Thursday, January 11, 2007

Skiffy! (again)

I found this nifty quiz over at Jason Bennion's blog, and given its focus on books and sci-fi, it's right up my alley. Without further adoo:

1. Science fiction, fantasy, or horror?

I enjoy all three. Right now I'm on a bit of a fantasy kick, but I tend to vacillate between F and SF. Horror tends to come and go; I'll get into a horror mood which will last for a year or more and then I won't read much horror for quite a while. But I love all three genres.

2. Hardback, trade paperback, or mass-market paperback?

For sheer reading pleasure, I prefer hardbacks. However, they're expensive, obviously. Therefore, only a very few authors are on my list of persons whose books I buy for full-price in hardback (or whatever the Amazon discount happens to be). In fact, Guy Gavriel Kay is the only such author I can think of at the moment! Lots of Science Fiction Book Club volumes are hardbacks, so there's those, but with that club I tend to limit myself to their reprint anthologies or omnibus volumes, thus maximizing the bang for my buck.

I used to hate mass-market PBs, but of late I've retaken a shine to them, and in my quest to build the World's Zippiest Space Opera Collection, I've had to re-embrace the MMPB in a big way, since that's the only way to get a lot of these books. Printing seems to have improved so that in fantasy MMPBs, the maps are more legible. I had a copy once of Lord of the Rings in MMPB in which the maps of Middle Earth were nearly illegible -- and unforgivably, they omitted the detail map of Gondor and Mordor that's in most copies of Return of the King.

Trades are nice, too. Hmmm...basically, I just like books.

3. Heinlein or Asimov?

Asimov. Although I frankly haven't read nearly as much Heinlein as I should. What Heinlein I've read, I've liked. But with Asimov, I'm always a little sad that his stories and novels have seemingly fallen out of fashion. I thought he was a good writer. (of fiction, that is. Everybody agrees that his non-fic was always first-rate, and his essays on the SF world are sheer brilliance.)

4. Amazon or brick-and-mortar?

Brick-and-mortar. I want to pick up books, flex them in my hands, smell the pages (no, I don't know why I do this, but it's been a habit of mine for as long as I can remember); then I want to carry around a batch of books until I decide it's time to go, whereupon I try to decide which of the stack I feel most justified in buying. I like the feeling of discovery; I like browsing. Amazon just isn't built for browsing, although it does have tools that help in that regard.

However, Amazon's got other benefits that make it indispensible. Its vast inventory, for example: if I want to order something for the day it's released, I just go with Amazon, and they're the bee's knees if I know exactly what I want.

So it depends on what kind of shopping I'm doing. If I'm just in the mood to buy some books, it's off to Borders with me.

5. Barnes & Noble or Borders?

(I suppose that Canadians answering this quiz should do Chapters or Indigo.)

Borders, although the margin is fairly small. The main reason that I don't shop at B&N more is that at this point in time, the Buffalo region only has two B&Ns, and they're both at least fifteen minutes of driving farther away from my apartment than Borders. Apparently two new B&Ns are due to open this year, both much closer; but then, a new Borders is also opening, close enough that if doing so didn't involve crossing one of the busiest intersections in the entire region, I'd walk there.

One time I went to Borders when The Daughter was only one or so, and I bought a copy of the collected stories of HP Lovecraft. The sales clerk, who looked eerily like Otto the busdriver from The Simpsons, gives me this maniacal grin and says, "Oooooh, bedtime stories!"

As for B&N, there's the guy eight years or so ago who once noted that I was buying some book or other about King Arthur, whereupon he got this sullen look on his face. This look remained on his visage until the transaction was complete, whereupon he says, "I see you're interested in King Arthur. Well, I am too, and I just watched First Knight last night [the crappy 1995 movie with Richard Gere as Lancelot], and it sucked. When will we ever get a good Arthur movie?" I offered Excalibur, but he shook his head: "It tried to do too much, and all that Wagner on the soundtrack was distracting." Me: "Camelot?" Him: "Vanessa Redgrave can't sing, Franco Nero can't act. Ugh. Someday somebody will make a good Arthur movie."

But then, I bought a copy of Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends as a Christmas gift for a friend last month at Borders, and that clerk fell over himself telling me how good the book was. As I'd read it, we then compared notes on the rest of Moore's output.

So yeah, I like bookstores.

6. Hitchhiker or Discworld?

Haven't read either. Should read both. Could someone familiar with Discworld suggest a good starting point? Ditto for Niven's Ringworld, which I haven't read, either.

7. Bookmark or dog-ear?

Bookmark! I own some nice ones, too. Dog-earing sucks.

8. Magazine: Asimov's Science Fiction or Fantasy & Science Fiction?

Between these two, Asimov's; F&SF's stories tend to not excite me as much. But as for magazines, I prefer Realms of Fantasy to both, and I really need to start getting Black Gate again. Now that is a magazine. (For horror, Cemetery Dance is pretty good.)

9. Alphabetize by author, by title, or random?

I don't alphabetize. I try to group books by author, but that's it. Mostly, I'm all over the map, although my Space Opera collection is all on one set of shelves.

10. Keep, throw away, or sell?

I keep for an amazingly long time, after which period I maybe sell on eBay, but in most cases I give to the library for use in their quarterly used book sales. This brings up a conundrum: I have a lot of philosophy texts from my college years which I seriously doubt I shall ever read again, and which are simply taking up space. Stuff like this would go to the library, except for the fact that many of these books are filled with my various marginalia. I'm a little hesitant to have my marginalia in someone else's library, at least while I'm alive! Hmmmmm.

(I do throw out books that are clearly outdated, like WordPerfect 6.0 for Dummies and the like, and I likewise toss if they become damaged in any way.)

11. Year's Best Science Fiction series (edited by Gardner Dozois) or Years Best SF series (edited by David G. Hartwell)

I get both. The fiction in the Hartwell series tends to be more my speed, but the Dozois always includes longer fiction that the Hartwell series cannot accomodate, as well as the essays at the front of the book on the state of SF today (although Dozois maintains a pretty pessimistic tone, from what I've seen).

I also get both Year's Best fantasy collections. The Datlow-Link series is essential reading, year in and year out, just for its introductory essays alone.

12. Keep dustjacket or toss it?

I always keep dustjackets, although I remove them and set them aside when I'm actually reading the book.

13. Read with dustjacket or remove it?

Oh. Didn't see this question when I answered the previous one.

14. Short story or novel?

Both, but I've never read enough short fiction. There's something uniquely pleasurable about reading a tale from the beginning, knowing that you'll finish it the same evening.

15. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

Haven't read Snicket, so it's Potter all the way.

16. Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

Depends on the book, of course. Some books have short chapters which therefore makes it easy to read that way, while others have quite lengthy chapters which make me rely on scene breaks (indicated by double-carriage returns in the books). At night, though, I'll read until I'm tired, and then I go to the next available break.

17. "It was a dark and stormy night" or "Once upon a time"?

Both! Why can't we have, "Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night"?

(Of course, we all know that my true allegiance lies with, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....")

18. Buy or borrow?

Both, with more emphasis these days on borrowing from the library. Like I've said before, limiting my reading to only those books I can afford to buy is a crazy notion up with which I shall not put.

19. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation, or browse?

Browsing and recommendation, really. I read book reviews with some regularity, but I don't often get the hankering to read something based on what a review says.

20. Lewis or Tolkien?

Tolkien. Duh.

(Well, I've never read the other six books in the Narnia sequence. I tried a number of times in my youth, and could never get into them.)

21. Hard SF or space opera?


(But I do like the hard stuff now and again. One of my favorite books of all time, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, is pure hard-SF.

22. Collection (short stories by the same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?

Anthologies, mostly.

23. Hugo or Nebula?

I pay little attention to these awards, to be honest.

24. Golden Age SF or New Wave SF?

I don't know much about the New Wave stuff, so Golden Age, I suppose.

25. Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

I don't know. Cliffhangers that feel like tidy endings? Like the film version of The Two Towers, which ends on a satisfying note with very little resolved.

26. Morning, afternoon, or nighttime reading?

For fiction, mostly night-time. I've never been able to read fiction in short doses, which is what it has to be in the morning and afternoon (unless I'm off from work). Nonfiction I can read in short bursts just fine, but with fiction, I need to be able to immerse myself in the fictional world.

27. Standalone or series?

Standalones usually; with series, I like things shorter or comprised of standalones that still manage to collectively tell a story. I tend to be so all-over-the-map in my reading that I'll rarely read two books of the same series back to back, and thus by the time I get round to reading more in a series, I've forgotten what happened before.

28. Urban fantasy or high fantasy?

Honestly, both. (Although "urban" is a bad descriptor, in my opinion -- Gaiman's American Gods isn't really urban, but it's not high fantasy, either.

29. New or used?

I don't really care, as long as the book's in pretty good shape.

30. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

The Complete Book of Marvels by Richard Halliburton

31. Top X favorite genre books read last year? (Where X is 5 or less)

Ensign Flandry, Poul Anderson
The Stupidest Angel, Christopher Moore
Galactic Patrol, E.E. "Doc" Smith
Old Man's War, John Scalzi
Requiem for a Ruler of Worlds, Brian Daley

32. Top X favorite genre books of all time? (Where X is 5 or less)

The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay
Fluke, Christopher Moore
Red/Green/Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke

33. X favorite genre series? (Where X is 5 or less)

The Prydain Chronicles, Lloyd Alexander
The Lewis Barnavelt novels, John Bellairs
The Lensmen sequence, E.E. "Doc" Smith

34. Top X favorite genre short stories? (Where X is 5 or less)

"The Nine Billion Names of God", Arthur C. Clarke
"Nightfall", Isaac Asimov
"The Secret Shih-Tan", Graham Masterton
"That Feeling You Get, You Can Only Say What It Is In French", Stephen King
"Lamb to the Slaughter", Roald Dahl (not really a "genre" tale, actually)

That's it, folks! Tag yourself if you like the skiffy, move along if you don't.


Anonymous said...

on the topic of the disc world I started with 'guards guards', tho i think 'colour of magic' is the first one but you can really start with any book. they are hilarious. Amazon is great if you know the name of the book and you cannot find it anywhere or it is out of print, but yeah there is nothing like hanging out at the bookstore.

Anonymous said...

U can read snicket at the book store none of the books take more than 2 hours to read and most take maybe an hour.

Anonymous said...

Re: Discworld, I usually tell folks to start with Wyrd Sisters. Guards, Guards is another good starting place, as is Mort. The Discworld series has a number of important subseries, and while you can read them in any order it's nice to start at the beginning of one or another subseries, which the books mentioned above more or less do, skipping the first few books in which Discworld was still taking shape.

Anonymous said...

You are so in luck with the Discworld question: