Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Top 100 Science Fiction And Fantasy Books

National Socialist Radio listeners have participated in a project to compile The Top 100 Science Fiction And Fantasy Books. 
Denny and a lot of other bloggers have participated in a meme where you copy the NSR list, highlight the ones you've read, and provide any commentary that would encourage others to read some of the titles that you've enjoyed. 
I'm not a huge fan of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre, mostly because any time the hero gets in trouble, the authors can instantly save him with a time warp, an enchanted spatula, an unexpected invasion of liberators from the planet Nekthar, or a magical stimulus package.  But I was surprised at how many of these I've read. 
Enjoy ! 

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the ultimate fantasy trilogy.  A friend of The Whited Mama, Mrs. Merritt, recommended it to me when I was in the 8th grade.  Mrs. Merritt had read the series 3 or 4 times.  I devoured these puppies.  You've never known true joy until those hobbits get rid of that dang ring. 

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

You will laugh until you cry.  I almost ruptured a gut during the sequence where Marvin The Paranoid Android gets left behind in the space time continuum and has to park cars at The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe for billions of years until he can rejoin his buddies in "the present".  Please don't judge this thing by the movie adaptation.  This is brilliant stuff.  I wish it could have been number 42 on this list, though. 

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

The first book in the series is pure, undiluted greatness.  Herbert creates an entire culture that the reader can totally buy into - grammar, traditions, religion, coming-of-age rituals, laws, diet, clothing, the works.  The second is good.  The third is blah.  All the other stuff after that is dull.  I bet if you read the first one, you'll still try to read the all the rest, kinda like a crack addict trying to get that old feeling back. 

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

Yes, Big Brother is watching you.  And he's not happy that you're reading anything on this site. 

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

The best anti-censorship book EVER.  Read it, and you'll never forget the temperature at which paper spontaneously ignites.  Bradbury's best? 

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

I didn't read all of this.  Therefore it is only half-highlighted.  I usually liked Asimov's non-fiction essays more than his novels.   

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

"And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins."

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

Hilarious.  Joyous.  Wonderful storytelling.  Loved it, loved it, loved it.  And they didn't screw up the movie.  Inconceivable.  I don't think that means what you think it means.  And I am not left-handed.  Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.     

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

As Timothy The Tax Cheat Geithner will tell you, "some are more equal than others".  Animal Farm - we're living on it. 

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

Watchmen is a graphic novel.  For people over 60, that's what they're now calling lengthy comic books.  I liked it ok, but didn't think it was worth inclusion in Time magazine's Top 100 Novels list.  Because of this graphic novel, all references that I make to "Ozymandias" are misunderstood.   

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

I think I finished it. 

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

I grokked it in a big way.  One of the best libertarian novels ever written. 

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein isn't about being afraid of a monster.  It's about how horrible it would be to live as a monster. 

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

Even if you haven't read PKD's books, you're probably familiary with some of the movies they spawned - Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report.  This theme seems to have driven Philip K. Dick stark raving mad....  How do we know that we really experienced something in the past?  How do we know that we weren't all created 15 minutes ago, with common non-contradictory memories?  This guy makes my head hurt. 

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has a typing fit where she imagines a religious fundamentalist takeover of the U.S. after nuclear war makes most of the women sterile and races are segregated again, and nobody can wear makeup and women can't drive cars.  Kind of a left-wing rape fantasy. 

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

I think I own all the volumes of this, but I'm saving them for my old age. 

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

I read this in the North Sunflower Academy library when I was too young to understand it.  I need to revisit this one.  Every time Barack Obama discovers that some Socialist/Keynesian policy will not work, it reminds me of the chimps crowding around the metal tower and discovering how to use tools. 

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

This is a big fat story that you can get lost in, with a good vs. evil plot.  King has a great time destroying the world and populating it with dozens of memorable characters: Trashcan Man, Mother Abigail, The Walking Dude, and that washed-up, one-hit-wonder, rock singer.  This is one of my favorites.  Buy the really long uncut version. 

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

If bookstores still exist 50 years from now, Ray Bradbury will probably be shelved in the Literature section, not Sci-Fi. 

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

My friend Roger and I were discussing this one last night.  If you take away someone's free will with drugs, is he still a human? 

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

Imagine a semi-fascist society where everyone lives to serve the state, and the state assigns them their careers, and some of them are sent off to fight giant bugs.  Good stuff.  Bad movie.  It's so bad that you'll watch it over and over.  "It's an ugly planet !  A BUG planet !" 

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

I've not thought about this before, but this one belongs on the list for the same reason as Frankenstein.  Frankenstein is about how horrible it would be to live as a monster.  Watership is about how horrible it would be to live as prey. 

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

Haven't read it, but it's on my Bucket List. 

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

Read it a long, long time ago.  Those underground Morlock things gave me bad dreams.   

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

Read it after I went on the ride at Disneyland, sometime in the 4th or 5th grade. 

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

Read it in Jr. High School and thought it was ok.  Tried it again a few years ago, and it wasn't ok. 

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

If we ever make contact with other planets, this is what The Feds will use to justify more spending.   

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Phenomenally dull stuff.  Like George Lucas discovered in doing Star Wars Episodes 1,2, and 3, there are times when you should produce something great and then leave it alone.

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

Pure, undiluted greatness.  I love, love, love this book.  Love it, love it, love it.  I will give you a dollar if you read this book.   

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

This is one of the darkest things I've ever read, and I'm a fan of darkness.  Post-apocalyptic meldown.  Two people trying to get from Point A to Point B.  You never get the names of the two main characters, the man and the boy.  This might be McCarthy's best novel, in spite of serious competition. 

64. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

If you like Zombie combat, this is your book. 

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

Greatness.  Nothing but Bradbury short stories, tied together with a guy who is tattooed all over.  If I remember correctly, you don't have to read them in order, which makes for convenient bathroom reading.  (You know, for when you just need something to keep you occupied for five minutes.) 

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

I think Lewis's theological parables (Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce) are better than these.  I don't think I ever finished the 2nd one. 

That's the list.  I hope it was helpful.  I'm going to try to read the Vonnegut stuff.   

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs - R.I.P.

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” - Robert Heinlein

“I don’t know what Steve Jobs’s politics were, I don’t much care, and in any case they are beside the point. The late Mr. Jobs stood for something considerably better than politics. He stood for the model of the world that works. . . . That old Motorola cinderblock would cost about $10,000 in 2011 dollars, and you couldn’t play Angry Birds on it or watch Fox News or trade a stock. Once you figure out why your cell phone gets better and cheaper every year but your public schools get more expensive and less effective, you can apply that model to answer a great many questions about public policy. Not all of them, but a great many. . . . I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.” - Kevin Williamson

Published !!!

Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for. - Mark Twain

Mississippi Land And Lodges, an upscale hunting and fishing magazine, recently published this tale that I wrote about a year ago.  Hit the link if you have 10 minutes to kill. 
It's in the August/September/October issue, the one with the antler chandelier on the cover.
Check it out if you get a chance.  If you're a Mississippi hunter, you need this magazine on your coffee table, opened to page 20. 
They pay well, and I have a daughter at Texas A and M.  Let the editor know that you like my stuff.  That's all I'm saying.....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Whiter than a Mormon choir

Here's a representative pic of the Occupy Wall Street movement. 
Remember when the Tea-Partiers were slammed for not having enough minority representation, even though the Tea Party rallies usually had a decent mix of minorities? 
Well check out this assortment of old hippies and middle-class Marxists from the suburbs....

Here's a sample:

These kids' anger is so mis-placed that I can't even get up a good rant about it.  If Washington D.C. is going to give away money, favors, porkulus, quotas and import tariffs, Wall Street will accept the money, favors, porkulus, quotas and import tariffs.  It really is that simple.
The question is:  How Long Are You Going To Put Up With It?
The protests need to be held on Pennsylvania Avenue. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quote of the day from Matt Ridley

Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty. 

Go here for details.  This is one of the greatest books I've ever read. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Detroit Lions 34, Dallas Cowboys 30

I played left guard for one year at North Sunflower Academy.  I was in the 9th grade.  That's enough to qualify me to comment on this issue. 

Lord have mercy, what an ugly game.  The Dallas Cowboys got spanked, and I mean spanked by the newly revived Detroit Tigers, 34-30.  Another Dallas Cowboys FAIL. 

Can you believe that Buffalo is actually looking forward to playing us? 

What needs to happen?  Well, let's look at some history. 

The Cowboys franchise got its start in 1960.  Tom Landry was head coach.

When Landry was fired by Jerry Jones, he had a career record of 270-178-6.  However, Landry (before the start of the 1989 season) had not won a playoff game since 1983.  That's five years.  It was probably time for a change. 

When Jerry Jones purchased the team, he made himself General Manager.  He has supposedly been in charge of all personnel decisions since 1989. 

Jerry put the great Jimmy Johnson in as head coach.  Johnson had been coaching at the University Of Miami, and was familiar with many of the players soon to be drafted by the NFL.  We'll never know who made the decisions that led to the Cowboys era of greatness in the 1990's, but my money is on Jimmy. 

Jimmy Johnson coached his Cowboys to Super Bowl victories in 1992 and 1993.   But he couldn't get along with Jerry and left after the 1993 season.  

The details remain shrouded in a late-night haze, but it seems the trouble started when Jones toasted the Cowboys and was offended when Johnson reciprocated but did not invite Jones to join his table. A few hours later, Johnson alleges, Jones told a group of reporters in a bar that he planned to fire Johnson and replace him with Barry Switzer, an old foe of Johnson's from his college coaching days.
Then General Manager Jerry Jones....

....appointed Barry Switzer as Cowboys head coach. 

Using Jimmy's players, Switzer was able to win a playoff game in 1994, and he won the Super Bowl in 1995. 

The Cowboys won a single playoff game in 1996 (a year soon to be known as "the good old days), but went a disappointing 6-10 in 1997. 

General Manager Jerry Jones.....

....knew he had to do something after his head coach didn't win a playoff game in 1997.  He fired Switzer, and replaced him with Chan Gailey. 

Gailey went 10-6 in 1998, and then 8-8 in 1999.  He didn't win any playoff games. 

So then, Jerry Jones, who was supposedly still making all of the personnel decisions....

 ...fired Chan Gailey and replaced him with Dave Campo. 

Campo was head coach in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and had a won/loss record (respectively) of 5-11, 5-11, and finally, 5-11.  No playoff wins. 

So General Manager Jerry Jones, who was still in charge of ALL personnel decisions....

....fired Campo and replaced him with Bill Parcells. 

Despite winning a couple of Super Bowls with the Giants, and an AFC Championship season with The Patsies, Parcells was unable to do anything with Jerry's Kids in Dallas.  There were lots of discussions about "They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."  Some former Parcells players got signed, and Parcells had some small authority over the team. 

From 2003 through 2006, the Dallas Cowboys went 10-6, 6-10, 9-7, and 9-7.  They didn't win any playoff games. 

(It was at the beginning of the Parcells era that I discovered that God hates Jerry Jones, and I started making a small fortune betting against Dallas.  That has nothing to do with the matter at hand.  I wasn't worth a crap at left guard at North Sunflower Academy, but I can tell who God doesn't like.)

Parcells retired. 

Then Cowboys General Manager Jerry Jones, who hadn't won a playoff game since 1996....

...thought that he could improve the situation by bringing in Wade Phillips. 

Maybe Jerry Jones had discovered the source of his problems.  Maybe this coach would be the one who could properly use Jerry's draft choices. 
The first year, 2007, it almost worked.  The Boys went 13-3, but didn't win a playoff game. 
The next year, they went 9-7, but didn't make the playoffs. 
In 2009/2010, perhaps to illustrate the old proverb that "even a blind hog can sometimes find an acorn", Jerry's draftees went 11-5, and beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a playoff game.  The curse was lifted. 
The next week Minnesota beat the tar out of them 34-3. 

This year, the mighty Dallas Cowboys have started the season with two wins and two losses.  They just finished losing to Detroit.  Yes, Detroit.  The freakin' Lions.   
Jerry Jones and the city of Arlington have taken people's homes by force, bulldozed them, and built the greatest sports facility on this planet on the site of their theft.  All to host this mess.  That was like tearing down the Taj Mahal to put up a movie theatre that only shows "Sex And The City". 

That's the history of the Dallas Cowboys coaches and their playoff wins.  If current trends continue through this year's playoffs, Jerry's Kids will have won a single playoff game in FIFTEEN years. 
Let's hope that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is a brilliant businessman, can figure out the root cause of his problems.

How could something like this happen?  Against The Detroit Unholy Lions??  I mean, what are the freakin' odds?  What could cause Tony Romo to throw 3 picks against DETROIT???? 

It's very simple, folks.

God hates Jerry Jones. The Lord God Jehovah hates Jerry Jones with the white hot passion of a thousand dying suns. And Jerry must atone. Now. Unless he wants to spend another decade with fewer playoff wins than any current NFL General Manager over a ten year period.

Here's the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, speaking out on the subject of Jerry, The Cowboys, and Arlington:

Ezekiel 22:29 The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.

Ezekiel 22:31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.

I don't think there are any Eagles, Redskins, Giants, or Packers fans who could've said it any better.

So what do we do?

Here is a purification ritual that Jerry could undergo. This comes from the Holman Bible Dictionary.

A cleansing agent (to atone for sin) was required: water, blood, or fire (Numbers 31:23). Water, the most common purifying agent, symbolized cleansing and was used in the rituals related to a waiting period. The person was to wash the clothes and bathe the body (Leviticus 15:7). Blood was used to cleanse the altar and the holy place (Leviticus 16:14-19). It was mixed with other ingredients for cleansing from leprosy (Leviticus 14:1) and contact with the dead (Numbers 19:1).

The final element of the ritual of purification is sacrifice. Purification from discharges required two pigeons or turtledoves, one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering (Leviticus 15:14-15,Leviticus 15:29-30). A lamb and pigeon or turtledove were offered after childbirth (Leviticus 12:6). Sacrifice in the purification ritual for lepers was quite complicated, indicating the seriousness of leprosy as a cause of impurity (Leviticus 14:1). The priest also touched the person's extremities with blood from the offering and with oil, cleansing and life-renewing agents. The poor were allowed to substitute less valuable animals for use in their sacrifices.

To cut to the chase: If we're ever going to have a succesful NFL franchise in Tarrant County, Jerry Jones must strip down to his skivvies, wash one of his suits on the 50-yard line of his gaudy Temple Of Baal, mop the field with the blood of Jason Garrett, and perform a ritual sacrifice by slaughtering some of his worst draft picks in the City Of Arlington's luxury suite.

That should do it.

But what about all the little people, Jerry's victims, the refugees who were dispossesed by Eminent Domain ?

Once again, let's see what the Holy Scriptures have to say:

Leviticus 6: 1-7 : "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt... "

It's fairly simple, isn't it? Jerry and Arlington must determine the current value of the stadium, the parking lot, the team, along with the value of having God on their side. They must give that amount of money, plus 1/5th, to the people they stole the land from.

Until that happens, we will labor under an Old Testament curse.


Richard Dawkins - "The Magic Of Reality"

From Richard Dawkins' new book, The Magic Of Reality.  The book is obviously for children, or possibly for those of us with a religious fundamentalist upbringing who need little reminders from time to time to avoid slipping back into religious tribalism. 
Those are the two reasons why I'll probably buy it. 
Parts of this fable that Dawkins shares in his book might sound familiar.  Names, characters, gods, and incidents are the products of the pre-civilized imagination.  Any resemblance to actual events, characters, gods and incidents, living or dead is entirely coincidental.   

Utnapashtim told Gilgamesh of an occasion, many centuries earlier, when the gods were angry with humankind becase we made so much noise they couldn't sleep. 

The chief god, Enlil, suggested that they should send a great flood to destroy everybody, so the gods could get a good night's rest.  But the water god, Ea, decided to warn Utnapashtim.  Ea told Utnapashtim to tear down his house and build a boat. 

It would have to be a very big boat, because Utnapashtim was to take into it 'the seed of all living creatures'. 

Utnapashtim built the boat just in time, before it rained for six days without stopping.  The flood that followed drowned everybody and everything that was not safely inside the boat.  On the seventh day the wind dropped and the waters grew calm and flat. 

Utnapashtim opened a hatch in the tightly sealed boat and released a dove.  The dove flew away, looking for land, but failed to find any and returned.  Then Utnapashtim released a swallow, but the same thing happened. 

Finally Utnapashtim released a raven.  The raven didn't come back, which suggested to Utnapashtim that there was dry land somewhere and the raven had found it. 

Eventually the boat came to rest on a mountaintop poking out of the water.  Another god, Ishtar, created the first rainbow, as a token of the gods' promise to send no more terrible floods. 

So that is how the rainbow came into being, according to the ancient legend of the Sumerians..... In fact, it is obvious that the Jewish story of Noah is nothing more than a retelling of the older legend of Utnapashtim.  It was a folk tale that got passed around, and it travelled down the centuries.  We often find that seemingly ancient legends have come from even older legends, usually with some names or other details changed. 

Go here to read a story about a Dutch Creationist who built a full-size "replica" of the ark from the Noah story.  
Go here to read what percentage of Americans believe that this story is literally true.  (Noah's, but not Utnapashtim's.)

The pics of Utnapashtim came from here and here and here and here and here.