James Nicoll

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search

James Davis Nicoll (born March 18, 1961) is a Canadian freelance game and speculative fiction reviewer, former role-playing game store owner, and also works as a first reader for the Science Fiction Book Club.




  • The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
  • [F]olks would better off dipping their heads in a bucket of liquid [nitrogen] and battering them against a tree very very hard than reading Baxter's Titan. It would not surprise me if reading that book causes birth defects.
  • This is the sort of book that justifies fatwahs. If WWIII occurred right now, we could die happy knowing Baxter would never write again. If a dinosaur killing asteroid was headed for Earth and I knew Baxter had another book coming up, I would campaign for letting the rock hit, since it is obviously the work of a benevolent deity trying to save us from another Titan.


  • Before it exploded one night, I went to a four grade, two room schoolhouse and we had textbooks from the 1940s.
  • John Barnes is incredibly variable. Pete's Rule (Never buy a Barnes with sodomy in it) is a good one but unfortunately the publisher does not put that kind of stuff on the cover.
  • Aha! The Alien Planet Canada series, where the planet the characters are marooned on seems to be Manitoba. Bad bad world building.
  • I have hated every Kress I read, especially this one, but the Bear is a standard Bear and if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like.
  • I find this varies considerably from near-death experience to near-death experience. For example, having a wandering loonie break down the door of my game store to look for women was so funny the entire concussion and pools of blood thing was a minor footnote. Being sucked out into the Atlantic by an undertow was deeply irritating. Having a snowba[n]k collapse on me was alarming because of the claustrophobia issue. The car wreck was over almost before I had time to realise what was happening.
  • I think once you start eating people you should stop claiming to be a vegetarian, even if you only eat bad people.
  • All gone. Zelazny was one of the first times I looked at something I had had familiarity with to find the spot where the memory should have been empty, replaced by a scrawled "Moved South for the Fishing" sign. Calculus was another loss. It was quite upsetting to reach for a skill and find nothing.
  • I wonder if he's planning a book called SRS? Or F'lu?
  • In point of fact, the meteor was something like 30 km when it exploded. It was over north Waterloo and I was north of St Agatha. Two spherical clouds, and two explosions. Unfortunately, I was dealing with a goat that was trying to eat an oil truck's fuel line, goats having this optimistic 'Well, maybe it has become edible since they last time I tried this' worldview, and I missed seeing the explosions.
  • As I've often said, I'm a fan of hard SF. No, it's more like I am addicted to it, even the stepped-on 20 times and cut with pow[d]ered milk and rat-poison sort of hard SF. This gets us to Stephen Baxter's Mayflower II, published last year in a limited edition from PS Publishing. In one of the great tragedies of publishing, it was not a limited enough edition and so I have read it.
  • It's true that the average human in the Xeelee universe can't eat Jell-O with a straw without accident[al]ly removing an eye but these particular humans start off no stupider than than any other human of their era and proceed to breed themselves into imbecility. Well, farther into imbecility.
  • We discovered at one point that the brick wall of the pillar would hold up a sock pretty well. This led to sorting socks by putting them on the wall, which in turn led to mosaics built entirely of socks. Mission drift is a hazard in all pursuits, including doing the laundry.
  • Tor is the hard one. They employ a lot of editors, whose tastes vary. They don't always indicate who has edited what (on the choice of the editor, I think) so editor stalking can be more difficult with Tor. Ear-tagging works but is rather surprisingly illegal.
  • Manitoba... Not sure what to do about them. Restock the province with megafauna and encourage tourism, I think. How quickly can we breed back the saber-toothed cats?
  • I don't mind hidden depths but I insist that there be a surface.
  • Until recently baby production was largely dependent on slave labour; as soon as women are allowed to answer the question "Would you like to squeeze as many objects the size of a watermelon out of your body as it takes to kill you?" they generally answer "No, thank you." This leads to falling birthrates everywhere women are not kept enslaved and ignorant of the alternatives.
  • If there's a stack [of novels to review], the unpromising stuff goes at the top and the promising stuff goes at the bottom. That way, I am eager to finish Overwrought Romantic Mary Sue Fantasy because I know that will let me read Niche Product That Only the Author, James and Some Guy at JPL Likes.
  • [H]umans hate to admit error even as they stand there, black and smoldering, with the stub of a cigarette in one hand, in the middle of a wide crater containing them and the remains of a sign that once read 'DANGER: VOLATILE EXPLOSIVES'
  • It would let me protect the Earth from asteroids. In fact, for a small fee I would protect the Earth on a monthly basis, locating rocks that could be steered into the Earth and then not doing it if the cheque didn't bounce.
We could finally commodify sunlight. A large solar collector at the Earth Sun L1 would block all the light that otherwise falls on the unworthy and could be sold to those that deserve it (Litmus test is the same as with Operation Nice Planet You Have, Shame If Anything Were To Happen To It).
  • Call me an extremist but killing a few hundred million people seems like the sort of method that might have unintended consequences.
  • Let's step back and think about the likely outcome of a scenario that involves the words "James Nicoll", "a box of sharp needles" and "possibly without ever having achieved full consciousness" for a moment, shall we?
  • [The cat] and I have an agreement: I leave her alone and don't make sudden moves when I wake up to find her perched on my chest, staring with an unblinking hostile gaze at my face and in return she rarely mutilates me.
  • I believe that I have now experienced the lifetime maximum exposure to bottom spanking in fantasy novels.
  • "Gun-wielding recluse gunned down by local police" isn't the epitaph I want. I am hoping for "Witnesses reported the sound up to two hundred kilometers away" or "Last body part finally located".
  • The number of times I have been declared dead is statistically insignificant,although admittedly non-zero.
  • Elizabeth Moon's antagonists are always evil moustache-twirlers. She could write a book about a golf open and the main rival to the hero would turn out to have clubs made from compressed kittens.


  • The thing about the Star Wars expanded universe that most impresses me is how the need for endless sequels has taken what was way back in the late Disco a fairly upbeat series where the good guys eventually prevailed and turned into a crapsack setting that's grimmer than the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Congo Wars I & II and the Mongol Conquests combined.
  • At some point when I wasn't paying attention, comedic genocide just stopped working for me. This is a shame because so much fantasy and SF depends on genocide as positive plot element. This trifling oddity of taste must have robbed me of hours of morally equivocal entertainment.
  • A common issue with SF settings is that causally disconnected civilizations nevertheless are close enough in technological development that conflict is possible, rather than it being a matter of laser cannons against a thin film of single celled organisms.
  • This I (still) believe:
    Fire is not necessarily your friend. Neither are dogs. Things with lit fuses should not be held onto. Beware the savage croquet ball. If it is -30 out, put on a coat before you leave the house. Just because the snow keeps you from seeing other objects the objects do not cease to exist. Clotheslines are the enemy of the bicyclist. If you don't remember how you got on the ground or where the blood came from, don't get up right away. Gym teachers think it's funny to commit assault with a baseball so don't day-dream during PE even if they have you so far in the outfield there are DEW line posts on either side of you. All guns are loaded. So are many bows. Trebuchets are for outside use only...
  • The sharp side of the knife goes away from you. Pure reason does not trump brute force but suprisingly few people know what hot peppers look like when the teacher asks if you have enough to share with everyone. Never take the lid of a pressure cooker 'to see if it's done yet'. Even if you are careful with the picric acid that won't matter if you are careless with other items next to it. Move *away* from mysterious burglar alarms. Do not append 'you moron' to exposition directed at people who have just broken into your building. 'We need to talk' is overwhelmingly unlikely to precede good news. A rough brick wall may be used to sort socks or as a backdrop for sock-art (The Neglected Art). A silent cat is Up to Something. Lungs are unsuited for many possible atmospheres, including that of London, and anything with a high content of industrial cleaners. Youth will not save you from Newton's Laws. Or Darwin's.
  • There's a rule I used to call The Niven Rule but which I just now have decided to call the Rusting Bridges rule. It came to me after reading Niven's “All The Bridges Rusting.” In this story, humans have by the early 21st century explored the Solar System and sent not just one but two crewed ships to Alpha Centauri ... despite which the characters moan endlessly about the dire state of the space program. “Eyes of Amber” would be another example of the Rusting Bridges [Rule]: No matter how much the space program you actually have has achieved, whether it's first contact with aliens or trips to nearby stars, it can never have achieved as much as the space programs you can imagine would have achieved in its place, given that imaginary programs aren't limited by issues of politics, funding, or engineering.
  • Thoughtful consideration has led me to decide that romance, involving as it does the highly complex interaction of human neurochemisty{sic} with cultural and technological factors, is hard SF. Very hard SF because romance is especially difficult to mentally simulate accurately, not easy-peasy like rocket science. Romance as hard SF may seem counterintuitive, but it's the counterintuitive results of modeling that are often the most interesting outcomes.
  • I wonder if every near-future SF series in which the US is not a brutal theocratic police state ruled by doctrinaire bigoted oligarchs and their boot-licking enablers became obsolete on November 9? Won't it be fun to find out together?
  • Pournelle, who if I recall correctly is a veteran of the Korean conflict, does mention logistical details more often than I expect in MilSF. Not the fun kind of logistics, involving the production of a million zillion Squamoid Hypermissiles, but the mundane sort, like who gets to dig the latrines. Latrines are not romantic, but nobody wants a battle called off because the men all have dysentery and are too busy shitting blood to fight.
  • Niven made a name for himself as a hard SF author, which is to say, someone whose SF provides enough technical detail that the reader can be certain that various mechanisms and events couldn't work the way the author has them working.
  • It's very difficult to convey how alien and horrifying accounts of how American health care works sound to a Canadian. Seriously, if I didn’t know they were real — if, for example, I didn't know an American reviewer who died because she had to choose between paying her mortgage or having a doctor investigate her incapacitating chest pains — it would seem like something from a particularly silly Kornbluth and Pohl Garbageman novel. About the only thing about the US that seems even less believable is the collective enthusiasm for frequent mass murders.
  • Although no credible evidence exists that the speed of light can be exceeded, writers are willing to embrace the possibility that light might be outpaced somehow. Never underestimate the persuasive power of somehow.


  • The [item] that was stolen [in the 1975 novel The Whenabouts of Burr] was the physical artifact the American Constitution, which has tremendous historical and symbolic significance, and not the legal and political framework also known as the American Constitution, which is a quaint relic of no relevance to the modern world.

About Nicoll

  • Nah, that's just the morphic field of the local environment compensating for a Nicoll Event. Do you recall having a mishap just before any of these sightings?
  • The point is that there isn't a canonical James Nicoll tale. The point is that whenever a discussion turns to some manner in which a human being can be menaced, injured, or potentially killed, it will turn out that James has already had it happen to him. No matter how funny, unlikely, wierd (sic)), or pedestrian. He hasn't said he has a scar on his arm from being attacked by aliens with laser swords, but I would be only mildly surprised if he did. And I'd believe him.
Wikipedia has an article about: