Read in 2018

I didn’t read a lot of novels this year – in fact I kind of stopped reading entirely for a few months. Here’s what I did get through.


It’s been so long since I read most of these that I look at this list and think “Wait, that was this year?”

Winterglass – Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Tales from Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Other Wind – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Refrigerator Monologues – Catherynne M. Valente
Provenance – Ann Leckie
Binti: The Night Masquerade – Nnedi Okorafor
The Stone in the Skull – Elizabeth Bear
The Only Harmless Great Thing – Brooke Bolander
Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor


I’m no longer walking to work every morning so my regular audibook listening has come to an end for now.

Fool’s Assassin – Robin Hobb
Fool’s Quest – Robin Hobb
Assassin’s Fate – Robin Hobb
Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
Goldenhand – Garth Nix
House of Shattered Wings – Aliette de Bodard
House of Binding Thorns – Aliette de Bodard
How To Survive the End of the World – Aaron Gillies
The Calculating Stars – Mary Robinette Kowal
The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
The Fated Sky – Mary Robinette Kowal
Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky


I have fallen behind a little on comics this year.
Once again I will apologise for not crediting everyone below – some of these collected volumes have 20+ people contributing and there just isn’t the space or energy for that.

The Wicked + The Divine vol 6-7 – Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, & Clayton Cowles

The Wild Storm vol 1-2 – Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Steve Buccellato, Ivan Plascencia, John Kalisz, Simon Bowland

Giant Days vol 6-7 – John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar, & Jim Campbell

Batwoman: Rebirth vol 1 – Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Steve Epting, Stephanie Hans, Renato Arlem, Jeromy Cox, Adriano Lucas, & Deron Bennett

Injection vol 3 – Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Belaire

Rocket Girl vol 2 – Brendan Montclare & Amy Reeder

Black Bolt vol 1-2 – Saladin Ahmed, Christian Ward, Clayton Cowles

Planetary Omnibus – Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, & many more

Saga vol 8 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Bitch Planet: Triple Feature vol 1 – Various (sorry I am lazy)

Lady Killer 2 – Joelle Jones & Michelle Madsen

Ms. Marvel vol 8 – G. Willow Wilson, Marco Failla, Diego Olortegui, Ian Herring, Joe Caramagna & Travis Lanham

Porcelain: Ivory Tower – Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose

She-Hulk vol 2 – Mariko Tamaki, Julian Lopez, Sebastian Carrillo, Georges Duarte, & Pierfrancesco Gaston

Kill or Be Killed vol 3 – Ed Brubaker, Shaun Philips & Elizabeth Breitweiser

The Mighty Thor vol 4-5 – Jason Aaron, Russel Dauterman, Matthew Wilson, Valerio Schiti, Joe Sabino, and many more

Bingo Love – Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, & Joy San

Shade, The Changing Girl vol 2 – Cecil Castelucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Marguerite Sauvage, Kelly Fitzpatrick, & Saida Temofonte

Crosswind vol 1 – Gail Simone, Cat Staggs, & Simon Bowland

X-Men: Grand Design 1 – Ed Piskor

Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse: Mr Wormwood Goes to Washington – Ben Templesmith

Head Lopper vol 2 – Andrew MacLean & Jordie Belaire

Paper Girls vol 4 – Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher

Lazarus X+66 – Greg Rucka, Eric Trautman, & many more

Motor Crush vol 2 – Babs Tarr, Brenden Feltcher, Cameron Stewart, & Aditya Bidikar

Strong Female Protagonist book 2 – Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 7 – Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, & Travis Lanham

Giant Days: Extra Credit vol 1 – John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Caanan Grall, Jenn St-Onge, Sarah Stern, Jeremy Lawson, & Jim Campbell


Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin

I originally wrote this post in 2013, and then shelved it after some feedback led me to conclude it was fundamentally flawed. Its presence in my drafts folder has been nagging me for years. Following the recent death of Ms. Le Guin, I decided to finally revisit and complete it. It’s not exactly what I would have written today, but it completes the thoughts I wanted to share five years ago.

Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet, as it was known at the time, was one of the first fantasy series I read, after things like the Chronicles of Narnia (which always feels to me like something everyone must have read as a child, though I know that’s not true). I must have been only about 10 years old the first time. I read the four novels several times, and The Tombs of Atuan, for some reason, was always my favourite. I never quite got into Tehanu to the same extent; I think it bored me, in fact.

It was with those childhood impressions in mind that I decided to revisit the series for the first time in at least a decade. And I was a little surprised. You see, Le Guin stands as almost a mythic figure herself – one of the greats of science fiction and fantasy literature, known for works like The Left Hand of Darkness, which explores the idea of gender through a world where the binary does not exist. In that context, then, A Wizard of Earthsea struck me for one big reason: Where were the women?

That first Earthsea novel was surprisingly conventional, at least from the perspective of an adult reader in 2013. It deals with some interesting themes, particularly that of facing the darkness that exists within one’s own self, but these days the story of a young man learning to become a wizard is nothing exceptional. And the story is all about men. Ged, the apprentice wizard; Ogion, his first master; the Masters and Archmage of Roke; Ged’s rival, Jasper, and his friend, Vetch. There are, as far as I recall, five female characters in A Wizard of Earthsea. All are small parts, there for a chapter or so – some not even that – and then gone.

The second book, The Tombs of Atuan, goes some way to redress the imbalance. The main character is Tenar, known as Arha, Priestess of the Nameless Ones. She lives in an enclave of priestesses and eunuchs, where men are not allowed. Tenar is, technically, one of the highest authorities in Kargad, but she comes to realise she has no actual power, and the other two high priestesses only have power so long as the God-King chooses to keep to the old traditions. It is only when a man, Ged, arrives that Tenar is able to break out of the restrictions placed upon her. When Tenar, through Ged’s aid, ultimately departs from the Tombs, they are destroyed – along with what are seemingly the only positions of authority, however limited, for women in all of Earthsea.

The Farthest Shore once again gives Ged’s story, this time as an old man, as Archmage, as he sets out with the young nobleman Arren. They journey to investigate a dark power that is causing Mages to forget their True Speech, and to place a king on Earthsea’s vacant throne. The Farthest Shore is a story about confronting and accepting death, and it, too, is a story about men.

In those three books, what Le Guin created was a world in which men held all of the power; in which women could have some magic ability, but only as witches who were shunned, or sorceresses in service to dark powers. “Weak as women’s magic; wicked as women’s magic” is the saying on Gont. And she created a world where these things were seemingly unquestioned.

How did someone who is known as a feminist writer end up creating such a sexist world? As it turns out, this is something Le Guin herself was very aware of. This was a male dominated genre, one in which it was often felt that writers must centre male characters in order to sell books. She spoke a number of times in interviews about the slow process of learning how to shed this preconception, such as in this interview from 1994:

All my early fiction tends to be rather male-centred. A couple of the Earthsea books have no women in them at all or only marginal women figures. That’s how hero stories worked; they were about men. With the exception of just a few feminists like Joanna Russ, science fiction was pretty much male-dominated up to the 1960s. Women who wrote in that field often used pen names.
None of this bothered me. It was my tradition, and I worked in it happily. But I began coming up against certain discomforts. […]
I gradually realised that my own fiction was telling me that I could no longer ignore the feminine. While I was writing The Eye of the Heron in 1977, the hero insisted on destroying himself before the middle of the book. “Hey,” I said, “you can’t do that, you’re the hero. Where’s my book?” I stopped writing. The book had a woman in it, but I didn’t know how to write about women. I blundered around awhile and then found some guidance in feminist theory. […] It taught me that I didn’t have to write like an honorary man anymore, that I could write like a woman and feel liberated in doing so.

That’s the problem when you come upon the work of an established author long after they began their career – it’s easy to forget that decades of work was involved, and that their own understanding of their work may have changed in the process.

For the Earthsea saga, that’s where Tehanu comes in. Published eighteen years after The Farthest Shore, this is a very different book, and in many ways serves as a feminist response to the world that Le Guin had created.

In this slower, darker, and more domestic novel, we once again have the point of view of Tenar – older, and living on the island of Gont; a mother whose children have left, and a wife whose husband has died. Since she was last seen in The Tombs of Atuan, she’s lived an entire life.

At the opening of the book, a young girl is found beaten and burned, and is nursed back to health by Tenar and the witch Ivy. Tenar takes the child in as her own, and gives her the name Therru. Tehanu takes place at the time The Farthest Shore ended: In that book, we were told of how Earthsea still did not have peace because there was no king on the throne; now, a king has been found, but his influence is yet to be felt. Gont is no longer safe for travellers, as vagrants and thieves are on the roads. It was vagrants such as these – the girl’s own parents and one other man – who had beaten Therru and left her for dead.

Part of what makes this one book remarkable out of the four is Tenar’s position in the story: as a woman and mother with no special power of her own, threatened by men who wish harm on her and her child. When she travels, she is wary of every person she passes on the road. Her fears are not fantastic in nature – they are those of an ordinary woman faced with the abuses of evil men. The dangers she faces are mundane, and very real.

Much the same is true for Ged, when he returns to Gont. Having lost all of his magic at the end of The Farthest Shore, he is no longer a mage, but an ordinary old man, one who has never lived as an ordinary man before in his entire life. Accustomed to facing down dragons, now he is as helpless as Tenar. His loss of purpose serves another theme of the novel – that of what people do when what they believed was their role in life has ended. Tenar has been a priestess, a celebrated hero, a mage’s apprentice, a wife, and a mother; Ged has spent his entire life a mage. For both, these roles are behind them at the novel’s opening, and they must try to make a new life for themselves.

Most of all, though, the book talks about power. The men in this story almost universally hold power over Tenar and Therru. Some are friendly – the sorcerer of Valmouth is helpful; the King and Master Windkey from Roke offer her every courtesy thanks to her fame and her friendship with Ged. Ogion the Silent, mage of Re Albi, sees her like a daughter. The wizards who visit Re Albi at Ogion’s death, however, do not trust Tenar’s account of his last words; the Lord of Re Albi’s sorcerer, Aspen, in particular proves to be an evil and hateful man. The man who injured Therru may only be a vagabond, but he nevertheless holds power over them, through memory of the pain he caused, and the threat he poses later, when he gathers friends to attack Tenar at her home.

Along with sharing a position of power over Tenar, most are in some way dismissive of her, simply because of her womanhood. The Master Windkey is searching for clues as to who will be the next Archmage, following a prophecy that said only “A woman on Gont”. But neither he, nor any other Master of Roke, has considered that the woman in question might in fact be the Archmage. They believe the woman will guide them to the man they seek. While she talks with him, Tenar realises that the Master Windkey will never grasp what she tries to say. “How could he, who had never listened to a woman since his mother sang him his last cradle song, hear her?”

Ogion had told Tenar to teach Therru magic: “Teach her all. Not Roke.” Beech, the wizard of Valmouth hears this, and decides immediately what was meant. “‘He meant that the learning of Roke – the High Arts – wouldn’t be suitable for a girl,’ he explained. ‘Let alone one so handicapped.'” What Ogion must have meant, he says, was the same thing he had suggested: that Therru become a witch. “He pondered again, having got the weight of Ogion’s opinion on his side.”

It’s one of the book’s many examples of men mindlessly following what they know to be the way of things. “His kindness was, Tenar thought, innocent.” Even Tenar’s own son, Spark, when he returns from years at sea, immediately expects his mother to wait on him and defer to him as head of the household. “His father had always been waited on by his mother, wife, daughter. Was he less a man than his father? Was she to prove it to him?”

But women, too, have power. A story early in the book tells of Ogion’s meeting with an old woman who he first mistook for a dragon. This woman told him a story of a time in Earthsea’s beginning when humans and dragons were one and the same, and how they came to choose different paths and become separate beings. In this, and in the culmination of Therru’s story, it is women who hold a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the world. So too with the subtle implication that it may be Therru who is destined to be Archmage, the one who leads the wizards, the Masters of Roke – and her accession would be sign of a fundamental change in Earthsea.

There is a hint of gender essentialism regarding magic in the novel – particularly in a conversation between Tenar and the witch Moss, about the difference between men’s and women’s power.

‘Ours is only a little power, seems like, next to theirs,’ Moss said. ‘But it goes down deep. It’s all roots. It’s like an old blackberry thicket. And a wizard’s power is like a fir tree, maybe, great and tall and grand, but it’ll blow right down in a storm.’

On a certain level, such discussions of the difference in power seems to lend legitimacy to the model that has put wizards alone into the School on Roke, and confined women with power to petty witchcraft. But beside the rest of the novel, and coming from a character that has had to live within that structure as a witch herself, it’s easy to forgive.

Ultimately, Tehanu calls into question all of the patriarchal structures of Earthsea’s culture as established in the original trilogy, simply through its use of the perspective of an ordinary woman attempting to live an ordinary life. Tenar sees through the obstinacy and foolishness of the men around her, but it is only Ged, who has lost his former self and has to learn from nothing how to be a man, who is able to hear her.

In 2018, I finally completed the Earthsea saga by reading Tales of Earthsea and The Other Wind. With the short stories in particular, Le Guin expanded on these discussions of men and women’s power, of the exclusion of women from magic in Roke, and how the segregation of men and women in magic came about. The series concludes with events that turn the entire system of magic in Earthsea on its head, leaving the future unknown and open to all kinds of change. And it is women, and the men who are willing to listen to them, who are instrumental in bringing this about.

Tehanu no longer bores me. It is powerful, moving book, and my favourite of the entire Earthsea series. I’ll end this with a passage from late in the novel, a conversation between Ged and Tenar which I think exemplifies well what Tehanu has to say about men and women. I almost wish I could quote the whole few pages.

‘Haven’t there been queens? Weren’t they women of power?’
‘A queen’s only a she-king,’ said Ged.
She snorted.
‘I mean, men give her power. They let her use their power. But it isn’t hers, is it? It isn’t because she’s a woman that she’s powerful, but despite it.’
She nodded. She stretched, sitting back from the spinning wheel. ‘What is a woman’s power, then?’
‘I don’t think we know.’
‘When has a woman power because she’s a woman? With her children, I suppose. For a while…’
‘In her house, maybe.’
She looked around the kitchen. ‘But the doors are shut,’ she said, ‘The doors are locked.’
‘Because you’re valuable.’
‘Oh, yes. We’re precious. So long as we’re powerless… I remember when I first learned that! Kossil threatened me – me, the One Priestess of the Tombs. And I realised that I was helpless. I had the honour; but she had the power, from the God-King, the man. Oh, it made me angry! And frightened me… Lark and I talked about this once. She said, “Why are men afraid of women?”‘
‘If your strength is only the other’s weakness, you live in fear,’ Ged said.
‘Yes; but women seem to fear their own strength, to be afraid of themselves.’
‘Are they ever taught to trust themselves?’ Ged asked, and as he spoke Therru came in on her work again. His eyes and Tenar’s met.
‘No,’ she said. ‘Trust is not what we’re taught.’

With thanks to ussussimiel and LuciMay for their input; it took me 5 years to act on it, but I did listen.

Read in 2017 – Comics

My comics reading kind of ground to a halt toward the end of the year, and I now have a sizeable pile of books that are waiting to be read. I’ve been thinking about cutting back, to be honest; I’ve already mostly stopped buying DC, and I’m figuring out which Marvel titles I want to keep up with. While I do enjoy these comics, I sometimes feel like I’m reading them simply out of continued habit.

    Ms Marvel vols 6 & 7 – G Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, Mirka Andolfo, Francesco Gaston, Ian Herring & Joe Caramagna

    Clean Room vols 2 & 3 – Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt, Walter Geovani, Sanya Anwar, Quinton Winter & Todd Klein

    Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! vols 2 & 3 – Kate Leth, Brittney L. Williams, Megan Wilson, Rachelle Rosenberg, & Clayton Cowles

    Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur vols 2 & 3 – Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, Natacha Bustos, Marco Failla, Tamra Bonvillain, & Travis Lanham

    Secret Six vol 2 – Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham, Tom Derenick, Jason Wright, Rex Lokus, & Travis Lanham

    Paper Girls vols 2 & 3 – Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, & Jared K. Fletcher

    Vision vol 2 – Tom King, Michael Walsh, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire, & Clayton Cowles

    The Mighty Thor vols 1-3 – Jason Aaron, Russel Dauterman, Steve Epting, Valerio Schiti, Matthew Wilson, Mat Lopes, Rafa Garres, Fraser Irving, & Joe Sabino

    The Unworthy Thor – Jason Aaron, Olivier Coipel, Kim Jacinto, Russel Dauterman, Esad Ribic, Frazer Irving, Matt Wilson, & Joe Sabino

    Batgirl Rebirth vol 1 – Hope Larson, Rafael Albuquerque, Dave McCaig, & Deron Bennett

    Black Panther vol 3 – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Goran Sudzuka, Walden Wong, Roberto Poggi, Scott Hanna, Matt Milla, Larry Molinar, Rachelle Rosenberg, Paul Mounts, & Joe Sabino

    Welcome Back vol 2 – Christopher Sebela, Claire Roe, Jeremy Lawson, & Jim Campbell

    Jessica Jones vol 1 – Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, & Cory Petit

    Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vols 5 & 6 – Ryan North, Erika Henderson, Will Murray, Rico Renzi, Zac Gorman, Clayton Cowles, & Travis Lanham

    Mockingbird vol 2 – Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Sean Parsons, Rachelle Rosenberg, & Joe Caramagna

    Kim & Kim: This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life – Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, Claudia Aguirre, & Zakk Saam

    Lazarus vol 5 – Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Tyler Boss, Santi Arcas, & Jodi Wynne

    Bitch Planet vol 2 – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine de Landro, Taki Soma, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Clayton Cowles, & Rian Hughes

    The Wicked + The Divine vol 5 – Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles, & Kevin Wada

    Skim – Mariko Tamaki

    My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – Nagata Kobi

    Delilah Dirk & The Turkish Lieutenant – Tony Cliff

    Delilah Dirk & The King’s Shilling – Tony Cliff

    Motor Crush vol 1 – Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr, Heather Danforth, Aditya Bidikar

    Giant Days vol 5 – John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar, & Jim Campbell

    Monstress vol 2 – Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, & Rus Wooton

    Shade the Changing Girl vol 1 – Cecil Castelucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Ryan Kelly, Kelly Fitzpatrick, & Saida Temofonte

    She-Hulk vol 1 – Mariko Tamaki, Nico Leon, Dalibor Talajic, Matt Milla, Andrew Crossley, & Cory Petit

    Kill or Be Killed vol 2 – Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, & Elizabeth Breitweiser

    The Multiversity – Grant Morrison & so many more people than I could list here

    Sex Criminals vol 4 – Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky, & Elizabeth Breitweiser

Read in 2017 – Books & Audiobooks

Every (physical) book I read this year was published in 2016 or 2017, which is a little unusual for me – usually there’s at least one or two from the older side. This does mean that my to-read pile hasn’t really gotten any smaller this year. I’ve also been reading more novellas, a format that’s been getting more attention from publishers in the last few years – most of the ones I read came from’s novella imprint.

An Accident of Stars – Foz Meadows
Ghost Talkers – Mary Robinette Kowal
Everything Belongs to the Future – Laurie Penny
Borderline – Mishell Baker
The Wall of Storms – Ken Liu
A Taste of Honey – Kai Ashante Wilson
Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee
Certain Dark Things – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor
Forest of Memory – Mary Robinette Kowal
All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) – Martha Wells
River of Teeth – Sarah Gailey
The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle
The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe – Kij Johnson
The Stars Are Legion – Kameron Hurley
A Tyranny of Queens – Foz Meadows
The Collapsing Empire – John Scalzi
Borne – Jeff VanderMeer
City of Miracles – Robert Jackson Bennett
Six Wakes – Mur Lafferty
The Stone Sky – N K Jemisin
Phasma – Delilah S. Dawson
Raven Stratagem – Yoon Ha Lee

On the other hand, my audiobook listening has been entirely older work, as I’ve singularly focused on the work of Robin Hobb, catching up on her lengthy Realm of the Elderlings series-of-series. Over the year I listened to:

Royal Assassin
Assassin’s Quest
Ship of Magic
The Mad Ship
Ship of Destiny
Fool’s Errand
The Golden Fool
Fool’s Fate
Dragon Keeper
Dragon Haven
City of Dragons
Blood of Dragons

I’ve now started the final trilogy, but that’s for 2018’s list.

Worldcon 75 & Helsinki

This post is almost two months late. I could never quite think of what I wanted to say in it, and I didn’t try very hard. Thinking about how I needed to write this up first stopped me posting other things. So it’s all been on big mess of procrastination. But I’m here now, and I’m gonna write some stuff about my holiday – though it’s likely to be more broad-strokes than anything, after this long.


First up: I didn’t fall apart. I had worried about it, but I never really got to that point of frustration and anxiety that I had at my previous Worldcon. I suspect this is less of a personal improvement, and more getting used to failing at being social, and adjusting my expectations accordingly. I spent pretty much the entire con on my own again; I just didn’t get too bothered by it.

As for the con itself, apart from some first day hiccups where they had too many people and not enough space – I missed two or three panels on Thursday because the rooms were full – the content was great. It didn’t hit my specific buttons the way Nine Worlds content tends to, but there was a wide range of interesting stuff going on at all times, and there were only a few points where I found myself with nothing to do (which usually means it’s a chance to go eat).

Among the panels I attended were discussions of colonialism and orientalism, of representation in dystopias and in historical writing, of Lovecraft, and fairy tales, and musicals (the latter of which involved significantly less sing-along than the Nine Worlds equivalent). I attended talks by Ken Liu (on translation) and Jeff VanderMeer (on the adaptation of his novel Annihilation to film), and took part in the ASoIaF Quiz (which was far too difficult, alas, as it focused on pretty much everything except the main series novels or TV show).

It’s hard to be specific on these things when I’m writing about it so late, but I remember one of the highlights of the convention being the panel Oral Storytelling on Audio, which my last panel of the weekend, and was both informative and funny (largely due to some anecdotes from Mary Robinette Kowal).

The low point was probably the Fantastical Travel Guide panel, which attempted to get three authors to answer questions on the settings of their books as if they’re pitching them to tourists. Unfortunately the questions offered by the moderator didn’t quite seem to give the panelists much to work with, though they did their best. Anne Leinonen was very enthusiastically in-character to pitch her book, and Jeff VanderMeer, who seemed somewhat aware it wasn’t going well, at least was having some fun answering as Mord, the floating, giant, murderous bear from Borne (with multiple costume changes).

I attended the Hugo Awards ceremony again, and to be honest I found it a bit of a drag. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to watch the Hugos live is probably in private, with friends, so you can talk about it as it’s going on. The ceremony was also marred by some terrible live transcription, with frequent errors and sometimes entire chunks of speeches skipped after the scribe obviously lost track. I realise live transcription is a very difficult task, and most likely was being done by a volunteer, but I can’t imagine what it must have been like for anyone who had to rely on the text to follow the ceremony.

So Worldcon 75 was a positive experience, I don’t regret attending, but I ended it deciding that I probably won’t be attending the next one that comes close to home – Dublin in 2019 – unless I make new friends who I can attend with. It’s meant to be a social experience, after all, and I’m just no good at finding that side of it when I go in knowing no one.


Once Worldcon was pretty much wrapped up – I left a few hours before the actual end – I moved into a new hotel in the centre of Helsinki and started sightseeing. Helsinki Zoo, on Korkeasaari, is a short boat ride out of the centre and open late, and worth the visit if you like zoos – though you also need to like hiking up and down a very rocky island. I spent a couple of hours there on Sunday, tweeted a lot of photographs of animals, and then got caught out in the rain while we waited for the boat back.

On Monday, after picking up a two-day Helsinki Card (worth it, with the free transport and lots of museum entries), I went to the island fortress of Suomenlinna, which is a good way to fill up a whole day. There are a bunch of museums, including a German submarine you can walk through, as well as the islands themselves and all the old fortifications. I’m easily amused, so my favourite part was walking through the pitch black tunnels under the fortifications with only my phone flashlight to see by, though it doesn’t seem like the best thing to be letting unsupervised tourists do. Suomenlinna is usually the top listed attraction when you look up things to do in Helsinki, and rightly so.

(In a better world, I’d have arrived in Helsinki before Worldcon and signed up for the organised day trip to Suomenlinna. Alas, Nine Worlds being the weekend before meant I had to shift my sightseeing to after the con.)

Tuesday was meant to be “visit all the museums/churches” day. In reality, I had picked up a cold around Sunday and by Tuesday it’d gotten nasty. I managed to get through a few – the Natural History Museum, the Finnish National Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (which, well, it turns out I don’t like contemporary art) – but by the time I got to the Ateneum gallery I was pretty damn sick. Since I couldn’t concentrate on looking around exhibits, I ended up going on a long walk around the south end of Helsinki instead. It turned out to be a great idea; the weather was great, my head cleared up, and I had some very nice ice cream. I ended the day with a boat tour of the islands (included in the aforementioned Helsinki Card) which may not have been my best decision, as having a cold and sitting on an open top boat with the wind blowing in your face for two hours isn’t the most pleasant experience. I must’ve looked like I was crying my eyes out.

I really enjoyed my stay in Helsinki – great place, great weather, lots to see and do. And I lost a lot of weight from all the walking I did (I have, alas, gained it all back since).

My trip home was a bit of a disaster, however, as a flight delay led to me spending five hours in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport waiting for my replacement connection. I didn’t get home until midnight, about six hours later than expected. But at least I got home.

The week after I got back from Helsinki, I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, which I’ve done five years in a row now. I saw some very good stuff this year, the best of which was probably Two Man Show by RashDash, which I highly recommend if the words “feminist exploration of masculinity through theatre and interpretive dance” appeal to you.

I don’t have many plans for more trips at the moment. I’m likely to return to Nine Worlds next year, though that may change if they change venues from London to Birmingham (to be announced soon, I believe). I’m likely to go back to Edinburgh, too. But I’m not sure if I’ll have a job next year, so I’m not sure when I’ll next go abroad for a trip.

Thoughts on Knights of the Frozen Throne

Knights of the Frozen ThroneI play a lot of Hearthstone, but I don’t usually post much about it here. But with the newest expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne, launching in a day or so, I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on the set, and where the new cards might take the classes going forward.

This is a long post, as I had a lot of free time on my hands during a flight.

For reference, here is a gallery of all the new cards.


One thing I think is clear: Druid of the Swarm will see play, and I’m not sure what will happen in a meta where a two mana Poisonous card is popular. It may change the way people build decks, needing to either deal two damage or keep small minions around on the board.

Druid of the Swarm’s other form, as well as the 3 mana Crypt Lord card, are going to give Token Druid some very significant (and annoying) board protection which should see the deck continue to appear regularly on the ladder, and stronger than before.

Malfurion the Pestilent, the Druid Hero card, is one of the most consistently playable in the set, and I expect to see it in most slower decks. I can’t say the same for Hadronox, which as a 9 mana Deathrattle without taunt, is far too slow for all but the greediest control players – it just doesn’t compare to N’Zoth.

One last card that could make waves in Druid is Ultimate Infestation, which in itself is almost as powerful as a hero card – it’s pretty much two 5 mana Kazakus potions in one card (though it draws more cards than Kazakus). It comes at a 10 mana cost, and requires a suitable board state, but I can see it played as a one-of in Big Druid. (People are making noise about Quest Druid, but I still don’t see much reason to play it.)


Control Hunter might happen, but it probably isn’t going to. Stitched Tracker and Abominable Bowman are great cards, and at least the first will be played, but Hunter still lacks some of the tools to make a slow deck worth it. Right now most Hunter Deathrattle minions have anti-synergy with Bowman, so it’s going to take another set or two to make Control work.

Midrange on the other hand could make a comeback, perhaps in a slower version with Deathstalker Rexxar for the late game. Rexxar is one of the weaker Hero Cards, providing a lot of value but not much more. Secret Hunter is also gaining some tools, but nothing quite on the level of current Secret Mage – people will play it, but it’ll be more annoying than successful.

I do think there’s an outside chance that Face Hunter could resurface, with the new Abusive Sergeant-alike Acherus Veteran, but odds are low. Personally, I’m interested in experimenting with Quest Hunter and Prince Keleseth, as a card that makes the 1-drops more impactful, but I have no illusions that it will actually be a good deck.


Mage got an interesting package of cards in this set. I don’t see them bringing about any new powerful deck types, but the existing ones will get a little more refined.

Probably the least predictable of Mage’s new tools is Frost Lich Jaina, a somewhat powerful Hero card but one that doesn’t have an immediately clear place. The battlecry would seem to encourage Elemental Mage, but I just don’t see that taking off. It’s still playable as a standalone, and who knows, maybe there will be a tier 3 Control deck.

Blizzard keep printing cards that interact with Freeze mechanics for Mage, but I still don’t see them coming together into a deck. (Coldwraith is going to dominate arena, though, just by being a 3 mana 3/4.) I also don’t see Secret decks changing all that much – Glacial Mysteries is just too expensive, and even the best outcome of 5 secrets on turn 8 is just going to annoy your opponent without actually gaining you much.


Paladin is going to be a class to watch out for in KotFT. The Paladin Hero card, Uther of the Ebon Blade, is, like Malfurion, a solid, playable card that will make it into any slow deck. The Four Horsemen win condition is unlikely to make a huge impact, but it’s going to be annoying to play around.

The focus of the new set for Paladin has been Divine Shield synergy, and they have a lot of interesting tools there; I don’t know if they’ll make a top tier deck on their own, but we’ll have to see. Bolvar Fireblood will probably see play with minimal synergy (Righteous Protector, Rallying Blade, Wickerflame Burnbristle, and Tirion) just because it makes a great Spikeridged Steed target. My own interest is toward Handbuff Paladin, which I think is getting a lot of useful options (see Corpsetaker), but I’m not convinced it’ll be any stronger than it was in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan.

The unknown factor in Paladin, as far as I’m concerned, is aggro: they just got a very powerful 1-drop, Righteous Protector, which could open the way for a new fast deck to take over. Watch out for that Rallying Blade synergy.


I’ve mentioned a few times so far where I think aggressive decks might rise up – or just get better – with the new expansion cards, but if there’s one thing that could keep them in check, it’s the number of whirlwind effects in the set. Spirit Lash is one such effect, and it’s going to be a staple in Priest. It might need a spellpower boost to clear some Shaman and Druid boards, but it’s going to do a lot of work against Pirate Warrior and Divine Shield decks (even if it does no healing there). And of course it offers a whole new way for Priest to mill itself with Circle of Healing.

Beyond that, there are a few decks that have people excited. Shadowreaper Anduin when combined with Raza the Unchained is likely to be a force to be reckoned with – watch out for big Radiant Elemental + Lyra the Sunshard turns. The set also gives several cards to a new deck type, based around cheating out big minions with effects and then resurrecting them – Eternal Servitude is a great card in itself, and Shadow Essence can do great things in a deck built for it. Expect those to be combined with Barnes to summon an endless chain of Obsidian Statues, the new powerhouse big drop – alongside Ysera and The Lich King, of course. Embrace Darkness has been called out as slow, but I guarantee you it will be played – Priest as a class can afford to take one hit before the switch.

On the “interesting but not quite viable” side, Shadow Ascendant and neutral card Happy Ghoul call to mind the possibility of a new style of Priest play focusing around cheap minions (perhaps with Mana Geode and Kabal Talonpriest). Wait and see on that – maybe next expansion.

Dragon Priest didn’t quite die with the standard format rotation, but it’s not what it once was. New neutral card Bone Drake offers the chance of a revival, giving fuel to the “hold” mechanic and even giving Priests potential access to the new Mage legendary Sindragosa. Finally, Quest Priest hasn’t really been on my radar, but right now I’m sitting looking at Tomb Lurker and Bone Drake and wondering…


Rogue is going some interesting places. While we didn’t get much here for Miracle Rogue – it didn’t need anything really – what we are getting is a whole bunch of cards that preserve your life total, weapon value engine Doomerang, and a Hero card that can generate new combos through extra copies of cards in your deck.

Doomerang and a new Rogue weapon pair well with the hero, which removes your dagger hero power, and I can easily see a new deck emerging from those three cards. On the other hand cards like Spectral Pillager and Bone Baron just don’t fit what Rogue wants to do – it’s like Blizz thinks if they keep printing more mid-cost 5-attackminions we’ll eventually just break down and use them.

Roll the Bones throws a bone to Deathrattle Rogue, but the card’s unlikely to be as powerful as it seems at first glance (look at Wrathion), and Rogue is still lacking something to make Deathrattle decks work. Don’t expect much of that.


Blizzard have tried with one card set to introduce a whole new style of deck to the Shaman class. Freeze effects are all over, but with Moorabi and Ice Breaker the only payoff, I’m not convinced they’ll be worth the space in a deck. (Though Moorabi could be a nice just-for-fun build-around, allowing Shaman access to minions from other classes.) The one exception among these Freezes is Voodoo Hexxer, a perfectly fine card on its own. While Avalanche looks like a half decent AoE, Shaman have plenty of good AoE already.

Thrall, Deathseer is, simply put, the worst Hero card in the set. It’s cheap, and double Evolve is a strong battlecry, but Evolve Shaman needs minions on board, and removing the Shaman hero power is exactly what you don’t want to do. I’ve seen it said in other card reviews: what Shaman wants to do on 5 mana with a full board is not Evolve, it’s Bloodlust.

The only other place Shaman has really been given anything is for Murloc decks, but Quest Shaman just doesn’t need much card draw, which leaves Ice Fishing dead in the water.


Probably the class I’m most excited about in KotFT, Warlock has been pretty much dead for the last few months, having had its two big decks, Zoo and Renolock, gutted by the standard rotation. How is Blizzard fixing this? By giving it the strongest Hero card in the set, Bloodreaver Gul’dan.

Let’s be fair: Warlock has a few absolutely terrible cards in this set, as it seems to in every set, but the good cards it’s getting are great. Gul’dan’s Hero card has the strongest hero power in the game, one which not only lets you tear apart opponents with 3 damage a turn, but also provides healing, exactly what Warlock needs in the late game after Life Tapping away its health. And on top of that you’re resurrecting a board of demons, which are likely to include taunt, charge, and other effects.

I’ve seen a couple of opinions on where Bloodreaver Gul’dan can go – some people see this as the time for Krul the Unshackled to finally see play (and it could work), but I’m more interested in looking at Quest Warlock. A lot – a hell of a lot – of players think it’s a terrible idea. They look at discard and see the worst case scenario, discarding your Hero card, and then what are you going to do? But I’ve been playing the deck lately, using a build by Brian Kibler, and it’s really not that bad, even when you get unlucky and discard Jaraxxus. I see Gul’dan offering more options to the deck, adding a third win condition alongside Jaraxxus and Nether Portal, and Discardlock clearly offers some of the strongest possible outcomes for Gul’dan’s battecry. Add in Blood Queen Lanathel for a beefy body and more healing, and you’re going places.

The other good cards for Warlock are Despicable Dreadlord, offering ping to a class that lacks it on a reasonable body, and Defile, one of the best but most complex board clears in the game. You’ll see a lot of both cards. On the other hand, Treachery, Gnomeferatu and Howlfiend are complete junk, and Unwilling Sacrifice is only borderline.

The other thing to look for is a potential Zoo revival, if only through the strength of a few interesting neutral minions and perhaps Sanguine Reveler. It still won’t be as strong as before, however.


Will the reign of Pirate Warrior finally be over? Haha no. But Warrior are still getting some interesting and powerful cards in the set.

Control Warrior might be receiving a bit of love with Mountainfire Armor (a weird card, and a hard one to evaluate) and Blood Razor (it’s almost as good as Death’s Bite, which means it’s pretty damn good), but most of the help is going to tempo Warrior, including the Hero card,  which provides a constant supply of Whirlwind effects. Combine with Animated  Berserker and Blood Razor for easy activation of all on-damage effects. The issue I’m having is picturing what Tempo Warrior does without the best of those effects, Grim Patron. Rotface sits in a similar space, with a very high upside, but it’s expensive and inconsistent, and the new Valkyr Soulclaimer just isn’t a strong card.

No, I think what we’re going to see is an old fashioned Control Warrior using new activators for Acolyte of Pain, Armorsmith, and Grom Hellscream, while Pirate Warrior maybe picks up a couple of new cards (Forge of Souls for weapon consistency, Phantom Freebooter as a new curve topper) and runs with them. The nature of the new Hero cards means the set doesn’t really bring anything to Quest Warrior – they didn’t even print any good taunts.


Knights of the Frozen Throne has probably the most interesting set of cards Hearthstone has ever received, with new ideas used on the majority of the set, so there are a number of neutrals worth looking at.

Corpsetaker is going to be in a lot of decks, particularly Paladin, since it provides a lot of value if you’re​ including Divine Shield, Taunt, and Lifesteal anyway. Bone Drake is a significant addition to the Dragon type, though many classes lack the synergies to be worth playing a full Dragon deck now.

Unique cards like Meat Wagon are going to prompt some experimentation even if they don’t make a big impact (I’ve seen talk of Handbuff, but who wants to pull an unbuffed minion from their deck?). Skulking Ghoul is going to appear everywhere for the first few days and then mostly disappear. And while not new, expect a lot of weapon removal in the Frozen Throne meta.

Of course the big hitter of the set, and the new legendary that’s going to see the most play, is The Lich King himself. A big card with taunt and a powerful end of turn effect, it’s going to be in every control deck at first, and then maybe a few less once people decide they can’t afford to keep burning cards from their deck. Expect it to still be very popular. (Arfus far less so – it’s a 4 mana 2/2, it’s just not worth the one random card.)

Everyone can see the three Blood Princes are junk, though people will try to make them work.

That’s It

I’ve covered everything that seems worth covering, though my coverage likely isn’t worth all that much. What remains is to wait until tomorrow (or, well, Friday morning,  I’m in Europe), open packs, and see how wrong I was.

Which one card everyone crafts will turn out to be complete crap? Which joke of a card will dominate the meta for the next year and a half? Which card from three sets ago has been completely forgotten and is about to be everywhere? I’ll probably write another, shorter post in a few months to see how well I did here.

Nine Worlds 2017

I got back from Nine Worlds Geekfest yesterday, and before I get working on my packing for Worldcon – it’s tomorrow! Aah! – I thought I’d get down some brief thoughts about it, particularly given my last post.

This year went better than last year, I’d say. The content was mostly great again, but the main thing is that I managed to not fall down an anxiety rabbit hole again, managing it by just giving myself permission to go off to my room and do something on my own a couple of times. Though I still spent far too much time standing around awkwardly on my own, the folks at Nine Worlds are pretty friendly and welcoming. I got onto quiz teams at the beginning and end of the con, and spent a little more time gaming than I did last year.

I’m still terrible at eating properly and looking after myself while on holiday. I survived on the included breakfast in the morning and a Tesco meal deal in the afternoon, which isn’t exactly a balanced diet. I’m not sure what I’ll do in Helsinki – in Norway last year I managed, but would spend far too much time trying to convince myself to go inside restaurants for each meal. I’ll survive, I guess.

But overall it was pretty good this year. I think if I keep going I’m likely to get gradually more comfortable there – at least in part because I might start to feel like I know people. I’m not quite there yet, since I still managed to feel like an outsider whenever I was around other people. Whether I go again next year might depend a little on my employment situation, though. We’ll see.

Anyway, Worldcon 75 awaits! I’m curious how the culture of the two cons will contrast.