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All is full of linkpost April 10, 2015

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I was going to devote this week’s post to the Hugo Awards situation, but to be honest, I thought better of it. Why waste my energy on the emotionally draining behaviour of a bunch of immature, selfish, cruel, destructive people? I’d rather talk about people who build, create, nurture and share.

At Safe, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz talks about words, actions, and using power for good. It’s a post filled with hope and compassion. (Content note for discussion of abusive behaviour.)

Rochita’s post refers to this one by Laura Mixon, which comes with a similar content note.

I absolutely adore M Sereno’s poetry. Her latest, ‘The Eaters, published in Uncanny Magazine, is gorgeous. Amal El-Mohtar reads it aloud here.

BBC Radio 4 is doing a programme featuring extensive interviews with Ursula Le Guin, Ursula Le Guin at 85.

Short stories I read and enjoyed this week include ‘Monkey King, Faerie Queen’ by Zen Cho (published at Kaleidotrope) and ‘Ambergris, or the Sea-Sacrifice’ by Rhonda Eikamp (published at Lackington’s, illustrated by Likhain).

Over at SF Signal, authors pay tribute to Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy.

Ken Liu discusses his new novel The Grace of Kings at SF Signal.

This round-up post at Ladybusiness has some fabulous short story recommendations.

It’s always disorienting for me to see real-life friends and former academic colleagues getting discussed in SF publications.

This is the most Cambridge story ever.

Please spend your weekends being lovely to each other.

Linkpost is a stranger in an open car April 3, 2015

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This week’s post is a little early, as my partner’s parents are in town and I have to grab whatever time I have to myself when I can.

I really liked this essay by Kari Sperring in Strange Horizons. It’s ostensibly about Katherine Kurtz, but its broader point is that the ‘women who made fantasy [and science fiction]’ keep getting ignored, erased or forgotten in the genre’s history.

In a similar vein, Renay has written at Fantasy Book Cafe about recommendation lists that contain no women.

Also by Renay, a review of The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan for Ladybusiness.

This post by Tumblr user allofthefeelings is a reaction to a very specific fandom situation, but I feel it has broader applicability, given that it talks about unexamined preferences, narrative default settings, and representation (within texts, of fandom and of fannish culture and preferences).

I have a not-so-secret love of ’90s teen movies, so this post on Tor.com by Leah Schnelbach and Natalie Zutter about teen movies that adapt or draw on Shakespeare’s plays was right up my alley.

Abigail Nussbaum reviews Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho for Strange Horizons.

Here’s an interview with Zen Cho by Sharmilla Ganeson in The Star.

My friend Raphael Kabo wrote this poem called ‘Axis’ for Noted Festival. He writes a lot about identity, alienation and place, which are themes very dear to me.

Still on the theme of poetry, Athena Andreadis shared an older post on Sapfó (Sappho) of Lésvos.

This is a raw, emotionally honest post by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz about the struggle to find her voice and courage after ill-treatment, silencing and the twisting of her words and judgement of her actions. I continue to be awed by her words, bravery and determination. SFF needs more people like her.

Raining on the linkpost parade March 27, 2015

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Today’s linkpost is a little early, and contains poetry, translation, and a literary treasure hunt of sorts.

This is a great interview of Zen Cho and Stephanie Feldman by Sofia Samatar.

Ted Hodgkinson interviewed Daniel Hahn and Fahmida Riaz about literary translation.

Samantha Shannon answers readers’ questions. (Beware Mime Order spoilers.)

The Book Smugglers announced their new slate of short stories, which should be great.

Zen Cho has set up a directory of Malaysian SFF writers and projects.

A new issue of Through the Gate is out. I particularly liked the poem ‘Juli’ by M Sereno, which I found heart-shattering and powerful.

I love the Where Ghostwords Dwell project. The site is dedicated to discarded text, forgotten words and the memory of dead manuscripts, and each entry embeds links hinting at its origin, or pointing the reader forwards towards further connections. It’s part Russian doll, part literary treasure hunt, and I love it.

I leave you with every argument about Buffy on the internet from 1998 to now. This is one blog post where you’re going to want to read every single comment, and it makes me ridiculously happy.

‘ “And what would humans be without love?” RARE, said Death.’ March 13, 2015

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This week’s linkpost is all Terry Pratchett. I came to his writing later than most, as I was in my early twenties before I read a single word of his. A good friend of mine and I had made a deal: he would watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I would read Pratchett. I think it was a good deal for both of us. I started with Guards! Guards!, and never looked back. My favourite Pratchett book is Small Gods, for all the qualities that made Pratchett such a powerful writer: warm humour, a perceptive understanding of human nature, an intelligent way with words that included rather than excluded, and a patience with human frailty.

This is a Storify of Pratchett’s last tweets. (Warning: bring tissues.)

Here Nymeth provides her reminiscences at Things Mean A Lot.

Jo Walton recalls her first meeting with Pratchett over at Tor.com.

I also liked this piece by Julie Beck at the Atlantic.

The obituary at the BBC is here.

As usual, xkcd says in a few words what would take me several thousand.

I think, however, that Abi Sutherland says it best:

He saw the monstrosities of our world: economic inequality, racism, sexism, religious bigotry, the abuses of narrative and myth. And he made them irresistibly ludicrous, laying them relentlessly out until their inner absurdity smothered them, until the least bizzare and most reasonable thing in the story was that it took place on a disc resting on the backs of four elephants standing on the shell of a giant space turtle.

He was both wise and kind.

The world could do with a bit more wisdom accompanied by kindness.

If you link me that much you will stick around March 6, 2015

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I have so many links for you this week! My Twitter feed has been very generous in sharing its fabulous internet finds, and I’ve gathered the best of them to post here.

First up, have a couple of short stories. ‘Translatio Corporis’ by Kat Howard and ‘The Monkey House’ by Tade Thompson absolutely rocked my world. They’re published in Uncanny Magazine and Omenana respectively.

I went on a massive Twitter rant about failures of imagination in historical fantasy novels set in medieval Britain and Ireland, so I found this post on ‘Celtic fantasy’ by Liz Bourke to be very welcome and timely.

Likewise this post by Kate Elliott on writing women characters touched on a lot of things that matter to me in storytelling.

Joanne Harris makes some good points about the economics of literary festivals.

This post by Renay is very perceptive on self-rejection, anthology-curation and the difficulties in amplifying the voices of others.

I found the conversation taking place at the #WritingNewZA hashtag on South African literature really interesting.

Tricia Sullivan writes about the pitfalls of being a mother who writes. (I would say that this potentially applies to primary caregivers of any gender, but there are particularly gendered elements of the problems she’s outlining that lead me to think her emphasis on mothers specifically is correct in this instance.)

Here is a Storify of tweets by Aliette de Bodard about the fallacy of devoting your entire life to writing.

I grew up on Sara Douglass’s books, and while they’re far from perfect, she herself was a really important figure in the history of fantasy literature in Australia. Here, Australian fantasy author Fiona McIntosh remembers her.

I’ve found Abigail Nussbaum’s recent Hugo recommendation posts useful. Here’s the short fiction one, and here’s the one on publishing and fan categories.

I want to see this film!

I’m thoroughly enjoying watching Ana discover the Dark Is Rising sequence over at The Book Smugglers.

This is a good summation of what made Parks and Recreation so great, over The Mary Sue.

Finally, have an Old English text about the wonders of books.

The sun is shining and the sky is clear here in Cambridge. It looks like this weekend is going to be excellent for me, and I hope it is the same for you.

Vaulting ambition March 3, 2015

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An alternative title for this post: Why Gymnastics Is Exactly Like An MFA Course (Sort of. Mostly).

Yes, this is another response to that article by (thankfully, former) MFA professor Ryan Boudinot. See also Foz Meadows, Laura Lam and Chuck Wendig for some further context. At first glance, I might seem an odd person to be adding my voice to the mix. I’ve never done an MFA (and don’t plan to), I’m not a writer of fiction and have no intention of ever being one in the future.

However, I was a gymnast for ten years.

You might be forgiven for wondering what the hell that has to do with Ryan Boudinot, creative writing courses or this whole kerfuffle, but allow me to explain. Gymnastics left me with a collection of bizarre anecdotes, excellent time-management skills, very good balance in certain contexts, and messed up feet and ankles. It also provided me with a clear example of something many people – including, it seems, Ryan Boudinot – fail to understand: nobody is born so talented at a skill that they cannot improve with practice and teaching. The myth that innate talent is enough to get someone awards, acclaim and success is profoundly damaging. It gets applied to creative pursuits all the time, but they are skills like any other, and if I extend it to gymnastics, the ridiculousness of the myth becomes apparent.

I started gymnastics when I was seven years old, encouraged by my mother, who had noticed that I seemed to spend every waking moment climbing trees, turning cartwheels and doing handstands against the walls of buildings. My initial classes were an hour a week, squeezed in on Saturday mornings after swimming lessons, and their aim was simply to get the children who attended moving, building up a collection of skills of increasing difficulty. By the time I was seventeen, I was training twelve hours a week, in three four-hour sessions which began with an hour of strength and conditioning, followed by three hours spent practicing the same skills again and again until they were consistently perfect, stringing the skills together into routines and repeating those routines until they could be performed with the illusion of effortlessness. The goal of all this was to perform those routines in annual regional and state-level competitions, and hopefully get good scores and win lots of medals.

I started with what might be considered the baseline requirements to get by as a gymnast: I was small, I was slim, I was able-bodied and physically fit. I was at a disadvantage in that I hadn’t started as a four-year-old, and because I was extremely inflexible. In other words, the potential was there.

But without lessons and training I wouldn’t have got anywhere: I would have been just another child turning cartwheels on the school playground. I got better because I practiced, and I got better because of teaching. Whether it was for one hour a week or twelve, my execution of various skills got better through repetition, and the difficulty of those skills increased over time because I was able to build on the basics I’d learnt to begin with and apply the same principles to more complex skills or combinations of skills. And I was able to improve because my coaches knew what to do to make me better.

I had multiple coaches over the years, but the best ones combined excellent communication (that is, they were able to convey with words what I needed to do with my body to make a routine look effortless) with a good feel for each of their coaching charges’ strengths and weaknesses, ensuring that we didn’t just work on the apparatus we liked or the skills that came easily to us, and creating routines for us that covered up areas of weaknesses and emphasised areas of strength. (For example, my lack of flexibility made certain common elements of floor routines really difficult and inelegant for me, so my coaches substituted them with moves which highlighted my upper-body strength.) And with coaching and practice, I got better every year: stronger, with the ability to do harder skills, and a more intuitive sense of what to do with my body if I wanted it to tumble, flip, twirl or leap in a specific direction. In my first ever competition I leapt up onto the beam, promptly fell off, climbed back on, only to lose my balance and fall off again. By the time I quit, I was learning how to do backflips on that same apparatus. I am profoundly grateful to the series of patient, perceptive coaches whose hard work helped to get me to that point.

I was never going to set the world on fire as a gymnast. I would never compete in the Olympics – the height of my ambition was a handful of apparatus medals at the annual regional competition. But I learnt a really useful lesson at a very early age: with practice and, crucially, proper training and support, I could start as an absolute beginner at something and show constant, steady improvement over a month, a year, or a decade. My point in all this is not to demonstrate that every able-bodied child who starts young enough is born with the talent to become an world champion gymnast. My point is that practice, repetition, and, above all, the support of teachers will lead to improvement in just about any skill. And writing is a skill like any other.

Nobody springs from the womb as a fully-formed, award-winning fiction writer. Writing is a skill that needs to be taught. It is improved by practice, and by working with teachers who can recognise areas of strength and weakness. Bestselling, award-winning novels don’t just fall out of a writer’s brain and onto the keyboard. They are honed and shaped by critique and training. Maybe that training takes the form of an MFA. Maybe it doesn’t – maybe a writing workshop, writers’ group or critique partner is more your style. And maybe you still won’t win awards or sell millions of copies of your novel, but your writing will be better. I’m tired of this almost mystical reverence for creative endeavours, whether music, fiction-writing or visual art. It’s a lazy justification for avoiding collaboration, training or criticism of your work. No, we do not start on equal footing when it comes to writing, even when you take away structural inequalities such as wealth, gender, race, disability and so on. As with any other skill, some people are going to find writing easier, some are going to find it more fun, and some might have a better sense of where the money and/or acclaim lies than others. But the fact remains that anyone who writes is going to get better through a combination of practice and the support of good teaching. I learnt that by doing gymnastics as a child and teenager. It’s a shame Ryan Boudinot didn’t get that same teaching.

Linkpost lifts us up where we belong February 27, 2015

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This week’s linkpost is up a bit early, and contains many fabulous things.

I’m a huge fan of Sophia McDougall’s review of Birdman: over at Strange Horizons. In it, she compares the film to Boris Johnson. It’s an apt comparison.

Here’s a great interview with Samantha Shannon. ‘Cities are made of narrative’ indeed.

Aliette de Bodard’s description of her subconscious as a library is a fabulous metaphor, and one that I might steal myself!

There’s a great set of guest posts over at Ladybusiness on ‘What books are on your auto-recommend list?’ (For the record, mine are the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, the Pagan Chronicles series by Catherine Jinks, Space Demons, Skymaze, Shinkei and Galax Arena by Gillian Rubinstein, Parkland, Earthsong, Fire Dancer and The Beast of Heaven by Victor Kelleher, the Romanitas trilogy by Sophia McDougall and the Crossroads trilogy by Kate Elliott.)

Episode 4 of Fangirl Happy Hour is up. This week Ana and Renay are talking Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Jupiter Ascending and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I’m not quite as critical of S.H.I.E.L.D. as they are, while I think there’s room for difference of opinion about the feminism of Jupiter Ascending, but as always, I appreciate their thoughts.

The first few guest posts about representation and diversity are up on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Shannon Hale talks about gender segregation at readings she’s done at schools. It’s heartbreaking.

I thoroughly enjoyed this article by Robert Macfarlane about language and landscape. Beautiful stuff.

I really liked the recent BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. This interview by Julia Raeside of Claire Foy, who played Anne Boleyn, goes a long way towards explaining why.

For reasons that will soon become apparent, although I can’t provide a link to it, the #readingAuthorName hashtag on Twitter has been a powerful and positive movement. It works like this: think of an author whose works moved you and shaped you into the person you are. Tweet about it. Add the hashtag #readingAuthorName (obviously replacing AuthorName for the author’s actual name). Feel happy.

Linkpost is all around us February 16, 2015

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This post is somewhat late, and as a result you may have seen some of the material included in it elsewhere. Hopefully, however, there will be enough new material for everyone to enjoy.

First up, a powerful post by Kari Sperring about the unseen, unromanticised ‘women’s work’ undertaken by older women. Athena Andreadis’ older post ‘Where Are the Wise Crones in Science Fiction’ is an excellent companion piece. Rounding off this trio of posts on older women, check out Catherine Lundoff’s (frequently updated) post of recommendations of SFF literature featuring older women.

I’ve really appreciated Malinda Lo’s series for Diversity In YA on perceptions of diversity in book reviews. There are currently two posts published of a three-part series.

Rachel Manija Brown is gathering recommendations for diverse literature. (Content note: discussion of abuse.)

I’m not eligible to nominate people for awards myself, but I am using Amal El-Mohtar’s nominations post as a source of recommendations.

As an Australian, I’m pleased to see that Alexandra Pierce has started writing a regular column at Tor.com on Australian and New Zealand SFF publishing news.

I’m a big fan of The Book Smugglers, as I find the blog a breath of fresh air and positivity in what can sometimes be a very negative internet. As such, I’m thrilled that their first foray into publishing has been a success, with a BSFA nomination for one of their short stories, ‘The Mussel Eaters’ by Octavia Cade.

The new issue of Lackinton’s is out. I’ve been enjoying reading through its stories, and particularly liked ‘Tiger, Baby’ by JY Yang, with art by Likhain. You can find links to further works by both writer and artist in the biographical information at the bottom of the story.

Finally, Jupiter Ascending was ridiculous, joyful fun. Kate Elliott thought so too.

Where young linkposts would meet when the flowers were in bloom February 6, 2015

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It’s Friday afternoon, and that means it’s high time for your weekly links. Most of these were gathered via Twitter, because I follow some fabulous people over there, and they keep finding and doing wonderful things.

A.C. Wise’s monthly post for SF Signal on women to read in SFF is filled with some great recommendations. This post is part of a series, so if you want more recommendations, you’ll be able to find them in the related posts links under the article.

Jim C. Hines is calling for guest posters to write on representation in SFF, so if you think you fit the criteria, you should definitely try and submit something. He’s already run a previous series of posts on this subject, which were collected as an ebook, the sales of which have gone to support the Carl Brandon Society’s Con or Bust programme. The call for guest posts runs until tomorrow, so get in now if you want to be included.

I’m really looking forward to Aliette de Bodard’s new Xuya short story. She’s posted an excerpt on her blog.

This post by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz about the struggles people face when trying to speak up (or even speak at all) is powerful and important.

Kate Elliott’s short-story collection The Very Best of Kate Elliott is out on the 10th February. She’s been blogging up a storm recently. I particularly appreciated her guest post at The Book Smugglers on self-rejection and the courage to say yes.

Also from Kate Elliott, ‘An Illustrated Love Letter to Smart Bitches and Trashy Books’, which does exactly what it says on the tin. I’m not a regular reader of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (which recently celebrated its tenth birthday), but I am a firm believer in unapoletically loving the things you love, and not shaming other people for their fannish choices, so this resonated with me a lot.

This guest post on Ladybusiness by forestofglory is full of great short-fiction recommendations that I will definitely be checking out.

Finally, I went on a bit of a Twitter spree about cultish behaviour and abuse dynamics in fandom. These tweets should be considered the preliminary stage of a more detailed post that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Charles Tan was kind enough to collect my tweets together on Storify.

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy Armenian teenager Vika Ogannesyan singing ‘Plava Laguna’ (the opera song from The Fifth Element).

Linkpost makes the world go ’round January 30, 2015

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Welcome to what I hope will become a regular feature here at the Geata: weekly posts of links to wonderful things. There are no criteria for inclusion: the links will just be things that have caught my eye in any given week, but I’m trying to focus on positive and/or thought-provoking material from a diverse range of perspectives. This is all part of my goal of collaborative and community-building writing for this year.

It was a great week for SFF podcasts. I particularly enjoyed Amal El-Mohtar and Natalie Luhrs on Rocket Talk with Justin Landon, talking about all things blogging and reviewing.

Fangirl Happy Hour is a new project by Ana of The Book Smugglers and Renay of Ladybusiness. Their second podcast is on sex and romance in science fiction, nominations for the Hugo Awards and The Very Best of Kate Elliott (which has rocketed to the top of my wishlist).

Renay also wrote a fabulous, heartfelt post about being betrayed by stories that the rest of your community has universally praised. Read the comments too.

A. Merc Rustad’s short story ‘How To Become A Robot In 12 Easy Steps’ is something I didn’t realise I’d been wanting until now. Almost anything I could say here will be a spoiler, but I feel I should provide a content warning for depictions of depression.

Amal El-Mohtar’s short story ‘The Truth About Owls’ hurt my heart in the best possible way.

No Award is not a new blog, but it is new to me, and is a breath of fresh air. I’m often frustrated by the US-centrism of the online conversation on media and social justice, so I’m thrilled to find a blog by a pair of Australians tackling these issues from an Australian perspective.

Finally, I really appreciated Foz Meadows’ epic blog post on Teen Wolf. I don’t agree with all her conclusions, but I am particularly happy about her comments on Scott McCall, whose gentleness, kindness and adoration of powerful women goes against all the usual stereotypes about boys raised by single mothers.

I hope you all have fabulous weekends. Since Eurovision is officially upon us, why not generate your own Eurovision song title?

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