Green Kiki

Reading the great mystery/crime writers

I realized something recently:

I’ve read exactly half of the 72 people* who have been or will be given Edgar Grandmaster Awards (counting the folks already announced for 2021). That’s pretty good, but it also gives me a goal: Read the other 36 authors. I’m going to try to knock that off this year, although there are all the usual things that could get in the way (ranging from the end of the world to other books distracting me). I’m also trying to read only novels here; reading short stories seems like a bit of a cop-out, although I still put Edward Hoch on my “have read” list (but I’ve also read a few dozen of his stories, possibly hundreds). And I’m counting Hitchcock as one of the ones I’ve read, since his award was based really on his movies.

The ones I’ve read:

Charlaine Harris
Jeffery Deaver
Max Allan Collins
Walter Mosley
Lois Duncan
Margaret Maron
Sara Paretsky
James Lee Burke
Sue Grafton
Bill Pronzini
Stephen King
Marcia Muller
Ira Levin
Robert B. Parker
Edward D. Hoch
Mary Higgins Clark
P.D. James
Mickey Spillane
Lawrence Block
Donald E. Westlake
Elmore Leonard
Ed McBain
John le Carre
Margaret Millar
Daphne du Maurier
Dorothy B. Hughes
Graham Greene
Ross Macdonald
Alfred Hitchcock
John D. MacDonald
James M. Cain
Georges Simenon
John Dickson Carr
Erle Stanley Gardner
Ellery Queen
Agatha Christie

The ones I need to read:

Barbara Neely
Martin Cruz Smith
Jane Langton
William Link
Peter Lovesey
Ellen Hart
James Ellroy
Robert Crais
Carolyn Hart
Ken Follett
Martha Grimes
Dorothy Gilman
Stuart M. Kaminsky
Joseph Wambaugh
Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters & Barbara Michaels)
Ruth Rendell
Dick Francis
Tony Hillerman
Helen McCloy
Hillary Waugh
Phyllis A. Whitney
Michael Gilbert
Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Julian Symons
Stanley Ellin
W.R. Burnett
Aaron Marc Stein
Ngaio Marsh
Eric Ambler
Judson Philips
Mignon C. Eberhart
John Creasey
Baynard Kendrick
George Harmon Coxe
Rex Stout
Vincent Starrett

Obviously, some of the folks I haven't read are easy to find (Stout, Francis, Rendell), while others are ones I'll have to track down, but I've got a good library system, so I have faith I can do it.

Anyway, this is basically an accountability post. My reading's been about 80% mystery/crime/thriller/espionage these days, because that seems to be where my brain's comfortable right now.

*73, technically, but I’m counting “Ellery Queen” as one person here, and also not even getting into the EQ books written by folks other than Dannay and Lee.
Darth Tater

A few thoughts on Picard

We binged the series the other day. A few thoughts:
[Spoiler (click to open)]
1. In many ways, this was as much a show from the '90s as a current show; we not only had Picard and Seven, we also had Riker and Troi, and then folks like Hugh, Maddox, and even poor Icheb.

2. I do feel the ending was an utter cop-out, and I couldn't get invested in the grief of the characters knowing (just from story beats, not spoilers) that the person they were mourning was going to live. And holy shit was that hand-wavy. "You're now a synth, but you're exactly like your old human self minus the one brain tumor, and we'll never discuss this again."

3. The Seven/Raffi thing borders on being the sort of throwaway "we care about gay people" stuff we got with Dumbledore, with barely more screen time (literally a second) of anything. They need to work on this during S2.

4. I love everything about the ship's five AIs. And Will and Deanna's daughter.

5. So a Romulan infiltrated Starfleet, became head of security, and almost committed genocide, and it's cool that she's just flying off? Seems like a bad thing.

6. Allison Pill has come a long way since her time as Kim Pine.

7. Speaking of hand-wavy, dragging eight stars into one system? That seems a little high-tech even by Trek standards.

8. I think I'd have liked this series a little more if I hadn't been in the middle of Discovery, which is, on every level, a better show (well, every level other than Patrick Stewart). That's not this show's fault, but the plot just rolled out slower, had less going on, and honestly, we all kind of knew where it was going, for the most part.
Darth Tater

PhotoGnome

Woke up to some utterly awful news on FB, that photognome had died suddenly last night. I'll repeat what I posted on FB here:

It's been zero days since I've woken up to the news that a friend died. Joe (AKA PhotoGnome) was one of those people who just made everyone around him so much happier, and was a wonderful part of my life online long before and long after we were neighbors in Atlanta. I still have fond memories of sushi at Ru San's, conversations at DragonCon, and just plain hanging out and chatting about comics. The world's a lesser place without him in it.

Just an awful loss. I know many LJ/DW folks have migrated to FB and Twitter, but folks here should know, and frankly, Joe's one of those people who should be memorialized wherever we can.
Green Kiki

Doomsday Clock

So I read Doomsday Clock last night, and honestly? Kind of liked it. A few random and largely unspoilery thoughts:

- Unlike Watchmen, which stands alone if you have literally no knowledge of comics (even if it gains layers when you do), DC (heh) requires not only knowledge of Watchmen (reasonable for a sequel), but of the DCU, both in the general sense, and in some very specific ones (notably the fact that the golden age of superheroes had only recently been once again shunted to a separate earth). Not a criticism, but it speaks volumes about the intended audience.
- After years of crap like Death Metal and Final Crisis, it is so fucking refreshing to get an event book that A) stands on its own without reading a zillion tie-ins, and B) doesn't fetishize Batman as the Most Important Guy Ever.
- Mime is possibly only the second character ever from the Watchmen universe to have superpowers (unless there's a technological explanation for what he does -- it's left unsaid). I do find it interesting how little power there is in that universe compared to the DCU.
- The end result of the book and its take on multiverses is one I'm pretty damned happy with. It's extremely Superman-focused, but I'm okay with that because A) it makes sense and B) it's never about Superman being So Damned Cool that the writer clearly wishes he were him (see Morrison and Snyder again).
- If I have a major criticism here, it's around the handling of Firestorm, but honestly, other than Conway and Ostrander, I've generally hated any writer's handing of him.

(Oh, and no, I don't believe that Only Alan Moore Is Allowed to Write These Characters. Which is not to say that less isn't more - Before Watchmen was largely pointless and rancid -- but that's a bullshit argument.)
Green Kiki

Two tweets, repackaged here

Posted both of these to Twitter over the last couple of days. Both kind of sum up my thoughts on things going on right now.

1. So yeah, violence only begets more violence. Sure. But why are you criticizing the violence that was begotten, instead of the violence that did the begetting? The riots are a natural and inevitable outcome of George Floyd's murder by the police.

2. You know, I hate the notion of looking to Reagan for anything, but while firing all the air traffic controllers was vile, I'm not sure what the downside of doing that for the police is. The baby/bathwater ratio seems to justify it.
Green Kiki

Assorted COVID-19 thoughts

Random thoughts on COVID-19:

1. Current tally of folks I know who've died from the virus is three: My middle school music teacher, the father of a childhood friend, and liamstliam. I really hope that's where the tally ends, but suspect that won't happen. If we count internet friends I haven't met (and Liam was someone I had), there's probably folks I'm not aware of, nor ever will be. I know more who've gotten it and come through (including my mom's best friend, who's nearly 80 and is a cancer survivor), of course.

2. I consider myself lucky to be able to work from home, but the money drain all colleges are feeling right now scares the shit out of me, and I dread the thought of someone deciding that cutting middle managers is a great way to save money. And I'm hugely worried about the entire industry, of course. We're a reasonably specialized school, which is great on a lot of fronts, but a lot of our specialites require some degree of hands-on or experiential learning. I worry a lot about smaller and more general liberal arts schools, too, especially with the spate of closings we've seen already over the last few years.

3. I'm a lot more worried for other industries, of course. I know too many folks who make a living from restaurants, and that industry is likely to change forever. Ditto singers/bands, actors, burlesque performers, and pretty much any other performing artist.

4. But worried as I am for all of them, I so much more worried about the folks who have decided that the "economy" is worth human lives. Even here, there are tons of folks who do not give a rat's ass about social distancing. Out in AZ, where my mom lives, she just told me that there are stories about crowded clubs already, and I don't doubt that'll be followed by a huge spike in cases (and deaths). Same with my former home state of GA. There are plenty of good alternatives - the $2K a month one the Dems floated, for example -- but the rat motherfucker in the White House and his allies like McConnell have no interest in helping people.

4.5 See all the USPS and what the Republicans are doing to it (even though it's literally a lifeline for their own constituents).

5. We have not, thankfully, had issues on the shopping front, other than occasionally not finding chicken breasts or pork chops (and even then, we still find 'em). Even toilet paper, once scarce, has been in stock at our Star Market the last few times. The only thing that seems impossible to find is Prego Marinara sauce, which is my daughter's favorite (and a good one for 'song, too, since it's gf). I have no idea why that one's gone missing.

6. While money's tight in general (a lot less income than years ago, stuff is more expensive, etc), I still try to order food once every week or two, focusing ideally on local Chinese restaurants, which were hit even harder than a lot of places. And yes, I know about the issues around Grubhub and other delivery vendors. Ours uses BeyondMenu, which is supposedly better, and also has the best damned hand-pulled noodles I've had (so if you're local, try them. It's also the chance to have something resembling a little normalcy.
Green Kiki

I'm not dead, but Facebook's algorithm should be

Still alive, which meant less two months ago than now, but was still meaningful.

Like so many people, I've relied too heavily on FB. It's actually fine in a lot of ways (speaking from an end-user POV, not any ethical issues surrounding the company), and some of its evil is on the second half of a double-edged blade (like how it's become genuinely useful for organizing events and inviting people in a way that no other tool managed).

But it also has the fucking algorithm that decides to bury posts because they link to youtube, or have more than ten words, or because you posted too often, or because someone there got drunk. And there's something fundamentally wrong about not letting people read posts in fucking order, like god intended. Twitter's moving that way, but at least lets you override it in a meaningful way.

So I figure I'll post a few things here, where they'll get no engagement because 95% of DW/LJ has stopped reading, instead of getting no engagement because a computer decided the contents didn't matter.

I actually haven't updated since I got a job again, so I figure I should mention that, too. Started after Thanksgiving 2018, at a local college that pays way less, but which has one thing my previous job had -- a boss who's competent (my last one, to be fair, had one for years until the uberboss, who's from the Tr*mp school of management, axed him). Like anyone working in higher ed these days, I'm working from home and dealing with all the usual uncertainties.

Also of note (especially for longtime readers, which I guess is everyone, seeing as I can't recall adding a new LJ/DW sub in ages), our daughter is twenty-five, out of college for a year now, and working a fulltime job as a QA tester at a local software company. She loves it and it seems like a great fit for her. Of course, she's also working from home these days.

Anyway, based on the lack of engagement, some things FB has decided the world shouldn't know about.

1. Goldfinger's fantastic quarantine videos. These are new performances of some of their classic songs, done from 5-8 houses at once. Often featuring many doggos. They're up to seven songs so far, and I love watching them all.

2. Bad Cop/Bad Cop's new song, Pursuit of Liberty. So good. I'm listening to a LOT of punk these days, and we need more contemporary and angry feminist punk bands. I've preordered the new CD, and you should, too.

3. Will Leitch has a great piece about Terry Pendleton and the nature of the MLB MVP compared to other sports. FB doesn't like MLB links if they're not getting money for them, just like with Youtube.

4. I'm reading a TON of mystery/crime these days. The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths, won the Edgar, and while it wasn't my choice (Fake Like Me was sooo good), it's very solid, and has her taking a shot at her own misdeeds from her debut novel, calling out authors who call animals in crime books. The dog in this one, does, in fact, live (which shouldn't be a spoiler to anyone with an understanding of narrative). I've also enjoyed Peter Swanson's slight meta (but really not) Eight Perfect Murders and Elizabeth Little's Pretty as a Picture. I'm reading less SF/F (which has just gotten weaker as a field in recent years), but Jemisin's The City We Became is fantastic, triply so if you're a New Yorker of a fan of Lovecraft who also recognized the problems with his works. And I feel like everyone already knows about Gideon the Ninth, but if you don't, you should. Yes, it's lesbian necromancers in space (dayenu!), but it's also so much more.

Incidentally, FB buries book recs no matter what I do. Links? Dead. Long paragraph with no links? Dead? One sentence? Dead. Three sentences plus a picture of the cover (since they supposedly like pics)? Dead. It's almost impressive.

5. The piece from Outside Magazine (which produces a ton of really good articles and podcasts) on python hunting in Florida is well worth the read.

Will probably post a more life-updatey kind of post later, with the intent of making LJ/DW a real part of my routine. Of course, I may read these words in two years and rue them. Hope everyone -- whoever remains -- is well.
Green Kiki

A few Thanksgiving deals: Book coupon, Venom, The Martian, X-Box

Thanks to unemployment and other stuff, not really putting together the daily deals this year (as you've probably noticed), but a few ones worth pointing out today before gorging:

Amazon's annual $5 off $20 book coupon is live! Use NOVBOOK18 as your code (it'll be at the link, too). This runs through Sunday.

The limited-edition pre-order blu-ray of Venom is $12.11 (69% off, nice!).

The Martian on Blu-Ray is $3.99 (77% off).

And in video games, the X-Box One 1GB with Minecraft is $199.00 (34% off), if anyone still is looking for one.
Green Kiki

On convention staffing and lacking "benches"

As some of you may know, I've resigned from my position as Assistant Division Head of Programming at Arisia, and I also won't be on panels or attending the convention at all. I won't go into why here, as I've already talked about it and I suspect that anyone following fandom knows. I want to discuss a side-topic.

A lot of the public and semi-public handwringing has been over the subject of having "benches." When there's no one else capable of doing, say, Program AV for the con, do you hire the rapist (Arisia's answer three years running, it turns out, has been "yes")? When no one else is running for President of the corporation (or when the person running against the problematic person has values you don't agree with), what happens? Long-term, obviously, the con needs to build a bench, train new people, etc. This part's generally obvious and agreed on by everyone, and there are good proposals about how to do it (mentoring, apprenticeships, etc) in lots of places. But that's the long-term solution.

Short-term, though, there are four choices if you lack a bench and don't have someone who can replace the person you need to get rid of:

Choice one is to actually run the con with the dangerous person on board. This is the decision Arisia chose to make (without making the actual danger itself known to members or most staff), and that other cons have done in previous years (see Wiscon/Frenkel). I do not consider it the right one, and it's clear that almost no one else does. Note that as a general rule, only a handful of people on staff at a cone actually will know this is happening (so while I use the blanket terms "Arisia" and "Wiscon," it's likely a small subset of folks near the top of the boards).

Choice two is to suck it up and deal without them. Yes, that means someone else is going to have to do more work, and work they're not qualified for and have to learn quickly. It means some aspect of the con will be weaker than intended. It might even mean that something doesn't take place (if only one person can run the masquerade or a certain special event, that event might not happen). It sucks, but it also ensures that the dangerous person isn't a part of the con. It's NOT, to be clear, sustainable; asking folks to work beyond their means is something that can be justified in an emergency, but not as a regular event. It's also something that some cons can handle better than others (bigger ones usually have more staff to spread around; smaller ones might have a looser structure or fewer technical requirements that require skillsets).

Choice three is to recruit a replacement. If the only person qualified and willing to handle tax issues for the dealers at the con is also someone so toxic that they're on the "do not hire" list for your con, you probably can't ask a Green Room staffer to pick up that ball. So you have to start looking at who has the skillset elsewhere. Look at the org charts of other cons, local and otherwise. Ping the people who do the jobs there and at places like Worldcon to see if A) it's something they can do, and B) if they know others who might be capable of the job. Shockingly, skilled people often know other skilled people. And if you have to, see if money can help. You may not be able to pay someone, per se, but if you can offer a comp, or even a room comp for a night or two, or something, it's money well-spent (that said, also set expectations; this is money being spent to deal with an emergency, and not something that should be expected every time).

And choice four is the nuclear one: If you genuinely can't run the con without a rapist on staff, maybe you shouldn't run the con. That can mean any of A) You personally should not run the con (because maybe someone else can find a replacement), B) the con itself should skip a year to give you more time to find a replacement, or C) the con should end. Really. It's not an ideal choice, but if you find yourself incapable of finding a replacement, or running the event without the person, your choices come down to either letting a known predator have power within the con, or not running. If you really think that the running the con with the dangerous person on staff is the better choice, you're part of the problem.