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The Weird Universe explores a human and natural cosmos that is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. The usual suspects are Paul Di Filippo; Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes; and Chuck Shepherd, purveyor of News of the Weird.

Recent posts:

  • Flying Aircraft Carrier
    Concept airplane from 1955. Jet fighters would land on top of it, then be lowered below on the ramp. It reminded me of the flying aircraft carrier (or "helicarrier") from the Avengers movies. 1955 Concept "Flying Airfield" -- Source: Life - Sep 26, 1955 Avengers' Helicarrier
  • Muskogee Stomp Dance
    The level of ritual fervor seems decidedly low here. Also, lack of vintage garb is rather incongruous. All in all, I suspect, a pale shadow of what once was a vital artform.
  • Ezekiel Bread
    The Bible contains only one full recipe, which is given to Ezekiel by God (Ezekiel 4:9): Take you also to you wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make you bread thereof… And you shall eat it as barley cakes, and you shall bake it with dung that comes out of man. So you gotta bake it with human poop, which means it might not be to everyone's taste. Though God subsequently relented and allowed Ezekiel to substitute cow dung. This was one of the recipes explored by the Rev. Rayner Hesse and Anthony Chiffolo in their book Cooking With the Bible (it came out in 2006), in which they set out to recreate the various meals and foods that appear throughout the Bible. Apparently they cooked up some Ezekiel bread, as an experiment, and Hesse said it tastes "like moldy bean sprouts." But he added, "You don't want to eat it. Never, ever. Let me emphasize that: Never." Other treats to be found in the book include Locust Soup, and Locusts and Honey. More info at the LA Times.
  • Oodles of Boodle and Batches of Scratch
  • Norwegian Navy Beard Form
    If sailors in the Norwegian Navy want to grow a beard, they must submit a form requesting permission to do so. This form should include a drawing of what their beard will look like. Redditor "aellgutta" recently shared a photo of such a form that he submitted, along with a translation: On the top it says "BEARD APPLICATION", then it's rank/ military ID-number, full name and platoon/ division. Then it says "Reason:" to which I wrote "I get irritated skin from daily shaving and it's starting to get cold outside." Under the sketch I drew, it says "DRAW HERE!" and at the bottom the Lieutenant has written that he will inspect it after the next excercise (which gave me about 2,5 weeks) followed by a stamp to show my application was accepted.
  • Rare Instance of VW Beetle Seeming Sexy
    Romance over practicality? What were they thinking?

The Inferior 4+1 is a Livejournal community maintained by Paul, lizhand, Paul Witcover, lucius-t and ljgoldstein.

Recent posts:

  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE May 30, 2015
    A look at the second novel from James Cambias:
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE May 29, 2015
    A review of a new novel by Chris Beckett:
  • Andre Norton at Open Road Media May 29, 2015
    Yours truly participates here.
  • Let Me Explain... No, There Is Too Much. Let Me Sum Up. May 27, 2015
    I may or may not blog about the novels on the ballot, but it'll take a while for me to read them all and write about them.  So I thought I'd take a breather here and just talk about what I learned from reading all the short fiction on the Hugo ballot.First of all, these are bad stories.  With few exceptions they range from really, really awful to mediocre.  (I thought "The Triple Sun" was decent, and "Championship B'tok" might have been all right if I knew more about what was going on, but neither of them rise to the level of a Hugo nominee.)  And they're all bad in different ways.  There are cardboard characters, plots without tension, confusing plots, poor writing, commonplace ideas, allegories that don't allegorize, and stories that are just boring as hell.One of my questions when I started was why the Puppies chose these specific stories.  And after all that reading, I have to say that I still don't know, and the statements of the Puppies themselves don't really help.  Larry Correia wanted to nominate stories that would "make literati heads explode," stories with right-wing themes that would anger SJWs (Super-Judgmental Werewolves?) when they appeared on the ballot.  But we're very used to narratives of straight white men doing straight white manly things, and even seeing those stories nominated for Hugos.  It's all just business as usual.  I don't know about other people's crania, but my head stayed firmly on my shoulders while I was reading -- though it did slip toward the desk a few times, my eyes closing, thinking, Ho hum, another one …Correia also rejected "boring message fiction" -- but then how to explain John C. Wright's Catholic apologia, or Tom Kratman's push for more and more weaponry?  And his final explanation was that people were mean to him at a convention.  Okay, but why these stories?  Was putting us through all of this his idea of revenge?Brad Torgersen, famously, wanted books that matched their covers.  He also wanted non-literary, non-elitist fiction, only for John C. Wright to say that he, at least, did write literary work.  (Not by me, he doesn't, but that's a whole other discussion.)What about nominating good stories?  Surely that should be the most important criterion of all for a Hugo award, but in fact it was very rarely mentioned by the Puppies themselves.  And yet here was an unmatched opportunity to introduce the sf community to well-written fiction by conservative-leaning authors.*  Instead they gave us this parade of shabby, stale stories, a series of embarrassments compared to previous nominees and winners.Look, guys.  Science fiction is, almost by definition, about all of time and space.  You can write about  practically anything.  A proton that unfolds in other dimensions to cover an entire planet, as in Three Body Problem.  A battalion sharing a single mind, as in Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Justice.  Love.  Lust.  Greed.  Revenge, or deciding against revenge, as in The Goblin Emperor.  Galaxy-spanning civilizations.  Incomprehensible aliens.  Three sexes.  Four sexes.  Sixteen sexes.  Magic.  Obsession.  Strangeness.I don't know about you, but this year I feel cheated.----* For example, "Salvage and Demolition" by Tim Powers, which would have been eligible in the Novella category in 2014.  Check it out.
  • New Review at the B&NR May 26, 2015
    What's cooking with Paolo Bacigalupi?
  • The Hugo Ballot, Part 15: Back to Novellas May 25, 2015
    Okay, I'm surprised.  Tom Kratman's "Big Boys Don't Cry" actually reads in places like an anti-war story.  Well, let's not get carried away here -- it's more a story about the harm that fighting wars can do, the ways in which a personality can be twisted and perverted by the aims of those in command.Maggie is a Ratha, an intelligent fighting vehicle who has been through countless battles, and been made to forget some of her more disturbing actions.  She has been mortally wounded and is being taken apart for scrap -- but the more the workers drill down, the more she starts remembering things that now seem to her to be problematic.What this means is that, through Maggie's memory, we see a lot of battles, and that means a lot of weaponry.  A lot of weaponry, each with its own exhaustive description: "Then there was the question of tracked versus the recently developed antigravity technology… The five options were: tracked, antigravity, both but with an emphasis on tracked and an anti-gravity assist to reduce ground pressure" -- well, there are two more options, but you get the idea.  "Meanwhile, the Ratha's secondary armament, a 75mm KE cannon, electrically driven and coaxially mounted, plus two similarly mounted 15mm Gauss Guns…"  I have to be honest here -- I skimmed through a lot of this.  I'm not all that interested in weapons, but really, I can't think of anything that I'd read huge lists of with interest -- dogs, chocolate, you name it.I know that some people like meticulous descriptions of weapons, that it's one of the tropes of military sf.   (Also explosions.  There are lots of explosions here too.)  And I have no problem with that -- have at it.  The only thing is --Well, about midway through, the story changes.  Maggie starts remembering the unjust wars she took part in, the innocent people she slaughtered at the command of her superiors.  And for me, this juxtaposition didn't work -- there seemed to be a huge disconnect between the two sections.  It seemed to be saying, "War is terrible -- but also, it's a lot of fun!  Look at all these cool weapons!"  The parts never joined up into a full, rounded whole.And there's another thing.  I expected to be reading a good many right-wing talking points in the Sad Puppy stories, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of them had no conscious message at all.  I was almost to the end of the ballot, home free, and then…It's almost as if the author can't help himself; he has to take pot-shots wherever he can, or even carve out a place for them if one doesn't exist.  So people who don't make preparation for war are "low-grade morons" and "moral lepers" -- this from a third-person viewpoint, which makes no value judgments before or after this one outburst.  One of the few women in the story, a planetary governor "unimportant in every mind but her own," is shown to be incompetent and over her head.  A man named Garcia is described only as short and "greasy looking."The weirdest jab is for the concept of non-binary gender.  One of the Rathas "has certain peculiarities in its crystalline brain (to wit, being unable to decide whether it was male or female, hence never given a nickname, and never fully integrated into the unit)."  Why?  Was zie manufactured like that?  Why would this happen, if all the other Rathas were created to identify as male or female, and binary gender is important to the cohesiveness of the unit?  But the whole point, of course, is to show how unnatural non-binary gender is, how the other Rathas don't like zir (why not?), and refuse to let zir join in any Ratha games.The prevailing mood of the story is mournful, elegiac, a character coming to terms with a difficult past.  Every time Kratman pauses to insert his opinion on something unrelated it jars badly with the tone, pulling the reader right out of the narrative, making them wonder what the point is.  (For example, why is the planetary governor "unimportant"?  She's certainly important enough for someone to nominate her as governor.)  And it turns the story into "message fiction," something I thought the Puppies were against.