (reading Havelock Ellis in a Bournemouth hotel).
Two I enjoyed until the end: The Michelin Man (dubious goings on in a French hotel), The Entrance (Gothic horror afflicts an antiquarian book dealer).
Two which were fun to read once: The Picnic (the family goes on a beach picnic - the weakest story in the book) and The Maiden Voyage (the family goes on a Mediterranean cruise).

Francis Hardinge - The Lie Tree (2015)

This was by turns exhiliarating and frustrating.

The writing is lovely. I kept stopping to enjoy sentences and paragraphs that were perfectly expressed and placed:

"A rain shower was rehearsing. A few experimental droplets filled the silence."

"Faith had always told herself she was not like other ladies. But neither,  it seemed, were other ladies."

(That second one might be a spoiler, but I love it too much to leave it out.)

I love the overall plan of the book. A few years after the publication of The Origin of Species, the Sunderly family has moved to Vane, the island where the Reverend Erasmus Vane's deep knowledge of fossils will be of great assistance to the local gentry excavating a promising cave. Perforce he brings with him his wife, his daughter Faith, on the awkward edge between adolescence and adulthood, and young son. The harrowing events on Vane pit the incomers against the locals, the men against the women, scientific enquiry against Victorian religion. All to a science fictional ending that leaves open possibilities for the future.

Most of the action of the novel is in Faith's head, among her family, and in her conversations. All of which are perfectly satisfactory. I can believe in Faith's family, and in the inside of Faith's head.

But when Faith goes and does things, oh dear, that gets frustrating. A house that gives Faith a private exit from her bedroom? So she can go out alone in woods and beach night after wet night without ever being queried by her mother or the servants? A boat that she can row for the first time ever in a stormy sea on a rocky coastline? Really? We are in Enid Blyton territory here, and set against the excellence of the rest it really, really grates.

And worst of all, I don't believe in the lie tree itself, which would be quite at home in Innsmouth or on one of the lands of the Faraway Tree, but does not belong on Vane island.

But it all made for a rocking good story.
I went to see this exhibition with my friend Jenny last Monday. Jenny is a member of the RA, and took me in for free, which was nice.

It is a lovely little exhibit, just the right size to enthuse without wearying. 45 paintings hung in 4 rooms, with some explanatory panels.

The main attraction is American Gothic (the man holding a pitchfork with a woman standing beside him - you know it), outside North America for the first time. I'm very glad to have seen that. We looked at it for several minutes, and it makes a considerable difference to how I view that painting to find out that the woman is the man's daughter, not his wife. I think Grant Wood might be a new favourite artist - there are at least two others by him shown and I liked them both. There's a Georgia O'Keeffe skull. There's a painting by Edward Hopper that I'd swear was used as a backdrop in Breaking Bad.

It's a nice exhibit for an sf fan who remembers that the first Worldcon ran alongside the World Fair in 1939. There's a section called Visions of Dystopia, and another called Looking to the Future. There's a study for a mural painted for the Fair, and a fair few paintings that could have been used for the covers of sf books. I got the feeling that I knew and understood a little more about where the US was in that decade.

Afterwards there were cranes to photograph, and we had a nice lunch in a pub called the Spread Eagle a little way away, with Naked Ladies on tap, and talked the afternoon away.

The exhibition is on until early June. If I can I think I'll go again.


Molly Gloss - The Hearts of Horses (2007)

A pen portrait of Elwha County, Oregon, during the winter of 1917. The Indians were driven off the land by the first wave of European settlers, who have already grown old on the land or moved on. Livestock farming is giving way to mismanaged arable, and to the early tourism and industrialisation that will have a short life in its turn. The young men are away being trained for war in Europe. The young women are taking their places on the land. The railway is there, and some motor vehicles, but horses are still the daily support of their owners to ride, and to draw ploughs, sleighs and wagons.

Martha Lessen is a horsebreaker, riding a circle of homesteads each day to break their horses to the saddle. We meet the people she meets, as she meets them, but we learn more of them than Martha does as Gloss gives us back- and forward-stories for her characters, in life and death.

This is a lovely book dealing with an unlovely time and place. I would recommend it unhesitatingly...

...except that it conveys, calmly and very clearly quite how badly the human race collectively mistreats horses in order to be able to make use of them. Many of the horse lovers who would really enjoy this book would become ashamed of themselves if they were to read it.

So I'm not quite sure what to do about that.

(I picked this up in Nottingham, recognising Gloss's name after reading The Dazzle of Day a couple of years ago. I shall be looking out for her other books.)

Caroline's Guide to Managing Life

I wrote this for a friend on Facebook, but I'm copying it here to point to in future.

I organise time, not lists. I think of everything I'm trying to do in life all at once so that I myself, family, friends, fandom and work are all in this together.

First, identify the day's and week's pre-organised "lumps" of commitment - that take 90 or more consecutive minutes. Never more than 3 in a day, and 2 is better. These can be meetings, lunches, training, fitness classes, theatre/concert/film trips, days out (of the office or from home). Or they can be significant tasks (write Minutes, plan project, draft document, reconcile accounts, prune cornus, cook celebration dinner). Relaxation doesn't count unless it's timed or a special effort involving more than 90 consecutive minutes.

Try to leave at least three days of your week clear of lumps. If you have a discrete working week then make sure you have non-lumpy days in both the working and other bits of the week. Everyday stuff fits round the lumps in lumpy days. You should try and spend half an hour with your inbox on lumpy days and identify the quick things that you must or can do the same day round your lumps, but don't sweat it if you can't - those things will wait. Laundry, daily shopping and cooking usually fit round lumps, so do non-urgent emails and accounting and many other tasks. So will social media, in moderation.

On one of days without lumps stay away from the computer and organised activities. It doesn't matter what you do - see friends, make something, take some exercise. But don't look at your inbox, work towards commitments, or do anything pre-panned. Don't let anyone put a lump into that day unless it's dire emergency.

On the other days without lumps make plans, catch up with your inbox, communicate, schedule the following week/month/year, progress elephant tasks, and think about managing change so that next week you have fewer lumps and less communication. You can make lists on non-lumpy days, to work through around the lumps.

Remember that life can always throw lumps in your way at no notice and be flexible. Your non-lumpy days are your contingency.

Eventually you will be in control of a very nice life.

Gerald Kersh - Men Without Bones (1962, though individual stories date back to 1937)
Subtitled "and other haunting inhabitants of the wide, weird world". Which is fair enough really. I read this for the Jomsthing on Kersh because it was the one book of his I owned. I discovered that Kersh wrote fanfic: The Madwoman - a Shakespeare fan fic, and The Ape and the Mystery which is a Leonardo da Vinci fan fic. I discovered how Ambrose Bierce spent his last days (or not, as the case may be). I met Simple Simon, who travels the world urging people to worship Jesus but can't recognise his saviour when he meets him, and George Wainewright (with an 'e') who might or might not be a murderer. I met the imagineary Annibal and his real sister Bella Barlay. I met the poor hapless Colonel Tessier who rode the wrong way, and the even more hapless Rodney whose wife is allergic to him. At times I stopped and read bits out loud to Brian. At times I left the book on my bedside for days together. Kersh seems to be one of those writers you either like or you don't, and in fact I like him on some days and not on others. He wrote over 400 short stories and I shall be reading more.

Kim Stanley Robinson - Antarctica (1997)
I read this (1st UK edition hardback, signed) for the London Science Fiction Research Community discussion, and because it was the oldest KSR book still unread on my shelves, and because I turned out to be in the mood for langurous meditations on icy landscapes. I found its 400 pages from multiple viewpoints compulsively readable, lost myself in the history, geography and future of the Antarctic, swallowed its cornucopiastic bounty in a few long, luxurious sessions. I read passages out loud to Brian from time to time (p43: "X's hands were now so cold"). It feels like a companion piece to the Mars trilogy, and indeed it was discussed as such by the LSFRC. It demonstrates all of the virtues I am familiar with from his earlier work, so easily read as vices if you are not in the mood, and you will love or hate it as you love or hate his other books.

Nnedi Okorafor - Lagoon (2014)
First contact, African style, brings humans, Gods and aliens onto the strees of Lagos to discover in the chaos whether they can live together and if so how to go about it. Diana Wynne Jones in Nigeria, I said, when someone asked me why they should read Okorafor's books, and I was thinking of Akata Witch. It's not strictly accurate - I don't think Diana ever had a soldier or an alien as a viewpoint character, but it will do for this too.

Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale
Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Shattered Chain
Octavia E. Butler - Kindred
Octavia E. Butler - The Parable of the Sower
Suzy McKee Charnas - Motherlines
C. J. Cherryh - Cyteen
Mary Gentle - Golden Witchbreed
Amanda Hemingway - Pzyche
Zenna Henderson - The People, No Different Flesh
Cecilia Holland - Floating Worlds
Megan Lindholm - Alien Earth
Gwyneth Jones - White Queen
Janet E. Kagan - Mirabile
Nancy Kress - Beggars in Spain
Tanith Lee - Don't Bite the Sun
Ursula LeGuin - Rocannon's World
Anne McCaffrey - The Ship Who Sang
Maureen F. McHugh - Mission Child
Naomi Mitchison - Memoirs of a Spacewoman
Elizabeth Moon - Remnant Population
Andre Norton - Star Rangers
Rebecca Ore - Being Alien
Marge Piercy - Woman on the Edge of Time
Justina Robson - Silver Screen
Joanna Russ - We Who Are About To...
Sherri S Tepper - The Gate to Women's Country
James Tiptree Jr. - Her Smoke Rose Up For Ever

Oh, alright then 26. You may have guessed I've been seeing a lot of "best sf" lists recently that have been annoying me.

I don't pretend this is a "best of" list (I don't believe I'm in a position to compile such a list). It's a list of books that have mattered to me for one reason or another over the years. It's not exhaustive - even as I look at it I'm thinking no Bujold, Willis, Anthony, Goonan - but I've been buying and culling books for nearly fifty years now and every one of these is by an author represented on my hardback shelves. I'm not selecting entirely for literary quality, although many of them stand with the best on that score. Some of them have probably dated. But they are all interesting books by good writers that have stayed with me and been worth rereading, some of them more than once.

Good reading.

Reading the New Yorker

So I have a trial subscription - post+digital - to The New Yorker, which started the week of Trump's Inauguration, and runs until mid-April. If I don't cancel it will auto-renew.

I love getting the paper magazine through my door - much nicer than the weekly ping to my phone. I love the physical magazine, the typography and layout, the mix of prose, poetry and art, the ability to riffle through the pages and use five decades worth of skimming skills to decide what to read and what to skip. I like its light weight, and I've carried it to read on the train a couple of times. The delivery day has been a bit variable though, probably unsurprisingly since it's coming across the Atlantic. I couldn't count on having a new paper issue to read on a given day.

I read the first issue - January 23rd - pretty much cover to cover. That had both novely and articles about the Inauguration to help it along. Since then I've mostly read some of each issue, although there's one copy still in its shrink wrap. I've enjoyed the coverage of the arts, events and restaurants in Manhattan, albeit with the nagging feeling that I would be using my time better if I was reading about similar matters in London. I've looked carefully at cartoons, and found some really funny while others are based squarely in aspects of US culture incomprehensible to this foreigner. I've read most of the short articles, which have been variously funny (Why Mummies?) and inaccessible. I've read most of the poems. I like the poems.

I have mixed feelings about the long articles. Some have been brilliantly informative and more than justified their reading time, and those have been very varied: racial politics in the southern states of the US, child refugees in Europe, the roots of climate science in the Cold War. Others have been interesting and educational about US politics and culture - My Father's Cellar about growing up alcoholic; General Chaos about Michael Flynn - but left me wondering whether what I gained was the worth the use of my time: again, the US-centricity leaves me feeling I'd be better off reading material of similar weight about my own culture and politics. Others have completely failed to engage the level of interest needed to sustain the reading time.

The short stories that I've read have been brilliant.

I've been reading in short bursts, some by daylight, some in the evening. In daylight the paper magazine is fine. But artificial light on the magazine does not work well for my eyes, and I have found it easier to finish a long article on my phone. I'd rather not read on my phone by default, so this might be a good use for a good tablet. But I don't have a good tablet.

My reading time is limited. I've lost books I could have read by reading the magazine instead. But the same is true of Facebook and I read Facebook most days. And I've read Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica in between issues of The New Yorker, so I haven't lost all books.

This is about learning the world again, after a fifteen-year gap while I did other things. I made a deal with my friend Alison that I will trade my New Yorker for her subscription to The Economist. At this point this still feels like a good deal, and I already know how I read and don't read The Economist. So will I let the subscription renew? Probably. Maybe. Something depends on exactly how I feel the day the email comes through, and exactly what the cost turns out to be (which a search has just failed to turn up). It is certain that many of the words will remain unread week by week, but that's just the fate of all magazines always, and not necessarily a reason to cancel. It might be a reason to have just the electronic subscription, but then I can't share the subscription with anyone else.

I wonder what the UK equivalent publication is, if there is one. I think I will try and find out.

Caryl Churchill - Escaped Alone (2016)

We went to see this yesterday at the Royal Court. I deliberately didn't read any reviews first, just trusted to Churchill and the performers.

Four women in a garden, talking. Expecting to be heard.

It's weird. Elliptical. Funny. Horrifying. There's a rant about cats, a conversation about absence, an episodic review of the consequences of catastrophe, a Dr Who joke. It's short enough (50 minutes) that it would take longer to write a proper review than it took to perform.

It turns out to be very hard to talk about afterwards. I'd go and see it again.

Here's a review I found today. It says most of what can be said simply.
The best thing to do after reading it would be to go and see it. Or not. Have a nice life.

Books and Films 2016

45 books, if you count Lagoon which got interrupted by Xmas and which I will finish later today. A good solid year with much rereading (asterisked) and backlist, including the Octavia E Butler reread. Highlights are the Jo Walton trilogy, Lucy Sussex short stories, Letters to Tiptree, Ancillary Mercy, Kindred and Fledgling. Similar number of books as last year (43).

Peter Ackroyd London Under
Jenna Bailey Can Any Mother Help Me?
Peter S Beagle The Line Between
Marie Brennan The Voyage of the Basilisk
Marie Brennan In the Labyrinth of Drakes
Lois McMaster Bujold Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
Octavia E Butler Patternmaster*
Octavia E Butler Mind of my Mind*
Octavia E Butler Survivor*
Octavia E Butler Kindred*
Octavia E Butler Wild Seed*
Octavia E Butler Clay's Ark*
Octavia E Butler Dawn*
Octavia E Butler Adulthood Rites*
Octavia E Butler Xenogenesis*
Octavia E Butler Parable of the Sower*
Octavia E Butler Parable of the Talents*
Octavia E Butler Bloodchild and Other Stories*
Octavia E Butler Fledgling
Becky Chambers The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Georgette Heyer Frederica*
Cecilia Holland Dragon Heart
Edward Hollis How to Make a Home
Lynn Johnston A Look Inside…For Better or For Worse
Lynn Johnston With This Ring
Alice Krasnostein (ed) Letters to Tiptree
Dave Langford The Silence of the Langford
Ann Leckie Ancillary Mercy
Cixin Liu The Three-Body Problem
Katrine Marcal Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?
Laurie J Marks The Moonbane Mage
Juliet E McKenna Trace Elements
Juliet E McKenna Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom
Naomi Novik Uprooted
Nnedi Okorafor Binti
Nnedi Okorafor Lagoon
Marc Stiegler The Gentle Seduction
Lucy Sussex Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies - The Essential Lucy Sussex
Sean Tan Tales from Outer Suburbia
Maria Turtschaninof Maresi The Red Abbey Chronicles
Alison Uttley Something for Nothing
Jo Walton The Just City*
Jo Walton The Philosopher Kings*
Jo Walton Necessity
10 films noted, and probably more I didn't. Red Planet was pretty dire, the rest good to excellent.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A Little Chaos
Florence Foster Jenkins
Mr Peabody and Sherman
Porco Rosso
Red Planet
The Lost Thing
Your Name

Here's hoping for better in 2017.
The letters published yesterday, 18th December, highlight a number of issues around adult social care, but did not include this one.

Our infirm parents do not rely on the state, but remain in their own home and finance their own direct care. They are of course very dependent on the NHS, a wide variety of domestic support services, their neighbours and their family.

The burden of bureaucracy and practical support involved in management of their health and affairs is a significant drain on family resources. During this year while I have been dealing with their needs I have been formally unemployed and practically underemployed, which deprives the nation of both my skills and the tax I should be paying. I am also misemployed, spending much of my time utterly unproductively filling in gaps in health, social care, domestic and financial systems to ensure our parents' needs are met and their dignity maintained.

More personally, while I am free to choose to do this and grateful to have the resources available, I am drawing on my own lifetime savings to fund this infuriating situation. This of course is compromising my own future and making it more likely that I will eventually suffer the fate my parents are currently spared.

We all live with the consequences of our past decisions. It would be good to be able to live well with them throughout our lives, rather than with this inefficient, ineffective and inhumane muddle of obsolete systems.

The letter column is here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/18/poor-not-pick-up-tab-social-care
Maria Turtschaninoff is a Finnish writer of YA fantasy, who writes in Swedish. She was a Guest of Honour alongside me at Swecon this year, and I am pleased that she gave me a copy of Maresi, her first book to be translated into English. I am looking forward to meeting her again at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

Maresi has grown up in the Red Abbey, on an island inhabited solely by women, a refuge for girls who have no place in their own societies. Some come to the island as refugees, others are sent by their families to benefit from the safety and education afforded by the Abbey. Maresi is on the verge of adulthood, but has not yet found her adult calling. When the island is threatened, Maresi comes into her own. Her destiny is not what she thought it would be.

This is beautifully written, and a beautifully made book. It will sit very happily on my shelves in the company of The Wizard of Earthsea and the Dalemark quartet by Diana Wynne Jones, and I shall look for more Red Abbey Chronicles bye-and-bye.

Edit to note that this may be the first time this year I have read a book in a day, aided by two forty minute train journeys and the lethargy induced by a boozy lunch.

Naomi Novik - Uprooted (2015)

Very glad to pick this up in the Dealers Room at Novacon (from http://www.booksonthehill.co.uk) as it won the Nebula and was shortlisted for the Hugo.

Um. It's a perfectly good book and I enjoyed reading it.

I should stop there. It's not fair to pick at a perfectly good book about which I have no real complaints. But I find myself underwhelmed. I like Novik's Temeraire books for their consideration of multiple different kinds of engagement between humans and dragons, and was hoping for something like that in this book, but I didn't find anything.

Agnieszka, a simple country girl, aged seventeen, deals simply with her simple problems. After she is plucked from her childhood she grows into her magic, saves her friend, wins the war, finds her way home. The landscape is well-realised, people are nice (except when misguided), the magic system is charming, evil is sinister, messy attempts to deal with the evil well conveyed.

On reflection, I think the first person narrative is the problem for me. As a mode of writing it's supposed to provide immediacy and immersion, but focussed through Agnieszka's simplicity I felt detached from the action, and impatient with the characters.

Don't let me stop you reading this if young adult fantasy is your thing. It's perfectly fine. Really. Every age needs its high body count comfort reading.

Did this really win the Nebula? Against Ancillary Mercy? WTF?

This year's tomato plants

Pulled up today, still ripening but we've had a couple of frosts and some are splitting. I think I still got the record for last outdoor tomato in Ilford though.

This year's plants came from Morrisons and were Sun Cherry and Gardener's Delight - both good.


Caroline M

Latest Month

February 2019