Monthly Archives: February 2009


My office and library are the same room, at the front of my house looking out on the hillside street where as many people pass walking their dogs as cars drive by.

To the immediate right is a bookcase that fills with current-year books, which I’ve recently about half-emptied, moving books into the general stacks. A few books I haven’t yet read — you can see Anathem — are still there; the 2008 novels I have read line the top two shelves.

Turning further right are the stacks of SF titles through Z, with knick-knacks on the curved endpieces, and boxes of extraneous books (review copies, etc.) waiting to be carried out. The room opens through French doors from the hallway.

Turning left from the glasstop desk is a library cart full of the latest incoming — books and magazines, received or purchased, waiting to be listed on the site; ARCs on the next shelf; copies of Locus below that. The three closest bookcases, including the short one beneath window, are full of SF-related nonfiction and reference books. Behind those and at far left are the stacks of SF titles near the front of the alphabet.

And turning farther left is a leather sofa-bed where I read and nap, complete with requisite cat (Munchkin); French door at extreme left edge of photo; bookscases of art books, general fiction and nonfiction, and the SF stacks beginning with A in the right-facing bookcase behind the sofa.

Most of my SF library is in this room, though I do have another room downstairs, about the size of a large walk-in closet, full of anthologies and back-issue magazines. And in a couple guest bedrooms are additional bookcases, full of books about film and TV, YA and graphic novels, old encyclopedia, puzzles and old textbooks, and other miscellany.

Formatting and Infrastructure

I’ve been home the past two days with a head cold, sneezing and congested, but not unable to sit at the computer for several hours each day. Catching up on listings, Directory page updates, and so on.

Among numerous other updates to the site, I’ve tweaked the layout and archive settings of the Roundtable blog, taking some of the Torque Control comments into consideration, with the concurrence of blog-overseer Liza — full posts now appear on the main page, which is archived weekly rather than monthly and which displays a fixed number of posts, rather than all posts within a fixed number of days… But we hesitate about unmoderated comments. Ahem.

There is so much going on with the website it is getting a bit difficult to juggle it all. The news blog, the roundtable blog, my own posts, some of which are excerpts from the magazine (when they remember to send me the content) and others of which are special to the website, like Gary Westfahl’s essays and reviews… How to present it all so that none of it is diminished or overlooked? (And Blinks, and ads, and a tiny corner for a link to this blog.) Still working on it. (Avoid clutter!) Along those same lines, I’ve placed boxes about the Locus Index and Locus Awards Index in the right pane, below some of the past issue boxes, to keep those items in view to casual readers… whom I suspect rarely explore the drop-down menus.

Working on a new policy about handling the numerous (unsolicited) ARCs and galleys that I receive… more on that next time.

Work, Workspaces, and Oscars

This week we have a long new essay by Gary Westfahl about SF’s predictions and how seriously to take them; I think it’s a fascinating, substantial piece in the venerable tradition of, say, Arthur C. Clarke’s Profiles of the Future, even as it undermines some of SF’s party line positions on the inevitability of certain trends. What with upcoming film reviews (Watchmen will be covered by Howard Waldrop and Lawrence Person) and a couple other features lined up, there should be a ‘Monday feature’ of some sort for at least the next month or so.

This week, the Awards Index having been posted last Friday and done with for the moment, I’ll be catching up on posting excerpts from Locus’ February issue (the bestsellers, new & notable books, the interview), and on Monitor Listings of recent books and magazines.

Interesting thread about workspaces in the Roundtable blog; I have a fairly nice workspace, and library, and perhaps I should post some photos…

I quite approve of most of the Oscar winners, including leader Slumdog Millionaire… not unaware of the irony that it was directed by Danny Boyle, whose previous film Sunshine I (and others) fairly eviscerated a couple years ago. It just shows to go you, as they say, that it all depends on the script, really, does it not.

Color Scheming and Style Sheeting

Just a couple more days, or more properly I should say another four to six hours real time; it actually depends on when during the next few days I can find those hours, to finish the Awards Index update and post the overhauled site. Depending on how closely you’ve been paying attention, it will look pretty much the same, or quite different; the color scheme is revised, a bit subtler and more subdued; the homepage is rearranged and expands details that previously were posted on separate pages. Layouts and color schemes of index pages — the listings, indexes, tally pages, etc. — are more unified — underlain by a simplified scheme of cascading style sheets that necessarily implement standardized formatting — though I can’t quite claim to have eliminated every deprecated font tag on the site, not quite.

All this is quite fun, for me; it’s as close to programming as I get to do these days.

When it’s done and posted, I’ll get back to Monitor Listings…

Coraline, Delinked in Bruges, Quintessentially

Despite a hopeful email from John Clute a couple weeks ago, book coverage on the new “Sci Fi Wire” has been scant to nonexistent, and the whole tenor of the site is apparently now about movie news and gossip; and thus, I have removed the link to / from my row of essential daily links atop my Links Portal page… replace by SF Site, with Salon squeezed in there earlier in the row.

Despite a hesitant start, Locus Poll submissions are healthily underway, no doubt due in part to plugs from Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi and other Locus partisans. Not quite 300 ballots received thus far, not bad for two weeks into the voting period.

I saw Coraline Friday night — in a nearly packed house — and was quite delighted. I think, in fact, it’s the first movie I’ve ever seen in 3D, and I was impressed by how transparently easy the viewing was — no straining with crossed eyes to make the 3D image click into place. My only reservation about the film is that it lacks the emotional catharsis — that moment of emotional payoff in the conclusion — that is de rigueur for any Hollywood film. As I watched it, I thought this was a good thing, the film avoiding the standard Hollywood formula, for a more sedate, perhaps literary, conclusion. But in retrospect, I can see what those various film critics mean when they suggest the film lacks something, that however good it is all the way through, it doesn’t quite ‘work’… But this is a very minor quibble.

A shout-out for the film In Bruges, which I caught up with this past week, via Netflix, after seeing it nominated for a best screenplay Oscar. I was so annoyed by sitting through the trailer for it 15 times (it seemed) a year or so ago that I skipped it entirely — I find trailers intensely annoying, primarily because they make all films look the same, all a collection of action moments and cutesy jokes (as in the excerpts of In Bruges, which made it look like a freak show about absurdist assassins). But it’s a quite wonderful film, a black comedy with fine writing and performances — and a pleasantly melancholy score by Carter Burwell, which I promptly purchased on CD, and which reminds me of his score for Barton Fink, not a bad thing.

And finally — launching a new regular feature today, a series of interviews by Nick Gevers of short fiction writers and editors. My intent is to have one feature post — a review, or interview, or essay — each week, Sunday night or Monday morning, with Nick’s interviews a regular part.

Locus Constellation

Got an email today from the proprietor of SciFi Watch, a blog by David Halpert, about a post called Nine Science Fiction Blogs You Should Keep Track Of, one of which was Locus Online. The odd thing was that his description explained that most Locus articles were available only to subscribers, behind a password-protected firewall…

I sent him a correction, but I’m curious how anyone could have gotten this impression. Actually, Locus HQ and I have speculated about setting up some sort of system that would allow only subscribers to access full content from Locus Magazine… but it’s never been implemented. An alternative, closer to reality, is to make available full PDF versions of each new issue, for those subscribers who buy such access, either with their print subcriptions or as some sort of electronic-only subscriptions. But that, too, has not been implemented…

So to clarify: the Locus Online website is a constellation of semi-independent sites.

  • The nominal Locus Online site domain is run by me, in Los Angeles, effectively isolated by 400 miles from the Locus Magazine offices in Oakland CA; except for what follows, I post everything on the site, maintain databases and posts of new book and magazine listings, pay for film reviews myself, compile author event and conventions listings, and so on and so on, and on.

  • In just the past few weeks, a News blog and an Roundtable blog have been created and linked into the Locus Online homepage, and these blogs are run by the Locus Magazine staff, mostly Liza Trombi, who’s posted most of the news items (though I’ve posted 2 or 3 of them myself) and organized most of the Roundtable blog contributions.
  • And all along, perhaps even before Locus Online proper debuted in 1997, there’s been Bill Contento’s Locus Index to Science Fiction pages, which are online samples of his comprehensive Locus Index to SF available in its complete form only on CD ROM.
  • And there’s my own Locus Index to SF Awards, first posted back in 2000, with a deliberately different design and look from the main Locus Online site, as if it were an independent site, despite its location on the domain. (And which, in recent weeks, I’ve been actively overhauling and updating.)
  • And finally then there’s *this* blog, also with a deliberately independent design, though it’s not situated on the the domain proper…

(And we’re not done yet. The Awards Index subsite, aside from regular updates, will be expanded substantially in the coming months.)

February 2009

I have this idealistic fantasy that, in a calm and contemplative state of living — a state I never quite seem to achieve — I would have time every day to jot down a few insightful comments or pithy remarks about SF or current events or even, on occasional, my personal life.

Obviously this blog has never reached that idealistic state, but let me see if I can quickly record a few such remarks that have accumulated over the past few days.

The new Locus blogs are up and running. There are still a bug or two in the layout — one especially in IE — that I’ll address shortly. I did all the design setup in Blogger; Liza and Jonathan took care of lining up content and contributions.

The Locus Poll is getting off to a slow start, perhaps because initially the header and link were too low on the homepage, over there in the right pane. I moved the link up, and votes picked up, but totals are still noticeably behind the totals in the first week last year, or the year before. I wonder if this is partly a reaction to the debacle over the abrupt rules-change near the end of last year’s voting, but this is only cynical speculation, based on no evidence.

The background work, for which I have stood down from reading, and from posting weekly Monitor listings of new books and magazines (thought I will post monthly highlights from January real soon now), is still underway. So far this involves overhauling the awards index and database, not just updating awards data from the past year, but updating the layout of pages and cleaning up numerous formatting infidelities. Completing the awards db update is still another two or three full days of work away — which means, another week or two in calendar time. After that comes the new enhancements…

Just posted Gary Westfahl’s review of Coraline. I tried to see the movie today, Sunday, but encountered one sold out theater, and tried two others online to find only front row seats were still available at the times I wanted. Happy to see the film is apparently a big success, though after that experience I’m surprised to see the film has ranked only 3rd in this weekend’s box office. Will see it soon, when I can.

Lots of rain here in SoCal this past week. Still have my job (knock wood). Watching the Grammys. Still jazzed about Lost. (I don’t keep up with fan analysis, but since the big white flashes mean a time displacement, is that what happened at the end of Season 2 when they failed to enter those numbers in the computer and…it happened? Has anyone been speculating on what *that* meant? That the whole island had already moved foward or backward in time since the initial crash–..??)