The Encounter Log

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Doctor Who DVD Easter eggs: The secret is to go down the "Special Features" menu, pressing the left arrow key at each item. Sometimes a green Who logo appears, meaning you can then press select/enter/whatever to see the Easter egg. (One exception: on the Spearhead From Space DVD, you get the Easter egg by highlighting the logo on the subtitle selection screen.) A mixed bag; the best of the bunch are a clip from Earthshock dubbed into jive, and a previously unaired interview segment on City of Death segment with Douglas Adams, telling a story about how he and the director for the following story started off to Paris for an urgent meeting with the producer, and instead wound up drunk at the airport at 5am trying to get to West Germany.

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks: It's not so much that it's 434 pages long, as it is that over 300 of those pages lie between the point where the author makes the answer to the big riddle excruciatingly clear and the moment when the protagonist is allowed to figure it out, and most of that time is spent just kinda hanging out and being smug with his buddies in the Culture, sorry, I mean the Dwellers.

Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson: The perfect lycanthrope story for people who hate how lycanthropy is treated nowadays.

Darkover Landfall by Marion Zimmer Bradley: There's Camilla; there's St. Valentine; there's Hastur; there's the ghost wind; there's a chieri; there's a star-stone; whoops, we're out of time! I almost never complain that a book is too short, but this one would have been fine at three times the length.

Stormqueen! by Marion Zimmer Bradley: Wow. Maybe the best Darkover book I've read so far. Certainly the best of the ones set in the Ages of Chaos/Hundred Kingdoms era.

The New Springtime by Robert Silverberg: The sequel to At Winter's End, and better than it. Requires a little extra suspension of disbelief about the civilization having evolved quite that far in one generation, but otherwise excellent.

Dead in the West by Joe R. Lansdale: A series of thoroughly repugnant characters get killed by zombies. That's all. Really.

Gods of Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer: So after finally spilling the beans in The Magic Labyrinth, the author decides, wait, no, he's got an even better explanation, and here it is. It's good, just not quite as gracefully done as, say, The Other Wind.

Lovecraft's Book by Richard A. Lupoff: In which H. P. Lovecraft, in his less enlightened years, gets pulled into a conspiracy involving mobsters, fascists, the KKK, Harry Houdini's brother, and secret underwater Nazi projects, and it all stays pretty much believable.

Blue Gender season 2: Did I say something about this picking up toward the end of the previous season? Never mind. The conclusion of the series is the plot device announcing that, having made it to the requisite 26 episodes, it will now shut itself off. Never mind.

Bold as Love by Gwyneth Jones: The counterculture gets its own ministry and then takes over the government of England as the UK dissolves... and, unfortuately, it's nowhere near as fun as that sounds. It's mostly fuzzy, drug-hazed reaction shots rather than action, and no payoff, because it turns out, when you get to the end, that this is merely book 1 of a series. I absolutely despise publishers who don't admit that sort of thing on the cover.

Resurrection Day by Brendan DuBois: Alternate history, set 10 years after the Cuban missile crisis turned into a nuclear war that nearly destroyed the US. Packaged as a "thriller", but smarter than your average potboiler. Plus, as Chris pointed out when he recommended it to me, it's nice to see an occasional alternate history that isn't built around either Hitler winning World War II or the South winning the Civil War.

Otogi Zoshi: A close second to R.O.D the TV on my list of best anime series I have ever seen. Season 1 is in a relatively straightforward, but thoughtful, sword-and-sorcery mode, but then something goes horribly wrong. Season 2 has almost everyone reincarnated in modern Tokyo (including minor characters-- part of the fun is trying to spot them), encountering the echoes of the disaster and trying to figure out how to fix the damage before something even worse happens. Really, really neat stuff, and incidentally, I found the complete box set on Best Buy's Web site for $35.

Kiddy Grade: If you can get past the panty shots and the ridiculously revealing outfits-- and this will be a big if for some of you, considering the apparent age of the main characters-- you will be rewarded by watching an apparently lightweight formula show suddenly turn around and get serious. If you get a channel which carries the "FUNimation block" (I get it on CoLours TV; check your local listings for obscure cable channels), it's worth a look.

Gorgon: The Monsters That Ruled the Planet Before Dinosaurs and How They Died in the Greatest Catastrophe in Earth's History by Peter Ward: I actually read this a while ago and then misfiled it. It's a mix of slice-of-life stories of doing paleontological work in South Africa, both during and after apartheid, and the story of how the Earth once nearly turned into Mars.

The Cartoon History of the Universe III: From the Rise of Arabia to the Renaissance by Larry Gonick: I'd given up hope of ever seeing a part III, but I just discovered it was published back in 2002 and somehow eluded me until now. It's just as good as the first two.

The Eternity Artifact by L. E. Modesitt: A good hard sf exploration of an alien artifact seen through the eyes of an artist, a pilot, a spy, and a character who I think was dreamed up just so the author had an excuse to use the word "haeccity". Must read more of him.

Silverlock by John Myers Myers: This hallowed fan favorite comes with no less than three glowing introductions from distiguished sf authors. And yet... um... well, it's down to whether you agree to the interpretations the book takes, I guess. For instance, Robin Hood and a hundred or so Merry Men gallivanting around in green tights is fine if you grew up with Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn, but if you belong to the Robin of Sherwood generation, it's downright insulting.

Tales of the Unknown: The Destiny Knight (aka Bard's Tale II): Approximately 20 years since my first encounter with it, I've finally found the time to play all the way to the end of this game. In contrast to The Bard's Tale, where Mangar turned out to be a wuss, the final encounter has a satisfying amount of fireworks.

The Endeavour Award (presented at Orycon for the best book by a Pacific Northwestern author published in the previous year) put out a call for more readers, and I've gotten these so far:

The Embers of Heaven by Alma Alexander: Would you believe there's a fantasy novel set in an imaginary land but based on the Communist revolution as it happened in China? Would you believe it works? (The book, I mean, not the revolution.)

The Steam Magnate by Dana Copithorne: Lovely fantasy with original ideas, but the style makes it difficult to get into.

Righteous Anger by Lynda Williams: It's book 2 of a saga set in the far future, where ancient clan customs force people to eschew weapons of mass destruction in favor of one-on-one duels, and they use words with lots of needless apostrophes. Our hero is a bit slow socially, so practically all the action consists of stuff happening somewhere else and then people telling him about it.

Pretender by C. J. Cherryh: It's book 2 of a trilogy set in the far future, where ancient clan customs force aliens to eschew weapons of mass destruction, but they can at least fight each other in groups, and the apostrophes seem to be partly justified. Although the setting is well-realized and times are clearly tense, it's basically about a guy caught in Meeting Hell while trying to coordinate everyone's schedules so that he can make his big presentation to the E-Board.

The Obsidian Key by Eldon Thompson: In a refreshing change of pace, this is book 2 of a series set in a fantasy world where everyone can hack and hew and blast at each other to their hearts' content. A book of truly memorable prose, absolutely jam-packed with passages that would rate three asterisks in Cold Comfort Farm. It took some self-restraint for me to only send five quotes to Thog.

Singer in the Snow by Louise Marley: A nice book with consistent characters, no silly artificial clan rules, and a complete plot. It's also part of a series, but didn't give me the feeling that I had to have read any of the related books to understand what was really going on.

Great Sky Woman by Steve Barnes: When you finish a book and realize as you come to your senses that your SO has gone to bed without you noticing, a cat has had you trapped in an uncomfortable position for so long that you have developed cramps, and you have no clue at all what time it is, you have found a good book.

I voiced some complaints to Chris somewhere in the middle of the Cherryh or Thompson book, and all he would say was, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it." But if you're in the Portland area and this sounds like the kind of dangerous job you'd like to take, getting books for free (though you have to give them back afterward) to read for a good cause, the Endeavour Award site is at

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