Oakland A’s Ace Sonny Gray Injured

 

Well, crap.

Those are the two words that me and thousands of other of Oakland A’s fans are thinking right now. He’s got a “lat strain” as reported this morning by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. That injury is going to keep him out through spring training at least, and he’s been scratched for Opening Day already.

I was more optimistic for the A’s than a lot of people were in their analyses. The A’s have a lot going against them: the two Texas teams are powerhouses, Seattle is on a rebuild that looks formidable, and they also have to play against Mike Trout. Their strength of schedule according to Fangraphs projections is the hardest in the American League. And they have one person who is remotely a household name on the team, that being Sonny Gray.

Their pitching looked to be a strong point this season, even though on the 4-5 back end of the rotation, I felt it could be iffy. They have some goodness coming down the pipeline in AAA, however, and it may have been fine with a Gray/Graveman at the top of the rotation. If Gray is out, and then has to get back to health and pitching form in April… this is going to be a long season.

A former writer at Fangraphs, David Weirs, said today on twitter: “Someone just pat my head and tell me it will all be okay.”  I couldn’t do that. He says he will accept lies in lieu of that.

One day before I head to my spring training trip to see the A’s… this really bums me out.

Retro Review: Fire Time by Poul Anderson

When I started reading Poul Anderson’s Fire Time, I did she because I thought it was on the Appendix N reading list. While Mr. Anderson makes that list twice, this was not one of those books. However, I’m quite happy I found this magnificent author through this work first, and would highly recommend anyone start here who has an interest in Anderson. 

Poul Anderson is one of those authors who, in our cult of the new modern era, has been somewhat erased from time. You won’t find many readers in my generation who have heard of him, nor will you find a lot of his work in Barnes and Noble. When I went to a used bookstore, however, I found that he was an extremely prolific author. As his wife commented in his obituary in 2001, “we stopped counting after 100”. 

How did an author so prolific, a seven time Hugo Award winner (when the award still meant something), leave the public consciousness? It serves as a further example of how far the science fiction field has strayed from its roots, and ignored anyone who doesn’t hold certain political views, even posthumously. And, after reading Fire Time, I find this a shame.

Fire Time is the grand science fiction sense of wonder at its finest. It has hard science fiction elements, dealing with real possibilities of what biologically, geologically and sociologically happens to a planet when it has three suns to contend with. It has space opera elements as humanity is dealing with a far off war with another alien species. It has fantasy elements, as the main alien species, the Ishtarans, are comprised of centaurs who act rather Roman-esque in their honor code and fighting, and are at typical fantasy level technology. Fire Time is a striking blend of different sub-genres that is refreshing to read on a lot of levels.

The story opens and closes as a “story within a story”, a trope that I find rather fun. Someone is in front of a tribunal for violating Federation laws of non-interference, just like we’d expect to see in latter Star Trek: The Next Generation if Picard violated the prime directive, and I have to think that given Gene Roddenberry’s love for science fiction and this book’s prominence in the 1970s, that he may have drawn from Fire Time as a source for the larger world building of Star Trek that occurred in the 1980s. 

Once into that framework, we’re thrown directly into an alien perspective. I found this jarring at first, and a bit difficult to read, which almost deterred me from reading the book. When it switched perspectives to a human again, a naval captain who was about to be stationed on this planet with three suns, I found that Mr. Anderson has an uncanny ability to separate his own voice from the voices of his characters, which, as this book unfolded with several viewpoints, made it all that much more intriguing. The aliens certainly had their own culture, and though they had a lot of humanity to them, felt like a truly distinct species, which I appreciated.

Mr. Anderson takes a lot of risks in the story as well. It doesn’t just stick in with our conflict, but tells us a lot of the goings on in human politics, especially with a war raging outside their space, of which this planet is deemed “strategic” for a base to service that war, even though it is remote and nothing of the sort. The perspective shifts are used to give us more of a global sense of the world around us, and it made me interested enough in this world that I would read other stories set in this larger world, which did originate from a different novel, The Star Fox. I had not read that, but enjoyed this book thoroughly without that backstory. It was very self-contained.

We see some perspective shifts that we wouldn’t encounter in a modern novel: a debate back on Earth over the war, formatted as a transcript and encyclopedia style history of Earth’s war with a starfarring alien race, a shift to a character in combat in the outer world for one chapter, another transcript style chapter of a couple of our main characters being recorded over an open line by the military on the planet Ishtar where this is set. As I said, Anderson took some risks, and they paid off in the way the reader connects to this story and sees a bigger world.

Thematically, Anderson does touch on some interesting human ideas. Every thousand years barbarians come and destroy civilization is a reflection of our own human culture in a lot of ways. There’s a strong anti-war sentiment which probably stems from this being written toward the end of the Vietnam war. The war outside Ishtar is often described as pointless, frivolous, with characters not understanding why we’re involved or putting our resources there. He doesn’t condemn all war in a hippie-pacifist manner, though, as the humans acknowledge that the fighting of the Ishtarans seems to have real purpose. A heavy theme of the individual defying government orders to do what’s right permeates through it, and what’s right isn’t necessarily what feels good or moral in the end either. 

There’s some interesting romance in the book which adds a sense of realism to it, also showing our characters as flawed and not the user-heroes of a lot of the work we’d read in fiction prior to the 1970s. This sort of moral experimentation was going on in a lot of books at the time, though Mr. Anderson doesn’t get preachy like Heinlein with bizarre relationship structures, instead presenting infidelity as things that just happen, and the characters’ feelings reflect that there is both good and bad in that. 

I tried not to spoil too much for people who would want to read this book. It’s a lot of fun to read, some of the best sci-fi out there, and Hugo nominated itself in the mid-70s. It should be on all the lists of must read sci-fi.

Vacation Reading

When I’m about to head out for vacation, naturally I’m stressed as anyone else: did I get everything done at home? have I made up for my potential work absence? am I forgetting to bring something?

Invariably, there’s an issue with one of the items above. But what adds to my stress as a book nerd, is of course what books I should bring, and then the everpresent “how many books should I bring.” One never wants to carry too many, because books are quite a weight. I know people do their e-readers, but I do as much reading on paper as possible as I stare at screens quite enough.  That’s still not the big thing with books that gets me going before a vacation, however.

Whatever book I’m currently reading, I try to hurry up and finish. I want to bring a fresh book on a plane, out in the sun, whatever I’m doing. I don’t want to be stuck in a spot where I’ve got 100 pages left, and I have to lug that around on my trip. So I hurry through whatever I’m reading as fast as I can… and a lot of times I can’t make it, and one of the most irritating things in the world as a result, is having that book with 30-50 pages left, and carrying it around for the read. It’s a silly, trite thing to be sure, but it gets me almost every time I’m about to leave for somewhere.

Friday, I’ll be off to Phoenix, AZ for Spring Training to watch the Oakland A’s. I’ll take lots of pictures and blog about it. Hopefully i’ll finish Poul Anderson’s Fire Time before then (currently 130 pages to go!). Does anyone else have this quirk of having to finish books before leaving? 🙂

Quick Shots

Far too busy to blog much today, but I will leave you with 3 awesome tidbits:

  1. Reading Poul Anderson’s Fire Time – Centaurs under a twin sun with barbarians at the gate. A space fleet of humans who may intervene. And they drink beer and smoke tobacco. Epic #PulpRevolution.
  2. #BasedStickMan: American Hero 
  3. The Corroding Empire is collapsing another empire’s sales rankings. lol

 

I am having far too much fun in life. 🙂 Cheers!

Congratulations to Mike Glyer and File 770

Today it was announced that they are on the short list for a hugo nomination for best fanzine from the Rabid Puppies and Vox Day. Truly a wondrous achievement for them. As a person who is completely responsible for most of their traffic in February, in a lot of ways, it’s like getting nominated myself. What an honor as the Hugos mean so much nowadays.

I’m so appreciative of their journalism and dedication to sci-fi issues that are akin to making them the CNN or Huffington Post of Sci-Fi news. Congrats again Mike. Hit me up soon so we can go play tennis.

Update: no sooner did I post this than see they are withdrawing their nomination. A great tragedy as so many people were looking forward to it 🙁

I posted a joke and a hashtag on Gab.ai and you’ll never believe what happened next ;)

I love Gab. It’s fun. It’s free speech. I feel safe there where other social media has left me and many others open to harassment and vitriol of a sort that prior to 2016, I’d never seen on anywhere except for 4chan.

One thing on gab that’s been almost impossible to topple, is their top trends. Ever since Gab.ai opened the trending tags have been: #MAGA, #Trump, #GabFam, sometimes with #SpeakFreely sneaking in there.

This morning I resolved to change that.

With the most recent phony outrage that the fake news and the shrieking idiots are providing, I did two things: 1. changed my name across social media to Russian Agent Jon and 2. asked the kind folk on gab to play a game and get something trending.

It went a little something like this:

From there, I posted several more funny little quips about my connections to Russia, and a couple of awesome people joined in with me. Once we had 4 or 5 of us going, gab took over.

I just looked at my feed and here’s our result:

676 posts! I got this trending and am so proud. One, because there’s hundreds of people mocking the complete lunacy of the fake news media, and two, because it’s fun.

Of course… that’s exactly what a Russian spy would want you to think! #ConfessYourRussianConnections

 

Catholic Geek Radio: Sunday 3/5

Pleased to announce that I’ll be a guest on Catholic Geek Radio this Sunday, March 5th at 1:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. We’ll be talking about Space Opera, what makes it good, what makes it bad, and everything in between (probably mostly rambling about Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9… hopefully with a little Star Realms: Rescue Run in between).

Here’s the link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/webuiltthatnetwork/2017/03/06/the-catholic-geek-with-jon-del-arroz

Really excited about this, and it’s a two hour show so we’ll have time to get in depth. There is a call in line on there so if you’re interested in the genre and have questions, this is your chance! This is my ultimate sub-genre. Having written 2 and 2/3 space opera books (this last one should be finished soon!) and released one of those so far, as well as having grown up reading and watching everything I find, I consider myself a bit of an expert in this topic. 🙂

What is Space Opera, you ask?  This is a good definition, though it is on the simplistic side of it. Think Star Wars, Lensman, Ringworld, Hyperion.

Do give a listen and let your friends know!

46 Days Of Lent – Bye Bye Facebook

And thus comes the time of year in which we reflect and honor God’s sacrifice to the world when he became a man, took up the mantle of the cross for our sins, and finally overcame death itself in order to cleanse our eternal souls from sins.

I watched as a couple of really wonderful authors — A.M. Freeman and L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright had made the commitment to give up their facebook feeds as an act of sacrifice, in order to help better reflect upon what Christ did for us in this season.

I found that inspiring.

In the modern day, giving up that feed is about the toughest thing one can possibly do, and I find myself compelled to follow suit in my own reflections and spiritual journey to get closer to Christ.  To my friends, readers and fellow authors: I’ll be off of the book during this season. The only time you’ll see me post is if there’s business matters: blog posts autoposting, interviews, goodreads linking to the site with reviews, and the like. Beyond that, I won’t be checking feeds, I won’t be looking at comments as best I can (I too and human and fall short!!). I will use messenger as that’s how I communicate for business most of the time — so if you need me, or want me to look at something, don’t tag or leave a comment for me, talk to me directly. You can still leave comments here, but Facebook is the time suck, it’s mostly filled with angry political rants that accomplish nothing these days, and so it’s a good thing to give up in His service.

I’ll be deleting the app from my phone tonight. This’ll be really tough, so I’ll see you on the flip side, internets!

Soli Deo gloria! 

Over On Declan Finn’s Blog…

It’s not every day you get to take over a famous author’s blog. I’ve actually done so a few times in my coming onto the writing scene (hello to those readers who are here because of that!), and each time so far it’s come with a pretty specific “write about this” guideline.

Last night, I had the honor of being able to post on Dragon Award nominated horror writer Declan Finn’s blog. He’s just released the 3rd book in his Love at First Bite series and will be rereleasing his Catholic adventure thriller novels later this year, which I’m very excited to get an opportunity to read. This assignment came with a “write whatever you want” instruction.

An open ended world, no rules! This is difficult for an author. I find we work a little better under constraints. I hemmed and hawed over what to write, how to differentiate it from my standard posts on my own blog. I was told Declan likes to write about art, culture, film, music, things that I don’t touch on very often over here. That gave me an idea.

Of course, as a serious science fiction author, when an opportunity like this strikes, I know I must put my best foot forward. I have to show utmost professionalism if I’m going to be respected within the writing community and by potential readers. This writing is not just a reflection on me, but a reflection on a great author like Declan Finn. Blogs like this are how a person like me earns trust. It’s a heavy burden in a lot of ways. I have one chance for these authors and readers to see who I truly am, and for them to understand that I am worthy of their ranks, that I understand who the audience is and what they stand for.

So I decided to write about generic Japanese cartoons aimed at teenage girls: http://www.declanfinn.com/2017/02/generic-shoujo-garbage-i-think-i-love.html?m=1

(I’ll also be appearing on Declan’s radio show on Sunday. Stay tuned for details!)