Monday, November 30, 2009


Not much posting taking place around here lately. I have several excuses and self-justifications. Seriously. Well, not really.

In reading, I'm a good way into book 2 of the Gene Wolfe omnibus, Severian of the Guild. Thus far, I'm enjoying the read very much. The perspective, Severian's, is a great vantage point for this tale. That having been said, I don't think I like the 'undependable narrator.' It reminds me a great deal of a movie I saw years ago. Back in 1990, I was stationed on a US Army base in San Antonio, TX (Fort Sam Houston). We went to see a movie, on base, called Jacob's Ladder. Very discombobulating and tension inducing. I get that same sense of feverish hallucination while reading this story. How I can like it and not like it at the same time isn't something I can explain - it just is. We'll see if I can articulate the sensation any better once I've finished the book.

Ok, excuse time. I'm trying to be more conscientious about writing. I've spent months and months of not putting butt to chair. It's time to get cracking. I don't plan to post any less. In fact, this should have me more in the rhythym to write and bring lucid (ok, semi-lucid) thoughts here. I'm going over my chapter one, again, even though chapter two is half-born and begging to be tied off. Chapter two has gone over-long and may have to be chapters 2, 3 and 4. I'll bring chapter one by here, eventually. First, after I clean it up, I need to find a writing partner, or an online 'workshop' where I can get this read and receive some feedback. So, what's in this excuse to slow down posting, you ask? Excellent, and insightful, question. I've been rearranging the Man-Cave. I've gone back to find some reference works that had been languishing in a cardboard box for quite some time. This weekend, I found the reference works, some old scribbled notes and some writings that I'd nearly forgotten about. Now that I've found the missing items my subconscious was niggling away at, it's time to get down to it.

Cross your fingers. I may have an interview for Sunday Night Spotlight coming up soon. The questions are away and I am now awaiting the response. Who is it? At this time of year, such spoilers would be a big no-no, so you'll just have to wait.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bad news, good news and interviews - John D. Brown

Well, the bad news is that reading is slow going with the intensity of work-life and home-life, so there won't be a book review for a little while yet. Also, I've nothing for a Spotlight this Sunday night. The good news is that I have finished the massive work project for this year and can return to some enjoyable leisure activities again. Which is the segue to the other piece of good news - an interview.

Recently, thanks to Alex Koritz, I was granted a review copy of Servant of a Dark God and interview access to it's author, John D. Brown. I found Mr. Brown to be a very thoughtful man, perhaps best described using words like reflective and introspective. More than that, Brown seems to be a comfortably confident individual - the kind of presence to immediately put one at ease. Read on and see what I mean.

PW: I noted the juxtaposition in the story between free will and compulsion. Will you give your own view of the comparison and contrast between the two?

John D. Brown: Peter, first of all, thanks. I'm so happy to appear on Ubiquitous Absence. I will also say that you're the first to note this aspect of free will in the story. It's a subject fraught with drama and danger, and will become more important in books two and three. I find it fascinating. On the other hand, I never write with the intent of fictionalizing a philosophy ala Ayn Rand or Terri Goodkind. There's nothing wrong with doing that. Such an approach has obviously produced great stories. It's just not how I do it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The end of the tunnel

There's light out there! By this time next week, I should be enjoying a return to a 'normal' schedule. The massive yearly project that is my main reason for employment is coming due this Thursday. Once that's out of the way, I will sleep for somewhere between 1.9 and 2.72 days (man, I'm fairly punchy now). After that, I will be able to post on a respectable level at Ubiquitous Absence, rather than merely being ubiquitously absent.

I do have two interviews coming back to me any day now, so we'll see what we have when they're in. My current reading selection, Severian of the Guild, Gene Wolfe's omnibus edition of his Book of the New Sun story, is slow going only because of minimal time. What I've read so far (~150p) has me excited to continue, however. Gene Wolfe is clearly an author that is going to become a favorite.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for something truly interesting, check out the thorough look at the history of the D&D worlds (Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms) Adam has put together over at The Wertzone. Or, go visit Grasping for the Wind, where I recently participated in the worst ending survey.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Night Spotlight - Into the Wild Blue Yon-der

Tonight, we get to sit down with one of the bigger sf&f fans you may never have heard of; Mark Yon. Mark is the administrator, known as Hobbit, over at SFFWorld. In describing Mark, the word kind comes to mind, but its more than just that. Mark has the same enthusiasm that he had the first time he came across sf&f. The same enthusiasm we all had at one time or another. Mark's enthusiasm is infectious, however. Classy and never gratuitously contentious, Mark displays (as much as one can on the internet) the kind of personality that I'm dying to meet in person one day.

If you get the chance, do yourself a favor and register on the SFFWorld forum boards and engage Mark in a conversation or two. Or, just read his book reviews and blog posts at SFFWorld.

The only part of the interview that I regret, was the loss of top-secret photos I had managed to obtain. I had complete 360° external and internal photos of Hobbit Towers, but was stopped by security on my way out and had the camera confiscated. Mark told me it would happen, but you've just gotta try. Ah well.

PW: What was your first encounter with sf&f?

Mark: That goes back a long way, Peter! I’m now realizing, with horror, that it would be about 40 years ago. When I was aged about 3 or 4 I used to watch a ‘60’s TV series here in the UK called Thunderbirds. It was a puppet show created by Gerry Anderson. I wouldn’t miss an episode, evidently. One of my earliest childhood memories is about being sat in a highchair, [having] my tea and watching it on TV.

The consequence of that was that I learned to read with the TV series. There was an accompanying comic called
TV21 that had stories and comic strips in it based around the Gerry Anderson TV series and set 100 years in the future. I’ve been told I spent a lot of my early reading time working out words from those magazines.

In terms of ‘proper’ reading, I was a fan of mainly SF first, no doubt as a consequence of what I’ve mentioned already. There were some short stories along the way, mostly in books borrowed from my small local library, who struggled to keep up with my interest. There were lots of books related to the TV series I watched –
Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Doctor Who - but my first ‘proper’ buy was a second-hand copy of Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. I’ve still got it! After that, there was no stopping me. Mainly it was whatever I could borrow from my local library, as we couldn’t afford too many books. At that stage, it was mostly Arthur C Clarke and whatever Asimov and Heinlein I could get my hands on, which was pretty much what my library had. That, and authors such as John Wyndham (Day of the Triffids) and good old HG Wells (War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and so on.) There wasn’t much choice, but I rabidly read whatever I could get.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The eyes have it

I recently found out that my old workplace (The Stanford Eye Laser Center, Palo Alto, CA - ca. 2001-2007) was up on YouTube. It's fun to watch and see Dr. Manche again. A stellar guy and probably top 5 among the planet's corneal specialists. Not that I'm biased, mind you. ;)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review of a debut

This book was provided courtesy of Tor publishing

Lately I've been burning the candle at both ends, leaving certain elements of life to suffer. Ach, such is the burden of prioritization. Anyway, I finished John D. Brown's debut novel, Servant of a Dark God, on Sunday night. I should have had the review up last night, but had nothing left in the tank.

This is more than a debut novel. This was a launch. Fans of video games will know what I'm talking about here. Seriously, a heretofore unknown quantity (i.e. John Brown) gets Swanland cover art, Tor Forge, testimonials from Brandon Sanderson, Ken Scholes, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., David Drake, Kage Baker and David Farland, a publicity campaign that hits all the right blogs and, then, manages to even find Ubiquitous Absence? Somebody is seriously sold on Brown. Incidentally, so am I. With clarification on that coming later, let's first look at the story.

Summary: In Brown's novel, you have a protagonist who, at first glance, is yet another installment of the coming-of-age story. Okay, now look a little deeper. This young man (Talen) is as conflicted as you could want. Talen's father is a Koramite (a race of people who are, clearly, second class citizens) while his mother is Mokkadian (the dominant race within the tale). Talen spends his early years making an attempt at respectability by seeking acceptance into the Shoka clan from which his mother is from. Talen has a connection in that his maternal uncle is a man of some reputation within the clan. Beyond that, however, Talen is, largely, dismissed as the "half-breed." Talen views the Koramites, from which his father descends, as a people who constantly provoke the oppression which they endure. Talen walks across the knife's edge of an identity struggle between the two halves of his lineage and endures periods of hatred for both sides. Ultimately, Talen must choose which heritage to follow and learn to live with the consequences.