Jump to content

What have you been reading recently?


Recommended Posts

You know, old people might know you better, however there are new ones too, slowly climbing the ranks. Hello Stugri-la, We here at spiderweb give a friendly welcome back to you.

 

Also, leave your sanity at the door, stuff will make more sense that way.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 2.3k
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Based on the fact that this topic has over 1.5 million views, everyone's answer should be "What have you been reading recently?"

The topic is dead! Long live the topic!   —Alorael, who will throw in The Ringmaster's Daughter, a relatively normal and therefore still quite unusual novel by Jostein Gaarder. Unlike Sophie's Wor

It was in one of the introductions for a book. Part of the problem was he had a few children and was trying to save for their future educations.   The figure I've seen is that a basic paper back

I've been reading Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan. He takes the science in his science fiction really seriously - it has to have more diagrams and graphs than any other fiction book ever, and that's not even including the 80000 word university-level explanation on the author's website.

 

I'm enjoying the book even though I'm not really following all the physics explanations.

 

(It's basically an exploration of how things would work if spacetime intervals worked like s2 = x2 + y2 + z2 + c2t2.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Locally, everything's worldlines are going in roughly the same direction, and it takes a lot to significantly shift the direction of your worldline, so you can't just wander back to last week. The major threat in the book is when the characters' star system looks set to hit a star system where time is pointing in a different direction.

 

Apparently, mechanics at low speeds works the same as it does for us, but things involving light and chemistry are pretty different. If you're curious enough, it's all described in horrific detail on the author's website.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I presume the story would look quite different from the perspective of that other star system.

 

I did once try to write a story about meeting an alien whose arrow of time is reversed, which would in principle still be possible with a Lorentzian metric. My story would have been lame if it had been comprehensible. But a better writer than I might well do it better.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Different why? From both points of view a stationary star system is at risk from something crashing into it at ludicrously high speed.

 

I can't help thinking that if you meet an alien with reversed time, there's probably some way of using it to make some kind of thermodynamics-break power generation system.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I mean the story of the first solar system, just viewed from the other. A bunch of people cheering wildly (I presume) as they rush into danger, then abruptly switching to panic just as the danger is safely past.

 

But I guess the real question is simply why world lines would be important in a Euclidean world. Why not just disconnected events? Or surfaces?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
Originally Posted By: Doctor Albert Halfmann
I see you are still alive and at it, Alorael, and 'tis a sight that warms me to the cockles of my ferrety heart!.


How could Alorael be otherwise? Posting neglect could result in someone claiming postcount dominance in a matter of... decades.

Also nice to see you. I was (and remain) and minor poster when you faded away, but nevertheless knew your name and counted you among the major players.

Edit: Just finished "At the Mountains of Madness" by HP Lovecraft. Before that, "Blood Meridian", by Cormac McCarthy. Time for something light.
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 16/10/2011 at 8:10 AM, Duck in a Top Hat said:

If you're interested in reading any others by Lovecraft, I recommend "The Whisperer in Darkness." It's my personal favorite.

 

One of my favorites too.

 

it's his brain!!! in a box!!!

 


        Though The Call of Cthulhu is still my absolute favorite by HPL. Also, the series of stories exchanged between Lovecraft and Robert Bloch is nice to follow - they killed off each other in the course of it. Bloch's Shambler from the Stars, HPL's The Haunter of the Dark, and Bloch's sequel The Shadow from the Steeple

 

        Also, Lin Carter's Green Star series is pretty fun. I found the first three volumes (unfortunately only a German translation) at a book sale, and wanted to get my hands on an original copy of all five forever.

 

        Edit: Lin Carter also wrote an unbelievably awesome fragment that was posthumously published.

 

        Each night the dream comes, and I sink submerged into another mind, an alien form which toils in metal chambers cold, bizarre, amidst the teeming warrens of a nightmare realm, where insect-mages strive to pen below some monstrous peril scarcely glimpsed or named... oh mother, mother, ever the same dark dream!

 


            Perched on the giddy brink of vertiginous chasms, elaborate metallic structures tremble and sway to subterranean tremors from beneath. Untiringly, we mages seek and search the pentacle- inscribed plates and scrolls fetched hither from far worlds and fabulous, but without finding that for which we seek. The ground shakes. We ignore it, and search on.

            My nine claws trace inexplicable hieroglyphs acid-etched in perdurable metal. Through odd- angled apertures pour diverse solar colors in five distinct luminosities. Crouched on my prism, I ponder cantrips to hold at bay the bleached and viscous swine-snouted worms. On Nython and Mthura, my brethren barter for more potent ensorcellments. For lack of these must the Nug-Soth perish in the foundering of intricate metal cities? Alas, the Mother remains indifferent as to which of the races of her minions triumph!

            For ages and ages beyond all reckoning have the great Dhole-things lurked beneath, in noisome burrows where they fed and grew, waxed huge and strong beyond belief. Now are their black and fetid nests below no longer large enough to any more contain such prodigious progeny. They thrust and lurch against the walls of thought-projected force that held at bay for aeons interminable the Doom of Yaddith. And the walls give way...

            Through labyrinthine streets, under the burning suns, we gather to the meeting-place of minds. There the Arch-Ancient One exhorts of us redoubled labors holding strong the force which walls away the squirming burrow-spawn. And once again we float to dimmest Xoth, and trans-galactic Stronti. But in vain...

            Sheathed in bent light, we drift to Kythamil or Kath. The fungoid intelligences of Nzoorl repulse our entreaties. Even should we migrate to a world remote from this, the snouted worms can track us through our dreams which call like beacons through the eldritch dark... Nor can our cantrips any more suffice to hold at bay the loathed, unwholesome Dholes we never shall escape or long elude!

            Our far-fled brethren, empty of hand, return from Yarnak and from ill-rumored Ymar, and terrible Shaggai. They voyaged far to Vhoorl in the remotest nebulae, to Zaoth and Ktynga, and, at last, remotest Phenoth beyond space itself, where rules the Crawling Chaos. They return fetching not hither that for which they sought -- the runes to keep the gruesome worm-things pent.

            From world to world our brother-mages went for stronger spells, ever more potent runes; and on cold Abbith, where the Metal Brains in crystal caverns cogitate long ages by, they learned a fearful lore: the spells arcane for which we quest were known of old on Yith and Yith is perished untold eons past... Ever we toil on under the five-hued light, knowing at last there is not any hope.

            Under the shuddering aurorae of the north, where glaciers crawl the meteor strewn waste, the thought-waves bring to us a tale of doom for City Three is fallen, fallen... No more the larvae in the breeding-pits shall mewl and slither, the Nug-Soth no more may stroll the broad metallic esplanade, nor mages ponder tomes of elder lore. For City Three is fallen, fallen...

            No more are the departure-stages thronged. Now in their thousands are the Nug-Soth fled, armoured in closed light against the bitter cold and utter blackness that yawns between the stars. The metal pavement quavers underfoot, the broken towers totter toward collapse. I am among the very last to leave. For few remain to hold the Dhole-swarm back.

            Inscrutable. The Mighty Mother smiles over her fleeing, her star-scattered brood, as night falls over Yaddith at the end. We hurtle through the frigid gloom of space to Zaoth or Shaggai or Kythamil leaving behind the ruin of a world, and little hope have we to long survive. The awful doom of Yaddith we evade will soon be snuffling at our heels again...

 

        The snouted worms can track us through our dreams.

        Edit: One thing I've always wondered about is the peculiar reference to Yith of all places. The Nug-Soth of Yaddith lose hope when they realize that only the people of Yith could have helped them, and Yith is long-gone. HPL's own Shadow out of Time says that the "Great Race of Yith" (the first or only people in the universe to have mastered time travel*) evacuated their world and migrated across time and space into the bodies of a different species (which were cone-shaped**) on Earth, where they apparently left a vast collection of records before leaving yet again. Carter's Visions of Yaddith and HPL's Through the Gates of the Silver Key both have humans exchange minds with Nug-Soth mages. That means what the Nug-Soth were looking for might have been right under their noses at some point.

 

        * Yith = Gallifrey?<br>
        ** Who may or may not have been fond of the word "Exterminate".

Link to post
Share on other sites
Originally Posted By: Master1
Is it Nikki's birthday? If that's in his local time, we have the same one! Scary.

I finally finished The Wise Man's Fear, and I loved it. Very different from the first book, but just as good. I can't wait for the third.
I loved The Wise Man's Fear quite a lot, but I feel it dragged a bit in places in ways The Name of the Wind did not. The Felurian chapters especially could have been shorter.
Link to post
Share on other sites

I never found that section to be tedious, but maybe my little boy hormones messed with my judgment.

One thing that I have noticed is that there are very few pre-laid plot twists. Some authors plan things books in advance, and only after reading further do you understand why something earlier happened. Perhaps because these are his first novels, Rothfuss simply didn't plan that way. I read an interview where he claims to have just sat down with a story idea and wrote. While his writing does lack some of the more intricate and hidden twists, I certainly feel that these books are some of the best I have ever read.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Originally Posted By: Master1
Is it Nikki's birthday? If that's in his local time, we have the same one! Scary.


Not really, I know people with birthdays the day before and after, two days before and after, and on the actual day. All in real life.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Andraste, TM, and myself share a birthday. I'd leave it to Aran to hammer out the actual numbers, but I think the statistics are in favor of that sort of thing when a community contains (theoretically) thousands of people.

 

Edit: Actually, I think birthdays were part of the database at Ermarian back in the day. I don't remember which was the most common, though.

 

Post Edit: A little browsing brought me back to this.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And on the other hand, if you're looking for someone who shares your birthday specifically, you won't get even odds until there are at least 253 people in the room with you. Probability is weird like that. Of course, while not many people have 250 friends whose birthdays they keep track of, even via Facebook, you're likely to have thousands of second-degree acquaintances. Therefore, if you say "today is my birthday", you're almost certain to get at least one response of "hey wow, that's the same day as my friend Y" from your friend X.

 

(And if you're friend X, then you're likely to see this happen a hell of a lot, since you're back to the original Birthday Problem then.)

 

My sister rented a flat together with three roommates who randomly met when she started studying. All four of their birthdays are consecutive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For practical purposes, people born on February 29 have their birthday on March 1 in non-leapyears. It really doesn't change that much.

 

The formula isn't that complicated either. What are the odds of the nth person being born on a day nobody else was born on, assuming n-1 people already don't share birthdays?

 

For the first, 100%; there's nobody else.

For the second, 364/365 days "free".

For the third, 363/365 days, as the first two are distinct.

For the fourth, 362/365 days.

...

For the twenty-third, 343/365 days, or 94%

 

The odds of nobody sharing birthdays is therefore 365! / 342! / 365^23, which is roughly 50%

 

Therefore the opposite - that at least two people share a birthday - is equally likely at 50%.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Originally Posted By: Master1
Some authors plan things books in advance, and only after reading further do you understand why something earlier happened. Perhaps because these are his first novels, Rothfuss simply didn't plan that way. I read an interview where he claims to have just sat down with a story idea and wrote. While his writing does lack some of the more intricate and hidden twists, I certainly feel that these books are some of the best I have ever read.


I agree that there's not much sense of carefully planned-out conspiracies anywhere in these books, the way there is in some. But things don't feel arbitrary. Sometimes they even feel inevitable-in-hindsight, but then it's for reasons of character that immediately make sense, rather than because some long line of clues suddenly falls into focus. So I can see that Rothfuss may be improvising his plot, but he's pretty steady on his characters, and that seems to make it work.

Also, since he's mostly dealing with young magicians and musicians, he's got a lot of leeway for introducing abrupt plot lurches and having them seem believable — he's writing about a world where things naturally tend to happen abruptly. And it's a fantasy world whose geography isn't clearly pinned down, so he could totally get away with introducing a whole new culture between one page and the next, just by having Kvothe take a day-trip across some border.

I think the first-person narration helps, too. The voice telling you whatever crazy things happened is the guy they happened to; why would you doubt him? Especially since it's been a clear premise from Book 1, line 1, that this guy has had a very unusual life. The first-person thing suspends disbelief a little more securely.

In short, you can really go a long way with just improvising a plot, if you choose your ground cleverly, keep your characters consistent, and improvise good stuff.

There are limits, though, and I hope Rothfuss doesn't overplay his game and start to hit them. Stephen King's immense Dark Tower series finally broke for me, somewhere around book 6. King built enormous support for a meandering, improvised plot into his mythopoeic saga. He allowed himself to totally change the universe by just having the characters travel a bit further. He tossed in time travel and alternate timelines, and blurred the line between fiction and reality. And he played the best trick of all to compensate for his story's lack of coherence: he made incoherence into his unifying theme, since the tottering Dark Tower to which everything leads is supposed to be the mystical hub of all reality.

Plus Stephen King is one of the best plot improvisers ever, who can whip up a gripping little story in just a few paragraphs. Nonetheless, after six books, he lost it. By his final volume it was so clear that everything was being tossed in on the spur of the moment, that nothing even mattered any more.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Some books are elaborately planned, but that can backfire as well. I get frustrated at books that lack grand conspiracies and still have heavy foreshadowing and everything tied together. Life isn't actually like that. If you want a stylized universe, that works. If you're going for realism, it can all be a little bit too pat.

 

—Alorael, who mixed his technical reading with a bit of Michael Stackpole. Stackpole probably isn't a very technically skilled writer. Sometimes he writes books that are good despite that. And sometimes he writes pen-for-hire garbage. At least he's willing to stick in some blatant self-mockery, and it's fun to see where he sticks in cameo references to his other books

Link to post
Share on other sites

It does? I don't remember that. In any case, there are a lot of books with government conspiracies in them. I'm pretty sure if the government were interested in going after people based on their choice of conspiracy literature, they'd be more interested in those who read, say The Turner Diaries or Behold a Pale Horse than those who read Catcher in the Rye. I can only envisage that inspiring a sinister conspiracy of English teachers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, that. I thought you meant, apart from the government conspiracy. Sure, automatic life without parole, just for typing the title of a famous book. But that's nothing. The CIA will bust through your skylight and terminate you with extreme prejudice right on the spot, if you should ever dare to type — anywhere on the internet at all, not just Google — the phrase, "Careful about the petunias."

 

Oh no!

Link to post
Share on other sites

The trick with Catcher in the rye is that the search is case-sensitive. As long as you only type it as catcher in the Rye or something like that they won't know that you aren't looking for a position in baseball and a type of bread. But have you ever wondered why J. D. Salinger spent so long in seclusion? It wasn't voluntary, that's for sure.

 

—Alorael, who has noticed that, ironically enough, it's fine to Google books with obvious conspiracies in them. It's the books that don't look so subversive at first glance that land you in hot waterboarding.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well when you say it like that it just sounds stupid...

 

My father always was...Damn, the word slipped my mind. It starts with a P i think, howerever he thinks the whole world is against him.

 

Thats nothing compared to his friends brother though, He believes in alien bases under mexico

Link to post
Share on other sites

The government keeps track of people that read. purchase, and/or Google certain books. Don't you remember the controversy when after the Patriot Act was enacted they went after the libraries to see who checked out these books?

 

They don't always go after you right away. Sometimes they follow you to get the rest of your group.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That was the word!

 

Oh my god. Even if there are aliens in the billions of galaxies out there, I doubt they would come here...Anywho, We might not be very advanced, but we can send probes very far out. But not that far. How can aliens travel that far of a distance to come here?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Originally Posted By: Trenton the dragon lord
That was the word!

Oh my god. Even if there are aliens in the billions of galaxies out there, I doubt they would come here...Anywho, We might not be very advanced, but we can send probes very far out. But not that far. How can aliens travel that far of a distance to come here?
They are more advanced than we. tongue
Link to post
Share on other sites

That's a really good question.

 

Maybe they can, by knowing stuff about space and time that we don't know.

 

Or maybe they're just really patient, and really bored, so they travel for many years at vast expense, just to visit more primitive planets. After all, we could probably send a probe to another star system, if we really wanted to. It would likely take centuries to get there, though, since we probably couldn't afford to send it very fast. And it would probably be tough to get a signal back, from so far away. But maybe aliens are more motivated than we are, for some reason.

 

Or maybe the UFO stuff is hooey, and no aliens have visited us, because they are just too far away. The point is, the distance is an important point.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Originally Posted By: Epiphany Without Borders
And a few unsavory Greys are funding their spaceship repairs with drug money.
But couldn't they just drive a 5-ton truck through the portal instead?
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...