Posted by dolorosa12 in books, fangirl, reviews, Uncategorized.
Tags: becky chambers, books, fantasy novels, kate elliott, poisoned blade, shira glassman, the long way to a small angry planet, the olive conspiracy
My recent reading has made me so happy that I’ve decided to try out something new with my reviews: a semi-regular category, books that make me joyful and that I want to praise to the skies. This first post of this kind covers three books which really spoke to me, and that I cannot recommend enough.
The Olive Conspiracy is the fourth novel in Shira Glassman’s wonderful Mangoverse series (there are also two short story collections set in the same universe), which follows the adventures of Queen Shulamit, her partner Aviva, and their ever-expanding found family of kind-hearted misfits, as they undertake the business of ruling Shulamit’s tropical kingdom of Perach. This fourth book sees Shulamit and co dealing with an international conspiracy to hamper the agriculture (and thus economy) of Perach, bringing Shulamit back in contact with her first love, Crown Princess Carolina of the neighbouring kingdom of Imbrio.
There’s so much to love about this book, and the series as a whole. Perach is a fantasy Jewish kingdom coexisting in a magical, medieval inflected world with other, non-Jewish nations (such as Imbrio). Almost all of the major characters are gay, lesbian or bisexual, in loving relationships supported by their friends, families and community, and there are also several transgender secondary or tertiary characters, and although their stories are not without conflict, there is never any threat of a tragic or unhappy ending. But what really makes these books great for me is their emphasis on kindness, cooperation, and non-violent solutions to thorny problems. The Mangoverse books are proof that in the hands of the right author, a compelling story about fundamentally decent people is possible. That they’re also filled with loving, detailed descriptions of mouthwatering food is just an added bonus!
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers shares a few similarities to Glassman’s work. It, too, is the story of a found family of oddballs, who are for the most part kind and good people seeking to avoid conflict and bloodshed, and food also features heavily. However, it’s set in the distant future, on a spaceship which is home to a multispecies crew whose job it is to create the hyperspace tunnels that make fast, convenient space travel possible for their fellow inhabitants of the skies. If you liked Firefly, but found yourself frustrated with the limitations of the future it imagined (a Chinese-inflected future with no visible Chinese characters; misogyny and other contemporary problems still present centuries into the future, and so on), this may be the book for you.
Chambers has imagined a future that is truly welcoming to all, in which human beings are just one species among many other sentient cultures of the universe, all of whom have organised themselves into a vast, intergalactic United Nations of sorts. The humans are very much the junior partners in this enterprise – late arrivals who were only taken in out of pity after half the inhabitants of Earth fled to Mars (the wealthy, who could afford to get out) and the other half took to the skies in a suicidal act of desperation as the planet became utterly uninhabitable. While it should be sobering to read of an all-too-plausible future in which we have rendered Earth utterly inhospitable to life, it’s oddly comforting to imagine a time when humans are only a tiny, insignificant fraction of the crowded skies of a vast, inhabitable universe. It’s as if the insignificance and miraculous survival of the human beings of Chambers’ novel caused them to grow out of the horrors that currently plague us: selfishness, lack of forward thinking, and rapacious, destructive greed. Humans in this book are more humble, and, like all the sentient beings in their universe, more open and understanding of difference. It’s more a character-driven story: don’t read it for the plot, which is as meandering and episodic as the journey of the spaceship its characters call home, but it’s as comforting and welcoming as a warm blanket, drawing you in to a hopeful and reassuring future.
The final book reviewed here, Kate Elliott’s Poisoned Blade, is less cozy and consoling than the first two — Elliott certainly knows how to put her characters through the emotional wringer — but it too brought me great joy. It’s the follow-up to Court of Fives, Elliott’s first foray into young-adult literature, which I reviewed here. Poisoned Blade sees Jessamy and her sisters following dangerous and different roads to ensure their family’s survival. Their individual stories and struggles intertwine with the revolution that is simmering below the surface of their profoundly unequal society, as well as with the broader political conflicts threatening their country.
Kate Elliott is one of my favourite writers of stories of girls and women, because she always depicts many different types of female characters, with nary a stock trope in sight. Poisoned Blade is no different: we’ve got Jessamy, who is a competitive and talented sports player, confident in her physical abilities but out of her depth in challenges that require subterfuge, subtlety or verbal persuasion. Her sister Amaya and her friend (and lover) Denya are much better at handling the delicate dangers that take place in the homes of the wealthy and privileged, and while they — like all women in their society, particularly the lower class (like Denya) and the Efean Commoners (those who, like Amaya, Jessamy and their mother and sisters, descend from the original inhabitants of their land who were conquered by the Patrons who rule them) — lack overt and political power, they are adept at exercising power indirectly and carving out a place of relative safety for themselves. There are so many other types of women in this book, but I’d like to draw particular attention to Amaya, Jessamy and their siblings’ wonderful mother, who is a character after my own heart: the sort of woman whose strength lies in her ability to empathise with and care for others, and who quietly does the vitally important work of forging alliances, building connections, and sustaining others. The world of Poisoned Blade is deeply hostile to women, and Elliott doesn’t shy away from that, but she also emphasises the many important relationships women and girls form in spite of that, and the strength that they draw from these connections. There are also giant, robot spiders, a growing revolution led by the dispossessed, and intense competitions in a sport that involves racing through a massive, terrifying obstacle course. What more could you want?
Posted by dolorosa12 in books, reviews.
Tags: an ember in the ashes, court of fives, fantasy novels, kate elliott, sabaa tahir, sarah rees brennan, tell the wind and fire
The three YA novels I review here are all set in cities which are, in one way or another, divided, featuring state-sanctioned inequality so extreme that revolution needs only a tiny spark to set it off. Characters in all three books reach out across the divide, fighting in their own ways for justice, equality, or just the chance to carve out a tiny space of safety for themselves.
Sarah Rees Brennan is nothing if not ambitious. Her latest work, Tell the Wind and Fire reimagines Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities as an urban fantasy romance involving doppelgängers, a complicated magical system, and, of course, revolution. Instead of the ‘two cities’ of Dickens’ story, Tell the Wind and Fire is set in a New York divided into ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ cities, which exist in parallel, mirror images of glittering privilege and violently enforced dispossession. Rees Brennan’s Lucie Manette is a teenage magic wielder who grew up in the Dark cities, but was brought to the Light, where she is treated as something of a symbol and a trophy, the girlfriend of the cherished son of the Light city’s ruling family. This ruling dynasty’s ruthless maintenance of its own power is matched only by its complicated, hypocritical secrets. Rees Brennan is great at showing the cruelty and injustice that keeps her imagined New York divided, and doesn’t shy away from placing the blame entirely at the feet of its glittering Light elite, who care little that their enormous wealth is built on suffering. As revolution smoulders, Lucie attempts to navigate the treacherous political waters, torn between individual loyalty to those she loves – in both Light and Dark New York – and her moral outrage at the injustice of her society. Lucie is well aware of her power as a symbol – a borrowed power that is dependent on her never, ever speaking for herself – and has a realistic sense of this power’s limits. Lucie’s sharp sense of self-preservation, honed through years living in the downtrodden Dark city and among the capricious powerbrokers of the Light, is one of the strongest elements of this book, and she is a character with whom I very much enjoyed spending time.
Rather less satisfying for me were the wider character dynamics of Tell the Wind and Fire. In previous works, characterisation has been Sarah Rees Brennan’s strong point, and I’ve come to look forward to her books for their fantastic found families – collections of odd, misfit characters thrown together by circumstance, who’ll protect each other fiercely against the cruelties and dangers of the world. Perhaps because it was a standalone book rather than a trilogy, with less time to develop secondary characters, I found this element somewhat lacking in Tell the Wind and Fire, and missed it. Other than that, however, the book was an enjoyable read, although the twists of the plot will be unsurprising to those already familiar with A Tale of Two Cities.
Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel An Ember in the Ashes is a claustrophobic fantasy romance set in a city under occupation. The Martial Empire enforces its rule with military might and legalised discrimination; the Scholars, formerly the elite, are forbidden to learn to read, and are either enslaved or forced to live in precarious poverty. The novel is told from alternate viewpoints – that of Laia, a young Scholar girl who accepts a dangerous spying mission at the heart of the Martial administration as a slave to its ruthless military leader, and Elias, a Martial boy training to be the empire’s most lethal warrior (more weapon than human being), but secretly attempting to escape his abusive training. Tahir does an excellent job of making all parts of her stratified city – from the brutal Blackcliff Academy where Elias trains and Laia spies, to the twisting alleyways where Scholars make their homes and the resistance plots the Martial Empire’s demise – come alive, always emphasising the rampant inequality and the violence with which it is maintained. While I slightly preferred Laia as a viewpoint character, both protagonists are carefully drawn, and their respective fears, hopes and motivations are well balanced. I particularly like it when characters in this kind of set up have an internal struggle between genuine and well-justified terror at the life-threatening situations in which they find themselves, and their desire to transform their society into a more just and equal place. I like it when it forces them to make compromises, bargains, and small, short-term sacrifices of principle, and I very much appreciated that this was the case with Laia. An Ember in the Ashes ends on quite the cliffhanger, so I’m relieved to see that the sequel will be published in August.
Court of Fives, the first in a YA series by Kate Elliott, is much subtler than the previous two books reviewed here in its exploration of power, privilege, and their corrosive effect on societies and individuals. Its setting is inspired by Ptolemaic Egypt, with divisions between the ruling Patrons and ruled Commoners more fluid than the letter of the law would suggest. Patrons cannot marry Commoners – but they can form relationships, as is the case in the family of protagonist Jessamy, whose father is a Patron and mother is a Commoner. Similarly, certain routes to advancement are barred to Commoners – but they can gain prestige and acclaim as talented players of Fives, the popular sport beloved by Patrons and Commoners alike, and played by both. But – as is the case with all unequal societies – there are hidden complications and unwritten rules that slowly become part of the social structure, understood by all, but difficult to live with. Jessamy and her sisters occupy an uneasy space between Patron and Commoner worlds, both exoticised and scorned. They are all painfully aware that their fate – and fate of their family – is dependent on their making good marriages with Patron men. Their mother is a hindrance to their father’s career, and, after a series misfortunes, it becomes clear that their parents’ apparent love match is a more fragile thing, vulnerable to the demands of politics and social mobility. Playing Fives – formerly an escape for Jessamy – becomes a deadly necessity, as the fate of her entire family depends on her success on the court.
There are echoes in Court of Fives of Little Women, but Elliott’s refusal to let the father character off the hook is a breath of fresh air to me, as someone who always found Alcott’s depiction of Mr March too close to hagiography. Here, there is an acknowledgement that the actions of men in patriarchal societies can have appalling consequences for the women around them, that such men are very often ignorant of, and unmoved by, the effects their actions have on the women in their lives, and, most importantly, that even in patriarchal societies, women and girls have lives and relationships and stories independent of the husbands and fathers whose actions circumscribe their existence. Throw in a brilliantly depicted set of sisters – each with her own personality and dreams – and you have everything I could possibly want in a Kate Elliott book.
Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: accessibility, aliette de bodard, ana grilo, cindy pon, daria, filipina poets, isabel yap, isobelle carmody, jane the virgin, jessica jones, kate elliott, mary robinette kowal, me elsewhere, michelle vider, phoebe robinson, renay, rose lemberg, sophia mcdougall, station eleven, tell them stories
This week’s post is a day early, as I’m going to be in London tomorrow and away from a computer. It’s also going to be fairly Jessica Jones heavy, but I will separate those links off from everything else.
Building on the ongoing conversation about conventions’ failure to provide a safe and accessible experience for disabled attendees, Mary Robinette Kowal has started a SFF convention accessibility pledge, which I encourage everyone who’s likely to attend a convention to sign.
These two posts by Rose Lemberg on the experiences of disabled fans, and the dismissal of their concerns and requests for accommodations and accessibility, are really important, and I encourage you to read them.
Michelle Vider writes: Station Eleven is a love letter to technology, one I never could have written myself.
Isabel Yap put together a fantastic collection of recommendations of Filipina poets, many of whom were new to me. I highly recommend reading their work.
Here’s Kate Elliott on ’10 Fantasy Novels Whose Depiction of Women Did Not Make Me Want to Smash Things’.
Kate Elliott also dropped by the Fangirl Happy Hour podcast.
This recent Galactic Suburbia podcast was also great.
More Isobelle Carmody:
Of the many readers Carmody has met, some have made lasting impressions. The young woman who established the fan site obernewtyn.net has become a close friend. Another has proved a sharp-eyed editor for Carmody’s unpublished books. Many have said they feel that the conclusion of The Obernewtyn Chronicles marks the end of their childhood.
Sophia McDougall’s post on trigger/content warnings said a lot of things that I’ve been trying to say on the matter for a while. Needless to say, content warning for discussion of abuse.
I loved this article about the depiction of early motherhood on Jane the Virgin
Phoebe Robinson talks about ‘How Daria Shaped A Generation of Women (Particularly This Black One)’.
I loved this photoshoot, in which five authors dressed up as their favourite fictional characters.
There are new reviews up on Those Who Run With Wolves. Aliette de Bodard reviewed Black Wolves by Kate Elliott. I reviewed Serpentine by Cindy Pon.
Jessica Jones links
I’m somewhat astonished by the intensity of my reaction to, and identification with, this show, but it’s clear that I’m not alone in this.
‘Marvel’s Newest Show Makes Surviving Trauma A Superpower’ goes a long way toward explaining the strength of my feelings about this show.
Jessica Jones is a primer on gaslighting, and how to protect yourself against it. Oh, my heart.
Renay of Ladybusiness and Ana of Booksmugglers discussed it on Twitter, and Charles Tan made a Storify of their conversation.
Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: aliette de bodard, australiana, isabel yap, isobelle carmody, jill s, mari ness, natalie luhrs, obernewtyn chronicles, the red queen, world fantasy awards
This post is going to be a bit Isobelle Carmody-heavy. The final Obernewtyn book came out, and I am not okay.
Monica Tan interviews Carmody in The Guardian:
Elspeth’s question is how to exist in the world, to be what she is and to find people who would allow her to be what she is. I think it’s everybody’s question to find a place in the world and to find your tribe, but the world itself has to find a way to let groups of people exist with one another.
Fran Kelly interviewed Carmody on Radio National:
[Readers write to me saying] they feel they survived childhood because of those books.
I appreciated this post by Jill S, ‘Dragons and poison chalices’:
I’m gathering my community of support. We are small but mighty. And this community reminds me daily that there are people in the world who can support my dreams and don’t feel threatened by them. So when you find someone who cheers you on, wholeheartedly, without fear that you are going to diminish them, cling tight.
I highly recommend ‘A Cup of Salt Tears’, a new-to-me short story by Isabel Yap.
I appreciate the work that Natalie Luhrs does in keeping records, bearing witness, and holding people to account. This report on the recent World Fantasy Convention was excellent:
In my experience, when many con-runners talk about best practices, what they mean is the way it’s always been done–and the way they’re most comfortable doing it.
Mari Ness’ post about problems with accessibility at the con (namely, that it was abysmal) is also an important read:
Because, unfortunately, this is not the first disability/accessibility problem I have had with conventions, or the first time a convention has asked/agreed to have me on programming and then failed to have a ramp that allows me to access the stage. At least in this case it wasn’t a Disability in Science Fiction panel that, incredibly enough, lacked a ramp, but against that, in this case, the conrunners were aware I was coming, were aware that I use a wheelchair, had spoken to me prior to the convention and had assured me that the convention would be fully accessible, and put me on panels with stages but no ramp.
Aliette de Bodard offers her thoughts on the (long overdue) decision to replace the WFA trophies with something other than Lovecraft’s head:
It’s not that I think Lovecraft should be forever cast beyond the pale of acceptable. I mean, come on, genre has had plenty of people who were, er, not shining examples of mankind, and I personally feel like the binary of “this person was a genius and can do no wrong/this person is a racist and can therefore do nothing of worth” doesn’t really make for constructive discussion. (but see above for the “we should give everything a fair chance” fallacy. I’m personally not particularly inclined to give reading time or space to a man who thought I was an abomination, and I will side-eye you quite a bit if you insist I should). It’s more that… these are the World Fantasy Awards. They’re not the H.P. Lovecraft Awards, so there’s no particular reason for him to be associated with them: doing so just creates extra awkwardness.
And on a much lighter note, this story is just the most Australian thing ever: paramedics in Queensland have stopped asking patients the name of the prime minister, because nobody can keep track.
“We would ask patients that question because it gave us an idea of their conscious level and ability to recall events,” Mr Abood said. “But the country’s prime ministers are changing so often, it’s no longer a good indication of their mental status.”
Mr Abood once asked a patient to name the prime minister, only to be told: “I haven’t watched the news today.”
I had a good laugh at that.
Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: academia, aliette de bodard, alyssa wong, annalee flower horne, australiana, fred clark, isabel yap, joanna russ, jrr tolkien, leila rasheed, librarianship, m sereno, medieval literature, natalie luhrs, no award, people of colo(u)r destroy science fiction, rebecca merkelbach, rochita loenen-ruiz, salem witch trials, samatha shannon, tell them stories, the bone season, the song rising, the toast
It’s been a while, but I’m back again with links: links that are important, links that made me think, links that made me smile.
Firstly, and most importantly, the fundraiser for Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is running until 9th November. Please support this if you can. Rochita is a wonderful person, and she and her family are going through a very difficult time.
The rest of my links are going to be grouped under headings, as it’s been some time since I made a post of this nature.
Reading, writing, history, community
Submissions are now open for the People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction anthology.
This is an unbelievably powerful essay on the Salem witch trials. The line that stood out to me was this one:
But what rings most dangerously prophetic about Salem is the ideology that suggests imagining the most helpless and vulnerable in our communities as the most powerful, in a kind of 1984-esque doublethink that provides a rationale for causing as much harm as one wishes to that group.
Aliette de Bodard on ‘History, Erasure and the Stories that Need to be Told’.
Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs on the continued relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ
Leila Rasheed on diversity in children’s publishing.
Fred Clark on ‘communities of misconception’, unchallenged default assumptions, and how to respond when your assumptions are challenged.
Isabel Yap on Filipino monsters.
Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle Earth has been found.
We have a title and a release date for Samantha Shannon’s new Bone Season book: The Song Rising will be published in November, 2016.
Books I want to read
Kate Elliott talks about her new epic fantasy novel, Black Wolves, as part of John Scalzi’s ‘The Big Idea’ series.
Poetry and Short Fiction
‘Reasons I checked out of the diversity discussion du jour’ by M Sereno (content note for colonialism, homophobia and racism).
‘Song of the Body Cartographer’ by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.
‘Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers’ by Alyssa Wong.
Rebecca Merkelbach on outlaws, trolls and berserkers.
A bit US-centric, but I loved this article on the changing of librarian stereotypes throughout history.
No Award on imaginary Australia YA adaptations. (Caveat: I do not share their dislike of the Tomorrow series, although I can understand their perspective, and I also feel ambivalent about adaptations of stories that were/are meaningful to me. I still enjoyed the post.)
‘A Day In The Life of a Brooding Romantic Hero’ at The Toast.
I hope you all have fabulous weekends.
Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: aliette de bodard, athena andreadis, australiana, chvrches, eleni tsami, evangeline walton, exilic spaces, in morningstar's shadow, ishtiyak shukri, kari sperring, marianne de pierres, music, parentingcreating, rochita loenen-ruiz, samantha shannon, sophie masson, tell them stories, to shape the dark
This week has been absolutely excellent for people saying brilliant, eloquent, important things.
To journey is to be human. To migrate is to be human. Human migration forged the world. Human migration will forge the future, writes Ishtiyak Shukri in ‘Losing London’. This was the post of the week for me, and affected me deeply.
We already have the table of contents, but now we have the cover of Athena Andreadis’s To Shape The Dark anthology, illustrated beautifully by Eleni Tsami.
I really loved this interview of Aliette de Bodard by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: I’ve come to realize that “appealing to everybody” is a codeword for bland, unobjectionable stuff; or at the very least for something that doesn’t challenge the reader; and, just as I like to be challenged when I read, I would in turn like to do that to my readers!
Speaking of Aliette de Bodard’s writing, she’s put ‘In Morningstar’s Shadow’, the prequel short story to The House of Shattered Wings, up online for free. I read it last weekend and loved it.
I liked this essay by Marianne de Pierres on Australian myths in contemporary SF, but I’ve been worrying away at some of its conclusions for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Certainly I appreciate the recognition of Australian writing’s emphasis on the dystopian and post-apocalyptic, but I worry about her characterisation of the Australian landscape as universally barren, inhospitable and predatory. Let’s just say it is not so to all inhabitants of Australia, and is not represented as such in the stories of all Australians, although it is a really significant theme in Australian literature.
Sophie Masson wrote on authors in a changing publishing landscape. I smiled a little ruefully at this quote:
When my last adult novel, Forest of Dreams, came out in 2001, I was commissioned to write a piece for a newspaper on the historical background of the novel (a paid piece), and reviews of the book appeared in several print publications, despite its being genre fiction. When The Koldun Code, also genre fiction, came out in 2014, I had to write several guest posts for blogs, do interviews for online publications (all unpaid) and reviews only appeared online.
I did not review this book, but I did interview Masson and review several of her YA works for print publications, where I was paid for my work. Now I retweet links to her articles and review things exclusively online for free. Oh, how times have changed!
Authors who are parents have been posting about the experience. There are too many posts to include here, but you can find links to all of them at the #ParentingCreating hashtag.
The latest of Kari Sperring’s ‘Matrilines’ columns, on Evangeline Walton, is up. I’ve been finding these columns both illuminating – in terms of introducing me to many authors whose work sounds right up my alley – and disheartening, in that almost all of them were entirely new to me, instead of well-known figures in the SF canon.
I found this post by Samantha Shannon on judging a literary award to be a very interesting read.
In a departure from these posts’ usual content, I have a music recommendation: CHVRCHES’ new album Every Open Eye. It stops my heart, in the best possible way.
Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: activism, alana piper, angela slatter, ghostwords, hackers, kai cheng thom, kari sperring, kate elliott, kindness not fear, me elsewhere, of sorrow and such, rasheedah phillips, rochita loenen-ruiz, shannon hale, sofia samatar, sophia mcdougall, space hostages, tell them stories, the toast, those who run with wolves, vida cruz, zen cho
That title doesn’t quite scan, but it will have to do.
Via Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, probably the best thing I’ve read all week: Nine Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible, by Kai Cheng Thom. Really important stuff.
Read this essay by Sofia Samatar about being a black academic.
On a related note, Black Sci-fi Creators Assemble at Princeton and Imagine Better Worlds than This One, by Rasheedah Phillips.
Kari Sperring talks about justice, socialism, fantasy utopias, and Terry Pratchett.
Here’s Alana Piper on the myth that ‘women secretly hate each other’. Nothing throws me out of a story faster than female characters with no female friends, so this post was right up my alley.
Kate Elliott needs your help in a workshop on gender defaults in fantasy.
Shannon Hale writes about writing outside her culture. Note that at least one of the recommendations of books ‘by Asian-American authors’ is not by an Asian-American author, but rather, a Palestinian/Egyptian-Australian. It’s still a good list.
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz interviews Zen Cho. I wait impatiently for my copy of Sorcerer To The Crown to arrive.
As always, the new posts at Ghostwords are a delight.
Two new reviews are up on Those Who Run With Wolves:
Vida Cruz reviews Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter.
I review Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall.
It has been twenty years since two formative works of my teenage years, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and the film Hackers, were released. Here’s an interview with the Hackers director.
The Toast remains amazing. Two of my favourite recent posts: Dirtbag Milton (I remember studying him in uni and being furious about how badly he treated his daughters), and How To Tell If You Are In a Lai of Marie de France.
I hope your weekends are glorious.
Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: ahmed mohamed, aliette de bodard, arthuriana, athena andreadis, dhampyresa, jenny zhang, making wolf, representation matters, rochita loenen-ruiz, tade thompson, tell them stories, the book smugglers
This week’s linkpost is early, and somewhat shorter than usual, as I was at a conference during the first half of the week. As I’ve said before, I build these posts out of interesting stuff that’s crossed my path on Twitter (because I follow awesome people who share wonderful things), and while I was at the conference, I wasn’t able to pay attention to my Twitter feed. Therefore, fewer links this week.
‘Help Ahmed Make’, a Google doc where you can sign up to support Ahmed Mohamed. (This was put together by Anil Dash, and was done with the agreement of Ahmed and his family.)
If you’re in the US and over 13 years old, you can enter this giveaway to win multicultural books for your school library.
The Book Smugglers have put out a call for submissions for novellas.
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz interviews Tade Thompson about his new book, Making Wolf.
She also talks about experience, empathy, and her ongoing journey as a writer.
Kate Elliott talks about code switching in her YA novel Court of Fives.
I just missed this post by Dhampyresa about the Breton Arthurian tradition last week. Read it. It’s fantastic. There are great Arthurian recs in the comments, as well.
This is a brilliant post by Athena Andreadis on Ayn Rand.
Jenny Zhang: ‘They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist’, on Michael Derrick Hudson’s act of yellowface, and racism in publishing more generally.
Aliette de Bodard on colonialism and empire.
Posted by dolorosa12 in linkpost.
Tags: aliette de bodard, amal el-mohtar, athena andreadis, british folklore and mythology, cindy pon, ghostwords, indigenous australia, kate elliott, leticia lara, mahvesh murad, no award, serpentine, sophia mcdougall, sorcerer to the crown, space hostages, tade thompson, the toast, those who run with wolves, zen cho
The linkpost is early this week, as I’m going to be absolutely flat out all afternoon, and then away on various workshops and conferences. Oh, the glamorous librarian life!
I’ll start with a few reviews and posts about books I loved, or books I’m very much looking forward to reading:
A joint review of Space Hostages by Sophia McDougall, at Booksmugglers.
Amal El-Mohtar reviews Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho.
Zen Cho chats with Mahvesh Murad about the book.
She talks more about the book here.
Cindy Pon talks about her new book, Serpentine.
SFF in Conversation is one of my favourite columns at Booksmugglers. In it, various groups of writers sit down to discuss topics that are important to them. The most recent features Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Kate Elliott, Cindy Pon, and Tade Thompson, and I highly recommend it.
This is the first part of a BBC radio programme about British folklore, monsters, and the landscape.
The reviews continue to pour in a Those Who Run With Wolves. Recent reviewers have been Leticia Lara, Athena Andreadis, and Aliette de Bodard.
Ghostwords has returned with a vengeance! The latest post sports a cornucopia of links, leading the reader off on an internet treasure hunt.
I very much appreciated this post on No Award about Indigenous (and other) seasonal calendars.
In case you missed it, I reviewed Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. I loved them all.
Men Wearing A Military Helmet and Nothing Else in Western Art History: The Toast is a gift.
I hope your weekends are filled with as much fun stuff and opportunities for learning as mine will be.
Posted by dolorosa12 in books, reviews.
Tags: aliette de bodard, elizabeth bear, genevieve valentine, karen memory, the girls at the kingfisher club, the house of shattered wings
I read many fabulous books over the past (northern) summer. These three were probably my favourites.
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
I feel like the word ‘romp’ is sometimes overused, but in this case, it’s entirely appropriate. Karen Memory is a standalone novel following the adventures of its titular heroine, who works in a brothel in a fictional, steampunk city in nineteenth-century America. It’s a cheerfully anarchic place, where people’s relationship with the law is complicated, and where compromise, barter, and exchange are necessary in order to survive. Karen, along with the other sex workers at her brothel and various friends, lovers and allies, become caught up in the political intrigue of their town, eventually uncovering a conspiracy of much wider implications. This book was an absolute joy to read. I loved everything about it, from its steampunk setting, to its cast of characters. Karen herself was an enthralling narrator, her perspective a mixture of shrewd cynicism and empathetic kindness. A word of warning: the descriptions of food in this book are many and detailed, so it’s probably wise to read on a full stomach, or with a plate of food to hand!
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2015. Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that I’m an absolute sucker for books about fallen angels, particularly if those books focus on the angels’ relationship with, and perception of, human beings, and vice versa. Set in a ruin-filled, post-apocalyptic Paris, House of Shattered Wings didn’t disappoint. De Bodard has created a world in which fallen angels band together in aristocratic Houses, battling for control over the city and its inhabitants, while humans attach themselves to the Houses, exchanging their freedom for patronage and a measure of safety. Conspiracies and intrigue ensue.
One potential weakness in stories that draw on Christian eschatological traditions is that they end up either ignoring or dismissing other religious beliefs altogether, or inadvertently implying that these are secondary to, or superseded by, Christian beliefs. De Bodard avoids falling into this trap, and other religious beliefs, and supernatural figures from non-Christian spiritual traditions site beside those of Christianity and interact with them in various ways. Likewise, France’s colonial legacy, and the dehumanising effect it has on colonised people plays a major role in the story.
Although I would’ve liked to have spent just a bit more time with some characters we only meet briefly (Ninon is a character whose story I would really like to know), The House of Shattered Wings definitely lived up to my expectations, and I’m looking forward to de Bodard’s next works set in this fictional world.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
This is a retelling of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, set in Prohibition-era New York. The original twelve princesses are reimagined as twelve spirited sisters, who are barred from leaving the house by their abusive, status-obsessed, miserly father, and sneak out to dance the night away in speakeasies. The network of underground clubs and secret bars – and the people who run it – become a refuge from the oppressive confines of the sisters’ miserable home life, a place where they can dance in joy and freedom.
Having a cast of twelve sisters to juggle could have been difficult to handle, but Valentine manages it deftly, with each sister’s personality sharply realised and vividly distinct. My favourite was Jo, the oldest, nicknamed ‘The General’ by her siblings for her tendency to run their illicit outings like military campaigns, always aware of her sisters’ locations and able to swoop in to protect them or hustle them out of dangerous situations at a minute’s notice.
Fairytale retellings are tricky to do well, but Valentine has created something rich and beautiful out of the bare bones of the original tale, a story that celebrates the strength of sisters and the power of the bonds between them.