Today’s dramatic work news was that a bloke who was supposed to start with us on Monday has instead taken a job as Vice-Chancellor of a Canadian university.

It’s rather a shock to realise that someone who would have been my hierarchical equal (OK, he would have been first among equals, but still) in the organisation is also eligible for Vice-Chancellorships.

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Quite a good day. Bike ride with F in the morning to the Heverlee war cemetery – and we saw two red squirrels! Then a brief visit to B’s school for the annual garden party. Then (leaving B with babysitter) a goodbye party for two Canadian friends of Anne’s who are returning across the Atlantic. Then another goodbye party for a friend of mine who’s about to spend a year in Washington. And it turns out she’s a science fiction fan! Four years I’ve known her and didn’t have a clue. And F was very well-behaved throughout, though is now creating bedtime problems. U has just fallen asleep on my lap as I typed this.

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100 films

B has dragged me downstairs for one of her midnight feasts, so I can at least catch up with this meme from a few weeks back. To my surprise I’ve seen 31 of these.

1 Godfather, The (1972)
2 Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)
3 Godfather: Part II, The (1974)
4 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001)
5 Schindler’s List (1993)
6 Citizen Kane (1941)
7 Casablanca (1942)
8 Seven Samurai (1954)
9 Star Wars (1977)
10 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
11 Memento (2000)
12 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
13 Rear Window (1954)
14 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)
15 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
16 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
17 Usual Suspects, The (1995)
18 Amelie (2001)
19 Pulp Fiction (1994)
20 North by Northwest (1959)
21 Psycho (1960)
22 Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)
23 12 Angry Men (1957)
24 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
25 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
26 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
27 Goodfellas (1990)
28 American Beauty (1999)
29 Vertigo (1958)
30 Pianist, The (2002)
31 Sunset Blvd. (1950)
32 Apocalypse Now (1979)
33 Some Like It Hot (1959)
34 Matrix, The (1999)
35 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
36 Taxi Driver (1976)
37 Third Man, The (1949)
38 Paths of Glory (1957)
39 Fight Club (1999)
40 Boot, Das (1981)
41 L.A. Confidential (1997)
42 Double Indenity (1944)
43 Chinatown (1974)
44 Requiem for a Dream (2000)
45 Maltese Falcon, The (1941)
46 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
47 Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)
48 Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001) (aka: Spirited away, for those who don’t know 🙂 this is the japanese name)
49 Saving Private Ryan (1998)
50 All About Eve (1950)
51 M (1931)
52 Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
53 Raging Bull (1980)
54 Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
55 Se7en (1995)
56 Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)
57 Wizard of Oz, The (1939)
58 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
59 Vita e bella, La (1997)
60 American History X (1998)
61 Sting, The (1973)
62 Touch of Evil (1958)
63 Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)
64 Alien (1979)
65 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
66 Rashemon (1950)
67 Leon (1994)
68 Annie Hall (1977)
69 Great Escape, The (1963)
70 Clockwork Orange, A (1971)
71 Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)
72 Reservoir Dogs (1992)
73 Sixth Sense, The (1999)
74 Jaws (1975)
75 Amadeus (1984)
76 On the Waterfront (1954)
77 Ran (1985)
78 Braveheart (1995)
79 High Noon (1952)
80 Fargo (1996)
81 Blade Runner (1982)
82 Apartment, The (1960)
83 Aliens (1986)
84 Toy Story 2 (1999)
85 Strangers on a Train (1951)
86 Modern Times (1936)
87 Shining, The (1980)
88 Donnie Darko (2001)
89 Duck Soup (1933)
90 Princess Bride, The (1987)
91 Lola rennt (1998) (aka, “Run Lola Run” in the american version)
92 City Lights (1931)
93 General, The (1927)
94 Metropolis (1927)
95 Searchers, The (1956)
96 Full Metal Jacket
97 Notorious (1946)
98 Manhattan (1979)
99 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
100 Graduate, The (1967)

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Accuracy in fiction

comments that I am being rather kind about historical fiction when I suggest reading it for style rather than accuracy. I’ve thought about this at lngth, mainly in the course of futile debate on the usenet group humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare with one Paul Crowley (not but a much less mellow Irish gentleman of the same name).

In particular, I found myself wrestling at various stages with Crowley’s statement that Shakespeare had an unparallelled “sense of history”. For me this statement is clearly false; the “historical” plays are full of inaccuracies for dramatic effect, eg the characters of Richard III, Macbeth and Brutus, the clocks in Julius Caesar, etc. This doesn’t make them bad plays; the point is the characterisation and the drama, not the accuracy of the setting. Crowley may have meant something different by it but I never became clear what that might be.

Now, of course, to make a convincing story the author does have to engage with his or her audience’s level of knowledge about the setting. Connie Willis’s otherwise excellent story “Fire Watch” is ruined for me not because of her portrayal of 1940’s London, which is no doubt rigorously researched and fully accurate, but because of her depiction of mid-21st century Oxford which is completely implausible. The result was that I spent most of the story picking up on the deliberate hints about the fate of St Paul’s and at the same time wondering what the author was trying to hint about the fate of Oxford. By making her future Oxford so similar to yer standard 20th century US campus, Willis no doubt intended to propel her readers from a familiar environment into an war-torn city, and it probably succeeds for most of them. For this Oxbridge graduate who grew up in Belfast, it just didn’t work.

But I try not to let that happen to me too often. As an sf reader I read stories at least in part for the imagination and vividness of the setting. In the case of a “real” setting that the author has not directly experienced, like the 12th century, Ancient Rome, Willis’ Oxford or Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars, it’s a more difficult task to pull off, but the rewards are the greater when they do.

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I’ve started screening CVs for our imminent vacancy in Kosovo. Found two applicants that looked moderately promising, noticed they both lived in the same city, called a friend in said city to see if she knew them. Turns out the two are married to each other! But submitted applications quite independently – though when I looked more closely I realised they had put the same home phone number. Interesting possibilities arise of two-for-the-price-of-one or some form of job share… but there are other candidates who need to be taken into consideration as well.

Just finished The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, having bought it changing planes in Zurich last weekend after I lost the only other unread book I’d brought on my trip (also because it was on the BBC Big Read list). I was pleasantly surprised. The setting is my favourite century, the 12th, in a fictional county of southern England between Hampshire and Sussex, and the topic is human relations and architecture. There were a couple of annoying historical inaccuracies – everyone in the book speaks English, and hardly anyone French; the story of the White Ship is brought in rather gratuitously as a plot device, and the character of Thomas a Becket at the end seems to me very different from what we know of the real one. But one should read historical fiction for style rather than accuracy, and this one passes that test.

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What country am I?

You’re Thailand!
Calmer and more staunchly independent than almost all those around you, you have a long history of rising above adversity.  Recent adversity has led to questions about your sexual promiscuity and the threat of disease, but you still manage to attract a number of tourists and admirers.  And despite any setbacks, you can really cook a good meal whenever it’s called for.  Good enough to make people cry.
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Hmm. I like “calmer and more independent” and “cook a good meal” but not sure I really like the sentence in between…

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Waking up

Yesterday was a pretty grim day, due almost entirely to lack of sleep the night before with Bridget keeping us awake from before 1 o’clock till after 4. Today is her sixth birthday, and she basically has the abilities of a two-year-old.

Last night was much better though. And yesterday picked up during the day – looks like I will get three papers on the EU and the Balkans published tomorrow, just before the Thessaloniki summit, and I got an opinion piece finished for IWPR.

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Balkan tour

Back from four days in Macedonia and Kosovo, mainly talking to my team in the Balkans (including Bosnia and Serbia) but with time out also for dinner on Saturday with two Kosovar intellectuals, and meetings on Thursday with senior government officials in Macedonia.

I do like Macedonia. I first visited in 1997, spending ten days travelling around Macedonia on behalf of my then employers persuading the local pols of the merits of multiparty democracy. Since then I’ve been back at least once a year, including another ten-day trip in the middle of the conflict in 2001. I played a minor but I hope positive part in the creation of the Ohrid Peace Agreement that year; I was the first person to publish the infamous Prizren Document in May, and also published an analysis of the draft peace agreement, leaked to me from an American source, in early July in one of the Macedonian magazines (which also meant I was able to be the first person to do an analysis of the final text when it was agreed in August). There is half a sentence in the peace agreement (the end of $3.3 in the main text, reinforced by the second and third bullet points of Annex B$4) which was actually my idea, as far as I know (see Section III, page 27 of a report I helped write)– at least I don’t know of any other person who suggested it before me. This was the radical thought that in any given Macedonian town, the mayor and the chief of police should talk to each other occasionally.

Ohrid itself, where I went on Thursday and stayed to yesterday, remains an underexploited jewel of a medieval city, perched on the edge of the eponymous lake. Unfortunately I had some difficulty in getting really tasty specimens of the famous local trout in the restaurants. But in general it was a good time. And good to take a detour to visit Kosovo again, which is always full of interesting developments. Now back in the office and still loads of work to do…

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Taking a quick break

Forging ahead on the work that Must Be Done before I depart for a long weekend in Macedonia and Kosovo tomorrow morning.

Rather shocked today by news from my Balkan contacts that a couple who are friends of mine have split up acrimoniously, amid a welter of public accusations of domestic violence. Pretty awful circumstances anyway, and then for it to hit the (notoriously bitchy) local press makes it much worse for all concerned. They both worked in the same NGO, and I’d been to several conferences there organised by them, plus taking my entire family out there last summer; happy memories of splashing around with them and their two small children in the hotel swimming pool, and (as is so often the case) I had no idea that there might be any problems.

I see from press reports that he has lost his job for sure, and I’d be surprised if she has stuck around (since she’s from Western Europe in the first place). So since I don’t have a home address for either of them, and the work contacts are presumably no good any more, it will probably be a very long time before I hear from either of them again. An awful shame; he’s a very bright chap but clearly has vicious character flaws, and she is very nice and deserved much better.

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Yesterday was supposedly a day off (Whit Monday) but I felt the pressure of work so went into the office anyway.

Big mistake.

It was quite a cool day outside, but we are on the 24th (top) floor, and as it was a public holiday the airconditioning was off. My office catches the full glare of the sun in early afternoon, and I was actually glad when a PhD student interrupted my lack of progress for a chat about the process of state collapse. Though in the end my thoughts were so mazy from heat and carbon dioxide poisoning that all I could do was give her two contacts who knew more about the subject than me.

I made two important management decisions but did none of the writing I had planned for myself, went home at 4 pm and slept for three hours, followed by the usual disturbed night. I’m working from home this morning.

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F’s new favourite

On the BBC Teletubbies site – the Colour Story. His enthusiasm does make it more difficult to “work” on the compuiter though.

I finished my review of the 2003 Hugo nominations; it turned into a meta-review; My picks are:

Novel: The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson: The book starts by kiling off the whole of Europe in the Black Death, leaving Islam and China to develop civilisation and the industrial revolution. This book is perhaps a bit of a reaction to the deterministic approach of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and Davis S. Landes’ The Wealth and Poverty of Nations which both argue that European superiority was more or less historically inevitable. My own view is that “natural” advantages need enlightened (or sometimes just lucky) rulers to exploit them – Rebecca West has some good observations on this in the Dubrovnik section of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. As a lapsed historian of science myself, I am particularly aware the rich tradition of Islamic knowledge, and that there was a time when Baghdad was the intellectual capital of the world. I also liked Robinson’s Mars trilogy and the supplementary volume. Here, rather than the somewhat strained immortality thrust upon the Mars characters, he has reincarnation as a connecting thread between ten linked novellas covering 700 years. Oddly enough he ends up in much the same place as Robert Sawyer in Hominids, with a rather utopian portrayal of an alternate timeline society contemporary with ours, but does it a hundred times better.

Best Novella: A Year in the Linear City by Paul Di Filippo – Brian Aldiss’ The Malacia Tapestry meets Christopher Priest’s Inverted World – as with Bones of the Earth I felt the plot took a while to get going but I was prepared to wait around for it. A superb and vivid setting on an apparently endless city which is two blocks wide, and where the afterlife visibly comes to get you when you die. The protagonist is a science fiction (“Cosmogonic Fiction”) writer; his spectacular girlfriend, his other somewhat disreputable friends, his father, his editor, and the mayor make up a memorable cast.

Best Novelette: “The Wild Girls” by Ursula Le Guin: not her best but I think the best of the nominations; a ghost story from two non-technological cultures with peculiar customs, told in an almost Biblical voice. One could reasonably ask how sfnal this story is, though, so I expect something else will win.

Best Short Story: “Falling Onto Mars” by Geoffrey A. Landis – Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles updated for the horrid realities of our 21st century. As a lapsed historian I very much liked the story’s motto, History is not necessarily what we’d like it to be….

Cars coming home to roost

A few weeks ago I grazed an elderly couple’s car as I came out of a side road too soon – entirely my fault, nobody hurt, very little damage to my massive Renault Espace (rented as part of my package deal from work), big dents in their smaller vehicle. I assumed it would be painful but that insurance would cover most of it. Got summoned by management yesterday to hear that the insurance policy won’t cover the first €1000 of repairs! Management were pretty outraged on my behalf (particularly since they have an identical deal and are worried it could happen to them) and promised to try and negotiate me a better outcome. But still, Ow.

We watched the 6th season finale of Buffy on BBC2 on Thrusday night. Excellent. I wonder what it says about us that a few years ago the programme we had to watch together was Friends and now it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer? (Probably it says that Buffy is much better but wasn’t around when Friends started.)

My latest package from Amazon arrived including Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Paul Di Filippo’s A Year in the Linear City. I’d already got hold of the latter free from Fictionwise and read it on my Palm Pilot earlier this week (mostly while stuck in traffic jams), but it’s always nicer to have it on paper. I read Coraline last night. This means that for the first time ever I have read all the Hugo nominees for fiction (having bought all the novels and got hold of all the short fiction on-line except the two that arrived today).

Well, I plan to do a full web-page on my site on this as I did last year. In brief, though:

Best Novel: Four good books here (and one bad one, Hominids by Robert Sawyer). I think that Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick had a slightly shaky structure – the plot seemed to only get going halfway through, though the setting of course was very well done. Kiln People by David Brin was very enjoyable as well. But I think it’s between the richly realised landscapes of The Scar by China Miéville and The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. Am rereading the latter to decide whether I like it more than the Miéville.

Best Novella: “Breathmoss” by Ian R. MacLeod – I couldn’t work out what was happening, maybe I should read it again when I’m not trying to go to sleep. “In Spirit” by Pat Forde – an almost successful attempt to write a good sf story about 9/11. “The Political Officer” by Charles Coleman Finlay – interesting setting but I couldn’t quite work up enthusiasm for it. Coraline by Neil Gaiman – Diana Wynne Jones predicts this book will displace Alice in Wonderland – come on, it’s good but not quite that good! “Bronte’s Egg” by Richard Chwedyk – lovely lovely story, already won the Nebula. But right now I think it must be A Year in the Linear City by Paul Di Filippo – Brian Aldiss’ The Malacia Tapestry meets Christopher Priest’s Inverted World – as with Bones of the Earth I felt the plot took a while to get going but I was prepared to wait around for it.

Best Novelette: None of these made a huge impression on me (not to the extent of The Scar, The Years of Rice and Salt or A Year in the Linear City). “Presence” by Maureen F. McHugh is yet another cure-for-Alzheimer’s story. All the other nominees dealt with spirituality and religion in some way. “Slow Life” by Michael Swanwick had an excellent human/alien encounter but was rather spoiled by the rather silly human/human encounters. “The Madonna of the Maquiladora” by Gregory Frost – richly realised setting but didn’t quite grab me; only got onto the shortlist because Ted Chiang withdrew his story “Liking What You See”. “Halo” by Charlie Stross – like “Slow Life, an outer planets (well, asteroids) setting; generally good but I thought the ending a little rushed. “The Wild Girls” by Ursula Le Guin – not her best but I think the best of this lot.

Best Short Story: “Hello, Said the Stick” by Michael Swanwick – Oh, come on, this is just silly. The others are all good though. “The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport” by Michael Swanwick – also fun, and would have been a sure winner in a less impressive year (as was the first story in this series last year). “Lambing Season” by Molly Gloss – got on the ballot when another story was disqualified – a thoughtful and understated little gem. “Creation” by Jeffrey Ford – again a lovely inversion of the Frankenstein story. In the end I think my tip is for “Falling Onto Mars” – Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles updated for the horrid realities of our 21st century, and as a lapsed historian I very much liked the story’s motto, History is not necessarily what we’d like it to be….

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The other top 100 sf and fantasy books list

There was a Top 100 sf and fantasy books meme going around last week which though well distributed didn’t actually have 100 books on it! It was more of “100 sf and fantasy classics” list, though, while Tristrom Cooke’s Top 100 list is much more of a live list, revised every few weeks, including many books I haven’t read, based on the votes of random readers. It actually means that classics tend to do less well – if you read a less well-known book and didn’t like it, you probably don’t bother voting it down, but if you really hated, say, Dune then a list like this is one more chance to get your revenge on Frank Herbert for wasting your time. Tristrom also sometimes lists series, sometimes anthologies, and sometimes single volumes, and has a modifier designed to mark down books with fewer voters. The list seems biased towards fantasy and Poles, but I guess that reflects the voters…

Having said all that, Tristrom’s current top 100 list is:

  1. A Song of Ice and Fire (series) by George R. Martin – a fantastic series, can’t wait for the next volume.
  2. Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien – rather a shock to find this slipping behind Martin, but I think it reflects the inherent bias against classics I noted above
  3. The Vorkosigan Series, by Lois McMaster Bujold – again, quite superb.
  4. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – I had slightly more mixed feelings about this one.
  5. The Wiedzmin Stories, by A. Sapkowski – never heard of this series, which seems perhaps to have benefited from a write-in vote…
  6. Dune, by Frank Herbertgood start to a series which I became less excited by.
  7. The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett – what, only in seventh place?
  8. Roadside Picnic, by A & B Strugatski – I found it gripping, the contemptuously absent aliens having monstrous effects on human society
  9. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons – actually have only read the first two as I have heard the second two are much less good.
  10. Hard to be a God, by A & B Strugatski
  11. The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay – I bought this one because it was on this list, and was enthralled.
  12. Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay – by the same token I will probably enjoy this one if I ever read it
  13. Beetle in the Anthill, by A & B Strugatski – haven’ even heard of this one
  14. A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge – Vinge has a fanatical following; I didn’t like the sequel at all but found this one pretty good.
  15. Palindor, by D.R. Evans – listing refers only to first book in series, an author I do not know.
  16. Armor, by John Steakley
  17. Deathbird Stories, by Harlan Ellison
  18. The Dragon Never Sleeps, by Glen Cook
  19. Replay, by Ken Grimwood
  20. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes – subject of the most visited page on my website; a masterpiece.
  21. The Stars my Destination, by Alfred Bester – to my shame, one I haven’t read
  22. Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart – I bought this one because the book recommender at Alexlit said I would like it, and I did – lovely fantasy tale of a China that never was
  23. The Nine Billion Names of God, by Arthur C. Clarke – the listing technically refers to the collection with this title rather than the short story, but I’m sure I’ve read and enjoyed most of the stories in the collection, including of course the title one.
  24. Tales of the Continuing Time, by Daniel Keys Moran
  25. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein – Heinlein’s last good book, though it’s a bit surprising not to see some of his earlier ones listed above it.
  26. The Deed of Paksennarion, by Elizabeth Moon – series I haven’t read though I greatly enjoyed here recent novel The Speed of Dark
  27. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien – only 27th?
  28. Fiasco, by Stanislaw Lem
  29. Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny – a favourite book of mine by a favourite author
  30. By the Sword, by Mercedes Lackey
  31. The Coldfire Trilogy, by C.S. Friedman
  32. The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
  33. The Best of Cordwainer Smith (collection), by Cordwainer Smith
  34. The Once and Future King, by T.H. White – brutal, but for my money still the best retelling of the Arthurian legend
  35. The Annals of the Black Company (series), by Glen Cook
  36. The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
  37. The First Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny – rollicking stuff, without the annoying inconsistencies and arbitrary twists of the second five books. I found the whole lot in one volume for a jolly good price in Belgrade last time I was there.
  38. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb – lots of people rave about this author but I haven’ yet been tempted
  39. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson – Still Stephenson’s best, adn I think also the best cyberpunk novel.
  40. Doors of his Face, Lamps of his Mouth, by Roger Zelazny – the listing refers to the collection, which of course is great.
  41. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  42. 1984, by George Orwell – again, probably this low on the list because of the classic effect.
  43. Watership Down, by Richard Adams – rather cute to see this here.
  44. The Cyberiad, by Stanislaw Lem – supposedly hilarious in the original Polish, raises the odd wry smile in English
  45. The Invincible, by Stanislaw Lem
  46. Persistence of Vision, by John Varley – OK I admit that I have probably only read the title story of this collection but it is pretty memorable.
  47. Quarantine, by Greg Egan – some rave about Egan; I found this book OK but am not rushing to buy more.
  48. The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories, by Gene Wolfe
  49. The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester
  50. True Names, by Vernor Vinge
  51. Soldier of the Mist, by Gene Wolfe
  52. Legend, by David Gemmell
  53. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (series), by Tad Williams
  54. God Stalk, by P.C. Hodgell
  55. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov – haven’t rereas these for years, and am somewhat hesitant to do so as I find I have grown out of Asimov’s style
  56. Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith
  57. Green Hills of Earth, by Robert A. Heinlein – from Heinlein’s heyday
  58. Vlad the Assassin Series, by Steven Brust
  59. Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks – Agreed; my favourite of Banks’ sf books.
  60. The Book of the New Sun (series), by Gene Wolfe – actually I’ve only read the first and third of these and found them intriguing, if slow going.
  61. The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers – a great debut which Powers hasn’t really matched since, though I’ve enjoyed all his other books.
  62. The Honor Harrington Series, by David Weber
  63. Stone of Tears, by Terry Goodkind
  64. Raising the Stones, by Sheri S. Tepper – certainly Tepper’s best, hitting on all her themes – feminism, religion, sex, violence – but not in too strident a way
  65. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis – surprised not to see a series listing for Narnia, but perhaps this is the best of them
  66. Tea with the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy
  67. A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge – as said above, I found this unsatisfactory, though the Hugo voters did not.
  68. The Last Unicorn, by Peter Beagle
  69. The Chung Kuo Series, by David Wingrove – actually I only read the first two and as the sex got more vicious and the characters less attractive I have given up for now.
  70. Startide Rising, by David Brin – Probably the best of Brin’s Uplift sequence of books, though I have faithfully bought each of the others and only been slightly disappointed.
  71. A Song for Arbonne, by Guy G. Kay
  72. A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin – now, not having this above the Hobbit is a disgrace!
  73. Way Station, by Clifford Simak
  74. The Tactics of Mistake, by Gordon Dickson – have a feeling I may have read this in my teens but it left no impression.
  75. A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny – Zelazny’s last good book, Cthulhoid horrors almost meet Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper. I think. It’s difficult to be sure but worth the ride.
  76. The Madness Season, by C.S. Friedman
  77. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  78. The Fionavar Tapestry (series), by Guy G. Kay
  79. Ubik, by Philip K. Dick – an surprising result for Best Dick Novel – surely Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or even more so A Scanner Darkly are better?
  80. On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers – it all meshed together very satisfactorily in this one too.
  81. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams – of course.
  82. Last Call, by Tim Powers
  83. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart – Like TH White, a superb retelling of the Arthurian legends from Merlin’s point of view. This book, the first and best of the series, deals with the youth of Merlin.
  84. Something Wicked this Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  85. A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller – superb, religion and far future, and surprisingly humorous.
  86. Futurological Congress, by Stanislaw Lem
  87. Against a Dark Background, by Iain M. Banks – oh, yes. *shiver*
  88. More than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon – rather surprising, I don’t think this one has weathered the test of time so well.
  89. Crystal Express, by Bruce Sterling
  90. Neutron Star, by Larry Niven – early Niven collection, from when he was young and hungry and still a good writer.
  91. Sojourn, by R.A. Salvatore
  92. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut – tremendous satire on nuclear weapons, religion, colonialism.
  93. Dying Inside, by Robert Silverberg – gloomy novel of telepath losing his powers
  94. The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan – fourth book of the Wheel of Time – actually I think this was the point where I lost interest in the series.
  95. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll – suffers from being a classic.
  96. Tides of Light, by Gregory Benford
  97. Magic’s Pawn, by Mercedes Lackey
  98. The Sparrow, by Mary D. Russell – excellent, if you can ignore the incorrect physics and disappointing sequel.
  99. City, by Clifford Simak
  100. The Door into Summer, by Robert A. Heinlein

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Heavy day, mostly spent getting our new report on Brcko published. I had to redraw the map of Bosnia by hand to get the Brcko District boundaries right as there doesn’t seem to be an up-to-date map of the country on the internet apart from a couple of rather basic ones on the OHR website. And the Brcko Final Award was in March 1999!

Then an excellent conversation in Sean O’Casey’s with Graham Andrews and his wife Agnes. Apart from being long-term sf fans, they live just around the corner from where we used to in Rhode-St-Génèse. I had quoted Graham’s encomia of James White on my Irish sf page but never met him before. Much conversation about life in Belfast in the 1970s, Northern Ireland politics, and so on. Our first meeting but I hope not our last.

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Well, in the literal sense. I just set up a mailing list on Yahoo! for the Northern Ireland elections site, sent out 450 invites, and in the last couple of hours over twenty people have already joined. Rather affirming.

Also rather affirming is that the boss like our new Bosnia report and we should be able to get it out tomorrow. Will require me to pull all the stops out but worth it.

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