Monday, December 10, 2012

The Million Death Quake: The Science of Predicting Earth's Deadliest Natural Disaster by Roger Musson

The Million Death Quake: The Science of Predicting Earth's Deadliest Natural Disaster
by Roger Musson

This is a quick, breezy but surprisingly jam packed book discussing earthquakes.  I don't have much of a science background since I stopped taking those sorts of classes in high school but I was able to follow the clear explanations of terms and concepts.  It actually reminded me of some enthusiastic professors I've had over the years.  Musson is clearly fascinated by the subject and wants to share his interest with the rest of us.  The book contains a quick history of earthquakes as well as their detection and explanation.  The book concludes with sections on government policy and what people should do.  The chapter on building standards was fascinating.  I'll never quite looking at a large lobby in a hotel the same way again.

Highly recommended!

Note this book was provided for review by the publisher.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Fantasy Sexism and History

There are times when even I have to actually get off my butt and do some blogging. One of those was a column like this. Basically to summarize fantasy based on history shouldn't be sexist because history is all sexist nonsense anyway.  Well...  OK.

At least there is reference to social history.  It does deal with more pro feminist discussion.  However it's not made clear that at least in North America social history is the dominant field of study since the 1980s.  If we're going to study evil sexist military history than in Canada there are pretty much only two civilian choices University of Calgary and university of New Brunswick.

Do you really wanna go down a road where it suggested that the entire written record is corrupt?  All right fine but guess what that means you're reduced to archaeology and that's about it.  Kind of hard to discuss all those powerful women working behind the scenes if all you've got are some ruins and remains of pottery.

The comments are chopped up with all sorts of fail as well.  Circular logic and strawmen [strawpeople?].  My favorite is pointing out Eleanor of Aquitaine as a powerful woman in her own right.  Sure but not exactly typical of your average peasant woman living to 35 and dying in childbirth.  Which actually nicely ties in with the "big man" view of history which of course the social historians despise.  So it's a bit of a garbled mess.  Or the shock amongst shock memoirs from women who dressed up as men and fought in the American civil War.  The reason why these memoirs are so famous is because they are unusual.  Yes women fought in the Viet Cong know they were never near 50%.  Also see the Night Witches from WWII.  But again unusual.

When I was explaining this to my dad he rightfully pointed out.  This is fiction right?  If there's a demand it'll sell.  He's right and don't rush down to comment and tell me that the New York publishers are a bunch of sexist jerks.  In an era of crowd sourcing and electronic publishing if everyone in that comment thread that is so enraged chipped in the price of a hardcover you'd have one very well funded small press.

I guess what irks me the most is the final line.  Telling people to "Make your books better." No sorry you make yours better.  You don't get the judge the quality that's for "me" to decide.  No one gets to take that agency for me.

Although if that comment thread is any judge none of the above matters because the last time I checked I'm a guy.