Ken Scholes’s The Psalms of Isaak

Over the holidays, I reread the first four volumes of Ken Scholes’s The Psalms of Isaak in preparation for the release of the fifth and final volume. I’m glad I did. There were things I had missed or didn’t remember. Hymn, the final volume, provided a satisfying conclusion (albeit with a bit of a deus ex machina—which is a pun, should you read the books) while leaving the door open for future stories in the same world. I hope Scholes does continue creating here.

The books, in order:

  • Lamentation
  • Canticle
  • Antiphon
  • Requiem
  • Hymn

I’m very sad about this

Early morning, Wednesday, 27 January

Just in from Kathleen Bartholomew, Kage Baker’s sister and care giver:

Kage’s doctor has informed us she has reached the end of useful treatment. The cancer has slowed, but not stopped. It has continued to spread at an unnatural speed through her brain, her lungs and – now – reappeared in her abdomen. It is probably a matter of a few weeks, at most.

Kage has fought very hard, but this is just too aggressive and mean. She’s very, very tired now, and ready for her Long Sleep. She’s not afraid.

We’ve been in a motel the last week or so, in order to complete her therapy. I’ll have her home in her own bedroom by the weekend, though, so end of life care can take place in more comfortable surroundings.

via Green Man Review and John Scalzi.

There are two intertwined sources of grief in this news.

First, I love Kage Baker’s books, especially the Company novels.

Second, my late friend Barbara and I read most of them together as they came out, and they were central to our recognition that we turned time and again to unorthodox time-travel books. (Other notable authors in that category are Kim Stanley Robinson and Connie Willis.)

And now not only will I not be reading new Kage Baker novels with Barbara, I won’t be reading any at all. Barbara’s last weeks at home in hospice care were rich and filled with loving friends and family, and she simply never woke up from an afternoon nap. My prayers are with Kage, her sister, their family and friends, as she continues along the path we will all walk one day.

2008 technology: Kindle

After eyeing them online, I finally handled a Kindle and talked to a couple of Kindle-owners last June. That rather undermined my defenses against buying one, and I finally broke down in August and bought one.

I love it!

Does it have room for improvement? Yes. The configuration of the buttons is a bit awkward. Putting the on/off and wireless switches on the back doesn’t work all that well with the cover (which depends on a little tab on the back to stay in place). Said cover comes off a little too easily.

Am I reading more? Yes, even if I haven’t been blogging the books. Neal Stephenson’s Anathem was really great. I’ve reread Swiss Family Robinson. I’m almost done with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.

Is it legible? Yes. You need external light. One of the reasons I bought it is that it doesn’t shine into my eyes like computer screens and nearly every other electronic device I own.

Is it easy to use? Yes, with some caveats. If you buy books from the Amazon Kindle store, it is a breeze. If you want books from somewhere else, you need to be careful about format, and then you need to use a cable to transfer the file to the Kindle. It is possible to convert formats either by emailing the file via your Kindle email address, or to use a piece of PC-only software (which actually works quite nicely).

The longer you wait, the farther away it gets

On September 15, 2006, I ordered a special 25th anniversary edition of one of my favorite books, Little, Big by John Crowley, which was then in preparation. (I even sprang for a copy of the numbered edition, I like this book that much.) There is a theme in the book, that the farther in you go, the bigger it gets. Waiting for this book to appear feels much like that. Here’s the most recent (October 3) update from the publisher:

A few folks have made the perfectly reasonable request that I post updates on the progress of Little, Big 25 more frequently and more regularly; I will do so at least once a month from now on, and as we get closer to finishing the book that frequency will only increase.

The news from September is not ideal. I threw my back out badly early in the month, and was barely able to move for twelve days. I got little work done during that time, and it’s taken me awhile to get back up to speed since. I am still immersed in choosing the art for The Wild Wood, and expect that John Berry and I will finish that within ten days or so, and move on to The Art of Memory. I will post another update at that point.

I regret to say that this means we won’t be able to get books out in time for Christmas. Better that I make that clear now rather than later. January remains a possibility.

In other news, the Numbered Edition is almost sold out: out of 300 numbered copies, we have sold 290: only ten remain. Those interested in buying a Numbered copy should enquire about availability at vranizky@speakeasy.net.

Many thanks for your continued patience and forbearance. Please look for another update around the middle of October.

It is, you will note, nearly the middle of November and there has been no update. I don’t know whether to feel resigned, sad, or angry.

Books as business, take 2

The New York article I blogged a few days ago got quite a response from Kassia Krozser at Booksquare, It’s Only The End of Rose-Colored Glasses:

Noted statistician Philip Roth estimated, fifteen years ago, “…there were at most 120,000 serious American readers—those who read every night—and that the number was dropping by half every decade.” If this were even remotely true, then the New York publishing industry would have collapsed ages ago. Lordy, how would they make the rent on those Manhattan offices?

What is really meant by this, and what is really meant by this article is that a certain segment of the publishing industry is in jeopardy: literary (with a capital L) fiction. More specifically, literary fiction from New York publishers. Look at who is doing the hand-wringing, who is doing the worrying. If this is the end (and it’s not), then what, exactly, is ending?

Both posts have quite a few great comments, well worth the time.