BOOK REVIEW: Fleet of Worlds (series)

Fleet of Worlds (2007)
Juggler of Worlds (2008)
Destroyer of Worlds (2009)
Betrayer of Worlds (2010)
Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld (2012)

Larry Niven and Edward Lerner
Published by Tor Books

It seems to be par for the course these days in SF/fantasy book publishing that if you are an established author, you have to write a series of novels. Standalone books don’t cut it anymore. Even new authors, if their first novels are even modestly successful, are encouraged to write more books in the same milieu. From a publishing standpoint, it’s a good way to get guaranteed sales. For writers, the dirty work of basic worldbuilding has already been done, so there’s generally a little less effort in going down the same road than in blazing a new trail.

I’ve also noted that older authors who have written many stories and novels in the same or similar universes may, as they get on in years, try to tie everything together and write a few works that link all the stories or fill in the gaps in the chronology. Some years ago, Larry Niven commented that part of the reason he hadn’t written any “Known Space” stories covering the Man-Kzin Wars that he had frequently referred to was that having no military background, he didn’t feel comfortable writing war stories. So he “opened up” that era of Known Space to other writers; the result was several books worth of stories filling in that era and providing much detail on Kzinti society.
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Random Thoughts on the 2016 All-Star Game

Well, the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game has come and gone. The American League won by the score of 4-2. Not a particularly exciting game, but that’s baseball. Individual games, even All-Star Games, are rarely exciting. But you watch, because of the *possibilty* of seeing something exciting.

Anyway, my thoughts, in no particular order:
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On the Matter of Clinton’s E-Mails

One would have thought they’d be happy.

When FBI Director James B. Comey announced the results of his bureau’s investigation into the security lapses in Hillary Clinton’s e-mails during her tenure as Secretary of State, he pretty much gave them everything they wanted. Were she and the State Department careless in their handling of sensitive information? Were e-mails deleted? Did they know they were using an unsecured system? Was information that was classified at the time sent over that system? Yes, , yes, yes, and yes. Serious matters, all. And all things that anyone opposing Clinton in a campaign should hold her feet to the fire for.

But because he did not recommend that charges be brought against her, the GOP – well, at least some of their mouthpieces – is having a hissy fit and demanding that the investigation be investigated.
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At the Halfway Mark

We’re at the “traditional” midpoint of the baseball season. That week or so between July 4 and the All-Star Game, when there are more games that have been played than there are games left to play. What can we tell about the pennant races to come? Which teams get to coast? Which teams still have a fight on their hands? Which divisions still have some excitement to look forward to?
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BOOK REVIEW: The Game Must Go On

The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray, and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII
John Klima
St Martin’s Press
(c) 2015 by the author

Pretty much every baseball fan is at least passingly aware of the effects of World War II on the game, if only that it kept some players from achieving milestone goals. Bob Feller didn’t get 300 wins, Ted Williams didn’t get 600 home runs, etc. And that since players were not exempt from the draft, teams reached so far down the barrel for talent that Pete Gray, a guy with one arm, actually played in the Major Leagues.

But there’s a heck of a lot more to it than just names and numbers in the reference books.

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Arguing Gun Control

I’ve made the mistake of getting involved in more than one “debate” on Gun Control in the “Comments” sections of various news articles on the topic.

It’s interesting in that these sections, even at the most liberal of websites, one finds a great number of people advocating the conservative point of view. One sees the same names over and over again, to the point that you really have to wonder if these people are sitting at the computer all day, doing nothing but posting comments.

One also sees the same rhetorical fallacies coming up again and again. To help you spot them, counter them, and avoid them yourself, here’s a modest guide to some of the more common.
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Here We Go Again

It happened again. Some nutcase arms himself to the eyebrows, goes to a place filled with people he doesn’t like, and shoots the place up.

There’s the usual shock and outrage that we (alas) have all heard before, followed by an assortment of finger-pointing that is intended to avoid having to deal with the difficult questions in the case.

Various pundits are in a tizzy because President Obama hasn’t yet used their specific favorite terminology – as if that would make a difference. Others trot out their usual pet causes, conveniently overlooking key facts. “Block Muslim immigration!” Er, the guy was born here. “Tighter background checks!” The guy was a security guard, and passed the standard checks as a condition of his employment.

Let’s face it. There’s nothing that we could have done that would have stopped this particular tragedy.

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Well, it’s all over but the “anointings”. The GOP has thrown in the towel, and acknowledged Donald Trump as their presumptive candidate. No matter how much they are having to hold their noses, there’s no chance they’ll come up with a Plan B before the convention.

Over on the Democratic side, Clinton has earned enough delegates to clinch their nomination – though Sanders and some of his supporters are vowing to continue the fight all the way to the convention. It’s kind of cute how dedicated they are, but Clinton not only leads in overall delegates, she leads in pledged delegates, states won, and the popular vote. There’s no basis whatsoever for the “Bernie Bros” to challenge her. If the delegate count was much closer, or if the margin in the popular vote was a few thousand instead of a few million, they might have a chance at making the convention interesting for the first time in decades. But now, they are basically having a hissy fit.

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Movie Review: When the Wind Blows (1986, UK)

Nuclear war movies had their heyday in the 1950s and early 1960s, with irradiated animals turning into mutant monsters and Communists lurking in every shadow. The “Silver Age” came during the Reagan administration, when his saber-rattling led to fears of a global nuclear holocaust destroying civilization if not all life on Earth.

In the US, the TV movie The Day After (1983) showed the effects of such a war on Lawrence, KS. Not to be left out, the next year the UK came out with Threads, which showed the breakdown of civilization in Sheffield in the aftermath.

Coming late to the party, and taking an entirely different approach, was the UK’s animated film When the Wind Blows.

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On Movie Remakes

I’ve started seeing ads for the upcoming movie Ghostbusters. Anyone who’s been paying attention will know that there’s been quite a stir over it, with complaints ranging from the unnecessary remaking of a “classic” to the deliberate choice by the moviemakers to have the cast be all female this time around. I’m not going to wade into that debate, other than to note that some of the humor in the original is dated, a good number of the people complaining weren’t alive when the original came out, and that I think they might have been better served if instead of an outright remake, they did a sort of “spinoff” and had the movie be about a “branch office”/franchise of the Ghostbusters ™ working in another old city (Philadelphia or Boston, perhaps).

Hollywood remakes movies all the time. It seems that with every announcement of a remake, certain film buffs/purists get all up in arms over the lack of originality or the “desecration of a classic”. Except when it comes to a “reboot” of a superhero movie, of course. The fanboys never complain about those… But there are valid reasons to remake a movie.

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