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Blog Posts from April 2015 (5)

For the million zillion Scalzi fans who just showed up here for the first time

27 Apr, 2015


How to Commission a Review

A: You can buy a review for a book for $100 or by supporting my Patreon: see its page for specific details. I am very open to various media of payment. 

B: Authors may not buy reviews of their own books nor can their family members, publishers or agents. This is for two reasons: Yog’s Law and also the possibility that a confused minority might expect if they pay me to read their book they are then entitled to a positive review.

Authors may point out to me that their qualifying books are now out (or back in print) and while I cannot promise to read said books, there will not be a charge if I do.

C: I have the right to decline any book; this is not to be taken as a negative comment on the author or book. 

D: Generally, I am not willing to review any book where I would not then allow the author right of reply. I think writers commenting on reviews can go south pretty precipitously but I leave it to their judgement.

I reserve the right to break my own rules except for B because, wow, can authors buying reviews go horribly wrong fast.

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Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck

22 Apr, 2015


Yeah, that’s not my original name for this series of reviews but it occurred to me my original choice could be censored by nannyware.

There are lots of books that fall under either military science fiction or military fantasy; the first is generally shortened to MilSF and the second runs into very similar nannyware issues as the original series title. Most published MilSF and MilF embodies Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crud (1). I will be reviewing military speculative fiction I believe falls into that last 10%, MilSpecFic that isn’t an egregious insult to the reader’s sensibilities.

I will be using two rules of thumb to determine if something is MilSpecFic:

A: rec.arts.sf.written’s old definition (expanded to include fantasy): Military sf is sf about people who are in a chain of command.

B: I know it when I see it.

Personally, I draw a distinction between modern MilSpecFic and its precursors; various conventions had not been set in stone when the older books were written and published. Some of the older books I have in mind for this series may seem a bit odd if the MilSpecFic you’ve read is exclusively of what I like to call the Jerry Pournelle lineage; I hope that’s odd in an interesting way.

1: You might think I would take the opportunity to take a cheap shot at Baen at this juncture, but while much of their output is dreadful, not all of it is. They are not the worst publishers of MilSF and MilF out there, not by a long shot. Entertain yourself by speculating which publisher I have in mind as the worst.

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A policy change

5 Apr, 2015


Since Baen’s publisher Toni Weisskopf is part of the Puppies slate for the second year running, I will no longer accept new commissions where the only edition is from Baen. While I will finish current projects involving Baen Books, I won’t link to the Baen edition. I certainly will not be buying anything from Baen in the future.

I urge everyone (particularly people with review sites) to do the same.

2023 Update: amend that from no book whose only edition is from Baen, to no book currently in print whose only edition is from Baen.

This means if a book is currently published by Baen but there has one at least one edition from any other publisher in any other format, it’s fair game. As well, if the only edition was from Baen but that edition is long out of print – Hello, The Moon Goddess and the Son–that is fair game as well.

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Introducing Leigh Brackett’s Solar System

2 Apr, 2015


Brackett was one of the few women who were high-profile science fiction writers back in the 1940s. She started writing for the detective pulps before turning to the sort of planetary romance seen in Planet Stories. She was never as narrowly focused as some of her contemporaries. I suspect that most people who know her name now know her from her work on screenplays like The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959) and The Long Goodbye (1973) or possibly because of her connection to an obscure cult classic, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Brackett created her own setting for her planetary romances and if it didn’t have much to do with the Solar System as it was understood by astronomers [1] in the 1940s and 1950s, Brackett’s Solar System was at least self-consistent. Mostly.

I was commissioned to review at least one Brackett novel, with the proviso that it be one with which I was previously unfamiliar. Since I got to choose the novel, I checked the Baen Books ebook site to see what they had on offer. The selection was pretty good but what caught my eye was an omnibus of Brackett’s Solar System planetary romances. For just $20, I could get a bundle that included Mercury’s Light, The Swamps of Venus, Sea-Kings of Mars, Shadow Over Mars, Martian Quest, Beyond Mars, and Alpha Centauri or Die. How could I resist?

Having bought the bundle of books, how could I review just one and not the others? So for the next little while, every Thursday will have a review of one volume from Brackett’s Solar System omnibus. 

Either I must become less obsessive or I must somehow gain access to more days in the week [2].

1: Brackett was definitely influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs but there are details in her world-building that make me wonder if she was a fan of the late Stanley G. Weinbaum.

2: My editor suggests adopting the French Revolutionary Calendar, which features ten-day weeks [ link ].

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