The Rambling Writer Takes a Detour to the San Juan Islands

Join Thor and me on a getaway through the beautiful Salish Sea and the islands of my native Pacific Northwest.

NOTE: I’ll return to my latest Greek Islands journey in next week’s blog post as Thor and I explore the sacred island of Delos. But, meanwhile, a very different island!

Seemingly out of the blue, a former Paleontology colleague of Thor’s contacted him, years after Thor had lost touch with him. Seems that Norm had retired from academia and made a bold move to work for years at Microsoft. Now he and his wife Susan had retired and bought their dream home halfway up the mountain on Orcas Island. And they wanted us to come stay for a few days. Some of my fondest early memories are of family camping trips on Orcas Island, and I’ve always loved taking the Washington State ferries through the San Juan Islands, so off we sailed! Continue reading


New Worlds: Hallucinogens

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Last week’s discussion of opium leads us naturally around to another category of drugs, which is hallucinogens.

These have a long and venerable history, and also a rather bad reputation in the modern world. They’re associated with hippies, with raves, and with wacky scientific experiments of dubious methodology and value. Much as with marijuana, after an initial surge in popularity LSD became demonized, and only recently has research into its therapeutic applications been revived.

But we’ll get to the cultural side of things soon enough. First let’s look at what hallucinogens are.

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Thinking About Racism

The Last Black Man in San FranciscoRacism is at the heart of almost everything that’s wrong with the United States.

Last week I saw two powerful movies: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, an excellent documentary, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco, the most unique and creative film I’ve seen in years.

The Morrison movie left me even more in awe of one of our great writers, even as some of the things she experienced made me shake my head. Early on, reviews praised Morrison’s writing, but said she needed to move on to more “universal” topics to be considered a major writer. They meant she needed to write about white men. I’m so glad she stuck to her own vision.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco broke my heart. It’s hard to describe why, because it’s hard to explain what the movie is about since it is in many ways a surrealist work — not quite fantasy and based on real life, but not quite real either. On the surface it is about a young man’s fixation on the old house his family once owned, but that’s just a starting point. Continue reading


Desires and Dreams and Powers, an Interview with Rosamund Hodge

On the YA fantasy front, author Rosamund Hodge has been making quite a splash with her moody, dark, intensely atmospheric reworkings of myths and fairy tales. So when I had the chance to review this collection, Desires and Dreams and Powers, I pounced.

As in her novels, Rosamund Hodge takes images and ideas from the classics and fairy tales as well as more modern works and refashions them into multifaceted stories short on wordcount but long on punch. You know, with titles like “And Her Eyes Sewn Shut With Unicorn Hair” that these stories are not going be fantasy fluff. As for the neutral-sounding “Situation Normal,” I do not recommend reading this sfnal fantasy before bedtime.

One recurring element that grabbed my attention is sisters. There is a wide variety of sisterly relationships in these stories, some of which go very dark indeed. As for actual darkness, the Persephone myth shows up more than once, most directly in the lead story, “Desires and Dreams and Powers.” But there are echoes in others, as these complex, intense stories examine recurring themes from several angles. Continue reading


Worldcon Report 8: Prison

I simply cannot resist a grim Victorian prison. And fortunately I was able to score tickets to tour Kilmainham Gaol Museum in Dublin. This grim stone pile was built in 1796 and extensively refurbished to the latest fashions in Victorian penal philosophy in the mid-19th century. This includes the ‘panopticon’ design that allowed one warder to keep an eye on all three levels packed with 90 cells, and the notion of solitary confinement. Today we agree it is a cruel practice, but in the day it was held to be an improvement over the Dickensian jails where all the prisoners, of every age and gender, were crammed into one room to prey upon each other.

The history of Kilmainham is especially sad because it’s tied unto the sanguinary history of Ireland. This was not only where rebels were executed by the British. It was also where various local factions executed each other. They have photos, even the letters, from various prisoners who died in these stony courtyards.

Victorian prison


BVC Announces Incident on a Small Colony by Kristine Smith

Incident on a Small Colony by Kristine SmithIncident on a Small Colony

by Kristine Smith

Jani Kilian–broke, tired, and on the run from the Commonwealth Service–hopes that a short stint working at a shipping company on an out-of-the-way colonial station will provide her some things she badly needs. Money. A place to hide. A little peace. Continue reading


Kittens Make People Smile

It is a truth universally accepted that kittens make people smile. Well, maybe not all people. But me. And you.

In March 2019 I posted about our adventures in integrating two kittens into our household, and the resulting Great Ringworm Wars. Since then we’ve had a few hiccoughs on the road, as well as adventures. First, this is where we came from:


Freya, about 5 months

Sonja, about 6 months







The “girls” have gone from “Eek! There’s another kitten in the room! I’m going to D-I-I-E-E-E!” to “She is my best friend sister from another mother EVER!”

Step One: Hooligans

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Ursula K. Le Guin Wins Another Hugo

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated EditionThe Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illlustrated Edition won the 2019 Hugo for Best Art Book, a special category created by the Dublin convention.

This special book includes everything Ursula K. Le Guin wrote about Earthsea, including all the novels, some short stories, and a lecture she gave on the books.

It is illustrated by Charles Vess, who also won the 2019 Hugo for Best Professional Artist. Ursula made the final selections of the art for the book.

Here at Book View Cafe we are thrilled to see yet another honor for Ursula, though it saddens us that she is not here to join the celebrations.