I finished reading four collections of Isaac Asimov columns from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The historical essays and essays about basic questions and facts generally age pretty well (the articles are 50+ years old at this point), but some of the speculation is a bit off, and anything depending on contemporary culture seems quaint. What surprised me is that his article on the four largest asteroids is completely off – the sizes of the asteroids are completely incorrect, to the point where his largest four are no longer the largest four. I’m surprised that as recently as the 1960s the diameters of the largest asteroids were so poorly known. But there were careful observations of occultations in the 1970s, and new techniques used that completely re-arranged the list of asteroids. This was definitely an unheralded change.
I finished reading a e-book collection of Clark Ashton Smith’s Averoigne stories (Lin Carter was going to put together a collection of these (to go along with his collections of Smith’s Hyperborean stories, and the Poseidonis ones, and Zothique), but didn’t get around to it, so I’m glad this collection became available.
I’ve been reading another collection of Smith’s dark fantasy, but I’m unimpressed with it. It’s as if all the good Smith stories were taken already.
Also on my e-reader, I read American Psychosis by David Corn. It’s a history of the Republican party’s dance with fringe right extremists since the 1940s, and it’s fascinating reading. I had to ask myself if he might not be cherry-picking things to help make his case. But there appears to be a consistent dependence upon getting out the extremists and bigots in order to help get them over the top in so many cases and for so long that it’s hard to dismiss the pattern. Reagan and Bush II were able to keep it largely out of the limelight, but it’s always been there. Trump just brought it out into the open.
I just picked up a copy of The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story by Gavin Weightman, about the trade in frozen pond water taken from New England down to the tropics and elsewhere. I have been familiar with this for years. I’ve read about it in books and articles, and knew that Wenham Lake (just north of Hamilton in Massachusetts) and Fresh Pond in Cambridge were sources for icethat was sawn our in rectangular blocks, packerd in sawdust as insulation, and shipped out in trade before efficient refrigerators were invented. But I thought it was a natural trade that pretty much grew up by itself. Not so, it turns out. That the Ice Trade existed at all is mostly due to the perseverence of one man – Frederick Tudor. He had to overcome ridicule and resistance to the idea and local corruption (not to mention two embargoes and the War of 1812) to get his business rolling, and even then it took years to nurture an interest. Tudor ended up a millionaire, living in Nahant, Massachusetts where he built an amusement area I hadn’t heard of before – Maolis Gardens. I drove over there to look it over yesterday, but nothing remains of the Park.
On audio I’m finishing up Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs’ novel Diablo Mesa, not part of their Agent Pendergast series, but their Nora Kelly series (a spinoff). It’s best described as “Elon Musk takes an Archaeology Team to the Flying Saucer crash at Roswell”. As usual, if they don’t do at least one thing that makes you say “I can’t BELIEVE they did that!”, then they aren’t doing their job.