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New entry May 28

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Books from Critters!

Check out Books by Critters for books by your fellow Critterfolk, as well as my list of recommended books for writers.

New Book from a Critter Member

**NOW IN PRINT EDITION TOO!** Awesome new book, HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SPECULATIVE FICTION OPENINGS, from a Critter member who's unearthed a shard of The Secret to becoming a pro writer. Really good piece of work. "...if you're at all concerned about story openings, you'd be nuts not to read what Qualkinbush has to say." —Wil McCarthy, author of BLOOM and THE COLLAPSIUM

The Sigil Trilogy

If you're looking for an amazing, WOW! science fiction story, check out THE SIGIL TRILOGY. This is — literally — one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read.


I was interviewed live on public radio for Critters' birthday, for those who want to listen.

Free Web Sites

Free web sites for authors (and others) are available at www.nyx.net.

ReAnimus Acquires Advent!

ReAnimus Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of the legendary Advent Publishers! Advent is now a subsidiary of ReAnimus Press, and we will continue to publish Advent's titles under the Advent name. Advent was founded in 1956 by Earl Kemp and others, and has published the likes of James Blish, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, Damon Knight, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and many others. Advent's high quality titles have won and been finalists for several Hugo Awards, such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heinlein's Children. Watch this space for ebook and print editions of all of Advent's current titles!

Book Recommendation

THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock

Announcing ReAnimus Press

If you're looking for great stuff to read from bestselling and award-winning authors—look no further! ReAnimus Press was founded by your very own Critter Captain. (And with a 12% Affiliate program.) [More]








Aburt's Favorite Books List

Aburt's (Really In Need Of Updating But Still Good Stuff) Favorite Books List

There are a few things aburt knows well -- computers, science fiction, and writing -- plus a few subjects in which he just knows what he likes. Here are some of my favorite books, with links to Amazon.com in case you want more information about them, read reviews, or to pop right off and buy them.


Science Fiction New Releases
Science Fiction Classics
Fiction Writing
Personal Fitness
Computers & Programming
Aburt's Own books

Science Fiction New Releases

I'm on a publisher's review list, and receive all (well, most) new SF books that come out. I'm a pretty harsh critic when it comes to SF -- it has to be well written, with terrific characterization, big ideas, well drawn settings, all in one package. So not that you'll agree with me on these, but here are ones I thought worthwhile:

    [Cover] Ilium by Dan Simmons

    Greek gods & goddesses, the Trojan War, little green men, and robots from the asteroid belt... what more do I need to say, other than it's great?

    [Cover] The System of the World by Neal Stephenson
    The Confusion

    Neal just lets loose in this epic... Epic is too small a word. The kitchen sink is in here.

    [Cover] Eyes of the Calculor by Sean McMullen
    The Miocene Arrow
    Souls in the Great Machine

    Since I get so many books, I give most the one-page test -- did it draw me in after one page. I couldn't put this one down. The Greatwinter trilogy are pure SF delight. You need not read one to enjoy the other, but you'll want to. Folks who think computers were just invented to make us slaves to our desks will love the Calculor -- a computer literally made up of human components, slaves with names like ADD 17, MULTIPLIER 8, and FUNCTION 9, who toil at their desks on behalf of a wicked arch-librarian. Byzantine intrigue, love, epic drama, sentient satellites, dueling librarians, it's all here. More lords a dueling in Arrow, this time over a retro-future US with low-tech personal flying machines... Run, don't walk, your mouse to the links above & buy these!

    [Cover] Dark Matter : A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora by Sheree Thomas, ed.

    As Amazon.com says in their review, "This anthology's critical and historical importance is indisputable. But that's not why it will prove to be the best anthology of 2000 in both the speculative and the literary fiction fields. It's because the stories are great"!

    [Cover] Dune: House Corrino by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
    Dune: House Harkonnen
    Dune: House Atreides

    Frank Herbert's son, Brian, and Kevin Anderson, using FH's original notes, have written a terrific "prequel" series. It captures the essence of FH's style and world, just as if FH were still alive. If you liked the Dune series, this one's for you.

    [Cover] My Favorite Science Fiction Story by Martin H. Greenberg, ed.

    Marty Greenberg, the grandmaster of science fiction anthologies, asked seventeen of the biggest names in SF writing to choose their favorite story (much like "You've Got to Read This" for non-SF, below). A must read for SF fans and would-be writers.

    [Cover] The SFWA Grand Masters, vol. 1 by Frederik Pohl, ed.
    The SFWA Grand Masters, vol. 2 by Frederik Pohl, ed.
    The SFWA Grand Masters, vol. 3 by Frederik Pohl, ed.

    Got to be one of the most spectacular anthologies of science fiction short stories ever. (The Grand Master awards are given out to the true legends of SF, a sort of lifetime achievement award.) The most exemplary works from the greatest of the great.

Science Fiction Classics

There are just some classic SF books that (IMHO) everyone should read who likes SF, and can't be said to know the breadth and depth of the field if they haven't read them. They're timeless, seminal, the cream of the crop.

Fiction Writing

I believe writing is best learned by practice and by reading the best works. Although I, myself, mainly write science fiction, I believe that the way to write the best science fiction is to study the absolute best fiction. (Not to mention, it's terribly fun to read.)

While I've recommended my favorite SF books and short stories above, here are some of my favorite non-SF works. Science fiction is frequently light on characterization, a problem novice SF writers could overcome by studying the likes of the following. And who knows, you might actually enjoy them, since they're just so well written.

Since so many writers begin with short stories, this list is weighted with many anthologies and collections.

    [Cover] You've Got to Read This by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard

    This is an awesome anthology of short stories, recommended by famous authors asked to suggest the stories that "held them in awe". Since science fiction is about the "sense of wonder," this book is particularly appropriate, since all the selected stories are ones that induced that sense of awe and wonder in the reader/authors who chose them. If you're not "into" non-SF literature, this is the one anthology you should read.

    [Cover] The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

    Flannery O'Connor just writes amazing stories. Dark but terribly funny. She has an incredible way with words. One of, if not the, best short story writers ever.

    [Cover] The Oxford Book of American Short Stories by Joyce Carol Oates, ed.

    A terrific anthology of stories spanning from Washington Irving to Pickney Benedict, chosen by Joyce Carol Oates, one of the legends of our time. Anthologies like these are great jumping off points to find authors you want to read/study more of.

    [Cover] The Norton Book of American Short Stories by Peter S. Prescott, ed.

    Like the Oxford collection, the Norton collection has an engrossing mix of stories, just chosen by a different editor.

    [Cover] Collected Stories by Willa Cather

    I often find that female authors have the best insights into characters, and I think Willa Cather among the best. It's also interesting reading from a standpoint of Americana, but read it simply for the characterization.

    [Cover] The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch

    One of my personal favorite novels, even though it's relatively obscure. It was also made into a movie, with Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and Linda Hunt (who earned a well-deserved Academy Award for her portrayal of Billy Kwan). To my mind, Billy is just about the ideal character: Incredibly complex, chasmically deep of feeling, terribly conflicted, idealistic, selfish... The novel is important to SF writers also for how it brings to life an exotic culture. Koch doesn't hit the reader over the head with worldbuilding as much SF does, but weaves it so integrally into the story it becomes a multidimensional character itself.

    [Cover] 60 Stories by Donald Barthelme

    If you want to write compactly, as the short form requires, study Donald Barthelme. 450 pages with 60 stories -- an average of 7.5 pages each. His style is most unusual, but he manages to do a lot with a little.

    [Cover] The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov by Vladimir Nabokov

    If you want to put incredible textures in your writing and study a master of "sumptuous" evocation of the senses, study this. Incredible.

    [Cover] The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Sure, you probably read it in school, but if you haven't read it recently (since you began writing seriously), read it again. It's consistently ranked as one of the absolute best novels of all time (and is my personal #1).

    [Cover] The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

    It's hard to tell if this is a novel or a collection of short stories linked together. Both, I suppose. They're all terrific, and fantastic examples of how to write short fiction that packs a kick, but the title story is so good I can't think of a more perfect example of a short story. (Yes, I am indeed saying this is my all-time favorite short story and something I consider as near to perfect as a short story can get.) You don't have to even like Vietnam stories to want to read this one over and over.

    [Cover] The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
    The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

    Buy this book (both of them!). I read the first as a galley, and instantly knew this is a book I had to recommend to writers. Noah's an agent, has been an editor, and he knows his stuff. This is not particularly a book on how to write -- it's better: It's a book on how not to get rejected. The second continues the excellent advice.

    [Cover] The 10% Solution by Ken Rand

    As Ed Bryant says in his blurb, "This little book offers no magical shortcut; but it does distill many years' professional experience and common sense. When I suspect that one of my own stories is working, it's inevitably for one or more of the reasons Ken enumerates herein. The guy knows what he's talking about. If you're a long-time successful writer, pick this up as your refresher course. If you're an ambitious novice, consider this your bible." Also available direct from the publisher, Fairwood Press.

Personal Fitness

I firmly believe that a healthy mind requires a healthy body. Toward that end, I'll recommend the following:

    [Cover] Body for Life : 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Fitness Forever by Bill Phillips & Michael D'Orso

    I confess I'm a neighbor of Bill Phillips so I've seen the meteoric rise of his fitness empire, but perhaps because of that I admire him all the more. He runs EAS, a company that makes nutritional supplements, he runs a fitness magazine, and he's the guy folks like John Elway, Mike Piazza, and Sylvester Stallone consult. (Watch Bronco games, and you'll see many EAS baseball caps. :-) I also confess I haven't done more than browse this book (I'm not quite the target audience, though I might have been many years ago, before I began working out), but I doubt you can go wrong here.


[Cover] Running With Scissors by Weird Al Yankovic

The parody of Star Wars Episode 1 to the tune of American Pie had me rolling on the floor laughing. You can listen to the song, or watch a here (though you need an up-to-date video player, beware). Amazon has some audio snippets on their page (click on picture or title above).

[Cover] An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer by Tom Lehrer

You haven't laughed until you've listened to Tom Lehrer, a math grad student at Harvard eons ago who wrote the most incredibly funny songs... until they kicked him out. :-) Get all of his albums; the above and:

Computers & Programming

I've spent twelve years teaching computer science, and have amassed a number of favorite books for learning how to program, etc. Most of these are books I've used as class texts.

Aburt's own


Return to Aburt's Favorite Books


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