Norwescon 2017 Report

Norwescon 2017 Report

I am back from my first ever con experience! Many thanks to Mrs. Pep for getting me a full Norwescon membership for Christmas, watching the kids on Friday while I went solo, and agreeing to bring the entire not-very-nerdy family along on the weekend. To my surprise, everyone wants to go back again next year, so the con organizers must have done something right. Some quick background and highlights first, then overall thoughts on the convention.

As I understand it, Norwescon is the largest (and oldest?) convention in the region; I imagine CA has one or two that are bigger, but probably nothing else comparable until the denser parts of the Midwest. The con runs for four days, hosts the Phillip K. Dick Awards, and seems to pull in a few big name guests to go with the already crowded bunch that lives out here. (A surprising number of SFF writers and artists call the Northwest home.) Seattle is already a city well known for letting all types be who they gotta be, so pair that with fandom’s costume tendencies and we get a pretty crazy assortment. I felt wildly under-dressed, with no kilt, no costume, no Victorian Era accessories, and no sword. Oh well.

On my own, I went to a few panels and roamed around a bit; I went home in the evening rather than staying to party. I enjoyed seeing both Django Wexler and Nancy Kress at worldbuilding panels, then watched a presentation about Pluto from three eminent scientists. All were interesting, plus I got to see hitherto unknown authors (Carol Berg and others) and learn about yet more books I must someday read. Saturday was more crowded, mostly with kid friendly stuff. The best hour was probably spent in a small writers’ workshop with Nancy Kress; she was teaching the under 12s the basics of narrative construction. Hopefully my kids finish up the stories they started. After that, we joined in a Frankenstein’s monster activity where the kids dismantled and reassembled stuffed animals, pirate training, a miniature painting session, the costume masquerade, Nerf gun battles, and probably more. Oh, and we watched Ted Sturgeon paint. That was cool. Between those, the art show, and the dealer’s room, we didn’t even have time to hit the open gaming. Sunday was an egg hunt and I sat in on a discussion of vintage gaming.

My single biggest takeaway from the weekend is: Cons are better as a group. I had more fun with the family than I did wandering by myself, though time alone was time spent doing things I wanted without worrying about the kids. Before the internet, cons were probably the best way to see far flung nerd friends and meet new people. I haven’t been very active in the SFF community lately, so I have few friends to search out, nor did I feel like trying to meet new people; this made parts of Friday a little lonely. I’m sure everyone would have been friendly and welcoming had I been outgoing, but I wasn’t up for it. Having the wife and kids around later did away with any such loneliness, though it did occasionally cramp my style. Next year, I will probably run on a similar schedule, but expect the weekend to be the more interesting.

Next takeaway: the wide variety of species in the Nerd Kingdom. I already knew that my slice of dork-dom is highly specialized, but the con just drove that home. SF fans who dig politics and economics are not endangered by any means (especially among authors), but the fact that I would rather analyze the GDP of fictional galactic empires than dress up and carry fake weapons marks me as a peculiar sort. Also, and I say this without judgment, my wife was appalled to read about the 5-2-1 rule that all con goers were asked to follow. (Each day of the con get 5 hrs rest, 2 square meals, and take 1 shower.) “Do these people need to be told this??” I suppose the biggest difference is that my main side gig is being a jazz musician; SF is like a side job to the side job, so I didn’t put nearly as much preparation into the con as many did. Maybe if I wasn’t busy with music I would spend more time with costumes and games. Life is give and take.

I suppose that’s most of my report. We all had a good time, want to go back next year, and might even get a little crazier when we do. The wife, at least, wants to get her hands on a painful looking dress with lots of hoops and ruffles. I was very happy to meet some authors. Maybe next year I will prepare some friends so I have a posse to hang out with; wouldn’t that be something. Anyway, thanks con planners and volunteers, we really enjoyed it.

World War II Reading

Some Random WWII Books

So the unthinkable has happened: after more than a decade of heavy SFF reading, I’ve started to feel like I need a bit of a break. Crazy, right? I suppose it’s natural to want a change of pace, but this came as a complete surprise to me. I’m still hacking through a couple of books – Alastair Reynolds and Nancy Kress are on the In Progress Pile, but for what ever reason, World War II histories have crept into the rotation with increasing frequency. Of course this is primarily a science fiction blog, but I might as well toss a few other topics on here to spice it up a bit.

For reasons that are probably obvious, I tend towards the Pacific War rather than the European front. (For those not familiar, I have family on both sides. My grandpa was in the Marines, while my in-laws were colonists and/or military in Manchuria.) Taking stock of my total reading, things can be divided into three groups: the naval campaigns, the Marine-led island assaults, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I will say a little about each and highlight some favorite books. As a general overview, Ronald Spector’s Eagle Against the Sun seems to be the standard work. I started there and think it’s as good as any to read first.

The Atomic Bomb

I actually did most of this reading about seven years ago, for a seminar during grad school. Since it’s been so long, probably better not to say too much and just highlight my favorites. Unless something new and groundbreaking has come out in the last few years, the definitive books on this topic are Downfall by Richard Frank and Racing the Enemy by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. The former defends the position that the bombs were necessary to end the war, while the latter argues that they were actually deployed to fend off the Soviets, since the early stages of the Cold War were already unfolding. Both are excellent, thought they explicitly oppose each other. Other books are more famous (looking at you, Gar Alperowitz), but the above had the most cutting edge research at the time I read them.

The Navy

After finishing the Spector book, I started into naval history. I am a total sucker for large ships, possibly because I didn’t see the ocean until my senior year of high school. Growing up, I probably never saw anything larger than a motorboat, so battleships and the like are inordinately fascinating.

The Admirals – Walter Borneman

Borneman’s book isn’t focused on the Pacific as much on the Navy in general, but since the Navy played a larger part in the Pacific, that’s where most of the attention ends up. As the title suggests, The Admirals takes a deeper look at personalities than battles. Those looking for blow by blow accounts and tactical analysis won’t be interested, but for me it was a good overview. I’m a Nimitz fan by disposition, for those who were wondering.

Pacific Crucible – Ian Toll

Apparently this is the first of a trilogy by Toll, though I didn’t know that until recently. The first volume covers up through Midway, the battle that really broke the Japanese offensive. I was impressed at Toll’s even-handed approach; he has a good grasp of why the Japanese did what they did, and is, if not sympathetic, at least fair. (Not that Japan should be forgiven for starting the war, nor for the atrocities committed therein, but one can acknowledge their precarious and racially threatened international position.) I’ll have to read further and follow the critical reception, but these books may become the new standard in pop history for the war.

Shattered Sword – Jonathan Parshall

Shattered Sword is probably my favorite in this category. Pacific Crucible recommended the book, and in fact used much of the scholarship found here for its chapters on Midway. Parshall presents mostly original research (I think) breaking down Midway from the Japanese perspective, using many primary sources long unavailable to Westerners. He digs deep into the Japanese operational planning, what went wrong, what was unlucky, what was inherently flawed, and more. It’s very detailed and sympathetic, fascinating reading.

The Marines

I was less interested in this part of the war until I had a chance to watch The Pacific on HBO. The family was all away in Japan, so I mowed through the episodes in about a week, which is probably too short a time to ingest that level of violence and psychological mayhem. Those were some pretty horrifying battles. HBO built the series around two books, plus the more or less public story of a third Marine, so I started there.

Incidentally, my grandpa was lucky to spend the war in Hawaii as a supply officer (or something similar). His number came due in Korea though, so the Marine reading inevitably led me to track down his unit’s records there and read up on them. Yikes. Let’s just say I am lucky to be here.

Helmet for My Pillow – Robert Leckie

Leckie was a Marine during the Guadalcanal, Gloucester, and Peleliu campaigns and the model for one of the main characters in The Pacific. He was a smart-mouth rabble rouser from New Jersey, though the miniseries gives him a sympathetic, humanist side that his own words conceal. If I understand correctly, Helmet For My Pillow was one of the first Marine combat memoirs to come out of WWII and now stands as a classic of the genre. It helps that, in addition to having incredible stories, Leckie was a professional writer. (He started in sports journalism, then published many books.) There is a certain graceful ease in his writing that sets it above many other books of the sort. Whether by his own nature or due to the conventions of the time, this book isn’t as hard-hitting as other combat memoirs. The horrors of war are there, but Leckie doesn’t sound as troubled by them as some of the other veterans.

With the Old Breed – Eugene Sledge

Sledge’s book, another classic, is the basis for the back half of The Pacific. Sledge was worried about missing the war, so he flunked out of officer training and enlisted in the Marines. I have to wonder if he ever had second thoughts. I’m not sure there’s any faster way to die than join a Marine rifle company, especially when one arrives just in time for Peleliu and Okinawa. More than any other author I have read, Sledge is haunted by the waste and futility of war. His book is by far the darkest of the lot, and it’s clear that the scars from the battles, especially Okinawa, have never healed.

Islands of the Damned – R.V. Burgin

Burgin’s book is a companion to With the Old Breed; Burgin was Sledge’s platoon leader. They tell many of the same stories, though Burgin brings a much different perspective. While Sledge’s was an innocence-shattering, psychological ordeal, Burgin took a more workmanlike approach. He was there to do a job and stay alive, not wax philosophical about man’s inhumanity to man. This book seems to have come out as a response to The Pacific, rather than as one of the original WWII memoirs. I would rate it as less essential than the first two, but well worth reading if Old Breed becomes a favorite.

Since I started writing this, I finished another pair of books, as well as an assortment related to the Korean War. I’ll do a follow-up post presently.

Life Update

Hello Out There,

Two Dudes in an Attic is not dead, nor will I kill it any time soon. I understand that posts are scarce and I am nearly invisible right now, but don’t give up hope. I did not realize how much time a Little League team would eat up; fortunately for all of us, Spring Soccer is nothing more than Sunday games. My new job is relatively calm, but because I passed my old one on to my wife, I am still her unpaid trainer after hours. One band is in the middle of recording a CD and another is booking an August tour in Japan. As a result of all of this, I have almost no time to write witty and insightful science fictional essays. Please forgive.

Also, as any parent out there knows, May is basically the apocalypse. We’re just happy if the children are wearing pants to school at this point.

Both sports seasons come to an end in mid-June, so, even though I practice baseball/soccer daily with my son, multiple hours each week will soon be available. My wife will eventually know more about her job than I do. (Mine may in turn get busier, but shouldn’t be out of control.) The CD will move into post-production and the tour is almost completely planned, with nothing left but the day dreaming. In other words, the Dudes should be up and running again soon. Thanks for checking up once in awhile.

KIC 8462852

KIC 8462852

The designation above is, for those not rabidly following astronomy news, the name of a star that may end up being the biggest scientific discovery of our lifetimes. An article dropped recently on The Atlantic that every SF-nal person should check out. The short form: the Kepler telescope discovered a star called KIC 8462852, which contains a bizarre enough light signature to attract in-depth study from scientists since 2011. Generally light flicker patterns are used to search for planets, but this particular flicker is unlike anything seen before. A paper came out earlier, concluding that the only plausible explanation within our current knowledge is that another star wandered through that system with fantastically good timing, depositing a wreath of comets around KIC. Not impossible, but, apparently, rather implausible. Bigger news: another paper is about to be published suggesting that this light signature is more suggestive of gargantuan, artificial structures orbiting the star. Not conclusive of course, but it is still a bombshell.

Nobody is calling this a definite thing of course. I think all of us are fully aware that we shouldn’t see something strange in the night sky and say, “Hey! Ringworld!” Still, there is an opportunity to find more evidence. And if the evidence mounts? What happens then?

In practical terms, very little I think. KIC 8462852 is 1500 light years away from us, give or take. Thus, we are seeing today events that took place shortly after the fall of Rome. Unless this mysterious race has faster than light travel, and everything we currently know says that FTL is impossible, it will be awhile before they wander over here. Why? Well, the first signals our planet gave out that anyone is here are less than one hundred years old. I’m hazy on whether or not radio/TV waves attenuate over long distances, but even if they are detectable, Flash Gordon episodes aren’t due to KIC 8462852 until 3400 AD or thereabouts. If we decided to meander over and take a look, we’re currently talking about multiple thousands of years. Acceleration to, and slowing down from, an appreciable fraction of the speed of light is still beyond us. We can probably put first contact fears behind us for now, at least for this prospective civilization.

I’m very curious about the possible effects on our society though. A surprisingly large number of people in my fair country have yet to fully process the existence of dinosaurs. How will they deal with a civilization capable of ringing its sun in power satellites while we were still hacking at each other with iron swords? I doubt it would dent religion at all, but there would be entertaining debates over where Jesus/Mohamed/Buddha/etc. fit into a universe where we are no longer God’s only children. Would this bring about the same level of change as the heliocentric solar system did? Would it spur us to greater scientific achievements, knowing that it was already possible for someone else? I don’t give much credit to the idea that we’ll all curl up in an emo ball of malaise because someone else is better than us; that doesn’t seem like the way humanity responds to crisis.

Experts disagree on how we should feel about extraterrestrials. And by “experts,” I mean “SF writers and fans,” because, really, who else is thinking seriously about this? I used to be part of the optimistic bunch that assumed that any civilization who had progressed enough to build Dyson spheres had probably also gotten rid of war, inequality, starvation, and all that sort of thing. It makes some sense, if one charts straight line growth into the future vis a vis how far we as a species have come. More and more though, I find myself aligning with the tribe that assumes that we’ll take most of our warts with us into the future, that enlightenment probably won’t follow naturally on the heels of technology. I think things will get better, but will probably level off at some point.

These groups have directly opposite views of aliens, naturally. The first welcomes First Contact on the assumption that anyone advanced enough to find us will have already put utopia together. The second fears the same Contact, suspecting that it will lead inevitably to subjugation or extinction. While the Culture is a possible future (and one worth hoping for!), imagining what would happen today if a Bronze Age society appeared and said, “Hi folks! Let’s be friends and initiate one-sided trade and technology exchange,” leaves me skeptical. It someone is indeed at KIC 8462852, it may be in our best interests to hold off on the signal flags until we know what we’re potentially dealing with.

I realize that I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Still, with all the recent news close to home – water on Mars, details about Pluto, and more – the KIC 8462852 news really stirs the pot. How will we feel if this really is it? What if we know that we aren’t alone? I’m preparing for disappointment, but the thought of something artificial orbiting a (barely) visible star is enough to fire up the wildest imaginings.

Star Wars and the Power of Costume

Star Wars and the Power of Costume

We take a break from our regularly scheduled book reviews to bring you a look at science fiction from a slightly different angle. (And by “regularly scheduled,” I mean “whenever I’m not playing gigs, coaching soccer, cleaning the house, or doing the other zillion things that have eaten away my life in the last year.” Most recently I lost two nights of blogging time because my kids brought home seven (!) goldfish they had rescued at the fair who were suddenly in dire need of a home. We now have a lovely new aquarium, the pieces of which I begged, borrowed, and bought in a state of high emergency. I digress.) Last Sunday I went to Seattle’s Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and caught one of the last showings of the Smithsonian produced exhibition, Star Wars and the Power of Costume. Consequently, today I can talk about assorted pieces of cloth rather than white wood pulp.

A teeny bit of background. Last Christmas, Mrs. Pep got me a membership to EMP. For those not in the know, EMP (Experience Music Project) is Paul Allen’s two-pronged museum of rock music and science fiction. Unfortunately for the former half, I don’t go for rock music all that much and most of the hands-on activities are music tasks that I do quite regularly. It’s entertaining however, and a good chance for the kids to get a sense of what I’m doing all those nights I’m not at home. I mostly go for the science fiction, and that half consistently delivers. I primarily enjoy books, and it’s hard to make a museum of books, but there’s always something fascinating to see anyway. Lots of movie props and costumes, but also a fair bit of interactive stuff and deeper explanations of what makes the whole of speculative fiction tick. There is also a room in the museum dedicated to the Seattle Seahawks that contains the actual Superbowl trophy. Woooo!

Until October 4th of this year, EMP is hosting the first leg of the Star Wars exhibition tour. We’d put off going during previous visits, but time is running out. It was Sunday or nothing. The display at EMP is split into two levels. The bottom floor is heavy on Republic fashion, be it senators’ robes or Amidala’s dresses. My wife and daughter gravitated to this part of the show, especially the wedding scene from Attack of the Clones. My son appreciated the Emperor’s robes, showcased next to Mace Windu and another Jedi with whom I was not familiar. (Somewhat alarming when my 7 year old can name more Jedi than I can.) Explanations of the Terran origins of things were also fascinating – African hats paired with Victorian skirts, World War II military styles for the Empire, a mix of European monks and samurai armor for the Jedi, and more. Naturally C-3PO and R2-D2 were the highlights here for me.

The good stuff is on the second floor. I am naturally more attached to the original trilogy, if for no other reason than my age, so walking up the stairs and bumping head-on into Ben Kenobi’s costume sent the first shivers down my spine. Things got better as we walked towards Leia’s bounty hunter get-up from Return of the Jedi, then down the line past Han Solo, a Chewbacca suit, and the Imperial officers. I will confess that the gold bikini didn’t thrill me as much as others, but I never really had those thoughts about Leia when growing up.

Let’s take a break to talk about Star Wars. I realize that George Lucas is basically a one-hit wonder who can’t stop crapping all over his own legacy, but I’m not sure anything had a bigger effect on young me than the original trilogy. Star Wars and I came into the world in the same year, my parents allegedly took me with them to see Empire Strikes Back at a drive in, and I have vague memories of seeing Return of the Jedi in a theater. While I’m not sure when I consciously watched each movie for the first time, I do know that by junior high school, I watched one or another of them almost every weekend. After long nights of junk food and roleplaying games, we would pop in a frazzled VHS tape and fall asleep as we mumbled our favorite lines. The original Star Wars RPG was second only to Mech Warrior in playing time, usually with a horde of Jedi wannabes and one person forced to be a smuggler, since we had to have a spaceship somehow. I even played some of the X-Wing computer games, though we as a group were always partial to Wing Commander.

I admit that my Star Wars immersion attenuated as I grew older. I was initially in the apologist camp for the new movies, but they wore on me. Timothy Zahn’s first set of books was amazing, but after awhile, I stopped reading in the expanded universe as much. I always meant to introduce my kids to the magic, but my daughter was never interested and somehow time for movie watching has all but disappeared. Instead, without any urging on my part, my son has found The Clone Wars and is now as big a fan as I ever was, even though we can’t watch the originals until I pick up a working VHS player from the thrift store. (Or I cave in and get the Lucas reworks on DVD. Boo.) Even as we speak, he is pushing through a Clone Wars chapter book above his grade level, because that’s what I can get him to read after school. Somehow, the obsession has started again. Life, as they say, finds a way.

So for my son, things weren’t quite what he hoped. He wanted clone armor, Captain Rex, Commander Cody, etc., whoever they are. Unfortunately, all of his favorites are, well, animated. Me? I was staring open-mouthed at Luke’s X-Wing suit and the TIE Fighter pilot. In the end, we all gazed reverently at the slightly faded Storm Trooper armor, then my wife snapped a photo of me, the kids, and Darth Vader, our hands identical in the force choke position. An iconic moment indeed for this rapidly aging nerd.

We still don’t have a VHS player, so instead settled on Attack of the Clones to close out the evening. Even the women watched until we shut it off partway for bedtime, feeling a bit of the magic from the exhibition I suppose.

I don’t know where else the costumes will go after they leave Seattle, or how many readers will have the chance to see them. For those that do, my recommendation is to take advantage. There remains some undeniable power in the display. I will never use the Force, to my great dismay, and never see Coruscant or Endor, so standing face to face with a Storm Trooper will have to be enough. It almost is.

Used Bookstores

Used Bookstores

One reason (among several) that missives have been scarce lately concerns the business side of Two Dudes. Not to say that the blog is much of a business, but both Dudes are coincidentally involved in a book related, money making venture. My mostly silent partner is the President, CEO, and Unopposed Dictator of a used book store; I am the non-salaried part owner. We have something like 15,000 books sold mostly on Amazon and one employee, about whom more will be said later.

The store is stocked primarily by raiding thrift stores and garage sales across Southern Idaho. We seeded things with one massive purchase of art books from a local collector and a smaller purchase of aviation books, but since then most has come from strategic scrounging. Surprisingly, the area overflows with profitable books. Unfortunately for me, SFF is a fairly small part of the collection; we deal mostly in non-fiction. (For various reasons, very little fiction holds its value over time. SFF is better than some genres though.) We specialize in Mormon books (popular and scholarly) and Western history/social sciences. This is mostly a reflection of the stock available to us, but if anyone out there is in the market for, say, a first edition of some early Mormon leader’s writings, there is a very good chance that person would buy from us. We’ll acquire anything that sells though – popular books include Metals and How to Weld Them and Underwater Explosions. We’ve seen the former come in and out three times now.

The store has a few rare books in stock, but aside from a deal I brokered for $3000 from a Japanese bookseller, we don’t get too involved in the rare book world. It’s a whole different game.

In the beginning, my dad and brother ran the show together, with me as part owner and investor. They were based in my home town of Idaho Falls, ID. I flew in periodically from the Northwest for business meetings, but have my own unrelated career. In the good old days, everything was run from the basement of my parents’ house. I imagine that my mom was much relieved when my brother closed the deal on a lease for an actual “store,” thus removing a couple thousand books and maybe sixty boxes from the downstairs. The “store” is in an old government building, saved from disrepair by a random real estate investor and conveniently located next to the main post office.

And by “government building,” I mean “Cold War era, hardened fallout shelter with some offices.” It’s amazing. We recently added storage space, which gained us a room in a basement that looks straight out of Saw or some other ghastly horror movie. The store itself is not for public consumption, though an occasional customer pokes a head in. We are working towards a presentable store space elsewhere, mostly to boost incoming stock, but for now, the bomb shelter is perfect. In fact, my brother calls it the secret weapon at our disposal; the amount we pay for the lease is the true silver bullet that makes everything profitable. And if it is intimidating and dirty, well, we sell online. Nobody knows the difference.

A few years ago, my dad decided to move to the wilds of Utah. He initially ran a branch of the store there through the same Amazon account, but that quickly became too unwieldy. We spun off my dad’s store, leaving my brother and I in charge of the original. He handled things by himself in Utah. Fast forward to a couple months ago, and my dad found himself moving back to Idaho. As a result, my brother and I bought out my dad’s store, added him as an employee, and moved 4-6000 books from a forgotten corner of Utah back to Idaho Falls. This is great for the business, but means that I had to make two trips in a large U-Haul, with the attendant loading and unloading on each side. Spoiler alert: multiple thousands of books are collectively very heavy.

Anyway, two grueling trips later, I am back in the Northwest for the time being. Hopefully I can get back in the saddle so to speak, since the posts are backing up and the blog withering a bit from neglect. Stay tuned as we get things back on course.

Reading Habits

Reading Habits

Work right now is a speeding freight train, if every box car was actually a dumpster filled with burning tires and every bridge was under frantic construction as the smoking, metal beast approaches; I labor madly at each bridge to cobble something together that barely supports weight if nobody looks too closely, before speeding off to the next. Fingers in dikes, etc. Reading time has slowed to a turgid crawl, and with it easy blog topics. I’ve started several posts, only to abandon them two paragraphs in as boring and self-indulgent. Into the breach comes an emergency post from Far Beyond Reality, which gives me a chance to prattle about myself while I put together the next award-winning essay. Enjoy, all.

1. What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading?

The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson, as any faithful Two Dudes follower would know. Almost done with Alastair Reynolds’ On the Steel Breeze.

2. What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading and why?

Toshokan Senso, because it was an awkward love story set in a barely tenable future Tokyo, which glossed over everything I thought might be interesting in favor of annoying people having hate-crushes on each other. Incidentally, my wife enjoyed it greatly.

3. What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you liked but most people didn’t?

I have no idea. David Brin’s Existence sparked the most heated discussion I guess. I can’t think of anything else I staunchly defend against an ignorant majority.

4. What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you disliked but most people liked?

Probably either Name of the Wind or Game of Thrones. They may be very good, but I bounced off pretty hard and didn’t press on with either.

5. How long do your single-sitting reading sessions usually last?

Maybe 20 minutes, unless everyone else is asleep and I’m really into something.

6. What are you currently reading?

The aforementioned Reynolds, The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher, and Interstellar Patrol II by Christopher Anvil. The latter two are mostly on hold while I finish up library books (Reynolds). Oh, and I have a few pages left of Saraba Yurei, which I cheated and wrote about anyway last January.

7. Do you like it so far?

Um, referring only to the Reynolds at this point, yes, though I wish he’d stop being pastoral and go back to being weird. Those books were more fun.

8. How long ago did you buy the book you are currently reading (or the last book you read)?

Library. I mostly read library books, ARCs, or something I bought in a book sale grab bag.

9. What was the last physical sf/f/h book you bought?

Good question. Probably a pile of Japanese SF when I was there last November. I buy very little, except at the Half Price Books warehouse sales. ($20 bucks to fill a bag! That’s potentially 50 paperbacks!)

10. What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you like the most and why?

My heart belongs to Hard SF. In my younger days, I wanted to be an astronomer until calculus destroyed any illusions I had about my competence. Hard SF satisfies my brainy side while giving me the outer space that I will never get to experience in person. I also enjoy cyberpunk and space opera a great deal.

11. What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you dislike the most and why?

Er, romance? I guess? Horror, if we’re including it in the speculative family. I have enough worries in my life without intentionally scaring myself.

12. What is your favorite electronic reading device?

I have the cheapest Kindle available. There’s probably better out there.

13. What was the last sf/f/h eBook you bought?

I don’t think I have ever purchased an ebook.

14. Do you read books exclusively in one format (physical/electronic)?

As with music, it is the content that concerns me, not the medium. I will read whatever is available, though I confess to favoring the Kindle for anything over 400 pages or so. Wrist fatigue and all. Oh, and the Kindle is the business when I travel to Japan. To think that I used to haul around 20+ CDs and 5-6 books in my carry-on.

15. Do you read ebooks exclusively on a single device, ie. an eBook reader, a smartphone or a tablet?

I periodically read on a computer. I own a Kindle. I have no smartphone, the kids and wife dominate the tablets. I would guess that I’m running a 70-30 print to ebook ratio right now.