Jonathan Crowe

Book reviewer, cat photographer, fanzine editor, map blogger, snake whisperer.

Month: March 2019

Books Read: 1Q 2019

  1. The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi. Science fiction novel, second in the Interdependency series. The usual fun, but definitely a middle book.
  2. The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein. Science fiction novel whose protagonists think they’re in a fantasy novel; third book in the Steerswoman series. Kirstein’s worldbuilding levels up here.
  3. The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein. Fourth book in the Steerswoman series. The curtain is starting to be pulled back here. Desperately awaiting the next volume.
  4. The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe. Fantasy anthology reimagining fairy tales. I’ve been reading this off and on for more than a year. Not a weak story in the book; some are just superb.
  5. The Un-Discovered Islands by Malachy Tallack. Short book on islands that proved imaginary.
  6. The Phantom Atlas by Edward Brooke-Hitching. Longer, more substantive book on the same subject—geographical features later found to be false—but covers more than just islands.
  7. They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded by James Alan Gardner. YA superhero novel, sequel to the highly entertaining All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (reviewed here); switches the POV to another character.
  8. An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan. Short story collection by one of my favourite authors. His first two collections—both of which I own—were limited editions from small presses and aren’t easy to find (all but three of the stories in Agent can be found in those collections); this book makes his delightful and idiosyncratic stories more widely available.
  9. Infinity’s End edited by Jonathan Strahan. Science fiction anthology; final volume in the Infinity series; I’ve read every volume (and reviewed three of them: here, here and here).
  10. The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Fantasy novel, sequel to The Traitor Baru Cormorant. A saga of imperialism and colonialism, infiltration and revenge, and weaponized financial instruments. Most epic fantasy isn’t this politically or economically sophisticated.
  11. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. First book in the Lady Astronaut series: former WASP and computer dreams of space in an alternate history where an asteroid strike threatens survival on Earth and kickstarts a desperate space program; Hidden Figures meets Promised the Moon.
  12. The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farah Mendlesohn. Reviewed here.
  13. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow. France is its own thing and does things by its own rules and logic, and has been doing so for a very long time. This is something Anglo-American observers of the country find hard to understand, and treat France as a kind of broken Britain or America.

The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein

I came late to Robert A. Heinlein, as I did with Ursula K. Le Guin: I didn’t grow up reading his juveniles; I didn’t look to him for inspiration or revere him as a guru. I’d read a few of his books, but my impression didn’t match the extreme esteem with which he was held in the field.

Later, beginning in my late thirties, I made a point of reading his juveniles, as well as classics like Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and found myself appreciating them on a technical level: I saw why they worked for so many people, and why people thought he was good.

But there’s a great deal of space between he’s good and he’s god.

Read More

Florida Man, Open Government and Rob Ford

There’s a reason for the Florida Man meme, and—surprise!—it isn’t because Florida is particularly weird or strange. As the Miami New Times explained in 2015, it’s because open government laws make all records—including the colourful arrest records that are the heart and soul of Florida Man encounters—publicly available.

The Star’s Ed Keenan is jealous: in Canada, this sort of thing is very hard for reporters to extract from government officials. Even if you know the document exists, you aren’t granted access, or if you are it’s heavily redacted. Ironically, one way for Canadian reporters to get the goods is to go to Florida.

When Rob Ford was running for mayor, the mug shot from his long-past Florida DUI arrest appeared in Toronto news outlets, alongside details of how he was alleged to have thrown all the money in his pockets at the feet of an officer and said, “Go ahead, take me to jail.” Toronto reporters just had to call the Miami-Dade police and ask, and all those details and photos were furnished immediately.

The Star’s Jim Rankin remembers an older story about when Norm Gardner, who was then chair of the Toronto police services board, shot a man who was trying to rob his bakery. “We learned he had a permit to carry a concealed handgun,” Rankin recalled. “He also had a permit for the same in Florida. I called Florida up and asked for Norm’s permit and training certificate. A kind clerk promptly faxed me a copy. Imagine that happening in Canada.”

Compare with the Rob Ford crack video: it was released 39 months after its existence was first reported on, and five months after Ford died (see timeline).

What Does a Fantasy Map Look Like?

New from me on Tor.com this morning: “What Does a Fantasy Map Look Like?” This is the first of several planned pieces that will take a deep dive into the look and feel of fantasy maps: their design and aesthetic, their origins and inspirations, and where they may be going in the future. In this piece, I start by trying to describe a baseline fantasy map style—which, though it’s well recognized and often imitated, has not often been spelled out.

Garter Snakes: Banned in British Columbia

One odd quirk of Canadian reptile law that I’ve known about for a while is that garter snakes can’t be kept as pets anywhere in British Columbia. Not just the three species found in that province—any garter snake. This question just came up on the Facebook Garter Snakes group, which I manage. I did some digging and found the exact laws and regulations that prohibit this. I’m sharing what I turned up here for future reference.

British Columbia’s Wildlife Act regulates wildlife, and wildlife is a term that has a specific definition under the Act: something has to be defined as wildlife (as opposed to controlled alien species, another defined term in the Act) in order for the Act’s provisions on wildlife to apply to it. The Act defines wildlife as “raptors, threatened species, endangered species, game and other species of vertebrates prescribed by regulation.” For that prescribed by regulation part, see schedule A of B.C.’s Designated Exemption Regulation,1 which defines a number of species, not all of which live in B.C., as wildlife. This includes, among other things, all species of garter snake. (Garter snakes aren’t being singled out: the list also includes all true frogs, treefrogs, toads, mole salamanders, lungless salamanders, pond turtles, snapping turtles and softshell turtles. More on that in a moment.)

Back to the Wildlife Act, where section 33 prohibits the private possession of wildlife without a permit or regulatory exemption. A permit can be issued under paragraph 2(j) of the Permit Regulation2 but I have no information on how that works in practice. The only regulatory exemption I’ve found for keeping wildlife in captivity is for Red-eared Sliders, the keeping of which is exempt from section 33.3 Wildlife can’t be imported, exported or trafficked in without a permit either.4 Penalties can include a fine of up to $100,000 or a year in prison for the first offence, but in practice it will never be anywhere near that high for someone keeping a pet garter snake.

Fine and good, but why are they being so heavy-handed, you ask? Garter snakes are plentiful and harmless, after all. But given what other species are being defined as wildlife (and therefore prohibited), my guess is that they’re trying to prevent people from bringing in non-native species that stand a chance of surviving in British Columbia. (Which is also more or less what Alberta law sets out to do.) They don’t want people snatching local garter snakes from the wild, but they also don’t want escaped Eastern Garter Snakes establishing themselves out there either.

People are getting confused because B.C. is trying to do both things at the same time: they expect laws about native wildlife and exotic wildlife to be separate. But other provinces do it this way as well.

Featured image: Photo of a Valley Garter Snake in Port Coquitlam, B.C. by Harold Wright. Creative Commons licence.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén