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Fun stuff

Hobbiton

The one almost-empty car park in the whole of Hobbiton. This is where the bus drops you off for the tour.

There’s a former convict settlement in Tasmania, a penal colony. It’s the prison they used to house convicts in back when the British first settled Australia. By all accounts, it was a brutal place to live back in those days. Nowadays it’s an historic site and one of the state’s biggest tourist attractions.

Nothing says you’ve arrived like a sign to Hobbiton.

Port Arthur went through a period of neglect, where people left the buildings to rot and fall down, sometimes actively pulling them down because they wanted to eliminate the terrible past. Eventually, the government stepped in and started preserving the buildings and what was left of the huge sandstone walls. As a result, it’s a mix of preserved buildings, immense sandstone walls and acres of manicured green lawns.

There was only one hobbit house you could go into (not this one) — that was so you could take photos.

Despite its past, despite the tourists, it’s a beautiful place to visit. Despite all the deaths, despite all the horror of its past, it’s a peaceful place. It’s a place just to walk, and to contemplate.

As I walked around Hobbiton it invoked in me that same kind of tranquillity that Port Arthur does

I’m not saying Hobbiton is hiding a terrible past, it but it did make me feel the same way. Maybe it’s because in both places you come in via a frenzied entryway.

In Port Arthur you enter through the gift shop. That’s where the crowds are. Once you’re past that, however, it’s lovely.

At Hobbiton, you come in through the car parks. Note the plural. There’s one whole car park dedicated just to RVs (camper vans, for those of us in Australia and New Zealand). It was full, so you can image what the other carparks were like. There was a bus park, also full. And what looked to be two or three car parks—or maybe it was just one big one. All packed.

The bus from the ship dropped us off at the gift shop. We didn’t have much time to browse for our tour bus arrived.

Hobbiton is on a working farm. You can’t visit the site yourself, you must book and take a tour.

Such attention to detail. There were little gardens everywhere–some vegetable, some flowers.

You wait for your bus near the gift shop. At the appointed time, you get onto the Hobbiton tour bus and are driven through lovely, green farmland. I did say it was working farm, didn’t I? Somewhere along the way a guide joins your bus. She, or he, starts to tell you about Hobbiton as you roll through the countryside.

Some facts. This is not the Hobbiton that was in Lord of the Rings. That Hobbiton was pulled down afterward filming and the whole area restored to farmland. If I recall correctly, when the location scout landed (in a helicopter) at the farm and knocked on the farmhouse door, the rugby was on. I don’t know if it was final, but these Kiwis take their rugby as seriously as we Aussies take our Australian Rules football. And our rugby—at least in some states. The farmer told him to come back when the rugby was finished.

They spaced the tours well, so that even though busloads were going through at a time, you felt as if it was mostly just you and Hobbiton, and maybe one other tour off in the distance.

Luckily for us, they did.

This is the Hobbiton from the Hobbit movie. Because they’d already had so many tourists come looking after Lord of the Rings, when the film company wanted to rebuild the set for the Hobbit the farmer said, sure, provided this time they made it out of more permanent materials, and didn’t pull it down afterwards.

More attention to detail.

From this came the amazing tourist destination you can visit today.

I’m not going to talk much about the tour itself, except to say, “Go do it”, and show you the pictures. I seem to have lost my pictures of Bag End, and of the Green Dragon inn, and Sam Gamgee’s house, but you know what they look like.

I have to say, Bilbo Baggins certainly had the best house in Hobbiton.

We both absolutely loved it. Not only that, the tours were paced enough so that even though there were crowds, it didn’t seem crowded. And because you were in the middle of a farm, you really felt like you were at the Shire.

I could go on forever. My camera packed up half-way through, sadly. But … gorgeous.
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Fun stuff

Best wishes for the festive season

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Books and movies Fun stuff

Canterbury Station, Mt Sunday and Lord of the Rings

My exceptionally ordinary photograph of Mt Sunday, which is not the mountains behind (which I initially thought) but the big rock on the left side of the picture.

So, we’re back from our cruise to New Zealand (and Tassie, because, why not stay on the ship another five days). 

Both islands (or is that all three) were fantastic, as you’d expect.

And we have internet again.  Yay.  It’s amazing the connectivity you take for granted until you don’t have it.  Or, rather, you can have it, but you have to pay a lot for it.

In New Zealand we did a Lord of the Rings theme. We took four tours, three of which were Lord of the Rings (LOTR) related. I’m going to talk about those over the next few weeks, interspersed with some usual end of the year blogging stuff.

I used my phone to take photos, didn’t wear my glasses most of the time. As a result, my photos are terrible. But I’m going to inflict them on you anyway.  If they’re really bad, I’ll get some stock photos as well, just to show how good things really looked.

Our first LOTR trip was to through the Canterbury plains and up to Mt Sunday. This was the set for the exterior of Edoras, which was where the Rohan people lived.

We were told before we booked that there was nothing left of the set there. We just wanted to see it, and to see some of the glorious scenery that New Zealand provides.  It was a nine hour tour. The ship was in port for ten hours, but you had to be back in nine, so you can imagine how tight the time was.  (Tip. For a tour like this, always book through the ship, because they guarantee to wait for you if you do. If you book it through a private operator, they won’t wait.)

The tour started at 8:00am.  We didn’t get onto the port until after 8:30.

We spent at least three hours being driven through the Canterbury plains, and getting some interesting facts about the countryside, about farming, and how it has changed.  For example, even though it looks lush and green, there isn’t much topsoil. Erosion is a real problem.  The area used to be used sheep and wheat, but then they started using those massive irrigators which is lowering the water table and doing a lot of other damage.  Who’d have thought, says me, with some cynicism, because I live in a country where we’ve done exactly the same thing.  You’d think we’d learn by now, wouldn’t you. Nowadays, it’s dairy now and grass.

Anyway, enough of that.  Back to LOTR.

After the plains our bus started into the Southern Alps. The weather was overcast, but pleasant. A beautiful day in beautiful, beautiful, country. Another guide, Cheryl, joined us.  She was a local, and she and her family had camped out in the alps all their life.

She also told us—which Barry, our bus driver hadn’t—that Barry had worked with Peter Jackson as a security person in a number of Jackson’s films.

As we went into the mountains we started to get Lord of the Rings stories. A lot from our guide, Cheryl, but some from Barry, too. 

There was the tale of the station owner, the photographer and the helicopter.  They had an agreement with the station owner that he wouldn’t let anyone on his land to view the filming, but he ended up taking a photographer over in his helicopter. The pictures were published. Jackson’s company decided to sue, because they did have a contract. But then someone let the set horses out one night, and they needed a helicopter to round them up.  Guess who had a helicopter close by?

They got their horses within a few hours and but I believe that the station owner came out on top–at least monetarily.

Why did someone let the horses out?

Ugly fandom rearing its head. Apparently some people felt so strongly that Peter Jackson shouldn’t be making Lord of the Rings they went out of their way to sabotage the filming.

We finally got to the site.  You could still see snow on the alps in the background, even though it was summer.  The scenery was breathtaking.

There was a wind.  Apparently it was mild.  Guide Cheryl showed us the picture of Eowyn (Miranda Otto) standing on the outside of the hall at Mt Edoras with her hair swirling one way and a flag swirling the opposite way.  This is not a fake. The wind really does swirl like that. (You might see it in the video below.)

We posed with swords and axes and Barry took a photo of me with a sword (quite heavy), but my phone really doesn’t take good photos. My head was blurred.  That’s one picture you are not seeing.

On the way back we stopped for lunch at a memorial hall in a country town that reminded of all the country towns of my childhood.  Volunteers fed us juice, champagne, sandwiches and cake.  It was the best food we’d had on the whole trip.  (Don’t, whatever you do, get on a ship thinking you’ll get gourmet food.  You won’t. You’ll get more food than you can eat, and it’s okay, but nothing to write home about.  You can eat all day (and all night.) By the end of the cruise I was craving some good bibimbap, or crispy noodles, oh, and a decent pasta.)  This beef sandwich, with it’s soft grain bread, pickles, and cheese, was heaven.

On the way back, Barry told us a little bit about how he’d come to work for Peter Jackson. He’d been a policeman, worked for a while in the police museum, and had collected information about a New Zealand murder case that Jackson based his film Heavenly Creatures on.  Barry’d had quite a career, believe me.

When we went to get back in the bus, we found we had a problem. The rattling over the dirt roads had loosened the ignition barrel (if that’s what you call it—it’s the thing that holds the ignition) and the ignition had dropped into the barrel.  It had dropped so far down that he couldn’t get the key in to turn the bus on.

We had a tense half hour (for Barry, not for us, we stood around and enjoyed the scenery and talked to each other) while Barry tried to get the ignition thingy back up far enough for him to turn the key.

We got back to the port an hour after the last tender was supposed to leave. But because the tour had been arranged by the ship, it waited, it waited for us.

Sadly, we didn’t get to see anything of Akaroa, which looks a beautiful little port town.

Maybe next time.

All in all, it was a wonderful day.

Edoras as it was in the movie, courtesy of YouTube.
Categories
Fun stuff Writing process

Answers to “Can you recognise this book, movie, …”

How did you go with last week’s quiz, where we asked you to identify the book, movie, television series, play or poem based on a few words

1. 42

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a novel by Douglas Adams.

The number 42 was the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. A super computer, Deep Thought, was created to come up with the answer, which it did, although it took seven and a half million years to do it, and by then, no one knew what the original question was.

2. A handbag

The Importance of Being Earnest a play by Oscar Wilde.

As children, we devoured books, especially second-hand books we’d get from the opportunity shops. Back in those days, there were a lot books about girls going to boarding school.  The Merry books, by Clare Mallory, were our absolute favorites.  In Merry Begins (I think), they put on a play—The Importance of Being Earnest—and that line, about the handbag, came up in the book.  It wasn’t till years later that we actually saw the play.

3. As you wish

Princess Bride.  The book was written by William Goldman—which I confess I haven’t read—but I have seen the movie so many times I can almost say the lines along with the characters. There are so many quotable quotes.  “Inconceivable.”  “Have fun storming the castle.”  “Only mostly dead.” And, of course, the absolutely unforgettable, classic, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

4. Beam me up

“Beam me up, Scotty,” is from Star Trek, the original series.  Can’t say any more than that.

5. Elementary

I believe that in Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary my dear Watson.”  That came later, in the films.  Although Holmes did say the word, “Elementary,” in The Crooked Man.

The word—the phrase, in fact—is, however, indelibly associated with Sherlock Holmes.  So much so that a recent television series about a modern-day Holmes and Watson was called Elementary, and no explanation of the title was needed.

6. Frankly, my dear

A little bit of a cheat on this one, because it usually comes with the rest of the sentence.  “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Yes, it’s Rhett Butler in the 1939 movie Gone With the Wind.  In Margaret Mitchell’s book the film was based on, I believe he said something more along the lines of “Frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

7. Friends, Romans, countrymen

Marc Antony’s speech from William’s Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  As children we had this game where we’d go around saying, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, and we’d all make a play of taking off our ears and handing them to the person who asked.

The things kids do.

Even if you don’t go to see Shakespeare’s plays, he’s beautiful to read—aloud or silently.  He has this amazing way with words.  Not to mention, there’s so much that quotable.

8. Here, kitty, kitty, kitty

Yes, Kate Daniels’ first book.  Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites, when Kate first meets Curran.

9. Houston, we have a problem

This quotation comes from the 1995 movie, Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris.

It’s not quite a direct quotation from the real Apollo 13 mission, but they did say something similar.

10. I ate’nt dead

Esmeralda Weatherwax, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  Esmerleda goes out borrowing other bodies and while she does, her own body remains in a comatose state.  Hence she wears a sign “I ate’nt dead” to avoid embarrassing accidents.  (Note, ate’nt is where Esmeralda puts the apostrophe.)

11. It’s just a flesh wound

Monty Python’s film, the Holy Grail.  It’s said by the Black Knight, after he loses both arms.

12. More like guidelines, rather than rules

The actual words are “The code is more what you call guidelines, than actual rules.”  It comes from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.  Captain Barbossa says this to Elizabeth, after she tries to invoke the pirate code.

13. My preciousss

I added the extra s’s myself.  From The Lord of the Rings films.  Gollum, of course.

14. No man is an island

This comes from a poem of the same name written by John Donne. There are two quotable quotes from the poem, the other being “for whom the bell tolls”, but that’s also the name of a novel published by Ernest Hemingway, so I used “no man is an island” instead.

15. Shaken, not stirred

Yes, Ian Fleming’s James Bond loves his martinis shaken, not stirred.

16. The best laid plans

Another poem, where the common quote isn’t quite the same as the real thing, because the actual words are “The best laid schemes”.

This is from Robbie Burns poem, To a Mouse. Again, another poem I love to read aloud and silently. Great poem.

17. To infinity and beyond

Buzz Lightyear’s famous catchphrase from the Toy Story films.

18. We don’t know where he are

A. B. (Banjo) Patterson is one of the giants in Australian literature.  This from one of his best-known poems, Clancy of the Overflow.

19. What is best in life?

Conan the Barbarian. The quote comes from the 1982 movie, not from the Robert E. Howard books.  I believe the scriptwriter took the quote from an earlier book about Genghis Khan, not written by Howard.

While I know the quote, the closest I’ve ever been to Conan is a beta read I did of another author’s book.  He told me it was in the style of Conan the Barbarian. 

“I haven’t read Conan,” I said, “But I’ll beta read if you want me to.”

I can’t remember how good the story was or wasn’t, because by the end I was so frustrated by the women in the book, who were all dumb objects, just along to further the main character’s story.  If I recall my critique came back something along the lines of, “I found it difficult to warm to your protagonist.  I also feel you are likely to alienate half your potential readership by your portrayal of women.  Maybe you should give them more active roles.”

From what I’ve read since, the author sounds as if he got exactly what he was trying for.  A Conan-type story.  I have to say, my feedback was useless to him.

20. You can’t handle the truth

Jack Nicholson’s immortal line in the 1992 movie A Few Good Men.

Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise): “I want the truth.”

Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson): “You can’t handle the truth.”

An excellent movie.

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Fun stuff

Can you recognise this book, movie or play from a couple of words?

Whoa.  This year is zooming by.  This post comes to you an hour earlier than normal, courtesy of daylight savings, which started last night.  We were just saying this morning how lovely it was to wake to full daylight, too.  (I’m not sure whether to be happy or concerned that this year all the clocks in my house adjusted their time automatically.  Including my chill alarm clock, because everything’s online.)

At work we’ve already started the mad scramble to Christmas.  Booking holidays, booking end-of-year functions.  Honestly, once upon a time we’d just book the local pub a couple of days before our end-of-year party and we’d all trundle down.  Nowadays, you book in October, or earlier, and places can still be booked out.

In no time at all, it’ll be 2019.

But, in the meantime, let’s have some fun.  There are some words and phrases that you can instantly associate with a book, a television series, a movie, or even a play.

“I’ll be back,” for example, is forever associated with the Terminator movies.  So here’s a list of—for us—well known words or phrases that we associate with a specific book, movie, television series, poem or play.

How many do you know?

  1. 42
  2. A handbag
  3. As you wish
  4. Beam me up
  5. Elementary
  6. Frankly, my dear
  7. Friends, Romans, countrymen
  8. Here, kitty, kitty, kitty
  9. Houston, we have a problem
  10. I aten’t dead
  11. It’s just a flesh wound
  12. More [like] guidelines, rather than rules
  13. My preciousss
  14. No man is an island
  15. Shaken, not stirred
  16. The best laid plans
  17. To infinity and beyond
  18. We don’t know where he are
  19. What is best in life?
  20. You can’t handle the truth

Categories
Fun stuff

A musical interlude

I love Pachelbel’s Canon. We even have a CD at home, called Pachelbel’s Greatest Hit: Canon in D, which we play on occasion.  Although I do admit, while I can listen to soundtracks over and over again, the Canon album is usually a one-listen. Enough is enough.

Some of my favourite Canon pieces, though, are those where comedians get to do a take on it. I believe it can be quite boring if you are a cellist.

Rob Paravonian’s Pachelbel rant was back in 2006, but I’ve always enjoyed it.

 

 

Or the Piano Guys ‘Rockelbel’s Canon’ (around 2013). You will need to click through to YouTube to see this one.

 

https://youtu.be/xV1mZ1BjKa8

 

And now we also Pachelbel’s Chicken.

 

 

The chickens are by an Australian classical duo known as Two Set Violins — Brett Yang and Eddy Chen—a classical comedy duo whose aim is (and I quote from their web site):

“Making Classical music relevant to the modern generation through fun, humor and simplicity.”

 

 

All these images are originally from YouTube.

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Fun stuff

What bot is that – answers to last week’s quiz

Last week,I gave you six bots and asked if you knew which books they were from.

Bot 1

Once upon a time there was a cyborg. That’s me.  You might think my life is a fairy tale. I can tell you it’s not.  I live in New Beijing with my stepmother—who hates me—and my two stepsisters. The stepsister I adore is dying of the plague.

Who is it?

Cinder, from Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. More specifically, the first book, which was called Cinder. This is a retelling of fairy stories as science fiction.  Including an evil queen (the ruler of the moon).  Book one was Cinderella’s story.  She had an artificial foot.

In the Lunar Chronicles anyone with artificial appendages (like the foot) is a cyborg, and considered sub-human.

 

Bot 2

We’re here to solve a murder.  The New York detective I’ve been partnered with doesn’t trust Spacers. Or robots.

He’s from overcrowded Earth, where they hate robots because Earth people believe robots take jobs humans could do.

Who is it?

This was R. Daneel Olivaw from Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel. It’s probably the first robot book I ever read, and Elijah Bailey and Daneel Olivaw were probably my two favourite Asimov characters ever.

Bot 3

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

This one is a direct quote, which I will attribute next week, but I love it so much I’m quoting it verbatim. This is also a really great start to a novel.

Who is it?

Everyone’s favorite murderbot. Ranks up there with bonus bot (below) as one of my two favorite artificial intelligences of all time.

The SecUnit from Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries.  Book one, All Systems Red, won a Nebula for best novella this year, and it’s a Hugo finalist as well. I, personally, am voting for this on the hugos. I love Murderbot.

Bot 4

I am 50,000 times more intelligent than a human, and have a “brain the size of a planet” which I seldom get a chance to use. I was built originally as one of the (many) failed prototypes of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s GPP (Genuine People Personalities) technology.  I’m bored. Maybe a little depressed.  People have called me paranoid, and manically depressed. I’m just stoic, patient even.

“The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million. They were the worst, too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline.”

“Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust, or just fall apart where I’m standing?”

Who is it?

Marvin the paranoid android from Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Alan Rickman played Marvin in the 2005 movie of the book.  We didn’t see it, for some reason, but I can imagine Alan playing him. He’d do it so well.

Bot 5

I used to be a ship AI, but things went wrong and I had to do a hard reboot. Now I’m in a body. That takes a bit of getting used to. It feels cramped, and tiny. I can’t remember what happened before.

Who is it?

I thought some people might have chosen Breq (bonus bot) for this one, but they didn’t. This bot is Lovelace, aka Sidra, from Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit.

For a bonus point

I used to be a ship. I controlled thousands of human bodies. My ship was destroyed. All that’s left of me is the one human body I am in now. This body sings. Badly.

Who is it?

My other all-time favourite AI. Breq, from Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

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Fun stuff

What bot is that?

Our book is done. This draft, anyway. Due date was the 1 June.

We delivered, although of course we’d love to have another round of editing right now. Books are like that. Every time you look at your writing you see something else you want to change.

I have to clean my desk ready for the next one. It’s becoming a tradition—clean your desk ready for the next book. I just don’t understand how a desk can get so messy, but it does.

We have ideas for the next story, but nothing planned. We’ll take it easy for a couple of days, and then talk to our agent about what we should do next.

Meanwhile, it’s time for a quiz.

It was initially going to be a quiz totally about humanoid robots, but in the end I’ve stretched it out to full robots, AI, cyborgs, augmented humans and everything between.  So it’s not really just bots in the sense that most science fiction people know them. (There’s a very big hint here, people.)

How many can you get?

Bot 1

Once upon a time there was a cyborg. That’s me.  You might think my life is a fairy tale. I can tell you it’s not.  I live in New Beijing with my stepmother—who hates me—and my two stepsisters. The stepsister I adore is dying of the plague.

Bot 2

We’re here to solve a murder.  The New York detective I’ve been partnered with doesn’t trust Spacers. Or robots.

He’s from overcrowded Earth, where they hate robots because Earth people believe robots take jobs humans could do.

Bot 3

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

This one is a direct quote, which I will attribute next week, but I love it so much I’m quoting it verbatim. This is also a really great start to a novel.

Bot 4

I am 50,000 times more intelligent than a human, and have a “brain the size of a planet” which I seldom get a chance to use. I was built originally as one of the (many) failed prototypes of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s GPP (Genuine People Personalities) technology.  I’m bored. Maybe a little depressed.  People have called me paranoid, and manically depressed. I’m just stoic, patient even.

“The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million. They were the worst, too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline.”

“Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust, or just fall apart where I’m standing?”

Bot 5

I used to be a ship AI, but things went wrong and I had to do a hard reboot. Now I’m in a body. That takes a bit of getting used to. It feels cramped, and tiny. I can’t remember what happened before.

For a bonus point

I asked Sherylyn to do the quiz before I put it on line.

“I know who one of them will be,” she said, and told me.

No. I didn’t put that one in there. Why not? Because I forgot it. I’m not sure how, because it’s my favorite AI in a human body story ever, and I rave about it all the time.

So here it is.

I used to be a ship. I controlled thousands of human bodies. My ship was destroyed. All that’s left of me is the one human body I am in now. This body sings. Badly.

 

 


How many did you get?

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Fun stuff

The Last Jedi

Star Wars Kirigami, from the Star Wars site, http://www.starwars.com/news/star-wars-kirigami-author-marc-hagan-guirey-on-papercrafting-a-galaxy
This amazing kirigami (paper craft) spaceship created by Marc Hagan Guirey, from his latest book Star Wars Kirigami. Image from starwars.com

We saw The Last Jedi the other day.

Too many movies have given away the whole story in the trailers, so before we went, I tried very hard to avoid reading or seeing anything about The Last Jedi.

Over Christmas-new year break the internet was full of opinions about the latest Star Wars movie.  I tried to avoid them, but I could still see that there was controversy about the movie.  Some people liked it; some people appeared to hate it.

I was strong. I didn’t read any reviews or spoiler-nominated articles. I stuck to the entertainment news, like the red carpet, with Kelly Marie Tran becoming excited when she saw someone cosplaying her character.

The theatre was nearly full.  Not bad for the first session of the day for a movie that had been out three weeks.

The Last Jedi was wonderful.  I enjoyed it. And Rose, you are as great as the actress playing you. Can’t wait to see you in the next movie.

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Fun stuff

What we read and enjoyed this year

The last few years we spent more time writing than we did reading, so one of this year’s resolutions was to read more books.

We surely did.

In fact, we probably read more books this year than we did over that last four years combined. So many, in fact, that we can’t cover everything we liked.

Here are some of those we read and liked. There were more.

Sherylyn’s pick—the classic urban fantasies

Sherylyn loves urban fantasies, and this year many of the urban fantasy greats—Anne Bishop, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh, among others—put out great new books.

She also caught up on some old ones this year as well.

Her favourite? It was hard to pick, but she chose Ilona Andrews’ Nevada Baylor Hidden Legacy series because they were new characters for her.

Karen’s pick—All Systems Red

Loved, loved, loved Martha Wells, All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries).

This is a novella, rather than a novel, and it was so good, I’ve already pre-ordered the next one.

I loved it as a reader, but also loved it as a writer, because our SecUnit’s (Murderbot’s) character was a beautiful example of show, don’t tell. Which is no mean feat, given the story is told from first-person point-of-view.

Reader’s Recommendation

We’ve had really good finds from reader recommendations. Last year it was Michelle Sagara, this year a reader on our blog recommended The Kingpin of Camelot (A Kinda Fairytale Book 3) by Cassandra Gannon. Thanks, Denisetwin, it was, as you said, a fun, easy read.

We both enjoyed this one. The voice of Midas, particularly, was very strong.

Children’s and young adult

There were almost too many books we read here to even remember, let alone pick out our favourites.

Had to read Kari Maaren’s Weave a Circle Round because over on the Barnes & Noble Best SFF of 2017 blog, Joel Cunningham described it as having “… all the charm and imagination of Madeline L’Engle and Diana Wynne Jones”.

Let me tell you, that was a pretty accurate description..

Also enjoyed Joel Ross’s Beast and Crown, and Paolo Bacigalupi’s Zombie Baseball Beatdown. I read Bacigalupi around the time ICE agents in the US started to pick out the ‘easy’ immigrants to deport, so it was rather surreal, and very poignant. (I know it’s a book about zombie cows, read it and you’ll see what I mean.) Bacigalupi certainly knows how to pick topical issues.

In young adult books, I finally got to read the first two Shattered Sea books by Joe Abercromie. Half a King and Half the World. They were great, and because they were meant for a younger audience, nowhere near as dark as his other stories. Definitely going to read Half a War next year.

Finally got to read (and enjoy)

Curtis Chen’s Waypoint Kangaroo, which I had been trying to get for months. Wasn’t sure I was going to like Kangaroo at first, but ended up liking it so much that I bought (and read) the second, Kangaroo Too immediately after. Same deal. Wasn’t sure I liked the character at the start (still Kangaroo) but after a few chapters I got used to him and really enjoyed both books.

Kudos to Curtis for keeping his character in character.

And a call out to Captain Santamaria, who’s the sort of captain we want on our spaceships.

But wait, there’s more

I can’t not talk about these three books.

Provenance, by Anne Leckie. Really enjoyed this book. Provenance is a story about families, with—for me—the same kind of feelgood feel of Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor (even though the books are not even remotely similar). Tic Uisine is my favourite character of the whole year. (It was a tough call between him and Murderbot.) I loved him when I read the excerpt, still loved him when I’d finished the book.

Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee. I read this book in bits. Left it, went back to it. Skipped bits, came back to them. It took a couple of weeks to read, which is a long time for me, and I certainly didn’t read it in sequence. In the end, though, I got it. It’s not an easy read, but if you persevere, it’s a good classic science fiction that makes you think.

Guns of the Dawn, by Adrian Tchiakovsky. This was another book I initially skipped through. One of those stories that you start reading and you want to know what happens, but you don’t want to read it, so you skim parts. Eventually, I stopped skimming and started reading seriously. Then I went back and reread the whole book.

I still reread the end every few weeks. It’s a love story, and a really good one.