Month in Review: April 2016

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Book Award News

I doubt it means anything that the sky suddenly opened up and hailed for five minutes right after I saw the Hugo shortlists, but that’s what happened. 4000 votes seems less like redoubled dog efforts and more like a galvanized voting community with little ballot overlap and little interest in the anything but the novel category. I just like to see my own nominees on the voting stats list in August… at the very bottom of the list probably… but still. Continue reading

Walk to the End of the World (1974) by Suzy McKee Charnas

WalkToTheEndOfTheWorldThere’s going to be a lot of defensive denial from readers who look upon my copy of Walk to the End of the World (1974) by Suzy McKee Charnas with “The terrifying science fantasy about a world ruled by men” blurbed on the cover. Knee-jerk responses will vary from “pshh, that’s not fantasy, that’s reality” to “that would never happen this author is a man-hater.” The cover image of an enslaved woman kneeling before two stern-faced men is equally contentious. (cover below, for I could not bear to make it the lead image for this post. this red one over here isn’t much better.)

So let’s take a moment to readjust our worldview: Systemic slavery of women exists today, in larger numbers than you think. It exists in first-world countries, with an estimated 60000 slaves in the US, most of them women. Even conservative states in the US are taking action, explicitly designating Human Trafficking Task Forces to differentiate from smuggling and immigration issues, while educators are being trained to identify victims of slavery, just as they do victims of child abuse and neglect. Moreover, areas of economic boom have the highest rates of slavery in the first world.

And no matter where you find it, or in what form, slavery today is overwhelmingly gendered, with men subjugating and controlling women against their wills, all over the world.

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Adventures In Military SF!

One of the reasons I prefer reading SF in contemporary groupings is because comparison often yields a better understanding of (and possibly appreciation for) works within their respective eras, so I’m not just assessing them based on my own contemporary value vacuum. Things feel less dated this way, and I’m better able to construe time-relevant cringe from anachronistic Heinlein throat-clearing creeperdom. I also just like reading lists.

My latest experiment is to read in canonization groupings, this time the Military SF canon. Canon doesn’t always mean the best or most worthy, but it usually means The Most Famous, though we’ll leave the chicken/egg discussion for another day. However, because these books are The Most Famous, sometimes they talk to each other, sort of like the way pop stars subtweet bitchy comments and block each other, which adds another element of fun while trudging through books I wouldn’t normally choose to read.

So, Fall-In!, About-Face!, and snap those shiny heels together! Here are The Most Famous Military SF novels this side of nationalistic superiority! Ten-Hut! Continue reading

SF of 2015: The Thing Itself (2015) by Adam Roberts

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I seem to have a knack for complementary book serendipity, so naturally I would commit to reading Philip K. Dick’s snaky and reality-dissecting output, including his delusional Exegesis, around the same time as the release of Adam Roberts’ latest, Kitschies-nominated novel, The Thing Itself (2015). Among other things, The Thing Itself has helped me to understand Dick’s delusional approach to reality better than The Exegesis ever could, for although the Gollancz cover and blurb would have you believe this is Roberts’ The Thing or Who Goes There? tribute– and it’s there, it’s there– the foundational strand of the The Thing Itself is much more Dickian in nature, in tone, and in the way it messes with the reader’s head.

There’s the scene where reality appears to slip away from the protagonist during a peak moment of suspense:
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VALIS (1981) by Philip K. Dick

VALIS1981Beyond the reality bending, beyond the suburban discontent, beyond the fragile male ego expressed as nonchalant sexism, PKD’s preference for the word “vast” most struck me from the very first novel I read by him, especially by the time Jason tells Alys, “But you’re vast,” (170) in Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. It’s not a word I hear every day, and Dick uses it constantly. 

Here’s the thing, though: Flow My Tears was published in February 1974, written before the 2-3-74 events that triggered the whacked out, mystical wanderings of VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth, and The Exegesis. So, “Vast Alys” existed before VALIS.

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Month in Review: March 2016

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TBR Fail. Blog Derailed. Sort of.


An erratic month of reading and blogging here at FC2M where I had too much time off and a case of Sudden Onset Shortlist Paralysis: too many TBR potentials and no idea where to go next. Much of what I ended up reading started sluggish, inspiring lots of book avoidance in the name of unplanned but sudden anything-but-reading-to-dos. Even my audiobook addiction went into remission.

A mid-month computer crash didn’t upset my already derailed reading plans (thank Wintermute for data clouds), but my cherished book schedule spreadsheet somehow missed the upload and now my purposeful reading habits are without direction. Having to pause and think about what I’ll read next is an inhibiting process. My reading and blogging plans have gone adrift… Continue reading

The 2015 BSFA Best Novel Rundown: My Thoughts

The 2015 BSFA Award winners were announced this weekend! Here’s my rundown on the Best Novel shortlist.

After discovering new favorites on previous BSFA award lists, and thoroughly enjoying five-eighths of the BSFA Best Novel shortlist last year, I finally got myself a BSFA membership, perhaps becoming the only Texas member of the British Science Fiction Association. I didn’t nominate or vote because it just doesn’t feel right to do so as an outsider, but I do like to play along and support things I like. Call me a shadow member.

I didn’t experience as much delight with this year’s BSFA Best Novel list, (and no, I haven’t yet touched the short fiction nominees, though I might do a rundown of the really fab nonfiction nominees later on), but this selection of novels is way more interesting than this year’s Hugo list that hasn’t been determined yet but I’m probably right.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel shortlist: Continue reading