My very first Sight Unseen list, as a child, consisted entirely of bands; those whose music was so formative to me, I’d buy every new record they put out. Not all of those records were as great as the ones that made me a fan in the first place, of course. It’s hard to never put a foot wrong. But it was a way of supporting and repaying creators who meant a lot to me.
Creators in other media, as well as one or two more bands, would later join the list; writers, artists, film directors, and so on. It’s never been enormous, and it does change from time to time as the (very long) statute of limitations on my loyalty occasionally runs out on a creator whose subsequent work consistently disappoints — but even then, I’m reluctant. Some of Motörhead’s albums towards the end of their career were patchy to say the least; but the very last, released just four months before Lemmy’s death, was their best in years.
(Note that this is different to sticking with a specific series. For example, I’ve been reading the SONG OF ICE AND FIRE books for the past twenty years, and will continue so long as GRRM keeps writing them, but I can take or leave most of his other output.)
It’s on my mind partly because this weekend I recorded a podcast (coming soon, but not yet) about PATTERN RECOGNITION, my favourite novel by an author who’s been on the list since the 1980s: William Gibson. Gibson isn’t the most prolific novelist — so far publishing just 11 books in 35 years — but whenever he does bless us with a new tome, I’m first in line. It’s become a ritual for me to save each new book of his for my next vacation or holiday, when I can just sink into it completely uninterrupted.
The other reason I’m thinking about this is that I suspect the list is about to gain its first new entry in a while: Becky Chambers, author of the “Wayfarers” series. I read the first, THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET, last year and was blown away by it. I’m currently two-thirds through the second, A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT, and find myself once again in awe of just how damn good it is. Assuming she sticks the landing here as well as she did in the first book, yeah, I reckon Chambers has earned herself a place.
Who’s on your Sight Unseen list? Hit me up on twitter and let me know:
AS TOLD TO…
Friend and colleague Dan Moren pointed out that the quote from Neil Gaiman I mentioned last time was actually Gaiman himself quoting Gene Wolfe. I guess wisdom never gets old.
TECH THE TECH
It’s a good gag, but there’s method in the madness.
STAR TREK screenwriters would often power through story meetings and rough drafts by glossing over many of an episode’s technical aspects, using “TECH” as a placeholder, until they could later return and fill in the blanks. So jargon-filled lines like “Maybe we can reverse the polarity of the dilithium crystals!” began life as the equally gobbledegookish “Maybe we can TECH the TECH!”
I’ve long been an advocate of applying the same behaviour to writing in general. Whether it’s a technical situation, an action scene, or some kind of puzzle-solving moment; and be it in a book, graphic novel, or game script. If I know the desired general outcome, but haven’t yet figured out the moment-to-moment details, I’ll often insert a placeholder like this so I can move on with the draft rather than get bogged down in detail. The double square brackets allow me to easily locate them later with a simple Find command, then fill in those details. But it does mean my zero drafts have a lot of [[TECH THE TECH]]...
DATA CENTRE IN A CHURCH
It's a data centre in a church. 😲
THE WEIRDBANE OF HYPERSPACE
A conversation with a friend reminded me of one of my favourite gags, from legendary author and critic Dave Langford's immortal SFX MAGAZINE column, in which he coined possibly my favourite fake book title of all time: LEPERMAGE OF ELFSPASM.
UK TRIV V
Once again I invited some North American friends to try answering questions from an almost 20-year-old British edition of Trivial Pursuit. Once again it was kind of hilarious — but with some surprising results:
RUDELY AWAKENED BY A PRONG
Meanwhile, the latest episode of THRASH IT OUT is our 'mea culpa' second Listener Choice episode of this volume, in which Brian and I get rudely awakened by, oh wait, I already did that one.
AND THE CHANGES OF NO CONSEQUENCE: