Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mixed Reading Signals

On the reading front, I made a bit of a vow to be better about actually working my way through my 85+ book To Be Read pile. I'm doing a decent job of it, I'd say, given my past performances in this area. I've only bought 6 books for myself this year, three of which I read within weeks of buying, thus only contributing 3 books to the TBR pile. Of the 16 books I've read so far this year, 9 were for a contest, 3 were the new-and-read-immediately I mentioned, and 4 have been taken from the TBR stack. Not quite the big numbers I was hoping for, but it's better than getting that TBR pile past 100, as the trends from previous years indicated I would do. Go me.

The current book I am reading is another selection from the TBR pile. It's the original uncut version of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land that my father gave me for my birthday last year (and I will finish it before my birthday this year, mark my words). I was somewhat concerned upon starting this book for two reasons: 1) my previous attempt at a Heinlein novel was The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and the patois and story-telling style defeated me within five pages, and 2) most editorial cuts I am familiar with are made for very good reasons and most authors that want to see the original uncut make the light of day are too enamored with their precious babies stories to realize that the editorial cuts vastly improved the work. But I'm nearly 100 pages into the book with no problems as to patois and story-telling style, and the preface of this version indicated that most of the editorial cuts were for printing/economy reasons or toning down the shock-value. So far, so good. My biggest comment about the story so far is that it sure is inviting a lot of comparisons to Brave New World in my mind. And it's fascinating to read a book that envisions a future in which cameras are not omnipresent to the point where a high security/risk subject could be vanished from his hospital room without someone watching the rescue attempt live on closed-circuit. Seems almost quaint.

I've also been working through another selection from the TBR pile: a not-quite-recent Year's Best anthology that I picked up several years ago during a Book Warehouse liquidation sale. The first story of this antho was heralded as an instant hard SF classic complete with fast-paced action, remarkable characterization, good&plenty technospeak, and vivid imagery. So imagine my surprise when the story started out with a flashback in a flashback embedded with infodumping, characterization by telling rather than or in addition to showing ("X was a greedy man" immediately preceeding or following words or actions that clearly demonstrate such greed), technobabble that would never be heard between peers in a particular discipline to the point where it sounded an awful lot like "As you know, Bob", and vivid imagery. I do not have high hopes for this antho. Good thing it's in the bathroom.

But the oddest mixed signal I got arrived in the mail yesterday. It was the 85th Anniversary edition of Weird Tales. I could think of a couple of ways in which this managed to get to me, seeing as how I didn't order it nor am I a past subscriber (thought I've been interested in picking up a copy at the bookstore). The mag's distributer/parent company (I really should figure out how these things work), Wildside Press is also the company responsible for Fantasy magazine, for which I did buy a subscription in late 2006 but never received an issue (I tried to rectify this once or twice via email, but didn't get a response; not sure if I had a bad email addy or what), but that likely would've put me in a customer database for promotions such as this (I'm assuming it's a promotion to send out extras of the special Weird Tales as the mag is still rather new in its reincarnation; word of mouth, you understand). I believe I also bought a book via Wildside Press (Carnival, if I'm not mistaken), so they could have me in a customer database that way as well. Still, I'm quite happy to have received the magazine as it's one I've actually been interested in picking up--unlike the other two mags Mark and I recently received gratis.

For the past several months, I've been receiving Field & Stream. I have no idea how I got this subscription as I certainly never signed up for it, nor do I think most of my family and friends who might give me a free subscription would think I might be expanding my hobbies to include hunting and fishing. It had me a bit creeped out, honestly, when I first found it in my mailbox, wondering just who or what corporate entity had my info to use in such a fashion. I mean, as far as stalkerish things go, I'd take subscriptions to every single magazine under the sun over personalized letters or phone calls or close encounters of the crazy kind. But, still...*squirms*. The other magazine we recently received free was an issue of the brand-new Go from Outside, which is a mag we used to get so I'm not worried about how it came to us. I flipped through it and dubbed it a mag for the metrosexual who wants to play at being rugged and outdoorsy. Mark flipped through it and said, "Gah! At least with Field & Stream, I can learn something useful in case society collapses."

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