Since getting the Kindle a few years ago, the amount of time I devote to reading has skyrocketed. In that time, I have read a lot of great stuff, a few horrible things, and reacquainted myself, through rereading, to familiar yet forgotten works. In that time, a couple of new (at least, new to me) authors and texts rose to the top of my favorites list.
I first heard a Ted Chiang story two years ago, not on the Kindle, but via podcast. Due to time constraints, I do not listen to Escape Pod anymore, but I highly recommend the podcast as a source of free scifi short stories in audiobook form. I was churning through several episodes of Escape Pod while doing yard work. I vividly remember that when Ted’s story “Exhalation” started up, it was so amazing and engrossing that, without realizing it, I put my yard work on hold. I simply stood there, listening, until I became self-conscious of just standing there and wandered over to the shade to sit down and listen properly. It was just that good. At the time, it was nominated for a Hugo award, which it later won. I do not want to say too much about the story itself, but I will say that I found it highly reminiscent of H.G. Wells, Marie Shelley, and E.A. Poe in the way it combines science, discovery, and human nature in a convincing world setting. I highly urge you to listen to “Exhalation” at Escape Pod, read it online, or buy the short story collection it first appeared in. It’s a quick listen/read and I promise that you’ll at least get something from it. He has a few other Nebula and Hugo award stories that I plan on reading shortly.
I am not sure where I first heard of Connie Willis. I believe her novel “To Say Nothing of the Dog” was tangentially mentioned by some steampunk-related article. The setting is Victorian England with a very lightweight, yet compelling, time-travel backdrop to the story. It has a good amount of dry comedy, both situational and with wordplay, reminiscent of a Jeeves and Wooster story, yet I cannot categorize it as comedy. Overall, it is about historians in the future traveling to the past, creating an accidental paradox and trying to reverse it, but I cannot categorize it as scifi. There is the mystery of the Bishop’s bird-stump, yet it is not a mystery novel. It defies categorization, yet brings together so many categories I enjoy. This book also won a Hugo award, and I cannot wait to read her recent Hugo winning novel pair “Blackout/All Clear”.
It now turns out that these two authors are combining forces to give an online lecture (or, if you are into marketing technology, you might know this style of information dispersal by the horrible, horrible name “webinar”). The Time Travel Lecture is later this month and can be watched live online or downloaded afterward. There is a cost involved (£15) so I am still waffling on whether it is worth the price.
While the lecture itself is something to take under consideration, if you have not yet read anything from these authors, you should check them out post-haste.