Escape Hatches

My husband and I have been talking about ways that this current insanity is affecting what sells.

Look, escapism is always a seller. But it seems to be selling better. I know that in my own reading whatever the h*ll we’re in the middle of is affecting my reading.

Now, my stress reading is profoundly stupid, unless it isn’t.

What I mean is that I have bad habits when I’m under stress. They’re not even “escaping” so much as “soothing.”

It makes perfect sense when you consider that when I’m stressed I default to “bland, near tasteless and vaguely sweet” food. This is a big problem when we are low carb for health reasons. Because my favorite go to stress foods are in order: popcorn dusted with sugar instead of salt (Portuguese do it that way); oatmeal, creme brulle and marshmallows.

Yes, I do in fact realize this is a profoundly unhealthy diet. How I didn’t die the year older son was born, we were unemployed and on the edge of being homeless, I’ll never know. I remember the day I made something like 40 meringues, then ate all of them and was vaguely nauseated afterwards.

Nowadays mostly it involves wanting yogurt and cauliflower rice, which frankly is extremely pathetic for sinning. But it still works for extreme stress, because what I am doing when extremely stressed is trying to avoid strong emotions. Of course, this also has a serious problem with writing, but that’s something else. For me to hit the point I can’t write because of the emotions is MUCH higher than the point at which I can’t read.

So, anyway, that’s not escapism. Except in the sense that it’s Sarah trying to escape all sensory and emotional input, crawl into a hole and pull it in after myself.

For instance, I read pretty much everything in a normal time, from popular science books (because I’m not good enough to read science/science for most of them) through various kinds of genre fiction, history and on–

When I’m stressed my reading restricts just like my food choices do. It goes through phases. I know I’m in trouble, for instance, if I become “stuck” in Jane Austen fanfic. I know there’s stress, edging towards depression. It is considerably worse when I then fall through JAFF and into Disney comics. The terminal phase of this, when I should be put on suicide watch is when I start reading true crime and can’t pull up. If I stay in true crime for more than a month and can’t pull up — and if my family knew about it, which they don’t — they should be dragging me to psychs. (Look, so far I’ve always pulled up, and the longest I’ve stayed stuck in true crime was three months. And no, you don’t actually want to know what was going on in my life.)

I have, however, lost years of my reading life to Disney comics. And I’m now close on to a year in JAFF. I’ve had excursions out of it, but not for very long, because, well, it’s just too much work.

Lately, I’ve been hitting spots where I peek above the fox hole, and I want …. something. This is more or less what happens when I have eaten all the meringue and — supposing I’m not completely nauseated — start thinking “you know what I could use? Something savory.”

So, yeah, Dan and I have been talking about these things. Mostly because what he does, when I do “I’m crawling in a hole and pulling it in over my head” is actual, for real escapism. The funny thing is that we do this on KU (don’t worry. At the rate we read, we’re costing them money) and for some reason, my husband’s reading shows up in my recommendations. Which is how these conversations begin.

It started with “Honey, are you seriously reading witch PI books?” (Not that Mrs. JAFF can throw stones, mind you.) And it was pretty clear it was escapism for him partly because he’s amused how these women are writing essentially “grown up Harry Potter with female magicians.”

Okay, fine. Then he progressed to thrillers and is now in science fiction, and this led to us talking about how escapist fiction is doing better than ever. For instance, a series he was reading has all the standard tropes of science fiction you could ever dream of, from the really great sentient dolphins who came from space to–

Anyway, this got me thinking about what I consider escapist, the places I loved to escape to.

Heinlein goes without saying, and Pratchett also goes without saying though escapism is easier with some books than others. But others came to mind that I escaped into when I got out of extreme depression. For instance in the early nineties, I pulled myself out of a deep hole with Simon Hawke’s Time Wars, which make no sense whatsoever in terms of world building, but were great fun.

Two years ago, I pulled myself to sanity with Prince Roger which had — somehow — escaped me so far.

Oh, yeah, and 2015 was the Dresden Files.

However I have to tell you in my heart of hearts what I actually crave is escaping into space opera. Something that tastes like Time Wars or Prince Roger.

(And no, Prince Roger doesn’t “taste” mil sf. It is, of course, but what it mostly is is “exploration of new lands while character comes to terms with reality.)

Both of them, incidentally, have individuals facing up to monumental problems and getting through. Not without cost, but getting through.

This is not precisely a request for things to read. I find I kind of have to stumble into my escapist reads, usually sideways and backwards.

BUT I need to write my own escapist stuff. My mind is full of books that have to get out.

Of course life keeps interfering: in the last two days we bought a new dryer, mostly because I’m starting to avoid doing laundry because it’s a drum circle; and we have contracted for major work on the house. Work we knew needed to be done, when we bought it, and which needs to be done fast before we sell.

So, if I disappear from this blog from a day or two, don’t panic. At least not if I’ve answered some comments or posted on social media.

Because if I get a few clear days I’m going to escape.

And then you can escape too 😉

382 thoughts on “Escape Hatches

  1. I’m not reading KU, yet. It is going to have to happen tho. As a matter of fact, I think my sister has KU. How many devices can be on the same account? She has 4 kids who also read. So, maybe Out-of-Luck through that avenue. Most noted freebies through BookBub, I already have, or really not interested in. At least with KU I can get an author paid something even if I can only force my way through a few pages. Sometimes forcing my way through a few pages pays off and I love the book, more often lately that isn’t happening.

    Two posts in one day again. Sarah, you couldn’t sleep could you?

    My escapism runs the gambit too. Not real big into Military SF, but I do like Jean Johnson’s “Theirs is not to reason why” series, to fantasy, to Harry Potter and Harry Dresden, to thrillers, mystery, a full spectrum.

    1. When I bought the first Kindle I do recall a limit but, honestly, I do not remember the number. I currently have four kindles and three Fire tablets registered under my account so at least seven. Kindle Unlimited restricts me to 10 books checked out at any one time across all devices. I used to have to log on and return the books but, with the addition of a Return To Kindle Unlimited function on the devices, this is much less common.

      1. I’d be using the Kindle Apps, either on my Samsung Phone or on Windows Tablet.

        Thank you for the information.

  2. I’m looking to my 17-year old to read the tea leaves and see what people immersed in pop culture are doing for escapism. I spend most of my time isolated at sea, so my reader is always chock full, and I’ve always leaned towards fiction. Real life is hard enough that I prefer not reading more about it for fun, and perhaps that has biased my kid, I dunno.
    Short answer seems to be ‘treading water’ among his peers. Escapism has brought his more literal-minded friends into fiction, but there’s a countercultural taste for the classics that surprised me quite a bit as well… and yet, those classics as well are all fiction as well. I do see the pandemic-related stresses as making the kids I mentioned less inclined to read, which I attribute to stress messing with their attention span.

    1. My teens are reading the Stuff that Mom Reads and watching non-American made films. Seems to skew mostly Japanese, but sometimes there’s others. (At this point they watch Japanese films WITHOUT subtitles.) One plays an online MMORPG set in space and we think two factions (Mom has to be told all about it) are on the verge of going Vietnam war. If the mods will get the heck out of their way. Most of the other players are not American, judging from the multilingual cursing and their claims. Server is officially US English but everyone slips at times. One kid logged on and said “I passed A levels in English thanks to playing this game!” Teen vaguely remembered the term and came to ask Mom.

      The home school teens are sharing paperback books around out of backpacks, the one I saw clearly was Ender’s Game. I’ve been informed that one of mine wants to put Darkship Theives into that loop . . . first he has to find it! I’m taking Monster Hunters this week for one of them.

      1. The Japanese stuff kinda makes sense – they’ve been in “our society sucks and is sucking harder, the politicians are all managing the decline, and everyone keep s saying there’s no hope” for a couple of decades, so a fair chunk of home-market entertainment is already pitched to the emotional backdrop to which many here have recently arrived.

  3. My own go-to escapist space opera is the Sector General series by James White. It’s basically a medical mystery / forensic pathology series where each case concerns an alien species and their bizarre but fundamentally logical biology. And it definitely features individuals facing up to monumental problems and getting through. Really, one case involved patients the size of small continents. Other than that, it’s not big on interpersonal dramas, or Creative Writing 101’s favorite buzzword – “character development”. Though, for my part, I tend to consider that a plus in science fiction – I’m here for the sense of exploration and relatively optimistic futurism; not the petty personal problems I can get anywhere else.

    The series is also frequently noted in online reviews, as having a hard pacifist bent – though fortunately, it’s not the standard hippie military bashing that’s become associated with pacifism nowadays. Rather, it was written in Ireland during the Troubles, so it’s very much an escapist fantasy in that regard.

    All in all, if anyone’s looking for a classic science fiction series with a more relaxed pace and no undue drama, that’s one I can recommend. And with twelve books or so, it can last quite a while, too.

    1. > I’m here for the sense of exploration and relatively optimistic futurism; not the petty personal problems I can get anywhere else.

      Yea, verily! The whole “character” thing is beaten into the ground nowadays. Along with tons of tedious detail. No, we don’t need to have a detailed description of the character brushing his teeth, checking the laundry, fixing breakfast, reflecting on past times… just skip ahead to the part where he drops out of warp and drops the continent-cracker bomb. That other stuff… it’s generic filler that could be added to any character in any story; a cheap trick to pad out a story.

        1. I like me some character development – when it is plot driven. Prince Roger, Harry Dresden, Kip Russell & Peewee, Mr. Sharpe & Sgt. Harper …

          1. Dang – I should have also cited Juan Rico, Oscar Gordon, and Manuel Garcia O’Kelly-Davis … to name but a few.

          2. Got into a discussion (yes, discussion–disagreement without any significant heat) on the Book of Faces. Other person was arguing that what people remember about stories is character, not “plot” or “setting”. Well, I could argue with that but didn’t there–it’s very much a “de gustibus” thing. I simply pointed out that the character’s wouldn’t be memorable without something for them to do (plot) and someplace for them to do it (setting). It all connects and intertwines.

            The metaphor I use is “Q: Which leg of a three-legged stool is most important? A: The one that’s missing.”

            As an example, “Hamlet” worked because the problem that Hamlet faced was one that directly challenged his personal weaknesses, his “tragic flaw”. The interplay of those two elements, combined with a setting that made them plausible to the watchers of the day (whether they would actually be plausible, I don’t know enough about Danish history and the culture of the time to say–but they would have seemed plausible enough to generate WSOD in Shakespeare’s audience) drove the action of the play, the plot. So, there you have it the combination of plot, setting, and character inextricably interwoven to create one of the greatest plays of all time. Change one element, say give Hamlet the hot temper of a character like Othello (himself as memorable a character as Hamlet, perhaps more so, IMO) and you have a completely different play. They all interconnect.

            People have often adapted Shakespeare to other settings but successful ones don’t generally just use plot and/or character unchanged in a new setting. Instead, character and plot have to be “tweaked” for the new setting. I can’t think of an adaptation of Hamlet this way, not that I’ve seen anyway, but consider West Side Story as an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet (where Friar Lawrence appears to disappear entirely, as, apparently, has Paris or perhaps he’s rolled into the Tybalt analog) or Forbidden Planet adapting The Tempest (with Dr. Morbius/Prospero turned into a tragic character–tragic flaw of pride–rather than the more lighthearted one of the Shakespeare play). They matter and each affects the other.

            1. I like the road trip metaphor.

              You have the route, the destination, and the company for the trip.

              If two of the three are “good enough,” the book can be held up by the third, at least for those who LIKE the third part.

            2. I think it also depends on which “leg” people tend to like best. If I love the characters I will follow them through the silliest of plots. On the other hand, I’ve occasionally found a setting interesting enough to overcome characters I didn’t much care for (Cugel in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth for example).

              1. Even in those cases, the “silliest of plots” has to provide an opportunity for the characters to reveal themselves otherwise you never get to “know” the characters enough to like them and the impressive setting is itself generally revealed through the actions and perspectives of the characters otherwise you’ve got an entry in Fodor’s. Any one of them can take center stage (Orson Scott Card in his book on writing science fiction calls it the “MICE quotient”–Milieu, Idea, Character, Events–any one of which can take “center stage” but all of which are necessary to some extent)

            3. It suddenly strikes me as odd that the Wokerati are dedicated to suppressing one of the greatest novels of character development in American Literature, all because Huck uses a word that was so common in that milieu that euphemizing it would be equivalent to writing a novel about crime syndicate in which the criminals never said anything stronger than “Fudge!”

              1. I suspect the “real” reason – or at least an unconscious factor – is that Twain makes the position and personalities of some of the slave-owning characters understandable and even sympathetic. Aunt Polly just can’t be seen as villainous, raping, callous monster.

              2. has various recordings from the Oval Office, from FDR through Nixon. What’s interesting is that every one of them had a bad case of potty mouth, and so did their cabinets and staff. And a whole lot of “huh?” and “what?”

                “**** the **** ***ing nuke the ****.”
                “**** them all *** *****.”
                “*** ***** ***!”
                “Right, **** them all. We’ll get right to it.”

                Very much of that, and you start wondering how much of US government happens by accident…

      1. …it’s generic filler that could be added to any character in any story…
        My sentiments exactly. In sci-fi, it’s one thing to have characters be personally and emotionally affected by the actual science fiction elements they’re facing – the awe and wonder of encountering Niven’s Ringworld or Clarke’s Rama, the mysterious yet logical workings of Asimov’s robots or the aforementioned aliens of White. The human condition under science fiction circumstances, as Charles Stross put it in the essay “Techning the Tech”.

        Contrast that with how many times sci-fi, especially on television, has gone all “we interrupt our regularly scheduled space opera to bring you yet another of Captain Kirk’s romantic conquests or more of Picard’s Shakespeare in the Holodeck”.

        I don’t mind when sci-fi is written purely as an aesthetic setting to otherwise more conventional adventures – half the fun in any space western or age-of-sail drama is seeing just how well the trappings of these times fit with the mechanics of (somewhat sugarcoated) space travel. But with stories like the above, it is indeed clear they’re meant as filler, an inconsequential swerve to pad out the episode, or worse – the season.

        And as I noted, the worst thing about them is how they count as “character development”, so that hack reviewers can gush about how poignant and dramatic they are. Perish the thought for science fiction books and shows to feature some actual science fiction.

        1. Captain Kirk’s conquests were side issues, designed to distract you. 😉
          But yeah, I put my characters through the ringer, so they feel it, otherwise they wouldn’t be human.

          1. My mom and I watched the original Star Trek series a few years ago. Eventually we decided any episode whose summary included the phrase “mysterious woman” could probably safely skipped.

                  1. The “shortened” 3rd season had 23 episodes, which is longer than most series’ regular full-season runs today. And while the quality of the episodes was much poorer than the first 2 seasons, they did have a couple of decent-good ones (thinking of The Enterprise Incident” in particular).

        2. “we interrupt our regularly scheduled space opera to bring you yet another of Captain Kirk’s romantic conquests or more of Picard’s Shakespeare in the Holodeck”.

          Or worse, Voyager’s, “we have no plot to interrupt, because why would you want to spend time exploring an entirely new part of space when you could go to the holodeck and watch Janeway flirt with her imaginary boyfriend.”

          ( I’ve heard that the “Captain Proton” holodeck episode were well-liked, though I’ve never seen any of them. However, even if they’re as good as advertised, it seems more of an admission that “We’ve given up on this show, so we’ve decided to pretend that we’re writing for an entirely different sci-fi show.”)

          1. For not much reason, that reminds me of the one TOS episode that I thought was worth anything, when Barclay (sp?) develops holodeck addiction problems because he can live his life more “successfully” in imagination than reality. Like all addictions, it interferes with his work (he gets terribly embarassed, for one thing). Finally, a worm in the golden apple, a downside to utopia! (Says my inner Inspector Lugar). But no, he has a nice talk with whatshername proto-diversity coordinator and is fine. He showed up again in voyager by finding a way to talk to the ship from Earth, which predictably did nothing for nobody. I swear, all those Hollywood people have had their brains melted by drugs or something. I mean, their shows are like a 3 year old’s fingerpainting – except that people who aren’t even related to the three year old feel obliged to admire the result. Ok, thanks for letting me yawp that.

              1. Thanks. You’re right, I forget. Probably same reason I can’t really tell the difference between vanilla and *French* vanilla ice cream.

          2. There’s a meme that claims Cheers and Frasier were both holodeck simulations going around the ‘net.

          3. “we have no plot to interrupt, because why would you want to spend time exploring an entirely new part of space when you could go to the holodeck and watch Janeway flirt with her imaginary boyfriend.”

            Pretty much. This is basically what happens when you try and build a whole show on a problem that every other series would have solved in a single episode. Sure, I get why they did it – DS9’s Dominion War would otherwise swallow up every other type of story they tried to do in the known galaxy. But the result was so clumsy it just couldn’t stand on its own legs as a sci-fi show, and eventually devolved precisely into unrelated romance arcs and farcical holodeck skits.

            There is something to learn from this, however. Writers, especially on television, frequently take an escapist,/i> premise – space exploration, fantasy adventure etc. – and drown it in as much dramatic drivel as possible, from woe-is-me main character angst to save-the-world inflation of the stakes. Things that sound good at executive board presentations or Writing 101 workshops, but really just spoil the actual flavor of the story.

            That’s one reason I’m a Conan the Barbarian addict (my go-to fantasy escapism). He has a total of zero personal issues, zero family dramas, and no existential angst to speak of – and that’s a guy who shares a world with Lovecraftian gods. There are Buddhist saints with less purity of mind and spirit. Most importantly, he’s got zero interest in anything other than good old-fashioned adventuring, which I think is why he’s so enduring as a pop-culture phenomenon – he’s a guy who wants to enjoy life, and lets readers experience that joy with him. Really, if I could find proper sci-fi and present-day fantasy equivalents, I’d be set for life.

            1. “There are Buddhist saints with less purity of mind and spirit.”

              That’s classic, man, just classic. I never thought of Conan as a joie de vivre kind of guy. I haven’t read one in a while, I guess I need to go back to it and see all the happy I missed!

              1. The man says it best himself:

                “Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

                1. Thanks. I just moved Conan higher up on my “to read” list. I got a couple of Stark/Westlakes, I think I’ll slip Howard in there too.

    2. Sector General is good, but I ran out of it. I’m going to have to see if more was written than that omnibus book.

      1. isfdb is showing twelve books of collected short stories and three “omnibus” editions, plus a bunch of short stories, which are presumably collected in the books.

        You can click on the individual short story entries and it will take you to their publications page; the magazines most of them appeared in are on

        1. James White also wrote a small number of interesting novels outside the Sector General series, most of which are out of print, but readily available used (but not as ebooks).

          There’s also a small press collection, The White Papers, which has both a bunch of his short fiction, and his fanwriting (he was an excellent fanwriter, part of the group from Northern Ireland starting in the 1940s, and continuing to be active for decades). It, too, is only available as a hardcover book — there was no ebook version, since it was published in 1996, and never reprinted.

    3. Sector General was a lot of fun! (And an inspiration for one of my series, even). I love medical SF (and fantasy, which is even rarer). I wish there was more of it.

    4. The problem is much of what “writing teachers” mean by “character development” is “character is miserable and ‘develops’ to be even more miserable.”

      1. My In-Laws gifted me a copy of the then best-selling) Hotel New Hampshire one solstice and I forced myself to read it, thinking they must have had some reason … at the end of the book when (spoiler warning) half the narrator’s family died in a plane crash my honest reaction was regret the entire family didn’t pass away.

        Dreary, loathsome, obnoxious people with no conception of kindness, consideration, nor any other ennobling human trait.

        1. ” … at the end of the book when (spoiler warning) half the narrator’s family died in a plane crash my honest reaction was regret the entire family didn’t pass away.”

          Maybe the author was planning a sequel?

        2. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream/best seller books I tried reading were similar.

          Boring people doing nothing of interest, endlessly, while slathered in angst and despair.

          cover: “A rousing exemplar of the Human Condition! A Must-Read!”
          TRX: “waste of wood pulp”

          1. I totally agree about the waste of wood pulp. What I keep wondering though is what the people that read this drek get out of it? I generally assume that for most literary fiction the emotion they’re going for is a sense of smug personal superiority. But is that really enough to keep people slogging through 300+ pages? What other emotions are they getting out of it?

            1. They have never read a book written by those EEEVUL Conservatives White Supremacists, so they don’t know they CAN get any more out of a book. All they know is the Social Justice gray pablum.

  4. My “reset” books (as I think of them) tend to be Pratchett, or other light/funny fantasy. Wrede’s “Dealing with Dragons” and the rest, or

    For the last few years, though, I’ve been hitting “iyashikei” (healing, more or less) anime, which is warm and fluffy stuff that just makes you feel good. Things like “Laid Back Camp” or “Non Non Biyori.” Fun to watch, not much drama at all, just… nice.

    There’s also a fair amount of manga which fill the bill. “Flying Witch” (also an anime) is charming as hell, and the author has built an amazing world for the characters to live in.

    1. Another iyashikei anime I can add, and a sci-fi one to boot, is the Aria series. It’s about, well, a group of Venetian gondolier trainee girls on an aquatic terraformed Mars, in an exact replica of classical Venice. Yeah, it’s that kind of show. It’s got great visuals, great music, and a story where, as most reviews say, nothing happens, but in a very pleasant way. Most importantly, it’s got the kind of setting you’d want to go on vacation in, at least mentally.

      On the fantasy side, there’s Spice & Wolf – a sort of road-trip romance about an aspiring merchant and his teenage-girl-looking wolf goddess companion, and a nice helping of medieval economics. Or, similarly, Monster Musume no Oishasan, which is a fantasy medical-themed romance about a young human doctor treating (quite professionally, if I might add) just about every mythical half-human hybrid you can think of. Again, bear with me here, these descriptions don’t give the shows any justice. And both apparently exist as light novels as well.

      Of course, you can always go to classics like Inuyasha for a more action-packed version of the above (only with the boy being the supernatural companion). For that matter, just about every long-lasting Rumiko Takahashi series is pretty much the kind of mental cake and ice cream to get one through stressful times. And overall, anime is one reason I still retain a shred of sanity in this world – at least one country can still produce quality entertainment, even if it comes packaged with animal ears and a fluffy tail.

    2. I just finished watching Dusk Maiden Of Amnesia. Supernatural mystery romance with a side of harem comedy, I guess? Really good, anyway.

      While exploring the abandoned parts of his high school, Teiichi encounters Yuuko, the ghost of a girl who died 60 years ago but can’t remember either her mortal life, or most of her ghostly existence. They and two other girls form the Supernatural Research Club to find out what happened, and track down the school’s numerous ghost legends. Only Teiichi and Kirie, one of the two girls, can see or hear Yuuko.

      1. I agree!!! The whole idea of girls (or anyone really, but it’s girls in this case) driving tanks (shooting at the opposing teams tanks) as a school sport is so ridiculous it made me giggle. So I watched it and it wasn’t half bad. There is almost no way to take it too seriously, so it turns out relaxing and fun!

      2. GIRLS UND PANZER!!!11! Watch it!

        This season’s undercover awesome fun is “So I’m a Spider, So What?” You have been warned. ~:D

        1. *glees* I’ve been not-watching hubs with “is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon?” after we finished Dragon Maid and My next life as a villainess (…I bought the books before the series was out. Elf was shocked to find out they HADN’T finished the storyline in the one season that’s out) so I’ll pass on that Spider’s worth watching.

          1. Dragon Maid is awesome, I hear they are trying to get a second season done. Villainess likewise hilarious fun, and I’m a big fan of Dungeon.

            Also fun turns out to be “That Time I Was Reincarnated As A Slime”, more shojo isekai nonsense.

            Thank God for Japan, “normal” television is a wasteland of poo.

          2. I found ‘Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon’ mostly meh. Main character is an overpowered Marty Stu for no plausible reason.

            ‘Yona Of The Dawn’ was much more impressive. Yona works hard to progress from a spoiled princess to a tough, capable woman. Not much hope for more seasons after this long, though.

  5. As a mostly lurker here, I have to admit that my foxhole contains SAH, JLC, Heinlein, all of the Ringworld stuff, Bradbury, and bits and pieces of, dare I say it, adult romance fiction. JLC’s “Tales around the Supper Table” really sucked me into some spaces I haven’t explored and I’m thankful for it. SAH, you, you’re just flatly addictive. I’ve got $$$ producing deadlines and the siren song of a couple of your stories have cost me. I wouldn’t trade it though!

      1. I like all the Known Space stuff. I also like A World Out of Time a lot. Man-Kzin wars, hardboiled crime novels, westerns, Perry Rhodan and John Carter are my escapist reading.

  6. Just finishing an alt history series recommended to me by Peter Grant, Lone Star Reloaded by Drew McGunn. Then back to working my way through Ralph Compton’s trail drive series suggested by another friend. And I have Barry Sadler’s Casca the Eternal Mercenary series in audio plugged into the truck stereo for long drives.
    And of course I will always shoehorn anything new by John Ringo, Larry Correa, Amanda Green, or this Hoyt person into the grab it next stack, as well as Seanan McGuire’s Incriptid books, or anything by Charlaine Harris or a new Dresden from Jim Butcher.
    When I am really down there is still Heinlein: Glory Road, Citizen of the Galaxy, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or Time Enough for Love to name a few. Ringo’s The Last Centurion can always sooth my fevered brow, or the four book set of not zombie really they just act like them novels.
    On reflection I am truly blessed to always have a plethora of bolt holes to chose from.

    1. One of the things I’ve found when I’m looking for escapism in books is, I tend to shy away from the somewhat “grimdark” stuff, like the Black Tide Rising series.

      Last Centurion I can take, the Prince Roger series (OK, We Few I think it is, has some grim stuff,) the Monster Hunter series doesn’t really get grim, there’s a sense of fun in it (come on, gnomes that seem to have built their US society off gang culture and rap??)

      But a lot of times, it’s the classics, Clarke, Asimov, Niven, and for me, the FASA-era Battletech books…

      1. Weirdly, Black Tide Rising was one of the most comforting books I ever found, in one of the darkest times of my life. BUT it was more because I’d hit the “true crime phase” and that hit the same spot AND lifted us out of it.

        1. Very dark humor, common to mil SF, pandemic with some scary rationale behind it, and female warriors that in actual fact John based on his own two hellions, at least for the attitude.
          And believable heroes who sometimes won out and sometimes paid the ultimate price while taking quite the honor guard with them.

      2. “come on, gnomes that seem to have built their US society off gang culture and rap??”

        What would you expect of metro gnomes? 😉

  7. I find Kindle Unlimited to be great for the speed I read. You can get multiple devices on one account, but I think they have to be completely synced. Meaning, they have access to your credit card through the Amazon sign-in. I would love to know whether it’s more lucrative for authors if I buy a book on Kindle, or if I use Kindle Unlimited, or Prime, and how that all compares vs. dead tree editions. It sometimes feels like I just have failure to commit to buy the books.
    My current escapism is from Cedar. But I’m chewing through it too fast!

      1. Oh, duh. I’ve been making a point of purchasing Kindle books instead KUL-ing them to encourage writers I want to encourage 🙂 but doing both makes even more sense.

        1. Crud, I’d not even thought of that, there’s just some authors (most of whom hang out here) that I just autobuy, rather than KULL. I’ll have to amend my habits.

    1. We’ll take your money anyway you want to give it. All of my stuff’s up on KU for the express purpose of attracting the super readers attention.

    2. thoughts that have percolated as I made my way through this comment section:

      1) I have KU on my Onyx Boox (unsolicited plug for expensive e-ink reader that has Android OS so you can have multiple formats.) and I read a lot more books than I could afford to buy.

      2) Ebook readers are a crappy way to organize your books. I can walk over to a bookshelf and say “oh, I haven’t read that in a while” but my ebook reader has hundreds or thousands of books that require turning pages to find, which means no scanning. That being said I got rid of hundreds of books because I had nowhere to put them (and I had an e-reader) and now I’m regretting that. I still, of course, have nowhere to put all the books I’d like to buy.

      3) Reading Cedar’s Pixie Noir series right now and loving it. I picked up East Witch the other week based on someone’s recommendation (might have been Old NFO to give him the shout out) and only then discovered that there was a whole world out there.

      1. Ebook readers are a crappy way to organize your books. I can walk over to a bookshelf and say “oh, I haven’t read that in a while” but my ebook reader has hundreds or thousands of books that require turning pages to find, which means no scanning

        Calibre for the win here. At least you can scroll down authors and titles. Or even make sure the Series field is filled out when adding. (I’ve been remiss, sigh.) It even allows custom columns. One of which I’ve created is “source of book”, where did I purchase it. Also remiss lately, but if blank, then bought from B&N. But point of this is even if can’t read directly in Calibre, because you haven’t stripped the locks, you know where the book should be located.

        Nook Android version allows making libraries, which allows 100 books each. It auto libraries series too, provided the book is setup correctly, however they are setup. Windows version does the latter but doesn’t allow user to create user libraries.

  8. The wonder of books and dreams. Where you can gently drift into another reality with no desire to return…
    Thank you Sarah…

  9. I’ve gotten into pulp, and it’s now ‘spoiled’ me against more modern stuff. Maybe it’s my limited time, but I’m less tolerant of padding: keep things focused and the story moving!

    Reading Moorecock’s Elric stories right now. It’s amazing so much can happen in such a short page count!

    1. Do tell. But the king of them all is still Alfred Bester’s “The Stars My Destination.” That’d be a five-volume series nowadays, folded, spindled, and tessered into something barely longer than a novella.

      1. I really enjoyed the Elric stories when I read them years ago. And Bester is brilliant. The Stars, My Destination is among my favorite all time SF novels.

        1. Don’t forget “The Demolished Man.” Straczynski stole liberally from that, which is why his villainous Psi-Cop is named Bester.

          1. I think that theft might have been part of the problem for me with reading “Demolished Man.” The Psi-cop is supposed to be the good guy, yet the more I read about the whole telepathic organization, the more I got the “kill it with fire” instinct.

      2. Read Stars awhile back. It may be due for a re read.

        I just recently read some of Saberhagen’s Berserker and Swords stories and Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think.

        1. It’s always a good choice for a re-read. Each time, I’m more impressed with how Bester put the story together. And then jammed the button to “Fast Forward” and lit the afterburners…

          Alas, Bester never managed to write anything else like “Stars.” Then again, hardly anyone else could, either.

          Each time I read it, I have to remind myself it was written in 1956. Not many books of that era can still pack a punch in the 21st century.

      3. Yeah, I tend to figure that if Heinlein could tell the story of the Luna Freedom Struggle in a mere 300 pages George Martin ought to have managed the Ice & Fire tale in no more than 250.

        Get in, get’r done, get out: that’s the way to tell a story (unless you are under sentence of death upon completion.)

        1. Just for comparison’s sake, I don’t think any of the first four volumes of the truly epic Book of the New Sun were much more than 200 pages.

          Lord of the Rings minus the appedices: roughly 1,500 pages.

          The dreaded Silmarillion? Less than 300 pages if you don’t count the opening song/rpeface and the Second and Third Age stuff.

        2. For the later condition, have a story:

          “It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, ‘Antonio, tell us a story!’ Antonio said, ‘It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, “Antonio, tell us a story!” Antonio said,”It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, ‘Antonio, tell us a story!’ Antonio said, ‘It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, “Antonio, tell us a story!” Antonio said,”It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, ‘Antonio, tell us a story!’ Antonio said, ‘It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, “Antonio, tell us a story!” Antonio said,”It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, ‘Antonio, tell us a story!’ Antonio said, ‘It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, “Antonio, tell us a story!” Antonio said,”It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, ‘Antonio, tell us a story!’ Antonio said, ‘It was a dark and stormy night. The bandits were gathered about the fire in their cave. Their captain said, “Antonio, tell us a story!” Antonio said,–

    2. I’m less tolerant of having my time wasted might be a better way to put it.

      If I hear any reviewer say “it was a slog in places” then my odds of trying it shrink to nil.

      Why would I want to read a slog?

      1. I’ve actually inherited this giant box of pulp novels from the 1960s from my uncle. Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine #1 – N, etc + tons of others. Usually very fun stuff.

      1. I grabbed some Leigh Brackett stuff recently and I wish I could write like that woman. The richness to be found in the bare bones descriptions amazed me.

        1. I feel the same way when I read Anne Bishop. BTW someone said that to me recently –that it took him six pages to write what I could write in one page.

          1. Never read Bishop, but from what I’ve heard of the stories, isn’t it all about the detail?

          2. Funnily enough, Anne Bishop is my go-to author when I am seriously stressed. Only the Black Jewels books, though – in her other series, the strings are too visible for me to suspend my disbelief.

              1. I found my reading enjoyment ever s much enhanced once I learned to distinguish between “a good writer” and somebody “who’s writing I enjoy.”

                I do not think anybody will step forward to defend the claim that Arthur Conan Doyle or ERB were good writers, but they were a hell of a lot of fun to read.

                OTOH, there are numerous “good” writers whose works I would eschew in favour of watching paint dry.

                1. Assuming, of course, that one defines “good writer” in a way that does not do a huge overlap in vin diagram with “is enjoyable.”

                  I long ago figured out that my definition of “good writer” was kind of like my definition of “good doctor”– they got the desired result with the materials on hand.

                  I’ve suffered some damage from folks who were really good, technically defined, doctors– but no good at getting the desired results.

                    1. Beloved Spouse I still watch a few network shows and routinely, after an promo for some sitcom on that network we exchange glances and one of us will remark, “They chose the funniest bits for the ad?”

                      Paint drying would be preferable. Having minor dental work without anesthesia seems worth consideration as alterative activity.

                    2. I should have thought more before posting.

                      “Like watching a hideous color of paint dry to an even more hideous color.”

              2. The Others is nicely written but hit a couple of my make-me-fume buttons, which I will not share so as not to decrease your enjoyment. Love BJT, with the occasional eyeroll, and I miiiiiiiight have described that early Tir Alainn trilogy as “Left Behind for Wiccans”. 🙂

    1. Sword of Rhiannon/Sea Kings of Mars has been my favorite Brackett story this far. Carse and Ywain are probably some of the best examples of an antihero and bad girl turned good-ish I’ve seen.

    2. I also read her original screenplay of Empire Strikes Back. There were a few things I wish had made it into the movies. Like Lando being a clone, and at one point Threepio gets so scared he reaches back and shuts HIMSELF off!

  10. I’ve mentioned here before that the Bioshock series is my reset-fiction.

    Come to think of it, I should start another run. I have a good, but very high stress event in a few months….

  11. My own escapism, when depressed, trends to funny. My ‘go to’ has always been Temporary Insanity and Over the Edge, baseball stories told by former MLB player Jay Johnstone. Outside of that I tend to go for fantasy where the characters get put through some really hellish things, which tends to make me think my own problems aren’t so bad. I’m not sure what I’m going to read next, as neither of the old standby’s seem appealing at the moment as I deal with my current medical issues. I haven’t tried the Prince Roger stories, so those might be an option, or possibly going back to Dresden for a book or two. Whatever it is, I really need to get out of my own head for awhile.

    1. If you like baseball stories I strongly recommend The Glory of Their Times , edited by Lawrence Ritter. Upon reading of the passing of Ty Cobb, Ritter realized that an era was disappearing and so spent two years travelling America and recording interviews (reminiscences, actually) of the men who played MLB in the Dead Ball Era. Although it is through the lens of baseball the depiction of an earlier America is marvelous.

      Besides, you know you want the story of how Germany Schaefer stole First Base.

  12. Isn’t all fiction escapism, Mrs. Hoyt? Even creepy horror novels are “scare-me-please-knowing-it’s-not-real” escapism, right? Am I wrong? It’s early in the day, and my wits are still regaining their edges from the muzziness of troubled sleep. I have an uneasy feeling that I’ve somehow missed the point with a mountain-sized margin of error, which wouldn’t be an unusual occurrence. o_o

    Uncle Lar, I like many of Robert A. Heinlein’s novels and stories myself, but I’ve never been able to stomach The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The severely outdated technology just is too off-putting, and something about the dialogue annoys me. Can’t put my finger on it, alas. The Culture series by the late, lamented Iain M. Banks is more my speed although I’ve greatly enjoyed thousands of short stories and novels from the so-called “Golden Age” of science fiction — Eric Frank Russell, Horace Gold, Harry Harrison, Robert Silverberg, Isaac Asimov, etc., etc. Time Enough for Love … hoo-boy, so wordy. Entertaining once around, though. Read Stranger in a Strange Land all the way through twice in a lifetime, no regrets. Starship Troopers, hee-hee! Pow, blam, take that, ya bugs! Book infinitely better than that unspeakably bad, allegedly satirical Hollywood botch.

    Oddly enough, I tried to like The Last Centurion a while back but gave up in disgust somewhere in the middle. After an excellent start, the growing pomposity became too much to bear. I had to fight back the urge to retch at the growing self-importance of the protagonist. I fully expected the dude to start leaping buildings with a single bound and blasting enemies with lasers shooting from his eyes. Enough! -_-

    wsbriggs, Larry Niven’s Ringworld novels rule! The Dresden Files series rules too! ^_^

    Mustn’t forget the space operas from the immortal Jack Vance. The Demon Princes series? Or are those more sci-fi adventure with a background of unspecified space transport? Best to avoid trying to categorize a whole lifetime of reading. Would turn into a month-long project. But … Old Man’s War series is space opera, yes? Yeah, I know about the kinky weirdness of the author during not-too-distant controversies, but hell. Okay, I stop now! -_-

    BTW, Mrs. Hoyt, speaking of food pornography, you do know that Dollar Tree sells delicious Fiddle Faddle Caramel Popcorn With Peanuts in easy-to-inhale 6-ounce boxes, right? Mmmm, instant sugar blast with that special Fiddle Faddle flavor that’s like crack for the tongue. Yummy! You know you want to drive to Dollar Tree right now and load up! *demonic cackle*

      1. Just finished re-reading it today. It got a bit dusty in the room a couple of times.

        As for the dialogue, in my case it helps that I studied Russian in middle school and high school. (Though I still had to look up “stilyagi.”)

    1. No. If books make me think too much, they’re not escapism as such. I wouldn’t rate Starship Troopers as escapism, for ex.
      Yeah. These days I’m low carb for REASON so I can’t have sugar, or even corn.

      1. I’m told that keto permits coconut oil/dark chocolate fat bombs. As I understand it you use a tin for small muffins and put a warm mix of the chocolate and coconut oil in them and chill until they’re hard.

        I’ll have to look up the exact recipe, but I gather they are delicious, eaay, and keto.

    2. Tis truly a blessed world we live in such that all of us do not share the same tastes.
      TMIAHM made perfect sense to me as I grew up in a household with strong foreign accents.
      Probably one of my dear Sarah’s most appealing traits to me, reminds me of early days of home.
      TLC is really just a political statement and a data dump. And the main character is about as shy and unassuming as Donald Trump I must admit, but I’ve never minded a strong ego when the owner gets most things right and admits it when they are wrong.
      As for the Golden Age, of course they got most of the technology wrong. We’re talking turn of the century up through to at least the 70s, and we’re still getting it wrong because it’s science fiction not science fact. I can overlook tech bobbles when I’m presented with a real story and characters I can relate to.

      1. “Tis truly a blessed world we live in such that all of us do not share the same tastes.”

        Just think of the haggis shortage…. 😎

            1. Ick!
              I say this as someone who has actually eaten fresh haggis. (Spouse took a Scottish cooking class. I have a picture of him washing out the cow’s stomach).
              Mind you, I’m not saying it was GOOD, but it was edible.

          1. I have been under the impression that authentic Scottish Haggis may not be imported into the United States. An unquestionable instance of anti-Celtic oppression!

            The Real Reason Scottish Haggis Is Banned In The U.S.
            BY MARIA SCINTO/MARCH 27, 2020
            Have you ever eaten haggis? If you’re like most Americans, probably not. In fact, you may not even be entirely sure what it is — a 2003 poll of American tourists visiting Scotland reported in The Guardian found that 33 percent of those surveyed thought haggis was some type of animal. A strange beast indeed… the offal truth is, haggis is actually a foodstuff concocted of a sheep’s stomach filled with that same (or a different) sheep’s liver, heart, and lungs, as well as oatmeal, suet, stock, onions, and spices.

            If this doesn’t sound like something you’d eat, then chances are, you probably haven’t been affected too badly by the U.S. ban on authentic Scottish haggis. According to CNN, Scottish haggis imports have been prohibited since 1971, due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruling that “livestock lungs shall not be saved for use as human food.” Ok, so why are lungs banned, while the stomach, heart, liver, and all that other stuff are considered ok?

            According to Edward R. Blonz, Ph.D., a nutritional expert who sits on the board of the University of California’s Berkeley Wellness, sheep’s lungs can contain fluid from the stomach — fluid he calls “microbial-rich gunk.” So it’s kind of a food safety risk.
            [END EXCERPT]

      2. “Tis truly a blessed world we live in such that all of us do not share the same tastes.”

    3. Nah. There are people who insist on relevance and being close to their experience in their reading.

      1. Oh heck. That makes no sense to me. One of the series I have is the Annja Creed Rogue Angel Series. Very disappointed they went away from eBook, instead they are an audio “illustrated” novels for the new ones. Heck that is fine. Release them in the expensive format, then later release them in ebook and book format. They are very light reading. But intriguing too. Other than being a female, I’m not anywhere near like the hero. I’m never going to have her adventures and experiences personally … whole point is I live her adventures by reading about them.

      2. One of the things that baffles me is this attitude in science fiction readers. I thought we loved the genre because we loved the novel, the alien, the wondrous unlike, the unknown.

        Modern SF/F wants to turn everything into a school essay about My Lived Experiences.

      3. But that’s the great thing about science fiction! You can read about things that never happened, people and societies that never existed. Technologies we haven’t discovered, inscrutable aliens, machine intelligence and more.

        And it all starts with “What if?”

        1. That is what makes it Not Serious Literature. Unless, like 1984 or Brave New World, it’s satire and REALLY about modern society. Because Seriousness is directly proportional to being about THEM.

  13. Space Opera – the Space Cops trilogy by Diane Duane, and Star Commandoes by P.M. Griffin. (I still wonder what happened to a bunch of her Kindle books in the same universe, I didn’t get a chance to buy them!)

  14. Stress tends to get me playing computer rpg’s. Not a book, but it provides a world I can not only immerse myself in, but interact with and control what happens. In this world, you know that if you do x you get y. You can see your character get stronger and improve, plus failure only requires a reload to fix. Even then, depending on the game, failures can be spectacular and amusing. A lot of them have multiple paths to success, providing solutions ranging from fighting to tricking your computer enemies.

    That being said, my stress book is “Good Omens”. I’ve read it at least 6 times and parts of I still need to read in private because I can’t stop laughing.

  15. My stress reading has become nonfiction this year, because I seem to lack the emotional energy to get acquainted with a new bunch of characters, let alone care about them. Not sure why I find the violence and mayhem of Renaissance Italy comparatively soothing, unless it’s because I’m thinking, “These people are all psychotic murderers and I don’t have to deal with them, ever.”

    1. That reminds me of my theory crafting about what the appeal of some of the xianxia genre might possibly be to the readers in the PRC.

      I think part of it is that a) they damn well know, from buried hearsay, that Mao killed a bunch of Han b) his sociopathic heirs are bullying everyone that they have decided is going to be a failure at life.

      One of the stereotypical openings to a xianxia is some poor bastard is being bullied, perhaps literally to death, because local authority decided that he would be one of the scape goats whose weakness will be used to justify the greater status of those the authority is favoring. Then a lucky deus ex machina appears from nowhere, and lets the protagonist become strong.

      Anyway, I figure that the readers are partly just deeply angry, and don’t have any safer venues to express or explore that.

      Anyway, a lot of what I’ve been reading lately is xianxia, albeit less traditional titles, kinder and gentler in some ways, that do not appear to be written by PRC nationals.

      (I quit reading the unlicensed translations from Chinese several years ago for time reasons, and I think I’ve managed to avoid starting it up again. Though, the better PRC based xianxia authors also write reasonably moral protagonists. (Xianxia is kinda a long format genre, and keeping up with a dozen or more ongoing translations is hugely time consuming.) The English language original I’m following, Memories of the Fall, is something like 1.2 million to 1.5 million words now, and still in the very early stages.)

    2. I’ve been watching the Great British Bakeoff thing. My son was watching it and I was bemused, but I sat down and got sucked in. I really enjoy the lack of real tension and conflict. “Who’s going to win” is pretty low stakes for me.

      I’ve also been reading some KUL trash which I’m not even sure that I *like*, but it has the right level of non-tension. You know exactly how they’re all going to turn out. This particular series is nominally romance, but it doesn’t even have romantic or sexual tension. It’s like she does a handwave and the hero/heroine are planning the wedding. So I’m slogging through this asking myself why, and yet I keep doing it…

  16. Dang, I’m so old I’d no idea what KU stood for ( ̶g̶o̶o̶g̶l̶e̶d̶ duck ducked it & no, she couldn’t be talking ’bout Kansas U.) until I found more context framing it in the comments.

    Speaking of old, remember when folks paid attention to sage advice from their elders?

    OK said concept has been gone long enough I should perhaps rephrase that; remember reading about way, way back when folks paid attention to sage advice from their elders? Nowadays, paraphrasing Heinlein, old is just good luck.

    OK sage advice, feel free to ignore:

    Bored? Stop wasting time doing nothing, if nothing else sit on the porch and shuck peas.

    Stressed? What we call stress was considered simply being alive throughout history, especially man’s pre-written history. Yep, there’s a panther up on that there branch, deal with it and move on, fight/flight reactions, good.

    Then, think about how great it is to simply sit, ‘front the cave’s mouth, not a care in the world, nothing to do but shuck peas.

  17. Books are my escape hatch. When my late hubby was alive and we were having some challenges we would do a “Red Dwarf” weekend. I still have the series, but I haven’t had the heart to watch them without him. He is what made the series so much fun. And the TV series is better than the books.

    My escapism runs to Romantic suspense especially when I am drowning in health or emotional issues. I get these enthusiasms too… For instance I have been on a Jayne Castle– Arcane kick–. The funny thing about me and Romance is that I skip the sex scenes. I used to go to Andre Norton and the Dragon of Pern series when I was in my 20s-30s. Nowadays they do not give me the same thrill … or escape. I think I grew out of them.

    When I really want to get lost in the dream I look for a book that is PI noir fantasy. It is extremely satisfying. I’m not sure what pulls me out actually. I know that I am more here when I read than when I sleep. I find that when I am really down that I sleep more and during the day. If I stop and read, I am better at living in this life.

    1. The funny thing about me and Romance is that I skip the sex scenes.

      Me too. As far as I can tell, you could replace every sex scene in every romance novel with “Tab A was inserted into Slot B, and it was the most amazing, transcendent thing ever,” and you wouldn’t lose much from most of them.

      I write “sweet” romances not because I’m a prude but because I’m easily bored.

      1. Another me too. I skip or skim the sex scenes. Skim if the author is one of the better ones who might actually insert something interesting.

        I got so tired of “erotic” romance. I tried writing it for a while, and had to make lists of words and activities and phrases to get through the sex scenes. After that I felt like explicit sex scenes had some of the same downsides as harder core porn. I understand that some people like them; I remember liking them myself at one point. I just don’t like them any more. Maybe it’s an age thing…

        1. I skim too; skip on re-read unless I know major plot shift (rare) occurs. Don’t mind that it is clear that is what is happening. But dang, I don’t need details whether explicit or different less common words. More of a lead up to, fade … next chapter/scene. I do read authors that have sex scenes (* Galdbadon, **Graham) but dropped other authors because I swear I’d skip most the book.

          * Books only. We don’t pay for Starz.

          ** Even her stuff I learned to clue in on the ones to not bother with.

        2. Yeah, on sex scenes. I keep thinking, “Didn’t anybody have a bucket of water in those days?”

  18. “I have, however, lost years of my reading life to Disney comics”

    So if a Gyro Gearloose sort of character ever shows up in Goldport, we need to Send/Be Help?

          1. Even with his Creation as the “It came from…” and “$SON as the ‘Mad’ Scientist… out to save the world, despite itself!” ? };o)

  19. Somehow, I never got into the Liaden Universe until early last year. Which turned out to be a good thing. Two dozen + books space opera, romance, sentient AI space ships, great aliens, wizards, etc, all beautifully woven together covering 2 universes and many centuries. Minor incidents here becomes pivotal plot issues over there. I burned through it all in 17 months, and it helped me hold on to what little sanity I have left.

  20. I get you there. Right at this moment I’m about 1/2 through the audio book of “March to the Sea”, which is one of my ‘often’ re-reads. And I get the need for the escapism. RIght now the big requirement is to avoid coming to hate myself for the fact that I have not already gone out and done something kinetic about the current level of idiocy.
    Something odd that I have found stupidly soothing are youtube videos of a young lady (19) in Nebraska who, having grown up on a farm is a little over a year into running her own farm. Nothing of consequence, but she is cheerful, and doing something real, and is nice about it.
    You may want to give it a look.

    1. “I get you there. Right at this moment I’m about 1/2 through the audio book of “March to the Sea”, which is one of my ‘often’ re-reads. And I get the need for the escapism. RIght now the big requirement is to avoid coming to hate myself for the fact that I have not already gone out and done something kinetic about the current level of idiocy.”
      Oh, dear Lord. You are NOT alone. That’s where I am, too.

      1. I was thinking that you were in the same place, which is the only thing that gave me the courage to say that in public for the first time.
        I really miss you fine lady, and I am looking forward to my next opportunity to say “Hi!” in meat-space. As Paul has told you many times, you and yours are *very* welcome here.

    2. I wish that series had been finished. I want to know what happens after Prince Roger starts managing the empire. -_-

        1. Why do I have this vision of a letter:

          Dear David and John,
          If you aren’t interested in finishing the adventures of Prince Roger may we please play with him?
          Sarah and MCA

  21. My escapist books have to have humor and action. In addition to what everyone else said, I like the bizarre stuff of Robert Rankin, and for a one-off, Pirates of Pensacola by Keith Thomson (not a typo). Nice pirate story without everybody going, “Arrr,” all the time.

    Hard to even pull myself up to read these any more,though.

  22. Woodwright’s Shop is showing up on Tubes Of You, Some of the Timeline history stuff is okay, For outright silly C&Rsenals’ “It’s A Trap” is as funny as Primer is in depth. Watched 2 race weekends of BT Sport brit tv, and noticed the commercials there are more and more woke, though still less annoying the american tv commercials, and also the old Secret Life Of Machines is showing up with some newer stuff from the guy who did those an YT as well. Reading has of late been Weber and HH (rererereading WoH), but actually reading is novella style (one learns to change pages and pages of minutia into “S#!t-ton of missiles coming in fast”, etc) or on “play” background sounds while doing other things (sorry the audibles reader drives me nuttier, I’ll put up with Colorado, and >greater-than).
    But, with Spring having sprung, I need to get out and do some stuff now too, so breaking down the pallets from work (24 10′ 4x4x10′ SYP and 2 4x4x12′ same are well over $700 worth right there, and the 16 2x4x10′ oak is nothing to sneeze at either (not great oak, just pallet wood oak). Shed for work space or storage and currently used storage as work space will be had.
    Need to make a case for Dad’s urn, as well.

    1. I’m re-reading Weber now. Early-to-peak Weber is one of my comfort reads. (Late Weber loses me. I think he’s writing to a different audience now.)

      1. I notice more typos and infodumps in later work. I put the turnover at Honor’s return from prison in that universe. But I really hate how everything bad turned out to be Mesa’s fault according to their secret plan over centuries. Whatever happened to human cupidity crumbling the society over time?

        1. That’s about where I put the high point of Weber’s work for me, too. I think I liked a couple more after that, but nothing ever hit the high point like Honor’s return from Hell. You can sort of tell the initial plan was for her to die in the Battle of Manticore. :,

        2. “Whatever happened to human cupidity crumbling the society over time?”

          There was plenty of “human cupidity” helping the Mesans along. For that matter, the Mesans were human; their fatal conceit was that they weren’t any longer. “Master Race” with FTL.

        1. Which wouldn’t be a problem if an editor edited those out or into something readable. Do authors get too big to edit?

  23. I happen to like various webcomics. Some of them I’ve fallen out of following, so don’t know what goes on recently, but I enjoyed The Whiteboard:, and others in that constellation: Freefall, etc.

    1. I read about Freefall from a post by Jerry Pournelle. Went to the beginning and have followed ever since. Day by Day got me early in the Obama years, but I didn’t have bandwidth (dialup) to get all the back story, and it’s moved on with the time.

      OTOH, my longest running escapist webcomic is Pete Abram’s Sluggy Freelance. I’ve been reading that pretty much constantly from early days when I heard about some web comics on Slashdot (circa ’97, when it was either apolitical or libertarian-ish). Pete plays the loooooong game. IIRC, it took 18 years before he revealed just what “Sluggy” was, and why he was Freelance.

      On the gripping hand, those are the daily (well, thrice-weekly) in two of the cases. Pure escapist have been a mix. MHI in the main sequence, including Guardian. Larry’s Hard Magic series. I’ve read the first Prince Roger, but for the while, I’ve been in the weeds with a couple of laptops that wanted upgraded versions of Linux. One went from Win 10 to Slackware-current so I could run a ham radio program that needed newer libraries than Slackware’s production release (14.2 is 5 years old, though -current is going to 15.0-beta shortly). Once *that* one got tamed, I brought up the old 17″ laptop that’s been sitting idle since Win 7 hit end-of-life. Not a very fast machine, but Good Enough.

      Used to watch a bit of TV, but the Last Man Standing is ending, and NCIS seems to be wrapping up. The other NCIS spinoffs either ended, or we gave up on them. (Too much Scott Bakula is not a good thing…) We bought early season DVD collections of Midsomer Murders (seasons 1-4) and Vera (seasons 1-6). I can see us getting some more of those and other Brit mysteries.

      When my body/orthopedist says OK, I have several outdoor projects. Need to finish grading around the RV shelter (16′ travel trailer, and weather is brutal at times) install the antenna mast and build the ham station, redo a few dozen feet of walkways, and I really need to redo footings for a bit of the deck where old roots have decayed. Some of that can be done with the tractor, but it’s a lot of hand digging. Not much lumber, mercifully.

      1. Mrs. TRX is a huge Midsomer fan, but I liked “A Touch of Frost” better.

        “Dalziel and Pascoe” was okay until they decided to make Pascoe a bent cop.

        I was surprised to find I liked “Taggart.” It’s old, made in Scotland and sometimes hard to understand, apparently done with low-quality videotape instead of film, some episodes approach three hours long, annd the pace is much slower than modern ideas of screenwriting. But they worked very hard with what they had, and by and large did a good job of it. It ran for 27 years, so I wasn’t the only one who liked it.

    2. I have 3 folders of links, one of which I open every morning.
      Comics , Off Days, and Sundays. Comics is MWF updaters, Every day Updaters, and certain sites (weather, motorsport news etc), Off Days is the Tues, Thursday and Saturday opener and has the everyday updaters, it used to have a Tuesday or Thursday update or 2 and a few other odds and sods I like to glance at. Sundays is of course those that update a Sunday comic and a link or two that were either Sunday updates (I think they’ve all died and were purged) or are sites I only feel the need to look at once a week (Ice Age Now is one)
      TWB has been on those lists with Dilbert, and Frazz the longest followed by Nukees and Iregular Web Comic (ironically the most regular updater of the lot, even when he “stopped” making new ones he put addendums to his annotations under the comics, and is still posting the old strips on weekends and is hitting that end point again, while making new “comics”).For a few years I was only able to open TWB and Nukees at home (Dial up at glacial speeds and they were the fastest loaders, the rest read at work or opened, walk away and allow to load and read later in the day. Vexxarr is also a near day one read (I think I saw it before a cross link from TWB) and I use the news feed reader to keep an eye on that as he is very spotty at updates (Still better than Discovery as he claims).

  24. One of the things I hate most about Now is that I can no longer countenance reading a lot of books I otherwise liked by living authors who are busy talking about how people like me should be dead or re-educated.

    I am limiting myself right now to modern writers I know aren’t like that, or to books by dead people. (Discovering you was a relief because it gave me a glut of new books to read that I didn’t have to feel bad about.)

      1. I made the mistake of believing that having a profession in common makes you friends with people you talk shop with. I’m having to walk back that assumption and really think about it lately.

        1. Ouch, I know these feels, and this mistake. *raises glass* Here’s to older and wiser and warier!

    1. I also need to read you. I associated your name with SFWA so I’ve stayed away. Yes, I know it’s not fair.
      And I still owe you a long email.
      On the good side we’ve contracted to have the major outside work on the house done.

      1. If you read her dreamhealers series, it’s about as far from grimdark as you can get, even when it gets serious. Start with Mindtouch, and thoroughly enjoy the platonic friendship of two guys as they learn to live with each other as friends from different species!

        …Okay, they’re a comfort read for me. They are filed right up there with a hot cuppa of chai tea and a fire in the fireplace on a cold night.

      2. Oh no, I don’t blame you a whit. I allowed myself to be associated with things I shouldn’t have. That I didn’t know better wasn’t really any defense. At very least I left the moment I realized I could no longer bear it.

        (To this day, there are liberals read my books and are offended that I am a conservative. ‘I was sure from your writing that you were one of us! They’re so compassionate!’ When I said, stunned, ‘do you really believe that compassion is a liberal thing only’ one of them actually said ‘well, conservatives are known for leaning into their callousness.’


        1. *tries to translate that*

          … speaker tried to use an emotional appeal and it didn’t work, I guess?

          Might “just” be the whole “you don’t agree with what I think is the best way to fix a problem, you must hate the people” thing.

          1. I honestly think it’s “I don’t know any conservatives, so all I have to go by is stereotypes that all my friends believe”, which is… not much better.

            Can you imagine a conservative in the arts field who could get by never being exposed to non-conservatives? And they want to talk about privilege. :,

            1. Funny – if you took that same sentence and inserted “Blacks” or “Latins” or “Trans” or “Queer” I am sure they would immediately perceive the flaw in their thinking.

              Nyah – I’m being undeservedly geerous.

              1. I… don’t think they would, honestly. Because it is the same mindset that allows you to erase members of a group if they don’t participate in the same way of thinking. So it’s “well I know a conservative, but she’s one of the GOOD ones, you know, the ones who don’t believe the things conservatives do.”

                The people who say ‘having black friends doesn’t mean you’re not racist’ will always find a way to be right. So it’s not ‘I have stereotypes about conservatives because I haven’t met any’, it’s ‘I have moral standards, and that’s why I don’t know any conservatives, because they are terrible people. You don’t associate with terrible people just to understand them better.’

                1. Oh, yes.
                  I haven’t been active in fandom in years, but I’ve hit that in the SCA. I’m worried about going to Pennsic because our friends are mostly from the Northeast and I know some of them are thoroughly woke. Not to mention, what’s the point of dressing up in funny clothes and studying arts/crafts of the Middle Ages if you’re going to sit around in class and talk about modern politics? (And how the people who disagree with you are obviously stupid and morally defective).

                  1. What a great retelling of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court that setting would make, though. The woke getting thoroughly acquainted with the middle ages unsuccessfully looking for safe spaces, and turning into conservatives so that they can actually negotiate the real world of real people.

                    1. Naw, they wouldn’t live long enough to understand how full of shit they are. They’d die wondering what was wrong with the world, not themselves.

                2. I have literally seen one ask why she has to understand conservatives when they are white supremacists.

        2. Oh, honey, that’s IMAX-worthy projection right there. We’re so compassionate, unlike all those people we’re not compassionate toward, and cannot be charitable enough to credit with compassion…
          *sinal salute*

          Yep, this is why I don’t talk to some of my ex-girlfriends anymore; I keep getting “You can’t be loving or caring or LGBT if you’re not in ideological lockstep.” And it’s no use pointing out the lie inherent.

          1. Start with Earthrise (space opera with grumpy trader and space elf prince), or Girl on Fire (think ‘typical Valdemar girl-discovers-amazing-new-world novel, but in space’). (Actually, Girl on Fire has an ending that a lot of people don’t expect, but that conservative readers might nod along to.) My other books are likely to be less escapey and more ‘too much when already overwhelmed’. (I mean, they are for me, I don’t want to re-read them or look at them right now.)

              1. It is the one thing i can promise people: “if you like my stuff, I can keep you busy for a while!” Lol. 🙂

        3. I allowed myself to be associated with things I shouldn’t have. That I didn’t know better wasn’t really any defense.

          That’s what Elia Kazan said.

          The Left has never forgiven him. Part of the way you can distinguish between Liberals and Leftists is the ability to forgive those who disagree with them.

            1. There is no sin in being mistaken (or misled), merely in insisting others join in your error.

          1. *winces*

            I’d like to think I’d have that kind of courage, but the truth is I never got successful enough that I needed to sacrifice something I had, only things I might have come nito if I stuck with the crowd.

            1. Thing is, this is a challenge for a great many people.

              Con games work because of what the marks /want/.

              Lots of people see occupational success as coming through attachment to some organization or another.

              And people of influence in organizations are sometimes power worshipers and con men.

              I’ve worked on strategy for this. Not entirely satisfied by my results.

            2. Anyway, this in macro is basically the Christian imperative not to be fooled by or bow to the world. Much easier to say than to do.

              More specifically, a lot of institutions had reputation, and now those institutions are full of worms. What is a person to do?

              Part is recognizing that organizations are not a correct object for faith, and one cannot have a relationship with an organization the way one can with a person.

              Possibly it is worth thinking about relationships with people within an organization.

              This stuff is genuinely hard. We aren’t expected to be perfect from the start. We are expect to try, and to learn.

        4. Yep that’s us. No appreciation for anything but ultraviolence and big explosions. (/sarc) 😛

          I happen to like your space opera quite a bit. The whole mil-SF itch can be satisfied by throwing a dart at the dartboard of Baen (and it usually bores me). Scientific sci-fi by Robert Forward types (cool concepts, but cardboard characters.) Yours deals with just about everything else. (In any interesting world, there had better be a whole lot of everything else, or it’s a rather dismal place to be!): How your societies work, how your people work within those societies. And it’s nice to see cultural interaction that doesn’t happen through a bombsight, and doesn’t always go tragically wrong.

          Yep, they’ve got their non-audience pegged. 😛

          1. You can tell my parents are foreigners, because I keep seeing places cultures have friction when they interact. >.>

            I’m glad you enjoyed the books! I know they’re not for everyone. There are lots of people whose opinions I think are great, but whose books don’t work for me, and vice versa, so it’s nice when those things align. (I remember Jerry Pournelle telling me to send him a book so he could decide whether to rec it to his audience… which I did and he told me bluntly ‘this isn’t my thing, sorry.’ I… giggled, because his books aren’t mine either. But I thought he was a great guy, and one of the best moments of the last Worldcon I ever attended was when I finally met him in person.)

            1. I’m glad you enjoyed the books! I know they’re not for everyone.

              Dear Lord in Heaven, spare me from books for everyone!

                1. Dang it, now I’m actually thinking seriously about a very clever quip…..

                  No, He didn’t.

                  The Book is just a route– the new testament is literally letters trying to shore up the whole actually teaching folks thing.

                  It’s important, but not required; the stuff it carries is what is for everyone.

                  Which is a freaking AWESOME goal for an author.
                  Look, I never read Lord of the Rings, or the Hobbit. My mom told them to me. She’s such a fangirl that she did what Tolkien intended– and that is our family mythology. I don’t have Thor, I have Gimli.

    2. This. For a while I was trying to not care about the politics of the writers I read, but as you say, when you read they’d like to de-person people like me… I just can’t let it go anymore.

      Meanwhile I’ve bought a bunch of your books since you showed up 🙂 It’s very nice to find a new author to binge on.

      1. I feel like… I have a limited budget for new books, and there are a whole lot of authors out there. I can choose to put money in the pockets of people who don’t spend time advocating for divisive and hateful beliefs without making any sacrifices.

        My biggest problem is the whole ‘don’t amplify bad authors’ thing. I used to have a book chat with people and I’ve stopped because I hate seeing them recommend the same names that I know are full of vitriol and hatred, no matter what their books are like. I don’t want to help people talk those people up. :,

        I hope you enjoy the books!

    3. Yes, one of the greatest faults of social media is that it has exposed the failings/insanity of our favorite celebrities in real time. It’s tough to read the works or someone who professes in their own words to hate you and those like you.

  25. BUT I need to write my own escapist stuff.

    See, this is where I’m really at – I made some really very odd digressions in reading genre using KU over the past year, but what I really need to do when my fave authors don’t churn out their yummy product fast enough is write my own.

    This is especially the case when, while casting my net so wide, I hit stuff that makes me say “Oh, jeez, I could do better than that” and then I look at their sales rank.

    1. I’ve gotten the distinct impression that sales rankings bear a very loose correlation to the actual number of sales generated. I’ve heard of enough FICUS-level disconnects to use a lot of salt.

  26. My escapism has been hard because there hasn’t been enough energy in it to really, really push me up and out. My big problem is that I respond to “good new” the best in my escapism and there hasn’t been a lot of “good new” lately. I can’t think of a TV show that makes me “want to see it,” the few new books I’ve bought have been more stories in a series, comic books have been a non-starter, manga hasn’t really caught me either, and the few movies that I’ve seen have been things I have on DVD.

    Oh, and throw in the stress of school, a novel that I know where I want to get to the next point in the plot but I can’t find a way there, being stuck close to home for a year, not a single convention in a year, getting tired of “conventional” entertainment, wanting to have the Woke taken out back and shot, seeing the “cult of youth annihilation” beginning to rise in the trans movement, etc, etc, etc…

    Yea, it’s been bad. I’ve managed not to balloon through a combination of exercise and a few nice little warnings that I’m not in my 20s or 30s anymore and eating a whole cake is going to be a Very Bad Thing very soon for me. But, the temptation is there, the temptation is real, and I just want chocolate cake.

    Not to say that I haven’t gone through quite a few of my classics and the more enjoyable things on my bookshelves. I just want something new.

    1. It’s totally okay to use baking cocoa as hot chocolate, either with milk or just with water or coffee. It really hits the “I need chocolate” thing, without the sugar, but with the magnesium and such.

    2. I have the same ‘I must have an entire chocolate cake’ thing and weirdly the only thing that’s helped me is 18-hour-fasting. When I hit my eating period, I tell myself ‘EAT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING YOU WANT’, and I do, in whatever quantity I can manage. There’s only so much you can stuff in your stomach in 6 hours, though, which keeps me from overdoing it, and the knowledge that I *can* eat whatever I want seems to sate the ‘eat a whole cake’ part of my brain, often without having to have the entire cake.

      I do often have the entire Toblerone, though, or have a breakfast of cookies and coffee.

      I won’t lie, though, as a morning person who likes to get up between 5 and 6 am, having to wait until 11 to eat is awful. I drink a lot of different teas to keep myself on target. -_-

      1. There’s only so much you can stuff in your stomach in 6 hours,

        We will stipulate that this does NOT represent a challenge to Competitive Eating Contests. Those represent a special case.

        Competitive hotdog eaters nearing limit of human performance
        A maximum of 84 hotdogs in 10 minutes is possible, says sports science study
        Hannah Devlin Science Correspondent
        The four-minute mile and the two-hour marathon were once believed impossible: now a new gauntlet has been thrown down for the world of elite competition. A scientific analysis suggests competitive eaters have come within nine hotdogs of the limits of human performance.

        The theoretical ceiling has been set at 84 hotdogs in 10 minutes. The current world record, set by Joey “Jaws” Chestnut earlier this month, stands at 75.

        James Smoliga, a sports medicine specialist at High Point University in North Carolina who authored the research, described 84 hotdogs as “the maximum possible limit for a Usain Bolt-type performance”.

        The analysis is based on 39 years of historical data from Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, an annual spectacle of gluttony held on Coney Island, New York, combined with the latest sports science theory, which uses mathematical modelling to project trends in performance.

        Hotdog composition and size have, reportedly, remained unchanged at Nathan’s Famous in the fast food company’s 104-year history, allowing for valid comparison between competitors across years.

        Improvement curves in elite sports ranging from sprinting to pole vaulting tend to follow a so-called sigmoidal curve, featuring an initial slow and steady rise, followed by an era of rapid improvement and finally a levelling off. “Hotdog eating has definitely reached that second plateau,” said Smoliga.
        [END EXCERPT]

        You have a suspicion that when Hannah took the Guardian’s “Science Correspondent” position she anticipated the beat would cover rockets, physics, medicine rather than hot dog gulping?

        1. Also need to stipulate that this isn’t to be issued as a challenge to adolescent males who are on the see food diet … Note, girls can go through this phase too, just it doesn’t tend to last as long.

          Son hit his see food phase at 14 years and one month, at Philmont Ranch, on an 80 mile 10 day back country backpacking trip. He is the only one of 12, 8 of them ages 14 to 18, who gained weight, and grew 4″. Last time he was a picky eater was the days before the crew flew down for the trek.

      2. >> “I won’t lie, though, as a morning person who likes to get up between 5 and 6 am, having to wait until 11 to eat is awful.”

        I’ve done those kinds of fasts, and my solution was to start my eating window when I get up. That way I get to sleep through the last and worst part of it.

  27. So what do I do for escape? Read, Play games, watch TV. On the reading side my favorites are
    Almost anything Heinlein, E.E. Smith’s Skylark and Lensmen (I Suspect our hostess will need to don her shocked face upon reading that 🙂 ). Niven especially anything in the Known Space, David Weber’s Honorverse stuff. I recently have delved back into Zelazny’s Amber via Audible. On listening it was far more clever and neat than I remembered. The Burroghs Mars books (recently again on audible). Kevin O Donnels McGill Feighan series, Alan Dean Fosters Flinx & pip. Recently got three collected volumes of William Tenn’s work from NESFA and am fishing through that. As you can perhaps tell I’m more of a gourmand than a gourmet…

  28. After I finish filing my taxes I and a few Honey-do’s I’m looking forward to curling up with “ A Reaction Drive Powered by External Dynamic Pressure” and methodically going over Jeff’s math.

  29. The great paradox: I want escapist stuff to read. I want to write escapist stuff and escape into the story in my own head for a while. But stress shuts down my ability to write, and my ability to enjoy reading the very things that help with the stress…

    Fortunately, there’s weightlifting, to burn out the cortisol in my bloodstream, and puttering in the garden to get enough sunlight to make life happier and less stressful. Between that and cleaning the house so I am less stressed by the environment around me (and lower the allergen level)… I can’t get 3,000 word days, but I’m ekeing out 200 words here, 400 words there, with prior weeks of silence now down to a couple days here and there.

    I have to finish this book, though, because I’ve been snippeting to my normal beta readers, to give them something to escape severe stresses. …Which given the constraints of the chat program we use, probably explains the shortness of the scenes and chapters. Ah. well, it will get better yet! If I have to force the universe to betterness myself!

  30. The Ship’s Mage books, by Glynn Stewart. Faster than light travel is totes possible, but only by using magic… 🙂

    My book pimp suggested that series to me and I’m going through them faster than I really should in this branch-covidian economy.

    My popcorn books tend to be westerns, though the early Honor Harrington books work well for me as well.

        1. Oh! If you liked Weber’s HH books (or military sci-if in general) you’re in for a treat. I would recommend starting with Beat to Quarters (maybe sold as The Happy Return if you’re not in the US). I don’t think it is on KULL, but you can get a free sample of it from Amazon in this collection of Forester’s first three HH books and see if you like it before you buy (or go to the library):

      1. Ah Horatio Hornblower. Ripping good yarns :-). C.S Forester has written a bunch of other stuff , African Queen (yes that is his story) and Goo Shepard to name a couple. Patrick Obrian’s Aubrey and Maturin is also excellent (and has better historical basis than Foresters HH stuff is my understanding) And it has what I think are a few sly hints referring to Horatio Hornblower…

        1. I think they also just made one of Forester’s other books into a Tom Hanks movie.

          I haven’t read the O’Brian books, but my brother has and insists that one of the battles in them is just an incident from Forester’s books written from the perspective of one of the other ships participating in it.

          1. The Good Shepherd is the one that just got made, set in part of the Battle of the Atlantic. And I don’t know about a whole battle redone from another ship perspective, but I do know Capt. Aubrey is often very angry that another captain seems to get all the good ship captures with high bounties and mentions in the dispatches and keeps fiddling around H names for the other captain.

        2. I have found the audiobook presentations quite enjoyable. Excellent for when I need my hands for other purposes.

          1. RES did anybody tell you you are a wonderful wallaby? Had been looking for new stuff to listen to and that sounds awesome.

            1. I weckon that most people wecognize that saying “wonderful wallaby” would be wedundant. 😉

  31. Does anyone else eat raw chocolate cookie dough? Sigh. Also am re-reading old books from 1930’s and 40’s which are now on KU. Only new authors from here as I dislike being hectored when I am reading for entertainment. Am living without a TV yay.

    1. I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that specifically makes good dough. It makes all right cookies if you bake them, but it’s marked in my recipe book as ‘make to eat raw’. >.>

      1. The low-carb recipe specifically says “Do not bake! It doesn’t end happily – just eat raw!”
        But the real true recipe is designed to be thoroughly enjoyed raw and cooked. It also has bacon grease snuck in, along with the butter. Because.

    2. I taught my kids how to make the “edible cookie dough balls”.

      You can do it with any recipe– cut out the baking soda type ingredients, and eggs, make sure you cook the flour, and substitute two ounces/ .25 cups of cream cheese for each egg.

      Make like any other dough, and try not to over do it. 😀

    3. Oooh, apparently there’s another variation that just uses butter to substitute for the eggs, one or two tablespoons per egg.

    4. *blink* You’re supposed to bake it??

      I don’t think I’ve *ever* baked it.

      In college we kept a tub of homemade cookie dough (oatmeal-chocchip) in the fridge and made regular meals of it.

  32. I’ve been reading isekai webcomics of the “get kicked back in time/ get kicked into a book and try to avert the disaster you know is coming, without breaking character too much” type.

    >_>; Which is maybe not as escapist as all that, considering.

    Of course, the webcomic protagonists have the advantage of foreknowledge of what will help avert the disaster, as well as people they can make allies of. Maybe that’s the escapist part.

    And the only video game I can stand to play right now involves maintaining a farm and orchard.
    Which is silly, considering that I have actual gardening to do.

    But it’s calming, at least until there is sufficient daylight available to do paying work and the actual gardening in the same day.

    TV just isn’t a thing for me anymore. I can’t stand to watch it.

    1. Video game maintaining a farm and orchard sounds good, actually. What is it?

        1. I played the daylights out of Stardew Valley (and Harvest Moon, which it was based on). I keep hoping someone will come up with a new iteration of it.

          1. In this case, it’s the latest Animal Crossing game. Much less hardcore than Harvest Moon… though I do like those games…

            I’m keeping my island pretty rural, with all the houses clustered in the middle, minimal rearrangement of the default landforms, and lots of fruit trees and pumpkin fields all over the rest of the island.

            1. Valheim. It’s a world with some monsters to kill, but mostly you build things like Viking halls, or roads, or piers for your Viking ships. And some people do things like build giant fortresses shaped like statues of gods. You can also grow crops, tame and raise boars and many other animals, and ride giant death mosquitoes.

              The trick is that every time you start a new game, the game makes an entirely new world that isn’t like anybody else’s world, so nobody knows where the baddies are. The world is very big. You can invite your friends into your world to go adventuring, too.

              1. My computer is really old, so no Valheim for me. But I’ve been watching Valheim streams by a streaming guy that I like, and he’s been having a lot of fun with it.

                1. >> “I’ve been watching Valheim streams by a streaming guy that I like”

                  Who’s the streamer?

              2. Oh, and because the world is big, you can build teleportation portals from one base to another. So people build ships, take portal materials along, portal back to their base to rest, etc. But yeah, there’s big advantages to building lots of bases and lots of portals.

              3. Sounds intriguing!

                I have real difficulty remembering that it’s possible to play games on computers, since I grew up with Macs, in a time when there were no games available for them.

                1. Gosh, when was that? My first computer was an Apple IIe, and we had games for it!

                  1. The Macs, back in the day, was Apples “serious, business” line. It was completely divorced from the //, ][, IIe, IIgs line Being “serious, business” it couldn’t have games. Oh, no. That would be too frivolous for a “serious, business” machine. @_@.

                    1. I think they failed in that. I became addicted to Ultima IV on a buddies fat Mac. Didn’t play as well on a pc to my taste :-(, nor on NES.

                    2. My first computer was the Apple IIe too. Didn’t play games. It was because the Mac was divorced so thoroughly from the Apple IIe that pushed me away from Apple. Haven’t been back since. Still don’t play games. Son does. Hubby does somewhat.

                  2. Oh, gosh… 80s I guess.

                    The “gaming computers” were a Sanyo, which had all the text based games, a memory matching game, and a duelling catapults game; and the Kaypro, which had a little ASCII platformer. There was also one that was a keyboard with a slot for game cartridges in it that you hooked up to the TV. I think you could run programs on that one using audio cassettes as well.

                    Then we got a Super Nintendo, and the computer on Dad’s desk didn’t have games on it other than chess – Kings Quest wasn’t even close to an option – and none of the computer games in the store listed any Apple computer as capable of running the software… and I just stopped looking to computers as a gaming platform.

                    1. I guess that makes sense. I don’t think of gaming consoles and computers as the same sorts of things either. (The Intellivision was available in the late 70s, wasn’t it? And the Atari?)

                    2. ” There was also one that was a keyboard with a slot for game cartridges in it that you hooked up to the TV. I think you could run programs on that one using audio cassettes as well.”

                      TI99/4a. I unleashed my first program on other people on it in 1982. I wrote a “DM’s Assistant” incorporating the “Weather Generator” Basic program from Dragon Magazine #69(?), and a “dice roller”. DM I wrote it for bought his own TI99/4a (about $50 by then) and used it for 3-4 years.

                    3. >> “I unleashed my first program on other people on it in 1982. I wrote a “DM’s Assistant””

                      Huh. I read a blog called “The CRPG Addict,” which is about a guy trying to play through and chronicle pretty much every CRPG ever. By chance he just did an entry on something called “The Dungeon Masters Assistant” and until I noticed that some details didn’t match I wondered if you might have written it.

                    4. Oh, it was strictly homebrew, never commercial… but it was at least useful for someone besides me.

            2. Pretty much the exact opposite of my “have some fun” video games-nothing like some great fun and stress relief like the Grand Theft Auto series 🙂

              1. XD Those can be fun too.

                I rather enjoyed Hyrule Warriors – nothing quite like dashing across a battlefield, mowing down enemies with a sword.

                I’m not convinced that the Definitive Edition was really an improvement – switching between PCs in mid battle kind of leaves me cold – and HW: Age of Calamity, while the gameplay and the world are better integrated, has the same lack of urgency to it that Breath of the Wild did. And that’s not an advantage in a hack-n-slash battle game.

                So, I don’t currently have that game option available to me.

                1. If you liked Hyrule Warriors, have you tried Persona 5: Strikers? Fusing musou gameplay into the relatively dark, Jungian Persona milieu worked surprisingly well.

                  1. I haven’t tried it yet, but I absolutely intend to buy it.

                    …i just keep forgetting to go out and get it.

  33. When stressed I have to be very careful about my “escape reading”. I have a nasty tendency to read “wish fulfillment” type stuff, which then gets compared to the non-wish-fulfilling reality, which leads to me feeling worse, which leads to reading more of the… and it can rapidly turn into a downward spiral.

    1. I don’t have KU (and have been reluctant to make the monthly expenditure for the subscription), but I have been making extensive use of Prime Reading, mostly Paranormal and Fantasy Romances.

      1. At least once a year around July, Amazon has run a KU promotion where buying a 24-month subscription saves you 40%, so $6/month instead of $10. Late last year they ran an extra promo to extend it, same deal. I have gotten way more than my money’s worth the last four years from KU, and my return to the authors’ pool each month is a lot more than $6! (Last year I read about 380 books, of which at least half were KU.)

        I am glad that so many of the writers here put their books on KU. Not all are to my taste, of course, but the ones I like I make a point of writing a review. I figure it is the least I can do as I cannot afford to buy them. 😉

  34. I find it hard to read fiction for escape, when I’m stressed I tend to read serious stuff, the more stress the more serious. I read philosophy when it’s really bad. I think it’s that I need to block the world out and concentrate.

    The exception was this time last year as the world lost its mind. I’ve never been under that much stress and I found myself fugue reading the news.

    for fun, I still re-read Tolkien, Heinlein, Terry Pratchett, painting toy soldiers, and flower gardening.

  35. Old style jungle adventure/lost race a la Alan Quatermain or Tarzan of the Apes. Or, perhaps, Vaughan Williams’ Fantasy of a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

  36. From today’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

    RINGLORN, adj. the wish that the modern world felt as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales—a place of tragedy and transcendence, of oaths and omens and fates, where everyday life felt like a quest for glory, a mythic bond with an ancient past, or a battle for survival against a clear enemy, rather than an open-ended parlor game where all the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

  37. Eh my refuge is in writing, especially in spinning out yarns about Luna City, Texas — where there is certainly tragedy, now and again — but it’s eccentric and mostly agreeable people, a perfect small town where if something bad is about to happen … chance and circumstance intervene.
    I would adore to live in a place like Luna City, I really would. And that’s my mental refuge in troubled times.

  38. If you’re looking for a light, silly escape you might try H. Jonas Rhynedahll’s Incovenient Magic series. Found it by accident and really liked it. Not as addictive as Pratchett but the same sort of world building.

      1. And here I was going to recommend a JAFF series by Joyce Harmon, called “Regency Mage”, where the studious Mary Bennett discovers that magic is real and she is in fact a mage. I very much enjoyed all four books. IMHO the author has done a decent job of staying pretty true to the original P&P characters and the general feel of the era. The books are on KU.

          1. It is not. The author has taken the characters and her premise seriously. It reminds me a bit of “A Touch of Night” in that regard. Mary works hard to learn her skills. I hope the author continues the series.

            1. Author’s name again?
              And I’ll be doing the other Austens in ATON world.
              Also….. I have two almost done. One where Mr. and Mrs. Collin’s daughter falls for the younger Mr. Darcy.
              And one where lizzy finds out her dad is actually a very eccentric earl, hiding out because her mom was rejected by his family.
              I know that’s been done, but it usually involves fantasy and not the actual personalities of the characters.
              Which of course is what amuses me.
              She finds out because Colonel Fitzwilliam thinks she knows….

              1. Sorry I am so late replying. The author is Joyce Harmon. The books so far are: Regency Mage: Mary Bennett and the Bingley Codex, Mary Bennett and the Wickham Artifact, Mary Bennet and the Beast of Rosings Park, Mary Bennett and the Shades of Pemberley. This series should be read in order.

      1. I didn’t encounter fantasy till my early twenties. As in, at all. And magic most of the time annoys me.
        Which is why I managed to have a shifters series with NO magic.

        1. lol I think I read my first fantasy at 10. I was reading biographies and got bored. I also read my first sci-fi short stories then. On the other hand I found Shakespeare then… it might have been stories of the plays instead of the plays. I don’t remember.

  39. And talk about food sinning– I just had a mild diverticulitis attack this weekend so I am now on soft foods. I still have to eat the same amount of protein so I food processed it. The stomach is feeling better but I am feeling deprived.

  40. My reading is almost all non-fiction, but the two guilty “escapes” I have are binge watching “The Expanse” which is hard Sci-Fi and playing a silly shoot and loot game with the wife which is silly Sci-Fi.

  41. I remember the day I made something like 40 meringues, then ate all of them and was vaguely nauseated afterwards.

    When Growing Up a favorite part of the Seder dinner were the Angel Pies my mother made for desert. These were individually sized, comprised of a meringue shell about 6 – 8 inches across, consisting of a flat meringue disc with meringue puffs piped around the sides, about 3/4 inches high to form the pie shell, filled with blueberry creme filling or, alternatively, a lemon custard-type filling. The shells were made several days in advance and allowed to dry (probably more easily done at high altitude) so that when filled the night before Seder they would absorb the filling and become one with it.

    Some extra shells were made in case of breakage, which we kids were strongly warned to keep our hands off. Once the shells were filled and put up those extras became fair game. The filled pies were so delicious that we usually manage such Herculean Samsonian restraint.

    Thanks for calling to mind a favorite childhood memory of my mother.

  42. It seems odd, now you raise it, but I never or perhaps always read for escape. I cycle through books, rarely reading two of a genre or style in a row.

    If I read a space opera, say, Drake’s Leary & Mundy, I am likely to follow it up with a detective book, such as Walt Longmire, Phriney Fisher, or one of Bob Parker’s Jesse Stone books. After which I might opt for a biography, a historical fiction (currently likely to be one of Bernard Cornwell’s series then read a children’s book, a fantasy and back to SF, although probably not space opera just yet. I also mix in a fair number of Thrillers, such as Joe Ledger or Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath books. I even mix in some straight history, such as David McCulloch’s recent book on the settlement of Ohio or Whassname’s (author of Forrest Gump) history of Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans..

    This serves to keep my reading tastes mixed, never becoming sated with a single style, and allows plenty of time for discovering new authors (or rediscovering old favorites, such as Leonard Wibberly’s Mouse series).

  43. My escapism tends to either lean deeper into whatever is making me depressed/angry or to go as lighthearted as possible, without any apparent correlation that I’ve been able to discover, via video games, tabletop, or books. Recently for books it’s been isekai (typically of the humorous misunderstanding variety) and xianxia (of the defy everything / kill them all variety, like Nine Star Hegemon Body Art); for video games it’s been SMT and Atelier games. So, no real rhyme or reason to it, I guess.

    Although I am suddenly consumed by a desire for an SMT / Atelier mash-up. SMT: Atelier Nocturne anyone?

        1. I don’t like Lackey’s stuff on the whole. Also, I don’t tend to like the comic retellings.

          1. I found Lackey entertaining for a few novels but after that her nails screeching while writing yet one more tale of forbidden love became too distracting and her My Little Ponies too much.

            I don’t mind comic retellings if done with affection for the source; I think a rewrite of the Emperor’s New Clothes could be hilarious … or horribly grim.

            1. Could never read Lackey, it was like anti-prose or trying to understand the adults speech in a Peanuts animation special.

          2. The last ones by her that I enjoyed were the two about Herald Alberich. No moping, just “fish out of water trying to walk and fight.”

  44. As an occasional riding/drinking/writing buddy of “Simon” Back In The Day let me give a serious recommendation for the Time Wars series as a fun read. Available on Kindle.. Well worth it!

  45. I’ve been reading romance and fanfiction mostly and sometimes romantic fanfiction. Life’s been rough the last year and romance really hits the “at least things are going to be okay for someone” button.

  46. I’m pretty sure some of my stuff counts as escapism. Just a little. Not that I’m nudging, mind, or mentioning that the second book will be out this month (eek!)

    And when I’m to the point where I can’t even read for pleasure, I watch Korean romance dramas. My son finds this horrifying (finally! something I can use to embarrass him!) but I’ve watched through the same 2 series’ twice since last August. I should really branch out when the next wave of absolute despair hits…

    1. Any recommendations on the Korean romance dramas? Western television is a barren dessert of wokeness.

      1. As terrible as it is at times, I really enjoyed Boys Over Flowers (the CG! OMG!) and I’m about to go back and watch Cinderella and the 4 Knights again.

  47. Almost all my reading is to escape, but perhaps somewhat eclectic? My authors-and-books list for the past three years is heavy on Georgian/Regency romance, Victorian romance and murder mysteries, cozy mysteries set in England (old and New) or Ireland, cozy mysteries with witches, a few series by ATH/MGC writers, assorted non-fiction books as the whim takes me about science or nature, (I’m working thru my small paperback collection of Roadside Geology books at the moment), a couple of excellent MM authors, various odd-ball things that caught my eye, and almost anything by Susanna Kearsely. (This is far from an inclusive list.)

    Genres that I tend to ignore are Highland or Medieval settings, vampires, and most things grim/dark/noir. (That said, I liked Anne Bishop’s “Ephemera” series.) I just realized I haven’t read much SF the last couple of years.

    I have two Kindles, and between the library and KU, I am usually reading 3-5 different books at any given time, again, depending on my mood. My alternate escapes are solitaire and online jigsaw puzzles. Oh, and reading all the comments on ATH posts. 😉

  48. I’m surprised noone has mentioned James Schmit.z. (WordPress Delenda Est!)
    Telzy Am.berdon, Trigger Arge.e, the entire Federation of the Hub…..not to mention the Agent of Vega stories, which are a ton of fun. And The Witches of Kar.res. Baen republished everything.

    1. If you can find them, you want the editions before the Baen ones. With permission from the estate, Eric Flint made some changes in Schmitz for the Baen editions, to make them somewhat more contemporary (they were written in the 40s through the 60s, so there are some things that might seem strange). But I prefer the originals.

      They’re somewhat harder to find, since most of them only appeared in paperback, although some of them also had SF Book Club hardcovers. So some of the paperbacks are a half-century old, and therefore harder to find, and often not in great shape.

        1. Absolutely.

          And Baen, to their/Flint’s credit, also has an ebook available showing the stories where Flint made major edits, in their original form. Flint wanted people to be able to read the original forms of stories where he made significant edits.

          And the Baen editions do collect stories that were uncollected in any of the prior collections. So, if you want to read everything he wrote (and it’s all worthwhile — he was one of the unknown greats in the field) get the Baen editions in your preferred form (physical or ebook), and see if you can find the physical collections from the pre-Baen era.

          1. I loved “The Witches of Karres” fifty years ago. I still like it a lot. I liked some of his short stories. But most of the rest were Telzey or Trigger stories, and while competent and well-written, they were always in the “only if there’s nothing else to read” category.

  49. I may be going odd(er), since I’m sort of looking at re-reading Dorothy Sayers’ translation of The Divine Comedy again. Very good, plus her historical and theological commentary, written as a practicing Christian. I tend to wander through the Three Kingdoms about once a year.

  50. My comfort reading is archaeology, geology, and environmental history (the non-preachy kind, and yes, it is out there.) I get pulled too hard into fiction, and that can bother the people around me. [long story but people thought I was having medical distress while I was reading a fight scene. No, I was just pulled in so hard I had a fight/flight response in progress and didn’t know it.]

  51. When I just have to get away from reality I just start in on the Dray Prescott series. I’ve got all 52 of them in a cardboard box down in my basement.

    1. I’ve got all the ones originally published in the US in paper and the entire series in a collection of ebook omnibuses. I’m rather sad that Bulmer didn’t live to finish the series since it ends leaving Our Hero hanging (so to speak).

      One of my all-time favorites for just plain fun reading and perhaps the last great Sword and Planet series.

    2. Bulmer wrote a handful of short novels now grouped together as “Keys to the Dimensions”. They share various common characters, but they’re not actually a series. They loosely follow the activities of The Contessa and her minions, who are trying to do… something across multiple dimensions. She was aided or opposed by various people from our dimension.

      Unlike the Schmitz stories I didn’t like, those were pulpish and didn’t always make sense; some were more like extended vignettes than complete stories. But they had the “sense of wonder” that yanked me into the stories and took me for a ride. And they *still* do, hackneyed as they are; they’ve survived forty years of relentless culling of the book infestation.

  52. My daughter and I are discussing this very topic now. She was explaining why she reads (to escape) and why a recent retelling of the Cinderella story for which she saw a YouTube review left her cold. In the story the “Cinderella” character is an abused wife living in NYC who keeps having more and more bad stuff happen to her until she finally escapes via divorce. The end. My daughter said that the reviewers were a man and woman. The man found the story depressing, but the woman told him that he couldn’t say that it didn’t have a happy ending because the “Cinderella” character thinks that the ending is happy, and besides he’s not a woman. So my daughter went off and wrote her own fairy tale, which is delightful. She then told me about this Tolkien quote, which is a great rejoinder to Sarah’s post and a call to arms for readers and writers:

    “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

    ― J.R.R. Tolkien

      1. Well, you see, escapism for sexual abusers is telling prospective victims that they must live in a way that makes them vulnerable.

        1. I always like the ones where Mr. Abuser discovers he pissed off the wrong cheerleader.

          One of my characters is that girl. She gets to burn her initials on the flying squid with a plasma gun. He’s squelching around the shadow realm with “A.H.” carved into his butt.

          I figured she deserved a reward after all the crap I keep dumping on her. ~:D

          1. Or sending a battle droid disguised as a teenage girl into a bad neighborhood. 😛

            1. Robot ninja finds drunken young louts in a parking lot trying to rip off her friend the dragon while he’s sleeping…

              We mix the genres a bit here at Chez Phantom. ~:D

      2. I have been known to have the woman so paired that she ends the book with a pair of kids as well. . .

        1. That’s what’s known as a reward. Only one character has been thus rewarded so far, but most of them are only a couple of months old. They’re taking it easy, due to the constant saving-the-world issues that keep cropping up.

    1. clears throat

      A misquote.

      Though “On Fairy Stoires” does have much like it.

      Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. Just so a Party-spokesman might have labeled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer’s or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery …. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the “quisling” to the resistance of the patriot.

  53. Escapism Phantom Style: Create titanic unbeatable evil monster, then beat the ever-loving snot out of it.

    It shouldn’t be even faintly fair, either. The monster should go bitching to the referees because the cheating lying Monkeys broke all the rules.

  54. @mcahogarth

    Not to distract from the blog & the comments here.. but lacking a better way to give feedback.. (is there a better way??)

    Thank you for writing your books. And suggesting that S. Hoyt start with Earthside. It prompted me to pick up the first book.. and then the second.. and now I just finished the 3rd in the series.

    Which.. is 3 in roughly 24 hours. I may have fallen asleep while reading last night.

    It is one of the few books I’ve read that pluck the similar notes of the Vorkosigan series – albeit I think from a different angle, as Hirian is more like Miles than Reese. But the emotional impact and mixing of honour, family, and love into a science fiction that doesn’t hesitate to give the nod to the existence of the unknowable and divine . . .

    My only teeny complaint was a power sword that uses kinetic energy to recharge itself 😀

    Regardless. It has been a real pleasure to find your books.

    1. I should mention that I’m the (mostly accidental) publisher of “The Fractal Man”. It’s a long story, but boiled down to the basics, I contacted J. Neil Schulman to ask him what it would take to get him to finish a book he had been sitting on for years, and ended up paying him to finish it.

      He was also not a progressive, being actually an anarcho-capitalist. It’s too bad he died recently, because his commentary on the current political scene would be very incisive.

  55. I’m also surprised that no one has mentioned Diane Duane’s “Young Wizards” series, which is YA the same way that the Heinlein juveniles are. Yes, I know she’s a flaming progressive who supported Hillary, but her writing is *so* good and so uplifting…

    1. There’s her related feline wizards series, which takes place in the same universe as Young Wizards. Three more novels.

      There’s also her “Tales of the Five” series, which begins with her first published novel, The Door Into Fire, and has 2 sequel novels and some shorter works. And she’s now saying The Door Into Starlight will follow after 3 more novellas, which she’s hoping to get out over the next two years. Although Starlight has been delayed for a while, the rest are still worth reading without waiting for Starlight, and come to satisfactory stopping points.

      1. Yes, I’ve read all of those, and the “Tales of the Five” series is quite good too.
        Another author whose work is terrific (and he wasn’t even a progressive), is M. A. Foster, who just died last year. His two series, the Morphodite series and the Ler series, are so beautifully written that I would never have guessed that he was a hardboiled country boy. I actually thought, based on his style and his use of initials, that he was a female author.

      2. And her 4 book “Rihannsu” series plus Spock’s World are some of the best Star Trek books around. They are what Paramount SHOULD have done with the Romulan/Vulcan storyline from the start.

        1. I think that they’re about as good as any of the original story Star Trek books ever were. With the possible exception, that, when I’m looking for really fun Star Trek, it’s Ford’s How Much for Just the Planet?, which is a madcap comedy with Star Trek as a framing device.

          In general, you can’t go wrong with Diane’s stuff.

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