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...the audiobook of the original novel, not the classic BBC miniseries, which follows Claudius up to his impromptu crowning as Emperor after the assassination of Caligula. Most of which consists of him being repeatedly humiliated by most of his family and generally treated as a stammering idiot despite his skill as a researcher and a scholar.

And for some reason this got me to thinking about a YA mystery novel I read as a wee lad called Detectives in Togas, set in Ancient Rome. Because now I want to update it with a bunch of kids helping gather clues for Claudius as he solves mysteries while simultaneously doing his best not to appear too smart in front of his grandmother Livia.

RVA: Shadow of Doubt, Love and Kaiju

Needed to do a lighthearted scene to break up the angst.

Have I mentioned Ali likes bad movies?Collapse )

The Eight Worst Bujold Books

I have come to praise, Bujold, not to bury her.

Okay, almost every sci-fi fan loves Lois McMaster Bujold, but with a publishing history going back thirty years there's going to be some clunkers even in her bibliography. And I'll admit some of her books just didn't grab me. In publishing order, not order of annoyance, here are the ones that you'd have to pay me to re-read at this point (and I'm no James Nicoll, so it's unlikely to happen).


1. Shards of Honor: Yeah, this is the entry point to the Vorkosiverse. Yes, this introduces Aral and Cordelia. Yes, it's a good character study. But Lois's famous skill at tight plotting has yet to develop. The initial trek of Aral and Cordelia from the burned out remains of her survey camp back to his regaining his command is enjoyable, but then it switches to an episodic series of events as Cordelia becomes a hero, falls from grace, and then flees to Barrayar, Further, Beta Colony is portrayed as a questionably democratic dystopia, with Soviet style psychotherapy, in sharp contrast to it's distant idealized portrayal in later books.

2. The Warriors Apprentice: Again, this is probably a controversial choice, given it's Miles' introduction to the series. But again the plotting is crap, Miles is notably unsympathetic as his Wacky Scheme snowballs into torture/murder and he lies his way into command, and Bothari is killed abruptly and without much lead up.

3. Ethan of Athos: Actually there isn't that much wrong with this book, but it's problematical in the series given the 25-year old time bomb of Ethan introducing the telepath gene to Athos' population, and Barrayar also gaining it for study. Niether of which have really been followed up since, in a series well known for distantly placed Chekhov's Guns. Also the Cetas are notably underdeveloped compared to later in the series. I could read it again if I wanted to without much pain. I just don't want to.

4. Mirror Dance: Or more accurately, the first third of Mirror Dance. It's not that it isn't well written, it's just too painful watch as Mark self-destructs, Miles dies, and there's the squicky bit with Mark and the female clone. I usually skip ahead to Mark starting on his eating disorder and go from there.

5. Komarr: Again, nothing actually bad here, but the painfully rendered relationship between Tien and Ekaterine is too difficult to re-read, especially given it's there mostly to establish that Tien needs to die.

Hmm, if Tien hadn't died, and Ekaterine had just divorced the bastard, A Civil Campaign would have been a very different book.

6. Diplomatic Immunity: After the comic heights of ACC, this is a severe letdown. If it had been done from both Miles and Ekaterine's points of view it might have been better, especially in the rushed denouement, but it wasn't, so we have an ending where Stuff Happens that has to be explained to Miles in a painful infodump.

7. Cryoburn: Ugh. There would have been a fasciniating book here if Aral had died earlier, and Miles, Ekaterine and Cordelia had to deal with the immediate fallout. Instead we get a shock ending after following Miles in a bog standard, not terribly interesting sci-fi plot. Probably the low point of the series so far.

8. The Hallowed Hunt: If this had been a standalone novel from a different author it might have been a minor classic. But as it was it, it was the third book in the Five Gods universe, which abandoned the characters from Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls for a nearly completely different setting, and a pair of leads who honestly don't have much chemistry together.

Comments? Commiserations? Brickbats?
Summary: Three years after the death of her beloved husband, Aral Vorkosigan, Sergyar's Vicerine Countess Betan Survey Capt. (ret.) Cordelia Vorkosigan is finally emerging from her fog of grief to begin her life again for the third time. At 76 she's middle-aged for a Galactic, and serving Barrayar for the rest of her life isn't in her plans, but raising a new branch of her family is. Possibly two, with a little help.

Three years after the death of his beloved lover, Aral Vorkosigan, Sergyar Chief of Operations Admiral Oliver Jole is finally emerging from his fog of grief, to find himself facing an extraordinary gift. The chance to start a family, using the preserved DNA of Aral and donated eggs from Cordelia. But he soon faces a choice between personal and professional happiness, and he can only choose one.

Review behind cutCollapse )

Sales Report: January 2016

Summary:Trying to get back into the habit of monthly reporting for the start of the year.

Sales were definitely down in 2015 compared to the previous year. Total before tax profit from KDP, ACX, and Smashwords was $280.51, compared to about $600 the year before. Blame for that is squarely on me, since I didn’t publish anything new to support sales of my back catalog. Also the sales of CotRV audiobook have been pretty disappointing, coming to about eleven units since October of 2014 after subtracting the complimentary copies given out to my Kickastarter supporters.

Comparatively speaking sales picked up towards the middle of January, fueled I think by one of my unpublished FYS stories being chosen as a Daily Deviation on DeviantArt. Still down compared to the same time the year before, but an improvement compared to previous months.

Things to Do: Still working on Shadow of History Doubt and The Red Vixen at Sea. The former is much closer to completion, and I’m hoping to have it out in the next couple of months. I’ve also restarted Prisoners of History, a non-salacious follow-up to Prisoners of War, tying it more firmly in the RVA universe.

Also in progress are various shorts set in the FYS. At the urging of Ryk Spoor, AKA seawasp, I’m trying to put together a pair of short story collections, one for stories set during the Groupmind’s rebellion and takeover of the Earth, the second during the era of the Ring. Ryk seems to think the latter period would be a unique setting for science fiction, given the Groupmind’s lack of malicious intent compared to universes like Jack Williamson’s The Humanoids.


Sales Report: KDP/Pages Read


Captive of the Red Vixen: 3/1 (1/0 DE)

For Your Safety: 4/0

I Fought the Claw & the Claw Won: 3/0 (1 UK, 1 DE)

Mimsey's Tale: 1/0

Prisoners of War: 1/0 (1 UK)

Shadow of Her Sins: 3/170 (1 UK, 1 DE)

Shadow of the Red Vixen: 3/0 (1 UK, 1 DE)

Total Sales: 18/171

I think for the first time since 1991...

...I'm not excited by a new Bujold novel coming out. To the point that I'm wondering whether I should buy the ebook, or just wait until the paperback comes out.

RVA: Shadow of History, Venting

As predicted Civil Protection spent the rest of the afternoon and evening searching the garage for evidence left by the graffiti artist, to absolutely no effect. Questioning the staff was put off until the next morning, but with well over a hundred servants employed by their House, never mind an equal number of District administration employees coming and going every day, it was going to take some time.

Later the next morning, as the first round of questioning was beginning, Salli received a call from Rolas. She quickly rushed to her suite to bring it up on her comsole, to find her twin sitting in her office, dressed for the day in his House uniform.

“Good morning, Salli,” he greeted cheerfully. “I was just checking in to see how you and Alinadar are getting along.”

Salli's mouth hung open a moment as Rolas' completely ordinary question stopped her short. “That's... complicated at the moment,” she finally said.

To put it mildlyCollapse )

Prisoners of History, Part Two

From there it was a busy hour for the Gerwart scientists, as Rolas and Reggie observed from their position along the wall of the bunker. As had been planned, once the rocket’s fuel had been expended and it reached the apex of its ballistic arc, explosive charges separated the nose from the main body of the vehicle. From there the remains of the rocket fell into the sea, while the nose and its incredibly valuable instrument package floated down on a parachute to be retrieved via boat.

It wasn’t until that evening, after a hearty dinner celebrating the successful launch and recovery that Rolas was able to talk privately with Reggie. He’d been watching his friend carefully throughout the dinner, and was growing increasingly disturbed as he did. Despite the air of joviality his old commander tried to project, Rolas could see signs of tension in his puffy, sleep deprived eyes, and the ill kept grooming of his tail. He’d also kept count of the drinks Reggie had been downing, which had come out to about six of the smoky Gerwart beer pints.

After exchanging congratulations once again with Dr. Brownpad and his team, Rolas led Reggie over to his office, in one of the research complex’s administration buildings. Sitting his friend down in a chair across from a small couch he kept for informal meetings, Rolas asked pointedly, “All right, Reg, what by the Mother Goddess is going on with you?”

He"s going to regret asking that.Collapse )

Screen Crawl: It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Audience: And thirty years since the last movie.

George Lucas: Hey!

Audience: You know what we mean.

[Cut for Spoilers and a bit of language]

SCENE: A small desert village in no way resembling Mei Lai at all.

Max von Sydow: Here's a plot Macguffin to carry around through the movie. (hands him a USB drive)

Poe: I can't believe they got you for a ten minute cameo.

Sydow: At least I'm going to die with more dignity than Christopher Lee.

SCENE: The Emp... ahem, the New Order lands in the village, including Emo Sith and the World's Worst Stormtrooper. Poe is captured. His loyal droid Beach Ball-1 runs away with the plans for the Dea... AHEM, Luke's mailing address.

Kylo Ren: Kill 'em all.

Finn fails to kill anything.

Captain Phasma: What do you call a Stormtrooper who doesn't hit anything?

Finn: Um, kickin' it Old School?

Phasma: Point.

SCENE: Kylo tortures Poe.

Poe: I won't talk!

Thirty Seconds Later:

Kylo: He talked.

Lt. Flunky: Good going, sir.

Kylo: Thanks. Send troopers down to find Beach Ball and try not to let them trip over any Bantha Pudu.

Lt. Flunky: Don't worry, the Holiday Special tapes are on the other side of the planet.

SCENE: Finn helps Poe escape and start a fine bromance in a two-seater TIE fighter.

Audience: He's wearing Poe's jacket. That makes any Finn/Poe stories Canon! Canon we say!

Haters: He's a black Stormtrooper. There are no black Stormtroopers!

Finn: Yeah, well this black Stormtrooper sez different. And I can shoot straight when I want to so STFU!

SCENE: Back on Not Tatooine, we're introduced to Rey, who's life sucks.

Rey: Seriously. At least Anakin and Luke had loving parents/guardians and a decent roof over their heads.

SCENE: Rey rescues BB-1 and beats... er, meets Finn.

Finn: Given the number of times I get the crap beaten out of me in this movie, it doesn't make me look like much of hero.

Rey: Don't be so hard on yourself, you're a Stormtrooper who survives to the end of the film. That's friggin' epic.

Finn: (beams).

SCENE: The new order bombs the crap out of Rey's even crappier village. Finn, Rey, and Beach Ball steal the only ship available, which just happens to be the Millennium Falcon.

Audience: Epic flying is Epic. Also totally not crying over seeing the Falcon again.

Haters: But she's a gurl who's never flown in space before.

Luke: (dopeslap) And who blew up the Death Star the first time he went up in a space fighter?

Haters: But she' a g--, ack!

Luke: (force chokes).

SCENE: Emo Sith is Emo.

Kylo: Hey, lots of people angst about whether they're evil enough to their dead grandpa's helmet!

SCENE: Han and Chewie pull Rey and Co. over.

Rey: So you found the ship you'd been looking thirty years for just after we steal it?

Han: Don't worry, they'll explain it in the tie-in novels.

SCENE: One unnecessary CGI action sequence later, they all end up at Short Guinan's bar.

Rey: I didn't think there was this much green in the galaxy. (QUOTE!)

(Editorial: And little Sensawunda character bits like that is what separates Star Wars from your average Stuff Blowing Up CGI fest).

SCENE: Rey touches Vader/Luke's saber. Visions Occur.

Rey: Eww! Do not want!

Short Guinan: Take it anyway.

Rey: No! (runs away)

Short Guinan: Okay, Finn. You take it.

Finn: 'kay.

SCENE: The New Order shows up and tears the bar down. Chewie is wounded, Rey is captured, Finn has a totally cool lightsaber/tonfa fight with a random Stormtrooper.

Finn: And I get my ass kicked again.

Han: Quit whining, Junior and patch up the Wookie.

(Chewie proves to be a very poor patient.)

Finn: Please don't kill me while I'm trying to help you.

Chewie: Rwaarghawwww!

SCENE: Kylo tortures Rey.

Kylo: Give the coordinates to the Rebel B..... er, Luke Skywalker.

Rey: Take off that mask first.

Kylo: 'kay.

Rey: Snerk!

Kylo: What?

Rey: Hehehehe!

Kylo: What are you laughing at? Why are you laughing?!

Rey: Bwahahahahaha! You're the Evil Sith Lord of this movie? Seriously?

Kylo: Quit laughing! I am totally a Sith Lord!

Rey: You look like a backup singer for The Cure! How much time do you spend feathering your hair?

Kylo: Shut up! Just shut up! You're as bad as my Uncle Chewie! “Son, I don't use as much hair care products as you do! Why can't you learn to use a bowcaster like a real man instead of that ridiculous over sized lightsaber ?” I am totally EPICALLY EVIL!

Rey: (Sniggers her way through the rest of the torture.)

Scene: Han and Co. land at the Reb.... Resistance Base.

Finn: Why is even called The Resistance? Wouldn't the legitimate government of the Republic WANT to keep the remains of the Empire from attacking them?

General Organa (formerly Princess Leia): It's in the tie-in novel.

Han: Hi, Honey. No hard feelings for me wandering off?

Organa: Sigh, I'm used it.

(C3PO butts in to totally kill the moment)

Han: And he's still alive because...?

Organa: The fans wanted to see him. Also, who do you think ripped his original arm off?

Han: I dunno. I haven't read the tie-in novel yet.

Haters: Boy, Carrie Fisher sure got ol-, HURK!

Organa: (force chokes). I aged as much as Harrison Ford, dipweed, and that was done snorting a lot more recreational and prescription chemicals, so at this point A) Nothing else can possibly kill me, and B) I Am Not Putting Up With Your Shit. Clear?

Haters: Whimpers. Yes, ma'am...

SCENE: Rey, who can't possibly be related to Luke because even Emo Jedi wouldn't be stupid enough to leave her alone on a crappy desert planet, mind controls Stormtrooper JB 007 to escape her cell.

(Seriously, that was David Craig under that suit. Geek.)

Rey: Unchain me from this chair.

JB 007: 'kay.

Rey: And leave the cell door open.

JB 007: 'kay.

Rey: Oh, yeah, and drop your gun.

JB 007: 'kay.

Rey: And write down your phone number.

JB 007: It's the future, we don't have paper.

Rey: Curses!

(she escapes).

Kylo: Crap. I would have caught her first if I hadn't stopped to buff my helmet. And by “buffing my helmet” I mean...

Audience: Ewwwwww!

Kylo: Being even more emo.

Audience: Oh.

SCENE: Finn totally lies to get on the team to rescue Rey and blow up the Not A Death Star.

(But first, hugs!)

Poe: Totally a Bro Hug.

Finn: Yeah, totally.

(beat)

Audience: You're both lying, aren't you?

Poe: Yes.

Finn: Yep.

Audience: We knew the “cute boyfriend” line couldn't be a slip....

SCENE: Han, Chewie and Finn land on Not A Death Star to blow up the shield generators.

Han: Seriously, how many refs to the Original Trilogy are we going to stick in here? The only thing you haven't done is kill Rey's mentor fig... Aww, shit.

SCENE: They run into Rey, capture Captain Phabulous, and then things go south....

Han: Ben, your mom and I are kinda disappointed in you.

Kylo: Geez, I'm sorry, Dad.

Han: Really?

Kylo: No.

(He kills Han. Rey and Finn scream “No!” Chewie's reaction is.... predictable.)

Chewie: I changed your diapers, you Emo little shit! Uncle Chewie is very ANGRY with you!

(He shoots Kylo in the side, justifying Rey and Finn not getting their heads cut off for the next fight scene.)

SCENE: Poe and Black Squadron take out the Exhaust Port. Rey and Finn fight with Kylo. Finn gets his ass handed to him again. Chewie disappears to set up the rescue at the end.

Kylo: I am totally a Dark Sith L... Um, Rey, you look a scary there.

Rey: Dark Side this, jackass!

(she leaves him with a nice Emo scar over his face before the planet breaks apart, separating them. Then Chewie comes to the rescue.)

Peter Mayhew: I'm 71 years old and wearing fifty pounds of yak hair, and it's totally worth it.

SCENE: Everyone gets back to the Resistance Base and cheers. Except Organa.

Organa: It would have been worth it if we could have found the rest of the....

(R2D2 wakes up and provides the rest of the map)

Organa: R2, you trolling little shit.

SCENE: Rey, Chewie and R2 fly to Planet Irish Coast to find Luke. She holds his dad's lightsaber out for him to take.

Mark Hamill: And I get paid a half million bucks to look soulfully into the camera. I love Hollywood economics!

THE END!

POW: Prisoners of History

Returning to the Rolas Darktail from my earlier work Prisoners of War, to write a proper opening for a story I've posted snippets of before.

***

Rolas Darktail (Flight Sgt.. MCAC, ret.), burrowed down in his old military greatcoat, a hot tea in his paw, watching as the future was prepared in the launch pit below him.

Cut for length and rocket geekeryCollapse )

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