Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cybils Nominations are Open!

Now is your chance to nominate your favorite elementary, middle grade and young adult books from the past year (technically from October 16, 2014 to October 15, 2015).

All the official information you need is at

Remember ONE book per CATEGORY per PERSON. The form will kick you back if you try to nominate more than one book (or if someone else has already nominated the book).

Here’s the nomination form!

BTW - Publishers and authors have to wait until the public nomination period closes, at which point they get to have a nomination phase of their own. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cybils Nominations Open October 1st

Nominations open Thursday! 

Rules are roughly as follows (the official version is here): 
  • Anybody (real people only!) can nominate a book.
  • You may nominate one book per category.
  • If you have more than one book you’d like to nominate, enlist a friend or co-worker to help you out. (Real human friends only - no imaginary friends or pets or anything like that.)
  • Nominated books must’ve been published in the US or Canada between Oct. 15, 2014 and October 15, 2015. 
  • Additional information can be found here
The categories (paraphrased from the original linked sources) are:
  • Easy Reader/Short Chapter Books
    The Easy Reader / Early Chapter Book category covers the whole spectrum of titles for early elementary kids who are learning to read, from the very basic books for emergent readers to longer, illustrated titles for kids who are not quite ready for novels. We’re looking for leveled readers with controlled vocabularies are designed for kids to use to practice their reading, such as “Step into Reading” or “I Can Read” books. They are typically 32-64 pages in length and usually have large type, simple sentence structure, and colorful illustrations on every page. With beginning chapter books use large print, short chapters, and simple plots, and they rely heavily on dialogue. Only those books designed for beginning readers belong in this category. Chapter books are a bit longer (up to 160 pages or so), and  have fewer illustrations - just a few black and white line drawings sprinkled throughout the text.

  • Graphics Books using serial artwork to tell the tale, graphic novels cover it all—everything from wordless picture books appealing to the very young to intense, issue-based young adult novels. We give an award for both the younger graphics and for the young adult graphics… tell us who your favorites are!
  • Fiction Picture Books introduce young readers to their worlds, present and past; take us on fantastic  journeys, real and imagined; guide us in the world’s “best practices” – from the Magic Word to cultural traditions; and inspire us to do great things. Inside a Fiction Picture Book you are as likely to discover something that makes a toddler giggle for days on end as you are to share a story that reduces a third grader to tears. They are looking for books that “excel in story, illustration, kid appeal, and literary value. The technical eligibility requirements for the Fiction Picture Books category that the book must be available in print – no eBooks, iBooks, or board books; written for a young audience (generally 2 to 9); fall within the accepted page count of 32 to 48 pages.

  • Elementary/Middle Grade Non-fiction Kids are curious about the world around them and nonfiction is the perfect way to introduce them to that amazing world. History? Biography? Art? Science? Math? Animals? Sports? It’s all here and more besides! We’re looking for titles that are suitable for reading aloud or independently, including picture books and early chapters (nonfiction easy readers go to the easy reader category). We love text and illustrations or photographs that will wow kids and adults alike and topics so fascinating that kids will want to go digging for more, more, more nonfiction! Nonfiction Elementary/Middle Grade includes titles with factual content and informational titles, or books intended to teach. Roughly 50% or more of the book should be narrative nonfiction (as opposed to experiments or activities) and books should be directed generally at ages 3-12. We are currently accepting nominations only in print (no ebooks) for this category.

  • Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Wonderfully inventive and full of unforgettable people and places–Along with the expected spells and space rockets and aliens, this is the category for books with talking animals, time-travel, ghosts, and paranormal abilities, and all the other books that might not have obvious magic on every page, and which are set here on Earth, but which push past the boundaries of daily life into what is almost certainly impossible…(sometimes it’s hard to know if something is magical enough to count, but we do our best to be consistent). This category is for both Elementary and Middle Grade books; that is, books written for eight- to twelve-year-olds (with a bit of wiggle room at each end).

  • Middle Grade Fiction Middle grade fiction encompasses a wide range of stories that do not have magical elements and are geared toward the 8 to 12 year old age group. These stories could be mysteries, histories, humor, sports, adventure and other tales set in the real world. Middle Grade readers’ tastes and reading abilities can vary widely, and getting them a book that appeals to them is crucial. Books containing mature content in regards to violence, sex or language are more appropriate for the Young Adult Fiction category. The Cybils hopes to find realistic fiction books that are well-written and thought provoking but also make Middle Grade readers want to keep turning the pages. 

  • Book Apps allow readers to interact with the story in a variety of ways: by reading the text on the page, swiping, tapping, recording, listening to narration and sound effects, viewing animation and videos, and much more. In the most effective book apps, the interactive features enhance the story without distracting readers or disrupting the flow of the narrative.Book Apps nominations may be fiction or nonfiction and may appeal to any age from preschool to young adult. All nominations must be available for iPad and available in the iTunes App Store. Books available in iBooks are not considered Book Apps.

  • Poetry is an ever flowing river of words.  From words that rhyme, words that shape emotions on all different topics to poetic forms, thePoetry category is home to an uber stew of entries. These books willappeal to the very young, middle grade and/or young adults.
    Plus this year Poetry includes nominations of novels in verse.  
    What belongs in Poetry? Consider nominating anthologies and poetry collections written by various authors or a single author. They include illustrations or not. If the poems that resonate to readers of all ages and it’s a collection or anthology of poems,
    Poetry is the category.

  • Young Adult Fiction The world as it was and is. Not as it could, or would, or should be. In YA Fiction we are looking for realistic fiction, be it contemporary or historical, funny or mysterious, romantic or adventurous. We want the real world of the past and present with all of its flaws and pain and humor and beauty. We want books published for young adults ages 12-18 that are not only well-written, but which will expose the world and open a window to self-discovery. Books that respect their audience; books that teens will press into their friends’ hands with fervor in their eyes and say, “You HAVE to read this.” We are looking for the handful that can call themselves the greatest teen novels of 2015.

  • Young Adult Speculative Fiction Speculative Fiction takes us to realms of the imagination: places and times and realities where the rules of life may be different than our own and where the impossible and improbable become real. But good science fiction and fantasy does more than that: it asks, “What if?” It makes us think. It holds up a mirror to our own society and lets us see ourselves in a different light. Magic, aliens, ghosts, alternate universes, time travel, space travel, high fantasy, dystopian, post-apocalyptic futures, horror, and sentient animals are just some of the many topics that belong here. Speculative fiction novels with graphics in addition to text belong here, but if the book is primarily told through serial artwork, it belongs in the Graphic Novels category. The age range for this category is approximately 12-18, although there is some overlap with the Elementary/Middle-grade Speculative Fiction category that will be decided on a case by case basis. New Adult (NA) titles are not eligible, as those are primarily intended for an adult audience. This category accepts books published in either print or ebook formats.

  • Young Adult Non-fiction A great nonfiction book can sweep readers away to far off lands, different time periods and have you walk the shoes of someone else’s life as easily as fiction–only for in our case, these people, lands and events really took place. Young adult nonfiction readers will not and should not shy away from controversial topics, they rely on accurate and up-to-date information to help them form opinions on what matters most to them. While some topics are not easily discussed, we need these resources so they have a safe place to turn to for the information they seek. Narrative nonfiction reads so much like a story that you have to stop and consider whatever or not you are truly reading a story because it blends information in such a way that it reads like a story. It will include informational graphics, pop out boxes, an index and other informational clues where appropriate to add valuable information. While how-to nonfiction and textbooks are fantastic in some cases, for CYBILS purposes, that is not what we are looking for so please do not nominate them. If you have read or written an engaging narrative nonfiction book for those in seventh through twelfth grades, we would love for you to nominate them for Young Adult Nonfiction!
Once you have narrowed your choices down to one book in each category (eek that's hard!) here is the link to the Cybils nomination form (it goes live at 12:00am PST on October 1, 2015). If you have questions about what qualifies or which category would be best there are links on the Cybils website to the chair of each category.

Nominations close October 15th!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I am a Cybils Judge again!

Hurray!  I can now announce that I have once again been chosen to be a Round 1 Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction Judge! This is such a great honor.  I had a blast last time, reading over 100 books and struggling with ways of articulating why I thought some were standouts in a field of very strong contenders. There are such wonderful non-fiction books being written. Yay! 

Nominations for all Cybils categories open October 1st and close on the 15th. The guidelines are here.
Submissions from publishers and authors will be accepted October 16-26 and information for that is at the publisher section.

The mission of these awards is as follows ... "The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussels sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.

So if you have read a great picture book, early reader, chapter book, middle grade or young adult novel, graphic novel, poetry or nonfiction book this past year please nominate them!

The Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction Chair is Jennifer Wharton Jean Little Library

The First Round Judges are:

The Second Round Judges are:

So Cool! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

Murder is Bad Manners 
by Robin Stevens
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
US Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Format: hardback
Pages: 320
Genre: Children's Mystery
Age Range: 10 and up
Source: purchased book

From the author's website:

When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

(Yes I redacted the name - you can figure it out early on in the story so it isn't a critical spoiler but seriously, who gives away the name of the murder victim in the book blurb??  Bad form! If you absolutely must know, highlight the box to see the text.)

I heard about this book ages ago and had been really looking forward to it. I saw several gushing early reviews and it sounded like just my kind of thing. Now that I finally have gotten my hands on the book - well, um, I am not as excited about it honestly. I do like the set up, the mystery turned out to work for me and I really, really like the book's narrator - Hazel Wong. Other things though I was less enthused about.

Hazel is from Hong Kong, so seeing an English boarding school through her eyes is a rewarding experience. Her father, a lover of all things British, sent his daughter to a country that she is finding rather cold - weather wise and also in terms of her reception by the students and staff at the school. This aspect of the book was excellent.

On the other hand, Daisy Wells is presented as a perfect blonde, peaches and cream skinned aristocratic English girl. She is also bossy, self-centered, impulsive and rather cruel. Apparently some people find this contrast makes the two girls a great team. My take was rather different and I was somewhat uncomfortable with the dynamic. Is a person really your friend if they only like you when you are passive and comply with their demands ?  There was eventually some give in the relationship but I found the power dynamic and how the book dealt with it quite discomforting.

I also understand given the time period, but utterly hate, the idea that the characters feel compelled to pretend to lack intelligence in order to make friends and be popular. The book treats this as perfectly obvious and the right/normal thing to do. Yuck. 

Hazel and Daisy are pretty well developed characters, regardless of how I personally responded to them, so that is a plus. The rest of the cast I felt was less interesting and more of series of rather blurry stereotypes. The sense of place was strong, however, and I appreciated that.

As I mentioned, the mystery was pretty well done with some nicely laid out clues. I did see where it was going, but I have read lots of mysteries so that isn't surprising. The best part about the mystery is that the author managed to pull the resolution together in a nice, plausible manner. I was really, really worried that I was about to see a Scooby-Doo style ending - "I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!" - that would have totally destroyed the credibility the book had built up.  The author skirted close to this but managed to pull off an ending that was satisfying for child readers without blowing the suspension of disbelief of older readers.

Soooo - I am interested enough to read the next book at some point, just too see if there is some growth in Daisy, but not enough to go out of my way to find it. The down side is that I am not interested in having my kids read the book really. We are already having discussions of what a real friend is and how giving a person presents to make them your friend means that they really are not being a friend to you. (Sorry - that came out rocky but I hope that you understand what I mean.) The book presents Hazel and Daisy's friendship as appropriate, whereas I see exactly the sort of dynamics that I want my children to learn to avoid in some of their budding relationships. Perhaps when they are older the book will be fruitful for discussion, but right now they are too unsure of themselves and this is not a helpful model.

Murder is Bad Manners was first published in the UK as Murder Most Unladylike. There are two more UK titles: Arsenic for Tea and First Class Murder.

Pluto is so cooool!

If you haven't looked at the images being sent back from New Horizons, you should. Pluto is way cooler then anyone imagined.

This is a NASA image from the lower-left edge of Pluto’s 'Heart' more technically called the Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region). The peaks are estimated to be approximately one-half to one mile (1–1.5km) in height, or about the same scale as the Appalachian Mountains.

Sputnik Planum is believed to be relatively young in geological terms, less than 100 million years old or so, while the darker region is most likely billions of years old.  

The image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers) and sent back to Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. The names of features on Pluto have all been given on an informal basis by the New Horizons team.

And wow - look at this ...

This is a mosaic of high-resolution images of Pluto, sent back from the New Horizons spacecraft from Sept. 5 to 7, 2015. The the smooth, bright region across the center of the image is an icy plain that has been informally-named  Sputnik Planum
"The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size, and the mosaic covers a region roughly 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) wide. The image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers)."
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My Office and a Galileo Thermometer

Well, I have officially survived my first week and a half of being department chair. I figured that I should take a picture of my office before things explode and you can't see the desk anymore.

If you have an eye for detail you will note that I have a Galileo thermometer (the kind made of a sealed glass cylinder filled with a clear liquid and containing several glass balls filled with liquids of varying density) sitting on my desk.

Actually - here is a bigger picture.

The clear liquid in the cylinder in which the bulbs are submerged is usually not water but an organic compound (such as ethanol) the density of which varies with temperature more than water's does (though water does get used in some models).

Each of the sealed glass floats contains either alcohol or water dyed with food coloring  and is of a slightly different density (controlled by controlling the weight of the hang tags actually). For most liquids as temperature increases, the density decreases, thus as the temperature in the room changes, the individual floats will rise or fall in proportion to their respective densities relative to the liquid in the cylinder. 

To read this Galileo thermometer, look at the distribution of the bulbs in the cylinder. If there are some bulbs floating near the top, some clustered at the bottom, and one bulb floating alone in a gap in the middle - the hang tag on that lone bulb tell you the approximate temperature. If there are no bulbs in the gap then average the temperature values of the bulb above and the bulb below the gap to find the approximate temperature. Or with some models you simply look at the tag hanging off of the lowest floating bulb to determine the approximate temperature.

Either way - you will note that all of the bulbs have sunk to the bottom of the cylinder. This means that the room is over 80°. This is actually the first day that the top bulb shows any signs of trying to float. Most of the week and all of last week the bulbs were buried at the bottom of the cylinder. It has been hot in here.

So - that is the downside of having the fancy office with the windows in a place where the A/C is broken. OTOH - I think my plants might like it here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

A peak into The Pyramids of London

Gosh, it has been ages since I have done one of these. I am having a hard time remembering how to do this. For Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader, here is the beginning of The Pyramids of London by Andrea K Höst ...

Sunlight picked out motes of dust, and burnished mellow wood to match Arianne Seaforth's hair as she strolled through the Southern Nomarch's library. Heavy bookcases jutted from the inner wall, stopping short of the many-paned windows, and Rian walked along a corridor formed by the gap, watching a drama of wind. 

A rope had snapped. The First Minister's airship canted to one side, and then the ballonet bounced, threatening to smash the gondola onto Sheerside House's sweeping back lawn. 
For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is a bit from page 31, since it isn't too spoilery and I haven't gotten much further ...

The vampire she had met bore no resemblance to the Heriath of legend, but Lord Msrah seemed quited certain. 

"I ... am surprised to be alive," Rian managed. 

Obviously I haven't finished the book yet, but it has been pretty interesting so far.  It is a very strange mashup of things - vampires, weather control, airships ... not sure what I think.

Here is the blurb from Amazon if you are interested:
In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt's vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia's fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.

But the peace of recent decades is under threat. Rome's automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the New Republic's supply of power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates. And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself. Relentless daily blasts destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia's Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.

With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest. The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton makers, killed by their own construct.

The Tenning children and Aedric's sister, Arianne, know this cannot be true. Nothing will stop their search for what really happened.

Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The United States of America According to Geologists

Okay - this cracked me so I had to share. Via Earth Magazine ...

I have to confess though - I am an outlier. I am a geologist but I don't like beer. Shush!  Don't tell the AGU.

When the GSA met in Utah for the first time since 1975, I found it pretty funny to watch the herds of geologists wandering around the streets of Salt Lake trying to find a bar (they were "private clubs" and you had to be a member to be allowed in to drink - alcohol laws were very weird then). Things loosened up considerably by the 2005 meeting, though the liquor laws are still pretty odd there.

Go see the rest of the world at

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Little Robot Ben Hatke

Little Robot 
Ben Hatke 

Published by: First Second
Copyright/Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Format: hardback
Pages: 144

Genre: Children's Fantasy Age Range: 6 - 9
Source: purchased book

From the cover:
Life outside the robot factory is confusing. 
Little Robot has a lot to learn ...
And that's what friends are for. 
But with danger on the way, will friendship be enough to save them? 

Ever since my children and I found the Zita the Space Girl books, Ben Hatke had been on my auto-buy list, so it was a lovely surprise to find a new book by him in the mailbox this morning. As soon as I open the box my son grabbed the book, but before he got a chance to read it my daughter grabbed it and read the whole thing before camp. It was kind of fun listening to her giggle and gasp as she read. She was pretty much totally focused on the story.

I wasn't able to get my hands on the book until just now. Ben Hatke has a lovely, distinctive style of artwork - it somehow manages to be simple with bright appealing colors while at the same time incorporating a wealth of tiny details that convey nuance and depth.

where you can see a chunk of the book

In Little Robot, a young girl (too young to go to school) tumbles out of her trailer home and spends her days exploring. One morning she finds a tool belt and then a robot in a box. She activates the robot and they become friends. Eventually however the robot wants to find others of its own kind, threatening their friendship.

The text is sparse - pretty much all very short pieces of dialogue or sound effects. The story, however, is pretty deep and possibly a bit disturbing for young children since it is about loneliness and being different as well as friendship. It has the same edgy/gritty feeling that the Zita books do. I can see why my daughter was totally absorbed (through it turns out she was mostly worried about the cat). This is the sort of book you have discussions with your children about because there is so much going on.

I love that the little girl is a strong character and great with tools (though as a parent I am totally freaked out at the idea of a little girl wandering around a junkyard alone and barefoot). The little robot has a distinct personality, as does the "bad robot" (as dubbed by my daughter). The story is definitely moving but it is a little hard to discuss in detail because I don't want to give the story away.

As I mentioned, the book inspires conversation.  My daughter spoke about it at length this morning. She wanted to know what the robots were for, since there isn't any context here. She even went back and re-examined the truck to see if she could figure it out. There are lots of off-skew pieces of information (like that fence) that make you really wonder about what is going on in the wider world - some nifty bits of worldbuilding for a 144 page book with very little text.

Several other questions might also come up - like why is this girl alone? And is the ending a happy one?

Sorry if this review is a bit disjointed. I am still thinking about the story and my reactions to it. I know that my daughter liked it quite a bit. I do too, but unfortunately I also have an adult perspective too which make me uneasy about parts of the story - which is probably a good thing. Some seriously unexpected depth here.

We have re-read the Zita books multiple times and I have the feeling that this book will also have repeat visits. If you liked Hatke's previous work, you are going to want to pick this book up too. Recommended.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Still Alive and bonus Moose

Stress levels IRL got super high a while back and posting on the blog is one of the things that fell by the wayside. Plus, I made the mistake of getting involved with the Hugo Awards, which burned me out really, really fast (I am one of the new voters who decided that No Award was vastly preferable to presenting awards to highly substandard work.)

However, now that I have had a break and a road trip out west, I am going to try to get back on track with posting again.

I spent a chunk of August hanging out with the moose in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, where there was no such thing as cell service and WiFi was harder to find then a moose.

Yes - that is a mother with her calf. I was behind a stand and out of sight so that I wasn't disturbing them. Moose are actually quite dangerous and will charge if they feel threatened.

The other tiny bit of news is that I have been promoted to department chair (eek!) which is going to impact my activity as well. But - since this is supposed to be stress relief for me, I am still going to try to post something once or twice a week.

Happy Moose Day, I mean Tuesday!

Friday, June 19, 2015

A peak into Bryony and Roses

I almost missed Friday! Oops.  For today's Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader, here is the beginning of Bryony and Roses a new novella by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) ...
She was going to die because of the rutabagas. 
Bryony pushed her cloak back from her face and looked up. The space between Fumblefoot's ears had become her entire world for the past half-hour, and she was a little surprised at how large the forest was when she finally lifted her eyes. 
Unfortunately, it was all covered in a thick blanket of snow. 

And for The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is a bit from the 56% mark ...
Bryony giggled. 
I should definitely eat more than a roll before I have any more wine ... 
"That doesn't work for being short, though," she said. "You're, what, seven feet tall? I'm definitely short next to you."
"My dear Bryony," said the Beast, "everyone is short next to me." 

And that's it ... I hope you liked the teaser. This is a lovely re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and I quite enjoyed it. Nine Goblins is still my favorite, but this one is very good.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Graphic Novel and Manga mini-reviews

Some really quick mini-reviews before I forget everything (all of these are paperbacks that I purchased) ... as an antidote to my Hugo's reading, we have gotten several manga and graphic novels lately.

Baron The Cat Returns (バロン 猫の男爵 Baron: Neko no Danshaku, lit. Baron: the Cat Baron) by Aoi Hiiragi is a very cute, short manga that is related to the Studio Ghibli movie The Cat Returns. According to Hiiragi was commissioned to create a manga to go along with an animated short being developed for an amusement park. The ride fell through, but the short got developed into a full length movie. 

The artwork for some of the characters is significantly different and the story is somewhat dissimilar - though most of the key points are the same. Still, quite likeable in its own way.  Recommended if you are a fan of the movie or looking for a simple comfort read. All ages.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson - I haven't actually gotten to read all of this one. My daughter took it as soon as she spotted it and won't let me see it. She has been reading it at bedtime and laughing. The only parts I have read are the ones where she want some help with new words. What I have seen I have liked, and I have laughed out loud a couple of times too. Recommended. All ages.

Oh - forgot to add - it started out as a webcomic so you can take a look to see what you think.

TICK: The Complete Edlund
SPOON! This includes the first several Tick comics - the one stuck in my mind was Night of A Million-Zillion Ninjas. I have no idea what made me suddenly think of Tick, once it was stuck in my head I had to get a copy somehow.

So, when it showed up in the mail, I got to read original story, then the re-done 'origin' story and then it was grabbed out of my hands by my son, who promptly ran off and read it, laughing and reading out bits the entire time. He strongly recommends it. I still have to find where he squirreled it away.


RESERVoir CHRoNiCle TSUBASA  written and illustrated by the manga artist group Clamp. (Tsubasa () is the Japanese word for wing.)

I haven't given these to my son yet (finally something I managed to hang onto!) and have just binge-read all four Omnibus volumes. Total fan! Once I got used to characters occasionally looking like Mr. Fantastic (all stretchy and elongated) I really enjoyed the art. Quite lovely.

This is my first Clamp series, so I don't have any of the alternate universe backstories for any of the characters, but that I just fine with me. I have already ordered the first Cardcaptors Sakura though since the next Omnibus isn't due out until August. 

From Amazon:
Childhood friends Princess Sakura and Syaoran, the son of an archaeologist, become entangled in a series of events that force them to traverse through alternate realities on an action-packed and unforgettable adventure!  In the Kingdom of Clow, an archaeological dig unleashes an incredible power, causing Sakura to lose her memories. To save her, Syaoran must follow the orders of the Dimension Witch and travel alongside Kurogane, an unrivaled warrior; Fai, a powerful magician; and Mokona Modoki, a curiously strange creature, to retrieve Sakura’s dispersed memories! But first, there is a price to be paid…
Also recommended. I really like the ride so far - though I am a little worried that there won't be an ending.Teen 13+ - mostly seems to be about characters drinking.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A peak into Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

I almost missed today's Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader.  We have been out laying concrete for a garage.  My back is killing me. Anyhow... this is kinda neat and I missed a few non-fiction entries lately ... 

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby

I have to start with a bit from the Introduction ...
This book about scientists began with Beef Stroganoff. According to the New York Times, Yvonne Brill made a mean one. In an obituary published in March 2013, Brill was honored with the title of "world's best mom" because she "followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children." Only after a loud, public outcry did the Times amend the article so it would begin with the contribution that earned Brill a featured spot in the paper of record in the first place: "She was a brilliant rocket scientist." Oh right. That.

Yes - it says 2013 not 1953. Un-friggin-believable. The Times change the obituary but they did it without adding any sort of acknowledgement that they messed up in the first place.

It now says ...

She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

Sheesh - #*$%& clueless!

And from page 57 (page 56 is the very end of the entry for Mary Anning) for The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice ......

Ellen Swallow Richards 1842–1911 Chemistry•American

Before 1887, water quality standards in Massachusetts did not exist. Modern, city-run water treatment plants? Those weren't around, either. So on the contaminated drinking water roulette wheel, to take a sip of water in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the late nineteenth century was to consume either industrial waste or municipal sewage. To push the area's drinking water to a safer state, Ellen Swallow Richards, an instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's newly founded laboratory of sanitary chemistry, supervised the collection and analysis of some twenty thousand water samples. Her experimental design both set the standard for similar studies and gave Richards a foundation to make assumptions about both the area's water quality and larger global drinking water conditions. Not a bad contribution from the first person in the United States to be both a professional chemist and a woman at the same time. 

The whole book consists of really short (just a few pages) introduction to women who made significant contributions in a wide range of fields.  Neat stuff!

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wondrous Words Wednesday 43

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at the Bermuda Onion where you "can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative!"

I have no idea where time is flying to - I thought you were supposed to be having  fun when time did that.

Ah well - some words for this week, for the purpose of having fun!

"...and that'd upset Pardessus Chatain Pursuivant. He always locks himself in his shed when he's upset..."

I already know what a Pursuivant is - the term basically means assistant herald. And Chatain means brown or chestnut colored. But I didn't know Pardessus.

pardessus /paʀdəsy/

1: a sleeveless garment like a cloak but shorter, mantle
2: a loose outer garment
3: a heavy coat worn over clothes in winter
4: French "over the top of"

Ohhh - here is a lovely Victorian Pardessus from Godey's Lady's Book

Or here is a lovely hand colored engraving c.1855 from the House of Worth from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection "Fashion plate showing two women's dresses in an outdoor setting. Grey dress with lilac sprigs and facings and black lace trimming, with yellow shawl and fringed parasol, and pink dress with black coat with green facings, both with bonnets."

That black coat is a also a pardessus.

And now that I sorted though all of that, I find this informative website - if you are interested in this, you should visit the site.

The other choice is a modern style overcoat, such as this 1931 Montagnac (from, which is way less interesting to imagine.  

So, as far as I can work out, the gentleman in question is the Brown Cloak Assistant Herald.

And pardessus also led me to  ...

pardessus de viole

noun par·des·sus de vi·ole \¦pärdə¦südəvēˈōl\

1: a five- or six-stringed viol that is approximately the size of a violin and that is tuned an octave higher than the tenor viol —called also descant viol, quinton

French, literally, above the viol
First Known Use: 1889

I need one of these !!!!! NOW!!!!

And I just managed to spend all of my time on one word. Ooops.

Happy Wednesday

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ancillary Sword, more Hugo's and some things I have learned about my taste in reading

Warning, I am starting off with a wall of text musing about the reading I have been doing lately for the Hugo's and how it plays into larger themes that either work or don't work for me. If you just want to see the book quotes - skip down to the image of the Ancillary Sword book cover. 

Yesterday, after reading a news piece about  Plutos Moons being in Chaos I started thinking about The Three Body problem again and realized that one things which made it such an increasingly unpleasant reading experience was how pretty much all of the female characters ended up being portrayed. I greatly enjoyed the first part of the book (about the first third I think) with the pieces about the cultural revolution and the establishment of the various POV characters, but as the plot progressed (along with the increasingly silly science and illogical activities) it became more and more apparent that if a morally reprehensible action or action born in weakness of character was about to take place, a female character was going to do it. It is good that at least there were female characters, in non-traditional roles even, but almost universally they were portrayed as selfish and lacking a moral core.   

There was a greater diversity of behavior and character in the male cast of the book and apparently reprehensible actions by certain male characters were treated as heroic, so there was a distinct difference in framing. Yes, I know, almost no one actually seems to be "good" person - another reason the book got so wearing to read. But seriously, it felt increasingly like I was being slapped in the face with this and since I grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Heinlein and lots of "Golden Age" fiction featuring covers with women in improbably tight space suits, it takes some pretty overt text for me to pick up on it.

The other thing I realized, was that it is important for me that the peripheral characters, and the wider world in general, actually matter in the story (more than just the stereotypical "we must save the world" trope"). I will try to explain with an example - a while back I was reading an on-line discussion where the topic of books came up and several recommendations were made - one book in particular got several enthusiastic endorsements so I downloaded the preview from Amazon, though it was pretty interesting, and bought the whole thing. I read it in less than a day (I was home sick) and found the world-building to be compelling and the stratification of the society well presented. I really wanted to see where this was all going (it was the first book of a trilogy) - but instead of doing anything with the world and the axillary characters, for the conclusion of the book, the author actually destroyed everything - literally blew it all up. Only our two protagonists survived. And the book framed this as a happy ending - the "bad guys" got what they deserved and the way it was presented in the text it didn't matter that this took out entire rest of the population. I was appalled.

Protagonist centered morality writ large.

I realized that this is one of the things that has been a major turn-off for me in lots of the popular books I have read in the past few years. This concept that as long as our POV character is okay, nothing else matters.

Well, actually, I have discovered that it matters to me. I don't find anything particularly compelling or heroic in characters that survive or thrive by stepping over the bodies of the remainder of the cast. I am also much more interested in a book that describes a character's actions than I am in a book that just tells me over and over that a character is a "hero."  

This is one (of several) reasons why virtually all of the short fiction just fell totally flat for me. Many of the protagonists/POV characters were unappealing or simply awful people (like in “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” and Flow) and/or were only out for themselves - giving no cares for the wider world. Simply yuck.

All of this is an extremely round-about way of getting to one of the reasons that I liked The Goblin Emperor and both Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword so much. In each of these worlds, other people mattered to the protagonists. It wasn't enough for them simply to satisfy their own needs/desires. Maia and Breq both care about other characters, sometimes even when they don't necessarily want to. They care not just about their love interest or in book "family" - they care, in the abstract, about people in general. About society as a wider concept. This I like. I like it a great deal and want to see more of it.

For today's Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader, here is the beginning of Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie - the second book in the Imperial Radch series and current Hugo nominee for Best Novel ...

 "Considering the circumstances, you could use another lieutenant." Anaander Mianaai, ruler (for the moment) of all the vast reaches of Radchaai space, sat in a wide chair cushioned with embroidered silk. This body that spoke to me – one of thousands – looked to be about thirteen years old. Black clad, dark-skinned. Her face was already stamped with the aristocratic features that were, in Radchaai space, a marker of the highest rank and fashion. Under normal circumstances no one ever saw such young versions of the Lord of Radch, but these were not normal circumstances.

From page 56 of Ancillary Sword for The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice ...

In my quarters, Kalr Five, disquieted by the day's events but of course expressionless, had my supper waiting for me – a bowl of skel and flask of water, common soldier's mess. I suspected Ship had suggested it to her but didn't query to confirm that suspicion. I'd have been content eating skel all the time, but it would have distressed Five, and not only because it would have deprived her of the opportunity to filch tastes of non-skel delicacies, a cherished perquisite of serving the captain or the officers in the decade room.     

I have seen several complaints on-line that Sword suffers from second book slump but I have to say I disagree completely. I am really enjoyed the book thus far and find it neatly fills in details of world building, giving the reader a broader perspective on how truly terrible Radchaai civilization was and is. The reader gets to explore the here and now, before things go to heck in a hand-basket. It is significantly different than the first book in that the story is basically linear, so if it was the time tripping perspective of the first book that you liked best - where the story unfolds in a non-linear perspective and the chapters move backwards and forwards in time - well I admit, that is lacking. Also, if you expecting to plunge directly into a civil war, with huge multi-ship battles, well, that isn't what the book starts with either. So I can see how, depending on what your expectations were, the book can feel disappointing. 

Me - I am happy and loving it so far. Also - the plot moves along briskly enough that I haven't worried much about logical issues in the stories (like the whole why ancillaries in the first place question). I am enjoying the ride. 

So - for my Hugo's ballot I have a conundrum. Do I like Ancillary Sword best or The Goblin Emperor? This is gonna be a hard one.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

More Hugo's stuff - My Other Three Body Problem problem

Sigh. I had rather stopped thinking about The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu. Shortly after I finished the book I saw lots of gushing praise about it and kept wondering if I had somehow ended up with the wrong book, because I just didn't see the magnificently clever story that other people were seeing.

Confused, I put it out of my mind and started reading Ancillary Sword.  Now though, the recent news about the chaotic behavior of Pluto's moons has put TBP back into my mind.

There is one more problem that I had with the book that I left out of my review. For my review I just concentrated on the science and logical error issues that I had with the book. This problem is a bit different. To explain, I will present some quotes from the book ...

"When she first expressed an interest in abstract theory, I told her that field wasn't easy for women. She said, what about Madame Curie? I told her, Madame Curie was never really accepted as part of that field. Her success was seen as a matter of persistence and hard work, but without her, someone else would have completed her work. As a matter of fact, Wu Chien-Shiung went even further than Madam Curie. But it really isn't a woman's field."

"But she was a woman. A woman should be like water, able to flow over and around anything." 

Both of these lines are spoken by a female and the woman she is referring to was her daughter.

"Do you not want to join this wonderful life?" Mozi asked, pointing to the ground below. "When women are first revived, they crave love."

There are more examples, but those are the ones that really stood out in my mind.

Next I ask you to consider the female characters in the book and the roles they play in the story. Spoilers in ROT13.

Gur cevznel srznyr punenpgre, Lr, vf vavgvnyyl n flzcngurgvp punenpgre ohg vg gheaf bhg gung fur vf npghnyyl n zheqrere naq gur urnq fbpvbcngu oruvaq gelvat gb trg gur ragver uhzna enpr jvcrq bhg. 

Lr'f zbgure vf gubebhtuyl haflzcngurgvp. 

Lr'f sngure jnf orngra ol sbhe lbhat srznyr zrzoref bs gur Erq Thneq naq hygvzngryl zheqrerq ol bar bs gurz.

Jnat'f jvsr vf cenpgvpnyyl vaivfvoyr (V qba'g rira erzrzore ure univat n anzr) naq qvfnccrnef sebz gur fgbel nf fbba nf fur vfa'g arrqrq.

Gur anzryrff crefba jub oernxf Cna Una'f arpx ("fur gjvfgrq Cna'f urnq 180 qrterrf jvgu cenpgvprq rnfr") naq jub guerngrarq gb oybj hc gur zrrgvat jvgu n ahpyrne obzo, jnf lbhat fzvyvat jbzna.

Again, there are more examples, but you probably get my gist by now. I think that this probably explains, at least in part, why my reading experience as a female in a STEM field is rather different than another person's might have been. Yes, the characters are pretty thin, but even so think about whose minds you get to ride along with - I think it matters in terms of how the story plays out to you.

I found the science got too silly and I thought the plot was lacking in logical consistency, but I have still liked stories with those flaws if there is some other redeeming feature - here I also felt, initially subconsciously but increasingly overtly, insulted by the roles that women played in this story.

Normally I don't think too much about this sort of thing, but in this case I felt like I was being slapped in the face with it. Not a fun reading experience.

Since I am once again totally bummed, I will close with a xkcd comic to make myself feel better.

NASA Says Plutos Moons in Chaos

Cool story that, unfortunately, made me think of Three Body Problem.

NASA reported yesterday that 

If you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.

Pluto’s moon Nix
This set of computer modeling illustrations of Pluto’s moon Nix shows how the orientation of the moon changes unpredictably as it orbits the “double planet” Pluto-Charon.
Credits: NASA/ESA/M. Showalter (SETI)/G. Bacon (STScI)
The moons wobble because they’re embedded in a gravitational field that shifts constantly. This shift is created by the double planet system of Pluto and Charon as they whirl about each other. Pluto and Charon are called a double planet because they share a common center of gravity located in the space between the bodies. Their variable gravitational field sends the smaller moons tumbling erratically. The effect is strengthened by the football-like, rather than spherical, shape of the moons. Scientists believe it’s likely Pluto’s other two moons, Kerberos and Styx, are in a similar situation.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, says that when the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July, NASA will get an "up close and personal" view of what the moons look like.

Discoverers Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View California and Doug Hamilton of the University of Maryland at College Park also found that three of Pluto's moons are locked together in resonance, i.e. have a precise ratio for their orbital periods.

“If you were sitting on Nix, you would see that Styx orbits Pluto twice for every three orbits made by Hydra,” noted Hamilton.
Hubble data also reveal the moon Kerberos is as dark as a charcoal briquette, while the other frozen moons are as bright as sand. It was predicted that dust blasted off the moons by meteorite impacts should coat all the moons, giving their surfaces a homogenous look, which makes Kerberos’ coloring very surprising.

Comparative brightness of Pluto’s moons
This illustration shows the scale and comparative brightness of Pluto’s small satellites. 
The surface craters are for illustration only and do not represent real imaging data.
Credits: NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI)

Cool Stuff!

Environmental News Roundup

It has been quite a while since I did one of these!  Just some items to pass on ...

California is still in drought

The New York Times has an interesting graphic concerning water use in the state ...
How Has the Drought Affected California’s Water Use?
It shows Change in Consumption (some districts esp. around Los Angeles have increased consumption!), Size of Proposed Cuts and Daily Gallons Per Capita.

Cool National Geographic Story - Seven New Mini-Frogs Found—Among Smallest Known. Look at this little guy !

One of the miniature frog species found recently in Brazil. NatGeo

ARGH!!!  From Nature News

US lawmakers approve controversial spending bill

Proposal for NSF and NASA would take from Earth and social sciences, and give to planetary exploration.
The House plan would set NASA’s budget at US$18.5 billion in fiscal year 2016, roughly 3% above the current level. But the legislation would chop 5.7% from the space agency’s Earth-science research programme, setting its funding at $1.683 billion. That is almost 14% less than the White House request of $1.947 billion, which also proposed transferring some climate-satellite programmes from NOAA to NASA.
The NSF’s budget would grow by $50 million in 2016, to $7.4 billion. But the House bill would reshuffle the agency’s main research programmes. It includes unusual language that directs 70% of the agency’s $6-billion research spending to programmes in biology, computer science, engineering, mathematics and physical science. That would effectively impose steep but unspecified cuts on the NSF’s social-science and geoscience directorates — probably around 15%, according to an analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

NOAA would see its budget cut by 5.2%, from $5.5 billion this year to $5.2 billion in 2016. The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would take a 3.2% hit, dropping to $432 million.

Noooo!  Not good, not good at all !  You know, not looking is NOT going to make global warming go away!

From NBC News - since, of course there is an oil spill going on, ...

A pipeline rupture that spilled an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude oil near Santa Barbara last month occurred along a badly corroded section that had worn away to a fraction of an inch in thickness, according to federal regulators. 
The preliminary findings released Wednesday by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration point to a possible cause of the May 19 spill that blackened popular beaches and created a 9-mile slick in the Pacific Ocean. 
The agency said investigators found corrosion at the break site had degraded the pipe wall thickness to 1/16 of an inch, and that there was a 6-inch opening near the bottom of the pipe. Additionally, the report noted that the area that failed was close to three repairs made because of corrosion found in 2012 inspections.
The findings indicate 82 percent of the metal pipe wall had worn away.

Along the same lines ...

The Center for Biological Diversity has a couple of interesting videos ...

First is pipeline incidents in California since 1986 (you might want to mute or turn down the volume - the music is pretty loud and gets annoying fast)


And the second one shows pipeline incidents in the contiguous US since 1986.

The really, really scary part is that pipelines are the safer way to transport oil in comparison to train or truck transport. Yikes.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Roundup of Suggested Short Fiction Brain Bleach to Counteract This Year's Hugo Nominees

With apologies and thanks to File 770 I have pulled together a list of the short fiction recommendations there that were suggested as remedies for the short fiction that is in packet for this year. The idea is that if you find yourself in despair over SF/F or if you have forgotten what high quality fiction is like, you can read some of these suggestions to restore your faith in the universe.

I pulled this list together when I realized that I am never going to remember what and where all of these suggestions were, so again - apologies and thanks to the commentariat at File 770.

This is the comment that kicked it off ...

I’ll catch up on the comments tomorrow, just logging in now because I need my faith in short stories restored. I just finished the last of the “best” short stories for 2015 Hugo Awards.
Could someone point me to really Hugo worthy short stories? I’m willing to pay if I have to, I just need to feel better. Any year I don’t care.

Rebekah Golden: Do novelettes count? Because Ruthanna Emrys’s “The Litany of Earth” on last year rocked my world.

Rebekah, I would recommend Women of Wonder, the whole series, Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood, Yoon Ha Lee’s Conservation of Shadows, and Zen Cho’s Spirits Abroad.

I mean the Women of Wonder series edited by Pamela Sargent. Not the unrelated, more recent, book of the same name recently mentioned on

Rebekah, if you want an oldie but goodie — Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” is a favorite, or Asimov’s “Nightfall.”

Rebekah, have some Howard Waldrop. It’s good for what ails you.

Rebekah Golden 
“… Could someone point me to really Hugo worthy short stories? I’m willing to pay if I have to, I just need to feel better. Any year I don’t care. …”
Hie thee to your bookshelf and pull out your copy of Bradbury’s collection The Machineries of Joy, and read the title story

>> Could someone point me to really Hugo worthy short stories? I’m willing to pay if I have to, I just need to feel better. Any year I don’t care.>>
I don’t know whether I’d say Hugo-worthy, exactly, but:
That’s a collection of short stories by Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff and Maggie Stiefvater, and not only do you get a set of interesting stories, the three of them comment on each other’s stories as well, giving some interesting insights into how and why the stories are shaped.
I’d also recommend:
Many of the stories are delightful, especially “Gastronomicon.”
And in the even you haven’t read it already:

Rebekah Elizabeth Moon’s A Parrion of Cooking and The Last Lesson both in Deeds of Honor were very good.

Rebekah Golden: Could someone point me to really Hugo worthy short stories? I’m willing to pay if I have to, I just need to feel better.
I’ll second (fifth?) the nomination for Elizabeth Bear’s Covenant.

Rebekah Golden: Could someone point me to really Hugo worthy short stories? I’m willing to pay if I have to, I just need to feel better.
Here’s a list of links to what other people said they liked this year:

Some 2014 short stories I really liked:
Jo Walton – “Sleeper
Matthew Kressel – “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye

Liz Williams’ story Banquet of the Lords of Night is free on the Clarkesworld site. I liked it.

Rebekah – Could someone point me to really Hugo worthy short stories?
The Rogues short story collection from last year was quite good and had stories that ranged from all sorts of genres. Abercrombie, Gillian Flynn, Lansdale, Cherie Priest, Scott Lynch, Nix, Willis, Rothfuss, and Martin all have short stories in it.
I was also a fan of the short story collection Letters to Lovecraft that came out last year. There are some weird and middling stories in it but I enjoyed Doc’s Story, Only the Dead and the Moonstruck, and The Trees I really liked a lot. That Place by Gemma Files is a way more interesting variation of the kind of CS Lewis story that Wright was going for.

For those looking for good short stories who also liked Ann Leckie’s novels, here’s a short story set in the same world:

I dunno if it’s properly a short story (or Hugo worth, really. I don’t read enough short fiction to have any sense of the field), but Nicola Griffith’s Cold Wind was pretty good

Rebekah Golden at 8:29 pm:
Just a few short(er) stories available online (fingers crossed that they make it past the spam filter).
The Great Silence Ted Chiang
A Colder War Charles Stross
Sonny Liston Takes a Fall Elizabeth Bear.

A few more:
Toad Words Ursula Vernon.
A Dry, Quiet War Tony Daniel.
Glory Greg Egan.

Did I mention I’m a fan of Stross, Chiang, & Egan?
Lobsters the first part of Charles Stross’ fix-up “Accelerando”, is a tour de force.
What’s Expected of Us is a one-pager by Ted Chiang.
Riding the Crocodile by Greg Egan (who I don’t think gets as much recognition as he deserves.

@Rebekah: I am reading the Nebula nominees for 2015 and they are quite good (some are a little strange). You can find links to them at Free Speculative Fiction Online website. In particular, I liked The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye which someone mentioned earlier, and When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster, which is the best thing I have read in a while. Talk about collateral damage – the Puppies stunt most likely cost Eugie her last chance at a Hugo. Way to go, guys. Every time I think about that I get mad all over again.
(I second the recommendation for When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster - that one was amazing.) 

Are people still recommending Hugo-worthy short story collections as palate cleansers? 
I think “Stranger Things Happen” by Kelly Link is remarkably good.

Oneiros: I read The Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang recently and was intrigued. Is there a good place to start with Chiang’s other work?
Chiang’s not the most prolific of authors, he hasn’t published much — but every single story he puts out is a gem. A fair bit of his stuff is available online. There’s a list here, with links

‘So what short stories and short story collections do people enjoy’
Replying to this without reading the rest of the comments , so apologies for duplication: Michael Swanwicks’ The Dog Said Bow Wow. He’s a masterful short story writer, and I think you can find some of this works on Do try him out. Any Howard Waldrop collection. If you like Kelly Link, have you tried Margo Langan’s collection Red Spikes? Slightly similar in tone and style. Her novels are bona-fide brilliant, too. I’m not sure if Gwyneth Jones has a collection in print, but she’s a fantastic writer. Kim Newman’s storie collections are great, usually alternative worlds with horror/fantasy elements combined with pop-culture trash film and tv characters and character types coming to life, a bit like Alan Moore’s League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, only Newman’s Anno Dracula came out first.

Seth Gordon on said:
Amy Griswold’s short story “Little Fox” also has a morally compromised narrator (she has been raised with a clone who acted as her personal slave), and the story is so beautiful that I can’t get it out of my head, which means I guess I’ll be nominating it for a Hugo next year.