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The Science Fiction whale maps the genres rise

Posted by admin on Jun 30, 2011 in books, geekery

 

How does one map an entire genre of fiction? Can this even be done without horribly under representing some areas? This is just what Ward Shelley has attempted with his Science Fiction Whale diagram, entitled the History Of Science Fiction which you can see in much greater detail on Ward Shelley’s website here (or here). He has mapped the evolution of the genre, from the early days of literature right up to the cyberpunk era, and the mass of tentacles above encapsulate decades and trends in this field- even including Ron Hubbard and the Dianetics movement!

I think the archetypal whale was a great choice as the basis of the diagram, as a whale’s size is immense and seems like a good fit for the size of the task at hand. I can also draw some allusions to the use of whales and their kin (the Kraken immediately springing to mind) being common refrains in many books (similar to how the King Arthur fable plays out in many science fantasy novels) and the mysticism imbued with ‘creatures of the deep’ is a good reflection of the science fiction genre, which seeks to learn, explore and create.

I was happy to see some of my old favourites included in this chart- such as Ray Bradbury, Greg Bear and Douglas Adams. I also had a small eye roll at the inclusion of a ‘soft’ science fiction category, and the selected authors such as Octavia Butler (agree) and Margaret Atwood (disagree). That’s part of the joy of the genre however, as you’re allowed to make up your own mind as to who are the masters of it, and the fact that Shelley likely compiled this whole list himself warms me to him, and makes me disinclined to contest the order of some of the names- fiction is after all a very personal affair so I’m happy to agree to disagree on certain points.

I love how thorough Shelley has been with this diagram, and I also found that this not only maps the history of this branch of literature, but also my own love affair with science fiction, as I can personally point to the different branches my reading has taken and sigh in happy familiarity at the inclusion of authors that feel like old friends.

[via BigThink]

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A Novel iPhone charger for book lovers

Posted by admin on Apr 22, 2011 in books, geekery, technology

I’m a lover of all things booky, and think this book/iPhone dock is amazing. It’s a fully functional dock that has been installed into a real life book, and there are a variety of books to choose from. Current ones on offer include classics such as Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre and Little Women as well as authors like Tom Clancy and Joseph Conrad. The books used are gorgeous, with thick spines and glossy covers with embossed lettering. The charging cord has been secured into the book, which has then been sealed shut (sigh) and is a very cool way of docking your iPhone or iPod.  Necessary? Definitely not, but very desirable all the same. Read more…

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Twelve Embarrassing Royal Wedding product tie ins

Posted by admin on Apr 1, 2011 in beauty, books, Celebrity, lists, news, random

The Royal Wedding is almost upon us and Kate Middleton will soon be exchanging her surname for ‘Windsor’ or Mr and Mrs Prince William. Whether you’re a staunch royalist or find the whole things a waste of time, there’s one thing you won’t be able to avoid. Well, two things actually if you count people’s opinions on the subject.

The second unavoidable occurrence of this wedding is the HUGE amount of tat that will be sold in conjunction, with everyone eager to make sure they have got their eBay fill worth of products. Coaster, tea towels, all the usual tat will be rolled out, but amongst those spectacularly undesirable pieces of merchandise (Kate and William coaster anyone?) is the truly overwhelming in terms of relevance to the subject matter. You can’t blame companies for wanting to get some of the moolah that will be floating around, but these Royal Wedding tie ins are truly embarrassing.

fairyweddingKate the Royal Wedding Fairy

This is a book about a fairy called Kate, who is a royal wedding fairy was created by Daisy Meadows. It’s the latest in the line of Fairy books she has written, but though the words ‘sell out;’ are never mentioned, this particular fairy isn’t quite the same as ‘Emma the Easter fairy’ or her ‘Florence the Friendship fairy’ books.

The story descriptions is as follows: ‘Kate the Royal Wedding Fairy makes sure that all weddings are happy and magical! But when mean Jack Frost steals the True Love Crown, the Fairyland royal wedding is sure to be a disaster. Can Kirsty and Rachel find the crown so the royal couple will live happily ever after…? I wonder what the name of the Royal Prince is?

Kiss Me Kate Beer

Castle Rock Brewery have created a limited edition Royal Wedding beer called ‘Kiss me Kate. I actually find this idea rather cute, as we Brits do love our booze, I just find the pink label and hearts decorating it a little sickly. It will be available on draught and from Morrisons stores during April. The head brewer says, ‘Kiss Me Kate will be elegant, tasteful and British to the core.  It’ll be brewed to 5%, pale in colour and, we’re sure it’ll be the ideal way to toast the couple’s future happiness’. Not that Ms Middleton would ever drink beer though, I reckon she’s a white wine spritzer kind of girl. Find out more from Castle Rock Brewery here. Read more…

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September and October journeys in literature

Posted by admin on Dec 7, 2010 in books, lists

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September and October seem an age away now. I was going through a transitional work period so read slightly less than usual, and a tad more eclectically. You know the drill by now- book title and review excerpt below.

Mister Roberts by Alexei Sayle

This is the first book by Sayle I’ve ever read, and it won’t be the last. The storyline is  pure science fiction, but the characters are so recognizable that you soon forget we’re talking about aliens wearing human suits as a disguise. A young boy discovers a discarded human ‘suit’ left by aliens and enjoys wearing it to scare people. His mother nicknames it ‘Mister Roberts’ and treats it as a person- and a money making scheme. Set in Spain the novels delves into the ex-pat relationships the close mindedness of small towns, and just how messed up the parent-child dynamic can be. Touching and funny, this book was devoured very quickly.

Aphrodite’s Workshop for Reluctant Lovers by Marika Cobbold

The title kind of says it all doesn’t it? A read that’s pretty much a letdown from the word go, where the story line is blah, the book is blah- do you see the general blahness that I’m sharing with you?Romance novelist has fallen out of love with love and Aphrodite needs to step in. Cue lots of Greek god shenanigans, a rather paltry love story and a sulky Eros. Yesss, exactly. Don’t waste your time.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I’m glad I’m vegetarian. If I wasn’t a veggie reading this book would make me one. I never really think that much about how food gets onto plates, but this book reveals all, in horrific gory detail. The worst part is that it’s not even trying to be that gory, the bare facts are enough to have you forswearing meat forever- like when you learn that fecal matter on chickens is called a ‘cosmetic blemish’ to allow them to sell it. Eww. It exposes what organic and free range actually mean, and it’s not good, not good at all. The book is a little long and can be a bit tedious at times, but the subject mater is very engrossing and the research seems immaculate- especially as a quarter of the book is footnotes that quote the various sources used. Read more…

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July and August summer reads

Posted by admin on Sep 30, 2010 in books

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Wow, July feels like a long time away now, as the colder nights and use of an umbrella have made all thoughts of summer completely fly from my mind. Here are the mini reviews (per usual) of the books I managed to read during the summer months. As a theme, I managed to blast my way through the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, laughed a lot at the latest Scott Westerfeld novel and experienced my first taste of Cory Doctorow’s writing.

Extras Scott Westerfeld

This book follows on from the great ‘Uglies’ trilogy, where people were born into a world where they cosmetically changed their appearance at 16. An Ugly was a young person before they’d changed their image- but the surgery also changed their mind… I give you this info so you can understand the world that Extras is set in, a world where there are no more ‘Uglies’ and ‘Pretties’ as that practice has recently been disbanded. Enter a society where your merit is based on your rating– which rises based on how many people access your ‘feed’. A feed is a sort of liveblog Twitter/Video stream and the most popular person shows pictures of her shopping purchases. Based on this tally, you get allocated better housing/more food etc, and everyone wants to boost their rating. The novel stars Aya, who want nothing more than to be popular and spends her time creating stories to post on her feed. Her sense of adventure leads her into train surfing and she has to make major decisions about how much she values her friends versus her status. Compelling, funny and clever, I can’t wait for the next book!

Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds

This novel was my first foray into Reynolds territory and I can’t say that I’ll be doing it again. The book is long and not particularly involving and there are so many characters it’s hard to find empathy for any particular one. The fate of the galaxy may be in peril but I found it hard to really care about that. I did however appreciate his huge vision and the way he created so many worlds deftly, and with great attention to details. I loved the world created by accident, with the giant churches that were set on a path of following the light, and I liked how myriads of species co-existed together. One scene will stick with me for a long time- the horrendous revenge births scene, where a baby had been cut out of one woman and implanted in another. The only way the new mother would allow the child to be recaptured was if every incision into her was also dealt to her enemy- step by step, a laborious torture scene carried out by his friends for the good of mankind. Chilling.  The story was of a world facing extinction from outside sources, and of a culture ruled by a crazy man who heard voices. It could have been so good, but it sadly fell flat. Read more…

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Women in fantasy are getting more empowered.. well the cover art is anyway!

Posted by admin on Aug 19, 2010 in books, geekery, style

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As a voracious consumer of any type of fiction, I have a particular soft spot for science fiction, the fantasy end to be specific. Sure, I love Ben Bova, Philip K. Dick and Greg Bear, but my heart belongs to the wizarding worlds of Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, Piers Anthony (hey, his puns rule), Pratchett and Anne McAfferty. The list goes on, as I feel that Mercedes Lackey must get a mention, Simon R.Green, Ray Bradbury, Craig Shaw Gardner, Robert Aspirin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Melanie Rawn-Ok, I’m going to stop now, as I’m getting carried away.

Suffice to say, I really LOVE the genre, and with it, the cover art. A lot of fantasy features the usual dragons, castles, and damsels wearing thin strips of clothing, but the trend for the sexualized fantasy females has changed in the last year. I’m happy to note that a recent survey by Orbit Books showed that the way women are portrayed in cover art has drastically changed over the last year. Forget about the heroine teetering in impossibly high heels whilst wearing next to nothing, now we’re getting kick ass women wearing practical, OK more practical items of clothing.

The research shows that the clothes they are pictured in are now more appropriate to their activities, such as sensible footwear, loose clothes, and a sneer rather than a pout. We also have strong female characters taking center stage in many novels, who aren’t just nymphettes. Read more…

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The Transworld Summer Reading Challenge and a summation of my March- June reading

Posted by admin on Jul 18, 2010 in books, lists

summer-reading-thumbnailSorry for overwhelming you with information, but there hasn’t seemed a right time to publish my latest literary forays. Seeing as it’s now July, I better just go ahead and publish what I’ve read for the months of March-June, which explains why there is so much to wade through. This is really a record for me, I totally understand if you just look at the pictures and skip away to something more entertaining like a dog on a surfboard.

Before I launch into my latest selection of mini reviews let me also draw your attention to an amazing offer from Transworld. Called ‘The Summer Reading Challenge’, the offer gives keen readers a whopping four books FREE, and all you have to do in return is write a review of each book on your blog or Amazon. That’s all, nothing else needed whatsoever, and to get your free books you simply leave a comment on Between the Lines HERE and they’ll get in touch with you. There’s a choice of ten to pick from, and I promise you that Dan Brown is the bottom of the pile (in my opinion).  Now for the reviews (please take a deep breath). Read more…

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