City of Darkness, by Ben Bova

I’ve recently been in a mood to shop used bookstores as well as read obscure science fiction. This dangerous combination has resulted in me purchasing a number of books by well-known authors that have been forgotten, probably for the best. I have decided to add a new category of book blogging to my blog categories, namely “I read it so you don’t have to.”

The first of these that I purchased is City of Darkness (1976), by famed sci-fi author Ben Bova.

As the book cover indicates, the book is set in a — utopia? dystopia? — in which all major cities have been closed and sealed under domes due to rampant pollution and disease. However, every two months of the year, New York City is opened up to tourists, and the city comes alive in a wild recreation of what it must have been like in its heyday.

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Larry Blamire’s More Tales of the Callamo Mountains

Larry Blamire is a very good writer. That is the first thought that came to mind when I sat down to blog about his recently published collection, More Tales of the Callamo Mountains (2017).

As the name suggests, this collection is a followup to Blamire’s excellent Tales of the Callamo Mountains, which came out a decade earlier.  It is a set of fourteen stories set in the haunted fictional Callamo Mountains that explore ordinary frontier folks’ encounters with the unknown, the horrific, and the monstrous.  And as I have already hinted, the stories are very, very good.  I was one of many fans of the original who hoped for, and cajoled Blamire about, a second volume, and we were not disappointed.

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Connecting a PS2 to an HDMI TV

This past week I had an incredible urge to play the original Katamari Damacy videogame on my old Playstation 2. Unfortunately, the PS2 does not play well with modern HD TVs, as the allowable video modes for the PS2 are often not supported.  If you try and plug in a PS2 to a new TV, even using the more advanced component cables, you probably won’t get anything.

Fortunately, you can buy a cool PS2 to HDMI converter these days, such as the one shown below, for only about $16.

Unfortunately, the instructions that come with the converter are a little misleading and incomplete, and there doesn’t seem to be an online resource that includes all the info you need to set it up properly. Even though it isn’t hard, there are a few pitfalls: it took me a few tries to figure out exactly what I needed to do in order to get it to work.

I thought I would post the instructions here, both for anyone who wants a one stop explainer as well as for myself, so I don’t forget!

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RIP Fluff, 2011-2018

Losing a beloved animal friend is always hard, but it is even harder when they are taken from you too soon.  Last night, unexpectedly, our beloved kitty Fluff passed away at the age of 6.

Fluff in December.

He apparently passed very quickly, and without any warning signs. He had just had a vet checkup the week before, and even the morning he passed he was energetic and happy.  It seems likely that the cause of his death was a congenital heart or brain defect that caught up with him suddenly.

It is impossible to truly convey in words what a special kitty Fluff was.  He was a perpetual kitten, looking for and giving love to whomever he could.

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Posted in Animals, Personal | 6 Comments

Fred Saberhagen’s Swords Trilogy

At the end of 2017, we were treated to the news that Amazon was planning a new series based on Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings series. The response on the internet seemed to be a bit of a collective groan, as the last Hobbit movie just came out four years ago, and the last of the epic Lord of the Rings movies was only 15 years ago.  Many, including myself, asked: aren’t there any other epic fantasy series that could be adapted instead?

Of course there are many. One example that I think would have a lot of promise for an incredible screen adaptation is Fred Saberhagen’s Book of Swords trilogy, which I finished reading a week ago.

The trilogy, called first Swords here, first appeared over 1983-1984; of course I came across it after I finished reading Saberhagen’s Berserker and became curious about his other works.

The series is a lot of fun! There are some things I think are lacking, which I discuss in this post, but overall it is an enjoyable and intriguing read.

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Non-Stop, by Brian Aldiss

I often come across classic books to read through unexpected, even surprising, avenues. An example of this is Non-Stop (1958), by Brian Aldiss, which I just finished reading the other day and enjoyed immensely.

I only learned about Non-Stop because it ended up being the inspiration for the very first science fiction role-playing game, Metamorphosis Alpha, a classic in its own right.  (I discussed Metamorphosis Alpha in a recent blog post.)  It is a magnificent and unusual science fiction novel, and well-worth reading. Some thoughts follow.

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Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker

They are intelligent machines the size of a small moon, packed with enough weaponry to cauterize the surface of countless planets and destroy any defenders. They bear the scars of countless battles, which they have always won.  They were built millennia ago by one alien empire to eradicate the other — the doomsday weapons followed their programming to the letter and eliminated both.  They have one purpose: the extermination of all life.

And now they have come across the human civilization, spread across the cosmos. Humanity calls them “Berserkers.”

Such is the overarching premise of the Berserker series of books, by Fred Saberhagen; the first of these, simply titled Berserker, I finished reading recently.  Saberhagen eventually either wrote or contributed to 17 books, the last appearing in 2005.  I don’t know if I’ll read all of them, but I really enjoyed the first. Some thoughts follow.

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