Archive for January, 2010

J. D. Salinger, RIP

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Reclusive author J. D. Salinger dead at 91. (I don’t usually link to The New York Times, for a variety of reasons, but they’ve got a pretty hefty obit on him.) I started this essay the day he died, but it’s taken me a few days to get down my thoughts.

Salinger was a talented writer who wrote one novel that annoyed the living shit out of me. I hated The Catcher in the Rye, and more specifically, hated Holden Caulfield with a livid and unrestrained passion. Never before has a single fictional character so infuriated me. “Oh woe is me, let me whine about my miserable, privileged, upper class New York City life.” He’s a phony who hates phonies. Got it. Doesn’t mean I want to spend some 180 pages living inside that fucking asshole’s head. True, I read it far too late (mid 20s) to be grabbed by the teen angst angle, but I suspected I would have longed to punch him until he got over himself even in my teens.

So, more than a decade after I read Catcher in the Rye, some of my friends started getting into Anime, one of them being Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which references Salinger out the yin yang, especially the story “The Laughing Man.” (I think that link is to some Hungarian pirate site, if the moral implications of stealing a few pennies from his estate that way rather than by buying a cheap used paperback worries you.) And you know what? That’s a pretty swell story.

Over the next few years, I read all the stories in Nine Stories, and several others are pretty good as well. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” is probably the one most people have read, and justifiably so. “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor” is a bit obvious, but it works. The protagonist of “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” is just as big a phony as Holden Caulfield, but knows he’s a phony, which makes all the difference in the world.

And then you read something like “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” (“I was a nice girl, wasn’t I?” No, no you weren’t.) and you realize that Salinger probably not only hated Holden Caulfield more than I did, but probably more than anyone else ever could.

In a way, his reclusive existence after Catcher is like the Great American Success Story, Misanthrope’s Version: Write the Great American Novel, build an estate way the hell out in the sticks, live off the royalties the remainder of your life and say “Fuck you” to the rest of the world. (I could have done without the Wacky Religion of the Week myself, but hey, it wasn’t my life.) He didn’t owe nobody nuthin’, and didn’t care what anyone else thought. Good for him.

I never got around to reading his other published books, sparse though their number was. Now that he’s dead, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his heirs start raking in the dough for getting all his unpublished and uncollected work into print just as fast as the checks can clear. Maybe he has a novel in that safe that won’t annoy the hell out of me.

And speaking of GitS:SAC, someone posted this nifty animated Laughing Man logo on the Fark thread about Salinger’s death, so I’m going to put it here:

New Lame Excuse Books Catalog Now Available

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Just sent out to regular customers last night, with lots of tasty first editions by Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen King, etc. Email me at if you would like to receive a copy.

And of course, there’s the main webpage, but I haven’t updated it with the new titles yet.

A Mind Meld on Who Should Be the Next Nebula Grand Master

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

I said Gene Wolfe.

As opposed to John Joseph Adams, who suggested Gene Wolfe, John Klima, who thought it should go to Gene Wolfe, and Jess Nevins, who said “Hey, how about Gene Wolfe?”

There were also a few other choices bandied about…

World War II: Now With Giant Mechanical Spider

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Embrace the anachronism arachnoid mechanism.

Postscript: And as long as we’re linking to films about big-ass mechanical things attacking people, check this out.

My Book-Hunting Trip to Archer City and Points East (and New Acquisitions Found There)

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Since I attended a family event in the Dallas Metroplex over the 1/15/10-1/17/10 weekend, I took the opportunity to do something I had long wanted to do: Visit Larry McMurtry’s Booked-Up book store (actually spread across four buildings) in Archer City.

The drive itself (a solid five hours) completely redefined my “ass end of nowhere” scale. It’s pretty far away from anything else, so only serious bibliophiles need apply.

As for the store itself, there’s a huge amount of stuff for a general book hunter to look for (especially in areas like pamphlets, foreign language books, Texana, literary criticism, and probably several others), but not a whole lot of SF/F/H. I found about $50 worth of stuff, most of it in the general fiction section.

Then I drove to Recycled Books in Denton, and bought $1,200+ worth of stuff (and that was after my dealer discount).

By contrast, I found very little of interest at the main Half Price Books just of 75 in Dallas; all they seemed to have were multiple copies of very common titles. (I did a lot better when they were in a smaller building just down the block, the one with the boat-shaped section in the middle of the store.) Maybe their non-fiction section is more worth browsing.

Below is the list of books I’m adding to my own library, including items from Recycled Books, Booked Up, and a three different Half Price Books. All of these are Fine/Fine first edition hardback copies, unless otherwise noted:

  • Ash, Brian. Who’s Who in Science Fiction. Elm Tree, 1976.
  • Beagle, Peter S. The Folk of the Air. Del Rey, 1986.
  • Bear, Greg. Beyond Heaven’s River. Dell, 1980. PBO. VG+. Also have the hardback.
  • Bear, Greg. Quantico. HarperCollins (UK), 2005.
  • Blaylock, James P. The Rainy Season. Ace, 1999.
  • Brunner, John. No Future in It. Gollancz, 1962.
  • Cherry, C. J. Voyager in Night. DAW, 1984. (Book club and only hardback.)
  • De Camp, L. Sprague. Solomon’s Stone. Avalon, 1957.
  • Emshwiller, Carol. Joy in Our Cause. Harper & Row, 1974.
  • Franzen, Charles. Cold Mountain. Fine/Fine save for name written inside. Pulitzer Prize winner that I’d been looking for for several years, and an example of why you look at 199 copies of an otherwise common book to see if each is a first edition, because that 200th copy just might be it…
  • Jackson, Shirley. Come Along With Me. Viking, 1968. Fine in a Near Fine- dj with price sticker on inner flap and very shallow (less than 1/32″) chipping at head and heel.
  • Koontz, Dean R. (as Leigh Nichols). Shadowfires. Avon, 1987. Book club and first hardback edition.
  • Kornbluth, C. M. Christmas Eve. Michael Joseph, 1956.
  • Lafferty, R. A. The Devil is Dead. Gregg Press, 1978. Replaces a more worn copy in my library.
  • Le Guin, Ursula. Rocannon’s World. Garland Press, 1975. First hardback edition, Fine, sans dj, as issued.
  • Lupoff, Pat & Dick. The Best of Xero. Tachyon Publications, 2004.
  • Malzberg, Barry. In the Stone House. Arkham House, 2000.
  • Moorcock, Michael. The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius. Alison & Busby, 1976.
  • Moorcock, Michael. The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius. HAARP, 1987. (Contents differ from the above.)
  • Morrow, James. The Wine of Violence. Holt, Reinhardt & Winston, 1984.
  • Mundy, Talbot. The Purple Pirate. Gnome Press, 1959. (First Gnome Press edition.)
  • Niven, Larry & Jerry Pournelle. Oath of Fealty. Phantasia Press, 1981. One of 750 signed, numbered copies, Fine/Fine in slipcase.
  • Pratt, Fletcher. Well of the Unicorn. William Sloane, 1948. Fine/Near Fine dj, with review slip laid in.
  • Sheckley, Robert. Journey Beyond Tomorrow. Gollancz, 1964. First hardback.
  • Sheckley, Robert. Mindswap, Delacorte Press, 1966. Signed.
  • Standish, David. Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth’s Surface. De Capo, 2006.
  • Temple, WIlliam F. 88 Gray’s Inn Road. Sansato Press (AKA Ferret Fantasy), 2000. Roman-a-clef that features a thinly-disguised Arthur C. Clarke (who provides the introduction) as a character, with Clarke’s signature plate affixed to the FFE, reportedly one of only 50 such copies. Replaces the trade edition in my library.
  • Wilhelm, Kate. Juniper Time. Harper & Row, 1979.
  • Vance, Jack. Bird Isle/Take My Face. Underwood/Miller, 1988. One of 500 signed, numbered sets in slipcase.
  • Vance, Jack. The Dark Side of the Moon. Underwood/Miller, 1986. One of 200 signed/numbered copies. Replaces a trade copy I’ll sell via my next Lame Excuse For a Book Catalog (in preparation).
  • Vance, Jack. Trullion: Alastor 2262. Ballantine Books, 1973. (PBO)
  • Waggoner, Diana. The Hills of Faraway A Guide to Fantasy. Atheneum, 1978.
  • Williamson, Jack. Wonder’s Child: My Life in Science Fiction. Bluejay, 1984.
  • Williamson, Jack (& E. C. Tubb). The Iron God (& Tomorrow). Gryphon Double Novel, 1999. TPO.
  • Zelazny, Roger. Bridge of Ashes. Gregg Press, 1979. (Replaces my Ex-Library copy.)
  • Zelazny, Roger. Nine Princes in Amber. Doubleday, 1970. An Ex-Library copy, but cleaner than the Ex-Library copy previously in my collection.

I also found a bunch more books that are going in this month’s Lame Excuse Books catalog.

So, if you’re going to be book shopping in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, by all means visit Recycled Books, which seems to be the best used bookstore in Texas. Visit Booked Up if you have the time to drive out that way, but the SF selection is fairly poor.

Peter Gabriel to Release an Album of Covers (And I’m Afraid It Might Suck)

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

The news on this has been out a while, but the release is less than a month away. The album is called Scratch My Back.

I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I’m a huge Peter Gabriel fan. (Hell, I even bought Ovo, which is largely an overpriced bag of suck with a few bright spots.) Peter Gabriel III still ranks among my favorite albums of all time.

On the other hand, when artists I like came out with similar albums (Fish’s Songs from the Mirror and Tori Amos’ Strange Little Girls), they sucked pretty hard. Plus I think the “orchestral versions, no drums or guitars” idea sounds more like a lame gimmick than a wisely-considered choice.

Anyway, for an advanced taste, here’s Gabriel covering David Bowie’s “Heroes”. The orchestration is actually more interesting than Gabriel’s vocals here. It reminds me somewhat of John Adams’ “Phrygian Gates”.

And here’s his cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”. Man, Gabriel’s voice sounds awful, much worse than Tom Waits, but without his pitch or power. I sure hope this isn’t the final version. And the original version of that song is great.

And those two (along with Paul Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble”) were the covers I was most interested in hearing.

I hate to say it, but if Gabriel’s voice is really that blown, maybe he should stick to soundtracks. (His soundtracks for Birdy, The Last Temptation Of Christ and Rabbit-Proof Fence were all excellent.)

iPhone App Saves Life of Man Trapped in Haitian Rubble

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


Well, there’s another reason to buy an iPhone.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Top Five Anime

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

SF Signal has a Mind Meld up asking people to name their top five choices for anime. I wasn’t asked to participate in this one, but if I had been, my list would probably look like this:

  1. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  2. FLCL
  3. Princess Mononoke
  4. Spirited Away
  5. Voices of a Distant Star

My review of GitS:SAC can be found here. I also have a review of FLCL available, should I be able to find someone who’s willing to pay me for it…

Library Additions: December 1, 2009—January 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I’ve got a big-ass post on my trip up to Archer City and the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex coming up, so I thought it was high time to engage in some preliminary bookgeeking by listing all the books I’ve picked up since my ginormous post on my library. This may be of very limited interest to people who aren’t book collectors or science fiction fans, but it it will help me document my library on an ongoing basis, making it much more likely that I’ll finally be able to compile a detailed, comprehensive list of what I actually have.

  • Asimov, Isaac. Cal. Doubleday, 1990. TPO short story chapbook given out as a freebie to Isaac Asimov Collection subscribers.
  • Boyett, Steven R. Elegy Beach. Ace, 2009. Sequel to Ariel, which only came out a quarter-century ago…
  • Brookmyre, Christopher. A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away. Little Brown, 2001.
  • Brunner, John. The Great Steamboat Race. Ballantine, 1983. Proof of the TPO first edition. (Unlike Mike Berro, who collects all manner of proofs, I only try to pick them up: A.) When the first edition was a TPO or PBO, B.) I’ve been sent them free as a review copy of a book I want to read, or C.) There has been some sort of change between the proof and the finished book, such as a title change (David Brin’s The Tides of Kithrup became Startide Rising), a publisher change (Random House canceling publication of Sherry Jones’ The Jewel of Medina after the proof had been published), or a significant textual change (such a story dropped or added from a collection).)
  • Cadigan, Pat. Synners. Bantam, 1991. PBO. Replaces an inscribed copy I managed to misplace at an Armadillocon. (I also have the UK hardback.)
  • Dick, Philip K. In Milton Lumky Territory. Dragon Press, 1985.
  • (Dick, Philip K.) Patricia S. Warrick. Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick. Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.
  • Harter, Christopher, Anthony Tedeschi, and Jodine Perkins. Places of the Imagination: A Celebration of Worlds, Islands and Realms. The Lilly Library, 2006. Library exhibition catalog, with some color photos of notable first editions. TPO
  • Heinlein, Robert A. Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Tributes to the Grand Master. Tor, 1992.
  • King, Stephen. Song of Susanna. Donald M. Grant, 2004.
  • Lethem, Jonathan. You Don’t Love Me Yet. Doubleday, 2007.
  • Martin, George R. R., ed. Wild Cards Volume 9: Jokertown Shuffle. Bantam, 1991. PBO.
  • McCarthy, Cormac. No Country for Old Men. Knopf, 2005.
  • Reynolds, Alastair. House of Suns. Gollancz, 2008.
  • Scalzi, John. God Engines. Subterranean Press, 2009 (actually not shipped until 2010). First edition trade hardback.
  • Scalzi, John. God Engines. Subterranean Press, 2009 (actually not shipped until 2010). Signed/limited edition. (Yeah, I’ve started picking up both the trade and limited editions of certain books when I can pick them up with my dealer discount. It’s a sickness…)
  • Shaara, Michael. The Kiiler Angels. McKay 1974. Later hardback printing.
  • Sladek, John Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. Big Engine, 2002. TPO.
  • Watts, Peter. Behemoth B-Max. Tor, 2004.
  • Willis, Connie. Firewatch. Bluejay, 1984. Fine in a Near Fine+, slightly rubbed dj.
  • Zelazny, Roger. The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny Volume 5: Nine Black Doves. NESFA Press, 2009.
  • Zelazny, Roger. The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny Volume 6: The Road to Amber. NESFA Press, 2009.

DVD Review of Drunken Fist Boxing (Summary: AVOID)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, some friends got in a copy of Drunken Fist Boxing, the sequel to Jackie Chan’s breakthrough film Drunken Master. We thought: It’s a Jackie Chan film, how bad could it be?

The problem is, despite Jackie being featured prominently on the DVD cover, this is not a Jackie Chan film; the only footage of him in the film is flashbacks to Drunken Master, making it the cinematic equivalent of a clip-show. But that’s not the only thing that makes it a ripoff. I would say this is a crappy pan-and-scan video transfer, but there’s actually no scanning: they just chop off parts of the screen. There are times when there are obviously supposed to be two people talking to each other, but one of them is completely off the edge of the screen. Plus the dubbing is atrocious; sometimes you can’t even figure out what they’re trying to say.

See this?

See Jackie Chan’s face
on the cover?

It’s a dirty, rotten LIE!

Occasionally you get some decent kung fu (when you can see it), and a generic plot about the teacher from Drunken Master training two students, one of which is the very hot Pan Pan Yeung, when an old enemy of the master shows up in town and…look, it’s a sub-Shaw Brothers kung fu flick from 1979. The plot only exists to string together the fight scenes. And the fight scenes aren’t good enough to make up for the general suckitude.

The cheesy rip-off nature of the DVD makes this one impossible to recommend even to serious kung fu aficionados. Avoid.