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What Are You Readin? Last Book / Novel You've Read
#61
[Image: asimov.jpg]

The Hugo Winners Edited by Isaac Asimov Volumes I & II may be the best science fiction short story collection I've ever read/owned.  Along with these wonderful shorts are an intro and anecdotes about each author.

It starts with the novelette "The Darfsteller" by Walter M. Miller, Jr. about an actor turned theatre janitor in a future where all actors have been replaced by robots.  The main character who had refused to 'sell out' schemes to get himself back on stage.  

Another story I found particularly moving is Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star".  Earth explorers led by a astrophysicist/priest, travel to a distant star system that was destroyed by a supernova.  They discover a time capsule sealed in a vault that was left by the dead civilization that once lived there.  I can't really explain anymore than that without spoiling the ending but it was shocking and I was very moved.

Robert Bloch's "The Hell-bound Train" is classic Bloch if your a fan of the macabre I highly recommend it.

The most moving story in the entire collection "Flowers For Algernon" by Daniel Keyes about a janitor of below average intelligence and a lab rat named Algernon who both undergo experiments to increase their intellect.  I can't really say more than that without spoilers but this could be a tearjerker for some and I challenge everyone to read it and not be affected by it in some way.  It is both beautifully crafted and highly entertaining.

Other stories I recommend Poul Anderson's "The Longest Voyage", "The Sharing of Flesh" & "No Truce With Kings", Jack Vance's "The Dragon Masters" & "The Last Castle", and "Nightwings" by Robert Silverberg.

There are also three Harlan Ellison stories that are must read classics; "The Beast That Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World", "Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman" & "I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream".
"It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison
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#62
That looks like a great anthology... I'll have to try and find a copy.

It's a shame what's become of the Hugo Awards.

Right now, I'm reading "You're Never Weird On the Internet" by Felicia Day. It's a biography, but it focuses less on her acting/writing/producing resume and more on what made her the "geek icon" she is today.
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." --Thomas Jefferson

“Fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.” --Benito Mussolini
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#63
(08-29-2015, 02:14 AM)Jesse412 Wrote:  The Hugo Winners Edited by Isaac Asimov Volumes I & II

That sounds like an amazing collection, I don't think I've ever heard of all those disparate stories being collected together. I've read many of them individually and a lot are unskippable classics of the genre.
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
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#64
I finished the C.J. Box thriller Badlands tonight.
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#65
Roadmarks

by Roger Zelazny

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If the Marquis de Sade riding around on the back of a mind controlled Tyrannosaurus Rex doesn't immediately make you want to read this book I'm not sure what will.  The premise is basically that time travel is possible by literally driving down a highway.  The protagonist Red Dorakeen searches for a place he can't quite remember while being targeted by multiple assassins.  This is one of the most fun and refreshingly imaginative road trip stories I've ever read.
"It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison
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#66
In preparation for reading the sequel, which is on order now, I just re-read London Falling by Paul Cornell, which I mentioned back on the first page of the thread.

It's a very good intro to this new series, and its biggest faults come mainly from the fact that it is the start of a new series, and thus needs to do some world building and setup which isn't very organic.  The Urban Fantasy setting is interesting, and it directly addresses just why it is that most people can't see the supernatural (Though it can be done well if handled properly, the Buffy "People are stupid who ignore everything" approach can get old very fast); without the Sight, people literally can't see the things happening around them.

The cast is interestingly complex, particularly the way each one comes at the same situation from a completely different angle, and as this was a re-read I can pick up a lot of what I missed on my first experience.  It's so perfectly summarized in a scene early in the book between Sefton and Costain; each one has something they're ashamed of/hiding/resenting, and so they view the exact same interaction in a completely different way.  Costain, who is a corrupt cop on general principles, takes Sefton asking what his plan is as Sefton making a point of getting Costain's statement on the record to use against him later during an inquiry, and blows him a kiss as an "I know, so fuck you" gesture.  Sefton, who is gay, interprets the kiss as a backhanded reference to his sexuality and part & parcel of ongoing harassment.  As the book later reveals, Sefton hadn't been ratting Costain out, and Costain had no idea that Sefton was gay.  They couldn't read each other because of how they were each misreading the whole situation.

The interactions with several shades and specters they encountered were a very unique way of approaching several of the old standbys from new angles (Particularly Harry's dad.....which I just now realized might be a reference to Harry Potter.  No, seriously, this just came to as I was typing this), and I'm curious how they'll handle it in the ongoing series once it's become 'normal' to the characters.

The only difficulty I had, and it was minor, was just how British the book is.  Not just slang, but everything; cultural references and history and sports.  I'm able to pick up a lot from context and because I've been exposed to a lot of British fiction and so have a very general understanding, but I literally had to do research on the West Ham football club to fully understand some parts (Never underestimate how seriously some Londoners take their footy). The complete submersion in London is like when you're reading something written a few hundred years ago in your native tongue; you can glean what's going on, but without all the annotation and footnotes a lot of the words don't make any @#$%ing sense.

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Also, the book contained a literal example of a Priest, a Rabbi and an Imam walking in together, and also them being asked to bless a wooden stake. The book could have been garbage and that would have netted it a win.
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
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#67
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I was given another collection of seven short stories called Beyond Control Edited by Robert Silverberg, who also wrote the introduction and contributes the tale "The Iron Chancellor" about a family who upgrades their house robot which puts them on a diet that starves them eventually traps them in their own home. A great technology run amok story which is basically the theme of the book.

The better stories IMO are Isaac Asimov's "The Dead Past" (which appears in another anthology I own) and "Autofac" by Philip K. Dick. Asimov's story is about the government suppression of an invention that allows the user to view events in the past similar to how we watch television today. P.K.D.'s story is about automated factories that continue to supply mankind with everything they need long after they are wanted. A group of humans must stop the factories before the use up the last of Earth's resources. It is similar to his short story "Second Variety" (which is not included in this book) for those of you who have read it or watched the movie Screamers (1995), both of which I also enjoy.
"It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison
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#68
Whelp, I've just finished The Severed Streets, the sequel to London Falling and....Neil Gaiman.  What.  Neil @#$%ing Gaiman. NEIL FLIPPING GAIMAIN.

This is....I don't.....it can't.....look, forget everything else about the book (Of which there is much), it's Neil Gosh-darn Gaiman and WHAT THE FRAK.

[Image: book-neilgaimanphilo-splsh.jpg]

What the hell, man?
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
Quote
#69
I have no idea what that post meant, but I am currently reading NEVERWHERE. Having previously only read the comic adaptation from years ago, which had quite a different vibe from the book.
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." --Thomas Jefferson

“Fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.” --Benito Mussolini
Quote
#70
Creatures of Light and Darkness
by Roger Zelazny.

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I always liked fiction that borrows heavily from mythology and here Zelazny borrows from Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology melding in elements of both horror and science fiction as the god like characters battle each other for controlling power over the Universe.
"It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison
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#71
(09-19-2015, 04:36 AM)AndrewCrossett Wrote:  I have no idea what that post meant, but I am currently reading NEVERWHERE. Having previously only read the comic adaptation from years ago, which had quite a different vibe from the book.

Y'see, there's a reason why the three versions of Neverwhere (The original TV miniseries, the comic adaptation of the series, and the novelization) are each so different from each other. It seems that in the time between the completion of the show and the writing of the novel, Neil Gaiman gained access to the Sight, and so was able to include a lot more authenticity of 'occult London' in his London Below.

Okay, here's how it goes: the first novel, London Falling, shared a lot of similarities with Neverwhere. Not as much as J. Michael Straczynski's The Midnight Nation (Which I swear is Neverwhere. Not that JMS plagiarized Neil Gaiman or anything, I just mean that the two works are so similar that they're clearly writing the same story), but even on my first read of the novel the commonalities were apparent. The hidden London, life running on scavenged leavings from the 'normal' world, it's very evocative even if it doesn't have quite the separation that Neverwhere has (In London Falling people don't drop out of one world or the other, they can co-exist). Anyway, in The Severed Streets the cast go to an occultish pub for a number of reasons and they wind up bumping into Neil Gaiman, who's there for a pint. And here's where it gets all "OMG NEIL GAIMAN!" from before.

See, it's nothing new for real people to be included as cameos in fiction, particularly not people who are big in the fields involved in the story, and at first I thought they were just going to do a subtle cameo. He's not named right off the bat, he's just recognized by the character as an author that has written both children's books and adult books, is familiar with this kind of occultism, and who dresses all in black. So, it's clearly Neil Gaiman even without being explicitly identified, and I thought it'd just be left at that, a nice treat for whoever made the recognition. Except then after a minute of conversation that character just plainly asks what his name is and, yup, he identifies himself as Neil Gaiman. So, it's not a bit of subtle humor or in-joke, it's definitively him, but okay, even that's not weird. Cameos aren't usually handled in this exact way, and they're usually not from such similar field as the author (He and Paul Cornell have a lot of professional commonalities beyond just "They're both authors") but it's not that far beyond the pale.

We get some background, we know how Neil Gaiman got the Sight (He was at a signing and was given an object by a fan. It was after the Neverwhere series but before the book), and that might be that....except a few chapters later they characters call him up and start questioning him, getting some deep background on stuff they're working with. He's now an actual character in the book, he's not a cameo at all. This is like if, during a zombie uprising, you ran into Bruce Campbell as the hero. Not the self-deprecating parody of My Name is Bruce, but if one day he guest-starred As Himself on The Walking Dead as one of the badass zombie fighters whose experience making movies makes him the best qualified of the bunch.

And then....look, I actually won't say where it goes from here because now we're getting towards the climax and what comes next reveals quite a bit, but suffice to say when it happened I literally had to put the book down for a moment and take a breath. And it's Neil Gaiman the entire time. Never revealed as a shapeshifter or doppelganger or mind-control or anything, it's literally the author of The Sandman and American Gods and Coraline doing all this and.....what the frak, man?
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
Quote
#72
(09-19-2015, 04:36 AM)AndrewCrossett Wrote:  I have no idea what that post meant, but I am currently reading NEVERWHERE. Having previously only read the comic adaptation from years ago, which had quite a different vibe from the book.

Which version of the book are you reading? I just learned today that there's apparently a Definitive Edition recently released.
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
Quote
#73
[Image: analog_anthology_1981_n1.jpg]

The other collection of short stories I own that contains Isaac Asimov's "The Dead Past" is called The Analog Anthology #1 with an introduction by Stanley Schmidt. It contains both short stories and articles that were previously featured in the magazine Analog: Science Fiction Science Fact and its earlier incarnation Astounding Science Fiction.

Short stories from this book I recommend are "And He Built A Crooked House" by Robert Heinlein, Stanley Schmidt's "The Prophet", Poal Anderson's "The Longest Voyage", "Can these Bones Live?" by Ted Reynolds, and Stanley Weinbaum's "The Lotus Eaters". Stories by A.E. Vogt and Theodore Sturgeon among other authors are also featured.

There are also some interesting articles as well. "Language For Time Travelers" by L. Sprague de Camp talks about how the spoken language changes over time. "No Copying Allowed" by John W. Campbell is about how future technology that travels backwards in time would be impossible to reverse engineere in the present. "The Asking Of Questions" by Poal Anderson is basically a dedication to John W Campbell's work as editor of the magazine and how they would move on after his death in 1971.
"It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison
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#74
(09-20-2015, 07:55 PM)JBK405 Wrote:  Which version of the book are you reading?  I just learned today that there's apparently a Definitive Edition recently released.

It's an older paperback edition. This one:

[Image: neverwhere.jpg]
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." --Thomas Jefferson

“Fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.” --Benito Mussolini
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#75
I finished the 24 TV Tie in novel Deadline last night. It was written by James Swallow and details the immediate aftermath of Jack Bauer's life after the end of Season 8. (Before they did the 24 Live Another Day miniseries).
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#76
Does the miniseries contradict, or does it all fit together?
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
Quote
#77
JBK405, it all fits together. The book picks up right at the end of the Season 8 when Jack was left a wanted man by both US and Russian governments. The Live Another Day miniseries was set four years (or something like that) after the end of Season 8.

There's a lot of open ground that can be covered by a book (or multiple books since there is at least one other book out) and by a comic series that was published around the time the TV miniseries premiered.
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#78
The Last Defender Of Camelot
byRoger Zelazny

[Image: Last_defender_of_camelot.jpg]

Really enjoyed this anthology. This collection includes both science fiction and fantasy stories. Zelazny gives a brief introduction to each short story and there are some great ones including "The Stainless Steel Leech", "The Engine at Heartspring's Center", "Is There a Demon Lover in the House?" and "The Game Of Blood and Dust" among others.

My favorite story is the novelette "For A Breath I Tarry". It's set in a future after the extinction of human beings where after contemplating the differences between Man and Machine one of the sentient machines decides he wants to actually become a man. This is an incredible story with a great ending and could make an equally good CGI film.

The novelette "Damnation Alley" features an ex biker who must go on a cross country ride through radioactive post apocalypse America to deliver a plague cure from California to Boston. Zelazny mentions that he had written this after reading Hunter S. Thompson's "Hell's Angels". He also mentions it was later adapted into a book which was adapted into a film. This is one of the best action adventure stories I've read in awhile.

Another of the novelettes featured that I find interesting "He Who Shapes" about a future where the protagonist, Charles Render, a neuroparticipant therapist has the ability to go into people's consciousness using a machine.

The short story the collection is named after "The Last Defender of Camelot" is about Lancelot who has lived for 200 years after the fall of Camelot. After helping to awaken a half mad Merlin he must stop the wizard to save the world. This is a really entertaining story and the reason I picked up this collection in the first place.

In the short "A Thing of Terrible Beauty" an alien parasite has a conversation with his human host as the world is about to be destroyed.  The man walks over to his record collection pulls out Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain", starts to play the song Saeta and says "I've always maintained that it is music for the last hour of Earth.  If Gabriel doesn't show up, this will do."  One of the coolest things I've ever read.



"It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes. The spectator cannot exist without it. It ensures his existence." -- James Douglas Morrison
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#79
I started two days ago A Call to Duty, the first in the "Manticore Ascendant" series, which is distant-prologue to the Honorverse series of novels.  The time period has been covered in some supplemental encyclopedia/historical-style sections from previous novels and I think at least one short story, but it's still largely unexplored when it comes to actual storytelling, especially compared to the twenty-plus books that have fleshed out the 'modern' setting of the mainline series.

It's certainly interesting to get a 'fresh' take on a fictional universe I'm already well immersed in; like Star Trek: Enterprise (But with the bonus of not being Enterprise) we get to see characters first encountering and dealing with stuff that the audience knows is old hat.  Seeing the Royal Manticoran Navy as a nearly-obsolete money sink filled almost entirely with incompetence is a little jarring, as is seeing the Republic of Haven as the stalwart Big Fish in a Small Pond who's seen as the protector and helper of the region, since in the primary time the RMN is a professional service with a history of victory and the People's Republic of Haven has been the expanding bully and economic black hole for centuries.

The main character is an interesting archetype that we don't see very often and I'm glad to have pop up here; he's a kid who isn't a little shit.  He's not a rule-breaker or a rebel, even when he was still in high school he drove the speed limit and followed procedure because he likes things being orderly and recognizes that there's a reason for why things are set up the way they are.  Having a young guy who enjoys structure and precision for its own sake is almost unheard of in fiction, normally that kind of character is depicted as the antagonist pain-in-the-ass that the protagonist needs to either subvert or convert.  I also, in my position as armchair psychologist, would probably place him somewhere on the functional autism spectrum; he's got difficulty reading social cues and understanding societal norms and retreats into established rules as a way to compensate.  Nothing exaggerated or parodic, just enough for me to recognize the signs.

However, the book isn't perfect.  I think they went to far with "The RMN isn't yet the crisp wunderbar it will be in the future", its training and competence are so low that it probably does deserve to be shelved completely.  It's like the Gotham City Police Department almost (Except with general incompetence as opposed to active corruption), it's just a complete wreck across the board that it can't even function properly.  In fact, it's worse in some ways, because when Jim Gordon became commissioner he began to clean up what he could, but when a new can-do Commodore was put in charge of the training academy he just shrugged his shoulders at the cheating and instructor abuse he found and said "it sucks, but there's nothing I can do". The extreme was too far.

There was also this really weird bit of friend zone complaint in this one paragraph, and it's weird.  As in the main Honorverse timeline the cast is extremely split male/female so the main character is frequently bumping into women who (For various reasons) he doesn't see again (because that's how life works), and there's this one section where he bemoans how clearly none of them liked him because they never pursued him and what is it about him that repels women?  Admittedly he did have a flirtatious conversation with one of them, but that was because they were literally drifting in space together and she was having a psychotic episode, and the other two there was nothing of the kind (One of them he literally only met once for about an hour).  Where did that "These women who I met never tracked me down years later for a date, why am I always stuck in the friend zone?" bit of thinking come from?  There was no resentment built up before, and it hasn't been referenced since, it's just this one out-of-place paragraph that I don't get.

I believe there have already been two more entires in the series released (Almost certainly at least one), I'll pick them up as well and see where it goes.
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
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#80
I just finished Beginnings, the sixth short story collection set in the Honorverse series, and sadly I was actually pretty let down by the majority of its contents.

The first short story, "By the Book", almost isn't even an Honoverse story at all.  It's setting is 1,700 years prior to the main timeline and doesn't have any of the unique technology of the series or the politics of the main story, apart from a few (Very few) buzzwords it's completely unconnected.  It's sort-of like calling a story set during the Roman Empire a prequel to Star Trek; sure, Rome did happen in Trek history, but that doesn't make it a series.  It doesn't even try to lay the groundwork for the later developments.  The story itself is also sub-par; it starts strongly enough, with an interesting Earth/space relationship that I've seen used well in many other sci-fi universes, but it ultimately turns out that much of 'plot' is unconnected to the rest of the story at all, and then there's page after page of exposition info dump at the end.

The second story, "A Call To Arms", is actually pretty well executed in and of itself, but it reads more like a chapter yanked out of a different book instead of a full story.  Set in the same time as A Call to Duty from my previous post, if I hadn't read that novel first I doubt I'd have understood what was going on here, as this short story gave no background for any of the characters motivations or actions.  No mention of why Axelrod wanted to conquer the system.  None at all.  It will certainly be very good when it's included as a single chapter of the larger book they're writing around it, but not as a story you're supposed to be able to take on its own.

"Beauty and the Beast" is the low-point of the collection, so much so that I actually had to skip the last three/four pages and rush to the end.  Despite the fact that it's actually written by David Weber, who is the author of the main series, this is actually a direct contradiction to established continuity.  It's the story of how main character Honor Harrington's parents met, and it completely re-writes their history, and not to the benefit, either.  Allison, Honor's mother, had spent five full novels of the main series dismissive and unappreciative of the bodyguards Honor had to have since she became an important political figure and member of the nobility; she resented the need to have them herself since she couldn't imagine that anybody would want to harm her because of who she was related to and it was an actual story development that she came to appreciate their need after repeated attempts on Honor's life and her own.  In this story we learn that she had actually been kidnapped and tortured (nearly to death) as leverage against her brother when she had been in college.  For her to then continue to say "I don't need bodyguards" makes her a moron that I have trouble fathoming.  It also relied on some really bad Love At First Sight writing, and just having characters in the story say "I don't believe in Love At First Sight, this is something that happens in bad writing" doesn't absolve them of that sin.

"Best Laid Plans" at least was better, even if still not perfect.  I don't like this pattern that's arisen of almost every single treecat adoption we've seen coming during a moment of near-death (Stepahnie/Lionheart, Adrienna/Seeker of Dreams, MacDallan/Fisher, Justin/Monroe, etc.), I think the only adoptions we've seen that weren't in a moment of mortal peril were Hamish/Samantha and Miranda/Farragut, and now that we learn Honor and Nimitz met the same way it makes me wonder.  It's always been explained that this isn't a conscious decision, it's not something anybody does that causes an adoption, it's just a meshing of minds very much in the style of Love At First Sight that I was disparaging in the previous paragraph.  When it turns out that they come from danger at more than 2:1 odds...it makes me wonder.

"Obligated Service" was probably the best of the collection, although it still struggled at some sections (Technical writing problems, easy to overlook given the general quality of the work).  I very much appreciate the chance to explore a character that has not been heavily featured in the series up until now: An average Grayson woman.  Grayson is a heavily patriarchal society and it's only within the timeline of the main series of novels that they've extended to women the right to vote, get jobs outside of the home and (Particularly) serve in the navy.  We've seen many Grayson women as characters, but they've almost all of them been members or close associates of the ruling parties of the planet; though I absolutely love Abigail Hearns (She's awesome), she's the daughter of a Steadholder and essentially a Princess, so her experience joining the GSN is going to be unique.  This short story shows the very first two normal Grayson women to enlist in the GSN; neither are the daughters of a Steadholder, or come from Harrington Steading, or have a connection to the Protectorship, they're just two regular women dealing with the shit that comes from not staying in the tiny box they were told they belong in.  I generally like Grayson, they come across as a people with outdated traditions that are trying to get better, but it galled me just to vicariously experience what they go through.  If you want can get a truncated version of this story in Grayson Navy Letters Home, which is by the author who wrote this story and is framed as letters sent home to family covering the same generalities.
Life is like a roller coaster.  It has its ups and downs, but if you sit back and relax you get one heck of a ride.

NationStates: The Associated Systems of Klonor

Equality is not a loss.
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