Two great authors and a lecture

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.

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

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