I walked into the office today and found a package awaiting me. I could hardly contain my excitement as I tore through the wrapping, just imagining what awaited insie. Chocolates? Books? Unsolicited story ideas that I would have to hand off to Alex Levine for immediate return? Well, none of the above. Feast your eyes on this awesome painting of my four little terrors lazing about (actually, three little terrors as, I hate to say it, but Bubba didn’t make the cut – that’s Jelly pictured twice on the left – nevertheless, a great job capturing their likeness so well that I AM able to recognize my own pooches). A big thank you to the artist, our very own ditraveler. Fondy is going to love this!

Speaking of the dogs, it was Lulu’s first day at daycare today. I dropped her off with the pugs and peeked into the pen to watch her settle in. The second they opened the gate, she scampered inside and was immediately lost amidst a sea of dogs where she either had time of her life or was immediately consume by the pack. I guess I’ll find out later today when I go pick them up.

And speaking of sending – I finally sent Pauline off her 500 000th visitor prize: that sample of sand from the set of The Last Man. Accompanying the sand (which comes in its very own eye-catching test tube) is an Unofficial Certificate of Authenticity for immediate framing. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t send it. I had Lawren do it. He was still filling out the special sand custom form when I strolled by him this afternoon. “Value of item,”I overheard him murmur. “One dollar.” One dollar! How can you put a price on happiness? Especially after you learn – as I did today – that this sand was re-used from the Ark of Truth set. Wow! Two shows in one. Don’t you feel special, Pauline?

And speaking of neither dogs nor mail, I’d like to welcome you all to our second Joe’s Book Club of the Month meeting. This month’s selections: in the fantasy category – Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane, an in the scifi category – Niven, Pournelle, and Barnes’s The Legacy of Heorot. Allow me to weigh in…

Lord Foul’s Bane: I have to be honest with you. Although I read The Lord of the Rings in high school, I’ve generally avoided fantasy literature most of my life because, rather unfairly perhaps, I’ve always imagined its offerings as little more than variations on the same theme. Well, that attitude changed once I read the works of Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, and George R. R. Martin. I discovered that fantasy didn’t have to involve: an unlikely and reluctant hero, a quest to save the land, a band of brave supporting players committed to helping the hero attain his goal, a magical artifact (usually a ring), an evil overlord and his beastly minions.

Now Lord Foul’s Bane is a seminal work of the genre, one that was recommended to me on numerous occasions and one that I finally got around to reading last week. To those of you haven’t read it, it tells the story of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, an unlikely and reluctant hero, who undertakes a quest to save “the Land”. Accompanied by a band of brave supporting players committed to helping him attain his goal, he is armed with the power of White Gold imbued in the magical artifact he sports (a ring actually). But even that may not be enough to defeat the forces of the evil Lord Foul and his beastly minions.

I don’t doubt Donaldson’s talent as a writer, but I didn’t find this book as significant as some had led me to believe. When I gave Rob Cooper my honest opinion, he admitted that he’d had a tough time getting through the first half, although it picked up for him in the later stages. According to him, the second book in the series is when it really gets good. Another reader shared my initial misgivings, but insisted that things really pick up in the third book of the series. Second or third book of the series?! Talk about infinite patience. If not for the fact that it was a selection in my own book club, I probably wouldn’t have finished this one.

For starters, while I understand that the protagonist, Thomas Covenant, is an anti-hero, I found him a lot more anti than hero. When he first appears in the book’s strange otherworld, he is befriended by a young girl who rescues him and takes him to her village. He repays her kindness by sexually assaulting her. Now I realize that he will presumably seek redemption over the course of the book series but, to be honest, I have a very hard time mustering up much sympathy for a rapist. Call me hopelessly old-fashioned in that respect.

As for the adventure itself, much of the narrative is made up of our anti-hero complaining and feeling sorry for himself, or pages of backstory on the Land that we learn second-hand from its denizens who punctuate the travelogue by breaking into song now and again. It was tough going.

In retrospect and given how many people loved it, maybe I’m just the wrong audience for this book.

The Legacy of Heorot: Shades of Aliens! The members of a self-sufficient colony are threatened by a fearsome resident of their new homeworld. But in dealing with the problem, they unwittingly create a much bigger threat.

Legacy turns out to be a fairly quick read, occasionally bogged down, I thought, by the creature POV segments. While I didn’t find the relationships between the various characters all that engaging (and someone has already noted the fact that the female characters were a bit thin), I did find the development of the battle between colonists and grendels very interesting. In particular, I liked the way in which a study of the creatures’ biology offered up the means by which to defeat them. I also liked the late twist – the realization that the colonists have actually exacerbated the problem by screwing with the new world’s eco-system, setting up the novel’s climactic showdown.

Granted, as far as science fiction goes, Legacy of Heorot is more popcorn fare than most – but nevertheless, a fun read.

Today’s pics: ditraveler’s doggy masterpiece, The Last Man sand and accompanying unofficial certificate of authenticity, Hey! Check out Marty G.’s Stargate SG-1 The Complete Series boxset (with new and improved gate symbols!).

Today’s video: Click on the link to see Lulu’s first day at daycare.

Today’s mailbag:

Amz writes: “I’m wondering, what’s been happening in the World of Joe’s Psedonymous Email Persona’s? Anything of note?”

Answer: Things have been unusually quiet on that front of late. I’ll have to check in with Hazzencockle, Baron Destructo, and Cookie Monster.

Charles Schneider writes: “ What’s your favorite cut of red meat/beef? How do you like it prepared?”

Answer: Rib-eye. Medium-rare.

Zabadoo writes: “So, four great episodes in a row and counting, are you surprised of the positive fan reaction to them or were you expecting it?”

Answer: I never know what to expect. I will say that I thought the first four were strong episodes, and feel the same about this week’s episode: Travelers.

Emily writes: “Have you ever eaten bone marrow?”

Answer: Yep. A local restaurant, Le Crocodile, does a terrific roasted bone marrow.

Vikitty writes: “…have you checked out the West Coast Chocolate Festival yet?”

Answer: I didn’t. As much as I enjoy chocolate, I didn’t feel like taking the drive to Coquitlam. Did you go?

ARF writes: “I think it sounds like a poor defense/excuse for unoriginality.”

Answer: I see it as an evolution of a concept created for the show – like the goa’uld, the wraith, or any other elements that have been revisited and developed over time.

Bekki writes: “What do the Stargate Atlantis crew do with all their trash?”

Answer: It is beamed onto hive ships. That’s why the wraith hate us so much.

Anonymous #1 writes: “In Progeny, Niam wanted to ascend. So, is it possible for machine like him reach ascension?”

Answering: Interesting question.

Anonymous #2 writes: “I just wanted to ask if the enormously awkward chitchat Keller had with Carter after she announced Heightmeyer’s death was an emergency medical situation?”

Answer: Yeah, I told Robert to run any use of the Keller character by you first, but he evidently forgot to do so. I’ll have to have a talk with him.

Anonymous #3 writes: “Just what does Keller bring to SGA that Beckett could not?”

My Name is Scott answered: “HOW MANY times to people have to be told that Weir and Carson were NOT gotten rid of FOR Carter and Keller. The decision to bring Carter and Keller was made AFTER the decision to rid Weir and Carson… why is this hard to get?? Wow!”

Anonymous #4 writes: “This is not an attack on jewel Staite, casting her as a junior doctor or a junior scientist or junior archaeologist may have worked but this is frankly ridiculous.”

Answer: So, you buy the near-instantaneous travel through a wormhole? You buy the life-sucking aliens? But you have a hard time accepting the possibility of a young virtuoso?

Kdvb1 writes: “If we want to send something to one of the main actors, would it still get to them if we send it to the studios?”

Answer: Sure. Send it to: Stargate Atlantis – 2400 Boundary Road, Burnaby, B.C., V5M 3Z3.

Anonymous #5 writes: “what are the best and worst aspects of working in the Sci-fi industry?”

Answer: Best – You can be as imaginative as you want to be when coming up with new worlds, races, and situations. Worst – As a genre, it is afforded little respect from the general public.

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