Divergent Ticket Winners

Divergent, the movie

We had an amazing response to our recent Divergent ticket giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered and congratulations to our four winners, listed below along with their favourite YA book choice:

Rubby Neville “Hunger Games trilogy…first [of the] dystopia genre I’ve read…”
Karen D “…The Giver…first futuristic book I read that seemed plausible…completely engross[ing]”
Susan Lehmann “I hate to sound stereo typical…but I still like all vampire…related books (especially with a good love triangle…)”
Alyson Barlow “Hunger Games—it was so well written”

Based on the entries we received, The Hunger Games still seems to loom over the YA market, but the Divergent books are selling well and there’s some buzz around the upcoming movie. Any of the winners are welcome to come back and post a comment here letting us know what you thought. Enjoy the show!

Giveaway: Divergent Tickets [CONTEST CLOSED]

Divergent

UPDATE: unbelievably fast response and the tickets are spoken for. The winners will receive emails shortly, thanks.

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We have four pairs of tickets to give away to a preview showing of Divergent in Ottawa:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Show Time: 7:30 PM
SilverCity Gloucester Cinemas
2385 City Park Drive
Gloucester, ON K1J 1G1

If you’re interested, send us an email using the contact page with the subject line: “DIVERGENT TICKETS.” In the message of your email, tell us what your favourite young adult book is and why—just a couple of lines is fine. The first four entries will receive a link and code to download free passes.

And before you ask, no I don’t know anything about either the Divergent books or the movie, but I am partial to dystopian teen angst a la Battle Royale, so I have an open mind.

Geek Market Postgame Highlights

We survived the Geek Market and are now in various states of recovery, thanks for asking.

A convention or trade-show-type event like the Geek Market is an exhausting, but rewarding enterprise.

We sold some books, sure, but the best part really is connecting with new book lovers over our shared interests; and this year’s Geek Market afforded us a great new venue for that exchange. It’s always heartening to discover there are still book people out there, of all ages and backgrounds.

And for those of you who are visiting this website for the first time because you joined us at the booth this past weekend, we hope you keep watching this space for new offerings and developments, welcome.

We’d also like to thank our families for all their hard work and tolerance—you know who you are—we couldn’t do these things without you.

Ottawa Geek Market, Oct 19-20, 2013

Just a reminder to check out the Geek Market in Ottawa, Canada this weekend, October 19th and 20th at the Carleton University Fieldhouse, 1125 Colonel By Drive. Please click here for more information. Last years’ event was a blast and we’re thrilled to be a part of this one.

Albino Books will be at booth #115. You can click here to find a floorplan and see a list of other vendors.

We’ll be selling a wide range of books (used & collectible paperbacks & hardcovers, fine press limited editions, sets) and other interesting paper items in all price ranges from $5 on up.

We highly recommend going to the Geek Market in general, and hope you’ll come by to say hello and check out the Albino Books display.

All Hallow’s Read: A Tropical Horror

With Halloween approaching, it’s once again time for All Hallow’s Read. All Hallow’s Read was proposed by Neil Gaiman in 2010 as a gift-giving opportunity linked to the spooky season. The elegantly simple premise: give the gift of a scary book on Halloween.

I’m not sure how much All Hallow’s Read is catching on, but I love the concept and would like to encourage the practice. On the All Hallow’s Read website, Neil Gaiman provides a great list of recommended books, and in that same spirit, I’d like to humbly offer a recommendation of my own: The Dark Horse Book of Monsters.

Actually, I really have two suggestions, one of which is very cheap, bear with me.

The Dark Horse Book of Monsters is a great little collection of comics about various monsters—suitable for young adult readers and up—but it also features a marvelously illustrated short story by William Hope Hodgson entitled A Tropical Horror.

William Hope Hodgson is a fascinating character from the early days of weird fiction. In addition to being a highly influential writer of pulp stories, he was also a poet, sailor, bodybuilder, marksman, photographer and all-around bon vivant who perished at the WWI battle of Ypres at the age of forty.

He left behind one of the most influential early books in weird fiction The House on the Borderland, which I have recommended before for All Hallow’s Read. Borderland was written before clear genre divisions like science fiction, horror and fantasy existed and blends them all freely into a strange and unique reading experience.

A Tropical Horror was the second story Hodgson had published and appeared in 1905. While the prose is a little creaky, A Tropical Horror is immediately engrossing thanks to a combination of realistic settings and details—acquired in Hodgson’s difficult time as an apprentice seaman—and an enveloping sense of dread built carefully through the story. By limiting the number of characters, moving the worst mayhem “off-screen” and telling the story through a first-person narrator with little to no agency, Hodgson creates a heavy sense of dread. The monster of A Tropical Horror is like a force of nature—death and destruction seems inevitable and is nearly inescapable.

The Dark Horse Book of Monsters would make a lovely All Hallow’s Read gift, primarily for the Hodgson story, but also for the remaining comics, which are great fun. But if you’re looking for a more budget conscious option, how about exerting a little crafty effort?

As the copyrights on most of Hodgson’s work have lapsed, there are a number of free versions of A Tropical Horror online, such as this one. Here’s my second suggestion: print out a copy of the story and bind it yourself. You could create your own illustrations or paste in pictures from something else—Liam’s Pictures from Old Books is a great source of material. You could also retype or hand-transcribe it in order to add a more personal touch. This might be a great activity to do with older kids so they can give it as a gift to someone else.

I like to promote the purchasing of books whenever I can to support the industry, but I think the more important point of All Hallow’s Read is just to keep people reading in general, and to help the like minded discover some cool bits of seasonally appropriate spooky writing.

William Hope Hodgson wrote some truly original and frightening work that deserves to be remembered and has a lot more to offer contemporary readers than you might suspect.

2013 Aurora Award Winners

Over this past weekend the 2013 Aurora Awards winners were announced at Can*Con in Ottawa. Albino Books would like to congratulate all the winners on some fine work.

But on a personal note, I’d like to congratulate Hayden Trenholm of Bundoran Press for winning the “Related Work” prize for the Blood and Water anthology. Blood and Water* is an excellent collection of short fiction grouped around the theme of resource conflicts of the future—a wonderfully Canadian topic for speculative fiction.

All of the stories in Blood and Water deserve your attention, but I want to highlight one entitled Hard Water in particular. Hard Water is one of those classically Canadian—in this case fundamentally East Coast—stories of rugged men braving a harsh environment in order to eke out a living. The kind of story that many of us living in contemporary, mostly urban, Canada bear begrudgingly at best. But Hard Water employs this familiar framework to support extremely persuasive SF conceits—in an authentic-feeling, sea-going adventure.

Hard Water also happens to be a story written by my sister Christine Cornell, who I am just going to go ahead and be unashamedly proud of in public. Thank you for your indulgence.

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*Makes a great holiday gift, FYI.

“…more gravel than pearls…”

Despite the evident reluctance to embrace new technology my last post might suggest, I’m cautiously optimistic about Oyster‘s attempt to build a Netflix for books.

I currently consume about twenty percent of my reading material electronically on an iPad, and I’m relatively comfortable with the medium. I found long stretches of reading a little unpleasant at first, but I’ve gotten over that challenge—largely because of using the iPad for business travel. Now that I’m acclimated, I almost enjoy my little screen as much as a book—almost.

For me, the decision of whether or not to buy a book electronically involves an instinctive (read: half-assed) calculus based on the following questions:

  1. Will I need to travel soon? (If yes, how small is a cheap paperback of said book?)
  2. How readily available is a cheap paperback?
  3. Did it just come out and can I not wait for a cheap used paperback?
  4. Does the method of printing & production greatly enhance the aesthetic experience of reading said book?

The intrinsic aesthetic value of the book still factors into my decision-making more often than you might expect, but not as often with novels per se. Novels I usually just want to read in the most accessible and convenient method available to me, which is often a cheap, used paperback I’ve acquired, or been loaned by a friend. There are certainly exceptions—lavishly illustrated volumes or signed copies or gifts—but they’re definitely exceptions. I have a small collection of signed first editions, but I didn’t really buy them as reading copies.

Cookbooks and art books, though, I almost always prefer a printed copy. I’m a sucker for fancy paper, glossy photos and intricate illustration. I have favourite fonts.*

So, based on this highly subjective “process,” the ebooks I pay money for are often recent novels I’m eager to read. Most of the China Miéville I’ve read—which is everything but his dissertation and latest YA—I purchased electronically the day it came out or soon after.

I also read a lot of free classics on my iPad; the most recent being The Metamorphosis by Kafka. And here we get to my one big concern with a monthly subscription to Oyster: there are a lot of free ebooks out there.

I love Netflix, but that’s because there is a lot of content on Netflix (Canada) that’s to my taste—television shows I never got to see before, obscure or weird movies, British stuff—but I have friends who dropped it after a month because the content wasn’t fresh enough for them (particularly the Canadian version of Netflix can be a little lean on new releases.) It helps to have a taste for B-movies, for example. What I don’t need from Netflix is every episode of Star Trek, because every version already airs endlessly on other channels.

What I don’t need for a monthly subscription from Oyster is classics I can find for free via multiple other channels. When I see, in sample images on the Oyster blog, the latest volume of Best American Short Stories, I’m intrigued. When I see Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London—a book I love dearly—I am less impressed.

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*Futura (Kubrick’s favourite font) and Garamond especially.

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future”

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
–Isaac Asimov

It’s hard for me not to have a negative reaction to the news that a “bookless library” has opened in San Antonio. Despite being something of a technophile, I have trouble reconciling the almost Platonic imagery in my head of endless rows and towers of leather and paper with a room full of screens.

I own an iPad, iPhone, desktop PC, PlayStation, Wii and two DVRs and should therefore be able to applaud the creativity of an underfunded public institution dealing with massive change. I should, but can’t quite manage to leap the emotional divide that exists for me between a cybercafé and a library.

Library is a word with resonance. Alexandria has a library. Niagara Falls has a cybercafé.

I grudgingly admire the attempt to create an enticing, physical, public space in the digital age, but it seems a little forced to organize that space around what are largely virtual tools. Wouldn’t this have been a better story if it had been about a library finding a creative way to reengage the public with the traditional forms of books? New gadgets hold a fascination for me personally, but the book has been a surprisingly resilient and adaptable technology since the 15th Century.

Paper books are still a thriving industry too. Just three of the top publishers in the world, Random House, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster, have earned a combined revenue of over $2.8 billion in 2o13—digital sales still represent less than 25% of total sales at all three of these companies.

And you know what’s a cheap way for people to read who can’t afford gadgets? Books. Penguin Books—with their iconic and often beautiful covers—was founded on the idea of making literature accessible and easy for the common man.

Maybe I’m destined to become some kind of crank, rocking on a porch somewhere, moaning about the decline of civilization since the loss of the book, but I think there’s still an inherent value in the book as a physical object and in the printed word in general.

I would prefer to see contemporary libraries find a balanced point between free digital access (a worthy offering) and a collection—even a modest one—of real books. To reject printed books as completely as this library in San Antonio has done, smacks of a marketing ploy.

The Island of Dr Moreau Redux

Charles Laughton in The Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Despite repeated attempts to make a film or television show out of H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr Moreau, I still feel that the book is somehow underrated—particularly considering how far the adaptations have strayed from the source. Some even drifting into incomprehensibility.

The latest attempt will apparently be from the creators of Hemlock Grove, a Netflix original program. Based on the involvement of Executive Producer Eli Roth of Hostel fame,* I gave the first couple of episodes of Hemlock Grove a try and quickly lost interest. I thought there was one interesting conceptual bit around a werewolf transformation, buried in a landfill-like dump of teen romance clichés.

And while the classic Island of Lost Souls displays an undeniably spooky power in some of its imagery, no film or television adaptation of The Island of Dr Moreau has ever really completely satisfied.

The Island of Dr Moreau remains a remarkably fresh read. Its trendy, at the time, fascination with barbaric vivisection doesn’t seem to date the book at all. In fact, the emergence of genetic engineering and biotechnology as the technological revolution of our age adds an unanticipated relevance.**

While I am forced to reserve judgement until Roth et al have a finished product, I’m not optimistic. But, this new production, is a nice reminder to go back and read the source novel, which is a far richer and weirder experience than you might expect.

“The crying sounded even louder out of doors. It was as if all the pain in the world had found a voice. Yet had I known such pain was in the next room, and had it been dumb, I believe—I have thought since—I could have stood it well enough. It is when suffering finds a voice and sets our nerves quivering that this pity comes troubling us.”
–H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr Moreau

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*Hostile Fame is the name of my new post-punk band, FYI.
**Not to conflate the two too much. Obviously I like to think the sciences of today operate under more enlightened set of ethical standards than the late 19th Century…right?

OMNI Reboot-ed & The Starcrossed

Over this past summer, the legendary OMNI magazine has been revived as an online publication now called OMNI Reboot. I first became aware of the revival through this piece at Boing Boing.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, Editor Claire L. Evans is striving to honour the legacy of the mighty OMNI while simultaneously pushing it into the 21st Century.

One of the earliest articles posted on the new site was this good little interview with Ben Bova, a five-year editor at the dawn of the original OMNI, and a prominent writer and editor in the history of science fiction.

The Starcrossed

Mr. Bova was one of the most gracious and gentlemanly writers I had ever met at a convention. I was maybe 15 at the time and he was very patient and seemed entertained and bemused by the book I had chosen for him to sign: The Starcrossed.

The Starcrossed is a fictionalized account—set in the near future—of Mr. Bova’s experiences as a consultant on what is, without question, one of the worst television shows of all time, The Starlost.

Despite Harlan Ellison as the head writer, Ben Bova as a consultant and the godlike Douglas Trumbull as an Executive Producer, the production of The Starlost was crippled by bad studio decision making. (One quick example: the concept of the show involved a huge space-ark that would consist of a series of domes. Ellison and Bova had conceived each dome as so large that you could shoot a variety of material on back-lots or other locations, but the producers decided that their concept was “too big” and forced everything to be shot on sets, contributing to an overall cheap and shoddy look.)

At the con I attended, I asked Mr. Bova about The Starlost and he told a great anecdote about the star Keir Dullea (of 2001 fame.) Dullea, according to Mr. Bova, showed up to the set on the first day of shooting so high that he was incapable of delivering lines. To try and make use of the time, the crew decided to shoot a spacewalk scene. They hoisted Dullea up into the air in a spacesuit and flight rigging, which then failed so badly they quickly rendered Keir unconscious flinging him into parts of the set.

What’s particularly marvelous about The Starcrossed as a read is that Mr. Bova not only skewers the production of The Starlost, but he also uses the book as an opportunity to write an elaborate and loving parody of Harlan Ellison, under the guise of character Ron Gabriel. During the first meeting between Bova’s point of view character Oxnard and Gabriel in the chapter The Writer, Gabriel rants, fumes, call his lawyer to threaten someone with legal action at midnight, and parades around in nothing but a towel.

Is The Starcrossed an accurate portrayal of the behind-the-scenes story of The Starlost? It is clearly fictionalized, (and, as an aside, oddly predictive of the rise of 3D in Hollywood in a slightly different, imagined version of the tech) but based on what I’v read, and interviews I’ve seen with the man himself—not to mention Dreams with Sharp Teeth—the veil of fiction over The Starcrossed might be pretty thin.

Much like the thin line between science fiction and the real world of technological innovation that OMNI has long attempted to blur.