2140, KSR, and Time Travel

There are any number of films and books about humans colonising Mars, but the best of them, in me ‘umble opinion, is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy,  Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. (the best film to date, also ‘umbly opinionated, is The Martian)

Like all his books they’re not for the faint of heart. They are dense, deeply researched, heartbreakingly human, and unfathomably optimistic. (an optimism which admittedly has to be dug out of the quagmire of fallibility)

From the time I came across Red Mars not long after it was released, (heavens to murgatriod, 1993 – how time flies!) I’ve read every novel he’s written since then. The latest offering being New York 2140, set in a flooded Manhattan, New York, where rising sea levels have produced a new kind of New York state of mind.

Lets just take a moment to admire this gorgeous cover art by Stephan Martiniere

I want to have cover art this gorgeous – le sigh

I want to have cover art this gorgeous – le sigh

I got my copy from our local library and like most of their books it was the hardcover version, and weighed a ton. I had to make myself a stand from some little boxes and cushions to read the damn thing, but it was worth it.

By 2140, I’ll be one hundred and eighty-one years old.

Wouldn’t it be something, to live that long, healthily?

To witness all the changes that we’ll have to go through as our anthropocene epoch runs its course.

Is it possible with today’s level of medical/technology? Probably not, but I don’t have to get all the way to 2140 from here in 2017. All I have to do is get to where it can be done, 10 years, 20, 50 years from now. Each decade becoming a boost up to the next one.

Wouldn’t that be something!


The Piano Man himself and the original New York State of mind.


And for a little mellower version, this is Babs doing what she does best …


The Neapolitan Novels

What can I say about these four books that hasn’t already been said?

Not much as it turns out.

Well, a certain amount of much-ness. They’re brilliant. They’re frustrating.

I read the first two voraciously, cover-to-cover, immersed in the texture of Elena Ferrante’s prose.  The last two I skimmed.

I waited for the structure of the story to emerge … then I remembered why I don’t read books in this genre very often.

With a certain amount of frustration, I uncharitably concluded at the end of the four books, that the story could’ve been done in two. Traditional ‘literature’ just isn’t my thing.

So why did I persevere?

I wanted to know how the story ended, which it didn’t, have an ending, I mean. And I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Now I know.

If this genre is your thing, you’ll love the Neapolitan Novels, if not? Maybe like me you’ll appreciate them for what they are.


More Toni Childs …

A Bookish Post

Do you ever want to revisit old friends, of the book species, every now and again? I did the other evening, so I checked out my local library which only had it in audiobook form. (which is pretty cool when you think about it) So I went to my next go-to book resource, Amazon.

Lo and Behold, there it was, and free. This is a book by a gazillion selling author, and I though to my self, ‘Self, this is how you sell a series, (once you’ve got all or most of the books published) you make the first one free.’ So I immediately downloaded it onto my kindle for PC, and prepared to indulge … then I thought, ‘Self, what about the second book in the series?’

After more Lo-ing and Behold-ing, there it was, free as well.

Sadly the third book wasn’t, but you can’t have everything.

If you’d like to read a truly kick-ass, will-make-you-think, well written SF, woman-saves-the-universe military-ish series, and you like free ebooks, try ‘On Basilisk Station’, by David Weber. I know they’re free on the Zon.com and .ca., don’t know about elsewhere.

UPDATE: Looks like book 2, ‘The Honor of the Queen’ is off the freebie list – bugger.


Finally, I read a short story the other day and it enjoyed immensely except for one niggardly thing; one of the character’s complete misuse of Aussie slang. This is where Inigo Montoya would skewer them with the immortal words, “I don’t think that means what you think it means.”

For the love of all that you hold dear, if you don’t know what a slang word means, DON’T USE IT! You risk coming across as a pretentious idiot. Even if you think you know what it means, double check, that’s what the interwebz is for.

In the interests of sisterly … erm … sisterhood, I emailed the writer and politely offered up the correct slang term. She emailed me back with a chagrined, ‘workin’ on it’ and that she’d got quite a few such communiqués.

I cringed in sympathy for her, but as an author, I’d prefer to have a bunch of people letting me know such things, than no-one at all.


P.S. Finally saw Star Wars The Force Awakens – very much fun-ness. 🙂

Dear Author

Mrs Wids is reading her way through our local library. Recently she came across a wonderful Australian murder/mystery series by Kerry Greenwood, The Phryne (pronounced ‘fry-knee’) Fisher Mysteries, set in Melbourne during the Roaring Twenties.

One day not long ago she (Mrs Widds, not Phryne) was sitting in her favourite armchair in our study with her broken foot perched at a jaunty angle on her favourite footstool. I was nearby typing away, rather noisily I must admit, in full creative flight when I heard a series of ascending indignant grumbles and harrumphs, followed by words somewhat coherent and entirely unsuitable for young ears.

I turned to her and asked, “Yes, dear?”

“Look at this!” she said, and poked an accusing finger into the book on her lap. I looked, and silently handed her an eraser.

Portholes rather than French windows?

Portholes rather than French windows?

I don’t write in printed books. It goes back to my childhood, I think, when books were scarce and precious portals into far-away worlds. Also it just seemed … well … bad mannered.

When I come across a big typo, I’m a little annoyed ( a helluva lot less now than I was before I started my writing career) because it stands out like a sore thumb and throw me out of the story.

But these weren’t just your everyday typo corrections.

Drills and passengers

Drills and passengers

These were editorial opinions, perhaps based on accurate personal knowledge, perhaps not. But someone else, other than the author, passed judgment and voiced their opinions in a way that forced EVERY SINGLE OTHER READER of that book to pay attention to them. Thereby also forcing EVERY SINGLE OTHER READER out of the story.

Talk about egotistical attention seeking.

Even in the days before the interwebz, readers had a way to contact an author, or their publisher, and inform them of such things as typos. Now, social media makes it so much more simple. We can leave messages/comments on author blogs, websites, twitter, youtube, facebook, whatever and engage the author in a dialogue.

But this? …

... this is just disrespectful

… this is just disrespectful

Movies and a Book

Because I spent most of Summer either planning or going on our trip (the photo extravaganza is over there in the ‘2015 Road Trip’ – Topics) I missed a few of ‘blockbusters’. I’ve been catching up. This list doesn’t include all those wonderful movies that don’t fit in the ‘Summer Blockbuster’ box. I’m taking my time getting to see those.


Some spoilers ahead


Antman – Not unsurprisingly OK, with the usual tie-ins to the Marvel Universe of movies and TV shows.

I may or may not have fangirl squeed at the beginning when Agent Carter, with a ‘distinguished’ lock of white hair showed up with her usual flair. Which was a nice touch because that’s how Hollywood of Peggy’s era depicted women ‘of a certain age’ when played by younger actresses.

Avengers Age of Ultron – What would the Summer be without at least one more Marvel movie? I’m so glad the DVD release didn’t include that extended scene with Thor Helmsworth thrashing about in a hot tub. Nice eye candy if you’re into blokes though.

I read somewhere there was a bit of a tempest at Natasha considering herself a monster, when commiserating with Hulk, because she’d been sterilised and couldn’t have kids. Taken in context with the whole scene I thought it she was referring to the entirety of her training, which produced the monster.

San Andreas – Surprisingly OK – if you like disaster porn, which I freely admit, I do. Dwayne can act, albeit in a muscle-y way, but he ain’t half bad. And it’s always nice to see the west coast of California acting it’s little heart out too.

I wonder if some clever Californian will petition the courts (or whatever the practice is down there) to convey ‘personhood’ on the state, (like they did with corporations) so royalties can be collected.

Furious 7 – Snakes on a plane! … I mean, cars on a plane! Paul Walker’s death coloured my impressions, just like Heath Ledger’s did for that Batman movie. But I enjoyed it’s ridiculousness, so there is that.

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation – Light on the techno-gimikry, which I’m ambivalent about, and more of Ethan Cruise being an action hero, (which he does well, case in point the under-appreciated, Edge of Tomorrow) but takes away from the smart (rather than muscular) tone that the Impossible Missions are supposed to be about.

Kingsman The Secret Service – Only just above average. Seeing as it came out in February, I can’t call it a Summer movie, but I didn’t see it until recently so it counts.

Colin Firth kicks butt and dies halfway through the movie. Now, that was a surprise. The Aging Mentor isn’t supposed to die until the end of the movie where his death is the final spur for the young Hero to finally reduce his adversary to a bloody quivering heap of overacting.


Still to be seen:

The Martian – Seeing it this weekend. Can’t wait.

Ex Machina – Sexbot. I’m trying not to prejudge, but, sexbot.

Minions – Heh, heh, heh.

Tomorrowland – Maybe, maybe not.

Jurassic World – Where’s Laura Dern when you need her? “Dinosaurs eat Man… Woman inherits the earth.”



Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson:  You either love how KSR writes, or not. (a bit like Chuck Wendig and ‘Aftermath’) I happen to love it, having been hooked by his Mars trilogy. Aurora takes us beyond Mars and into stellar space on board a generation ship. I think that KSR’s genius lays in his ability to create ordinariness within grand space opera themes.

My takeaway from the story was that I think we humans will probably have FTL (Faster Than Light) before we have generation ships, simply because we’re too selfish to be content with our several-times-removed descendents walking on a new planet, we want to be doing it ourselves. I know I would.

Every so often though, KSR can dwell in the ‘ordinariness’ a bit too long for my taste. The epilogue to Aurora is wonderfully written, where the heroine experiences that ‘ordinariness’, but it goes on for pages and pages, and pages.

Never-the-less, it was a glorious read.


Now that Autumn is here (it’s raining in the Lower Mainland, how surprising!) and our holiday is well and truly done, it’s time to get back to writing!

A 17th Century Science Fiction Novel!

A truly wondrous phantasmagorical find! A Science Fiction novel written and published by a woman in … wait for it … 1666. That’s (let me write these numbers out, because – supreme awesomeness) Three Hundred And Forty Seven Years Ago.

The story is titled: ‘The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World’. (our fore-mothers sure knew how to craft a blistering title) by the ‘Thrice Noble Illustrious and Excellent Princesse, the Duchess of Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish’ (another impressive title)


“Here on this Figure Cast a Glance.
But so as if it were by Chance,
Your eyes not fixt, they must not Stay,
Since this like Shadowes to the Day
It only represent’s; for Still,
Her Beauty’s found beyond the Skill
Of the best Paynter, to Imbrace
These lovely Lines within her face.
View her Soul’s Picture, Judgment, witt,
Then read those Lines which Shee hath writt,
By Phancy’s Pencill drawne alone 
Which Peces but Shee, can justly owne.”


“You can make explicit certain social problems which, again, would be prejudged or not encountered at in real life, because people have set up defenses against it. Fantasy allows you to get past defenses” Elizabeth Moon, Science Fiction and Fantasy Author


Chely Wright and the Game

In light of the recent horror stories of young gays in the US committing suicide, I think it is fitting that I post this now…

I’ve just finished reading Chely Wright’s harrowing account of her life. The book is called Like me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer. In it she exposes her inner demons and struggles about being a lesbian, with brutal and yet charming honesty.

For those who don’t know, Chely Wright is an award-winning country singer/songwriter who up until a short while ago, lived a lie.

She starts the book with the moment she puts a gun to her mouth and contemplates pulling the trigger. From there she takes us back through her life and trials, knowing she was different, knowing what that difference was, and knowing that if she ever told her secret, everything she’d worked for as a country music singer would be over.

I can’t imagine how she felt with a pistol in her mouth, ready to pull the trigger. But I do wonder how she feels every day since then, when she went from no future to a completely unknown one.

I’d never heard of Chely until she came out. Country music really isn’t my thing. And I don’t usually read autobiographies, but when I read the reviews and heard her story I know I had to read this book.

By the time I finished it was very late in the evening. I walked out onto my patio and stared into the chestnut trees that line my street and wondered how it would feel to come that close to Death, and walk away, still alive.

How would I feel? How would I view my life from that moment on?

That led me to looking at how I make my own choices in life, as one does when one is so profoundly moved. And it reaffirmed one thing I’ve known for quite a while and lived my life by as often as I could.

Most of life is a game. Sometimes its a very serious one, but it’s always a game. There are rules, and penalties for breaking those rules, if you’re caught.

Sometimes there are winners who bask in crowded adulation, and sometimes there are losers who crawl away into the dark corners to lick their wounds, and perhaps come barreling out the next day and try again.

The rules are set by ‘them’, of which we are a part whether we’re aware of it and consenting, or not. ‘Them’ is the middle ground of the society we inhabit.

But the truth is, there is no stable middle ground. It  a constantly moving morass of energy created by those who are trying to win their way in, and those who are desperately trying to escape.

But there’s a third group, those who choose to live a different way. Who are trying to create something new, something real and truthful, based on their personal ethic.

That’s the territory I aim for. A place where I can live without the ‘have to’s’ and my inner critic who constantly compares me to ‘them’ and always finds me lacking, and the ‘shoulds’ crowding close and snapping for attention.

Perhaps this is the place Chely has found. I hope so.

I also think that her book needs to be read as widely as possible.

For every person who contemplates killing themselves because of the judgements of others, with a gun, or pills, or a car, or a rope, this book may bring in a slice of light through the crack in the door.

And for every young gay person out there, remember this, you are not alone.


“When you throw dirt, you lose ground.” – Anon